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What is a Goswami?

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by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Srila Prabhuapda standing with his sanyasa danda.IN THE PRESENT material world people are interested in understanding the atma (a word meaning body, mind and soul) only in reference to the body. Medical science, physiology and biology are concerned with the body, and psychology is concerned with the mind, with thinking, feeling and willing. Unfortunately, however, no one is studying the deepest meaning of atma-that is, atma as soul. Many schools and colleges throughout the world are dedicated to the study of physiology, biology, psychology, sociology and so on, but where is the school for the understanding of the soul? Many nations may be proud of their scientific advancement, but they are simply thinking that the body is everything. In the Vedas it is stated that one who thinks that the atma is the body is an ass. The body is composed of material elements, and those who cannot see the atma or who do not understand atma-tattva, the science of the soul, are concerned only with the material body. According to the Vedas, those who are interested only in the body and mind to the exclusion of the soul are called materialistic.

The purpose of the Krishna conscious philosophy is to understand the science of the soul.

vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvam yaj jnanam advayam
brahmeti paramatmeti
bhagavan iti sabdyate

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman (the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth], Paramatma [the localized feature of the Absolute within everyone’s heart] or Bhagavan [the Supreme Personality of Godhead].” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.2.11)

A materialistic person cannot understand this science of the soul, for materialists are interested only in mental speculation and sense gratification. In India there are many famous sadhus, or saintly persons, but most of them are simply interested in mental speculation. They are not perfect. Those who are busy understanding the bodily conception of life are also materialistic. But unfortunately these materialists are accepted as leaders in politics, sociology, philosophy and so on. Many are accepted as incarnations of God, as magicians or as yogis. Through many devious means they mislead society, and consequently the present world is in a chaotic condition.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sukadeva Goswami speaks to everyone, but he particularly addresses Pariksit Maharaja as rajendra, “best of kings.” Pariksit Maharaja was addressed in this way because just before his death he was hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam, which deals with the science of the Absolute Truth, from Sukadeva Goswami. Generally people are not interested in the subject matter of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In those days, however, everyone was interested in the science of the soul. Ordinary human beings are generally concerned with the bodily conception of life, or with mental speculation. They enjoy hundreds and thousands of various subjects, but they are not conversant with the science of the soul. Those who are really interested in the science of the soul are active in Krishna consciousness.

Our goal is to become fully Krishna conscious. To attain this goal, we follow the six original goswamis-Sri Rupa, Sanatana, Bhatta Raghunatha, Sri Jiva, Gopala Bhatta and Raghunatha dasa Goswamis. These goswamis were not goswamis in name only. The six goswamis explained how one can become interested in the science of the soul. Of course today there are many goswamis who indulge in sinful activities, but the original six goswamis were different. When we speak of goswami, we refer to the followers of the original six goswamis, the direct disciples of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

The first qualification for a goswami is that he knows how to control his senses. Generally people are disturbed by six kinds of urges–the urge to talk, the urge to become angry, and the urges of the mind, stomach, tongue and genitals. Through these urges, material nature forces us to remain in the material world. A goswami is one who controls the urges of the bodily senses. As soon as one knows how to control these urges, he can become a goswami. Many people are forced to act according to the urges of the body, yet they claim to be goswamis. A goswami, however, should be ideal. A real goswami should follow in the footsteps of the original six goswamis. Not only the goswamis who remain in Vrndavana but those everywhere should be ideal goswamis, for Vrndavana is everywhere. Wherever there is Krishna’s temple and Krishna’s glorification (sankirtana), Vrndavana is present. It was Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself who said, “My mind is always in Vrndavana.” This was because He was always thinking of Krishna. Krishna comes as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu just to teach us how to be pure devotees of God. To be pure devotees, we must follow His instructions. In Bhagavad-gita Krishna’s most confidential instruction is:

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi yuktvaivam
atmanam mat-parayanah

“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Bg. 9.34)

One who thinks in this way is always living in Vrndavana. if one faithfully worships Radha and Krishna and strictly follows the rules and regulations, he is in Vrndavana, even though according to ordinary vision he may be situated in New York or London or Hong Kong. if one worships Radha and Krishna in Vrndavana, India, he must actually be a goswami, a first-class Vaisnava, or devotee. This Vrndavana was excavated by the Goswamis, particularly Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis. Raghunatha Bhatta, Jiva, Gopala Bhatta and Raghunatha dasa Goswamis all joined to execute the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and wrote books about Krishna and His pastimes, books that contain very high spiritual understanding.

What is the business of a goswami? Above all, a goswami is always busy with Krishna kirtana (kirtaniyah sada harih). Kirtana does not refer only to chanting Hare Krishna and playing cymbals. Kirtana also means writing books about Krishna as well as reading books about Him. Kirtana also includes talking of Krishna, thinking of Him, worshiping Him, cooking for Him and eating for Him. All that is Krishna kirtana. A goswami, therefore, should always engage in Krishna kirtana in this way or that, twenty-four hours a day. Premamrtambho-nidhi. One who has pure love for Krishna can remain satisfied simply by engaging in kirtana. One should always consider his time wasted unless he is engaged in Krishna’s service. The time we take for sleep is simply wasted time. We should try to save this time.

