Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914)
In honor of the anniversary of the passing of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, which coincides with this issue of Back to Godhead (June 21), we present this special section on his life and teachings and the discovery of his family's deities, Sri Sri Radha-Madhava.
An appreciation of the gifts of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
This is a translation of part of a speech delivered on September 2, 1993, the 155th anniversary of the birth of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. On that day a public meeting was held at the Dinabandhu Sahoo Law College, Kendrapara, Orissa, to glorify Thakura Bhaktivinoda, whose portrait was installed in honor of his being the first law graduate of Orissa.
"I bow down to Sri Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who is the embodiment of the energy of Sri Gaurasundara [Caitanya Mahaprabhu] and a great sadhu in the line of the followers of Sri Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada."
Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura was born with the name Sri Kedarnath Dutta on September 2, 1838. He appeared in the village of Ula, in the district of Nadia, West Bengal, which was his maternal uncle's home. But the house of his forefathers is in the village of Choti in the Kendrapara District of Orissa. Choti is the sripat, the native place of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and he resided here.
Having been decorated with the dust of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's lotus feet, this is a very sacred place. But most people have not known about it. This place is now coming to everyone's notice because of the blessings of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Getting the strength of that blessing, the research scholar Dr. Fakir Mohan Das has been working to reveal this place to the world. Without such blessings, no one can do this work. Sripada Fakir Mohan Das may face much opposition, but after resisting this opposition strongly, he will surely establish the real truth.
Best Welfare Work
What is the best welfare work for the world? Thakura Bhaktivinoda has expressed the following in his monthly journal Sajjana-tosani:
Showing kindness, daya, to living entities can be divided into three categories:
Deha-sambandhini-daya means showing kindness to the material body of the living entity through sat-karma, auspicious deeds. Giving food to a hungry person, supplying medicine to a patient, giving water to a thirsty person, and supplying winter clothes to a poor person suffering from the cold are acts of kindness to the material body. Manah-sambandhini-daya means showing kindness to the mind by giving knowledge.
Atma-sambandhini-daya means showing kindness to the soul, and it is the best daya of all. By such kindness one attempts to save a person from all worldly sufferings by giving him devotion to Lord Krsna. Some persons consider acts of kindness to the body to be very auspicious. Others, who are learned persons, emphasize acts of kindness to the mind. But pure devotees of the Lord act for the eternal welfare of the living entities by preaching devotion.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura exhibited the topmost type of kindness or welfare work, but how many people understand it? How many people glorify the qualities of such Vaisnava sadhus and mahajanas [great persons]? Even learned persons do not understand the work of the Vaisnavas.
We see that those who have done or are doing something for the welfare of the body or mind are highly glorified. But who is speaking the glories of those doing welfare work for the soul? How many people have spiritual knowledge? How many people realize the soul? How many people have the vision to see the soul? The sadhu-mahajanas have dedicated their whole lives for doing welfare work for the soul. By their blessings, spiritual vision has been received by many persons. Who knows and glorifies these sadhus and mahajanas? In this material world, no one speaks about their great works and efforts.
Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda left this world on June 23, 1914. He dedicated his whole life to preaching Gaudiya Vaisnavism [devotional service in the line of Lord Caitanya] and spiritualism, or bhagavat-dharma [eternal service to God]. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata: Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, Lord Krsna Himself descends along with His followers to reestablish the principles of religion. Thakura Bhaktivinoda is the embodiment of this verse. In this age of skepticism and fruitless nihilism, he exercised his mighty pen to reestablish sanatana-dharma, eternal religion. Inspired by the Gaudiya Vaisnava Acaryas [spiritual masters], he wrote book after book, refuting materialistic views based on nihilism and atheism. By speaking on the eternal Vedas, on civilization and education, he enlightened many conditioned souls who had forgotten their real spiritual identity.
Without imparting scriptural knowledge there is no means to bring the living entities, who are oppositely attracted, towards para-tattva, the Supreme Truth. Gaudiya gurus such as Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Sanatana Gosvami, and Srila Jiva Gosvami did the work of spiritual masters by analyzing the Srimad-Bhagavatam and commentaries on it. The Bhagavatam is the essence of the eternal Vedic sound and the mature fruit of the desire tree of the Vedic literature. Thakura Bhaktivinoda nicely strung together the teachings of these Gaudiya gurus in easy and simple language. Therefore, after the six Gosvamis [leading disciples of Lord Caitanya], Thakura Bhaktivinoda is known as the Seventh Gosvami.
Following in the footsteps of Srila Jiva Gosvami, in 1884 Bhaktivinoda reestablished the Viswa Vaishnava Sabha (World Vaishnava Congregation) and preached the Vedic religion Upanisads, Vedanta Sutras, Srimad-Bhagavatam as well as the life and philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Prabhupada inherited these bright qualities from him and preached this great ideology of Gaudiya Vaisnavism throughout the Indian subcontinent, from the Himalayas to the oceans and abroad.
Thakura Bhaktivinoda wrote more than one hundred books, both original works and commentaries, in English, Sanskrit, and Bengali. His numerous devotional songs, immersed in divine love born of full surrender, reveal his deep love for Lord Sri Krsna. These songs have inspired all types of people, from ordinary conditioned souls to highly elevated devotees. His books of devotional songs, such as Saranagati, Gitavali, and Kalyana-Kalpataru, are food for the soul and are very praiseworthy in human society. In this age of short-lived sensual pleasure and false renunciation, these books are Bhaktivinoda's great call for those who are thirsty to get a taste of Vaikuntha [spiritual] love. Who can imagine the kindness he has shown?
Conditioned souls, being victims of illusion and the repetition of the cycle of birth and death, are prone to commit errors. The material world created by the Lord is our testing place. Here at every step we are continually being tested by maya. To pass this test one has to hear the devotional message spoken by mahajanas like Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
Bhaktivinoda's teachings should be preached more and more. If the leaders of present-day society sincerely desire the welfare of humanity, they should deeply cultivate and introspectively reflect upon these teachings. Please practice these teachings in your life and teach them to the world. This will surely bring auspiciousness and the unlimited blessings of Thakura Bhaktivinoda.
I pray for his blessings as follows:
adadana strnam danter idam yace punah punah
bhaktivinoda-padabja-renuh syat janma-janmani
Keeping straw between my teeth, I pray repeatedly that life after life I may be a particle of dust at the lotus feet of Thakura Bhaktivinoda.
Jaya! Sri Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura ki jaya!
Sripada Gour Govinda Swami, an ISKCON guru and a native of Orissa, passed from this world in 1996.