Raghunatha dasa Goswami (1495-1571) was the first of the six Gosvamis to meet Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Born in a small vilage of Chandpur (now called Sri Krishnapur) in West Bengal, he belonged to a fabulously rich family of landords. His father Govardhana Majumdar and elder uncle Hiranya were multi-millionares, even in those days. Hussein Shah, the Emperor of Bengal went so far to lease the entire Saptagram district to the two brothers for an annual rent of 1.2 Million Rupees. Despite this huge financial contribition the brothers had millions left over which they used abundantly for charity and pious activities.
Raghunatha dasa was instructed in his boyhood by Balaram Acarya, a great scholar and an advanced devotee of the Lord. He introduced Raghunatha dasa to Haridasa Thakura, the great namacarya devotee of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who imparted a deep devotional spirit to Raghunatha dasa. At the age of 15, Raghunatha dasa heard about Caitanya Mahaprabhu's visit to Santipur and despite resistance from his parents, ran away from home to meet Him.
The meeting was emotional and intense. Caitanya Mahaprabhu recognized His eternal devotee in the form of Raghunatha dasa, who immediately surrendered to the Lotus feet of the Lord. After ten days of blissful association, Caitanya Mahaprabhu left for Puri and Raghunatha dasa returned home with feeling of intense seperation from the Lord. He would have to wait for another four years before he would get another opportunity to associate with the Lord, once again in Santipur.
By this time Raghunatha dasa's parents had resigned themselves to his spirituality and Caitanya Mahaprabhu had also become famous as a saint, and an incarnation. So with little resistance, Raghunatha dasa was able to meet his Lord and associate with Him. Though Raghunatha dasa was eager to give up his family and riches, Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed him to return home and live as a worldly man.
Faithfully following the instructions of his Lord, Raghunatha dasa began to responsibly manage his father's estate. He married a girl said to be of unexcelled beauty and seemed to settle down into an opulent, materialistic lifestyle. However this would only last for two years before fate took a hand. The Emperor of Bengal, incited by an envious former governor of Saptgram decided to have the father and uncle of Raghunatha dasa arrested. Since none of them were present at the time, the soldiers arrested Raghunatha dasa and bought him back.
The king tried to get all kinds of information from Raghunatha dasa, which he did not honestly have. Furious the king ordered that he be tortured, but after hearing a great soliloquy from him on the virtues of kindness and brotherhood, the king was moved to tears. Recognizing Raghunatha dasa to be an elevated devotee, he accepted him as his son and released him. He also reached an amicable agreement regarding the mis-understandings with the management of Saptagram.
Soon after the incident, Lord Nityananda Prabhu, one of the most intimate associates of Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to Pannihati, a village very close to Saptagram. After a lot of difficulty, young Raghunatha dasa was able to meet Nityananda Prabhu and with great humility begged for His mercy to be able to serve Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This meeting was marked by the historic Danda Mahotasava in which Lord Nityananda as a "punishment" to Raghunatha dasa, placed His Lotus feet on the boy's head. He also directed Raghunatha dasa to arrange for prasadam for the hundreds of devotees who had accompanied Lord Nityananda.
Eager to use his wealth in the service of the Lord, Raghunatha dasa soon had the area inundated with prasadam comprising of yoghurt, chipped rice, pastries, milk, sweets and fruits. So ecstatic was the prasadam distributed here that devotees from distant places rushed to partake the nectar. At the height of distribution, Caitanya Mahaprabhu manifested Himself, though only a few advanced devotee could see Him. Lord Nityananda had all the devotees bless Raghunatha dasa and also gave him His own blessings. The festival of Danda Mahotsava is celebrated to this day in Pannihati with great religious fervor.
Having received bhakti from the most intimate associates of the Lord, Raghunatha dasa was unable to maintain even the semblance of materialistic life. He tried to escape so often that his parent hired a large contingent of guards to accompany him every where. Despite all this he finally managed to escape and headed for Puri to be united with His Lord. He traveled with great austerity, eating only three meager meals in twelve days. He hardly slept, walking several miles every day, unmindful of the danger of the ferocious animals around him. This would be the first glimpse of the intense austerity (tapasya) that Raghunatha dasa would later be famous for. He traveled with single minded determination, the body fasting while the spirit feasted at the prospect of seeking the shelter of his eternal Master.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very pleased to see Raghunatha dasa and entrusted him to the care of Swarupa Damodara, His personal assistant. Even though this was a great honor, it just made Raghunatha dasa all the more humble. He rarely approached Caitanya Mahaprabhu directly, considering himself to be unfit to associate with Him. He served Swarupa Damodara with great devotion, exemplifying the dasanudas (servant of the servant) mood of a pure devotee.
The parents of Raghunatha dasa, now reconciled to his departure would send him great wealth, but Raghunatha dasa would only use it entirely for the service of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Finally reasoning that he was not advanced enough to handle this materialistic wealth, he stopped accepting that also. Appreciating his renunciation and devotion, Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave him His personal stone from Govardhana Hill and a garland of Tulasi leaves. These were incalculably precious items, since they were personally present with the Lord for more than three years.
With passing years the devotion and austerities of Raghunatha dasa only increased. He would chant japa for twenty-two hours every day, sleeping for only one hour, and some time not even that. He gave up all food and drink, taking just a few drops of buttermilk a day. His fame as a mystic became so widespread that devotees from miles across would come to see him. With characteristic humility he would offer obeisances to each of the around two thousand devotees who daily approached him. He also offered one thousand obeisances to the Lord and chanted at least one hundred thousand holy names daily. His intense devotion and austerities attracted sages, scholars and spiritualist from far and wide.
Raghunatha dasa Goswami stayed in Puri for sixteen years at which time Caitanya Mahaprabhu left the planet. Two or three years later, his spiritual master, Swarupa Damodara also left his body, and Raghunatha dasa Goswami, now forty years of age, following the last instructions of Caitanya Mahaprabhu left for Vrindavana to assist Rupa and Santana Goswami in their mission to re-establish Vrindavana to its rightful position at the apex of all holy places.
In Vrindavana, at the request of Rupa and Sanatana Goswami, Raghunatha dasa Goswami would spend two hours every day recounting the pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. As the legend goes, Raghunatha dasa Goswami would spend several hours on the banks of Radha-kunda, completely absorbed in his meditation of the Divine Couple. On one occasion, Sanatana Goswami witnessed that Sri Krishna, Himself was guarding His devotee for a pair of tigers that had come to drink in the Radha-kunda. On another occasion, Sanatana Goswami saw Srimati Radharani, Herself drenched in transcendental perspiration, smilingly holding Her garment to shield Her devotee from the intense sunlight. Considering themselves to be the servants of Srimati Radharani, Sanatana Goswami chastised Raghunatha dasa Goswami for taking service from their Masters. He asked him to build a small hut for his protection, which Raghunatha dasa Goswami complied with. This would start the tradition of building bhajan-kutirs by devotees to chant and meditate in isolation.
Raghunatha dasa Goswami was the author of Sri Manah-siksha and wrote deeply profound verses and prayers about the pastimes of Radha-Krishna. These have been compiled into called the Stava-mala, Dana-charita and Mukta-charita. Beyond his literary accomplishments, he is best remembered as the very emblem of renunciation. He was totally detached from material enjoyment and is appropriately known as the prayojana acarya, one who teaches by his own example about the ultimate goal of life.
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