Life Story: Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmi
– By HG Caturātmā Prabhu
I should actually feel a bit intimidated; this is after all Vṛndāvan. Vṛndāvan is the place for those who are qualified to speak about the pastimes of the Lord and that is certainly not myself but being requested by Indradyumna Swami —Śrīla Gurudeva, and actually on the order of Śrīla Prabhupāda I am going to speak. Many times Śrīla Prabhupāda would ask the devotees right in front of him, “You, give the class!” I never had that experience but I can imagine how intimidating that must be. But particularly this place is very confronting to me, because in 1977 when I came to Vṛndāvan on my own just to experience Vṛndāvan and to develop my relationship with Vṛndāvan, this is a place I came regularly and a place that I felt very connected with what I was learning about Kṛṣṇa Consciousness.
For Sanātana Gosvāmī, this was his place and because this is raised up above, because it’s a hill, it’s a little bit separated from everything going on below it. Also the fact that Yamunā River used to be just right below would have made it so much more beautiful during Sanātana Gosvāmī’s time. It is our responsibility, our duty to appreciate and glorify Sanātana Gosvāmī, but the other Gosvāmīs also appreciated and glorified Sanātana Gosvāmī. I would like to start off with a very nice prayer from Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, whom we know was very, very exact in his renunciation, and he says this:
[Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī]: “I was unwilling to drink the nectar of devotional service possessed of renunciation but Sanātana Gosvāmī out of his causeless mercy made me drink it, even though I was unable to do so. Therefore he is an ocean of mercy. He is very compassionate to the fallen souls like me and thus it is my duty to offer my respectful obeisances unto his lotus feet and to take shelter of him.”
I mean, how could we have written such a poem glorifying Sanātana Gosvāmī? This poem actually describes us, we are so fallen; yet Sanātana Gosvāmī is giving us the process of devotional service.
Kavi Karnapura gives a further indication, a little insight into the identity of Sanātana Gosvāmī. He says in his ‘Gaura Gonadesha Deepika’: “Rūpa Manjari’s closest friend who is known by the name Rati manjari appeared in the pastimes of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu as Sanātana Gosvāmī. He is considered to be a personal expansion of the body of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.” We know that when the Lord comes, whether it’s Kṛṣṇa Līlā or Gaura Līlā, He brings all of His associates with Him and they all take different roles. And through the association and engagement with these devotees He spreads the teachings of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. It is said that the writings of Sanātana Gosvāmī are paralleled only by those of Rūpa and Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī.
Now Jīva Gosvāmī has given a very detailed explanation of the ancestral history of Sanātana Gosvāmī and he traces the family line back into the late 1300s. We won’t go into all that detail especially since I have 39 pages reduced down to 25 pages; but we can suffice it to say that Sanātana Gosvāmī was very expert in leadership in the field of politics tempered with a deep expertise of all the Shastras. Sanātana Gosvāmī was not the first in his family line to be entangled in the leadership of the Muslim government. It was actually his grandfather that moved the family to Jaisore which we now know as Bangladesh and that’s when the involvement began. Sanātana Gosvāmī came from a big family. His father’s name was Kumar Dev and he had many sons and several daughters, and the three prominent ones were Rūpa, Sanātana and Anupama. As Gurudeva mentioned, Sanātana was the older of the two by about 5-6 years. They were all educated in all of the sciences of every field of knowledge. Of course these three were also the oldest of all the brothers so whatever they did the other brothers would follow and in this way it was a very educated and knowledgeable family. Of course we refer to them as Rūpa and Sanātana, but their birth names were Amara and Santosha. We will see later how they get these names Rūpa and Sanātana.
The Muslim leader of Bengal at that time, Husain Shah, he had heard about these two pious men, Amara and Santosha, and how highly qualified they were. So he wanted to engage them in the activities within his government and at first they declined, “Not so much interested. Thank you very much!” But as we might say he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse: “You either serve in my government or I will make life for the Vaiṣṇavas very, very difficult.” At that time because they were serving in the Muslim government they accepted Muslim names and titles according to the service they were taking up. Sanātana, who was Santosha, was known as Sakar Malik and he was the private secretary to the Shah and then Rūpa became known as Dabir Khas and he was in charge of the treasury and the revenue. They even engaged Śrī Vallabha– Anupama and he was the Superintendent of the Royal Mint (a treasure). The Shah was very appreciative of the service they were rendering and he rewarded them, paid them very, very satisfactorily.
