Once, Sanātana Gosvāmī came to meet with Rūpa Gosvāmī as he was writing about the swing pastimes of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. In his writings, he was explaining how Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, along with the sakhīs and mañjarīs, engage in swinging pastimes. He explained how, when Rādhārānī becomes frightened on the swing, she holds onto Kṛṣṇa tightly. He wrote several expositions, and Sanātana Gosvāmī relished this for many hours. Then he read a part where Rūpa Gosvāmī described Rādhārānī’s hair as being like a black snake coming up from Her waist, with hoods expanding over the top of Her head.
Sanātana Gosvāmī said, “Oh, everything you have written is excellent, but Rādhārānī is very soft and sweet. Why have you said that Her hair is like a black snake? This seems improper.”
Rūpa Gosvāmī humbly replied, “O brother, please correct this with an analogy you find appropriate.”
“I will consider it and will write something tomorrow,” Sanātana Gosvāmī said.
Sanātana Gosvāmī then left for his own bhajana–kuṭīra. On the way he saw many small kiśorīs playing and dancing. One of the girls was seated on a beautiful swing. “How wonderful,” he thought, “this reminds me of the sweet description I have just read.” He saw the little girls pushing their sakhī back and forth very happily. Suddenly he noticed a hooded snake rising above the swinging girl’s head, as if ready to strike. He ran forward and called, “O kiśorī, be careful! A snake is about to bite you! There are many snakes, all you girls are in danger!” But as he approached, the scene suddenly disappeared and he found himself alone. He then understood, “This was a vision of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s swing pastimes. Anything Rūpa says is absolutely true. There is no cause for doubting his descriptions.”
Śrī Guru is eternal and his vāṇī is also eternal. Whatever Śrī Guru says is truthful. Therefore never doubt the conclusion of your Gurudeva.
Sometimes Sanātana Gosvāmī and Rūpa Gosvāmī would meet at Ṭera-kadamba; they had many wonderful interactions there. Every day Śrīmatī comes from Yāvaṭa to Nandagrāma with Her sakhīs and mañjarīs and She cooks there with Her own hands. She is very young and delicate, and yet, She is svarūpa-śakti, the root source of all energy and She easily carries heavy clay pots full of honey, milk, yogurt, and other ingredients. When She has completed Her cooking pastimes, She returns to Yāvaṭa and goes to worship the sun. At that time Rūpa Mañjarī and the other mañjarīs decorate the pathway with rose and lotus petals.
Ṭera-kadamba is between Nandagrāma and Yāvaṭa. Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu performed bhajana there, continuously engaged in devotional service. Sanātana Gosvāmī stayed at Pāvana-sarovara and sometimes came to speak with Rūpa Gosvāmī. They would speak morning to evening, drinking the transcendental nectar of hari-kathā and would not even notice the day pass into evening, nor did they feel any hunger or thirst. As the rest of the world mulled around in mundane activities, they manifested the books that we continue to honor today.
At around four o’clock one afternoon as Rūpa and Sanātana were rapt in hari-kathā, a young girl approached and said to them, “O Bābā, you did not do mādhukarī today, so my mother has sent me with this milk. Please drink it.” But they did not answer or even notice Her; such was their absorption.
“Bābā,” the girl said, “shall I boil the milk for you?” Not receiving a reply, She said, “I will make some kṣīra, then you can offer bhoga and have some.” She collected some dry cow dung and leaves, in the same way that She arranges everything for Kṛṣṇa when He is in the forest, and then She started a fire and cooked kṣīra. Afterward She said, “O Bābā, I am finished cooking; offer this and then take some yourself. Now I must go.”
In the evening Rūpa Gosvāmī asked Sanātana Gosvāmī, “You have not eaten all day. What can I give you? We have not done mādhukarī today.”
Then Rūpa Gosvāmī saw the pot of hot kṣīra and, recalling the episode with the young girl earlier in the day, said, “Ah yes! A girl came today and made this kṣīra.”
