We read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter 19:
kalena luptam nija-saktim utkah
sancarya rupe vyatanot punah sa
prabhur vidhau prag iva loka-srstim
Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, the Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahma with the details of the creation and manifested the Vedic knowledge. In exactly the same way, the Lord, being anxious to revive the Vrndavana pastimes of Lord Krsna, impregnated the heart of Rupa Gosvami with spiritual potency. By this potency, Srila Rupa Gosvami could revive the activities of Krsna in Vrndavana, activities almost lost to memory. In this way, He spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world.
jaya jaya sri-caitanya jaya nityananda
jayadvaita-candra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda
All glories to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu! All glories to Lord Nityananda! All glories to Advaitacandra! And all glories to all the devotees of the Lord!
loka-bhida-bhaye prabhu ‘dasasvamedhe’ yana
rupa-gosanire siksa kara’na sakti sancariya
Due to the great crowds in Prayaga, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to a place called Dasasvamedha-ghata. It was there that the Lord instructed Sri Rupa Gosvami and empowered him in the philosophy of devotional service.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate. The Supreme Lord has multipotencies, which the Lord bestows on His fortunate devotees. The Lord has a special potency by which He spreads the Krsna consciousness movement. This is explained in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 7.11): kali-kalera dharma—krsna-nama-sankirtana/ krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana. “One cannot spread the holy name of Krsna without being specifically empowered by Lord Krsna.” A devotee who receives this power from the Lord must be considered very fortunate. The Krsna consciousness movement is spreading to enlighten people about their real position, their original relationship with Krsna. One requires Krsna’s special power in order to be able to do this. People forget their relationship with Krsna and work under the spell of maya life after life, transmigrating from one body to another. This is the process of material existence. The Supreme Lord Sri Krsna personally descends to teach people that their position in the material world is a mistaken one. The Lord again comes as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to induce people to take to Krsna consciousness. The Lord also empowers a special devotee to teach people their constitutional position.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
Lord Chaitanya met Srila Rupa Gosvami at Prayaga. Because of the great crowds that surrounded Lord Chaitanya, He took Rupa Gosvami to a secluded place called Dasasvamedha-ghata. In 1971, when Srila Prabhupada traveled to Allahabad for the Ardha-kumbha-mela, he also visited Dasasvamedha-ghata with his disciples. Lord Chaitanya empowered Srila Rupa Gosvami with His potency to revive Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan and thus spread Krishna consciousness. Only one who is empowered with the potency of the Lord, by the mercy of the Lord, can actually spread Krishna consciousness all over the world. Although Rupa Gosvami lived simply in Vrindavan, wearing a loincloth and sleeping one night under one tree and the next night under another, he wrote books that for generations have enlightened devotees all over the world. Even now we are reading The Nectar of Devotion, which is a summary study of his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, and The Nectar of Instruction, which is his Upadesamrta. And we are benefiting both from the example Srila Rupa Gosvami set when he lived in Vrindavan and from the books he wrote.
saba sikhaila prabhu bhagavata-siddhanta
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught Srila Rupa Gosvami the ultimate limit of the truth about Lord Krsna, the truth about devotional service, and the truth about transcendental mellows, culminating in conjugal love between Radha and Krsna. Finally He told Rupa Gosvami about the ultimate conclusions of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
In His talks with Rupa Gosvami, Lord Chaitanya began with the most basic knowledge and proceeded gradually to the highest. Rupa Gosvami begins Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu a little after where Lord Chaitanya began, with pure devotional service, and he ends with the highest perfection of pure devotional service, madhurya-rasa. Although in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu he mentions madhurya-rasa as one of the five principal mellows, he describes it elaborately in another book, Ujjvala-nilamani.
ramananda-pase yata siddhanta sunila
rupe krpa kari’ taha saba sancarila
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught Rupa Gosvami all the conclusions He had heard from Ramananda Raya and duly empowered him so that he could understand them.
sri-rupa-hrdaye prabhu sakti sancarila
sarva-tattva-nirupane ‘pravina’ karila
By entering the heart of Rupa Gosvami, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu empowered him to ascertain properly the conclusions of all truths. He made him an experienced devotee whose decisions correctly agreed with the verdicts of the disciplic succession. Thus Sri Rupa Gosvami was personally empowered by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The principles of devotional service are only apparently under the jurisdiction of material activity. To be rightly guided, one must be personally guided by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This was the case with Srila Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami and other acaryas.
