by Stephen Knapp
It is established that everyone who seeks spiritual knowledge and enlightenment must accept a genuine teacher. Even if one has already attained enlightenment in a previous life and is automatically born with such knowledge, proper etiquette dictates that one approaches a spiritual master. Such a master must be in an authorized sampradaya, or line of disciplic succession of other spiritual masters from whom he has received knowledge. In this way, the unique transcendental message flows through the disciplic succession in a continuous, pure and non-contaminated form. This is the mystery of receiving pure spiritual knowledge through a genuine line of masters.
The sampradaya of which we are a part is the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, which descends from Lord Krishna and then Lord Brahma, through Madhvacharya, and through Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Gaudiya), the great sage, scholar and incarnation of Lord Krishna who appeared only 500 years ago. He appeared with His eternal associates to relish and display the loving sentiments of devotion for Lord Krishna. His mission was not merely to teach the way of devotion to God, especially through the congregational chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, but much deeper than that. He revealed to the world what is rarely obtained and what had never before been given--love of Lord Krishna as practiced by the most intimate inhabitants of the spiritual world in Goloka Vrindavana. Lord Caitanya exhibited this love and instructed His associates, like the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavana, to write volumes of devotional scriptures about the nature of this devotional love for Lord Krishna.
The deepest level of this love is to understand how to meditate on becoming a maidservant of Srimati Radharani. She is the topmost devotee of Lord Krishna, and His feminine expansion as the personification of Lord Krishna's pleasure potency, the hladini-shakti. She is the enchanter of Lord Krishna Himself. Just as Sri Krishna captivates all the living entities by His beauty and loving characteristics, Srimati Radharani similarly captivates Lord Krishna by Her love and charming qualities. Srimati Radharani's love for Lord Krishna is so condensed and sweet that Sri Krishna is so maddened by it that He accepts the form of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who descends in the mood of Radharani, in order to more thoroughly understand and relish the love Srimati Radharani has for Him. Therefore, the goal of a devotee of Lord Caitanya, following in the footsteps of His associates, is to meditate on becoming a maidservant of Srimati Radharani to assist Her in giving that love to Lord Krishna.
Out of so many spiritual processes for realizing one's spiritual nature, this is the most intimate of all spiritual loving sentiments. You will find none more sublime than this. However, it is not easily understandable, and you cannot comprehend it by the standard materialistic methods. In order to understand the transcendental science of the loving affairs of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna and Their associates, one must learn it from those who are descendants from that supreme spiritual realm. This is the unique character of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya. It provides a seeker with the knowledge and books from those who have personal experience of such spiritual realms and divine consciousness.
The most recent representative of our sampradaya is His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada was the disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the disciple of Gaurkishora das Babaji and son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Bhaktivinoda took shelter and instructions from Jagannatha das Babaji. From there the line of masters and disciples goes back to Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, then to Narottama das Thakura, Krishna dasa Kaviraj, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami and Jiva Gosvami. Then it continues to Sri Rupa Gosvami, along with Svarupa Damodara and Sanatana Gosvami. Then we arrive at Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the most recent incarnation of God who descended to distribute love of God to all conditioned souls.
Lord Caitanya taught by example that everyone should accept a spiritual master, and He took initiation from Ishvara Puri. From Ishvara Puri, our line of spiritual masters goes back through Madhavendra Puri, then to Lakshmipati, Vyasa Tirtha, Brahmanya Tirtha, Purushottama, Jayadharma, Rajendra, Vidyanidhi, Dayanidhi, Jnansindhu, Jaya Tirtha, Akshobya, Madhava, Nrihari, Padmanabha, Madhvacharya, Srila Vyasadeva, Narada Muni, Lord Brahma, and Lord Sri Krishna.
[We have included separate web pages that more thoroughly describe Srila Prabhupada, Lord Sri Caitanya, Srila Vyasadeva, and Lord Sri Krishna.]
It is understood that you cannot give such loving devotion to others unless you have it yourself. However, as we shall see in the descriptions that follow, we do not have spiritual masters in our line who merely have an intense devotion to Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani. Many of these masters have descended into the material realm to explicitly describe their direct view of these pastimes from their own experience in the spiritual world, and their books are filled with such descriptions. They are already perfected or descended masters who have come to awaken and guide us back to their own areas of intimate service to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.
