Sanatana Goswami Biography:
Sanatan Goswami (1488-1558) was the elder brother of Shri Rupa and Shri Anupama. From his earliest years, he was spontaneously attracted to logic, philosophy, rhetoric, and the theistic message of Shrimad Bhagavatam. In order to gain depth in his understanding of these subjects, he accepted instruction from such luminaries as Vidya Vachaspati, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, Paramananda Bhatta-charya, and the learned Ramabhadra.
Although Sanatan, along with Rupa and Anupama, was forced to work for the Islamic occupational government in Bengal, he never gave up his studies or his religious way of life. He wrote a book called Sadachar Paddhati, which was based upon ancient scriptural conclusions and contained rules and regulations for the gradual advancement of an aspiring spiritualist. In his own life, he scrupulously followed these instructions, and, as a householder in the Vedic system, he used to donate food to brahmanas (“priests”), destitute people, and lepers on a daily basis. His sense of charity was boundless.
One night, in a dream, a handsome renunciant came to Sanatan and warned him not to become distracted by worldly-mindedness. He ordered Sanatan to go to Vrindavan, unearth the obscured holy places, and preach the scriptural doctrine of divine love. The next morning, Sanatan told his brother, Rupa, about the dream. Smiling, Rupa confessed that he, too, was somehow aware of this instruction, and he informed Sanatan that Shri Krishna had indeed descended as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to give them further direction in regard to their spiritual calling.
With every day that passed, Rupa and Sanatan anxiously awaited a sign. When would they be able to renounce their distasteful political service to the Nawab of Bengal and fully replace it with service to the Lord’s lotus feet? The boys consulted their mother and she suggested that they write a letter to Shri Chaitanya. This they did, and after receiving no reply, they tried writing Him again and again. At last, Shri Chaitanya responded, but His letter merely contained one verse from scripture: “If a woman is involved with a man other than her husband, she may try to be especially diligent in her household duties. In this way she seeks to avoid detection. Within her heart, however, she is always longing to be reunited with her paramour.”
Rupa and Sanatan understood His meaning: They should continue to work responsibly for the Nawab, at least temporarily. Inwardly, they could fully meditate on their inevitable surrender unto the Lord’s mission.
But the Goswamis had to be patient. Shri Chaitanya had just taken sannyasa and gone to Puri. Next, He began a pilgrimage that included a two year tour of South India. So it was some time before He would journey to North Bengal and meet them at Ramakeli. Nonetheless, the meeting, which took place in 1514, was a pivotal point in the annals of Gaudiya Vaishnava history (this has been described in the previous chapter).
After meeting Shri Chaitanya at Ramakeli, Rupa and Anupama were able to immediately renounce the world. Sanatan, however, had responsibilities to the Nawab, and it was difficult to extricate himself. In an attempt to fulfill his governmental obligations and pursue Krishna consciousness at the same time, Sanatan feigned illness, telling the Nawab that he had to remain at home until he got well. In this way, he daily studied Shrimad Bhagavatam with Ramakeli’s chief pundits, and during this period learned scholars and devotees came from miles around to hear Sanatan’s recitations of the Bhagavatam.
The Nawab became suspicious. Sending a physician to the home of Sanatan Goswami, he found that not only was the Goswami not at all ill, but he had turned his home into a virtual ashram, with holy men and scriptural readings permeating the atmosphere. Enraged, the Nawab immediately called for Sanatan and demanded that he go with him to Orissa, where he expected to conquer another kingdom. When the Goswami refused to go with him, the Nawab had him temporarily thrown into jail.
Luckily, a letter arrived from Rupa Goswami informing Sanatan that Shri Chaitanya had departed for Vrindavan. Rupa and Anupama were going to meet Him, said the letter, and Rupa suggested that Sanatan make arrangements to come as well. Having heard that Sanatan had been imprisoned by the Nawab, Rupa concluded his letter by saying, “I have left a deposit of ten thousand gold coins in the mudi sthane [‘trading market’]. Use that money to get out of prison. Somehow or other get yourself released and come to Vrindavan.”
