Raghunatha dasa Goswami
Raghunatha Dasa Goswami Biography:
Raghunath Das Goswami (1495-1571) is known as one of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, the primary disciples of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Although there are teachers who today carry the title “Goswami” or its derivative “swami” (literally, “one who has mastered his senses”), they generally fall short of the standard set by the Six Goswamis under discussion, who, according to the Vaishnava tradition, are considered more than mere theologians or even great saints. They are eternal associates of the Lord, descending to assist Him in His mission of reclaiming the fallen, conditioned souls.
In this context, the Six Goswamis are viewed as manjaris, the intimate maidservants and assistants of Radharani in the spiritual world. There they engage in the highest service to the Lord by making various arrangements for His pleasure, and at the same time, in the terrestrial realm, they assist Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in making His mission accessible to the world at large.
Remembering throughout that the Six Go-swamis are actually nitya-siddhas, or “eternally liberated souls,” it becomes easier to understand their lila (or “play”) as they each externally adopt the guise of ordinary human beings. Their inner meditation is always fixed on the lotus feet of the Lord. Given this reverential perspective, some biographical information can be useful and will not stray our readers from the traditional understanding of the Goswamis’ ontological position.
Raghunath Das, the first of the Six Goswamis to meet Shri Chaitanya, was born in a small village called Chandpur (present-day Shri Krishnapur), located two miles from the Saptagram district of Hugli, West Bengal. An inheritor of vast opulence, Raghunath Das was the fortunate son of the wealthy Govardhan Majumdar, who was considered, even at that time, a multi-millionaire. Govardhan was the younger brother of Hiranya, a powerful landowner who, although a Kayastha shudra (of a lower caste), commanded great respect from his peers.
In fact, Hussein Shah, the Muslim emperor of Bengal, went so far as to lease Saptagram and its neighboring villages to the two wealthy brothers, Govardhan and Hiranya, even though they were not of the Islamic faith. In exchange, the two brothers had to annually pay a vast amount that was equal to their own yearly income (some 1,200,000 rupees) and see to the proper management of their domain.
Why would Govardhan and Hiranya give their entire yearly income for the burden of real estate, taxation, and finance? The first reason was to appease the Islamic occupational government, so that they and their loved ones could worship Lord Krishna unimpeded. Satisfied with their huge financial contribution, the Nawab Hussein Shah left the internal administration of the whole district under their able care, without even nominal interference. Secondly, under this new arrangement, Govardhan and Hiranya had greatly increased their own annual income to 2,000,000 rupees, and even further by the taxes accumulated from imports and exports.
The brothers had quite a reputation throughout most of Bengal — not only because of their power and wealth but also because of their piety and charity. Shri Chaitanya Himself used to refer to them as His “uncles,” perhaps because of their close friendship with His maternal grandfather, Shri Nilambhar Chakravarti. Actual blood relation is not likely, however, as they were kayasthas and Shri Chaitanya was a brahmana. Nonetheless, young Raghunath Das, unique among the Six Goswamis for his birth in a non-brahmana family, was the only child in the Majumdar household.
In his boyhood, he was instructed in the principles of Vaishnavism by Balaram Acharya, one of the most advanced devotees in Saptagram. Having received the association of Shri Chaitanya’s intimate devotee, Haridas Thakur, Balaram Acharya was anxious to introduce his young student to the saint. This he did, and Raghunath imbibed a devotional spirit from the Thakur. As he grew into his teens, Raghunath’s piety and spiritual insight grew as well.
Soon, in 1510, news of Shri Chaitanya’s sannyasa reached Saptagram. Having heard that Nityananda Prabhu had diverted Shri Chaitanya from His pilgrimage to Vrindavan and led Him, instead, to nearby Shantipur, Raghunath Das pleaded with his father to let him go and see the great Shri Chaitanya, about whom the saint Haridas Thakur had told him so much. But the boy was young, merely fifteen years old, and so his rich father was hesitant, skeptical about allowing his wellbred boy association with common renunciants. Govardhan did not want his only son to renounce the world and leave the family. Nonetheless, Raghunath Das ran away from home and met Shri Chaitanya in Shantipur.
