Hinduism Rūpa Gosvāmin
by
Rembert Lutjeharms
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0198

Introduction

Rūpa Gosvāmin was a 16th-century Vaiṣṇava theologian and poet, and one of the most influential disciples of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya (b. 1486–d. 1533), the Bengali saint who inspired the tradition of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. Rūpa was born in Bengal in a family of Brahmins from Karṇāṭaka and, before his meeting with Caitanya, occupied a prominent post at the court of Sultān Hussain Shāh (r. 1493–1519), the Muslim ruler of Bengal. Shortly after his first meeting with Caitanya, Rūpa renounced his prestigious position and after a brief stay in Puri, Odisha, with Caitanya, and spent the remainder of his life in Vraja, the land of Kṛṣṇa’s childhood, where, as one of the “six Gosvāmins” of Vṛndāvana, he led the growing community of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, wrote extensively on Kṛṣṇa and devotion (bhakti) both in theological treatises and literary works, and established what was to become the most prominent temple in the small pilgrimage town of Vṛndāvana, the temple of Govindadeva. Rūpa’s importance for the Gauḍīya tradition and north Indian Vaiṣṇavism more generally lies primarily in his novel and systematic analysis of devotion (bhakti) as rasa, or aesthetic sentiment, and his emphasis on the internalization of devotional practice to attain union with God through pure love (prema).

General Overviews

The standard reference work for the early history of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism in general and the Gosvāmins of Vṛndāvana, including Rūpa, is De 1961. Rosen 1991 provides an accessible introduction to his life and thought, and Lutjeharms 2012 offers a brief overview of Rūpa’s life, works, and teachings.

  • De, Sushil Kumar. Early History of the Vaiṣṇava Faith and Movement in Bengal, from Sanskrit and Bengali Sources. 2d ed. Calcutta: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1961.

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    This is still the standard reference work on the Gauḍīya tradition, and justifiably so. De evaluates what little we know of Rūpa’s life (see chapter 3) and offers detailed summaries of all Rūpa’s works (see chapters 4, 5.3, and 7).

  • Lutjeharms, Rembert. “Rūpa Gosvāmī.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol. 4. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, 379–387. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012.

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    Offers a very brief overview of Rūpa’s life, with a more detailed overview of his works and his principal teachings.

  • Rosen, Steven. The Six Goswamis of Vrindavan. 2d ed. New York: FOLK, 1991.

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    This book includes an accessible introduction to Rūpa’s life (in chapter 3), drawn mostly from the Caitanya-caritāmṛta and later hagiographical sources, and equally functions as a succinct introduction to Rūpa’s thought.

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