Sanatan then bribed the Muslim jailkeeper with seven thousand gold coins. Sensing that the jailkeeper was still hesitant to let him go, Sanatan resorted to almost comical diplomacy, claiming that he was only leaving jail to go to Mecca, the most important Islamic place of pilgrimage. He also argued that one who releases a conditioned soul from jail is himself released from conditioned life.
When the jailkeeper began to acquiesce, Sanatan had to help him fabricate a story to tell his superiors. After all, the state officials would want to know how the prisoner had escaped. “Tell them that you took me to the Ganges so I could evacuate,” Sanatan suggested, “and escaping your attention I jumped into the river.” The jailkeeper agreed.
Although Sanatan was not accustomed to the sort of trickery he had to use on the Muslim jailkeeper, the situation was exceptional. Rupa Goswami had written to him that the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna Chaitanya would be receiving guests in Vrindavan and that Sanatan should go to see Him. In addition, Sanatan was initially thrown in prison for a negligible reason and the Nawab would soon release him upon his return. With these considerations, Sanatan planned to immediately free himself from prison and begin his journey to see Shri Chaitanya.
As an escapee, he was not able to walk along the main road, for he would surely be detected and thrown back in prison. Consequently, he and his servant, Ishan, walked day and night through dangerous forests until they finally reached a hilly tract of land known as Patada (in Bihar). Here, they stayed in a hotel, and when the hotel manager heard from his palmist that Ishan was secretly carrying eight gold coins, the hotel manager plotted to kill both Sanatan and his servant and steal their money.
Biding his time, the hotel manager treated them as honored guests, and even offered his assistance. Sensing that the hotel manager was too friendly, Sanatan had asked Ishan how much money he had with him. When Ishan said that he had seven gold coins (he lied in order to keep one gold coin for himself), Sanatan immediately took the money and voluntarily gave it to the hotel manager in order to prevent a violent attack upon their persons. Knowing that Ishan had lied about the one gold coin, Sanatan let him keep it, but he released Ishan from his service.
These actions completely swayed the hotel owner from his previous intentions and he even assisted Sanatan in his journey through the Hazari-bagh mountains and out of Patada. On the way, Sanatan stopped at Hajipur and met his brother-in-law, Shrikanta. After hearing about Sanatan’s difficulties, Shrikanta became concerned about the Goswami and asked him to stay with him and his family. But the Goswami declined. His mission was of paramount importance, and he could never settle down to a compromised life of family and friends. This might be suitable for others, especially if they could manage to keep God in the center of their lives, but Sanatan was to play a direct, leading role in Shri Chaitanya’s mission. Consequently, he denied this last chance for an easy lifestyle. He was now penniless and bereft of his servant—but he felt truly free for the first time in many years. He left Shrikanta’s house with nothing more than a fine wollen blanket, which his brother-in-law had given him as a gift.
After a few days, Sanatan arrived in Benares. Although he was sorry to hear that Shri Chaitanya had already finished His tour of Vrindavan, he was pleased that the Master was now in Benares and accepting guests there. Sanatan immediately went to the house of Chandrashekhar, for he knew that this is where Shri Chaitanya would be staying.
As Sanatan approached, Shri Chaitanya said to Chandrashekhar: “There is a great devotee coming to your door. Go and let him in.” Once outside, Chandrashekhar looked in both directions, but he could not see a great devotee or anyone even remotely fitting that description. When he came back inside and told Shri Chaitanya, the Master said, “Is there anyone at the door at all?”
Since Sanatan had gone through great austerities in the jungle to get to Benares, he was totally unkempt and certainly unrecognizable as a Vaishnava. Consequently, Chandrashekhar replied: “Well I did see one disheveled individual. He looked like a Muslim mendicant, perhaps a dervish of the Sufi order.”
