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Guru-parampara - 3

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25. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami
26. Narottama dasa Thakura
27. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura
28a. Baladeva Vidyabhusana
28b. Jagannatha dasa Babaji

25. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami

Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was born in a Nadiya family of physicians at the village of Jhamatpur, within the district of Barddhaman, near Naihati, in 1496 A.D. His father was Sri Bhagiratha, and his mother was Sri Sunanda. He had a younger brother named Syama das. The deity of Gaura-Nityananda installed by Sri Kaviraja Gosvami is still being worshiped there. It appears that his family line is no more. More information about the early life of Sri Kaviraja is available in a book called Ananda-ratnavali.

In Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila chapter five, Sri Kaviraja relates the cause of his leaving family life. Lord Nityananda appeared in his dream and ordered him to go to Vrndavana.

He accepted the Gosvamis Sri Rupa, Sri Sanatana, Sri Jiva, Sri Raghunatha dasa, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta and Sri Gopala Bhatta as his instructing spiritual masters. From Raghunatha dasa he heard Mahaprabhu's late pastimes from Puri. From Sri Lokanatha Gosvami and Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami he begged permission to write Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Lokanatha directed Sri Kaviraja that he desired to be unmentioned in his book; that is why, in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, hardly a reference about Lokanatha Gosvami is to be found.

Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami compiled the following books still extant: Sri Govinda-lilamrta, Krsna-karnamrta commentary (Saranga-rangada-tika) and of course, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.

His disappearance is on 12th day of bright fortnight in month of Asvin (the year is not known, but he finished his CC in 1615).

26. Narottama dasa Thakura

Kayastha by caste, Narottama was the son of King Krsnananda Datta. Krsnananda was the Zamindar of Gopalpur Pargana in the Rajsahi district of Bangladesh. His capital was located at Kheturi, about a mile northeast of Prematali on the bank of the river Padma, about a distance of twelve miles northwest of Rampur Boalia. Narayani devi was Narottama's mother.

Narottama was born about the middle of the fifteenth Saka century (Bhaktiratnakara 1.466-468). From his childhood he was extremely attracted to Lord Caitanya. According to some, after the disappearance of his father, Narottama entrusted his elder paternal uncle's son, Santosa Datta, with the responsibility of the royal duties and left for Vrndavana.

Premavilasa 8 narrates as follows: One day while dancing in kirtana at Kanair Natsala village, Lord Caitanya suddenly began calling out the name, "Narottama, Narottama." Tears streamed from the Lord's eyes and He appeared to be restless. After speaking with Nityananda Prabhu the Lord expressed His desire to visit Gaderhat on the bank of the Padma. Mahaprabhu explained to Nityananda that he wanted to deposit the treasure of love of Godhead to the water of the Padma for Narottama to pick up later (analogically to Tibetan terma). The river Padma then asked the Lord how she would be able to identity Narottama, and the Lord explained that the person whose touch would make her surge up would be none other than Narottama.

At the age of twelve Narottama had a dream in which Nityananda Prabhu appeared to him and commanded that he collect the prema which was left in the custody of the river Padma. Early in the morning Narottama went alone to the river Padma to take his bath. As soon as his feet touched her, the river surged forth. Remembering the words of Lord Caitanya the Padma now transferred the treasure to Narottama.

Upon receiving this divine love Narottama's bodily complexion changed. His parents tried every means by which keep him with them, but Narottama was drunk with the nectar of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda and could not be kept in check. Leaving behind all worldly bondage Narottama rushed for Vrndavana. Premavilasa 11 explains how Narottama was comforted by the divine touch of Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami, and how he received the grace of his spiritual master Lokanatha Gosvami.

After Narottama was initiated by Lokanatha Gosvami, he received all instructions regarding the practice of spiritual life. Narottama was spiritually named Campaka manjari.

With the approval of the local Vaisnavas, Jiva Gosvami deputed Srinivasa, Narottama and Syamananda to carry the Gosvamis books to the devotees in Gauda. Although they were properly escorted by protected vehicles and guards, the books were stolen near Vanavisnupur but later recovered. Srinivasa then sent Narottama to Kheturi and Syamananda to Utkala.

The FIRST BOOK DISTRIBUTION SCORES in Gaudiya Vaisnavism by the First book distributors: Srinivas Acharya, Narottam das Thakur, Shyamananda Pandit.

Written on palm leaves, a letter from Narottam Das Thakura to Srila Jiva Goswami contains the annual book distribution scores for the year ending on Gaura Purnima of Shaka 1501 (AD 1579):

1 Srinivas Acharya

Bhagavatam with Vaishnava Toshani – 6
Jnanadas's songs - 23
Govinda Dasa's songs - 19
Narottam Dasa's Prarthana – 11
Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu - 1
Chaitanya Bhagavata - 22
Lochan Dasa's Chaitanya Mangal - 6
Hari bhakti-vilasa – 1
Murari Gupta's kardaca – 1

2 Narottam Dasa Thakur

Bhagavatam - 2
Jnanadas's songs - 21
Prarthana – 56
Chaitanya Bhagavata - 45
Chaitanya-candramrita - 5
Vasu Ghosh's Gauranga-padavalis – 34

3 Shyamananda Pandit

Bhagavatam - 4
Jnanadas's songs - 10
Govinda Dasa's songs – 11
Other songs - 34
Narottam Dasa's Prarthana – 16
Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu – 5
Ujjvala-nilamani - 1
Chaitanya Bhagavata - 25
Chaitanya-chandramrita - 15
Vasu Ghosh's Gauranga-padavalis – 14

Narottama Thakur concludes his letter with the following emotional comment:

"Until we are able to develop another type of technology to print the books, due to the difficulty involved in creating books by hand (which is being neglected), most of our book distribution program will be postponed. We are sure that one day some magnanimous person will come and will develop the movement of ecstatic love of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, distributing books all over the world. Until then, what will we -- persons who are poor, bereft and abominable -- do?

"What is the benefit of discussing the stories of the Lord's incarnations, worshiping the Lord's Deities, giving musical recitations of the Lord's pastimes, chanting the Lord's holy names on beads, etc., when we have such small scores."

