Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada
Checked and final editing by Sripad B.M. Puri Maharaj, USA.
Original transcription by Damayanti Devi Dasi, UK.
First editing by Asraya Vigraha Prabhu, New Zealand.
Seeing the signatures of Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatan Goswamis, apparently acknowledging defeat, Sri Jiva Goswami was incensed, "This cannot be!" and then soundly defeated the pundit. But sahajiyas, say, "Oh, Jiva Goswami, doesn't have the same kind of humility that other Vaisnavas possess," and they mean that in a disparaging way. But we take it that he is showing another position of humility. Like that of Sri Vrindavan Das Thakur, who implores the readers of Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat to accept the mercy of Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai, and specifically Nityananda Prabhu, who is everything to Vrindavan Das Thakur. After so much entreaty, so much pleading, because he knows the wealth they will get at the feet of Gaura Nityananda, he says: "If you don't accept them, then I want to kick on your face with my left foot" which is particularly insulting.
Srila Guru Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj, said the sahajiyas say, "Oh, Vrindavan Das doesn't have the kind of humility that Krishna Das Kaviraj does." But he has another type of humility. Srila Guru Maharaj recalled that Srila Saraswati Thakur revealed, "For those who are hopeless, because if they won't take the mercy of the lotus feet of Nityananda Prabhu, then they are considered a hopeless case, still Vrindavan Das Thakur does not want them to escape, so by kicking them in the face with his left foot, he has opened another channel for the Lord's mercy!"
Sometimes we see here at the temple, there are little children, and the parents always want them to do something nice, so they say, "Oh, go over and give dandavats to Maharaj." But then the children may say something horrible or they do something embarrassing. Then the parents have to placate, "Were sorry, he didn't mean it." Similarly if Vrindavan Das Thakur kicks on their face, then Gaura-Nitai have to come and offer Themselves as compensation. So Srila Saraswati Thakur said in this way Vrindavan Das has opened another channel for Their mercy. We will not escape!
Srila Saraswati Thakur had a Western disciple who was imprisoned in a concentration camp in India during World War II. He was preaching to the inmates with great intensity. He would tell them about Srila Saraswati Thakur and say, "My Guru Maharaj's method is known as 'aggressive mercy.'" So, as Pusta Krishna Prabhu mentioned recently, Srila Prabhupada was in that mood blasting.
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj concurs: "Blasting!" On his recent tour of Venezuela, we drove through four mountain tunnels on the way to the temple in Caracas. Srila Govinda Maharaj reminisced, "Srila Swami Maharaj blasted a tunnel through the Western ego and now we all go through easily in grand style." And it's true. We sit here in the wake of Srila Prabhupada's mercy. He assaulted modern civilisation head on, face on. We didn't have a word for it then, but now it's, "politically incorrect." He wasn't embarrassed to say that which is politically incorrect. In fact, Srila Prabhupada was a master of using political incorrectness to draw people's attention to the Krishna conception. He was not oblivious, he knew what he was saying. He knew these were hot buttons he was pressing their buttons, and that would get media coverage or would draw people's attention toward his message.
So Srila Saraswati Thakur also, issued a challenge that he will demonstrate the superiority of the Krishna conception above all others and he did. Srila Guru Maharaj has written of a parallel. As the sun of Mahaprabhu arose, appeared, in Nabadwip and set in Puri so Srila Saraswati Thakur appeared in Puri and withdrew in Nabadwip. There are some mystical references in Chaitanya Mangala and elsewhere, with regard to an ancient Vedic aphorism that says, "He will appear in the East." So from Puri, Jagannath Puri (Jagannath prasad) the followers of Srila Saraswati Thakur see that this divine mercy came out of Puri with the appearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur.
Not only did Saraswati Thakur appear in Puri but from the front gate of the Temple you can see his birth house. Not miles away which would still qualify as being "Puri" but you couldn't get any closer. He appeared there. And we're told at the time of the Rathayatra, by the divine will of Jagannath, the chariot stopped and his mother presented him before the Deity. A garland fell from Jagannath as an acknowledgement that a siddha mahapurus, one of His own, has appeared.