“Bring him in here immediately,” said Shri Chaitanya, “he is no ordinary dervish.” Chandra-shekhar then went out to get Sanatan, who was sitting by the door. When he heard that Shri Chaitanya wanted to see him, Sanatan happily followed Chandrashekhar into the main courtyard. Upon entering, Shri Chaitanya lovingly embraced him, and they both swooned with ecstatic love for Krishna.
After telling Sri Chaitanya the whole story of his stay in prison and the events that followed, Sanatan was put in the care of Chandrashekhar and Tapan Mishra. Sanatan first shaved his long hair and beard, at Shri Chaitanya’s request. Then, Chandra-shekhar took him to the Ganges so he could properly bathe and then he gave him a new set of clothes. However, Sanatan would not accept the clothes, thinking that they were too opulent. This made Shri Chaitanya very happy, for in this simple rejection of clothing Sanatan had shown a serious spirit of renunciation.
Later that same day, Shri Chaitanya and Sanatan went to Tapan Mishra’s house for lunch. Although extremely pleased with Sanatan, Shri Chaitanya kept glancing at his luxuriant woolen blanket, the one that Shrikanta had given to him. Noticing this, Sanatan could understand that Shri Chaitanya did not approve. The valuable blanket was inappropriate paraphernalia for a person in the renounced order, and so Sanatan considered discarding it.
The next day, while bathing in the Ganges, he noticed a Bengali mendicant washing a simple, torn quilt and then spreading it out to dry. Sanatan immediately approached the simple man and humbly asked if he would be willing to trade his quilt for the expensive blanket. At first, the mendicant naturally thought that Sanatan was teasing him. But Sanatan assured him: “I am not joking; I am speaking the truth. I would really like to trade my valuable blanket for your torn quilt.” The mendicant gratefully agreed to the exchange.
Sanatan returned to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with the torn quilt draped over his shoulder. When the Master asked about the blanket and Sanatan related the story, they were both visibly pleased. Shri Chaitanya then said: “I have considered this matter in some depth. Since Shri Krishna is very merciful, He has nullified your attachment for material things. Why should Krishna allow you to maintain a last bit of material attachment? After vanquishing a disease, a good physician does not allow any of the disease to remain.”
The Goswami agreed: “Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has saved me from the sinful life of material existence. By His desire, my last piece of material attraction is now gone.” In addition to this appreciation of the Lord’s mercy, Sanatan recognized his good fortune in associating with Shri Chaitanya, the Lord’s most esoteric descent. “Out of Your causeless mercy,” he told Shri Chaitanya, “You have delivered me from the materialistic path. Now, by that same causeless mercy, please tell me what my duty is.”
Enjoying this exchange with Shri Chaitanya, Sanatan began to inquire about the Absolute Truth. “Who am I?,” Sanatan asked, “Why do the miseries of material existence permeate my life? And what is the ultimate goal?” In this way, Sanatan humbly asked generic questions that could easily have been asked by anyone, for he wanted clear, authoritative answers from Shri Chaitanya, who then soberly explained to him all the secrets of Vedic wisdom.
First, the Master explained the ontological position of the ordinary, minute spirit soul. All souls are constitutionally servants of Krishna, Shri Chaitanya said, and they are His parts and parcels. The soul is related to God in the same way that the sun rays are related to the sun. The soul is the energy and God is the energetic source. The sun and the sunshine are, in a sense, one. As soon as there is sun, there is sunshine. And vice versa. But the sun and sunshine are different as well. If the sunshine is in one’s room, it can create a pleasing sensation. But if the sun itself were in one’s room, one would not survive the experience. Thus, the sun and sunshine are qualitatively similar—they are both fiery—but they are quantitatively different. So, too, is this the case with God and the living entities.
