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[Posted January 27, 2006]

Seva Kunj, Vrindaban - 1535

by Vaiyasaki das

Excerpt from Radha-Damodara Vilasa

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I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami, and Sri Gopal Bhatta Goswami, who are very expert in scrutinizingly studying all the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human beings. Thus they are honored all over the three worlds, and they are worth taking shelter of because they are absorbed in the mood of the gopis and are engaged in the transcendental loving service of Radha and Krishna.—Sad-goswamy-astaka of Srinivas Acharya, verse 2

All the followers of Lord Chaitanya are glorious, but the Six Goswamis of Vrindavana are especially acclaimed for their sublime literature that substantiates the conclusions of the super excellence of prema-bhakti in the mood of the Vraja gopis. They also uncover the lost sites of Lord Krishna’s pastimes and establish beautiful temples for His glorification.

Srila Jiva Goswami, the nephew of Rupa and Sanatana, is the last of the six to arrive in Vrindavana. At an early age he is attracted to the ascetic life of renunciation. When his mother passes away in 1535, Jiva leaves home to join his uncles in Seva Kunj.

Seva Kunj is the most sacred spot in Vrindavana, being the site of the rasa-lila, where Sri Sri Radha-Shyamasundara eternally enjoy ecstatic loving pastimes. Taking shelter of Rupa Goswami, Jiva renders menial service and helps him prepare manuscripts. He will become Sri Rupa’s foremost disciple.

The Goswamis soon begin to install Deities for worship. In 1542, two of the most important Deities of Vrindavana make Their appearance. First, the self-manifested Deity, Sri Radha-Raman, appears to Gopal Bhatta Goswami out of a shalagrama-shila that he had obtained from the Gandaki River. Then, during the month of Kartik, Rupa Goswami presents Jiva with a beautiful Deity carved by his own hand from a piece of black marble from the Vindhya Hills. He is Lord Damodara, the ishta-deva of Jiva Goswami.

Since the Six Goswamis are eternally liberated souls, we understand that the Deities appearing to them are their eternally worshippable Lords, not simply murtis to help them advance in sadhana-bhakti.

Lord Damodara is installed by Rupa Goswami at Seva Kunj, where He quickly becomes the life and soul of both Sri Rupa and Sri Jiva. The temples of Vrindavana have yet to be built, so the Deities accept worship in the tree under which each Goswami lives. Rupa Goswami completes his most celebrated work, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, in 1552 under the tree where Sri Damodara is worshipped.

Many exalted Vaishnavas come to hear Sri Rupa speak on the elevated topics of prema-bhakti at Seva Kunj. In 1558, Jiva Goswami purchases a large tract of land surrounding Seva Kunj, with the idea to preserve the sacred site for the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. In this holy place Sri Jiva establishes a prominent temple for his Lord Damodara. Although Rupa Goswami is renowned for establishing a temple for Radha-Govinda, his bhajanashrama is at Seva Kunj.

In his final days, Sri Rupa hands over all his manuscripts to Jiva Goswami, requesting him to write commentaries on them. Rupa Goswami enters maha-samadhi in 1564, and Jiva Goswami solemnly places the transcendental body of Sri Rupa into his samadhi mandira, where it remains today in the courtyard behind Radha-Damodara temple. Before long, Jiva becomes recognized as the Acharya due to his vast learning and missionary mood; “the most authoritative acharya in the Gaudiya sampradaya,” says Srila Prabhupada (Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Chapter 31).

Writing prodigiously, Sri Jiva quickly attracts a great deal of fame as a scholar and a saint. Even the Moghul ruler, Emperor Akbar, arrives in Vrindavana in 1570 to have an exclusive darshan with the distinguished saint. Moved by a genuine religious experience, Akbar begins to patronize the work of the Goswamis, offering Jiva Goswami a grant to erect a library housing the Vaishnava scriptures. Jiva also oversees the construction of beautiful temples for the worship and glorification of the Deities of the Goswamis.

In particular, Sri Jiva directs Raja Man Singh of Ajmer to build a temple to properly worship his Lord Damodara. The temple becomes the classic Radha-Damodara Mandir, celebrated for its vast library of the original works of the Goswamis. Understanding Lord Chaitanya’s mood to save the conditioned souls, Jiva Goswami founds the Vishva Vaishnava Raja Sabha to train up preachers for the sankirtana mission. The Radha-Damodara temple becomes the mission’s headquarters where the Vraja Vaishnavas meet to discuss the propagation of Lord Chaitanya’s teachings. It is here, also, that Srila Prabhupada will later spend years formulating his attack on maya in pursuance of the mission of Jiva Goswami under the shelter of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara.