Now according to strict Vaiṣṇava tradition and Hindu tradition, if a person associates with Muslims they become contaminated by their association. So Sanātana Gosvāmī, Rūpa Gosvāmī, they felt themselves very fallen due to this daily association they have. Of course, this is only due to their great humility as true Vaiṣṇavas. Sanātana’s father was a little bit of a fanatic. If he even saw a Muslim he would go and perform some type of atonement for that and here his eldest sons were serving in the Muslim government mixing with them every day. It’s described that Sanātana, Rūpa and Anupama had fallen into an ocean of humility, considering themselves to be the most fallen. In the Bhakti–Ratnākara it describes that this example of Rūpa and Sanātana was the tool that Lord Caitanya used to teach humility.
While serving in the government they made their headquarters in the town of Rāmakeli. And it was a good choice because Rāmakeli was the home of many famous devotees at that time also. They became very much respected and while they were there, Brahmins from everywhere, even far South India, would come to stay, and study with them, and converse with them. Even though they had this mixing with the government service they would do, they were considered to be the crest jewels of Vaiṣṇava scholars. Of course this is appropriate, because their teacher was the brother of Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya. This is when they were boys before they got this government post. Vidyā–Vācaspati, he was the brother of Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, and he is the one that taught them all the philosophy and Śāstra and everything else they understood. Even after they were adults and established themselves in Rāmakeli he would come and visit them and then continue with his teachings and they would have discourses.
We see that even from an early age they were very much absorbed in the mood of Bhakti, what to speak of during their government service time? They remembered Vṛndāvan in their residential area. They had planted a forest of Tamal trees and forest of Kadamba trees and of course many, many forests of Tulasi. And the ponds that they had there, they named Rādhā-Kuṇḍa and Śyāma–Kuṇḍa respectively, and they were quite well known for this activity. When there are some devotees in different places, doing some wonderful services/great activities, then (even before Interpol, internet and facebook, all these things,) a devotee’s word (glories) would travel around, so Mahāprabhu came to hear about all this. Of course they also heard of the activities of Mahāprabhu for sure and they desired very much to leave their services and go and spend time with Him, but an inner voice spoke to them, “You must be patient. Soon you will have Darśana of that Personality who is the savior of the fallen.”
When Sanātana was a young boy he had a very unusual dream. In this dream he saw a Brāhmaṇa approaching him and this Brāhmaṇa gave him a copy of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Upon receiving that copy of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam from the Brāhmaṇa, his hairs stood on end and tears came to his eyes, and this caused his dream to break and he woke up and he looked around and saw there is no Brāhmaṇa, there was no Bhāgavatam. The next morning he rose as regularly and bathed and was sitting and doing his morning prayers and a Brāhmaṇa came at a distance and came before him and presented Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and said to him, “Take this Bhāgavatam, always study it and all perfection will be yours.” And the Brāhmaṇa went away, pretty amazing. When he received this treasure of Bhāgavatam, Sanātana’s satisfaction and ecstasy and devotional pleasure just knew no bounds.
From that day forward his only book of study was the Bhāgavatam. He did this because he understood that the Bhāgavatam is the essence of all scriptures and he didn’t need to study anything else. He even wrote one very nice verse, which is a nice verse for devotees to give classes particularly from Bhāgavatam to memorize and recite before they speak. “Oh holy Bhāgavata, you are my only company, my only friend and my Guru. You are my greatest treasure, my personal savior and the emblem of my highest fortune. You are the very form of ecstasy. I offer my obeisances unto you.” Nice prayers! Sanātana Gosvāmī is described by Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Sarasvatī as ‘Bhakti Siddhānta Ācārya’—the most important teacher of the devotional doctrine.
After Mahāprabhu took His Sannyāsa He went to Purī and He did His tour of south India, then He returned to Purī again and decided to go and visit Vṛndāvan, by following the Ganges as it went through Bengal. Now whenever Śrīla Gurudeva tries to go anywhere, big crowds go around him; devotees all want to be there. Can you imagine the thousands of people that surrounded Mahāprabhu as He tried to go on pilgrimage? Everywhere He went, there was just chaos. In this way, He made His approach to the village of Rāmakeli. Now Rāmakeli is sometimes called Gupta–Vṛndāvan. Anybody knows what this word ’Gupta’ means? It means “hidden.” There is a list of five or six important things to be seen in Rāmakeli:
- The Tamal and Kadamba tree under which Mahāprabhu is said to have sat with Rūpa and Sanātana respectively.
- The temple of Madana-Mohan that they established there.
- The different bathing Ghats of Śyāma–Kuṇḍa, Rādhā-Kuṇḍa, Surabhī–Kuṇḍa, and Lalitā–Kuṇḍa.
- A very large lake that Rūpa Gosvāmī personally excavated called Rūpa Sāgara and then of course another one called Sanātana Sāgara.