(This piece came from Nila-lakshmi Dasi, who has distributed books for thirty years, the last eight of them in Sri Sri Krishna-Balaram Mandir in Vrindaban. She received these scores from Radha Kunda Dasi (who is the wife of Yasomatinandana Prabhu -- both disciples of Srila Prabhupada), who daily distributes up to four hundred books in the holy dhama.)

Narottama is widely believed to be the incarnation of Nityananda Prabhu. Narottama established his asrama, named Bhajantuli, about two miles away from the capital of Kheturi. Sometime after his return from Vrndavana, Narottama installed six Deities; Lord Gauranga, Vallabhikanta, Lord Krsna, Lord Vrajamohan, Lord Radhamohan and Lord Radhakanta. On the occasion of this installation ceremony Narottama held a grand festival at Kheturi, which is famous amongst all Vaisnavas.

Narottama was the first exponent of the Garanhati tradition of kirtana. He arranged this musical tradition in a way as to accommodate all parsada (associates) of both prakata and aprakata lila of Lord Gauranga, which gave immense pleasure to the audience.

Narottama Thakura was always engaged in the singing the glories of Sri Gaura and Nityananda. Through his preaching many fallen souls were purified.

Ramacandra Kaviraja was a very close companion of Narottama throughout his life (see Bhaktiratnakara and Narottamavilasa for details on Narottama's biography).

Among the writings of Narottama, Prarthana and Premabhakticandrika are the most well-known. The brief write-up titled 'Hatapaltana' is also attributed to Narottama but the contents do not seem to be in harmony with historical events and thus some believe that it is a fake work. From evidence in older manuscripts Haridasa dasa has concluded that the real author was one Ramesvara dasa. Some argue that Narottama wrote Siddhabhakticandrika, Sadhyapremabhakti, Camatkara candrika, etc., but these are not published works and the few mss. which are available do not seem to be in Narottama's writing style. Narottama did translate Smaranamangala into Bengali verse. In eleven slokas this work describes the pastimes of Radha Krsna in eight parts of the day (astakaliya).

See the following Bengali books for further information on Narottama:

1. Narottama dasa O Tahar Racamavali by Niradprasad Nath, Calcutta University, Calcutta.
2. Narottama Dasa by Rammohan Mallik
3. Narottama Thakura Kheturir Nitai by Narendranath Cattopadhyay
4. Narottama-lila va Sri Gaura Premavatara by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami

The following is a narration describing the disappearance of Thakura Mahasaya:

After taking permission from Narottama, Sri Ramacandra Kaviraja went to Sri Vrndavana, a few months thereafter he breathed his last. When Srinivasa Acarya heard this he could not bear the shock and after a few days he too disappeared. When this news reached Srila Thakura, he was overwhelmed with grief and began singing in a choked voice. He gathered all the devotees around him in the temple of Sri Mahaprabhu and started sankirtana. Slowly the sankirtana party proceeded to the bank of the Ganga. With eyes full of tears, Narottama fell prostrate on the ground and entered into the Ganga to take bath. Sitting knee deep in the water he continued singing loudly, along with Sri Ramakrsna Acarya and Sri Ganganarayana Cakravarti. Narottama requested that they massage his body as he continued singing. As they massaged him, Thakura Mahasaya's body simply merged with the sacred water of the Ganga. Thus on the fifth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Karttika (Oct.-Nov.) he entered into the eternal pastimes of the Lord.

27. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura

The biography of Visvanatha has been translated from the following Bengali publications: Mihir Caudhuri Kamilya, Narahari Cakravarti: Jivani O Racanavali (Life and works of Narahari Cakravarti) Vol. 1: Biography and collected works. Burdwan, University of Burdwan, 1981, pp. 1-15

Narahari Cakravarti writes as follows in Bhaktiratnakara (Pathavadi ms. no. 2341-24, p. 154 ka, "My father, Vipra Jagannatha, was a disciple of the famous Visvanatha Cakravarti." Visvanatha stands as a remarkable example of Bengali intellect. His place in the Vaisnava world remains unsurpassed as far as erudition, theological knowledge, poetic talent and appreciation of rasa. He was worshiped by his contemporaries as an example of unblemished ascetic life and an ideal follower of Ragamarga.

Scholars differ in their views regarding Visvanatha's period. According to Syamalala Gosvami it was 1626-1708 A.D. (quoted in the book Caitanyottara Yugera Gaudiya Vaisnava p. 98). Murarilal Adhikari writes in Vaisnava Digdarsani that the period was 1646-1754. Madhusudana Tattvavacaspati guesses that Visvanatha was born around 1633-1638 A.D. (1555-60 Saka) and disappeared around Saka 1625-30 (Sri Krsna Bhavanamrta, introduction p. 4, published in Bhaktiprabha 1335). Both Nikhilnath Roy and Bimanbihari Majumdar hold that Visvanatha was born toward the early part of the 17th century Saka (see Mursidavadera Itihasa p. 308). In Gaurapadatarangini 1st ed. 1310, p. 183, Jagadbandhu Bhadra argues that in 1664 A.D. (Saka 1586) Visvanatha was born. However proper evidence in support of the above arguments is lacking.

Visvanatha completed Sararthadarsini in 1704 A.D. (1626 Saka), which he himself states at the conclusion of the book. Thus he must have been alive around 1704 A.D. According to Sukumar Sen, Visvanatha disappeared shortly after 1704 A.D. (see Vangala Sahityera Itihasa Vol. 1, Part 2, 2nd ed., 1965, p. 393)

Visvanatha was born at Devagrama (see ms. of Narottamavilasa at Pathavadi no. 2336 (21), p. 31 kha). Some believe that this village belongs to Kasiganj police station of the Nadia district (Gaurapadatarangini, introduction p. 183; Vaisnava Digdarsani p. 120; Jivanikosa by Sasibhusana Vidyalankar, Vol. 5, p. 1773; Nadia: Svadhinata Rajatajayanti Smarakagrantha, Krsnagore 1973, p. 25). Others argue that Devagrama falls under Sagaradihi police station of the Mursidabad district (see 'Padakarta Harivallabha' by Harekrsna Mukhopadhyay in Ananda Bajara Patrika special Puja no. 1369, p. 276).

