Sri Svarupa Damodara Goswami
by Rama Kesava das
Sri Svarupa Damodara is an eternal associate and friend of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This is confirmed in Vrndavana dasa Thakura's Caitanya-bhagavata. In gaura-lila, with Mahaprabhu in the bhava of Radharani, Svarupa Damodara is his alter-ego. In Vraja-lila, he was also Radharani's alter-ego, Lalita Sakhi. Kavi Karnapura also identifies Svarupa Damodara with Radha's other companion, Visakha Devi, in his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika.
Svarupa Damodara's name was previously Sri Purusottama Acarya or Purusottama Bhattacarya. In the Gaudiya Vaisnava Abidhana it is said that his father's name was Padmagarbha Acarya; his mother's name is not known, but her father was Jayarama Cakravarti. The family originally lived in Bhitadiya on the banks of the Brahmaputra, but later moved to Navadwipa. Svarupa always stayed with Mahaprabhu.
When Mahaprabhu took sannyasa, Purusottama became half-mad, unable to remain in Navadwipa due to feelings of separation from his Lord. He went to Varanasi (Benares) and took sannyasa from a sannyasi named Caitanyananda Bharati, who ordered him to study Vedanta and teach it to the people in general. Sri Purusottama Acarya did not accept the dress of a sannyasi, but only gave up the sikha and sacred thread. His name became Svarupa.Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati tells us, though "brahmacaris called Svarupa normally received the sannyasa title Tirtha upon taking the saffron cloth or yoga-patta" (Anubhasya, 2.10.102), Svarupa accepted the "preliminiary processes of the acceptance of sannyasa, but not the gurvahvana, or ‘call of the guru,' the saffron cloth, a sannyasa title or a danda, and for this reason he retained his brahmacari name." (ibid.) Bhaktivinode Thakura comments in his Amrta-pravaha-bhasya that this is because he "wished to avoid any danger of becoming falsely proud of the status that would come with taking sannyasa. He only wished to worship Krsna without any worries."
After this, taking up the order of his sannyasa-guru, Svarupa went to Jagannatha Puri. At that time, he again met with Sri Caitanya. The Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya, 10.102-104) records this meeting as follows: "One day, Svarupa Damodara arrived. His mystic awareness of the Lord's inner purpose was deep and unfathomable. He was an ocean of rasa. In connection with Svarupa Damodara, Srimad Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami has written further, as follows: "Sri Svarupa Damodara was the limit of scholarship; still, he did not generally converse with anyone. He kept to himself.He liked to remain alone, and did not see others. He was the very embodiment of Krsna-prema. He was like a second Mahaprabhu, in the sense that he fully understood the Lord's conclusions on Krsna-tattva and Krsna-bhakti, and could fully represent them. As such, whoever wanted to bring before the Lord a book, poem, or song would first bring it to Svarupa Damodara, who would examine it before the Lord would hear it. The Lord did not delight in hearing literature and song which was opposed to the conclusions of bhakti (bhaktisiddhanta-viruddha), or which contained rasabhasa, conflicting devotional mellows. Therefore, Svarupa Damodara would examine these things, and if he decided that they were pure, then he would arrange for the Lord to hear them" (Cc., Madhya 10.110-114).
When Svarupa Damodara came from Kasi, he submitted a verse before the Lord, glorifying Him.This verse has been recorded by Kavi Karnapura in his Caitanya Candrodaya Nataka as follows:
heloddhunita khedaya vishadaya pronmila-damodarau
samyacchastra vivadaya rasadaya cittarpitonmadaya
sasvad-bhaktivinodaya sa-madaya madhurya-maryadaya
Sri Caitanya dayanidhe tava daya bhuyadamandodaya
"O Ocean of Mercy, Sri Caitanya! Let that which easily drives away whatever pain we have been experiencing in this material world; that which is all-purifying, that which manifests the greatest transcendental bliss; that which by its sunrise casts away all the doubtful conclusions of the sastra; that which rains rasa on our hearts and minds, rules our consciousness and thus causes jubilation; that all-liberating, all-auspiciousness-giving, the limit of madhurya-rasa mercy of yours--let it arise within our hearts."
Sri Svarupa Damodara made his dandavats before the Lord, and the Lord embraced him, saying, "Today I saw in a dream that you were arriving here. Everything was just right. Just as one who is blind becomes happy getting eyes, so I have become happy upon getting you."