When the Shah saw all of these crowds of people coming, he thought maybe there was some kind of revolt or uprising or something. Keśava–Khatri knew what was going on and he assured the king, “No, no, no need to worry!” He explained a bit about the character of Mahāprabhu, so that the king could understand that this is no political difficulty. Then His minister, Dabir Khas, also assured him of the wonderful qualities of Mahāprabhu and that there was no need to fear; but they sent a message to Mahāprabhu warning him that, “This king can’t be trusted and you should be a little cautious coming here with such a big crowd.” They more or less minimized Mahāprabhu’s importance as the Yuga Avatar to the king. But the king was very intelligent. He said, “I have been beginning to think that this person must be the Supreme Godhead Himself.” After this conversation and hearing the king think like that, Dabir Khas went back to his own residence. He and his brother decided that they would go incognito to visit Mahāprabhu. Of course first they met Nityānanda and Haridāsa, and then Nityānanda and Haridāsa took them in and introduced them to Mahāprabhu.
Caitanya Caritāmṛta gives some nice verses about this exchange. Rūpa and Sanātana said the following, “We two are millions of times more degraded, fallen and sinful than Jagāi and Mādhāi. We are of a more wicked birth because we are taking up activities that appear just like those of the Muslims. We constantly associate with people who are inimical to the cows and the Brāhmaṇas and because of this we are bound by the neck and thrown into a ditch filled with evil substances.” When Mahāprabhu heard this, he said “No, no, no! You two are my eternal servants. You should be known as Rūpa and Sanātana and I have come here to Bengal just to see the two of you. Know for sure that soon Kṛṣṇa will deliver you from your predicament.” Bhakti Siddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākur explains that this was the initiation of Rūpa and Sanātana as followers of Lord Caitanya. Suppose it’s your initiation ceremony and you want all your best friends there. Now listen to the list of those who were there when Rūpa and Sanātana received their names. Nityānanda Prabhu, Haridāsa Ṭhākur, Śrīvasa Paṇḍita, Gadādhara Paṇḍita, Mukund Dutta, Jagadānanda Paṇḍita, Murāri Gupta, Vakreśvara Paṇḍita and so many other Vaiṣṇavas who were travelling with Lord Caitanya.
The Lord gave all of His blessings to Rūpa and Sanātana and then Sanātana gave a bit of an advice to Mahāprabhu. Kind of a little unusual on your initiation, you say to Guru “Oh, I have one bit of advice for you.” But it was advice for His well-being. He said that, “Your business here is now finished, it would be better if you would leave now. Even though the Shah says he has faith in You, he is a ruler and a king and he cannot be trusted. Also for You to continue on pilgrimage to Vṛndāvan with such a large group of people is not in Your best interest. This is not the appropriate way to go to Vṛndāvan.”
Mahāprabhu was impressed by the wisdom and intelligence of Sanātana Gosvāmī and He returned back to Purī. Now after this time, Rūpa and Sanātana, it became almost impossible for them to continue on with their mundane mind-numbing service to the Shah. They had become Sādhakas of the first order and it just became so difficult to continue with anything other than that. Rūpa finally arranged to resign from his post in the government and he deposited 10,000 gold coins with one grocer, like a banker, to hold. He then took all the rest of the accumulated wealth [made] by him and he divided it up against the Brāhmaṇas, the Vaiṣṇavas and his family members. Then he sent two of his servants to go to Purī and find out where Mahāprabhu was, because he knew that Mahāprabhu was getting ready to travel to Vṛndāvan and he wanted to join up with him.
Now that was Rūpa, I mean he was the minister of the treasury, so a little easier for him to get away; but Sanātana was the personal secretary and private minister to the Shah himself, and the Shah treated him just like he was a brother and gave him all kinds of facilities and kept him very comfortably settled. Sanātana thought that, “This kind of affection from him is really a great source of problems for me. If I could get him angry at me, it would be easier for me to get out of service to him.” One day he sent a servant to the Shah and said, “Oh, I am sick, I can’t come to work!” Have any of you ever, maybe called in, “I am sick” when maybe you weren’t really sick? There may be one or two; none of you? [Laughter] I have done that; I wanted to go to Janmāṣṭamī, so I informed the office, “Oha, Oha [Coughing] I can’t make it in today! Oha, Oha.” So in this way Sanātana stayed home from work, from taking care of business with the Shah. For one day, two days, three days, and it’s a week he didn’t go in. So the Shah became very much concerned, “What’s going on with Sanātana? He is my main right-hand man. He is ill or unhealthy, something must be the problem.”
