Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami (1505-1579) is in many ways the most mysterious of the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana. Caitanya Mahaprabhu considered his singing, cooking and recitation of the Srimad Bhagavatam as unparalleled in the history of Vaishnavism. But he did not leave any literary contributions and very little is known of his antecedents.
It is known that his ancestry hails from East Bengal and his father was Tapan Mishra a respected Brahaman scholar who had inquired from Caitanya Mahaprabhu about the meaning of life. Even though Caitanya Mahaprabhu was at the time playing His pastime of an eminent scholar and logician, he revealed to Tapan Mishra for the first time His intention of establishing the yuga dharma of Sankirtana. On the instructions of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Tapan Mishra relocated to Benares in 1503 and two years later Raghunatha Bhatta was born.
Later in 1514, Caitanya Mahaprabhu stopped in Benares on His way back to Puri from Vrindavana. He resided at the house of Chandrashekar and took His daily lunch at the house of Tapan Mishra. Here the Lord was served by the nine year old Raghunatha Bhatta and inspired by the blessing and association, Raghunatha Bhatta would soon become totally immersed in Krishna prema.
When Sri Caitanya, having accomplished His mission of converting the mayavadi philosophers of Benares to devotees of Sri Krishna, left for Puri, Raghunatha Bhatta was heart broken. He would constantly dwell on his memories of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and as he grew he developed longing to be re-united with the Lord and serve Him personally. Finally when he was twenty, Raghunatha Bhatta and a servant left Benares for Puri.
On the way, as was the custom of the times, Raghunatha Bhatta made several detours to visit the holy places. Here is also met and befriended Ramdas and great devotee of Lord Rama. Although very advanced himself, Ramdas soon realized that Raghunatha Bhatta was indeed a highly renounced devotee. Though he was quite a bit older and despite several protests from Raghunatha Bhatta, Ramdas insisted on serving him menially throughout the journey, by massaging his legs and carrying his luggage for him.
When Raghunatha Bhatta eventually reached Puri, he was joyfully greeted by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Here he received special mercy of the Lord, Who allowed him to render service to Him and instructed him on the various intricacies of the Vedic philosophy. Soon Raghunatha Bhatta became an expert cook and it is said that what ever he cooked tasted like nectar. Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very appreciative of his cooking and singing. After eight months of association, Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed Raghunatha Bhatta to return to Puri and serve his parents. Observing his renunciation, Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised him not to marry. He also advised him to hear and understand the Bhagavatam from a realized soul.
These instructions of the omniscient Lord would shape the future of Raghunatha Bhatta. In asking him to serve his old parents. Mahaprabhu demonstrated that dharma (worldly duties) and para-dharma (spiritual duties) could be nicely dovetailed together by an expert devotee. So Raghunatha Bhatta continued to serve his parents till the time they passed away, four years later, and in the mean time perfected his understanding and rendering of the Srimad Bhagavatam from an elevated devotee of the Lord.
Raghunatha Bhatta once again returned to Puri and happily served His eternal master for another eight months. However after this Caitanya Mahaprabhu once again sent him away, this time to Vrindavan, to seek the shelter of Rupa and Sanatana Goswami and help them in their mission. On reaching Vrindavana, Raghunatha Bhatta placed himself in the guidance of Rupa and Sanatana Goswami, who were pleased to associate with such an elevated devotee.
Soon Raghunatha Bhatta took full shelter of Rupa Goswami’s Govindadev deity and eventually had several wealthy disciples construct a gorgeous temple in the honor of Govinda. Raghunatha Bhatta himself prepared several ornaments for the Deity, including a flute and a set of ear rings shaped like a shark. He quickly endeared himself to the inhabitants of Vrindavana by his blissful recitations of the Bhagavatam.
Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami would render the complicated verses of the Bhagavatam in three of four different melodies. At other times he recited the Hare Krishna maha-mantra with such devotion that the listeners would swoon with ecstasy. He himself would often display all the symptoms of maha-bhava at the recitations and discourses on the holy name.
Even though Raghunatha Bhatta did not leave behind any writings his life was an example of a pure devotee. One cannot penetrate the mysteries of the Srimad Bhagavatam without the guidance of a spiritual master in a disciplic succession. And so Caitanya Mahaprabhu initially instructed Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami to study in this way. Having properly studied the Bhagavatam, Raghunatha Bhatta demonstrated how to assimilated it into one’s life. He made the Srimad Bhagavatam his life and soul. He never spoke or listened to any mundane subjects. He was divinely intoxicated, talking and hearing about Sri Krishna, day and night.
Yet, Raghunatha Bhatta was keenly aware of his surrounding. Even though he was deeply absorbed in the love of Godhead, he saw every thing around him and utilized it in the service of Krishna. He lived the life of a genuine saint, with all encompassing love and humility and set up a model for devotees in the future to follow, if they have the desire to read and understand the unique love of Godhead coming through the Srimad Bhagavatam.
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