SRI GOPAL BHATTA GOSWAMI
The all merciful Lord Sri Gaur Hari, as He travelled from village to village throughout the south of India, continued to distribute love of Godhead wherever He went. Hearing the nectarean names of Hari from His lotus mouth, thousands and thousands men and women felt relief from the blazing fire of material existence. Various wretched, miserable and fallen souls lives were completely rejuvenated and thus they became virtuous and happy. While causing rains of love of God to fall anywhere and everywhere, without consideration of time or place, Sri Gaurasundor came to the holy place of Sri Rangaksetra. The temple of Sri Ranga Ksetra was extremely large, the crest of the temple tower pierced the sky. Throughout the day and night hundreds and thousands of pilgrims were going and coming to take darsan of Lord Ranganath. The temple hall resounded with the sounds of hundreds and thousand of brahmanas chanting Vedic hymns. In the midst of this scene from Vaikuntha, entered Sri Gaurasundor chanting the names of Krsna in his sweet voice that defeated the voices of 10 million gandharvas. Everyone in the temple became dumbstruck, amazed and thrilled with wonder. What unprecedented beauty; His bodily effulgence makes molten gold appear lackluster. From His eyes which are like the full blown petals of a lotus flower trickled down tears of ecstatic love. Every limb, every part of His body was filled with such exquisite grace that even the mind of Cupid gets stolen away. The brahmanas began to consider, “Is this a demigod? Can such symptoms and emotions be found in human beings?” Again resounding the halls with the transcendental vibrations of Sri Hari’s name, when He came before the Deity and fell down as a tree is blown down by the wind, some people thought that a mountain of gold was rolling on the ground. Sri Vyenkata Bhatta seeing this divine personage became restless with ecstasy. His heart being flooded with devotion he got up and began to move the crowds away so that the Lord could engage in chanting and dancing. When the Lord had regained His external copiousness after engaging in sankirtan, Vyenkata Bhatta approached Him and took the dust of His lotus feet. Mahaprabhu gazed towards him and saying, “Krsna! Krsna!” embraced him firmly. Sri Vyenkata Bhatta invited Mahaprabhu to come to his house and having brought Him there, very reverently washed His lotus feet and along with the other family members, he drank the water. Sri Bhattaji’s house became filled with joy. Mahaprabhu came to Ranga Ksetra in the Christian year 1511. Vyenkata Bhatta had two brothers, Trimalla Bhatta and Prabodhananda Sarasvati. They all belonged to the Ramanuja sampradaya and Prabodhananda Sarasvati was a tridandi sannyasi of that order. Vyenkata Bhatta had a son named Gopal, who was then just a child. When the boy came to offer his obeisances at the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu picked him up and very affectionately seated him in His lap. Mahaprabhu would call Gopal after He had finished His meal and offer His remnants to the boy. In this way He prepared him for the position of Acarya. After remaining at Vyenkata Bhatta’s house during the four months of the rainy season (Caturmasya) Mahaprabhu prepared to continue His journey of the South. Vyenkata Bhatta’s house began to ebb in a tide of tears in anticipation of His departure. Gopal fell at His lotus feet in a dead faint. Therefore Mahaprabhu remained for a couple of more days in order to console the baby. He instructed him to serve his mother and father and always engage in chanting Krsna’s glories and thereafter to come to Brindavan. Very quickly Gopal became expert in grammar, poetry and rhetoric and then began his study of Vedanta. His uncle Prabodhananda, specifically began to instruct him from the devotional scriptures (Bhakti-sastra). Gopal Bhatta always remained thinking of the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu and when he might again be able to meet Him. At the same time however he couldn’t leave his aged mother and father. Finally having reached their final days they called their son Gopal and instructed him to go to the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu in Brindaban. Then while meditating on His lotus feet themselves they