Śrī Śrīnivāsa Ācārya
[November 1, 2022 is the disappearance day of Śrīla Śrīnivāsa Ācārya in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt from a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on May 14, 2014 and May 10, 2017. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is also the appearance day of Śrīnivāsa Ācārya. By worldly considerations, he was born in the Burdhaman District, in the village of Chakhandi. When his father, Caitanya Dāsa, was desirous of a son, Caitanya Mahāprabhu blessed him, “Whatever you have desired, it will be fulfilled.” And Śrīnivāsa appeared as his son.
Śrīnivāsa Ācārya went to Navadvīpa, where he performed Navadvīpa-dhāma-parikramā under the guidance of Īśāna Ṭhākura. However, for whichever [exalted] Vaiṣṇava he desired to meet with, that Vaiṣṇava would have left this world before Śrīnivāsa Ācārya could reach there. At last he was able to meet with Gadādhara Paṇḍita. First when he went to ask for Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, he noticed that the book [script] was fully washed away with Gadādhara Paṇḍita’s tears, and hence, it was not legible. He went to another place only to discover that the other copy was also in the same condition, so he returned to Purī but by that time Gadādhara Paṇḍita too, had left his body.
Next he approached Abhirāma Ṭhākura who had a whip called Jaya-maṅgala. Whomever he used to beat with his whip would be blessed with kṛṣṇa-prema. He hit Śrīnivāsa Ācārya twice before his wife stopped him saying, “He is just a small child, he won’t be able to tolerate so much kṛṣṇa-prema!”
Śrīnivāsa Ācārya then went to Vṛndāvana and studied all the śāstras under the tutelage of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. His companions were Narottama and Śyāmānanda. After the study was completed, Jīva Gosvāmī, on behalf of the Viśva-vaiṣṇava Rāja-sabhā, awarded the name ‘Ācārya’ to Śrīnivāsa. Dukhī Kṛṣṇa Dāsa got the name ‘Śyāmānanda’, while Narottama received the name ‘Ṭhākura Mahāśaya’. Together, they performed Vraja-maṇḍala Parikramā, while visiting all the pastime places.
Later, loading all the Vaiṣṇava literature onto a bullock cart, Jīva Gosvāmī sent all three of them to Bengal to preach [and make copies of the books]. Śrīnivāsa Ācārya was appointed to be in charge of this.
On the way, they would take turns remaining awake at night to guard the literatures. Finally, they reached the Hindu town of Viṣṇupura (where the king was Vīrahamvīra), [they presumed that they could relax the vigilance as they didn’t expect any danger from thieves or dacoits.] They all slept at night, thinking, ‘Here the scriptures won’t be stolen’. But, as luck would have it, the King had an astrologer who calculated and said, “A priceless treasure is passing through your kingdom.” So the King sent some thieves to loot the ‘treasure’ but warned against killing anyone.
Observing all three sound asleep, the thieves took away the box of scriptures without any ado, but later, when they opened the box they discovered only scriptures. Unsure if these scriptures could be of any use to them, the King kept them aside. When Narottama, Śyāmānanda and Śrīnivāsa woke up, they realized that the books had been stolen. Grief stricken, Śrīnivāsa Ācārya felt great repentance thinking, ‘My guru-varga dispatched me with this responsibility, and I let them down by sleeping out of laziness!’ Śrīnivāsa Ācārya was actually Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī’s disciple. But since he had studied the śāstras under the guidance of Jīva Gosvāmī, he considered Jīva Gosvāmī to be his guru as well. He resolved, “I will not leave this place [unless the stolen scriptures are recovered]. It will certainly be good if I find the scriptures, otherwise, I will simply leave my body in this very place.” He decided to remain there while instructing Narottama and Śyāmānanda, “Preach whatever you have learned through the medium of kīrtana.”
Narottama Ṭhākura preached in North Bengal. He would sing in the garāṇahāti melody and Śyāmānanda preached in South Bengal and Orissa in the reṇetī melody, while Śrīnivāsa Ācārya remained in Viṣṇupura. He also preached via kīrtana, using the manohara-śayi melody. All three of them preached in different melodies.
Śrīnivāsa Ācārya was preaching in Viṣṇupura. Everyday in the sabhā, there was a recitation of Bhāgavata. As long as he was hearing the Bhāgavata, he would cry thinking, ‘Although my guru-varga entrusted these books to me, they got stolen!’. [Upon hearing the hari-kathā of Śrīnivāsa Ācārya] King Vīrahamvīra became his disciple. Observing that, whenever Śrīnivāsa Ācārya used to start speaking kathā, he would burst into tears, the king asked him, “Gurujī, why do you cry?” Śrīnivāsa Ācārya replied, “I am so unfortunate that my guru-varga entrusted the responsibility of the invaluable books they had written upon me, but the books got stolen.” Hearing this, Vīrahamvīra brought the box and opened it to show the books. Seeing them intact, Śrīnivāsa Ācārya felt a wave of relief and immediately sent word to Vṛndāvana with the news about the recovery of the books. Earlier, Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī had become worried thinking that the Caitanya-caritāmṛta book had disappeared from this world, but got pacified when his servant informed him that he had made a copy of it before dispatching the original. [In the meantime he heard that Śrīnivāsa Ācārya had recovered all the scriptures and became happy.]
Śrīnivāsa Ācārya established the Madana-mohana Deity and it still remains there. When the kingdom was attacked, Madana-mohana blew the enemy away with a kamān (canon) named Dal-maṇḍala. Even now people go there to see that canon.
From Śrīnivāsa Ācārya’s disciplic succession came the pūjārīs of Gopīnātha, Madana-mohana, Govinda, Dāmodara, and all other deities also. That is why even today in Jaipur, you will observe that all pūjārīs are Gauḍīya. This is all due to the mercy of Śrīnivāsa Ācārya. Even the pūjārīs of Madana-mohana in Karaulī are Gauḍīyas and the root of this is Śrīnivāsa Ācārya.
The ṣaḍ-gosvāmy-aṣṭakam was composed by Śrīnivāsa Ācārya. He has brilliantly described the life history of the Gosvāmīs in this aṣṭakam, describing how they spent their days and so on. Kṛṣṇotkīrtana-gāna-nartana-parau premāmṛtāmbho-nidhī…[I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Gosvāmīs, namely Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, and Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, who are always engaged in chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa and dancing.] Later in the aṣṭakam he also mentions how the Gosvāmīs wandered around Vraja experiencing the pangs of separation - “he rādhe vraja-devīke ca lalite he nanda-sūno kutaḥ- Crying out to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī saying, ‘He rādhe vraja-devīke! Where are You? Are You in a forest on the banks of Yamuna? Are you near Rādhā-kuṇḍa? Where can I find you?” Like this they searched in a mood of mahā-vihvala. Everything has been revealed in this aṣṭakam.