The Ramayana on the Need for a Proper Leader, By Stephen Knapp

 

Sometimes people think that the ancient Vedic literature no longer has any real usefulness in this day and age. That it is little better than an antique of foregone days. However, this article shows the universal and ever-relevant nature of the Ramayana, and how it explains the symptoms of society when there is no ruler, or when there is an unqualified leader. When there is no such ruler of a country, they describe an assortment of symptoms and problems in society that become prominent, and thus spoil life for the citizens. The descriptions are of a society that is falling apart, wherein the citizens are troubled by the lawlessness and corruption that abounds.

However, these symptoms are what we find so common in today’s world, which shows the timeless nature of the instructions given by these great sages.

Nonetheless, in other situations in the Ramayana, we find remedies for these problems. Such as when Vibhishana instructs Ravana on some of the duties of a king, which we briefly look at. However, Ravana did not like being instructed in this way because he was not interested in acting like a good king anyway, similar in ways to some of the rulers we see today.

Furthermore, the descriptions of Ayodhya when Lord Rama returns to lead the people shows the effects on society when there is a good and proper ruler, and how such a ruler should lead society for the ultimate good of everyone. It also shows the influence that such a king can have all over the land, which we obviously need more than ever in this world. So let us look at these descriptions.

 

THE RESULTS OF A LEADERLESS SOCIETY.

This especially points out how the Ramayana held views on the means for a harmonious society, and what helped provide or prevent it. This section outlines how a society without a leader, or without one that is qualified, will never be harmonious, and will actually exhibit symptoms that will prevent such a united society. Although these describe a time thousands of years ago when facilities were different, it can still be compared to what we would expect to see, or not see, in this day and age. Amazingly, many of the symptoms that are described are the same conditions as we see in society today.

The reason why I wanted to elaborate on these teachings is that as we look around this world, many parts of it seem to be falling apart with each passing day. How can we change things? It is time that people of the world understand what to look for in a leader if we are going to live harmoniously with ourselves or with nature. It is time that we know who to elect if we are going to have a leader who provides the right kind of protection and guidance, and who holds and practices the proper virtue if we are going to steer society in the right direction. And that is, unfortunately, not someone we often see today. It is not that the Ramayana is some kind of outdated book that no longer provides any wisdom, but we will see that it still holds practical advice that will help us correct our misguided aims of life by reconsidering the insight as given by the sages in the Ramayana. So let us take a look at some of these verses, and we will see many of the same indicators right now of a leaderless society that it describes.

This is from the Ayodhya Kanda, Canto 67, verses 9-38, as described by Markandeya and other great sages to urge Vasishtha to install a qualified prince onto the throne.

“In a land destitute of a ruler, the thundering cloud wreathed with lighting does not drench the earth with rain water.” 9

So here we see that drought is common when there is no proper ruler, or when society is misdirected. In such a situation, people no longer work in harmony with nature so that it reciprocates with the needs of the people. People often feel that nature is something to dominate and control, to take what they want from it. But actually we are a part of nature and should be in harmony with it. Otherwise, nature merely reflects the mass consciousness of the people who inhabit the planet, and thus drought is not uncommon.

“In a rulerless land, handfuls of seeds are no longer scattered (for fear of uncertainty of crops). (Nay) in a rulerless land, a son is not amenable to the control of his father, nor his wife amenable to the control of her husband (there being no executive authority to enforce correct conduct).” 10

Herein we see that a leaderless society becomes lawless, with no respect for authority on any level.

“In a rulerless land, people do not construct assembly halls (for public gatherings, there being no such gatherings), nor do joyous men plant lovely gardens (for fear of their being destroyed by enemies of peace and order) or build sacred houses (such as temples and buildings for the free accommodation of travelers and strangers, etc).” 12

In this way, no one builds elaborate structures since the lawless or the enemies will come and destroy them because of a lack of respect for the culture, or to drive out those who are not of the same disposition or religion.

“In a rulerless land, festivals (in honor of deities) in which actors and dancers exhibit their art in a highly ecstatic mood, and convivial gatherings promoting the welfare of the state do not gather strength.” 15

Again this shows how a sophisticated culture will be set to ruin by adharmic forces if there is not a ruler who can gather the means to defend the culture.

“In a rulerless land, parties to a law-suit are not able to have their dispute settled, nor are those given to hearing stories from the Puranas, etc., pleased with such stories told by those to whom the narration of such stories is agreeable.” 16

It may be somewhat amusing to see this description being a result of a rulerless land, especially in India where lawsuits are known to take many months or even years. Without a qualified leader who can execute an efficient system of law and order, the court system becomes increasingly backlogged with cases that are not resolved, not because they can’t be dealt with, but because of a lack of efficiency and honesty in the judicial system, and the interest of the courts to resolve such cases without accepting bribes or other complications before such cases are heard.

“In a rulerless land, virgins decked with gold ornaments do not for their part go united to gardens to sport at dusk (for fear of being abducted or violated by miscreants).” 17

These days no one can go out at night or even in daylight without the risk of being robbed or abducted. This is surely a sign of a lack of proper leadership wherein the citizens know that a crime will be punished, and people will be protected. Without good leaders, criminals know they can get away with many criminal acts.

“In a rulerless land, wealthy husband and cowherds, even though well protected (by their attendants) do not sleep with open doors (for fear of thieves and dacoits).” 18

Again, all doors to a house must be locked where there are criminals, or those who have no respect for authority, which means the authority is too weak to uphold the law and give appropriate punishment to criminals.

“In a rulerless land, the sound of plucking the bow-string with the palm produced by Kshatriyas uninterruptedly discharging arrows while practicing the use of bows is not heard.” 21

This merely indicates that those like the police or soldiers meant to protect the people are in limited numbers, and are not around to help keep law and order. This is usually because the leaders put their interests and priorities in other directions rather than in protecting law abiding citizens or in building a strong military or police force to defend the country and citizens.

“In a rulerless land, merchants travelling far and wide do not safely move about fully equipped with abundant salable goods.” 22

“In a rulerless land, nothing is one=s own in the eyes of anyone. Like fishes, men always devour one another. 31

Again, here we see that in a land without a qualified ruler, merchants cannot move about without the fear of being robbed or killed for their merchandise. In such a case, society is hardly civilized at all.

“In a rulerless land, there is no acquisition of property and no security of possessions. Nor is the army able in a rulerless land to vanquish the foes in a battle.” 24

Even the army becomes ineffective and without proper direction when there is no qualified leader, thus leaving the country vulnerable and unable to oppose its foes, or uphold law and order.

“In a rulerless land, self-controlled ascetics moving all by themselves and contemplating on the Self with their own mind and taking up their abode wherever the evening falls do not move about (freely for want of hospitable householders).” 23

Herein it is described how ascetics who hold the knowledge of the spiritual path are not very abundant, prominent, nor are they often respected. People in general lose interest in such topics when there is no ruler to show by example how to uphold, respect or protect the Dharmic path.

“In a rulerless land, men well-versed in sacred lore do not meet (freely) holding disputations in forests and groves.” 26

Again we see the lack of respect for those who hold within themselves spiritual knowledge, who no longer roam about ready to give such wisdom to the masses, knowing that they may simply meet with the contradictions and criticisms of materialistic people.

“In a rulerless land, flowers, sweetmeats and sacrificial fees are not brought together for the worship of deities by self-controlled men.” 27

In fact, even proper worship, pujas, and Dharmic traditions are soon lost without a leader who will uphold their protection. This means that such a leader must follow or at least respect the Dharmic traditions and the deep spiritual knowledge that is preserved therein.

“A state without a ruler is really no better than rivers without water, a woodland without grass, and cows without a keeper. 29

“If there is no king demarcating good and evil in the world, oh, this world will be reduced to (utter) darkness as it were and nothing can be clearly perceived.” 36

In other words, a land without a qualified ruler is a wasteland wherein the real goal of life is not understood, nor is it practiced, and mere existence with the attempt to avoid so many problems is all that is left to achieve, and that also only with great struggle. With this as the standard, such a society is reduced to utter ignorance of the true purpose of life.

 

WHAT THE KING IS MEANT TO BE

Now that we have seen some of what the Ramayana presents as dangers of a lack of real leadership, there are also a few verses that give insight to what a real ruler should be. This points out the power of such a king by these qualities, if he possesses them.

“(Just) as the eye ever strives for the good of the body (by serving as a guide to it and showing it the right path), so does the king, who is the fountain of truth and righteousness, ever strive for the good of the state. 33

“The king is truthfulness and virtue (incarnate); the king constitutes the nobility of birth in men of a high pedigree. The king is the mother as well as the father; the king is the benefactor of men. 34

“(Even) Yama (the god of retribution); Kubera (son of Vishrava, the god of riches), Indra (the ruler of gods), and the very mighty Varuna (the deity presiding over water) are outstripped by a king of excellent conduct by virtue of such conduct (inasmuch as he combines in himself the virtues of all the above-named deities).” 35

 

HOW A KING SHOULD GUIDE SOCIETY

A king is not only supposed to maintain law and order, but a real king, a Vedic king, should also provide the means that people can attain the real and spiritual goal of life. So now we look at the solutions to the above problems with how a king should give proper guidance to the people. This is described by Kumbhakarna while rebuking Ravana for all of his misdeeds. Naturally, Ravana, typical of many politicians today, did not like to hear such advice, simply because he had no intention of following it. But it is described in the Ramayana for our benefit.

From Yuddha Kanda, Canto 63, verses 7-21, it explains:

“Holding consultation with his ministers, he who takes into consideration the five aspects of the threefold duties (with reference to hostile kings) moves along the right path.” 7

In this case the five aspects means: 1. The method of initiating an action, 2. The person or material to be worked with, 3. The time and place of action, 4. Provisions necessary to make it successful, and 5. The calculated chances of success. And these aspects are used in three kinds of circumstances when dealing with enemies, which are: 1. The way to attain peace through reconciliation, 2. Acceptance of their allegiance through the acceptance of gifts, or 3. Invasion to force coercion toward peace. A ruler must be strong enough to make these considerations or he will be pushed aside or removed by the enemy who will take over his territory.

“A king who seeks to determine his duty in accordance with the science of polity and perceive his friends too, along with the ministers, understand aright.” 8

Herein, as explained, a king has to realize who he can trust among friends and ministers, and then he can move forward with confidence. This is essential if the king or ruler expects to stay in power or hold onto his position.

“The self-controlled king who, having deliberated with his ministers, bestows gifts, takes to (expedients of) conciliation and, sowing dissension among the hostile ranks, exhibits prowess, O prince of ogres, or resorts to them (all) together and takes recourse both to right action and the reverse of it at the right time and pursues virtue, worldly gain and sensuous pleasure at the proper time never meets with disaster in the world.” 11-12

A self-controlled king means a king with spiritual wisdom and virtue. Without understanding what real virtue is, no one can fulfill the proper role of a leader, or for that matter even a husband, teacher, father, or one who employs others. But more important than merely knowing what true virtue is, is the need to follow it and live according to those virtues, which is especially expected for any ruler. Only by applying this kind of wisdom and virtue will a king encounter success and avoid disaster, not only in his personal life but also for his country.

“A king should take action (only) after considering what is salutary in consequence to him in consultation with his ministers who make their living by their intelligence and know the reality of things.” 13

Herein the point is simple, that regardless of how intelligent a ruler may think he is, the saying is two heads are better than one, and a king must consult with his qualified ministers to make sure of the proper action to take. However, this verse also refers to ministers who know the reality of things, as opposed to those who are merely academically trained.

“People whose mental level is in no way higher than that of beasts, and (yet) who have been allowed to take their seat among counselors, desire to express their views through (sheer) impudence without fully knowing the import of the scriptures. The advice tendered by such people, who having no knowledge of the scriptures, are (equally) ignorant of the science of wealth, or who seek immense wealth, ought not to be followed. 14-15

“Men who tender unwholesome advice in a salutary garb through (sheer) impudence should be excluded from deliberation as they mar the (very) purpose (of the deliberation).” 16

Here is said the obvious, that those who are not qualified, though they may try to appear so by such things as academics, wealth, etc., and with pride may try to force their opinion on others, should not be given any consideration. No one should listen to them, not the citizens and least of all the king, because they will only take the country in the wrong direction, causing problems that will later take much time and money to correct. History shows many examples of this, from which we should learn. Furthermore, those who are not true friends of the king or of the citizens and have their own agenda, or who have been bought off by the enemy, will bring the ruler and the country to ruin, as explained in the next few verses:

“Getting united with shrewd enemies, (evil-minded) counselors in this world prevail upon their master to undertake wrong actions in order to bring him to ruin. 17

“A ruler should make out (the reality of) those ministers who have been won over by the enemy to their side (through bribe, etc.) and, thus, have become enemies though appearing as friends, (as discerned) through their (actual) behavior when a final decision is being taken after deliberation. 18

“Aliens find out the weakness of a ruler who is (easily) led away by false appearances and rushes headlong into actions … A king who, disregarding the enemy, does not actually protect himself, undoubtedly meets with reverses and is dragged down from his position.” 19-20

 

SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS OF RAMARAJA

What follows are descriptions of some of the symptoms of a proper and royal leadership, such as when Lord Rama ruled over the land. This shows the effects on society when there is a good and proper ruler, and how such a ruler should lead society for the ultimate good of everyone. It also shows the influence that such a king can have all over the land, and that any problems within the kingdom, at least in the olden days, was considered to be the fault of the king who then had to take responsibility and account for them through his own efforts, knowing it was his own lack of quality for the existence of such problems. Therefore, the people should make sure to avoid an unwanted and unqualified ruler and check that the leaders are properly qualified with knowledge and habits of virtue before being elected. Otherwise, the adversities and difficulties of life will be many.

This is from the Yuddha-Kanda, Canto 128, verses 98-106. This is when Bharata gives back the kingdom of Ayodhya to Lord Rama.

“While Sri Rama ruled over the kingdom (of Ayodhya), there were no widows to lament (over their loss) nor was there any danger from beasts of prey or snakes, nor again was there any fear of diseases. 98

“The world had no robbers or thieves, nor did anyone suffer harm. Nor again did old people (ever) perform obsequies relating to [the death of their] youngsters. 99

“Every creature felt pleased, (nay) everyone was devoted to righteousness. Turning their eyes towards Sri Rama alone, creatures did not kill one another.” 100

This is the effect of a qualified leader, that his influence can change the whole atmosphere in the cooperation among people, in reducing or eliminating the criminal mentality, in the endeavor to work in harmony with nature, and in everyone to have empathy for all creatures and fellow citizens. This may not be wholly possible in this day and age, but a qualified leader can certainly move humanity in this direction. But if a leader is merely posing as a great personality while harboring wicked or materialistic desires and misguided intentions, the whole country will be directed toward ruin.

“So long as Sri Rama ruled the kingdom (of Ayodhya), people lived to an age of thousands of years, were blessed with thousands of sons, and remained free from diseases and grief. 101

“So long as Sri Rama ruled the kingdom, the talks of the people centered around Sri Rama, Sri Rama, and Sri Rama alone. (Nay) the world itself appeared (to them) as transformed into Sri Rama. 102

“Trees in Ayodhya ever remained firmly rooted and bore fruit and flowers perpetually. Clouds sent down rain (only) when desired and the wind was (ever) delightful to the touch. 103

“Remaining entirely free from avarice and satisfied with their own avocations, the Brahmanas (priestly class), the Kshatriyas (the warrior class), the Vaishyas (members of the mercantile class), and the Shudras (the laboring class), remained content in their own duties. 104

“So long as Sri Rama ruled, the people remained devoted to pious observances and never told lies. (Nay) all were endowed with auspicious bodily marks and all were given to righteousness. 105

“With his (three younger half-) brothers, the glorious Sri Rama ruled for ten and one thousand years.” 106

 

THE KING IS FORCED TO ACCEPT 1/6TH OF KARMA OF HIS SUBJECTS

From the Ramayana we also understand how important it is for the ruler of people to watch or patrol over their territory to make sure that all unfairness, criminal activities, or unrighteous acts are immediately put to a stop. This is because all such actions produce contrary reactions, not only for the people and the country, but also for the ruler, which is reflected back on them through the acts of nature, disrespect from the citizens, and the dark future created for their next life. Therefore, this shows the importance of electing a ruler who will not neglect his responsibilities of leading the people properly, uphold virtue and spiritual wisdom, and protect and defend the citizens and country without hesitation.

In this regard, the Uttara-Kanda, Canto 74, verses 30-33, explains: “Whenever one performs unrighteous deeds not to be performed, and rooted in lack of prosperity, [such a person] indeed goes to hell, however the king also undoubtedly (goes to hell). Righteously ruling over the subjects, the king shares one sixth portion of the (merit) that accrues from pious deeds performed by study and penance. (However) the king also partakes of one sixth (of his subject=s bad karma) if he does not protect the subjects (by leading them properly). So you, O lion among kings, investigate your territory. Whenever you see unrighteous actions done, then make efforts (to put them right); thus righteousness and longevity will prevail among men [as well as for the king].”

 

REFERENCES

Srimad Valmiki-Ramayana, Sanskrit Text and English Translation, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, India, 1995.

Were There Two Buddhas, by Stephen Knapp

        I was asked to look into this a few years ago by someone who knew of my research abilities. But I have not been able to until now because of other priorities. But this topic has come up before, that actually there were two different Buddhas that played the part to establish Buddhism and its principles of ahimsa and nonviolence and its monist philosophy.

In the following material, we will look at the evidence that seems to indicate that there was first the Avatara Buddha, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu who appeared near 1800 BCE, and then there was another person who became known as Gautama called Buddha, born around 560 BCE.

1. The first Avatara Buddha established the philosophy of Ahimsa, nonviolence, and convinced those followers of Vedic customs who had become bent toward animal sacrifice to give up such rituals and simply follow him, and become kind to animals. Being an avatara of Vishnu, He did not establish any godless or monist philosophy.

2. The Avatara Buddha was also born of his mother Anjana in what became known as Bodhgaya.

3. The second Buddha known as Gautama, Siddhartha, or Shakyamuni – sage of the Shakyas – was born in Lumbini, now in Nepal, with Mayadevi as his mother. He is the one we often hear about, the prince who left home to do austerities to find enlightenment. He went to Bodhgaya to meditate because of its spiritual potency as the birthplace of the avatara Buddha. Then he became enlightened to the reasons for suffering in this world, and developed a godless way of becoming free from suffering. From that point he established the monist and godless philosophy of Buddhism, which became named after him.

Of course, the Theravadin texts refer to six preceding Buddhas (those who have awakened) as Vipasyin, Sikin, Krakuccanda, Konagamara, and Kashyapa, and Maitreya as the Buddha of the future. But we are not talking of any of these.

4. The reason why these two Buddhas became merged into one identity was partly because Adi Sankaracharya, in discussions with others, related them as one person and did not discriminate between the purpose of one or the other. Sankaracharya developed his own sunya philosophy, which was very much like the Buddhist philosophy, replacing the Buddhist nirvana with his Vedic Brahman, to defeat Buddhism and drive it out of India. He succeeded most effectively. At that time many were leaving Vedic culture altogether and converting to Buddhism. But with this new Mayavadha philosophy from Sankaracharya, Buddhism bowed and the conversions stopped, and Buddhism itself started to decline.

However, those important acharyas who followed Sankaracharya defeated his monist or impersonalist Mayavada philosophy and more clearly defined the Vedic view, such as:

Sri Vishnuswami with his Suddha-advaita-vada,

Ramanujacharya with his Vasistadvaita-vada,

Nimbarkacharya with his Dvaita-advaita-vada,

Madhvacharya with the Dvaita-vada,

Sri Chaitanya with his Acintaya-bheda-bheda-vada,

with further commentary and arguments against Sankaracharya’s impersonalist philosophy by Srila Baladevavidyabhushana and others.

Therefore, no matter how much some schools of thought have clung to the Mayavada philosophy of Sankaracharya, it has been defeated and dismissed many times over. Yet, Sankaracharaya played an important part in paving the way for protecting the Vedic culture by using his own imagined philosophy, based on his own interpretation of some of the Vedic stanzas, to defeat Buddhism at the time.

Much of the evidence that follows comes from a book called Beyond Nirvana: The Philosophy of Mayavadism: A Life History. This was written by Srila Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Gosvami Maharaja of the Gaudiya Math, the person who gave sannyasa initiation to His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. The book was later translated and published in English by Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, and published in 2003 in Mathura, India.

The whole book gives a lengthy dissertation on the development, history and present situation of the impersonalist point of view. Chapter Two especially focuses on the evidence for two Buddhas that had existed.

First, however, we should point out that there had always been a conflict in the dates of the Buddha’s birth. One birth is around 560 BCE, but when analyzing the records, there is evidence for a much earlier birth of Lord Buddha, of which I have written before as follows:

Reestablishing the Date of Lord Buddha

(Excerpt from Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence)

Most of us are taught that Buddha was born around 560 to 550 B.C. However, once we start doing some research, we find evidence that this date may be too late. Buddha may have been born much earlier.

For example, in Some Blunders of Indian Historical Research (p. 189), P. N. Oak explains that the Puranas provide a chronology of the Magadha rulers. During the time of the Mahabharata war, Somadhi (Marjari) was the ruler. He started a dynasty that included 22 kings that spread over 1006 years. They were followed by five rulers of the Pradyota dynasty that lasted over 138 years. Then for the next 360 years was the 10 rulers of the Shishunag family. Kshemajit (who ruled from 1892 to 1852 B.C.) was the fourth in the Shishunag dynasty, and was a contemporary of Lord Buddha’s father, Shuddhodana. It was during this period in which Buddha was born. It was during the reign of Bimbisara, the fifth Shishunag ruler (1852-1814 B.C.), when Prince Siddhartha became the enlightened Buddha. Then it was during the reign of King Ajatashatru (1814-1787 B.C.) when Buddha left this world. Thus, he was born in 1887 B.C., renounced the world in 1858 B.C., and died in 1807 B.C. according to this analysis.

Further evidence that helps corroborate this is provided in The Age of Buddha, Milinda and King Amtiyoka and Yuga Purana, by Pandit Kota Venkatachalam. He also describes that it is from the Puranas, especially the Bhagavata Purana and the Kaliyurajavruttanta, that need to be consulted for the description of the Magadha royal dynasties to determine the date of Lord Buddha. Buddha was the 23rd in the Ikshvaku lineage, and was a contemporary of Kshemajita, Bimbisara, and Ajatashatru, as described above. Buddha was 72 years old in 1814 B.C. when the coronation of Ajatashatru took place. Thus, the date of Buddha’s birth must have been near 1887 B.C., and his death in 1807 B.C. if he lived for 80 years.

Professor K. Srinivasaraghavan also relates in his book, Chronology of Ancient Bharat (Part Four, Chapter Two), that the time of Buddha should be about 1259 years after the Mahabharata war, which should make it around 1880 B.C. if the war was in 3138 B.C. Furthermore, astronomical calculations by astronomer Swami Sakhyananda indicates that the time of the Buddha was in the Kruttika period, between 2621-1661 B.C.

