Sri Ramananda Raya was one of the four personalities with whom Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu discussed the most confidential topics of Krishna consciousness.
He is considered to be the best authority in transcendental knowledge of the loving affairs between Radha and Krishna so much that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu kept him and Svarupa Damodara Gosvami all day and night to discuss the pastimes of Lord Sri Krishna. They are considered to be the chief assistants in pastimes of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Born around 500 years ago, in the village of Bentapur, adjacent to Brahmagiri, Alalnath, Ramananda Raya was eldest among his brothers Pattanayaka Gopinatha, Kalanidhi, Sudhanidhi and Nayaka Vaninatha.
In the Gauragannodesha Dipika it has been stated that formerly his Father Bhavananda Raya appeared as Pandu, and his five sons were incarnations of the five Pandavas. Although Sri Ramananda Raya belonged to the karana class, which is regarded all over India as sudra, Lord Chaitanya advised Pradyumna Misra, a learned brahmin to learn the science of Krishna from Ramananda Raya because of his exalted position as a devotee.
Ramananda was the Governor of East and West Godavari and a minister in the court of King Prataparudra. Not only was he a great statesman of that period, but was also a poet and a scholar.
The Gauraganoddesa Dipika (120-124) states that Ramananda Raya was Arjuna in his past incarnation. In some places, he is accepted as an incarnation of the gopi Lalita, although in the opinion of few others he was an incarnation of Visakha Devi.
When Lord Chaitanya was about to leave for South India, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya advised him to meet Ramananda Raya for he declared that there was no devotee as advanced in understanding the conjugal love of Krishna and the gopis.
While touring South India Lord Chaitanya met Ramananda on the bank of the Godavari. There they had a long discussion in which the Lord took the role of a student and Ramananda Raya instructed the Lord. Sri Ramananda Raya however, admits that whatever he was speaking was not derived from his own intelligence. Rather, everything was coming from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
In this historic discussion at first Sri Ramananda Raya enunciated the system of the varnasrama institution. He recited various verses about karmarpana, stating that everything should be dedicated to the Lord.
He then spoke of detached action, knowledge mixed with devotional service, and finally the spontaneous loving service of the Lord. After hearing Sri Ramananda Raya recite some verses, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the principle of pure devotional service devoid of all kinds of speculation.
After this, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked Ramananda Raya to explain the higher platform of devotional service. Then Sri Ramananda Raya explained unalloyed devotional service, love of Godhead, serving the Lord with pure servitude as well as in fraternity and parental love.
Finally, he spoke of serving the Lord in conjugal love. He then spoke of how conjugal love can be developed in various ways. This conjugal love attains its highest perfection in Srimati Radharani’s love for Krishna. He next described the position of Srimati Radharani and the transcendental mellows of love of God. Sri Ramananda Raya then recited one verse of his own concerning the platform of ecstatic vision, technically called prem-vilasa-vivarta.
Sri Ramananda Raya also explained that all stages of conjugal love can be attained through the mercy of the residents of Vrindavan, especially by the mercy of the gopis.
Again the next evening Sri Ramananda Raya visited Mahaprabhu and Mahaprabhu began questioning him as follows: CC Madhya 8.245-259
Q: Of all types of education, which is the most important?
A: No education is important other than the transcendental devotional service of Krishna.
Q: Out of all glorious activities, which is the most glorious?
A: That person who is reputed to be a devotee of Lord Krishna enjoys the utmost fame and glory.
Q: Of the many capitalists who possess great riches, who is the topmost?
A: He who is richest in love for Radha and Krishna is the greatest capitalist.
Q: Of all kinds of distress, what is the most painful?
A: Apart from separation from the devotee of Krishna, I know of no unbearable unhappiness.
Q: Out of all liberated persons, who should be accepted as the greatest?
A: He who has love for Krishna has attained the topmost liberation.
Q: Among many songs, which song is to be considered the actual religion of the living entity?
A: That song describing the loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krishna is superior to all other songs.
Q: Out of all auspicious and beneficial activities, which is best for the living entity?
A: The only auspicious activity is associating with the devotees of Krishna.
Q: What should all living entities constantly remember?
A: The chief objects of remembrance are always the Lord’s holy name, qualities and pastimes.
Q: Out of many types of meditation, which is required for all living entities?
A: The chief duty of every living entity is to meditate upon the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna.
Q: Where should the living entity live, abandoning all other places?
A: He should live in the holy place known as Vrndavana or Vrajabhumi, where the Lord performed His rasa dance.
Q: Out of all topics people listen to, which is best for all living entities?
A: Hearing about the loving affairs between Radha and Krishna is most pleasing to the ear.
Q: Among all worshipable objects, which is the chief?
A: The chief worshipable object is the holy name of Radha and Krishna, the Hare Krishna mantra.
Q: What is the destination of those who desire liberation and those who desire sense gratification?
A: Those who attempt to merge into the existence of the Supreme Lord will have to accept bodies like those of trees. And those who are overly inclined toward sense gratification will attain the bodies of demigods.
Those who are devoid of all transcendental mellows are like the crows that suck the juice from the bitter fruits of the Nimba tree of knowledge, whereas those who enjoy mellows are like the cuckoos who eat the buds of the mango tree of love of Godhead.
The unfortunate empiric philosophers taste the dry process of philosophical knowledge, whereas the devotees regularly drink the nectar of love of Krishna. Therefore they are the most fortunate of all.
After this conversation, Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed His real form of Radha and Krishna to Ramananda Raya. Lord Sri Krishna is the reservoir of all pleasure, and Srimati Radharani is the personification of ecstatic love of Godhead. These two forms had combined as one in Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Other than Ramananda Raya, no one has ever seen this form.
All the truths about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes and mellows are within Ramananda Raya’s knowledge hence this special mercy was bestowed upon him
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu then admitted to His pure devotee, Ramananda Raya, “Now there is no confidential activity unknown to you. Even though I try to conceal My activities, you can understand everything in detail by virtue of your advanced love for Me.” – CC, Madhya 8.290
By hearing the talks between Ramananda Raya and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, one becomes enlightened with the transcendental knowledge of the mellows of Radha and Krishna’s pastimes. Thus one can develop unalloyed love for the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna. The author requests every reader to hear these talks with faith and without argument. By studying them in this way, one will be able to understand the confidential truth of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This part of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes is most confidential.
Later Lord Chaitanya advised Ramananda Raya to resign from his government post and come back to Jagannatha Puri to live with Him.
It was Ramananda Raya who tactfully arranged a meeting between Lord Chaitanya and King Prataparudra of Orissa.
Ramananda Raya was present when the Lord performed water-sports after the Rathayatra festival.
Lord Chaitanya considered Ramananda Raya and Sanatana Gosvami to be equal in their renunciation, for although Ramananda Raya was a grhasta engaged in government service and Sanatana Gosvami was in the renounced order of complete detachment from material activities, they were both servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and kept Krishna in the centre of all their activities.
Having written dramas on the pastimes of Krishna, Ramananda had them performed before Sri Jagannatha deva by the Devadasis of the temple.
In Lord Chaitanya’s final pastimes, for about 12 years it is said that both Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara were always engaged in reciting suitable verses from Srimad Bhagavatam to pacify the Lord in His ecstatic feelings of separation from Krishna.
Sri Ramananda Raya disappeared after the disappearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.