went to join Him in His eternal lila. Thus Gopal set out for Brindavan and when he arrived there Rupa Gosvami immediately went word to Mahaprabhu to inform Him of Gopal’s arrival there. Mahaprabhu had previously indicated to Rupa and Sanatan that Gopal Bhatta would one day come there to Brindavan, so upon his arrival they treated him with the same care and affection they would their own brother. They immediately became life long companions. When Mahaprabhu received word that Gopal Bhatta had come to Brindavan, He was very pleased and sent with that messenger a wooden sitting plank which He had used along with a pair of His undergarments and one of His cloths. Having received these gifts Gopal Bhatta was in ecstasy and he worshipped them as the prasad of Mahaprabhu. When he would worship his Deities he would sit on that wooden plank. This piri (wooden seat) and Mahaprabhu’s clothes are still being worshipped at Radha-Ramana Mandir. Gopala Bhatta, like Rupa and Sanatana, had no fixed residence and would spend the night in various kunjas (forest groves). He spent his time studying the scriptures and composing various literatures. Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami used to worship eleven Saligram-silas. Wherever he would go he would bring them with him in a piece of cloth tied at the corner. One time a rich Seth came to meet Gopala Bhatta to have his darsana. Being very impressed with the Gosvami he wanted to render some service which he presented in the form of some valuable cloths and ornaments. Gopala Bhatta kept the cloths and ornaments with his silas and thought that, “If I had a Deity then I would be able to decorate Him so nicely with these clothes and ornaments.” In the evening after offering some bhoga and arotika to his salagram silas, Gopala Bhatta put them to rest, covering them with a wicker basket. Late in the night, Gopala Bhatta took a little rest and then, in the early morning went to take bath in the Yamuna. Returning from his bath, he uncovered the salagramas in order to wake Them, and saw amongst Them a Deity of Krsna playing the flute. There were now eleven silas and this Deity. Floating in the ocean of ecstasy, he fell to the ground in order to offer his dandavats and then recited various prayers and hymns. When Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis as well as many other devotees received news of this miraculous event they came running to see the Lord. Gazing on the Lord’s transcendental form, which bewildered all the living entities of the many various planets, they all bathed Him with their tears. This Deity whom the Gosvamis named, “Sri Radha-raman Deva” made His appearance on the full moon day of Vaisakha in the year 1542. Except for Vrindadevi, Sri Radha-Ramanaji is the only one of the original Deities of Vrindavana who never left to go to Jaipur. He is still being worshipped in Vrindavana near Nidhuban kunj.
Sri Radha-ramana Deva, unlike other Deities, has very intricate features, including fingernails and even teeth. On the back side of His body parts of the original salagram sila from which He manifested Himself can be seen. There is a story that the small son of one of the sevaits was playing with the Deity once and put a small stick in one ear of the Deity and pushed it through out the other ear. The stick however, had blood on it, and that boy died vomiting blood that very day. Once Sri Gopala Bhatta went to Haridwar. As he was returning, suddenly a downpour started and thus he took shelter in the house of one brahmana. This brahmana was very devoted and he very carefully began to serve Sri Gopala Bhatta, who thus became very pleased. As this brahmana had no children Sri Bhattaji blessed him that he might have a son who would be a devoted follower of Lord Hari. The brahman replied that, “My first son I will send to you in order to serve you.” Approximately ten years later when Gopala Bhatta returned from bathing in the Yamuna one day, he saw a young boy sitting at the door of his kutir. When the boy saw the Gosvamiji approaching, he got up and then fell down to offer his dandavats. Gopala Bhattaji inquired who the boy was, to which he replied, “My home was in Devandyagram within Saharanpur near Haridwar. My father has sent me here to serve you. My name is Gopinatha.”
