Sanatana Gosvami


We read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Ten: “The Branches of the Caitanya Tree.”


anupama-vallabha, sri-rupa, sanatana
ei tina sakha vrksera pascime sarvottama


On the western side were the forty-third, forty-fourth and forty-fifth branches—Sri Sanatana, Sri Rupa, and Anupama. They were the best of all.


Sri Anupama was the father of Srila Jiva Gosvami and younger brother of Sri Sanatana Gosvami and Sri Rupa Gosvami. His former name was Vallabha, but after Lord Caitanya met him He gave him the name Anupama. Because of working in the Muslim government, these three brothers were given the title Mullik. Our personal family is connected with the Mulliks of Mahatma Gandhi Road in Calcutta, and we often used to visit their Radha-Govinda temple. They belong to the same family as we do. Our family gotra, or original genealogical line, is the Gautama-gotra, or line of disciples of Gautama Muni, and our surname is De. But due to their accepting the posts of zamindars in the Muslim government, they received the title Mullik. Similarly, Rupa, Sanatana and Vallabha were also given the title Mullik. Mullik means “lord.” Just as the English government gives rich and respectable persons the title “lord,” so the Muslims give the title Mullik to rich, respectable families that have intimate connections with the government. Thus the title Mullik is found not only among the Muslims but also among the Hindu aristocracy. This title is not restricted to a particular family but is given to different families and castes. The qualifications for receiving it are wealth and respectability.
Sanatana Gosvami and Rupa Gosvami belonged to the Bharadvaja-gotra, which indicates that they belonged either to the family or disciplic succession of Bharadvaja Muni. As members of the Krsna consciousness movement we belong to the family, or disciplic succession, of Sarasvati Gosvami, and thus we are known as Sarasvatas. Obeisances are therefore offered to the spiritual master as sarasvata-deva, or a member of the Sarasvata family (namas te sarasvate deve), whose mission is to broadcast the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (gaura-vani-pracarine) and to fight with impersonalists and voidists (nirvisesa-sunyavadi-pascatya-desa-tarine). This was also the occupational duty of Sanatana Gosvami, Rupa Gosvami, and Anupama Gosvami.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

Indirectly, Srila Prabhupada is saying that he has taken up the same mission of Srila Sanatana Gosvami and Rupa Gosvami and Anupama Gosvami: to broadcast the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and to deal with the impersonalists and voidists.

PURPORT (continued)

The genealogical table of Sanatana Gosvami, Rupa Gosvami, and Vallabha Gosvami can be traced back to the twelfth century Sakabda, when a gentleman of the name Sarvajna appeared in a very rich and opulent brahmana family in the province of Karnata. He had two sons, named Aniruddhera Rupesvara and Harihara, who were both bereft of their kingdoms and thus obliged to reside in the highlands. The son of Rupesvara, who was named Padmanabha, moved to a place in Bengal known as Naihati, on the bank of the Ganges. There he had five sons, of whom the youngest, Mukunda, had a well-behaved son named Kumaradeva, who was the father of Rupa, Sanatana and Vallabha. Kumaradeva lived in Phateyabad, an area bordering Baklacandradvipa in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). The present-day village of Prembagh, which lies near Ramshara in the Jessore district of Bangladesh, is said by many to be the site of Kumaradeva’s house. Of his many sons, three took to the path of Vaisnavism. Later, Sri Vallabha and his elder brothers Sri Rupa and Sanatana came from Candradvipa to the village in the Maldah district of Bengal known as Ramakeli. It is in this village that Srila Jiva Gosvami took birth, accepting Vallabha as his father. Because of engaging in the service of the Muslim government, the three brothers received the title Mullik. When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited the village of Ramakeli, He met Vallabha there. Later, Sri Rupa Gosvami, after meeting Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, resigned from government service, and when he went to Vrndavana to meet Lord Caitanya, Vallabha accompanied him. The meeting of Rupa Gosvami and Vallabha with Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Allahabad is described in the Madhya-lila, Chapter Nineteen.

Actually, it is to be understood from the statement of Sanatana Gosvami that Sri Rupa Gosvami and Vallabha went to Vrndavana under the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. First they went to Mathura, where they met a gentleman named Subuddhi Raya, who maintained himself by selling dry fuel wood. He was very pleased to meet Sri Rupa Gosvami and Anupama, and he showed them the twelve forests of Vrndavana. Thus they lived in Vrndavana for one month and then again went to search for Sanatana Gosvami. Following the course of the Ganges, they reached Allahabad, or Prayaga-tirtha, but because Sanatana Gosvami had come there by a different road, they did not meet him there, and when Sanatana Gosvami came to Mathura he was informed of the visit of Rupa Gosvami and Anupama by Subuddhi Raya. When Rupa Gosvami and Anupama met Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Benares, they heard about Sanatana Gosvami’s travels from Him, and thus they returned to Bengal, adjusted their affairs with the state and, on the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, went to see the Lord at Jagannatha Puri.

