Sri Sanatana Goswami's Disappearance

Gauravani Dasa - July 20, 2005 11:36 pm

Q&A 'Curiosity'

The following is a compendium of questions and answers with Swami B.V. Tripurari from the Sanga forum, 1998-'99



Q. I have been reading Sanatana Goswami's 16th century Brhad-bhagavatamrta. You have referred to this book on a number of occasions in your books. It is an amazing work, breathtaking. Its origin, however, is a little unclear to me. It seems Sanatana Goswami is saying that it was revealed to him, but then he seems to speak of it as an actual historical event dating back to the time of the Bhagavata Purana itself. Did it exist in some form before Sanatana Goswami?


A. It did not exist in any form, puranic or otherwise, before Sanatana Goswami wrote it. The idea found within the text that it was spoken by Pariksit to his mother Uttara, etc. can be taken as a realization of the author, or a literary device. I take it both ways, as Sanatana Goswami is a siddha and a literary genius. As for insistence on its being a revelation and thus a real historical event, we can concur with this in the spirit of "Whatever appears in the mind of a siddha is reality."


Q. It seems like Brhad-bhagavatamrta is a very important book in the Gaudiya line. I don't think the full range and scope of the Gaudiya ontology has ever been made more clear and compelling to me before. Is someone planning a contemporary definitive edition in English? If not, perhaps you should consider doing it. Certainly among the Western Gaudiyas, you are the most qualified candidate to do it justice.


Would it be accurate to say that the Bhagavatamrta is the distilled essence of the Bhagavata Purana?


A. It is the first book of the Six Goswamis, a seminal work of the Gaudiya tradition. Yes, it is the distilled essence of the Bhagavata Purana in very readable format. Sanatana Goswami himself wrote his own commentary on the book. This lends further to the idea that the book itself, while conforming with the conclusions of the sacred literature, was his own revelation. Thus the need for his commentary. As for a contemporary edition, I don't know of anyone who is working on one. It does need to be brought out, and whoever does it will make a major contribution to English speaking members of the Gaudiya tradition and spiritual thinkers in general.


Volume II, No. 14

Substance Over Form: 'The Color Of One's Cloth'



Q. How can you call yourself followers of Sanatana Goswami? All colors of garment but white are forbidden for Gaudiya Vaisnavas, 'rakta vastra vaisnavera podite na yuyay' (Caitanya Caritamrta Antya 13,61). In Sri Dhyanacandra Gosvami's Paddhati the Guru is described as wearing white cloth (svetambaram gaura-rucim sanatanam). And saffron dhotis do not exist at all, only saffron bahirvasas for Vedic eka-dandi (mayavadi) sannyasis. A parampara that starts with white cloth and then suddenly switches to saffron cloth and 'brahmana-initiation' is hardly an uninterrupted siksa-parampara! How do you explain this?


A. Saffron cloth is not red cloth. It is for tridandi sannyasis, of which there are a number of examples in our sampradaya.


The context of Sanatana prabbhu's statement you cited from Antya lila 13.61, reveals that he is not condemning a particular color of cloth, but rather the cloth of a mayavadi sannyasi. Sanantana Goswami was wearing this red cloth on his head for the purpose of evoking loving sentiments from Jagadananda Pandita. Panditji thought it was Mahaprabhu's, and he was very pleased to see Sanatana Goswami wearing it. When Jagadananda found out from Sanatana Prabhu that it was a mayavadi's cloth, he became angry and expressed his angry love to the satisfaction of Sanatana Goswami, who then said "This red cloth is not fit for a Vasianva to wear." He was not condemning red cloth per se.


The other citations you mention refer to red cloth and not saffron. Some of them refer to the royal colors red and blue and not the dress of a sannyasi. All of these are citations from the Vaisnava smriti, which is open to adjustemt in accordance with time and circumstances.


Indeed, much of Hari bhakti vilasa is not followed by many Gaudiya sects today.The Gaudiya Saraswata sampradaya is not the exception.


Indeed, the closest adherents to the form of Hari bhakti vilasa, the Radha Ramana Goswamis, have been know to wear saffron cloth themselves.


Visvambhara Goswami and Purusottama Goswami are examples. I have seen them both in saffron. You are making much of the color of one's cloth. Would you also condemn the Tinkrori baba, a previous Mahanta at Radha kunda, for wearing burlap and not white?


The spirit of the injunctions regarding white cloth is one of distinguishing the sampradaya from Advaitins. If there are other ways to do this as well, they may be adopted following in the spirit of the injunctions. This is the idea of Tridandi sannyasa and the corresponding saffron cloth within daiva varnasrama as conceived of by Bhaktivinoda Thakura and implemented by Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura.


