Rasikananda Deva Goswami was born in 1512 of the Saka era (1590 AD) in the village of Rohini or Rayni in the Midnapore district. This village is situated at the confluence of the Subarnarekha and Dolanga rivers. His father’s name was Raja Achyutananda and his mother, Bhavani Devi. The Subarnarekha River crosses back and forth across the present-day Bengal-Orissa border. Midnapore district used to be a part of the Orissan kingdom. Raja Achyutananda was an Orissan of the Karana caste, the equivalent of the Kayasthas in Bengal. A Vaishnava is beyond the material qualities and should not be judged in terms of his caste origins. Achyutananda and Rasikananda were born in the Karana caste in order to bless it.
We can assume that Rasikananda was a manjari in Krishna lila. Though his spiritual master Shyamananda had himself been initiated by Hriday Chaitanya Goswami, who worshipped the Lord in the mood of friendship, he later took shelter of the conjugal mood due to the association of the Vraja devotees led by Jiva Goswami. Shyamananda thus initiated Rasikananda into the worship of Radha and Krishna.
Rasikananda was also known by the name Rasika Murari. Mother Jahnava’s disciple Nityananda Das wrote in his Prema-vilasa that Shyamananda had two principle disciples, one named Rasikananda, the other Murari, both of whom lived in Rayni. But Narahari Chakravarti indicates clearly in Bhakti-ratnakara that both names refer to the same individual.
In the village of Rayni lived the famous son of Achyutananda. He had two names: Rasikananda and Murari. Thus he was also known as Rasika-Murari. He became learned in the scriptures in his childhood. (Bhakti-ratnakara 15.27-8)
Rasika Murari Meets Shyamananda Prabhu
Rasika Murari was anxious to find a spiritual master who could give him guidance on the mystical path. One day while in Ghantashila, he went to a solitary place to meditate. He had just entered into a very deep trance when he heard a voice from an unseen source say, “Murari! You need be anxious no longer. Your guru is Shyamananda and you will meet him here very shortly. Take shelter of him and your life will be successful.”
Upon hearing the divine message, Murari began chanting the name of Shyamananda on his beads with joyful enthusiasm. He spent the entire night crying out of eager expectation to meet his guru, until finally at the end of the night, he had a dream vision of Shyamananda Prabhu who said to him, “Don’t worry any longer, for you will meet me on this very day.”
At dawn, Rasika Murari was on the lookout for his guru, when he saw the tall figure of Shyamananda approaching him, as effulgent as the sun. Surrounded by disciples like Kishor Das, he was dancing in a state of absorption in divine love while chanting the names of Nityananda and Chaitanya. Rasika Murari had been waiting anxiously for so long to encounter his guru that he immediately fell down at his feet. Shyamananda affectionately lifted him up and embraced him. Then, after giving him the Radha-Krishna mantra, he offered him up to Chaitanya and Nityananda Prabhus. This whole story demonstrates how we can find a guru through sincere prayers.
Rasikananda Becomes a Potent Preacher
Rasikananda Deva Goswami fully committed himself in body, mind and soul to the service of his guru. Indeed, he served him so well that in a short time he was recognized as Shyamananda’s chief disciple, a very powerful preacher and initiating guru himself. In fact, it is a truism that a good disciple becomes a good teacher. A spiritual master may have innumerable followers who call him their guru, but are disciples in name only. Only a true disciple who has dedicated himself completely to his spiritual mater is imbued with all the powers of the guru. Shyamananda invested Rasikananda with such spiritual power that he was able to convert many criminals, atheists, Muslims, and other fallen spirit souls to the path of devotion, bestowing the jewel of prema upon them all.
On one occasion, a wicked Muslim tried to silence Rasika Murari by having him attacked by an intoxicated elephant, but Rasikananda was able to transform even the elephant into a disciple and engage him in the service of Vishnu and the Vaishnavas. All who witnessed this amazing event were overwhelmed with astonishment at Rasika Murari’s spiritual power and the evil Muslim zamindar himself came and surrendered to him.
Shyamananda turned the service of his personal Govinda deity in Gopiballabhpur over to Rasikananda. He delivered unlimited living beings without any consideration of their caste or religious background. Rasikananda remained constantly intoxicated in Harinam sankirtana. Who will not be overcome with emotion on reciting his virtues? (Bhakti-ratnakara 15.81-6)
The Prema-vilasa corroborates this account in the 19th chapter, “He delivered many criminals and Muslims.”
The Raja of Mayurbhanj in Orissan, Vaidyanath Bhanj, was also attracted to the transcendental power of Rasikananda and became his disciple. Other important disciples were Ganapati, the zamindar of Patashpur in Midnapore, Sri Bhima and Srikara, zamindars of Dharenda, and Ahmed Beg, the son-in-law of Ibrahim Khan, the governor of Orissa.
Rasikananda Deva Goswami wrote a number of works, including Syamananda-staka, Bhakta-Bhagavatastaka, and Kunjakeli-dvadasaka.
It is said that just prior to Rasikananda’s disappearance in AD 1652, he went with seven of his disciples to a village named Bansdaha near Jaleswar. Mahaprabhu passed through the village when traveling to Puri with Nityananda. (Chaitanya Bhagavata 3.2.263-4)
Rasikananda and his party walked from there to Remuna, chanting kirtan the whole way. When they arrived in the courtyard of the famous Khirchora Gopinath temple, Rasikananda suddenly merged into the body of the Gopinath deity. His disciples also left their bodies in the same place. Rasika Murari’s flower samadhi and those of his seven associates are still maintained in the courtyard of the Khirchora Gopinath temple. An annual festival lasting twelve days is held in Remuna to celebrate his disappearance. This takes place on Siva-caturdasi in the month of Magh.
Visvambharananda Deva Goswami, the author of the celebrated Astikya-darsana, was Rasikananda’s descendant.