The meeting was emotional and intense. Shri Chaitanya recognized His eternal associate, who had finally, in this life, returned to Him, and Raghunath Das enthusiastically fell at the Lord’s feet, touching them with great devotion as a sign of humility. The scene was described by Swami Pradip Tirtha Maharaj, a disciple of Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakur: “When the Lord came to Shantipur after His sannyasa, Raghunath Das fell prostrate at His lotus feet, in a rapture of love, when Mahaprabhu touched him with His toe.” This exchange deeply moved the two of them. But after ten days of intimately associating with the Navadvip devotees in Shantipur, Shri Chaitanya left for Jagannath Puri and Raghunath Das returned home.
Four years later, when Raghunath Das was almost nineteen years old, Shri Chaitanya returned to Shantipur. Raghunath Das was more enthusiastic than ever to attain the association of Shri Chaitanya. When Govardhan realized that he was not able to control his son, he resigned himself to the boy’s fate and allowed him exposure to the life of renunciation and spirituality. But he cautioned Raghunath Das to be on guard and to return home after a brief visit.
By this juncture in Shri Chaitanya’s career, it may be noted, He had completed His famous tour of South India and had met Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis at Ramakeli. So He had achieved a considerable amount of renown as a saint and even as an avatar. Govardhan thus felt a little more secure in letting his young Raghunath Das associate with Shri Chaitanya and His followers.
The boy was sent to Shantipur with princely escorts. Upon his arrival, he immediately went to the home of Adwaita Acharya, where Shri Chaitanya had stayed during their first meeting and where He was now again staying. Tears of love flowed from Raghunath Das’ eyes as he saw the form of Shri Chaitanya, who smiled at Raghunath Das as if seeing an old friend.
Although Raghunath Das was still eager to renounce family and riches, Shri Chaitanya encouraged him to return home. “Lord Krishna will direct you toward renunciation at the proper time,” Shri Chaitanya told him, “For now, live as if you were a worldly man.” And so after approximately six days, Raghunath Das returned to Saptagram.
A thoroughly changed person, young Raghunath Das proceeded to take Shri Chaitanya’s instruction to heart. He responsibly managed his father’s estate and married a girl of unexcelled beauty. In this way, he externally lived a charmed life of opulence, while deep in his soul he longed for the day when he could renounce everything and live the simple life of an ascetic.
Raghunath’s worldly life was to last only two years, however, for a calamity overtook the Majumdar family. The former governor of Saptagram, a Turk, had a grudge against Hiranya and Govardhan, for when they had taken over the district they had unintentionally usurped his possessions. Seeking vengeance and trying to ingratiate himself to the Nawab Hussain Shah, the exgovernor informed the Nawab that, although Hiranya and Govardhan were annually paying him 1,200,000 rupees, they were in fact holding back quite a bit more for themselves. In addition, he cautioned the Nawab that they had grown very powerful and might prove dangerous to the Islamic occupational government.
Consequently, the Nawab sent a team of soldiers to arrest the Majumdar family. Govardhan was away on a trip and Hiranya had fled upon receiving news of the rapidly approaching troops. Only Raghunath Das was still present when the soldiers arrived. Hiranya had told Raghunath Das about the impending doom, but the faithful Raghunath Das was unconcerned. He knew that his Lord would protect him. Still, when the soldiers arrived they arrested him, and he quietly went with them to Gauda, the then capital of Bengal.
Brought before the king, Raghunath Das was asked to divulge the whereabouts of his father and uncle. But he honestly did not know, and this is what he told his captors. At first, the king decided to have him tortured, but after hearing Raghunath Das deliver a magnificent soliloquy on the virtues of kindness and the brotherhood of man under God, the king was moved to tears.
Appreciating that Raghunath was a great devotee of the Lord, the king knew that his talk was from the heart, and so he not only released him, but accepted him as his very own son. An amicable arrangement was then made regarding the financial situation of Hiranya and Govardhan, about which the entire problem had originated.
Soon after this incident, one of Shri Chaitanya’s most intimate associates, Nityananda Prabhu, came to Panihati, a village four miles north of Calcutta, very close to Saptagram. With Him, an entourage of hundreds of devotees gathered to glorify God “with the timbrel and dance and the high sounding cymbals.” In this way, Nityananda Prabhu passed three months, spreading Shri Chaitanya’s mission of devotional love and gaining followers from neighboring villages.
Raghunath Das heard of Nityananda Prabhu’s success in Panihati. The young Goswami wanted to meet Nityananda Prabhu and serve His lotus feet, for he knew that one could only get the mercy of Shri Chaitanya by first pleasing His eternal associate. To this end, Raghunath Das kept trying to run away from home, but he was consistently dragged back by his father. Finally relenting, Govardhan gave permission for Raghunath to see the great Nityananda, and the Goswami quickly set out for Panihati.
