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29. Bhaktivinoda Thakura
30. Gaurakisora dasa Babaji
31. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami
32. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
29. Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Bhaktivinoda Thakura was born on Sunday, Sept. 2, 1838 in Biranagara (Ulagrama) in the Nadia district of Bengal. He was the seventh son of Raja Krsnananda Datta, a great devotee of Lord Nityananda. He was also known as the great grandson of Madana Mohana and the third son of his Godfather Anandacandra. He would be known as daitya-kulera prahlada (Prahlada in the family of demons). This was because Vaisnavism was not very much respected in his family; on his mother's side, there was no respect for Vaisnavism at all. He was named Kedaranatha Datta by his Godfather. His childhood was spent at the mansion of his maternal grandfather Mustauphi Mahasaya, in Biranagara. His environment at this time was very opulent. He got his elementary education at the primary school started by his grandmother. Later he attended an English school in Krsnanagara, started by the King of Nadia; he left that school when his older brother died unexpectedly of cholera. When he was 11 years old, his father passed away. Subsequently, the grant of land that had been conferred upon his grandmother changed owners; at this time the family fell into a condition of poverty - their great wealth proved to be illusory. Still, Kedaranatha Datta passed over these difficulties with great endurance. His mother arranged a marriage for him when he was 12 (in the year 1850) to the 5 year old daughter of Madhusudana Mitra Mahasaya, a resident of Rana Ghata. Around this time Kedaranatha's uncle Kasiprasada Ghosh Mahasaya Thakura, who had mastered British education, came to Ulagrama after the death of his maternal grandfather. He schooled young Kedaranatha at his home in Calcutta; this was at first resisted by the boy's mother, but by the time he was 13 he was allowed to go to the big city.
His uncle's house was situated in the Heduya district of central Calcutta. Kasiprasada was the central figure of the literary circle of his time, being the editor of the Hindu Intelligencer newspaper; many writers came to him to learn the art of writing in correct English. Kedaranatha assisted Kasiprasada by judging manuscripts submitted to the newspaper. Kedaranatha studied Kasiprasada's books and also frequented the public library. He attended Calcutta's Hindu Charitable Institution high school and became an expert English reader, speaker, and writer. Kedaranatha became ill from the salty water of Calcutta. He returned to Ulagrama and was treated by a Muslim soothsayer who predicted that the village of Biranagara would soon become pestilence-ridden and deserted. The Muslim also predicted Kedaranatha would become recognized as a great devotee of Lord Krsna. In the year 1856, when he was 18, Kedaranatha entered college in Calcutta. He started writing extensively in both English and Bengali; these essays were published in local journals. He also lectured in both languages. He studied English literature at this time extensively, and taught speechmaking to a person who later became a well-known orator in the British Parliament. Between the years 1857-1858 he composed a two part English epic entitled "The Poriade", which he planned to complete in 12 books. These two books described the life of Porus, who met Alexander the Great. Dvijendranatha Thakur, the eldest son of Maharsi Devendranatha Tagore and brother of the Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranatha Tagore, was Kedaranatha's best friend during these years. He assisted Kedaranatha in his studies of Western religious books. Kedaranatha used to call Dvijendranatha "baro dada", or big brother. He was very taken by Christian theology, and found it more interesting than Hindu monism. He would spend many hours comparing the writings of Channing, Theodore Parker, Emerson and Newman.
At the end of 1858 Kedaranatha returned to Biranagara and found that the Muslim soothsayer's prediction about that place had come true: it was ruined and deserted. Kedaranatha brought his mother and paternal grandmother with him to Calcutta. Soon after he went to Orissa to visit his paternal grandfather, Rajavallabha Datta, formerly an important Calcutta gentleman who was now living as an ascetic in the Orissan countryside. His days were coming to a close, and he wanted Kedaranatha to be with him when he departed this world. After receiving his grandfather's last instructions, he traveled to all the monasteries and temples in the state of Orissa.
Kedaranatha began to consider the question of the means of his livelihood. He was not interested in business, as he'd seen how the "necessary dishonesty" of the trade world had morally weakened the merchant class. He decided to become a school teacher. He established a school for English education in the village of Kendrapara near Chutigrama, in Orissa, thus becoming a pioneer in English teaching in that state. He also could see the oppressive power wielded by the landowners of Chutigrama. After some time he went to Puri and passed a teacher's examination; he got a teacher's post in a Cuttack school and later became headmaster of a school in Bhadraka and then in Madinipura. His work was noted by the schoolboard authorities. In Bhadraka, his first son Annada Prasada (Acyutananda) was born, in 1860. He published a book that year in English that described all the asramas and temples in the state; this book received favorable mention in the work called "Orissa" by British historian Sir William Hunter. Hunter praised Kedaranatha's moral and religious character. As the headmaster of the Medinipura high school, Kedaranatha studied many popular Bengali religious sects, particularly their philosophies and practices. He concluded they were all cheap. He came to understand that the only real religion that had ever been established in Bengal was that of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu; unfortunately, His movement was not well-represented. Kedaranatha could not even get a copy of the 16th century Bengali biography of Lord Caitanya's activities on earth called Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, despite searching in bookshops, libraries and monasteries all over Bengal. Kedaranatha's first wife passed away, so in the town of Jakapura he married Bhagyavati De. In 1861 Kedaranatha accepted the post of Deputy Magistrate in the Government of Bengal. Then he became Collectorate Officer after seeing the corruption of the government workers. He established an organization called the "Bhratr Samaja". He wrote an English book in 1863 called "Our Wants." At this time he also constructed a home in Rana Ghata. Later in 1863 he stayed at Burdwan, where he composed two novel poems in Bengali: "Vijinagrama" (deserted village) and "Sannyasi." Volume 39 of the 1863 Calcutta Review praised these poems, saying, "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 aim." The rhyme and style of these two poems were original; they gave birth to a new way of writing poetry in the Bengali language. In the year 1866 Kedaranatha took the position of Deputy Registrar with the power of a Deputy Collector and Deputy Magistrate in the district of Chapara. He also became quite fluent in Persian and Urdu. In a place called Saran in Chapara, a clique of tea planters made unjust demands of him; he successfully opposed them. And while at Saran he visited the Gautama Asrama at Godana. Desiring to establish a school for teaching nyaya-sastra, he delivered a speech there (in 1866) which was well-received. The school was successfully established, the foundation-stone being laid in 1883 by Sir Rivers Thomson, after whom the school was named. Though Kedaranatha had no further part in the project after his speech, the talk he gave was instrumental in securing public aid for the school. Also in 1866 he translated the Balide Registry Manual into Urdu, which was circulated by the government throughout the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh; this manual was used by the registration departments of those areas. Kedaranatha was transferred to Purniya from Chapara where he took charge of the government and judicial departments; he was then transferred to Dinajapura (West Bengal) in 1868, becoming the Deputy Magistrate. At this time he received copies of the Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta from Calcutta. He read Caitanya-caritamrta repeatedly; his faith in Krsna developed until he was absorbed in Krsna consciousness day and night. He incessantly submitted heartfelt prayers for the Lord's mercy. He came to understand the supreme majesty and power of the one and only Absolute Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna. He published a song about Lord Caitanya entitled Saccidananda- premalankara. In 1869, while serving as deputy magistrate under the government of Bengal in Dinajapura, he delivered a speech in the form of a treatise he had written on the Srimad-Bhagavatam to a big congregation of many prominent men of letters from many parts of India and England. He was transferred to Camparana, during which time his second son, Radhika Prasada, was born. In Camparana people used to worship a ghost in a banyan tree which had the power to influence the mind of the local judge to decide in the favor of the worshiper. Kedaranatha engaged the father of Pandita Ramabhai, a famous girl scholar, to read Srimad-Bhagavatam under the tree; after one month, the tree crashed to the ground, and many people found faith in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. From Camparana he went to Puri which engladdened his heart because the holy city of Puri, the site of the famous Krsna temple of Jagannatha, was where Caitanya Mahaprabhu had resided for 18 years as a sannyasi.