Sri Svarupa Goswami said, "O Lord! Please forgive me. Forgetting you, I deserted your lotus feet. Not having a trace of prema within me, I left your service, and being sinful, I went to a foreign land. But, although Iabandoned you, you didn't abandon me. By the ropes of your mercy, you have bound me by the neck and dragged me back to your lotus feet."
Hearing Svarupa Damodara saying these words in great humility, the Lord again embraced him and said, "Sri Krsna is very kind. By his mercy we have met once again."
In Puri Svarupa became great friends with Pundarika Vidyanidhi. At the time of Candan-Yatra they would play together, splashing each other with water. Svarupa Damodara was also one of the chief participants of the Gundica Marjanam, the cleansing of the Gundica temple.
Svarupa Damodara would sing for Sri Caitanya the songs of Vidyapati, Chandidasa, and Gita-Govinda, and this gave the Lord much pleasure. Svarupa Damodara could sing like a Gandharva, and he knew the scriptures like Brihaspati, the guru of the gods. No one was a greater soul than he. He was most dear to Advaita and Nityananda and the life and soul of the devotees headed by Srivasa Thakura. At this time Mahaprabhu would also relish his deepest sentiments about Jagannatha Deva and His Ratha-yatra pastime (see Cc., Madhya, Ch. 14).
In this way, it is said that Svarupa Damodara was like a second form of Mahaprabhu, in song he was like a Gandharva, and in scripture, he was like Brihaspati. Svarupa Damodara was very expert in music as well as Vedic scriptures. Sri Caitanya used to call him Damodara, becasue of his expert singing and musical skills. The name Damodara was given by Sri Caitanya and added to the name given by his sannyasa guru. He was therefore known as Svarupa Damodara. He compiled a book of music called Sangita-Damodara.
Svarupa Damodara always stayed near the Lord. Whatever mood the Lord was in, Svarupa Damodara would perform kirtana to augment the Lord's internal sentiments.Around the same time that Svarupa Damodara came to Puri, Sri Ramananda Raya arrived from Vidyanagara. Sri Ramananda Raya was a great poet and could explain everything in a very elegant style. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard rasatattva from Ramananda's mouth.
In the daytime, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to perform kirtana with his devotees. At night, in the company of Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara, he would relish the truths about the pastimes and mellows of Radha and Krsna.At night Mahaprabhu would relish the truth about the pastimes and mellows of Radha-Krsna with Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara:
candidasa vidyapati rayera natak giti
svarupa ramananda sane mahaprabhu ratri-dine
gaya, sune parama ananda
"Day and night, Mahaprabhu ecstatically relished the songs of Candi dasa, Vidyapati and Ramananda Raya's plays, as well as Krsna-karnamrta and Gita-govinda, in the company of Svarupa and Ramananda."
(Cc., Madhya 2.77)
In the same way that Lalita and Vishakha are the internal confidantes of Sri Radha, Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya are the internal confidantes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Kaviraja Goswami relates how Svarupa Damodara is the source of the most confidential knowledge of the Lord's incarnation in Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila (4.103-5).
At the time of Sri Gaurasundara's final pastimes, Sri Svarupa Damodara was constantly with the Lord.Kaviraja Goswami further relates in Adi-lila that Svarupa Damodara explained to him the Lord's later pastimes. Sri Svarupa Damodara's right hand was Raghunatha Dasa Goswami Mahaprabhu had earlier given Dasa Goswami into his care, calling him "Svarupa's Raghu", instructing him to be fixed in his orders, to leave behind false pleasures such as palatable food or nice dress, to always chant the Holy Name, always offering respect to others, and to take further instruction from Svarupa Damodara (Cc., Antya 6.233-8). In Madhya-lila we are told how "Svarupa Damodara guarded caitanya-lila in his treasure chest and afterwards placed it around Raghunatha dasa's neck. I have written down here what I head from Raghunatha dasa to the extent that I have been able, and now make a gift of it to devotees" (Cc., Madhya 2.85).
On the day of Lord Jagannatha's Ratha-yatra, the second day of the day of full moon in the month of Asharh, not long after the Lord's disappearance, Sri Svarupa Damodara Goswami passed away from this earth and entered into the Lord's unmanifest pastimes.
[Text adapted from Lives of the Vaisnava Saints, Sri Caitanya: His Life & Associates, and other sources. These are only a small amount of Sri Svarupa's pastimes with the Lord, which are recounted in Caitanya-caritamrta.]