None of the old mss. record the names of Visvanatha's parents. Pathavadi mss. of 'Narottamavilasa" state that Visvanatha's father's name was Ramanarayana Cakravarti. Visvanatha was the youngest child in the family. His eldest brother was Ramabhadra and the next oldest was Raghunatha. Ramabhadra was an accomplished theologian and a disciple of Gopikanta. This Gopikanta was the son of Hariramacarya, the disciple of Ramacandra Kaviraja who belonged to the spiritual lineage of Srinivasa. The second brother, Raghunatha, was also a great scholar (mss. of 'Narottamavilasa' of Pathavadi no. 2336.21, p. 31 kha).

Visvanatha's family was brahmana by caste from the Radha clan, Sandilya gotra, and lineage drawn from Bhattanarayana (see Vaisnavacarya Visvanatha by Nanigopala Gosvami in Bharatavarsa 1351).

In the said mss. of 'Narottamavilasa' p. 31 kha, an account is given relating to Visvanatha's birth. It is said that as soon as Visvanatha was delivered a strange halo of light appeared around his body. That light illuminated the entire delivery-room and then disappeared. This account seems to be an interpolation at a later date. Once a highly renowned scholar visited Devagrama and the local pandita's became unnerved upon meeting him. But Visvanatha, a mere adolescent, defeated this scholar in argument.

As a child Visvanatha completed his studies at Devagrama and thereafter went to Saidavad. Some say that Visvanatha was educated under Ganganarayana Cakravarti of Saidavad (Premavilasa J.N. Talukdar ed. pp. 206-7), while others argue that Ganganarayana's adopted son Krsnacarana actually taught Visvanatha (H.K. Mukhopadhyaya 'Padakarta Harivallabha'). No evidence in support of these views has yet been found.

Radharamana was the name of Visvanatha's diksa guru. Visvanatha himself writes about his spiritual lineage in one sloka of Sararthadarini. In chapters 2-7 of Stavamrtalahari Narahari also gives details on the spiritual lineage or guru-pranali (when their siddha/ svarupa names are used, it's called siddha-pranali) of Visvanatha as follows:

Lord Gauranga
Radharamana (alias Sri Rama)
(son & disciple)

Visvanatha's guru and parama-guru belonged to the spiritual lineage of Narottama Thakura.

From his childhood Visvanatha was of a detached temperament. At the command of his father, Visvanatha's brother Ramabhadra arranged for Visvanatha's marriage at an early age. However, through studying Srimad Bhagavatam Visvanatha developed a deep spirit of renunciation. After completing his studies he took spiritual initiation and gradually developed an intense love for Krsna. Finally, one day, he renounced home, took the vow of a renunciate and went to Vrndavana. After visiting several holy places Visvanatha finally sought the shelter of Mukundadasa, a disciple of Krsnadasa Kaviraja on the bank of the Radhakunda. The devotees present there urged this young renunciate to return home, which Visvanatha had to abide by (mss. Narottamavilasa pp. 31-32 ka).

Possibly this was the time when Visvanatha went to Patadanja where he is said to have realized his spiritual goal. Visvanatha installed the deity of Gopala (Harekrsna Mukhopadhyaya p. 276)

At the command of his guru, Visvanatha went home for one night to meet his wife. His wife, however, heard nothing other than Krsna katha from her husband throughout the night (see mss. Narottamavilasa p. 32 ka). Early the next morning Visvanatha left home and took shelter of his guru. As directed by his guru, Visvanatha began copying Srimad Bhagavatam.

Visvanatha settled on the bank of the Radhakunda in Vrndavana. Regarding his spiritual practices Narahari writes as follows, "Being deeply immersed in singing kirtana of the Lord, Visvanatha narrated the pastimes of the Lord in a most fascinating manner. No one is competent enough to speak of his spiritual practices. Anyone who had the good fortune to set his eyes upon Visvanatha felt immediately soothed from the pangs of material existence. Visvanatha served the deity of Sri Gokulananda with great pleasure and devotion."

When Visvanatha arrived in Vrndavana he noticed that with the disappearance of the six Gosvamis the beauty of that holy place was no longer visible. A large number of Mathas had been destroyed by the Muslims. Priests migrated from Vrndavana taking away the deities which were in their charge. A number of deities were left standing alone and received no service. And the devotees were in a state of constant fear. People in general were in no mood to devote attention to the study of the scriptures (see Madhurya Kadambini introduction, p. 4, by Satyendranatha Vasu).

During his stay in Vrndavana many loyal workers and scholars such as Baladeva Vidyabhusana were deeply impressed upon seeing Visvanatha's devotion, strength of mind and hard working nature. Visvanatha became determined to bring back the lost glory of Vrndavana. The following are some of his achievements.

1. Visvanatha himself installed the Deity of Gokulananda and took charge of serving Govardhana sila. He reinstated different priests to begin the service of the Deities in various places.

2. It was through his initiative that the Sri Vardhana Matha of Kongala and some new Mathas at several other places were set up (Visvakosa V. 19, p. 42). Visvanatha also arranged to renovate a large number of temples.

3. At that time there was little access by the common people to the works of the Gosvamis. This was due to the fact that there were no proper analysis and interpretation of these theological treatises. What Visvanatha did was to prepare simple and lucid commentaries for these works, as well as presenting abridged forms of the original works. This enabled devotees of all types to understand and appreciate the essence of the Gosvamis' works. Visvanatha also arranged for the wide distribution of books which Vaisnavas needed for daily study and spiritual practices. He also organized classes to be held on them to impart instructions.

Visvanatha was one of the most accomplished preachers of madhurya-bhava in ragamarga. Regarding sadhana (spiritual achievements), Visvanatha's name is placed after Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Krsnadasa Kaviraja and Narottama Thakura (CC Sukumar Sen ed. 1.4. p.13).

