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Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur (September 2, 1838 – June 23, 1914), a prominent figure among the Gaudiya Vaishnavas of Bengal, was born Kedarnath Datta in the town of Birnagar, Bengal, India. He was the son of Raja Krsnananda Datta and Jagat Mohini Devi. Professionally, he was a High Court judge in Jagannath Puri in Odisha. Bhaktivinoda married and had several children, including Bimal Prasad (later Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura), the founder of the Gaudiya Math and the guru of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bhaktivinoda was also the father, as well as the initiating guru, of Lalita Prasad Thakur. The two brothers had substantial disagreements on how their father's spiritual heritage was to carry on, Bimal Prasad more inclined for preaching and the establishment of Varnashrama-dharma, Lalita Prasad more inclined for the esoteric mode of raganuga-worship. He revived the Sankirtan Movement started by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Bhaktivinoda was among the first Vaishnava scholars to present the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the principles of Gaudiya Vaishnava Theology to the English speaking world. Bhaktivinoda took initiation (diksha) from Bipin Bihari Goswami, a descendant of the family dynasty of Vamsivadananda Thakur, a companion of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's, and an initiate in the lineage descending from Sri Jahnava Thakurani, the wife of close associate of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda. In his autobiography entitled Svalikhita-jivani, Bhaktivinoda narrates how he had long prayed for a suitable guru, and felt his prayers were responded to in a dream as Sri Chaitanya himself directed him to Bipin Bihari. From the very beginning of Chaitanya's bhakti movement in Bengal, Haridasa Thakur and others Muslim or Hindu by birth were the participants. It is said that this openness received a boost from Bhaktivinoda Thakura's broad-minded vision in the late 19th century and was institutionalized by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in his Gaudiya Matha in the 20th century. He predicted coming of the day when fortunate non-Indian Vaishnavas would perform Harinama Sankirtan in different cities of the world. This prediction was fulfilled by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bhaktivinoda later accepted siksa (instruction) from Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaj, who is said to have lived for 135 years. Bhaktivinoda accepted the babaji vesh (cloth) in 1908 and adopted the lifestyle of a Vaishnava recluse. He continued to travel between Kolkata and Puri until 1910. Then he spent most of his time living quietly at home unable to travel much due to poor health until his death June 23, 1914. His remains were interred at Godruma, one of the nine islands of Navadwip.
Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja The Bona fide process of Siddha-Pranalil France: June 27 1997 The glories of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura are so great that even Lord Brahma, with his four mouths, cannot completely describe them. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a transcendental personality and we are not transcendental, so how then can we touch his glory? Only a transcendental person can expound on his glory. We have heard from our gurudeva and other Vaisnavas, and we have also read in authentic books, that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was given the title 'Seventh Gosvami.' From the time of the Six Gosvamis up to his time, no one else was ever designated as such. During his manifest stay in this world (1838-1914), learned persons and devotees saw his glorious activities and gave him this title. It was he who once again illuminated the true principles of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. If he had not appeared when he did, all the teachings of pure Gaudiya Vaisnavism would have been forever drowned in an ocean of oblivion. That time was a dark period for Gaudiya Vaisnavaism. The sahajiyas [see endnote 1] used to give what they called siddha-pranali (the process, or system, that gives perfection), or siddha-deha (one's perfected spiritual body, by which one can render transcendental service unto Sri Radha and Krsna), to anyone and everyone, without even knowing whether or not their so-called followers were actually devotees. The followers neither knew any Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy nor did they have any sadacara, (proper etiquette and behavior), yet they would take shelter of their sahajiya-babaji gurus who pretended to give them their siddha-deha. They misunderstood Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings. According to their conception of siddha-deha, Gaudiya bhajana meant traveling to Vrndavana, living there, and