Question: On your website [under Lineage], you say that “Jiva Gosvami’s uncles, Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami received diksha from Gadadhara Pandita and Jiva Gosvami followed in the line of his uncles.” I do not see that anywhere in our Vaishnava literature. Is that in Chaitanya Charitamrta? Kindly assist me to know the correct answer as based on our shastra.
Answer: I do not have any clear evidence from shastra on this. What I have written on the website is what I have heard from my Gurudeva, who is part of Gadadhara parivara (family) and has himself heard it in parampara. I trust his words and have no reason to think otherwise. Obviously it is not binding on others to have the same belief. Others will demand an evidence. Frankly speaking, I do not have any unambiguous, explicit evidence which will convince one without a doubt. It is my personal conviction and I am not trying or expecting others to agree with me. But since I have put it on my website on the authority of my Gurudeva and a question is raised on it, I am obliged to give some explanation.
I will begin with an example. We Gaudiya Vaishnavas believe, have faith and trust that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna. But if a non-Gaudiya asks for evidence, it may not appear very convincing for them. At least I am not aware of any such evidence. Obviously it would have to be acceptable to a non-Gaudiya, which means not the words of the followers of Mahaprabhu, but some shastra acceptable to both Gaudiyas as well as non-Gaudiyas, such as the Puranas. Evidences such as the Krsna-varnam verse (SB 11.5.32) are not very explicit, and have alternative interpretations by other scholars, including Sridhara Svami who is accepted as an authority even by Mahaprabhu Himself.
Nonetheless, we Gaudiyas have no doubt about Mahaprabhu being the Supreme Lord, Krishna Himself. [Just as an aside, I have collected a few explicit verses about Mahaprabhu in the Tattva Sandarbha Appendix, although these may also not be very convincing to a non-Gaudiya]
The question about the guru of Sri Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami is similar, albeit within the Gaudiya community. Nonetheless I am giving some evidences which you may or may not accept.
One possible evidence is Sri Gadadharastaka in which the last line of each of the eight slokas reads – bhajami aham gadadharam supanditam gurum prabhum (I worship my guru and master Sri Gadadhara, who is greatly learned). According to my Gurudeva it is composed by Sri Rupa Gosvami. Sri Gadadharastaka is included on pages 49-51 in a book called Sri-stava kalpa-drumah (collection of verses, stotras, etc.), compiled by Sri Bhakti-saranga Gosvami and Sri Purusottama Dasa, both disciples of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Maharaja. However, there the author’s name is mentioned as Sva-rupa Gosvami and not as Rupa Gosvami. I have no idea who Sva-rupa Gosvami is. As stated above, my Gurudeva believes it is Rupa Gosvami.
The other evidence is from a book called Sadhanadipika by Sri Radha-krsna Gosvami, a disciple of Haridasa, who is a grand-disciple of Sri Gadadhara Pandita. Sri Haridasa is mentioned in Caitanya Caritamrta in Adi-lila, Chapter twelve in the list of Sri Gadadhara Pandita Sakha and in Bhakti Ratnakara, Chapter thirteen. He was the pujari of Sri Radha Govindadeva in Vrindavan, the temple established by Rupa Gosvami. In the mangalacaranam of this book he writes the following verse (1.3):
tayoH sat-prema-sat-pAtram SrI-rUpaH karUNambudhiH
tat-pAda-kamala-dvandve ratir me syAd vraje sadA
“Sri Radha-gadadhara (name used for Gadadhara Pandita) is most dear to Sri Caitanya. Sri Rupa who belongs to his (Gadadhara’s) family has [established] service to Sri Govinda. Sri Rupa Gosvami, an ocean of mercy, is a befitting recipient of the pure love of these two, i.e. Sri Caitanya and Sri Gadadhara. May I have love for the two lotus feet of that [Sri Rupa] in Vraja.”
Later on, in the same chapter, he writes that both Rupa Gosvami and Sri Sanatana Gosvami appointed devotees belonging to Gadadhara family as servitors of their respective temples as per the wish of Mahaprabhu. He further writes that Sri Rupa offered the service of Govindadeva to Haridasa Gosvami knowing him to be the svarupa of Sri Gadadhara.
My Gurudeva’s comment on this is that Sri Rupa Gosvami did not appoint Sri Jiva Gosvami as the in-charge of Govindaji temple. Sri Jiva was definitely qualified and also belonged to the Gadadhara parivara, being the only initiated disciple of Rupa Gosvami. However, because the latter was his nephew, he appointed another person of the Gadadhara parivara, so that nobody could presume that Sri Rupa was favoring his blood relative. Sri Sanatana Gosvami did the same. He could have appointed Sri Jiva Gosvami or his own son Sri Rajendra who also lived in Vraja and is mentioned in Caitanya Caritamrita. Sri Sanatana Gosvami rather appointed Krsnadasa Brahmacari who also belonged to Gadadhara family. Both Haridasa and Krsnadasa are mentioned in Caitanya Caritamrita as part of the Gadadhara branch.
