He was a Acarya and Bhakti Yoga Master. He was the initiating and sannyasa guru of Shrila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja and the god-brother and sannyasa guru of Shrila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja. Founder of Shri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti.
When he was born, his body was very soft and beautiful, and because he had a golden complexion, his mother and all the local ladies gave him the nickname Jonah' (glow-worm). His actual name was Bhima. For approximately three or four months he didn't speak or cry at all, and his family was very worried. Then one day a Muslim mendicant who came to their home begging said to Gurudeva's mother, "Your son is not speaking?"
She replied, "How did you know that? If you can, please make him speak somehow." The mendicant replied, "Do one thing. In the village there are some 'untouchables', persons from the sudra class who work in the cremation grounds. They eat low-grade rice which is left soaking overnight. Beg some of this rice from them, feed it to your child, and then he will speak."
Guru Maharaja's mother was a very hard-working lady who mostly looked after their land. She would discipline her children very strictly, and they would never go anywhere without her permission. Everyone respected her. When she approached one of these sudra families and asked for some of this rice, they said, "How can you take this? It has been touched by us!"
She replied, "Don't worry; just give me some of it." Obtaining some of this rice, she took it back to her home and put it before the child, and at once he started crying, "Ma! Ma!" and began speaking from that point on.
Practically from the time of his birth he used to go with his father to any place where there was a recitation of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Ramayana or any hari-katha. He was always attracted to hearing hari-katha. His father and mother were disciples of Shri Vijaya-krsna Gosvami.
The pandits and astrologers named the baby Sailendranatha Guhathakurta, but he was popularly known as Jona. The respected Shri Sarat Babu called his dear son Janardana.
When his father went to the spiritual world, his mother became in charge of the household. She was very, very strict. She came from a family of land holders, and she had a very strict character.
One day her son did not return to the house on time, and she therefore stood outside with a big stick in her hand, waiting. At eleven pm, her son had still not returned, and when he finally came she demanded, threatening him with the stick, “Where have you been?!” She threatened him two or three times, but he did not answer. Finally he said, “Oh mother, I have formed a committee in the village. We collect the money that we receive for buying our lunch. With that money we perform service to the poor people in the village, by supplying medicine, food and clothing. There is an old lady in the village who has become struck with cholera, and who has no other family members. Therefore, spending our own money, we have called a doctor and arranged for medicine and food. Now she is doing okay and therefore I have returned.” When his mother heard this, the stick dropped from her hand and she said, "You are very, very kind and very merciful." From that day on, she never chastised him again.
When he was at school, at a very young age he started his own magazine, and its language was very literary.
Initiation to Chaitanya's Mission
In 1914 at age 18 he joined the movement of Shri Radha-Krsna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and took harinama initiation from Shrila Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada at Caitanya Matha in Mayapura and became a brahmacari he was known as Shri Vinodabihari Brahmacari Kritiratna Prabhu or Vinod by his Gurudeva.
Daulatpura College In those days, the college syllabus included a study of Shri Caitanya-caritamrta. The teacher would try to explain the Bengali and Sanskrit verses of Caitanya-caritamrta in class, but he could not really fathom the complex text with its difficult philosophical points and elevated devotional sentiments. Shri Vinodabihari, however, understood the profound and complicated ideas of Caitanya-caritamrta and he readily explained them so that others could also understand. His erudition fascinated the other students as well as their teacher.
One day during the study of Caitanya-caritamrta, they were discussing Shri Sanatana-siksa, the teachings of Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to Shri Sanatana Gosvami, and read the verse:
krsnera svarupa-vicara suna sanatana
advayajnana-tattva vraje vrajendra nandana
(Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.152)
"O Sanatana, please hear about the eternal form of Shri Krishna. He is the Absolute Truth, devoid of duality, and He is present in Vrindavana as the son of Nanda Maharaja."
The teacher began to explain this sloka according to the doctrine of kevaladvaita-vada. This impersonal philosophy, which is quite opposed to the vaishnava philosophy, states that the parama-tattva, or the Supreme Truth, is brahma-tattva, or the impersonal, undifferentiated aspect of the Absolute.
When Shri Vinodabihari heard his teacher's interpretation, he firmly contradicted it with a sharp rebuttal. He explained that this understanding is completely imaginary, and that it also contradicts the teachings of Shri Caitanya-caritamrta, Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and Vedanta-sutra. He then gave a beautiful explanation of the Sloka in Shri Caitanya-Caritamrta with evidence from the Vedas, the Upanisads and Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
The dean and professors were unable to explain this verse. Even in our sampradaya you will find very few devotees who can properly explain it. So our gurudeva would have philosophical discussions with them, and in the end he left that college saying, "Even the professors here understand nothing, so what will they teach me?"
On the year 1919 Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada gave diksa initiation to Vinodabihari at Yogapitha on Shri Gaura Purnima evening after the completion of the parikrama. After the diksa ceremony was over, Vinodabihari very humbly requested at his Guru's lotus feet that he should give him the guru-mantra. Until then Shrila Prabhupada had not given guru-mantra to anyone. When Shrila Prabhupada heard Vinodabihari's earnest request he became silent and began to reflect. Seeing him silent, brahmacariji asked again with ardent desire, "Is it necessary to obtain the guru-mantra and instruction on guru-seva from some other guru?" Hearing this, Prabhupada began to smile, and gave Vinodabihari the guru-mantra very affectionately. After this, Shrila Prabhupada started to give the guru-mantra to others as well.
