The Authorized Sri Caitanya Saraswata Parampara
Part Two – The Practice of Pure Devotional Service, Chapter 12 – Rupanuga Bhajana
“We have to conduct ourselves in such a way that naturally we can connect with that highest, purest spiritual conception, from here. We must not allow ourselves to be satisfied with anything less than this highest ideal.”
Devotee: What is Rūpānuga Bhajana?
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: There is a Bengali verse sung by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura which goes as follows:
mahāprabhu śrī-caitanya, rādhā-kṛṣṇa nahe anya,
rūpānuga janera jīvana
“Mahāprabhu Śrī Caitanya, who is non-different from Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, is the very life of those Vaiṣṇavas who follow Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.”
The followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī are known as rūpānugas. Rūpa Gosvāmī was the chief disciple of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and it was he whom Mahāprabhu chose to head the future generations of devotees of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
Once while living at Purī, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī composed a verse and after writing it on a palm leaf he went to bathe in the ocean. At that time Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu visited the residence of Rūpa Gosvāmī and saw the verse written on the leaf:
priyaḥ so ‘yaṁ kṛṣṇaḥ sahacari kuru-kṣetra-militas
tathāhaṁ sā rādhā tad idam ubhayoḥ saṅgama-sukham
mano me kālindī-pulina-vipināya spṛhayati
“My dear friend, now I have met My very old and dear friend Kṛṣṇa on this field of Kurukṣetra. I am the same Rādhārāṇī and now We are meeting together. It is very pleasant, but I would still like to go to the bank of the Yamunā beneath the trees of the forest there. I wish to hear the vibration of His sweet flute playing the fifth note within the forest of Vṛndāvana.” (C.c. Antya-līlā 1.79)
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu read this verse and was overwhelmed by ecstatic love. When Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī returned, Mahāprabhu slapped him mildly and said, “My heart is very confidential. How did you know my mind in this way?” After saying this the Lord firmly embraced Rūpa Gosvāmī.
Mahāprabhu then inquired from Svarūpa Dāmodara, “How could Rūpa have understood My heart?” Svarūpa Dāmodara replied, “I can understand that you have already bestowed Your causeless mercy upon him, otherwise it would not be possible for Rūpa to have understood your mind.” Thereupon, Mahāprabhu was very pleased and requested Svarūpa Dāmodara to kindly give further instruction to Rūpa Gosvāmī in the matter of transcendental mellows, rasa–tattva.
After sometime, Mahāprabhu again visited Rūpa Goswāmi accompanied by Svarūpa Dāmodara, Rāmānanda Rāya and others. Mahāprabhu requested Rūpa Goswmi to read a number of the verses that he had composed. Being very humble and shy by nature Rūpa Gosvāmī remained silent. Svarūpa Dāmodara then read the previous verse compiled by Rūpa which was so much liked by Mahāprabhu and the tuṇḍe tāṇḍavinī ratiṁ verse:
tuṇḍe tāṇḍavinī ratiṁ vitanute tuṇḍāvalī-labdhaye
karṇa-kroḍa-kaḍambinī ghaṭayate karṇārbudebhyaḥ spṛhām
cetaḥ-prāṅgaṇa-saṅginī vijayate sarvendriyāṇāṁ kṛtiṁ
no jāne janitā kiyadbhir amṛtaiḥ kṛṣṇeti varṇa-dvayī
“I do not know how much nectar the two sylllables ‘kṛṣ-ṇa’ have produced. When the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert.” (C.c. Antya-līlā 1.99)
Hearing these verses compiled by Rūpa Gosvāmī all the Vaiṣṇavas became jubilant. Rāmānanda Rāya especially showed interest in what Rūpa Gosvāmī had written. Being very pleased with him Rāmānanda Rāya began to praise the qualities of Rūpa as if He had a thousand mouths. Rāmānanda Rāya said, “This is not a poetic presentation; it is a continuous shower of nectar. Indeed, it is the essence of all ultimate realizations. The wonderful descriptions of Rūpa Gosvāmī are superb arrangements to express transcendental loving affairs of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Hearing these verses will plunge the heart and ears of everyone into a whirlpool of supreme transcendental bliss.”