Evidence for Vaisnava tridandi sannyasa is considerable. Sanatana Goswami himself offers this in his commentary on Brihatbhagavatamrta 2.7.14, in which he cites and explains SB 3.5.39. He explains the word yati in the Bhagavata verse to be a description of selfless devotees who take sannyasa.


Outwardly in dress they are sannyasis, while in actuality they are bhaktas.


Our unbroken diksa parampara involves imparting the guru, gaura, and krsna mantras along with corresponding gayatris. We also give the brahma gayatri with the conception of vraja bhakti. For this you can read the brahma gayatri tika of Om Visnupada Bhakti Raksaka Sridharadeva Goswami published in his Gita commentary. We also accept maha mantra diksa.


Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura received the maha mantra from Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and mantra gayatri diksa from Gaura kisora dasa babaji. Some people have tried to prove that Saraswati Thakura was not initiated by Gaura kisora dasa babaji, but even they admit that their evidence is inconclusive.


Evidence of the Thakura's spirituality, however, would be difficult to deny. He followed the vows of Haridasa Thakura at Vraja-pattana for almost nine years before beginning his preaching campaign, and his campaign involved fulfilling the prophecy of Mahaprabhu. He was an innovator, and this involved his stress on a siksa guru or Bhagavata guru parampara along with the diksa guru parampara. The idea of the Bhagavata guru parampara is that greater emphasis is given to those whose influence is greater in the lineage, regardless if they be one's siksa guru rather than diska guru.


Thus Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura emphasized the influence of Jagannatha dasa babaji in the life of Bhaktivinoda and drew his line accordingly. As with the color of cloth, here we are speaking of substance over form.


Volume IV, No. 26

The Reality of Mahaprabhu in Scripture



Q. I believe that the scriptural predictions promoted by the followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu stem mostly from the writings of Sanatana Goswami. It appears to me that almost all of these scriptural references are not confirmed as to where exactly these verses are found in the scriptures and the context in which the individual verses have been taken. Are you aware of any scholarly research on the collection of various Vedic predictions centered on Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's appearance as the Yuga-avatara?


A. I am not aware of any academic research on this topic, but Gaudiya scholars agree that Sanatana Goswami was the first to write that he found a reference to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the pages of the Bhagavatam. Sanatana found the reference in a section of the Bhagavatam discussing the yuga-avataras and the two verses that follow it (SB 11.5.32-34):


krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra-parsadam/

yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah//


"Intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of God who constantly sings the name of Krsna. Although his complexion is not blackish, he is Krsna himself who is accompanied by his servants, weapons, and confidential associates."


Sanatana also found him in Bhakta Prahlada's statement in the Bhagavatam concerning the Lord's covert appearance in Kali-yuga:


dharmam maha-purusa pasi yuganuvrttam/

channah kalau yad abhavas tri-yugo'tha sa tvam//


"The Supreme Lord is called Tri-Yuga, or one who appears in only three yugas. However, in the age of Kali he sometimes appears in a concealed form." (SB 7.9.38)


He also found Mahaprabhu in the Bhagavatam where it is mentioned that the Lord at times appears in golden color:


asan varnas trayo hy asya grhnatotnvyugam tanuh/

suklo raktas tatha pita idanim krmatam gatah//


"White, red, and yellow are three bodily colors which the Lord assumes respectively in three ages." (SB 10.8.13)


Sanatana Goswami's commentary on these verses is insightful to say the least. He was the most learned in Srimad-Bhagavatam of all the legendary Six Goswamis. It is likely that he also compiled the principal list of verses gathered from other scriptures that Gaudiya Vaisnavas consider to be forecasting the appearance of Sri Caitanya.


Many such verses are cited by Srila Prabhupada in his Caitanya-caritamrta commentary--verses from the Upanisads, Puranas, Atharva Veda, and so on. Some but not all of these verses may be questionable as to the context in which they appear, and others perhaps with regard to their absence in existing manuscripts of the texts they are said to be from. Understandably, this can be disconcerting for one who requires such evidence in order to support his faith, as well as to one of stronger faith, who, when calling on these verses while preaching to others, is challenged regarding their validity.


Still, some of these verses do serve as strong scriptural evidence. The above-mentioned verses from the Bhagavatam are particularly compelling. But how many of such verses does one need, and what will convince a person who does not want to be convinced? The spiritual reality of Mahaprabhu is the strongest possible evidence as to his divinity. This spirituality has been critically examined, and some of

the conclusions reached even by those outside the Gaudiya tradition are heartening to his followers.


In my book Rasa: Love Relationships in Transcendence (http://swami.org/sanga/Books/pages/Rasa.html), I cited one example of this kind of critical analysis written by Christian theologian John Moffitt in his book Journey to Gorakhpur: An Encounter With Christ Beyond Christianity.


