SRILA SANATANA GOSVAMIPADA
Sanatana Gosvami was born in the Christian year 1488 (Sakabda 1410). In his Laghu-Vaisnava-Tosani, Sri Jiva Goswami has mentioned his family lineage begining with Sri Sarva, who was a yajur vedi brahmana, Bharadvaja gotriya, from Karnataka. His son was Sri Aniruddha deva who had two sons Sri Rupesvara and Sri Harihardeva. There was apparently some altercation between the two brothers, who had different mothers (Aniruddha deva had two wives) as a result of which Sri Rupesvara along with his wife and eight horses, came to Paulastya-desa, where he was befriended by the ruler of that land, Sri Sekaresvar. Sri Padmanabhadeva, the son of Sri Rupesvar was extremely learned in all the Vedas. He came with his family to live at Naihati, on the banks of the Ganga. He had eight daughters and five sons. His five sons, following in the footsteps of their predecessors, were very expert in the study of Vedas. Their names were Purusottama, Jagannatha, Narayana, Murari and Mukundadeva. Mukundadeva’s son, Sri Kumara deva, being oppressed by some of the other family members, came to live at Bakla Candradvip. Sri Kumaradeva had many sons, amongst whom Sri Amar (Sanatana), Sri Santosh (Sri Rupa) and Sri Vallabha (Anupama) were great devotees.
Along with his brothers, Sanatana began his studies from their maternal uncle’s house, in a small village, Sakurma, near the capital of Gaura-desa. They had many instructors and professors. In rhetoric their teacher was Sri Vidyabhusanapada. They were trained in philosophy by the brother of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Sri Vidyavacaspati, as well as Sri Paramananda Bhattacarya, Sri Rampada Bhadrapada. Their names have been mentioned in the commentary of the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam.
Mukunda, the paternal grandfather of Sanatana, joined the royal government service at Gauda during the rule of Sultan Barbak Shah (1460-1470 A.D.). Barbak’s son died after reigning for seven years and was succeeded by Fateh Shah. In order to ensure the security of his kingdom and his palace, Barbak Shah brought a large number of slaves from Abyssima who were called “Habsi.” These slaves soon mobilized and killed Fateh Shah in the capital. Some amongst these slaves ruled for six or seven years and brought about their own ruin. The minister of the last slave ruler, named Hussain Shah, finally ascended the throne of Gauda.
During the rule of Fateh Shah, Mukunda died and Sanatana was appointed to Mukunda’s post. In this way Sanatana saved himself during the interval of slave rule by occupying the high position of Dabir Khas (private secretary) [CCM 1.184 - Sakara Mallik]. Sanatana took charge of defence activities and Hussain Shah ruled as advised by Sanatana. At that time Rupa was given the responsibility of governing the boundary areas.
Rupa and Sanatana received land for their personal use from the royal government, consisting of Yusafpur and Cengutia Pargana in Fatehabad. There, on the bank of the river Bhairai they built a huge palace (See the book Jasohar Khulnar Itihas 1.349-358 for details on this). They also arranged to build several mansions with lakes, etc. at Ramakeli (CC. R.G. Nd. PP. 305-306). Thus they came to live at Ramakeli, the capital of Gaura-desa at that time, and were presented much wealth by the Badsa. Many brahmanas and pandits from distant lands would stay with Rupa and Sanatana whenever they would come to Ramkeli, especially, those from Karnataka and Navadwipa. There is still a house near the Ganga, called Bhattabati, which is said to have been their residence.
These three brothers were from childhood endowed with great devotion to the Lord. In memory of Sri Vrindavana, near their residence they planted many auspicious trees such as Tamal, Kadamba, Juthika and Tulasi.
In the midst of these gardens constructed Shyama-kunda and Radha-kunda. In these auspicious surroundings they always remained absorbed in service to Sri Madana Mohana. Having heard something about the famous Nimai Pandita they became very anxious to have His darsana, and always meditated on when they might get such a chance.
One morning, Sanatana Goswami, saw a dream in which one brahmana was presenting the Srimad Bhagavatam to him. Suddenly he woke up, but seeing that no one was there, he felt sad. Later on, in the morning after he had finished his bath and performance of puja, one brahmana came to his house and presented him with the Bhagavata, instructing him to study it very thoroughly. Having received it in this way, he was beside himself with bliss, and from that day, considering the Bhagavata to be the essence of all scriptures, he began its thorough study.
