Published On: Sun, Aug 30th, 2020

Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura

I offer my obeisances to you, O Bhaktivinoda, the form of eternity, knowledge and bliss, the incarnation of Gaura’s potency and the best of the followers of Rupa Goswami.

Bhaktivinoda’s spiritual identity

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s transcendental identity is revealed to the members of his spiritual family. He is the best of the followers of Rupa Manjari who is the leader of Lalita Sakhi’s entourage. Lalita Sakhi is the foremost of Radharani’s eight girlfriends. In various places in his own writings, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has indicated this divine identity:

yugala-sevaya, sri-rasa-mandale, niyukta kara amay |
lalita-sakhira, ayogya-kinkari, vinoda dhariche pay ||

Bhaktivinoda holds your feet and asks you to engage this unworthy servant of Lalita Sakhi in the service of the Divine Couple while they are performing the rasa-lila. (Kalyana-kalpataru)

In the song Siddhi-lalasa in his Gita-mala, also, Bhaktivinoda Thakur gives his eternal spiritual identity as Kamala Manjari, the servant of Sri Rupa Manjari. Her kunja is in the bower of Lalita, Vrajananda-sukhada-kunja, where she sets the standard of worship to the Divine Couple.

varane tarit, vasa taravali, kamala-manjari nama |
sare baro varsa, vayas satata, svananda-sukhada dhama ||

My bodily hue is like that of lightning and I wear a sari the colour of a clear night sky sprinkled with stars. I am twelve and a half years old and I live in Svananda-sukhada-kunja.

Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura

The need for Bhaktivinoda’s appearance

After the disappearance of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Svarupa Damodar, Ramananda Raya and the Six Goswamis, Srinivas Acharya, Narottama Das and Shyamananda Prabhu, a dark age descended on the world of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Those unable to understand the transcendental purity of Mahaprabhu’s religion of love started numerous heretical sects or apasampradayas. Totarama Das Babaji named thirteen such heretical sects:

aul, baul, kartabhaja, nera, daravesa, sain |
sahajiya, sakhibheki, smarta, jata-gosani |
atibari, curadhari, gauranga-nagari |
tota kahe ei teror sanga nahi kari ||

Educated upper class Bengali society was shocked and disgusted by the practices of these heretical sects and came to identify Mahaprabhu’s religion with the lower classes, the uneducated and immoral. People of the gentle classes thus had no understanding or faith in Mahaprabhu’s true religion. The most munificent incarnation Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took pity on these bewildered persons and in order to reclaim them for his path of divine love sent his eternal associate Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur into this world. Possessed of superhuman prowess, the Thakur wrote more than a hundred books in several different languages with the goal of defeating all the unorthodox views opposed to the true doctrines of Mahaprabhu’s religion. The result was that many members of discerning society and others from all over the world came to recognize the unequalled value of Mahaprabhu’s teachings. The founder of the Chaitanya Math and the worldwide Gaudiya Maths, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur, based his mission on the books and teachings given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and set into motion the fulfilment of Mahaprabhu’s message, found in the Chaitanya Bhagavat:

prthivite paryanta ache jata desa-grama |
sarvatra sancara ha+ibeka mora nama ||

My name will pervade every village and country in the world. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.4.126)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur thus made an unequalled contribution to the ultimate, spiritual welfare of humankind. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur wrote in his preface to the Jaiva-dharma: “Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur is an extremely dear associate of Sri Chaitanya Candra. In the course of time, when those who preached the desires of Chaitanya Deva had left this world to enter the Lord’s eternal pastimes, the sky over Bengal slowly darkened, covered by the thick clouds of sensual enjoyment and false renunciation. The sky was covered and the world was bereft of the rays of light coming from the sankirtan propagated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. One by one, the sun, the moon and the unlimited stars of that sky faded from view, leaving only the occasional flash of lightning to disrupt the unending darkness of ignorance. Almost 350 years after the appearance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur came to illuminate the Gaudiya sky.

