Six Goswamis

The Six Goswamis

Reading Complexity: 

The Six Goswamis* were a group of scholarly and ascetic devotees of Krishna who lived and wrote in India during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. They were the leading disciples of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

A number of the Goswamis came from aristocracy but left aside considerable wealth and influence to live as wandering mendicants, dedicating themselves to writing commentaries on the Vedas. They also uncovered many of the lost places of Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavan, and established temples there that are visited to this day. Under Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's direction, they showed that the essence of all Vedic teachings is devotional service to God, bhakti-yoga . Their work largely forms the scriptural and philosophical basis of ISKCON, popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement.

The brothers Rupa and Sanatana were formerly high-ranking ministers in the Islamic government of Bengal, India. Their nephew Jiva, is considered by some Sanskrit scholars to be the greatest philosopher of all time. Gopal Bhatta was from an aristocratic South Indian family, Raghunatha dasa's father and uncle were the wealthiest landowners in India, and Raghunatha Bhatta studied under Rupa and later established the famous Govindaji temple In Vrindavan.

*Sanskrit go = "senses," swami = "master"

A Ruler’s Quandary


In the sixteenth century, the Muslim governor of Bengal loses two of his best men to the recently founded Hare Krishna movement.

Nawab Hussain Shah, who ruled Bengal from A.D. 1509 to 1532, had two expert and trusted ministers in the brothers Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik. The Nawab had recruited the brothers from the aristocratic Karnatic brahmana community, given them Muslim names, and taken satisfaction in seeing them shed Hindu ways and adopt Muslim dress and customs. In taking charge of the government secretariat and freeing the Nawab from the more cumbersome duties of his administration, Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik became his confidantes and two of the wealthiest and most influential men in Bengal.

Bengal’s Hindu community took a dim view of the brothers’ achievements. Muslims were not merely low- caste or outcaste, Hindu leaders proclaimed; they were meat- eaters and cow-killers. Rubbing shoulders with them in the slightest, even accidentally, clearly called for censure and ostracism. Because Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik, as they now called themselves, had accepted employment from the Nawab, they practically demanded their own excommunication. No other punishment fit their crime.

Finding no way to placate their critics and regain their status as respectable Hindus, the brothers in great humility and distress wrote several confidential letters to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Jagannatha Puri, requesting His guidance. Lord Chaitanya promised to come resolve their spiritual difficulties, and in 1513, on His way to visit the holy land of Vrindavana, He arrived at Ramakeli, the brothers’ exquisite home village on the bank of the Ganges at the border of Bengal.

Great crowds of people joined Lord Chaitanya chanting Hare Krishna and dancing through the streets of Ramakeli, alarming Muslim and Hindu leaders alike and prompting them to wonder what had occasioned the Lord’s visit. Nawab Hussain Shah, while appreciating Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as a Hindu prophet and ordering local officials to leave Him alone, appeared to be on a short fuse. And to many Hindu leaders, Lord Chaitanya was a prophet only in the loosest sense, one fomenting a revolution against the brahminical caste system. There were Muslims and other untouchables chanting and dancing in those noisy crowds, and even the inner circle of the Lord’s Hare Krishna movement included at least one member, Haridasa Thakura, born in a family of cow-killing Muslims.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s devotees and friends in Ramakeli, sensing tension in the air, feared for His safety. Honoring their loving pleas, and appearing inconvenienced by the crowds that followed His every step, the Lord postponed His Vrindavana pilgrimage and returned to Puri, leaving both Nawab Hussain Shah and Hindu leaders to their sighs of relief as life returned to normal.

The Brothers Resign

Or apparently normal. For only a matter of months later news shook Bengal that Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik, the Nawab’s right-hand men, had more or less vanished. Dabhir Kas had abruptly resigned his post, filled two large boats with his accumulated earnings in gold coins, and given away nearly all of it to relatives and religious charities at a place called Bakla Candradvipa.

Sakara Mallik too had requested permission to resign, and when the Nawab refused, had instead submitted sick reports and stayed home. Because Hussain Shah was planning an invasion of the neighboring state of Orissa, he was in no mood to allow Sakara Mallik to neglect the home front. Suspicious of the sick reports, the Nawab showed up at Sakara’s house and found him in good health and happily studying the scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, no doubt under the influence of the Hindu prophet Chaitanya.

The temperamental ruler first tried coaxing Sakara back to work with friendly words. When that failed, he slapped him in jail and marched off to conquer the feudal princes of Orissa. In the Shah’s absence Sakara escaped and, according to the jailkeeper, drowned in the Ganges, dragged under by his prison chains.

But the drowning was a ruse. Sakara had bribed the jailkeeper with ten thousand gold coins Dabhir Kas had set aside for emergencies. The two brothers had slipped away to join Lord Chaitanya, who sent them to Vrindavana. Reliable sources confirmed too that during Lord Chaitanya’s recent visit to Ramakeli, the brothers, disguising themselves and crossing town in the dead of night to avoid the Nawab’s detection, had met with the Lord.

“Everyone is asking why I have come to this village of Ramakeli,” the Lord had told them. “I have come just to see you two brothers.”

Lord Chaitanya had initiated them into His Hare Krishna movement, changing their names to Rupa and Sanatana. So now Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik were known as Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami. They had left wealth, family, friends, and practically unlimited spheres of influence in their homeland, and they had permanently set aside any thought of returning to regular Hindu society, all to serve Lord Chaitanya in a remote holy place.

Reports filtered back from Vrindavana that the brothers had shaved their heads, marked their foreheads with tilaka clay, and discarded the silken, bejeweled finery of their government days to wear torn cloth. With no fixed residence, they were living beneath trees, one night under one tree and the next night under another. They were begging a little food, eating only some dry bread and chickpeas, and sleeping hardly at all. Through these willing hardships they happily chanted the holy names of Krishna, dancing in great jubilation throughout Vrindavana. Finding the opportunity to employ their considerable erudition to scrutinize the world’s revealed scriptures (they were fluent in Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit), they were writing books to establish eternal, universal religious principles.

Back home, Muslim and Hindu alike wondered how the brothers could even talk of religion. Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik had first lost their status as Hindus, then offended Hussain Shah as well. Weren’t they aware that no religious person would take them seriously? And how long could these wealthy, aristocratic gentlemen survive as humble mendicants after their lives of luxury and prestige? Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s cult might temporarily attract those shaken by the crises of youth or middle age, and certainly the brothers had been traumatized by losing their Hindu birthright, but nothing could ultimately replace the identity everyone centers on the traditions of home, family, country, and career. As time wore on, Dabhir and Sakara would inevitably return to lives as stable, upwardly mobile professionals.

Yet as the years passed, Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik stayed in Vrindavana, joyfully writing and preaching for Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. Competition for position at the Nawab’s secretariat had begun at the first hint of the brothers’ resignations, with Sakara Mallik’s former post as head of the secretariat finally going to an undersecretary named Purandhara Khan. As further reminders of the brothers’ absence, hundreds and thousands of followers of Lord Chaitanya were appearing in every town and village in Bengal and throughout India. Wherever Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had traveled, His devotees filled bustling marketplaces with their loud singing, greeted travelers at busy intersections and begged them to chant the holy names of Krishna, and in many ways reminiscent of Dabhir and Sakara, or Rupa and Sanatana, gave their lives to the Hare Krishna movement.

Ask these Hare Krishna devotees how Rupa and Sanatana were doing, and they would have the latest word on the brothers’ activities in Vrindavana. “Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis have received the causeless mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,” these nonenvious followers might typically say with pride. “Deeply attracted by the transcendental qualities of the Lord, the brothers are exact replicas of Lord Chaitanya and are very, very dear to Him. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has empowered them to spread the transcendental news of Krishna’s pastimes. Rupa and Sanatana very carefully follow the principles enunciated by the Lord, constantly thinking of Lord Chaitanya and His mission. Srila Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami, and their nephew Jiva Goswami, as well as practically all of their family members, live in Vrindavana and publish important books on devotional service to Krishna. What is impossible for persons who have been granted the Lord’s mercy?”

Rupa and Sanatana, once the pride of the Nawab’s cabinet, the envy of their Muslim under-workers, and the objects of scorn from caste-conscious Hindus, were now leaders in the Hare Krishna movement. Because true spiritual life is without envy, their leadership made them the objects of love and honor for all the great stalwart devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

The Nawab’s Realization

Nawab Hussain Shah had to resign himself at last to the loss of his two talented ministers. Watching with wonder and apprehension as the Hare Krishna movement spread to every corner of his realm, he had occasion to remember his days with Rupa and Sana-tana. In Ramakeli during Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s visit, the Nawab had privately questioned Dabhir Kas, the future Rupa Goswami, about the Lord. Dabhir Kas had replied, “The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who gave you this kingdom and whom you accept as a prophet, has taken birth in your country. By His blessings, you will attain victory everywhere.”

“But why are you questioning me?” he had continued. “As king, you are the representative of God. What does your heart tell you about Lord Chaitanya?”

“I consider Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to be the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead,” the Nawab had answered. “There is no doubt about it.”

But Hussain Shah had mixed feelings. He had acknowledged Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu both as the Supreme Lord and as a troublesome holy man. Hussain Shah was after all a ruler and a politician, and Lord Chaitanya, Personality of Godhead or not, had created a significant upheaval in his kingdom. What had the Lord said to cause two talented ministers to leave their lucrative posts and join the Hare Krishna movement? What had caused so many others to follow the brothers’ example, chanting the holy names of Krishna and dancing in the streets?