Therefore, the fact that Buddha lived much earlier than what modern history teaches us has a number of ramifications. First, the time of the Buddha’s existence is underestimated by about 1300 years. Secondly, this means that Buddhism was in existence in the second millennium B.C. Thirdly, we also know Buddha preached against the misused Vedic rituals of animal sacrifice. Such misuse or misinterpretation of something in a culture generally only happens after a long period of prominence. So the purer aspect of Vedic culture must have been around for many hundreds if not thousands of years before its tradition began to be misused. Therefore, this pushes the Vedic period to a much earlier time from that of Buddha than originally figured, and much earlier than many people have calculated. And lastly, everything else we have figured according to the time frame of the appearance of Buddha now has to be re-calculated. Again we find that history has to be adjusted away from the speculations of modern researchers, and that many of the advancements in society and philosophy, as outlined in the Vedic texts, had taken place much earlier than many people want to admit.

* * *

However, now with new evidence, we can begin to see that the above information may be quite right for the timing of the Buddha Avatara, but the later birth figure of 560 BCE may also be correct for the second Buddha. The first Buddha avatara established a form of Buddhism by revolting against those rituals that accepted animal sacrifice and emphasized the godly principles of ahimsa, nonviolence based on recognizing the Divine in all beings, and divinity of all souls, arousing compassion for all. The second Buddha styled what became Buddhism that was known for its monist or impersonalistic philosophy (that God, the Absoute Truth, is inert, nonactive, and without any characteristics) and that reaching the same inert and non-active state of nirvana is the goal for attaining freedom from all suffering.

To give further information in this regard, I will now simply include the second chapter of Beyond Nirvana: The Philosophy of Mayavadism: A Life History, as follows, with my own few comments in brackets:

Two Buddhas

Shakya Simha Puddha and the Vishnu Avatara Buddha

It may be observed in different places in the Puranas that Mayavadism had been referred to as Buddhism [or “covered Buddhism”. It is this “covered Buddhism” that is described in the Puranas as being the major religion after 10,000 years of Kali-yuga have passed, and when the world will have forgotten all information about the personal form of God.]. It is therefore necessary in this context to briefly discuss Buddhism. Sri Buddha’s philosophy or views is Buddhism. Hence, it is imperative that readers become acquainted with scriptural facts about Lord Buddha, who is declared by scripture to be one of the ten incarnations (avataras) of the Supreme Lord, Sri Vishnu. This is described in Srila Jayadeva Gosvami’s composition “Gita Govinda“:

vedan uddharate jaganti vahate bhugolam udbibhrate

daityam darayate balim chalayate kshatra kshayam kurvate

paulastyam jayate halam kalayate karunyam atanvate

mlecchan murccayate dasaktikrite krishnaya tubhyam namaha

        “O Krishna, He who accept ten incarnations! I offer my obeisances unto You for saving the Vedic scriptures as Matsya-incarnation; You help up the universe as Kurma-incarnation, and lifted up the world as Varaha, the Boar incarnation; as Nrishimha You vanquished Hiranyakashipu; as Vamana You deceived Bali Maharaja; as Parashurama You exterminated the corrupt warrior class; as Rama You slew Ravana; as Balarama You took up the plough; as Buddha You bestowed compassion, and as Kalki You kill the Mlecchas.” 1

In his Dasa Avatara Stotram, Srila Jayadeva writes in the ninth verse:

nindasi yajna vidherahaha shrutijatam

sadaya hridaya darshita pashughatam

keshava dhrita bhuddha sharira

jaya jagadisha hare jaya jagadisha hare

        “O Lord of the universe, Keshava! You took the form of Lord Buddha Who is full of compassion and stopped the slaughter of animals which is strictly forbidden in the Vedas.”

If this Lord Buddha is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, then Sri Sankaracharya’s connection to Him requires further elaboration and analysis. It becomes imperative to research this matter if Sankaracharya’s philosophy is referred to as another presentation of Buddhism. Sri Sankaracharya’s assessment of Buddha seems opaque, for he would have us believe that Shakya Simha Buddha [the human] and the Lord Buddha [the avatara] that the Vaishnavas worship, are one and the same personality. However, this is far from the truth. Our revered gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, revealed that Shakya Simha Buddha was simply a highly intelligent mortal, a vastly learned person who had attained some inner realizations [his enlightement]. So by declaring Shakya Simha to be Lord Buddha or by equating him with Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, Sri Sankaracharya gives sufficient proof of the respect and dedication he quietly nurtured within him for Shakya Simha. The berating and admonishment he directed towards Shakya Simha is indeed only an “eye-wash” intended to hoodwink the public.

One may ask at this point, in which context did Sri Sankaracharya opine Shakya Simha Buddha (also known as Gautama Buddha [the human]) and Avatara Buddha to be the same personality? In response, I kindly request the learned readers to scrutinize Sri Sankaracharya’s commentaries. In his commentary to Brahma Sutra that I referred earlier, the word sugatena refers to Gautama Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana and Mayadevi, and not to the original Vishnu incarnation of Buddha [as the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes as the son of Anjana who appeared in the province of Gaya, or more specifically Bodhgaya]. While discussing Buddha’s philosophy, Sri Sankaracharya mentions his name in his commentary: sarvatha api anadarniya ayam sugata-samayah shreyaskamaih iti abhiprayaha. In this statement sugata again refers to Gautama Buddha, the son of Mayadevi [the person who appeared in the town now known as Lumbini in Nepal]. However, it is true that another name for Vishnu Avatara Buddha is Sugata, and thus Sankaracharya falsely interpolated Shakya Simha Buddha as if he were Vishnu Avatara Buddha. The use of the name Sugata-Buddha for Vishnu Avatara Buddha was already existing in Buddhist scriptures [so combing the two into one was not difficult]. This is substantiated in the book Amarakosha, an extremely ancient treatise written by the famous nihilist and atheist Amara Simha. It is believed that Amara Simha was born approximately 150 years prior to Sankaracharya’s birth. Amara Simha was the son of the brahmana Sabara Svami, who fathered a host of children with different mothers of different castes. The ancient verse about Amara Simha was well known in the learned circles of yore:

brahmanyam abhavad varaha mihiro jyotirvidam agranihi

raja bhartriharish cha vikramanripah kshatratratmajayam abhut

vaishyayam harichandra vaidya tilako jatash cha shankuh kriti

shudrayam amaraha shadeva shabara svami dvija sya atmajaha

        “Varaha Mihira, foremost among the greatest astrologers, was born from the womb of a brahmana lady. King Vikrama and King Bhartrihari were born from a kshatriya mother. From a vaishya mother were born Harichandra, a vaidya tilaka – an excellent Ayurveda physician and Shanku; and from a maidservant (shudra) mother was born Amara Simha. These six were fathered by the brahmana Shabara Svami.”

The Amarakosha Speaks of Two Buddhas

        Amara Simha was the author of many books on Buddhism. By coincidence all these books came into the possession of Sri Sankaracharya, who subsequently preserved only the Amarakosha and burnt all the others. The following verses about Buddha are found in the Amarakosha:

sarvajnah sugato buddho dharmarajas tathagataha

samanta bhadro bhagavan marajil lokajij jinaha

shadabhijno dashabalo dvayavadi vinayakaha

munindra shrighanah shasta munihi

        “All knowing, transcendental Buddha, king of righteousness, He who has come, beneficent, all encompassing Lord, conqueror of the god of love Mara, conqueror of worlds, He who controls his senses, protector of the six enemies, possessor of the ten powers, speaker of monism, foremost leader, lord of the ascetics, embodiment of splendour and teacher of the ascetics.”

The above verse contains eighteen names of Vishnu Avatara Buddha including the name Sugato, and the verse below contains the seven aliases of Shakya Simha Buddha [the human] without any mention of Sugato.

Shakyamunis tu yah sa shakyasimhah sarvarthasiddha shauddhodanish cha

gautamash charkabandhush cha mayadevi sutash cha saha

        “Teacher of the Shakyas, lion of the Shakyas, accomplisher of all goals, son of Shuddhodana, of Gautama’s line, friend of the entrapped ones, the son of Mayadevi.”

In these verses, starting with sarvajnah and finishing with munih are eighteen names addressing the original Vishnu incarnation Lord Buddha. The next seven names beginning with Shakya-munistu to Mayadevi-Sutascha refer to Shakya Simha Buddha. The Buddha referred to in the first eighteen names and the Buddha referred to in the later seven names are clearly not the same person. [This clearly indicates that knowledge of the two Buddhas was well known long ago.] In the commentary on Amarakosha by the learned Sri Raghunatha Cakravarti, he also divided the verses into two sections. To the eighteen names of Vishnu Avatara Buddha he writes the words “astadash buddha“, which clearly refers only to the Vishnu avatara. Next, on his commentary for the seven aliases of Shakya Simha he writes: “ete sapta shakya bangshabatirneh buddha muni bishete“, meaning “the next seven names starting from Shakya-munistu are aliases of Buddha-muni [the human] who was born into the Shakya dynasty.”

Thus from the above verses and their commentaries it is indeed transparent that Sugata Buddha [the avatara] and the atheist sage Gautama Buddha are not one and the same person. I take this opportunity to request the learned readers to refer to the Amarakosha published by the respected Mr. H. T. Colebrooke in 1807. 2 On pages 2 & 3 of this book the name ‘Buddha’ has been explained. The ‘Marginal Note’ on page 2 for the first eighteen names, states they are names of Ajina or Buddha and the ‘Marginal Note’ for the later seven states these are aliases of Shakya Simha Buddha. A further footnote is added to clarify the second Buddha, of the latter seven names – Footnote (b) “the founder of the religion named after him.”

Mr. Colebrooke lists in his preface the names of the many commentaries he used as references. Besides Raghunatha Cakravarti’s commentary, he took reference from twenty-five others. It can be said with certainty that the propagator of Bahyatmavada, Jnanatmavada and Sunyamavada, the three pillars of atheism, was Gautama Buddha or Shakya Simha Buddha. There is no evidence whatsoever that Sugata Buddha, Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, was in any way connected with atheism in any form. Shakya Simha or Siddhartha Buddha, received the name Gautama from his spiritual master Gautama Muni, who belonged to the Kapila dynasty. This is confirmed in the ancient Buddhist treatise Sundarananda Charita: “guru gotrad atah kautsaste bhavanti sma gautamah” – meaning “O Kautsa, because his teacher was Gautama, they became known from his family line.”

Other Buddhist Literatures Recording Two Buddhas

        Besides the Amarakosha, so highly favored by Sankaracharya, there are other famous Buddhist texts like Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Astasahastrika Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Sata-shastrika Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Lalita Vistara, etc. Proper scrutiny of these texts reveals the existence of three categories of Buddha, namely:

Human Buddhas: like Gautama, who came to be known as Buddha after enlightenment.

Bodhisattva Buddhas: Personalities like Samanta Bhadraka who were born enlightened.

Adi (original) Buddha: the omnipresent Vishnu Avatara incarnation of Lord Buddha.

The Amarakosha states that Lord Buddha, Sri Vishnu’s incarnation, is also known as Samanta Bhadra, whereas Gautama Buddha is a human being. Other than the eighteen names of the Vishnu Avatara Buddha mentioned in Amarakosha, many names of Lord Buddha are recorded in the above mentioned Buddhist texts. In Lalita Vistara, Chapter 21, page 178, it is described how Gautama Buddha meditated on the same spot as the predecessor Buddha:

cha dharanimunde purvabuddhasanasthaha

samartha dhanur grihitva shunya nairatmavanaiha

klesharipum nihatva drishtijalancha bhitva

shiva virajamashoham prapsyate bodhim agryam

        “The one seated on the hallowed earth of the previous Buddha’s birthplace is on the path of voidism and renunciation. With his weapon, the powerful bow, he vanquishes the enemies of distress and illusion. Thus with wisdom he will attain the auspicious state of grieflessness and worldly detachment.”

It is transparent from this verse that Gautama Buddha, realizing the spiritual potency of the previous Buddha’s birthplace, chose to perform meditation and austerities in that vicinity, under a pipal tree. The ancient and original name of this place was Kikata, but after Gautama attained enlightenment there, it came to be known as Buddha Gaya (Bodhi Gaya) [now Bodhgaya]. Even to the present day, the rituals of worship to the deity of Buddha at Bodhi Gaya are conducted by a sannyasi (renounced monk) of the Giri order, belonging to the Sri Sankaracharya sect. It is commonly accepted amongst those monks that Buddha-Gaya (Vishnu Avatara Buddha) was a predecessor of Gautama Buddha, who came later to the original Buddha’s birthplace to practice meditation. Shakya Simha Buddha chose this place to attain liberation, knowing it to be saturated with immense spiritual power.

        Lankavatara Sutra is a famous and authoritative Buddhist scripture. From the description of the Buddha, which is found in this book, it may be firmly concluded that he is not the more recent Shakya Simha or Gautama Buddha. In the beginning of this book we find Ravana, King of Lanka, praying first to the original Vishnu incarnation Buddha and then to the successive [and in this case the] future Buddha. A part of this prayer is reproduced here:

lankavatara sutram vai purva buddha anuvarnitam

smarami purvakaih buddhair jina-putra puraskritaihi

sutram etan nigadyante bhagavan api bhashatam

bhavishyatyanagate kale buddha buddha-sutas cha ye

        “Ravana, the king of Lanka, at first recited in the Totaka metre, then sang the following – ‘I invoke in my memory the aphorisms known as Lankavatara-sutra, compiled and propagated by the previous Buddha (Vishnu’s incarnation). The son of Jina (Lord Buddha) presented this book. Lord Buddha and his sons, who will appear in the future, as well as Bhagavan, the Vishnu incarnation, will continue to instruct all from this book.’”

Anjana’s Son, Named Buddha, is Different from Shuddhodana’s Son

        Some people may consider that it is not Sankaracharya but the Vaishnavas who demonstrate a greater degree of respect and sincere reverence towards Buddha, therefore, it is they who should also be known as Buddhists. In this regard my personal view is, according to the Linga Purana, Bhavishya Purana, and the ninth of the ten Vishnu incarnations mentioned in the Varaha Purana, the Buddha described therein is not the same personality as Gautama Buddha, [the person] who was the son of Shuddhodana. Vaishnavas never worship the nihilist and atheist (sunyavada) Buddha or Gautama Buddha, They only worship Lord Vishnu’s ninth incarnation, Lord Buddha, with this prayer from the Srimad-Bhagavatam 10/40/22:

namo buddhaya shuddhaya daitya-danava-mohine

        “O Supreme Lord Buddha! I offer my obeisance unto You, Who is faultless and have appeared to delude the demoniac and atheistic class of men.”

Earlier in the Srimad-Bhagavatam 1/3/24, Lord Buddha’s advent is described in the following manner:

tatah kalau sampravritte

sammohaya sura-dvisham

buddho namnanjana-sutaha

kikateshu bhavishyati

        “Then in the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Buddha, son of Anjana, in the province of Gaya, just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful theist.”

The Buddha mentioned in this verse is Lord Buddha, son of Anjana; also known by some as Ajina’s son. Sri Sridhara Svami writes in his authoritative commentary to this verse:

buddha avartaramaha tata iti anjanasya sutaha

ajina suta it pathe ajino’ pi sa eva kikateshu madhye gaya-pradeshe

        “The words tatah kalau etc., describe Vishnu’s incarnation Buddha as the son of Anjana. Ajina in the word ajina sutaha actually means Anjana. Kikata is the name of the district of Gaya.”

The monists, either by mistake or some other reason, regard Sri Sridhara Svami as belonging to their sect and persuasion. Be as it may, his comments however on this matter can easily be accepted by the Mayavadis as true without hesitation. The following quote is from the Nrisimha Purana 36/29:

kalau prapte yatha buddho bhavannarayana – prabhuh

        “In Kali-yuga the Supreme Lord Narayana appears as Buddha.”

A fair estimate of Lord Buddha’s appearance can be made from this verse; that He lived approximately 3500 years ago, or by accurate astronomical and astrological calculation around 4000 years ago. Regarding the astrological facts at the time of His birth, the treatise Nirnaya-sindhu states in the second chapter:

jyaishtha shuka dvitiyayam buddha-janma bhavisyati

        “Lord Buddha will appear on the second day of the waxing moon, in the month of Jyaishtha.”

Elsewhere in this book is described the procedure for Lord Buddha’s worship:

pausha shuklasya saptamyam kuryat buddhasya pujaanam

        “Lord Buddha is especially worshipped in the seventh day of the waxing moon in the month of Pausha.”

The rituals, prayers and procedures for worship mentioned in these scriptures all clearly indicate that they are meant for Lord Vishnu’s ninth avatara incarnation. Lord Buddha also finds repeated mention in many authentic Vedic scriptures like the Vishnu Purana, Agni Purana, Vayu Purana, and Skanda Purana. The Buddha mentioned in the Devi Bhagavat, a more recent text, and in Shakti Pramoda, refers to Shakya Simha Buddha – not the Vishnu Avatara Buddha.

The truth remains that there are many different demigods and demigoddesses who are worshipped by their respective devotees, in the same way that Shakya Simha Buddha (who was an atheist) is worshipped or glorified by his followers. However, this is all completely separate and unrelated to the path of Sanatana-dharma, which is the eternal religion of man enunciated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

According to the German scholar Max Mueller, Shakya Simha Buddha was born in 477 BC in the Lumbini gardens, within the city of Kapilavastu. This ancient and at that time well-populated city in the Terai region of Nepal was well known. Shakya Simha or Gautama Buddha’s father was known as Shuddhodana, while his mother was called Mayadevi, this is all accepted as historical fact. Although Anjana’s son and Shuddhodana’s son both share the name of Buddha, they are nevertheless two different personalities. One of them was born in Kikata – which is now famous as Bodhi-Gaya, while the second Buddha was born in Kapilavastu, Nepal. Thus, the birthplace, parents, and era of Vishnu Avatara Buddha and the birthplace, parents, era, etc., of Gautama Buddha are totally at variance.

We can therefore now observe that the famous personality generally referred to as Buddha is not the Vishnu incarnation, the original Lord Buddha and, hence, Sankaracharya’s views on this are completely unacceptable. It is not uncommon to find disagreements in matters of tradition and history, but in regards to important and significant issues an unbiased and objective discussion is imperative. Attracted by Buddha’s personality and fame, it is one thing to honor and respect him, but being impressed by his philosophy and teachings and reverentially surrendering to him is wholly another matter. Whatever the case may be, I am sure that the respected readers have grasped the crucial point that Buddha is not a single person, but at least two separate identities – Shakya Simha is not the same as Lord Buddha, Vishnu’s ninth incarnation. It is certainly undeniable that there are some similarities between these two Buddhas, yet it is incontestable that they are two different persons [with two different purposes].

Footnotes

1. Mleccha – derived from the Sanskrit root mlech meaning to utter indistinctly (Sanskrit) – a foreigner; non-Aryan; a man of an outcaste race; any non-Sanskrit speaking person who does not conform to the Vedic social and religious customs.

2. This book was published under the auspices of the Asiatic Society and can be referenced at it library. See www.indev.nic.in/asiatic/

END OF CHAPTER TWO – BEYOND NIRVANA

CONCLUSION

        Actually, there is much I like about Buddhism. I like its peaceful and gentle ways, the basis of its connection with all of life, but also its principle of detachment and renunciation as a means to enter higher forms of existence. I like some of the forms of meditation that it uses to gain more understanding and control of the mind. I like its mild form of determination to the principles and its goals.

However, from the above descriptions we can understand that the worship of the first Buddha, which at this point in time has practically been forgotten, is a means of definite spiritual progress through nonviolence, compassion for all and renunciation from the world for one’s self-interest. However, these days most of what is known of Buddhism is based on the monistic path as established by Shakya Simha Buddha, the second Buddha who was but a mortal who, with great intellectual ability, propounded a path that promised the end of suffering, and the eventual entrance into what is called nirvana. This goal of entering nirvana actually requires such a discipline that, in this day and age, it is practically impossible to achieve. This would also mean that, no matter how much one progresses along this path, the most one can attain, besides a more peaceful life which may be good enough for some people, are still future rounds of birth in this world. Praying to Shakya Simha or Gautama Buddha, or any of the other forms of which he may be depicted, still cannot offer any Divine assistance, since he is not really Divine. Nor does Buddhism really acknowledge God, either outside us or within. The soul is also not recognized. So, it is perfect for those who wish to follow a path that is basically atheistic in nature.

In this way, it is very similar to the philosophy that was established by Sankaracharya who proposed, through his own imaginative interpretation of some basic Sanskrit verses, that the Absolute Truth was impotent, inert, and without any characteristics. Like the Buddhist sunya or void, nirvana, or Great White Light, Sankaracharya also propounded a monistic Brahman that is the eternal and timeless void, nondual, an impersonal oneness, and great white light, the Brahman effulgence. You could say that it is merely an adaptation of the core concepts of Buddhism but with a Vedic slant. As Shakya Simha Buddha tried to nullify the sufferings of the world through voidism, Sankaracharya tried to do the same thing with his conception of impersonal Brahman. Sankaracharya says that Brahman is all that is eternal, while Shakya Simha proposed that the void is all that remains.

Students of Sankaracharya will accept him as a scholar of Vedanta and a great theist and will follow what appears to be his apparently theistic teachings, but in this way they actually become atheists by giving up the concept of God and any chance of establishing a relationship with the Supreme Being.

Sri Krishna-Dvaipayana Vyasadeva, who compiled the major Vedic texts, has declared in his writings in the Puranas that the monistic, impersonal Mayavada philosophy is false and non-Vedic. The same would apply to what we presently know as Buddhism. You can find this in the Padma Purana 25/7:

mayavadam asacchastram pracchannam bauddham uchyate

        “The theory of Mayavadism is a concocted scripture and is known as a disguised Buddhism.”

Therefore, if we accept the traditional and major Vedic view, as found in all Vedic samhitas and original texts, it ultimately leads to the premise that God is personal, with personality and characteristics, active and eternal, though beyond our mental ability to comprehend, but with whom everyone has a relationship that only needs to be reawakened. The real Vedic tradition points to the ways in which we can grow beyond our limitations and realize by direct perception our natural spiritual identity and reawaken our eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Spirit. This is the direction and ultimate goal of all truly Vedic processes of spiritual development.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

This additional information is from the book, “Dasavatar: Ten Manifestations of Godhead,” By Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaj, published by Mandala Publishing and Sree Caitanya Gaudiya Math, downloaded from http://www.sreecgmath.org.

Among the Dashavataras, Sri Buddha is the ninth avatara. Additionally, Sri Buddha is the twenty fourth lila-avatara.

In order to condemn the practice of animal sacrifice, Supreme Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Buddha. Srila Jayadeva Gosvami prays to the Lord of the universe in his Dashavatara-stotra:

nindasi yajna-vidher ahaha sruti-jatam

sadaya-hridaya-darshita-pashu-ghatam

keshava dhrita-buddha-sharira jaya jagadisha hari

(Sri Jayadeva’s Dashvatara-stotra, 9th Verse)

“O Keshava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of Buddha! All glories unto You! O Buddha of compassionate heart, You decry the slaughtering of poor animals performed according to the rules of Vedic sacrifice.”