Near Puri, in the town of Kamanala, there lived a yogi named Bisakisena, who became popular by exercising mystic powers. He had two companions going by the names Brahma and Siva; Bisakisena himself claimed to be Mahavisnu. Some wealthy landowners of Orissa came under his sway and were providing funds for the construction of a temple. They also sent him women with whom he engaged in "rasa-lila" enjoyments. Bisakisena declared he'd drive the British rulers out of Orissa and make himself king. Such inflammatory statements were circulated all around Orissa. The British thought him a revolutionary, so the District Governor of the National Government of Bengal drew up arrest orders; but nobody in Orissa dared to act upon these orders, as they all feared the yogi's power.
Mr. Ravenshaw, district commissioner for Orissa, requested Kedaranatha to bring Bisakisena to justice. Kedaranatha went personally to Bisakisena, who showed some powers and informed Kedaranatha that he knew well who he was and his mission. He warned Kedaranatha that since he (Bisakisena) was the Lord, he'd better not interfere with him. Kedaranatha replied by acknowledging Bisakisena's accomplishments in yoga and invited him to come to Puri where he could see the Jagannatha temple. Bisakisena haughtily said, "Why should I come to see Jagannatha? He's only a hunk of wood; I am the Supreme in person." Instantly furious, Kedaranatha arrested the rogue, brought him to Puri and threw him in jail, where he was guarded by 3 dozen Muslim constables and 72 policemen from Cuttack day and night. "Brahma" and "Siva" avoided arrest by claiming they'd been forced by Bisakisena to do as they'd done; but Mr. Taylor, subdivision officer at Kodar, later prosecuted them. Kedaranatha tried Bisakisena in Puri. The trial lasted 18 days, during which time thousands of people gathered outside the courtroom demanding Bisakisena's release. On 6th day of the trial Kedaranatha's second daughter Kadambini (age 7) became seriously ill and nearly died; but within a day she had recovered. Kedaranatha knew it was the power of the yogi at work. He remarked, "Yes, let us all die, but this rascal must be punished." The very next day in court the yogi announced he'd shown his power and would show much more; he suggested that Kedaranatha should release him at once or face worse miseries. On the last day of the trial Kedaranatha himself became ill from high fever and suffered exactly as his daughter had done for one whole day. But Kedaranatha pronounced the man guilty and sentenced him to 18 months for political conspiracy. When Bisakisena was being readied for jailing, one Dr. Walter, the District Medical Officer, cut off all the yogi's long hair. The yogi kept his mystic power in his hair and hadn't eaten or drunk during the whole trial, so when his hair was shorn he fell to the floor like a dead man and had to be taken by stretcher to jail. After 3 months he was moved to the central jail at Midnapura where he took poison and died in the year 1873. In Puri, Kedaranatha studied the Srimad-Bhagavatam with the commentary of Sridhara Svami, copied out the Sat-sandarbhas of Jiva Gosvami and made a special study of Rupa Gosvami's Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Between the years 1874 and 1893, Kedaranatha spent much time in seclusion chanting the holy name (though he still executed his worldly duties perseveringly). He wrote several books in Sanskrit such as Tattva-sutra, Datta-kaustubha and Tattva-viveka and many other books in Bengali such as the Kalyana-kalpataru. While in Puri he established a Vaisnava discussion society known as the Bhagavat-samsad in the Jagannatha-vallabha gardens, where the famous saint Sri Ramananda Raya stayed in meditation hundreds of years before. All the prominent Vaisnavas joined this group except for Raghunatha dasa Babaji, known as Siddha Purusa. He thought that Kedaranatha was unauthorized, as he did not wear kanthi-mala (neckbeads) or tilaka (clay markings on 12 places of the body). Moreover, he advised other Vaisnavas to avoid Kedaranatha's association. But soon thereafter Raghunatha dasa Babaji contracted a deathly illness. Lord Jagannatha appeared to him in a dream and told him to pray for the mercy of Kedaranatha if he at all wanted release from the illness and death. He did so; Kedaranatha gave him special medicines and cured him. Raghunatha dasa Babaji was blessed with a true awareness of Kedaranatha's spiritual position. A well-known saint named Svarupa dasa Babaji did his worship at Satasana near the ocean in Puri. Svarupa showed much affection for Kedaranatha and gave him many profound instructions on the chanting of the holy name of Krsna. A popular upstart holy man named Caran dasa Babaji preached and printed books advising a perverted style of kirtana (congregational chanting of the holy names of God), advising that one should chant the Hare Krsna Mantra in japa and Nitai Gaura Radhe Syama Hare Krsna Hare Rama in kirtana. Kedaranatha preached long and hard to him; after a long time Caran dasa Babaji came to his senses and begged forgiveness from Kedaranatha, admitting his fault in spreading this nonsense fashion of chanting all over Bengal. Six months later Caran dasa went mad and died in great distress. Kedaranatha became manager of the Jagannatha temple. He used his government powers to establish strict regularity in the worship of the Deity. In the Jagannatha temple courtyard he set up a Bhakti Mandapa, where daily discourses of Srimad Bhagavatam were held. Kedaranatha would spend long hours discussing Krsna and chanting the holy name, especially at the important sites of Sri Caitanya's pastimes like the Tota Gopinatha temple, the tomb of Haridasa Thakura, the Siddha Bakula tree and the Gambhira room. He made notes on the Vedanta-sutra which were used by Sri Syamalala Gosvami in the edition of the Govinda Bhasya by Baladeva Vidyabhusana that he published.
Near the Jagannatha-vallabha gardens, in a large house adjacent to the Narayana Chata Matha, on the 5th day of the dark fortnight of Magha in the year 1874, the fourth son of Kedaranatha took birth. He was named Bimala Prasada (and would later be known as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, the spiritual master of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness). Two years earlier, Kamala Prasada, his third son, had taken birth.
In 1874 Kedaranatha discovered the Raja (king) of Puri had misappropriated 80 thousand rupees for his own sense pleasures. This money belonged to the temple, so Kedaranatha forced the Raja to pay for the offerings of food to Lord Jagannatha. The raja was angry at Kedaranatha and therefore, with the help of 50 brahmin priests, began a yajna (fire sacrifice) meant for killing Kedaranatha which went on for 30 days; when the last oblations were offered into the fire, the king's own son and not Kedaranatha died. Kedaranatha left Puri on special business, returning to Bengal where he visited the holy towns of Navadvipa, Santipura and Kalana. He was put in charge of the subdivision Mahisarekha in Haora. After that he was transferred to Bhadraka. In August 1878 he was made head of the subdivision Naraila in the Yashohan district. While in Naraila he published two books on Krsna that became famous around the world: Sri Krsna-samhita and Kalyana-kalpataru. In a letter dated April 16, 1880, Dr. Reinhold Rost wrote to Kedaranatha: "By representing Krsna's character and his worship in a more sublime and transcendental light than has hitherto been the custom to regard him, you have rendered an essential service to your co-religionists, and no one would have taken more delight in your work than my departed friend Goldstuecker, the sincerest and most zealous advocate the Hindus ever had in Europe." In 1877 Varada Prasada was born, his fifth son, and in 1878, Viraja Prasada, the sixth son, both at Rana Ghata.
