Oct 23, 1996
First let us glorify Gopal Bhatta Gosvami. During Caturmasya-vrata Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to South India, to the Ranganathji temple. He began to dance and perform kirtana there, and all were attracted. The members of a very holy family met Him there, and they requested Him, "Please stay at our residence for these four months of Caturmasya, and after that You can go anywhere else."
Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted their invitation, and thus stayed for four months in the separate room they had arranged for Him on the bank of the Kaveri River. The head of the family was Trimalla Bhatta, and he had two younger brothers, namely Prabhodananda Sarasvati and Venkata Bhatta, who was the father of Gopala Bhatta. The three brothers had taken initiation in the line of Sri Ramanuja in the Sri Sampradaya, and they were known throughout South India to be very learned persons.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu performed kirtana at the home of Venkata Bhatta, and also spoke hari-katha to the family members, and in one month they were all totally changed. At first they were worshippers of Laksmi and Narayana, but by the association of Caitanya Mahaprabhu they became Gaudiya Vaisnavas, worshippers of the divine couple Sri Sri Radha and Krsna. The history is so long – how he and his family became Gaudiya Vaisnavas.
This boy, Gopal Bhatta, served Caitanya Mahaprabhu in many ways during Mahaprabhu's visit. When Mahaprabhu would go to take bath in that sacred Kaveri River, Gopala Bhatta used to go with Him, holding His cloth, dor and kaupin. Then, after Mahaprabhu took bath and returned to His residence, Gopala used to take His wet clothes to clean and dry. He would cook for Mahaprabhu and render many other services. He served day and night, and Mahaprabhu became so pleased with him.
Gopal Bhatta was not only an excellent servant of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but he was also a vastly learned person, because he had been taught by his uncle, Prabhodananda Sarasvati, who was one of the greatest learned persons of his time. Prabhodananda Sarasvati knew all the Vedas, Upanisads, Vedanta-sutra, and especially Srimad-Bhagavatam, and he had written many books. Moreover, Caitanya Mahaprabhu had made him a great rasika Vaisnava (a self-realized soul and taster of transcendental mellows), and thus he was able to write books like "Sri Radha-rasa-sudhanidhi, a brilliant jewel-book.
On His journey in South India, Caitanya Mahaprabhu discovered the books "Krsna-karnamrta" and "Brahma-samhita." But then there was a third book, which became so prominent that our disciplic acaryas have regularly referred to its Sanskrit verses. "Krsna-karnamrta" is somewhat inclined towards Krsna, and it shows that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but "Radha-rasa-sudhanidhi" is more rasika [with relation to the mellows of madhurya-rasa, or transcendental amorous love], wherein Prabhodananda Sarasvati prays to Radhika as the master of Krsna.
Krsna always wants to serve Srimati Radhika, and Prabhodananda Sarasvati also prays to be Her dasi. This is the highest topic of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, and Srila Gopala Bhatta took his view –'Radha dasi' and not anything else – they want that Krsna should serve Srimati Radhika.
We see in rasa-lila in Vrndavana that the gopis are all weeping, rolling on the earth, always searching for Krsna, "O Krsna, Krsna, where are You? Without You we will die." On the other hand, Prabhodananda Sarasvati has written in "Radha-rasa-sudhanidhi," "Why should the gopis cry and weep for Krsna? Krsna should weep, rolling down on the earth and lamenting, 'O Srimati Radhika, where are You? I'm dying without You.' Krsna should search here and there, in all groves and mountains. He should desire to meet with Radhika and take Her foot-dust." This is the highest topic given by our Gosvamis in their books, especially in Caitanya-caritamrta.
Gopal Bhatta learned all these topics from Prabhodananda Sarasvati, and therefore Prabhodananda Sarasvati is his guru-pada-padma (guru). You can imagine how beautiful and how rasika and bhavuka (full of transcendental emotions) and learned was Gopal Bhatta Gosvami.
After Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu left Sri Rangam, Gopala Bhatta became mad to meet with Him and to serve Him. But Mahaprabhu told him, "You should serve your father, because he's not only your father but he is your guru." [All three brothers were acaryas in the Ramanuja sampradaya, all three greatly learned, and all three trained Gopala Bhatta. Thus, his father was his siksa-guru. -ed] You should serve him, but after that you should come to your elder brothers Rupa and Raghunatha in Vrndavana and remain with them.