Sanātana in the meantime was sitting at home and just endlessly studying the Bhāgavatam. The Shah thought, “Now he is like my brother, so I should send the doctor to see how he is doing.” The doctor went to check on Sanātana and what did he find? He found Sanātana in perfect health, sitting and reading the Bhāgavatam with all his associates, having Kathā. “Oh! You are not sick?” “No, no, not really!” The doctor went back and told the Shah, “He is not sick; he is just studying the Bhāgavatam.” The Shah became a little surprised as to why Sanātana would lie to him. He went to see Sanātana personally and he spoke very sweetly to Sanātana, “You have to come back and taken up your ministerial duties. I need your assistance. I cannot run the kingdom without you. All of my affairs depend upon you and you are just sitting in the house with the Paṇḍitas and reading Bhāgavatam. If you do not come back, my kingdom will fall apart. You must return to your service.” Sanātana looked at him, folded his hands and said, “I will no longer be able to assist you in your governmental affairs. You will have to find somebody else; I quit.”
The Shah got so angry. He stood up and screamed at Sanātana, “First your brother left and now you are quitting. You are ruining all of my plans.” Sanātana very calmly said, “You are the independent ruler of Gauda; you can do whatever you want. You can see any mistake, and mistreat as you feel fit.” The Shah then threatened and said, “I need you because I am going to invade Orissa and take over that kingdom. If you do not assist me at this particular time I will put you in prison.” Sanātana said, “Your business is to give pain to the Deities and difficulty to Lord Jagannātha. I will not help you in this matter.” Thus he was then sent to the prison. Actually the building that he was imprisoned in is still there. In my collection of memorabilia I have one piece of that wall, from the prison cell of Sanātana Gosvāmī. That alone is enough reason for you to come to Alachua to get the Darśana of that piece of wall.
In the meantime, Rūpa got the understanding that Mahāprabhu had gone and He was in the Jārikhaṇḍa forest on His way to Vṛndāvan. He and his younger brother Anupama decided to go and try to catch up with Mahāprabhu. But he decided first that he should send a letter to Sanātana. It was a specially composed Sanskrit verse. This is that verse: “Where has the Mathurā of the Lord of the Yadu’s gone? Where is the Kingdom of Koshala of the Lord of the Raghus? Contemplate these points and make your mind steady. This world will not last forever.” When Sanātana got this, he was able to understand the secret meaning of this verse sent to him by Rūpa, and what was the secret meaning? The secret meaning was indicating that Mahāprabhu had gone to Mathurā.
This was the conviction that Sanātana needed; he began to plan his escape from prison. Because he was very much aware of all of the activities of the kingdom, he knew the jail-keeper. He tried to convince him to let him go: “I want to make a pilgrimage to the holy land and if you give me this freedom, then Allah will be very pleased with you. The Quran says that if you free someone who has been unjustly imprisoned, you will get great benefit.” “Yah!” the jail keeper was a little bit interested, but after all, he feared for his life. So Sanātana said, “Okay, 5000 gold coins?” The jail keeper said, “I will get back to you on that.” The next day, he still hadn’t given any response, so Sanātana said, “Six thousand gold coins! Let me go.” The jail-keeper said, “I will get back to you on that.” The next day Sanātana arranged for the grocer to bring 7000 gold coins all in a pile right in front of the jailer. How strong your determination would be if someone puts 7000 gold coins right in front of you? His determination was not very strong, “All right! All right!” Sanātana told him, “You just tell him you took me to the Ganges to take care of some bodily business and I jumped in and drowned, and you don’t know what happened.”
Sanātana was the prime minister but, when he escaped from jail he didn’t have a penny to his name. He was able to arrange for one servant—Ishan—that he had to come with him. But this Ishan thought, “I can’t just go empty handed; I need to take care of him!” So he stashed eight gold coins. As they were traveling they went through one section of land where there was a very well known robber who controlled that area. And one astrologer palmist told him, “Oh, oh, some great fortune is coming your way, very soon some travelers will come and they have wealth, you should secure it.” When they came into his area, he received them very nicely and made arrangements for them, so they had a nice place to stay and good food and nice accommodation. He was really just a big rascal setting them up so that he could rob them. Actually we did this play one time when I was a younger devotee and I played this robber guy. I had a little beedi (cigarette) in my mouth, one of those sleeveless shirts that all the rickshaw-valas are wearing, a gamachā wrapped on my head, so it was great fun.
