The Disappearance Day of Shrila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami
(from the book Shri Prabandhavali by Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)
Shrila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami is an eternal associate of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and also of Krishna, but in the pastimes of Mahaprabhu he showed the sadhana-bhajana for attaining the elevated devotional stages of bhava and prema. If a sadhaka sincerely desires to engage in bhajana to achieve the direct association of Bhagavan without delay – perhaps in only one or two births – then he should engage in bhajana just as Raghunatha dasa Gosvami did. But doing that type of bhajana is very, very difficult. How he left his home and family, how he engaged in very strict bhajana, how in his final days he went without eating and drinking and just cried day and night in divine separation – all of this would be very difficult for us. But for those who really desire prema, it is not so difficult.
This world is a reflection of the spiritual world; there is some similarity between them. If we see that this world is a place of instruction rather than a place for enjoyment, then we will be benefited. But only those who have taken sincere shelter at the feet of a guru will take such instruction; not everyone will be able to accept it. Dattatreya understood that this world is a place of instruction, and therefore he accepted twenty-four gurus. When we can fully understand the twenty-four gurus that have been mentioned, we will see that the entire world is our guru. Why has it been said that there are twenty-four gurus? Because there is nothing in all of existence from which some instruction cannot be taken. For an intelligent person, all the objects of the world will give some kind of instruction.
Someone may argue that the world is a prison-house which is full of unlimited misery.
tavad ragadayah stenas
tavat kara-griham griham
tavan moho ’nghri-nigado
yavat krishna na te janah
For those who are not devotees of Shri Krishna, the bewilderment of material attachment serves as the handcuffs and foot-shackles that bind them in the prison of maya.
But the material world will not be a prison for those who are not infatuated with it. Here raga means material attachment, which is like a thief and is the cause of our bondage. If this attachment is removed, then liberation will be attained. In this regard, Mahaprabhu told Raghunatha dasa Gosvami:
sthira hana ghare yao, na hao vatula
krame krame paya loka bhava-sindhu-kula
Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya-lila 16.237)
For now, return home and remain in household life. Don’t behave irrationally. Eventually you will be able to cross the ocean of material existence.
If Bhagavan could be attained just by leaving home, then so many people would leave their homes because they couldn’t get along with the other members of the household, or because of poverty or some other reason of this type. But would they attain the association of Bhagavan just by going to another place? Bhagavan is not attained merely by abandoning one’s home and family. Especially if one abandons his home and family in an immature stage, it will be very detrimental to his welfare, and his condition may become even worse than that of an ordinary materialist. Bhagavan is attained only through abandoning material attachments and engaging in real bhajana. Therefore Mahaprabhu told Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, “For now return home and be patient, and when the right time comes, you will automatically be able to leave everything.” There is nothing in the material world that is inherently bad; it is only a question of proper or improper utilisation.
antare nishtha kara, bahye loka-vyavahara
acirat krishna tomaya karibe uddhara
Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya-lila 16.239)
Externally you should behave in an ordinary fashion with your family members, but internally you should have nishtha. Then Krishna will deliver you very soon.
But is having nishtha an easy thing? What is nishtha? Immovable, firm resolution. When there is firm confidence that whatever is said by guru, Vaishnava and shastra is correct, then that is called shraddha. When this shraddha becomes firm, it is called nishtha. “I will give up my very life, but I will never leave the bhajana of Bhagavan. If I live at home or wherever, I will always engage in bhajana” – such resolution is called nishtha. Honouring this instruction of Mahaprabhu, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami returned home and began taking harinama and studying the scriptures, and at the same time attending to all of his worldly duties. Eventually his nishtha increased more and more, and after attaining the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu, he was able to leave his home permanently. He had tried to leave before and was unsuccessful, but Bhagavan could see the desire within him and therefore made the arrangement for him to leave.