According to Sadhana-dipika, all the three main temples of Vrindavan, i.e. Govindaji, Madana-mohana and Gopinatha were served and managed by the followers of Sri Gadadhara.
There is also mention by Narottama Dasa in Prarthana, Song 10, that he also belongs to Gadadhara parivara.
dhana mora nityananda, pati mora gauracandra
prana mora yugala kiçora
advaita acarya bol, gadadhara mora kula,
narahari vilasai mora
“Nitananda is my wealth, Gauracandra is my master (husband), and the Yugala Kiçora is my very life. Advaita Acarya is my strength, Gadadhara my family and Narahari Sarakara always plays within my heart.”
Before Mahaprabhu sent Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami to Vrindavan, He had sent Sri Bhugarbha Gosvami and Sri Lokanatha Gosvami there. Bhugarbha Gosvami is mentioned in Caitanya Caritamrita as part of the Gadadhara branch. Lokanatha Gosvami is supposed to be the nephew of Bhugarbha Gosvami and in all probability was also a follower of Gadadhara Pandita.
This seems to be confirmed by Narottama Dasa Thakura’s song stated above (Gadadhara mora kula – Gadadhara is my family), since Narottama was a disciple of Lokanatha Gosvami as stated in Bhakti Ratnakara, Ch. 1, verse 346 and is also understood from the song sri guru carana padama.
From Caitanya Caritamrita and Caitanya Bhagavata, it is understood that Mahaprabhu gave vigraha seva, service to the deity and also the Tota Gopinatha deity Himself, to Gadadhara Pandita. He was also given the service to recite Bhagavata Purana. Mahaprabhu personally used to listen to it from his mouth at the bank of Narendra Sarovara in Puri. According to the author of Sadhana-dipika it means that He authorized specifically Gadadhara Pandita to propagate vigraha seva and the teaching of Bhagavata. This implies that Mahaprabhu also authorized Gadadhara Pandita to initiate because deity worship cannot be performed without mantra diksha. Therefore, it is not surprising that the deity worship in Vrindavan was performed by the followers of Gadadhara Pandita.
In Sadhanadipaika (Chapter 7, page 143), it is written that in Puri, Navadvipa and in Vrindavan the service to the deities and recitation of Bhagavata Purana is done by the followers of Gadadhara Pandita, who is the main representative of the internal potency of Mahaprabhu. This was according to the desire of Mahaprabhu. This point is reiterated in other parts of this book with references to Caitanya Caritamrita and Caitanya Bhagavata.
We furthermore know that Acyutananda, the son of Advaita Acarya, was a disciple of Gadadhara Pandita. ACBS Prabhupada write in his purport to Adi Lila, 12.17:
“From a book named Sakha-nirnayamrta it is understood that Acyutananda was a disciple of Gadadhara Pandita and that he took shelter of Lord Caitanya in Jagannatha Puri and engaged in devotional service. The Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Ten, states that Acyutananda, the son of Advaita Acarya, lived in Jagannatha Puri, taking shelter of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Gadadhara Pandita, in the last years of his life, also lived with Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Jagannatha Puri. There is no doubt, therefore, that Acyutananda was a disciple of Pandita Gadadhara.”
In Antya Lila, Chapter Seven, there is also the story of Vallabha Bhatta visting Mahaprabhu. In verse 171 it is mentioned that Vallabha Bhatta took mantra diksha from Gadadhara Pandita. This also indicatives that Mahaprabhu wanted Pandita Gadadhara to accept disciples on His behalf. It also agrees with the idea that Mahaprabhu came to give Radha-bhava as Gadadhara is a manifestation of Radha.
From all these evidences it is clear that Mahaprabhu wished Sri Gadadhara Pandita who is Radha herself, to initiate on His behalf and propagate deity worship and teachings of Bhagavata Purana through his disciples.
Of course, to this one may object that I am biased because I belong to Sri Gadadhara’s family myself and am trying to include the Gosvamis as part of my own parivara. In any case, this is my personal view and I am not trying to convince anyone. Personally it does not matter to me what others have faith in, because whether Sri Rupa-Sanatana are disciples of Sri Gadadhara Pandita or someone else does not diminish their greatness, nor does it change our philosophy. As long as we agree on the siddhanata there is no problem, even if our beliefs about historical facts are different.