The name of Buddha also appears in the verse that describes the ten avataras in Srimad-Bhagavatam:

matsya kurmo varahashca nrisimha vamanastatha

ramo ramashca ramashca buddha kalki ca te dashah

In the dashavatara verse of Sahitya-darpana,1 we find the names of Buddha and Kalki. The Agni, Vayu and Skanda Puranas also mention the name of Buddha, as does the following verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam:

tatah kalau sampravritte sammohaya sura-dvisham

buddho namnanjana-sutaha kikateshu bhavishyati

(Srimad Bhagavatam, 1.3.24)

“Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Anjana, in the province of Gaya2 (Bihar) just for the purpose of infatuating those who are envious of the faithful demigods.”

In Chapters 17-18 of the 3rd Section of Vishnu Purana, Buddha has been designated as Mayamoha’. Once, while bathing in the waters of the Yamuna, Akrura was astonished to see Krishna-Balarama within the river. Coming out, he saw Them seated in a chariot as They had been before appearing in the water. Again he immersed himself in the water, and saw the yellow-clad four-handed Vasudeva Sri Krishna along with His associates, graciously seated on the lap of the thousand-hooded Sri Anantadeva while being worshiped by Brahma and other demigods. At that time, he prayed to the Lord in the following manner:

namo buddhaya shuddhaya daitya-danava-mohine

mleccha-praya-kshatra-hantre namas te kalki-rupine

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.40.22)

“O Lord! I offer my obeisances unto Your form of Buddha, who, possessing a faultless nature, deluded the miscreants by composing anti-Vedic scriptures. I also offer obeisances unto Your Kalki form, the annihilator of the wicked kshatriyas who are no better than barbarians.”

The Vedas encode instructions according to the eligibility or qualification of various living beings, especially human beings. But in the course of time, ignorant men took the tamasika3 orders to be the only instruction of the Vedas4 and engaged in the extensive killing of animals, sometimes even sacrificing human beings during worship of the demigods. At that time, the Supreme Lord descended in the form of Buddha and outwardly rejected the teachings of the Vedas for the welfare of human beings incapable of comprehending the true teachings of the Vedas. This implies that He disputed and cancelled His own prior teachings, propounded the futility of belief in God and preached to human beings four noble truths, to free them from their violent practices. This act of Buddha provided instantaneous benediction to mankind of that period. As Lord Buddha was the Supreme Lord Himself, many people resolved to follow ahimsa-dharma the path of non-violence, due to His influence. As a result of non-violence, the hearts of human beings became pious and their qualifications gradually increased, so Lord Shiva appeared as Shankaracarya. He re-established the supreme authenticity and decorum of the Vedas, and founded the philosophy of brahmakarana-vada’ (Brahman as the ultimate cause). In later ages, the Vaishnava stalwarts built the philosophy of bhakti upon this same foundation stone. From the personal and aggregate point of view, these are the steps of progress.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the Lord Himself, removed the incompleteness of the previously propagated philosophies through His acintya-bhedabheda-tattva’ philosophy (the principle of inconceivable simultaneous distinction and non-distinction).

It is said that Sakyasimha Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana and Maya, and Buddha-avatara, the Vaishnavas’ object of adoration, are not one and the same person. Our Most Revered Nityalilapravishta Om Vishnupada 108 Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada has clearly said, “Shakyasimha Buddha was merely a vastly learned person, so we cannot call him the original Buddha or Lord Buddha.”

Acarya Sri Shankara has by mistake referred to Maya’s son, Buddha, as Sugata Buddha’ in the following commentary: sarvatha api anadaraniya ayam sugata-samayaha shreyaskamaih iti abhiprayaha.

The Amarakosha-grantha (Sanskrit dictionary) states:

sarvajna api sugato buddho dharmarajastathagataha

samastabhadro bhagavan marajillokajijjinaha

sarvabhijno dashabalo ‘dvayavad‚ vinayakaha

munindraha srighanaha shasta muniha shakyamunistu yaha

“All-Knowing, Transcendental, Buddha, King of Righteousness, He Who Has Come, Beneficent, All-Encompassing, Lord, Conqueror of the God of Love Mara, Victorious of Three Worlds, He Who Controls His Senses, Protector from the Six Enemies, Possessor of the Ten Powers, Speaker of Monism (One Absolute), Teacher, Lord of the Sages, Embodiment of Splendor and Eminent Saint.”

In his commentary on the above verse, Srila Ragunatha Cakravarti has written: “All eighteen names of Buddha from sarvajna’ ( omniscient) to shakyamuni,’ refer to Vishnu-avatara Buddha. Therefore, Sugata’ clearly refers only to Vishnu-avatara Buddha.

sa shakyasimhah sarvarthasiddhah shauddhodanishcha sah

gautamashcarkabandhushca mayadevisutashca sah

“Teacher of the Shakyas, lion of the Shakyas, accomplisher of all goals, son of Shuddhodana, of Gautama’s line, friend of scholars, son of Mayadevi.”

Here, Shrila Ragunatha Cakravarti has written: ete sapta shakyabangshabatirneh buddhamuni bisheshe

“The seven aliases from shakyasimha Buddha’ down to mayadevisuta’ (the son of Mayadevi) refer to monks belonging to the Shakya Dynasty.”

Thus, Sugata Buddha and Shunyavadi (Shakyasimha) Buddha are not the same person.

Further evidence is found in Mr. H. T. Colebrooke’s Amarakosha, published at Ramapura in 1807. It is written in Chapter 21, Page 178 of Lalitavistaragrantha that Gautama Buddha performed penances at the same place as the previous Buddha (Vishnu avatara Buddha). Maybe it is for this reason that in later ages he and Lord Buddha are considered as being one:

esha dharanimunde purvabuddhasanasthaha

samartha dhanurgrihitva shunya

nairatmavanaih klesaripum nihatva dristijalanca bhitva-shiva

virajamshokam prapsyate bodhimagryam

Currently this place is known as Buddha Gaya, but Srimad-Bhagavatam refers to it as Kikata Pradesha:

tatah kalau sampravritte sammohaya sura-dvisham

buddho namnanjana-sutah kikateshu bhavishyati

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.24)

“Thereafter, in the twenty-first manvantara at the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Anjana, in Kikata Pradesha (the province of Gaya Bihar), just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful demigods.”

According to Sri Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s commentary: anjana suto ‘jina sutashceti pathadvayam kikateshu madhye gayapradeshe

“The names Anjanasuta5 and Ajinasuta can both be found in the above verse. The province of Gaya has been called Kikateshu.”

Srila Sridhara Svamipada has written in his commentary:

buddhavataramaha tata iti

anjanasya sutah

ajinasuta iti pathe ajino ‘pi sa eva

kikateshu madhye gayapradeshe

“Buddha-avatara refers to Buddha who is the son of Anjana, and also in another reading, the son of Ajina. In the above verse, the name is written as Ajina or Anjana, and Kikata refers to Gaya Pradesha.”

It is written in the 29th Verse, 36th Chapter of Sri Nrisimha Purana: kalau prapte yath„ buddho bhavennarayana prabhuh

“Lord Narayana appeared as Buddha when the age of Kali Started.”

This clearly implies that Lord Buddha appeared five thousand years ago.

The following verse can be found in the second paragraph of Nirnaya-sindhu: jyaishtha shukladitiyayam buddhajanma bhavishyati

“Buddha will take birth on the 2nd day of the shuklapaksha6 of the month of Jyaishtha7.”

Another part of this book describes the mode of worshipping Buddha: pausha shuklasya saptamyam kuryyat bhuddhasya pujanam

“Worship Lord Buddha on the 7th day of the shuklapaksha of the month of Pausha.8

This is the prescription for the worship of Buddha, the avatara of the Supreme Lord. The full moon day of the month of Vaishakha9, known as Buddha-purnima, is to be celebrated for both Buddhas, subject to consideration of both Buddhas together.

In Sri Madhvacarya’s commentary on Verse 1.3.24 of Srimad-Bhagavatam, from his book Bhagavata-tatparya, the following quotation from Brahmanda Purana has been referred to:

mohanartham danavanam balarupi pathisthitaha

putram tam kalpayamasa madhabudhirjinah svayam

tatah sammohayamasa jinadyana suramshakan

bhagavan vagbhirugrabhirahimsa vacibhirharihi

(Brahmanda Purana)

“In order to delude the demons, He (Lord Buddha) was present in the form of a child on the way while the fool, Jina (a demon), imagined Him to be his son. Later on, Lord Sri Hari (as avatara-Buddha) expertly deluded Jina and other demons by His strong words of non-violence.”

There is an authentic Buddhist book, Lankavatarasutra’ 10, in which Ravana, the king of Lanka, prays to Jina’s son, the ancient Lord Buddha, and to all the Buddhas and Buddhas’ sons who would appear in the future, via this eulogy (stava):

atha ravano lankadhipatih gathagiten anugayati sma

lankavatarasutram vaih purvabuddhanuvarnitam

smarami purvakaih buddhairjinaputra-puraskritaih

putrametannigadyate bhagavanapi bhashatam

bhavishyantyanapate kale buddha buddhasutashca ye

Therefore, this source leaves no doubt that the ancient avatara-Buddha and the modern Gautama Buddha are not the same person.

Buddha-avatara has been discussed in various Puranas such as Linga, Bhavishya, Varaha, Agni, Vayu, Skanda, Vishnu, and many others. In the 17th and 18th Chapters of the 3rd Section of Vishnu Purana, Buddha is referred to as Mayamoha. It should be remembered that the Buddha-avatara whose narrations are found in various Puranas and other scriptures, is not the nihilistic Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana. namo buddhaya shuddhaya daitya danava mohine

The preceding eulogy to Lord Buddha, taken from Akrura’s prayer in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10-40-22), is the essence of all the Vedas, Vedanta, Puranas, Itihasas and other scriptures. The meaning of this prayer is:

“O Lord, I offer my obeisances unto Your faultless beguiling form of Lord Buddha who enchanted the demons and devils by composing anti-Vedic mantras.”

Commenting on this, Srila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has written: shuddhaya vedaviruddha shastra pravarttakatve ‘pi nirddoshaya

“The meaning of the word ‘shuddhaya’ is that although He is the founding element of anti-Vedic literature, yet He remains inculpable.”

Therefore, by establishing shastras opposed to the Vedas, He (avatara- Buddha) hypnotized devils and demons. This is the reason why some writers of Buddha’s biography consider avatara-Buddha and human Buddha to be the same.

In Canto 6,Chapter 8,19th verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam, King Indra prays to Lord Buddha with the mantra, buddhas tu pashanda-gana-pramadat. This mantra is from the Narayana kavacha of Vishvarupa, the son of Sage Tvashta. By reciting this mantra Indra prayed, “O Lord Buddha! Save me from the defect of indifference born out of atheistic hypocrisy.”

This means that Lord Buddha, in His asura-vimohanalila’ (the pastime of hypnotizing the demons), deluded the wicked natured people by establishing scriptures opposed to the Vedas. “Save me Lord Buddha from the terrible offence of disobeying the Vedas due to ignorance of their secret meanings.”

Factually, Lord Buddha is not a condemner of the Vedas for any reason whatsoever. This pastime is meant only to mesmerize the demons. It is written in the 40th chapter of the Maheshvara section of Skanda Purana that: “After the passing of 3600 years of Kali-yuga, Lord Buddha, the avatara of Vishnu, the saviour of dharma, will appear in the Magadha territory from the womb of Anjani, fathered by Hemasadana. He will perform many glorious tasks and rule over the earth containing seven islands, for sixty-four years. Then, safeguarding His glories with His devotees, He will retreat to His abode.”

Thus, we can see by the authentic words of genuine scriptures, that Lord Buddha and Shakyasimha/Gautama Buddha are not the same. The Lord has established many anti-Vedic scriptures for deluding the demons. Other Buddhas also followed Him and propagated anti-Vedic nihilism. That is why many doubts arise, as all of them have been mentioned together in several places11. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has written: veda na maniya baudha haya ta nastika.

“With no regard for the Vedas, Buddha has become atheistic.”

This means, in India, those who have no faith in the Vedas are considered to be atheistic.

According to the German scholar Max Muller, Shakyasimha Buddha was born in the Lumbini Forest of Kapilavastu in 477 B.C. Ancient Kapilavastu is a famous district situated near Nepal. Gautama’s father’s name was Shuddhodana and His mother’s name was Mayadevi. Anjana’s son and Maya’s son both share the same name but one appeared at Gaya and the other at Kapilavastu. Thus, the appearance places and parents of Vishnu Buddha and Gautama Buddha are totally different. Because the human Buddha was unable to understand the asura-vimohana-lila of Lord Vishnu Buddha, he propagated anti-Vedic nihilism [voidism].

    NOTES:

1 A Bengali reference encyclopedia

2 Gaya Region: This is famous as Bodha Gaya or Buddha Gaya. This is the most important pilgrimage place of Buddhists. This place was famous even before the time of Christ. The remains of the Mahabodhi Temple and the Stupa (monument), built by King Ashoka, are evidence of its fame and antiquity. The Pippala tree (ficus religiosa), under which Buddha attained enlightenment, is still there today. In the journey diary of the Chinese traveler, Fahiyan, a description of the Mahabodhi Temple of Uruvilva has been provided.

3 The mode of ignorance.

4 In the scriptures animal sacrifice is specified to enable society to gradually rise above violent tendencies.

5 Suta’ means son’.

6 Shukla-paksha: The moonlit half of a lunar month the bright fortnight.

7 Jyaishtha month: the 2nd month of the Hindu (Lunar) calendar (Summer).

8 Pausha month: the 9th month of the Hindu (Lunar) Calendar (Winter).

9 Vaishakha month: the 1st month of the Hindu (Lunar) Calendar.

10 Lankavatara-sutra’ was published with the help of the Indian Buddhist Text Society and Bengal Government in January 1900 A.D.

11 In the 21st issue of the 18th volume of Gaudiya (Magazine), in the articles of Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura entitled, Pracchanna Bauddha and Nastikyavada’ (Disguised Bauddha and Atheism) and Gautama’ as well as in the book Sri Gaudiya Darshana: History and Elements’ by Sri Sundarananda Vidyavinoda (a disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Thakura), the name of Shakyasimha Gautama Buddha has rarely appeared while writing about the Buddhist philosophy.

Pujyapada Tridandi Svami Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Maharaja, the beloved disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Thakura and founder of Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, in his writing, Mayavadera Jivani’ (The Life History of Impersonalism), has written: “The lila of the Supreme Lord, the expansion of the Lord, Buddha, appeared around 3500 B.C.” (Page 74)

“Nihilistic Siddhartha was the disciple of Sage Gautama of Kapila’s lineage. Therefore, his other name is Gautama.” (Page 14)

Shakyasimha Buddha appeared around five hundred years before.” (Page 18)

12 Buddha married Yashodhara at the age of sixteen years. Buddha renounced the world at the age of twenty-nine years. He attained emancipation at the age of eighty years (New Bengali Dictionary of Asutosh Dev)

The Four Sampradayas

The Four Sampradayas

(The Main Chains of Disciplic Succession)

 

 

            There are four main sampradayas, or chains of disciplic succession descending down through the important acharyas, or spiritual preceptors. These are also the main schools of thought in the Vedic tradition. Thus, anyone should belong or be a part of one of these sampradayas if they are going to be considered authorized in their Vedic teachings or practice. These sampradayas are the following:

 

1. Sri sampradaya, where the main exponent is Ramanujacharya (who lived in 12th century, born in 1016), propagated the doctrine called visista advaita, or oneness with varieties of the Lord and His energies. This is said to have originated from Sri or Goddess Lakshmi.

2. Brahma sampradaya, where the main exponent is Madhvacharya (who lived in 13th century, born in 1238), propagated the doctrine called visista dvaita, or duality with varieties. This is said to have originated from Lord Brahma.

3. Rudra sampradaya, the main exponent is Vishnu Swami, who propagated the doctrine called suddha dvaita, or pure transcendental duality; Vallabha Acharya is also a branch of this sampradaya. This is said to have originated from Rudra or Lord Shiva.

4. Hamsa, Catuhsana, Kumara or Sanat sampradaya, the main exponent is Nimbarka, who propagated the doctrine called dvaita advaita or simultaneous oneness and duality. This is said to have originated from Lord Brahma’s sons, the Kumaras or which Sanat Kumara is one.

 

 

Ramanuja

            The main exponent of the Sri sampradaya, born in 1016 (some say in 1055), propagated the doctrine called visista-advaita, “oneness with varieties of the Lord and His energies”.

His school is probably the most famous in south India and has various branches, all characterized by a particular tilaka (a mark on the forehead made with sacred clay and natural colors).

            Ramanuja was deeply influenced by the devotional poetry of the south Indian mystics known as Alvars, and resided as a pujari or priest in the temple of Ranganatha or Srirangam (near modern Tirucchirapalli).

            This philosophy states that the jiva (the individual soul) and the jagat (the material universe) depend on Isvara (the Supreme sa-guna Brahman, or Bhagavan), the only Reality. According to this philosophy, the individual soul can be either baddha (conditioned) or mukta (liberated). Jagat, the material world, is real and eternal, although manifested and withdrawn in cycles, meaning it is temporary.

            This philosophical system is based on pramana (“epistemology, or evidence”), explained as pratyaksa (direct perception), anumana (deduction), and sabda (evidence from shastra or scripture, guru and sadhu). The eternal and natural knowledge (jnana svarupa) of the baddha soul is covered by ignorance, while the liberated soul resides in Vaikuntha. The difference is total surrender (prapatti) in bhakti (love and devotion) to God.

            God manifests in five forms as Para (the transcendental form), Vyuha (the divine manifestations that originate Reality), Vibhava (the avataras), Archa (the Deity form) and Antaryami (residing in the heart of each living entity and each atom).

            Ramanuja wrote Vedartha sangraha (on the Vedas), Sri bhasya (on Vedanta), Bhagavad gita bhasya, Vedanta sara (a summary of Vedanta), Vedanta dipa (describing the subjects of Vedanta), Saranagati gadhya (prayers favoring surrender to Narayana), Sri Ranga gadhya (prayers in glorification of the holy city of Sri Ranga), Sri Vaikuntha gadhya (prayers glorifying Vaikuntha, the spiritual world), Nitya grantha (a manual for daily worship and rituals, including funeral and birth ceremonies).

            Introductory works to his philosophy have been written by Srinivasa dasa (Yatindra mata dipika) and Bucchi Venkatacharya (Vedanta Karivadi).

            He founded seventy-four centers of Sri Vaishnavism and initiated seven hundred sannyasis (renounced monks), twelve thousand brahmacharis (celibate students), and thousands of householders, including kings and wealthy landowners.

            Ramanuja is said to have visited Puri during the reign of Choda Ganga Deva. Tradition says that he tried to convince the priests of Jagannatha temple to stop the tantric style of puja they were following.

            However, while he was sleeping in the night he was carried away to the bank of river Bhargavi by Garuda himself. He failed to introduce his worship system also in Trivandrum (the temple of Ananta Padmanabha), but he succeeded in Tirupati, substituting the texts known as the Vaikhanas agamas with the Pancaratra agamas. In Puri he founded the Emar Math.

 

 

Madhva

            The main exponent of Brahma sampradaya, born in 1238 (some say in 1199), propagated the philosophy called Dvaita or Visistha Dvaita (“duality with differences”, or “different differences”). The center of the Madhva school is Udupi, the birthplace of Madhva.

            According to this philosophy, there is a substantial distinction between Isvara (God), jiva (individual soul) and jagat (material energy). Isvara is always independent (sva-tantra) while the jivas (souls), prakriti (material energy), kala (time), karma (reactions to activities), etc., are dependent realities (para-tantra). Such differences are elaborated in five categories (pancha-bheda) as between Isvara and jiva, Isvara and jada (prakriti), jiva and jiva, jiva and jada, jada and jada (or between an object and another).

            These five differences are eternal, although jagat can be sometimes manifest (vyakta) and sometimes not manifest (avyakta). Jivas are also eternally categorized in three groups as sattvik (who can attain mukti or liberation), rajasik (destined to remain in samsara or cycles of birth and death, but with the possibility of making progress) and tamasik (hopelessly destined to hell or darkness).

            Another perspective on the various differences explained by Madhva is the sajatiya, vijatiya and svagata: respectively the differences between different categories of objects, the differences between objects in the same category, and the differences within the parts of one specific object.

            The collection of the 37 books written by Madhva (called sarva-mula) is divided in four groups:

1. prasthana traya, including two commentaries on Bhagavad-Gita, ten on Upanishads, four on Vedanta sutras, and one on Rig Veda.

2. dasa prakarana, ten short books explaining the points of Madhva’s doctrine; the most important is the Vishnu tattva vinirnaya, detailing the characteristics of the atman (individual soul) and establishing Vishnu’s supremacy.

3. smriti prasthana, commentaries on Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata.

4. pomes and essays about rituals and sannyasa (renounced order of life).

 

 

Nimbarka

            The main exponent of the Kumara or Chatuhsana sampradaya (this knowledge was transmitted to the four Kumaras by the Hamsa avatara), who lived in the 13th century and propagated the doctrine called dvaita advaita, “simultaneous oneness and duality”.

            Nimbarka presents himself as a disciple of Narada Muni and says that for a period of his life he lived in Naimisharanya.

            This philosophical school has centers in the area of Mathura-Vrindavana (Nimbarka was born near Govardhana from a family of Telugu brahmanas), Rajasthan and Bengal, and identifies the Supreme Brahman as the divine couple of Radha and Krishna.

            The identification between the savisesha (with form) and nirvisesha (without form) aspects of Bhagavan (the Supreme Person) is called svabhavika-bheda-abheda, “natural difference and oneness”, as he sees no contradiction. The two categories of jivas as baddhas (materially conditioned) and muktas (liberated) are temporary as a baddha jiva can become a mukta through the path to realization or sadhana, which is bhakti (the path of devotion) that includes both karma (the knowledge of action and reaction and becoming free from karma) and jnana (cultivated knowledge). The first stage is karma (the ritualistic process), the second is jnana (the cultivation of knowledge), the third is dhyana (meditation), the fourth is prapatti (surrender), and the fifth is guru prapatti (complete dedication to the instructions of the guru).

His most famous works are the Vedanta Parijata Saurabha (commentary to the Vedas and Upanishads), Sadachar prakash (a treatise on Karma kanda), a Gita bhasya (commentary on the Bhagavad-gita), Rahasya sodasi (explanation of the Sri Gopala mantra), Krishna stava raja (establishing the supreme position of Krishna), Prapanna kalpa valli (explanation of Mukunda mantra), Prata smarana stotram (a devotional poem), Kamadhenu Dasa sloki (“ten nectarine verses” about the meditation on Radha Krishna).

