Thakur Bhaktivinode

Thakur Bhaktivinode

September 1927

The transcendental nature of Thakur Bhaktivinode as realized by suddha bhaktas finds expression in the following sloka which is repeated by all his followers in making their daily obeisance to him:-

“Obeisance to Thee, Bhaktivinode, by name Sachchidananda,
“The embodiment of Gaur’s Love, the great follower of Rupa.”

The mercy of Gaurasundar has the power of establishing Jivas in their true nature and thereby enabling them to realize the bliss of eternal service to God. Thakur Bhaktivinode is the embodiment of this Shakti (Attribute) of Divine Love. Gaurasundar is Godhead Himself. His Attributes are not separate from Himself. There is no difference between the Attributes of Gaurasundar and Gaurasundar Himself. The bhakta (devotee of God) is the inseparably associated counterpart of Godhead. The Attributes of God and the Devotee of God are Divine. His relation to God is one of inconceivable simultaneous difference and identity. The difference consists in this that the shakti and the devotee are worshippers and not the object of worship. Godhead with all His transcendental paraphernalia ever indwells His shakti and His devotee. They are His own. Out of pity for the apostate Jivas, God sends His own Messenger into this world in every age for establishing the pure and eternal religion in the form of constant service of Krishna. Either Krishna or Krishna’s own messenger establishes the true and eternal religion in this world. This task is beyond the capacity of those who are not helped by the Grace of God Himself.

It will not be possible for us to understand the true meaning of the career of Thakur Bhaktivinode if we do not keep constantly in our mind this all-important fact that Thakur is the embodiment of Divine Love, - a saviour of the fallen beings, sent by God Himself into this world for the purpose of establishing the eternal religion of all Jivas which consists in the eternal and incessant service of Krishna; He taught Sanatan Dharma to the world by way of propaganda and by practising it himself in every act of his earthly life.

‘All (good) qualities of Krishna manifest themselves in His devotee and not at all in those who are given to selfish enjoyments’.

So says the Bhagabatam

He was an ideal father, erudite scholar, practical reformer and distinguished author. This was realised by everyone who had the good fortune of coming into close personal contact with him. It is realised by an increasing number of people in this country who have devoted their serious attention to the subject. His practise is exemplified by the conduct of every one of his followers. They exist at the present moment in our very midst; and it is quite practiceable for any of us to observe closely their mode of life. Everyone who has really taken the trouble of watching their daily life is bound to be convinced of the transcendental purity of the minutest acts of their lives. Those suddha bhaktas fully realise that it is by following the path chalked out by Thakur Bhaktivinode that they have been enabled to attain such perfect purity of body, mind and speech. The purity of the stream is the conclusive proof of the purity of the source.

Thakur Bhaktivinode, in the midst of the multifarious duties of a most active official, found time to propagate the teachings of Sree Gaurasundar and firmly re-establish the practice of Sanatan Dharma in this country. His activity was many sided. A main item was the identification and restoration of forgotten and uncared-for holy sites. His epoch-making and most momentous discovery in this field was that of the actual site of Sreedham Mayapur, the place of the Advent of Mahaprabhu Sree Chaitanya Deva, which was completely lost sight of for many years. The actual site of the residence of Pundit Jagannath Misra, the father of Sri Gaurasundar, was found out and arrangements were made for the preservation of this Holy site and for the construction of a permanent shrine on the spot in which Holy Images of Sree Sree Mahaprabhu and Vishnupriya Devi were solemnly installed. Many of the old sites connected with Mahaprabhu in the region of Gauda were discovered and identified and arrangement made for the proper maintenance of the shrines connected therewith. Propaganda centres were opened at different places of Gauda-desha. Thakur Bhaktivinode established Nama-hattas (propaganda centres of the Holy Name) at different places in the districts of Nadia, Burdwan, Midnapur etc. He also worked hard for the revival of the religion of unalloyed transcendental love of Godhead in the Muttra-quarters. For this purpose Thakur Bhaktivinode constantly travelled from place to place often on foot, begging at every door and always delighting in Hari Sankirtan in the company of a large number of devotees. The closing years of his life were spent at Puri where he built a small house for the purpose of bhajan (‘practice of devotion’) on the sea-beach. He cut himself off from the world during the last four years till his disappearance in 1914.

During these years he was visited in his bhajan-kutir by many people of every description and was ever ready to help them with advice and necessary instructions.