When Bhagavan sees that there is sincere desire within us, He will make all arrangements for us to come to Him. Otherwise, if we try to make the necessary arrangements ourselves, we won’t be able to enter into bhajana proper and we will eventually fall down. Therefore Bhagavan makes the arrangement for us, just as we see that He did for Gopa-kumara in Shri Brihad-bhagavatamrita. In the form of chaitya-guru in the heart He sees what is necessary and sends the diksha-guru and the Shiksha-guru to us. Who gave Raghunatha dasa Gosvami the company of Haridasa Thakura? Did Raghunatha dasa Gosvami meet him of his own accord? The arrangement was made by Bhagavan. Haridasa Thakura used to visit the home of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami – why? What was the necessity of his going there? Haridasa Thakura was a supreme renunciate; every day he would chant three lakhas of harinama. Therefore he could see the natural love and devotion for Bhagavan that the young boy Raghunatha dasa possessed, so he would go to his home and teach him how to take harinama. Of course, Raghunatha dasa had the previous samskara of a perfected soul, but here we can see how Bhagavan makes the arrangement for a sadhaka to acquire the association of a great personality. And He also sent Yadunandana Acarya,a disciple of Advaita Acarya, to become Raghunatha dasa’s diksha-guru.
sthane sthitah shruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhir
ye prayasho ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyam
Even while remaining within their respective social positions, fortunate souls get the opportunity to hear hari-katha from great personalities, and becoming inspired to dedicate their body, mind and words, they conquer He who is otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds.
Bhagavan made this arrangement for Raghunatha dasa, and within a short time intense eagerness arose within his heart and he thought, “How will I attain the direct association of Bhagavan? What kind of sadhana-bhajana should I perform?” Then he went to Panihati where he received the darShana of Nityananda Prabhu. On the order of Nityananda Prabhu, Raghunatha dasa arranged a big festival; and by the power of his meditation Nityananda Prabhu, called Mahaprabhu Himself to attend it. When Raghunatha dasa received the darShana of the two brothers taking prasada together, this increased his desire even more. Then Nityananda Prabhu placed his lotus feet on Raghunatha dasa’s head and said, “Now all your obstructions will disappear.” So by the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu he was able to leave his home and travel to Puri where he attained the shelter of Mahaprabhu’s feet. This time Mahaprabhu gave him another type of instruction:
‘mane’ nija-siddha-deha kariya bhavana
ratri-dine kare vraje krishnera sevana
Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya-lila 22.157)
“Internally a perfected soul thinks day and night of serving Krishna in Vrindavana, and Swarupa Damodara will teach you this very special activity.” Mahaprabhu didn’t personally give Raghunatha dasa so much instruction, but He handed him over to one of His eternal associates from whom he received all instruction. And what did Swarupa Damodara teach him? To perform the high standard of bhajana that he himself did.
Swarupa Damodara would compose shlokas describing the ontological position of Mahaprabhu, and he also kept a diary describing the daily pastimes of Mahaprabhu. For instance, he wrote that one night, when the waves of bhava were powerfully flowing through Mahaprabhu’s heart, He somehow managed to pass through three bolted doors. He mistook the ocean for the Kalindi, and thinking the waves to be due to the sporting of Krishna with the gopis, He jumped in. Floating farther and farther away, He came into the net of a fisherman at Arkatirtha. When the fisherman brought the devotees to Mahaprabhu, they saw that all of His joints were dislocated, His limbs were all elongated and He was rolled up into a round shape. This is a symptom of mahabhava. This will not happen in the stages of prema, sneha, mana, pranaya, raga or even anuraga. Sometimes this will not even happen in mahabhava, but only in the higher stages of rudha, adhirudha, madana and citra-jalpa. But this may not even come within citra-jalpa, which is where Shrimati Radhika, in the madness of divine separation, was speaking to a bee about Krishna. We don’t find any description of Her ever displaying the symptoms that Mahaprabhu did here.
Swarupa Damodara recorded these pastimes in his diary and revealed them all to Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. Then later Raghunatha dasa revealed them to Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. Murari Gupta, who was an incarnation of Hanuman, also kept a diary. But since his feelings were for dasya-rasa, he found other pastimes of Mahaprabhu to be more tasteful, and therefore he described them. Swarupa Damodara was Lalita herself, so in his poetry he described the mahabhava and higher conditions of Mahaprabhu. Just see what an excellent arrangement Mahaprabhu made for Raghunatha dasa Gosvami: He handed him over to Swarupa Damodara who taught him all of these things. If we ever receive such a good opportunity, then we should understand that it was arranged by Bhagavan Himself. For a sadhaka who is especially sincere, He will make such an arrangement, but one who is not so eager will not receive such good fortune.