What, in short, had been the teachings of Lord Chaitanya to Rupa and Sanatana?

(Next issue: “Lord Chaitanya’s Teachings to Rupa Goswami.”)

Sanatana’s Great Escape


One of the original leaders of the Hare Krishna movement uses his diplomatic skills to free himself for the Lord’s service.

Sanatana Goswami resigned his ministerial post in the Muslim government of sixteenth-century Bengal, having decided to dedicate his life to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. The Nawab, or governor, imprisoned Sanatana, angered by his resignation. We now hear how Sanatana met Lord Chaitanya in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) and told of his escape from prison and journey out of Bengal.

Sanatana Goswami entered the city of Varanasi early in the spring of 1514. Having journeyed on back roads and jungle paths through Bengal and Bihar, he was dressed in torn and dirty clothes. His long hair, beard, and mustache were unkempt, and he carried a beggar’s pot in his hand. Pleased to hear that Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had arrived by boat from Allahabad, Sanatana went to Candrashekhara’s house, where the Lord was staying, and sat down by the door.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu could understand that Sanatana was outside.

“Candrashekhara,” He said, “there’s a Vaishnava, a Hare Krishna devotee, at your door. Please go call him in.”

Candrashekhara went out to look and, seeing no Vaishnava, came back.

“Is there anyone at your door at all?” the Lord asked.

“Only a Muslim mendicant,” Candrashekhara replied.

“Please bring him here,” the Lord said.

Hurrying back to the door, Candrashekhara spoke to Sanatana.

“O Muslim mendicant,” he said, “kindly come in. The Lord is calling you.”

Pleased with this invitation, Sanatana entered the house, where Lord Chaitanya rose with haste to embrace and welcome him and to give him a seat by His side. Lord Chaitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead playing the part of His own devotee. In both capacities, as Lord and devotee, He was eager to welcome His Vaishnava guest. Over Sanatana’s protests, He extolled Sanatana’s saintly influence upon even sacred places of pilgrimage like Varanasi. The Lord quoted a verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.13.10): “Saints of your caliber are themselves places of pilgrimage. Because of their purity, they are constant companions of the Lord, and therefore they can purify even the places of pilgrimage.”

Only a few weeks before, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had met Sanatana’s brother, Rupa Goswami, in Allahabad. The Lord had enlightened Rupa about the soul’s evolution, first through the species of material life in this universe and then, upon reentering the spiritual sky, through the transcendental stages of life in the spiritual creation. For the next two months in Varanasi, Lord Chaitanya would elaborate on these and other topics in His teachings to Sanatana Goswami. He would describe how the Supreme Lord expands Himself to individually preside over the innumerable spiritual planets and to create and govern the material universes. He would inform Sanatana about the location and dimensions of the spiritual planets and about the identity and activities of their denizens as precisely as one might describe the continents and nations of this earth. And He would delineate the direct route through the dark and temporary material cosmos to these effulgent and deathless spiritual destinations with as much clarity and detail as the best modern road maps and travel guides.

Despite the exalted, revolutionary nature of these pending transcendental topics, however, Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was Himself curious to know about Sanatana’s recent travels and adventures.

“How did you escape from prison?” the Lord eagerly asked, and Sanatana happily told his story from beginning to end.

Fortunate Jail Keeper

Sanatana recounted how, bound with iron chains at the Chika Mosjud prison near Ramakeli, Bengal, he had received a note from his younger brother Rupa.

“My dear Sanatana,” Rupa Goswami had written, “I have left a deposit of ten thousand gold coins with a local merchant. Use that money to get out of prison and come meet Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Mathura and Vrindavana.”

To further encourage Sanatana, Rupa had included in his note a beautiful and mysterious Sanskrit verse:

yadu-pateh kva gata mathura-puri
raghu-pateh kva gatottara- koshala
iti vicintya kurusva manah sthiram
na sad idam jagad ity avadharaya

“Where has the Mathura City of Yadupati gone? Where has the northern Koshala province of Raghupati gone? By reflection, make the mind steady, thinking, ‘This universe is not eternal.’ ”

Yadupati is a name for Lord Krishna, and Raghupati a name for Lord Ramacandra. Long ago They had appeared on earth and played as human beings, displaying Their eternal pastimes in the city of Mathura and the province of Koshala respectively. Now They had appeared again as Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to entice mankind from the prison of material life in this temporary universe, and Lord Chaitanya was currently on His way to Mathura, followed by Rupa Goswami.

Delighted with the note, Sanatana went to the Muslim jail keeper, an acquaintance from his government days, a simple man with little education or spiritual training. Summoning the diplomatic skills honed during his years as the Nawab’s prime minister, Sanatana began to satisfy the humble warden with praise.

“Dear sir,” Sanatana began, “you are a very fortunate person, a living saint, and a scholar steeped in knowledge of the Koran and similar books. So you must know that if you release a prisoner in accordance with your religious principles then you are blessed by the Supreme Lord.”

Flattered by the compliments from his fellow government servant, the jail keeper could not deny he was indeed a learned scholar and saintly person. He was all ears as Sanatana continued, stressing their long-standing friendship and requesting release as a personal favor.

“Previously I have done much for you,” Sanatana said. “Now I am in difficulty. Please return my goodwill by releasing me.”

Sanatana sweetened their friendship with an offer of five thousand gold coins. By taking the gold and releasing an innocent prisoner, Sanatana explained, his friend the jail keeper would accumulate both piety and material wealth. He would get the best of both worlds.

“Please hear me, dear sir,” the jail keeper replied nervously. “Of course I want to let you go, because you have done much for me and are a fellow public servant. I know that, but I am afraid of the Nawab when he hears you are free. I’ll have to explain. What will I say?”

Sanatana had just the alibi.

“There is no danger,” he assured his friend. “The Nawab has gone south to conquer Orissa. If he returns, tell him that Sanatana went to answer the call of nature near the bank of the Ganges and that as soon as he saw the Ganges, he jumped in. Tell him, ‘I looked for a long time, but I could not find any trace of him. He jumped in with his shackles and drowned, washed away by the current.’

“And don’t worry,” Sanatana added. “No one will find me. I shall become a mendicant and go to the holy city of Mecca.”

The jail keeper now had a forensic alibi for the Nawab, a religious alibi for his own conscience, and a promise of five thousand gold coins. He was still torn and wavering when Sanatana upped the offer to seven thousand coins and carefully stacked the money before him while he watched. Seeing the gleaming pile of gold growing, the jail keeper finally caved in. That night he broke Sanatana’s shackles and let him escape across the Ganges.

Dangerous Journey

Though he now had three thousand coins remaining and hundreds of miles to traverse from Bengal west towards Mathura and Vrindavana, Sanatana left all the gold behind and set out on foot, looking the part of a beggar. The money had bought him release for Lord Chaitanya’s service, but he had no interest in spending for a comfortable journey, nor was carrying gold safe for a lone traveler. As an escaped prisoner, too, and a famous man, Sanatana had to avoid notice. Using back roads and footpaths, he stayed off the highways known as “the way of the ramparts,” which the Nawab had fortified against invasion.

A servant named Ishana followed Sanatana, and despite all his master’s evident precautions, Ishana secretly carried eight gold coins. Crossing what is now Bihar province, Sanatana and Ishana came to a hilly area known as Patada and stopped at a small hotel, where the gold proved nearly fatal. The hotel owner learned of the eight coins through an expert palmist and planned to rob and kill his two guests. In the meantime, he went out of his way to be respectful and attentive to their needs, providing them with food to cook and promising to personally guide them through the hills.

Sanatana went to the river to bathe, and as he had not eaten for two days, he cooked and had his meal. But he was suspicious. As a minister of the Nawab, he had faced many diplomats and sycophants. Here was a hotel owner, a stranger, giving him the royal treatment, though he and Ishana looked like paupers.

“Ishana,” Sanatana inquired, “I think you must have something valuable with you.”

“Yes, I have seven gold coins,” Ishana admitted, partially revealing his cache.

Sanatana became angry and berated his servant.

“Why do you carry this death knell on the road?”

Taking the seven coins, Sanatana went to the hotel owner, holding the coins before him.

“Please take these seven coins,” Sanatana requested, “and help us to cross these hills. I am an escaped political prisoner and cannot go along the way of the ramparts. It will be very pious of you to take this money and get me through the hills.”

The combination of gold and religious sentiments again proved effective. The hotel keeper confessed that he knew that Ishana had eight coins in his pocket and that he had planned to kill both Ishana and Sanatana. Now refusing the coins with embarrassment and chagrin, as an apology he offered to guide Sanatana through the hills for free.

“No,” Sanatana replied. “If you don’t accept these coins, someone else will kill me for them. Better you save me from the danger.”

With this settlement made, the hotel keeper hired four watchmen who through that entire night escorted Sanatana and Ishana across the hills on a jungle path. Sanatana then sent Ishana home with the gold coin Ishana had tried to conceal and traveled on alone, wearing torn clothing, carrying a beggar’s pot, and losing his worries with every step he took.