“My only constant companion, my only friend, guru, wealth, that which has delivered me, my great fortune and the source of my good luck, the form through which I taste pleasure, my obeisances to you, Srimad Bhagavatam.” [Sri Krishna-lila stava].
When the brothers learned that Nimai Pandita, the life and soul of Nadia, had accepted sannyasa and gone to stay at Puri, they fainted dead away, having lost hope of getting His darsana. They were a little pacified only after a celestial voice informed them that they would be able to see the Lord, here in Ramakeli itself.
After five years had passed, Mahaprabhu decided to come to Bengal to have darsana of his mother and mother Ganga. All of the devotees were in ecstasy and Saci mata was so overjoyed that she was not even aware of her own body. After spending a few days with Advaita Acarya in Santipur, He came to Ramakeli. [C.C. Mad 1.166]
Sakara Mallik (Sanatan) and Dabir Khas (Rupa), along with their brother Sri Ballabha (Anupama), who had a son who was just a small child (Sri Jiva), they offered salutations at the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu.
After Mahaprabhu had left Ramakeli to return to Puri, the brothers began to observe some vows and rituals in order to obtain shelter at His lotus feet. After sending the family members to their residences at Candradwip and Fateyabad, Sri Rupa and Anupama loaded a boat with their accumulated wealth and left Ramakeli. Sanatan remained there alone. Thereafter, Rupa and Anupama, having received news of Mahaprabhu’s journey to Vrindavana, set out to meet Him. Arriving at Prayaga, their desire was fulfilled. At that time they informed Mahaprabhu that their brother had been incarcerated at Ramakeli. Mahaprabhu simply smiled and replied that he would get his freedom very soon.
Meanwhile, after the successful departure of Rupa and Anupama, Sanatan was planning how he also could make his getaway. The Badsa had entrusted Dabir Khas and Sakar Mallik with the main responsibility of managing the affairs of his kingdom. When Sanatana stopped attending his darbar on the plea of being ill, he sent his personal doctor to examine him. The doctor informed him that there was nothing wrong with Sakara Mallik, and so the Badsa personally came there to find out what was the matter. The Badsa addressed Sanatana Gosvami, “My doctor says that you are perfectly healthy. All my affairs depend on you, but you are simply sitting in your house, in the company of these pandits. Your brother has also left. In this way my kingdom will topple. I don’t know what you are trying to do to me.”
Sanatana Gosvami said, “We will no longer be able to assist you in the affairs of your government. You had better find someone else to do it.”
The Badsa got up in great anger and declared, “You brothers have ruined all my plans.”
Sanatan replied, “You are the independent ruler of Gauda. If you feel anyone has committed any misdeed, then you can punish him as you see fit.”
The Badsa had Sanatan imprisoned. During this time the Badsa was preparing to go to Orissa to engage in warfare with the king of that country, so he requested Sanatana to accompany him. S
anatana refused, telling him, “As you will naturally try to give pain to the Deities in the temples and the sadhus, I will not be able to accompany you.”
Therefore the Badsa set out for Orissa leaving Sanatana imprisoned. While Sanatana was imprisoned, a letter arrived from Srila Rupa Gosvami stating, “Somehow try to get freed from the prison. I left eight hundred mohars with a grocer-man. I am leaving for Vrndavana with Anupama.” Sanatana was very happy to receive this news.
Sanatana Gosvami then told the Mohammedan jailkeeper, “Dear sir you are a saintly person and are very fortunate. You have full knowledge of the revealed scriptures such as the Koran and similar books. If one releases a conditioned soul or imprisoned person according to religious principles, he himself is also released from material bondage by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Previously I have done much for you. Now I am in difficulty. Please return my goodwill be releasing me. Here are five thousand gold coins. Please accept them.
In this way Sanatana convinced the jailkeeper, who replied, “I am willing to release you, but I am afraid of the government.” Sanatana replied, “There is no danger. The Nawab has gone to the south. If he returns tell him that Sanatana went to pass stool near the bank of the Ganges and that as soon as he saw the Ganges, he jumped in. Tell him, `I looked for him a long time, but I could not find any trace of him. He jumped in with his shackles, and therefore he was drowned and washed away by the waves.’ There is no reason for you to be afraid, for I shall not remain in this country. I shall become a mendicant and go to the holy city of Mecca.” Sanatana then stacked seven thousand gold coins before the jailkeeper. He then agreed, and that night he cut Sanatana’s shackles and let him cross the Ganges.
