A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was born in 1896, in Calcutta, in a Vaisnava family.
His father, Gour Mohan De, named him Abhay Charan. His father's only wish was that, Abhay would become a devotee of Srimati Radharani.
Abhay studied under British colonial rule, finally going to university to read chemistry. At university, he became a supporter of Gandhi's movement to gain independence for India. As a measure of this support, he would only dress in white handloom cloth, woven in India and furthermore, he declined to accept his degree from the university.
Abhay married and went into business as a small pharmaceutical firm to support his wife and family. He met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami, for the first time in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, took a liking to Abhay and told him to devote his life to teaching Vedic Knowledge; more specifically to preach Lord Caitanya's message to the English speaking world. Although, Abhay accepted, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta within his heart as his spiritual master, it was not until 1932 that he became initiated. He then received both harinama and mantra diksa at his initiation.
In 1936 Srila Prabhupada wrote his spiritual master requesting if there was any particular service that he could render. Srila Prabhupada received a reply to that letter containing the same instruction the he had received in 1922: 'Preach Krishna consciousness to the English speaking world'. His spiritual master passed away from this world two weeks later; thus leaving these final instructions engraved on Srila Prabhupada's heart. These instructions were to form the focus of Srila Prabhupada's life.
Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work. In 1944, during the Second World War, when paper was scarce and people had little money to spend, Srila Prabhupada began a magazine called Back to Godhead. Single-handedly, he would write, edit, oversee the layout, proof-read and sell the copies himself. This magazine is still being published today.
In 1950 Srila Prabhupada adopted the vanaprastha (retired) life; thus retiring from home and family life, in order to devote more time to his studies. In 1953 he received the title Bhaktivedanta from his Godbrothers. He travelled to Vrindavana, where he lived very humbly at the Radha-Damodara temple. He spent several years there studying the scriptures and writing.
In 1959 he took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. It was then, while staying at Radha-Damodara temple that he started on his masterpiece: translation and commentary of the Srimad-Bhagavatam in English. He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets. Within a few years, he had written three volumes of English translation and commentary for the first canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Once again, single handedly, he bought the paper and gathered funds, to print the books. He sold the books himself and through agents in the larger Indian cities.
He now felt ready to carry out his spiritual master's orders and decided to start by taking the message of Krishna consciousness to America, convinced that other countries would follow suit. Obtaining free passage on a freight ship, called the Jaladuta he finally arrived in New York in 1965. He was 69 and practically penniless. All he possessed was a few copies of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and a few hundred rupees.
He had had a very difficult crossing, suffering two heart attacks and once arrived in New York he didn't know which way to turn. After a difficult six months, preaching here and there, his few followers rented a storefront and apartment in Manhattan. Here, he would regularly give lectures, kirtana and distribute prasadam. People from all walks of life, including hippies, were drawn here; in search of that missing element from their lives and many became part of 'Swamiji's' following.
As people became more serious, Srila Prabhupada's followers used to hold regular kirtanas in the parks. The lectures and Sunday feast days became renowned. His young followers eventually took initiation from Srila Prabhupada, promising to follow the regulative principles and chant 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra daily. He also reinstated the Back to Godhead magazine.
In July 1966, Srila Prabhupada established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness — ISKCON. His aim was to use the society to promote Krishna Consciousness throughout the world. In 1967, he visited San Francisco and started an ISKCON society there. He then sent his disciples all over the world to spread Caitanya Mahaprabhu's message and open new centres in Montreal, Boston, London, Berlin, and other cities in North America, India, and Europe. In India, three magnificent temples were initially planned: Vrindavana, the Krishna Balaram temple with all its ancillary facilties; Bombay, a temple with an educational and cultural centre; and in Mayapur, a huge temple with a Vedic planetarium.
Srila Prabhupada produced all of his books bar the three written in India within the next eleven years. Srila Prabhupada slept little and would spend the early morning hours writing. He would write almost daily between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m. He dictated his text, which his disciples then typed and edited. Srila Prabhupada would translate the original texts from Sanskrit or Bengali, word by word, and gave a complete commentary.
