of Rupa Gosvami
1489, Bengal - died 1564, Vrindavan, India. Caitanya Vaisnava
theologian, poet and dramatist, one of the Six Gosvamis of
name of Rupa Gosvami is most associated
with that of Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1533 C. E.),
the Bengali saint and proponent of an important Hindu devotional
movement that spread throughout Bengal and many parts of North
India during the sixteenth century. Caitanya himself left no
writing, instead, he left the task of systematizing his teachings
to a group of theologians often known as the Six Gosvamis
of Vrindavan. Rupa Gosvami was one member
of this group of theologians.
of Karnata brahmana ancestry of South Indian the family of Rupa
Gosvami migrated to Bengal near the end of the
fourteenth century. Rupa Gosvami was employed
under the service of the Muslim Emperor of Bengal, Nawab Husein
Shah and took the Muslim name of Saker Malik. The name Rupa
Gosvami was subsequently given by Caitanya.
Gosvami is perhaps the most famous of the Six
Gosvamis. He is important for establishing the
theoretical foundations of Caitanya Vaisnava devotional
Rupa Gosvami's theories of devotional
practice are primarily outlined in his two Sanskrit works: Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu and Ujjvala-nilamani. In his
efforts to describe the practice of bhakti, Rupa utilizes the theory of aesthetics developed by Bharata
in his ancient treatise on Sanskrit drama, the Natya-sastra. In his work Bharat goes into great detail explaining
how dramatic performance can be used to evoke various aesthetic
feelings known as rasas.
Rupa takes Bharata's rasa theory
one step further by applying his ideas to religious practice,
most notably towards the cultivation of devotional sentiments, bhakti-rasa. Rupa Gosvami describes bhakti as the most important rasa or aesthetic feeling, and, as in the Natya-sastra where drama is used as the means to evoke aesthetic
feelings, Rupa Gosvami utilizes the divine
play (lila) of Krsna as the supreme means to evoke devotional
feelings. For Rupa Gosvami the divine
pastimes of Krsna become
the means to access ultimate reality. Rupa Gosvami builds
his system of sadhana-bhakti almost
exclusively on Krsna-lila which are those stories found in the Bhagavat-purana and similar works that describe the activities of
his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu Rupa Gosvami's divides devotional
practice (sadhana-bhakti) into three types: vaidhi-bhakti, raganuga-bhakti and ragatmika-bhakti. The path of vaidhi-bhakti is that means of devotional cultivation that follows
various rules that are conducive to the attainment of devotion.
The word vaidhi means "what is based on rules". Such practice
includes reciting the names of Krsna (japa), worship of the sacred image of God, fasting, study
of scripture, and so forth. Rupa Gosvami outlines
sixty-four such procedures of devotional piety. The intent
of these rules is to purify the heart of the performer in preparation
for the next stage of devotion, raganuga-bhakti. Literally the word raga means passion. In this way the path of vaidhi-bhakti prepares the way for the path of raganuga-bhakti.
path of raganuga-bhakti is distinct from vaidhi-bhakti because it involves the transformation of the practitioner's
identity from a person of this world into a divine participant
within Krsna-lila. Rupa Gosvami defines raganuga-bhakti as that method of bhakti which follows the perfect devotion demonstrated by
the inhabitants of Vraja. Here the people of Vraja described
in Krsna-lila become exemplary models of devotion. In their interaction
with Krsna they display a perfect form devotion called ragatmika-bhakti. It is this ragatmika-bhakti that the followers of raganuga-bhakti must learn to follow by studying the emotional feeling
of love exchanged between Krsna and the other participants
of lila, such as Krsna's boy friends, parents, lady
friends and other members described in Krsna-lila. The followers of raganuga-bhakti gradually learn to model their feelings after these
individuals. Thus Krsna's friends, parents and other
members become paradigmatic individuals.
analyzing the emotional states of the participants of Krsna-lila, Rupa Gosvami describes five
emotional types: those individuals who express the peaceful mood (santa-rasa) such as meditating sages; those who express the mood
of servitude (dasya-rasa)
such as Krsna's servants; those who express the mood
of friendship (sakhya-rasa) such as Krsna's friends; those who express
mood (vatslya-rasa) such as Krsna's parents; and those who express
the conjugal mood (madhurya-rasa) such as the gopis. Thus, by studying the emotional temperament of one
of these individuals the practitioners of raganuga-bhakti can learn to experience or "taste" the rasa of these individuals. Eventually, through the practice
of raganuga-bhakti the practitioner will rise to the level of raganuga-bhakti. In Rupa Gosvami's system of
bhakti vaidhi-bhakti may
be described as the grammar of love, raganuga-bhakti may be described as the literature of love and ragatmika-bhakti may be described as the actual poetic experience itself.
Copyright © SriPublications 2002. All rights
Shukavak N. Dasa
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