 

  

Vishnuswami

            The fourth Vaishnava acharya, Vishnusvami, representative of the Rudra sampradaya (who worship the avatara of God known as Narasimhadeva) is less known than the other three.

Actually there is some confusion about him, as it seems there have been three Vishnu Svamis: Adi Vishnu Svami (around 3rd century BCE, who introduced the traditional 108 categories of sannyasa), Raja Gopala Vishnu Svami (8th or 9th century CE), and Andhra Vishnu Svami (14th century).

            The emphasis of this school, called suddha-advaita (“pure monism”), is on the concept of lila or the pastimes by which God can be transcendental and immanent according to His will. Thus everything is pure, including the material universe, that is created by God and intimately related to Him. In his method of worship, Vishnusvami gives preeminence to Rama, the previous avatara before Krishna.

            Vishnusvami visited Puri and founded there the Jagannatha Vallabha Math in the gardens of the temple, where Ramananda Raya also established his spiritual school.

            Among the famous followers of this sampradaya we can mention Sridhara Svami (who became famous for his commentary on the Bhagavata purana).

 

 

Vallabha Bhatta Acharya

            He appeared in 1479 in south India and disappeared in 1531. He detached himself from the tradition of Vishnusvami and started his own school, which is prominent today in Mathura-Vrindavana. In his school there are no sannyasis (renounced monks) but only householders.

            Vallabha travelled extensively in India to engage in philosophical debates. He wrote the Tattvartha dipa nibandha (divided in three parts, one about Bhagavad-gita, one about Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the third a comparison between philosophies), Anubhasya (non completed commentary on Vedanta sutra), Purva mimamsa bhasya (commentary on Jaimini’s karma kanda philosophy), Subodhini (non completed commentary on Bhagavatam), and the Sodasa grantha (16 books containing the essence of his teachings).

            For Vallabha, the realization of the Para Brahman, the complete (purna) aspect of the Brahman, can be achieved only through pushti (“nourishment”), or total surrender to God who blesses the soul with His grace. In his philosophy there are different categories of jivas: suddha, samsarin (further divided into daivi, madhyama and danava) and mukta.

            Vallabha Acharya probably came to Puri the first time in 1489 as a young boy, but returned in 1519 for his preaching. He was proud to be a great scholar and started a Bhakti Marga center in Varanasi. He contacted Lord Chaitanya in Prayaga (Allahabad) and was sent to debate with Advaita Acharya.

            So he started to criticize the Sankirtana (congregational chanting of the Lord’s holy names) movement by objecting that, if the devotees were worshiping Lord Krishna in the madhurya rasa (mood of loving exchanges) they should not chant His name, as a faithful wife is not supposed to call her husband confidentially by his name, but always address him with a respectful title. Advaita Acharya quickly silenced him by saying “on His order, we are doing”. The point is that if the husband specifically requests the wife to call him intimately by his name, a faithful and loving wife should do so happily to please her husband. Similarly, Lord Krishna has ordered all of us to chant His name intimately, so as faithful wives and servants of the Lord, we should do so.

            Another day, in the presence of Lord Chaitanya, Vallabha Bhatta boasted that his own commentaries were different from those of Sridhara Svami. Sri Chaitanya quickly rebuked him. It is said that in the end Vallabha Bhatta was convinced of the superiority of the teachings of Lord Chaitanya and from the worship of Bala Gopala was initiated into madhurya rasa by Gadadhara Pandita.

            The son of Vallabha Bhatta, Vittala, adopted Gita Govinda as his text for teaching Sanskrit in his school.

            The preaching of Vallabha Bhatta made the worship of Bala Gopala popular in all Hindu homes. His philosophy distinguished the two different roads in Vishnu worship as Maryada bhakti (or devotion in respect), where God is worshiped as the Supreme Brahman and Pusthi bhakti (or devotion in intimacy).

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

            Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (A.D. 1486-1534) also strongly opposed Shankara’s Mayavada philosophy of Dwaita and established the principle that took the previous acharya’s teachings to a new level, called achintya-bhedabheda-tattva. This specified that the Supreme and the individual soul are inconceivably and simultaneously one and different. This means that the Supreme and the jiva souls are the same in quality, being eternally spiritual, but always separate individually. The jivas are small and subject to being influenced by the material energy, while the Supreme is infinite and always above and beyond the material manifestation.

            Sri Chaitanya taught that the direct meaning of the Vedic shastras is that the living entities are to engage in loving devotional service, bhakti, to the Supreme, Bhagavan Sri Krishna. Through this practice there can develop a level of communication between God and the individual by which God will lovingly reveal Himself to those who become qualified. In this understanding, the Vedic theistic philosophy of Vaishnavism reached its climax. Thus, Sri Chaitanya started what could be called a new philosophy that perfected the previously developed schools of thought, or united the basic principles of the other sampradayas.

            Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is considered and was established by Vedic scripture as the most recent incarnation of God, did not become much involved in writing. In fact, He only wrote eight verses called the Shikshastaka, but His followers compiled extensive Sanskrit literature that documented His life and fully explained His teachings. However, it is one of His followers, Baladeva Vidyabushana, who wrote a commentary on the Vedanta-sutras called Govinda-bhasya, meaning it is considered the commentary as given by the deity of Govinda.

 

[Also see the article on Lord Chaitanya for more information about Him.]

Srila Vyasadeva

Srila Vyasadeva

By Stephen Knapp

            It is described in the lists of the main avataras of the Lord as found in the Bhagavata Purana, that the seventeenth incarnation was Srila Vyasadeva who appeared as the son of Parashara Muni and his wife Satyavati. His mission was to divide the one Veda into various branches and sub-branches so the people who are less intelligent can more easily understand them. (Bhag.1.3.21 & 2.7.36)

            It is further explained that because of his tapasya or austerities at Badrinatha, Vyasadeva was also called Badarayana. It is related, “Know, Maitreya, the Vyasa called Krishna Dvaipayana (Vedavyasa) to be the Deity Narayana; for who else on this earth could have composed the Mahabharata. . . That form of Vasudeva. . . composed of the Rig, Sama, and Yajur Vedas, is at the same time their essence, as He is the soul of all embodied spirits. He, distinguished as consisting of the Vedas, creates the Vedas, and divides them by many subdivisions into branches: He is the author of those branches: He is those aggregated branches; for He, the eternal Lord, is the essence of true knowledge.” (Vishnu Purana, Book 3, Chapter 4)

            This is further elaborated that, “In every Dvapara [or third] age, Vishnu, in the person of Vyasa, in order to promote the good of mankind, divides the Vedas, which is properly but one, into many portions: observing the limited perseverance, energy and application of mortals, he makes the Veda four-fold to adopt it to their capacities; and the bodily form which he assumes, in order to effect that classification, is known by the name of Vedavyasa.” (Vishnu Purana, Book Three, Chapter Three)

            To explain further about Srila Vyasadeva, he is not the same person in each incarnation but is usually an empowered individual jiva soul that appears as Vyasadeva to do the service for humanity. Jiva Gosvami quotes the Vishnu Purana (3.4.2-5) in his Tattva-sandarbha (16.2) that a different empowered jiva soul takes the position of Vyasadeva in each incarnation as a shaktyavesha-avatara. This takes place just as each Kali-yuga begins so that He can divide and categorize the Vedic knowledge for the benefit of the masses. Therefore, Vyasadeva is often a position rather than the special name of the person. So Vyasadeva started doing this many thousands of years ago. However, in this particular divya-yuga in which we are in, or cycle of the four ages, Lord Narayana Himself appears as Srila Krishna-Dvaipayana Vyasa to divide the Vedic literature into various branches, which means that in this particular incarnation He is not simply an empowered living entity.

            These verses clearly explain how Srila Vyasadeva is none other than the incarnation of the Supreme Being, Vishnu, Narayana, who appeared in this world to compile and divide the Vedas so that people of all levels of intelligence can understand them. It is explained that no ordinary person can do such a thing. How can people who are limited and finite understand the Unlimited and Infinite unless that Supreme Being descends to explain this knowledge Himself?

            Furthermore, the Vedic knowledge had been an oral tradition throughout the ages. However, in this age of Kali, people can hardly remember what they did a week ago, or sometimes even yesterday. So how would they be able to remember, analyze, comprehend, or follow the Vedic instructions if they were not in a written form? Therefore, Vyasadeva appeared as the person qualified to compile it and form its many branches. Thus, Vyasadeva composed the more important Vedic texts, culminating in his own commentary of the Vedic writing in the form of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way, the one Veda became the four main samhitas, namely the Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas. Then came the Brahmana texts, the Vedanta Sutras, the Mahabharata, and then the Puranas, of which Vyasadeva considered the Bhagavata Purana (Bhagavatam) the most important and complete. In this way, as stated in the above mentioned verses, the essence of the Absolute Reality is to be found in the Vedic literature, especially within the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

            Why the emphasis on the Srimad-Bhagavatam is that even though Srila Vyasadeva was the original author of the major Vedic texts, He was still not satisfied after writing them. There was a reason for this. In all the literature compiled by Vyasadeva, there are many descriptions of the temporary universe, prayers to the demigods, the process for attaining one’s material necessities, information about the Brahman, the soul, the Supersoul, and the process of yoga for attaining spiritual realizations. There is also information about the Supreme Lord, Bhagavan Krishna. But the detailed descriptions of God, His form, His incarnations, names, activities, potencies and energies, and how He is the source of everything, including the ever-increasing spiritual bliss for which we are always looking, had not yet been fully described. Even though Vyasadeva had worked for the welfare of all by writing the Vedic literature, before he wrote Srimad-Bhagavatam he had still felt dissatisfied because of this incompletion. This is a great lesson.

            Naturally, we all desire freedom from the problems that material life causes us, but only by engaging in direct spiritual activities does the spiritual living entity, the soul, within these temporary material bodies begin to feel any real relief or happiness. How to do this by engaging in service or bhakti-yoga to the Supreme Being is what the Vedas are ultimately meant to establish. Because this had not yet been prominently presented in the literature Vyasadeva had written, he was still feeling dissatisfied. Now he was trying to understand the cause of his discontentment.

            Vyasadeva took the role of accepting a spiritual master to resolve this issue. After explaining this perplexing situation to his spiritual master, Narada Muni, he was advised to write the Srimad-Bhagavatam, also called the Bhagavata Purana. After doing so, Vyasadeva considered it his own commentary on the Vedanta-sutras and the complete explanation and conclusion of all Vedic philosophy. This is why Sri Caitanya never cared for writing a commentary on the Vedanta-sutras, because He considered Srimad-Bhagavatam to be the topmost commentary which had already been written. This Srimad-Bhagavatam is part of the Vedic literature called the Itihasas, or the universal histories.

            The Bhagavatam, being Sri Vyasadeva’s own commentary on all the Vedanta philosophy, brings to light all the different aspects of the Absolute Truth, especially the personal characteristics of Bhagavan Sri Krishna as the final conclusion of all Vedic understanding. This is why those who are impersonalists or monists, believing God has no form and, therefore, performs no activities, never reach the Bhagavatam in their Vedic studies. But if they do read the Bhagavatam, they are likely to interpret it in an impersonalistic way and, thus, deprive themselves of the truth and purity which they could derive from it.

            It is also explained that the Bhagavata Purana is the literary incarnation of God, which is meant for the ultimate good of all people, and is all-blissful and all-perfect. Sri Vyasadeva offered it to his son after extracting the cream of all Vedic literature. This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krishna to His own abode. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of this age of Kali can get light from this Purana. (Bhag.1.3.40-43)

            In this way, the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the most ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic knowledge consisting of the highest realizations and understanding of ultimate reality–the Absolute Truth, as presented by Vyasadeva Himself. Over and above that, it is also considered the incarnation of God in the form of sound vibration as confirmed in the following verse: “This Srimad-Bhagavatam is the literary incarnation of God, and it is compiled by Srila Vyasadeva, the incarnation of God. It is meant for the ultimate good of all people, and it is all-successful, all-blissful and all-perfect.” (Bhag.1.3.40)

            From this verse it is made clear that Srimad-Bhagavatam is meant for the benefit of everyone, regardless of their background, who is sincerely interested in the highest truth. Furthermore, it is compiled by Srila Vyasadeva who was an incarnation of God who appeared in this world in order to give people this knowledge for the highest good. After all, who can explain the characteristics of the Supreme better than the Supreme Himself? This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (15.5) in which Krishna explains that He is seated in everyone’s heart and from Him come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness. He is the knower and compiler of the Vedas, by which He is to be known. Therefore, although the spiritual truths are presented in different degrees, Vyasa finally compiled and wrote the Srimad-Bhagavatam in order to explain the highest levels of the Absolute Truth.

        More information on how the Vedic literature was formed into its branches is found in the article, The Traditional Source of Vedic Literature.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

 

By Stephen Knapp

 

      Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu [pronounced Chaitanya] (February 27,1486 to 1534 A.D.) was born in Navadvipa, Bengal, on a full moon night during a lunar eclipse. It is typical for people to bathe in the Ganges during an eclipse and chant the Lord’s holy names for spiritual purification. So, everyone in the area was chanting the holy names when He was born. His parents, Jagannatha Misra and Sachidevi, gave Him the name of Vishvambhara, meaning the support of the universe, because astrologers had predicted His super human qualities and that He would deliver the people of the world. He was also nicknamed Nimai because He had been born under a nima tree.

      During His childhood He exhibited extraordinary qualities, even having philosophical discussions with His mother. While growing, His brilliant intelligence began to become apparent. While still a child, He mastered Sanskrit and logic to the point of defeating local pundits, and established the truth of His spiritual and Vedic philosophy. He became so well known that many logicians of various religious and philosophical persuasions began to fear His presence and refused to debate with Him. Thus, Sri Caitanya established the authority of the Vaishnava tradition through the process of debate and logic.

      Then, when Sri Caitanya went to Gaya on the pretext to perform ceremonies for the anniversary of His father’s death, He received Vaishnava initiation from Ishvara Puri. Thereafter, He lost all interest in debate and simply absorbed Himself in chanting and singing the names of Lord Krishna in devotional ecstasy. Upon returning to Navadvipa, He gathered a following with whom He would engage in congregational singing of the Lord’s holy names. Thus, He started the first sankirtana (congregational devotional singing) movement, and established the importance of chanting the names of God in this age as the most elevated of spiritual processes, and the prime means for liberation from material attachments.

      At first, His chanting with people was for the few participants who were a part of His group, but then Sri Caitanya ordered that the ecstasy of love of God be distributed to all people of the area. He gave no recognition for the privileges of caste, or for position, or type of philosophy a person had, or yogic asceticism. He only emphasized the devotional chanting of the Lord’s holy names, using the Hare Krishna mantra (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) which can bring out the natural loving sentiments for God.

      It was at the age of 24 when He shaved His head and took the order of sannyasa, the renounced stage of life, when He accepted the name of Krishna Caitanya from Keshava Bharati during the initiation. He then spent four years traveling through South India, and also visited Vrindavana and Varanasi. During this time he also gave special instructions to Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, who then also spread the glories of the Divine Love for Radha and Krishna. They settled in Vrindavana where they spent their years in writing many books elaborating the instructions of Lord Caitanya and the glories of bhakti for Radha and Krishna. They also revealed the places where Radha and Krishna performed many varied pastimes in that land of Vrindavana, which have remained special spots where devotees can become absorbed in the bliss of love of Radha and Krishna.

      Lord Caitanya spent His remaining years in Jagannatha Puri. During this time He was absorbed in ecstatic devotion to Krishna in the loving mood of Radharani, in which He would lose all external consciousness. He freely distributed the divine nectar of this love for Krishna to everyone and anyone, day and night. Even His presence or mere touch could transform everyone that came near Him into the same devotional mood. He remained like this until He finally left our vision at the age of 48.

      Lord Caitanya is considered and was established by Vedic scripture as the most recent incarnation of God. The Lord always descends to establish the codes of religion. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (4.6-8) where Lord Krishna explains that although He is unborn and the Lord of all living beings, He still descends in His spiritual form in order to re-establish the proper religious principles and annihilate the miscreants whenever there is a decline of religion and a rise in irreligious activity.

      Though there are many incarnations of God, all incarnations are known and predicted in the Vedic literature. Each incarnation performs many wonderful pastimes. But in Kali-yuga, the Lord descends in the form of His own devotee as Sri Caitanya in order to show the perfect example of how devotional service should be performed, and to stress the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra for this age by inaugurating the process of the sankirtana movement (congregational chanting).

Predictions of the appearance of Lord Caitanya can be found in many Vedic texts. One of the oldest prophecies concerning Sri Caitanya’s appearance in this world is found in the Atharva-veda verse, starting as: ito ‘ham krita-sannyaso ‘vatarisyami. In this verse the Supreme states: “I will descend as a sannyasi, a tall, fair, and saintly brahmana devotee, after four to five thousand years of Kali-yuga have passed. I will appear on earth near the Ganges shore and with all the signs of an exalted person, free from material desires. I will always chant the holy names of the Lord, and, thus, taste the sweetness of My own devotional service. Only other advanced devotees will understand Me.”

Also, in a verse from the Sama-veda, starting as: tathaham krita-sannyaso bhu-girbanah avatarisye, the Supreme Being says that He will descend to earth as a brahmana-sannyasi at a place on the shore of the Ganges. Again and again He will chant the names of the Lord in the company of His associates to rescue the people who are devoured by sins in the age of Kali.

The Mundaka Upanishad (3.3) also relates the prophecy of Sri Caitanya in a different way. It states, “When one realizes the golden form of Lord Gauranga, who is the ultimate actor and the source of the Supreme Brahman, he attains the highest knowledge. He transcends both pious and impious activities, becomes free from worldly bondage, and enters the divine abode of the Lord.”

Another prophecy of the appearance of Sri Caitanya is found in two verses in the Bhavishya Purana. It states: 

ajayadhvamaja yadhvam na sansayah

kalau sankirtana rambhe bhavisyami saci sutah


    “The Supreme Lord said: ‘In Kali-yuga, I will appear as the son of Saci, and inaugurate the sankirtana movement. There is no doubt about this.’”

 

anandasru-kala-roma-harsa-purnam tapo-dhana

sarve mam eva draksyanti kalau sannyasa-rupinam


      “O sage whose wealth is austerity, in the Kali-yuga everyone will see My form as a sannyasi, a form filled with tears of bliss and bodily hairs standing erect in ecstasy.”

      Another is from the Svetasvatara Upanishad (3.12): “Mahaprabhu [the great master], the Supreme Being, is brilliantly effulgent and imperishable like molten gold, and [through sankirtana] bestows spiritual intelligence on the living beings. In the guise of a sannyasi, He is the source of spiritual purity and liberation.” Another is from the Vayu Purana: “In the age of Kali I shall descend as the son of Sachidevi to inaugurate the sankirtana movement.” This is also confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32) where it states: “In the age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krishna. Although His complexion is not blackish [like that of Lord Krishna], He is Krishna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.”

      The great classic Mahabharata (Vishnu-sahasra-nama-stotra, 127.92.75) confirms that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is not different from Lord Sri Krishna: “The Supreme Lord has a golden complexion [when He appears as Lord Caitanya]. Indeed, His entire body, which is very nicely constituted, is like molten gold. Sandalwood pulp is smeared all over His body. He will take the fourth order of life [sannyasa] and will be very self-controlled. He will be distinguished from Mayavadi sannyasis in that He will be fixed in devotional service and will propagate the sankirtana movement.”

      The Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, 3.19-20) also explains how the Supreme Lord Himself describes how He will appear as His own devotee to perform and teach devotional service by inaugurating the sankirtana movement, which is the religion for this age.

How He is the “great master” or will “bestow spiritual intelligence” is described in another Upanishad. This is one of the lesser Upanishads known as the Chaitanyopanishad, or Sri Caitanya Upanishad. This comes from the ancient Atharva Veda. In this description there is not only the prediction of His appearance but a description of His life and purpose, and the reasons why His process of spiritual enlightenment is so powerful and effective in this age of Kali. The Chaitanyopanishad is a short text with only nineteen verses. All of them are very significant.

      The Sri Caitanya Upanishad (texts 5-11) explains that one day when Pippalada asked his father, Lord Brahma, how the sinful living entities will be delivered in Kali-yuga and who should be the object of their worship and what mantra should they chant to be delivered, Brahma told him to listen carefully and he would describe what will take place in the age of Kali. Brahma said that the Supreme Lord Govinda, Krishna, will appear again in Kali-yuga as His own devotee in a two-armed form with a golden complexion in the area of Navadvipa along the Ganges. He will spread the system of devotional service and the chanting of the names of Krishna, especially in the form of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra; Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Another interesting story about the prediction of the appearance of Lord Caitanya in Kali-yuga is related in a lengthy conversation between Murari Gupta and Damodara Pandita, two contemporaries of Sri Caitanya. It is found in the Sri Caitanya Mangala, a biography of Sri Caitanya by Srila Locana Dasa Thakura. Among the many things they discuss are the symptoms and difficulties found in the age of Kali, how Lord Krishna appears on earth in this age, His confidential reasons for doing so, and how He revealed to Narada Muni His form as Lord Gauranga that He would accept while appearing on earth in this age. In this form He would distribute love of God to everyone He met by chanting the holy names. This conversation is very enlightening.

Within this conversation they further relate an incident recorded as the Vishnu-Katyayani Samvada of the Padma Purana. This is a conversation between Lord Vishnu and Katyayani (Parvati), Lord Shiva=s wife. The story is that one time the great sage Narada Muni acquired the maha-prasada, personal food remnants, of Lord Narayana, Vishnu, and gave a morsel to his friend Lord Shiva. Shiva tasted it and he began to dance in ecstasy, to the point of disturbing the earth. When he was approached by Parvati about why he was dancing so, he explained what happened. However, she was unhappy and angry that he did not share any with her. Being devoted to Lord Vishnu and concerned for the spiritual well-being of all conditioned souls, she then vowed that if she should get the blessings of Lord Vishnu, she would see to it that the Lord=s maha-prasada was distributed to everyone. Just then Lord Vishnu Himself appeared and conversed with her. He assured her that He would appear in the world as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the age of Kali and would keep her promise and spread His mercy in the form of maha-prasada, food that has been offered to Him, and the chanting of His holy names to everyone, distributing His mercy everywhere.

Another book is the Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa by Sanatana Gosvami. Sanatana lived about 500 years ago in Vrindavana, India and was a great scholar of the Vedic scripture. A portion of the book contains an anthology of an amazing assortment of verses from the Vedic texts which predict the appearance of Lord Caitanya. Besides some of the quotes we have already cited, he includes verses from such texts as the Chandogya Upanishad, Krishna Upanishad, Narada Purana, Kurma Purana, Garuda Purana, Devi Purana, Nrisimha Purana, Padma Purana, Brahma Purana, Agni Purana, Saura Purana, Matsya Purana, Vayu Purana, Markandeya Purana, Varaha Purana, Vamana Purana, Vishnu Purana, Skanda Purana, Upapuranas, Narayana-Samhita, Krishna-yamala, Brahma-yamala, Vishnu-yamala, Yoga-vasistha, and the Tantras, such as Urdhvamnaya-tantra, Kapila Tantra, Visvasara Tantra, Kularnava Tantra, and others.