His works include Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the multi-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, the multivolume Caitanya-caritamrta, The Nectar of Devotion, Krsna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Teachings of Lord Kapila, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Sri Isopanisad, The Nectar of Instruction, and dozens of small books.
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.
Despite his heavy literary schedule, Srila Prabhupada did not let his writing stand in the way of his preaching. In just twelve years, despite his advanced age, he circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents.
His days were filled with writing, teaching his followers and the public, and with guiding his growing society, until the day he departed from this world. Before departing from this world Srila Prabhupada gave many instructions to his disciples to follow in his footsteps and to continue the preaching and spreading of Krishna Consciousness all over the world.
He departed this world on November 14 1977.
In the short time he spent in the west, he preached continuously, established 108 temples, wrote more than sixty volumes of transcendental literature, initiated five thousand disciples, founded the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, began a scientific academy (the Bhaktivedanta Institute) and other trusts related to ISKCON.
Srila Prabhupada was an extraordinary author, teacher, and saint. He managed to spread Krishna Consciousness all over the world, through his writing and preaching. His writings comprise of many volumes and are the basis of Krishna consciousness not only for his disciples but for his grand-disciples, affiliated members of the disciplic succession, and for the public at large.
His life history from his earliest days to his passing away in 1977 is vividly described in his authorised biography, the Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta by Satsvarupa Goswami.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was born in the holy pilgrimage place of Jagannatha Puri to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great Vaisnava acarya in the line of succession coming from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Although employed as a government magistrate, Srila Bhaktivinoda worked tirelessly to establish the teachings of Lord Chaitanya in India. He envisioned a worldwide spiritual movement and prayed for a son to help him achieve his dream.
On February 6, 1874, in the sacred pilgrimage town of Jagannath Puri, where Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura served as superintendent of the famous Jagannatha temple, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta appeared in this world. He was given the name Bimala Prasada.
At the age of seven, Bimala Prasada had memorized the more than seven hundred Sanskrit verses of the Bhagavad-gita and could speak illuminating commentaries upon them. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the author of many important books and other writings on Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy, trained his son in printing and proofreading.
By the time he was twenty-five years old, Bimala Prasada had acquired an impressive reputation as a scholar of Sanskrit, mathematics, and astronomy. His astronomical treatise, Surya-siddhanta, won him the title Siddhanta Sarasvati in recognition of his immense learning. In 1905, following the advice of his father, Siddhanta Sarasvati accepted spiritual initiation from Srila Gaurakishora dasa Babaji.
Although Srila Gaurakishora dasa Babaji was illiterate, he was renowned throughout the continent as a great saint and Vaisnava acarya. Siddhanta Sarasvati, although a great scholar, exhibited humility and dedication in the presence of Srila Gaurakishora. Satisfied with such humility and dedication of his highly educated disciple, Srila Gaurakishora gave Siddhanta Sarasvati his full blessings and requested him to "preach the Absolute Truth and keep aside all other work."
Upon the disappearance of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in 1914, Siddhanta Sarasvati became editor of his father's journal, Sajjana-tosani, and founded the Bhagawat Press for the publication of Gaudiya Vaisnava literature. In 1918 Siddhanta Sarasvati accepted the renounced order of spiritual life, assuming the title Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja.
For purposes of propagating Gaudiya Vaisnavism throughout India, he organized the Gaudiya Math, with sixty-four branches throughout the country. The headquarters of his mission, the Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, is located in Sridhama Mayapura, the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta adjusted ancient traditions to conform with technological and social conditions of the twentieth century. He considered the printing press a most effective means of spreading this message throughout the world and was himself the author of many important translations, commentaries, and philosophical essays.
He was the first spiritual teacher in this line to allow his renounced preachers (sannyasis) to wear Western clothes and travel in modern conveyances rather that on foot. Throughout the 1930s, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta expanded and increased his missionary work and succeeded in reestablishing Gaudiya Vaisnavism as the leading force in Indian spiritual life.
On January 1, 1937, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura passed from this world.
In 1897 Gaura-kisora dasa Babaji came to Mayapur Navadwipa Dhama from Sri Vrndavana Dhama, where he was given the exalted title "Bhajananandi". Seeing the transcendental behavior of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur used him as an example of nirapeksa (indifference), the symptom of an advanced renunciate.