When Raghunath Das arrived, he found Nityananda Prabhu sitting on a large rock beneath a magnificent banyan tree. He looked effulgent, surrounded by hundreds of dedicated devotees. Raghunath Das, approaching these great souls, was embarrassed, for in his humility he felt guilty about acting like an ordinary materialist. Sensing Raghunath Das’ state of mind, Nityananda Prabhu decided to lovingly joke with him. And so, as Raghunath came forward, the following words emanated from Nityananda Prabhu’s lips: “You are a thief, Raghunath Das! Come here, and I will now punish you.”
Raghunath Das naturally became reluctant to approach Him. Nonetheless, Nityananda Prabhu caught hold of Raghunath Das and forcibly placed His feet on his head. All the devotees laughed as they saw Nityananda Prabhu’s punishment turn into a humorous benediction.
Further “punishing” Raghunath Das, Nityananda Prabhu gave him the following order: “Prepare a big festival and feed all of the devotees with yogurt and chipped rice.” Hearing this, Raghunath Das was greatly pleased. Finally able to use his wealth in the service of the Lord, he immediately sent some of his servants to purchase the necessary ingredients.
Soon, the area was inundated by vast quantities of chipped rice, yogurt, milk, pastries, sugar, bananas, and assorted savories. Just to take part in the jubilant festivities, priests, laymen, and other pilgrims came from miles around. Seeing the crowd increasing, Raghunath Das arranged to acquire more provisions from the neighboring villages. He also brought some four hundred large, round earthen pots for soaking the chipped rice. Together, in a cooperative spirit, the devotees prepared the feast and while so doing they chanted the holy name with great ecstasy.
In addition to the countless devotees attending the festival were Nityananda Prabhu and other intimate associates of Shri Chaitanya. These intimate associates were each given a seat on a raised platform, as was the etiquette, and the other devotees sat around them. Everyone was then offered two earthen pots. One pot contained chipped rice with condensed milk. The other contained chipped rice with yogurt. The devotees ate to their full satisfaction and shouted “Hari bol! Chant the names of Hari. Chant the names of the Lord!”
At this time, by the will of Nityananda Prabhu, Shri Chaitanya mystically appeared on the scene. Only those devotees who were accomplished in spiritual realization were able to perceive Shri Chaitanya’s presence. Both Shri Chaitanya and Nityananda Prabhu enjoyed seeing the devotees eating the chipped rice, yogurt, and condensed milk. Walking along the path where the devotees were sitting and eating, Nityananda Prabhu took a morsel off of each devotee’s plate and playfully put it in Shri Chaitanya’s mouth. Reciprocating, Shri Chaitanya did the same to Nityananda Prabhu. Raghunath Das relished watching this exchange.
After the feast, Raghunath Das liberally distributed gold and jewels to the devotees present, but they were indifferent to everything except their loving relationships with Raghunath Das and Nityananda Prabhu. This whole incident came to be known as the Danda Mahotsava, which means, ironically, “the Festivity of Punishment.” To this day, pilgrims travel annually to Panihati in commemoration of the chipped rice Danda Mahotsava festival. It is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the bright moon in the month of Jayishta (May-June).
Before returning to Saptagram, Raghunath Das was fortunate enough to have an intimate conversation with Nityananda Prabhu while only a few other devotees were present. Approaching with humility, Raghunath Das uttered the following words: “I am the lowest of men, the most sinful, fallen, and condemned. Nevertheless, I truly desire to attain the shelter of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Like a dwarf who wants to catch the moon, I have tried my best many times, but I have never been successful. Every time I tried to run away and give up family relationships, my parents unfortunately kept me bound up, sometimes by force.
“Without Your mercy,” Raghunath Das continued, “no one can attain the shelter of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, but if You are merciful, even the lowest of men can attain shelter at His lotus feet. Although I am unfit and greatly afraid to submit this plea, I nonetheless request You, Nityananda Prabhu, to be especially merciful toward me by granting me shelter at the lotus feet of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.” In conclusion, Raghunath Das cried, “Placing Your feet on my head, give me the benediction that I may achieve the shelter of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu without difficulty. I fervently pray for this benediction.”
