Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami

In the year 1510, while Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was on tour of South India , the family of Venkata Bhatta had the great fortune of hosting the Lord during the four months of the rainy season. Gopala, Venkata Bhatta’s seven-year-old son, served Lord Chaitanya continuously and developed an intense love for Him. When Lord Chaitanya was about to leave, Venkata Bhatta fainted and Gopala Bhatta’s eyes filled with tears of love. For Gopala Bhatta’s sake, Lord Chaitanya agreed to stay for a few more days.

During this time, Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami had a spiritual vision in which Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed Himself as Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and said that Gopala would someday meet in Vrindavana two jewel-like devotees — Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami, leaders in Lord Chaitanya’s movement. When Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami awoke from this trance, he wanted to leave for Vrindavana at once. Lord Chaitanya told him to stay back and serve his parents.

Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami went on to study rhetoric, poetry, Vedanta, and Sanskrit grammar from his uncle Prabodhananda Sarasvati, a great devotee of Lord Chaitanya. After the passing away of his parents, Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami travelled to Vrindavana, where he was lovingly met by Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami.

When Lord Chaitanya heard that Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami was in Vrindavana, He was extremely pleased. The Lord sent some of His personal belongings to Gopala Bhatta, who worshiped them. The Lord also sent a letter instructing Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami to help Rupa and Sanatana compile transcendental literature. Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami accepted this instruction from the Lord as his life and soul, and he later engaged his disciple Srinivasa Acharya in carrying the writings to Bengal.

Once, on a trip to the Gandaki River, in Nepal, Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami obtained twelve salagrama-silas. (A sila is a special Deity of the Lord in the form of a stone.) The silas entered his water pot as he filled it with water from the river. When he tried to return them to the river and refill his pot, they again entered the pot. Accepting this as the Lord’s mercy, Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami decided to bring the silas back to Vrindavana.

When Gopala Bhatta Goswami eventually returned to Vrindavana, he performed his bhajana in a corner of Nidhivana where he also began worshiping the shaligrama-shilas he had obrained from Gandaki River. At night, Gopala Bhatta would place all the shilas in a cloth bag and hang them on a nearby tree while he took rest.

One day a wealthy man came to Vrindavana and offered Gopala Bhatta Goswami all kinds of dresses and ornaments for his shaligrama-shilas. Gopala Bhatta Goswami, however, told him to give them to somebody else, since his shaligrama-shilas were of a round shape and therefore the dresses and ornaments could not be used.

This incident made Gopala Bhatta Goswami think deeply. It was Narasimha Caturdashi, the appearance day of Lord Narasimhadeva, and Gopala Bhatta Goswami remembered how Lord Narasimha, in His form as half-lion, half-man, had come out of a pillar. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, You are very merciful. You fulfill all the desires of Your devotees. I wish to serve You in Your Deity form.” Then he read the pastimes of Lord Narasimhadeva in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and after chanting in ecstasy he fell unconscious.

Early, the next morning when he went to worship the shaligrama-shilas, to his utter amazement he found that one of the shilas (damodara-shaligrama-shila) had transformed into the most beautiful Deity form of Krishna, standing in tri-bhanga form and playing on a flute. He named the deity ‘Radha-Ramana’ and established His temple and worship. The Radha-Ramana temple is still one of the main places of pilgrimage in Vrindavana.