Kedaranatha took formal Vaisnava initiation from Bipin Bihari Gosvami, who was descended from the Jahnava family of Baghnapara. At the same time, his seventh son, Lalita Prasada, appeared at Rana Ghata.
Within a few years after his initiation, Kedaranatha was awarded by the Vaisnavas the title "Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura" in appreciation for his tireless propagation of the philosophy of devotion (bhakti) to Sri Krsna. In Naraila, many people had formally adopted Vaisnavism, but they were not trained in scriptural conclusions and thus were easily misled by upstarts who exploited their devotional sentiments. Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave these simple devotees of Krsna shelter and instructed them in Vaisnava-siddhanta (the essential truths of Vaisnavism) most exactingly. In 1881 Bhaktivinoda began publishing the Sajjanatosani, his Vaisnava journal. Bhaktivinoda Thakura had previously pilgrimaged to the holy cities of Benares, Prayaga, Mathura and Vrndavana in 1866. At the close of his stay in Naraila he desired to again see Vrndavana, the land of Krsna. He took three months for this purpose. He met Jagannatha dasa Babaji there, who moved every 6 months between Navadvipa (in Bengal) and Vrndavana. Bhaktivinoda Thakura accepted Jagannatha dasa Babaji as his eternally worshipable siksa guru (instructing spiritual master). During his pilgrimage at this time he dealt with a gang of dacoits (highway robbers) known as the Kanjharas who robbed and killed many pilgrims; he gave evidence to the government and a commission was formed to wipe out this scourge.
From Vrndavana he came to Calcutta and bought a house at 181 Manikatala Street, now called Ramasha Datta Street, near Bidana Park. He called the house Bhakti-bhavan (place of devotion) and started daily worship of Sri Giridhara.
He was appointed head of the subdivision of Barasat where the well-known novelist Bankim Candra met him. Bankim Candra showed him a book he'd written about Krsna to Bhaktivinoda, who preached to Bankim Candra for four days, taking little food and hardly any sleep; the result was Bankim Candra changed his ideas (which were mundane speculations about Krsna) and his book to conform with the teachings of Sri Caitanya. Bhaktivinoda Thakura used to say that knowledge is power. During the last year of his stay at Barasat (1886), Bhaktivinoda Thakura published an edition of the Bhagavad-gita with the Sanskrit commentary of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, which he translated into Bengali (the "Rasika-ranjana" translation). He had undertaken this task at the request of Babu Sarada Carana Mitra, ex-judge of the Calcutta High Commission. Bankim Candra wrote the preface, acknowledging his own indebtedness to Bhaktivinoda Thakura; he noted that all Bengali readers would be indebted to Bhaktivinoda for his saintly work. From Barasat, Bhaktivinoda Thakura was transferred to Sriramapur. At nearby Saptagram he visited the residence of the great Vaisnava saint Uddharana Datta Thakura, a great associate of Lord Nityananda, and the places of another great Vaisnavas of that time, Abhirama Thakura, at Khanakula, and Vasu Ramananda, at Kulinagrama. At Sriramapura he composed and published his masterly writing, Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, Vaisnava-siddhanta-mala, Prema-pradipa and Manah-siksa. He was also publishing Sajjanatosani magazine on a regular basis. In Calcutta he set up the Sri Caitanya Yantra, a printing press at the Bhakti Bhavana, upon which he printed Maladhara's Sri Krsna-vijaya, his own Amnaya-sutra and the Caitanyopanisad of the Atharva Veda.
Finding the Caitanyopanisad was a difficult task. Hardly anyone in Bengal had heard of it. Bhaktivinoda Thakura traveled to many places in Bengal looking for it; finally, one devoted Vaisnava pandita named Madhusudana dasa sent him an old copy he'd been keeping with him at Sambalapura. Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote a Sanskrit commentary on the book and called it Sri Caitanya-caranamrta. Madhusudana dasa Mahasaya translated the verses into Bengali; this translation was called Amrta-bindu. It was a sellout when published. In Calcutta Bhaktivinoda Thakura started the Sri Visva-Vaisnava Sabha, dedicated to the preaching of pure bhakti as taught by Lord Caitanya. To publicize the work of the society, Bhaktivinoda Thakura published a small booklet entitled Visva-Vaisnava-kalpavi. Also he published his own edition of the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, with his Amrta-prabhava Bhasya commentary. And he introduced the Caitanyabda or Caitanya-era calendar, and gave assistance to the propagation of the Caitanya Panjika, which established the feast day of Gaura Purnima, the day of Lord Caitanya's appearance in the material world. He lectured and gave readings on Vaisnava books in various religious societies. In the Hindu Herald, an English periodical, he published a detailed account of Sri Caitanya's life.
In the year 1887 Bhaktivinoda Thakura resolved to quit government service and go to Vrndavana with Bhaktibhringa Mahasaya for the rest of his life. One night in Tarakesvara, he had a dream in which Sri Caitanya appeared to him and spoke, "You will certainly go to Vrndavana, but first there is some service you must perform in Navadvipa. When will you do that?" When the Lord disappeared, Bhaktivinoda awoke. On the advice of Bhaktibhringa Mahasaya he thereupon applied for a transfer to Krsnanagara, where the government headquarters for the Navadvip district is situated. He turned down offers of big posts in Assam and Tripura. He even tried to retire at this time, but his application was not accepted. Finally, in December of 1887 he managed to trade posts with Babu Radha Madhava Vasu, Deputy Magistrate of Krsnanagara. During his stay at Krsnanagara, Bhaktivinoda Thakura used to go to Navadvipa and search for the birthsite of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the exact location of which had been lost in time. One night he was sitting on the roof of the Rani Dharmasala in Navadvipa chanting on his beads, when he spotted in the distance a very tall tala tree; near the tree was a small building that gave off a remarkable effulgence. Soon afterwards, he went to the Krsnanagara Collectory where he began to study some very old manuscripts of Caitanya Bhagavata, Navadvipa Dhama Parikrama by Narahari Sarkara, and some old maps of the Navadvipa area. He went to the village of Ballaladibhi and spoke with many elderly people there, and uncovered facts about the modern-day Navadvipa. In the year 1887 he discovered that the place he'd seen from the dharmasala rooftop was in fact the birthplace of Mahaprabhu. This was confirmed by Jagannatha dasa Babaji, the head of the Gaudiya Vaisnava community in Navadvipa. A great festival was held there. Bhaktivinoda published the Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya, which elaborated the glories of the birthsite of Sri Caitanya. Also in 1887, Bhaktivinoda renovated the house of Jagannatha dasa Babaji at Ravasghata. He took leave from office for two years and acquired a plot of land at Sri Godadrumadvipa, or Svarupa Ganga. He built a retirement house there called Surabhi Kunj.
In 1890 he established the "Nama Hatta" there. Sometimes Jagannatha dasa Babaji would come there and have kirtana. Lord Nityananda had established His Nama Hatta at the same place and Bhaktivinoda considered himself the street sweeper of the Nama Hatta of Nitai.