Gaura-kisora dasa Babaji lived a life of humility and poverty, true attributes of a Vaisnava. He never accepted material goods from anyone, wearing discarded loincloths from corpses left on the bank of the Ganges. He begged for rice, soaking it in river water, and adding only salt and chilies. Accepting no favors, he remained fully detached from all possessions.
Born in a Vaisya family in the village of Bagjana near Tepakhola, on the bank of the Padma, Gaura-kisora das Babaji was known as Vansidasa while he was a householder. After his wife departed, Gaurakisora left his home for Vrndavana, where he was initiated into Vairagi Vesha (babaji) by Bhagavata dasa Babaji, one of the foremost disciples of Jagannatha dasa Babaji.
Srila Gaura-kisora lived for some thirty years in Vrindavana, serving the deities and offering his prostrate obeisances to all the living entities of Vraja, whom he considered to be embodiments of Sri Krsna. He eventually left Vrindavana for Navadvipa.
At Navadvipa, Gaura-kisora das Babaji entered moods of deep spiritual ecstasy, sometimes dancing on the bank of the Ganges chanting, "Gaura, Gaura". At times he lie unconscious on the ground, or traveled through the sacred groves chanting japa on beads, or sometimes on a knotted cloth. Occasionally he traveled to Godruma Dvipa to hear Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura recite ”Srimad Bhagavatam".
Srila Gaura-kisora das Babaji met often with Srila Bhaktivinoda, sometimes staying at his house to hear and discuss the philosophy. While he did not read or write, he was understood to be a vastly learned and self-realized personality.
In 1898, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati first met Gaura-kisora das Babaji, who was destined to become his spiritual master. At their first meeting, the Babaji was wearing a tiger skin hat and carrying a basket with puja paraphernalia. He offered Siddhanta Sarasvati sevearl pieces of rope for chanting his rounds, and a tilak stamp with Hare Krsna carved on it. Srila Bhaktivinoda instructed his son, "You must take initiation from Babaji Maharaja, and don't return to this house if you don't."
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati implored Gaura-kisora das Babaji on several occasions to give him initiation, but he was always refused. On one occasion, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta threatened to throw himself off the bridge and end his life if Gaura-kisora would not accept him. Finally, in 1900, the Gaura-kisora das Babaji gave him initiation, and the name Varsabhanavi-devi-dayita dasa. He gave Bhaktisiddhanta his tiger skin hat and the puja basket Gaura Kisora had received from his own spiritual master, Bhagavat dasa Babaji, which he had received from Jagannatha dasa Babaji.
Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji left this world on November 17, 1915.
Kedaranath, who was subsequently known for his preeminence in the Vaishnava World as Thakur Bhakti Vinode, was bom in 1838 in a well known aristrocratic family who were the owners of Govindpur, the present site of Fort William of Calcutta. Kedaranath in his fourteenth year was admitted in a Hindu Charitable Institution in Calcutta where he studied for four years during which period he began to write and compose articles and poems in English. During these days, Kedaranath used to write articles for "Hindu intelligence", a very famous newspaper edited by his relation Kaliprasad Ghosh, a well known person in the reamed society of Calcutta. He studied the works of Addison and Edward Young under Rev. Greaves. He studied the works of Carlyle, William Hazlitt, Jeffery, Macaulay and published his many English poems in the Library Gazette. Mrs. Locke admired very much his poem "Poriyed."