Providing short descriptions of the spiritual qualities of the great personalities in this sampradaya, we will see how fortunate we are to have come in contact with them since many have been identified as having direct spiritual relationships with Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani in the form of either manjaris or sakhis. A sakhi is one who expands and facilitates the conjugal love of Lord Krishna and His enjoyment among the gopis, the maidservants. The gopis in general bring Radha and Krishna together and give Them assurance to enjoy spiritual pastimes. That is the transcendental pleasure of the gopis. The gopis never act for their own personal satisfaction. They are simply pleased by engaging others in the service of the Lord. The sakhis of Srimati Radharani, headed by Lalita and Vishaka, are unlimited in number. They are in the same age group of Radharani, and, thus, they sometimes deal directly with Lord Krishna. The sakhis help provide a variety of facilities for the pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. Occasionally, Radharani makes arrangements for the sakhis to have direct association with Lord Krishna.
There are five kinds of sakhis, known as sakhis, nitya-sakhis, prana-sakhis, priya-sakhis, and parama-prestha-sakhis. The regular sakhis are more affectionate toward Sri Krishna, while the nitya-sakhis are more affectionate toward Srimati Radharani. Others are equally affectionate toward Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, while sometimes they are more affectionate toward Srimati Radharani.
The manjaris are the direct maidservants of Srimati Radharani. They are younger, innocent girls, not more than thirteen years old, and the exclusive maidservants of Radharani. The manjaris are thus allowed to personally serve in the inner areas of the groves (kunjas) of Vrindavana, where the sakhis have no access. Therefore, they witness the intimate loving pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna and relish the highest levels of devotional bliss. As Srila Raghunatha das Gosvami writes in his Vraja Vilas Stava (text 31):
"I take shelter of Sri Rupa Manjari and the other very dear maidservants of the great queen of Vrindavana, Srimati Radhika, who please her by offering Her betel, massaging Her feet, offering Her water, and arranging for Her rendezvous with Krishna. Because these maidservants can enter the area where the Divine Couple enjoy their most confidential pastimes without feeling shy, they are even more dear to Radhika than the sakhis such as Lalita, who themselves are more dear to Her than life itself. In other words, the manjaris, headed by Sri Rupa Manjari, can freely enter those kunjas where even the prana-prestha sakhis hesitate to enter."
Starting with Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, among his numerous preaching activities, he wrote over 80 volumes of authoritative translations, commentaries and summary studies of the religious texts of India, such as the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and others. Many of these volumes have been translated into numerous languages around the world. Due to his efforts, this sampradaya became a global movement, and he was given credit for being the senapati bhakta (great devotee commander) who was predicted by Srila Bhaktivinoda and Lord Caitanya Himself who would come and preach in different countries and flood the world with the chanting of Hare Krishna. Thus, he was especially empowered to deliver this message and took the mission of the previous acharyas and Lord Caitanya to spread love of God to all souls. It was through Srila Prabhupada that we, especially those of us in the West, now have access to this Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, which is one of the few, if not only, genuine lines of disciplic succession broadcasting the intimate pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in the company of Their confidential maidservant associates in the spiritual realm of Vrindavana. Hardly anywhere else can you learn such privileged information about the spiritual world.
Srila Prabhupada has offered the path to the divine pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna by providing the knowledge as well as methods of meditation and service through which we can learn and absorb ourselves in the ways of the residents and damsels of Vraja. In this way, he has given us everything we need, even more than we can hope to understand in this lifetime. Few people, no matter how spiritual they may be, have any idea of this level of spiritual taste or relations, known as madhurya-rasa. This is what Lord Caitanya came to give 500 years ago, and which is still being offered by the efforts and mercy of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada and his genuine followers. Even now, the mantras that are offered to the brahminical initiates include the Gopla mantra and the Kama-gayatri, which are specifically meant to promote being absorbed in the loving sentiments and mood of the cowherd damsel servants of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. This most transcendental loving emotion is being passed down through the disciplic succession.
Even Srila Prabhupada's godbrother, Srila Bhaktiprajnana Keshava Gosvami Maharaja, who gave him sannyasa initiation in 1959, has been recognized as Vinoda Manjari in his spiritual identity. Since all acharyas in our sampradaya from Srila Madhavendra Puri have the same mood as their initiating masters, it is, therefore, most likely that Srila Prabhupada, as a follower of Rupa Gosvami, is also in the same madhurya-rasa, or mood of a loving maidservant of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. So this most beneficial line of spiritual teachers has appeared to allow us to take shelter of them through their instructions and books.