When the birthplace was uncovered, Bhaktivinoda and Jagannatha dasa Babaji would worship Lord Caitanya there. Once one of Bhaktivinoda's sons contracted a skin disease and Jagannatha dasa Babaji told the boy to lie down at the birthsite of Lord Caitanya for the night. He did so, and the next morning he was cured.
In 1888 Bhaktivinoda took charge of the village of Netrakona in the district of Mayamanasimha, because he could not keep good health in Krsnanagara and had requested transfer to a more healthful region. From Netrakona he came to Tangaila and from there he was transferred to the district of Vardhamana. There he would hold kirtana with the devotees from a place called Amalajora, headed by Ksetra Babu and Vipina Babu; they would sing poems like Soka-satana written by him.
He was put in charge of the Kalara subdivision in 1890, and from there would often visit such holy places as Godadrumadvipa, Navadvipa, Campahati, Samudragana, Cupi, Kasthasali, Idrakapura, Baghnapara, Pyariganga (the place of Nakula Brahmacari) and the place of Vrndavana dasa Thakura at Denura. Soon Bhaktivinoda Thakura was transferred for a few days to Ranighata, from where he came to Dinajapura again. Sailaja Prasada was born there, his youngest son. In Dinajapura Bhaktivinoda wrote his Vidva-ranjana commentary and translation of the Bhagavad-gita; it was published in 1891 with the commentary of Baladeva. 1891 was the year Bhaktivinoda Thakura took leave from the government service for two years. He desired to preach the chanting of the Hare Krsna mahamantra. From his base at Svarupa Ganga he used to visit such places as Ghatala and Ramajivana to lecture in clubs, societies and organizations. This he'd also often do in Krsnanagara. In March of 1892 he traveled and preached with a party of Vaisnavas in the Basirahata District. All the while he was writing also. He opened many centers of Krsna worship (Nama Hatta) in different districts of Bengal. The Nama Hatta became a self-sustaining success which continued to spread even after his return to government service. From Basirahata he set out on his third trip to Vrndavana; he stopped off at Amalajora to celebrate the Ekadasi day with Jagannatha dasa Babaji. In Vrndavana, he visited all the forests and places of pastimes and he continued to give lectures and readings on Hari Nama in various places in Bengal when he returned to Calcutta. In February 1891 he gave a lecture on his investigation into the whereabouts of the exact birthsite of Sri Caitanya; his audience included highly learned men from all over Bengal, who became very enthusiastic at the news. Out of this gathering the Sri Navadvipa Dhama Pracarini Sabha was formed for spreading the glories of the Yogapitha (the birthsite). That year, on Gaura Purnima, a big festival was held that witness the installation of Gaura- Visnupriya Deities at the Yogapitha. All the learned pandits, having deliberated fully on Bhaktivinoda Thakura's evidence, agreed that the Yogapitha was the true birthsite of Mahaprabhu.
In 1892, Bhaktivinoda Thakura published the book Vaisnava-siddhanta-mala from his headquarters in Bengal. Later he printed its individual chapters as separate booklets for public distribution. In 1900 he published Hari-nama-cintamani in Bengali poetic form.
In October 1894, at age 56, he retired from his post as Deputy Magistrate, though this move was opposed by his family and the government authorities. He stayed at Svarupa Ganga to worship, lecture and revise his old writings. Sometimes he went to Calcutta; there he begged door to door for funds to construct a Yogapitha temple. In July 1896 Bhaktivinoda Thakura went to Tripura at the request of the the king, who was a Vaisnava. He stayed in the capital for 4 days and preached the chanting of the holy name of Krsna. His lecture on the first day amazed all the local panditas; on the next two days the royal family and general public thrilled to his talks on the pastimes of Mahaprabhu. Back in Svarupa Ganga, Bhaktivinoda Thakura printed a small booklet written in Sanskrit under the title Sri Gauranga-lila-smarana-mangala-stotram, with a commentary by Sitikantha Vacaspati of Nadia. The introduction in English was called "Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His life and Precepts". This book found its way into the library of the Royal Asiatic Society in London, the library of McGill University in Canada and other respectable institutions. It was reviewed in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society by Mr. F.W. Fraser, an erudite British scholar.
In the rainy season of 1896, requested by the Maharaja of Tripura, he went to Darjilim and Karsiyam. In 1897 he went to many villages such as Medinipura and Sauri to preach.
Sisir Kumar Ghosh was the founder of the Amrta Bazar Patrika and the author of the Sri Amiya Nimai-carita. He had great respect for Bhaktivinoda Thakura; he also took up the preaching of the holy name throughout Calcutta and in many villages in Bengal. He published the Sri Visnu Priya O Ananda Bazar Patrika under the editorship of Bhaktivinoda. In one of his letters to Bhaktivinoda he wrote, "I have not seen the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana but I consider you to be the seventh Gosvami."
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had been residing at Puri as a strict renunciate and was engaged in worship at the Gandharvika Giridhari Matha, one of seven Mathas near the samadhi tomb of Haridasa Thakura. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, desiring to help his son, had the monastery cleaned and repaired when he came to Puri himself at the beginning of the 20th century. After Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati left Puri for Sri Navadvipa Mayapura, Bhaktivinoda Thakura constructed his own place of bhajana on the beach, calling it Bhakti Kutir; Krsnadasa Babaji, Bhaktivinoda Thakura's devoted assistant and disciple, joined him there at this time. He was his constant attendant up to the end of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's life. He began solitary worship (bhajan) at this time; he had many visitors at this place. Some of them simply wanted to disturb him, whereas others were sincere and benefited greatly from his spiritual inspiration. In 1908, 3 months before Bhaktivinoda Thakura renounced the world, one of his sons who was working in a Calcutta government office came home to inform his father that Sir William Duke, chief secretary to the government, was in Calcutta. Bhaktivinoda Thakura had served under him as a magistrate. Bhaktivinoda Thakura made an appointment to meet him the next day at the government building. Sir William Duke greeted Bhaktivinoda Thakura on the street outside the building and personally escorted him into his office. With folded hands, he asked forgiveness for having once planned to remove Bhaktivinoda Thakura from his post of district magistrate; this was because he thought that if such qualified Indians held such important posts, the British would not last much longer in India. Formerly Sir William Duke used to visit to Bhaktivinoda's house and would even take his meals there. Such familiarity between British nobility and the native people of India was uncommon. Now that Sir William was getting old, he wished to clear his conscience of guilty feelings from the past, and so confessed to Bhaktivinoda Thakura that he'd thought ill of him despite their close relationship. Bhaktivinoda Thakura answered, "I considered you to be a good friend and a well-wisher all along." Pleased with Sir William, he gave him his blessings. Later Bhaktivinod Thakura admitted he was astonished that Duke wanted to harm him in some way.
In 1908 Bhaktivinoda Thakura took vesa (the dress of babaji) at Satasana in Puri. Until 1910 he would move between Calcutta and Puri, and continued to write; but after that he stopped all activity and remained in Puri, absorbed in the holy name of Krsna. He shut himself up and entered samadhi, claiming paralysis. On June 23, 1914, just before noon at Puri, Bhaktivinoda Thakura left his body. This day was also the disappearance day of Sri Gadadhara Pandita. Amidst sankirtana his remains were interred in Godruma after the next solstice; the summer solstice had just begun when he had left his body. About Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Sarada Carana Mitra, Calcutta High Court Judge, wrote: "I knew Thakura Bhaktivinoda intimately as a friend and a relation. Even under the pressure of official work as a magistrate in charge of a heavy district he could always find time for devotional contemplation and service, and whenever I met him, our talk would turn in a few moments to the subject of devotion, dvaitadvaita-vada philosophy 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." In executing his government service, Bhaktivinoda Thakura would wear coat and pants to court, with double-size tulasi neckbeads and tilaka. He would shave his head monthly. Very strong in his decisions, he would decide immediately. He did not allow any humbug in his court; no upstart could stand before him.