      These and other predictions confirm the fact that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would appear to specifically propagate the chanting of the holy names. Furthermore, in the Fourth Chapter of the Antya-lila of the Caitanya Bhagavata, which is a biography of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu written by Sri Vrindavan dasa Thakura who is said to be an incarnation of Srila Vyasadeva, Lord Caitanya explains: “I have appeared on earth to propagate the congregational chanting of the holy names of God. In this way I will deliver the sinful material world. Those demons who never before accepted My authority and lordship will weep in joy by chanting My names. I will vigorously distribute devotional service, bhakti, which is sought after even by demigods, sages, and perfected beings, so that even the most abominable sinners will receive it. But those who, intoxicated with education, wealth, family background, and knowledge, criticize and offend My devotees, will be deprived of everything and will never know My true identity.” Then Sri Caitanya specifically states (Antya-lila 4.126): “I declare that My name will be preached in every town and village on this earth.”

      This verifies the fact that the chanting of the maha-mantra is the rare and special opportunity given by God for all to be relieved from the problems of the age of Kali and of material life in general. As confirmed in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, 3.77-78), it is Sri Krishna Caitanya who inaugurates the congregational chanting of the holy names, which is the most sublime of all spiritual sacrifices. Intelligent people will worship Him through this means, while other foolish people will continue in the cycle of repeated birth and death in this material world.

      In another place of the Caitanya-caritamrita (Antya-lila, 20.8-9), Sri Caitanya specifically tells Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya that chanting the holy names is the most practical way to attain salvation from material existence in this age, and anyone who is intelligent and takes up this process of worshiping Krishna will attain the direct shelter of Krishna.

      He also strongly opposed the impersonalist philosophy of Shankaracharya and established the principle of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. This specified that the Supreme and the individual soul are inconceivably and simultaneously one and different. This means that the Supreme and the jiva souls are the same in quality, being eternally spiritual, but always separate individually. The jivas are small and subject to being influenced by the material energy, while the Supreme is infinite and always above and beyond the material manifestation.

      Sri Caitanya taught that the direct meaning of the Vedic shastras is that the living entities are to engage in devotional service, bhakti, to the Supreme, Bhagavan Sri Krishna. Through this practice there can develop a level of communication between God and the individual by which God will lovingly reveal Himself to those who become qualified. In this understanding the theistic philosophy of Vaishnavism reached its climax.

      As previously explained, there is a system of self-realization especially recommended for each age. In the age of Kali, people are not attracted to spiritual pursuits and are often rebellious against anything that seems to restrict or stifle their freedom to do anything they want. Since in this age we are so easily distracted by so many things and our mind is always in a whirl, we need an easy path. Therefore, the Vedic shastra explains that God has given us an easy way to return to Him in this age. It is almost as if He has said, “Since you are My worst son, I give you the easiest process.” The Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, 3.40) confirms this and says that the Supreme Being descends as Sri Caitanya, with a golden complexion, to simply spread the glories of chanting the holy names, which is the only religious principle in this age of Kali. In this way, God Himself has given the method of chanting His holy names as the most effective means to reach His spiritual abode.

      Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not become much involved in writing. In fact, He only wrote eight verses, but His followers compiled extensive Sanskrit literature that documented His life and fully explained His teachings. For more complete descriptions and elaborations on His life, activities, and philosophy, as written by His close associates, these books that you can order are presently available through various outlets.

 

 

“A much accepted prophesy in Bengal was that someday a king would be born in Bengal as a brahmin’s son, so Sri Cakravarti thought that only the future would prove whether this was the child. “

 

 

Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat

Adi Lila Chapter Three

 

By Srila Vrindavan Das Thakur

 
Even before He took his birth, the Lord propagated the chanting of His holy name.
Streams of people went for their bath in the Ganga at the time of the eclipse and all the way they chanted the Lord’s name.
Some, who from their birth never once uttered the Lord’s name, now chanted that name on their way to the Ganga.
The sound of chanting emanated from every direction and the Supreme Lord, the best of the brahmins, smiled to Himself as He made His appearance.
Sri Jagannatha Misra and Srimati Sacidevi glanced at their child’s beautiful face and were overcome with unbounded joy.
Ladies stood around the child not knowing what to do; fussily they ululated in jubilation.
Relatives and friends hurried to see the new born child; Sri Jagannatha Misra’s house was a scene of great exultation.
Srimati Sacidevi’s father, Sri Nilambara Cakravarti, found esoteric and wonderful signs in every house of the child’s astrological chart.
Sri Cakravarti was astounded by the baby’s beauty and saw all divine symbols on His person.
A much accepted prophesy in Bengal was that someday a king would be born in Bengal as a brahmin’s son, so Sri Cakravarti thought that only the future would prove whether this was the child.
In the presence of all, Sri Nilambara Cakravarti, an expert astrologer, began explaining the ramifications of different astrological signs in the Lord’s chart.
The further he delved into the child’s exalted chart, the more difficulty he found in describing the Lord’s position.
The child will conquer Brhaspati (the sign for learning and education) and be a scholar; He will be a natural repository of all divine qualities.
Present in that gathering was a great saint in the guise of a brahman who made predictions on the Lord’s future.
The brahman said, “This child is the Supreme Lord Narayana Himself. He will establish the essence of all religion.
“He will initiate a wonderful preaching movement and deliver the whole world.
“He will give everyone that which is forever desirable even by Lord Brahma, Lord Siva or Srila Sukadeva Gosvami.
“Upon seeing Him people will feel compassion for all living entities and become callous toward material pains and joys. This will be the great benediction for the whole world.
“Not to mention ordinary men, even hard-core atheists will worship the child’s lotus feet.
“He will be glorified throughout the entire creation and people from all orders of life will come to worship Him.
“He is the personification of pure Bhagavat religion (eternal religion), the benefactor of brahmanas, cows and devotees and the affectionate, devoted son of His parents.
“This child has come to accomplish great works, just as the Supreme Lord Narayana incarnated to re-establish religious principles
“Who can explain the imports of this child’s exalted astrological and esoteric symptoms?
“How fortunate you are, Sri Jagannatha Misra, a leader amongst men. I offer my obeisances to you, the illustrious father of this child.
“I feel greatly fortunate that I could calculate his astrological chart. His name accordingly will be Sri Visvambhara.
“He will be known to all as Navadvipa-candra (the moon of Navadvipa). He is spiritual bliss personified.”
The brahmin did not speak further about Lord Caitanya’s pastime of accepting the renounced order of sannyasa since that would disturb the loving emotion of His parents.
Sri Jagannatha Misra was enthralled with ecstasy over the descriptions of his son. He immediately wanted to offer gifts to the brahmin.
He was a poor man with few possessions, yet feeling great jubilation Sri Misra fell at the brahmin’s feet and cried.
The brahman also caught Sri Misra’s feet, and everyone present shouted “Hari, Hari” in great joy.
The relatives and friends were all praise for the child, and they blessed Him as they heard the super-natural predictions about His future.
Soon the musicians arrived playing their respective instruments – clay drums, flutes and shanhai (a reed instrument) – and filled the air with wonderful music.
Ladies from the higher planets mingled freely yet unnoticed with the ladies from earth in this wonderful gathering.
The mother of the demigods (Aditi) smiled and placed her right hand holding auspicious grass and paddy on the child’s head to bless him saying, “Long life”.
“Please remain eternally in this material world and manifest Your pastimes”. This explained the expression “Long life”.
Srimati Sacidevi and the others noticed the extraordinary beauty of these ladies but they hesitated to inquire about their identity.
The demigods respectfully took the dust from Sacidevi’s feet, and she lost her speech in extreme exultation.
Neither the Vedas nor Lord Ananta Sesa could describe the waves of jubilation that drowned Sri Jagannatha Misra’s house. Entire Nadia seemed to be present at Sacidevi’s house to experience that undescribable joy.
Wherever the people were – in their houses, or on the banks of the Ganga, or on the streets, – they all loudly chanted the Lord’s name.
Everyone jubilantly celebrated the Lord’s birth, unknowingly thinking the festivity was actually for the lunar eclipse.
Lord Caitanya appeared on the full moon night of the month of Phalguna; this day is the most worshipable by Lord Brahma and other great personalities.
This day of the Lord’s appearance is the holiest of holy occasions; this day is devotion personified.
Lord Caitanya appeared on the full moon night of Phalguna and Lord Nityananda appeared on the 13th night of the waxing moon. Both these days are all auspicious and transcendental occasions.
If one properly follows these two holy occasions he develops love of Godhead and cuts asunder the knots of material illusion.
The appearance days of pure Vaisnava devotees like the appearance day of the Supreme Lord, are also all-auspicious and transcendental.
Whosoever hears the narrations of Lord Caitanya’s birth is freed from all miseries in life and in death.
Anyone who hears Lord Caitanya’s pastimes immediately gets love of God and becomes his eternal servitor; he comes with the Lord each time He advents in this material world.
The Adi Khanda text is wonderful to hear because it contains descriptions of Lord Caitanya’s appearance.
The Vedic literature describes these pastimes of the Lord as eternal, although He sometimes appears and sometimes disappears.
Lord Caitanya’s pastimes have no beginning and no end; I write them down by the mercy of the Lord.
I offer my humble obeisances at the Lord’s feet and at the feet of all His devotees. I pray that I may be excused from all offenses.
I, Vrndavana dasa, offer this song to the lotus feet of my life and soul, Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya and Lord Sri Nityananda Prabhu.

(You can also read the beautiful and descriptive online Prayers to Lord Caitanya. For more complete descriptions and elaborations on His life, activities, and philosophy, as written by His close associates, books that you can order are presently available through various outlets.)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and His Great Accomplishments

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura

And His Great Accomplishments

 

            This is the inspiring story of the great accomplishments of this important and distinguished devotee of the Lord and what he did for spreading pure spirituality and the universal principles that are based on the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It shows why he was called “the God-sent pioneer of unalloyed devotion to God”. 

 

            On September 2nd, 1838 on a Sunday in the ancient village of Biranagara (Ulagrama) located in the district of Nadia, Thakura Bhaktivinoda took his birth in the family of Raja Krishnananda Datta, who was a great devotee of Lord Nityananda. He became known as the seventh son of Raja Krishnananda, the great grandson of Madana Mohana and the third son of his Godfather Anandachandra. In Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s paternal family line, although some devotees of the Lord had appeared in the family lineage, there was not any great respect for Vaishnava-dharma and in his mother’s family there was not any respect for Vaishnavism at all. Because of this, in the future he would be called daitya-kulera prahlada (Prahlada of the family of demons). Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Godfather, Anandachandra, named him Kedaranatha.

  

His Childhood

 In the village of Biranagara (Ulagrama), amidst fabulous wealth, Kedaranatha Datta spent his infancy and boyhood while living in the large mansion of his maternal grandfather Mustauphi Mahashaya. In Biranagara he received his elementary education at the primary school started by his grandmother. Later he attended an English school at Krishnanagar that had been established by the King of Nadia, but after studying there a while he had to discontinue his lessons and return to Ulagrama upon the unexpected death of his older brother due to cholera.

When Thakura Bhaktivinoda was eleven years old his father passed away. At that tine the fabulous wealth of his maternal grandfather appeared to be non-existent. Upon the untimely death of his relatives the grant of land that had been conferred upon his grandmother under close supervision changed owners, thus the family was put into a condition of poverty. The young boy, Kedaranatha Datta facing all of these various troubles, passed over all of them with great endurance.

  

His Marriage and Studies in Calcutta

 In 1850, when Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda was twelve years old, by the efforts of his mother he was married to the five year old daughter of Madhusudana Mritra Mahasaya who was a resident of Rana Ghata.

About that same time Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s uncle, Kasiprasada Ghosh Mahasaya Thakura, who was very advanced in British education, came to Ulagrama after the death of his maternal grandfather. He invited young Kedaranatha to come to his home in Calcutta and continue his schooling there. At first Bhaktivinoda’s mother was unwilling to let her son go on the plea that it was not the right time for him, but gradually around his thirteenth year Bhaktivinoda, leaving his mother and sister at Ulagrama, went to Calcutta to live at his uncle’s house which was located in the Heduya district of central Calcutta. Kasiprasada was the center of the literary circle of his time and the “Hindu Intelligencer”, of which he was the editor, drew many writers to learn from him the art of writing correct English. It was young Kedaranatha’s business to read to Kasiprasada the articles which were presented to him to be passed as fit for publication in the “Hindu Intelligencer”. Within a short time Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda studied all the literary works in Kasiprasad’s library and freely availed himself of the use of the public library. There in Calcutta Bhaktivinoda Thakura attended high school at the Hindu Charitable Institution and after four years there he became expert at reading, writing and speaking English.

Becoming very ill due to the salty water in Calcutta, Bhaktivinoda had to return to Ulagrama and there on the medical advice of a Mohammedan soothsayer he recovered his health. At that time the soothsayer made one prediction. He said that very soon this village of Biranagara will become ridden with pestilence and epidemics and everything will become vanquished. He also told the young man, Kedaranatha Datta, that in the future he would become recognized as a great devotee of Lord Krishna!

  

Bhaktivinoda in College

 In 1856, at the age of eighteen, Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda began his first year of college in Calcutta. During this time he wrote many articles and essays and had them published in various English and Bengali journals and he also gave many lectures in both English and Bengali. He studied many books written in English and also taught the art of fine speech to one well known orator who was a member of British Parliament. At this time, amidst the years 1857-1858 he composed a two part English epic entitled Poried, which he had a mind to complete in twelve books. These two books, written in very lucid, clear and melodious English verse, described the wanderings of Porus who met Alexander the Great in pre-Christ days.

The eldest son of Maharshi Devendranatha Thakura, Dvijendranatha, was Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s best friend at this time. With his assistance, Bhaktivinoda purused through all of the religious books of the West. Out of affection, Bhaktivinoda would address his noble-minded friend as baro dada or big brother.

As a result of his having studied all the different western schools of philosophy and many other systems of thought, the common people, unable to perceive his transcendental character, thought him to be a mere logician or rhetoritician. At this time Thakura Bhaktivinoda gave a lecture to the British – Indian Society concerning the evolution of matter through the material mode of goodness. He would show more respect to the school of Christian theology than to that of Hindu monotheism and he would spend long hours comparatively studying the books of Channing, Theodore Parker, Emerson and Newman.  

  

Bhaktivinoda in Orissa

 At the close of the year 1858 Bhaktivinoda journeyed from Calcutta to Ulagrama to visit with his mother. Upon arriving there he was very aggrieved to find the changed condition of that once wealthy and populous village which was the place of his birth. As the Mohammedan soothsayer had predicted the village had become deserted as it had been visited by an epidemic which had taken away most of its residents and its opulence and grandeur which had once been a common feature of that village but was now a mere thing of the past. After seeing this, Bhaktivinoda returned to Calcutta, bringing his mother and paternal grandmother with him. Shortly after returning to Calcutta he had to set out for Orissa to be with his paternal grandfather in his last days. Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s grandfather, Rajavallabha Datta, who was a very prominent personality in Calcutta, was living as an ascetic in the countryside of Orissa. He could predict the future and knew that his days in this world were soon coming to a close. Knowing this, he made a request to his beloved grandson to come to Orissa to be with him. At the beginning of 1859 when Bhaktivinoda was 21 years of age, his grandfather departed from this world. Bhaktivinoda was with him at this time and after receiving his grandfather’s last instructions he traveled to all the monasteries and temples in the state of Orissa.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda, having now finished his education, considered as to the means of his livelihood. Although the opportunity for earning good money within the business world was there, Bhaktivinoda Thakura refrained from such means of acquiring wealth after noticing the weakness of morality among the merchants and tradesmen of that time. Without at all thinking that a wicked life full of irreligiousness and falsehood would be dependable, he considered earning a living in an honest profession such as a school teacher to be the best thing for him. Upon deciding this he traveled to the village of Chutigrama. After staying there for a few days he obtained information of a country hamlet situated quite far from the general mass of people and he got an opportunity of seeing at that place what sort of oppression and power the big landlords forced upon the ignorant and innocent citizens living there. At this time in the village of Kendrapara, not too far from Chutigrama, Bhaktivinoda established a school for English education and thus took up the profession of a school teacher. In this way he became a pioneer in introducing English education in Orissa. After some time he came to Jagannatha Puri and there in Puri, passing a teachers examination, he got the position of a teacher in a school at Cuttack and gradually, working in the position of headmaster in a high school in Bhadraka and later in Madinipura, he drew the specific attention of the school board authorities.

While residing in Bhadraka, his first son, Annada Prasada (Acyutananda) was born. At this time in 1860 Thakura Bhaktivinoda wrote one book in English titled Maths of Orissa which gave a description of and report about all the various temples and Ashramas in the state of Orissa that he had traveled to. The well known British historian Sir William Hunter in his work “Orissa” has specifically praised Bhaktivinoda’s moral and religious character in connection with this book.

  

His Investigation and Examination of the Bhakti-shastras

 While staying in Medinipura as the headmaster of the high school there, Bhaktivinoda got the opportunity of examining various descriptions of different sectarian religious duties in spiritual discussion with the members of various religious communities. In the depraved and sinful so-called religious communities which were accustomed to the usage of intoxicants and animal slaughter, etc., there was no place for the mellows of pure devotion to God. This fact Bhaktivinoda had especially perceived from their cheap character and habits. He was also able to understand through research and investigation that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was the only one to truly preach the actual religion of bhakti in Bengal. At that tine in cultured society there was not any investigation into the area of pure devotional service to Godhead. Also at that time there was not an edition of Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, the most important book for understanding Sri Caitanya’s teachings to be found anywhere. Consequently, even through much research, Thakura Bhaktivinoda was unable to collect a copy of the book.

    

His Second Marriage and Acceptance of Government Service

 At this time Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s wife passed away and in the town of Jakapura he accepted in marriage a second wife whose name was Bhagyavati devi. In the year l86l, after having given up his work in the educational system, Thakura Bhaktivinoda accepted the post of a Deputy Magistrate under the government of Bengal. After some time, having noticed the corruptness of the peons, he gave up his post as a Deputy Magistrate and was offered the position of a Collectorate Officer. During this period he established an organization called the “Bhratr Samaja”. In l863 he wrote an English book called “Our Wants” and at this time he constructed a home in Rana Ghata. In this same year of 1863, during his stay in Burdwan, the Thakura composed two very novel poems in Bengali. One was entitled Vijanagrama (a deserted village) and the other poem was called Sannyasa. The style of these two poems was highly praised and admired by many big literary men of that time. An article concerning these two poems appeared in the Calcutta Review of 1863, vol. 39 and runs as follows: “We have glanced at this little volume of Bengali verse, which we have no hesitation in recommending as suitable especially for Hindu women. We do not expect that such will read the Calcutta Review, but many, we trust, of our readers will be interested in knowing what books may be safely recommended as good in style and unexceptionable in moral tone, and with that object we intend, if duly assisted, to take an occasional survey of the field of vernacular literature.

“The Vijanagrama, the first poem in this book, is an account of the desolation of the once populous village of Ula, near Rana Ghata, in consequence of the ravages of the late epidemic. It is pleasing in style, and evidently on model of Goldsmith; and we would rather see a Bengali using his English studies to purify and improve the style of vernacular verse than find him composing imitation English epics about Porus and Alexander,

“The Sannyasi in two chapters is an abler production, and reflects much credit on the author. Of the minor poems, the description of spring, and the translation from Carlyle are very fair specimens. We hope the author will continue to give his countrymen the benefit of his elegant and unassuming pen, which is quite free from those objectionable licenses of thought and expression which abound in many dramas recently published, the want of the day is the creation of a literature for Hindu ladies; and we trust that many more educated natives will have the good sense to devote their time and abilities to the attainment of this most desirable end.”

            The rhyme and style in which those two books were written showed a complete departure from the then existing mode of writing and they gave birth to a new way of writing poetry in the Bengali language.

  

In the Post of Deputy Magistrate

 In the year 1866 Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda was employed in the district of Chapara in the position of Deputy Register with the power of a Deputy Collector and Deputy Magistrate. At this time he became quite fluent in Persian and Urdu. At Chapara in Saran, Bhaktivinoda had to crush a clique formed against him by the tea planters for not having complied with their unjust requests. While at Saran he visited the Gautamashrama at Godana. This place attracted his attention as fit for the establishment of a school for teaching nyaya-shastra. With this object in mind, on returning to Chapara, he called a mass meeting where he delivered a speech on Gautama (The Gautama Speech, 1866) and gained the good wishes of the people of that place. Though subsequently he did not take any part himself in the movement of which he was truly speaking, his expectation was fulfilled sometime later with the public aid, and the foundation stone of the school was laid in 1883 by Sir Rivers Thompson, the then Lt. Governor of Bengal, after whom the school was named.

Also in this year of 1866, Thakura Bhaktivinoda prepared an Urdu translation of the Manual of the Registration Department (Balide Registry), of which was gladly accepted by the government and circulated throughout the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.

Gradually from Chapara Bhaktivinoda was transferred to Purniya at Krishnaganja and in the year 1868, taking responsibility of the government and judicial departments, he was transferred from Purniya to Dinajapur in West Bengal, where he was employed as the deputy magistrate. While the Thakura was residing in Dinajapur, he received from Calcutta a copy of the Caitanya-caritamrta and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

  

Bhaktivinoda as a Preacher of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Dharma

 Becoming attracted to the philosophy of Vaishnavism, Thakura Bhaktivinoda would read the Caitanya-caritamrta again and again and thus he became endowed with greater faith and respect for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In this way he applied his mind very intently to the examination and study of Vaishnava philosophy. In one place in his autobiography the Thakura has written “From this time my respect and reverence for Sri Caitanyadeva was born. That seed of faith for the Vaishnava-dharma which was implanted within my heart soon sprouted. Now I love to study the Sastras dealing with Krishna both day and night.” At this time with a pained heart he would incessantly submit his prayers to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna and on the strength of his pure devotion, having received the mercy of the Lord, he realized the supreme majesty and power of the one and only Absolute Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna.

At this time his song about the glories of Sri Caitanya, which was titled Saccidananda- premalankara, was published. In the year 1869 at the age of 31 while the Thakura was serving as deputy magistrate under the government of Bengal in Dinajapur, he delivered a speech in the form of a treatise he had written on the subject matter of Srimad-Bhagavatam to a big congregation of the public consisting of many prominent men of letters, religion and culture who had come from many parts of India as well as some from England.

 

 The Emancipation of a Ghost

   During this time he was transferred from Dinajapura to Camparana. At the time of going from Dinajapura to Camparana, his second son, Bimala Prasada took birth. While Bhaktivinoda was residing in Camparana he noticed many people worshiping a ghost who was living in a banyan tree. These dishonest people worshipped the ghost because he had the power to change the mind of the judge in the court to give the decision to favor the person who had worshiped him and the tree. Coming to know of this, Thakura Bhaktivinoda wanted to stop this nonsense mundane worship.

