Friday, June 10, 2011

Sanātanātmā Prabhu

Sutradhara: My dear professor, you are a true scholar of the dramatic arts. I have now learned that we are about to stage a short play of the bhāṇikā type named Dāna-keli-kaumudī. But before so doing, it is incumbent on us to say a prayer to our chosen deities. (Folding his hands):

nāmākṛṣṭa-rasajñaḥ śīlenoddīpayan sad-ānandam |
nija-rūpotsava-dāyī sanātanātmā prabhur jayati ||
Glories to the guru, Sanatan Goswami,
whose tongue is always attracted to chanting the Lord's names,
whose character awakens bliss in the saintly,
and who gives a festival of joy to his disciple Rupa.
Or, (another meaning of the same verse)
Glories to that eternal lord,
whose name attracts the knowers of rasa,
whose activities always delight Nanda,
and whose beauty is a festival for all.
Rupa Goswami also uses this verse as his auspicious invocation to Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi (1.1). Since Krishna's name is not used directly, whereas his own name and that of his guru Sanatan are both found in the verse, I have taken that as the primary meaning, that of Lord Krishna as secondary.

Of course, the word prabhu could immediately be taken to mean Krishna and sadā nandam a reference to Krishna's father, but these do not seem quite as immediate as Sanatana and Rupa. Prabhu is used elsewhere by Rupa to refer to his guru.

Vishwanath points out that the five rasas of śṛṅgāra, vātsalya, sakhya, dāsya and śānta are all being included here, beginning with śṛṅgāra (rasajñā), vātsalya (nandam), sakhya and dāsya (nija-rūpotsava-dāyī) and śānta (sanātanātmā). By the same token, they could all be taken as references to madhura-rasa by simply reading sadā nandam as sadānandam.

Another way of looking at the verse is that it speaks of the different devotional practices as the devotee progresses in realization. His practice begins with sankirtan of the Holy Name, progresses to meditation on Krishna's pastimes (śīla), and finally, with direct darśana of his form.

It has been argued by S.K. De that Dāna-keli-kaumudī was written before Rupa Goswami met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This is due to a misreading of the date as 1495 (rather than 1549), which is of course completely untenable, as the names Rupa and Sanatan themselves were given the two brothers by Mahaprabhu. But one of De's arguments is that there is no glorification or word of homage to Chaitanya in the play.

This is a result of failing to see the reference to Mahaprabhu in this verse. Without naming Chaitanya directly, it does in fact describes him very nicely; it is a third meaning that has escaped not only him, but is not mentioned by Jiva Goswami either. Vishwanath Chakravarti has detected it, however, in his Ānanda-candrikā commentary to Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi and I find it persuasive. Following that commentary, the verse can be read:

nāmākṛṣṭa-rasajñaḥ śīlenoddīpayan sad-ānandam |
nija-rūpotsava-dāyī sanātanātmā prabhur jayati ||
Glories to the Lord [Chaitanya Mahaprabhu], whose tongue is always attracted to chanting his own names [or who attracted devotees, knowers of the rasas like Rupa and Sanatan, to his side through Harinam sankirtan], whose pastimes inspire eternal bliss [or joy in the pious], who through his own [other] forms like Advaita and Svarupa Damodar gave the ultimate (ut) sacrifice (sava) [of saṅkīrtana to the world (yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyaiḥ)], and who accepted Sanatan as his very self [or his own body]. 
With regards to "accepting Sanatan as his very self" (sanātanātmā), where ātmā can be taken to mean body, Vishwanath refers to the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (3.4.76-78). There Mahaprabhu says to Sanatan Goswami,
Your body is my own property, for you have surrendered yourself to me. Why do you want to destroy what belongs to another? Are you unable to tell right from wrong? Your body is my principal instrument, for through it I will achieve my purposes. (3.4.76-78)
Elsewhere in the same chapter, Haridas Thakur confirms the above:
The Lord says your body is his own property, so no one can equal you in good fortune. What he cannot do himself he wants to do through you, and that in Mathura. Whatever the Lord wants one to do is certain to be carried out. I tell you with all certainty that you are most fortunate. (CC 3.4.94-96)
Vishwanath also suggests an alternative meaning for nija-rūpotsava-dāyī which Saraswati spoke through Rupa to glorify him: "Through his own devotee, Rupa, he gave a festival of joy [to the world]." For just as Mahaprabhu acted through Sanatan, he also made his own heartfelt wishes clear to the world through Sri Rupa. Nowhere is this praise more appropriate than in the UN.

śrī-caitanya-mano'bhīṣṭaṁ sthāpitaṁ yena bhūtale
so'yaṁ rūpaḥ kadā mahyaṁ dadāti sva-padāntikam
When will that Rupa Goswami, by whom the heartfelt desires of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were established on earth, give me shelter of his lotus feet? (Narottam Das, Prārthanā)
Of course, the meaning given for the Sanatan reading is equally applicable here, "gave a festival of joy to Rupa," or that used in the Krishna reading of the verse: "whose beauty is a festival for all."

In fact, triple meanings are not so rare in the works of the Goswamis. See, for instance, Shri Jiva Goswami's own commentary to his introductory verse to Gopāla-campū, which can be parsed in three different ways:

śrī-kṛṣṇa! kṛṣṇa-caitanya! sa-sanātana-rūpaka!
gopāla! raghunāthāpta-vraja! vallabha! pāhi mām

Shri Jiva also used this verse again at the beginning of Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma and some other subsequent authors adopted it in their works also. In Gopāla-campū, Jiva's explanation results in the three following understandings:
O Shri Krishna! O Krishna Chaitanya! O Rupa, accompanied by Sanatan! Gopala [Bhatta]! Raghunath [Das]! All you other associates! [My father] Vallabha! Please save me!

O Krishna with Radha! Supreme Brahman! Illuminator of all! Possessor of an eternal form! ‘You who are dear (vallabha) to the settlement (vraja) of your own folk (āpta), the cowherds (gopāla), whether humble (raghu = laghu) or exalted (nātha)! Deliver me!

O Krishna accompanied by Radha! You who became incarnate as a devotee, Krishna Chaitanya! [You who have descended by becoming as Krishna joined with Radha!] You who remain with your extremely attached devotees, Rūpa and Sanātana! You who are always the beloved (vallabha) of that [land of] Braja which was adopted (āpta) by Gopala [Bhatta] and Raghunath [Das] as their home! Deliver me!
Of course, Sri Jiva is not satisfied with simply these three levels of meaning (one addressed to each person individually, one to Shri Krishna alone, and one to Chaitanya alone), and has subsidiary meanings within each of these interpretations also. But you will have to read Gopāla-campū for that.

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