He was always charitable to brahmanas, and equally befriended other castes. He never showed pride, and his amiable disposition was a characteristic feature of his life. He never accepted gifts from anyone; he even declined all honors and titles offered by the government to him on the grounds that they might stand against his holy mission of life. He was very strict in moral principles, and avoided the luxurious life; he would not even chew betel. He never allowed harmonium and he never had any debts. He disliked theaters because they were frequented by public women. He spoke Bengali, Sanskrit, English, Latin, Urdu, Persian and Oriya. He started writing books at age 12, and continued turning out a profuse number of volumes up until his departure from this world.
He always consulted a pocket watch, and kept time very punctually.
7:30-8:00 PM - take rest
10:00 PM - rise, light oil lamp, write
4:00 AM - take rest
4:30 - rise, wash hands and face, chant japa
7:00 - write letters
7:30 - read
8:30 - receive guests, or continue to read
9:30-9:45 - take rest
9:45 - morning bath, breakfast of half-quart milk,
couple capatis, fruit
9:55 - go to court in carriage
10:00 - court began.
1:00 PM - court finished. He'd come home and bathe andrefresh.
2:00 PM - return to office.
5:00 PM - translate works from Sanskrit to Bengali
Then take evening bath and meal of rice, couple of capatis, half-quart of milk.
30. Gaurakisora dasa Babaji
He was the guru of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, the founder of the Caitanya Mathas and Gaudiya Mathas. This Vaisnava saint's life was an example of utter humility and poverty, the true attributes of a Vaisnava. Gaurakisora never accepted any material object from anyone. For his clothing he used the discarded loin cloths from corpses left on the bank of the Ganges. For food, he would collect rice by begging, soak it in river water, and garnish it with salt and chilly. He never asked favors from anyone and lived a fully detached life, devoid of all possessions.
Very little information is available about the past life of Gaurakisora except that he was born in a Vaisya family in the village of Bagjana near Tepakhola on the bank of the Padma. As a householder, Gaurakisora was known by the name Vansidasa. At that time he was engaged in some agricultural trade and from the income took care of his wife and family honestly. After the passing away of his wife, Gaurakisora renounced his home and went to Vrndavana, where he was initiated into Vairagi Vesa by Bhagavata dasa Babaji, one of the foremost disciples of Jagannatha dasa Babaji.
Gaurakisora lived on madhukari and slept beneath a tree. He would lie prostrate, offering his humble obeisances to the residents of Vraja, considering them as embodiments of Lord Krsna. He even offered his obeisances to the flowers, trees, and land around him. He spent about thirty years at Vrajamandala serving the deities there. Afterwards he left for Navadvipa.
During his stay at Navadvipa, Gaurakisora underwent various transformations of spiritual moods. Sometimes he danced on the bank of the Ganges chanting, "Gaura, Gaura", while at other times he would lie on the ground in an unconscious state. He joyfully moved throughout the groves located on the bank of the Ganges, considering them sites of the divine sports of Radha-Govinda. His only clothing was a strip of cloth around his waist and often went totally naked. He chanted japa on beads or sometimes knotted a cloth and used that as a substitute for japa beads. Occasionally, he went to Godruma to listen to Bhaktivinoda Thakura recite Srimad Bhagavatam.
Every virtuous person looked forward to rendering service to Gaurakisora. However, he rarely allowed anyone the chance to serve him. Once Manindracandra Nandi, the Maharaja of Kasimbazar, sent a distinguished messenger to escort Gaurakisora to the former's palace. Gaurakisora, however, did not accept the Maharaja's invitation saying that if he visited the palace he may feel tempted by the wealth of the Maharaja which may result in a strained relation between the two. Hence, Gaurakisora suggested that instead of him visiting the palace, let the Maharaja free himself completely from the shackles of wealth by donating everything he owned to his relatives and then come to live with Gaurakisora in a specially prepared shed where both of them could practice Hari Bhajan in peace.
Gaurakisora was very selective about accepting invitations for food knowing it could adversely affect the spiritual life. Once a devotee name Harenbabu partook of prasada offered at the festival held at bhajan kutir at Navadvipa. For this Gaurakisora stopped communicating with Haren for three days. On the fourth day Gaurakisora explained that the prasada of the above festival had been financed by a woman of questionable profession.
Once, on the eve of Sanatana Gosvami's disappearance day, Gaurakisora decided to celebrate the occasion. The devotee attending him asked who would provide them with the materials for the celebration. Gaurakisora replied: "Remember not to speak to anyone about it. We shall miss a meal and continue around the clock chanting the holy name. This could be the typical festival for those of us who have taken the vow of poverty."
Narendra Kumar Sen, a resident of Agartala (Tripura), once approached Gaurakisora to learn about guru-pranali or siddha pranali. Gaurakisora told him, "The Supreme Lord cannot be realized through worldly knowledge. Only through the chanting of the holy name can the true nature of the Lord be revealed. As the Lord is revealed from the letters comprising the Nama, the devotee gradually begins to understand his own nature and becomes acquainted with seva.
Once a physician told Gaurakisora that he intended to move to Navadvipa and take up charitable practices. Gaurakisora advised the physician that if he truly desired to live in Navadvipa then he should give up the plan for a charitable practice because it would only encourage materially minded people to save money. Those who sincerely practiced Hari bhajan should never get distracted by the chains of welfare activities.
A young seeker wearing a kaupina once stayed with Gaurakisora for some days. Later he arranged, through the agency of an employee of a female estate owner, to obtain five kathas of land as a donation from the woman. When Gaurakisora heard about this he was extremely annoyed: "Navadvipa dhama is beyond this material world. How can a worldly land-owner dare to hold land here and even think he can donate five kathas out of it? A mere grain of sand of the transcendental Navadvipa is more valuable than all the precious gems in this world put together. Moreover, how advanced could this young kaupina-clad devotee be if he dares to collect so much land in lieu of his bhajan merit?"
Once a devotee offered some sweets to Lord Gauranga and then took the offering to Gaurakisora, urging him to partake of it. Gaurakisora told the devotee, "Those who are non-vegetarian, those who commit adultery, or offer food to Lord Gauranga with a particular motive, their offerings never reach Lord Gauranga and are never sanctified as prasada."
Gaurakisora regularly begged for rice, after which he would cook the rice, offer it, and partake of the prasada. He never touched any foodstuff offered by someone else. Once during monsoon, Gaurakisora stayed in the rest-house at Phulia Navadvipa. Some prasada was left in a vessel for him to respect later. Meanwhile a snake passed by the vessel and a woman there happened to notice it. When Gaurakisora sat down to take prasada the woman appeared there and informed him about the snake. Gaurakisora, however, firmly stated that he would not touch the prasada until the woman left. After the woman left, Gaurakisora said, "Look how maya works! Taking the form of compassion, maya attempts to hit deep into her target slowly. Maya can assume countless forms. She always prevents a mortal being from practicing Hari bhajan."