One day the father of Pandita Ramabai, a famous girl scholar, came to Bhaktivinoda for alms and the Thakura at that time engaged him in reading Srimad-Bhagavatam underneath the tree where the ghost resided. After one month when the Bhagavatam was completed, the tree crashed to the ground, and the brahma-daitya [ghost] left for good. After this incident, in the hearts of many people there, faith and attraction for the Bhagavatam became manifest.

From Camparana Bhaktivinoda was transferred to Jagannatha Puri. Upon arriving in Puri he merged into the ocean or transcendental happiness, his heart being overjoyed with the ecstasy of love of Godhead.

  

The Chastisement of the Mystic Bishakishena

             In the town of Kamanale, which is located near the capital of Orissa, there lived one powerful mystic yogi named Bishakishena. By mystic power he could perform many powerful supernatural feats. He used to sit erect in front of a burning fire and rock back and forth, leaning himself into the fire and then again sitting erect. He would also manifest fire from his head. He had two companions named Brahma and Siva, and he declared that he was God himself who had come down to earth in his form of Maha-Vishnu. All the small kings of Orissa bowed down before his feet and would regularly send him money to build himself a temple. They would also send him women for his rasa-lila dances. Bishakishena declared, “I will drive away the British administration and sit on the throne as King of Orissa myself.” He sent a circular to all places in Orissa and to Minapura. The British government thought that he was plotting a political revolution against the government so the District Governor under the national Government of Bengal sent out orders to arrest the offender. He had waged war against Queen Victoria, therefore he should be prosecuted and tried in open court. But who dared to prosecute? No one had the courage to touch him and take him to the court in Jagannatha Puri. The Orissa division then was under the charge of Mr. Ravenshaw, a District Commissioner from England. Mr. Ravenshaw knew and believed in the power of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, who was then the Deputy Magistrate at Puri. He especially requested and gave him charge of the prosecution of this bogus Maha-Vishu. On the other hand, Bhaktivinoda could not get a single man to go and touch him. They were all terrified of his heavenly powers, so the Thakura went personally to arrest him. Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted to find out what the nature of his power was. He knew that it was the power of the mundane world, so he was not in the least afraid. When Bhaktivinoda approached the yogi to arrest him, Bishakishena showed some of his supernatural power and said to Bhaktivinoda, “Ah, you are Kedaranatha Datta and you have come here to inquire about my activities, but I warn you not to disturb my activities for I am the Supreme Lord Himself!” Bhaktivinoda then replied, “My dear sir, you are a great yogi. Why are you living here, you should come with me to Jagannatha Puri where you can have the darshana of Lord Jagannatha.” To this Bishakishena angrily replied, “Why should I come to see Jagannatha? He is only a hunk of painted wood, whereas I am the Supreme Lord personally.” Bhaktivinoda became like burning fire and immediately physically arrested the rogue who had to submit to the mighty godly power of Bhaktivinoda.

            He brought Bishakishena to Puri and threw him into jail. Bhaktivinoda put three dozen Muslim constables and seventy-two police from Cuttack in charge of guarding his cell day and night. Bhaktivinoda then went to find the assumed Brahma and Shiva, but these two rascals denied their positions and said it was only done in agreement with the orders of Bishakishena. Later on they were also prosecuted by one Mr. Taylor who was the Sub-Division Officer at Kodar. Bishakishena was tried by Thakura Bhaktivinoda in his court at Puri. The trial continued for eighteen days and daily thousands of people would gather in the courtyard while the trial was going on and make loud demands for the release of Bishakishena. On the sixth day of the trial Bhaktivinoda’s second daughter, the seven year old Kadambini, became seriously ill, almost to the point of death. Many doctors attended Bhaktivinoda’s house all through the night and in the morning at about 8:00 she was well and playing in the yard. Bhaktivinoda could understand that this was an exhibition of the mundane mysticism of the demon Bishakishena upon his daughter to make him afraid of the yogi. Thakura Bhaktivinoda was undaunted and said, “Yes, let us all die, but this rascal must be punished.” That day Bishakishena expressed in the open court that he had showed his power and he would display much more power and Bhaktivinoda should be afraid of his power and should release him at once from jail

On the last day of the trial the Thakura fell very ill with a high fever and suffered as severely as his daughter did. For the whole night he was awake and in the morning, with great difficulty, he was carried to the courthouse. Upon beginning the trial he declared his final judgment that Bishakishena should be thrown in jail for eighteen months under strict imprisonment for political conspiracy. While Bishakishena was being removed from the court, Doctor Walter, the District Medical Officer jumped on Bishakishena from behind and with a large pair of scissors cut off all his long hair upon which Bishakishena’s power depended. Bishakishena had not taken food or a drop of water during the eighteen days of the trial so as soon as his hair was removed he fell to the ground like a dead man without any power in his body, not even enough to walk. He had to be taken on a stretcher to the jail. After three months he was moved to the central jail at Midnapura where he took poison and died in the year 1873. By this pastime Thakura Bhaktivinoda and the energy of Lord Caitanya proved that any earthly aggrandizement or power cannot stand before the godly divine power of a pure devotee of the Lord.

    

Bhaktivinoda as a Composer of Vaishnava Literature

             Between the years 1874 and 1893 Thakura Bhaktivinoda wrote several books in Sanskrit such as Sri Krishna-samhita, Tattva-sutra, and Tattva-viveka which was sometimes known as Sac-cid-anandaubhuti. He also wrote many books in Bengali such as his Kalyana-kalpataru and besides those, in the year 1874 he composed his famous Sanskrit work Datta-kaustubham. Much of his time was spent in seclusion chanting the Holy Name of Krishna with great faith and love.

            Always anxious to use every moment in loving service of Krishna, he followed a strict austere daily schedule:

8-10 P.M.  Rest (two hours)

10-4 A.M. Write

4-4:30 A.M. Rest

4:30-7 A.M. Chant Japa

7-7:30       Correspondence

7:30-9:30     Study sastras

9:30-10       Bath, prasadam (half-liter milk, fruit, 2 chapatis)

10-1 P.M.    Court Duties

1-2 P.M.     Refresh at home

2-5 P.M     Court Duties

  

Establishing the Bhagavata-samsat

             During this time while the Thakura was living in Puri he arranged for the discussion and study of topics dealing with Krishna by establishing a society of devotees known as the Bhagavata-samsat in the Jagannatha-vallabha gardens. These gardens were formerly the place of bhajana [singing of devotional songs for meditation on the Lord] for the great soul Ramananda Raya. At this time in Puri within that society, many great Vaishnavas had assembled. Only the Vaishnava named Ragunatha dasa Babaji, who was well known as Siddha Purusha, had not joined.

  

Lord Jagannatha’s Order in a Dream to Raghunatha dasa Babaji

 Due to lack of acquaintance with the Bhagavata-samasat and because Thakura Bhaktivinoda at that time did not wear the twelve Vaishnava tilaka markings or Tulasi beads on his neck, Raghunatha dasa Babaji would not come to the meetings of this Vaishnava society. Besides all this, he requested all the Vaishnavas to refrain from conversing with Bhaktivinoda about Krishna. He did not consider Bhaktivinoda to be a trained devotee. Within a few days this Raghunatha dasa Babaji became afflicted with a deathly illness. One night in a dream Lord Jagannatha appeared to Raghunatha dasa and told him to go and pray for the mercy of Bhaktivinoda Thakura if he at all wanted release from his certain death. Upon awakening the Babaji went to Bhaktivinoda and falling at his feet begged for the Thakura’s forgiveness for all his offenses. Bhaktivinoda then relieved him of his disease with some special medicines and relieved him of his spiritual disease by bestowing his blessings. Ever since that time Raghunatha dasa was able to perceive the true Vaishnava qualities of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. This shows that a Vaishnava cannot be recognized by mere outward dress or markings, nor do such always indicate someone as a pure Vaishnava. The purity is in the content of one’s character. 

  

Sri Svarupa Dasa Babaji

 In Jagannatha Puri there lived one babaji named Svarupa dasa. He would perform his bhajana at the place called Satasana, which was located along the ocean-side. Svarupa dasa Babaji with all his heart would show great affection for Bhaktivinoda and he incessantly gave him instructions on the bhajana of the Holy Name.

  

The Story of Carana dasa Babaji

 Carana dasa Babaji was printing bogus books and preaching among the common people of Bengal doctrines which were not in accordance with the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He preached that one should chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra in japa [personal chanting meditation] and nitai gaura radhe syama Hare Krishna Hare Rama in kirtana [congregational chanting in song]. In this way he murdered the mahamantra. It took a very long time for Bhaktivinoda Thakura to bring Carana dasa Babaji to his senses. When that Carana dasa finally came to understand his own mistake he fell at the lotus feet of Thakura Bhaktivinoda and said, “How could it be possible for me to rectify all the wrongs I have done. I have gone to every village in Bengal and have gotten entire villages to chant this nonsense mantra. I feel there is no hope for me.” Six months later he became crazy and mad and finally died in great distress.

  

The Establishment of the ‘Bhakti-mandapa’ in the Jagannatha Temple

 Lord Jagannatha had brought the Thakura to Puri, attracting him on the pretext of government work, just to accept the loving service of this worthy servant. His stay in Jagannatha Puri became transformed into service to the Lord by accepting the post of manager of the Jagannatha Temple. He became a strong faction of the government for removing the malpractices and the want of regularity in the deity worship of the Jagannatha Temple. The Thakura’s heart being very much attracted to the divine lila [pastimes] of Lord Jagannatha, he became very devoted to His service.

In the courtyard of the Jagannatha Temple, where the footprints of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are preserved, Thakura Bhaktivinoda established the ‘Bhakti-mandapa’ and at that place he arranged for daily discourses on Srimad-Bhagavatam to take place.

At various celebrated Gaudiya Vaishnava tirthas, specifically at places like the Tota Gopinatha Temple, the samadhi tomb of Haridasa Thakura, the Sidddha Bakula tree and the Gambhira [where Sri Caitanya lived in Puri], Bhaktivinoda would spend long hours absorbed in discussing Krishna-katha [talks of Krishna] and chanting the Holy Names of the Lord. During his stay at Puri Bhaktivinoda devoted much of his time to discussion of religious works and he prepared notes on the Vedanta-sutras, the use of which was made by Sri Syamalala Gosvami in the edition which he published with the Govinda Bhasya of Baladeva Vidyabhushana.

  

The Appearance of an Acharya

             In a large house adjacent the Narayana Chata Matha near the famous Jagannatha-vallabha Gardens in Jagannatha Puri on the fifth day of the dark fortnight of Magha [January-February] in the year 1874, the fourth son of Bhaktivinoda took birth. The Thakura named him Bimala Prasada and later on he would be known as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the powerful acharya of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya and the founder of the Gaudiya Matha. Two years previous to his birth the third son of Bhaktivinoda, Kamala Prasada, took his birth.

  

The Story of the King of Puri

 In l874 eighty-thousand rupees from the Jagannatha Temple had been misappropriated by the Raja of Puri for his own enjoyment. Thakura Bhaktivinoda found out about this nonsense and forced the Raja to give Lord Jagannatha bhoga prasada fifty-two times a day. Because of this the Raja’s money was soon diminished to nothing and he was extremely angry at this action that Bhaktivinoda took on him. He wanted to kill the Thakura but he saw that it was not possible to kill him by ordinary means. Intent on killing Bhaktivinoda somehow, the Raja then began to perform of fire yajna [ritual] with fifty learned panditas. The yajna was being performed in the inner compartments of his palace so that the public did not find out about this attempt on the life of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Still, everyday information was coming to Bhaktivinoda about the measures that the Raja was taking to kill him. After thirty days of yajnas, when the last oblation of ghee was being poured on the fire, Thakura Bhaktivinoda was to have died at that moment, but instead the Raja’s dear and only son died within the palace when the last oblation had been offered.

  

Bhaktivinoda Returns to Bengal

 Taking leave from Jagannatha Puri on special business, Thakura Bhaktivinoda returned to Bengal and there visited many places such as Navadvipa, Shantipura and Kalana. After his leave was over he put in charge of the sub-division Mahisharekha in the district of Naora. After that he was transferred to Bhadraka. In August of 1878 the Thakura was put in charge of the subdivision of Naraila in the district of Yashohar. 

  

Sri Krishna-samhita and Kalyana-kalpataru

 While the Thakura was residing in Naraila his two famous books, Sri Krishna-samhita and Kalyana-kalpataru were published. Bhaktivinoda’s Sri Krishna-samhita is such a profound and deeply moving work that it even attracted the attention of highly educated men of far-off lands. The famous European Sanskrit scholar Dr. Reinhold Rost, in a letter dated April l6, 1880, wrote to Thakura Bhaktivinoda the following; “By representing Krishna’s character and his worship in a more sublime and transcendental light than has hitherto been the custom to regard him in, you have rendered an essential service to your co-religionists, and no one would have taken more delight in your work than Goldstucker, the sincerest and most zealous advocate the Hindus ever had in Europe.”

In India many panditas and educated men, having read Bhaktivinoda’s Sri Krishna-samhita and Kalyana-kalpataru, became endowed with great faith for the Vaishnava-dharma and highly praised the Thakura for his work. The lines of Kalyana-kalpataru are extremely moving and decorated with the devotional ecstasies for a highly exalted soul who is absorbed in alloyed devotion to God.

In the year 1877 Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s fifth son, Varada Prasada, took birth. In 1878 the Thakura’s sixth son, Viraja Prasada, was born. Both of them appeared at Rana Ghata.

  

Acceptance of Pancharatrika Initiation

 Although Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is an eternally liberated associate of the Supreme Lord, still, for setting an ideal example of a human being, he accepted formal Vaishnava initiation.

According to the Vedic shastras one who has come to the human form of life must accept initiation from a bonafide guru spiritual master if one at all desires to cross the ocean of birth and death. By taking Vaishnava initiation from the acharya and executing his instructions one’s eternal spiritual consciousness is easily revived.

Taking the ideal example of Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, the great servant of Lord Gaurasundara, Bhaktivinoda Thakura formally accepted Pancharatrika initiation from a descendant of the Jahnava family of Baghnapara. This Vaishnava family line is coming from Srimati Jahnava devi, the wife of Lord Nityananda.

At this time the Thakura’s seventh son, Lalita Prasada, took his birth at Rana Ghata.

In Naraila there were many people who had adopted the Vaishnava dharma and at this time when Bhaktivinoda was living there they would seek his association quite frequently. They could not ascertain who was a pure Vaishnava and who was not. So the Thakura would instruct them on the chanting of the Holy Name and he gave them the understanding of what was pure devotion and what was mixed devotion.

From the year 1881 the Thakura began publishing his Vaishnava journal, the Sajjanatosani which proclaimed the divine teachings of Sri Caitanya to all parts of Bengal. 

  

Pilgrimage to Vraja Mandala and the Checking of the Nanjhara Bandits

 Previously in 1866 Bhaktivinoda had gotten out for a pilgrimage to Kashi, Prayaga, Mathura and Vrindavana. So now at the close of his stay at Naraila he desired to again see the land of Vraja Bhumi Vrindavana. Desiring in this way he set out on a three-month pilgrimage to the holy place. In Vrindavana at this time there were many Gaudiya Vaishnavas residing there, amongst whom Jagannatha dasa Babaji was most prominent. He lived in his old age, six months in Vrindavana and six months in Navadvipa. When Thakura Bhaktivinoda went to Vrindavana he obtained his first meeting with this greatly learned Vaishnava who he accepted as his eternally worshipable gurudeva.

While traveling to various holy spots in the Vraja area such as Radha Kunda and Govardhana, Bhaktivinoda came to know of the oppressive and wicked acts of a band of dacoits known as the Manjharas. These wicked men would spread all over the roads of the Vraja area and would rob and murder innocent pilgrims to gain their own selfish ends. Through the Thakura’s undaunted will and untiring labor for several months the whole fact was brought to the notice of the Government and a special Commissioner was appointed to crush the activities of these powerful bandits. The result was wonderful and the name of the Manjharas has forever been extirpated from the face of the earth. By this noble act Bhaktivinoda Thakura protected all of the residents of Vraja Dhama from further disturbances.

  

The Establishing of Bhakti-bhavana in Calcutta

 From Vraja Mandala Thakura Bhaktivinoda came to Calcutta where he purchased a house near Bidana Park at 181 Maniktala Street (the present day name is Ramesa Datta Street). He called this house ‘Bhakti-bhavana’ and it was here that he established the daily worship of Sri Giridhariji. At the end of his leave from government service he was again transferred and this time he took charge of the sub-division of Barasat.

 

 The Story of Bankima Chandra

             At this time when Bhaktivinoda was staying at Barasat he met the well-known Bengali novelist Bankima Chandra, who at that time had just finished writing a book about Krishna. Bankima Chandra wanted to take this opportunity to show his work to Bhativinoda Thakura, who he knew was an authority on all subjects dealing with Krishna as well as an expert writer. This book was full of Europeanized ideas and speculations and stated that Krishna was just a mundane person with some good qualities. For four straight days, taking very little food and hardly any sleep, Bhaktivinoda put forth arguments with shastric references, and in this way solidly proved and convinced Bankima Chandra to change his ideas and his book to agree with the divine teachings of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thakura Bhaktivinoda use to say, “Knowledge is power”.

 

 Bhaktivinoda Publishes the Gita with Visvanatha Cakravartis Tika

             In 1886, the last year of his stay at Barasat, the Thakura, at the request of Babu Sarada Carana Mitra, ex-judge of the Calcutta High Court, undertook the task of publishing a good edition of the Srimad-Bhagavad-gita with the Sanskrit commentary of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and his own Bengali translation called Rasika-ranjana. When published, this work was received by the public with the greatest delight and all the copies were soon exhausted. Bankima Chandra wrote the preface to this edition and acknowledged his own indebtedness to Bhaktivinoda with the remark that all Bengali readers will be very much indebted to the Thakura for his saintly work.

  

More Literary Productions

             From Barasat Bhaktivinoda was transferred to Sriramapura. While residing here Thakura Bhaktivinoda visited the residence of the great associate of Lord Nityananda, Srila Uddharana Datta Thakura at Saptagrama. He also visited the place of Abhirama Thakura at Khanakula and the seat of another great devotee of Lord Caitanyadeva, Vasu Ramananda at Kulinagrama.

            Here at Sriramapura he composed and published his masterly writing of Sri Caitanya-sikshamrita, Vaishnava-siddhanta-mala, Prema-pradipa and Manah-shiksha, etc. During this time he was also publishing the Sajjanato on a regular basis. In Calcutta during this period, the Thakura established a printing press at Bhakti-bhavana which he called ‘Sri Caintanya Yantra’. This he established for the preaching of pure Hari bhakti by publishing Vaishnava literature. On that press Bhaktivinoda printed many books such as the famous Sri Krishna-vijaya by Maladhara, his own Amnaya-sutra and the Caitanyopanishad of the Atharva Veda.

            In Bengal this Caitanyopanishad was very rare and hardly anyone had ever heard of it. In search of this book, Thakura Bhaktivinoda traveled to many places in Bengal. Hearing of his search, one devoted Vaishnava pandita named Madhusudana dasa, who had in his possession one old manuscript of the book, immediately sent it to the Thakura from his place at Sambalapura. By the request of the Vaishnava community, the Thakura wrote a Sanskrit commentary on the book and called it Sri Caitanya-caranamrita. Madhusudana dasa Mahasaya also did a Bengali translation of the verses of Caitanyopanishad and called the translation Amrita-bindu. After Bhaktivinoda brought out the first printing of Caitanyopanishad, the copies were soon exhausted.

            With the encouragement of a few devotees, Thakura Bhaktivinoda, in the heart of Calcutta, established a society which he named Sri Visva Vaishnava Sabha. This society was set up for the preaching of the pure religion of bhakti as taught by Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. To acquaint the public with the functions and aims of the society, the Thakura published a small booklet entitled Visva-vaishnava-kalpatavi. During this period the Thakura brought out an edition of the Caitanya-caritamrita with his own Bengali commentary, called Amrta-pravaha Bhasya. At this same time he also introduced the Caitanyabda or the Caitanya era by which one calculates the year date beginning from the appearance of Lord Caitanya just as in the Christian world the year date is calculated from the birth of Jesus Christ. Thakura Bhaktivinoda also gave much assistance in the propagating of the Vaishnava almanac known as Caitanya Panjika. The appearance day celebration of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the principle fast day in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya and is now observed with great respect. This was made possible by the Thakura’s sincere efforts in the matter during this time in Calcutta.

            Giving lectures and readings on books like Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu is various Vaishnava societies, Thakura Bhaktivinoda gave the chance for the seed of pure devotion to grow in many people’s hearts. He published in the Hindu Herald, an English periodical, a detailed account of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s life. At this time the learned society of Vaishnavas gave Kedaranatha Datta the title of ‘Bhaktivinoda Thakura’ and from that time onward he has been known by that name.

  

The Revelation in a Dream to Bhaktivinoda Thakura

For the Discovery of Sri Caitanya’s Birth Site

              In the year 1887 Thakura Bhaktivinoda thought within himself, “Quickly taking leave from government service I will go to some forest in Vraja on the sandy banks of the Yamuna and perform bhajans with Bhaktibhringa Mahashaya till the end of life.” In this way the Thakura continuously reflected within himself this desire.

            One time on some government service he went to the town of Tarakeshvara. There in Tarakeshvara one night Bhaktivinoda had a dream in which the Supreme Lord in his form as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared to him and spoke. The Lord said to Bhaktivinoda, “You will certainly go to Vrindavana, but first there is some service you must perform in Navadvipa, so what will you do about that?” Upon saying this, the Lord disappeared and the Thakura awoke. Bhaktibhringa Mahasaya, upon being told of the dream by Bhaktivinoda, advised the Thakura to apply for a government transfer to the district heardquarters at Krishnanagara, which was right near Navadvipa. The Thakura made great endeavors to get a transfer to the land of Lord Caitanya and to gain this end he even declined to accept the offers of the personal assistant to the Chief Commissioner of Assam and the office of the Minister of Tiperrah State. He even applied to the government for pension with a view to retire from government service, but the application was not accepted. Thus failing in his efforts to be relieved of his official duties, he at last arranged in December of 1887 a mutual exchange with the Deputy Magistrate of Krishnanagara, Babu Radha Madhava Vasu and thus went to Krishnanagara to execute his mission given to him by the Lord.