In this way Sanatana was released. However, he was not able to walk along the path of the fortress. Walking day and night, he finally arrived at the hilly tract of land known as Patada. There he met a landholder and submissively requested him to get him across that hilly tract of land. A man who was expert in palmistry was at that time staying with the landlord. Knowing about Sanatana, he whispered to the landlord, “This man possesses eight gold coins.” Hearing this the landlord was very pleased and said to Sanatana, “I shall get you across that hilly tract at night with my own men. Now just take these grains and cook lunch for yourself.” Sanatana then went to the riverside and took his bath. After having fasted for two days, he cooked the grains given by the landlord and ate.
However, having formerly been a minister of the Nawab, he began to contemplate the situation. He wondered why the landlord was offering him such respect. Thus he questioned his servant, Isana, who revealed that he was carrying seven gold coins. Sanatana then took the gold coins and handed them over to the landlord saying, “I have these seven gold coins with me. Please accept them, and from a religious point of view please get me across the hilly tract of land. Smiling, the landlord said, “Before you offered them, I already knew that there were eight gold coins in your servant’s possession. On this very night I would have killed you and taken your coins. I am very satisfied with your behavior. I shall not accept these gold coins, but I shall get you across that hilly tract of land simply to perform a pious activity.”
Sanatana replied, “If you do not accept the coins, someone else will kill me for them. It is better that you save me from the danger by accepting the coins.” After this settlement was made, the landlord gave Sanatana four watchmen to accompany him. They went through the forest path for the whole night and thus brought him over the hilly tract of land. After crossing the hills, Sanatana Gosvami told his servant, “Isana, I think you still have some balance left from the gold coins.” Isana replied, “I still have one gold coin in my possession.” Sanatana Gosvami then said, “Take the coin and return to yo
After departing from Isana, Sanatana began traveling alone with a waterpot in his hand. Simply covered with a torn quilt, he thus lost all his anxiety. Walking and walking, he finally arrived at a place called Hajipura. That evening he sat down within a garden.
In Hajipura there was a gentleman named Srikanta, who happened to be the husband of Sanatana Gosvami’s sister, who was engaged in government service. Srikanta had 300,000 gold coins with him, which had been given to him by the emperor for the purchase of horses. Thus Srikanta was buying horses and dispatching them to the emperor. When Srikanta was sitting in an elevated place, he could see Sanatana Gosvami. That night he took a servant and went to see Sanatana. When they met, they had many conversations, Sanatana told him in detail about his arrest and release. Srikanta then told Sanatana, “Stay here for at least two days and dress up like a gentleman. Abandon these dirty garments. Sanatana Gosvami replied, “I shall not stay here even for a moment. Please help me cross the Ganges. I shall leave immediately.” With great care, Srikanta gave him a woolen blanket and helped him cross the Ganges. Thus Sanatana Gosvami departed again.
After a few days, Sanatana Gosvami arrived at Varanasi. He was very pleased to hear about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s arrival there. He then went to the house of Candrasekhar and sat down by the door. Understanding what was happening, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said to Candrasekhar, “There is a devotee at your door. Please call him in.” Going outside, Candrasekhar could not see a Vaisnava at his door. When he informed the Lord, He said, “Is there anyone at your door at all?” Candrasekhar replied, “There is a Muslim mendicant.” Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu immediately said, “Please bring him here.” Candrasekhar then spoke to Sanatana Gosvami, who was still sitting beside the door. “O Muslim mendicant, please come in. The Lord is calling you.” Sanatana was very pleased to hear this order, and he entered Candrasekhar’s house.
