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Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj ki Jai!!

After the disappearance of the second generation stalwarts like Srinivas Acharya, Narottam Das, Syamananda Prabhu and Janhva Thakurani a dark age descended in the world of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Deprived of guidance from the acharyas, the mass of common people were unable to understand the high esoteric concepts of Mahaprabhu’s bhakti philosophy.

In the 18th century with the advent of the British the educated people of Bengal and indeed other regions wanted to emulate the English whose education was based mostly on science and intellectual rationalism. People of the educated class thus had no taste or faith in Sri Chaitanya’s true religion of surrender and love of God.

It was in such an environment that the apostle of Sriman Mahaprabhu in modern times Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur appeared in Bengal. Blessed with extraordinary intellectual prowess, the Thakur wrote more than a hundred books in several languages aiming to undeniably repudiate all the unorthodox views opposed to the true conclusions of rupanuga bhakti.

The pioneer of pure devotion, it was Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur who foretold that people the world over would join under the banner of Sri Chaitanya Maharabhu’s Harinam Sankirtan - congregational chanting of the Holy Names of Lord Krishna. By his prolific writings, Srila Bhaktiivinod Thakur was instrumental in the renaissance of a devotional culture which had become overgrown with spurious interpretations and misrepresentation.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, originally named Kedarnatha Datta was born in 1838, in Birangara (Bengal). The youngest of seven sons, his father Raja Krisnananda Datta was a senior official in the court of the King. Raja Krisnananda Datta was a great devotee of Lord Nityananda.

The family lived in fairly wealthy circumstances until Kedarnatha's father passed away in 1849, when they first experienced hardship. In 1850, Kedarnatha's mother arranged a marriage with the daughter of Madhusudana Mitra Mahashaya, a resident of Rana Ghata. Kedarnatha was taught by his uncle Kashiprasada Ghosh Mahashaya at his home in Calcutta. Kashiprasada, having studied under the British education system was a central figure in many literary circles and was the editor of the Hindu Intelligencer.

Kedarnatha studied his uncle's books and helped him in submitting articles to the newspaper. He became an expert in English as a reader, speaker and writer. When he was 18, he went to college in Calcutta, where he wrote extensively in both English and Bengali (these essays were published locally). He also lectured frequently in both languages. His best friend through these years was Sriman Dvijendranatha Thakura, the eldest son of Maharsi Devendranatha Thakura.
Having seen the cut-throat corruption in the business world, Kedarnatha decided to become a teacher. He established an English school in Kendrapara, a village near Chutigrama in Orissa, thus pioneering English education in the state. Sometime later he went to Puri and passed a teachers' examination; he got a teacher's post in a Cuttack school and later became the headmaster of a school in Bhadrak and then in Medinipura.

His dedicated work was noted by the school authorities. As headmaster, Bhaktivinoda studied the various religions and came to the realization that the only real religion established in Bengal was that of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
In 1861, Bhaktivinoda took up a government post as deputy magistrate in Bengal. In the years to come, he took up several government posts, chiefly as deputy magistrate in various parts of Bengal . He read Sri Chaitanya-Charitamrita repeatedly; his faith in Krishna consciousness increased until he was totally absorbed in the pure bhakti-sastras day and night.

Between the years 1874 and 1893, Bhaktivinoda Thakura spent much time in seclusion, chanting the holy name though he still executed his worldly duties; he wrote a number of books in Sanskrit such as Sri Krishna-samhita, Tattva-sutram and Tattva-viveka and Datta-kausubha. He spoke Bengali, Sanskrit, English, Latin, Urdu, Persian and Oriya. He managed to obtain and write a Sanskrit commentary on the Chaitanyopanishad.

Whilst in Puri, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura became manager of the Jagannatha Temple. He established the daily routine of regular worship of the Deity. In the temple courtyard he established a 'Bhakti Mandapa', where daily discourses of Srimad-Bhagavatam were held. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura would spend long hours discussing Krishna and chanting the holy name, especially at Tota-Gopinatha Mandir, at the place of Haridasa Thakura at Siddha Bakula and the Gambhira.