having children with other's wives. They considered that by doing this they had become gopis. "Come on, come on," their guru would say to them. "I'm giving you siddha-deha and siddha-pranali." To whom did he pretend to give siddha-deha? Thinking, "I am this body," his disciples did not even know the ABCs of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings. Such persons did not know that they are eternally part and parcel and servants of Krsna. In reality, instead of being given gopi-bhava they were given 'goopi'-bhava! What are 'goopis'? Goopis are those who are lovers or beloveds of this world. They think that they should find a lady, live with her, and enjoy sex life. They think this bogus prema to be Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's philosophy. [Prakrta-sahajiyas are those who understand the aprakrta (spiritual) pastimes of the aprakrta Supreme Personality of Godhead to be prakrta (mundane) like the affairs of ordinary men and women, and who think that the aprakrta-tattva is attained by a material sadhana (malpractice in the name of spiritual practice). (from Parama-gurudeva's biography, part 6)] In the name of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, these sahajiyas would perform Hare Krsna kirtana, following the dead body during funeral processions, and then take a large payment from the deceased's rich relatives. In their so-called kirtanas the word 'Krsna' did not clearly manifest; it was difficult for the audience to actually find the word "Krsna." The chanters sang, "Hare Kr-sna-a-a-a-a-a-a," in a very fancy melody. Then the audience applauded, calling out, "O, very good, very good," and paid them some rupees. Although those chanters drank wine and ate meat and fish, they still thought what they were doing to be all right, and they were still called Vaisnavas by unintelligent people. Because of such disgraceful displays, learned and educated persons became ashamed and did not want to associate themselves with the words 'Gaudiya Vaisnavism.' Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was, in his time, the first person to preach the factual philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to this learned society. By his preaching, people came to know about true transcendental love, prema-bhakti, and it is for this reason that he was given the title Seventh Gosvami. Just as King Bhagiratha brought the Ganges River to the Earth, to India, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura brought the bhakti-ganga (the flowing Ganges River of bhakti) to this world. Because of him, so many people became inspired to follow pure Gaudiya Vaisnavism. If he had not appeared, we would not have joined this mission. If Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja had not come to the West – if he had not gone to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and if Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had not come from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, what would have been your fate? Your good fortune is coming from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who preached the very pure doctrines of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. To Help Them It is due to lack of intelligence – to ignorance – that these so-called babajis speak the way they do. In order to help them, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura clearly explained the entire process for achieving spiritual perfection in his final literary work, Jaiva-dharma. In that book he clearly elucidated the qualifications for receiving siddha-deha, explaining how the bona fide guru reveals siddha-deha to a qualified disciple; and previously, in his book Bhajana-rahasya, he clarified many deep siddhantas on the same subject. Those who actually want to enter into the realm of bhakti may try to follow Bhajana-rahasya, Jaiva-dharma, and all his other books. In Bhajana-rahasya Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote that our bhakti begins by our trying to serve and realize the first verse of Sri Siksasakam: ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam, Then we follow and practice the second verse: namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-Saktis. And then the third: trnad api sunicena taror iva sahisnuna. If we factually adopt the qualities delineated therein, we may enter the fourth: na dhanam na janam na sundarim. At that time we are detached from worldly desires and tastes. Then, when we become still more pure, when we are always chanting and remembering Krsna without being disturbed by any obstacle, we can enter the fifth: ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram. Entrance into this fifth verse is the beginning of siddha-deha, at which time we realize ourselves as eternal servants of Krsna in a specific relationship. All aspects of our eternal relationship with Krsna are already in our atma, or soul, just as the potency of a fully