At the beginning of the chapter, Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami compares Lord Chaitanya’s empowering Rupa Gosvami to Lord Krishna’s empowering Lord Brahma with the Vedic knowledge. Because Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He could start the disciplic succession, and He chose Lord Brahma, the first living entity in the universe, to be His first disciple. Similarly, Lord Chaitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with the authority to begin a disciplic succession, and He chose various disciples, such as Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, to receive knowledge directly from Him. He entered their hearts and empowered them to understand His words and thoughts and to communicate them to others. Even Lord Krishna, to establish the principle of disciplic succession, accepted a spiritual master, Sandipani Muni, and Lord Chaitanya also accepted a spiritual master in the Madhva-sampradaya, Isvara Puri. But Lord Chaitanya’s teaching—acintya-bheda-bheda tattva, “inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference”—is unique. His philosophy goes beyond the other disciplic successions and, as our acharyas explain, includes significant elements from all four disciplic successions.
sivananda-senera putra ‘kavi-karnapura’
‘rupera milana’ sva-granthe likhiyachena pracura
In his book Caitanya-candrodaya, Kavi-karnapura, the son of Sivananda Sena, has elaborately described the meeting between Sri Rupa Gosvami and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
lupteti tam khyapayitum visisya
tatraiva rupam ca sanatanam ca
“In the course of time, the transcendental news of Krsna’s pastimes in Vrndavana was almost lost. To enunciate explicitly those transcendental pastimes, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu empowered Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami with the nectar of His mercy to carry out this work in Vrndavana.”
This verse and the following two verses are from Act Nine (38, 29, 30) of the Caitanya-candrodaya, by Sri Kavi-karnapura.
Srila Prabhupada says that the transcendental “news” of Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan was almost lost. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura decided to publish a daily newspaper in Bengal and the printer questioned whether he had enough news to publish every day, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta replied that he had enough news from the spiritual world to publish a newspaper every second but that unfortunately there were no customers.
yah prag eva priya-guna-ganair gadha-baddho ’pi mukto
gehadhyasad rasa iva paro murta evapy amurtah
premalapair drdhatara-parisvanga-rangaih prayage
tam sri-rupam samam anupamenanujagraha devah
“From the very beginning, Srila Rupa Gosvami was deeply attracted by the transcendental qualities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus he was permanently relieved from family life. Srila Rupa Gosvami and his younger brother, Vallabha, were blessed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Although the Lord was transcendentally situated in His transcendental eternal form, at Prayaga He told Rupa Gosvami about transcendental ecstatic love of Krsna. The Lord then embraced him very fondly and bestowed all His mercy upon him.”
nijanurupe prabhur eka-rupe
tatana rupe sva-vilasa-rupe
“Indeed, Srila Rupa Gosvami, whose dear friend was Svarupa Damodara, was the exact replica of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and he was very, very dear to the Lord. Being the embodiment of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s ecstatic love, Rupa Gosvami was naturally very beautiful. He very carefully followed the principles enunciated by the Lord, and he was a competent person to explain properly the pastimes of Lord Krsna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu expanded His mercy to Srila Rupa Gosvami just so he could render service by writing transcendental literatures.”
The characteristics of Srila Rupa Gosvami have thus been described in various places by the poet Kavi-karnapura. An account has also been given of how Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu bestowed His causeless mercy upon Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami.
Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami were the objects of love and honor for all the great stalwart devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
If someone returned to his country after seeing Vrndavana, the associates of the Lord would ask him questions.
They would ask those returning from Vrndavana, “How are Rupa and Sanatana doing in Vrndavana? What are their activities in the renounced order? How do they manage to eat?” These were the questions asked.
The Lord’s associates would also ask, “How is it that Rupa and Sanatana are engaging in devotional service twenty-four hours daily?” At that time the person who had returned from Vrndavana would praise Srila Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis.
“The brothers actually have no fixed residence. They reside beneath trees—one night under one tree and the next night under another.
“Srila Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami beg a little food from the houses of brahmanas. Giving up all kinds of material enjoyment, they take only some dry bread and fried chickpeas.
“They carry only waterpots, and they wear torn quilts. They always chant the holy names of Krsna and discuss His pastimes. In great jubilation, they also dance.
“They engage almost twenty-four hours daily in rendering service to the Lord. They usually sleep only an hour and a half, and some days, when they continuously chant the Lord’s holy name, they do not sleep at all.
“Sometimes they write transcendental literatures about devotional service, and sometimes they hear about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and spend their time thinking about the Lord.”
ei-katha suni’ mahantera maha-sukha haya
caitanyera krpa yanhe, tanhe ki vismaya?
When the personal associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would hear of the activities of Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, they would say, “What is wonderful for a person who has been granted the Lord’s mercy?”
Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami had no fixed residence. They stayed beneath a tree for one day only and wrote huge volumes of transcendental literature. They not only wrote books but chanted, danced, discussed Krsna, and remembered Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. Thus they executed devotional service.
In Vrndavana there are prakrta-sahajiyas who say that writing books or even touching books is taboo. For them, devotional service means being relieved from these activities. Whenever they are asked to hear a recitation of Vedic literature, they refuse, saying, “What business do we have reading or hearing transcendental literatures? They are meant for neophytes.”
When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura went to Radha-kunda, the babajis were expecting that he would speak on rasa-tattva. Instead, he spoke on the Upanishads, because he knew that so many were imitating advanced devotees or pretending to be advanced devotees. And Srila Prabhupada said that in order of advancement, Sri Isopanisad comes first, then Bhagavad-gita, then The Nectar of Devotion, then Srimad-Bhagavatam, and then Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.
They pose themselves as too elevated to exert energy for reading, writing, and hearing. However, pure devotees under the guidance of Srila Rupa Gosvami reject this sahajiya philosophy. It is certainly not good to write literature for money or reputation, but to write books and publish them for the enlightenment of the general populace is real service to the Lord. That was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s opinion, and he specifically told his disciples to write books. He actually preferred to publish books rather than establish temples. Temple construction is meant for the general populace and neophyte devotees, but the business of advanced and empowered devotees is to write books, publish them, and distribute them widely. According to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, distributing literature is like playing on a great mrdanga. Consequently we always request members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to publish as many books as possible and distribute them widely throughout the world. By thus following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvami, one can become a rupanuga devotee.
It is the goal of devotees in the line of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Rupa Gosvami to be rupanuga devotees, followers of Rupa Gosvami. In his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Rupa Gosvami describes the categories of devotional service: sadhana-bhakti, bhava-bhakti, and prema-bhakti. And within each category, there are two divisions: vaidhi and raganuga. Srila Rupa Gosvami composed three very important verses about the practice of raganuga-bhakti, which are also quoted in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. One reads,
siddha-rupena catra hi
“The advanced devotee who is inclined to spontaneous loving service should follow the activities of a particular associate of Krsna’s in Vrndavana. He should execute service externally as a regulative devotee as well as internally from his self-realized position. Thus he should perform devotional service both externally and internally.” (Brs 1.2.295, quoted as Cc Madhya 22.158)
Externally one engages in devotional service as a sadhaka, a practicing devotee, and internally one engages in service in his perfected spiritual body. Followers of Rupa Gosvami, such as Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, have explained that externally we follow Rupa Gosvami and our spiritual master as they were and that internally we follow Sri Rupa in his eternal spiritual form as Rupa-manjari.
