~Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaj
I bow to Sri Thakur Bhaktivinoda, Mahaprabhu's love divine personified. He is the king of all knowers of the purpose of the scriptures, and he is the ocean of Sri Radha's devotion.
namo bhaktivinodaya saccidananda-murtaye
I offer my obeisances to you, O Bhaktivinoda, the form of eternity, knowledge and bliss, the incarnation of Gaura’s potency and the best of the followers of Rupa Goswami.
Illuminating the Gaudiya Sky
Our divine great-grandfather Acharyya, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, appeared at a time when the world of Gaudiya Vaisnavism was in a dire situation. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur wrote that when Mahaprabhu and his associates had left this world to enter the Lord’s eternal pastimes, “the sky over Bengal slowly darkened, covered by the thick clouds of sense enjoyment and false renunciation. The sky was covered and the world was bereft of the rays of light coming from Mahaprabhu’s sankirttan. One by one, the sun, the moon and the unlimited stars of that sky faded from view…Almost 350 years after the appearance of Mahaprabhu, the Divine Sun, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur came to illuminate the Gaudiya sky.”
He took birth in a well-known aristocratic Kayastha family on 2 September 1838 in the town of Ula, near Birnagar, in the district of Nadia, Bengal. He was the son of Raja Krsnananda Dutta, a great devotee of Nityananda Prabhu, and Jagat Mohini Devi and was given the name Kedarnath Dutta. He studied at Krishnanagar College and was extremely well known by the surrounding educated society for his goodness, vast intellect, scholarly nature and his exceptional talent at debating and writing.
He accepted the role of government service for his livelihood and for a time was posted as an officer in Orissa and as inspector of the Jagannath Puri Temple. His duty there was to guard against corruption. He established regulated worship of the Deity and he organised daily discourses in Srimad Bhagavatam in the Temple courtyard. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur spent much time chanting the Holy Names and regularly took darshan of the holy places in Sri Puri Dham—especially Tota-Gopinath Mandir, the samadhi of Srila Haridas Thakur, Siddha Bakul and the Gambhira.
While serving in Dinajpur, He gave his speech saying, “The Bhagavat, the revealed scripture of the Vaisnavas, does not allow its followers to ask anything from God except eternal love towards Him.” Knowing that in the future Vaisnavism would spread across the world, he said, “See how universal is the Vaisnava religion! It is not intended for a certain class of Hindus alone, but it is a gift to man at large, in whatever country he is born and in whatever society he is bred.”
A Simple and Dignified Gift
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur continued with his government service, but also dedicated his heart and all his energy to the study of Vaisnavism. After his day’s work, he would remain awake late into the night reading and writing sacred devotional literature and poetry. He wrote, edited and published over 100 books in several languages and he was the first to send his books out of India and introduce the teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu to the Western world.
Feeling compassion for suffering humanity, he delivered, in sweet and lucid style, Sri Chaitanyadev’s message of taking the Holy Name in a mood of surrender. Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj said that Bhaktivinoda Thakur saw it as self-evident that the intelligentsia could not but be attracted by such a plain, simple and dignified gift--the gift of Mahaprabhu, the conception of Mahaprabhu. And Thakur Bhaktivinoda himself said, “Many things are going on in religion in the name of the highest solution of our life, but what Mahaprabhu has given very soon will be detected by the intelligentsia of the world, and all will flock to the banner of Sri Chaitanyadev and will sing the glory of Mahaprabhu and Krishna.”
adarsam acara-vidhau dadhauyah
sa jagarukah smrti-mandire kim
nityam bhaved bhakti-vinoda-devah
~Srila BR Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
When will Bhaktivinoda Prabhu, who gave us the example of how to act by preaching the jewel of the Holy Name, remain alive in the temple of my memory?
According to its Necessity
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur once surprised his audience by saying that shallow thinkers appreciate Vrndavan, but a man of real bhajan, real divine aspiration, will aspire to live in Kurukshetra. He noted that Thakur Bhaktivinoda, after visiting many different places of pilgrimage, remarked, “I would like to spend the last days of my life in Kurukshetra.”
Srila BR Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj revealed the conception behind this statement--“Service is more valuable according to the intensity of its necessity. According to its necessity, service is valued.” In Kurukshetra, Srimati Radharani is in the highest necessity because Krishna is so close, but Their vrndavan-lila is impossible. Krishna is there in Kurukhsetra, so near, but He is in the role of a king and They cannot meet intimately. At this time, Srimati Radharani needs the highest service from her group of servitors. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that, in this heartbreaking situation, a drop of service will draw the greatest amount of prema, divine love.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur sometimes spoke of returning to Vrndavan. “I began to feel that my life had been spent uselessly,” he said. “I had not accomplished anything. I had not been able to taste the nectar of the joy of serving Sri Sri Radha Krishna, the personification of eternity, knowledge and bliss. If I could, I would have liked to retire from m y job in a few years. Then I would go to Mathura/Vrndavan…and engage myself in devotional service…I went to Tarakeswar on some errand. While I was sleeping there, the Lord came to me at night and said, “You are thinking of going to Vrndavan, but what about the work you are supposed to do in Nabadwip, which is close to your home?”