All the great virtues are present in the body of a Vaishnava. The good qualities of Krishna gradually develop in his devotees. All these transcendental qualities are the characteristics of pure Vaishnavas, and they cannot be fully explained, but I shall try to point out some of the most important. Devotees are always merciful; they are not bellicose. They are truthful, equal to all, faultless, generous, mild and clean. They are without material possessions, and they work for the welfare of all. They are peaceful, surrendered to Krishna and desireless. They are meek, resolute, and completely control the six character flaws of lust, anger, greed and so forth. They eat only as much as required and are prudent, respectful, and free from false prestige. They are grave, sympathetic, friendly, poetic, expert and silent. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.22.75-80)

“All these devotee qualities were perfectly displayed by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur throughout his life of pure devotion. The ocean of compassion, Sri Gaurahari, displayed this merciful nature to the conditioned souls in nine different ways. The same kind of distribution of mercy is seen in the life and work of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur”.

The sampradâya’s debt to Bhaktivinoda Thakur

The sampradâya’s debt to Bhaktivinoda Thakur

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur is the root of the daily activities in the Chaitanya Math, the Gaudiya Math, the Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, the Gaudiya Missions, etc. The Gaudiya Math institutions cannot be separated from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. These institutions are entirely indebted to his sublime contributions.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written, “Devotees in the line of Srila Rupa Goswami do not preach faith in their own powers, but rather direct attention to the source of their spiritual strength. We also do everything for the sake of Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Sri Rupa, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and our divine spiritual master.” (From Patravali, Srila Prabhupada’s letters, vol. 3, p. 89.)
Devotees of the Brahma-Madhva-Sarasvata-Gaudiya sampradaya pay their respects daily to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur as follows:

suddha-bhakti-pracarasya mulibhuta ihottamah |
sri-bhaktivinodo devas tat-priyatvena visrutah ||

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur is a transcendental personality who is the root of the preaching movement of pure devotion. He is renowned as one who is dear to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Hymns to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur

Two of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur’s most prominent disciples, His Grace Bhaktiraksaka Sridhara Deva Goswami and His Grace Bhaktivicara Yayabara Maharaj wrote hymns in praise of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, the former in Sanskrit, the latter in Bengali. These have been given below:

vande bhaktivinodam sri-gaurasakti-Svarupakam |
bhakti-sastra-jna-samrajam radha-rasa-sudhanidhim ||

I bow to Sri Thakur Bhaktivinoda, Mahaprabhu’s divine energies personified. He is the emperor of Vaishnava scholars and possesses the ambrosial treasure of Sri Radha’s sacred rapture.

Bhakativinoda prabhu, daya koro more
tava krpa bale pai sri-prabhupadere |
bhakati-siddhanta sarasvati prabhupada
jagate aniya dile kariya prasada |
sarasvati krsna-priya, krsna-bhakti tanra hiya
vinodera sei se vaibhava |
ei gitera bhavartha, prabhupada para-artha
ebe mora kari anubhava ||

O Bhaktivinoda Prabhu, be merciful to me, for by your blessings I can attain Srila Prabhupada, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Out of compassion for the world, you brought him whose heart is filled with devotion to Krishna and who is dear to Krishna. This is the glory of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. The purpose of this song is to find complete dedication to Srila Prabhupada and this is what we now experience.

sri-caitanya-janma-sthana sri-mayapura |
tomara pracare ebe janila samsara ||
siksamrta, jaiva-dharma, adi grantha sata |
sajjana-tosani-patri sarva-samadrta ||
ei saba grantha-patri kariya pracara |
lupta-praya suddha-bhakti karile uddhara ||
jivere janale tumi hao krsna-dasa |
krsna bhajo krsna cinto chari anya asa ||
krsna-dasye jiva saba parananda pay |
sakala vipad ha’te mukta haye jay ||

The whole world has learned that Chaitanya’s birthplace is in Mayapur thanks to your preaching efforts. Your hundred books such as Sri-Chaitanya-Siksamrta, Jaiva Dharma, etc., and your magazine, Sajjana-tosani are valued by all. You preached these books and magazines and by so doing were able to restore the religion of pure devotion which had almost been lost. You told the fallen souls that they were in truth servants of Krishna and you told them to worship Krishna, to think of Krishna and to give up all other ambition. Through service to Krishna, the living being finds full happiness in life and freedom from all danger.