As soon as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw Sanatana Gosvami in the courtyard, He immediately went up to him with great haste. After embracing him, the Lord was overwhelmed with ecstatic love. Sanatana was also filled with love, yet in a faltering voice , he said, “Oh my Lord, do not touch me.” Shoulder to shoulder, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sanatana Gosvami began to cry unlimitedly, much to Candrasekhar’s astonishment. Catching his hand Mahaprabhu took Sanatana Gosvami inside and made him sit in an elevated place next to Him. When the Lord began cleansing Sanatana Gosvami’s body with His own hand, Sanatana said, “Oh my Lord, please do not touch me.” The Lord replied, “I am touching you just to purify Myself because by the force of your devotional service you can purify the whole universe. Saints of your caliber are themselves places of pilgrimage. Because of their purity, they are constant companions of the Lord, and therefore they can purify even the places of pilgrimage.” He then introduced Sanatana to Candrasekhar, Tapana Misra and the other devotees.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu called Candrasekhar and asked him to take Sanatana Gosvami with him and to take away Sanatana’s present dress. Candrasekhar then took Sanatana Gosvami to bathe in the Ganges, and afterwards brought him a new set of clothes, but Sanatana did not accept them. When the Lord heard about this He was very happy. At noon Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took Sanatana Gosvami to the house of Tapana Misra for lunch.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu felt unlimited happiness to observe Sanatana Gosvami’s strict following of the principles of sannyasa. However, He repeatedly glanced at the woolen blanket Sanatana Gosvami was wearing. Thus Sanatana could understand that the Lord did not approve of it. He then began to consider to give it up. Sanatana then went to the bank of the Ganges to bathe. While there, he saw that a mendicant from Bengal had washed his quilt and had spread it out to dry. Sanatana Gosvami told the Bengali mendicant,
“My dear brother, please do me a favor. Trade me your quilt for this woolen blanket.” Saying this Sanatana exchanged the blanket for the quilt and returned to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Lord then asked, “Where is your woolen blanket?” Sanatana Gosvami then narrated the whole story. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “I have already deliberately considered this matter. Since Lord 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.” Sanatana Gosvami replied, “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.”
Sanatana then clasped the feet of the Lord and said, “I was born in a low family, and my associates are all low-class men. I myself am fallen and am the lowest of men. Indeed, I have passed my whole life in the well of sinful materialism. I do not know what is beneficial for me and what is detrimental. Nonetheless, in ordinary dealings people consider me a learned scholar, and I am also thinking of myself as such. Out of Your causeless mercy, You have delivered me from the materialistic path. Now, by the same causeless mercy, please tell me what my duty is. Who am I? Why do the threefold miseries always give me trouble? If I do not know this, how can I be benefited? Actually I do not know how to inquire about the goal of life and the process for obtaining it. Being merciful upon me, please explain all these truths.”
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Lord Krishna has bestowed His full mercy upon you so that all these things are known to you. For you, the threefold miseries certainly do not exist. Since you possess Lord Krishna’s potency, you certainly know these things. However, it is the nature of a sadhu to inquire. Although he knows these things, the sadhu inquires for the sake of strictness. Those who are anxious to awaken their spiritual consciousness, who have unflinching intelligence and who are not deviated, certainly attain the desired goal. You are fit to propagate the cult of devotional service. Therefore gradually hear all the truths about it from Me. I shall tell you about them.”
Thus for two months the Lord instructed Sanatana Gosvami on the science of devotional service. The Lord then requested him to write books describing this science. Mahaprabhu said, “Your two brothers Rupa and Anupama have already gone to Vrndavana. You should also go there, and I shall return to Nilacala. You will also come there to see Me in due course of time.” Mahaprabhu then took his leave from the devotees, who all cried helplessly. Sri Sanatana bid farewell to the Kasi devotees and started for Vrndavana.
In Vrndavana Sanatana met Subuddhi Raya, but he missed Rupa Gosvami, who had already left. Rupa and Sanatana had followed two different paths, thus they did not meet along the way. After some time Sanatana Gosvami came alone from Mathura to Jagannatha Puri to see Lord Caitanya. Because of bathing in bad water and not getting enough food every day while travelling on the path through Jharakhanda Forest, he developed a disease that made his body itch. Suffering greatly from this itching, he resolved that in the presence of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu he would throw himself under the wheel of Jagannatha’s car and in this way commit suicide.
When Sanatana Gosvami came to Jagannatha Puri, he stayed under the care of Haridasa Thakura for some time and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very happy to see him. The Lord informed Sanatana about the death of his younger brother Anupama, who had great faith in the lotus feet of Lord Ramacandra. One day Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said to Sanatana Gosvami, “Your decision to commit suicide is the result of the mode of ignorance. One cannot get love of God simply by committing suicide. You have already dedicated your life and body to My service; therefore your body does not belo
ng to you, nor do you have any right to commit suicide. I have to execute many devotional services through your body. I want you to preach the cult of devotional service and go to Vrndavana to excavate the lost holy places.” After having thus spoken, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu left, and Haridasa Thakura and Sanatana Gosvami had many talks about this subject.