Thakur Bhaktivinoda said, “After I came back from Tarakeswar, every Saturday I would go from Krishnanagar to Nabadwip to look for the places of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. But I could not find anything, and that made me very sad.” Once when visiting Kuliya, now Nabadwip, he looked, late at night, from the rooftop overlooking the Ganges. In the introduction to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—His Life and Precepts it says, “During deep meditation on the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he is said to have seen in a vision a luminous building towards the northeast.
“The next morning he went to the vicinity
of the place that had appeared to him. He came to know of a place that was
being adored by some of the residents as the true birth site of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. They
pointed out an extensive mound covered with Tulasi
plants and informed him that this was the actual site of the house where Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had
appeared. He became extremely joyful.”
We Should Adore, We Should Worship
His Divine Grace Srila AC Bhaktiventa Swami Maharaj spoke to group of new disciples in London saying, “Bhaktivinoda Thakur was a great Acharyya of this disciplic succession from Krishna…We should adore, we should worship, because in the modern age he reintroduced the disciplic succession…In this succession the Acharyyas are authorities. Our process of knowledge is very simple. We take it from the authority. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu five hundred years ago taught this philosophy…So our adoration, our worship is to Bhaktivinoda Thakura today because he may bless us to make peaceful progress in Krishna consciousness. Acharyya-upasana, simply by the blessings of the Acaryyas we can make very rapid progress. Vedenu durlabham adurlabham atma- bhaktau.
Srila Saraswati Thakur said, "Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is the best of the followers of Sri Rupa Gosvami. The pure joy of devotional service comes in the stream that started with him."
His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj has said that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur relished the deeply devotional writings of Sri Yamunacharyya. Even though Yamunacharyya was in the Laksmi-Narayan Sampradaya and not the line coming down from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur very much appreciated his divine sentiments and this has carried on in our line since then.
In one talk, Srila Govinda Maharaj noted, “In the book Saranagati there are so many songs which are necessary for us to translate. Whoever understands the meaning of the poetry of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur will understand what is dedication, what is renunciation, and what is devotion. One who is dedicated with devotion will get so many qualities and qualifications. One who is fully dedicated must get progress in his spiritual life.”
Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj noted that, before beginnng to write his book, Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam, he thought, Saranagati is the basis, but what is saranagati? On reading Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Saranagati book, this point impressed him most:
anga saranagati haibe yanhara
"If you want Nanda Kumar, you must have this six-fold saranagati." [The six limbs of saranagati are: acceptance of the favorable; rejection of the unfavorable; full confidence in the Lord's protection; embracing the Lord's guardianship; full self-surrender; and surrender in humility.]
The title Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam means, prapannanam, jivane, amrta-svarupam: "The nectar in the life of the surrendered souls." This was my conception from the beginning: prapanna-jivanamrta. Those who have come to take this, to feel it, this will be like nectar to them. To those who have surrendered, it will be nectar to them, but others, the ordinary people, may not appreciate it.
Ontological Depth and Happy Style
In Guardian of Devotion it is said, “During the lifetime of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad, in 1936, Srila BR Sridhar Maharaj composed a poem describing the ontological positions of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and the line of disciplic succession stemming from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur read it with a very critical eye. By the time he reached the fifth verse in particular, he became especially satisfied to understand that Srila Guru Maharaj had captured Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's conception.
Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad was so pleased with the poem's ontological depth and its happy style that he remarked: "Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written this through him. Now I am satisfied that although I may go, at least one man remains behind who can represent my conclusions." This poem gave Srila Saraswati Thakur great pleasure.
ha ha bhaktivinoda-thakkura! guroh! dvavimsatis te sama
jivanam bahu-janma-punya-nivahakrsto mahi-mandale
avirbhava-krpam chakara cha bhavan sri-gaura-saktih svayam 
Alas, alas! O Bhaktivinoda Thakura, O Supreme Guru, for twenty-two years this world has been plunged into misfortune, long grief-stricken in your intolerable separation. You are the divine potency of Sri Gaura, and you graciously made your advent in this earthly plane, being attracted by the living beings' virtuous deeds performed throughout many lifetimes.
Referring to this poem, Srila Sridhar Maharaj once said, “I attempted to write something about
Bhakt ivinoda Thakur, and I thought this was the key to Prabhupad Saraswati’s affection toward me. His attention was drawn to me because I tried to give the greatness of Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s character to the public in a systematic way. It is my own feeling. He can give everything to one who is a little attached to Bhaktivinoda Thakur.”