Visvanatha was an out and out parakiya-vadi. Both in prakata and aprakata lila Visvanatha considered Sri Radha and the gopis as the parakiya heroines of Lord Krsna. Visvanatha had deep faith in the astakaliya nitya-lila described by Kavi Karnapura and Krsnadasa Kaviraja (Padavaliparicaya 2nd ed. pp. 86-87). Apart from practicing smarana (remembrance), manana (contemplation) and sankirtana, Visvanatha remained deeply absorbed in the service of Radha Krsna with loyalty to the Vrajavasis. Due to his own success in practice and realization, Visvanatha was able to write beautifully describing the proper method for astakaliya nitya-lila, a unique analysis of ragamarga sadhana, detailed descriptions of Radha Krsna lila, details on the sadhana practiced by sakhi-manjari or kinkari, the mystic significance of bhajan and the method of bhajan.

Another remarkable achievement of Visvanatha's was to establish Gaudiya Vaisnavism and its theology through Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Visvanatha's close follower, at the meeting of Vaisnavas held at Galta, Jaipur in 1718 A.D. (Saka 1640) (see CC introduction 4th ed. p. 396, also Baladeva Siddhantaratna, Gopinatha Kaviraja ed., introduction).

As a youth in Saidavad Visvanatha set up a Sanskrit school and accepted a teaching career. In order to help the students to learn easily Visvanatha wrote a simplified commentary titled 'Suvodhini' on Kavi Karnapura's Alamkara Kaustubha. This is said to be Visvanatha's first literary work. Upon his arrival in Vrndavana, Visvanatha sought the refuge of Mukundadasa. This Mukunda dasa was a poet and disciple of Krsnadasa Kaviraja. Mukunda dasa had some books to be completed. Noting Visvanatha's devotion and erudition, he thus requested Visvanatha to complete those books. Pathavadi mss. Narottamavilasa p. 32 ka, refers to this but does not give the names of the works.

In Vrndavana Visvanatha's literary talent blossomed and beautiful compositions began to flow like many streams of nectar. His complete works can be classified under four groups:

1) Commentary works (Tika Grantha):

At that time most of the manuals and other books which Vaisnavas needed to consult daily were full of difficult theological concepts mostly written in Sanskrit. This made it difficult for the lay-devotee to study and understand the proper conclusions. To remove these obstacles Visvanatha wrote simple Sanskrit commentaries on many of the Gosvamis' works. Titles of such commentaries are as follows:

1) Sararthadarsini (1704 A.D.) - tika on Srimad Bhagavatam
2) Sararthavarsini - tika on Bhagavad-gita
3) Sri Caitanya-caritamrtera tika (the first commentary in Sanskrit on a Bengali book)
4) Brahmasamhitara tika
5) Anandacandrika - tika on Ujjvala-nilamani of Rupa Gosvami
6) Bhakti-sara-pradarsani - tika on Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu of Rupa Gosvami
7) Prema-bhakti-candrika-kirana - a Sanskrit tika on Narottama's Prema-bhakti-candrika
8) Sukhavartini - a tika on Kavi Karnapura's Ananda-vrndavana-campu
9) Mahati - tika on Danakeli Kaumudi of Rupa Gosvami
10) Bhakta-harsini - tika on Gopalatapani
11) Hamsaduta tika - tika on Rupa Gosvami's Hamsadutam
12) Tika on Rupa Gosvami's Vidagdha-madhava
13) Lalita-madhavera tika

Some scholars argue that the tika on Lalita-madhava and Vidagdha-madhava were not works of Visvanatha. They say that Krsnadeva Sarvabhauma, a disciple of Visvanatha, was the writer of the Vidagdha-madhava tika, while Radhakrsna dasa, a disciple of Jiva Gosvami wrote the tika of Lalita-madhava (see Haridasa dasa Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana, p. 1751-52, 1745)

2) Abridged Works:

Visvanatha felt that many of the Vaisnava works were difficult for the lay-devotee to grasp. He therefore extracted the most relevant information and presented an abridged form of various selected books. Three of these are works of Rupa Gosvami as shown below:

1) Kirana i.e Ujjvala-nilamani-kirana on Ujjvala-nilamani
2) Vindu i.e Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu-vindu on Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu
3) Kana i.e. Bhagavatamrta-kana on Laghu-bhagavatamrta

3) Original Works:

Visvanatha's thoughts had originality and depth. He was gifted with the talent of communicating deep philosophical concepts in a simple way, while keeping the unique characteristics of Radha Krsna lila in tact. Most of his original works relate to sadhana-bhajan as follows:

1) Sri Krsna-bhavanamrta (1679 A.D.): describes astakaliya nitya-lila of Radha Krsna
2) Ragavartmacandrika: a guide to and an account of raganuga bhakti and its methods
3) Madhurya-kadambini: reveals the subtle concepts on rupa and madhurya of Lord Krsna
4) Aisvarya Kadambini: a scriptural account of Lord Krsna's aisvarya (opulence)
5) Camatkara-candraka: mystic sports of Radha Krsna
6) Gopipremamrta: reveals the love of the gopis and concepts regarding svakiya and parakiya
7) Mantrartha-dipika: explanation of kamabija and kamagayatri mantras
8) Vraja-riti-cintamani: describes the sites of Lord Krsna's Vraja-lila
9) Prema-samputa (1684 A.D.): describes madhurya of Radha
10) Sankalpa-kalpadruma (1678 A.D.): describes prayers to Sri Radha to grant sevavrtti
11) Nikunja-keli-virudavali (1678 A.D.): describes the sports of Radha Krsna in the kunja
12) Surata-kathamrta (1678 A.D.): description of the pastimes of Radha Krsna in the quiet of midnight.