The Goswamis were engaged twenty-four hours a day in the service of Krishna. They slept only two or at the utmost three hours daily. It is said that the six Goswamis conquered nidra, ahara and vihara. Nidra refers to sleep, ahara refers to eating or collecting, and vihara refers to sense enjoyment. A goswami is one who has mastered the senses. The word svami means master, and go refers to the senses. One who cannot control his tongue or his sleep, however, is not a goswami but a godasa. Dasa means servant. Instead of becoming servants of the senses, we must become servants of Krishna. Unless we conquer the senses, they will always be requesting us to eat, sleep and have sexual intercourse. This is the process of material life. In material life, one is subjected to the dictations of the senses. But although the mind may tell us to eat more and sleep more, the goswami says “no” to the senses. We therefore have to become so strong that we will reply “no.” In this way one can be a goswami,

A goswami is dear to all kinds of men. Dhiradhira-jana-priyau: he is kind to the dhira and adhira. The dhira is one who controls the senses, and the adhira is one who cannot control them. The Goswamis were kind and dear to all. When the six Goswamis were in Vrndavana, they were very popular. If a man had a quarrel with his wife, he would go to Sanatana Goswami, who would give him directions by which he could settle his problems. When Sanatana Goswami gave his judgment-be it true or not-people would simply accept it. The Goswamis were that popular. The people who asked Sanatana Goswami for advice were not saintly people, but their lives were successful because they abided by the orders of Sanatana Goswami. Thus they also were liberated. They may have acted improperly, but they abided by the orders of Sanatana Goswami. Sanatana Goswami was also very kind to them. The Goswamis even used to clothe the ordinary men, give them prasada, and have them come and hear Hare Krishna, and in that way the Goswamis would control them. As soon as one is under the control of a goswami, he becomes a Vaisnava, or devotee. Respect cannot be demanded, but when one is a genuine goswami, people who see him will automatically offer respect. To receive such respect, one must be a clean and pure Vaisnava. Sometimes when a person sees a goswami or a pure Vaisnava, he will automatically chant Hare Krishna. The goswami does not have to ask one to chant Hare Krishna. People automatically chant.

Nor is a Vaisnava envious. His only business is to see how to bring people to Krishna consciousness. That is also Prahlada Maharaja‘s philosophy.

naivodvije para duratyaya-vaitaranyas
tvad-virya-gayana-mahamrta-magna-cittah
soce tato vimukha-cetasa indriyartha-
maya-sukhaya bharam udvahato vimudhan

“My dear Lord, I have no problems and want no benediction from You because I am quite satisfied to chant Your holy name. This is sufficient for me because whenever I chant I immediately merge in an ocean of transcendental bliss. I only lament to see others bereft of Your love. They are rotting in material activities for transient material pleasures and spoiling their lives toiling all day and night simply for sense gratification, with no attachment for love of Godhead. I am simply lamenting for them and devising various plans to deliver them from the clutches of maya.” (Bhag. 7.9.43)

The entire world is suffering from material disease, and people are now very unhappy. Let us therefore preach this Krishna consciousness. My spiritual master used to say, “I have so many temples, but if by selling all these buildings I can save one man from this material disease, my mission will be successful.” That is a goswami. A goswami is always trying to save others from the material disease. Rupa Goswami wrote Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu with this in mind. He quoted many Vedic scriptures and gave a great deal of evidence in that work, for previously people would take Vedic references as truth. At present, however, people will not accept any evidence. They will only accept the evidence given by their own senses, if they like something they will accept it, and if they do not like it they will reject it. Formerly society was not so degraded. As soon as a person gave evidence from Vedic literatures, people would accept it. In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Rupa Goswami quoted from scriptures like the Puranas, the Vedanta-sutra, the Upanisads, the Mahabharata, and Srimad-Bhagavatam. The purpose in quoting all these literatures was to establish real religious principles (sad-dharma). By following a true system of religion, one can become a great lover of God. What kind of religion will maintain slaughterhouses? Only when there is no attempt to preach real knowledge are slaughterhouses maintained by the thousands with the sanction of so-called religion.

Why did the Goswamis write so many books to establish real religion? They were simply interested in the welfare of the general populace. Unless we follow religious principles, human life is defeated. The human form of life is a chance given by nature to escape the cycle of birth and death. Rascals do not realize that birth, old age, disease and death are going on. They simply try to solve temporary problems, not knowing that the real problems are birth, old age, disease and death. By following religious principles, one can stop the repetition of birth and death. Imparting this knowledge is the business of a goswami. Salvation or liberation does not rest with this party or that party, with capitalism or communism or whatever. What will people derive from such parties? One may follow capitalism, communism or any other “ism,” but after death he is immediately placed under the grip of material nature. At that time, concepts of nationalism will simply go to hell as one becomes a dog. That is nature’s way. If one acts like a cat or dog all his life and does not take advantage of the human form, nature will give him the body of a cat or dog in the next life. This is the secret science of nature, which is unknown to so many people. Not knowing this science, one may become a lower animal in the next life, even though in this life one may be a president or prime minister.

At the time of death we have to accept another body. What body we accept will depend on our nature. Material nature will afford us a suitable body. There are many cats and dogs, and we may wonder where they all come from. At the same time we see so many people wasting the human form of life. Because they neglect the purpose of human life, they are given the bodies of lower animals. In this way so many lower animals come about. We may not accept this idea; we may have our own theory. But nature’s law may be different from our theory. After all, what do we know? We have to learn from the authorities. The business of a goswami is to save people from becoming cats and dogs.

Because the six Goswamis received the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they were able to lessen the burden of this material world. They lived in an ideal way and set the example for others to follow. Simply by following in their footsteps, our lives will become successful. We should ignore the many pseudo goswamis and simply try to follow the real goswamis. In this way our lives may become successful.

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