This philosophy of “simultaneous oneness with and difference from God,” known as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva in Shri Chaitanya’s language, is central to His doctrine. David Haberman elaborates:
In the system of the Goswamins, which maintains a position of differentiation within non-differentiation (achintya-bhedabheda), the individual is real and separate from, while yet maintaining a sameness with, the Absolute. Here, moreover, personal experience is greatly valued. Rupa frequently devaluates the Vedanta goal of union or moksha (see Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, 1.1.4, 14, 17, 32, 34), for how could one have a relationship with Krishna if individuality were given up? (The Vaishnava speaks of tasting sugar, not becoming sugar.) The goal is not to lose individual being, but rather to overcome the ignorance that keeps us from realizing who we truly are. The aim of bhakti is the transformation of identity, not the Vedantin identification with the non-differentiated One. This is one of the major differences between bhakti and Vedantic Hinduism. Rupa claims that one is ultimately a character in Vraja-lila—a servant, a friend, an elder, or, more important, a lover of Krishna’s—but never Krishna Himself. The experience of love requires an object and a subject. Thus absorption into the Absolute is eschewed and an eternal emotional relationship with Krishna is pursued.
In this way, Shri Chaitanya described the living entities as being simultaneously one with and different from God. But the living entities constitute only one of God’s multifarious energies, and Shri Chaitanya wanted to give Sanatan a more thorough understanding, describing other, more confidential categories of this energy.
Krishna’s “direct” energies, for example, extend from Shrimati Radharani, the greatest manifestation of these energies, to the aforementioned ordinary living beings. Subtle matter, however, such as mind, intelligence, and illusory (or false) ego, are also counted among Krishna’s energies. But these are called “indirect,” for they are qualitatively removed from the spiritual principle. This energy extends to the level of gross matter, or inert material elements. Nonetheless, all are energies of God and were explained in detail to Sanatan Goswami.
After this, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu briefly analyzed the three primary conceptions of the Absolute Truth, or the Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan manifestations of the Supreme. With reference to ancient Vedic scriptures and logic, Shri Chaitanya showed Sanatan that the Brahman conception was rudimentary. It is the impersonal idea of divinity, stating that God is an abstract force, indescribable in concrete terms. One may arrive at this level of understanding by disciplined mental gymnastics (gyan-yoga).
Superior to this, however, is the Paramatma conception, wherein one realizes that the amorphous Absolute also has a more localized feature and that He actually permeates every atom in this personal form. Meditating yogis, after a life of grueling sensual control and developed concentration, may attain this level of spiritual realization (but it is not likely that modern-day yogis will make much progress on this path, for, according to the scriptures that originally outlined the yoga system, this process takes hundreds if not thousands of years to perfect).
The Bhagavan feature is the highest, and this culminates in full realization of the Supreme Person, Krishna, and the heartfelt enthusiasm to worship Him with song and dance. This is the process recommended for the present age and Shri Chaitanya naturally advised Sanatan Goswami to pursue this path in earnest. One who achieves perfection in this discipline is called a Shuddha bhakta, or a pure devotee of the Lord. There is no higher attainment.
Next, Shri Chaitanya elaborately described the methodology of Krishna’s descent (avatar). First, He told Sanatan, Krishna exists in His original self-existent form (svayam rupa), playing on His flute in His three-fold bending pose. This form then expands into His various hypostatic manifestations (tad-ekatma-rupa), which may differ in appearance and, sometimes, in potency. But these forms are still manifestations of Krishna or a direct plenary expansion. There are also indirect plenary expansions, and these were enumerated by Shri Chaitanya. Another type of expansion includes Krishna’s empowered representative (avesha-avatar).
In addition, Shri Chaitanya explained how Krishna expands into Radharani by the three primary aspects of his potency: Sandhini, Sangvit, and Hladini. These gradually expand into His yogamaya energy, which is essentially spiritual in nature, and His maha-maya potency, which is a further expansion for manifesting the material world. Fully developing these ideas, Shri Chaitanya gave Sanatan detailed information about the nature of God.