Hearing this humble and devotional plea, Nityananda Prabhu smiled, feeling great satisfaction. As He turned to the other devotees, He said, “Raghunath Das is accustomed to a standard of material happiness that is equal to Indra’s [an opulent demigod]. Because of the mercy already bestowed upon him by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Raghunath Das, although situated in such material happiness, does not like it at all. Therefore let every one of you be merciful toward him and give him the benediction that he may very soon attain full shelter at the lotus feet of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.” In this way Nityananda Prabhu acquired for Raghunath Das the blessings of the assembled devotees, and then He cited scriptures so that the devotees could ascertain Raghunath’s level of spiritual advancement.
Next, Nityananda Prabhu called Raghunath Das near Him and placed His feet on his head. Blessing Raghunath Das in this way, Nityananda Prabhu kindly let him know that Shri Chaitanya appeared at the Panihati Festival merely to show him favor. Further, Nityananda Prabhu informed him that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu actually ate the chipped rice and milk that Raghunath Das himself prepared.
Finally, Nityananda Prabhu gave him an indication of what was to occur in the near future: “Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will fully accept you and place you under the charge of His secretary, Swarup Damodar. You will thus become one of the Lord’s most confidential and internal servants. Being assured of this, return to your home. Very soon, without impediments, you will attain the full shelter of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.” After hearing this, Raghunath Das returned to Saptagram.
This time he could not even feign material interest. Previously, under Shri Chaitanya’s order, he had pretended to be a pounds and shillings man. But now, having received the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu, he was God-intoxicated, and he could not control himself. Again and again he tried to escape from his father’s palace, to preach among the common people and to live the life of an ascetic. But his attempts were to no avail. Govardhan hired a large body of guards to specifically watch over Raghunath Das, and these able men always dragged him back to the palace.
Lamenting, his mother once suggested in total frustration that perhaps he should be tied to a pillar with a rope. After all, she said, he may one day escape the attention of the guards. But to this impractical suggestion came Govardhan’s now historic reply: “If the attractions of vast wealth and a wife whose beauty is of celestial proportions cannot bind him to this kingdom, do you really think a slender rope can do it?”
In due course, Raghunath Das received his chance to escape. Yadunandan Acharya was the family guru and priest, and on one particular occasion he took Raghunath Das with him to perform a religious ritual. The family, of course, had full trust in their guru, and so the guards went to sleep early that evening, reassured that Raghunath Das was in safe hands.
But Raghunath Das was not to be underestimated. He succeeded in convincing the guru that he could continue the prescribed ritual alone, and the simple, faithful teacher allowed him to do so. This was Raghunath’s chance, and he knew it. Since no guards or concerned family members were anywhere in sight, he decided to seize the opportunity, even though it was by then late in the evening.
Travelling at first from village to village, Raghunath Das eventually decided to go through the jungles, for in this way his father and the family guards would not be able to follow him. Meditating on Shri Chaitanya and Nityananda Prabhu, he decided to go toward Jagannath Puri, for at this time of year (July) all the devotees would converge there for the annual Ratha-yatra Festival. He walked about thirty miles in one day, and then he came upon a barn in which he decided to sleep.
Meanwhile, back in Saptagram, the Majumdar guards, servants, and watchmen went to Yadunandan Acharya to inquire about the whereabouts of Raghunath Das. When the elderly guru naively told his story, everyone realized what had happened: “Now Raghunath has taken the opportunity and has gone away!”
Raghunath’s father, Govardhan, was wise. He knew that devotees from all over Bengal would be going to Puri for the Ratha-yatra Festival. He said to his guards: “Raghunath Das has fled to Puri, to be with Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Ten of our best men should immediately go to catch him and bring him back. Undoubtedly, he is travelling with Shivananda Sen, for he is in charge of the devotees’ pilgrimage to Puri.” In this way, Govardhan wrote a letter to Shivananda Sen, asking him to “please return my son.” This letter was sent with the ten men.
But Shivananda replied that Raghunath Das had never joined him and his pilgrims, which was of course true, and the ten guards thus returned empty-handed. Raghunath’s mother and father were overtaken with grief. Where could they turn? Should they send their guards to far away Jagannath Puri? Perhaps Raghunath Das never went to Puri. Perhaps he was hurt. Perhaps he needed them.
Meanwhile, Raghunath Das had left the barn in which he had spent the night and proceeded to travel for twelve days before finally arriving in Puri. It is said that, due to scarcity of food in the jungle and his fixed meditation on the Lord, Raghunath Das only managed to eat three meals in those twelve days. This instilled in him the sense of austerity for which he would later become famous. As one biographer writes: “The body fasted but the spirit feasted on the joy of the prospect of meeting the Master — Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.”