Srila Prabhupada took initiation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta revealed his own spiritual identity (svarupa) as Nayana Manjari to some of his close associates. Plus, Srila Bhaktivinoda had prayed to the Lord to send him one of His associates as a son to help him spread the Lord's mission. Thus, Bhaktisiddhanta is also considered a ray of Vishnu.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had done wonders in spreading the teachings of Lord Caitanya and expand the efforts of his father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Bhaktisiddhanta had established the Gaudiya Math institution with numerous temples. It spread Krishna consciousness all over India. He was a forceful and powerful preacher and scholar, and he wrote numerous articles, books and commentaries, including the Bhagavad-gita, Brahma-samhita, Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, and numerous others. All of these contributed greatly to the authority of the Vaishnava tradition and to spiritual consciousness in general. Then it was Srila Prabhupada who greatly expanded the efforts of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta by taking the message of Lord Caitanya far outside the borders of India.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had taken initiation from Gaura-kishora das Babaji, under the instruction of his father. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura revealed the spiritual identity of Gaura-kishora das Babaji as Guna Manjari in his Gaudiya Patrika. Gaura-kishora had taken babaji initiation from Bhagavat dasa Babaji, who was a direct disciple of Jagannatha dasa Babaji.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had taken Jagannatha dasa Babaji as his instructing guru, and referred to him as the Commander-in-Chief of the Vaishnavas. Srila Bhaktivinoda did much work and writing to help spread the Gaudiya Vaishnava mission, and foresaw the day when the message would travel throughout the world and bring numerous people from all over to Mayapur to glorify Lord Caitanya. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura also wrote numerous books and many songs in the mood of being absorbed in the pastimes of serving the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radhika and Madhava (Krishna) as a maidservant. In his books, Sri Navadvipa-bhava-taranga and Gita Mala, Srila Bhaktivinoda revealed his spiritual identity as Kamala Manjari, the eternal assistant of Ananga Manjari. Srila Rupa Gosvami explains in his Sri Sri Radha-Krishna ganoddesha-dipika that Ananga Manjari is one of the vara, or topmost gopis, as well as sister of Srimati Radharani.
Furthermore, Lord Nityananda is the spiritual brother of Lord Caitanya and incarnation of Lord Balarama, Lord Krishna's brother. As explained in the Sri Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika by Srila Kavi-karnapura, Lord Balarama's two wives are Srimati Varuna-devi and Srimati Revati-devi. These two wives also appeared as the wives of Lord Nityananda under the names of Srimati Vasudha-devi and Srimati Jahnava-devi. Both of them are considered expansions of Ananga Manjari. Thus, Srila Bhaktivinoda is the eternal assistant of Ananga Manjari, the eternal consort of Lord Nityananda.
Jagannatha dasa Babaji was the disciple of Srila Madhusudana dasa Babaji, whose guru was Srila Uddhava dasa Babaji, who was the disciple of Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana, the great Gaudiya Vedanta acharya. Baladeva Vidyabhushana was originally in the disciplic line of Madhvacharya, but after meeting Radha Damodara Deva Gosvami he converted to Gaudiya Vaishnavism and became the disciple of Radha Damodara Deva Gosvami. Soon after meeting Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura (late 17th century) who was the head of the Gaudiya Vaishnava community at the time, he became his ardent follower. Thereafter, Baladeva became a babaji, established the Shyamasundara Deity in Vrindavana, and accepted disciples. However, that was not the most important thing he accomplished.
There is a very nice story of what he did that helped give recognition to the Vaishnava tradition. Members of the Ramanuja (or Sri) sampradaya had challenged the authenticity of the Gaudiya sampradaya, especially that there was no proper commentary on the Vedanta-sutra from the Gaudiya school of thought. This was in spite of the fact that the Srimad-Bhagavatam had already been accepted by the Vaishnavas as the ultimate commentary on Vedanta, as expressed by Sri Caitanya. The king of Jaipur notified Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura of this, but he was now too old to travel to meet the challenge. So Vishvanatha sent Baladeva Vidyabhushana in his place. He was able to debate with them successfully on the grounds of philosophy, yet they wanted to see a direct written commentary. The Deity of Govindaji appeared in a dream to Baladeva and instructed him on the proper commentary to write, which he wrote in a very short time. This was called the Govinda-bhashya, signifying that it was the commentary as given by the Govinda Deity. The commentary justified the Gaudiya sampradaya's connection with the line of Madhvacharya, coming through Lakshmipati Tirtha, Madhavendra Puri, and Ishvara Puri.
In light of this, it is mentioned by Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya that the associate of Lord Caitanya, Gopinatha Acharya, had heard Lord Caitanya instruct Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya on the accurate elaboration of Vedanta. It was this Gopinatha Acharya who again took birth as Baladeva Vidyabhushana to reveal the Sri Govinda-bhashya, the natural commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. When the commentary was presented in the assembly before the king and members of the Sri sampradaya, they were awed by this presentation and were willing to become Baladeva's disciples. Soon after this, Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura left this world, but only after giving full blessings to Baladeva Vidyabushana, who took charge of the Gaudiya sampradaya at the time.
As we now continue to trace our sampradaya back farther, Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura had taken initiation from Sri Radha Ramana Chakravarti, who was the disciple of Sri Yuta Krishna Charana Chakravarti. He was a follower of one of the great Vaishnavas, Narottama dasa Thakura.