After the disappearance of Venkata Bhatta, Prabhodananda Sarasvati left his home and came to Vrndavana. He lived in Kamyavana and in all the twelve forests of Vrndavana, in a separation mood used to call out, "O, where is Srimati Radhika? Lalita, Visakha, where are you?" He was always weeping and rolling down on the earth.
So Gopal Bhatta thought about where he himself should live, and how to attain Caitanya Mahaprabhu's lotus feet. So he also left. He wanted to go to Puri, but he could not go, because Mahaprabhu had ordered him to stay home and look after his parents, and after they would leave their body, he should go to Vrndavana – to the lotus feet of Srila Sanatana Gosvamipada and Srila Rupa Gosvamipada.
He was now searching how to reach Vrndavana. On his journey he went to the Himalayas, where the Gomati River flows. As he was bathing in the river, he saw that a large salagrama was following him. It was automatically coming, and it seemed to be telling him, "I will take your service. Please serve Me." He therefore picked up that salagrama in his arms, sometimes keeping Him on his head, sometime on his eyes, and sometimes on his heart. He took the saligrama to Vrndavana, where he met Rupa and Sanatana. Rupa and Sanatana now embraced this very pure rasika Vaisnava, Gopal Bhatta Gosvami.
In the meantime, Caitanya Mahaprabhu disappeared from this world. [To read more about Gopala Bhatta Gosvami's separation feelings for Mahaprabhu, you may like to read the book "Bhakti Ratnakara" -ed]
In Vrndavana, one day Gopala Bhatta Gosvami went to Radha-Ramana-ghera, near to Seva Kunja in the area of Nidhuvana – a very sacred and very secret place of Radha and Krsna. There he began to think, "How can I serve this salagrama?" He wanted to see the Lord's eyes, face, and arms, His three-fold-bending form, and His lotus feet. He wanted to decorate Him at the time of Jhulana (the swing festival).
During the night he was so much worried, thinking, "How can I serve Him? If He would have a very beautiful three-folding form and a smiling face with flute, this would be very, very good for rendering service to Him." Then, at midnight, the salagrama spoke to him, "O Gopala Bhatta, just see how beautiful I am."
Gopala Bhatta got up and went to the Deity, and he saw, "O how beautiful! Radha-Ramana!" He had the face of Gopinatha, the chest of Govindaji, and the feet of Madana-Mohana. So, Govinda, Gopinatha and Madan Mohan appeared in Him – three in one, in Radha-Ramana. Gopala Bhatta Gosvami was so delighted to see this. He called all the Gosvamis, who became amazed, thinking how glorious his bhakti was that the salagram had changed into Radha-Raman.
You can imagine what a first-class Vaisnava he was. He was not only a Vaisnava, but very dear and near to the Divine Couple Sri Sri Radha and Krsna. He is Guna Manjari in Krsna's pastimes. By his prayers, the salagram became Radha-Ramana.
He was not only a bhavuka and rasika-bhakta, but as I mentioned before, he was vastly learned. He had all the Vedas and all the scriptures of Ramanuja in his throat. [this is because, previous to his hearing from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in his youth, he was a follower of the Ramanuja sampradaya and had been well trained by his father and uncles.]
Srila Sanatana Gosvami told him some rules and regulations according to Vaisnava etiquette by which one can become eligible to worship Radha and Krsna (or any Visnu-tattva Deity) – how to take sannyasa, how to take diksa, how to take mantra, what are the qualifications of a disciple, and what are the qualifications of guru. It is not that everyone can be guru, neither can everyone be a disciple. Only those who are detached from worldly desires and sense gratification, those who are learned in all the Vedas and Vaisnava scriptures, and those who have some realization of service to both Radha and Krsna can be guru, regardless of caste or creed.
kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
yei krsna –tattva veta , sei 'guru' haya
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.128)
If anyone knows krsna-tattva, the science of Krsna, he is guru. Those who know who is Krsna, who is Srimati Radhika, who they themselves are, what is the service of Radha and Krsna – and who is loving Them, performing prema-seva, not only worship, they are gurudeva. Those who are doing not less than one lakh (64 rounds) of harinama daily, and who have controlled Krsna in their hearts – they are guru. Those who can take Krsna and place Him in the disciples' hearts – they are guru. So, you can imagine the glorious symptoms of a bona-fide guru. If any person has a guru like this, he is so, so lucky.
