Satsvarupa D. Goswami

Biografie şi Bibliografie

Satsvarupa das Goswami (IAST satsvarūpa dāsa gosvāmī, Devanagari: सत्स्वरूप दास गोस्वामी) (born December 6, 1939) is a senior disciple of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), better known in the West as the Hare Krishna movement. Serving as a writer, poet, and artist, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami is the author of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's authorized biography, Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. After Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's death, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami was one of eleven disciples selected to become an initiating guru in ISKCON. Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, (Sanskrit: [ˈsaʈsʋɑɽʉːpa dɒːs ɡɔˈsʋæːmiː]), is one of the first few westerners ordained by Prabhupada in September 1966. He has been since established as a prolific Vaishnava writer and poet. While traveling, lecturing on Krishna consciousness, and instructing disciples worldwide, he has published over 100 books including poems, memoirs, essays, novels, and studies based on the Vaishnava scriptures. In the recent years, he has created hundreds of paintings, drawings, and sculptures that attempt to capture and express his perspective on the culture of Krishna consciousness.
he and Dostoevsky and associated with students and professors who were religious skeptics.

He was born Stephen Guarino the eldest of two children to Roman Catholic parents in Staten Island, New York. He was educated initially in public high school nearby and then enrolled in Brooklyn College, where he underwent an intellectual revolution putting in question his Catholic values. In the college he read Nietzsche and Dostoevsky and associated with students and professors who were religious skeptics.

    As soon as I went to college I underwent an intellectual revolution. Any religious sentiments I had gained from my mother were driven away by my college professors, who were dyed-in-the-wool Marxist intellectuals, Americans from the 1930s. They taught me their intellectual and atheistic views, and knocked aside my religious worship, saying it was sentimental. One of them said theology could never satisfactorily explain why evil was present in the world. I was attracted to their philosophy because my parents were not intellectual and had never aroused my intellectual capacity. But my professors opened up a whole new world for me. I became eager to study philosophy and literature. I came to see for myself that the church was hypocritical: in the foyer of our church the priests regularly raffled bottles of liquor (they called them “baskets of joy”). I became dissatisfied with the Catholic Church because it could not provide answers to my questions.

In January 1962 he joined the Navy, where he served for two years on board U.S.S. Saratoga, a super-carrier. In his introduction to With Śrīla Prabhupāda in the Early Days, 1966-1969 he writes: "A few months after the death of President Kennedy, I was honorably discharged, and without visiting my parents on Staten Island, I went directly to the Lower East Side. By then, the Lower East Side was, in my mind and in the minds of my friends, the most mystical place in the world. I certainly didn’t think some guru was suddenly going to appear and save me. I was too cynical. Yet I was regularly reading versions of the Bhagavad-gita and the Upanishads. Ironically, one week before the gift shop at 26 Second Avenue changed into Srila Prabhupada’s temple, I was standing in that very doorway with a Bhagavad-gita in my back pocket, waiting to meet a friend. Somehow we had chosen 26 Second Avenue as a meeting place. At that time, I had no idea what was about to happen."

In July 1966 he met and accepted a spiritual instruction from A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami who registered ISKCON a month later. Prabhupada soon began assigning him typing tasks which Satsvarupa understood "to be yoga". On September 23, 1966 he was ordained and shortly became one of the leading figures of the new Gaudiya Vaishnava movement.

After Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's death he was one of eleven disciples selected to become an initiating guru in ISKCON. Prof. Larry Shinn in his overview of the contemporary state of the Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's movement confirms this while relating his first meeting with Satsvarupa dasa Goswami:

    Thing that caused me to correct my initial prejudices about the Krishnas was that those who joined the movement came through several modes of conversion and from many different backgrounds. Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, who later was appointed as one of Prabhupada's guru successors, was one of the earliest devotees I met. He was in his late twenties when I met him in New York City. He had discovered the Krishnas as a result of a spiritual quest which was satisfied within this Indian tradition.

In a typical initiation ceremony as a guru of International Society for Krishna Consciousness he would begin with purification using achamana (holy water) and concludes with a sermon on the importance of chanting of the holy names in the life of new initiate.
Personal servant of Prabhupada

In addition to periods of being GBC personal assistant, the brief period between January and July 1974 during which he had the opportunity to act as a personal servant and secretary to the founder of ISKCON, Prabhupada, is noted. During this time his duties included bringing Prabhupada his medicine and toothbrush in the morning, accompanying him on his morning walk, preparing his breakfast and lunch and providing his daily massage. In other words, the tasks were those of a menial servant, while Satsvarupa das Goswami was excited about it. It is noted that the first time Satsvarupa gave Prabhupada a massage it was "an intense spiritual experience" for him:

    Massaging Prabhupada was like new initiation. From my side, it was completely spiritual, ecstatic exchange, the essence of the personal servant's worship of the spiritual master.