Finally arriving in Puri, Raghunath Das approached Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was sitting with His intimate devotees, headed by Shri Swarup Damodar. When Shri Chaitanya saw Raghunath Das, He immediately asked him to come closer, just as Nityananda Prabhu had done. But before the words had even emanated from His mouth, Raghunath Das clasped the lotus feet of Shri Chaitanya in a mood of spiritual love. With this, Shri Chaitanya stood up and embraced Raghunath Das out of His causeless mercy.
Then Shri Chaitanya turned to His able servant, Shri Swarup Damodar, and said, “My dear Swarup, I entrust this Raghunath Das to you. Please accept him as your son or servant. From this day forward, this Raghunath should be known as the Raghu of Swarup Damodar.” As Swarupa Damodar’s servant, he was considered the assistant secretary to Shri Chaitanya (Swarup was the secretary). Thus fully accepting Raghunath Das into His fold, Shri Chaitanya blessed him and showed him special mercy. All the devotees, struck with wonder, praised Raghunath Das Goswami’s good fortune.
Under the care of Shri Swarup Damodar, Raghunath Das daily received the coveted remnants of Shri Chaitanya’s food, and he lovingly relished them with full transcendental delight. Having been touched by God, this food was spiritually potent, and thus it brought Raghunath Das to even greater heights of spiritual ecstasy. For five days he accepted these remnants, but on the sixth day he stopped, feeling unworthy, and he began to beg alms while standing at the main gate of the Jagannath temple.
When asked why he preferred the simple morsels of food from the Jagannath temple to the nicely prepared remnants of Shri Chaitanya, he replied, “For me, this food was too opulent. My spiritual vision becomes blurred by such indulgence. Therefore, I prefer to take a few humble grains just to keep body and soul together.” Shri Chaitanya was pleased with Raghunath Das’ sense of austerity and openly praised him for it.
His humility, too, was pleasing to Shri Chaitanya, although at times it reached controversial proportions. For instance, Raghunath Das felt himself so fallen that, for a few years, he would not directly approach Shri Chaitanya. Rather, he would convey his ideas, whenever necessary, through the agency of Govinda (Shri Chaitanya’s servant) or through his master, Swarup Damodar. However, he gradually felt the need to approach Shri Chaitanya directly, and he asked Swarup Damodar’s permission to do so.
Upon hearing of Raghunath’s request, Shri Chaitanya called Raghunath Das into his room and spoke to him as follows: “Swarup Damodar can instruct you better than I. Nonetheless, if you wish to hear from Me, you may ascertain your duties from My following statement: ‘Do not talk like materialistic people or hear what they say. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you unnecessarily dress according to fashion. Do not expect honor, but offer all respect to others. Always chant the holy name of Lord Krishna, and within your mind render service to Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan.’ These are My instructions in a nutshell. Shri Swarup Damodar will give you specifics and details.” In this way, Shri Chaitanya encouraged Raghunath Das in his mood of asceticism and in his surrender to Swarup Damodar.
As the pleasant summer months ushered in, it was again time for the Ratha-yatra festival. Devotees came from all over Bengal, and Raghunath Das was in great bliss meeting these intimate associates of the Lord. Among the devotees to arrive was Shivananda Sen, who told Raghunath Das about the ten guards that were sent by his father. Raghunath Das felt for his grieving relatives but was convinced of his resolve. Not wanting to return home, he asked Shivananda to console his parents upon his return to Bengal, their mutual home.
After four months, Shivananda and the other devotees made their way back. Hearing of their return to Bengal, Govardhan sent one of his men to inquire about Raghunath Das. “Did you meet Raghu at Jagannath Puri?” asked Govardhan’s messenger, “Was he there with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?”
Shivananda Sen replied: “Yes. Raghunath Das is an intimate servitor of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and in this he has achieved great fame. Everyone knows him. He was put under the charge of Swarup Damodar and he chants the holy name of Krishna day and night. He has become the life of all the devotees.
“He is completely renounced,” Shivananda continued, “he does not care about eating or dressing. He takes some grains from the Jagannath temple, and if no one offers him this in charity, he fasts. He is totally dedicated to the service of the Lord.” After hearing this, the messenger returned to Govardhan Majumdar.