Sanātana Gosvāmī was a prime minister, he was expert in politics, he knew something was up: “There is no reason for this man to be so nice to us. Something is not right here”. He went to Ishan and said “Ishan, I have one question. Have you brought something with you that you haven’t told me about? Maybe you have some private funds stashed?” Ishan hung his head and said, “Yes, my lord, I have brought seven gold coins.” How many gold coins did we say he had? Eight, but how many he told Sanātana he had? Seven. Sanātana said, “Why have you done this; you have put our lives in great peril. Give me the seven gold coins you brought.” [Ishan counting and giving coins:] “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Um 8 (hidden)”, so he gave them and Sanātana Gosvāmī took those gold coins and went to the innkeeper, to the robber, to the landowner and he said, “I have a present for you. You have been very kind to me. Unknown to me, my servant has kept these gold coins. I would like to give them to you and you would do me a great service if you would take them.” The robber told them, “Actually I knew you had eight gold coins.” Sanātana counted that it was seven. The robber said, “Had you not given them to me, I would have taken them from you and plundered you. But now that you are offering them, I won’t even take them. You can keep them.” He (Sanātana) said, “No, no, you will do me a great favor—please, if you don’t take them, someone else will. Please you take them.” So the man accepted the seven gold coins, Sanātana and Ishan continued and they went over the mountain areas. After they crossed the mountain areas, Sanātana said one thing to Ishan, “Ishan, you have one more gold coin?” [Ishan replied:] “Yes, I do”. [Sanātana said:] “All right, you take that gold coin and you return home. You are not ready for renunciation, so you keep the gold coin and you return to your home.” In this way, he bid good-bye to Ishan and Sanātana continued on his way.
Now Sanātana got near one place called Patna, very famous place where they have big auctions for animals all the time. And remember what I said, Sanātana came from a big family. Well, one of his sisters married one devotee—Śrīkaṇṭha—and they lived there. When Śrīkaṇṭha said, “This is all your family, you stay here for a few days, be comfortable.” But Sanātana wanted no delays, “No, No I have to continue on.” [Śrīkaṇṭha said:] “But you have nothing. At least take this nice expensive comfortable Bhutanese blanket.” So Sanātana thought he could use this for sleeping, for staying warm, as his gamachā, for so many things, so he accepted it.
Finally he arrived in Banaras where Mahāprabhu was staying and when he arrived there he went to the home of Candraśekhara. Candraśekhara let him stay there, while the devotees went in and informed Mahāprabhu that he had arrived. As soon as Mahāprabhu understood Sanātana had arrived, He went in and quickly embraced him. It is described that in this anticipated meeting of these two wonderful devotees all of the different ecstatic symptoms manifested and what did Mahāprabhu do? With his own lotus hands, He began to dust all the dirt off the body of Sanātana Gosvāmī. Now Sanātana felt very uncomfortable with this happening. He said, “My dear Lord, please—No, No! Don’t even touch my body.” Caitanya Caritāmṛta gives Mahāprabhu’s response: “I touch your body to purify myself. The devotional force in your body is so great that it can purify the entire universe. I look at you, I touch you, and I sing your glories and by doing so all of My senses reach their perfection.” The Lord repeated this again and again, that He was being benefited by touching the body of Sanātana and then He said to Sanātana, “Listen my dear Sanātana, Kṛṣṇa is an ocean of mercy. He saves the most fallen. He has delivered you from the greatest type of hell.” Now of course Sanātana wasn’t really in hell; he was an eternal associate of the Lord, but it was His pastime.
The Lord looked at Sanātana; Sanātana had been in prison for some time and living with the Muslims, serving there and traveling and he had his long beard and long hair, etc. He said to Sanātana, “Go and shave and get your hair cut and look respectable.” Generally speaking, Vaiṣṇavas are clean-shaven, no hair, no beard. Of course during the Cāturmāsya period many devotees don’t shave, do fasting and things like that. After being shaven and cleaned up, he came before Mahāprabhu. Mahāprabhu was very satisfied to see him. When he was taking his bath, and shaving up and all, his friend Candraśekhara came and wanted to give him some new cloth, “You should put on some new Dhotī, new Kūrtā, now that that one’s so old.” Now even though at one time in his life, Sanātana had been wealthy enough to give clothes to thousands of mendicants, now he only had one set of cloth. But he was just as happy with that one set of cloth and he did not want to accept any new clothes from Candraśekhara.
Now, there was one Maharashtrian Brāhmaṇa that lived with the devotees there and he invited Sanātana, “You please come for Prasādam today”. Sanātana said, “No, No, I am not interested. I am only doing Mādhukarī. Whatever I collect that’s all I eat.” Mahāprabhu was very happy with this. As he would come before Mahāprabhu during his stay there, he would have on his little loincloth, his little shawl and that really nice Bhutanese warm blanket given to him by Śrīkaṇṭha. Whenever he would go in front of Mahāprabhu, he would see that Mahāprabhu kept looking at this blanket. Mahāprabhu never said anything; He would just look at this blanket. Sanātana could understand. He was a very intelligent man, familiar in the ways of subtle dealings. That day he went to the Gaṅgā to take his bath, and there was one old Bengali beggar with his old cloths that he had and some blanket and he was washing his clothes. So Sanātana said to him, “Can we trade? I will give you this and will take yours?” And the old beggar looked, he said, “The fact that I am poor and a beggar is not enough, you must tease me like this? You look to be a saintly person, but why do you make fun of me in this way?” “No,” Sanātana said, “I am very serious, you take,” and he put the blanket on his lap. So he took the old quilt and put it around his shoulders.