Narottama dasa Thakura had been inspired by Jiva Gosvami, and was one of the great preachers in the region of Bengal and Orissa. He had composed many devotional songs, and had powerful disciples, such as Ganganarayana and Ramakrishna, who continued to preach in Manipur, which became a Vaishnava kingdom. Narottama's cousin, Santosh Datta, took initiation from him, and also established a great temple for the pleasure of Narottama and Lord Caitanya. Invitations went out all over India to kings, poets, pandits, etc., for the installation ceremony. Great kirtans, congregational chanting, and feasting took place, while six Deities were installed. Mother Jahnavi, the wife of Lord Nityananda, was the guest of honor. When Narottama lead the kirtans, it is said that Lord Caitanya Himself, along with many of His associates, appeared and manifested the ecstatic spiritual world there. In this way, great preaching went on among many of the Vaishnava authorities and disciples in a most cooperative way with big festivals and temples being established.
At the same time as Narottama, Jiva Gosvami had also inspired other great devotees, such as Srinivasa Acharya (who was specifically blessed by Lord Caitanya to be a great preacher) and Duhkhi Krishnadasa (Shyamananda), to preach in the region of Bengal and Orissa. Srinivasa became one of the greatest preachers of that era, and attained the help of many prominent persons. Srinivasa held huge kirtan rallies among the general mass of people, and with his efforts, along with other devotees, and the distribution of the writings of the Six Gosvamis, whole kingdoms took up the Vaishnava tradition.
Jiva Gosvami (1513 A.D. to 1598 A.D.) was the son of Anupama, the brother of both Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis. When Anupama left this world, Jiva Gosvami was orphaned when only several years old. He then became the assistant of Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis. Under their care, he made great advancement. After the disappearance of Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, he became the most prominent Vaishnava preacher and scholar at the time. He was the main acharya of all Vaishnavas in Bengal, Orissa and elsewhere, and guided numerous devotees on the path of devotional service and the teachings of Lord Caitanya. He had also toured Vrindavana with Mother Jahnavi devi, the eternal consort of Lord Nityananda. He wrote at least 25 books and commentaries. It is explained that Srila Jiva Gosvami is the incarnation of Vilasa Manjari. She performs the service of applying mascara on Radha and Krishna in the spiritual abode.
It was also during this same time that Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami wrote the Sri Caitanya-caritamrita on the life of Lord Caitanya, after receiving the blessings of the Sri Madana-mohana Deity. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja is an incarnation of Kasturi Manjari. Her service is in offering Their Lordships in the spiritual world sandalwood pulp for decoration and cooling fragrance.
From Jiva Gosvami we trace our sampradaya directly to the other five of the Six Gosvamis, two of whom Jiva was directly related, as mentioned above. We should relate here that these Gosvamis were intimate associates of Lord Caitanya who appeared around 500 years ago. They were also authors of important Vaishnava literature which reveal the science of devotional service to Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. However, they are not merely authorities in the art of devotion, but they have been identified as incarnations of manjaris, intimate associates of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna from the spiritual world. This is why they have a unique perspective and understanding of the pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna, and how to best live one's life to enter into those pastimes in the spiritual world. Therefore, what they offer is not merely a process for attaining knowledge of one's spiritual identity, or how to gain liberation form the material existence, but they provide the doorway into the most intimate pastimes in the spiritual world, and the means to become absorbed in the madhurya-rasa of loving Sri Sri Radha and Krishna as a maidservant.
Starting from the youngest to the oldest, this includes the following:
Srila Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami (1505 A.D. to 1579 A.D.) met Sri Caitanya when He visited Varanasi and stayed at the house of Tapana Mishra, the father of Raghunatha Bhatta. Raghunatha was just a boy, but washed the Lord's dishes and massaged His legs. When he grew to a young man, he visited Lord Caitanya at Jagannatha Puri for eight months. Later, the Lord ordered him to go to Vrindavana under the care of Srila Rupa Gosvami. By regular recitation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam for Rupa Gosvami, Raghunatha Bhatta attained perfectional love of Krishna. Srila Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami's spiritual identity is Raga Manjari. Her service is painting in the spiritual abode. His history is more fully explained in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, 10.154 onwards).
Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami (1503 A.D. to 1578 A.D.) formerly belonged to the Ramanuja sampradaya, but joined the Gaudiya sampradaya. When Lord Caitanya toured South India, He stayed four months at the house of Venkata Bhatta, Gopal Bhatta's father. During that time Gopal Bhatta served the Lord and was later initiated by his uncle, the great sannyasi Prabodhananda Sarasvati. He went to Vrindavana and was cared for by Sanatana and Rupa Gosvami. He also established the Radharamana Deity in Vrindavana and accepted Srinivasa Acharya and Gopinatha Pujari as two of his disciples. Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami is an incarnation of Ananga Manjari or Guna Manjari. She performs the service of offering water to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. (Cc.Adi-lila, 10.105.pur.)