Meeting Srikanta

Walking on and on, Sanatana came one evening to a town named Hajipura and sat down in a garden park. By coincidence a gentleman named Srikanta, the husband of Sanatana’s sister, was in Hajipura on government business. The Nawab had given Srikanta 300,000 gold coins to buy horses. Sitting in an elevated place transacting this business, Srikanta caught a glimpse of Sanatana and later that evening went to see him. The two old friends talked long into the night, and Srikanta heard all about Sanatana’s arrest and escape. Seeing Sanatana, formerly the prime minister, in such a ragged condition distressed Srikanta and got him thinking. With a fortune in gold at his disposal, certainly he could help his wife’s brother get a new start in life.

“Why don’t you stay here with me for a couple of days,” Srikanta urged Sanatana. “You can get rid of these dirty clothes and dress like a gentleman again.”

Sanatana had already foiled a greedy jail keeper and a murderous hotel owner, all the while avoiding the Nawab’s soldiers and agents on his way to meet Lord Chaitanya. Now here was a more formidable obstacle: a loving friend and close relative with money to spare. Sanatana thanked Srikanta but declined his offer.

“I cannot stay any longer,” Sanatana said. “Please help me across the Ganges so that I can leave right away.”

Insisting that Sanatana at least take a valuable woolen blanket, Srikanta helped him across the Ganges and with affection saw him on his way again.

Clean-Shaven Vaishnava

Sanatana had left Srikanta in Hajipura only a few days before. Now, sitting with Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Candrashekhara’s house in Varanasi, he was feeling boundless happiness. After hearing about Sanatana’s adventures, Lord Chaitanya in turn recounted His recent meeting with Sanatana’s brothers in Allahabad. Then He asked Sanatana to clean up and get a shave before lunch, and He requested Candrashekhara to provide Sanatana with fresh clothing.

Sanatana’s ragged, unkempt appearance was understandable considering the circumstances of his long journey, but Lord Chaitanya wanted His followers looking like gentlemen. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, writing in the early 1970s, explains: “Due to his long hair, mustache, and beard, Sanatana Goswami looked like a hippie. Since Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did not like Sanatana Goswami’s hippie features, he asked Candrashekhara to get him shaved clean. If anyone with long hair or a beard wants to join this Krishna consciousness movement and live with us, he must similarly shave himself clean.”

Though offered new garments by Candrashekhara, Sanatana requested a used dhoti cloth instead, then proceeded to rip the cloth in pieces to make two sets of clothing. As for meals, a Maharastriyan brahmana who would later host Lord Chaitanya’s lunch with the sannyasis of Varanasi invited Sanatana to take all his meals with him. Again Sanatana politely declined, preferring to avoid full meals and humbly beg a little food from door to door. Sanatana’s renunciation was extraordinary and cannot as a rule be imitated. He was determined to give up material opulence. Even Srikanta’s new woolen blanket had to go. Sanatana went to the bank of the Ganges and persuaded a surprised Bengali mendicant to take the blanket in exchange for the mendicant’s torn quilt.

Observing all these changes, and at last seeing even the valuable blanket gone, Lord Chaitanya became unlimitedly happy and told Sanatana Goswami, “Lord Krishna has mercifully nullified your attachment for material things. So why would He allow you to maintain that valuable blanket, your last bit of material attachment? After vanquishing a disease, a good physician does not allow any of the disease to remain.”

In the days that followed, Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, being pleased with Sanatana Goswami, began to tell him about Lord Krishna’s real identity, transcendental qualities, and eternal activities. Sanatana, freed from his last piece of material attraction, was fully prepared to listen.

(Next issue: Lord Chaitanya’s teachings to Sanatana Goswami.)

Lord Chaitanya’s Teachings to Sanatana Goswami


An elaborate description of Lord Krishna, His expansions, and the spiritual world.

The brothers Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik were trusted ministers in the government of Nawab Hussain Shah, the ruler of Bengal in the early sixteenth century. After meeting Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, they resigned their lucrative posts to join the Lord’s Hare Krishna movement, shaving their heads and changing their names to Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami. The Nawab as well as many Hindu leaders were astounded. What had caused the brothers to resign, and why were so many other Hare Krishna devotees appearing in nearly every town and village of Bengal with their chanting and dancing? What was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu teaching?

Previous articles in this series have described the Lord’s teachings to Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami’s escape from the Nawab’s prison.

The Viraja river marks the border between the material and spiritual worlds. Vast and beautiful, its spiritual waters ornamented with brilliant waves churned by mighty storms of transcendental effulgence, it is also known as the Viraja Ocean or the Causal Ocean. On one shore the countless universes of the material nature, with all their planets and solar systems, arise and dissolve in the moments granted them within the jurisdiction of devastating time. On the other shore, time presides without its devastating feature, invigorating the spiritual planets and their denizens, cities, and civilizations with eternal, blissful life in the ever- expanding service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna.

Lord Krishna said little of His spiritual kingdom when He spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna at Kurukshetra. He said that His abode beyond the material creation is self- effulgent, with no need of sunlight, moonlight, or electricity. And He offered the clue that all beautiful and glorious features of this temporary world spring from only a spark of His splendor. With a single fragment of Himself, He proclaimed, He pervades and supports the entire creation. These hints help us begin to comprehend the spiritual world, where Krishna displays His full opulences, but we have few details. Nor would details necessarily help us, since to the untrained, accounts of the spiritual world sound like so much mythology.

Lord Krishna’s Gita instead details our predicament in the material creation and the means for extricating ourselves from the stranglehold of material time. Krishna explains that the living beings in the material world are eternal fragments of Him. These eternal souls inhabit temporary bodies, struggling hard against material nature. Because we are minute parts of Krishna, our eternal constitution is to surrender to Him and serve Him. Surrender to Krishna frees us from the lethal grip of material time and sets us on our return journey to the spiritual world. At the end of the Gita, therefore, after describing various systems of religion and philosophy, Krishna demands surrender.

To those who are constantly surrendered and worship Krishna with love, He gives knowledge of Himself, of the spiritual world, and of how to return to Him there. To show special mercy to His devotees, He enlightens them from within their hearts, and from without also. Just as we acquire knowledge of a distant land by hearing from travelers, the devotees realize Krishna and His spiritual world by hearing with love from Him and His representatives.

Sanatana’s Inquiry

In the spring of 1514, Sanatana Goswami arrived at Varanasi to surrender to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and join the Lord’s Hare Krishna movement. Sanatana had renounced his affluent position as prime minister of Bengal, escaped from the prison of his former employer, the Nawab Hussain Shah, and completed a dangerous trek through the jungles and hills of Bihar province.

Like Arjuna at Kurukshetra, Sanatana presented himself to the Lord as a man in distress, uncertain of his duty and identity despite wealth, fame, and learning. Like Arjuna, in other words, Sanatana portrayed the plight of the materialist. The greatest leaders and intellects of the material world cannot say with any scientific certaintly what the living energy in their bodies is. So while introducing themselves as Ms. this or Mr. that, Senator this or Professor that, they in fact do not know who they are.

Illustrating this discrepancy, Sanatana confessed to the Lord, “People believe that I am a great learned man, and I am so foolish that I believe it myself. But what to speak of being learned, I don’t even know who I am. Who am I? And why do I suffer in material life?”

“The living entity’s constitutional position,” the Lord replied, “is to be an eternal servant of Krishna, because he is the energy of Krishna, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire.”

With this concise and eloquent statement Lord Chaitanya effectively summarized the Gita’s final message of surrender, while forgoing the Gita’s elaborate analysis of the spiritual living entity. Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself playing the part of His own devotee. From the point where He ended His instructions to Arjuna at Kurukshetra, He began His teachings to Sanatana Goswami at Varanasi. While Lord Chaitanya’s teachings and Lord Krishna’s teachings in the Gita are the same, Lord Chaitanya did not demand surrender. Instead He demonstrated the life of surrender to Krishna in His own activities and freely distributed knowledge of Krishna and love of Krishna.

With the Gita’s message affirmed, Lord Chaitanya broke new ground, describing for Sanatana Goswami the transcendental form of Krishna, who is the origin of both material and spiritual worlds, and whose body is made not of perishable blood and bones, but of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. The ordinary living entity in the material world is different from his body, which is a covering of the real self. But Krishna’s transcendental form and Krishna Himself are the same, whether He is in His eternal abode or visiting His material creation. The Brahma-samhita states:

ishvarah paramah krishnah
anadir adir govindah

“Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the supreme controller. He has a spiritual body of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, for He is the prime cause of all causes.”

Krishna’s Expansions

Although Krishna is the original person and therefore the oldest of all, He appears as a youth, the son of Maharaja Nanda, never more than sixteen years of age. And although Krishna is one, He expands Himself into innumerable forms. Krishna’s expansion is inconceivable, but within our current experience we know that an individual person exhibits many features. When someone is especially happy or especially angry in a particular situation, we may even say, as a manner of speaking, that he or she is a “different person.” In our own minds, too, we may think of ourselves in various ways according to our roles as, say, parent, child, spouse, employee, or student, and in each of these roles we further show ourselves in various aspects to different people in the course of our activities and occupations. We may also create imaginary or aspirational roles, dreaming of being a conquering hero or a celebrated actress. In all these ways, while we each remain one person, we expand and discover and enjoy ourselves.

We possess the tendency to expand and enjoy and discover because these tendencies are present in Krishna, the original person. The difference is that since Krishna is the Supreme, His expansions are unique and all-powerful. Krishna’s personal expansions, though one and the same personality, are different individuals, not as a manner of speaking but in fact. They are individuals fully endowed with independent action, character, and thought.