Srila Govinda Maharaj has said that when Srila Saraswati Thakur was born, just as when Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur discovered the birthplace of Mahaprabhu, he invited Jagannath Das Babaji for verification. He had prayed to Mahaprabhu to send one of His own men. When Srila Saraswati Thakur appeared, Bhaktivinoda Thakur held a festival and he invited Jagannath Das Babaji to come and verify Vaisnava recognition that this is in fact a siddha mahapurus. Jagannath Das Babaji came, they had a three day festival, he observed the child, his movements, his physiognomy, and verified: yes, for whom we were praying, he has appeared!
grantha-dam gaura-dhama-dam nama-dam muda
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's gifts are unparalleled: through whom all our Scriptures were revealed, the divine abode of Nabadwip Dham, Mahaprabhu's birthplace, the songs of the Gaudiya canon, the aratis, the aspiration for the service of the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani in the line of Sri Rupa; everything we do is Bhaktivinoda-based. But as if that were not enough he also gave us Guru, in the form of Srila Saraswati Thakur.
We are told by Srila Guru Maharaj, that sometimes Bhaktivinoda Thakur worried about the young Bimala Prasad (Saraswati Thakur). Bhaktivinoda Thakur used to worry about him because he thought, "This boy, while at school, he is always getting into fights, arguments with others." Over what? The superiority of the Krishna conception and Mahaprabhu above all others. And Guru Maharaj said, once Bhaktivinoda Thakur was talking with his son one of those parental kind of "what are we going to do with you" type talks; he said, "I'm worried about your future." And Saraswati Thakur responded, "Don't worry about me, I'll be just fine." These things are part of their play, the divine play of Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Saraswati Thakur.
Many came to Bhaktivinoda Thakur for advice: sahajiyas, jata gosai, this one, that one. Bhaktivinoda Thakur was aloof. When some so-called siddha mahatmya came to Bhaktivinoda Thakur for consultation which shows you who is Bhaktivinoda Thakur, siddha mahatmyas come and ask him if they're doing OK when that babaji was there talking with Bhaktivinoda, he noticed that a hundred feet away Saraswati Thakur was giving dandavats to Bhaktivinoda Thakur. The man was a little perplexed, "Why does the boy give dandavats from so far?" Bhaktivinoda Thakur replied, "Oh him? Dont mind him. He has a vow that he will not come within 100 feet of a sahajiya and he saw you!"
Bhaktivinoda was everything to Saraswati Thakur, such that, Guru Maharaj said, he is always using the word "vinoda" as an appellation for Deity names like Radha Vinoda, etc. Saraswati Thakur could not tolerate that anyone would have that name also. Bhaktivinoda could only mean one person. So Srila Govinda Maharaj said that from this one event, we learn so many things, one of which is that, when it came time for his Bimala Prasad, which is the beginning name of Saraswati Thakur, to take initiation, Bhaktivinoda Thakur didn't send him even to his own so-called diksa guru, but rather to the lotus feet of Srila Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj. Sometimes some questions come about Bhaktivinoda Thakur's diksa guru this, that and the other thing. But to whom did he send Saraswati Thakur to for connection? Not to the jata gosai birth line, specifically not to give credence to that misconception. And as if to underscore this point he even declined to give initiation himself.
So the young Saraswati Thakur was sent to an actual siddha mahatmya, Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj for diksa. Saraswati Thakur once said, "My Guru Maharaj could not even write his name, but I found all spiritual knowledge within a toenail of his holy lotus feet!" That Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj was not easily approachable, so when Saraswati Thakur, who had the reputation of being a maha upadesaka pandit so scholarly, so learned sought his connection, Babaji Maharaj said, "You are approaching me? Is this some kind of a joke? A man like you, a renowned scholar, will approach me? This is ludicrous." He denied him. But Saraswati Thakur persisted. Giving some recognition Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj said, "I'll have to ask Mahaprabhu's permission." Saraswati Thakur came again, and Babaji Maharaj said, "Oh, I forgot to ask Mahaprabhu!" Saraswati Thakur became despondent.
When he found Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj, we're told, Babaji Maharaj was singing a song about Srila Raghunatha Das Goswami. We hear them sing it in the evenings at the Radha Damodar Temple, "Asta sakhi siromani Radhe Radhe." It has this "Radhe Radhe" in it. "Mukhe Radha Radha bale, bhese nayanera jale Radhe Radhe." Raghunatha Das Goswami is crawling on the divine soil of Radha Kunda, Govardhan, crawling on his hands and knees on that sacred soil, with tears streaming down his eyes, choked up, taking the name, "Radhe Radhe." That is why this is so sacred to those in this line. Not that anyone and everyone shall casually vibrate Her Divine Name for anything and everything. But Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj was singing this song when Saraswati Thakur encountered him. Finally, Babaji Maharaj consented to give his connection.