The significance of the praises of Rūpa Gosvāmī offered by Svarūpa Dāmodara and Rāmānanda Rāya may be considerably more meaningful to the audience when we take into account the who’s who in the ontological hierarchy of the spiritual world. According to Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, the author of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Rāmānanda Rāya was the gopī in kṛṣṇa-līlā named Viśākhā and Svarūpa Dāmodara was the gopī named Lalitā Sakhi. Both Lalitā and Viśākhā are eternally the very intimate associates of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Lalitā and Viśākhā are considered the personal expansions of the serving mood of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, thus they are the two chief assistants in the mādhurya love affairs between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
Directly serving under Lalitā Sakhi in the mādhurya-rasa are the mañjarīs (younger cowherd girls). This mañjarī group of servitors mainly consists of new recruits to the mādhurya-rasa and due to their young age they have been given the most sacred type of pure service to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Our ācāryas have recommended that we should conceive of the mañjarī class most respectfully and attentively.
When Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are in secrecy, in a private place, the older sakhīs do not like to approach the Divine Couple at that time for fear of causing a slight disturbance. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa may feel some shyness in the presence of the older sakhīs at that time. But the younger gopīs, the mañjarīs, can enter there without disturbing the free mixing of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. This mañjarī group of servitors in the mādhurya-rasa is headed by the gopī named Rūpa Mañjarī. To perform their service, the mañjarīs headed by Rūpa Mañjarī, sometimes go to that place where Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are intimately engaged in divine love dalliances. Such a high and intimate scope of service is available to no other group of servitors than that of the mañjarīs. Rūpa Mañjarī who leads the mañjarī group has appeared in gaura-līlā as Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has given him the supreme position as head of the Gauḍīya sampradāya (rūpānuga sampradāya). As our beloved śikṣā-guru, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, used to say:
“The camp, the sampradāya of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is known as the Rūpānuga sampradāya. There our fate and our fortune is located. Now we have to conduct ourselves in such a way that naturally we can connect with that highest, purest spiritual conception, from here. We must not allow ourselves to be satisfied with anything less than this highest ideal. That should be the highest goal of our life.”
So, the real meaning of rūpānuga-bhajana is nothing less than that—the highest ideal of the highest spiritual conception. Following in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī; ever desiring his mercy; falling prostrate at his lotus feet and praying again and again and again to be enlisted in his group of servitors. That is rūpānuga-bhajana.
This concept has been expressed most perfectly in a song by Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura called, Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī-pada—the topmost bhajana sung by the followers of the rūpānuga line.
śrī-rūpa-mañjarī-pada, sei mora sampada
sei mora bhajana-pūjana
sei mora prāṇa-dhana, sei mora ābharaṇa,
sei moar jīvanera jīvana
“The feet of Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī (Rūpa Gosvāmī’s eternal form as a gopī of Vraja) are my real wealth. They are the object of my bhajana and pūjā. They are the treasure of my heart, and they are my ornaments and the life of my life.
sei mora rasa-nidhi, sei mora vāñcha-siddhi,
sei mora vedera dharama
sei vrata, sei tapa, sei mora mantra-japa,
sei moar dharama karama
They are the reservoirs of all rasa for me and the fulfilment of all my desires. They are the conclusion of the religion of the Vedas for me and are the goal of all my vows, austerities, and the chanting of my mantra. They are the purpose of all my religious activities.
anukūla habe vidhi, se-pade aoibe siddhi,
nirakhiba e dui nayane
se rūpa-mādhurī-rāśī, prāna-kuvalaya-śaśī,
praphullita habe niśī-dine
By the power of those feet my activities will become favourable to devotion, spiritual perfection will be achieved, and with these two eyes I will be able to actually see. The exquisite beauty of Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī’s divine feet will shine like the brilliant moon upon the lotus of my heart both day and night, thus giving relief to my afflicted soul.
tuwā adarśana-ahi, garale jārala dehī,
cira-dina tāpita jīvana
hā hā rūpa kara dayā, deha more pada-chāyā,
narottama laila śaraṇa
By the venom of the snake of separation from you, my soul has wasted away and my life is ever afflicted and distressed. O Rūpa Mañjarī, please be merciful and give me the shade of your lotus feet. Narottama Dāsa has taken refuge.”