Explaining all of the details to Raghunath’s father and mother, the messenger could see their anguish. Nonetheless, they had by now understood that they could not change their son’s mind. Rather, they decided to send some men with amenities for his comfort. They wanted to begin by sending four hundred coins, two servants, and one brahmana (priestly) cook to Shivananda Sen, who was to deliver these when he again returned to Puri.
As usual, the next year Shivananda Sen did go to Puri, and he brought the gifts from Raghunath Das’ parents. At first, Raghunath Das did not touch these treasures, for he saw them as obstacles on the spiritual path. He gradually relented, however, but he only took enough to entertain Shri Chaitanya for two days out of every month. For two years, he continued to accept the gifts for Shri Chaitanya’s service and then he abruptly stopped.
After not being invited by Raghunath Das for two months, Mahaprabhu questioned Swarup Damodar. Together, they concluded that Raghunath Das was thinking in the following way: “When one eats food offered by a materialist, one’s mind becomes contaminated, and one is unable to purely think of Krishna. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has accepted my invitations for the last two years out of His causeless mercy. But He would prefer that I give up all connections with wealth and worldly minded people.” It was confirmed that this was, indeed, the thinking of Raghunath Das Goswami.
Feeling that Raghunath Das had fully understood His teaching and, further, appreciating Raghunath’s severe sense of renunciation, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu awarded him a small stone from the sacred Govardhan Hill and a garland of small conchshells from Vrindavan. (The actual stone from Govardhan Hill can presently be found in Vrindavan’s Shri Shri Radha Gokulananda Temple.)
These items were incalculably precious to Shri Chaitanya — He had kept them close to His person continuously for three years. The devotees were astonished when He presented these items to Raghunath Das Goswami and they could thus understand that the Goswami was no ordinary soul. In fact, Raghunath’s deep level of Krishna consciousness is revealed in the Chaitanya-charitamrita:
sade sat prahara yaya kirtan-smarane
ahar-nidra chari danda seha nahe kona dine
“Raghunath Das spent more than twenty-two hours out of every twenty-four chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and remembering the lotus feet of the Lord. He ate and slept for less than an hour and a half, and, indeed, on some days even this was compromised.”
His austerities increased with the years, and soon he gave up almost all food and drink, living on only a few drops of buttermilk every day. Astonished that he was able to maintain his life in this way, devotees came from miles around just to see the great Raghunath Das.
When he saw them approaching, however, he would humbly offer his obeisances to them. And as a result, it is said that he daily offered respects to two thousand devotees. In addition, he daily offered one thousand obeisances to the Lord and chanted at least one hundred thousand holy names. No one could understand the depth or level of his Krishna consciousness.
Due to his intense austerities, he became a great mystic and was known throughout much of India. Sages travelled great distances to get his association; scholars came from many important centers of learning merely to inquire about scriptural interpretation; and spiritual seekers came from far off places to study under him.
Raghunath Das had stayed in Puri for some sixteen years when, in 1534, Shri Chaitanya departed this mortal world. Shortly before departing, Shri Chaitanya had asked him to go to Vrindavan and work closely with Rupa and Sanatan, who were already there compiling academic studies of Chaitanyite Vaishnavism, unearthing important holy places, and constructing massive temples.
Nonetheless, he remained in Puri for two or three more years, until the demise of Swarup Damodar, his beloved spiritual master. After this time, when he was almost forty years old, Raghunath Das left for Vrindavan to assist Rupa and Sanatan in their service, as was requested by Shri Chaitanya. However, he was so crushed by the untimely death of his two masters that he decided to take his own life by jumping from Govardhan Hill.
Shri Rupa and Sanatan would not let him attempt suicide. Rather, since he had had intimate association with Shri Chaitanya, they convinced him to go on living and daily recite the pastimes of the Lord, which he did for three hours every day for the rest of his life. In this way, Rupa and Sanatan used to regularly hear from Raghunath Das about Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus, among Vaishnava devotees of the Lord, Raghunath Das’ name is inseparably associated with that of Rupa and Sanatan, for they had become intimate friends and continued to serve together in Vrindavan until their last days.
While Rupa and Sanatan spent most of their time in Vrindavan proper, Raghunath Das went to the town of Govardhan, also in Vraj, and there he meditated near the beautiful lake today known as Radhakund (an important Vrindavan holy place unearthed by Shri Chaitanya Himself). In due course, Radhakund became wellknown among Vaishnavas as the mystical dwelling of Raghunath Das Goswami, or “Das Goswami,” as he came to be called, and this is where he eventually settled down to live in a small hut.