Raghunatha dasa Gosvami (1495 A.D. to 1571 A.D.) came from a family of Vaishnavas. Although he was a family man, he had no attachment for it. Though his father and uncle put up guards to prevent him from leaving, Raghunatha still managed to escape and meet Lord Caitanya at Jagannatha Puri. He went on to write three books, the Stava-mala (Stavavali), Dana-carita and Mukta-carita. He lived a long time, residing mostly at Radha Kunda near Vrindavana. He gave up most eating and sleeping, and was only concerned with chanting the holy names of Krishna. His eyes were always full of tears of ecstasy. Srila Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami is the incarnation of Rasa Manjari, or sometimes called Rati Manjari or Tulasi Manjari. She messages the feet of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. (His story is found in Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila.10.91)
Srila Rupa Gosvami (1489 A.D. to 1564 A.D.) was directly instructed by Lord Caitanya. His writings were extensive and quite advanced, many of which have been used as the foundation of the standards the Gaudiya Vaishnavas continue to follow. His writings include the Vidagdha-madhava, Lalita-madhava, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Ujjvala-nilamani, and others. Srila Rupa Gosvami is the incarnation of Sri Rupa Manjari. In the spiritual realm of Goloka Vrindavana she engages in offering golden colored betel nuts to Their Lordships.
Srila Sanatana Gosvami (1488 A.D. to 1558 A.D.) was also directly instructed by Lord Caitanya. He established temples in Vrindavana and wrote several prominent books and commentaries, such as Brihad-Bhagavatamrita, Hari-bhakti-vilasa, Vaishnava-toshani (commentary on the 10th Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam), and Brihad-vaishnava-toshani (full commentary on the Bhagavatam). Srila Sanatana Gosvami is Lavanga or Lila Manjari, sometimes called Rati Manjari, one of the leaders of Srimati Radharani's maidservants. Her service is offering garlands of cloves to Their Lordships. (Cc.Adi-lila.10.84.pur)
Another associate of Lord Caitanya is Srila Lokanatha Gosvami, who is an incarnation of Manjulali Manjari. Her service is assisting Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in dressing.
Other associates of Lord Caitanya are the sakhis in the spiritual world. For example, Svarupa Damodara is an incarnation Lalita Sakhi, also called Anuradha, one of the nitya-sakhis. Her service includes offering betel nuts for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.
The person known as Govindananda is Chitra Sakhi. Her spiritual service is offering garlands of cloves to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.
Basu Ramananda is the sakhi known as Indurekha. She offers the Divine Couple honey in the spiritual realm.
Shivananda Sena is the incarnation of Champakalata. Her special service is to offer jewels and waving the camara fan for their Lordships.
Govinda Ghosh is the incarnation of Rangadevi. Her service is to offer sandalwood pulp.
Vakreshvara Pandit is an incarnation of Tungavidya Sakhi. Her special service is singing and dancing for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.
Vasudeva Ghosh is the incarnation of Sudevi, the twin sister of Tungavidya. Her special service is in offering water.
Ramananda Raya, the person who had the conversation with Lord Caitanya which revealed the highest ideals of spiritual devotional sentiment, has been identified as an incarnation of Visakha Gopi, one of the param-prestha sakhis. Her service in the spiritual realm is to decorate Sri Sri Radha-Krishna with cloths and ornaments. Visakha Gopi would have been the perfect person to help Lord Caitanya reveal the highest levels of service to Srimati Radharani. However, Kavikarnapura has identified Ramananda Raya as Lalita Sakhi, as well as priyanarma sakha Arjuna and pure sambandhi Pandava Arjuna. As Pandava Arjuna, some feel that the conversation between Ramananda and Lord Caitanya is the reenactment of speaking the Bhagavad-gita, but with the roles of teacher and student reversed, and with higher spiritual truths being revealed regarding the devotional love capable of being developed by a devotee.
Other associates of Lord Caitanya include Sikhi Mahiti, who was formerly Ragalekha, an assistant of Srimati Radharani.
Gauridasa Pandita, was an incarnation of Lord Krishna's friend Subala, according to the Gaura-ganoddesap-dipika.
Haridas Thakura was the incarnation of Lord Brahma. It was after Lord Brahma's humble prayers to take birth and become an associate of the Lord in His earthly pastimes did Brahma become blessed to appear as Haridasa Thakura. He was the noted acharya of the chanting of the holy names of the Lord, specifically in the form of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. He used to chant the Lord's holy names 300,000 times a day.