Then Gopal Bhatta could remember the time when he went to Haridwar many years ago. So this boy remained with him and very carefully began to serve him. Eventually he became known as Sri Gopinatha Pujari Gosvami as he served Sri Radha-ramana Deva through his life as a brahmacari. His younger brother Sri Damodara dasa, along with his family, accepted initiation from Sri Gopinathaji and also became engaged in the service of the Deity. Sri Damodara dasa’s three sons were named Harinatha, Mathuranatha and Harirama. Sri Gopala Bhatta, in his worship of Sri Radha-ramana would some- times see that He had taken the form of Sri Gaurasundara, “Becoming subservient to the love of Sri Gopala Bhatta, Sri Radharamana would sometimes accept the form of Sri Gausundara.” Sri Gopala Bhatta was the initiating guru of Srinivasa Acarya Prabhu. He wrote many books including: Sat-sandarbha-karika, Sri-Krsna-vallabha (Krsna-karnamrta- tika), Sat-kriya-sara-dipika, and Laghu Hari-bhakti-vilasa with Dig- darsini tika. From this work, Sri Sanatana Gosvami compiled the Hari- bhakti-vilasa now followed by Gaudiya Vaisnavas. In the Gaura- ganoddesa-dipika, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s name in Vraja-lila has been given as Guna manjari.
1531 AD / 1453 S’ Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s visit to Vrndavana. As commanded by Prabhu, with the death of his parent, Gopala Bhatta went to Vrndavana and was cordially welcomed by Rupa-Santana. He was a particularly dear friend of Rupa. When Prabhu heard that Gopala had arrived in Vrndavana, he sent a letter along with a speacial seat and Dorakaupina to Gopala Bhatta as a sign of his grace.
His birth was on the day of the dark fortnight of the month Pausa in the year 1503 (Christian), 1425 (Saka).
His disappearance was on the sixth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Sravon in the year 1578 (Christian), 1500 (Sakabda).
Age: 75 years
* From: Sanga (view other messages by this author)
* Date: Thu, 23 Dec 1999 21:43:20
An excerpt of a speech about Gopal Bhatta Gosvami delivered by Srila B.V.
Tripurari Swami, on 23.July 1997.
By the mercy of Sri Sri Gaura – Nityananda, and the Guru-parampara, I will
try to speak about Sri Gopal Bhatta Gosvami Prabhupada. He is one of the the
six Gosvamis of Vrindavan, who have revealed the importance of Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu, explaining His ecstasy as the very essence of the Vedic
Gopal Bhatta Gosvami was a young lad of seven years when he met Mahaprabhu
in Sri Rangam. Our Kali-yuga pavana traveled for two years in South India,
and during His trip He visited Sri Rangam. This visit took place during the
Caturmasya, the four months of the rainy season, which begin on the Guru
purnima, Sanatana Gosvami’s tirobhava.
While visiting Sri Rangam, Mahaprabhu was invited to stay in the house of
Venkatta Bhatta. He was the head priest of the Sri Rangam temple, which is
the headquarters of the Sri sampradaya of Ramanujacarya. The Sri sampradaya
is an important Vaisnava sampradaya, and the head priest of the Sri Rangam
temple is a very prominent person in the lineage to whom kings would bow
their heads. Such was the position of Venkatta Bhatta. Yet his greatness
extends further in that he fathered the illustrious Gopal Bhatta Gosvami. It
is said that the father is born again as his son. If this is so, Venkatta
Bhatta is worshipable not only by kings, owing to his standing in the Sri
Vaisnava lineage, but by saints as well for that which he did in the form of
his son, Sri Gopal Bhatta Gosvami.
During His stay in Sri Rangam, Mahaprabhu converted the entire family of
Venkatta Bhatta from Sri Vaisnavism to Gaudiya Vaisnavism. The young Gopal
Bhatta accepted initiation from Venkatta’s brother, Prabhodananda Sarasvati.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu converted the family by posing two questions to the
learned Venkatta Bhatta.
First, Mahaprabhu asked, “Why is it that Laxmi, the wife of Narayana, wanted
to leave Narayana and participate in the rasa dance with Krsna?” Thus he
questioned Laxmi’s chastity. Venkatta Bhatta replied, “There is no
difference in tattva between Krishna and Narayana, although in consideration
of rasa vicar, Krishna holds a higher position. Essentially the two are one
person. So there is no fault on her part according to Vaisnava siddhanta”.