Some other works by Visvanatha are written like hymns. These reveal Visvanatha's genuine devotion and reverence for his superiors, cherished Deities, and the holy places of Lord Krsna's pastimes. The following is a list of these works:

1) Sriman Mahaprabhorastakaliya Smaranamangalastotram: A guide book describing Lord Gauranga's astakaliya lila.
2) Sri Gauranganoddesa-candrika: A brief account on the close associates of Lord Gauranga (a similar manuscript of Visvanatha's dealing with the associates of Lord Gauranga is available in the collection of Barahanagar--Sri Gauranga Granthamandir--the title of the said mss. is Gauraganasvarupa-tattvacandrika, no. 230 B 17)
3) Stavamrta-lahari: This is one of the best works of hymns. It consists of a total of 28 hymns which deal with the guru, the poet's own guru, paramaguru, paratparaguru, Narottama, Lokanatha, Sri Caitanya, Vaisnava acaryas, etc. Then invocation of the mercy of the famous Deities Gopaladeva, Madanagopala, Govindadeva, Gopinatha, Gokulananda and Lord Krsna; invocation of the grace of Radha and Vrnda devi; hymns in praise of various lila sites such as Vrndavana, Nandisvara, Krsnakunda, etc.
4) Padavali Samkalam (compilation of Vaisnava poems)
5) Ksanada-gita-cintamani (known briefly as 'Ksanada' or 'Gitacintamani'). [Ksanada-gita-cintamani mss. Pathavadi no. 2615 (24 ga), 2613 (24 ka), oldest edition 1282 (1875 A.D.). See Vangala Sahityera Itihasa V. 1, Pt. 1, p. 393]

2nd edition 1315 Vrndavana Kesighat (Krsnapada dasa Babaji)
3rd edition (?) Nitaipada Dasa
4th edition (1332) Nityasvarupa Brahmacari, Calcutta
5th edition (1369) Bimanabihari Majumdar, General Library

While compiling this Ksanada-gita-cintamani containing selected Vaisnava poems Visvanatha had in mind that devotees of raganuga marga may every night perform or listen to nama-guna etc. of their cherished Deities.

Earlier some attempts were made to prepare compilations of Vaisnava poems to some extent by Ramagopala dasa of Srikhanda in his 'Sri Sri Radhakrsnarasa-kalpavalli', by his son Pitamvaradasa in 'Rasamanjari' and Mukundadasa, a disciple of Krsnadasa Kaviraja in 'Siddhantacandrodaya'. However it was Visvanatha who first prepared this first compilation. In fact Ksanada is considered "the first perfect Padavali compilation" (Vangala Sahityera Itihasa V. 1, Pt. 2, 2nd ed., p. 102 b 393). The first part of Ksanada is available, but it is thought that Visvanatha disappeared before the later part was completed. Dr. Sukumar Sen argues that this compilation was done before 1704 A.D. (see Gaudiya Vaisnava Sadhana by Harekrsna Mukhopadhyay, 1st ed. p. 136). In this book Visvanatha used the bhanita of 'Harivallabha' or 'Vallabha' on those poems composed by him.

Recently the second part of Ksanada, compiled by Manohara dasa, was found and published (Ksanada-gita-cintamani: Manoharadasa, published by Radhakrsna dasa, Kusumsarovar, P.O. Radhakunda, Mathura). This mss. contains the first to the seventeenth section of Ksanada. It was available from Advaitacarana Gosvami, the priest of Radharamana of Vrndavana. Haridasa dasa gives information in Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana Vol. 3, p. 1484 that a similar manuscript is available in the collection of Nimbarka sampradaya.

Bimanbihari Majumdar argues as follows: "Since Visvanatha compiled Vaisnava poems for the Bengalis to enjoy he titled them 'Purva Vibhaga' (eastern section) and his contemporary, Manohara dasa, the writer of Anuragavalli, compiled for the readers of western India and hence titled it 'Pascima Vibhaga' (western section)."

In the second compilation there are twenty one poems of Manohara dasa, along with those of Haridasa Svami etc. Several of Manoharadasa's poems deal with Lord Gauranga. This compilation consists of Hindi poems. In the 'Pascima Vibhaga' there are six Hindi poems written by Visvanatha, who gave the bhanitas of Harivallabha or Vallabha.

The Purva Vibhaga of Visvanatha consists of a total of thirty Ksanada or themes. These themes are fitted each for thirty nights from the first night of the dark fortnight of one lunar month till the day of the new moon and from the first day of the bright fortnight till the night of the full moon. Varying in size, eight have small and sixteen have big padas. A total of 308 pada are found in Purva Vibhaga containing the bhanita of 48 known and unknown poets (of these the compiler has 53 padas - 40 with the bhanita of Harivallabha and 13 with the bhanita of Vallabha). Some hold that Harivallabha was the name of Visvanatha's guru. Some argue that Harivallabha was the sannyasa name of Visvanatha. However neither of these ideas is supported by evidence. In 'Gitavali' part of the book Stavamrta-lahari of Visvanatha, out of eleven Sanskrit padas two have bhanita of Harivallabha and four have the bhanita of Vallabha.

In 'Mantrartha-dipika' Sri Radha addresses Visvanatha in a state of dream as Harivallabha. Narahari, the son of Visvanatha's disciple, clearly writes that Harivallabha was the name of Visvanatha.

Each Ksanada or section is arranged in such a manner as it could be sung for one night. First there is Gaura Vandana, then follows Nityananda Vandana and concludes with poems of milana (comedy) or sambhaga. In between there are poems/lyrics dealing with abhisara, or aksepanuraga and rasa. All these compositions relate to madhurya rasa. None of these deal with sakhya, vatsalya or even themes relating to Mathura.

This compilation was made with a view to serving aspirants with manjari-bhava eager to enjoy Vrajarasa. Though Visvanatha was a highly imaginative poet he was a perfect erudite too. He never liked to compose poems in a simple, unadorned manner. Sanskrit expression, rhetorically rich language, chiming words and waves of rhythm enriched his poems which were equally rich with fascinating themes and deep rasa.

Visvanatha had an extraordinary command of Vrajvuli, Hindi and Sanskrit. In all three languages Visvanatha composed a total of seventy padas of which the ones in Sanskrit are the best.