They had no clay pots or metal plates, so they brought lotus leaves, cooled the kṣīra down and offered bhoga. Rūpa Gosvāmī then gave some of the prasāda to Sanātana Gosvāmī, and they took it together. Upon tasting the exceedingly divine kṣīra their hearts melted in ecstasy. This is called rasamayī-sevā; if our hearts have no softness, and we do everything out of a sense of duty like an ordinary karmī, then how will the heart ever melt? Śrīmatī Rādhārānī cooked this kṣīra Herself and gave it to Rūpa and Sanātana. Why? From morning to evening they were engaged in hari-kathā and rasamayī-sevā.
chāpanna daṇḍa rātri-dine
jāne nā rādhā-govinda vine
They knew nothing but Rādhā-Govinda throughout the day and night, always being absorbed in transcendental service and nothing else.
Sanātana Gosvāmī understood that the kṣīra must have been cooked by their Svāminī and so he questioned Rūpa, “Did you pray for anything while we were speaking?”
“Actually,” Rūpa admitted, “I was thinking that I had nothing to offer you as prasāda…”
“Alas! Just see what you have done!” Sanātana said. “Because of your desire, our Svāminī Herself came and cooked for us.”
Once there was a self-acclaimed sādhu living in Vṛndāvana named Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa. We should know that wearing tilaka, shaving our head, keeping a śikhā, and dressing like a Bābājī does not make us sādhus. We must have the qualities of a sādhu, which are described elaborately in scripture. However much oil you rub on a dog’s tail will not straighten it. Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa heard many other sādhus praising Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, so he went one day for his darśana, thinking, “I will go see this Rūpa Gosvāmī everyone is glorifying to be the best of sādhus.” Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa was a cripple who walked in a crooked manner with the help of a stick. As he approached Rūpa Gosvāmī, he saw him laughing heartily, and thought he was laughing at him. He turned around angrily and returned to his hut. Although he went to see the sādhus and become purified, he only became more contaminated, because he could not understand the nature and position of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Wherever a sweeper goes, he only collects refuse. He has relation only with that. Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa went to see the pure devotee, but rather than his heart becoming cooled and filled with good qualities, he burned in anger, unable to forget the image of Rūpa Gosvāmī apparently laughing at him. He did not know that Rūpa Gosvāmī was absorbed in the pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. To bestow mercy on Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa, who had come with some good intention, Śrīmatī Rādhārānī blocked the flow of Rūpa Gosvāmī’s aṣṭa-kaliya-līlā-smaraṇa.
In Caitanya-caritamṛta, Kṛṣṇādāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī describes that if one has performed vaiṣṇava–aparādha, it is a great calamity that can destroy his spiritual life. One must first remedy the situation before he can progress in bhajana. Rūpa Gosvāmī, Sanātana Gosvāmī, Jīva Gosvāmī, and other Vaiṣṇavas went to meet with Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa, for he had made an offense to Rūpa Gosvāmī, and the only way it would be removed was if the senior Vaiṣṇavas came to him and gave him darśana and enabled him to become aware of his misunderstanding and shortcoming. Then he would be able to beg for forgiveness. But seeing them approaching, he went to hide inside his hut. The Gosvāmīs offered praṇama to him, and said, “We have come to receive your darśana and shelter.”
“I am not a sādhu,” Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa, “I am suffering from my past activities. I am a lame man who is the object of everyone’s laughter.”
“The ātmā is an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa,” Sanātana Gosvāmī said. “The soul is neither man or woman, great or insignificant.” “Oh! You can speak so much high philosophy, but what is your practical behavior?”
“One can properly practice,” Sanātana Gosvāmī said, “when he has the potency of Bhagavān and when he is the object of Bhagavān’s mercy. We are very insignificant, please forgive us for any mistake we may have committed.”
“You are great souls,” Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa said, “everyone describes you to be exalted personalities. A fire can burn anything without becoming impure. You are the associates of Bhagavān, what fault can come to you?”
“We have committed some mistake,” Sanātana Gosvāmī said. “Everyone can make a mistake. You are very great and merciful. Please forgive us and inform us of what we have done to offend you.”
Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa hesitated, and then said, “I went to see Rūpa Gosvāmī, but when I approached him, he began loudly laughing at me.”
“Is this true Rūpa?” Sanātana Gosvāmī asked.