Kedaranath entered the Hindu School as a student of the first class in 1856 when the University of Calcutta was just established. The late Mr. Satyendranath Tagore, the first Indian l.C.S. brother of the poet Rabindra Nath Tagore, Ganendra Nath Tagore and Kesava Sen, afterwards the famous Brahma Samaj leaders were his school friends. Kedaranath wrote his first part of his English book "Poriyed" in 1856. He soon published his two other volumes. Rev. Duff highly praised it and asked him to compose such poems dealing with the Zamindars' oppression and torture of their tenants. He came in close contact with Rev. duff and Mr. George Thompson who taught him how to become an effective orator. Mr. Thompson told him that he used to deliver lectures to the com fields on his way from his house to the Parliament. He was the most intimate friend of Dwijendra Nath Tagore, elder brother of his class friend Satyendra Nath Tagore. He studied the works of Kant, Goethe, Hizel, Swedenburg, Schopenhuer, Hume Voltaire and others with Dwijendra Nath. At that time Kedaranath used to lecture in the literary meetings. His friend Sir Tarak Nath Palit who bore all expenses for the establishment of Science College, Calcutta persuaded him to lecture before the British Indian society of pro British Zamindars of Bengal which many Europeans attended. At the next meeting of the said society he read his dramatic rendering of Vital Pancha Vingsati which was followed by a heated discussion.
Kedaranath studied the works of Brahma movement after having come in contact with his friend Dwijendra Nath, Satyendra Nath and others of the Tagore family who were the leaders and guides of the said Movement. He had very frequent discussions with Rev. Duff at whose direction he studied the Bible and other Christian books.
Now he occupied himself in studying the religious books. He deeply read the works of Mr. Channing and the controversy between Raja Ram Mohan and the Christian Missionaries.He read the koran. He deeply read the works of Theodore Parker, Newman and others. He frankly admits in his biography that he preferred Christianity to Brahmoism on account of clear admission regarding the transcendence of God head and spiritual function. He was always in favour of one God, never liked the F;ahma system of worship. But he never ceased his discussion with Dwijendra Nath. He remarked in his biography that if I had any friend of my heart among mankind, it was Dwijendra Nath. This was the time of Sepoy Mutiny. He discussed it with the editor of Tattava Bodhini and the great Pandit Baneswar Tarkalankar.
He went to Chutimangalpur in the district of Bhadruk in Orissa where his grandmother and grandfather were living. They inherited some landed property there from Raja Rajballav.Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was his great pattem. In 1860, he wrote his "Maths of Orissa" in English. His next work was his Bijangram written in Bengali blank verse. This is the first work ever written and published in blank verse in the history of Bengali language and literature. It is not correct to say that Michael Madhusudan Dutta was the inventor of the blank verse in Bengali.
First he started his life as a school teacher and soon he entered into the executive services and became the Deputy Magistrate and Deputy Collector at Chapra in 1866, at the age of 28. Here he reamed "Urdu" and "Persia" under a Munsi. He wrote his Valedi Registry in Urdu. In March 1868, he was appointed Deputy Magistrate at Dinajpur.
Here in Dinajpur he came in contact with Vaishnavism, which was prevalent there under the patronage of Raya Saheb Kamala Lochana, the great Zamindar of Dinajpur, who was the descendant of Ramananda Vasu, an ardent follower of Sri Chaitanya. He made the acquaintance with many Vaishnavas. Here he secured the printed Chaitanya Charitamrita, and the Bengali translation of the Bhagavata; also copy of Bhaktamala. On first reading the Chaitanya Charita, he fommed a high opinion of Sri Chaitanya and began to regard Sri Chaitanya as God and was seriously engaged in this study of Sri Chaitanya's religion in the company of the Vaishnavas at Dinajpur. Now Kedaranath became an out and out Vaishnava. He deeply studied the literature of Brahmoism, Christianity and Islam. He made a comparative study of Vaishnavism with reference to other religions, but he found the perfect consummation of his own taught in Vaishnavism. He was next transferred to Champran for a few months, and later posted at Puri. Now his devotion to Sri Chaitanya grew very intense.
He came to Puri with his family, taking with him his two very favourate books, Sri Chaitanya Charita and the Bhagavata. He was happy for having been posted at Puri where his God, Sri Chaitanya had spent so many years. His stay at Puri gave a great impetus to his religious feeling for Vaishnavism. He appointed one Gopinatha Pandita u.nth whom he studied the whole of the Bhagavata with its commentary by Sridhara Swami. Two other Pandits named Hariharadasa and Markandeya Mahapatra who studied the Nyaya and Vedanta in NavadvIpa and Benares began to study the Bhagavata a',ong with him Kedaranath leamt Sanskrit grammar and literature under the great Isvara Chandra Vidyasagara, Dwijendra Nath Tagore and others during his school days in Calcutta. He continued his study of Sanskrit all through. Having finished the Bhagavata he studied Jiva Goswami's Sadsandarbha, Baladeva Vidyabhusana's Govinda Bhasya, Prameyaratnavali, Rupa's Bhaktirasamrita Sindhu and Hari Bhaktikalpalatika, and others which he could secure from the library of the Raja of Puri. Now he mastered the philosophy of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Here he finished his Sanskrit book "Datta Kaustubha" and began his famous Sanskrit work 'Sri Krishna Samhita'. The latter is philosophical, on Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy.