Giribabu and his wife once ardently requested Gaurakisora to stay in their house at Navadvipa. Gaurakisora was moved by their sincere devotion and finally agreed to oblige them on the condition that he would live only in their toilet room where he would perform Hari bhajan. Giribabu tried to persuade him to change his mind but Gaurakisora remained firm. Giribabu reluctantly arranged to have the toilet thoroughly cleaned and Gaurakisora used it for Hari Bhajan. A realized soul can practice Hari bhajan anywhere in an unconcerned manner, and wherever he resides, that place becomes Vaikuntha.
Gaurakisora was a highly spiritually advanced soul. He never allowed deceitful practices or any discussion which was not within the purview of the holy books. One day when a devotee questioned Gaurakisora about a well-known reciter of Srimad Bhagavatam who was in the habit of chanting "Gaura, Gaura", Gaurakisora remarked, "He doesn't say "Gaura, Gaura". Rather what he means to say is, 'Money, Money.' Those who recite Srimad Bhagavatam for payment are not entitled to chant the name of the Supreme Lord."
Gaurakisora never delivered discourses openly, yet his spotless character drew everyone to him. Upon meeting Gaurakisora, even a staunch materialist would become inclined take up Hari bhajan.
In November 1915 AD on Ekadasi day, Gaurakisora dasa Babaji breathed his last. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati himself arranged to bury the mortal remains of his revered guru.
31. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was one of ten children born to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great Vaisnava teacher in the disciple-line from Lord Caitanya Himself. While living in a house named Narayana Chata, just near the temple of Lord Jagannatha in Puri, Bhaktivinoda Thakura was engaged as a prominent Deputy Magistrate and also served as the superintendent of the temple of Lord Jagannatha. Yet in spite of these responsibilities, he served the cause of Krsna with prodigious energy. While working to reform Gaudiya Vaisnavism in India, he prayed to Lord Caitanya, "Your teachings have been greatly depreciated and it is not in my power to restore them." Thus he prayed for a son to help him in his preaching mission. When, on February 6, 1874, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was born to Bhaktivinoda and Bhagavati Devi in Jagannatha Puri, the Vaisnavas considered him the answer to his father's prayers. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and draped across his chest like the sacred thread worn by brahmanas.
Six months after the child was born, Bhaktivinoda arranged for his son to undergo the annaprasana ceremony with the prasada of Vimala Devi, and thereafter named the boy Bimala prasada. Around the same time the carts of the Jagannatha festival stopped at the gate of Bhaktivinoda's residence and for three days could not be moved. Bhaktivinoda Thakura's wife brought the infant onto the cart and approached the Deity of Lord Jagannatha. Spontaneously, the infant extended his arms and touched the feet of Lord Jagannatha and was immediately blessed with a garland that fell from the body of the Lord. Seeing this the priests chanted the name of Hari and told the child's mother that the boy would certainly become a great devotee one day. When Bhaktivinoda Thakura learned that the Lord's garland had fallen on his son, he realized that this was the son for whom he had prayed.
Bimala Prasada stayed in Puri for ten months after his birth and then went to Bengal by palanquin on his mother's lap. His infancy was spent at Nadia District's Ranaghat hearing topics of Sri Hari from his mother.
Bhaktivinoda and his wife were orthodox and virtuous; they never allowed their children to eat anything other than prasada, nor to associate with bad company. One day, when Bimala Prasada was still a child of no more than four years, his father mildly rebuked him for eating a mango not yet duly offered to Lord Krsna. Bimala Prasada, although only a child, considered himself an offender to the Lord and vowed never to eat mangoes again. (This was a vow that he would follow throughout this life.) By the time Bimala Prasada was seven years old, he had memorized the entire Bhagavad-gita and could even explain its verses. His father then began training him in proofreading and printing, in conjunction with the publishing of the Vaisnava magazine Sajjana-tosani.
In 1881, in the course of excavating for the construction of the Bhakti bhavana at Rambagan in Calcutta, a Deity of Kurmadeva was unearthed. After initiating his seven year old son, Bhaktivinoda entrusted Bimala with the service of the deity of Kurmadeva.
On April 1, 1884, Bhaktivinoda was appointed the senior Deputy Magistrate of Serampore, where he admitted Bimala in the Serampore High School. When Bimala was a mere student in class five, he invented a new method of writing named Bicanto. During this period he took lessons in mathematics and astrology from Pandita Mahesacandra Cudamoni. However, he preferred to read devotional books rather than the school texts.
In 1892, after passing his entrance examination, Bimala was admitted into the Sanskrit College of Calcutta. There he spent considerable time in the library studying various books on philosophy. He also studied the Vedas under the guidance of Prthvidhara Sarma. As a student he contributed many thoughtful articles to various religious journals. However he did not continue with his college studies for long.
In 1897 he started an autonomous Catuspathi (Sanskrit school) wherefrom monthly journals entitled "Jyotirvid", "Brihaspati", and many old treatises on astrology were published. In 1898, while teaching at Sarasvata Catuspathi, he studied Siddhanta Kaumudi under Prthvidhara Sarma, at Bhakti bhavana. By the time he was twenty-five he had become well versed in Sanskrit, mathematics, and astronomy, and he had established himself as the author and publisher of many magazine articles and one ancient book, Surya-siddhanta, for which he received the epithet Siddhanta Sarasvati in recognition of his erudition.
In 1895 Sarasvati Gosvami accepted service under the Tripura Royal Government as an editor for the biography entitled Rajaratnakara, the life histories of the royal line of the independent Tripura Kingdom. Later he was entrusted with the responsibility of educating the Yuvaraja Bahadur and Rajkumar Vrajendra Kisore, in Bengali and Sanskrit.
After a short period of time, Siddhanta Sarasvati took up the responsibilities for inspecting various ongoing activities in the royal palace for the state of Tripura. However, after finding envy, malice and corruption surfacing in every corner of his inspection, Siddhanta Sarasvati very quickly developed an aversion to state affairs and gave notice of his intention to retire to Maharaja Radhakisore Manikya Bahadur. The Maharaja approved of Siddhanta Sarasvati's plans for renunciation and awarded him full-pay pension. However, after three years Siddhanta Sarasvati also renounced his pension. With his father, he visited many tirthas and heard discourses from the learned panditas. In October 1898 Siddhanta Sarasvati accompanied Bhaktivinoda on a pilgrimage of Kasi, Prayaga, Gaya and other holy places. At Kasi a discussion was held with Ramamisra Sastri regarding the Ramanuja sampradaya. After this talk Siddhanta Sarasvati's life seemed to take a turn, his inclination towards renunciation increased, and he quietly continued to search for a guru.
When Siddhanta Sarasvati was twenty-six his father, understanding the mind of his son, guided him to take initiation from a renounced Vaisnava saint, Gaurakisora dasa Babaji. Gaurakisora dasa Babaji was the embodiment of vairagya and was very selective about giving diksa. He lived beneath a tree near the bank of the Ganga and wore the abandoned clothes of dead bodies as a waist band (kaupina). Generally he ate plain rice soaked in Ganga water garnished with chili and salt. Sometimes he utilized discarded earthen pots, after properly washing them he would cook rice in them, offer it to Krsna, and then take prasada.
