Sanatana Goswami (1488-1588) was the senior most of the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana and became the perfect instrument of Caitanya Mahaprabhu to establish the science of Bhakti Yoga. The famous Rupa Goswami, was his younger brother and considered himself to be his servant and disciple. Jiva Goswami, the most prolific writer and preacher of the six Goswamis was the son Anupama, the younger brother of Sanatana Goswami.
Belonging to the prestigious Saraswati Brahman ancestry from Karnataka, Sanatana Goswami grew up with his five brothers and one sister in the Jessore district of East Bengal. From the earliest age, Sanatana Goswami was spontaneously attracted to the logic, philosophy, rhetoric and the theistic message of the Srimad Bhagavatam. He accepted instructions from such luminaries as Vidya Vachaspati, Sarvabhuma Bhattacharya, Pramananda Bhattacharya and the learned Ramabhadra.
So famous was Sanatana Goswami for his wisdom that the Emperor of Gauda Desh, Nawab Hussein Shah forced him and Rupa Goswami to work in the court under threat of doing harm to the local Brahmans if they refused. Apparently resigned to his fate, Sanatana Goswami settled in Ramakeli in Northern Bengal. He was conferred the title of "Sakara Malik" (revenue officer) and given immense wealth by the delighted Shah. So competent were the brothers in administration that the Shah completely delegated the daily affairs to them and spend his time trying to expand his territory.
However Sanatana Goswami was simply biding his time, waiting for instructions from his eternal master, pCaitanya Mahaprabhu]. He used his time and wealth to help the Brahman community and prepare himself for his eventual service to the Lord. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited Ramakeli on the pretext of going to Vrindavana, the brothers met Him in a meeting that is often described as pivotal in the annals of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. After receiving many instructions from Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Rupa and Anupama were able to immediately leave for Vrindavan. However Sanatana Goswami remained in Ramakeli, feigning illness, to wind up his material affairs.
The Nawab however became suspicious and sent his physician who discovered that not only was Sanatana Goswami in perfect health, but his house was full of Brahmans who were studying and discussing Srimad Bhagavatam. The enraged Nawab had Sanatana Goswami temporarily thrown in jail. Sanatana Goswami was however able to bribe his way out and make his way to Benares to meet Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Here he remained for two months receiving several valuable instruction from the Lord on the science of Bhakti, after which he proceeded to Vrindavana.
When Sanatana Goswami went again to meet Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Puri, he traveled in the most austere manner through the forests of Jharakandha. Here he contacted some kind of skin disease which resulted in oozing wounds all over the body. Not wanting to enter the holy temple of Jagannatha Puri, Sanatana Goswami stayed outside with Haridasa Thakur the namacarya disciple of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Unable to render any service to Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sanatana Goswami resolved to end his life. The omniscient Caitanya Mahaprabhu however sensed this and chastised him strongly. Finally Sanatana Goswami realized that on his own he was totally incapable of performing any act of devotion. This final surrender is a demonstration of the loving relationship between the Lord and His pure devotee. Caitanya Mahaprabhu having imparted the most important lesson in devotion, completely cured Sanatana Goswami, simply by His touch and instructed him to establish temples at the birthplace of Lord Krishna, Vrindavana.
The very first temple in Vrindavana, Sri Radha Madan-Mohan was established by Sanatana Goswami, which would started a tradition of temple building resulting in more that 5000 temples in Vrindavana. The Deity of Madan-Mohan were first established by Vajra, the great-grandson of Sri Krishna, but had been lost over time. One night, Sanatana Goswami dreamt that a very beautiful Deity of Krishna was being worshipped by a humble Brahman, and sure enough, the next day while begging for alms he came across the very same Deity being worshipped in the house of a poor Brahman called Purushottama Chaube. Though the Brahman was first reluctant to part with the Deity, he was later instructed in a dream and agreed to give the Deity to Sanatana Goswami.
Madan-Mohan was initially worshipped by Sanatana Goswami in a very simple and humble manner. The opulent temple of Sri Radha Madan-Mohan was built by a wealthy merchant Krishnadas Kapoor, who had prayed to Madan-Mohan to free his salt laden ship stuck in a sandbar. The ship was freed while the merchant was praying, and the grateful merchant built a magnificent temple for Madan-Mohan. The Deities were later removed from here to Jaipur to protect Them against the tyrannical Mogul ruler, Aurangazeb. From here, They were then moved to Karoli where They are being worshipped to this day.
Quite appropriately, worshipping of Madan-Mohan is on the platform of re-establishing one's forgotten relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Madan-Mohan means one who attracts even Cupid, and this relationship is very relevant for neophyte devotees, for attraction to Madan-Mohan nullifies all material attractions. This is known as sambandha tattva and from this platform only can a devotee advance to actually establishing a relationship with Krishna (abhideya tattva) and finally relishing the relationship (prayojana tattva).
Sanatana Goswami is credited with several authoritative works on devotional service. Foremost is the Hari-Bhakti-vilas (edited by Gopala Bhatta Goswami), which describes in twenty chapters (or vilas) a detailed, scientific analysis of progress and pitfalls in bhakti. Another of his work the Brihat-Bhagavatamrita, in its first part gives a detailed description of the universes from the material to the spiritual world. It also describes the types of bhaktis, types of devotees and their relationships to the Lord (rasas) In the second part it gives the glories of the spiritual world and the process of renouncing the material world. Sanatana Goswami also wrote a insightful commentary on the Tenth Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam, called the Dashama-tipani, which gives the Caitanyite perspective on the activities of Sri Krishna and is thus considered as the authoritative, bona-fide interpretation of the scripture.
Ontologically Sanatana Goswami is considered to be an incarnation of Rati or Labanga Manjari, an intimate associate of Srimati Radharani. He was honored by everyone and was considered to be an extension of the transcendental body of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It is also said that Sanatana Kumar, the jewel amongst the four Kumaras sons of Brahma, was also present in the incarnation as Sanatana Goswami. With his humble attitude, keen intellect and complete surrender to the Lord, Sanatana Goswami lived, preached and left for posterity the science of devotional service.