Besides these many other works were composed during this time. Now he started a class for teaching the Bhagavata. He formed a society styled the Bhagavata Samsad, in the Jagannatha Vallabha Garden, for the study and culture of the Bhagavata All the principle Vaishnava leaders were impressed with his reaming and religious fervour. He was in charge of Jagannatha temple on behalf of the Govemment. He started another society called Vidvat Sabha for promoting the study of Bhakti literature. He came in contact with a very great Vaishnava saint named Svarupadasa. He was a great ascetic and wholly devoted to God. Kedaranath had high regard for him. Everyday Kedaranath used to hold a conference at the Jagannatha temple and discussed various doctrinal aspects of Vaishnavism. He stayed at Puri for five years.
From Puri he was posted at different places in Bengal and he visited principal places of pilgrimages of the Vaishnavas. He was stationed in the Narail in the District of Jessore in 1878. He became very popular in the subdivision as a great Vaishnava Magistrate. Many Kirtana singers used to come to him entertain him with their songs. Here he published his Krishna Samhita in 1889 and Kalyan Kalpataru, a collection of his own Pada poems, in 1880. Krishna Samhita was highly praised throughout the country. Sir Reinhold Rest of the India Office, London, has written the following remarks on it "By presenting Krishna's character and His worship in a more sublime and transcendent light than has hithert o been the custom to regard him in, you have rendered an essential service to your coreligionists, and no one would have taken more delight in your work than my departed friend Goldstucker, the sincerest and most zealous advocate the Hindus ever had in Europe, " Dated 16th April 1880.
Here at Narail he was initiated by Sri Bipin Vihari Goswami. He adopted all Vaishnava practices in its strictest fomm. Now he resolved to interest the educated people in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. With this purpose in view he started a Bengali monthly called Sajjana Tosani dealing with Vaishnava religion. It was the first Vaishnava newspaper. After stay for three years at Narail for a period of three years he made a pilgrimage to Allahabad, Ayodhya, Benares, Vrindavana and so on. At Vrindabana he met the famous Jaganathadasa Babaji, the head of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. He subsequently became the religious guide of Kedaranatha and helped him in his misionary activities. The late Sarada Charana Mitter who afterwards became a judge of the Calcutta High Court, brought for him a good collection of the manuscripts of Vaishnava books of which Viswanath Chakravarti's commentaries on the Bhagavata and the Gita were particularly mentionable.
Now he decided to take up the preaching of the Gaudiya doctrine in earnest. He founded a printing press known as Vaishnava Depository. Philosophical books of the Vaishnavas were in Sanskrit. He undertook to place before the educated public the system of Gaudlya Vaishnava philosophy in a simple and popular form. He possessed a style that was easy, invigorating, cheerful lucid and uniform, and enriched with fresh store house of Sanskrit and adopted to Bengali in a natural way. The Bengali language in his hands has thus been improved as a very powerful vehicle for the conveyance of the sublimes" and 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.
His famous work 'Sri Chaitanya Siksamrita' evidences his perfect assimilation of the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy in relation to others systems of a different school. It is one of the most important books, which established his name as an authority on the Gaudiya Philosophy. Subsequently he also published the Gita with its commentary by Viswanatha Chakravarty and his own Bengali commentary called Rasikaranjana and another important book Gunaraja Khan's ' Krishna Vijaya.' Many educated men both Brahmanas and Kayasthas became his disciples. When he was commanded by his God in a dream to render his service to Navadvipa, the Birth place of Sri Chaitanya, which had fallen into oblivion. Kedaranath was transferred to Krishnagar as a Sub Divisional Magistrate. He came to Krishnagar with joyous hope to seek the place where his beloved God, Sri Chaitanya, had been bom. When he was at Puri, he secured Narahari Chakravarti's'Bhaktiratnakara', and Paramananda Dasa's book which greatly helped him in his archaeological investigation.