It will thus appear that Thakur Bhaktivinode was in his own life indefatigable in the practice of sudha Sanatan dharma taught by Mahaprabhu and was no less strenuously occupied in the work of restoration of the worship of God at holy sites and the establishment of congregational and individual religious life in the country. But at the same time he was aware that his mission was also to expound to the world the teachings of Sri Mahaprabhu which had been and is still misunderstood by people in this country and elsewhere. He directed his attention in the first instance to Bengal. He found that the people had practically no knowledge of the monumental works of the associates and the most illustrious followers of Mahaprabhu. The very existence of many of those works was unknown. Those who gave themselves out to be the followers of Mahaprabhu mistook ignorance of the Scriptures for devotion and selfish enjoyment for love of God. The educated people had very little practice of religion in any form. The mass and especially women were addicted to Smarta ritualistic practices, the object of which was the attainment of selfish enjoyments. The pandits were mostly either supporters of such fruitive ceremonies or believers in an abstract form of God devoid of all spiritual pastimes, this latter being the bequest of Godless Buddhism and the teaching of Sankaracharyya. Scepticism among the educated classes coupled with the prevalence of Polytheistic or Neutralistic and negative attitudes on the part of the learned among the pundits left the country without a lead on the path of the eternal religion of Jiva viz. the incessant service of Godhead who is the Absolute Truth, the Eternal Existence and the Ocean of all transcendental Bliss.

The embodiment of God’s love in the form of Thakur Bhaktivinode out of pity for Jiva in his distress and perplexity took up at this stage the task of enlightening him again about the only duty of all Jivas which has been proclaimed by all the different Scriptures and which was made clearly manifest to the people of this country four hundred years ago by the Supreme Lord Himself, Who playing the role of a devotee taught Jiva his duty in its concrete form that there might be no room for misunderstanding.

“Himself practising the Dharma, the Lord teaches Jiva that if one does not practise Dharma himself, he cannot teach it to others.”

The career of Mahaprabhu embodying the teachings of all the Scriptures was the subject that Thakur Bhaktivinode placed before the people of Bengal in clear and simple language and with a wealth of learning and depth of spiritual insight that make his numerous works a part and parcel of the Scriptures of all countries, explaining in minutest detail, in unambiguous language, the only true religion of all Jivas. They deserve to rank with the immortal works of Thakur Brindabandas and of Kaviraj Goswamin as Scriptures of the Suddha Sanatan Dharma. We have not obtained any comprehensive work on the Suddha Sanatan Dharma directly from the pen of Sri Chaitanyadeva Himself. His teachings were, however, recorded with the most zealous care by His Associates and Followers during the period that He remained manifest in the world and in that immediately following His disappearance. The monumental works of the six Goswamis were composed in Sanskrit under His own direction. The account of His career was recorded systematically in verse in their great works Sri Chaitanya Bhagabat and Sri Chatanya Charitamrita by Thakur Brindabandas and Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswamin respectively, both of whom were disciples of Lord Nityananda, the Greatest Associated Counterpart of Sriman Mahaprabhu.

In Bengal, at the time of the appearance of Thakur Bhaktivinode, the work of the six Goswamis were practically unknown. The works of Thakur Brindabandas and Kaviraj Goswami were little known and were almost utterly misunderstood. The so-called Vaishnabas of Bengal were then, as a rule, looked down upon by the orthodox Hindu society. But the name of Mahaprabhu was universally venerated. The esoteric meaning of His teachings had been completely forgotten and even the most highly gifted intellects of the country admired Vaishnava devotional literature as merely satisfying their poetic fancies. The divinity was confounded with humanity. This philanthropic attitude was general and was partly responsible for the prevalence of immoralities in so-called many religious practices that ate into the vitals of society.

