A look at some of the devotional accomplishments of this empowered, dedicated disciple of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
By Revati Devi Dasi
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu empowered this disciple of His to accomplish certain essential tasks in the establishment of His divine mission.

Excerpted from The Mission of Rupa Goswami, by Revati Devi Dasi. Copyright © Renner, Rita, 2022; © Bakaja Zoltan, Kadamba, 2022. The book was originally written in Hungarian as a master’s thesis for Bhaktivedanta College in Hungary. The English version is the author’s own translation.

The selection here is taken from Part One, Chapter One, and retains the book’s style for Sanskrit and other considerations. The book is available from the Krishna.com Store and the author’s website: www.kadamba.hu.

Readers unfamiliar with Rupa Goswami can read an introductory article about him at https://btg.krishna.com/rupa-goswami-unique-recipient-of-sri-chaitanyas-mercy/.

We find quite a few sections in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita where Rupa Goswami’s assignment is mentioned. After studying these parts, as well as the original Bengali text, we learn what kind of orders Rupa Goswami received from Lord Chaitanya. The accomplishments of those instructions formed his mission. Simultaneously, we should study the orders described by Sadhana-dipika as it complements Chaitanya-charitamrita. It is also important to review Sanatana Goswami’s assignments, since the two brothers were inseparable, and therefore their tasks differed only slightly.

Formulation of Rupa Goswami’s Mission

In the interest of clarity, the brief versions of orders Rupa Goswami received are listed in italics below. These short statements are supported either by the relevant parts of the shastra or their summary.

Revive the pastimes of Vraja.
Before narrating the meeting in Prayaga, Kaviraja Goswami quotes a famous verse of Kavi Karnapura:

kalena vrindavana-keli-varta
lupteti tam khyapayitum vishishya
kripamrtenabhishishecha devas
tatraiva rupam cha sanatanam cha

“In the course of time, the transcendental news of Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavana was almost lost. To enunciate explicitly those transcendental pastimes, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu empowered Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami with the nectar of His mercy to carry out this work in Vrindavana.”1 

Elaborate on bhakti-rasa.
After concluding His teachings in Prayaga, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told Rupa Goswami: “I have simply given a general survey describing the mellows of devotional service (bhakti-rasa). You can consider how to adjust and expand this.”2 

Compile the rasa-shastra. Revive the lost holy places of Vrindavana, krishna-seva, and rasa-bhakti.
Rupa Goswami stayed in Jagannatha Puri for ten months. Then, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sent him to Vraja, giving him the following instructions:

Now go to Vrindavana, stay there, preach transcendental literature (rasa-shastra kariha niripana) and excavate the lost holy places (lupta-tirtha kariha pracharana). Establish the service of Lord Krishna (krishna-seva) and preach the mellows of Lord Krishna’s devotional service (rasa-bhakti kariha prachara).3

Rasa-shastra refers to scriptures written on rasa, while the exact meaning of kariha nirupana is “determine” or “define”; kariha pracharana means “spread,” “make widely known.” The term krishna-seva refers to the worship of Krishna’s deity form; rasa-bhakti is bhakti full of rasa, i.e., devotional service pervaded by the mellows of love for God that is also called vraja-bhakti. This type of love for God is what the residents of Vraja, the Vraja-vasis – the eternal associates of Krishna – have as well as devotees following in their footsteps.

Teach bhakti and bhakti-sadachara. Restore the lost holy places; establish the worship of deities.
According to Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, people in Western India (Vrindavana) were trained by Srila Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami in devotional service and good behaviour (bhakti-sadachara). They excavated the lost places of pilgrimage and established the worship of deities in Vrindavana in accordance with the directions of the revealed scriptures.4

Preach the bhakti cult.
In the description of the Chaitanya tree, we find a brief statement: “Lord Chaitanya dispatched the two generals Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami to Vrindavana to preach the bhakti cult.”5 

Spread the feelings of the Lord in the world.
According to the formulation of Srila Prabhupada, Rupa Goswami was assigned the task of revealing the feelings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by spreading His special mercy to the entire world.

prithivite ache yata nagaradi-grama sarvatra prachara haibe mora nama

The desire of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is that everyone, all over the world, in every village and town, know of Him and His sankirtana movement. These are the inner feelings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Rupa Goswami committed to writing all these feelings of the Lord.6 

Find and install Govindaji.
In addition to the previously listed points, Sadhana-dipika mentions two other orders received by Rupa Goswami; these two are not emphasised in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita. One of them is the instruction to find Govindaji:

Go to Vrindavana and reveal the enchanting service of Govinda. By the mere sight and perception of the Lord, wrapped now in the state of silence, people and all other living beings will attain pure love of God.7

Protect the akinchana devotees.
We learn from the verses of Sadhana-dipika that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu further requested from Rupa Goswami the patronage of the akinchana [renunciant] devotees: “In Vrindavana . . . protect the akinchana-bhaktas by all means.”8 