While at Krishnagar, one night, thinking deeply on the site of B.rth place of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu on the roof of his residence in Navadvipa he is said to have seen in a vision a luminous building towards the north east. He was filled with wonder. The next moming he asked for the particulars of the place from which the vision had appeared to him. He was told that the ruins of the Ballal's palace are to be found there. He went to the place with such topographical accounts old maps and other data, as he could gather for his investigations. On enquiry he leamt from the local people that it was the Birth place of Sri Chaitanya. They pointed out an extensive mound covered with Tulasi plants as the actual site of the house of Sri Chaitanya. They added that they used to point out from generation to generation. It was a blissful moment when he realised that he had at last succeeded in his attempt which had cost him so much anxiety. Thakura Bhakti Vinode then composed his famous Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya in praise of every place within the circle of Navadvipa. It was published in the same year.
He established 'Sri Navadvipa Dham Pracharini Sabha' 1894 with the Ruling Prince of Tripura as its President and under the auspices of the Sabha Temple was established at the birth site of the Lord at Yogapith and maintained the seva puja and periodical festivals of the Deities Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Sri Mayapur and developed the place. Now Sri Mayapur has became a town of temples attracting thousands and thousands of pilgrims from different parts of India and abroad. Thakur Bhakti Vinode by his personality, writings and preaching captured the imagination of the educated people of Bengal. He interested the educated section of the society in Vaishnava religion. Thakur Bhakti Vinode was a voluminous writer. He never failed in meeting the demand of educated public for its literature. The Goswamis of Vrindaban conferred on him the title of 'Bhakti Vinode' in recognizing his unprecedented service to the cause of Vaishnavism.
The title of the book 'Jaiva Dharma' indicated that it deals with religion or the essential and natural characteristics of the individual souls. The human beings consist of soul which is pure 'chit' or spirit and a physical body of five elements viz. earth, water, fire, air and ether into which it is dissolved and a subtle body composed of Mana (mind), Buddhi (intellect) and Ahankar (ego). The soul of the beings is part of 'Over Soul', or the absolute, called Bhagavan Jiva soul is neither born nor dead, nor having shall it again cease to be, unborn, unchanging, eternal, this ancient of days is not killed when the body is killed. It is inseparable part and parcel of God. Compare the sun and sun's rays to God and jiva souls. As we cannot think of the sun without the rays nor the rays without the sun, so we cannot think of God without jiva souls or the jiva soul without God. The difference betwen the two is that one is Brihat viz. great, nothing greater nor equal to God while the soul is tiny and atomic. The cloud may intercept and obstruct, the rays when coming to earth but the cloud cannot cover the sun. Maya may intercept, jivas from God, but m aye cannot cover God. It is well established in Vaishnava Philosophy that both God and the individual souls are distinct entities jivas are plural coexisting in the absolute.
In this book the author brings out the relation between God and nature of the spirit of a man, not in abstract but the relation between the two when unfolded or when the individual souls are released from the clutches of rnaya, they are immediately attracted to Bhaga~an in pure consciousness coupled with bliss. The relation between the two will continue forever, the liberated individual will continue to maintain its individuality to perform and participate in Leela. In Vaishnavism the indididual is not absorbed but remains distinguished. According to the Advaitavada of Sankaracharya Individuality is Upadhic or conditioned and liberation means the absorption of individuality in absolute consciousness but according to the Vaishnava thought both God and the individual will remain distinct and bound together in Prema or Love. Thakur Bhakti Vinode brings out the relationship between God and individuals to be romantic as opposed to Shankarite mukti putting an end to the individual.