Following the advice of his father, Siddhanta Sarasvati went to Gaurakisora dasa and begged to be accepted as his disciple. Gaurakisora replied that he would not be able to give diksa unless he received the approval of Lord Caitanya. However, when Siddhanta Sarasvati returned again, Gaurakisora said that he had forgotten to ask Lord Caitanya. On the third visit, Gaurakisora stated that Lord Caitanya had said that erudition is extremely insignificant in comparison to devotion to the Supreme Lord.
Hearing this Siddhanta replied that since Gaurakisora was the servant of Kapatacudamani (the Supreme deceiver) hence he must be testing Sarasvati by withholding his consent. However Siddhanta Sarasvati remained firmly determined and remarked that Ramanuja Acarya had been sent back eighteen times before he finally received the grace of Gosthipurna, thus he too would wait patiently until the day that Gaurakisora would bestow his benedictions upon him. Seeing the commitment of Sarasvati, Gaurakisora was impressed and gave him diksa in the blissful grove of Godruma and told him, "to preach the Absolute Truth and keep aside all other works."
In March 1900 Sarasvati accompanied Bhaktivinoda on a pilgrimage of Balasore, Remuna, Bhuvanesvara, and Puri. As instructed by Bhaktivinoda, Sarasvati gave lectures from CC with profound purports. Through the initiative of Bhaktivinoda Thakura the flow of pure bhakti again began to inundate the world. After Lord Caitanya's disappearance a period of darkness ensued in which the river of bhakti had been choked and practically dried up. The end of the period was brought about by the undaunted preaching of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. He wrote a number of books on suddha-bhakti siddhanta and published numerous religious periodicals. He inspired many to take up the service of Lord Gauranga and instituted various Nama Hatta and Prapanna-asrama (Gaudiya matha centers).
In 1905 Siddhanta Sarasvati took a vow to chant the Hare Krsna mantra a billion times. Residing in Mayapur in a grass hut near the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, he chanted the mantra day and night. He cooked rice once a day in an earthen pot and ate nothing more; he slept on the ground, and when the rainwater leaked trough the grass ceiling, he sat beneath an umbrella, chanting.
In 1912 Manindra Nandi, the Maharaja of Kasimbazar, arranged to hold a large Vaisnava Sammilani at his palace. At the specific request of the Maharaja, Sarasvati Gosvami attended the Sammilani and delivered four very brief speeches on suddha-bhakti on four consecutive days. However, he did not take any food during the Sammilani because of the presence of various groups of sahajiyas. After fasting for four days Sarasvati Gosvami came to Mayapura and took the prasada of Lord Caitanya. Later when Maharaja Manindra Nandi realized what had happened he was deeply aggrieved and came to Mayapura to apologize to Siddhanta Sarasvati.
During that time Bengal was full of sahajiya sects, such as Aul, Baul, Kartabhaja, Neda-nedi, Daravesa, Sain etc., who followed worldly practices in the name of spiritualism. Siddhanta Sarasvati launched a severe attack against those irreligious sects and did not spare anyone who deviated from the teachings of Lord Caitanya. Even some well-known persons bearing the surname of Gosvamis patronized these sahajiya sects during that period.
Siddhanta Sarasvati was deeply grieved to see these groups of prakrita sahajiyas, in the garb of paramahamsa Gosvami gurus, misleading the people. Thus he completely dissociated himself and resorted to performing bhajana in solitude. During this period of solitude, one day Lord Caitanya, along with the six Gosvamis, suddenly manifested before Siddhanta Sarasvati's vision and said: "Do not be disheartened, take up the task of re-establishing Varnasrama with new vigour and preach the message of love for Sri Krsna everywhere." After receiving this message, Sarasvati Gosvami was filled with inspiration to preach the glories of Lord Caitanya enthusiastically.
In 1911, while his aging father was lying ill, Siddhanta Sarasvati took up a challenge against pseudo Vaisnavas who claimed that birth in their caste was the prerequisite for preaching Krsna consciousness. The caste-conscious brahmana community had become incensed by Bhaktivinoda Thakura's presentation of many scriptural proofs that anyone, regardless of birth, could become a brahmana-Vaisnava. These smarta brahmanas, out to prove the inferiority of the Vaisnavas, arranged a discussion. On behalf of his indisposed father, young Siddhanta Sarasvati wrote an essay, "The Conclusive Difference Between the Brahmana and the Vaisnava," and submitted it before his father. Despite his poor health, Bhaktivinoda Thakura was elated to hear the arguments that would soundly defeat the challenge of the smartas.
On the request of Madhusudana dasa Gosvami of Vrndavana and Visvambharananda deva Gosvami of Gopiballabhapur, Siddhanta Sarasvati traveled to Midnapur, where panditas from all over India had gathered for a three-day discussion. Some of the smarta panditas who spoke first claimed that anyone born in a sudra family, even though initiated by a spiritual master, could never become purified and perform the brahminical duties of worshiping the deity or initiating disciples. Finally, Siddhanta Sarasvati delivered his speech. He began quoting Vedic references glorifying the brahmanas, and at this the smarta scholars became very much pleased. But when he began discussing the actual qualifications for becoming a brahmana, the qualities of the Vaisnavas, the relationship between the two, and who, according to the Vedic literature, is qualified to become a spiritual master and initiate disciples, the joy of the Vaisnava-haters disappeared. Siddhanta Sarasvati conclusively proved from the scriptures that if one is born as a sudra but exhibits the qualities of a brahmana then he should be honored as a brahmana, despite his birth. And if one is born in a brahmana family but acts like a sudra, then he is not a brahmana. After his speech, Siddhanta Sarasvati was congratulated by the president of the conference, and thousands thronged around him. It was a victory for Vaisnavism.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura passed away in 1914 on the day of Gadadhara Pandita's disappearance. On the eve of his disappearance Bhaktivinoda instructed his son to preach the teachings of the six Gosvamis and Lord Caitanya far and wide. He also requested that Siddhanta Sarasvati develop the birthsite of Lord Gauranga. Mother Bhagavati Devi disappeared a few years later. Before her passing away, she held the hands of Sarasvati Gosvami imploring him to preach the glories of Lord Gauranga and His dhama. Accepting the instructions of his parents as his foremost duty, Sarasvati Gosvami took up this task of preaching with intense enthusiasm and vigour.
With the passing away of his father, and his spiritual master a year later, Siddhanta Sarasvati continued the mission of Lord Caitanya. He assumed editorship of Sajjana-tosani and established the Bhagwat Press in Krsnanagar. Then in 1918, in Mayapur, he sat down before a picture of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji and initiated himself into the sannyasa order. At this time he assumed the sannyasa title Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was dedicated to using the printing press as the best medium for large-scale distribution of Krsna consciousness. He thought of the printing press as a brhat mrdanga, a big mrdanga. The mrdanga drum played during kirtana could be heard for a block or two, whereas with the brhat mrdanga, the printing press, the message of Lord Caitanya could be spread all over the world.