One day Sanatana Gosvami was summoned by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who wanted him to come to Yamesvara-tota. Sanatana reached the Lord through the path along the beach by the sea. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked Sanatana Gosvami which way he had come, Sanatana replied, “Many servitors of Lord Jagannatha come and go on the path by the Simha-dvara gate of the Jagannatha temple. Therefore, I did not go by that path, but instead went by the beach.” Sanatana Gosvami did not realize that there were burning blisters on his feet because of the heat of the sand. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was pleased to hear about Sanatana Gosvami’s great respect for the temple of Lord Sri Jagannatha.
Because his disease produced wet sores on his body, Sanatana Gosvami used to avoid embracing Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but nevertheless the Lord would embrace him by force. This made Sanatana Gosvami very unhappy, and therefore he consulted Jagadananda Pandita about what he should do. Jagadananda advised him to return to Vrndavana after the cart festival of Jagannatha, but when the Lord heard about this instruction, He chastised Jagadananda Pandita and reminded him that Sanatana Gosvami was senior to him and also more learned. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu informed Sanatana Gosvami that because Sanatana was a pure devotee, the Lord was never inconvenienced by his bodily condition. Because the Lord was a sannyasi, He did not consider one body better than another. The Lord also informed him that He was maintaining Sanatana and the other devotees just like a father. Therefore the moisture oozing from Sanatana’s itching skin did not affect the Lord at all. After speaking with Sanatana Gosvami in this way, the Lord again embraced him, and after this embrace, Sanatana Gosvami became free from the disease. The Lord ordered Sanatana Gosvami to stay with Him for that year, and the next year, after seeing the Ratha-yatra festival, he left Purusottama-ksetra and returned to Vrndavana.
In a kutir cottage made from leaves, Sanatana Gosvami lived for some time at Mahavana, the birth place of Sri Krishna. One day, he was walking along the banks of the Yamuna, going to beg some foodstuffs in a nearby village. Madana Gopaladeva was playing with some cowherd boys there, and when he saw Sanatana Gosvami he came running towards him, “Baba! Baba!” Catching hold of Sanatana’s hand he told him, “I want to go with you!”
“Lala!”, replied Sanatana, “Why do you want to go with me?”
“I want to stay where you live.”
“If you stay with me, what will you eat?”
“Baba! Whatever you eat.”
“But I only eat some dry capatis and chick peas.”
“Then that is what I will eat.”
“No that won’t be enough for you. You should stay with your mother and father.”
“Na, baba, na. I want to stay with you.”
Sanatan Goswami patiently explained that the boy might feel difficulty if he stayed with him, and sent him home. Then he went to beg some capatis in the village.
That night, in a dream, he saw that boy again come to him. Smiling very sweetly, he caught hold of Sanatana’s hand and said, “Baba! I am coming tomorrow to stay with you. My name is Madana Gopal”. His dream ended and he woke up. Losing himself in great ecstasy, he said to himself, “What did I see? Such a beautiful boy!” Thinking of Lord Krishna he opened the door to his hut and saw standing outside a beautiful Deity of Gopal. His effulgence shone in all directions. For a few seconds Sanatana was completely stunned as he gazed upon Gopal’s radiant smile. He expected that the Deity might say something or come towards him. Finally, tears of love gliding down his cheeks, Sanatana fell
to the ground, offering his dandavats.
Gradually, he performed Gopala’s abhiseka (bathed the Deity) and offered worship to Him. Sanatana’s brother Rupa came there and, seeing the Deity, was deeply moved in ecstatic love. Sanatana kept the Deity with him in his leaf hut and began to worship Him in great happiness. Srila Rupa Gosvami immediately sent word of this auspicious event to Mahaprabhu, at Puri.
According to the different perspectives of vision of various devotees, Krishna’s pastimes might sometimes be described in different ways, putting more or less emphasis on the external events that surround the internal moods and sentiments felt by Krishna and His devotees. In light of this, it has been described in the Prema-vilasa that the Madana Mohana Deity resided at the home of one Mathura brahmana, Damodar Caube by name. Subsequent to the period of time during which He was worshipped by Sri Advaita Acarya, Damodar Caube, his wife Ballabha and their son, Madan Mohan, used to worship the Deity in the mood of parental affection and friendship. Damodar Caube’s son used to play together with Lord Madana Gopala. Sometimes, like naughty brothers, they would slight one another and then complain to the parents. Their parents would feed them together at the same time and lay them down to rest together.