With the object of dispelling this general ignorance of the principles of Suddha Sanatan Dharma, Thakur Bhaktivinode applied himself to publish systematically important authoritative works dealing with the teachings of Mahaprabhu, with exhaustive explanatory notes in Bengali. A few of these publications may be mentioned here. In 1880 he published Sree Krishna Samhita in Sanskrit with the most learned Introduction, Appendix and Translation in Bengali. In 1886 he published the Gita with commentaries of Srila Bishwanath Chakravarti Thakur and his own annotation ‘Rasik Ranjan’ in Bengali; In 1891, Srimad Bhagabat Gita with commentaries of Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusan and his Bengali annotation ‘Bidvad Ranjan’. In 1894, Ishopanishad with his Bengali annotation ‘Vedarkadidhiti’. In 1895, Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita with his ‘Amritaprabaha Vashya’ in Bengali. In 1897, Sri Brahma-Samhita with his Bengali annotation ‘Prakashini’. In 1898, Sri Krishna Karnamrita with his Bengali annotation. In the same year Sri Upadeshamritam by Sri Rupa Goswami with his Bengali annotation ‘Piyusbarshini Virtti’ and Sri Brihat Bhagabatamritam by Sri Sanatan Goswami with his annotations in Sanskrit and Bengali. In 1901, Sri Bhagabatarka-marichimala. In 1904, edited Satkriasaradipika - a Vaishnaba Smriti by Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami.

This was supplemented by the publication of a series of original works in Bengali prose and verse. Some of the most important of them are: in 1881, Kalyan Kalpataru; in 1886, Sri Chaitanya Sikshamrita; in 1890, Sri Navadwipadhama Mahatmya; in 1892, Sri Mahaprabhu and His Sikska; in 1893, Sri Saranagati, Sokashatan, Jaivadharma; in 1900, Sri Harinana Chintamani; in 1902, Bhajan Rahasya. The Bengali religious monthly, the ‘Sajjana-Toshani’ was started by him in 1879 and he continued to edit the paper for seventeen years when it was made over to the present editor who published it for seven years till the appearance of the weekly Gaudiya - the only Bengali organ of the Suddha Bhakti movement. The Sajjana-Toshani, reappeared this year bearing also the alternative name ‘The Harmonist’ and has been given by her editor a tri-lingual garb of English, Sanskrit and Hindi. Besides these Thakur Bhaktivinode also wrote a number of works in English, Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu and Hindi.

Thakur Bhaktivinode possessed a style that is easy, invigorating, cheerful, lucid and uniform and enriched with the fresh wealth of an ample vocabulary culled from the inexhaustible store house of Sanskrit and adapted into Bengali in a natural way. The Bengali language in the hands of Thakur Bhaktivinode has thus been transformed into a powerful vehicle for the conveyance of the sublimest and the most highly philosophical truths of religion with an ease and precision that makes his works highly interesting and at the same time perfectly intelligible to the most ordinary reader including women and children.

Thakur Bhaktivinode is the Pioneer of the Suddha Bhakti Movement that is at present sweeping over the country. In his numerous literary works he has supplied the golden key that unlocks ‘the region of Eternal bliss’ to all jivas.

The teachings of Mahaprabhu gave us the real meaning of the Scriptures, reconciling all differences of opinion that trouble the world. In Mahaprabhu centres the only hope of the future and the present of all jivas. But the teachings of Mahaprabhu were not grasped by the people of this country and their real significance passed long ago clean out of the memory of the nation. Thakur Bhaktivinode has made the eternal religion live again in his pages. Without his help nobody at the present day can understand the teachings of Mahaprabhu or the Absolute Truth. With his help the Absolute Truth can be easily understood. The Absolute Truth alone can reconcile the otherwise irreconcilable differences and discords of this world. It is universally recognised that the Truth is bound to prevail over untruth in the long run. But even the Truth can only be grasped by those whose minds are perfectly free and prepared to receive when it actually makes its appearance. But most of us are not ready to welcome the Truth for its own sake. Thakur Bhaktivinode tells us that a perfectly pure mind alone is fit to receive the Truth. Perfect purity is not to be found in the world. It belongs to Divinity alone and is imparted by Divine Grace; and God often sends His own beloved to convey His Grace to fallen jivas if only they submit to receive it from him.

The utsabas (religious celebrations) of the Vaishnavas are the concrete realization of this Divine Truth. They are the practical recognition of the necessity of honouring God by the method of honouring His beloved; because it is the only way of serving God and obtaining His Grace.

We shall conclude this brief account of Thakur Bhaktivinode by presenting the reader with a few short extracts from the Thakur’s writings embodying his views regarding Nama Bhajan (Adoration of the Holy Name) which constitutes the fundamental doctrine of the Suddha Sanatan Dharma and the solution offered by him of some of the most pressing problems that confront the generation.