Bimala Prasad (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati), Bhaktivinoda's fourth son, was born in Sri Purushottama Kshetra (Jagannatha Puri) on 6th February 1874 AD, answering the prayer of Bhaktivinoda for the Lord 'to send a Ray of Vishnu' to preach the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world. He was given the name Bimal Prasad.

As a devotee, Bhaktivinoda showed great humility; he had strict moral standards and would not accept gifts from anyone. Even in his government duties, he refused all honours and titles. When his seventh son was born, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura took pancharatrika diksa initiation from Bipin Bihari Goswami, descended from the Jahnava family of Baghnapara.

In 1881 Bhaktivinoda Thakura began publishing Sajjanatosani, his Vaishnava journal. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had previously made pilgrimages to Kashi, Prayaga, Mathura and Vrindavana in 1866. At the close of his stay in Naraila he desired to again see the land of Vraja, where he met the great siddha sant Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, and accepted him as his eternally worshipable siksa (instructing) guru. From Vrindavana he returned to Calcutta and bought a house. He started daily worship of Sri Giridhari (the transcendental form of Krishna who appeared in the form of Govardhana Hill) and called the house Bhakti-bhavan. In 1881, whilst excavating for the construction of the Bhakti bhavana at Rambagan in Calcutta, a Deity of Kurma Bhagavan was unearthed.

Bhaktivinoda entrusted his son Bimala Prasad with the service of the deity of Kurmadeva. In Calcutta, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura started the Sri Vishva-Vaishnava Sabha, dedicated to the preaching of pure bhakti as taught by Lord Chaitanya. To publicize the work of the society, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura published a small booklet entitled Vishva-Vaishnava-kalpavi. Also he published his own edition of the Sri Chaitanya-Charitamrita, with his Amrta-prabhava Bhashya commentary. He introduced the Chaitanyabda or Chaitanya-era calendar, and gave assistance to the propagation of the Chaitanya Panjika, which established the festival day of Gaura Purnima. He lectured and gave readings on books such as Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (of Srila Rupa Goswami) in various Vaishnava societies; he published in the Hindu Herald, an English periodical, a detailed account of Sri Chaitanya's life.  It was at this time that the learned Vaishnavas recognized Kedaranatha Datta and gave him the honorary title of Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

Srila Thakur travelled and preached widely. In 1891, he took leave from government service for two years just for this purpose. He would lecture in clubs, societies and organizations. During this time he continued writing and opened many branches of Nama Hatta in different districts of Bengal. The Nama Hatta became a self-sustaining model which continued to spread even after his return to government service.

Once whilst stationed in Krishanagar, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, along with Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja found Lord Chaitanya's birthplace in the year 1887. When the birthplace was uncovered, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji instituted the worship of Lord Chaitanya there.

In 1908 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura took the on the habit (attire) of a babaji at Sataasana, Puri , i.e. he accepted paramahamsa-sannyasa. Until 1910 he travelled between Calcutta and Puri, still writing books.  On June 23rd 1914, the disappearance day of Gaur-shakti Srila Gadadhar Pandit, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura Prabhupada passed away in Puri. His bodily remains were taken from Orissa back to Godrumadwipa, in the land of Nadia, the land of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His eternal pastimes. Amidst sankirtana, congretational chanting of the Lord's holy names, his remains were interred in Swananda Sukhda Kunja, his home in Godrumadwipa.

Externally Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur was a householder with family responsibilities, a government servant engaged in administrative service, but despite all that he dedicated himself to writing over a hundred books in different languages for the benefit of all in the new era.

Such a monumental achievement is only possible for a confidential empowered associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Every word of his writing is scripture awakening the spirit of devotion. Mundane scholars would never be able to achieve the kind of synthesis that he did. Due to his superhuman literary works and extraordinary achievements he is often called the Seventh Goswami in line with the original Six Goswamis of Vrindavan.

We offer millions of obeisance unto the lotus feet of this great Vaishnava acharya and pray for his guidance and grace so as to pursue our spiritual practices properly.

 

 

Jai Guru !!

Jai Jai Shri Radhey !!