Vasudeva Datta was the incarnation of Prahlada Maharaja.
Raghunatha Vaidya was formerly Revati, the wife of Lord Balarama.
Kashi Mishra was formerly the hunchback, Kubja, during Krishna's time.
Bhavananda Raya was formerly Pandu, and his five sons, namely Ramananda Raya, Pattanayaka Gopinatha, Kalanidhi, Subhanidhi, and Nayaka Vaninatha, were formerly the five Pandavas.
Lord Caitanya's family brother, Vishvarupa, son of Jagannatha Mishra, was an incarnation of Baladeva, Krishna's brother.
Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, one of the greatest logicians at the time, wanted to teach Lord Caitanya Vedanta, but after hearing Lord Caitanya's explanation, he became His student. It is recognized that Sarvabhauma was an incarnation of the great sage Brihashpati. Gopinatha Acharya, husband of the sister of Sarvabhauma, was formerly the gopi in the spiritual world named Ratnavali.
King Prataparudra was previously King Indradyumna who had established the Jagannatha temple in Puri many hundreds of years previous. He later took birth again in his own family to participate in Lord Caitanya's pastimes as King Prataparudra.
Jagai and Madhai, the ruffians who threatened Lord Nityananda and Hari Thakura, were formerly the two gatekeepers of Vaikuntha, Jaya and Vijaya, who were also Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in previous incarnations.
All of these personalities were direct associates of Lord Caitanya (February 18, 1486 A.D. to 1534 A.D.). It was the Supreme Lord as Sri Caitanya who came in this age of Kali to bestow what no incarnation had ever offered before, the most elevated mellow of devotional service, the mood of conjugal love to Lord Sri Krishna. (Cc.Antya.1.132). Thus, He especially showed by example and taught the principle of offering all of one's love to Sri Krishna in the mood of the gopi maidservants of Vrindavana. It is through Lord Caitanya that Lord Krishna, appearing as His own devotee, can taste His own sweetness (Cc.Adi.6.107). Otherwise such ecstasies are the monopoly of Srimati Radharani (Cc.Mad.2.80). This intense mood (rasa) of devotion, called bhava, is especially attractive to Lord Krishna, and more influential than prema, regular loving devotion in which Krishna reciprocates His devotee's love. However, in bhava, Sri Krishna feels that He is incapable of adequately returning the deep loving sentiment and thinks He is indebted to such affectionate devotees. Therefore, among the Gaudiya Vaishnava devotees, the highest attainment is service to Lord Krishna in the manjari bhava. Such a mood is expressed as follows:
"I dedicate myself to the service of Sri Rupa Manjari and Sri Rati Manjari under the guidance of Sri Lalita Sakhi and Sri Visakha Sakhi in trying to please Radha and Krishna. As a gopi of Vrindavana, I become most happy when Radha and Krishna come together and enjoy each other's company."
Of course, this is all highly advanced in devotional understanding and realization, and such a mood must be gradually and practically attained through the process of sadhana-bhakti, regulated devotional service under the guidance of a similarly realized devotee spiritual master. Nonetheless, such a path and high mood is available only through this Gaudiya disciplic succession from Lord Caitanya. So to attain such a lofty position or sentiment in one's spiritual realization, one must somehow be connected with this disciplic line, or parampara. In fact, it is said that one can hear Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu through the parampara, and through the books of the pure Vaishnavas of the parampara.
One person who was more than simply a devotee associate of Lord Caitanya was Srila Gadadhara Pandit. He is actually described as an incarnation of the pleasure potency of Lord Krishna, Srimati Radharani Herself (Cc. Adi.10.15 and Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 147-53), as well as a combination with Lalita Sakhi. Gadadhara Pandit's descendants and followers were also important devotees (described in Cc.Adi-lila, 12.81 onwards). As many as 33 personalities are described all together, many of which are identified as manjaris or sakhis. These included Sri Dhruvananda who was an incarnation of Lalita, and Sridhara Brahmacari, who was the gopi Chandralatika. Bhugarbha Gosani, a great friend of Lokanatha Gosvami, was Prema Manjari. Krishnadasa Brahmacari was one of the main eight sakhis (asta sakhis) named Indulekha. Sivananda Chakravarti was also said to be Lavanga Manjari.
Lord Nityananda was the spiritual brother of Lord Caitanya and incarnation of Lord Balarama, the brother of Lord Krishna. Lord Nityananda was the leader of the Vaishnavas in Bengal, and through Him there were also many followers of the Vaishnava tradition. After His disappearance, however, Mother Jahnavi, His wife and eternal consort, and Virabhadra, His son by His other wife Vasudha devi, became the leaders there and had many followers. They continued the preaching in many ways, along with other prominent devotees and acharyas. Virabhadra Gosani is described as a disciple of Jahnavi devi, and an incarnation of Kshirodakashayi Vishnu.