It seems that Visvanatha's poems were not appreciated by his contemporaries. Hence in later compilation not many of Visvanatha's poems are found. In Padamrtasamudra of Radhamohana Thakura, almost a contemporary of Visvanatha, there was not any pada of Visvanatha's. The reason for this was that Radhamohana compiled the poems in Bengal while Visvanatha was in Vrndavana. Neither can any pada of Visvanatha's be found in Sankirtanamrta, a compilation by Dinabandhu dasa belonging to a bit later period.

Among other compilations of padas there are five padas of Visvanatha's in the total 1169 pada in Gitacandrodaya compiled by Narahari Cakravarti, one pada of Visvanatha's out of a total of 1119 pada compiled in Kirtanananda of Gaurasundara dasa, and three pada of Visvanatha's out of 3101 total pada compiled in Vaisnava dasa's Padakalpataru.

When critically evaluated as poetry Visvanatha's works do not rank in the first category although critics have praised most of his padas (see introduction by Bimanbihari Majumdar ed. Ksanadagitacintamani).

Judged from the standpoint of the preceding Vaisnava acaryas and the quality of rasa, Visvanatha undoubtedly contributed immensely in leading Gaudiya Vaisnavism and sadhana bhakti forward. Most of the difficult treatises of Rupa Gosvami were presented by Visvanatha to devotees sometimes by adding simple commentaries and sometimes by preparing abridged editions. Devotees hailed Visvanatha as 'the second svarupa of Rupa' or as 'avatara of Rupa'.

Among the devotees of Visvanatha nothing much is known about others except Krsnadasa (see mss. N. Vilasa p. 33 kha), Kanudasa, Nandakisora (see Rasakalika ed. Haridasa dasa, p. 82, p. 154). Some think that Krsnadeva Sarvabhauma was a disciple of Visvanatha. Baladeva Vidyabhusana, a disciple of Radhadamodara, revered Visvanatha deeply as his guru.

Visvanatha stands as a remarkable outcome of Bengali intellect in 17th-18th century as poet, musician, thinker, theologian, scholar and above all a devotee and preacher.

28a. Baladeva Vidyabhusana

Baladeva Vidyabhusana was a highly renounced, pure devotee, who had not even a fraction of desire for name or fame. He compiled many books in order to benefit mankind. However he never mentioned his birth place or anything about his family background and therefore the details are not known for sure.

Historians have estimated that he was born sometime in the eighteenth century, most probably in Orissa (possibly near Remuna). At a very early age he finished his studies of grammar, poetry, rhetoric and logic and then went on pilgrimage. During this time he spent some time with the Tattvavadis in South India and thus became conversant with the teachings of Sri Madhvacarya. He became a powerful exponent of this philosophy throughout India.

During his travels he again came to Utkaladesa (Orissa) and met with a grand-disciple of Sri Rasikananda Deva, Sri Radha-Damodara Deva by name, with whom he discussed philosophy. Sri Radha-Damodara Deva explained the conclusions of Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy as expounded by Sri Gaurasundara and requested him to consider the unlimited mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. These talks penetrated his heart and awakened divine love within. Thus, after a few days he was initiated with Radha-Krsna mantra and began to study the Sat-sandarbha of Sri Jiva Gosvami.

In a very short time he became very expert in Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy. With the permission and blessings of his guru, he moved to Sri Vrndavana dhama to further study these teachings under Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.

Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura was extremely pleased to see the humble and gentle nature and the renunciation and profound mastery of the Vedas that characterized Baladeva. He carefully instructed him in acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. Baladeva fully accepted the Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy and began to preach it with great vigor.

Around this time, the members of the Sri sampradaya began to raise some arguments in the court of the king at Jaipur. They complained that as the Gaudiya Vaisnavas had no commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, they were not qualified to worship the Deity and therefore the worship should be turned over to the Sri sampradaya. They also objected to the worship of Srimati Radharani along with Sri Sri Govinda-Gopinatha as not being authorized anywhere in the sastras.

The king, Sadacari Raja, was initiated within the Gaudiya sampradaya. Thus he quietly sent word to Vrndavana, informing the devotees there of what had happened. But at the same time the king was obliged to remove Radharani from the Deity room as well as suspend the Bengali Gaudiya Vaisnava pujaris from partaking in the Deity worship.

At that time Visvanatha Cakravartipada was very aged, so it was not possible for him to make the journey to Jaipur. In his place he sent his student, Sri Baladeva, who was fully conversant with the sastras and thus able to competently face the challenge. In a great assembly he posed such forceful arguments to the followers of Ramanuja that they could not reply to them. He further explained to them, "The originator of the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, has accepted Srimad Bhagavatam as the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, as composed by Srila Vyasadeva Himself. This is proven in the Sat-sandarbha."

The scholars in the assembly, however, refused to accept anything other than a direct commentary on the sutra. Having no other recourse, Baladeva promised to present them with one.

Feeling very aggrieved, Sri Baladeva came to Sri Govindaji's mandira and after offering his prostrated obeisances, informed Sri Govinda of everything that had happened. That night the Lord appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to write a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. "I will dictate to you what to write and therefore no one will be able to refuse to accept it."

Having seen such a wonderful dream, Baladeva was totally enlivened and felt renewed strength flow into his heart. Thus he began to write, and within a few days completed the commentary which was titled 'Sri Govinda Bhasya'.

Bringing the commentary with him, Sri Baladeva again came to the assembly of the Ramanandi scholars. After reading the commentary they were simply speechless. Thus the victory of the Gaudiya sampradaya was announced far and wide and the king, as well as the other devotees, began to float in the ocean of bliss. The scholars then bestowed upon Sri Baladeva the title 'Vidyabhusana'.

vidya rupam bhusanam me pradaya kyatim nitya tena yo mamudarah sri govinda svapna nirdista bhaso radha bandhubandhurangah sa jiyat

"May He Who so mercifully and munificently was kind towards me, and bestowed His favour by ordering me in a dream to write down His own commentary, which He would compose, and which attained such renown amongst the learned circles that they bestowed upon me the title 'Vidyabhusana'; may that dear friend of Srimati Radharani, who holds Him dearer than Her own life, be glorified. May that Sri Govinda be glorified."

