It is usual for a person born to vast fortune to indulge in as much of the fine comforts of this world as he possibly can. It is practically unheard of that an inheritor of heavenly fortune live a life of utter penury in a holy place, eating rejected food that even stray cows wouldn’t touch. Such was the intense renunciation of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, a great Vaishnava Saint, one of the six Goswamis of Vrindavan. His austerity so attracted Lord Chaitanya that He placed him under the direct tutelage of His personal secretary Svarup Damodara Goswami.
Raghunatha Dasa was born around 1416 Shaka (1494 AD) in the town of Saptagram in Hooghly district of West Bengal. He was the only son of his father Govardhana Majumdar a wealthy landlord of the area. Govardhana Majumdar’s elder brother was Hiranya Majumdar who had no male progeny. Hence Raghunatha Dasa was the sole inheritor of the vast fortune the brothers had accumulated.
Both his father and uncle were devoted to Lord Chaitanya and revered Advaita Acharya. This was because of the influence of their family priest Balarama Acharya. When Raghunatha was still a young boy, Balarama Acharya hosted the great Acharya of the Holy Name, Haridasa Thakura at his village Candapura, which was within the jurisdiction of Saptagrama. Raghunatha used to visit Haridasa Thakura every day. Being naturally compassionate, Haridasa Thakura showered his mercy on the young Raghunatha. It was due to this mercy that Raghunatha later attained the shelter of Lord Chaitanya.
Meeting Lord Chaitanya
Raghunatha got his first opportunity to see Lord Chaitanya when the Lord, after accepting sannyasa, came to Shantipura and stayed at the residence of Advaita Acharya. Since Govardhana and Hiranaya Majumdar always served Advaita Acharya with great faith and devotion, he was naturally inclined to give His mercy to their boy Raghunatha. Thus, He gave the remnants of the Lord’s food to Raghunatha for as long as the Lord stayed at Shantipura. After staying in Shantipura for some time, the Lord departed for Jagannatha Puri
The annual income of Govardhana and Hiranya Majumdar was 800,000 Rupees, which was a great fortune by any standards. Raghunatha already indifferent to the wealth, after having see Lord Chaitanya became intent on joining Him at Puri. He felt intense separation from the Lord. This alarmed Govardhana and Hiranya Majumdar who placed a guard around Raghunatha lest their only heir escape the confines of the family. Raghunatha made repeated attempts to break free from these bondages and go to Puri to serve Sri Chaitanya.
Lord Chaitanya Advices Raghunatha
When Lord Chaitanya returned to Shantipura in the year 1513, Raghunatha pleaded with his father and got consent to meet Lord Chaitanya. Raghunatha expressed to the Lord his desire to serve Him and related his present intolerable situation. The Lord advised him to return to his father’s house and live a moderate worldly life with detachment while internally being fixed on Krishna. The Lord assured him that Lord Krishna would soon deliver him.
Following Lord Chaitanya’s Order
Raghunatha’s parents were pleasantly surprised at the abrupt change in their son’s behaviour and his sudden interest in family affairs. Gradually they reduced the guard on him, seeing him externally abandon the signs of renunciation. It was during this period that Raghunatha delivered his father and uncle from the machinations of an envious Turkish Muslim officer of the Government who implicated them in false charges before the Muslim ruler of the land.
To commit Raghunatha further to family life, Govardhana married him to an extremely beautiful girl. Raghunatha’s heart only craved for serving the Lotus Feet of Lord Gauranga. He resumed making attempts to flee the family and go to Puri. His mother told her husband to again put a guard on him. Govardhana responded with deep understanding. “Raghunātha dāsa, our son, has opulences like Indra, the heavenly King, and his wife is as beautiful as an angel. Yet all this could not tie down his mind. How then could we keep this boy home by binding him with ropes? It is not possible even for one’s father to nullify the reactions of one’s past activities. Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has fully bestowed His mercy on him. Who can keep home such a madman of Caitanyacandra?”Excerpt From: Sri Caitanya-caritamrta – 1975 Edition Antya 6.39-41 by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Meeting with Lord Nityananda at Panihati
At this time Raghunatha met Lord Nityananda at the village of Panihati for seeking His blessings and on His order served vast numbers of the Lord’s followers preparations made with chipped rice with yogurt and chipped rice with condensed milk. Even Lord Chaitanya came there mystically to enjoy the feast. This great festival is still celebrated all over the world by the name Panihati Chida Dahi Utsava. Placing His feet on Raghunatha’s head Lord Nityananda blessed him, “Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Gaurahari, came here personally to deliver you. Now rest assured that all the impediments meant for your bondage are gone. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu will accept you and place you under the charge of His secretary, Svarūpa Dāmodara. You will thus become one of the most confidential internal servants and will attain the shelter of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Being assured of all this, return to your own home. Very soon, without impediments, you will attain the shelter of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.” Excerpt From: Sri Caitanya-caritamrta – 1975 Edition Antya 6.141-143 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Final Escape from Family
Very soon after this episode at Panihati, Raghunatha making use of an opportune moment successfully escaped the guards at his house and reached Puri in only 12 days swiftly walking an arduous route through forests and eating only thrice on the way.