Lord Nityananda had many devotees and followers, out of which Sundarananda was identified as the incarnation of Lord Krishna's classmate Sudama. Another was Parameshavara dasa who was formerly the great warrior Arjuna, friend of Krishna and Balarama. Sadashiva Kaviraja and his son Purushottama dasa were also prominent devotees of Lord Nityananda. The Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika (text 156) relates that the beloved gopi of Krishna, Candravali, took birth as Sadashiva Kaviraja, and that his father, Kamsari Sena, was formerly the gopi named Ratnavali in Krishna's pastimes. Purushottama dasa had many disciples and a son, Kanu Thakura, who was identified as the cowherd boy Dama during Lord Krishna's time. Many more personalities are described in Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, Chapters Ten and Eleven.
Before the appearance of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, there was Srila Advaita Acharya. He had worshiped the Lord to descend and deliver the people of this age, since things were deteriorating so badly. It is Sri Advaita Acharya who is recognized as an incarnation or expansion of Lord Maha-Vishnu. He also had many followers. The Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, 12.17, purport) gives a history of Sri Advaita's sons. One of these, Achyutananda, is described in the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika (87-8) as the incarnation of Karttikeya, the son of Lord Shiva, and, according to others, formerly the gopi named Acyuta.
Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda and Sri Advaita played the parts of devotees to instruct the importance for the conditioned souls to engage in devotional service to the Supreme, and to prevent people from accepting impersonalist philosophies.
Next we come to Ishvara Puri, from whom Lord Caitanya took initiation. Ishvara Puri was such a great devotee and disciple of Madhavendra Puri that when Madhavendra Puri became an invalid at the end of his life, Ishvara would take care of him and clean him. Thus, Madhavendra Puri gave him his great blessings. This is one reason why Lord Caitanya accepted him as His spiritual master. (Cc.Adi-lila, 9.11) However, before initiating Lord Caitanya, Ishvara Puri had gone to Navadvipa and lived for a few months in the house of Gopinatha Acharya. That was when Lord Caitanya became acquainted with Ishvara Puri. Sometime thereafter, Lord Caitanya went to Gaya with the purpose of performing rites for his deceased father, but also became initiated by Ishvara Puri while there. After that, Lord Caitanya ceased involving Himself in so many debates with scholars and philosophers, and merely engaged in the congregational chanting of the Lord's holy names, giving out the ecstasy of love of God to all.
Madhavendra Puri was in the disciplic line from Madhvacharya and was the
direct disciple of Lakshmipati. He had two principal disciples, Ishvara Puri and
Sri Advaita. Madhavendra Puri established the worship of Radha and Krishna
together in this sampradaya, before which time Krishna was worshiped
alone. It is he who is accepted as the root of worship in ecstatic love.
Therefore, unless one is connected to the disciplic succession of Madhavendra
Puri, there is no possibility of awakening the symptoms of ecstatic love in
one's devotional service to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.
We can ask, how was it that so many of the intimate associates of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in the spiritual world descended into the material manifestation. It can be explained that before Lord Krishna descended as Lord Caitanya, He asked His associates to appear before Him in preparation for His descent. He never comes alone, just as a great king also appears with his huge entourage. Thus, numerous members of the Lord's associates came to help manifest the spiritual atmosphere on earth, and to participate in the Lord's pastimes. Even after the Lord's disappearance such associates have continued to appear on this planet, especially in this Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, to benefit society with the facility to approach the portal through which one can return to the spiritual worlds.
Without the gopis, the maidservants of Radha and Krishna, the ecstasy of the confidential pastimes of Their Lordships cannot be tasted or known. Only by their cooperation can such pastimes be broadcast. Otherwise, no one else can open them for our view. Only through their assistance can one enter into these pastimes. Only by following in their footsteps can one engage in the service of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in the mood of the gopis in the groves of Vrindavana. There is no other procedure for understanding. Therefore, we have to take shelter of the gopis who have appeared in this sampradaya if we wish to enter such intimate and ecstatic love and service.
From the evidence in this article, we can understand that for the most part all of the spiritual masters and personalities connected with the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya parampara from the time of Madhavendra Puri are all incarnations of great personalities, and mostly in the madhurya-rasa, the mood of the loving maidservants, manjari-bhava, for Lord Sri Krishna. That is the most unique characteristic about this line of disciplic succession. Therefore, we should take advantage of it by understanding this spiritual knowledge. Such a rare opportunity may never again avail itself for thousands of lifetimes.