Essentially, Shri Chaitanya described the complete Vedic revelation in regard to man’s relationship with the Supreme (sambandha-gyan); He elaborated upon the process for developing that relationship (abhideya-gyan); and He gave details about the ultimate goal of that relationship (prayojana-gyan), realized in tangible and direct service to God through love and devotion.
After instructing Sanatan Goswami in this way for two months, Shri Chaitanya gathered His many followers and engaged in a massive nagara-sankirtan festival, chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare with all of the inhabitants of Benares. According to Chaitanya-charitamrita, all of these residents of Benares became devotees of Krishna due to Shri Chaitanya’s association.
Soon, the Master wanted to go to Puri, and Sanatan Goswami wanted to accompany Him. Shri Chaitanya, however, instructed Sanatan to go to Vrindavan, as He had instructed Rupa and Anu-pama before him. Sanatan immediately took Shri Chaitanya’s words to heart and traveled to this holiest of cities. Once there, he met Subuddhi Roy, one of Shri Chaitanya’s followers, who told him about Rupa and Anupama’s short stay and how they had quickly left for Puri to meet the Master. Sanatan decided to do the same and, after visiting the twelve forests of Vrindavan, proceeded on the path to Puri.
Sanatan traveled in the most austere way, taking little food and water, and sleeping under a different tree every night. To remember the activities of his Master, he traveled through the Jharikhanda forest, retracing the path followed by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Unfortunately, Sanatan developed a severe case of eczema from bathing in and drinking the stagnant water of the various ponds of this forest. Insult was added to injury when he finally arrived in Puri, where he discovered that Anupama had passed away and that Rupa had left for Vrindavan just prior to his arrival.
While in Puri, Sanatan’s troubles were alleviated by his association with Haridas Thakur, the “master of the holy name,” a title given by Shri Chaitanya Himself in honor of Haridas Thakur’s daily chanting 300,000 names of Krishna. Every day, after going to the temple to see Lord Jagannath, Shri Chaitanya used to visit Haridas Thakur and at that time He would see Sanatan Goswami as well. Upon entering Haridas’ room (Siddha bakula), He embraced Sanatan in great affection. This disturbed the Goswami. He felt unqualified to be embraced by someone as pure as Shri Chaitanya. In addition, his eczema had become severe and the sores on his body sometimes excreted blood and puss, often oozing onto the Master’s soft skin. This was intolerable for Sanatan, who said that he would rather give up his own life than defile the body of Shri Chaitanya in this way.
Just as Sanatan was making plans to throw himself beneath the massive wheels of the Ratha-yatra cart during the annual Ratha-yatra parade, Shri Chaitanya said: “Is it not a fact that you have surrendered body and soul to Krishna? If your life is Krishna’s, then you have no right to end it. The time of your demise is up to him! You cannot misuse another’s property.” In this way, Sanatan understood that suicide is sinful, and no matter how much he felt like an offender, it was his duty to live and serve Krishna to the best of his ability. In fact, Shri Chaitanya also told him that He had much work to do through Sanatan’s body and mind. Shri Sanatan Goswami was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s valuable instrument.
Months passed, and Shri Chaitanya finally told Sanatan to go to Vrindavan to work with Rupa. He particularly wanted Sanatan to write a Vaishnava smriti, a book focusing on rules and regulations, and He gave him a basic outline for completing this work. Sanatan eventually published this as the Hari-bhakti-vilas under Gopal Bhatta Goswami’s name, for Gopal had developed the work and had supplied additional information. Shri Chaitanya also asked Sanatan to assist Rupa in uncovering the lost Vaishnava holy places and in establishing beautifully opulent temples as well.
Traveling once again through the dense Jharikhanda forest (this time with the notes kept by Balabhadra Bhattacharya, who documented the exact path taken by Shri Chaitanya), and then through Benares and Prayag, Sanatan came to Vrindavan. When he arrived, there were still no temples. What was once the city of Krishna’s youth was then lying vacant like an open field. The very first temple in Vrindavan—Madan-Mohan temple—would be established by Sanatan Goswami. His efforts set a precedent and other temples were gradually constructed. Today, Vrindavan boasts some 5,000 temples.
