Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami is an eternally liberated associate of Lord Krishna who appeared to join the Lord when He appeared five hundred years ago as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was most probably born in the year 1494 A.D. Though he was the son of a very rich landlord belonging to the Kayastha community; Raghunatha dasa had no interest in things of this world. His sole desire was to gain the association of Lord Chaitanya and dedicate himself to His service. Once when he met Lord Chaitanya at Shantipura, the Lord persuaded him to return home and assured that Krishna would deliver him soon from the clutches of maya. Seeing Raghunatha’s spirit of renunciation even as a young man, his family tried to keep him at home by all means, including appointing guards. Somehow Raghunatha was able to escape their vigilance with the help of Yadunandana Acharya, his official initiator spiritual master, and he made his way to Jagannatha Puri to serve Lord Chaitanya. This incident took place in the year 1517 AD.
After an arduous journey of twelve days without proper food or accommodation, Raghunatha dasa reached Jagannatha Puri. Lord Chaitanya entrusted him to Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, His secretary. Raghunatha’s life in Puri showed him to be absorbed in transcendental consciousness. He would stand at the Simha-dvara gate and eat only whatever he could gather by alms. Later he lived by taking alms from various chatras, or free food distribution centres. Appreciating Raghunatha dasa’s life of renunciation, Lord Chaitanya presented him with His own garland of small conchshells and a stone from Govardhana Hill. Thereafter, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami used to eat rejected food that he had collected and washed.
In the Chaitanya Charitamrita which gives an account of his life, the author Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami writes: ‘Who could list the unlimited transcendental attributes of Raghunatha dasa? His strict regulative principles were exactly like the lines on a stone. Raghunatha dasa spent more than twenty-two hours out of every twenty-four chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and remembering the lotus feet of the Lord. He ate and slept for less than an hour and a half, and on some days that too was impossible.
Topics concerning his renunciation are wonderful. Throughout his life he never allowed his tongue sense gratification. He never touched anything to wear except a small torn cloth and a patchwork wrapper. Whatever he ate was only to keep his body and soul together, and when he ate he would reproach himself thus: “If one’s heart has been cleansed by perfect knowledge and one has understood Krishna, the Supreme Brahman, he then gains everything. Why should such a person act like a debauchee by trying very carefully to maintain his material body?”
Raghunatha dasa Gosvami served Lord Chaitanya for sixteen years at Jagannatha Puri. After the Lord departed from this world, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami went to Vrindavana, where he lived for most of his life at the sacred lake Radha Kunda. He compiled three books, named Stava-mala, Dana-charita and Mukta-charita. His bhajana kutir, or place of worship, still exists at Radha Kunda.