SRI RAMANANDA RAYA
Sri Ramananda Raya was the viceroy of the east and west side of the Godavari River in the empire of Raja Sri Prataparudra. When Mahaprabhu was setting out on his tour of South India, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya especially requested him to meet Ramananda Raya.
“‘Please do not neglect him, thinking he belongs to a sudra family engaged in material activities. It is my request that You meet him without fail. Ramananda Raya is a fit person to associate with You; no other devotee can compare with him in knowledge of the transcendental mellows.’[C.c. Madhya 7.63-64]
“As previously, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu converted to Vaisnavism many people He met on the road. After some days, the Lord reached the banks of the River Godavari. When He saw the River Godavari, the Lord remembered the River Yamuna, and when He saw the forest on the banks of the river, He remembered Sri Vrndavana-dhama.
“After performing His usual chanting and dancing for some time in this forest, the Lord crossed the river and took His bath on the other bank. After bathing in the river, the Lord walked a little distance from the bathing place and engaged in chanting the holy name of Krsna.
“At that time, accompanied by the sounds of music, Ramananda Raya came there mounted on a palanquin to take his bath. Many brahmanas, following the Vedic principles, accompanied Ramananda Raya. According to Vedic rituals, Ramananda Raya took his bath and offered oblations to his forefathers.
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu could understand that the person who had come to bathe in the river was Ramananda Raya. The Lord wanted so much to meet him that His mind immediately began running after him.
“Although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was running after him mentally, He patiently remained sitting. Ramananda Raya, seeing the wonderful sannyasi, then came to see Him. Srila Ramananda Raya then saw Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as brilliant as a hundred suns. The Lord was covered by a saffron garment. He was large in body and very strongly built, and His eyes were like lotus petals.
“When Ramananda Raya saw the wonderful sannyasi, he was struck with wonder. He went to Him and immediately offered his respectful obeisances, falling down flat like a rod. The Lord stood up and asked Ramananda to arise and chant the holy name of Krsna. Indeed, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very eager to embrace him. Sri Caitanya then inquired whether he was Ramananda Raya, and he replied, “Yes, I am Your very low servant, and I belong to the sudra community.”
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then embraced Sri Ramananda Raya very firmly. Indeed, both the master and the servant almost lost consciousness due to ecstatic love. Their natural love for one another was awakened in them both, and they both embraced and fell down on the ground. When they embraced one another, ecstatic symptoms - paralysis, perspiration, tears, shivering, palpitations, and paleness - appeared. The word ‘Krsna’ came from their mouths falteringly.
“When the stereotyped, ritualistic brahmanas who were following the Vedic principles saw the ecstatic manifestation of love, they were struck with wonder. All these brahmanas began to think, ‘We can see that this sannyasi has a luster like the effulgence of Brahman, but how is it He is crying upon embracing a sudra, a member of the fourth caste in the social order?’ They thought, ‘This Ramananda is the Governor of Madras, a highly learned and grave person, a mahapandita, but upon touching this sannyasi he has become restless like a madman.’
“While the brahmanas were thinking in this way about the activities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw the brahmanas and restrained His transcendental emotions. When they regained their sanity, the
y both sat down, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu began to smile and speak as follows.
“‘Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya has spoken of your good qualities, and he has made a great endeavor to convince Me to meet you. Indeed, I have come here just to meet you. It is very good that even without making an effort I have gotten your interview here.’
“Ramananda Raya replied, ‘Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya thinks of me as his servant. Even in my absence he is very careful to do me good. By his mercy I have received Your interview here. Consequently I consider that today I have become a successful human being. I can see that You have bestowed special mercy upon Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Therefore You have touched me, although I am untouchable. This is due only to his love for You. You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana Himself, and I am only a government servant interested in materialistic activities. Indeed, I am the lowest amongst men of the fourth caste. You do not fear the Vedic injuctions stating that You should not associate with a sudra. You were not contemptuous of my touch, although in the Vedas You are forbidden to associate with sudras. You care the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself; therefore no one can understand Your purpose. By Your mercy, You are touching me, although this is not sanctioned in the Vedas.’
“‘You have come here specifically to deliver me. You are so merciful that You alone can deliver all fallen souls. It is the general practice of all saintly people to deliver the fallen. Therefore they go to people’s houses, although they have no personal business there.” [C.c. Madhya 8.10-39]
“‘Along with me there are about a thousand people - including the brahmanas - and all of them appear to have had their hearts melted simply by seeing You. I hear everyone chanting the holy name of Krsna. Everyone’s body is thrilled with ecstacy, and there are tears in everyone’s eyes. My dear sir, according to Your bodily features and Your behavior, You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such behavior and features are impossible for ordinary living beings, for they cannot possess such transcendental qualities.’“
“The Lord replied to Ramananda Raya: ‘Sir, you are the best of topmost devotees; therefore upon seeing you everyone’s heart has melted. Although I am a Mayavadi sannyasi, a nondevotee, I am floating in the ocean of love of Krsna simply by touching you. And what to speak of others? Knowing this, in order to rectify My heart, which is very hard, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya asked Me to meet you.’ In this way each of them praised the qualities of the other, and both of them were pleased to see one another.” [C.c. Madhya 8.41-47]
One Vaisnava brahmana came forward at this time and invited the Lord to accept His midday meal at his house. And so the Lord, after arranging a later meeting with Raya Ramananda, left the Godavari in the company of that brahmana.
Sri Ramananda Raya was the son of Sri Bhavananda Ray, who was previously Maharaja Pandu, the father of the five Pandavas. Bhavananda Raya dedicated all of his five sons, Ramananda (Arjuna?), Gopinatha, Kalanidhi, Sudhanidhi and Baninatha to the service of Sriman Mahaprabhu. His wife was formerly Sri Kuntidevi.