Moffitt concludes as follows: "If I were asked to choose one man in Indian religious history who best represents the pure spirit of devotional self-giving, I would choose the Vaisnavite saint Caitanya. Of all the saints in recorded history, East and West, he seems to me the supreme example of a soul carried away on a tide of ecstatic love of God. Though literally worshipped by thousands as Krsna himself, he led a simple and even austere life. His life in the holy town of Puri is the story of a man in a state of almost continuous spiritual intoxication. Illuminating discourses, deep contemplation, moods of loving communion with God, were daily occurrences."


Devotees who love Mahaprabhu may see him in scriptural references that others cannot. Thus certain scholars and critics may feel that his devotees' interpretations of these verses are unacceptable. If this is the case let those critics explain the spirituality of Mahaprabhu in another way. One may argue that Mahaprabhu is not Krsna or the yuga-avatar, but no open-minded religious person can deny the intense spirituality of Mahaprabhu and his intimate associates.


We must also remember that Mahaprabhu’s devotees consider him a concealed (channah) avatara of Krsna, that Mahaprabhu is Krsna disguising himself as his own devotee. And where have we ever seen such devotion as Mahaprabhu had for Krsna? Only in Radha herself. This is the spiritual logic of the sampradaya.


As a final word on predictions, chanting the holy name of Krsna has now spread to nearly every town and village, as Mahaprabhu himself predicted it would. Also over one hundred years ago Bhaktivinoda Thakura predicted that people from all over the world would come to worship Sri Caitanya at his birth site in Mayapura. This prediction, made when the birth site was almost inaccessible and Mayapura appeared to be little more than a jungle, has now come to pass as well.


Finding support for the reality of Mahaprabhu in scripture is either merely an academic exercise generously conducted for those in need of such support or an example of the very ecstasy that he himself came to distribute. Those who have this ecstasy see him everywhere.


Pray that you will be so fortunate.


Thursday, April 22, 2005, Vol. VII, No. 6

Krsna's Diet is Bhakti



Q. Devotees are supposed to offer whatever they eat to Krsna beforehand. It's a nice principle to offer everything, but I wonder how the Deity feels about being offered foods not mentioned in scripture such as tofu burgers or chocolate. Does he just accept the sentiment of letting Krsna eat first?


A. This is an interesting question. I don't remember reading that Krsna does not eat chocolate or tofu. I can assure you that he has eaten them. How can I say this? Because scripture says that he accepts vegetarian food that is offered to him in love. Of course, one can argue that there is more bhakti in offering him things that one knows he likes to eat, things mentioned in sastra. While this may be helpful for bhajana at some point, we have the example of the most merciful Sanatana Goswami, who offered unleavened bread with no salt to his Deity Madana-Mohana because this was all he could come up with in terms of ingredients. Madana-Mohana did of course ask for salt at some point, but even without salt he relished Sanatana Prabhu's offerings because the offerings were made with love. One can still get that unsalted bread at Sanatana Goswami's bhajana kutira at the Madana-Mohana temple in Vrndavana, where devotees have been offering it to the Deity of Krsna for the last 500 years. The lesson is that if we lovingly offer food to Krsna that has been made from ingredients readily available, Krsna will eat.


In some places such as the Jagannatha temple in Puri, foods that were not growing in India when Sri Krsna was present are not offered, including green chilies. However, Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja commented on this saying that this idea was more or less a physical conception. There are now many vegetables readily available in India that originally came from other parts of the world. These include eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes, all of which came from the Americas. We see that Krsna adapted his eating habits to the many cultures that exist within India. In the South he seldom gets chapattis; in the North rice is rare; in Punjab he is offered corn rotis. Jagannatha means "Lord of the Universe" not just "Lord of India"; therefore, why wouldn't Jagannatha adapt his eating habits to other cultures?


After all, bhakti is what he truly eats.


Many years ago when I first visited Italy the devotees there served me many wonderful pasta dishes. I commented that their offerings were delicious, but they replied that they only offer these dishes to visitors because they had been taught to only offer Indian cuisine to the Deity of Krsna. I suggested they reconsider, as I doubt their version of Indian cuisine was quite as palatable as their pasta.

Jason - July 22, 2005 8:31 pm

I know it's a few days late, but I just found this and thought it was very sweet.


(by Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami)


vairagya-yug-bhakti-rasam prayatnair

apayayan mam anabhipsum andhamkrp

ambudhir yah para-duhkha-duhkhi

sanatanas tam prabhum asrayami


"I was unwilling to drink the nectar of devotional service possessed of

renunciation, but Srila Sanatana Gosvami, out of his causeless mercy, made

me drink it, even though I was otherwise unable to do so. Therefore he is an

ocean of mercy. He is very compassionate to fallen souls like me, and thus

it is my duty to offer my respectful obeisances unto his lotus feet."


quoted in Cc Adi 5.203 ppt.