Sanatana Gosvami used to sometimes beg chapatis from Caube’s house. When he saw how the Deity was being worshipped he would instruct Damodara’s wife Ballabhadevi in the rules and regulations of proper Deity worship. However, she found all of these rules very difficult to follow. One day when Sanatana saw the Deity Madana Gopala and the boy Madan Mohan eating their lunch together, he became moved by the transcendental mood there and the symptoms of ecstatic love appeared in his body. Then he told Ballabhadevi that she should worship Madana Gopala according to the dictates of her heart.
One night Sanatana Gosvami and Damodar Caube’s wife both had a dream simultaneously in which Madana Gopala requested to be able to come and live with Sanatana Gosvami. In great happiness Sanatana received Madana Gopala from the family and took Him to a small hillock near Surja ghat, where he constructed a small hut made of branches and leaves. Then he began to serve Madana Gopala, preparing offerings for Him from whatever he obtained by begging.
One day Madana Gopala refused to eat, complaining that there wasn’t even any salt in the chapatis. Sanatana replied, “Today it’s salt and tomorrow it will be ghee. But I am sorry. I don’t have the time or the inclination to chase around after rich men requesting special items from them”. Having silently listened to this reply Madana Mohana didn’t say anything further, but rather arranged that Krishna dasa Kapoor would come that way, as will subsequently be described.
Sanatana Gosvami would beg some flour from the village and then with that prepare capatis for Madana Gopala. Sometimes he would collect some forest vegetables, roots or spinach and also prepare some vegetables. If sometimes there was no ghee or oil, or salt, then he would just cook dry capatis. But he felt very bad about this. On the other hand, he could not see an alternative. Mahaprabhu had ordered him to compile Bhakti-sastras (devotional scriptures) and the major portion of his time was devoted to that. Sometimes it simply wasn’t possible to find time to beg some money with which to purchase salt and oil.
“Madana Mohana is the son of a Maharaj. Seeing that He is simply eating dry capatis Sanatana felt very sad; Madana Mohana, who is within the heart of everyone could understand, ‘Sanatana wants to render greater service to Me.’ Then Madana Mohana Himself desired that His service might be increased.”
Within a few days a wealthy ksatriya named Sri Krishna dasa Kapoor came to Mathura to engage in trade and business. By chance, however, his boat became stuck on a sand bar in the Yamuna and by no means could he manage to free it. By the by, he came to learn that a sadhu by the name Sri Sana
tan Gosvami was living nearby. In order to seek the blessings of the sadhu, Krishna dasa Kapoor came to his hermitage and found Sanatana Gosvami engaged in writing.
Sanatana Gosvami’s body was very lean and thin from the practice of great austerities and he was wearing only a kaupin. Krishna das offered his dandavats and Sanatana Gosvami in turn offered him a grass mat to sit on. Krishna dasa touched the mat with his hand and sat on the ground. He appealed to the Gosvami, “Baba! Please bestow your mercy on me.”
Sanatana replied, “I am a beggar. What mercy can I bestow upon you?”
“I simply want your blessings. My boat is stuck on a sand bar in the Yamuna, and we can’t free it by any means.”
“I am completely ignorant about all these matters. You can speak to Madana Gopala about it.”
Krishna das offered his dandavats to Madana Mohanji and spoke to Him, “O Madana Gopala Deva! If, by Your mercy my boat is freed, then whatever profit is realized from the sale of its cargo, I will give to this Gosvami to be engaged in Your service.”
Praying this way, Kapoor Seth took leave from Sanatan Gosvami. That afternoon there was such a downpour of rain that the boat very easily floated off the sand bar and on to Mathura. Krishna dasa could understand that this was the mercy of Lord Madana Gopala Deva. His goods were sold at a very handsome profit and with this money he constructed a temple and kitchen and made all the necessary arrangements for the royal execution of Sri Madana Gopala’s worship. Seeing this arrangement, Sanatana Gosvami was very happy and after some period initiated Krishna dasa Kapoor as his disciple.