Then he went back that afternoon for Darśana of Mahāprabhu, and he had on his shoulder just a bare quilt. Mahāprabhu looked at it and looked at it again, looked at it for a third time and then smiled. He said, “I have been thinking about this. It seems that since Lord Kṛṣṇa is very kind to you, he has cured you of your disease for attachments to material enjoyments. Why would He then allow you to hold on fast to one last item?”
After restoring a patient to good health the physician does not let even one trace of the disease remain. It is quite contradictory to perform Mādhukarī while wearing a blanket worth five gold coins. You can imagine, someone comes to your door dressed in a very fine tuxedo with a big fine hat and the cane and the shave, “I am very poor, could you give me a little something?” Who’s going to believe him? So in this way Lord Caitanya said, “By giving this up you have increased your spiritual strength and refrained from becoming a laughingstock.” At this point, Mahāprabhu begins His opportunity of giving the teachings of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness to Sanātana Gosvāmī.
Sanātana Gosvāmī speaks first to Mahāprabhu, “Actually, I don’t even know how to inquire about the goal of life or the process for attaining that goal.” And then this famous verse which we all know, “Ke āmi? Who am I?” Śrīla Prabhupāda actually quoted this verse many, many times in his lectures. It is one of his favorite verses to quote. It is mentioned that this is the first inquiry for one on the path to spiritual perfection. Because if we mistake what our true identity is, then all of the other knowledge will be based on a faulty conclusion. Śrīla Prabhupāda often gave an example, “If you add one and one and you get three, even if you master the most complicated calculus, you will have the wrong understanding.” So due to the fact we have limited time and due to the fact I have no philosophical understanding, we will just let it be up to you, to go to the Caitanya Caritāmṛta Madhya Līlā chapters 20 to 23 and read this conversation and the Lord’s instructions. However, it’s interesting to note that when Mahāprabhu spoke to Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, He gave 18 different explanations of the ātmārām verse. But when he spoke with Sanātana Gosvāmī he gave 61 different explanations of the same.
After this conversation with Mahāprabhu is finished he instructs Sanātana, “Now you go to Vṛndāvan”; and when Sanātana goes to Vṛndāvan the first person he meets is Subuddhi Rāya. Now Subuddhi Rāya made his living by just selling some dry wood for lighting fires. Despite this, Subuddhi Rāya was able to host whatever Vaiṣṇava came around. Sanātana spent some little bit of time there and he learned that Rūpa and Anupama had already returned to meet Mahāprabhu in Purī. He stayed in Vṛndāvan just long enough to visit the different 12 forests, just like we are doing.
Anyway, it took Rūpa and Anupama a little bit longer to return and of course, along the way back Anupama departed this world, but that is a whole other story. When Sanātana was going to Purī, he went through the Jārikhaṇḍa forest to stay off the main road and he developed some skin sores from the bad water. When he got to Purī, he didn’t want to go to see Mahāprabhu directly. He wouldn’t even go near the Jagannātha temple, afraid that the pujaris might bump into him and become all contaminated, because he was oozing pus and stuff. He thought, “I am such an unfortunate personality. It’s almost Rathayātrā; I just want to throw myself underneath the wheels of Jagannātha’s cart, and in this way, I will be crushed to death while I look at Mahāprabhu dancing in ecstasy.” He was thinking like this and Mahāprabhu came to see him and Haridāsa, since they were staying together. Once again, Mahāprabhu embraced Sanātana so firmly. Now he had these sores all over his body, and not just one or two, but everywhere, and Mahāprabhu embraced him very firmly and all this pus-stuff is going on Mahāprabhu’s body. Now we are making a face here hearing about it and Sanātana felt very badly about it, but Mahāprabhu was in ecstasy. He was very, very satisfied. Mahāprabhu then said to Him, “My dear Sanātana, if I could attain Kṛṣṇa by committing suicide then I would give up millions of bodies in a moment, but you cannot obtain Kṛṣṇa by falsely giving up your body. Besides, you have already surrendered your body to Me, it’s My property. Do you think you can destroy the property of another? Your body will be an important instrument in My establishing devotional principles”.
We are going to jump ahead a little bit to Sanātana being here in Vṛndāvan. There are so many nice stories but we are bound. This is an interesting thing about the difference between the material and spiritual worlds. In the spiritual world time is conspicuous by its absence and in the material world everything we do is governed by time. So Sanātana is living here in Braja in Mahavan and he has got a small grass hut that he stays in and he goes out every day for Parikramā and for begging Mādhukarī, like that. One day as he is walking, one little boy—the boy’s name is Madana–Gopāla—runs up and grabs his hand:
[Madana–Gopāla:] “Bābā Bābā I want to go with you. I want to go; please take me with you”.