Due to his vast erudition, Sri Jiva attracts adherents from all over India who flock to Vrindavana to study under him. His most outstanding students are Narottama dasa Thakur, Srinivas Acharya, and Shyamananda Prabhu.

In 1582 Jiva calls a meeting at Radha-Damodara Mandir to formally announce his intention of sending out these three preachers with the bhakti-shastras of the Goswamis for the benefit of humanity. Srinivas Acharya accepts West Bengal as his preaching field. Shyamananda prefers to preach in Orissa, while Narottama dasa Thakur chooses East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh) to spread the glories of prema-bhakti. Jiva Goswami arranges a bullock cart and loads it with a chest full of the writings of the Goswamis.

The first traveling sankirtana party (TSKP) leaves Radha-Damodara Mandir as a padayatra heading East. Ten soldiers accompany the party to guard the precious scriptures. Crossing the breadth of India without any incident, the party finally arrives in the province of West Bengal. They pass the night on the bank of a lake on the outskirts of Vana Vishnupur, rejoicing to be back in the holy land of Sri Chaitanya’s appearance.

Unknown to the party, their entrance into Bengal is being tracked with great interest. A rascal astrologer has informed a band of thieves about a party traveling East bearing a great treasure. Seeing the chest guarded by ten soldiers and three sadhus, the thieves are convinced that this must be the treasure and succeed in stealing it during the night.

The next morning Srinivas discovers the theft. The three devotees are in complete shock. Narottama and Shyamananda are so distraught they want to end their lives immediately by drowning themselves in the lake. Srinivas, however, encourages them to carry on to their respective prabhu-datta desha. He will remain behind and will not rest until he has recovered the precious books. Embracing each other with heavy hearts, they part ways.

Srinivas Acharya decides to seek the help of the local ruler, Raja Bir Hambir, to trace out the theft. It is the king himself, however, who has been sending out raiding parties to rob wealthy travelers in order to maintain his treasury. When his astrologer had predicted a great treasure was coming, the king thought his financial problem was solved. Instead, he is devastated to find the Goswami literature in his possession. Realizing he has committed a grave sin, the king sponsors a daily reading of Srimad-Bhagavatam for the public, hoping to mitigate his offense by this sukriti.

Srinivas begins to attend these public recitals and is soon recognized by that assembly as an elevated scholar of the Bhagavatam. This attracts the attention of the king, who admits to being in possession of the stolen writings, and results in Srinivas recovering the bhakti-shastras. The king becomes a disciple of Srinivas and decrees Gaudiya Vaishnavism to be the state religion. In one stroke Srinivas delivers the mercy of Lord Chaitanya to Vana Vishnupur.

At his ancestral home in East Bengal, Narottama dasa Thakur receives the good news by messenger. He is devoting himself to writing transcendental songs describing the glories of Radha-Krishna lila and Chaitanya lila. His music soon attracts attention all over Bengal, and a constant stream of people come to Kheturi to have his association.

Feeling separation from all the followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Narottama decides to honor the appearance of Sri Chaitanya with a huge festival to bring the Vaishnavas together. Months in advance he sends out messengers with invitations, as preparations are made at home to facilitate all the guests.

Thousands of Vaishnavas travel overland by foot from as far away as Vrindavana and Orissa to join the celebration in the association of many exalted sadhus. Narottama’s chanting at the festival is so divinely inspired that the entire Pancha Tattva, who had long since departed this world, appear in the middle of his kirtan, dancing in ecstasy. This miracle is observed by thousands of eye-witnesses, who become mad in ecstatic love of God. Thus, the first Gaura Purnima celebration becomes one of the most glorious events in Vaishnava history, and one of the great miracles on earth.

Narottama’s style of kirtan is gradually adopted as the standard for all Gaudiya Vaishnavas. His preaching is also responsible for the conversion of the entire country of Manipur into a Vaishnava state. Again, by converting the king, Vaishnavism becomes the state religion. Soon all the citizens take up the chanting of the maha-mantra.

Shyamananda is successful spreading the sankirtana movement all over Orissa, which had since fallen into the hands of Pathan iconoclasts. By his vigorous preaching and saintly qualities, he rejuvenates the lives of the devastated Vaishnavas. Along with Raja Man Singh, the military commander who defeats the Pathans and drives out the invaders, Shyamananda reestablishes Gaudiya Vaishnavism throughout the region bringing spiritual sustenance and inspiration to the people. (For a detailed history of Srinivas, Narottama, and Shyamananda, see Lives of the Vaishnava Saints by Satyaraja dasa.)

Seva Kunj, Vrindaban - 1535/ Inside Nam Hatta
© 2004 - Hansadutta dasa
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