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Introduction Nitai or Nityananda was a Vaishnava saint, famous as a primary religious figure within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Bengal, is an expansion of…
Sanatana was born in Jessore, now in Bangladesh, in 1488 as the son of Mukunda, the private secretary of the Sultan of Bengal, Jalaluddin Fateh Shah (ruled 1481–1487). Sanatana was the eldest son of Mukunda, and his younger brothers were Rupa and Vallabha (Anupama).
Sanatana and his brothers studied Nyaya (rhetortic) and Vedanta from the famous logician Vasudeva Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. They also studied under Sarvabhauma’s brother, Madhusudana Vidyavacaspati, from whom Sanatana took initiation in his childhood.
On the death of his father, Sanatana was forced to take up the post of Sakara Mallik (treasurer) to the new ruler of Bengal, Alauddin Hussein Shah (ruled 1493–1519), while his brother Rupa was given the post of Dabir-i-khas.
Sanatan Goswami (1488-1558) was the elder brother of Shri Rupa and Shri Anupama. From his earliest years, he was spontaneously attracted to logic, philosophy, rhetoric, and the theistic message of Shrimad Bhagavatam. In order to gain depth in his understanding of these subjects, he accepted instruction from such luminaries as Vidya Vachaspati, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, Paramananda Bhatta-charya, and the learned Ramabhadra.
Although Sanatan, along with Rupa and Anupama, was forced to work for the Islamic occupational government in Bengal, he never gave up his studies or his religious way of life. He wrote a book called Sadachar Paddhati, which was based upon ancient scriptural conclusions and contained rules and regulations for the gradual advancement of an aspiring spiritualist. In his own life, he scrupulously followed these instructions, and, as a householder in the Vedic system, he used to donate food to brahmanas (“priests”), destitute people, and lepers on a daily basis. His sense of charity was boundless.
One night, in a dream, a handsome renunciant came to Sanatan and warned him not to become distracted by worldly-mindedness. He ordered Sanatan to go to Vrindavan, unearth the obscured holy places, and preach the scriptural doctrine of divine love. The next morning, Sanatan told his brother, Rupa, about the dream. Smiling, Rupa confessed that he, too, was somehow aware of this instruction, and he informed Sanatan that Shri Krishna had indeed descended as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to give them further direction in regard to their spiritual calling.
With every day that passed, Rupa and Sanatan anxiously awaited a sign. When would they be able to renounce their distasteful political service to the Nawab of Bengal and fully replace it with service to the Lord’s lotus feet? The boys consulted their mother and she suggested that they write a letter to Shri Chaitanya. This they did, and after receiving no reply, they tried writing Him again and again. At last, Shri Chaitanya responded, but His letter merely contained one verse from scripture: “If a woman is involved with a man other than her husband, she may try to be especially diligent in her household duties. In this way she seeks to avoid detection. Within her heart, however, she is always longing to be reunited with her paramour.”
Rupa and Sanatan understood His meaning: They should continue to work responsibly for the Nawab, at least temporarily. Inwardly, they could fully meditate on their inevitable surrender unto the Lord’s mission.
But the Goswamis had to be patient. Shri Chaitanya had just taken sannyasa and gone to Puri. Next, He began a pilgrimage that included a two year tour of South India. So it was some time before He would journey to North Bengal and meet them at Ramakeli. Nonetheless, the meeting, which took place in 1514, was a pivotal point in the annals of Gaudiya Vaishnava history.
There are several places throughout the Vraja area where Srila Sanatana Goswami performed his bhajana, but the last days of his life he spent at Govardhana Hill. He departed from this world on Guru Purnima, while residing at Govardhana. His body was brought to Vrindavana and placed in samadhi behind the Radha Madan-Mohana Mandira. There is also sweet water well here that Sanatana Goswami used. Good sweet water is rare to found in Vrindavana area since it is mostly too mineralized and taste salty. From many wells it is not even advisable to drink. Just behind his samadhi is grantha-samadhi, which contains some of the original manuscripts of the Goswamis. Some of the books compiled by Sanatan Goswami were Hari-bhakti-vilasa, Brihad-bhagavatamrita, Dasama-tippani and Dasama-carita. Srila Sanatana Gosvami was born into a Sarasvata-brahmana community in Bengal. His father was named Kumara Deva and mother was named Revati. His mother was the daughter of Hari Narayan Visarad of Madhaipur. Jiva Gosvami traces their ancestry to Sarvajna Jagadguru, a king in Karnataka. Sanatana appeared in 1484 (other dates are also given), five years before Rupa Gosvami.
As Sanatana made his way to Vrindavan he learned that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had already left Vrindavan and was then residing in Varanasi. There Sanatana met Chaitanya, who imparted to him instructions pertaining to sambandha-jnana (knowledge of the self and one’s relationship with God). Chaitanya taught that the constitutional identity of each soul is to be an eternal servant of God. Chaitanya explained his teachings to Sanatana by summarizing them in three categories: sambandha (one’s relationship with Godhead), abhidheya (the method for reviving that relationship), and prayojana (the ultimate attainment of the supreme goal of life). After instructing Sanatana in the sambandha aspect of Gaudiya Vaishnava theology, Chaitanya instructed him to go to Vrindavan, where Sanatana visited the sites connected to Krishna’s pastimes.
When Sanatana later went to Puri and met Chaitanya once more, Chaitanya gave him four direct instructions:
Sanatana Goswami wrote four important books in Sanskrit on Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy:
This work of 2,500 verses is divided into two parts. The first section explains the ontological hierarchy of the devotees of Krishna. The second section deals with the soul’s journey to the eternal realm of Krishna. Narrated as stories, both sections explain many aspects of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy. Sanatana also wrote for this book his own commentary, called the Dig-darshini.
This book was a joint work between Sanatana Goswami and Gopala Bhatta Goswami. Compiled on the order of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the book deals with the rituals and conduct of Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Sanatana also wrote an auto-commentary on Hari-bhakti Vilasa.
Krishna-lila-stava consists of 432 verses tracing Krishna’s pastimes as told in the Bhagavata Purana, from the beginning of the 10th Canto up through the vanquishing of Kamsa. Krishna-lila-stava is also sometimes referred to as the Dasama-charita.
The Brihad Vaishnava Toshani is Sanatana’s extensive commentary on the Tenth Canto of the Bhagavata Purana. This commentary is also known as the Dasama-tipanni.