The Mission of Sanatana Goswami

It is also important to review the orders which were formulated for Sanatana Goswami, since on many points his mission is consistent with his brother’s. In Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita we find two references where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gives orders especially to Sanatana. One of the conversations took place in VSrinaasi, where the Lord was teaching his disciple. Srila Prabhupada lists and numbers each order in the commentary on the relevant verse: (1) convey the revealed scriptures on devotional service (bhakti-shastrera prachara) and establish the conclusions of devotional service (bhakti-smriti-shastra kari), (2) reestablish lost places of pilgrimage (lupta-tirthera kariha uddhara), (3) establish the Vrindavana method of temple worship and install deities (krishna-seva), (4) enunciate the behaviour of a Vaishnava (vaishnava-achara). Srila Prabhupada then summarised the mission: “In this way Sanatana Goswami was empowered to establish the cult of Vaishnavism.”9 

The second occasion when Lord Chaitanya revealed the tasks of Sanatana was in Puri. He requested him to establish the basic principles for a devotee (bhakta), devotional service (bhakti), love of God (krishna-prema), Vaishnava duties (vaishnavera kritya), and Vaishnava characteristics (vaishnava-achara); to explain Krishna’s devotional service (krishna-bhakti), establish centres for cultivation of love of Krishna (krishna-prema-seva-pravartana), excavate lost places of pilgrimage (lupta-tirtha-uddhara), and teach people how to adopt the renounced order (vairagya-shikshana).10 

The mission of the two brothers is clearly outlined above. They basically received the same orders; the most notable difference was that the enunciation of Vaishnava behaviour was assigned exclusively to Sanatana, while Rupa Goswami received rasa-tattva as a separate field on which to elaborate.

Grouping the Points of the Mission

Since Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita formulates the tasks of the Goswamis in quite a few places and in different ways, when we listen to lectures or read summaries on the subject, we may notice that the grouping of the tasks is diverse. This book lists the orders Rupa Goswami received from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu into four categories: (1) revival of the lost holy places of Vrindavana, (2) installation of deities, (3) teaching and protecting the akinchana-bhaktas, (4) compilation of bhakti-shastra and rasa-shastra. The first three items will be discussed in brief while presenting the living environment of Sri Rupa in Vrindavana in chapter two; the fourth task is elaborated on in chapter three, where the literary works of Rupa Goswami are reviewed. We do not have too much precise information about the accomplishment of the first three items; however, we can reconstruct them on the basis of sporadic scriptural references and of the examination of the circumstances. At the same time, Rupa Goswami’s own writings are very concrete proofs of his literary work. As his writing activity – including scientific works on bhakti and rasa, as well as other divine compositions – was his most significant task, the fourth category will be discussed in detail.

The above mentioned four points obviously include all the previously listed orders, since reviving the pastimes of Vraja is part of the restoration of the holy places, as well as of writing rasa-laden dramas and other literary works; in the case of Rupa Goswami, spreading the bhakti cult and the feelings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu primarily meant the compilation of transcendental writings, but all of his other activities in Vrindavana can also be considered as such; finding Govindaji can be listed both in the category of revival of lost holy places and installing deities, and we could even discuss these two points as one, but installing deities also refers to new deities, as well as to the Vraja method of their worship.11

The Empowerment of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

While studying Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, we can read in several places that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu empowered Rupa Goswami or bestowed His mercy upon Him, or He asked the present Vaishnavas to give him their blessings. “Empowerment” is a well-known term in mundane life as well. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “empowerment” as: “The act or action of empowering someone or something: the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties.”12 

However, the empowerment of Rupa Goswami was from the Supreme Lord; the Lord Himself ordered him to perform on His behalf. He sent Rupa Goswami to Vrindavana, instead of going Himself, to accomplish His mission in His place. He empowered him exactly in the same way as He once granted the power to Brahma to create the world.

vrindavaniyam rasa-keli-vartam
kalena luptam nija-shaktim utkah
sancharya rupe vyatanot punah sa
prabhur vidhau prag iva loka-srishtim

“Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, the Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahm?? with the details of the creation and manifested the Vedic knowledge. In exactly the same way, the Lord, being anxious to revive the Vrindavana pastimes of Lord Krishna, impregnated the heart of Rupa Goswami with spiritual potency. By this potency, Srila Rupa Goswami could revive the activities of Krishna in Vrindavana, activities almost lost to memory. In this way, He spread Krishna consciousness throughout the world.”13 

NOTES

  1. Chaitanya-chandrodaya 9.38, quoted in Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 19.119.
  2. Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 19.235.
  3. Chaitanya-charitamrita, Antya 1.217–219
  4. Based on Chaitanya-charitamrita, Adi 10.89–90.
  5. Chaitanya-charitamrita, Adi 7.164.
  6. Chaitanya-charitamrita, Antya 1.117, purport. See also Chaitanya-bhagavata, Antya 4.126.
  7. Sadhana-dipika 8.1.5–6
  8. Sadhana-dipika 8.1.7
  9. Based on Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 23.103–104 and 23.109 purport.
  10. Based on Chaitanya-charitamrita, Antya 4.79–80.
  11. Having four points also follows the grouping of Shivarama Swami.
  12. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empowerment
  13. Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 19.1.

Revati Devi Dasi (Rita Renner), a disciple of His Holiness Shivarama Swami, is a Hungarian-born translator, editor, and indexer at Bhaktivedanta College in Budapest, Hungary. Her studies include engineering, English language, and Gaudiya Vaishnava theology.