grown tree is present in the seed of that tree. With water, air, and light the seed sprouts, and gradually leaves, branches, flowers, manjaris, and finally fruits also manifest. The entire tree or creeper is there in its seed, but only when air, water, and sunlight touch it do all its features sprout. Similarly, the full potency of our pure bhakti is present in our atma, but it manifests only by adopting the correct bhakti process. In this fifth verse, the jiva-svarupa is revealed. The sixth verse of Sri Siksastakam states: nayanam galad-asru-dharaya vadanam gadgada-ruddhaya gira pulakair nicitam vapuh kada tava nama-grahane bhavisyati ["O Prabhu! When will my eyes be filled with a stream of tears? When will my voice choke up? And when will the hairs of my body stand erect in ecstasy as I chant Your holy name."] When a devotee realizes his atma and understands that he is an eternal servant of Krsna, he has no worldly attachments. It is then that the svarupa-sakti [see endnote 2], as hladini and samvit, mercifully manifests in his heart. He then begins to weep, and, while chanting the holy name of Krsna, he rolls on the earth and sings, "Agha-damana (O Krsna, the killer of the Agha demon), Yasodanandana (O son of Yasoda), O, Nanda-sunoh (O, son of Nanda Maharaja), where are You?" The devotee may sometimes get a glimpse of Krsna and immediately run towards Him. And then, when Krsna goes out of sight, that devotee rolls on the ground in separation. If a person does not feel this type of separation from Krsna, his siddha-deha will not manifest. Those who artificially exhibit emotions of separation will go to hell, like the thousands of babajis (those with false initiation into false renunciation and false spiritual perfection) in Vrndavana and Radha-kunda who are simply illicitly giving birth to children and engaging in other malpractices. One of the brothers of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to think that his father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, was his physical body. In fact, he thought of himself as the son of Kedarnatha Datta (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's civil name), not Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. But Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura considered his father to be an associate of Sri Krsna, Srimati Radharani, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He never considered him his material father, a person made of blood and flesh. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura actually followed the path of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Whatever his father spoke, he totally accepted and followed. Our goal is siddha-deha, but what is siddha-deha? What is siddha-pranali? Who started it, in what year did it begin, and from where did it originate? Srila Sanatana Gosvami and Srila Rupa Gosvami are called Gosvamis, not Babajis. No one has given them the title Rupa Babaji, Sanatana Babaji, or Srila Raghunatha dasa Babaji. At the time of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, no one addressed him as Visvanatha Cakravarti Babaji. During his time the process of giving someone this bogus version of gopi-bhava was not practiced. Who gave this siddha-pranali to them? What is siddha-pranali? Siddha-pranali is Siksastakam – from the beginning verse, the first verse. One knows first of all that he is an eternal servant of Sri Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and he therefore follows trnad api sunicena. He becomes detached from worldly attractions and chants and remembers Krsna twenty-four hours a day under the guidance of any very qualified Vaisnava. tan-nama-rupa-caritadi-sukirtananu- smrtyoh kramena rasana-manasi niyojya tisthan vraje tad-anuragi jananugami kalam nayed akhilam ity upadesa-saram [sri Upadedamrta 8] ["The essence of all advice is that one should utilize one's full time – twenty-four hours a day – in nicely chanting and remembering the Lord's divine name, transcendental form, qualities and eternal pastimes, thereby gradually engaging one's tongue and mind. In this way one should reside in Vraja [Goloka Vrndavana-dhama] and serve Krsna under the guidance of devotees. One should follow in the footsteps of the Lord's beloved devotees, who are deeply attached to His devotional service."] This is real siddha-pranali, and Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami has explained it in his prayer called Manah-Siksa. All the verses of his prayer are pranali – not artificially imagining, "Oh, you are a gopi. You are Lalita-gopi. You are Visakha-gopi." From where and from whom has this artificial siddha-deha come? There is no history. It is not in our culture, nor is it the teaching of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Real siddha-deha and siddha-pranali manifest when we follow the correct process – from sraddha to nistha to guru-karana (taking complete shelter of guru), guru-bhajana, and