Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Unequalled Contribution
by Srila Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Goswami Maharaj
namo bhaktivinodaya saccidananda-murtaye |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.
gaura-sakti-svarupaya rupanuga-varaya te ||
The sampradaya's debt to Bhaktivinoda ThakurSrila 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 |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.
sri-bhaktivinodo devas tat-priyatvena visrutah ||
Bhaktivinoda's unequalled contributionVedavyasa and the scriptures he wrote are the foundation of all those who claim to follow the Sanatan Dharma. He himself practiced and preached the means by which humankind can attain the supreme peace. Vedavyasa compiled and divided the Veda, wrote the eighteen puranas and the Mahabharata including the Bhagavad-gita, but remained unsatisfied. Finally, while at Badarikasrama, Narada Muni instructed him to glorify the activities of Sri Krishna in order to attain his pleasure. After writing the twelve cantos of the Srimad Bhagavatam, Vedavyasa finally found the peace he had been looking for. Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanya preached the Bhagavat religion which is found in this text. After the disappearance of Mahaprabhu and his associates, however, the path of pure devotion became covered with thorns until Bhaktivinoda Thakur appeared to write many books and to preach the pure doctrine of devotional service to Krishna. Through his tireless efforts, all the heretical doctrines were ! shown to be empty, the path of supreme auspiciousness and compasision was shown to all the world. These efforts can only be said to constitute an unequalled and certainly unsurpassed contribution. Without being empowered by Krishna himself, the message of pure devotion cannot be spread. Such a display of empowerment could not be possible were he not a direct associate of Gauranga Mahaprabhu, Sri Krishna.
Externally he was a householder with family obligations, a government servant engaged in the administrative service, but despite these responsabilities he was still able to write over a hundred books in several different languages. One cannot fail to be impressed by this monumental achievement. Every word of his writing is scripture; every word awakens the spirit of devotion to him who is beyond the grasp of the material senses and mind. Mundane scholars would never be able to achieve the kind of synthesis that he did. His every thought was perfectly reasonable and never far-fetched. His writings are a permanent display of compassion to the fallen souls. His Divine Grace Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaj used to say to his disciples, "You need do nothing else other than translate Bhaktivinoda Thakur's books into the world's various languages and you will have done the greatest act of welfare for the people of the world." In fact, everything that is done in the Gaudiya Maths t! hroughout the world has come from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
Discovery of Mahaprabhu's birthplaceIn 1887, Srila Bhaktivinod visited the most important Shiva-li"ga in Bengal at Tarakesvara where Shiva appeared to him in a dream and said, "You want to go to Vrindavan, but there is much work left to do in Nabadwip Dhama nearby. What have you done there?" Later that year, he was transfered to Krishnanagara. Then, while visiting Kuliya, the modern city of Nabadwip, he was standing on the roof of the Ranira Dharmasala overlooking the Ganges. At about ten o'clock at night, he saw an illuminated building on the other side of the river. His son Kamala Prasada who was there with him also saw this light. On inquiry, they learned that this place was Ballaladighi. When he made inquiries from the elderly residents of Ballaladighi, they told him that this was the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur continued to research old maps and documents and was able to establish conclusively that Mahaprabhu's birthplace was indeed there. He continued to maintain his Calcutta home where he installed a Giradhari Sila given him by Jagannath Das Babaji, but in 1888 purchased the property in Godrumadvipa known as Surabhi Kua. While working at Krishnanagara he was also able to visit his birthplace at Ula.
In Magh 1399 (February, 1893), Bhaktivinod held a kirtan festival at Godrumadvipa at which Jagannath Das Babaji was the guest of honor. Later that spring, on the 20th of Phalguna (March, 1893), Jagannath Das indicated the exact spot where Mahaprabhu had first appeared in this world.
At this time, the Thakur had an argument with a certain member of a Goswami family who held that one of Mahaprabhu's closest associates was a Sudra. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was very displeased when he heard this and warned him with the words:
vaisnava-caritra, sarvada pavitra, jei ninde himsa kari |The character of a Vaishnava is always spotless. Bhaktivinoda will not talk to anyone who criticizes a Vaishnava out of spite, but always remains silent.
bhakativinoda, na sambhase tare, thake sada mauna dhari ||
Also at about this time, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote down his guru-parampara and hung it on the outside of Bhakti Bhavan.
In January of 1894, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur held another large meeting at the A.V. School in Krishnanagara. At this meeting it was decided that deities should be installed at Mahaprabhu's birthplace. At the same time, the Nabadwip Pracarini Sabha was formed to preach the newly discovered birthsite. Nafar Chandra Pal Bhaktibhusana, the zamindar of Natudaha in Nadia district, was elected executive secretary of the of the Sabha. Dvarika Babu, Nafar Babu, and other members of the Sabha decided that a thatched cottage would be constructed on the site would house deities of Gaura and Vishnupriya. These deities were consecrated on Friday, March 21, 1894 (Chaitra 9, 1300 Bengali), on the Phalguni Purnima, in the midst of a rousing kirtan during a lunar eclipse. For the maintenance of the deities, a committee was formed (Sri Mayapur Seva Samiti) which had many distinguished Vaishnavas as its members, including Syamalal Goswami, Sasibhusana Goswami, Radhikanatha Goswami, Vipina V! ihari Goswami, Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Ajitanatha Nyayaratna, Mahendranatha Bhattacharya Vidyaranya, Satyajivana Lahiri, Raja Vanamali Raya Bahadura or Tarasa in Pabna district, Sisira Kumara Ghosh, Matilal a Ghosh, Yatindranatha Chaudhuri, Mahendranatha Majumdara, the advocate Kisorilala Sarkara, Nalinaksa Datta, Kanailala De Bahadura, Deputy Magistrate Navina Candra Sena, and Jagaccandra Raya.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur preached that the rules of the Daiva-varnasrama dharma should always be followed. Thus, he upheld the directives of the Sat-kriya-sara-dipika in giving the sacred thread to Jagadisa Bhaktipradipa (who after taking sannyas from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur became Bhaktipradipa Tirtha Maharaj), Sitanatha Mahapatra, Vasanta Kumara Ghosh, and Manmathanatha Raya.
In this connexion, it is worth examining the Thakur's following words: "The Varnasrama dharma which is current in society is distinct from the transcendental religion of exclusive devotion to Krishna. The practice of Varnasrama dharma on its own does not result in full surrender to the Lord. The ultimate instruction of the Bhagavad-gita is to discard all the principles related to the varnas and asramas, in short all activities based on bodily identification, and to engage in a cultivation of devotional activities based on the natural emotional constitution of the soul, which is pure and without ulterior motive. Dedicated scholars such as Raghavacari have no understanding of this glorious characteristic of Gaudiya Vaisnavism's concept of pure devotion."
Bhaktivinoda Thakur's entry into the eternal pastimesA few days before his disappearance, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur left Godrumadvipa to come to Bhakti Bhavan. On June 23, 1914, on the disappearance day of Gaura-sakti, Srila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami, in his Calcutta home, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur entered the midday pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Govinda at Radha Kund. Six years later, the worshipable Mata Thakurani, his wife Sri Bhagavati Devi, went to join him.