Question: Even though Narottam sings ‘gadadhara mora kula’ [Gadadhara is my family], this could be a metaphor only or glorification in poetry. Otherwise ‘pati mora Gauracandra’ (husband of Gauracandra) in the same song means Narottama is a nagari or gay or so?
Answer: The word pati does not always mean husband. It means protector, master or Lord, as in the words jagatpati (Lord of the universe), satvatpati (master of the Satvatas) used for Krishna. So the above song can be taken metaphorically or it can also convey some facts.
Question: In Bhakti Ratnakara (1.598-602) it is mentioned that Vidyavachaspati was the religious teacher of Sri Sanatana Gosvami – bhaTTAcAryaM sArvabhaumaM vidyA vAcaspatin gurun. Sanatana respectfully mentioned the name of his guru in his book Sri Dasama Tippani. Therefore it seems that he received diksa from Vidyavacaspati and not from Sri Gadadhara Pandit.
Answer: The word guru means any respectable person, it could be a teacher or family member. It does not always mean diksha guru. We have to understand the meaning of a word in the cultural context. At present, in spiritual societies the word guru seems to have only one meaning, i.e. one who gives initiation. But if you refer to any Sanskrit dictionary, you will see so many other meanings of this word. In Sanskrit literature, the word guru is not understood only in the sense it is understood at present. In fact, the word guru may be hardly used in the sense it is understood now. The closest you will find is one who does the upanayana samskara, the sacred thread ceremony which was performed for males at the young age of 8-11 years. One has to be knowledgeable how the words are used by the author. Therefore one needs to study in the tradition, know the cultural background. Words change meaning over a period of time. We have to keep that in mind.
Sanatana Gosvami studied under Vidya Vacaspati. It does not necessarily mean that he took diksha from him. In fact, the above translation says “religious teacher”. He studied before he met Mahaprabhu. It is assumed that after he became a follower of Mahaprabhu, he accepted vaisnava diksha from someone. It is a well-known fact that of the Pancha-tattva, only Gadadhara Pandita stayed with Mahaprabhu in Puri. Nityanada Prabhu and Advaita Acharya were not living in Puri. So it is quite probable that Sri Sanatana and Sri Rupa got diksha from Gadadhara Pandita. Gadadhara Pandita is supposed to be Srimati Radha. Mahaprabhu is supposed to have appeared to give Radha Bhava. Then it makes sense that he asked Sri Rupa and Sanatana to take mantra from Sri Gadadhara Pandita, since these two were the main proponents of his siddhanata.
Question: In the invocation to Laghu Bhagavatamrita (1.5) it says, “Of Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrtam, manifested by the lotus words of my master, this book is a summary.” So from this I would assume that Rupa Gosvami was a disciple of Sanatana Gosvami.
Answer: The Sanskrit word used is mat-prabhupada – my master. This does not mean that Sanatana is his diksha guru. It is an honorific title. In the devotee community it is very popular to call each other prabhu. There is no difference between the word prabhu and prabhupada, although people think so. By adding pada after prabhu, it becomes more respectful, but the meaning is the same.
Question: Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, Rupa Gosvami also states that Sanatan Goswami and not Gadadhara is his Guru – visrAma mandiratayA tasya sanAtana tanor mad Ishasya. Jiva Goswami comments on this: atha nija nijeSTa-devAvatArena nija guruM stavan prArthayate.
”May this work named ‘the ocean of nectar composed of bhakti-rasa’ always serve as the recreation hall of my Lord, manifested in the form called Sanatana [Gosvami] for His pleasure.” [BRS 1.1.3]
Jiva Gosvami’s commentary: “Praising his guru Sanatana as the avatara of his worshipable Lord, the author makes a prayer. This scripture is called ‘the ocean of nectar,’ in which the nectar is bhakti-rasa. May this work serve as the resting place of my Lord Sri Krsna who, although always situation in His own form, sanatana-tanoh, manifests many other forms including the body Sanatana.”
Answer: The verse does not use the word guru at all. The commentator, Sri Jiva Gosvami, does say that the author prays to his guru. The word guru could mean initiating guru, or teacher or just elder brother. If one wants to take it to mean initiating guru, it is fine with me, but that is not how I take it.
The problem is, as I have said elsewhere, that in the past it was not a custom to reveal the name of the guru freely. I gave the example of my own Gurudeva. He has printed more than 80 books, and whatever books I have read – and I have read most of them – I have not seen his guru’s name mentioned even once. I have never heard him say his guru’s name except on some very special occasions. Therefore, it is difficult to know the guru’s name of traditional Vaishnavas from their writings. Not that they never mention it, but it is not very common. The other cause of confusion is the word guru itself, which has various meaning besides initiating person.