Sri Madana Mohana Deva is presently worshiped at Karauli, Rajasthan. When the daugher of the king of Jaipur was offered in marriage to the king of Karauli, she very insistently requested that her father send Lord Madana Mohana with her as a dowry, as she was very attached to Him. Her father was very reluctant and agreed only after stipulating one condition: “Madana Mohana would be placed in a room with many other Deities. Whoever she chose while blindfolded could go with her to Karauli.”
Madana Mohana reassured her by telling her that would be able to recognize Him by the soft touch of His arm. By this stragem, she easily recognized Madana Mohana who still resides in Karauli till this day. There is a direct bus to Karauli from Jaipur. Otherwise, one can go by train from Mathura to Hindaun and then from there to Karauli by bus.
One day Sanatana Gosvami came to Radha-kunda to meet Sri Rupa and Sri Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. Upon his arrival they both got up to greet him and after respectfully seating him, they immersed themselves in discussion of the nectarean pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. At that time Srila Rupa Gosvami was composing some hymns in praise of Srimati Radharani, collectively known as “Catu Puspanjali”. Sanatan Gosvami, while reading these, came across one verse:
Here “vyalangana phanam” means that the braids of Radharani’s hair appeared very beautiful like the hoods of a snake. Sanatana Gosvami reflected, “Is that a proper comparison ‘like the hood of a poisonous snake’?”
At noon Sanatan came to the banks of Radha-kunda, and after offering prayers there, he began to take his bath. Then, on the opposite bank of the kunda, he noticed some cowherd girls playing under the shade of a large tree. As he watched them from the distance, it appeared that a black snake, hanging from the tree, was about to wrap itself around the neck and shoulders of one of those cowherd girls. Sensing some danger he called out to her, “Ohe Lali! Look out! There is a snake just behind you!” But the girls were absorbed in their play and didn’t take notice of him. So he immediately took off running to save them from the impending danger. Seeing him approaching them, Srimati Radharani and Her friends began to laugh. Then the
y disappeared. Sanatana was completely stunned but then gradually the understanding came to him that Sri Rupa’s comparison was appropriate.
Coming to the banks of Pavan Sarovar, Sanatana Gosvami entered into some woods there, and giving up food and water, he became absorbed in intense meditation on the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda. Sri Krishna, who is within the heart of everyone, could understand that His devotee was going without food, so He came there in the dress of a cowherd boy, with a pot of milk in His hand, and stood smiling before Sanatana Gosvami. [B.R. 5/1303]
“Baba! I brought some milk for you.”
“Oh Lala! Why have you gone to such trouble for me?”
“I saw you are sitting here for so long without any food.”
“How do you know that I am not eating anything?”
“I come here to pasture my cows and I watch you to see what you are doing. But you never take any food.”
“You should have sent someone else, you are just a small boy. You have suffered some difficulty in bringing this milk here for me.”
“Na, na, Baba. It was no trouble. At home everyone else was busy, so I was happy to be able to come myself.”
Sanatan Gosvami requested the boy to sit down while he transfered the milk into another container.
“Na Baba! I can’t sit down now. It is almost sunset. I have to milk my cows now. I will come to get the pot tomorrow.”
When when Sanatana looked up there was no one there. He could understand Sri Krishna Himself had brought him this milk. With tears of love streaming down his cheek, he drank the milk. From that day he gave up fasting and would go to beg some foodstuffs from the Brijabasis. The Brijabasis also built him a small hut.
One day Rupa Gosvami had a desire to cook some sweet rice for his elder brother, Sanatana, but he had none of the necessary ingredients. Sri Radha Thakurani, who fulfills the desires of her devotees, could understand everything. Dressing Herself as a cowherd girl, she came there carrying a basket containing rice and sugar with a pot of milk in her other hand.
“Svamin! Svamin! Please accept this offering which I have brought”.
Hearing someone calling in such a sweet voice, he opened the door of the kutir and saw an extremely beautiful cowherd girl standing there with a present of rice, sugar and milk in her hands.
“Lali! What brings you here so early this morning?”
“Svamin, I came to bring you this present.”
“Oh! But you have gone to so much trouble.”
“What trouble? I have come to serve the sadhus.”
Sri Rupa requested her to sit down, but she replied that there was much work at home, so she couldn’t sit down just now. And then she was gone. Sri Rupa looked up and saw that there was no one there and was a little startled. “Now where did she run off to so quickly?”