Following the great Gtla this book was started in the form of a dialogue between a Vaishnava who has transcended the Vamashrama and a Sanyasi well versed in all scriptures. The Sanyasi puts question by way of Pariprasna and the Vaishnava gives answers. The questions and answers cover the whole range of Vaishnava doctrine following a process started from Sraddha or just a faith in (Sod to ultimate realisation of objects viz. Prema by which the individuals serve God in blissful co existence. The author profusely quotes verses and passa~ges from the vast store house of Scripture in support of his narration. The readers of this book will have clear conception of the fundamentals of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, its Philosophy and Upasana.
I can say without any fear of contradiction that each book of Thakur Bhakti Vinode is a thesis for a doctorate. The language of Thakur Bhakti Vinode whether English, Bengali or Sanskrit, is simple, direct and easily intelligible. The treatment of the difficult philosophical problems is that of a master mind. His intention was to represent the Gaudiya Vaishnavism in its real perspective to the public in a way which will be intelligible to them. Each and every word of Thakur Bhakti Vinode is really readable with profit.
To the devotees of Sri Bhagavan the Supreme Lord Thakur Bhakti Vinode was a personal and etemal devotee of Sri Bhagavan, appearing in a human form in obedience to his Lord's happy Will of pumping off the stagnant and insalubrious waters of the channel of pure devotion, casting of the dregs and thus putting a stop to the decay of righteousness and exaltation of unrighteousness, whereby the real devotees are protected and apparent ones disappeared.
Thakur Bhakti Vinode, was indefatigable in the practice of Suddha Sanatana 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 also to expound to the whole world the teachings of Sri Mahaprabhu which had been and is still misunderstood by people in this country and elsewhere. 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 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 expecially 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 Shankaracharya. Scepticism among the educated classes coupled with the prevalence of Polytheistic or Neutralistic attitudes were prevalent.
"Himself practicing the dharma. Lord Sri Chaitanya teaches jiva that if one does not practice dharma himself, he cannot teach it to others." The career of Mahaprabhu embodying the teachings of all the scriptures was the subject that Thakur Bhakti Vinode placed before the people of Bengal in clear and simple language and with a wealth of reaming and depth of spiritual insight that make his numerous works a part and parcel of the scriptures of all countries, explaining in minutes" detail, and in unambiguous language, the only true religion of all jivas. They deserve to rank with the immortal works of Thakur Vrindabandas and of Kaviraj Goswami as Scriptures of the suddha Sanatana Dharma.
With the object of dispelling ignorance of the principles of suddha Sanatana Dharma, Thakur Bhakti Vinode 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 Sri Krishna Samhita in Sanskrit with the most learned introductions, Appendix and Translation in Bengali. In 1886 he published the Gita with commentaries of Srila Viswanath Chakravarti Thakur and his own annotation 'Rasik Ranjan' in Bengali, in 1891. Srimad Bhagavat Gita with commentaries of Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusan and his Bengali annotation (Vidvat Ranjan). In 1894, Ishopanishad with his Bengali annotation ( Vidvat Ranjan). In 1895 Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita with his 'Amritapravaha Bhashya' in Bengali. In 1897 Sri Brahma Samhita with his Bengali annotation in 'Prakashani'. In 1898, Sri Krishna Karnamrita with his Bengali annotation. In the same year Sri Upadeshamritam by Sri Rupa Goswami with his Bengali annotation "Piyushavarshini Vritti" and Sri Brihat Bhagavatamritam by Sri Sanatana Goswami with his annotations in Sanskrit and Bengali. In 1901, Sri Bhagavatarka marichimala. In 1904, edited Satkriyasardipika, a Vaishnava Smriti by Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami.
This was supplemented by the publication 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, 1890 Sri Navadvipadhama Mahatmya, in 1892 Sri Mahaprabhu and His Siksha; 1893 Sri Saranagati, Sokashatan, Jaiva dharma, in 1900, Sri Harinama 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 Sri Saraswati Thakur who published thereafter. Besides these, Thakur Bhakti Vinode also wrote a number of works in english, Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu and Hindi.
Thakur Bhakti Vinode possessed a style that is easy, invigorating, cheerful, lucid and uniform and enriched with the fresh wealth of an ample vocabulary called from the inexhaustible store house of Sanskrit and adapted into Bengali language. In the hands of Thakur Bhakti Vinode the language has thus been transformed into a powerful vehicle for the conveyance of the sublimes" 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 even the most ordinary reader, including children.