In the year 1436 Sakabda (A.D. 1514), the youngest brother, Anupama, died and went back home, back to Godhead. He went to the abode in the spiritual sky where Sri Ramacandra is situated. At Jagannatha Puri, Sri Rupa Gosvami informed Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu of this incident. Vallabha was a great devotee of Sri Ramacandra; therefore he could not seriously consider the worship of Radha-Govinda according to the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Yet he directly accepted Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Ramacandra. In the Bhakti-ratnakara there is the following statement: “Vallabha was given the name Anupama by Sri Gaurasundara, but he was always absorbed in the devotional service of Lord Ramacandra. He did not know anyone but Sri Ramacandra, but he knew that Caitanya Gosani was the same Lord Ramacandra.”

In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (180) Sri Rupa Gosvami is described to be the gopi named Sri Rupa-manjari. In the Bhakti-ratnakara there is a list of the books Sri Rupa Gosvami compiled. Of all his books, the following sixteen are very popular among Vaisnavas: (1) Hamsaduta, (2) Uddhava-sandesa, (3) Krsna-janma-tithi-vidhi, (4 and 5) Radha-krsna-ganoddesa-dipika, Brhat (major) and Laghu (minor), (6) Stavamala, (7) Vidagdha-madhava, (8) Lalita-madhava, (9) Dana-keli-kaumudi, (10) Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (this is the most celebrated book by Sri Rupa Gosvami), (11) Ujjvala-nilamani, (12) Akhyata-candrika, (13) Mathura-mahima, (14) Padyavali, (15) Nataka-candrika, and (16) Laghu-bhagavatamrta. Sri Rupa Gosvami gave up all family connections, joined the renounced order of life and divided his money, giving fifty percent to the brahmanas and Vaisnavas and twenty-five percent to his kutumba (family members), and keeping twenty-five percent for personal emergencies. He met Haridasa Thakura in Jagannatha Puri, where he also met Lord Caitanya and His other associates. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to praise the handwriting of Rupa Gosvami. Srila Rupa Gosvami could compose verses according to the desires of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and by His direction he wrote two books named Lalita-madhava and Vidagdha-madhava. Lord Caitanya desired the two brothers, Sanatana Gosvami and Rupa Gosvami, to publish many books in support of the Vaisnava religion. When Sanatana Gosvami met Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Lord advised him also to go to Vrndavana.

Sri Sanatana Gosvami is described in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (181). He was formerly known as Rati-manjari or sometimes Lavanga-manjari. In the Bhakti-ratnakara it is stated that his spiritual master, Vidya-vacaspati, sometimes stayed in the village of Ramakeli, and Sanatana Gosvami studied all the Vedic literatures from him. He was so devoted to his spiritual master that this cannot be described. According to the Vedic system, if someone sees a Muslim he must perform rituals to atone for the meeting. Sanatana Gosvami always associated with Muslim kings. Not giving much attention to the Vedic injunctions, he used to visit the houses of Muslim kings, and thus he considered himself to have been converted into a Muslim. He was therefore always very humble and meek. When Sanatana Gosvami presented himself before Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he said, “I am always in association with lower-class people, and my behavior is therefore very abominable.” He actually belonged to a respectable brahmana family, but because he considered his behavior to be abominable, he did not try to place himself among the brahmanas but always remained among people of the lower castes. He wrote the Hari-bhakti-vilasa and Vaisnava-tosani, which is a commentary on the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the year 1476 Sakabda (A.D. 1554) he completed the Brhad-vaisnava-tosani commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the year 1504 Sakabda (A.D. 1582) Srila Jiva Gosvami published an edited version of the Brhad-vaisnava-tosani named Laghu-tosani.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught His principles through four chief followers. Among them, Ramananda Raya is exceptional, for through him the Lord taught how a devotee can completely vanquish the power of Cupid. By Cupid’s power, as soon as one sees a beautiful woman he is conquered by her beauty. Sri Ramananda Raya, however, vanquished Cupid’s pride. Indeed, while rehearsing the Jagannatha-vallabha-nataka he personally directed extremely beautiful young girls in dancing, but he was never affected by their youthful beauty. Sri Ramananda Raya personally bathed these girls, touching them and washing them with his own hands, yet he remained calm and passionless, as a great devotee should be. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu certified that this was possible only for Ramananda Raya. Similarly, Damodara Pandita was notable for his objectivity as a critic. He did not even spare Caitanya Mahaprabhu from his criticism. This also cannot be imitated by anyone else. Haridasa Thakura is exceptional for his forbearance because although he was beaten with canes in twenty-two marketplaces, he was nevertheless tolerant. Similarly, Sri Sanatana Gosvami, although he belonged to a most respectable brahmana family, was exceptional for his humility and meekness.