Foundation of Shri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti
Founded Aksaya Trtiya in the month of Vaisakha (April) 1940 with the rental of 32/2 Bospada Lane, in Bagbazar, Calcutta.
Amongst the Godbrothers who were present were Shri Abhayacarana Bhaktivedanta Prabhu, Shri Nrsimhananda Brahmacari and Shri Sajjansevaka Brahmacari (Shrila Gurupadapadma's diksa disciple, now Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Vamana Maharaja, the present Acarya and President of Shri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti). A printing press was also purchased at this time.
Establishment of Vraja-mandala parikrama
After the establishment of Shri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, Vedantika Pandita Mahopadesaka Shri Kritiratna Prabhu started to travel throughout Bengal and prominent cities of India to preach suddha-bhakti and sri-nama. Shri Syamanananda Gaudiya Matha in Medinipura (Bengal) was established on Shri Krishna Janmastami, 1940.
At this gathering a plan was presented to protect the future preaching of bhakti in Shrila Prabhupada's lineage. In addition, it was announced that there would be a Vraja-mandala parikrama on foot during the observance of the kartika vow the following year. This parikrama is carried on by Shrila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja today. After this Janmastami festival, Shri Kritiratna Prabhu started to preach in Uttar Pradesh and in areas of Eastern Bengal.
While Shri Kritiratna was sleeping during the last part of the night, he dreamed that Shrila Prabhupada laid his hand on his right shoulder, and spoke to him in a grave voice, saying, "Until now you have not taken sannyasa. Today I am giving you sannyasa." In his dream, the complete sannyasa ceremony took place, and when the ceremony was over Shrila Prabhupada instructed Shrimad Bhaktisaranga Gosvami Maharaja to call out "Shri Kesava Maharaja ki jaya!" The jaya-dhvani was so loud that Kritiratna Prabhu woke up. He told his senior Godbrothers about the dream and they were elated to find 'Kesava' among the 108 sannyasa names.
Kritiratna Prabhu took this matter very seriously and vowed to accept sannyasa on the upcoming holy day of Bhadra Purnima in Katva, where Shriman Mahaprabhu accepted sannyasa. Accordingly, on Purnima Shri Vinodabihari Brahmacari accepted sannyasa in Katva, by the pancaratric method of Samskaradipika, from Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada's dear disciple, Shrila Bhaktiraksaka Shridhara Gosvami, the transcendental writer, poet and philosopher.
His sannyasa-name was announced to be Tridandisvami Shri Shrimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja. Pujyapada Shrimad Bhaktibhudeva Srauti Maharaja performed the priestly duties of the ceremony and instructed the brahmacari how to put on kaupin and the outer cloth. Shrila Shridhara Maharaja recited the sannyasa-mantra. Thus the sannyasa dress and sannyasa name given by Shrila Prabhupada in the dream became a complete reality.
On October 3rd, 1968, Shrila Acaryadeva was brought back from Calcutta to his bhajana-kutira at Shri Devananda Gaudiya Matha. On Sunday October 6th, 1968 (19 Asvina 1375 bangabda), the Saradiya rasa-purnima, at sandhya-arati (6.15 p.m.) Paramaradhyatama Shrila Gurupadapadma Om Visnupada Astottarasata Shri Shrimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja left us all drowning in an ocean of separation and entered Shri Yugala-Kisora's sayana nitya-lila. Renunciate and householder bhaktas had assembled from various places of India at Shri Devananda Gaudiya Matha on that day. From early morning, eminent sannyasis and sevakas had been tenderly singing kirtanas like 'jaya radhe, jaya krsna', 'je anila premadhana', 'sri rupa manjari pada', and 'radhe jaya jaya madhava dayite' by Shri Narottama Thakura, Bhaktivinoda Thakura and other mahajanas. Sandhya-arati was going on in the temple, and here Gurudeva, together with the devotees, was thoroughly absorbed in performing kirtana with a faint voice. Then he entered nitya-lila, uttering Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, and holding the picture of his most worshipful Gurudeva to his breast.
Just as this happened, an astonishing event occurred. The head pujari of Shri Mandira came there with Shrimati Radhikaji's garland in his hands and tearfully said, "Right at the end of sandhya-arati Shrimati Radhika's garland broke by itself and fell from Her neck. I have never experienced this before." Everyone present understood this to mean that Shrimati Radhikaji, out of mercy, had called Her beloved sahacari (companion and attendant) to sayana-lila-vilasa.
In a moment the news that Shrila Gurudeva had entered aprakata-Iila spread to all the Gaudiya mathas situated on both banks of Bhagavati Bhagirathi. Thousands of faithful people assembled to offer puspanjali to Paramaradhyatama Shri Gurudeva's lotus feet, and the final rites were performed under the guidance of Prapujyacarana Shrimad Bhakti Shrirupa Siddhanti Maharaja, according to the method of Samskara-dipika. As the assembled multitude performed hari-kirtana, Shrila Acaryadeva was given samadhi in front of the sky-kissing Shri mandira of Shri Shri Guru-Gauranga Radha-Vinodabihariji.
Shri Gaudiya Giti-guccha (original author)
Vaisnava Vijaya or the Life History of Mayavadism (re-published as Beyond Nirvana)
Songs by Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Goswami
Jaya Jaya Prabhupadera Arati Nehari
Mangala Shri Guru Gaura Mangala Murati
Namo Namah Tulasi Krsna Preyasi (II)
Radha Cinta Nivesana Yasya
Śrīla Prabhupāda Ārati
Śrī Tulasī Parikramā and Ārati