And sometimes Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj, when he heard Saraswati Thakur had some plans for preaching in Calcutta, he would say "Don't go there, that's Kali's city (Kali's sthan). That city is full of maya. Better to stay in the safety of the Dham." Saraswati Thakur replied, " I have got so much charm in your foot-dust, I can conquer thousands and thousands of Kalis! My purpose is to establish the Dham, or Mahaprabhu's conception in the heart of maya. So in the most contaminated, filthy place, that's where I want to make a throne for Mahaprabhu's Krishna conception." And we have heard from Srila Govinda Maharaj that Srila Saraswati Thakur never opened the window of his room in the Bagh Bazaar Gaudiya Math. The shutters were never opened, because on the other side was a brothel. He established his Math in the heart of maya; that divine conception was broadcast from there.
There are many who helped Srila Saraswati Thakur establish his mission. One of his most stalwart servitors and assistants, whom he referred to as the "co-founder" was Kunjabehari Vidyabhushan, "Kunja Babu," who later became Srila Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaj. He was in Calcutta with one of his friends thinking there were no real siddha mahatmyas left in the world because there were so many bogus impersonators, cheaters and imitators. Somehow one of his friends said, "No, there is one left. It's Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj and he lives in Nabadwip Dham." So they went to see him but arrived on the day of Babaji Maharaj's disappearance. At that very time, when there was some controversy about who would take possession of his divine form, the two of them were dispatched to Mayapur to inform his only known disciple, Srila Saraswati Thakur, who had already got news and was coming on the way. When they crossed paths, at that time he saw in his soon-to-be disciple, his Guru Maharaj coming to him. We have heard, from Srila Swami Maharaj Prabhupada, a maha-bhagavata guru doesn't accept anyone as a disciple, but rather he sees all 'disciples' as vaibhavas or extensions of his Guru who has come to assist him in that seva which he considers himself unfit and unqualified to perform. So Srila Saraswati Thakur saw in this disciple of his, his own Guru, Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj, and after I don't want to go into the details of that, but after the Samadhi controversy was settled, it was clear that Babaji Maharajs divine form would be taken by his only disciple, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Sripad Tirtha Maharaj and the others presented themselves to Saraswati Thakur to become his followers.
Srila Guru Maharaj heard from his first two disciples that such was the intensity of the Krishna conception within him and his attempt to extend it to others, that he would pound the table with his fist while his veins would bulge making his face flush red. Later witnessing the same, Srila Guru Maharaj said we came to understand the meaning of 'lotus face.' His face, when it was flushed with such intensity looked like a pink lotus flower in full bloom!
His early followers lamented knowing that he was trying to "forcibly make us taste some nectarean substance, but it was beyond our capacity." So Saraswati Thakur endowed them with capacity. He gave them the capacity to appreciate this divine substance. This is the way Krishna consciousness works. Those who are fortunate to be in connection with Vaisnavas shall never think that this is our possession; that we know something about Krishna consciousness. Rather, it is an endowment from the upper world descending into this plane through the agency of Guru-Vaisnava. And in their relativity, associating with them and serving them, by their causeless mercy they may extend some consciousness of Krishna to us. It is a divine gift. Srila Guru Maharaj once said, "It is a gift, with the tacit understanding that, although it's being given freely, you shall extend it to others." Adding, "and not anything less than was given to you."
So Srila Saraswati Thakur was brought down from the spiritual world to this plane because of his attraction for the wealth in the melted heart of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. And he wanted to distribute that to others. He began with two men, one by one converting many to his Krishna conception. These were not street people, but highly educated men; the intelligentsia; those with high levels of sukriti; highly spiritually evolved. But he enriched them with the intensity of his Krishna conception and always with the underlying understanding of extending it to others. Once Srila Guru Maharaj said Saraswati Thakur distilled from all the teachings of Bhaktivinoda Thakur the essential principle of association of superior association: sadhu-sangah svato vare in the same line and superior; by superior association Krishna consciousness is extended to others. So he created an association under the name and style of Sri Gaudiya Math.