One additional conclusion of this article is to understand that this sampradaya is not only one for distributing the intimate love for Krishna in the mood of the intimate maidservants. It is also a preaching line, mostly through the process of writing and distributing books and publications, and through congregational chanting of the holy names of Sri Krishna. However, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta compared writing and publishing to the great mridanga drum used for congregational chanting. The idea is that rather than merely reaching people in the vicinity of one's voice, writing and publishing preserves one's words and gives the facility to reach many more people from many parts of the world. This is something that all of the acharyas spent much time focusing on. Therefore, we can especially stay connected to the previous acharyas by continuing this process of distributing this knowledge through their books, and by writing new publications that follow this line for the benefit of society.
Much of the information regarding the spiritual identities comes from the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika by Sri Kavi-karnapura. Furthermore, many other associates of Lord Caitanya not mentioned in this article are also described as being incarnations of intimate gopis, sakhis and manjaris of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in the Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, Chapters Ten and Eleven, in case you would like to continue this line of study.
Although this article gives only brief glimpses into the lives of the great personalities connected with this sampradaya, there is much more information in separate books and biographies about the exemplary lives of all of them. Such books about these devotees are extremely insightful, enlightening and enlivening. I strongly suggest you use the links in this website to look into finding out how you can acquire some.
Here is a summary list of many of the great sages that have appeared in the Gaudiya line, giving their name in their more recent appearances within the pastimes of Sri Caitanya, and also their names as they appeared in the pastimes of Lord Krishna.
Gaura Lila Krishna Lila
1. Sacinandana Gaurahari Caitanya Mahaprabhu Syamasundara, Sri Krishna
2. Sacimata Yasodamayi
3. Jagannatha Misra Nanda Maharaja
4. Laksmipriya Janaki & Rukmini
5. Vishnupriya Bhu Devi
6. Nityananda Rama Lord Balarama
7. Hadai Pandita Vasudeva
8. Padmavati Rohini
9. Jahnava Mata Ananga Manjari
10. Vasudha Varuni Devi
11. Biracandra Kshirodakashayi Vishnu
12. Ganga Devi Ganga Mayi
13. Advaita Prabhu Sadashiva / Mahavishnu
14. Sita Devi Yogamaya
15. Gadadhara Pandita Srimati Radharani
16. Srivasa Thakura Narada Muni
17. Malini Devi Ambika Devi
18. Pundarika Vidyanidhi Vrishabhanu Maharaja
19. Mukunda Dasa Vrinda Devi
20. Saranga Thakura Nandimukhi
21. Govinda Acarya Paurnamasi
22. Svarupa Damodara Lalita Sakhi
23. Raya Ramananda Visakha Sakhi
24. Govindanandana Thakura Citra Sakhi
25. Ramananda Vasu Indulekha Sakhi
26. Sivananda Sena Campakalata Sakhi
27. Vakresvara Pandita Tungavidya Sakhi
28. Govinda Ghosa Rangadevi Sakhi
29. Vasudeva Ghosa Sudevi Sakhi
30. Raghava Pandita Dhanistha Sakhi
31. Rupa Gosvami Rupa Manjari
32. Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami Rati Manjari
33. Sanatana Gosvami Lavanga Manjari
34. Jiva Gosvami Vilasa Manjari
35. Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami Rasa Manjari
36. Gopal Bhatta Gosvami Guna Manjari
37. Lokanatha Gosvami Manjulali Manjari
38. Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami Kasturi Manjari
39. Ramacandra Puri Jatila Gopi
40. Kholavecha Sridhara Madhumangala Sakha
41. Narahari Sarkara Madhumati Sakhi
42. Gauridasa Pandita Subala Sakha
43. Abhirama Thakura Sridama Sakha
44. Sikhi Mahiti Ragalekha Sakhi
45. Madhavi Mahiti Kalakeli Sakhi
46. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya Brihaspati Maharaja
47. Paramananda Puri Uddhava Mahasaya
48. Keshava Bharati Akrura / Sandipani Muni
49. Jagai & Madhai Jaya & Vijaya
50. Gopinatha Acharya Caturmukha Brahma
51. Haridasa Thakura Prahlada / Brahma
52. Nilambara Cakravarti Garga Acharya
53. Devananda Pandita Bhaguri Rishi
54. Gangadasa Durvasa Muni
55. Vrindavana Dasa Thakura Vedavyasa
56. Vallabha Bhatta Sukadeva Gosvami
57. Madhavendra Puri
58. Isvara Puri
59. Narottama Dasa Thakura Champaka Manjari
60. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura Vinoda-Vallari Manjari
61. Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Rasika Manjari
62. Bhaktivinoda Thakura Kamala Manjari
63. Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji Guna Manjari
64. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Nayana-Mani Manjari
65. A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada ----- Manjari
You may also want to read the Biographies of of Vaishnava Saints and Sages to find out more about many of these great sages in this line.
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