Rohinikumar Ghosh, a nephew of Justice Candramadhava Ghosh of Calcutta High Court and originally a resident of Bhola in Barisal (now in Bangladesh), decided to renounce the world and engage himself in Hari bhajana. With this purpose in mind he came to Kulia in Navadvipa where he led the life of a Baul. However, he despised the practices of the sevadasis prevalent amongst the Baul sect. One day Rohini Ghosh happen to come to the Yogapitha when Sarasvati Gosvami was lecturing there. Rohini was delighted to see the luminous appearance of Sarasvati Gosvami and fascinated by his words. Late that night, after spending the whole day listening to Sarasvati Gosvami's teachings, Rohini returned to his Baul guru's asrama at Kulia. Without taking any prasada, Rohini took rest contemplating the lessons on suddha-bhakti which he had heard that day. In his dream Rohini saw a Baul and his consort appear before him in the form of a tiger and tigress which were about to devour him. Trembling in fear Rohini desperately called out to Lord Caitanya. Suddenly Rohini found himself being rescued from the clutches of the tigers by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. From that day Rohini left the Baul guru forever and took shelter at the feet of Sarasvati Gosvami.
Annadaprasad Datta, the elder brother of Sarasvati Gosvami, suffered with severe headaches shortly before his disappearance. On the day of Annada's disappearance Sarasvati Gosvami remained by his side all through the night, chanting Harinama. Before Annada passed a way he briefly regained consciousness and began apologizing to Sarasvati Gosvami, who simply encouraged him to remember the holy name of the Lord. Suddenly the tilak mark of the Ramanuja sampradaya became clearly visible on Annada's forehead. Annada explained that in his past birth he had been a Vaisnava belonging to the Ramanuja sect. But due to committing an offense at the feet of Sarasvati Thakura, Annada had to be reborn. However, as a result of his past merit he was fortunate enough to be born into Bhaktivinoda's family. After finishing his account Annada breathed his last.
Once on the day preceding Janmastami in the Bengali month of Bhadra, Sarasvati Gosvami was engaged in bhajana at Mayapura but was feeling disturbed as he was unable to arrange for milk to be offered to the deity. As soon as he began to think in this way he chastised himself: "Have I thought like this for my own sake? That is wrong." Because it was the monsoon season, Lord Caitanya's birth site was covered with water and was totally inaccessible except by boat. However, that afternoon, one milkman turned up there wading through water and slush carrying a large quantity of milk, ksira, butter, cottage-cheese etc. Apparently a zamindar named Harinarayana Cakravarti, guided by Lord Caitanya, had sent the milkman with all the items.
After offering everything to the deity the devotees partook of the prasada joyfully. Sarasvati Thakura was surprised to see so much prasada and the devotees explained what had happened. After taking prasada Siddhanta Sarasvati humbly appealed to the Lord: "I am very sorry to have caused You so much trouble. Why did I have such an uncalled for thought? To fulfill my desire You have inspired another person and arranged to send these things."
The world was amazed to see the supernatural power of Sarasvati Gosvami. Many educated persons from highly respectable families were attracted to him and thus dedicated themselves to the service of Lord Gauranga. Between 1918 and 1937 Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati founded sixty-four suddha bhakti Mathas at the following places: Navadvipa, Mayapura, Calcutta, Chaka, Mymensingh, Naryanaganj, Chittagong, Midnapore, Remuna, Balasore, Puri, Alalanatha, Madras, Covoor, Delhi, Patna, Gaya, Lucknow, Varanasi, Hardwar, Allahabad, Mathura, Vrndavana, Assam, Kuruksetra, and outside India in London, and Rangoon. Sarasvati Gosvami instituted Gaurapadapitha at Nrsimhacala on the top of the Mandara hill, and at several places in South India. He initiated twenty five highly educated persons into Bhagavata Tridandi sannyasa.
He published the following periodicals on Suddha Bhakti in different languages:
1. Sajjanatosani (a fortnightly Bengali
2. The Harmonist (an English fortnightly)
3. Gaudiya (a Bengali weekly)
4. Bhagavata (a Hindi fortnightly)
5. Nadiya Prakasa (a Bengali daily)
6. Kirtana (an Assamese monthly)
7. Paramarthi (in Oriya)
In addition he published a large number of Vaisnava books. In fact, he heralded a new era in the spiritual world. He deputed well-disciplined tridandi sannyasi's to preach the message of Lord Gauranga all over the world. For six years he continued to supervise this preaching work and when he found that his mission had attained its goal, to a reasonable extent, he decided to pass into the eternal service of Lord Gauranga.
He recommended to all Vaisnavas to read these books: Caitanya Bhagavata (by Vrindavana dasa Thakura), Dasamula Siksa (by Bhaktivinoda Thakura), Sri Krsna Bhajanamrta (by Narahari Sarkara) and Prema Bhakti Candrika (by Narottama dasa Thakura). According to others, they were Prema Bhakti Candrika, Prarthana (by Narottama dasa Thakura) and Upadesamrta (by Rupa Gosvami)
A few days before his disappearance Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati called his foremost disciples and showered his blessings upon all his devotees. He gave them the following instructions: "With the utmost enthusiasm preach the message of Rupa Raghunatha. Our ultimate goal is to become a speck of dust touching the lotus feet of the followers of Rupa Gosvami. All of you remain united in allegiance to the spiritual master (asraya-vigraha) in order to satisfy the senses of the Transcendental Entity of Non-Dual Knowledge. Do not give up the worship of Hari even amidst hundreds of dangers, hundreds of insults or hundreds of persecutions. Do not become unenthusiastic upon seeing that the majority of people in this world are not accepting the message of Krsna's sincere worship. Never give up the glorification of the topics of Krsna, they are your own personal bhajana and your very all and all. Being humble like a blade of grass and tolerant like a tree, constantly glorify Hari."
In the early hours of the day on January 1, 1937 Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami passed away.
32. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student and, in 1933, his formally initiated disciple.
At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge in English. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work, and, in 1944, started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the galley proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. The magazine is now being continued by his disciples in the West.
In 1950 Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the
vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and
writing. He traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in
humble circumstances in the historic temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's masterpiece: a multivolume commentated translation of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.
After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in September 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Subsequently, His Divine Grace wrote more than fifty volumes of authoritative commentated translations and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.
When he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. Only after almost a year of great difficulty did he establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966. Before he passed away on November 14, 1977, he had guided the Society and seen it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes, and farm communities.
He initiated about five thousands disciples, the first one - Acarya Prabhakarara
das (Mishra, Dr.) - when still in India. His first eleven western disciples
were / are (as per Umapati Swami):
Mukunda das: now Goswami, GBC
Umapati das: now Swami
Hayagriva das: first BBT editor, left his body in 1989
Rayarama das: first BTG main editor, left the movement in 1969
Jagannath das: left the movement in the first few years
Karalapati das: left the movement in the first few years
Ravindra Svarupa das (not the GBC): left in the first few years
Satyavrata das: left in 1967 or 1968
Stryadhisa das: left in 1967
Janardana das: left in 1970
Janaki devi dasi: left the movement in the 70's
In 1972 His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West by founding the gurukula school in Dallas, Texas. Since then his disciples have established similar schools throughout the United States and the rest of the world.
Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of several large
international cultural centers in India. The center at Sridhama
Mayapur, in West Bengal, is the site for a planned spiritual city, an
ambitions project for which construction will extend over many years to come. In Vrndavana are the magnificent Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guesthouse, gurukula school, and Srila Prabhupada Memorial and Museum. There is also a major cultural and educational center in Mumbai. Other centers are planned in a dozen important locations on the Indian subcontinent.
Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution, however, is his
books. Highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, and
clarity, they are used as textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into over fifty languages. The
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
In just twelve years, despite his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada
circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, Srila Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature, and culture.
Books on Srila Prabhupada
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami:1. Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita (7 volumes)
By other disciples:19. Acarya (Sesa Dasa)