One should understand how the service given to one's guru can be of such a value by seeing it in the ritual religious context. The theme of status difference, enriched with the idea of intimacy, coalesce in this simple pattern of devotee massaging the spiritual master's legs and feet in the cultural models expressed in puja and innumerable other Vaishnava contexts. It is noted that he took the posture of a menial servant with evident relish. It is also taken as an example of ideal typical model of the guru-disciple relationship as a disciple should always consider him- or herself a menial servant of the spiritual master.

Literary contribution

As a writer he is following a line of teachers or gurus in his religious tradition. In his review Srivatsa Goswami suggests this view with a reference to the "path of Six Goswamis": Satsvarupa dasa Goswami's writing represents a contemporary variety from commentaries on scriptures to a free flowing poetry and prose. His writings were translated to over forty languages by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and Gita Nagari Press. He was also requested by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust to complete a number of works, started by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.


One of widely read and translated of all his books is Srila Prabhupada-Lilamrta. It’s a biography of the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, depicting him through different stages of his life. Written with the help of a large research team for a period of over six years Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta is based on material given by interviewers and researchers and is based on a system of ascertaining whether a Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada story is authentic. By researching tape recordings of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada author provided accurate quotes of his statements wherever possible. In this biographical work he would always look for several reliable witnesses, in addition to the one who is recalling a particular event.

    In striking contrast to doldrums Edward Dimock reported in 1966 the volumes remind us that religious tradition can harbor a deceptive vitality and have a remarkable capacity for renewal and regeneration. ..Srila Prabhupada lilamrita clearly follows Caitanya Caritamrita and concentrated on the "nectar of his life" (i.e. caritamrta). This is completely valid in the case of a saint who has conveyed his spiritual and theological message directly to his life.

Other biographical works, popular among Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's followers, include He Lives Forever (1978) (lectures on the significance of Prabhupada’s death) and five volumes of Prabhupada Nectar (1983–86) (collection of anecdotes told by Prabhupäda’s disciples and compiled by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami) and a number of other titles. These can be described as autobiographical works of more limited scope. His memoir With Sréla Prabhupada in the Early Days (1991) covers the early years of 1966–1969, his book Life With the Perfect Master (1983) describes the seven-month period in 1974, when he served as Prabhupada’s personal servant.

Scriptural writings

Books included in this category include titles published by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust such as Narada Bhakti Sutra and Mukunda Mala Strotra, both unfinished works of his preceptor, as well as the multi-volume A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam – elaboration on Bhaktivedanta Purports of the Bhagavata Purana. From 1966 to current times Satsvarupa Maharaja has been contributing to Back to Godhead magazine. His articles in the Back to Godhead often demonstrate variety of legitimate perspectives on different issues and perspectives in spiritual understanding of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Academic presentation

His book published in 1975 during A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's lifetime was Readings in Vedic Literature: the Tradition Speaks for Itself. Prabhupada was appreciative of the review of the book by the academic circles. In the years to follow Satsvarupa dasa Goswami was supportive of the foundation of Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and some of his works were published in the ISKCON Communications Journal (ICJ) and reviewed by the academia in ICJ academic journal. Despite initial anti-cult controversies, the Hare Krishna movement today is viewed by the academics as "the most genuinely Hindu of all the many Indian movements in the West".

Personal writings

A number of his books are employing techniques of free-writing. Diaries and the letters collection from Prabhupada are spanning from the very beginning of the movement in 1966 in the West and provide an account of the ISKCON movement from the very first years to present days. Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture and Religious Adviser to World Wide Fund for Nature wrote of his book Entering the Life of Prayer 'I recommend this book to any who are genuinely wrestling with the implications of faith and with the path of prayer. It deserves to become a spiritual classic.'

Art and poetry

Number of poetical works were published in modern American idiom. He was also published in prominent Haiku magazines, the poetry dedicated to Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada glorification received positive reviews. His paintings and sculpture have also been reviewed by the Washington Times. His works as the self-taught artist are reflective of dedication of his life to the "study of Vedic literature and the teachings of the spiritual tradition".

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