By Niraj Bidawatka
When Sanātana Gosvāmī met Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he asked Him, “Who am I, why am I suffering and how can I attain the ultimate benefit”. This is the most important question – ‘Who am I’ and only an intelligent person can make such a relevant inquiry. Those who are less intelligent like the animals are simply not interested in knowing one’s “real” identity. They are pre-occupied with thoughts of how to increase their income and maintain what they possess.
Sanātana Gosvāmī was the prime minister of Nawab Hussain Shah (1498-1521), the king of Bengal at that time. His younger brother Rūpa Gosvāmī was also the most confidential minister of the King. Since Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs were engaged in the service of a Muslim ruler, they had taken to the ways of the Mohammedans, although they were born of a Brahmin father. Rūpa Gosvāmī had accepted the name Dabeer Khas whereas Sanātana Gosvāmī renamed himself as Saakar Mallik. Both the brothers were great scholars and were well-versed in Sanskrit, Parsi, Urdu and Arabic languages. All the governmental work was carried out in Parsi, Arabic and Urdu at the time of Muslim rulers just as English is the major language now. Rūpa and Sanātana were the most important ministers of the King and the King would do nothing without consulting them. In fact, they were managing the whole kingdom so nicely that the King was without any anxiety as far as the administration was concerned. It is mentioned in the book named “Bhakti Ratnakar” that when the father of Shrinivas Acharya went to the court of Rūpa and Sanātana, he found that their opulence was greater than that of Indra, the king of heaven. This is no exaggeration since they were virtually ruling Bengal, a very powerful kingdom of the time.
Such a great personality as Srila Sanātana Gosvāmī, introduced himself to Lord Chaitanya as a person born of a lowly caste (nīca jāti) and as a person in the company of abominable men (nīca sangī). He presented himself as the lowest among the lowest. He said that when people call him a great scholar in worldly dealings (grāmya vyavahāra), he also accepts himself as one. It was a sarcastic remark whereby he meant that, “How can I be called a great scholar when I do not even know who I am.”
This is the position of our present day scholars. They do not know their identity but still they are passing off as scholars. If one is able to capture political power or earn a big fortune, he passes off as an expert scholar. However, the first qualification of a real scholar is that he should know his identity as a spirit soul, which is different from the body.
Mostly everyone is thinking himself to be the body and therefore he is working hard to maintain the body with no concern for his real self. Therefore, inspite of providing himself with the best bodily comforts, he still remains unsatisfied. On the other hand great devotees like Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs, who gave up their aristocratic lifestyles to live underneath a tree in Vrindavan, are always blissful even in the absence of bodily comforts. Why is it so? This is so because the devotees know their real identity – “I am not the body; I am the spirit soul.” I am occupying the body just as the driver is occupying a car. The driver is not the car, but different from the car. Similarly, I am not the body but a spirit soul sitting within the body.
Therefore, when a person dies, we say, “He has gone away”. Someone may argue that the body is still lying in front of us and since we accept the body as self, where is the question of his going away; he is still lying in front of us. Still any sane man will accept that he has gone away. This means that the person who was occupying the body, was different from the body and that he has gone away. The living spark that occupies the body and keeps it functioning is known as the spirit soul, or ātmā. This is our real identity. We are all individual spirit souls occupying our respective bodies. We are parts of Krishna, or God. The soul is eternal; it never dies. When it leaves one body, it occupies another body according to the laws of karma. This spiritual spark is our real identity and only a very small percentage of the population knows about it. Complete details of this spiritual spark are given the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita from verses 11 through 30. We request everyone to read them to get a better understanding of the self.