 

 The Discovery of Sridhama Mayapura

 While stationed at Krishnanagara Thakura Bhaktivinoda would go again and again to the present day city of Navadvipa and search in various places for the birth site of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

One time, in the dead of night, Bhaktivinoda sat on the roof of the Rani Dharmashala in Navadvipa chanting the Holy Name on his beads and as he looked out toward the north he spotted a very tall Tala tree with some very strange substance attached to it. Near the tree was a small building which gave off a remarkable effulgence. Seeing this vision, the Thakura became extremely eager to find the true place of Mahaprabhu’s appearance. With this in mind he went to the Krishnanagara Collectory where he began to study some very old manuscripts of Caitanya-bhagavata and Narahari Sarakara Thakura’s Navadvipa Dhama Parikrama as well as some old maps of the district of Nadia. Going to the nearby village and inquiring from many of the elderly people there, Bhaktivinoda came to know of many facts about the modern-day town of Navadvipa and the old Navadvipa on the eastern banks of the Bhagirathi River. After this, through much research and endeavor, Thakura Bhaktivinoda was able to understand that the place he had seen that night on the roof of the dharmashala was the actual site of Sri Caitanya’s birth. The year was 1887 and this discovery was a shining landmark in the history of Vaishnavism in India. Thakura Bhaktivinoda had brought to light the divine place of Caitanya’s birth and his discovery was confirmed by Jagannatha dasa Babaji, the then religious head of the Gaudiya Vaishnava community in Nadia. On that eventful day thousands of visitors were present at the spot where a grand Vaishnava festival was held. Jagannatha dasa Babaji was so old at the time that he had to be brought there carried in a basket. He could not walk but once he came in contact with the spiritual atmosphere at Sri Caitanya’s birthplace, he literally jumped in the air in ecstasy, confirming the significance of the location. The result of this discovery was the production of a book by Bhaktivinoda entitled Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya.

  

The Sweeper of Nama Hatta

 Earlier in 1887 when Thakura Bhaktivinoda first came to Nadia as magistrate, he again met Jagannatha dasa Babaji who was then living in a very old house at Ravasghata. Bhaktivinoda renewed the house and repaired it using his own money. When he took leave from office for two years, he acquired a plot of land at Sri Godrumadvipa, commonly known as Svarupaganja. On that land he built a house for performing his bhajana after retirement from government service. He called the place ‘Surabhi Kunja’ and in the year 1890 he established at that place the ‘Nama Hatta’ (market place of the Holy Name) for preaching the glories of Harinama for the welfare of all. Jagannatha dasa Babaji sometimes came to stay there and have kirtana. Previously Lord Nityananda had established His Nama Hatta at this same place in Godruma. Therefore, out of humbleness, the Thakura always considered himself a mere street sweeper of the Nama Hatta of Lord Nityananda.

After the discovery of Mahaprabhu’s birth place at Mayapura, Jagannatha dasa Babaji and Thakura Bhaktivinoda began worshiping Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu there. Once one of the Thakura’s young sons was suffering from a skin disease and Jagannatha dasa Babaji told the boy to lie down at the birth site of Lord Caitanya. The boy followed his instructions and the next day he was cured.

As he was not keeping good health at Krishnanagara, Bhaktivinoda requested the government to transfer him to a good healthy station. Thus in the winter of 1888 he took charge of the village of Netrakona in the district of Mayamanasimha. From Netrakona he came to Tangaila and from there he was transferred to the district of Vardhamana.

 

 In the District of Vardhamana

 At the time when Bhaktivinoda was staying in Vardhamana he would have kirtana with the devotees of Amalajora headed by Ksetra Babu and Vipina Babu. After composing his kirtana poems like Soka-satana, he would have them sing the poems in their kirtans.

In June of l890, having been put in charge of the sub-division of Kalana, Bhaktivinoda would often go visiting many various holy places in Bengal such as his place in Godrumadvipa, the city of Navadvipa, Capahata, Samudragara, Cupi, Kasthasali, Idrakapura, Baghanapara, the place of Nakula Brahmacari at Piyariganja and the place of Vrindavana dasa Thakura at Denura. After his stay at Vardhamana, Bhaktivinoda was transferred for a few days to Ranaganja from where he again came to Dinajapura.

  

In Dinajapura

 In Dinajapura Bhaktivinoda’s youngest son, Sailaja Prasada, was born. When Bhaktivinoda was stationed in Dinajapura he took up writing his Vidvad-ranjana commentary and translation of the Bhagavad-gita and in 1891 he published it along with the Sanskrit commentary of

Srila Baladeva Vidyabushana.

  

Preaching of the Holy Name

 In 1891 Thakura Bhaktivinoda took leave from government duties for two years with the aim of preaching Harinama [the chanting of the Lord’s Holy Names, such as Hare Krishna] for the benefit of all souls. During that time he made his base of activities for Nama Hatta in Sri Godrumadvipa. He visited places such as Ghatala and Ramajivanapur and in those places he lectured in many different societies, clubs and organizations. With great enthusiasm he continued his word for the Nama Hatta by lecturing on the Holy Name and the teachings of Sri Caitanya in many highly respectable societies in Krishnanagara. In March of 1892 the Thakura, accompanied by several other Vaishnavas preached the Holy Name in different places in the Basirahata district of Bengal. As, on the one hand, he was busy with his pen, so on the other he was equally engaged in preaching Harinama and Vaishnava philosophy by making circuits of several districts. He opened many branches of Nama Hatta in different districts of Bengal to preach Harinama regularly, and the names of God rang loudly everywhere in the ears of the people. It was a grand project and it proved a great success, for the tide continued for many years, even long after the period when the Thakura was called back by the government to perform his responsible public duties and when he could himself devote little attention to his own mission, in spite of his strong desire to do so.

From the district of Rasirahata, Thakura Bhaktivinoda set out on his third trip to Vrindavana and along the way he stopped in Amalajora to celebrate the Ekadashi day with Jagannatha dasa Babaji. Upon reaching Vraja Mandala, Thakura Bhaktivinoda, in great ecstasy, visited all the forests and places of Lord Krishna’s pastimes, such as Bilvavana, Bhandiravana, Manasa-sarovara, Gokula, Madhuvana, Talavana, Kumudavana, Shantanu Kunda, Bahulavana, Giriraja Govardhana, Radha Kunda and Syama Kund, etc. From Vrindavana Bhaktivinoda returned to his Bhakti-bhavana in Calcutta and from there he began to give lectures and readings on the Holy Name of Krishna in various places.

In April of 1893, at the request of Sir Henry Cotton, the then Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal, Bhaktivinoda rejoined the office at Sasarama where he had to tide over a political difficulty, which then appeared in the province, in quelling disturbances which arose out of animosity between the Hindus and Muslims for the killing of cows by the latter. He had to try that case under difficult circumstances but finally he obtained thanks from the Lieutenant Governor and was reposted to Krishnanagara during the winter of that year.

  

Establishing the Deities of Gaura and Vishnu Priya at the Yogapitha

 In February of 1891 during Thakur Bhaktivinoda’s leave from official duties, he was invited to speak in Krishnanagara before a large congregation of highly learned men from various places in Bengal. He gave a lecture concerning his investigation and research into the actual site of Sri Caitanya’s birth place at Sri Mayapura. After hearing his discourse they all became extremely delighted and unanimously applauded the Thakura for his noble work. Out of that assembly the Sri Navadvipa Dhama Pracarini Sabha was formed for spreading the glories of Navadvipa Dhama and Sridhama Mayapura. Later on that year, on the full moon appearance day of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a large sankirtana festival was held in which the deities of Lord Caitanya and Vishnu Priya [Sri Caitanya’s wife] were installed at Mahaprabhu’s birth site. The installation was held with great pomp and splendor and thousands of Vaishnavas attended from all parts of India. At this time all the learned panditas of the Navadvipa area, considering all of Bhaktivinoda’s evidence, accepted beyond a doubt that this was the true place of Sri Caitanya’s appearance.

 

 At Surabhi Kunj in Godruma

  In October of 1894, at the age of fifty-six, Thakura Bhaktivinoda, against the wishes of his family and the government authorities, retired from his post as Deputy Magistrate. He felt it was too much of an inconvenience on his work of preaching the Holy Name and the glories of Sridhama Mayapura. After his retirement, he came to stay at Surabhi Kunj in Godruma from where he engaged himself in preaching the divine philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. At this time he revised his old writings and gave to our hands the highest form of ideas that a man can have of the knowledge of the Supreme Being. He devoted himself to Harinam without any break, avoiding the influence of materialism and the hypnotism of Maya. He was living at Navadvipa and sometimes in Calcutta writing his books. While in Calcutta he went from door to door determined to beg a rupee from each and every Hindu gentleman for the noble purpose of building a temple for Lord Gaura and Vishnu Priya at the Yogapitha in Mayapura. His efforts were a success and he then arranged for the construction of a magnificent temple at the birth site of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

  

Preaching the Holy Name in Tripura

 In July of 1896 Bhaktivinoda traveled to the mountainous state of Tripura by the strong desire of the king of that state who was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Bhaktivinoda stayed in the capital of Tripura for four days and preached the glories of the Holy Name to the people there. On the first day he lectured on the eternal principle of bhakti and the true spiritual form of the Holy Name of Krishna. His lecture was full of deep philosophical thoughts and innumerable and unheard of before Vedic evidence supporting all his points. Upon hearing this lecture all the panditas and highly learned gentlemen present were stunned with amazement and they could now easily perceive the transcendental beauty of Hari-bhakti and the Harinama. On the next two days there the royal family and the general public obtained great ecstasy by hearing the Thakura speak on the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

  

Sri Caitanya’s Teachings Reach the West

 Returning from Tripura to his Nama Hatta work in Godruma, Bhaktivinoda Thakura began to execute his preaching work by going to all the villages in the vicinity of Calcutta and Kumara Hatta chanting the Holy Names. At this time in 1896, in a pioneering spirit, he sent the teachings of Sri Caitanya beyond the tiny borders of India and to the West in the form of a small booklet he had written in Sanskrit called Sri Gauranga-lila-smarana-mangala-stotram. It had a Sanskrit commentary by a renowned pandita of Nadia, Srila Sitikantha Vacaspati, and for English knowing people the book contained an introduction in English called Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts. This booklet found its way into the library of McGill College in Canada, the library of Royal Asiatic Society of London, and a few other highly respectable institutions. The following remarks appeared in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of London: “Under the title of Sri Gauranga-lila-smarana-mangala-stotram, the well-known Vaishnava Sri Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda, M.R.A.S. has published a poem in Sanskrit on the life and teachings of Caitanya. It is accompanied with a commentary, also in Sanskrit, in which the subject further elucidated is preceded by an introduction of sixty-three pages in English in which the doctrines taught by Caitanya are set out in somewhat full detail. This position, and more especially as against Shanka and the Advaita Vedantists, is explained at length. The little volume will aid our knowledge of this remarkable reformer and we express our thanks to Bhaktivinoda for giving it to us in English and Sanskrit rather than in Bengali, in which language it must necessarily have remained a closed book to European students of the religious life in India.”

The Thakura’s Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts, though in itself a small work, continued to be admired by the western thinkers and writers. This is evident from the following comments made by the erudite European scholar Mr. R. W. Fraser, late of the Madras Civil Service.

“Five hundred years have passed away since the time Caitanya spread a faith in the saving grace of Krishna throughout the land, nevertheless to the present day, the same spirit that inspired Caitanya continues still to dwell among his followers.

“In an interesting account of the life and precepts of Caitanya lately published by his devout and aged follower, Sri Kedarnatha Datta Bhaktivinoda, it can be read how this spirit preserves its vitality undiminished amid the changes that are sweeping over the land. This exponent of the hopes of the present followers of the teachings of Caitanya declares his firm faith, that from a devoted love to Krishna, a love like that of a girl for a loved one, shown by constant repetition of His name, by ecstatic raptures, singing, calm contemplation and fervour, a movement will yet take place to draw to the future church of the world ‘all classes of men, without distinction of caste or clan to the highest cultivation of the spirit. This church it appears, will extend all over the world, and take the place of all sectarian churches which exclude outsiders from the precincts of the mosque, church or temple.

“The spirit that is to animate this new church is to be found on the principle that ‘spiritual cultivation is the main object of life. Do everything that keeps it and abstain from doing anything which thwarts the cultivation of the spirit.’ A devoted love to Krishna is to be the guiding light, as preached by Caitanya. Have a strong faith that Krishna alone protects and none else. Admit him as your only guardian. Do everything which you know Krishna wishes you to do and never think that you do a thing independent of the holy wish of Krishna. Do all you do with humility. Always remember that you are a sojourner in the world, and you must be prepared for your own home.’”

“The simple piety of this latest preacher of the teachings of Caitanya holds that Caitanya showed His character, and preached to the world the purest morality as an accompaniment of spiritual improvement. Morality as a matter of course will grace the character of a bhakta or one who has faith.” 

During the rainy season of 1896, because of the wish of the Maharaja of Tripura, Thakura Bhaktivinoda spent some days preaching in Darjiling and Karsiyam.

In 1897 the Thakura traveled and preached in many villages and towns such as Medinapura and Sauri. In this way, by spreading Sri Caitanya’s message, Thakura Bhaktivinoda was delivering the people of Bengal from the darkness of materialism and atheistic philosophies.

  

Sisira Kumara Ghosa Obtains the Mercy of Thakura Bhaktivinoda

 Mahatma Sisira Kumara Ghosa, founder of the Amrita Bazaar Patrika and author of Sri Amiya Nimai-carita, had a great respect and reverence for Thakura Bhaktivinoda and regarded him as a true Vaishnava mahajana. Having read some of the Thakura’s books such as Sri Krishna-samhita, he became very attracted to the pure devotional mood of Bhaktivinoda. Because of a letter he had received from Bhaktivinoda while the Thakura was living in Puri and because of getting the opportunity of Bhaktivinoda’s personal association, Sisira Kumara Ghosa came to accept Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as his one and only Lord. Inspired by Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Sisira Kumara Ghosa, in great eagerness, would preach the glories of the Holy Name throughout Calcutta and in many villages throughout Bengal. His journal, Sri Vishnu Priya O Ananda Basar Patrika, was first published under the editorship of Bhaktivinoda. Sisira Kumara Ghosa had such a high regard for Bhaktivinoda that he wrote in one of his letters to the Thakura: “I have not seen the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana but I consider you to be the seventh Gosvami.”

  

Constructing the Bhakti Kuti at Puri

 At the beginning of the twentieth century Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura returned to Jagannatha Puri. When his son, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, was residing at Puri as a naisthika brahmacari [completely celibate brahmana] and was engaged in his bhajana at the Gandharvika Giridhari Math, one of the seven mathas near the samadhi tomb of Haridasa Thakura, Bhaktivinoda, for helping his son’s worship, had this monastery repaired and cleaned. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati left Puri to reside at Sri Navadvipa Mayapura, Bhaktivinoda gave up all connection with the Gandharvika Giridhari Matha and constructed his own place of bhajana on the sea beach there. He called this place Bhakti Kuti. At this time the Lord sent the Thakura a nice assistant and disciple in the form of Sri Krishnadasa Baba. He became very dear to Bhaktivinoda Thakura and was the Thakura’s constant attendant right up till the last moment of Bhaktivinoda’s life. Manifesting at Puri, his place of bhajan at Navadvipa, Svananda Sukhada Kunja, the Thakura would perform his bhajana in solitude. At this time many impious men tried to disturb him, but happily their efforts proved futile. Many good souls got spiritual inspirations from him and were saved. Men of all description visited him there, but none went away without receiving the Thakura’s blessings.

  

Sir William Duke

 In the year 1908 just three months before Thakura Bhaktivinoda took sannyasa, one of his sons, who at that time was working at the writer’s building in Calcutta, came home one day and informed his father that Sir William duke, who was the Chief Secretary to the governor, was in Calcutta. Thakura Bhaktivinoda had worked under this gentleman when he was a magistrate. The next day Bhaktivinoda made an appointment with him and went down to the writer’s building to see him. Just outside the building Sir William Duke met Thakura Bhaktivinoda personally and taking him into his office with folded hands, he made a plea to the Thakura: “My dear Kedaranatha, when you were District Magistrate I wanted to take you out of the office. I thought that if there were many men as qualified as yourself in Bengal, then the English would have to leave.” Sir William Duke used to read the judgments that Thakura Bhaktivinoda would make on his court cases and he always became amazed. He would also come to the house of Thakura Bhaktivinoda and study his actions. He saw that he was always writing. At that time he was writing the Caitanya-siksamrita. Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s wife, Bhagyavati, would feed Sir William Duke with puris, luchi and sweets every time he came to their house. William Duke was always so amazed at how Bhaktivinoda was so active.

In this way Sir William Duke admitted that he wanted to do some harm to Bhaktivinoda without letting the Thakura know, but now he was begging for the Thakura’s forgiveness. The English custom is that when a man becomes aged he would approach anyone who he had committed some offense to beg their pardon so that when he died he could pass away very peacefully. After Thakura Bhaktivinoda heard this apology he said, “I consider you to be a good friend and well-wisher all along.” The Thakura admitted later that he was astonished that this man was seeking the opportunity to harm him. Because of Sir William Duke’s noble and honest conduct Thakura Bhaktivinoda became very much pleased with him and gave William Duke all his blessings.

  

Accepting the Dress of a Paramahamsa Sannyasa

 In 1908 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura formally accepted the dress of a paramahamsa by taking sannyasa at the place in Jagannatha Puri known called Satasana. At this time he was still writing some books and staying sometimes in Navadvipa and sometimes in Calcutta.

In the year 1910, for being constantly engaged in the service of the Divine Couple of Vraja Dhama [Sri Sri Radha-Krishna], the Thakura shut himself up, pretending to be afflicted with paralysis, and entered into a perfect state of samadhi. These days were very happy for him as he could thus shun the turmoil and bustle which are the concomitant parts of worldly existence.

  

His Disappearance and Entrance into the Eternal Pastimes of the Lord

On the day of the commencement of the sun’s southern course, June 23, 1914, corresponding to the disappearance of Sri Gadadhara Pandita, just before noon in Jagannatha Puri, the dearly beloved of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura, having satisfied himself that his mission bore at least some good to the world, departed from this mundane plane for his eternal services to Radha and Krishna in the divine realm of Sri Vrindavana Dhama located far beyond the tiny vision of the conditioned souls of this world.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s samadhi ceremony was delayed till the sun began its northern course. At that time his last remains were placed at his home in Godruma in the midst of sankirtana of the Holy Name. It was a pleasant clear day and a grand Vaishnava festival was held with the greatest solemnity in which thousands took part and the Thakura’s divine presence amidst them was perceived by all.

  

The Divine Character of Bhaktivinoda Thakura

 By studying the character, life and literary works of a great Vaishnava acharya, one can derive deep understanding of how to lead one’s life in such a way that devotion to God becomes manifest in the heart. Although in the beginning of Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s life he seemed to display the activities of an ordinary mortal man, one should not wrongly think him to be so, for he is the dearly beloved associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna and it was by the Lord’s divine wish that he appeared on this mundane plane of existence, for the spiritual reformation of fallen humanity of the nineteenth century was in a miserable plight. There were so many off-shoots from the main stem of religion, each sect preaching its own philosophy, that people were thrown into utter confusion and did not know what the pure religion was. It then became a necessity for a leader to save the good souls who were hankering for their real welfare. To quench their thirst a bhakta-avatara was badly needed and that avatara appeared in the form of Thakura Bhaktivinoda. His religious disposition was observed from his very childhood and as he grew older he studied all the religious books of the world and appreciated the doctrines preached by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the most sublime of all and the surest path to lead the fallen souls to the feet of God. The enlightened and cultured men of the present age have now learned to honor this most sublime philosophy which the Thakura brought to light and which would have lain buried in darkness, had he not opened their eyes.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda clearly displayed all the qualities of a pure Vaishnava and this was seen in his eagerness to always be engaged in the service of the Lord without wasting a moment. It was once remarked in 1916 by the judge of the Calcutta High Court, Sarada Carana Mitra: “I knew Thakura Bhaktivinoda intimately as a friend and a relation. Even under pressure of official work as a Magistrate in charge of a heavy sub-division he could always find time for devotional contemplation and work, and whenever I met him, our talk would turn in a few moments to the subject of bhakti and dvaitadvaita-vada and the saintly work that lay before him. Service of God is the only thing he longed for and service under the government, however honorable, was to him a clog.”

If we examine Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s daily schedule while he was staying in Jagannatha Puri we will be able to see how he was never idle and was always engaged in the service of the Lord. Between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM the Thakura would take rest and would rise from bed just before 10:00 PM. At that time he would light his oil lamp and begin to write books up to 4:00 AM. Then he would take a little more rest and would rise just before 4:30 AM for washing his hands and face and at that time he would sit down and chant on his beads. He never showed his japa-mala to anyone and he would chant unlimited number of rounds daily. Around 7:00 AM he would dispose of all correspondence and at 7:30 he would read various highly philosophical religious books. At 8:30 if anyone came to see him they could meet him then. If no one came he would continue to read up until 9:30 during which time he would walk on the veranda of the house and think of different religious questions and solve them in his mind. Sometimes he would solve them out loud as if he were preaching to someone. From 9:30 AM to 9:45 he would take a little rest and at 9:45 he would take his morning bath and breakfast, which consisted of half a quart of milk, a couple of chapattis and some fruit. At 9:55 he would put his office dress on and go to the court in his carriage.

As a Magistrate he would wear a coat and pants. On his neck he wore six strands of double size Tulasi beads. He was very strong in his court decisions. He would decide them immediately. None could stand before him and he did not allow any humbug in his court. He would do his business and go. He would go to the court wearing those pants, his big coat, his neck beads and tilaka on his forehead. He would shave his head monthly and he never cared what anyone thought.

At 10:00 AM court would begin and he would hear between thirty to fifty cases. He would finish by 1:00 PM.

Bhaktivinoda’s capacity for work was astounding to the lawyers and Englishmen. What other Magistrates would finish in thirty to forty-five minutes, he would finish in five minutes and he would also write the judgment in detail within one or two minutes. The Englishmen over him were stunned at how he could perform this much work in such a short amount of time. They all became envious and tried to discourage him. At 1:00 PM he would come home and clean himself and become refreshed. Before 2:00 PM he would again be in the office. At 5:00 PM he would come home and take some Sanskrit religious books and dictate them in Bengali to someone. After this he would take his evening bath and meal which consisted of a little rice, a couple of chapattis and a half-quart of milk.

Bhaktivinoda worked with a pocket watch so everything he did was done on time. In this way we can see how Bhaktivinoda was always eager for the service of the Lord and was always engaged in that service despite his family and official responsibilities.

As for his quality of being charitable, it was never heard that any brahmana ever went away from his home disheartened and he who once called on him was sure to be seen meeting him again with a smiling face. He equally befriended the other castes, and especially when he preached Harinam everyone however high or low he might have been, in society or in wealth was nearest and dearest to him. He had practically no enemy in the world as he did not cherish any kind of animosity against others. Rather those who tried to be his enemy out of jealousy or with a view of thwarting him from his spiritual path were in the long run ashamed of their conduct and in most cases begged for his pardon which was never refused. His universal brotherhood made him the friend of all and he was ever eager for procuring the greatest welfare for the people of this world. Whoever once came in contact with him, could not but go without having obtained some good to himself. Thakura Bhaktivinoda was never proud and his amiable disposition was a characteristic feature in his life. He never uttered a word to anybody which could wound their feelings. He did not chastise anyone unless and until he was perfectly confident that he had a right over him to do so for his welfare, and on the other hand he who received a warning from him always thought himself gratified. He had not the least shadow of vanity and was totally devoid of a quarreling habit. He was honored and respected throughout the length and breadth of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. His profound knowledge of philosophy endeared him to all educated men and his devout bhakti made him the friend both of the highest and lowest classes of people.

