: Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Sri Svarupa Damodara was an
eternal associate and friend of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu--considered by Gaudiya Vaishnavas to be an incarnation of God.
Svarupa Damodara's position is confirmed in
Vrndavana dasa Thakura's Caitanya-bhagavata.
In gaura-lila, with Mahaprabhu in
the bhava of Radharani, Svarupa
Damodara is his alter-ego. In Vraja-lila, he was also Radharani's alter-ego,
Lalita Sakhi. Kavi Karnapura also identifies Svarupa Damodara with Radha's
other companion, Visakha Devi, in his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika.
Damodara's name was previously Sri Purusottama Acarya or Purusottama
Bhattacarya. In the Gaudiya Vaisnava
Abidhana it is said that his father's name was Padmagarbha Acarya; his
mother's name is not known, but her father was Jayarama Cakravarti. The family
originally lived in Bhitadiya on the banks of the Brahmaputra, but later moved
to Navadwipa. Svarupa always stayed
Mahaprabhu took sannyasa, Purusottama
became half-mad, unable to remain in Navadwipa due to feelings of separation
from his Lord. He went to Varanasi
(Benares) and took sannyasa from a sannyasi named
Caitanyananda Bharati, who ordered him to study
Vedanta and teach it to the people in general. Sri Purusottama Acarya did not
accept the dress of a sannyasi, but
only gave up the sikha and sacred
thread. His name became Svarupa. Prabhupada
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati tells us, though "brahmacaris
called Svarupa normally received the sannyasa
title Tirtha upon taking the saffron cloth or yoga-patta"
(Anubhasya, 2. 10. 102), Svarupa
accepted the "preliminiary processes of the acceptance of sannyasa, but not the gurvahvana,
or ‘call of the guru,' the saffron cloth, a sannyasa
title or a danda, and for this reason
he retained his brahmacari name. " (ibid. )
Bhaktivinode Thakura comments in his Amrta-pravaha-bhasya
that this is because he "wished to avoid any danger of becoming falsely proud
of the status that would come with taking sannyasa.
He only wished to worship Krsna without any worries. "
this, taking up the order of his sannyasa-guru,
Svarupa went to Jagannatha Puri. At that time, he again met with Sri Caitanya.
The Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya,
10. 102-104) records this meeting as follows: "One day, Svarupa Damodara
arrived. His mystic awareness of the Lord's inner purpose was deep and
unfathomable. He was an ocean of rasa.
In connection with Svarupa Damodara, Srimad Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami has
written further, as follows: "Sri Svarupa Damodara was the limit of
scholarship; still, he did not generally converse with anyone. He kept to himself. He liked
to remain alone, and did not see others. He was the very embodiment of Krsna-prema.
He was like a second Mahaprabhu, in the sense that he fully understood the
Lord's conclusions on Krsna-tattva and
Krsna-bhakti, and could fully
represent them. As such, whoever
wanted to bring before the Lord a book, poem, or song would first bring it to
Svarupa Damodara, who would examine it before the Lord would hear it.
The Lord did not delight in hearing literature and song which was opposed
to the conclusions of bhakti (bhaktisiddhanta-viruddha), or which contained rasabhasa, conflicting devotional mellows. Therefore, Svarupa
Damodara would examine these things, and if he decided that they were pure, then
he would arrange for the Lord to hear them" (Cc. , Madhya 10. 110-114).
Svarupa Damodara came from Kasi, he submitted a verse before the Lord,
glorifying Him. This verse has been
recorded by Kavi Karnapura in his Caitanya
Candrodaya Nataka as follows:
heloddhunita khedaya vishadaya pronmila-damodarau
samyacchastra vivadaya rasadaya cittarpitonmadaya
sasvad-bhaktivinodaya sa-madaya madhurya-maryadaya
Sri Caitanya dayanidhe tava daya bhuyadamandodaya
Ocean of Mercy, Sri Caitanya! Let that which easily drives away whatever pain we
have been experiencing in this material world; that which is all-purifying, that
which manifests the greatest transcendental bliss; that which by its sunrise
casts away all the doubtful conclusions of the sastra; that which rains rasa on
our hearts and minds, rules our consciousness and thus causes jubilation; that
all-liberating, all-auspiciousness-giving, the limit of madhurya-rasa
mercy of yours--let it arise within our hearts. "
Svarupa Damodara made his dandavats before
the Lord, and the Lord embraced him, saying, "Today I saw in a dream that
you were arriving here. Everything was just right. Just as one who is blind
becomes happy getting eyes, so I have become happy upon getting you. "
Svarupa Goswami said, "O Lord! Please forgive me. Forgetting you, I
deserted your lotus feet. Not having a trace of prema
within me, I left your service, and being sinful, I went to a foreign land.