He did not always have a hut, however, for when he first arrived he merely sat down and became absorbed in meditation on the Divine Couple, Shri Shri Radha and Krishna. The popular story of Das Goswami’s initial stay near Radhakund, without any protection, is now immortalized. Bhakti-ratna-kara relates the episode: Once, while the Goswami was absorbed in meditation, a tiger and tigress came and started to drink water from Shyamkund, which is right next to Radhakund. Although Das Goswami was himself unconcerned about the ferocious tigers, Lord Krishna descended and kept guard in the vicinity, for He did not want the Goswami to be disturbed in meditation and, further, He did not want to see the Goswami’s life at risk. At that time, Sanatan Goswami happened along and saw all that was transpiring. After the two tigers and Lord Krishna had both left, Shri Sanatan approached Das Goswami, insisting that he build a hut so the Lord would not have to personally come for his protection. But Das Goswami was only concerned with his meditation, and he did not take Sanatan’s advice very seriously.
As time passed, however, a similar incident occurred, one which Raghunath Das could not ignore. As he sat absorbed in meditation, the devotees became worried for his life as he spent hour after hour, not moving, in the blazing midday sun. At that time, it is said, Radharani Herself came to that spot, standing behind Her great devotee Raghu, and She used Her covering cloth to shield him from the hot rays of the sun. In due course, Sanatan Goswami again happened upon the scene and noticed that Shrimati Radharani was perspiring while trying to protect Her faithful devotee. Her clothes were fully drenched in Her transcendental sweat while She performed the loving austerity on behalf of Raghunath Das. Turning to Sanatan, Shrimati Radharani smiled and then left.
Taking it as his solemn duty, Sanatan Goswami went directly to Raghunath Das and chastised him for causing this unnecessary inconvenience to the Lord’s Divine Consort. It was after this incident that Das Goswami constructed a small cottage, just so Radhika, in Her love for him, would not have to take the trouble of sheltering him from the intense heat of the direct sunshine. This, in fact, was the beginning of the kutir system, wherein sadhus would have little huts built for them in which they could pursue their lengthy meditations.
The supernatural pastimes of Shri Raghunath Das Goswami at Radhakund have become almost legendary, and each episode is pregnant with spiritual instruction. The above stories, for example, are meant to illustrate Das Goswami’s lack of concern for his own material wellbeing and his concomitant absorption in Krishna consciousness. Moreover, these stories show that both Radha and Krishna felt indebted by the devotion of Raghunath Das Goswami. Finally, it shows Das Goswami’s special concern for Shri Radhika.
Another famous pastime at Radhakund involves Das Goswami’s concern for the sanctity of the lake itself. Disturbed that devotees had to wash their clothes and pots in her holy waters, Raghunath Das decided to dig a well for these purposes. But while the devotees were digging, they hit something that started to bleed. Raghunath Das, fearing that he had committed some offense, insisted that the workers stop their digging. That night, it was revealed to Das Goswami that the workers had hit “the tongue of Govardhan,” and the Goswami erected a shrine in its honor that is still worshiped to this day.
His standard of enhanced spirituality and renunciation developed more and more, culminating in complete celestial absorption. Raghunath Das Goswami showed, by word and deed, that the capabilities of the body could be extended by the desire of the soul. He transcended his bodily necessities to the point where they were no longer an obstacle in his spiritual life. From this great saint, then, we may learn the valuable lesson of sensual control, not for a show of physical prowess, but for the ultimate end of love of God.
Today, at Radhakund, stands Das Goswami’s samadhi, his burial place, and pilgrims from all over the world go to pay homage to this greatest among spiritual teachers. His words are still recited by spiritual visionaries, as they were compiled by his immediate followers. In his own lifetime, Raghunath Das composed deeply profound verses, in both poetry and prose, concerning the intimate pastimes of Radha and Krishna. These were compiled into three volumes, the Stava-mala (or Stavamali), Dana-chaita (or Dana-keli-chintamani), and Mukta-charita. But beyond his literary achievements, he is best remembered as the very emblem of renunciation. The Chaitanya-charitamrita confirms:”Raghunath Das Goswami was totally uninterested in material enjoyment even from his childhood.” It is no wonder, therefore, that he is known as the prayojan acharya, or “he who teaches by his own example about the ultimate goal of life.”