Krishna’s innumerable forms are known as plenary expansions because they all have the full power of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though each of these expansions has activities, bodily features, and other attributes slightly different from the original form of Krishna, they are all identical with Krishna. They are one and the same supreme personality. The Brahma-samhita explains that as one candle can light many other candles, each with the same power of illumination, so Lord Krishna expands Himself into unlimited forms of Godhead.

Lord Chaitanya explained to Sanatana that describing Krishna’s forms is like describing the moon by saying it is in the branches of a tree. To point out the moon in the night sky, we might use the branches of a tree as a reference point, though we understand that the moon is far away. Similarly, descriptions of the Lord provide an indication of Him, although He is otherwise far beyond our experience and powers to fully comprehend.

Krishna’s transcendental form is not compartmentalized like our material bodies. Our mental and physical activities are different. We can think of being a hero or an actress, but our dreams may not come true. For Krishna, however, thinking and doing are the same. When the Lord thinks of Himself as a cowherd boy or as a warrior prince, these “thoughts” of Krishna’s are pastimes performed by His plenary expansions, who also have the power to expand. Thus one transcendental expansion embodies Lord Krishna’s anger, another His abilities as a perfect king, another His literary abilities, and still another His omnipotent capacity for material creation.

While Krishna’s plenary expansions possess His full power and opulence, Krishna’s own attributes are nevertheless more pleasant, so much so that as an ultimate expression of Their individuality, the plenary expansions are attracted to and worship Krishna. When Krishna appeared as Lord Chaitanya, two of His plenary expansions appeared with Him as Advaita Acarya and Nityananda Prabhu and lived as His devotees, rendering loving service.

Krishna’s Home and His Kingdom

Lord Chaitanya informed Sanatana Goswami that a plenary expansion of Krishna presides over each of the innumerable planets in the spiritual sky. These expansions, which have four arms, are called Narayana expansions, and the spiritual sky is known as Narayanaloka.

“The breadth of each spiritual planet,” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explained, “is eight miles multiplied by one hundred, by one thousand, by ten thousand, by one hundred thousand, and by ten million. In other words each spiritual planet is beyond our ability to measure.”

Despite their infinite size and number, the planets of Narayanaloka surround Krishna’s personal abode, Krishnaloka, as petals surround the whorl of a lotus. Devotees of the Lord in Narayanaloka worship the majestic, omnipotent Narayana forms with the ceremony and personal distance mandated by their mood of awe and reverence, while on Krishnaloka Krishna enjoys the loving devotion and familiarity of His most intimate devotees and friends. At work, a high-court judge wears the garb and receives the respect appropriate to his or her office, while at home the same judge’s rank and prestige take a back seat or are completely forgotten in the atmospheres of comraderie, affection, and romance created by the presence of friends, lovers, and children. Krishnaloka is Krishna’s home, while Narayanaloka is His kingdom, where in His official capacity as the Supreme Lord He promininently displays His opulences and powers.

All the expansions of Lord Krishna have their residences eternally in the spiritual sky, but when They descend into the material world they are called avataras, or incarnations. Avatara means “one who descends.” The incarnations of Godhead are either expansions of Krishna or expansions of His expansions, but Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.

“O learned scholars,” the Bhagavatam declares, “just as hundreds and thousands of small ponds issue from great reservoirs of water, innumerable incarnations flow from Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the reservoir of all power.”

Lord Krishna’s primary motivation for both His expansion and His descent is to please His devotees. Devotees long to see and serve Krishna in particular ways according to their individual preferences and moods, and the Lord obliges. Krishna sends His expansions to the material creation, and He comes Himself as well, bringing Krishnaloka and its residents with Him.

Eternal Pastimes

Although the pastimes of Krishna and His expansions in the material creation are historical events recorded in Vedic literature, with historical beginnings and ends, these pastimes are eternal. When Lord Krishna Himself appeared on earth five thousand years ago, He stayed for 125 years, performing pastimes beginning with His birth, or appearance, and proceeding through His childhood pastimes, up to the battle of Kurukshetra, and finally to His disappearance. These pastimes are no longer visible here, yet they continue eternally.

To explain, Lord Chaitanya gave the example of the sun, which to our eyes appears and disappears each day, though it is always shining somewhere on earth. Using the regular movements of the sun, we divide the day and night into hours, minutes, seconds, and fractions of seconds, and each of these divisions occurs continuously. That is, it is exactly noon somewhere on earth at any given moment, exactly noon plus a nanosecond somewhere else, and so on. Like the sun, Krishna’s pastimes have an orbit through the material universes, with each pastime in the sequence appearing somewhere at any given moment, and with His pastimes gradually returning to every universe just as the sun returns to noon at each point on earth. The sun of Krishna’s eternal pastimes is continuously visible in Krishnaloka. In the material creation these same pastimes, as well as the pastimes of Krishna’s uncountable incarnations, though still eternal, manifest and disappear in each universe at regular intervals.

Krishna and His plenary expansions display Their pastimes in the material creation to attract us back to the spiritual world, back to Godhead. Their purpose here is transcendental. It is impossible for Them to come under the control of the material nature, because the material nature is Their energy. Though we too are expansions of Krishna, we are not plenary expansions. We are eternally minute individual particles of the Lord, endowed by Him with minute powers. We do fall under the control of matter. Or we can. We are free to either live as servants of the Lord and His expansions on the eternal, blissful spiritual planets or to transfer across the Viraja River into the service of this miserable material creation, thus creating our own suffering.

Whether we reside in the material or spiritual world, however, our unalterable nature as minute souls is service. Just as sugar is unalterably sweet, water unalterably wet, we are by nature servants. To serve our current rebellious desires to expand our lives without Krishna, we use our minute powers to build temporary homes, communities, and civilizations from the elements of material nature provided by the Lord. The same intensity of service, when employed to reawaken our devotion and love for Krishna, lifts us to the spiritual nature, where the opportunities and inspiration for service to the Lord expand eternally in an exhilaration of transcendental bliss and knowledge.

Using an earlier example for emphasis, Lord Chaitanya again asserted that it is not possible to adequately describe Krishna’s transcendental forms and pastimes.

“Whatever I have explained is simply a little glimpse,” He told Sanatana Goswami. “It is like showing the moon through the branches of a tree.”

The Lord’s instructions to Sanatana in Varnasi continued for two months, covering the many categories of avataras, the spiritual planets, devotional behavior, and other spiritual topics almost too numerous to list. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, a contemporary of Lord Chaitanya, devotes several chapters of his Sri Chaitanya- caritamrita to the Lord’s teachings to Sanatana. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s remarkable multi-volume translation of Chaitanya- caritamrita, along with the additional intimate insights of his earlier summary study, Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, awaits readers eager to absorb themselves in the life and precepts of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

At the end of two months, Lord Chaitanya sent Sanatana on to Vrindavana and returned to Jagannatha Puri on the Bay of Bengal, following His previous route through the forests of Madhya Pradesh. Before long both Sanatana and his younger brother Rupa Goswami were themselves traveling to Puri to meet again with the Lord.

Lord Chaitanya’s Teachings to Rupa Goswami


Lord Chaitanya clarifies, among other things, the origin and evolution of the species.

As related in the last issue, Rupa Goswami and his brother Sanatana Goswami have resigned their ministerial posts in the Muslim government of sixteenth-century Bengal, having decided to dedicate their lives to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. Now we follow Rupa Goswami as he travels to meet Lord Chaitanya in Allahabad and then learns from Him the science of Krishna consciousness.

After giving away his fortune at Bakla Chandradvipa in the district of Yashohara, Bengal, where he and his brothers had grown up, Rupa Goswami sent two messengers to Jagannatha Puri to find out when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu planned to leave for Vrindavana. By the time the messengers returned to inform Rupa that the Lord had already started for Vrindavana through the forest of Madhya Pradesh, Rupa’s older brother Sanatana had been imprisoned by the Nawab (governor). Rupa sent Sanatana a letter, informing him of Lord Chaitanya’s whereabouts and encouraging him to buy his release with ten thousand gold coins on deposit with a local business. Rupa wrote that he was leaving with their younger brother, Anupama, to join Lord Chaitanya.

“You must also somehow or other get released and come meet us in Vrindavana,” he urged Sanatana.

Vrindavana is in north central India, about one hundred miles south of modern Delhi. Both Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Rupa Goswami were traveling on foot from the eastern side of the Indian subcontinent, Lord Chaitanya from Puri on the Bay of Bengal, Rupa Goswami from an area of Bengal that today is about a day’s drive northeast of Puri. Lord Chaitanya, setting out with one assistant in early autumn of the year 1513, had a head start. Leaving late at night to escape notice, the Lord avoided the better-known public roads, passed just to the south of present-day Cuttack, and entered on a forest path. After much traveling, He stopped briefly at Varanasi on the bank of the Ganges, then moved on to Prayaga, near Allahabad, and finally reached Vrindavana.

After Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Vrindavana sojourn, when He returned to Prayaga in February of 1514, Rupa and Anupama, having followed the path of the Ganges from Bengal, caught up with the Lord. When Rupa and Anupama arrived, Lord Chaitanya was on His way to visit Prayaga’s temple of Bindu Madhava, followed by many hundreds and thousands of people eager to meet Him. As the Lord proceeded, loudly chanting Hare Krishna and dancing, the people following Him joyously laughed, danced, and chanted along with Him, creating an ecstatic uproar.