The Seventh Goswami
godruma-dhame bhajana-anukule mathura-sri-nandisvara-samatule
tahi maha surabhi-kunja-kutire baithobun hama sura-tatini-tire
~Bhakti-anukula-matra Karyera Svikaran, song 2
On the banks of the celestial Ganges River I will dwell in a cottage at Surabhi-kunj in Godruma-dhama. This land of Godruma is very conductive for performing devotional worship of the Supreme Lord and is non-different from the sacred place called Nandagram, located in the holy district of Mathura.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura ended his manifest pastimes in Jagannath Puri on the 23rd of June 1914, the disappearance day of Sri Gadadhar Pandit. He returned to his sweet pastimes in the spiritual world and his earthly body was taken back to his beloved Godruma in the holy Dham.
~Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur
Worship the moon of Godrum’s forest bowers, the ocean of mercy for His own companions from the land of Gauda; He dances in the midst of the kirttan, surrounded by these associates, His effulgent form appearing to be of refined gold.
Srila Saraswati Thakur arranged a public meeting hall for offering condolences. Numerous respectable people, great scholars and beloved associates attended and spoke of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s immeasurable glories. In an obituary about Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Sarada Carana Mitra, Calcutta High Court Judge, wrote: "I knew Thakur Bhaktivinoda intimately as a friend and a relation. Even under the pressure of official work as a magistrate in charge of a heavy subdivision he could always find time for devotional contemplation and work, and whenever I met him, our talk would turn in a few moments to the subject of 'bhakti' and 'achintya bheda abheda', 'dvaitadvaita-vada' etc., and the saintly work that lay before him--service of God.”
It was noted that he showed genuine humility—refusing all honours and titles even in his government work--and always maintained strict moral standards. Many recognized that Thakur Bhaktivinoda gave new and fresh thought about religion and one’s eternal position. His studies and revelations on Vaisnavism excelled that of all the modern Acharyyas. Shishir Ghosh said, “We have heard of the Six Goswamis of the time of Mahaprabhu, but Bhaktivinoda’s writings prove that he holds the seventh position amongst the Goswamis. He has left us such extensive and original writing about the teachings of Sri Chaitanyadev.”
Srila Saraswati Thakur once predicted, “That day is not far distant when the priceless volumes penned by Thakur Bhaktivinoda will be reverently translated, by the recipients of his grace, into all the languages of the world.” Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Maharaj has said that “Bhaktivinoda Thakur left the world his literature—he is in his literature, present forever. He has delivered his writings about the teachings of Mahaprabhu and Bhagavatam in a systematic and scientific way, suitable to the modern age. Our debt to his Holy Feet has no end.”
From the Inner Chambers of His Heart
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur had appealed to the Lord asking Him to send a ‘Ray of Vishnu’ to continue his work in preaching Sri Chaitanyadev’s golden message. When Thakur Bhaktivinoda left this world, in his extreme mercy, he left behind his most beloved and valued contribution—Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Srila BR Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj explained that the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Gadadhar were kept in the inner chambers of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's heart, and by dint of that very same melted heart, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur descended.
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj has shared how Srila Saraswati Thakur became angry at any suggestion that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was of the nature of an ordinary human being. The conception Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur gave cannot come from the human section, and his "chamber of bhajan" is extremely difficult to open.
In a Gaudiya Darshan article Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur has said, “Thakur Bhaktivinoda’s greatest gift to the world consists in this; that he has brought about the appearance of those pure devotees who are, at present, carrying out the movement of unalloyed devotion to the Feet of Sri Krishna by their own whole time spiritual service of Divinity.”
~Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur
Become fixed in the religion of serving the servants of Hari. Be fixed in drinking the nectar of the Holy Names. Always be fixed in respect, humility and compassion. Worship the moon of Godrum’s forest bowers.
The Seed of Highest Benefit
In Srila BR Sridhar Maharaj’s book, Heart and Halo, it is said, “In the teachings of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, whose preaching was inspired by Sri Gadadhar Pandit and Sriman Mahaprabhu, we find all the substance that is present in that plane of vibration. These two personalities, Sri Gadadhar Pandit and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, are our great gurus, our guides, and by offering our worship to them we can sow the seed of our highest benefit. By the grace of that great Guru-Maharaj Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, we have been able to understand this.
“And Bhaktivinoda Thakura, though generally he has his own position, as understood from the consideration of the disciple, Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura has seen Srimati Radharani in him: a ‘relative’ vision. He once said that Radharani represents the full play of asta-nayika, the eight characteristics of the heroine; we see that they are all perfectly represented in Her. In other places we may find partial representations of them, but we find them fully manifest only in Her.