apani acari dharma sikhale sabare |
grhe kimba dhame thaki bhajaha krsnere ||
gadadhara-gaurahari-seva prakasile |
sri-radha-madhava-rupe tandera dekhile ||
gosvami-ganera grantha vicara kariya |
susiddhanta sikhayeche pramanadi diya ||
taha pari suni loka akrsta ha+ila |
jaga-bhari tava nama gahite lagila ||
vyasera abhinna tumi purana prakasa |
suk_bhinna prabhupada sri-dayita-dasa ||

You taught everyone by your own example that they should worship Krishna whether they are living as a householder or residing in the dham. You consecrated deities of Gadadhara-Gauranga, seeing Radha and Madhava in them. You studied the scriptures of the Goswamis and preached the pure doctrines that you found there with the appropriate evidence. Those who heard and read these doctrines were attracted and began to sing your glories throughout the world. You are like Vyasadeva who published the puranas, and Srila Prabhupada, Dayita Das, your son, is like Sukadeva.

vaisnavera jata guna achaye granthete |
sakala prakasa haila tomara dehete ||
sri-gaura-mandala majhe sri-biranagar |
tava avirbhava sthana sarva-subhankara ||
vandi ami nata-sire sei punya-ksetra |
mastake dharana kari se dhuli pavitra ||
tomara krpaya isodyane sthana pai |
bhagavata-mathe basi tava nama gai ||
tomara dasanudasa yati yayabara |
prarthana karaye dhama-vasa nirantara ||

All the Vaishnava qualities described in the books are manifest in your body. You appeared in Gaura-mandala-bhumi, in the village of Birnagar, a place which is auspicious for all. I worship that holy spot with my head bowed low, taking its holy dust on my head. By your mercy, I have found a place in Ishodyan, the divine garden of Mayapur, and here in the Bhagavata Math, I glorify your name. The servant of your servants, the sannyasi Yayabara, prays to you to grant him eternal life in the Holy Dhama.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s family history

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s family history

Just as the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna’s highest perfection is in his human activities in a human form, so similarly his eternal associates also act in human-like ways when they descend to the worldly platform for the benefit of the fallen living entities. Even though they appear to be ordinary human beings, they are in fact never touched by the illusory nature and always remain transcendental to it. They may be situated in householder life, but they are never entangled in material sensual desires like an ordinary conditioned soul because of their deep attachment and love for the Lord. They are simply engaged in a pastime whereby they imitate the activities of the rest of mankind for the sake of exchanging with them for the purposes of benefitting them. Those who have surrendered with sincerity to Vishnu and the Vaishnavas are able to recognize the non-material character of these personalities.

The King Adisura invited Brahmins and other upper class Hindus to Bengal, amongst whom was the kayastha Purushottam. His seventh and eighth generation descendants were Sri Vinayaka and Narayan who became government ministers. The fifteenth generation descendant was Mahaprabhu’s contemporary, Raja Krsnananda Datta. He was a devotee of Krishna and Nityananda Prabhu came to stay in his home with his entourage and bestowed profuse blessings on him. Descendents of Krsnananda Datta include Govindasarana Datta who founded the village of Govindapura. Kalighata, Sutanuti and Govindapura are the three villages which later became Calcutta.

Govindasarana Datta’s grandson was Ramachandra. His grandson was Madana Mohana Datta, who donated Calcutta’s Heduwa Pukur to the municipality for public use. He also spent a great deal of his personal wealth in 1774 to build steps at Gaya’s Pretasila Tirtha and the Candranatha mountain. Madana Mohana Datta’s grandson was Rajavallabha Datta, whose son Anandacandra Datta was very religious and detached from material life. Anandacandra married Jaganmohini Devi, the daughter of the celebrated zamindar of Ula village in Nadia district, Ishvaracandra Mustaufi.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur accepted Anandacandra Datta and Jaganmohini Devi as his parents and appeared in Ula-Birnagar in the home of his maternal grandfather. It was the 352nd year after the birth of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sunday, Sept. 2, 1838; the tithi was Sukla Trayodasi of Bhadra. His parents gave him the name Kedaranatha.

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