guru-seva and after that, bhajana-pranali. It comes by purely adopting the process of sravanam (hearing), kirtanam chanting), visnoh-smaranam (remembering the Lord), pada-sevanam (serving the Lord's lotus feet), arcanam (worshipping), vandanam (offering prayers), dasyam (becoming a servant), sakyam (becoming a friend), atma-nivedanam. (surrendering everything) It comes by: sadhu-sanga, nama-kirtana, bhagavata-sravana mathura-vasa, sri-murtira sraddhaya sevana [ Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 22.128)] ["In the association of devotees one should chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Srimad-Bhagavatam, reside in Mathura, and worship the Deity with faith and veneration."] These are the processes to adopt, by following which, Sri Krsna and Srimati Radhika will mercifully give us siddha-deha. How Sri Narada Muni Received Siddha-Deha Srimad-Bhagavatam states that Narada Muni received his mantra from Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanat-kumara. Later, as soon as his mother died, he left for the dense forest. There he bathed in a river, sat down silently under the shade of a banyan tree, chanted his mantra, and meditated upon the Supersoul within his heart. After practicing this for many years, Lord Visnu momentarily manifested in his heart and then vanished. Narada wept bitterly in separation from Lord Visnu, and then a voice from the sky called to him, "Narada, I will not give you darSana again as long as you are in this material body. Continue chanting My name, remembering Me, and glorifying My pastimes all over the world. At the appropriate time, when death comes, you'll put your feet on the head of death." Following Visnu's instruction, Narada always chanted and remembered the Lord, and while playing on his vina he sang songs and poems glorifying the pastimes of Krsna. For example, he sang, "Radha-ramana haribol." Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote about many pastimes of Krsna and His devotees in his own poetries and songs. For example he wrote a song beginning, "Narada muni bajaya vina radhika ramana name – Narada Muni plays his vina while chanting the glories of Radha and Krsna." He also wrote, yasomati-nandana, braja-baro-nagara, gokula-ranjana kana gopi-parana-dhana, madana-manohara, kaliya-damana-vidhana ["Lord Krsna is the beloved son of mother Yasoda; the transcendental lover in the land of Vraja; the delight of Gokula; Kana ; the wealth of the lives of the gopis. He steals the mind of even Cupid and punishes the Kaliya serpent."] After many years, death came to Narada. At that same moment his siddha-deha manifested, and in that siddha-deha (transcendental body) he became so strong that he could travel anywhere in the universe or beyond. Unlike Dhruva Maharaja, Narada did not require the help of an airplane to transport him to Vaikuntha. We should try to know all of the processes taught by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura: sravana dasa, varana dasa, smarana dasa, bhavapana dasa (the stage of bhava or svarupa-siddha), anusmrti, and finally prema-sampatti dasa. It is in sampatti dasa that siddha-deha (vasthu-siddhi, one's spiritual form) will manifest. In sravana dasa, one hears from his bona fide guru about Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, and the entire philosophy of Srila Rupa Gosvami. In sravana dasa there are many things to learn, such as who you are and what is your name – not the name of your material body, but of your transcendental body. The true guru knows this. A false guru does not know all this, but by imagination he gives this type of information. The bona fide guru knows everything: your name, your relationship with Sri Krsna and Srimati-Radhika and the gopis, your place of residence – whether it is at Radha-kunda or Javata or Nandagaon or Varsana – the name of your father and mother, your service, and the nature of your beautiful form. He then reveals your particular service (agya) to Radha-Krsna conjugal, and your palya-dasi-bhava. There are eleven items in all. In sravana dasa, therefore, you will hear and understand about the process for perfection from Jaiva-dharma, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, and all the books of Srila Rupa Gosvami. Taste in the Name and Mercy to All To teach the actual process was the main objective of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, whose teachings can be summarized in two lines: Jiva-daya krsna-nama, sarva dharma sara. This is also the sum and substance of all the teachings of all the Vedas, Vedanta, Upanisads, Bhagavad-gita, the Puranas, Srutis, Smrtis, Pancaratra, etc. In essence, there are two principles – jiva-daya and krsna-nama. The meaning of jiva-doya is 'mercy to conditioned souls.' Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has elaborately explained that the best daya, or mercy, is turning conditioned souls from their worldly moods to the mood of service to Krsna. It is worth more than opening hundreds of thousands of hospitals and universities, or donating hundreds of thousands of dollars in charity. Jiva-daya is the most special gift, and it can be given only by a realized soul. harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha [sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 17.21)] ["In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way."] Jiva-doya is attained only by chanting Krsna's holy name. Krsna's name is Krsna Himself, but we can chant suddha (pure) nama only in the association of the bona fide guru and bona fide Vaisnavas. Without this association we can neither chant the pure name nor engage in pure suddha-bhakti. What is suddha-bhakti (pure devotion)? Raganuga-bhakti is suddha-bhakti. [see endnote 3 and 4] We may think that vaidhi-bhakti is auddha-bhakti, but it is not, nor will it ever become so. Spontaneous devotion to Krsna is raganuga-bhakti, and when the practice of raganuga-bhakti fully matures, it is then called ragatmika-prema. When we yet have no ragatmika-prema, then cultivation of that pure ragatmika-bhakti with all of our senses is called raganuga. When our hearts accept the same mood that Srila Rupa Gosvami possesses in his heart – the mood of a palya-dasi (unpaid maidservant) of Srimati Radhika – it is called rupanuga-bhakti. We conditioned souls are eligible to become palya-dasis. We cannot become like Lalita or Visakha, whose position (as a direct beloveds of Krsna) is beyond our limit of attainment. We can follow only Srila Rupa Gosvami or Rupa-manjari, Rati-manjari, Lavanga-manjari, and all the other manjaris. The sahajiya-babajis' utterance of "Oh, you are Lalita. I am Lalita" is nothing but mayavada philosophy, or monism, artificial imitation. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura foretold that in the near future many hundreds of thousands of Western devotees with Sikha and tulasi-mala will meet with Indian devotees, and they will all chant together, "Haribol, haribol," "Gaura premanande, hari haribol," and "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." Thus, all over the world, this pure mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu will spread. This idea was started by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. He is the root of all our preaching, and therefore we are truly indebted to him. [Endnote 1: from Paramagurudeva's biography, part 6 section g, quoting Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's essay entitled The Depravity of the Sahajiya Doctrine) : The jiva is cinmaya (spiritual), and its only natural dharma is cinmaya service to Krsna. The word 'sahaja' means saha-ja, i.e. that which arises along with the atma. Transcendental service to Krsna is sahaja (natural) for the pure atma, because it occurs along with the jivatma and thus it is naturally inherent. However, it is not natural in the stage of bondage to inanimate matter. Sahajiyas cheat others and are themselves cheated or deprived of their pure and natural love for Krsna by transforming the union of man and woman into a mundane, supposedly natural dharma.] [endnote 2: The Lord's divine potency is known as svarupa-sakti. It is called svarupa-sakti because it is situated in the Lord's form. This potency is cinmaya, fully conscious, and thus it is the counterpart and antithesis of matter. Consequently it is also known as cit-sakti (potency endowed with consciousness). Because this potency is intimately connected with the Lord, being situated in His form, it is further known as antaranga-sakti (internal potency). Because it is superior to His marginal and external potencies both in form and glory, it is known as para-sakti (superior potency). Thus, by its qualities, this potency is known by different names – svarupa-sakti, cit-sakti, antaranga-sakti, and para-sakti. The svarupa-sakti has three divisions: (1) sandhini, the potency which accommodates the spiritual existence of the Lord and all His associates, (2) samvit, the potency which bestows transcendental knowledge of the Lord, and (3) hladini, the potency by which Krsna enjoys transcendental bliss and bestows such bliss upon His devotees.] [endnote 3 – from Srila Prabhupada, Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja (lecture in Vrndavana, Nov.12, 1972): The more you are engaged in devotional service, the more your senses become pure or uncovered. And when it is completely uncovered, without any designation, then you are capable to serve Krsna. This is apprenticeship. Vaidhi-bhakti, that is apprenticeship. Real bhakti, para-bhakti, that is raganuga-bhakti. [endnote 4 – from cc: "The original inhabitants of Vrndavana are attached to Krsna spontaneously in devotional service. Nothing can compare to such spontaneous devotional service, which is called ragatmika bhakti. When a devotee follows in the footsteps of the devotees of Vrndavana, his devotional service is called raganuga bhakti.]