Thakur Bhakti Vinode is the pioneer of the suddha Bhakti Movement that is at present sweeping over the county. In his numerous literary works he has supplied the golden key that unlocks the region of etemal Bliss to all jivas. The teachings of Mahaprabhu give us the real meaning of the Scriptures, reconciling all differences of opinion that trouble the world. In Mahaprabhu centers the only hope of the future and present of all jivas. But the teachings of Mahaprabhu were not grasped by people of this country and their real significance passed long ago clean out of the memory of the nation. Thakur Bhakti Vinode 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 erreconcilable 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 it when it actually makes its appearance. But most of us are not ready to welcome the Truth for its own sake. Thakur Bhakti Vinode 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.
In this present work there is neither the scribbling of an imaginative pen nor the produce of the hack writer's den, but the actual display of Thakur's eternal and constant devotion. His own doings and sayings are but embodiments of these precepts. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is his riches, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is his property his all in all. This is a dictum of the comparative study of all the thoughts of worldreligion and in which we find an end to all religious conflicts and it culminates at the unparalleled and unprecedented Transcendental devotionalism of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He has proved wonderfully and brilliantly that attachment in the garb of perfect indifference, as is characteristic in the monkeys, is detrimental to pure devotion and that this world cannot obstruct the flow, and cloud the display of devotion in him who has the good luck of gaining the graceful favours of a Sad-guru and surrendering himself fully and sincerely to him. His boldness, strictness and stemness in accepting and establishing real devotion and dispelling the apparent one are rarely found.
Thakur was visible in this world from 1838 to 1914. In this span of seeming birth and death all his activities were directed towards removing the etemal distress of the human kind the etemal oblivion of the real blissful condition of the soul and its consequent stuporous identity with the body and the mind and weeding out the field of devotion, as a result of which the sham devotees are being brought to book, and the real places of the birth and earlier pastimes of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu have been brought to light. It was Thakur Bhakti Vinode who located the holy birth site of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Sri Mayapur.
"The direct disciple of Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, who accepted Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti as his servitor. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura accepted Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, who initiated Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who in turn initiated Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, the spiritual master of Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, the divine master of our humble self."
Purport Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi lila 1
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. H.D.G. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja appeared in this world around 1750 A.D. in a remote village in Tangail, in what is now known as Bangladesh, taking birth in an aristocratic family.
According to the Gaudiya-Vaisnava-jivana, the diksa Guru of Jagannatha das Babaji was Jagadananda Goswami of Sringavat, Vrindavana, whose vesa-guru was Krsna dasa Babaji of Govardhana fame. Jagannatha dasa Babaji took Babaji initiation from Madhusudana dasa Babaji, who was initiated by Uddhava dasa Babaji, who was initiated by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana.
Jagannatha dasa Babaji was reknowned as a perfectly realized soul. In his bhajana kutir in Vraja, he would sometimes chant continuously for three days and nights without taking food or sleep.
In 1880, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura visited Jagannatha dasa Babaji in Vrindavan, where he took instruction from him. During the 1880's, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura arranged a government post in Burdwan that allowed him regular association with Jagannatha dasa Babaji. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura later established a prapanna-ashram nearby.
Jagannatha dasa Babaji took up residence in Kulya, Nabadvipa, where he passed his time on the banks of the Ganges, chanting the Holy Name.
In 1893, the Babaji went to visit the residence of Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda at Surabhi Kunja. From there, he traveled with his followers to Mayapura, and visited Yogapitha, Srivasa Angana, and other holy sites. When he arrived at the birthplace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, which had been discovered by Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda, he began to dance in ecstasy.
Jagannatha dasa Babaji was very old, and followers thought he was unable to walk. His ecstatic dancing was taken as another sign of the authenticity of Mahaprabhu's birth site.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had Jagannatha dasa Babaji's association at Yogapitha, where he cured one of Srila Bhaktivinoda's sons of skin disease by having in lye in the dust where the Lord had appeared.
According to Gaura-parisada-caritavali, Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji lived for 135 years, during which time he constantly preached the Holy Name and fame of Lord Caitanya.