This assembly took place in the year 1640 Sakabda (1718 A.D.), at Galta near the present city of Jaipur. Baladeva Vidyabhusana installed the Deity of Vijaya Gopala there at Galta Mandira, but the whereabouts of this Deity are at present not known. From this day the Maharaja of Jaipur announced that Sri Govinda's arati would be performed first and then the other temples could perform their aratis.

After accepting defeat, the Ramanandi scholars expressed their desire to accept initiation from Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. However, he declined their request by stating that amongst the four authorized sampradayas, the Sri sampradaya was highly respectable and the foremost adherent of dasya-bhakti (devotion in servitorship). If there was any cause of loss of respect to the sampradaya this might be considered an offense.

Returning from Jaipur to Vrndavana, Sri Baladeva presented the certificate of victory to Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and narrated all of the events that had transpired. All of the devotees were in great ecstasy to receive this news and Cakravartipada bestowed his full blessings on Sri Baladeva. At this time, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana began to write a commentary on Jiva Gosvami's Sat-sandarbha.

Sri Jaya and Sri Vijaya Govinda, residing at Gokulananda Mandira in Vrndavana, were worshiped by Baladeva Vidyabhusana personally. According to the opinion of some devotees, the Deities of Syamananda Prabhu, Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara, were installed by Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana.

After Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura finished his pastimes in this world, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana became the next acarya of the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya.

At the end of Vedanta-syamantaka, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana acknowledges his spiritual master thusly: "I have been sent here to Vrndavana by one brahmana guru, Sri Radha-Damodara Deva, to present a composition named Vedanta-syamantaka, composed by his mercy for the pleasure of Srimati Radharani."

Baladeva Vidyabhusana became known later as Sri Govinda dasa. He had two well-known disciples: Sri Vidya dasa and Sri Nandan Misra.

He is the compiler of the following books: Sri Govinda-bhasya, Siddhanta-ratna, Sahitya-kaumudi, Vedanta-syamantaka, Prameya-ratnavali, Siddhanta-darpana, Kavya-kaustubha, Vyakarana-kaumudi, Pada-kaustubha, Isadi-upanisad bhasya, Gitabhusana-bhasya, Sri Visnunamasahasra-bhasya, Sanksepa-bhagavatamrta-tippani-saranga-rangada, Tattva-sandarbha-tika, Stava-mala-vibhusana-bhasya, Nataka-candrika-tika, Candraloka-tika, Sahitya-kaumudi-tika, Krsna-nandini, Srimad-Bhagavata-tika, Vaisnava-nandini, Govinda-bhasya-suksma-tika, Siddhanta-ratna-tika, Stava-mala-tika, Bhasya-pithaka, Krsna-bhavanamrta, etc. See the complete list.

28b. Jagannatha dasa Babaji

Jagannatha dasa Babaji was born in the Mayamanasimha district of West Bengal. Gaudiya Vedanta-acarya Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana had a disciple named Uddhava dasa. His disciple was Sri Madhusudana dasa Babaji who lived in Suryakunda. Madhusudana dasa Babaji's disciple was Jagannatha dasa Babaji.

Jagannatha dasa Babaji was very austere; he never hesitated to fast without taking any water for three days at a stretch. He used to sit up the entire night chanting the holy name and at early dawn finish his ablutions. In the morning he took prasada of curd and flat rice.

The following is a list of disciples of Siddha Jagannatha dasa Babaji:

1. Biharidasa Babaji
2. Bhagavata dasa Babaji
3. Gaurahari dasa Babaji
4. Ramahari dasa Babaji
5. Ramadasa Babaji
6. Nityananda dasa Babaji, a resident of Varsana
7. Harekrsna dasa Babaji, a resident of Kadamakhandi

Jagannatha dasa Babaji lived in Vrndavana and performed his bhajan there for quite some time. Once he asked his servant Biharidasa to locate a Deity to install there. Biharidasa personally approached a weaver-caste Zamindar to help him in this regard. The Zamindar thus arranged to bring Deities of Gaura-Nitai from Dainhata and gave them to Biharidasa. Nitai-Gaura looked so beautiful when They were installed that it appeared as if They were made of gold. On the occasion of the installation ceremony a sum of Rs. 3,000 was spent to feed the Vaisnavas of Suryakunda and Radhakunda.

One day a band of dacoits approached him with the motive of stealing the Deities which they thought were made of gold. He told them that he possessed nothing and they might look into the temple for booty. The dacoits broke open the temple door and quickly gathered up everything they could find, including the Deities. However, in rushing to make their escape they stumbled on the door step and dropped the Deities. Seeing that the sun had risen outside the dacoits left the Deities and rushed off with the rest of the booty. After this incident he asked Biharidasa to arrange for the Deities to be cared for by someone else. Biharidasa carried the Deities to Vrndavana where he handed Them over, along with Rs. 2,000, to Mother-Gosvamini, a resident of Gayespur in the district of Maldaha. At present these Deities are residing at Dhopapada in Gopalbag and are known as "Sonara Gaura".

Sometime later he again asked Biharidasa to locate another Deity for him. Biharidasa found a Deity of the six-armed Lord Caitanya which had been kept hidden in a bag of cattle-feed. This Deity belonged to Dinu Babaji, a Manipuri Vaisnava residing in Mathura near Radhakunda. Biharidasa brought the Deity to Vrndavana where he cleansed and decorated Him, then carried the Deity, along with all items for worship, to Suryakunda.

For ten years thereafter Babaji Maharaja worshiped this Deity until one day he said, "Bihari, please put this Deity in the care of someone else in Vrndavana. I would like to go to Navadvipa. Let my body be offered at the lotus feet of Lord Gauranga." Biharidasa brought the Deity to Vrndavana and after receiving a donation of Rs. 25 from Mother-Gosvamini of Gayespur handed over the Deity as well as the money to Narottama dasaji, the head of the Gopalaguru Matha. At present this Deity is being served at the lane of Nidhuvana.

In 1880 Bhaktivinoda Thakura went to Vrndavana and saw him for the first time. While there, he received many instructions on Hari-bhakti from Jagannatha dasa. Some time later, Babaji Maharaja visited the Barddhaman district during the month of Phalguna. He stayed at a town called Amalajora. At that time, Bhaktivinoda Thakura again had the good fortune to take his darsana.