But, although Iabandoned you, you
didn't abandon me. By the ropes of your mercy, you have bound me by the neck and
dragged me back to your lotus feet. "
Svarupa Damodara saying these words in great humility, the Lord again embraced
him and said, "Sri Krsna is very kind. By his mercy we have met once
Puri Svarupa became great friends with Pundarika Vidyanidhi. At the time of
Candan-Yatra they would play together, splashing each other with water. Svarupa
Damodara was also one of the chief participants of the Gundica
Marjanam, the cleansing of the Gundica temple.
Damodara would sing for Sri Caitanya the songs of Vidyapati, Chandidasa, and
Gita-Govinda, and this gave the Lord much pleasure. Svarupa Damodara could sing
like a Gandharva, and he knew the scriptures like Brihaspati, the guru of the
gods. No one was a greater soul than he. He was most dear to Advaita and
Nityananda and the life and soul of the devotees headed by Srivasa Thakura. At
this time Mahaprabhu would also relish his deepest sentiments about Jagannatha
Deva and His Ratha-yatra pastime (see Cc. ,
Madhya, Ch. 14).
this way, it is said that Svarupa Damodara was like a second form of Mahaprabhu,
in song he was like a Gandharva, and in scripture, he was like Brihaspati.
Svarupa Damodara was very expert in music as well as Vedic scriptures. Sri
Caitanya used to call him Damodara, becasue of his expert singing and musical
skills. The name Damodara was given by Sri Caitanya and added to the name given
by his sannyasa guru. He was therefore
known as Svarupa Damodara. He
compiled a book of music called Sangita-Damodara.
Damodara always stayed near the Lord. Whatever mood the Lord was in, Svarupa
Damodara would perform kirtana to
augment the Lord's internal sentiments. Around
the same time that Svarupa Damodara came to Puri, Sri Ramananda Raya arrived
from Vidyanagara. Sri Ramananda Raya was a great poet and could explain
everything in a very elegant style. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu heard rasatattva from Ramananda's mouth.
the daytime, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to perform kirtana
with his devotees. At night, in the company of Ramananda Raya and Svarupa
Damodara, he would relish the truths about the pastimes and mellows of Radha and
Krsna. At night Mahaprabhu would
relish the truth about the pastimes and mellows of Radha-Krsna with Ramananda
Raya and Svarupa Damodara:
vidyapati rayera natak giti
svarupa ramananda sane mahaprabhu ratri-dine
gaya, sune parama ananda
and night, Mahaprabhu ecstatically relished the songs of Candi dasa, Vidyapati
and Ramananda Raya's plays, as well as Krsna-karnamrta
and Gita-govinda, in the company of
Svarupa and Ramananda. "
(Cc. , Madhya 2. 77)
the same way that Lalita and Vishakha are the internal confidantes of Sri Radha,
Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya are the internal confidantes of Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu. Kaviraja Goswami relates how Svarupa Damodara is the source of the
most confidential knowledge of the Lord's incarnation in Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila
the time of Sri Gaurasundara's final pastimes, Sri Svarupa Damodara was
constantly with the Lord. Kaviraja
Goswami further relates in Adi-lila that
Svarupa Damodara explained to him the Lord's later pastimes. Sri Svarupa
Damodara's right hand was Raghunatha Dasa Goswami Mahaprabhu had earlier given
Dasa Goswami into his care, calling him "Svarupa's Raghu", instructing him
to be fixed in his orders, to leave behind false pleasures such as palatable
food or nice dress, to always chant the Holy Name, always offering respect to
others, and to take further instruction from Svarupa Damodara (Cc. ,
Antya 6. 233-8). In Madhya-lila we
are told how "Svarupa Damodara guarded caitanya-lila
in his treasure chest and afterwards placed it around Raghunatha dasa's
neck. I have written down here what I head from Raghunatha dasa to the extent
that I have been able, and now make a gift of it to devotees" (Cc. ,
Madhya 2. 85).
the day of Lord Jagannatha's Ratha-yatra, the second day of the day of full
moon in the month of Asharh, not long after the Lord's disappearance, Sri
Svarupa Damodara Goswami passed away from this earth and entered into the Lord's
[In 2003 July 1st was the anniversary of his passing.
Text adapted from Lives of the Vaisnava Saints,
Sri Caitanya: His Life & Associates,
and other sources. These are only a small amount of Sri Svarupa's pastimes
with the Lord, which are recounted in Caitanya-caritamrta. ]