Rupa Goswami (1489-1564) is considered the chief among the six Goswamis of Vrindavan. A direct follower of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he appeared in East Bengal, and was the son of a pious Brahmana named Kumara deva. His brothers were Sanatana and Anupama.
The three brothers studied the Nyaya-sastras (treatise on justice) from the famous logician Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya and his brother Madhusudana Vidyavacaspati. They also studied Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian.
Due to their noble characters and academic proficiency, Rupa and his elder brother Sanatana were forced into government service by the sultan of Bengal, Alauddin Husain Shah (1493–1519 CE) which led to their excommunication from Hindu society by the orthodox caste brahmanas of Gauda. Rupa became the Sultan’s chief secretary (Dabir Khas), while Sanatana became the state revenue minister (Sakara Mallik).
Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, the Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahmä with the details of the creation and manifested the Vedic knowledge. In exactly the same way, the Lord, being anxious to revive the Våndävana pastimes of Lord Kåñëa, impregnated the heart of Rüpa Gosvämé with spiritual potency. By this potency, Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé could revive the activities of Kåñëa in Våndävana, activities almost lost to memory. In this way, He spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness throughout the world. [CC Madhya-lila, 19.1]
First meeting with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Rupa and his brothers made their residence at the state capital of Ramakeli and it was here, in 1514 CE, that they met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu for the first time. The meeting changed their lives and they decided to leave the service of the Sultan and take up a life of renunciation in the association of Chaitanya and his followers. Rupa loaded all his wealth onto two boats and left with his brother Anupama for their ancestral home at Bäklä Candradvépa, where they distributed it. They then sent two messengers to Jagannātha Purī to get news of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s plans. When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu started for Vṛndāvana through the forest of Madhya Pradesh (Jhārikhaṇḍa), Rūpa Gosvāmī left home and sent news to Sanātana that he was leaving with his younger brother Anupama to meet Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī finally reached Prayāga.
Second meeting with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
After visiting Vrindavan, Chaitanya stopped at the holy city of Prayaga (modern day Prayagaraj in Uttar Pradesh). It was here that Rupa and Anupama met him for the second time. Chaitanya imparted instructions to Rupa Goswami and explained all the intricacies of the doctrine of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Rupa Goswami was specifically commanded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to carry out four tasks: to re-locate and preserve the lost holy places of Vrindavan, reinstall Deities and to write and preach Gaudiya Vaisnava theology. He then sent Rupa Goswami to Vrindavan to carry out these orders.
Namo Mahavadanyaya Verse
During the time of the annual Rath Yatra festival, Rupa Goswami composed one mystical verse which was
namo mahā-vadānyāya kṛṣṇa-prema-pradāya te
kṛṣṇāya kṛṣṇa-caitanya-nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ
[Cc. Madhya 19.53]
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, who is more magnanimous than any other avatāra, even Kṛṣṇa Himself, because He is bestowing freely what no one else has ever given—pure love of Kṛṣṇa.”
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu requested him to read this verse to his most intimate associates. Upon hearing this verse, all the assembled Vaishnavas praised Rupa Goswami for his outstanding composition that was filled with deep devotion. Due to this, it was proclaimed that Rupa Goswami was the very embodiment of Chaitanya’ Mahaprabhu’s esoteric teachings of rasa (divine mellows). Because of this, Rupa Goswami is considered by the gaudiya vaisnavas to be the foremost follower of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and those that strictly follow in his preceptoral line are known as Rupanugas (followers of Rupa). Rupa Goswami is also known as bhakti-rasacarya, the expert in the tastes of pure devotional service.
Rupa and Sanatana remained in Vrindavan for the remainder of their lives. Their mood of renunciation and devotion was exemplary. Rupa uncovered various holy places associated with the pastimes of Krishna and rediscovered the famous deity of Govindadeva, which was originally installed and worshipped by Krishna’s great-grandson, Maharaja Vajranabha. Rupa and Sanatana were intimately connected with other Vaishnava saints in Vrindavan such as Lokanatha Goswami, Bhugarbha Goswami, Gopala Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami and Raghunatha Dasa Goswami.
Shortly after, they were also joined by their nephew Jiva Goswami who was given initiation by Rupa and personally trained by him in the philosophy of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
His samadhi is located in the courtyard of the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrindavan.
In Gaudiya Vaishnava theology, Rupa Goswami is considered to be the incarnation of Rupa Manjari, the foremost junior cowherd damsel who eternally serves Radha-Krishna under the guidance of Lalita.
Some of His devotional classics are – Bhakti rasamrita Sindhu, Ujjvalanila mani, Vidagdhamadhava Lalita madhav, Sri Radha-Krsna Ganoddesa Dipika, Laghu Bhagavatamrita, Upadesamrta (The Nectar of Instruction)