’Siddhantatas tv abhede ‘pi srisa-krsna-svarupayoh’, “Although they are
nondifferent in terms of tattva,” ‘rasenotkrsyate krsna-rupam esa
rasa-sthitih’, “Krishna is superior in terms of power to attract due to his
being the emporium of aesthetic rapture.”
When we consider the Absolute in terms of aesthetic rapture, we can measure
the immeasurable. The distance between Goloka and Vaikuntha is one of
feeling, rasa. Thus Mahaprabhu accepted the authoritative citation of
Venkatta, indeed it is a theological corner stone to His own sampradaya. Sri
Rupa cites this verse in his Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu, and our lineage is but
an elaboration of its deepest import. In its furthest reach it informs us
that not only is Sri Krishna svayam bhagavan, but Sri Radha is the supreme
Goddess, svayam sakti of Sri Radha-pati Krishna.
In this verse, the word Srisa overtly indicates Narayan, the Lord of Laxmi.
However, looking deeper, Srisa indicates the Lord of Radha, not Laxmi.
Actually, Radha pleases Narayana more than Laxmi does. At least this is the
opinion of the gopis. They have said this in Gopi gita. According to the
gopis, Radha received the supreme blessing of Narayana to have been carried
away by Govinda from the rasa lila to a secluded place. As for Laxmi, she
could not even witness the rasa lila! Thus Mahaprabhu’s second question.
Mahaprabhu asked, “Why is it that although Laxmi wanted to enter the rasa
dance, she could not do so?” This question was over the head of Venkatta. He
could not fathom the answer, ‘iha pravesite nare mora mana’. In effect the
said, “Only one who would think to ask such a question, could know the
answer. ‘Ami jiva ksudra-buddhi sahaje asthira’, “ I am a jiva with limited
intelligence, and You are the supreme Lord Himself who knows His own ways,”
’tumi saksat sei krsna, jana nija-karma.’
Approvingly, Mahaprabhu replied: “Because she kept the ego of Laxmi, the
body of Laxmi, she could not enter the rasa dance. To enter there requires a
gopi-deha.” Gopi-deha means gopi-bhava, because that deha is a bhava, that
body is a bhava, not anything material.
We are reluctant to give up our material bodies and our attachments to them
in our pursuit of gopi-bhava, and we have material bodies. Laxmi has a
spiritual body, a spiritual ego. She wanted to enter the rasa-dance with
that same ego, with that same body. She could not. She had justification for
not wanting to give up her spiritual body. That is her permanent status, her
svarupa. We have no such excuse. Yet neither did her valid excuse matter.
The ground rules for entering the rasa mandal are ‘ahaituki apratihata’. We
must exist for His pleasure alone and we can not stop at anything to please
It is said that Laxmi is perpetually residing on the Eastern side of the
Yamuna in Belvan, where she is performing penances and austerities to get
entrance in the rasa dance. There she waits in line for a chance to enter or
even witness the rasa lila. Although she is a queen, there she fasts. But
she will never be successful because this is not the means to enter the rasa
lila. One must accept a gopi deha, culturing the bhava of the gopis in
raganuga bhakti. This is the only way. ‘Nayam sukhapo bhagavan dehinam
gopika-sutah’ devotees should know this verse from the Bhagavata’s Damodara
lila. It appears four times in Caitanya Caritamrita.
Hearing this from Mahaprabhu, Venkatta was converted, ‘ebe se janinu
krsna-bhakti sarvopari’, “Now I realize that Krishna bhakti is the supreme
form of worship.” In this way the whole family was converted. This was an
extraordinary accomplishment on the part of Mahaprabhu. We hear of
Mahaprabhu’s converting all types of people, and even animals in the forest.
It is quite difficult to turn a wild animal into a premika. But this is
nothing in comparison to Mahaprabhu’s conversion of stalwart devotees of
Laxmi-Narayana, whose object of love is spiritual. The animals and common
peoples’ objects of love are material. To turn them in the spiritual
direction is much easier than to turn someone whose object of love and is
already spiritual to another spiritual object of love – from Laxmi Narayan
to Radha Krishna.