We are lucky that we are direct disciples of our guruji, who was a direct disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Also, those who are disciples of Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja are so lucky. To have a qualified guru is a great fortune.
Gopal Bhatta wrote a book with all such directives, and it was called "Hari-bhakti-vilasa." The title of this book has a very beautiful, wonderful meaning, "Hari-bhakti-vilasa." In the full bloom of youth, Krsna is always relishing prema. He is always enjoying loving pastimes (vilasa). "Hari-bhakti-vilasa." Hari means Krsna who takes the heart of Srimati Radhika, and He is Hari who is always dancing and singing in the hearts of Srimati Radhika and the gopis. He is Hari.
At first Sanatana Gosvami gave him some points, based on which he collected all the proofs of scriptures such as the Puranas and nigama and agama and presented his manuscripts to Sanatana Gosvami. Srila Sanatana Gosvami guided him in selecting those scriptural references that were in accordance with Mahaprabhu's teachings, and then Gopala Bhatta Gosvami further refined his work and compiled "Hari-bhakti-vilasa."
Some people are in doubt as to whether this book is written by Sanatana Gosvami or by Gopala Bhatta. Actually, this book was manifested by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in both their hearts. He gave them both the inspiration to write it. In this way Gopal Bhatta Gosvami wrote "Hari-bhakti-vilasa," "Sat-kripa-sar-dipika," [A Lamplight on the Essence of Rituals to be Performed by Devotees] and assisted in the publication of Srila Jiva Gosvami's "Sat Sandarbha." [He also wrote a commentary on Srila Bilvamangala Thakura's Sri Krsna-karnamrta]
We should try to follow his guidelines on how to establish temples and install Deities, how to give diksa and mantra. The names of the various aspects of initiation are not actually called 'first initiation,' 'second initiation,' and 'third initiation.' There is only one initiation – which comes first as harinama and then as diksa. Out of his causeless mercy, Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja has made 'easy grammar' for this, and therefore he gave the nomenclatures 'first initiation,' etc. The process of diksa is given in order to make one's harinama more bona fide.
Diksa [named 'second initiation'] is essential. Some persons think that diksa is superior to harinama, the Hare Krsna mantra, but you should know that harinama is superior. "Parama vijayate sri krsna sankirtanam." The holy name is Krsna Himself. By the diksa-mantras one develops detachment from the world; attachment from the world is cut by this mantra. This mantra also manifests one's relation to Krsna. For this reason, gurudeva gives his disciple harinama, and then diksa, which enables the disciple to chant the holy names with a relation to Krsna and Srimati Radhika. The disciple's holy name chanting then becomes so pure, and finally manifests as Radha-Krsna Conjugal, the divine couple.
All these activities and principles have been taught in "Hari-bhakti-vilasa," and also in "Sat-kriya-sar-dipika."
Anyone who is taking shelter of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna and pure Vaisnavas should not worship demigods. Rather, they should worship and serve Rupa and Sanatana, Yamuna, Govardhana, Radha-Kunda, Syama-Kunda, Vrnda-devi, Lalita and Visakha, and others of their caliber. They should avoid even the worship of Rukmini-Ramana, Satyabhama-Ramana, and Mathuresa Krsna; otherwise they will not develop the qualification to enter Krsna Vrndavana. Srila Gopal Bhatta Gosvami has explained how to follow all these principles.
Marriage ceremonies should be performed according to Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami's "Sat-kriya-sar-dipika" – not worshipping Ganesh and other such deities. His book also explains everything regarding how a departed Vaisnava sannyasi should be given Samadhi, and he also clearly explained the ten samskaras (reformatory processes).
We are very fortunate to come in the line of Srila Gopal Bhatta Gosvami. We are indebted to him, and to Srila Sanatana Gosvami and Srila Rupa Gosvami.