In the afternoon, after Mahaprabhu had finished His bath in the Godavari, He sat down and waited. Ramananda Raya, accompanied by one servant, arrived there. He fell down to offer his obeisances at the Lord’s lotus feet. Mahaprabhu pulled him up, and after embracing him very firmly, seated Ramananda next to Himself in a secluded place. Then the two of them, in the madness of ecstatic love, began to converse together on the topics of Sri Krsna. Mahaprabhu asked questions to which Ramananda was to supply the answers.
On the subject of the supreme goal of life, Ramananda first proposed observance of the four orders of social and spiritual life and executing one’s duties in accordance with these. Next, one after another, he mentioned renouncing the fruits of one’s activities, rendering formal service to th
e Lord, serving the Lord in devotion mixed with knowledge, and finally pure devotional service.
Though Mahaprabhu assented that the rendering of pure devotional service is the entrance into the ultimate goal of life, he urged Ramananda Raya to go even beyond this. One after the other, Ramananda then described attachment to Krsna in servitorship, friendship, parenthood, and finally conjugal love, to which Mahaprabhu again replied, “Kindly proceed further and tell me something more.” Ramananda Raya then explained that amongst the gopis who worship Krsna in conjugal love, the mood of Srimati Radharani is superexcellent.
This Mahaprabhu accepted as being the essense of perfection. As He still wanted to hear more, Ramananda Raya sang a song of his own composition that nicely conveyed Srimati Radharani’s confidential mood known as prema-vivarta-vilasa. Hearing this song, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu covered Ramananda’s mouth with His hand, confirming that he had expressed the limit of the goal (sadhya) of human life, which could only be realized by the practice of devotional service (sadhana). Then Ramananda Raya explained that Srimati Radharani is the creeper of love for Krsna and her sakhis are like the twigs, flowers and leaves of that creeper of devotion. Sri Krsna is the reservoir of pleasure and Radharani is the greatest manifestation of ecstatic emotions. Finally Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya embraced, crying in the ecstacy of Krsna-prema. Toward the end of the night they concluded their talk and each went to take rest.
The next evening Ramananda again came to Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet and offered his prostrated obeisances. Mahaprabhu firmly embraced him and after seating him began to again ask him questions:
“What is the best education?” “Devotion to Krsna,” answered Ramananda Raya.
“What is the greatest activity for a living entity?” “To be the servant of Krsna.”
“What is the supreme wealth?” “Love of Radha-Krsna.”
“What is the greatest unhappiness?” “To not have the association of devotees of Krsna.”
“What is the highes liberation?” “The best jewel of all kinds of liberation is to develop love for Krsna.”
“What is the best song?” “Songs describing the pastimes of Radha-Krsna.”
“What is most auspicious for living entities?” “The association of a devotee of Krsna.”
“What is the only thing we have to remember?” “Krsna’s name, qualities and pastimes.”
“What is the only thing to meditate upon?” “The lotus feet of Radha-Krsna.”
“Where is the best place to live?” “In the place where Krsna has His pastimes.”
“What is the best thing to be heard?” “Descriptions of the loving pastimes of Radha-Krsna.”
“What is the only thing which has to be glorified?” “The name of Radha-Krsna.”
“What are the destinations of those who desire liberation, and those who are gross materialistic enjoyers?” “The first attain bodies as trees and the second, demigods.”
Ramananda Raya continued, “Those who are devoid of all mellows are like the crows that suck the juice from the bitter fruits of the nimba tree of knowledge, whereas those who enjoy mellows are like the cuckoos who eat the buds of the mango tree of love of Godhead.” Ramananda Raya concluded, “The unfortunate empiric philosophers taste the dry process of philosophical knowledge, whereas the devotees reularly drink the nectar of love of Krsna. Therefore they are the most fortunate of all.”
Thereafter Mahaprabhu revealed His form of Radha-Krsna, seeing which Ramananda fell unconscious. Regaining his senses he began to offer hymns and praises in glorification of the Lord. Mahaprabhu requested him to please not reveal any of these esoteric truths to anyone.
When Mahaprabhu was about to take leave of Ramananda Raya, He gave him the following instruction: “Give up all material engagements and come to Jagannatha Puri. I will return there very soon after finishing My tour and pilgrimage. The two of us shall remain together at Jagannatha Puri and happily pass our time di
When He returned to Puri He found that Ramananda had gotten the permission of Maharaja Prataparudra to leave his post and reside in Sri Ksetra, Jagannatha Puri. He had become a close friend of Sri Svarupa Damodara.
Ramananda Raya would compose dramas and then would have them acted out for the pleasure of Lord Jagannatha by young girls. Mahaprabhu stated that the minds of great yogis can become disturbed simply by seeing a female doll, but the mind of Raya Ramananda doesn’t slightly waver, even he personally bathed and decorated the bodies of young dancing girls.
Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara were the constant companions of Mahaprabhu during His final pastimes.
“When the Lord acutely felt pangs of separation from Krsna, only Sri Ramananda Raya’s talk about Krsna and the sweet songs of Svarupa Damodara kept Him alive.” [Cc. Antya 6.6]
“Hearing that Mahaprabhu had closed his earthly pastimes, Maharaja Prataparudra threw himself on the ground and lost consciousness, his head suffering heavy blows with the earth, while Ramananda Raya was only just barely able to remain alive.” [B.R. 3.218]
Ramananda Raya’s house is still existing at Jagannatha-Ballabha Uddyan, on the Grand Road, Puri.
Our Grantha Mandir should soon have the Sanskrit text in Balaram encoding. Stay tuned. I'll drop a note in the GGM section of our BB when it'll be out.