Venkatta’s family had strong standing in the worship of Laxmi Narayana. Some
say they had attained sthayi bhava in dasya bhakti for Narayana. This cannot
be changed by anyone but God himself. This is the glory of Mahaprabhu,
At this time Gopal Bhatta Gosvami was just a young lad. He had a dream in
which he saw a vision of Navadvipa pastimes of Mahaprabhu and realized that
the pastimes of Navadvipa are nondifferent from Vrindavana. He saw this, and
the fact that Mahaprabhu is not only svayam bhagavan, but svayam shakti as
well – Radha Krishna.
Mahaprabhu then instructed him: “You stay here with your parents until they
expire, and then go to Vrindavan. But in the course of going there, first go
to the Himalayas, to Gandaki, and bring salagrams from there for worship.”
So through Gopal Bhatta, Mahaprabhu introduced the worship of salagram sila,
a vaidhi marg Deity, into in His raga marg sampradaya.
Then Mahaprabhu left, and Gopal Bhatta took initiation from Prabhodananda
Sarasvati, the brother of Venkatta Bhatta. After his parents expired from
the world, he followed the instruction of Mahaprabhu, by which Mahaprabhu
had told him he would again get His darshan. He went to Gandaki. He put his
lota in the water for bathing, and twelve salagrams came within it. It is
said that he put them back in the river again, and once more put the lota in
the water. Again the same salagrams came out. He was a little shy to take so
many silas at first, but he realized after some time that they wanted to go
with him. He took them in a cloth tied around his neck. On his way to
Vrindavan, he stopped and initiated three Gaura brahmanas bringing them with
him to Vrindavana. Once there, he took shelter of Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami,
and he worshiped these salagrams for some time.
Gopal Bhatta Gosvami became very prominent in Vrindavana, yet he remained
very humble, so much so that he asked Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami not to
mention his name in his treatise Caitanya Caritamrta. As I mentioned, he
came to Vrindavana with his own newly initiated disciples. Jiva Gosvami was
junior to him, and Rupa, Sanatana were his seniors. These three referred
all of the people who came to them for initiation to Gopal Bhatta Gosvami.
He was the main diksa guru amongst the six Gosvamis. Indeed, Rupa Gosvami
had only one initiated disciple, Sri Jiva, and we know of no diksa line of
One reason that Gopal Bhatta Gosvami was the principal initiator is related
to the preaching strategy of the Gosvamis. They were not only prema bhaktas
of the highest order. They were also politically astute, culturally wise,
and very pragmatic.
Rupa, Sanatana, were socially tarnished due to their having taken service in
the muslim government. Jiva Gosvami, their nephew, shared this social
blemish. While Mahaprabhu used these three to establish his sampradaya and
religious revolution, he was also sensitive to the climate of the times.
Although he overturned caste considerations when they got in the way of the
spiritual ideal, He did not go against socio-religious trends if he did not
He chose Rupa and Sanatana to help establish His sampradaya because they
were very learned people. They knew how to deal with people. They were
ministers in the muslim government. The muslims ruled much of India at that
time, and Rupa Sanatana prabhus were capable of dealing with their leaders.
More importantly, they were the embodiment of what Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Himself came to experience. That Radha bhava can only be experienced by the
manjaris of Radha, not anyone else. What Krsna wanted to experience, was the
experience of Rupa Gosvami, Rupa manjari. Trying to take the position of
Radha, one will not be successful. One can, however, taste her bhava by
becoming her manjari. So for external reasons and internal reasons,
Mahaprabhu choose them. Similarly, for external reasons also Gopal Bhatta
was given the charge of diksa, as he was for internal reasons as well.
Externally, he was from a very sophisticated South Indian brahmin family. In
consideration of the religious climate, Gopal Bhatta Gosvami’s parentage and
religious background made him better suited to act in the capacity of diksa
guru. This perhaps helped to make the fledgling sampradaya less
controversial. With this in mind, Gopal Bhatta compiled the Gaudiya Vaisnava
smriti, Hari-bhakti-vilasa, much of which is a concession to the orthodox
brahminical climate that permeated the religious landscape.