Sanātana looks at him, says: “Lala, why do you want to go with me?”
[Madana–Gopāla:] “No, I want to live where you live!’
[Sanātana:] “And if you live with me, what will you eat?”
[Madana–Gopāla:] “Bābā, I will eat whatever you eat”.
[Sanātana:] “But I only eat dry chapatis and a few handfuls of chickpeas.”
[Madana–Gopāla:] “Then that is what I will eat also.”
[Sanātana:] “No, no, no, that won’t be enough for you. You are a young boy. You stay with your mother and father.”
[Madana–Gopāla yells:] “No, Bābā no, I want to go with you.”
Sanātana explained nicely to the boy: “No, no, you can’t come with me. I have no way for you to stay with me. You stay with your mother, father.” Then he continued on his way to beg his chapatis.
Now, the Madana-Mohan Deity was residing in a home of one Brāhmaṇa named Dāmodara Choubey. This Deity was previously worshipped by none other than Advaita Ācārya and through the course of time, now came to the care of this Dāmodara and his wife Vallabhi and their son. Now the way they worshipped this Deity of Madana–Gopāla, it’s a little bit unusual. It was filled with parental Bhāva and with deep friendship from the boy. They actually understood and took the Deity to be one of the family members and just like naughty brothers sometimes they do with each other, they would fight and blame the other and go run and tell the parents on each other, like that. Then the parents would sit them down together to feed them and when they are done, put them to rest together.
Sanātana Gosvāmī would periodically go by Choubey’s house and beg chapatis and he would see how they were worshiping the Deity Madana Gopāla. One day, he decided to instruct Vallabhi Mata, “What are the rules and regulations and the proper way to worship the Deity?” Now after doing this, the next time he came for chapatis he saw that Madana-Mohan and the son, they were sitting together and taking Prasādam side by side very happily. Upon seeing this scene it caused great emotions of ecstasy in Sanātana’s own body. Then he said to Vallabhi, “Forget what I told you. You worship the Lord in whatever way your heart feels.”
One night, Sanātana and Vallabhi had the same dream, Madana Gopāla comes to both of them and says “I want to go with Sanātana,” and then He turns to Sanātana and says “Bābā, I am coming tomorrow to stay with you and my name is Madana Gopāla.” So then he [Sanatana] woke up. Sanātana began to think, “What did I see? Such a beautiful boy and He resembled that little boy who tried to come with me previously.” Thinking in this way, he opened the door, he decided to go outside, and there was the Deity of Madana Gopāla. The entire courtyard was illuminated by the effulgence emanating from this beautiful Deity. He expected that any moment that Deity would say something to him, and finally with tears streaming down his face he fell and offered obeisances.
He constructed a little hut for Him and eventually he was able to get a few things together and perform an Abhisheka for the Deity. Rūpa Gosvāmī came to hear and he came and looked, took Darśana of Madana Gopāla. In this way he continued on with his writings and his little bit of service to the Deity. But that service was not very much. One day the Deity refused to eat. Sanātana said, “What is the matter?” This is an interesting thing: he makes the offering and the Deity won’t take, so he has a conversation with the Deity. This is how advanced he is. He (Madana Gopāla) said, “All you are giving me are these dry chapatis, day after day same thing—dry chapatis. Not even any salt. Can you at least give me some salt?” Sanātana Gosvāmī would beg flour, roll it with water, flatten it up and throw it in fire. That was it; and then being a good devotee, he would offer to His deity first and then he would eat. Madana Gopāla said, “That’s it! I am not going to eat any more. You have to give me at least some salt.” Sanātana says, “Salt? Today you want salt, tomorrow you may want ghee, the next day it’s a Sabzi. I don’t have time for all this. Mahāprabhu has given me the service to writes books. I don’t have time to take care of all these meals for you.”
A day or so later, there is one very wealthy Kṣatriya named Kṛṣṇadas Kapur, he was going to Mathurā for the purpose of engaging in some business and trade. But his boat became stuck on a sandbar just on a hill here. He came up to the hill, went to Sanātana and said, “Please help me sort this out and get my boat free.” Sanātana said, “I am just a renunciate; I am just writing books. You go talk to Madana Gopāla if you want something. He can arrange things, I can’t do anything.” Thus he went before Madana Gopāla and he made one prayer: “O my Madana Gopāla, if by Your mercy my boat is freed, then whatever profit I get from the sale of this cargo, I will give your Gosvāmī to be engaged in Your service.” That afternoon there was a rainstorm like you cannot believe! So much water that the river rose, the sandbar just disappeared, and the boat continued down to Mathurā. Kṛṣṇadas Kapur went to Mathurā, sold his goods, got a great profit, came back and gave it all to Sanātana Gosvāmī and became his disciple.