The brothers watched the wonderful scene from an uncrowded place and later went to meet the Lord at the home of a brahmana. Seeing Rupa and Anupama bowing down to Him at a distance, Lord Chaitanya welcomed and embraced them. The brothers offered many prayers to the Lord, culminating with, “O most munificent incarnation! You are Krishna Himself appearing as Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You.”

As Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna adopts the mood of His greatest devotee, Srimati Radharani, to understand and relish Her feelings towards Him and to teach by His own example the exalted position of devotional service.

Eager to learn from the Lord, Rupa Goswami followed Him and stayed with Him wherever He moved around Prayaga. To avoid crowds, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu went to Dashashvame-dha Ghat on the bank of the Ganges and there for ten days instructed Rupa Goswami on the science of devotional service.

Life is Everywhere

“My dear Rupa, the science of devotional service to Krishna is like a great ocean of nectar,” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began. “It is impossible to show you this entire ocean, but to give you an idea of its length and breadth, I will try to describe just one drop.”

The universe, Lord Chaitanya informed Rupa Goswami, is filled with countless living beings in 8,400,000 species of life. The Vishnu Purana confirms the Lord’s statement, elaborating that there are 900,000 species of aquatics, 2,000,000 species of plants and trees, 1,100,000 species of insects and reptiles, 1,000,000 species of birds, 3,000,000 species of four-legged animals, and 400,000 species of human beings. These 8,400,000 species are not all present on the earth but are spread throughout the universe, as every planet is inhabited. As on this planet living creatures have bodies adapted to living on land or in the water, in tropical heat or in arctic cold, so all over the universe the bodies of the living entities are suitable for the planets on which they reside.

According to the Bhagavad-gita, five categories of material elements make up the universe: earth, water, fire, air, and ether (or space). Since we find living entities all over this planet, in all kinds of elements, there is no logic to denying the statement of the Vedic literature that living entities live on all planets in the universe, whatever the arrangements of the elements on a particular planet. We human beings on earth are like a colony of ants occupying one tiny point on a vast continent. We possess little capacity to understand on our own the extent of life in the universe. We have to take assistance from the Lord and the Vedic texts to learn that what may look to us like barren space is in truth a universe teeming with varieties of life, both human and nonhuman.

Our bodies may not survive elsewhere in the universe, but other bodies do, and in any case the living entity is only the proprietor of a particular body, not the body itself. The living entity is an indestructible individual particle of spirit seated in the body as driver of the bodily machine.

“The size of the living entity is one ten-thousandth the size of the tip of a hair,” Lord Chaitanya continued. The Lord quoted a commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam: “If we divide the tip of a hair into a hundred parts and then take one of these parts and divide it again into a hundred parts, that very fine particle is the size of but one of the numberless living entities. They are particles of spirit, not matter.”

As the sun spreads its light throughout the sky, so the minute living entity spreads its consciousness throughout a particular body. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna states that the numberless living entities within the universe are eternally fragments of Him. He is the supreme, all- pervading spirit, and we are all tiny particles of spirit, in quality one with Him. If we were one with God in all respects—if we were all-pervading and all- powerful—there would be no question of our being caged as we are in the material elements, forced to do battle against material nature. When we give up trying to be lord of the universe and submit ourselves as servants of the Supreme Lord, material nature begins to release us from the hard struggle for existence and we become happy.

Evolution of Consciousness

In the 8,000,000 species of life below the human species there is an evolution not of bodies or of species, as the Darwinians say, but of the consciousness of the minute particles of spirit. At the creation of the universe, Krishna creates all 8,400,000 species to accommodate 8,400,000 varieties of desires and qualifications of the minute spiritual sparks who want to imitate Him as Lord. From the species of plants and trees where consciousness is very covered and dim, up through the millions of species of birds and quadrupeds, material nature automatically promotes us as we transmigrate from one body to another, one planet to another, in the cycle of repeated birth and death. Consciousness gradually emerges from the covering of matter, until upon reaching the human form of life we have the capacity to question our existence: Who am I? Why am I suffering? What is this universe? What is life?

This inquisitive human being is only a tiny portion of the universal population. Lord Chaitanya explained to Rupa Goswami that the population can be divided in two: those that can move and those that cannot. Trees and plants are nonmoving living entities, while aquatics, birds, and animals move in the water, in the air, and on land. Among the millions and trillions of living beings moving on land, human beings are a numerically minuscule section. Then in this small human community, most members are completely ignorant of spiritual life and have no faith in the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Among those few who do have faith in God and the scriptures, at least half give only lip service while engaging in all kinds of activities against religious principles, or even against basic moral standards. The activities of the faithless and the lip servers eventually degrade to the point where they fully resemble the activities of animals or worse, and these living entities, their consciousness again covered by their own will, descend again to the lower species in their next lives to start over in the evolutionary cycle.

Above the lip servers, among the sincere followers of religious principles, most people aspire to profit from the business of piety. These people are called fruitive workers, because they want to enjoy the results, or fruits, of their good work. They want something back for their devotion: wealth, fame, a comfortable life for themselves and for those they love, either here or in heaven. Out of millions of fruitive workers one is wise enough to see that no matter how rich the results of our piety, we continue suffering birth and death in the material universe without any true satisfaction of the soul.

These rare wise persons have a preliminary understanding that they are eternal spirit, not matter, and they desire liberation from material suffering by losing themselves in eternal spiritual existence. With their rudimentary knowledge, these spiritualists are inclined towards monism, or merging with the Absolute Truth. There is an eternal distinction between ourselves, our knowledge of the Absolute Truth, and the Absolute Truth itself. The monist makes futile attempts to dissolve this distinction in favor of oneness, then falls back in frustration to activities for material enjoyment.

Out of millions of wise persons, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu informed Rupa Goswami, it is difficult to find one who has avoided the trap of monism to become a pure devotee of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the origin of both material and spiritual existence. A primary quality of pure devotees is that they are peaceful. They are not agitated by desires for material enjoyment or by the desire to merge with the Supreme. Their only wish is to serve Krishna. Depending on Krishna as a small child depends on its parents, without expecting assistance but always feeling protected, the devotee is personally desireless.

The Creeper of Devotion

The platform of desireless devotion, the summit of evolution, is the gift of Krishna and His devotees. Lord Chaitanya informed Rupa Goswami that after wandering in the evolutionary cycle from planet to planet all around the universe, from animal and plant life up to the stage of human wisdom and back down over and over again, a living entity by good fortune gets the chance to meet a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. Lord Krishna is situated in everyone’s heart, and when He sees that the living entity desires to return to Him, He sends His empowered representative to offer the living entity instruction in devotional service. The Supreme can be known only by devotional service cultivated under the guidance of an expert and authorized devotee. By the mercy of Krishna one gets a bona fide spiritual master, and by the mercy of the spiritual master one gets Krishna.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu likened devotional service to a vine, or a creeper. Training under the spiritual master in the methods and regulations of devotional service is the seed of this creeper. When one associates with devotees, hears from one’s devotee spiritual master, and chants the Hare Krishna mantra, the seed of devotion sprouts in one’s heart. As one waters the creeper of devotion by faithfully serving the spiritual master and hearing about Krishna from him, the creeper expands so vigorously that it grows out of the material universe into the spiritual sky, reaching the planets of the transcendental kingdom of God. On the topmost spiritual planet the creeper takes shelter of the lotus feet of Krishna and produces fruits of love of God.

Sitting with Rupa Goswami on the bank of the Ganges at Dashashvamedha Ghat, Lord Chaitanya described in detail how with watering, care, and protection the living entity’s devotional creeper continues to expand in the spiritual world. Having surpassed the material sky with its evolution of consciousness in 8,400,00 species, the eternal living entity undergoes a blissful transcendental evolution through the many ecstatic stages of love of God.

An Ocean of Nectar

After these detailed instructions Lord Chaitanya concluded, “My dear Rupa, I have simply given a general description of the science of devotion. You can consider how to adjust and expand upon this. When one thinks of Krishna constantly, one can reach the shore of the ocean of transcendental love by Lord Krishna’s mercy.”

Rupa Goswami absorbed the elaborate descriptions of transcendental love from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by His mercy, and twenty-eight years later, in the year 1542, completed his definitive work on spiritual evolution entitled Bhakti- rasamrita-sindhu, or “The Ocean of the Nectar of Devotional Service.” This great work remained little known and far less understood, in India or the West, until His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada published a summary study of the work in 1970 as The Nectar of Devotion.

The morning after completing His teachings to Rupa Goswami, Lord Chaitanya rose and prepared to leave Prayaga and return to the city of Varanasi. Rupa Goswami begged to go with Him, but the Lord ordered him to continue on to Vrindavana.

“Later,” the Lord promised, “you can travel from Vrindavana to Jagannatha Puri by way of Bengal and meet Me again.”

Extremely distressed at losing the Lord’s company, but eager to carry out His mission, Rupa Goswami watched as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu boarded the boat taking Him to Varanasi.

As Rupa and Anupama resumed their journey to Vrindavana and Lord Chaitanya traveled down the Ganges towards Varanasi, Sanatana Goswami too was nearing Varanasi, having escaped from prison in Bengal.