At first Mahaprabhu instructed Raghunatha dasa to remain at home, and this instruction was in relation to vaidhi-bhakti. The instruction that He gave later – that a perfected soul deeply remembers Krishna day and night – was on the raganuga level, and Raghunatha dasa harmonised both of these in his life. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada also gave instructions related to vaidhi-bhakti, such as instructions for arcana, while at the same time drawing forth the sentiments of raganuga from the poetry of Shrimad-Bhagavatam. He combined them in his preaching in this world. Regardless if people were qualified or unqualified, Prabhupada accepted everyone. Previously there was a prohibition that only those who were especially qualified could leave their homes and families and come to engage in bhajana; but everyone received a good opportunity from Prabhupada. He created a school in which even those who were unqualified could come and learn, and gradually progress upwards. Otherwise we would not have the qualification to come in this line, but he opened the door for everyone.
These days society has become somewhat degraded. Young boys no longer honour the conventions of society or accept the guidance of their parents as they did previously. They sometimes fall into bad company and become thieves and dacoits, and then it becomes almost impossible for them to be rectified and find the correct path. But Prabhupada made schools and centres in Mayapura and all over India in which these boys could come. Perhaps they only had a little taste for spiritual life, but he saw their potential to eventually have complete taste. They learned something there and made substantial progress in the direction of pure bhajana, sometimes even up to the point of becoming brahmacaris. Those who desired to do so could after some time return to their homes, marry and perform bhajana there; Prabhupada didn’t impose any restriction on that. In this way Mahaprabhu’s mission was spread throughout India.
As long as Mahaprabhu remained within this world, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami stayed near Him, and when He disappeared, Raghunatha dasa became so disturbed that he at once gave up eating. Then in a short time Swarupa Damodara, Raya Ramananda and Gadadhara Pandita all left this world. Because everything then appeared void in Puri, all the remaining devotees left there. The very things there that had previously been so dear to Raghunatha dasa now pained him like thorns. His condition was like that of the residents of Vraja after Krishna had departed for Mathura. When Krishna was in Vrindavana, the sakhas and sakhis loved Nanda-bhavana very dearly. The gopis loved the Yamuna’s Gopi-ghata so much because there they would meet Krishna. They loved Govardhana so much because there were so many beautiful gardens and kunjas there where they would make flower garlands for Krishna. Blissfully they would go to these places, but when Krishna departed for Mathura, Nanda-bhavana appeared empty and lifeless. The gopis’ remembrance of Krishna became so intense that they no longer desired to go there, and everywhere they cast their vision drowned them in vipralambha-rasa. Food was no longer prepared there, the utensils were just lying around and there were cobwebs everywhere. Who would they prepare food for? Mother Yashoda had become almost blind in separation. In an attempt to forget Krishna, Nanda Baba left there, but there was no place in Vraja that would allow forgetfulness of Krishna. Everything just brought more remembrance of Him.
After Mahaprabhu left this world, the devotees in Puri were in exactly the same condition. For Raghunatha dasa, going to the Gambhira was like entering a fire, and day and night he only cried and cried. This is real bhajana, and until one’s bhajana is of this standard, it is only abhasa, or the shadow of real bhajana. Unless one has experienced such intense feelings of separation from Krishna, guru and the Vaishnavas, they have not entered into real bhajana. Mahaprabhu Himself showed the way: He was always lamenting, “Where can I find Vrajendra-nandana? Where has He gone?” Day and night He was crying, feeling the full impact of divine separation.
Sometimes we also cry, but for what reason? Because we have just received some indication that our material attachments and enjoyment may be taken away from us. Inside we should be feeling intense separation from Mahaprabhu, from Shri Radha and Krishna, and if not directly from Them, then from our own guru. But we have no experience of these feelings of the upper world, and instead we only desire material happiness. But really we belong exclusively to Them, and with that understanding we should approach this line of devotion. Therefore, first there should be deep attachment for bhajana, and then for bhajaniya, those whom we are worshipping. In our conditioned state we are not as much concerned about chanting our daily prescribed number of rounds as we are about things like, “What will I eat? Where will I live?” But how did Raghunatha dasa Gosvami perform bhajana? His only anxiety was: “How will I do bhajana? How can I make sure that this life is not wasted, and how will I attain Bhagavan in this very life?”
For those of us aspiring for raganuga-bhakti, the life of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami is very instructive, and if we can assimilate into our lives even one iota of his eagerness for bhajana, we will surely become successful. Regardless of whether we are renunciates or householders, we should have some of the eagerness for bhajana that he did. If we have that eagerness, all of our endeavours will automatically become crowned with success.