Seeing Bhaktivinoda Thakura's enthusiasm for preaching the holy name of Krsna, Babaji Maharaja was very happy. He stayed in Amalajora during ekadasi, and that night there was kirtan and Hari-katha. Later, at Amalajora, Bhaktivinoda Thakura established his Prappana-asrama.

In 1893 Babaji Maharaja went from Koladvipa to Surabhi-kunja in Godrumadvipa. There he took his seat. His arrival in Surabhi-kunja was a wonderful event. Jagannatha dasa Babaji revealed many lost holy places in Mayapura, including the Yogapitha, Srivasa Angana, and others. It is said that when he came upon the holy place of Mahaprabhu's birth he danced, although he was very old and walked with difficulty. For some time he remained in Nadia and performed his bhajan on the banks of the Ganges. His bhajan kutir and samadhi mandir are still there at present. He ordered Bhaktivinoda Thakura to build a hut so devotees could stay near his bhajan kutir, and Bhaktivinoda did so.

When Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was twelve years old, he was an expert in the Jyoti-sastras explaining Vedic astrology. Hearing this, Babaji Maharaja one day called upon him to prepare the Vaisnava calendar in accordance with the proper siddhanta. He did so and Babaji Maharaja was very pleased. With this, the Navadvipa Panjika, the Vaisnava calendar recording the dates of the appearance and disappearance of important Vaisnava saints and the celebration of important festivals, began.

Babaji Maharaja always had great enthusiasm for kirtan and Vaisnava seva. Even when he was nearly 135 years old, he went on preaching the message of Sri Caitanya throughout the world for the benefit of the fallen masses. In his old age, although he was almost paralyzed by infirmity, whenever it was time for kirtana he would still raise his arms in ecstasy.

Jagannatha dasa Babaji was the vesa, or Babaji, guru of Bhagavata dasa Babaji Maharaja. Bhagavata dasa in turn gave the dress of a babaji to Gaurakisora dasa Babaji. Jagannatha dasa Babaji's servant's name was Biharidasa. He was extremely strong and powerful. In his old age, Babaji Maharaja could not walk and Biharidasa used to carry him in a basket on his shoulders. When he went to Calcutta, Babaji Maharaja would stay at the house of Bhaktivinoda Thakura on Manikatala Street. Bhaktivinoda was always very eager to invite him to his house for prasada, but Babaji Maharaja was very renounced and would come only occasionally.

When he was in his old age, Babaji Maharaja was nearly blind. Many people would come to see him and to offer him donations for the service of Sri Krsna. His servant Biharidasa would keep all these donations in a bag. One day, Babaji Maharaja said, "Bihari! How many rupees have I got?" Biharidasa had put some rupees aside for some service he had planned to render Babaji Maharaja. When asked about how many rupees were on hand, Bihari placed some rupees in his hand and kept twelve rupees aside. Even though his eyesight was failing, however, Babaji Maharaja detected the discrepancy. "Bihari!," he said, "Why have you kept twelve rupees aside? Give me all the rupees!" Smiling at this fun, Bihari surrendered the remaining coins to his guru. At that time, Babaji Maharaja made his wishes known as to how the money should be spent. The total came to two hundred rupees. Babaji Maharaja ordered Biharidasa to take the money at once and buy sweetballs, rasagulas, and feed all the cows in Navadvipa dhama.

Once Babaji Maharaja was on the banks of the Ganges, living under a makeshift canvas tent. Nearby that place there lived a dog with five puppies. Whenever Babaji Maharaja would take prasada, the dogs would come around and lick the food from his plate. When Biharidasa caught hold of one of the dogs to drive it off, Babaji Maharaja told him: "Bihari! If you wish to drive these dogs off, you may take my plate away as well. I shall not eat today." When Bihari complained, "But guru maharaja, these dogs are unclean!" Babaji Maharaja remarked, "No. These dogs are residents of the holy dhama. You may not abuse them."

Many people used to come and beg alms from Jagannatha dasa Babaji. He did not want to give them alms, but told them to do service. One day a man named Sri Gaura Hari dasa came and asked Jagannatha dasa Babaji for alms, but Babaji Maharaja would give him nothing. When the man persisted for three days, fasting outside Babaji Maharaja's tent, Babaji Maharaja finally relented. He tore off a piece of his kaupina (undergarment) and gave it to Biharidasa, his servant, with the instruction to present it to the beggar as alms, thereby informing the beggar that he must first learn to control his senses before taking up the profession of a saint.

One day Babaji Maharaja remarked about the professional readers of Srimad-Bhagavatam, "This kind of professional Bhagavata kirtana is simply prostitution. Those who make their living by reading Srimad-Bhagavatam are offenders to the holy name of Krsna. No one should listen to the kirtana and Bhagavatam readings that they produce. And one who listens to such offensive readings and thus commits offenses against the holy name of Krsna certainly goes to hell. Those who are involved in this professional reading should immediately give it up. Such a person should worship the residents of Vrndavana with great care and attention, considering himself most fallen, and thus pray for forgiveness."

In Navadvipa Jagannatha dasa Babaji preferred to live beneath a tree where now the bhajan kutir of Biharidasa stands. Later Biharidasa bought ten cottahs of land from Madhava Datta for Rs. 40. That plot had a huge ditch in it which Bihari filled up by carrying earth from the Ganges at night after Jagannatha dasa went to bed. Sometime later Kedaranatha Datta Bhaktivinoda arrived there and both he and Biharidasa sought bhiksa from Nafar Pal Chowdhury of Mahesaganj and raised two shades. Awhile later, with the approval of Jagannatha dasa, Rajarsi Banamali Raya Bahadur built three small rooms and fenced them in with a surrounding wall. The aged Manamohini dasi, a resident of Kaigrama, arranged to dig a well. He lived here for 32 years until his disappearance at the age of 147 years.

Srimad Bhaktivinoda Thakura remarked of Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja that he was the topmost general among Gaudiya Vaisnavas.

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