The Holy Name:

“There are many persons who failing to understand the distinction between ‘the dimly perceived Name’ and the Holy name Himself, suppose that the Holy Name is only an ordinary word made up of certain letters of the Alphabet and that, therefore, the taking of the Holy Name without faith is also effective. They adduce as proofs the history of Ajamila and certain passages of the Scriptures etc. It has already been stated that the Holy Name is the ‘Absolute Truth Himself’ and the ‘embodiment of the elixir of the highest ecstatic emotion; and is not attainable by the organs of sense. This being so, if one does not seek the help of the Holy Name with a mind free from offence, no good result is possible. The effect of the utterance of the Holy Name by a person devoid of faith is that thereby it becomes possible for such person subsequently to take the Holy Name with faith. Therefore those who deliberately misinterpreting for a selfish purpose, explain the Holy Name as being merely the juxtaposition of a number of letters forming only a constituent part of fruitive ceremonials, are utterly impious; and their taking of the Name is an offence against the Holy Name Himself.”
(‘Harinama’ Page 7)

“Sriman Mahaprabhu with his associated counterparts, attendants, powers and associates has taught the jivas of the world sankirtan (congregational chanting) of Harinama (the Name of Hari) which is the proper religion in Kali-Yuga. It is not the fact that His appearance was for the purpose of the deliverance of a small number of people of India. On the contrary, His purpose was to deliver all jivas by the propagation of the eternal religion to all countries of the world. Himself declared this in the following words -

“My Name will spread into all the regions and villages of the earth.”

There is no doubt that this indisputable command will very shortly turn into a fact. It appears to be absolutely certain that all of the religions of the world will mature into one universal church of the sankirtan of the Holy name...

Oh! When will that day arrive, when in England, France, Russia, Prussia and America, fortunate men of those countries, with flags, drums, Khole and Karatal (cymbals) etc, in their native towns, shouting ever and anon the Holy Name of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will send a thrill of ecstatic delight all over the world! When will that auspicious day make its appearance when, from one end of the earth white men of Europe and America forming into procession and shouting “All glory to Sri Shachinandana,” will meet halfway and embrace us as brothers and the devotees of our country will reciprocate advancing from the other end! When will that day be when those Europeans will declare;

“Brothers, we have betaken ourselves to the Holy Feet of Sri Chaitanya Deva - the Ocean of Love; we beseech you to embrace us as a token of your kindness!” When will that day dawn when the absolutely pure transcendental love of Vishnu will be the only religion of all Jivas; and, like rivers meeting the ocean, all the narrow creeds will finally merge in the eternal Vashnab religion.”
(The Sajjana Toshani Vol IV. Page 41)

Varnasram Dharma:

“it is not the purpose of any patriotic Indian to destroy the Varnasram Dharma (the duties of the four Varnas and of the four stages). It is our duty to eliminate the impurities that have crept into the system. In order to rejuvenate Varnasram Dharma, it will be necessary to adopt the following principles - (1) No one’s Varna will be settled by birth alone (2) the Varna of Every person should be settled in accordance with the nature formed by the association of early years and by the course of acquisition of knowledge and experience.”
(The Sajjana Toshani Vol II. Page 123.)

The Selection of Sadguru (True Spiritual Guide) “At the time of accepting a preceptor one must satisfy himself that:

(1) he must be well acquainted with the true significance of the scriptures that will enable him to dispel the gloom of ignorance from the mind of the disciple and that (2) he must be above all human frailties and ever devoted to the Transcendental Truth. Such a preceptor is doubtless capable of instructing the disciple in knowledge of every kind. The preceptor who initiates should never be renounced except for the two following reasons.

(1) the disciple should renounce his preceptor when he discovers that his Guru does not possess the above qualities due to the disciple’s mistake in choice. (2) the disciple should repudiate his preceptor in case he (preceptor) becomes a hater of Vishnu and Vaishnaba.”

(Jaivadharma Ch.XX)

“Within the Gaudiya Sampradaya an abundant crop of evils have sprung up during the last four hundred years. The first and foremost duty of an Acharyya is to uproot those evils completely... He alone is an Acharyya who teaches the Dharma that he himself practices.”

Thakur’s two predictions:-

(1) Some person imbued with the power of God will again establish the true Varnasram Dharma in accordance with the Divine Dispensation.

Within a short time there will exist only one Sampradayu (School) in the realm of devotion ‘bhakti’. Its name will be ‘Sri Brahma Sampradaya.’ All other Sampradayas will merge in this Brahma Sampradaya.