Like the Govinda Deity later established by Rupa Goswami, the Madan-Mohan Deity is said to have originated with Vajra, Krishna’s great grandson. To protect these Deities during the violent Muslim invasions, they were buried and, by the time of the Goswamis, were lost or forgotten. The reclamation of these Deities was part of the mandate given to the Goswamis by Shri Chaitanya.
The story behind the discovery of Madan-Mohan is particularly fascinating. It seems that Sanatan had a dream in which a beautiful Deity of Krishna was being worshiped by a humble priest from the city of Mathura. Sanatan thought that if he could worship that particular Deity in a grand way, it would attract many people to Krishna consciousness. But in the dream, at least, the Deity belonged to this humble brahmana, and Sanatan could not convince him to give up his Deity of Krishna. Without resolving this dilemma, the dream ended.
The next day, however, Sanatan went out to beg alms, as was his custom, and he came to the home of a poor brahmana named Purushottam Chaube. Upon entering his home, Sanatan saw that the events of his previous night’s dream were in fact a reality. Sanatan gazed upon the beautiful form of Madan-Mohan, the same Deity who appeared in his dream. He knew that this Deity was meant to be worshiped in a grand way, for everyone to see.
Nonetheless, just as in Sanatan’s dream, the priest at first refused to relinquish his Deity. But later that night, Madan-Mohan Himself came to the priest in a dream and insisted that he reconsider. Complying with the wishes of Madan-Mohan, the priest entrusted his Deity to Sanatan Goswami. The next day, Sanatan carried the Deity to the opposite side of Vrindavan and established the worship of Madan-Mohan in a little hut. The magnificent temple that was soon to be constructed for the Deity was erected where that little hut once stood.
The construction of the temple can be traced to a wealthy salt merchant named Krishnadas Kapoor, who was one day delivering his goods by boat to a market in Agra. When the boat became grounded on a sandbar just opposite Sanatan’s hut, Kapoor began to pray for the help of God. Seeing Kapoor’s despair, Sanatan invited him to worship Madan-Mohan, and while he was praying before the Deity, the boat floated clear. Kapoor was then able to complete his business and, profiting large sums of money as a result, the wealthy merchant felt indebted to Madan-Mohan. Thus he agreed to finance the building of Madan-Mohan’s temple. The imposing edifice that exists today was completed sometime in the 1580s.
After the worship of Madan-Mohan was firmly established, various Deities and their worship were introduced all over the holy land. Govindadev, Radha-Raman, Gopinath, Jugal-Kishor, Banke-Bihari, Radha-Ballabha, Radha-Shyamasundar, Radha-Gokulananda, Radha-Damodar, and the Krishna-Balaram Deities (established in the 1970s by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON) are the prominent Deities of Vrindavan. But Sanatan Goswami’s Madan-Mohan is, in many ways, the most important.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada confirms the importance of Madan-Mohan:
Shrila Sanatan Goswami is the ideal spiritual master, for he delivers one the shelter of the lotus feet of Madan-Mohan. Even though one may be unable to travel on the field of Vrindavan due to forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he can get adequate opportunity to stay in Vrindavan and derive all spiritual benefits by the mercy of Sanatan Goswami. This is also the special mercy of Madan-Mohan. In Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishnadas first offers his obeisances to Madan-Mohan vigraha [Sanatan Goswami’s Deity], the Deity who can help us progress in Krishna consciousness.