Mahaprabhu gave own his seat to Gopal Bhatta in Vrindavana, indicating his
preference for Gopal Bhatta with regard to diksa. Mahaprabhu is the Guru of
Gurus, the adi guru of the sampradaya. That He sent his own seat to Gopal
Bhatta is thus significant. Gopal Bhatta Gosvami is considered the
repository of guru sakti.
It is said in Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika that Gopal Bhatta Gosvami is an
incarnation of Ananga manjari. If we take this to mean, as some devotees do,
that this refers to the younger sister of Radha, Gopal Bhatta Gosvami’s
position as the principal diksa guru amongst the Gosvamis has considerable
inner significance. Ananga manjari is a peculiar manifestation of Baladeva
by which he is represented in madhurya rasa. Baladeva is considered the
repository of guru sakti. We worship Guru and Gauranga. Gauranga means
Mahaprabhu, and Guru means Baladeva, Nityananda prabhu. Nitai’s consort,
Jahnava, is also considered to be an incarnation of Ananga manjari, and
accordingly she became a very prominent guru in the Gaudiya sampradaya.
Gopal Bhatta is also a sastra guru of our bhakti sastra. As I mentioned, he
compiled under he guidance of Sanatana Gosvami, the Gaudiya Vaisnava smriti,
Hari-bhakti-vilasa. In this book and his Sat Kriya Sara Dipika, he has given
all the behavior codes and ritualistic procedures for our sampradaya.
Although he is most well known for these works, he was also a principle
contributor to Jiva Gosvami’s Sat-sandarbha. In each of the six sandarbhas,
Sri Jiva offers his respect to Gopal Bhatta Gosvami, noting that his own
work on the sandarbhas is merely what he considered a rearranging of notes
gathered by Gopal Bhatta Gosvami.
Perhaps Gopal Bhatta Gosvami is best known for having established the Radha
Ramana Deity and temple in Vrindavana. This event is connected to the story
of his collecting salagrams at Mahaprabhu’s request. After arriving in
Vrindavan, he worshiped the salagrams, keeping them around his neck or
hanging them from a tree in a basket.
Great kings patronized the Gosvamis in Vrindavana. Under their patronage,
big temples were built, and through the preaching of the Gosvamis, Vrindavan
became the place to be. If you were a Hindu king and you did not have a
temple in Vrindavan, you were nobody. When Gopal Bhatta received the
offering of ornaments and clothing from one wealthy patron, he placed it
before his salagrams and lamented on two accounts. First of all, he could
not use the ornaments for the salagrams, as they were suitable for a Deity.
Secondly, he lamented because Mahaprabhu had promised that Gopal Bhatta
would again get His darshan, but this had not come to pass. Mahaprabhu was
in Puri, and although he sent Gopal Bhatta his kaupin and asana, he had not
personally come to give him darshan.
Lamenting on two accounts, Gopal Bhatta became unconscious on the Buddha
Jayanti after contemplating the significance of Prahlad Maharaja’s
experience of Sri Narasingha. When he awoke, he noticed that the lid of the
basket hanging from the tree was half open. He thought that perhaps a snake
had gotten inside, so he tried to push the lid down, but it would not go
down. When he opened it up, there was Radha Raman! The Damodara salagram had
manifested as an eleven and one half inch deity of Krishna in a pose playing
It is considered that Radha Raman was the fulfillment of Mahaprabhu’s
promise to give Gopal Bhatta his darshan a second time. Radha Raman is
considered to be Radha and Krsna combined. He is thus non different from
Mahaprabhu. Since that day, Gopal Bhatta Gosvami’s desire to offer ornaments
to his Deity have been more than fulfilled, as worship of Radha Raman has
been in place for over 500 years. Indeed, he is perhaps the best dressed
Deity in town.
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