“I never saw him,” Rūpa Gosvāmī said. “I was chanting on my mālā, and I witnessed Rādhārānī and the gopīs picking flowers at Kusuma-sarovara. Kṛṣṇa arrived before them. He climbed in a tree and pushed down the branch. Rādhārānī caught the branch with Her right hand and then Kṛṣṇa lifted up His foot and She was hanging from the tree and calling out, ‘Kṛṣṇa! Save me! Kṛṣṇa! Save me!’ But where would Kṛṣṇa come from there? The sakhīs began to clap and laugh, and said, ‘All day and night you think only of Kṛṣṇa, you could call us for help, we are here with you. But you are calling out, ‘Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa.’ Then Kṛṣṇa jumped down and took Rādhārānī in His arms and all the gopīs began to clap and laugh. Seeing this, I also was laughing.”
Hearing this, Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa lamented, and said, “Oh, the fault is mine. Therefore my heart has been burning ever since leaving. I have performed an offense to a great Vaiṣṇava.”
If Śrīmatī Rādhārānī had not halted the bhajana of Rūpa Gosvāmī, this person would have destroyed millions of his lives by making such an offense to Rūpa Gosvāmī. Therefore the sādhus are so merciful, Bhagavān is so merciful; they come directly to help people. Rādhārānī says, “I will go and help. I will help the living entities understand their own fault and then endeavor to purify themselves and become related with Bhagavān.” Until the jīva understands his own fault he cannot enter the realm of bhajana. If he cannot understand his own shortcomings, then what bhajana will he do? Bhajana is not such an easy thing and is not to be taken lightly.
Once, Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu was sitting in an assembly where Raghunātha-bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī spoke on the separation pastimes in the Bhāgavatam. Everyone present was weeping, and the ground became muddy from their tears, but Rūpa Gosvāmī only sat motionless with open eyes. Some devotees asked, “Everyone here is weeping uncontrollably, but why is Rūpa motionless like a statue?” They took a cotton swap and put it to his nose to see if he was breathing, but the cotton did not move. Then, after a very long time, one breath came out and the hand holding the cotton became burnt by the heat. That heat of separation first melts the heart, which then flows out in a constant stream of tears, but an even deeper state of separation, an extreme separation, is when the heart is completely dried out. In this rare state, the blazing fire of separation remains locked in the heart, causing one to appear like a statue externally. One’s separation is hidden outwardly, while there is a blazing fire raging within. It is impossible to meet with Kṛṣṇa unless one feels the mood of separation. We have been separated from Kṛṣṇa since time without beginning, and we are completely absorbed in māyā. Day and night pass aimlessly, but we feel no suffering; we have no scent of separation from Kṛṣṇa. Without viraha, one’s sādhana has no power, but we do not feel restless, nor even think about this. The jīva cannot perform real bhajana until he feels this viraha and laments, “Alas! I am separated from my prāṇa–priyatama!”
Rūpa Gosvāmī described the highest states of separation, and at the same time Mahāprabhu was with Svarūpa Dāmodara and Rāmānanda Rāya in the Gambhīrā, tasting all these moods. When Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu composed verses in Ter-kadamba about viraha, then the leaves and creepers would wither up, and the ground would dry and crack. On the other hand, when he wrote about the meeting of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, the trees and creepers became green, vibrant, and full of flowers and fruits.
Sanātana Gosvāmī sometimes met at Ṭera-kadamba with Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu. He once asked, “I came the other day and everything was dry and withered, and today I see that everything is vibrant and full of fruits and flowers. How is this?”
“Yesterday I remembered the viraha of the Vraja-devīs when Kṛṣṇa left,” Rūpa Gosvāmī replied, “and everything withered; and today I saw the scene of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa meeting, and everything became lush again.”
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī resided in Vṛndāvana and composed books describing the supreme position of the Vrajavāsīs. Whatever Rūpa Gosvāmī would write, Jīva Gosvāmī would then edit and copy to manuscript, and Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī would read it.
When Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī read the scenes of separation in Lalita-mādhava-nāṭakam describing the state of Vraja after Kṛṣṇa left, he wept and his tears soaked the pages. He felt desolate when reading the descriptions of the Vrajavāsīs’ desperate moods and their desperate state when Kṛṣṇa left Vraja. Rūpa Gosvāmī explained how the different Vrajavāsīs left their bodies, unable to bear the viraha: some by entering the Yamunā, and some in other ways. Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī would not eat or sleep, instead he would only read the books of Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu and weep bitterly. If it were not for these scriptures, then no one would be able to understand the glorious moods of the Vraja-devīs or the Vrajavāsīs; no one would realize how the love of the Vrajavāsīs and Vraja-devīs is the topmost example of love anywhere in existence.
Kṛṣṇa was in Mathurā with so many associates like Devakī, Vasudeva, Sātyaki, Akrūra, and Ugrasena, but He never spoke confidentially with any of them, nor ate or spent time with them. Uddhava once saw that water was falling from the roof of the palace, even though there were no clouds in the sky. Searching for the cause, he went and saw Kṛṣṇa weeping, His tears flowing down the side of the palace.
Rūpa Mañjarī was with Śrīmatī Rādhārānī in Uddhava-kyārī when Kṛṣṇa left Vraja, and she witnessed Rādhikā’s piteous state. She was there to witness how Rādhārānī sat down in a kuñja to write Kṛṣṇa a letter; yet, although She tried the entire night to write the syllables ‘kṛ-ṣṇa,’ by morning the paper was only a smudge of ink, and Rādhārānī was sitting senseless. Lalitā then took this letter and gave it to a swan to deliver to Kṛṣṇa in Mathurā, warning the swan, “Don’t breathe the air of Mathurā. It is very poisonous. Take one breath here before you leave, and only breath again after you have returned. Look for Kṛṣṇa atop the king’s palace, where He will be weeping and gazing out in the direction of Vraja. Don’t be fooled by His charm; He will try to catch you and keep you with Him. Don’t even land on the palace roof—just drop the letter to Kṛṣṇa and quickly fly back, without breathing or touching anything of Mathurā. It is a very evil and dangerous place.” In Vraja, Rūpa Mañjarī witnessed all of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s intimate meeting pastimes, and she was there with Rādhārānī after Kṛṣṇa left, serving Śrīmatī in Her states of extreme separation. Rūpa Mañjarī described all these confidential secrets when she appeared as Rūpa Gosvāmī. When the Vrajavāsīs are glorified, and the conditioned jīvas develop greed to serve in Vraja, then Kṛṣṇa feels somewhat relieved of His debt to the Vrajavāsīs. Kṛṣṇa therefore desired for these things to be written down, so that when one reads or hears about the exalted moods of the Vrajavāsīs he will become greedy to render service eternally to Śrīmatī Rādhārānī in Vraja, and will easily cross beyond the primary stages of bhakti, which is never possible by any ordinary sādhana.
kṛti-sādhyā bhavet sādhya-
bhāvā sā sādhanābhidhā
prākaṭyaṁ hṛdi sādhyatā
Sādhana-bhakti is the performance by the present senses of that śuddha-bhakti by which bhāva is achieved. The final goal of sādhya-bhāva is nitya-siddha. That is to say, it is an eternally established phenomenon, but sādhana is the means by which it is manifested within the heart.
sādhya kabhu naya
Kṛṣṇa-prema is an eternally established reality; it is not brought about by sādhana. It automatically manifests itself in the heart purified by the performance of the various limbs of bhakti such as śravaṇa, kīrtana, and so forth.
Until one hears of the moods of the Vrajavāsīs, and of how they lamented in separation from Kṛṣṇa when He left, vraja-bhāva and anurāga will never awaken in one’s heart. Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu manifested all these moods of separation, and the Gosvāmīs of Vraja would read Rūpa Gosvāmī’s compositions and become completely absorbed in the moods of Vraja, forgetting all else. Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī would clasp the books of Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu to his chest and forget eating, sleeping, and all other activities. He would read only one syllable, and then become maddened in separation and lamentation.
Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu then wrote Dāna-keli-kaumudī, describing the humorous pastime of Kṛṣṇa demanding a toll tax from Śrīmatī Rādhikā and the gopīs, and Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī enjoyed days of laughter as he read this pleasing account.
Srila Rupa Gosvami ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Srila Rupa Gosvami”. Available from: firstname.lastname@example.org )