Along with Madan-Mohan, Rupa Goswami’s Govindadev Deity and Madhu Pandit’s Gopinath Deity are the life and soul of Chaitanyite Vaishnavas. Madan-Mohan represents sambandha-tattva; Govindadev represents abhideya-tattva; and Gopinath represents prayojana-tattva. As Shrila Prabhupada says:
These three Deities have very specific qualities. Worship of Madan-Mohan is on the platform of reestablishing our forgotten relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the beginning of our spiritual life we must worship Madan-Mohan so that He may attract us and nullify our attachment for material sense gratification. This relationship with Madan-Mohan is necessary for neophyte devotees. Then, when one wishes to render service to the Lord with strong attachment, one worships Govinda on the platform of transcendental service. When by the grace of Krishna and the other devotees one reaches perfection in devotional service, he can appreciate Krishna as Gopijanaballabha [Gopinath], the pleasure Deity of the damsels of Vraja.
Chanted three times a day by brahmanas, the famed Gayatri mantra is also said to honor this progression of Deities—Madan-Mohan, Govinda, and Gopinath—by specifically mentioning their names. One line of the mantra begins as follows: “Klim Krishnaya Govindaya Gopijanaballabhaya.” Traditionally, “Krishnaya” refers to Madan-Mohan; “Govindaya” refers to Govindadev; and “Gopijana-ballabhaya” refers to Gopinath.
These three Deities are again alluded to in the last line of the Gayatri mantra, known as the kama-gayatri: “Klim Kamadevaya vidmahe pushpa-banaya dhimahi tan no ‘nangah prachodayat.” The inner meaning of this verse is very confidential, but Shrila Prabhupada explains it in relation to these three Deities:
Krishna is called Kamadeva or Madan-Mohan, the Deity who establishes our relationship with Krishna. Govinda, or Pushpabana, who carries an arrow made of flowers, is the Personality of Godhead who accepts our devotional service. Ananga, or Gopijanaballabha, satisfies all the gopis and is the ultimate goal of life.
As the person who established the worship of Madan-Mohan, Sanatan Goswami occupies a special position in the Chaitanyite disciplic succession. He is the representative teacher of sambandha-gyan, or knowledge of our proper devotional relationship with Krishna. Rupa Goswami, whose name is inseparably connected with that of Govindadev, is the representative teacher of abhideya-gyan, or knowledge of how to develop that relationship with Krishna. It is interesting, however, that Raghunath Das Goswami, not Madhu Pandit (a contemporary of the Goswamis who is usually aligned with the Gopinath Deity), is considered the representative teacher of prayojana-gyan, the perfection of love of God.
Nonetheless, it is said that Raghunath Das Goswami accepts the lotus feet of Shri Rupa as his highest aspiration and that Rupa, in turn, accepts Sanatan Goswami as his spiritual master and the lord of his life. In this sense, spiritual life is cyclical, for there is no higher or lower in a realm where everyone competes to be the highest by serving the lowest. It can thus be said that one devotee chases after the other, and all chase after Krishna.
The material world has a sort of “chasing” system of its own, and when one is not chasing after gross or subtle sense gratification he finds that he, too, is chasing God, albeit for materialistic reasons: Either to become His equal or to surpass Him. Such chasing is often unconscious. Nonetheless, it has its effect, and a good example of this took place in the year 1670, when the fanatic Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of all sacred images and temples. He alone was the monarch, and he would not share his post with a mere cowherd boy named Krishna.
At that time, to protect the Lord of their lives, a band of simple villagers moved the Deity of Madan-Mohan from Vrindavan to Jaipur. Soon after the Moghul emperor’s reign, however, when the Deity was again safe, He was moved to Karoli, this time at the request of the Princess of Jaipur. She and her husband, the King of Karoli, constructed an opulent temple for Madan-Mohan, who has remained there ever since.
Having firmly established the worship of Madan-Mohan, Sanatan Goswami was free to write transcendental literature. Some of the books compiled by Sanatan are the Hari-bhakti-vilas [edited by Gopal Bhatta], Brihat-Bhagavatamrita, Dashama-tipani, and Dashama-charita. Since Hari-bhakti-vilas was discussed in the chapter on Gopal Bhatta Goswami, we need not discuss it here.