He prepared the sweet rice and after offering to Sri Giridhari, he gave the prasadam to Sri Sanatana. Sanatana was in total ecstasy while accepting this prasadam and inquired, “From where did you get the rice and milk?”
Sri Rupa replied, “One cowherd girl brought everything.”
Sanatana asked, “Just like that? Suddenly she brought everything?”
“Yes. This morning I was thinking to make some sweet rice for you. Just after that I saw one cowherd girl standing before our kutir with all the ingredients in her hands.”
As Sanatana heard this, tears began to glide down his cheeks. “The taste of this sweet rice is from another world. Who else could have brought such ingredients but Srimati Radha Thakurani herself. Don’t desire like this again.” [B.R. 5.1322]
Everyday Sri Sanatana Gosvami would circumambulate the fourteen mile circumference of Govardhan hill. As he became advanced in years this became somewhat difficult, but he was not inclined to give up his vow. Krishna, however could understand that it was difficult for him, so He came to him one day dressed as a cowherd boy.
“Baba! You have become old now, so I think it isn’t n
ecessary for you to circumambulate Govardhan hill anymore.”
“No Lala! This is my regular vow, my worship.”
“You can renounce this vow in your old age.”
“No Lala. One should never renounce his vows.”
“Baba. I have a very good idea, if you will accept it.”
“If it is acceptable surely I will accept it.”
Then Sri Krishna presented him a stone from Govardhan hill with the imprint of His foot, a calf’s foot print and the impressions of a stick and flute in it.
“Baba! This is a Govardhan sila.”
“What will I do with this?”
“You can circumambulate this sila, and that will be the same as circumambulating Giri-Govardhan.” Saying this much the cowherd boy disappeared. Then Sanatana could understand that Giriraja Himself had presented His worshippable form to him and from that day he would circumambulate this sila.
Sometimes Sri Sanatana used to stay at Mahaban. One day he saw some cowherd boys playing on the banks of the Yamuna, and amongst them was one boy whom he thought was Madana Gopala. “Is that my Madana Gopala playing there? No it must be one of the local village boys.”
Then on another day as he was passing by the Yamuna, there again he saw that same boy and thought, “This time let me wait and see where he goes.” Finally as the evening approached the boys finished playing and set out for their respective homes. Following behind that particular boy, sure enough, Sanatana saw him enter the temple. Then he could understand that Madana Gopala goes every day to the banks of the Jamuna to play with the other boys.
Wherever Sri Sanatana and Sri Rupa would go throughout Vraja, in all the various villages the two brothers were much adored by the Brajabasis, who would feed them milk and yogurt. They in turn would see the Vrajavasis as Krishna’s own family members and respect them in that way. Though it was not their business to engage in ordinary gossip, with the Brajavasis they would inquire about their well-being, e.g. how many sons and daughters they had and who had been married where, what everyone’s various names were, how their cows were giving milk, how the bulls were working in the fields, how the harvest was going on, who had fallen ill and if they were getting better or not.
In this way Rupa and Sanatana became the life of the villagers and the Brijabasis also became the life of Rupa and Sanatana.
Sri Sanatana would sometimes stay at Cakreswar, near Govardhan. At that place there were many mosquitos, which was a great disturbance. When he was one day being harassed by these insects, Sanatan remarked, “I won’t stay here anymore. It is impossible to concentrate on anything. Neither can I write, nor chant.” That night, Lord Siva came to Sanatan and told him, “Sanatan! Please continue your service here in a happy frame of mind. From tomorrow there will be no more disturbance from mosquitos.”
After that there were no more mosquitos and Sanatana continued his bhajan free from disturbance.
Sri Sanatana Gosvami compiled many scriptures. These include: Sri Brhat-bhagavatmrta, Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa and its Dig-darsani-tika, Sri Krishna-lila-stava (dasam carita), Sri Bhagavata-tipani (commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam) and Brhat-vaisnava-tosani.
Sri Sanatan Gosvami was born 1488 (Christian); 1410 (Sakabda). At the age of 27 he came to live at Braja where he remained for 43 years. He thus lived to be 70 years old. His disappearance was on the full moon day of Asar in the year 1558 (Christian calendar). His name in Vraja-lila is Labanga-manjari.