SRI GOPALA GURU GOSVAMI
Sri Gopala Guru Gosvami was also known as Makaradhvaja Pandita, although Mahaprabhu was in the habit of addressing him as Gopala. He was from Utkala, Orissa, and of Brahmin birth. His father was called Murari Pandita. Among the five chief disciples of Sri Vakresvara Pandita, Gopala Guru was the special object of Mahaprabhu’s mercy. From an early age, Gopala Guru was in the care of his guru.
One day Caitanya Mahaprabhu went outside the village to tend to his bodily needs. Gopala was standing some distance away with a waterpot in his hand ready to serve the Lord. He noticed that the Holy Name, which always blissfully danced on His tongue, was not to be heard. Wondering how this could be, he then saw that the Lord was holding his tongue with his hand. After a short while, Gopala, being full of curiosity, inquired from the Lord, “Prabhu! Why are you holding your tongue like that?” Mahaprabhu answered, “The words Krishna Krishna always dance on my tongue, and even when I’m unclean they don’t stop. One is forbidden to chant the Krishna-nama maha-mantra when he is unclean. Transgressing that injunction is an offense. For this reason, I hold my tongue to keep it still.”
Gopala replied, “Prabhu! Elegant words don’t adorn my little mouth, but still, in order to understand, I am asking. Your beautiful body doesn’t have a trace of uncleanliness. It is sac-cid-ananda-maya and always pure. Your ‘going to the bathroom’ is an illusion. That’s just your pretending to be human. You are independent, but if an ordinary jiva should die while evacuating, without chanting the Holy Name, how will he attain the transcendental state?”
Hearing these profound words from the boy, the Lord replied, “Gopala, you have spoken correctly. In chanting the Sri Krishna-nama there is no consideration of cleanliness or uncleanliness. Chanting is always auspicious for the jiva. You have caused me to remember the highest injunction. From today, you shall bear the title guru.” Mahaprabhu told the devotees this story, and the news quickly spread everywhere. Soon all the Vaisnavas began to call Gopala “Sri Gopala Guru.”
After the disappearance of Lord Caitanya, Vakresvara Pandita received the charge of the seva of Gambhira in Kasi Misra’s house, where the Lord used to stay during his visits to Puri. Gopala Guru, who was disciple of Vakresvara, succeeded him as the sevait of the Radhakanta temple at Gambhira. During the time of Gopala Guru the temple of Radhakantha was renovated, and he installed Deities of Radha and Lalita on each side of Radhakanta as well as Deities of Sri Sri Nitai Gauracandra, in very beautiful dancing postures.
When Gopala Guru became old, he wanted to arrange for someone to continue the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Kanta. To obtain a suitable sevaka, he offered a mental prayer to the lotus feet of Sriman Mahaprabhu. One night, the Lord appeared to Gopala Guru and said, “Gopala! The sevaka you seek will be the first person you see tomorrow morning. Accept him without hesitation. Like you, he will be learned in all the transcendental ½astras. He will preserve well the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Kanta and reveal my glories to the whole world.”
Hearing this order from Mahaprabhu in his dream, Gopala Guru became ecstatic. The next morning, after his morning duties, he went to his doorway. The first person he saw was a very peaceful young brahmana who had been standing there waiting to see him. When the youth approached, he offered dandavats to Gopala Guru’s lotus feet. The Gosvami remembered his dream and blissfully offered the young man his blessings. Seeing his peaceful nature and absorption in krishna-bhakti, Gopala Guru gave him mantra-diksa, etc., and named him Sri Dhyanacandra.
After receiving initiation, Dhyanacandra served his guru with great devotion. Gopala Guru engaged him in caring for Sri Sri Radha-Kanta. After a short while in govinda-seva, he received the dress of a Vaisnava ascetic from his guru, and was then ordered to visit Sri Vrindavana-dhama.
Gopala Guru compiled a Smarana Paddhati, which is composed of twenty-four chapters. His main disciple was Dhyanacandra Gosvami, who was a very influential teacher. Elaborating upon Gopala Guru’s Paddhati, he wrote another Paddhati which included an appendix on the sequence of eightfold daily service in meditation.
Bhakti Ratnakara (8.382-392) narrates Narottama’s meeting of Gopala Guru as follows:“Narottama went to Kasi-misra’s house. There he met Sri Gopala-guru. With great affection he gently, gently spoke these sweet words: “Only by the Lord’s wish do I somehow remain alive. Gazing at this holy place, I will soon bid farewell to this life. O Narottama, look, in this very secluded place Lord Caitanya all alone, would sit on a straw asana. In this place Lord Mahaprabhu would lie down. Sri Govinda would massage His feet. Who has the power to understand Sri Krishna Caitanya Prabhu’s pastimes. He manifested ecstatic spiritual love even Brahma and the demigods cannot attain.”
Seeing Lord Caitanya’s bed and asana, Narottam rolled on the ground. Again and again he wept. His heart wild with spiritual love, Sri Gopala-guru hugged Narottama, loudly he wept. After many moments Gopala-guru became peaceful. He consoled Narottama and made him peaceful also. Gopala-guru showed Narottama all the different places where Lord Caitanya was plunged in the ecstaty of spiritual love. Gopala-guru spoke of Vakresvara Pandita’s glorious activities. He made Narottama offer respectful obeisances at the lotus feet of the Deity Sri Radhakanta.”
After Gopal Guru’s disappearance, as soon as his transcendental body was placed in its samadhi at Swargadwar, the king’s men declared that since the servitorship of Radhakantha Mandira within Kasi Misra Bhavan had been bestowed upon Dhyanacandra Gosvami without their permission, they were going to seize the temple, which they did. Thus Dhyanacandra was plunged into an ocean of grief, being doubly distressed. His guru had just left and he was feeling great separation from him. Now on the top that the king’s men had barred him from worshiping Sri Sri Radhakantha, the very service that had been bestowed upon him by his guru.
After Ratha Yatra, however, someone went on a pilgrimage to Vrindavana where they saw Gopala Guru sitting underneath a Pankura tree near Vansivat. When Dhyanacandra received this information he rushed to Vrindavana where he in fact found his Guru Maharaja. He begged and begged his guru to return to Puri, but Gopala Guru replied, “I already left my body there. Now I am in Vrindavana so why should I go back there? If you are feeling separation from me then you can have a Deity made of me from a neem tree in the garden of Siddha Bakula. I will be personally present in that murti and will also straighten out the servants of the king.” In this way all of Dhyanacandra’s problems were solved by his guru in the form of this murti.
The murti of Gopala Guru in Puri is still being worshipped at Radha-Kanta Mandir and another branch of Radhakanta temple with a samadhi mandir and murti of Gopala Guru was founded near Vansivat in Vrindavana. There are also branches of Radhakanta Mandira founded by some followers of Gopala Guru at: Vidhuban, Vrindavana; Kangali Mahaprabhu Math, Vrindavana; Arunananda Kunj, Radhakunda; Kisori Kund, Yavat; Gambhirar Matha, Koladwipa; Madhavi Devi’s Gopinatha Mandir, Bentpur.
Gopala Guru disappeared from this world on the ninth day of the bright fortnight of Kartik.