When Raghunatha arrived, Lord Chaitanya accepted him as His own son and entrusted him to the care of Svarupa Damodara Goswami. The Lord ordered him to bathe in the sea, have darshana of Lord Jagannatha at the famous Jagannatha temple and return for Prasadam.
Renunciation of Raghunatha
Raghunatha took Prasadam with Lord Chaitanya for five days, but from the sixth day, he began begging Mahaprasadam at the Simha Dwara of the Jagannatha temple. This renunciation satisfied Lord Chaitanya. The Lord instructed Raghunatha thus, “Do not talk like people in general or hear what they say. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely. Do not expect honour, but offer all respect to others. Always chant the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and within your mind render service to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana… One who thinks himself lower than grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honour but is always prepared to give respect to others, can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.”
Excerpt From: Sri Caitanya-caritamrta – 1975 Edition – Antya 3.6.236, 237, 239 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Austerities of Raghunatha Dasa
Raghunatha Dasa would spend 21 hours a day chanting the names of Lord Krishna and only one-and-a-half hour for sleeping and eating. He progressively became more renounced, stopped begging at the Simha Dwara of the Jagannatha Temple for Prasadam. Instead, he would collect the leftovers of Prasadam thrown by vendors at the end of the day which would not be even touched by the Telangi cows. He would wash the rice till he reached the hard uncooked part and then mix it with salt and that was his daily meal. Svarupa Damodara once asked for this Prasadam from Raghunatha and so did Lord Chaitanya. “’What nice things are you eating? Why don’t you give anything to Me?’ Saying this, He forcibly took a morsel and began to eat. When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was taking another morsel of food, Svarūpa Dāmodara caught Him by the hand and said, ‘It is not fit for You.’ Thus he forcibly took the food away.” Excerpt From: Sri Caitanya-caritamrta – 1975 Edition – Antya 6.232-233 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Raghunatha Dasa Goes to Vrindavan
Raghunatha Dasa stayed in Puri for 16 years till Lord Chaitanya and His chief confidante Svarupa Damodara disappeared from worldly vision. When this happened Raghunatha Dasa unable to bear their separation, left Puri to commit suicide in Vrindavan. There he met Srila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami who convinced him to serve Lord Chaitanya by relating His Puri pastimes to them.
Raghunatha Dasa Goswami gradually stopped eating solid food and survived only half a leaf bowl of buttermilk a day. He would offer 1000 obeisances to the Radha and Krishna, chant 100,000 names of Krishna and constantly offer mental worship to Radha and Krishna every day. He lived on the bank of Radha Kunda and bathed there three times daily. In this way, Raghunatha Dasa Goswami engaged in service of Their Lordships 22 hours in a day sleeping only an hour and a half if at all. Such were his extremely high standards of devotional service that would be the inspiration for generations of devotees of Lord Krishna.
Sri Raghunatha Dasa Goswami resided at Radha Kund and was responsible for getting Radha and Shyam Kund enlarged and finished with steps for devotees to take holy dips there.
On the Shukla Dwadashi tithi of the month of Ashvina, in the year 1586, Sri Raghunath Das Goswami left his body on the banks of Radha Kund where his samadhi tomb stands.
Though Sri Raghunatha Dasa Goswami ‘s day and night were spent absorbed in chanting of the Lord’s Holy Name while living an extremely austere life, still he wrote three books Stavavali, Sri Dana-carita (Dana-keli-cintamani) and Mukta-carita.
In the Gaura Gannodesha Dipika, Sri Raghunatha Dasa Goswami is revealed to be a Manjari called Rasa Manjari. Other names for this Manjari are Rati Manjari and Bhanumati.
Sri Raghunatha Dasa Goswami is an epitome of the kind of renunciation that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu deeply appreciated. He is a perfect ideal for practicing devotees to carefully emulate (but not imitate). He set the yardsticks for devotees to examine their own lives and measure their development by the lofty standards he exemplified by his life.