(In an upcoming issue we’ll hear about Lord Chaitanya’s teachings to Sanatana Goswami.)

The All-Powerful Names Of God


Lord Chaitanya’s Eight Teachings of Siksastaka

namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-shaktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah
etadrishi tava kripa bhagavan mamapi
durdaivam idrisham ihajani nanuragah

O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names, like Krishna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies, and there are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by chanting Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.”

This verse begins with an affirmation of the fact that everything can be gotten from the holy name, since the holy name is herein revealed to be nondifferent from the Lord’s own nature. Lord Chaitanya expresses this by saying nija-sarva-shaktih: all of the Lord’s potencies exist in His holy name. In other words, the Lord and His name are nondifferent. That is the nature of absolute phenomena.

We, on the other hand, are accustomed to relative phenomena, and so we cannot conceive of an object and its name being nondifferent. In the relative world a name is just a symbol, an abstract representation. If I think of water, for example, the thought alone cannot quench my thirst. The substance water and the word water are two completely different phenomena. I can chant “water, water, water” until I’m blue in the face, but my thirst will not go away. That is the nature of the relative world.

The Absolute realm is just the opposite. There, a name and the thing it represents are identical. If I chant “Krishna, Krishna, Krishna,” I’m actually in contact with Him.

This principle was explained in complex theological terminology by the disciples of Lord Chaitanya known as the six Goswamis of Vrindavana. They called it nama-naminor- advaita, which means, “the nondifference between the named one and the name.” Jiva Goswami went so far as to say, bhagavat svarupam eva nama, or “the name is the essence of the Lord.” In fact, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught that the holy name is a type of avatar, varna-rupenavataro ‘yam: “the Lord in the form of syllables.”

If you study the Judaeo-Christian tradition, you will find that this principle was understood in ancient times. For example, there is great instruction in “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” Not only is this encouragement for chanting God’s name, but the word hallowed didn’t always mean what it means today. Today it means “sacred.” We say that the name of God is sacred. But originally the word hallowed meant “whole.” The name of God was considered complete. So “hallowed be Thy name” meant that God’s name was complete in itself, or full of God’s own potency, as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says.

This is true of all genuinely spiritual sound vibrations. It is a nonsectarian principle. Therefore, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says namnam akari bahudha: there are various kinds of names for the Lord. They are not restricted to Sanskrit or Bengali. Any name that describes God is totally spiritual and is thus nondifferent from His very essence. The names Krishna and Govinda are particularly special names, referring to God’s highest and original feature in the divine kingdom, in the spiritual world. For this reason, Prabhu-pada, the translator of this verse, has used these two names as prime examples. But all genuine names of God are accepted. Therefore it is said that He has hundreds and millions of names.

All religious traditions teach this principle and encourage adherents to chant God’s names, even if, in practice, the instruction is hardly followed. In fact, all religions emphasize the chanting process as the prime means for developing God consciousness. For example, King David, of the Bible, preached: “From the rising of the sun until its setting, the Lord’s name is to be praised.” (Psalms 113:3) Saint Paul said, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) In this way, the potency of the name is endorsed even in the Western religious traditions.

No Restrictions

Not only can it be said that there are diverse names through which one can approach the Lord, but there are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names. No niyamitah, or “restrictions,” and no special time, kalah, as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says. Anytime. Anywhere. You see, certain Vedic mantras, and certain prayers within other religious traditions as well, have definite rules about chanting them, according to time, place, and circumstance. But the name of God is special and is to be chanted constantly, as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu again confirms in the next verse: kirtaniyah sada harih, which means that one should always chant the Lord’s name. This command is also in the Bible: “Pray ceaselessly.” (Thessalonians 5:17). Not vain repetition—the Bible warns us about that. But pure, sincere chanting, or prayerful chanting. Calling out to God with love and devotion. There are no rules and regulations to restrict that. That is beyond legislation. It is from the heart. Therefore, taking the position of the perfect devotee, teaching us how to pray in the proper mood, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu thanks the Lord for showing us this mercy in relation to the holy name.

But just because the Lord is merciful enough to give us an unlimited variety of names, and to excuse us for offenses, informing us that there are no hard and fast rules for this chanting, we should not become exploitative. We should not abuse His kindness by chanting in an insincere way. No. We should be respectful, grateful, and humble—always anxious to become more and more sincere or adept in our chanting. We should always remember that despite the Lord’s kindness, we are still so fallen that we continue to have no taste for the name. Lord Chaitanya, taking our position, teaches us exactly what our perceptions should be about our own relationship with the holy name. He says, durdaivam idrisham ihajani nanuragah: “It is my great misfortune that I was born without any attraction or attachment for the holy name.” Any questions?

Question: If chanting is an inherent feature of the soul—if it is natural to call out to God in love and devotion—why do we have no attraction? Why, as Lord Chaitanya says, do we not have any natural attachment to the chanting?

Satyaraja Dasa: That’s a very good question. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu answered it in His first verse: We’ve accumulated dust—conditioning—on the mirror of the consciousness. So we have no taste, or rather, we’ve developed perverted tastes, so to speak. We’ve developed attraction and attachment for things of this world, and we’ve lost, or let us say, we’ve covered our natural attraction and attachment for things of the spirit, at least to the degree that we are conditioned.

You see, externally it may appear as though our taste for chanting develops gradually, that it is an acquired taste. But actually it is our original taste, the taste of the soul. It is our current personality that is actually acquired—it is unnatural.

In this connection, the etymology of the word “personality” is interesting. It’s traced back to the root personna, which originally referred to the mask that an actor wore during a dramatic performance. It wasn’t his real identity. It was a part he played. Similarly we’ve developed materialistic personalities, colored by the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. And when we finally purify ourselves through certain reliable prescribed austerities, chief of which is the chanting of the holy name, we begin to remember our original personality. We begin to remember who we were before we adopted our external personna. That’s called self-realization.

Four Obstacles

Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great saint in Lord Chaitanya’s line, has commented on this verse, directly answering your question. He says that there are basically four obstacles to our attraction and attachment to the holy name. First, he points to svarupa-bhrama, or one’s “mistaken identity.” As soon as we are born into this world, we identify with the body and mind, totally oblivious of our real identity as the soul within. Still, an honest person will admit, “I don’t know where I came from. I don’t know where I’m going. Since this is true, I’ve got a deep suspicion that I don’t even really know who I am now.” [Laughter.] If a person can admit this much, that’s a good beginning for spiritual life.

Next, Bhaktivinoda mentions asad-trishna, or “evil propensities.” Because of our conditioning, we become selfish. Where there is self, there is selfinterest. That’s natural. But the more covered we get, the more our sense of self-interest becomes exaggerated, and we develop an exploitative mentality, especially if we are conditioned by a preponderance of passion and ignorance. These are the evil propensities that tend to make our heart very hard, and we then have no patience for chanting the holy name. We develop an aversion for supplicating some distant “Supreme Being,” and we lose whatever spiritual taste we may have had. Or the taste becomes covered, as I have mentioned earlier.

Hridaya-durbalya, or “weakness of heart,” the third obstacle mentioned by Bhaktivinoda, is closely related to the principle of evil propensities. It takes strength to overcome one’s conditioning, which is deep-rooted. And one must purify one’s consciousness before one can even really understand why it is ultimately in one’s own self-interest to become free from the misconceptions associated with mundane existence.

The fourth and final obstacle mentioned by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in this connection is aparadha, or “offenses.” I’ve made a list of the ten major offenses, and these can be circulated so you can get some idea.

You can see that it is a great science. And, in answer to your question, the Gaudiya Vaishnavas have an elaborate theology about why the conditioned living entity may feel he has no taste for the holy name.

Now on to the third verse:

trinad api sunicena
taror iva sahishnuna
amanina manadena
kirtaniyah sada hari

“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.”

Here Chaitanya Mahaprabhu continues on the theme of humility. He ended the last verse by bemoaning His lack of taste for the holy name. A devotee will naturally develop such humility. In the third verse, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that one must chant in a state of amanina: without being even slightly proud and arrogant. That’s no easy accomplishment. But that’s what it takes to enter into the mysteries of the holy name.

We must consider ourselves trinad api sunicena, “more down-trodden than the lowly grass.” And we must have taror iva sahishnuna—the full tolerance of a tree. Even if you hit a tree or treat it disrespectfully, it will still give you all the shade you want. It tolerates scorching heat and driving rain. Most of all, despite any inconvenience, it still gives shelter to others. That’s the main thing that one can learn from a tree.

Of course, it may be said that a tree has no choice and we do. But the tenor of this verse is that one must put oneself in that mood of selflessness: “I’m not so special.” Only if we feel ourselves to be in this lowly condition will we be ready to offer manadena, or respect to all living beings. That’s the mood of a devotee. Now, someone may say that this is too self-effacing. A devotee may lose self-esteem, integrity. And how can one be a productive person—or even serve the Lord, for that matter—if one is feeling oneself to be in a terrible, lowly position?

We should understand that we have to follow Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mood in a practical way. If I have a severe ego problem and feel totally useless, so much so that I can’t do any tangible service or even chant, I’d do well to take pride in being an aspiring devotee of Krishna. Because Krishna, God, is the greatest, that’s really a great position.

By recognizing that I’ve found the path of God consciousness in this life, I should be genuinely happy and grateful. I certainly shouldn’t be so self-indulgent that I spend all my time worrying about how useless I am.