One lawyer, after speaking with him for a few minutes, said, "Are you trying to convert me?" and Saraswati Thakur said, "Yes, if you could only give your attention for five minutes. But it wouldn't be a question of conversion because once you realise what your wealth is, the actual inner wealth of your heart, there would be no question of conversion. Rather, automatic acceptance. You can't give those five minutes because ego is in the way. But if you would realise that it is your own wealth, there would be no necessity for conversion."
Having the nature of a reclusive philosopher, Srila Saraswati Thakur was living alone in seclusion. His vow was to chant a billion Names of Krishna. That means, roughly speaking, around 200 rounds a day, and then at the end of a month he'd chant some extra, and then at the end of ten years it's around ten years of chanting, that type of vow. But he came out of that position, and one by one brought people under the influence of his Krishna conception. So he said, "I began this movement ten years ago. I was alone, now I have 500 men who say what I say. And with equal intensity." In this way, from the heart of Saraswati Thakur, extended to the hearts of his followers and to others, the Krishna consciousness movement was being extended with so much emphasis on preaching to the West. Why the West? He said because India is caught, captured by the glamour of Western civilisation, just as the present world is captured by the glamour of American pop consumer culture. It was not arbitrarily but a strategy. The whole world is following them. If we can bring them under Mahaprabhu's flag, then the whole thing can be captured.
Srila Guru Maharaj pointed out, this was Napoleon's strategy: attack the strongest point, then the rest will topple. This was so earnestly and regularly implored by him to his followers that there was one man in Gaudiya Math, whose job was ploughing fields with oxen, and some of the devotees saw that in his spare time he was studying English. They asked, "Prabhu, why are you studying English?" And he said, "Well, Prabhupada says we're all going to have to go and preach in the Western world; maybe some day I'll be ploughing the fields of America!"
As Gaudiya Math expanded all over India, Srila Saraswati Thakur, expressed some lamentation that it had not been taken to America. One preacher was sent to England but came back, "half converted" damaged. A receiving party composed of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj Prabhupada, Srila Guru Maharaj and others met him at the docks in Bombay upon his return. They were so eager about this Western preaching that Srila Swami Maharaj started inquiring from him what had happened. The sannyasi confided, "They asked questions that cannot be answered." Swami Maharaj was puzzled, "What are these questions that cannot be answered?" And one by one Srila Guru Maharaj answered all the questions that "cannot be answered." When he answered the last, the returned preacher was stunned and Srila Swami Maharaj exclaimed to the delight of the assembled devotees, "Today, Europe has been defeated by Asia!"
Many years went by but Srila Swami Maharaj never forgot the order of Srila Saraswati Thakur. He revealed that while reading Srila Viswanath Chakravarti Thakur's commentary on vyavasayatmika buddhir, ekeha Kuru-nandana (Gita 2:41), regarding the sort of resolute determination one has to have to be successful in Krishna consciousness he had an epiphany: there is no other purpose to existence than to serve the order of Guru. That is the sole meaning of a disciple's life. Srila Guru Maharaj observed, he wholly emptied himself of any other want than Saraswati Thakur's cherished desire to bring Krishna consciousness to the West. And he did that extensively. Such was the magnitude of his preaching that Srila Guru Maharaj declared him a Saktyavesa Avatara.
Additionally, I feel Srila Guru Maharaj paid him the greatest compliment in appreciation of his service to Srila Saraswati Thakur. After the publication of Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Srila Saraswati Thakur sent preachers to the West they were the advance party he himself was planning to spend the next ten years of his life preaching in England and America. But he left this world prematurely. Srila Guru Maharaj said, "but through Srila Swami Maharaj, he gave our Guru Maharaj those ten years." It was Srila Saraswati Thakur's heart's desire to extend Mahaprabhu's Krishna conception to the people of the Western world. We know that Srila Prabhupada spread the Krishna conscious movement around the world in roughly a ten-year period. Srila Guru Maharaj said, "Through him, our Guru Maharaj was given those ten years." What greater compliment than that!
I will conclude here to give others the chance to speak. But as Srila Guru Maharaj wrote in the last line of this sloka, vilasatu hrdi nityam Bhaktisiddhanta vani, "May that divine song of Srila Saraswati Thakur play in our hearts eternally!"
Jaya Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur tirobhav maha mahotsav ki jaya!
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