Only Those of Deep Vision
“He said, “I see my Gurudeva as Guna-manjari, and in that manjari form he has some partial representation of Radharani. But if I attempt to look more deeply, I find him identified fully with Her; the eight kinds of qualities displayed in the service of Krishna (asta-nayika) are to be found there. If I look at him with my head a little more erect, I can see that he is one with Radharani acharyyam mam vijaniyat: know the Acharyya as Myself. If I give more attention to this sastric rule and try to search out the meaning, I find that Radharani comes to take Her place there, in the position of my gurudeva.” In this way he has seen in Bhaktivinoda Thakura the fullest representation of the cult of Sri Gauranga.
“This realization is expressed in his poem in which he says that he saw Svarupra Damodara Goswami in Gaura-kishor Dasa Babaji, and Sri Gadadhara Pandit in Srila Bhaktivinoda Thahura. In one place he has written: gadadhara-din dhari’ paiyacche gaurahari, he has accepted the day of the disappearance of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to be identified with that of Sri Gadadhar Pandit. In another place, in his poem at the conclusion of his Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta commentary, he has written: “Here, in Nabadwip Dhama, the eternal pastimes are going on continuously; only those who have got that deep vision can perceive it.
gadadhara mitra-vara, sri svarupa damodara,
sada kala gaura-krsna yaje
jagatera dekhi’ klesa, dhariya bhiksuka-vesa,
aharahah krsna-nama bhaje
sri gaura icchaya dui, mahima ki kava mui,
prakata haiya seve, krsna-gaurabhinna-deve,
aprakasya katha yatha tatha
He says, “It is very difficult to perceive the sweet will of Sri Gauranga, but if we can lift ourselves to that level, we see that Svarupa Damodar Goswami and Sri Gadadhar Pandit are always engaged in their service here in Nabadwip. Sometimes it is suppressed and sometimes it is appearing on the surface. In that plane all is going on by the sweet will of Sri Gauranga, without any restriction. But now I find that those two have appeared on the surface as Srila Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. I have seen it with my own eye of divine service but this is not to be advertised, not to be given publicity anywhere and everywhere; people will laugh at it. But this is my heartfelt conclusion.
“He has written this in his poem concluding Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta. So Gadadhar Pandit was identified with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. That was the vision of our Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. He could see in them the same identity. He considered siksa-guru parampara to be the most substantial thing. Eliminating the sahajiya-vada which gives much importance to the outer cover, try to look within, and see things more deeply. Try to understand the deeper vibrations of the outside environment, and see within yourself also. Dive deep, and you will find the plane of the finest vibration which will carry that news to you, and you will see that truth.”
uktas tatha bhavyata eve sadbhih
kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya
vande guroh sri-charanaravindam
~Sri Sri Gurvvastaka
I worship the lotus feet of the Divine Master (who is the simultaneously inconceivably distinct and non-distinct manifest embodiment of the Supreme Personality of Godhead): all the scriptures sing the glories of his being the direct non-different form of the Supreme Lord Sri Hari, and the pure saints also concede this; yet, he is the most beloved of the Lord.
Everything Was Bhaktivinoda Thakura
It is said by Srila BR Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj that although Srila Saraswati Thakur, on the suggestion of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, took initiation from Gaura-kisora Das Babaji Maharaj, he always held Thakur Bhaktivinoda substantially as his own Guru. From the internal consideration, Bhaktivinoda Thakur was his divine Sri Guru. It is found that his outside and inside—interior and exterior are filled with Bhaktivinoda Thakur. He could not but feel this within his heart.
He saw everything only through his Gurudev. He started many temples and very often named the Deities “Vinoda-Vilasa,” “Vinoda-Rama,” “Vinoda-Prana, “and more. Srila Sridhar Maharaj reminds us that we are asked to see Gurudev not as opaque, but as transparent—transparent to such a degree that through him the highest end, the highest conception of Service, can be seen and attained. If we are earnest, we shall find the highest link, from the very Source. We can attain it there. According to the disciple’s sraddha, he will see the Lord present in his Gurudev. Guru-tattva, is very special, very noble and very deep.” We have seen this in Srila Saraswati Thakur. Srila Bhaktivinoda was his very being. Everything was Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
sa gaura-saktir bhavita kim
padam drsor bhakti-vinoda-devah
~Srila BR Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
O ocean of unlimited compassion, you are the incarnation of Chaitanya Deva’s mercy. You are the energy of Gauranga. O Lord Bhaktivinoda, when will you again be visible to me?
I offer obeisances to the lotus feet of our divine Guru-varga and to the divine Vaisnavas on this holy occasion. Your lotus feet are my shelter and my grace.
sarvva-vaisnavera pa’ ye kari namaskara,
bow at the feet of the Vaisnavas;
jaya gaura bhakta-gana, gaura yanra prana
saba bhakta mili' more bhakti deha' dana
All glories to all the devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, for the Lord is their life and soul. All of you, kindly bestow devotional service upon me.