Regarding Brihat-Bhagavatamrita, it is divided into two parts, each dealing with the discharge of pure devotional service. The first part is an analytical study of the secrets of Vedic wisdom, including a detailed description of other planets—from the material universes to the kingdom of God.
There are also descriptions of devotees, tracing them from the most fundamental levels to the most exalted. Brahma, for instance, is described as a devotee who is representative of karma-mishra-bhakti, or the level of devotional service that is still mixed with fruitive desires. Lord Shiva, on the other hand, is paradigmatic of a devotee who is tinged with the desire for knowledge (gyana-mishra-bhakti). This is not to say that Brahma or Shiva themselves are necessarily on this level, but that those who are on this level will be attracted to these particular modes of service. Karma-kandis, or fruitive workers, are generally attracted to Lord Brahma, while the yogis and jnanis are inclined to Lord Shiva.
Entering the realm of Shuddha-bhakti, or pure devotional service, rasa begins to manifest, and Brihat-Bhagavatamrita carefully delineates the archetypal devotees of each level. Prahlad, for example, represents shanta-rasa, or neutral love, for his relationship with God consists mainly of offering prayers as opposed to active service. Higher still is Hanuman, for he is an ideal servant (dasya-rasa). Beyond this stage we find the Pandavas, who represent the friendly relationship (sakhya-rasa). But the Pandavas’ love pales next to that of the Yadavas, Krishna’s intimate Dwaraka associates, who are headed by Uddhava. His love almost equals that of Mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaj, Krishna’s foster parents (vatsalya-rasa). The hierarchy, of course, culminates in the love of the gopis, headed by Shrimati Radharani. This is the most coveted madhurya-rasa, the highest level: the platform of conjugal love.
After explaining this in some detail, Sanatan Goswami begins the second part of his Brihat-Bhagavatamrita. There we read about the glories of the spiritual world, known as Goloka-mahatmya-nirupana, as well as the process for renouncing the material world. In a scientific, analytical way, Sanatan takes his readers through every aspect of spiritual life. In this way, there are fourteen chapters to Brihat-Bhagavatamrita, seven chapters in each part.
Dashama-tipani is Shri Sanatan’s commentary on the tenth canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam. Another name for this commentary is Brihad-Vaishnava-toshani-tika. This work clearly explains the Chaitanyite perspective on all of Krishna’s activities and thus constitutes the bonafide inner interpretation of the scriptures. Dashama-tipani was eventually given to Jiva Goswami to edit, and that version was published separately under the title Laghu-toshani. These two commentaries on the tenth canto are both invaluable contributions to the storehouse of Chaitanyite Vaishnava literature. Although Sanatan wrote other important books, such as Dashama-charita, his Hari-bhakti-vilas, Brihat-Bhagavatamrita, and Dashama-tipani remain his most important.
In fact, the significance of Sanatan Goswami’s literary accomplishments cannot be stressed enough. Extolling the virtues of this literature, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has written:
Shri Sanatan Goswami Prabhu, the teacher of the science of devotional service, wrote several books, of which the Brihat-Bhaga-vatamrita is very famous; anyone who wants to know about the subject matter of devotees, devotional service, and Krishna must read this book. Sanatan Goswami also wrote a special commentary on the Tenth Canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam known as Dashama-tippani, which is so excellent that by reading it one can understand very deeply the pastimes of Krishna in His exchanges of loving activities.
Ontologically, Sanatan Goswami is the closest friend of Shri Rupa. This may in part explain his proclivity toward transcendental literature and his insights into spiritual life. As Kavi Karnapur has revealed in his Shri Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika:
Rupa Manjari’s closest friend, who was known by the names Rati Manjari and Labanga Manjari, descended as Shrila Sanatan Goswami. He was honored by everyone and was considered to be like an extension of the transcendental body of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sanatan Kumar, the jewel among the sages, entered the body of Sanatan Goswami, who is therefore also considered to be an incarnation of Sanatan Kumar.