But it is easy to misunderstand and misrepresent the instructions of Srila Rupa Gosvami, and in Vrindavan there are many sahajiyas who do that, though they claim to be Sri Rupa’s followers. They try to follow Rupa-manjari and other associates of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna with their physical bodies. They do not follow the external behavior of Rupa Gosvami and the Gaudiya Vaishnava acharyas, but they imitate Rupa-manjari and other internal associates of Radha and Krishna. For example, in krsna-lila the residents of Vrindavan do not observe Ekadasi. But Rupa Gosvami, with reference to authoritative scriptures, has instructed in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu that we must observe Ekadasi, and Lord Chaitanya Himself personally observed Ekadasi. But sahajiyas consider themselves to be Vraja-vasis like Krishna’s associates in krsna-lila—or they want to imitate the Vraja-vasi associates of Krishna—so they do not observe Ekadasi. But, following the verses of Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Prabhupada explains in The Nectar of Devotion that externally one continues to follow the regulative principles just like a neophyte devotee—or any devotee who adheres to the standard Srila Prabhupada gave for ISKCON.
When we were in Allahabad for the Kumbha-mela in 1977, His Holiness Lokanath Swami came to meet Srila Prabhupada. Like all of us, Prabhupada lived in a tent, and although his tent was a little bigger and had a heater, it was cold and austere, and he became sick. Sometimes in the afternoon there was sun, and he used to come outside into a courtyard, and I would often sit there with him.
Prabhupada had been encouraging Lokanath Swami to travel by bullock cart throughout India and preach. But Gopal Krishna Maharaja had instructed Lokanath Swami to stay in Bombay to take care of new bhaktas. Lokanath Swami repeated Gopal Krishna’s arguments to Prabhupada, including Gopal’s description of Lokanath Swami as a “key devotee.” “What is this ‘key devotee’?” Lokanath wondered. Prabhupada replied, “No, you should travel with bullock cart and preach.” Then Lokanath Swami asked, “What about the program for new devotees?” Prabhupada answered, “Our regular program is for new devotees. Our program is the same for all devotees; we don’t have any different program for new devotees.” Then Lokanath Swami explained that some of the devotees had joined because he had preached to them and that they were attached to him personally and might not be able to continue without him. “Those who are very much attached to you personally may accompany you in the bullock cart,” Prabhupada replied, “and you can have the same program in the bullock cart as you travel.”
So, when we quote Srila Prabhupada’s Nectar of Devotion that externally one continues to act as a neophyte, we mean that one continues to follow the regular program Prabhupada gave for all devotees, beginning with the new ones. And as one adheres to the morning program and other principles, one can feel the results—favorable results. But if a devotee is fortunate enough to have some specific taste for some specific service, he is also encouraged to serve according to his taste, while continuing to observe the regulative principles.
Srila Prabhupada concludes the purport by saying that if a devotee writes and publishes and distributes books, he is actually following Rupa Gosvami, and thus one can become a rupanuga devotee. So, Srila Prabhupada’s blessing is upon us if we write, publish, and distribute transcendental literature.
caitanyera krpa rupa likhiyachena apane
Srila Rupa Gosvami has personally spoken about the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in his auspicious introduction to his book Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu [1.1.2].
hrdi yasya preranaya
pravartito ’ham varaka-rupo ’pi
tasya hareh pada-kamalam
“Although I am the lowest of men and have no knowledge, the inspiration to write transcendental literatures about devotional service has been mercifully bestowed upon me. Therefore I am offering my obeisances at the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has given me the chance to write these books.”
Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhu ki jaya!
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Srila Rupa Gosvami’s disappearance day, August 23, 1999, Carpinteria, California]