Truth be told, though, people don’t generally suffer from this problem. People tend to lean in the other direction. We generally think we’re God’s gift to creation. This type of ego problem is much more prominent. In fact, religious or “spiritual” people, too—in some cases, religious people especially—can be guilty of a “holier than thou” attitude. So, to compensate, we’re asked to go in the other direction: “You’re puffed-up; you think you’re so great. So now try and realize how small you actually are!”

Humbling Honesty

And in fact we are tiny. Out of all the countless universes, we’re in one small universe. Out of all the planets and stars in this universe, we’re on one particular planet. Given the limited dimensions of this planet, there are many countries. And of all those countries, I’m in one. This country is made up of many states, and those states of many cities. Of all these cities, I am in one particular city. In this city, there are many neighborhoods, and of them all, I’m in one particular neighborhood. In my neighborhood, there are many streets; I’m on only one street. Then, on this street there are many houses and apartment buildings. I happen to be in one particular apartment building. In this building there are many apartments of all shapes and sizes. I’m in one of them. And even in my one apartment, there are numerous living beings, such as insects and microbes. I’m one living being among all of these living beings. And I’m thinking, “Oh, I’m so important.”

So if we’re a little introspective, a little contemplative, we’ll see our miniscule place in the universe. It’s humbling. If we think about God’s greatness, especially, we’ll realize how small we actually are. And there are definite advantages to realizing our tiny position. We don’t become the loser. Think about it. To be more tolerant than a tree … hmmm. That would be quite useful. How often we lose our temper or get angry about petty little things. If we can develop tolerance, we can rise beyond these problems. If you think about it, most of our problems come from having an inflated conception of who we are. Just imagine. If we were genuinely humble, then we would not get angry every time something didn’t go our way. And we would be sincerely grateful every time it did.

If we could attain this level, we would have a peaceful mind and we could chant the holy name without any disturbance. Or as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, kirtaniyah sada harih—we could chant constantly. Why? Because our mind would be free. Mantra means “mind freedom,” or “mind release.” So to properly chant a mantra one must have a free mind. Actually, there are two sides: one must have a basically free mind to at least begin chanting; otherwise one won’t even want to start. And then by chanting, one’s mind can go further, attaining new heights of freedom, spiritual freedom. This is alluded to in this verse.

Srila Sanatana Gosvami


Chaturatma dasa hosts a discussion of the life of the sixteenth century author and spiritual teacher Sanatana Goswami, an associate of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and one of the six Goswamis of Vrindavan.

Baladeva Vidyabhushana Part II


by Nandarani Devi Dasi and Dayananda Dasa

Summary of Part I: In the early eighteenth century, after a vigorous study of Vedanta philosophy, Baladeva Vidyabhushana accepted Lord Chaitanya’s teachings as the highest revelation of the Absolute Truth. Meanwhile, a sect in Rajasthan known as the Ramanandis was challenging the authenticity of Lord Chaitanya’s movement. Although the Ramanandis were flourishing under the patronage of King Jai Singh, the king favored the Gaudiyas (followers of Lord Cai- tanya) and was a devotee of Govinda, one of their principal Deities.

The Ramanandis alleged that Lord Chaitanya’s followers lay outside the four recognized disciplic lines (sampradayas) and therefore had no valid standing. If the Gaudiyas failed to defend the legitimacy of Lord Chaitanya’s movement, they could lose all respectability and even the right to worship Govinda. Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, the leader of the Gaudiyas in Vrindavana, saw in Baladeva the right defender for Gaudiya Vaishnavism.


Jai Singh prepared himself for the religious confrontation he knew was inevitable. He collected and studied the writings of the Gaudiya sect and compared it with the writings of other Vaishnava sampradayas. He studied the Bhagavata Purana and its commentaries by Sridhara Svami, Sanatana Gosvami, and Jiva Goswami. He pored over the Vedanta- sutra and its commentaries by Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, and Nimbarka. He explored the works of Sanatana Gosvami, Rupa Gosvami, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Jiva Goswami, and Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the principal theologians of the Gaudiya school. And he read Jayadeva’s Gita- govinda, the poetry that had often evoked expressions of ecstatic love in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Jai Singh wanted to reconcile the differences between the principal sects of Vaishnavas. He felt that these differences had no philosophical basis, so continual wrangling could serve no purpose. Having completed his research, he composed a thesis entitled Brahma-bodhini, advocating the unity of the Vaishnavas.

The king’s attraction to Krishna had been sparked during his first visit to Vrindavana, as a child of seven. He had been called there by his father, the military commander of the district, who had been deputed to protect the caravans between Agra and Mathura. From that young age, Jai Singh had considered himself a devotee of Krishna. Now his study of the writings of the Vrindavana Gosvamis crystallized his sentiments. But his devotion to Radha and Krishna would be tested by the Ramanandis.

“The Gaudiyas should not worship Radha and Krishna together,” the Ramanandis told him. “Radha and Krishna are not married. There is no precedent for Their being worshiped together! Sita and Rama are together, and Lakshmi and Narayana, because They are married. But Radha and Krishna are not married.”

Now the Ramanandis were escalating the quarrel. They not only criticized the Gaudiyas’ lineage but also found fault with the Gaudiya method of worship. The Ramanandis demanded that Radha be removed from the main altar and placed in another room, to be worshiped separately.

Jai Singh sent word to the mahantas (religious authorities) of the Gaudiya temples. “You must prepare a response to the criticisms voiced by the Ramanandis of Galta Valley. I am sympathetic to your philosophy and practice, but your response must be adequate to silence the Ramanandi panditas, or I shall be forced to separate Radharani from Krishna.”

The mahantas of the four major Gaudiya temples of Amber submitted their response in writing. They explained that Rupa, Sanatana, and Jiva Goswamis shared the same opinion about Radha and Krishna: They could be worshiped either as married (svakiya-rasa) or unmarried (parakiya- rasa), since both these pastimes (lila) are eternal.Worship of Krishna in either lila is adequate to establish a devotee’s eternal relationship with the Supreme.

The Ramanandis rejected these arguments. Fighting for their religious and political power, they again approached Jai Singh.

Because Radha and Krishna were not married, the Ramanandis complained, worshiping Them together condoned Their questionable relationship. The Ramanandis also criticized the Gaudiyas for worshiping Krishna without first worshiping Narayana.

To appease the Ramanandis, Jai Singh told them he would ask the Gaudiyas to place the Deity of Radharani in a separate room. He would also ask them to explain their breach of Vaishnava etiquette in neglecting Narayana worship, and he would ask them to prove their link with the Madhva- sampradaya.

Vishvanatha Deputes Baladeva

Vishvanatha Chakravarti, a scholar of great repute, lived in Vrindavana at this time. Vishvanatha had been born in 1646 in a Bengali village named Saidabad, where he had spent the first years of his life. Like other aspiring young renunciants, Vishvanatha had faced problems with his family, who had betrothed him at a young age to tie him to domestic life. As a married youth, Vishvanatha had studied extensively, and while living with his family in Saidabad he had written brilliant commentaries on Vaishnava scripture.

During his life in Saidabad, Vishvanatha had taken initiation from Radha-ramana Chakravarti and studied the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vaishnava scriptures with Radharamana’s father, Krishnacarana Chakravarti. Radha- ramana was three generations removed from the main preceptor in their line, Narottama Dasa Thakura.

Eventually Vishvanatha had left his family and gone to Vrindavana, where he had lived at Radha-kunda. He formally accepted the dress of a renunciant and was then called Harivallabha. He continued writing and preaching, and eventually he became the leader of the Gaudiya community in Vrindavana.

By the time Govinda moved to Rajasthan in 1707, Vishvanatha was more than sixty years old. The aging scholar followed the Amber developments with interest. How would Govinda and His priests fare in that pluralistic environment, at the vortex of the competing forces of the young king’s devotion, the Ramanandis’ antagonism, and the threatening presence of so many sects?

Vishvanatha regularly communicated with the mahantas of the Vaishnava temples in Amber. Although he had expected trouble from the Ramanandis, the quarrel had stewed for years before threatening the Gaudiya priests or affecting the Deity worship. Now, he knew, they despaired over the growing antagonism of the Ramanandis.

Vishvanatha called for Baladeva. “We must refute the points of the Ramanandis,” Vishvanatha told his protege. “It will not be easy, but we can defeat them.”

Baladeva was outraged by the presumptuousness of the Ramanandi critics. “Why must we establish the legitimacy of our lineage?” he demanded. “The Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, appeared as Lord Chaitanya to establish the true religion for this Age of Quarrel. When God Himself originates a religious tradition, who may dare question its legitimacy?”

“The Ramanandis do question it,” Vishvanatha replied, “and they rest their criticism on the statement in Padma Purana that in this age there are four sampradayas, or lines of disciplic succession. The Purana says:

catvaras te kalau bhavya
hy utkale purushottama

The meaning is that the four Vaishnava sampradayas—Sri, Brahma, Rudra, and Kumara—purify the earth.”

“Yes,” replied Baladeva, “I know this verse. And the Ramanandis say that the words utkale purushottama mean that these four sampradayas have their monasteries in Orissa, in Purushottama-kshetra, the town of Jagannatha Puri.

“But the real meaning is that the Supreme Lord, Purushottama, is the quintessence of these four sampradayas. And when He appears in Kali-yuga, He lives in Jagannatha Puri, as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. So the Gaudiya lineage is not a fifth sampradaya but the essence of the four.”