Oh, we have run out of time, but there’s one more really, really good story. What we will finish with is just the little description of the relationship between Sanātana Gosvāmī and all of the residents of Braja. He would go around and visit all the different houses of the Gṛhasthas and all the villagers. [Sanatana would ask:] “So how are you today? Is that daughter of yours married yet? And how’s your son’s education coming along? Have you settled that maybe land you were going to purchase; has that come through alright?” Or if a husband and wife were having some arguments, like they do sometimes, they would go to Sanātana and he would settle the dispute. In this way, he was just like an uncle to all of the residents of Vṛndāvan.
When Sanātana Gosvāmī passed away, two remarkable things happened. When a family member passes away, male family members (all the men in the family) shave their head. Every male resident in Vṛndāvan shaved their head on the departure of Sanātana Gosvāmī, and Rūpa Gosvāmī was so distraught at the departure of Sanātana, that he went into his Samādhi, stayed there and never came out. So we will finish there.
There are so many stories of Sanātana around the different places of Braja, but we will save those, when we go to those places in Braja. The sun is starting to come a little bit so we will have some Kīrtana and cool off our minds.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Hare Kṛṣṇa. [Applause, “Haribol!”]
Indradyumna Swami Mahārāja:
Let us thank Caturātmā Prabhu again for his beautiful description of the life and teachings of Sanātana Gosvāmī. [Applause, “Haribol!”] I have adjusted the program a little bit. We are going to give you time to break out your Prasādam, and take a little breakfast here and then we will walk down to the Samādhi Mandir. It’s just down the main steps of the temple here. Behind there is the main entrance and then turn right and right again to go down, and we will meet at the Samādhi of Sanātana Gosvāmī. We will have our Kīrtana there and that will conclude the day.
You’ve got a lot to remember, a lot to absorb and to relish. While everyone is here, I would just like to remind you, tomorrow is a very special day. It’s the disappearance day of a great Ācārya that’s very dear to many of the devotees’ hearts in ISKCON. It’s the disappearance day of Śrīla Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākur. Narottama, Śrīnivas and Shyamananda carried on the Saṅkīrtan movement after Lord Caitanya, along with the Pañca-Tattva, went back to the spiritual world.
Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākur was a great preacher, and a great Rasikā devotee, who shared his realizations in many poems and songs. Traditionally every year in our Parikramā, we meet at the Rādhā–Gokulānanda Temple for our program. So we’re just going to ask all of you that tomorrow you be at the Rādhā–Gokulānanda Temple at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning. How many of you know where the Rādhā–Gokulānanda Temple is? Okay, so it’s just a few meters away from Rādhā–Ramaṇa Temple. How many of you know where Rādhā–Ramaṇa Temple is? That beautiful little Deity of Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Rādhā Ramaṇaji! Well, if you don’t know where Rādhā–Ramaṇa is, you just tell a rickshaw-vala–“Rādhā–Ramaṇa?” and I will be waiting for you at Rādhā–Ramaṇa Temple from 6.30 on and will walk you to the Rādhā–Gokulānanda Temple. Actually starting at 6 o’clock in the morning, devotees will start assembling outside the Kṛṣṇa–Balarāma Mandir, the main gate and we will be helping you on rickshaws to get down there. We will just grab a rickshaw, “Rickshaw? Rickshaw? Rickshaw?” We’ll throw you there and say “Rādhā Ramaṇaji, Rādhā Ramaṇaji, Rādhā Ramaṇaji!”
Okay, so 6 o’clock outside the Kṛṣṇa–Balarāma Mandir, if you miss the boat there, then just tell a rickshaw-vala–“Rādhā–Ramaṇaji” and then Gokulānanda Temple is just down the road a little bit, down 50-60 meters.
We choose Rādhā-Gokulānanda Temple, because there is a Pushpa Samādhi of Narottama there. His Guru was Lokanātha Gosvāmī and his full Samādhi is there, and there is a beautiful hall that’s covered. By Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement, Śītalā Mātājī has come from Māyāpura today. She is the favorite of all the devotees, especially the Mātājīs, and she will be giving the lecture tomorrow at Gokulānanda temple there on Narottama. A terrible thing has happened, very terrible—the temple authorities asked Caturātmā Prabhu to give the temple lecture about Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākur tomorrow morning. They kidnapped our Caturātmā. I can’t believe it, they asked him to give the temple lecture and now they stole our Caturātmā. But he will catch up with us later.