In his official capacity he was always taken into confidence by the superior officers of the government, as he was himself well conversant with the policy of government. He had witnessed the hard days of the mutiny and while in office, he assisted the government in quelling all sorts of unprincipled disturbances. The Government of Bengal also on more than once occasion wanted to vest him with honors and titles, but he humbly declined the same each time, on the ground that such honors would, instead of doing good, stand against his holy mission.

From his very infancy till his last day he was a great advocate of truth and never allowed his associates to deviate from the path of duty, which he himself observed with more than strict accuracy. He avoided companies whenever he had the least suspicion of evil motives in them. He had to encounter unpleasantness on many occasions in the execution of public duty under the government, by refusing to accept any present from any person. Similar difficulties he had to face in refusing unjust requests from persons who were very dear to him. He was above corruption. Bhaktivinoda never supported the least shadow of immorality and he never crossed the threshold of any place which he knew to be immoral. He had great dislike for theatres as these were places where public women were brought in to take part in the play. He knew that common people, who cared little for religion and who spent their days carelessly and uselessly, were apt to go astray in the broad wilderness of the world if he himself refrained from showing them the proper way by his own example. Example is better than precept and so his absolute distaste for anything immoral helped many sincere souls to open their eyes and also persons already in confusion to correct themselves. When the well-known Girisha Chandra Ghosa came to request Thakura Bhaktivinoda to preside over the gathering on the opening day of his new play, ‘Caitanya Lila’, he had to politely decline the offer. Thakura Bhaktivinoda was a complete abstainer from any kind of worldly pleasure and would not even chew a betel. He completely avoided the luxuries that are everyday enjoyed by ordinary men. He had for himself very little want and led a most simple life throughout his career. The word ‘debt’ was, as it were, unknown to him for he was very prompt in making payments. He was always true to his word and punctuality was at all times specially observed by him. He always showed a brave front and was never a coward. He never performed any dishonest work in business and whatever he did he did openly for the good of his fellowmen. In this way we may understand that he possessed a spotless character.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda had a fine mode of delivering speeches and his lectures were so greatly attractive that he could keep the audience, whatever be their number, absolutely dumb-founded. His speeches were all very fluent and argumentative from the philosophical point of view and he had a nice way of joining the link of their subject matter. He was an expert linguist and knew English, Latin, Urdu, Persian, and Oriya besides Bengali and Sanskrit. He had also a taste for history and a keen habit of research. This habit made him a voracious reader of all the Puranas and Vedic Shastras as well as the writings of numerous authors of repute in Europe, both of ancient and modern. He was a member of the Royal Asiatic Society of London. He had thoroughly gone through the scriptures of foreign countries, such as the Bible and Koran, and he could easily cite any passage occurring in those books whenever there was occasion to do so. His nature was to leave no stone unturned in mastering whatever subject he took up and he did his duty in that respect to the fullest extent. The works he has left to the world are most precious and will no doubt supply materials for the improvement of many thinkers for centuries to come.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda was a great author and poet and has left for us about one-hundred books of transcendental knowledge. From the age of twelve and thirteen when he wrote Hara-katha and Shumbha-Nishumbha-yuddha till his last days before us, his pen was never idle and many a night saw him engaged in his library after he had performed a hard laborious midday duty in the court. He wrote hundreds and hundreds of poems and gave those songs to his disciples who would put them to music and sing them. All knowledge of Vaishnava philosophy can be found in them.

The Vaishnava community has received from his beautiful lotus hands many wonderful books on Lord Caitanya’s precepts. His famous work Jaiva Dharma, a Bengali novel which teaches Vaishnava philosophy in the form of various discourses, up to the present day has remained very easily readable and relishable for all classes of devotees, learned scholars and even fools and laymen. Bhaktivinoda’s Bhagavatarka-marichi-mala, which is the butter produced from churning the vast milk ocean of Srimad-Bhagavatam, has bestowed much good upon the serious student of the Bhagavatam. His explanations and Bengali translations of Krishna-karnamrita, Brahma-samhita and others have obtained a place in the hearts of all Vaishnava readers. His Harinam-cintamani and Bhajana-rahasya are eternally worshipable for all pure devotees. His Sri Caitanya-siksamrita and Sri Krishna-samhita stand as divine classics in the history of Bengali Vaishnava literature and his books of poetry and songs, such as Sharanagati, Gitavali, Gitamala, and Kalyana-kalpataru, will always be chanted and sung by those pure souls devoted to nama-bhajana or service to the Holy Name. It is our fervent hope that some day all the works of Thakura Bhaktivinoda may be made available to English speaking people for their eternal spiritual well-being.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s mission in this world was fulfilled by his starting the Nama Hatta at Nadia through which he distributed religious pamphlets and preached the name of Hari at every house in Bengal. At every step of his life he displayed a transparent godliness that can be observed by studying his life and writings. In his writings he has taught the difference between a true spiritualist and a pseudo one in order to thwart the vain attempts of the many pseudo devotees at that time who dressed as Vaishnava mendicants just to fill their bellies. Consequently because of this the intelligentsia of India began to recognize the truth of his preaching and the beauty of Sri Caitanya’s doctrines. He was thus recognized as the God-sent pioneer of the movement of unalloyed devotion to Godhead. He taught the people of India the true teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu both by precept and example. He always stressed that the jiva soul cannot realize himself or God unless he wholeheartedly surrenders himself to the lotus feet of a genuine spiritual master and listens to his words. Bhaktivinoda has taught us true renunciation by engaging all things in this world in the service of the Creator. He radically opposed the caste system where one is socially judged by his birth and he taught very explicitly that one should be judged by his actions and personal qualities and not by mere birth or family lineage. He also strongly protested against both elevationsim and Salvationism as being anti-devotional, that mere belief in such concepts took the place of attaining the real devotional mood necessary for spiritual development. Thus he made a tremendous effort both in his powerful writings and personal preaching effort to reform the growing materialistic mentality of the people at that time. He taught that men should live their lives according to the principles laid down in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and practice the chanting of the Holy Name of the Lord.

Thakura Bhativinoda showed through his clear and lucid writings that the solution to all contending theories, isms, sectarian dogmas and doctrines could be found in the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. With an open and liberal mind, he opened the door of comparative religion and philosophical study and thus showed the universal applicability and scientific, religious, and philosophical basis of the teachings of Sri Caitanya. In this way the Thakura lifted the spiritual cataract on the religious vision of the people of Bengal by his many writings, which were both revolutionary and endowed with the quality of sweet reasonableness. He preached that the universal religion and common function of all souls is devotional service to the Supreme Lord Krishna and ‘Back to Home, Back to Godhead’ ‘was the motto he taught and practiced throughout his life.

In his Sri Caitanya-shiksamrita he predicted a day when people of all nations, castes, creeds and colors would come under the banners of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and dance together hand in hand in the universal church of the chanting of the Holy Name of God. He believed strongly that the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would bring eternal peace and harmony to the whole world and for this reason he stressed the preaching of Sri Caitanya’s teachings, particularly through the medium of the English language in the world today.

 Other articles in connection with this one that you may find interesting are:

Srila A. C. Bhaktitivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: The Lion Guru

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

The Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Disciplic Succession and Its Unique Characteristics: Of Which We are a Part

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: The Lion Guru

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura:

The Lion Guru

 

            During the time of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s stay on this planet the pure religion of Vaishnavism taught by the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu was essentially lost and had come to be considered of the degrading standard of simply a sex religion, or at best a cult of religious fanaticism and sentimentalism. The Thakura was very sad in his heart to see this and with a desire to present the actual teachings of Sri Caitanya, he wrote and published many books in Bengali, Sanskrit and English which conclusively presented to the world and to the people of India specifically the real teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His genuine followers. He also traveled to many parts of India preaching and giving lectures to many people whose hearts became changed by seeing his pure character and shining example. Thakura Bhaktivinoda practically single-handedly revived the pure movement of Nama-sankirtana (the congregational chanting of the holy names of God) and presented the glories of Lord Caitanya to all learned men of the world.

However, so that this preaching of Nama-sankirtana [congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord] could go on nicely even after the Thakura left this world, he prayed to Lord Caitanya to send him an assistant and a successor from the Lord’s personal staff of preachers. Answering the prayer of the Thakura, a son was born to him on February 6th, 1874 while he was serving as the government magistrate in the holy city of Jagannatha Puri in Orissa. Through various signs the Lord showed Thakura Bhaktivinoda and his good wife that this was the great soul that had been sent by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to carry on the preaching work that Bhaktivinoda Thakura had started. It was witnessed by all present that when the child came out of the womb, his umbilical cord was wrapped around him like the sacred thread worn by brahmanas. Everyone was very amazed by this sign. Six months later at the annual Jagannatha Puri Rathayatra festival, the Jagannatha cart, being pulled by hundreds of people, came to a stop in front of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s house. When all the people were trying to get the cart moving again, Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s wife took the opportunity to take the child, whose name then was Bimala Prasad, out to see Lord Jagannatha and because she was the wife of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, who was the manager of the Jagannatha temple then, everyone respected her and she was allowed on the cart for darshana of the Lord. She then placed the child at the lotus feet of the Jagannatha deity and immediately one of the huge flower garlands hanging around the neck of the Lord fell down and encircled the child. Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s heart was filled with joy, for he knew beyond all doubt that this child was the answer to his prayers.

As the boy grew, the Thakura instructed him in the science of Krishna Consciousness. At the age of only seven Bimala Prasad Datta, who was later to be known  as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, had memorized all seven hundred verses of the Bhagavad-gita and could explain each one.

One day the boy took an unoffered mango from the room of the family Deity and ate it. Thakura Bhaktivinoda chastised him for it upon catching him and told him that it was not proper Vaishnava behavior to eat food that had not first been offered to the Lord. At that time Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, taking his father’s words very seriously, made a vow to Thakura Bhaktivinoda that he would never eat mango again. Through his whole life he kept this vow very faithfully. Whenever someone would offer him a mango he would say, “No, I cannot take, I am a great offender”.

At the age of ten, while attending the Serampore Missionary School, he was initiated by his father into the Hare Krishna mantra and a Narasimhadeva mantra. In school he invented a novel kind of phonetic alphabet which he called Bikranti or Bicanto. Later on he attended a special Sanskrit college where he became expert in Sanskrit grammar, Vedic shastra and different views of philosophy.

Due to his lifelong celibacy he had such a clear memory that even in his last days he could reproduce word for word any passage of any book he had read fifty years back.

At college he read all of the books in the library and made private studies into higher mathematics, international history and philosophy and Vedic astronomy. At that time he attended a cultural association in Calcutta called August Assembly and in which the study of various philosophical and theological topics was conducted. He was such a powerful debater that no one’s arguments could stand up against his vast erudition and scholarship. At the age of twenty-three in the year 1897 he opened a school in Calcutta which he called Sarasvata Chatuspathi. It was here that he began teaching Vedic astronomy. Many prominent and scholarly Calcutta gentlemen were among his students. At this time he also edited two monthly journals, the Jyotirvid and the Brhaspati and published several authoritative documents on Vedic astronomy such as the Suryasiddhanta which he had written himself. He was offered a chair at the University of Calcutta by Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, but he declined thinking that it might be too much an impediment on his devotional life. Since 1895 Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was attending the meetings of his father’s Vishva Vaishnava Raja Sabha in Calcutta. In 1899 he was editing and writing for a weekly cultural magazine, the Nivedana. In 1900 he wrote and published a book on the society and different religious sects in Bengal called Bange Sama-jikata. In 1901 Srila Bhativinoda Thakura requested his son to become initiated in the Gayatri mantra and accept a spiritual master. The Thakura had one very beloved disciple, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maha­raja, a very renowned Vaishnava saint of Navadvipa. It was therefore he who the Thakura requested his son to take initiation from. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura then approached the babaji for getting initiated, but Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, who hadn’t any disciples, out of his infinite humbleness refused to accept such an erudite pandita as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, when he himself could not even write  his own name. So, disappointed, Sarasvati Thakura went back to his father and related to him what had happened, but Thakura Bhaktivinoda sent him out again, and again Srila Bhaktisiddhanta came back with the same news. So this time the Thakura told his son, “Unless you take initiation from Gaurakishora dasa Babaji your life is useless and no longer may you enter this house”. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati then set off with great determination, and meeting Srila Gaurakishora dasa Babaji on a bridge along the road told him that he would jump off the bridge and kill himself if the babaji did not accept him as a disciple. He said to him, “My father has told me that human life is worthless without a spiritual master, so if you refuse to accept me as your disciple I must kill myself”. Upon hearing that and seeing the young man’s sincerity of purpose, the babaji accepted him as his only disciple.

From that year, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta traveled with Thakura Bhaktivinoda in his pilgrimages to all the principle holy places in India. During this time he compiled a Vaishnava encyclopedia named Vaisnava-manjusha. In 1900 he was staying in Puri where he began to publicly preach the holy precepts of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In 1904 Srila Sarasvati Thakura traveled in East Bengal. In 1905 he travailed to the far southern provinces of India, lecturing, preaching, writing, debating, fully absorbed  in the fire of propagating the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In the South he traveled to places such as Simachalam, Madras, Tirupati, Kanchipura and many other places of pilgrimage. His strong preaching gave him such a reputation that his very name would strike terror into the hearts of his philosophical adversaries. The perverted and immoral so-called religious activities of different nonsense cults and sects were doomed forever in the presence of  Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.

In 1911 at an All-India Conference of Panditas at Midnapore, presided over by Pandita Vishvambharanandadeva Gosvami, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, taking the place of Thakura Bhaktivinoda who was ill at the time, lectured to an astounded audience on the comparative position of a brahmana and a Vaishnava. After the discourse all the people came forward to offer him respect and touch his lotus feet. The president of the conference called him the other self of Sri Sukadeva Gosvami. The lecture was subsequently published as a book in Bengali.

In 1912 Srila Bhaktisiddhanta traveled and preached in different parts of Bengal.  In 1913 he established the Bhagavat Press in South Calcutta which was later moved to Mayapur and then to Krishnanagar, where he began to publish his many carefully edited books. Altogether he published, edited and wrote about sixty-one works as well as eight different journals. Once when he was asked how it was possible to publish a journal every month just about God, he replied that here in this world there are thousands of newspapers and magazines reporting the stale repetitious happenings of this limited space, so for reporting the news of the unlimited spiritual realm concerning the eternal, ever-fresh Supreme Personality of Godhead, we could publish a magazine at every second, what to speak of monthly.

 

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada made special studies of the Vaishnava literature of south India and was the first to introduce Bengali translations of the works of the Madhvacharya Sampradaya to the public in Bengal. In his teachings he has dealt with the relative positions of different Vaishnava and non-Vaishnava schools of philosophy and he has brought out the difference between empiric and revealed methods of spiritual understanding. He always stressed the importance of publishing and distributing Vaishnava literature as a means of educating the mass of ignorant humanity and in order to facilitate the printing of books and journals he established four printing presses: the Gaudiya Printing Works in Calcutta (1923), the Nadiya Prakash Printing Works at Mayapura (1928), the Bhagavat Press in Krishnagar (1914-15), and the Paramarthi Printing Works at Cuttack (1936). He called these presses the big mridungas (clay drums used for large congregational singing groups) because the sound that they would produce would be heard all over India.

In 1914 on the disappearance of Thakura Bhaktivinoda from this mortal world, the task to carry on the movement of Sri Caitanya now lay in the hands of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada. He took over as the editor of his father’s journal, the Sajjanatoshani, a monthly Vaishnava paper in Bengali. Later on in 1927 he converted it into an English fortnightly called the Harmonist.

In 1918 at the age of fourty-four, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati accepted the title Gosvami Maharaja by taking the renounced order of life, sannyasa. On that same day  he established his first Vaishnava monastery, the Caitanya Math at Sridhama Mayapura which became his preaching headquarters. Later that year one important figure in a popular religious organization met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta SarasvatI Thakura and was so impressed by his power of purity that he immediately begged to become a disciple. He would arrange for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s transportation between Mayapura and Calcutta and he rented him a small house for him in Calcutta for expanding the preaching of Sri Caitanya’s teachings. The house became known as “Bhaktivinoda Agana” and was later known as Sri Gaudiya Math when it was later moved to a large marble building in the Baghbazaar of North Calcutta in 1930. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura then in quick succession after that spread his Gaudiya Mission to every part of India attracting thousands of disciples to the banners of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. At the time of his passing from this world he had opened sixty-four Gaudiya Maths for the propagation of spiritual life and Bhagavata philosophy. In all these maths he established the worship of the archa-vigraha (Deity) form of the Lord so that his disciples wouldn’t become impersonalists. This deity worship was executed according to the principles of Sanatana Gosvami’s book of Vaisnava activities, Sri-hari-bhakti-vilasa.

One time a very important gentleman approached Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada and said that your Gaudiya Math is so nice you should open up temples in all cities of the world, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta replied, “My real business is to establish temples in everyone’s heart”.

He was such a powerful and bold preacher that he became known as the lion guru. Sometimes on walks in the early morning he would come across some big Mayavadi (impersonalist) sannyasi and he would physically grab him and shake him while verbally chastising him. Thereafter whenever any Mayavadi’s saw him coming, they would flee in fear of him. One time a big impersonalist Vedanta society in Calcutta invited him to a debate, on the condition that he could not use Srimad-Bhagavatam as scriptural evidence and so he agreed to come to the debate. Then after a short time they called him again and said he could not speak on Mahabharata, Ramayana, or any of the Puranas or Pancharattnas. He also agreed to come on those conditions. Then they called him and said that he could not use as evidence any of the Vedas, Upanisads or smriti texts, but could speak only from the Vedanta-Sutras. And so he agreed to that also. Then they called him up and said that he could not come at all.

From the years 1919-1929 he was constantly traveling all over India lecturing to crowds of thousands, debating, destroying various bogus religious sects and performing parikrama (walks to the holy places) with his disciples to different sacred sites, seeking to improve and preserve them. During these travels he installed foot­prints of Lord Caitanya in one hundred and eight places where the Lord had traveled during His sannyasa life. At those spots he also recorded the date when Sri Caitanya had been there.

In 1919 he completed his preaching tour over North and East Bengal and in 1920 he toured more extensively in East Bengal. In 1920 he also toured the provinces of Bihar, Orissa and the Sonthal Parganas establishing temples in some of these places, and in 1922 he visited Vrindavana, the place of Lord Krishna’s pastimes. On this Braja Mandal Parikrama he went with hundreds of disciples and gave lectures at all the major temples and places of the Lord’s pastimes. In the year 1925 His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, along with a large group or disciples went on an extensive tour of Bengal. On this Gauda Mandala Parikram Srila Bhaktisiddhanta visited all the holy places connected with the pastimes of Sri Caitanya. In the early part of 1926 he toured in some places in Assam. His tours during the years 1926-1928 marked a very important place in the Gaudiya movement of Sri Caitanya and in the history of India as well. He brought about changes and improvements in various ways in all the sacred places as well as brought about a new spiritual insight in the minds and lives of many followers of different religious sects, and brought them all under the banners of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhn’s sankirtana movement. Wherever Srla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura would go he was received as a savior, religious reviver and prophet by all who came in contact with him. In most states he was received as an honored state guest and in many places was presented with public addresses of reception.

From 1928-1929 he again traveled to places from Assam to Punjab. During these tours he gathered a large number of authentic manuscripts of ancient Vaishnava writings which he started publishing, but left unfinished,

All these tours were highly successful, but were not without their problems. Because many of Srila Sarasvati Thakura’s disciples, although initiated as brahmanas and sannyasis, were not born in brahmana families, along the way while traveling, the so-called brahmana shopkeepers would close their shops and refuse to sell provisions to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and his disciples. Srila Sarasvati Thakura would always preach very strongly against the nonsense philosophy of these proud and arrogant caste brahmanas. He always emphasized the needlessness of material qualifications to receive spiritual life. Anyone, regardless of caste, sex, nationality, past background, etc., who was sincere to have spiritual life, he would give it to them.

These caste brahmanas were very much in an uproar about his turning those not born in brahmana families into brahmanas better than them. The Nityananda-vamsas especially plotted to assassinate him and went to the local police magistrate to bribe him so he wouldn’t apprehend them after the murder. The police magistrate told them that although he usually accepts bribes, he could not be connected with the killing of a Sadhu, a holy man. The police magistrate then immediately informed Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and in this way Srila Saraavati Thakura’s life was saved.

In 1930 and 1931 a new kind of spiritual education was exhibited for the benefit of the public and especially the illiterate masses. Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Prabhupada demonstrated the import and teachings of the Vedic literature by means of huge exhibitions in which pictorial representations by means of dioramas and dolls in life-like manner were employed. These wonderful exhibitions attracted thousands of people. One was on the property of the Calcutta Gaudiya Math in 1930 and in 1931 on the Calcutta corporation grounds. The exhibitions would draw at least one hundred thousand visitors daily during a month time period.

In 1933, eager to spread Lord Caitanya’s message beyond the borders of India, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura sent some of his sannyasa disciples to England to preach and open up Gaudiya Maths in the West, but not being able to convince the Westerners to take up spiritual life, they returned to India unsuccessful. Fortunately for the benefit of all people of the world, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhuipada’s most beloved disciple, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada carried out his Guru Maharaja’s order and has spread Lord Caitanya’s Nama-sankirtana movement to every corner of the globe, and is now being assisted by thousands of disciples in this preaching work,

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada has so glad to reveal the transcendental glories of Lord Krishna that whenever he found an eager listener he would go on speaking, not knowing the bounds of time and space. Disregarding the requests of his medical advisors, up to the last moment be continued to deliver the message of the Supreme Lord to all people. This was the only purpose of his divine appearance in this world. He did not appear here by being forced by the laws of nature as an ordinary living being appears. He worked until the last moment of his life without any reservation, disregarding physical pleasure, comfort or relief to himself. His whole life was absorbed in a mood of loving devotion to the Lord. He was fully devoted to the propagation of the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The noble example of his life and conduct, his powerful speeches and numerous publications are evidence to this fact.

          In 1936 he was residing in Jagannatha Puri and on December 31st, 1936 at the age of sixty-two he left this mortal world and again re-entered the loving pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in the sweetness of Braja Dham, the spiritual atmosphere. 

    Other articles in connection with this one that you may find interesting are:

Srila A. C. Bhaktitivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and His Great Accomplishments

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

The Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Disciplic Succession and Its Unique Characteristics: Of Which We are a Part

 

You can also view a great video on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta called “The Universal Teacher” through the following link:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1379748204367073318&pr=goog-sl