Srila Prabhupada says that Lord Caitanya taught his principles through four chief followers. So, who are the four and what did he teach through each?

Devotee (1): Through Haridasa Öhakura, forbearance.

Devotee (2): Through Sanatana, humility and kindness.

Giriraj Swami: Yes, humility and meekness through Sanätana Gosvämé.

Devotee (3): Through Damodara Paëòita, objectivity as a critic.

Devotee (4): Through Ramananda Raya, calmness and passionlessness in the presence of beautiful women.

Giriraj Swami: Yes, very good!

PURPORT (continued)

In the Madhya-lila, Chapter Nineteen, the device adopted by Sanatana Gosvami to get free from government service is described. He served a notice of sickness to the Nawab, the Muslim governor, but actually he was studying Srimad-Bhagavatam with brahmanas at home. The Nawab received information of this through a royal physician, and he immediately went to see Sanatana Gosvami to discover his intentions. The Nawab requested Sanatana to accompany him on an expedition to Orissa, but when Sanatana Gosvami refused, the Nawab ordered that he be imprisoned. When Rupa Gosvami left home, he wrote a note for Sanatana Gosvami informing him of some money that he had entrusted to a local grocer. Sanatana Gosvami took advantage of this money to bribe the jail keeper and get free from detention. Then he left for Benares to meet Caitanya Mahaprabhu, bringing with him only one servant, whose name was Isana. On the way they stopped at a sarai, or hotel, and when the hotel keeper found out that Isana had some gold coins with him, he planned to kill both Sanatana Gosvami and Isana to take away the coins. Later Sanatana Gosvami saw that although the hotel keeper did not know them, he was being especially attentive to their comfort. Therefore he concluded that Isana was secretly carrying some money and that the hotel keeper was aware of this and therefore planned to kill them for it. Upon being questioned by Sanatana Gosvami, Isana admitted that he indeed had money with him, and immediately Sanatana Gosvami took the money and gave it to the hotel keeper, requesting him to help them get through the jungle. Thus with the help of the hotel keeper, who was also the chief of the thieves of that territory, Sanatana Gosvami crossed over the Hazipur mountains, which are presently known as the Hazaribags. He then met his brother-in-law Srikanta, who requested that he stay with him. Sanatana Gosvami refused, but before they parted Srikanta gave him a valuable blanket.

Somehow or other Sanatana Gosvami reached Varanasi and met Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu at the house of Candrasekhara. By the order of the Lord, Sanatana Gosvami was cleanly shaved and his dress changed to that of a mendicant, or babaji. He put on old garments of Tapana Misra’s and took prasada at the house of a Maharashtrian brahmana. Then, in discourses with Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Lord Himself explained everything about devotional service to Sanatana Gosvami. He advised Sanatana Gosvami to write books on devotional service, including a book of directions for Vaisnava activities, and to excavate the lost places of pilgrimage in Vrndavana. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave him His blessings to do all this work and also explained to Sanatana Gosvami the import of the atmarama verse from sixty-one different angles of vision.

Sanatana Gosvami went to Vrndavana by the main road, and when he reached Mathura he met Subuddhi Raya. Then he returned to Jagannatha Puri through Jharikhanda (Jharkhanda), the Madhya Pradesh jungle. At Jagannatha Puri he decided to give up his body by falling down beneath a wheel of the Jagannatha ratha, but Caitanya Mahaprabhu saved him. Then Sanatana Gosvami met Haridasa Thakura and heard about the disappearance of Anupama. Sanatana Gosvami later described the glories of Haridasa Thakura. Sanatana observed the etiquette of Jagannatha’s temple by going along the beach to visit Lord Caitanya, although it was extremely hot due to the sun. He requested Jagadananda Pandita to give him permission to return to Vrndavana. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu praised the character of Sanatana Gosvami, and He embraced Sanatana, accepting his body as spiritual. Sanatana Gosvami was ordered by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to live at Jagannatha Puri for one year. When he returned to Vrndavana after that time, he again met Rupa Gosvami, and both brothers remained in Vrndavana to execute the orders of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

The place where Sri Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami formerly lived has now become a place of pilgrimage. It is generally known as Gupta Vrndavana, or hidden Vrndavana, and is situated about eight miles south of English Bazaar. There the following places are still visited: (1) the temple of the Sri Madana-mohana Deity, (2) the Keli-kadamba tree, under which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu met Sanatana Gosvami at night and (3) Rupasagara, a large pond excavated by Sri Rupa Gosvami. A society named Ramakeli-samskara-samiti was established in 1924 to repair the temple and renovate the pond.