Vishvanatha and Baladeva spent the night discussing the Ramanandis’ other points of contention about Lord Chaitanya’s movement. They developed the strategy by which they would defeat the Ramanandis.

Vishvanatha sent Baladeva with Krishnadeva Sarvabhauma to Amber. Baladeva’s arrival there was unheralded. He was new to the Gaudiya community, unknown even among the Gaudiya mahantas of Amber. And he was young. No one, even of his own tradition, suspected that a philosophical giant lived within the unpretentious form of this Gaudiya holyman from Vrindavana. Baladeva had difficulty gaining audience with the king. And when he was finally able to do so, the Ramanandis in the court were ready for him.

“Sir,” Baladeva said to the king, “I have come to resolve doubts about the Gaudiya-sampradaya and its methods of worship.”

“Your Highness,”a Ramanandi pandita broke in, “we request to speak to him directly!”

Jai Singh turned to Baladeva. “You may speak,” the king said, confident that if Krishna were indeed the Supreme Lord, Krishna would arrange for His own defense.

The Ramanandis opened with an offensive they felt sure would guarantee their authority.

“The problem,” they told Baladeva, “is that you do not belong to a proper sampradaya. Therefore we cannot accept the literature written by your panditas.”

“I am from the Madhva-sampradaya,” Baladeva asserted confidently.

“I have been initiated in Mysore by a Tirtha of the Madhva order. But Radha-Damodara Gosvami and Vishvanatha Chakravarti of the Gaudiya-sampradaya are also my gurus. They have taught me Bhagavata philosophy.”

The Ramanandis were surprised.

Baladeva’s Madhva initiation meant that they had to accept him as a qualified sannyasi and pandita of an authorized lineage. But they hoped his youth might indicate a lack of skill. They rallied themselves. “You may be from the Madhva-sampradaya, but the other Gaudiyas are not!”

Baladeva retained his dignity and produced a key piece of evidence. “That is the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika, written by Kavi Karnapura more than one hundred years ago. This manuscript details our lineage from Madhva.” Baladeva presented the manuscript for inspection.

The Ramanandis again argued, “If the Gaudiyas claim descent from Madhva, then you must base your arguments on Madhva’s Brahma-sutra commentary. We know that the Gaudiyas have no commentary of their own.”

Baladeva thought. The Gaudiyas had never written a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, because they accepted the Srimad-Bhagavatam as the natural commentary. Vyasa is the author of both of these works, and Lord Chaitanya taught that when the author comments on his own work, his opinion is the best.

Baladeva knew that the Ramanandis would reject this argument. But he also knew that if he used Madhva’s commentary he would have problems, for Madhva’s commentary would not justify the style of worship practiced by the Gaudiyas. So Baladeva decided he would need to write a Gaudiya commentary himself. This commentary should be based on Madhva’s, but could have some allowable differences. “I will show you our commentary,” Baladeva said. “Please allow me to bring it.”

“Indeed, send for it,” granted the Ramanandi spokesman.

“That won’t be possible,” replied Baladeva. “I will require several days to write it.”

The Ramanandis were stunned. Could Baladeva produce a commentary within a few days? How audacious! But if Baladeva could indeed produce it, the Ramanandis’ position might be threatened. Should they grant him the time he required?

Before they could speak, King Jai Singh interjected. “Yes, the time is granted. Prepare your commentary and notify us when it is ready. You should know that unless you present a suitable commentary, we shall accept the criticisms of the Ramanandis as valid. But I shall not act on any of their demands until you have had an opportunity to present your commentary and your arguments.”

Govindaji Inspires Baladeva

Baladeva left the assembly, followed by Krishnadeva Sarvabhauma. Baladeva saw himself a puppet in the hands of the Lord. He had spoken boldly in the assembly, but would the Divine Puppeteer guide his pen?

Baladeva went to Govindapura. Presenting himself before Govinda, he knelt and prayed. “O Govinda, Your devotee Vishvanatha has sent me here to defend You and Your devotees, but I cannot do it! I am just a soul fallen in ignorance. If You wish, You may empower me to write a Vedanta-sutra commentary that will glorify You. If You wish, I shall write the truths I have learned from Your devotees and Your scripture. And I have faith that by Your mercy these truths will appear most logical.”

Then Baladeva began to write. Pausing scarcely to rest, he wrote and prayed and wrote again. Days passed, and nights, but he did not stop. Some historians say he wrote for one month. Others say it took him only seven days.

In any event, Baladeva soon returned from Govindapura. By now, keen expectancy had been aroused in all the various parties. Jai Singh, hoping to see the Gaudiyas vindicated, was especially eager to see the commentary. The Ramanandis, however, awaited the commentary with some trepidation, hoping they could defeat it readily.

Baladeva entered the court of debate convened in Galta. He stood on one side with the Gaudiya mahantas. Facing them were the Ramanandi panditas. King Jai Singh presided, and an audience of nobles and scholars was in attendance.

With the king’s permission, Baladeva rose.

“This commentary,” he said, putting forward his work, “is based on Madhva’s, but there are some important differences. If you examine it, you will find that it upholds the Gaudiya philosophy taught by Lord Chaitanya.”

A Ramanandi pandita stepped forward and received Baladeva’s commentary.

“Who is the author of this work?” he asked.

Baladeva replied, “The name of the commentary is Govinda-bhashya. Govinda has inspired this work. I have given the direct meanings of the sutras according to the wish of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And my comments are based on the teachings of my gurus.”

The learned members of the Ramanandi contingent examined the first portion of the bhashya to determine whether it was as Baladeva had claimed.

A spokesman conceded, “The influence of Madhva is certainly demonstrable in this commentary, but we should examine some of the differences.”

Baladeva then addressed each of the Ramanandis’ objections to Gaudiya worship.

“I have expounded on every aspect of Gaudiya practice in chapter three,” he said. “Since your criticisms concern our style of worship, you should turn to chapter three to see how Vyasa, the author of Vedanta-sutra, has provided for our worship.

“You object to our worship of Radha with Govinda on the superficial grounds that They are not married. In verses forty through forty-two I have presented the true position of Radha in relation to Krishna. Radha is the eternal energy of Krishna and is never separated from Him. Their relationship may be parakiya or svakiya, but that does not affect the eternality of Their union. The separation of Radha and Govinda you have effected is artificial and therefore offensive to the Lord, who holds deep affection for His female energy.

“You have criticized our predilection for worshiping only Krishna, neglecting neglecting the worship of Narayana, Vishnu, which you say is mandatory for all Vaishnavas. I have addressed that point in my comments to verse forty-three. According to the Vedanta-sutra, Narayana may be worshiped in any of His forms, including Krishna. No scriptural injunction prohibits the worship of Govinda exclusive of Narayana.”

Baladeva continued speaking while the Ramanandis stood defenseless. He spoke eloquently and exhaustively. A rebuttal from the Ramanandis never developed.

At the end of Baladeva’s presentation, King Jai Singh waited, weighing the evidence. The Ramanandis’ silence confirmed his own opinion.

He delivered his decision in a brief but conclusive statement. “The evidence supporting the Gaudiya legitimacy is unassailable. Hereafter, the Gaudiyas shall be recognized and respected as an authorized religious sect. I order the reunion of Radha with Govinda.”

The Gaudiya mahantas in Amber, free at last from condemnation by the Ramanandis, celebrated by building a temple of victory on the hill overlooking the Galta valley. The temple Deity was appropriately named Vijaya Gopala, “Victorious Gopala.”

At the Feet of Govinda

Baladeva returned to Vrindavana, where he assumed leadership of the Gaudiya community. He continued to write. Faithful to Jiva Goswami and devoted to Lord Chaitanya, he produced commentaries on ten principal Upanishads and nine works of the Vrindavana Gosvamis. He also wrote original works on grammar, drama, prosody, and poetics. He remained the unquestioned authority on Vaishnava theology until his death.*

With Baladeva’s victory over the Ramanandis, Jai Singh was satisfied. He had found the synthesis of Vaishnava religions. And Radha had been reunited with Govinda on the altar, as She is in eternity. Jai Singh dedicated himself to Govinda and passed a long, productive life as a king and scholar.

In 1714 Jai Singh moved Govinda to the Jai Nivasa Gardens and installed Him in a garden house, where He was worshiped for twenty-one years. In 1735 the king built a temple for Govinda within the Jaipur palace compound. Jai Singh later installed Govinda as the king of Jaipur and accepted the position of minister for himself. From that time his royal seal read, shri govinda-deva carana savai jai singh sharana: “Lord Govinda, at whose feet Jai Singh takes refuge.”


Jiva Goswami’s Tattvasandarbha, Stuart Mark Elkman (Elkman’s commentary includes Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s comments on Baladeva Vidyabhushana)(Motilal Benarsidass, 1986).

Sri Sri Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidana, Sri Haridas Das, Haribol Kutir, Sri Dhama Navadvipa, 1955.

History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. VII, R. C. Majumdar and others, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1974.

Mathura, A District Memoir, Frederick S. Growse, Oudh Government Press, Allahabad, 1883.

Literary Heritage of the Rulers of Amber and Jaipura, Gopal Narayana Bahura, City Palace Museum, Jaipura, 1976.

Jaipur City, A. K. Roy (publisher and date unknown).