When we visited the holy places associated with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Bengal, we began with Ramakeli, and we saw the temple of the Madana-mohan Deity, the Keli-kadamba tree under which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu met Sanatana Gosvami at night, and Rupasagara, the large pond excavated by Sri Rupa Gosvami. There is also a small temple near the Keli-kadamba tree where Jiva Gosvami, as a baby, first saw Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu met Sanatana Gosvami under the tree, Caitanya Mahaprabhu inaugurated hari-nama-sankirtana there, and the devotees chanted and danced in ecstasy for days without consideration of bodily needs or fear of Nawab Hussein Shah, whose capital was just some yards away in the same area of Ramakeli. But after some days some of the devotees became fearful of the Nawab, and although they didn’t say anything, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu could understand their fear, that they had become somehow disturbed in their performance of sankirtana. So Lord Caitanya assured them that no harm would come to them, that He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, and that He had come to spread the sankirtana movement throughout the world. And there, under the Keli-kadamba tree in Ramakeli, he uttered the famous prediction:

prthiviti ache yata nagaradi-grama
sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama

“In every town and village in every country of the world, My name will be sung.”

Srila Sanatana Gosvami was the chief advisor to the Nawab Hussein Shah and was worldly wise in political affairs and diplomacy, unlike Srila Rupa Gosvami, who was more simple.

In Vrndavana Sanatana Gosvami would travel from place to place and mix with the local people. He would engage in apparently ordinary conversation with them, just to make friends with them and somehow attract them to devotional service. He would visit them and ask them how their families were, if their daughter’s marriage had been arranged, if their grandmother had recovered from her illness, if their herd of cows was in good health, and so on. And thus Sanatana Gosvami became dear to all of the residents of Vrajabhumi, who accepted him as their family member and used to call him Baba.

Sanatana Gosvami was also very close to Lord Siva. When Sanatana Gosvami resided in Vrndavana he stayed fairly close to Gopesvara Mahadeva, and when he resided at Manasi-ganga he lived just near Cakresvara Mahadeva.

Sanatana Gosvami used to do Govardhana parikrama every day, and when he became old, Lord Krsna felt compassion for him, doing such a long parikrama every day. So the Lord appeared to him and gave him a Govardhana-sila with an imprint of Lord Krsna’s foot in it and of the end of the stick He used for herding cows. He told Sanatana Gosvami, “If you circumambulate the sila four times, it will be equal to circumambulating Govardhana Hill, so in your old age you need not circumambulate the hill fully.”

There is another story that when Sanatana Gosvami was residing at Manasi-ganga, at Cakra-tirtha, he was being disturbed by mosquitoes and decided to leave there because he couldn’t do his bhajana and write. When he was preparing to leave, Cakresvara Mahadeva became concerned because he didn’t want Sanatana Gosvami to move away. So he assumed the guise of a brahmana and came to Sanatana Gosvami and asked him why he was leaving. Sanatana Gosvami replied that he was being disturbed by the mosquitoes and therefore couldn’t do his bhajana or write. Cakresvara Mahadeva was very relieved because he knew he could solve the problem. He requested Sanatana Gosvami, “Please stay for one more night, and if the mosquitoes continue to bother you, then you can leave.” Then Cakresvara Mahadeva summoned the demigod in charge of insects and told him that he should keep the mosquitoes away from Sanatana Gosvami. The demigod agreed, and thus Sanatana Gosvami continued to stay at Cakra-tirtha, at Govardhana.

On the day of Guru Purnima all the devotees from Vrndavana, led by Jiva Gosvami, came to Cakra-tirtha to offer their respects to Srila Sanatana, because they all considered him to be their guru. When they arrived they saw that Sanatana Gosvami was fixed in one position, and they assumed that he was in deep meditation. But after some time they realized that actually he had left his body. Then all of the devotees began to wail and cry, feeling separation from Sanatana Gosvami. Then they took his holy body on parikrama around Govardhana one last time. Then, according to Srila Jiva Gosvami’s direction, the body of Sanatana Gosvami was brought near the Madan-mohan temple where Sanatana Gosvami had originally done his bhajana and worshiped Madana-mohana. Even until today, the samadhi of Sanatana Gosvami is near the Madana-mohana temple and is one of the nicest samadhis in Vrndavana.

Today is Srila Sanatana Gosvami’s disappearance day, Guru-purnima. Elsewhere in the Caitanya-caritamrta Srila Prabhupada comments on the books of Sanatana Gosvami, and he says that Sri Brhad-Bhagavatamrta contains all of the essential truths of Gaudiya Vaisnavism and that anyone who wants to understand the essence of Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy should read Sri Brhad-Bhagavatamrta (which now has been translated by Gopiparanadhana Prabhu and published by the BBT).

We will now sing the song of separation, beginning je anilo prema-dhana, and continue with the program.

Srila Sanatana Gosvami ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada
ki jaya!

June 23, 2002
Carpinteria, California

 Posted by at 7:51 am