mukam karoti vachalam pangum langhayate giri
yat krpa tam aham vande sri-guru-dina-taranam
[“I offer my obeisance unto Sri Guru, the saviour of the fallen, by whose mercy a mute can speak and a cripple can cross a mountain.”]
namo bhakti-vinodaya sach-chid-ananda-namine
gaura-sakti-svarupaya rupanuga-varaya te
[“I offer my obeisance unto you, Srila Sachchidananda Bhakti Vinod Thakur, the embodiment of Sri Gaura’s potency, the greatest follower of Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu.”]
vanchha-kalpa-tarubhyas cha krpa-sindhubhya eva cha
patitanam pavanebhyo vaisnavebhyo namo namah
[“I eternally offer my obeisance unto the Vaisnavas, who are wish-fulfilling trees, oceans of mercy, and saviours of the fallen.”]
Today, in the absence of Sri Guru Padapadma from the Math, I stand before you all by his desire to glorify Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur. A fallen, lowly, materialistic person like me has no qualification to chant Thakur Mahasay’s supramundane glories.
aprakrta vastu nahe prakrta-gochara
veda-puranete ei kahe nirantara
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 9.194)
[“Supramundane existence is not perceptible materially. The revealed scriptures repeatedly state this.”]
The Supreme Lord and His devotees—His associates—are adhoksaja [transcendental]; their Names, Forms, Qualities, Pastimes, Associates, and Nature are all adhoksaja. It is not possible to understand them with the help of knowledge derived from the senses (aksaja-jnan). This principle is proclaimed clearly throughout all the Vedic scriptures. For example:
nayam atma pravachanena labhyo
na medhaya va bahuna srutena
[“The Supreme Lord cannot be understood by teaching, reasoning, or extensive learning.”]
So, how can a fool like me describe the glories of the Lord and His associates? Still, I have stood before great, wise devotees like you all today only by the merciful order of Sri Guru Padapadma.
vaisnavera guna gana karile jivera trana
[“Souls are delivered by singing the glories of the Vaisnavas. This I have heard from the sadhus and Gurus.”]
I am unqualified. Still, when empowered by Sri Guru Padapadma’s mercy, even a stool-eating crow can attain the position of the Supreme Lord’s carrier Garuda, a cripple can attain the ability to cross a mountain, a great fool can illuminate all directions with the light of genius and learning, and a mute can become an orator like Saraswati. Therefore, I first of all bow to Sri Guru Padapadma and pray for his mercy, desiring to serve him.
By the will of the Supreme Lord Sri Gaurasundar, the embodiment of His mercy, Srila Sachchidananda Bhakti Vinod Thakur, appeared on this day 117 or 118 years ago in the village of Birnagar in the district of Nadia in the land of Sri Gaura.
The characteristics of the Supreme Lord and His associates’ appearance times are seen in the scriptures: when there is a decline of dharma and an insurgence of adharma, the Supreme Lord or His associates appear in this world to deliver or maintain the sadhus, destroy or subdue the miscreants, and re-establish the dharma. Some time after the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, that exact condition had cast the souls of this world into darkness. Gradually, by the influence of time, the essential purport of all the scriptures—the completely pure Vaisnava-dharma—went into hiding, and in its place the witch Maya’s newer and newer dharmas of enjoyment led souls down dark, mistaken paths. As a result, dharma became based on racial caste judgement! Ignorance took the place of virtuousness (sadhuta), yoga became based on the pursuit of enjoyment, the cultivation of knowledge became converted into voidism, japa was practiced to attain fame, austerities were practiced out of animosity for others, charity was given to procure prestige, terrible adultery was committed in the name of loving service to the Supreme Lord, and even the intelligentsia was conflicted. Seeing the strong influence of time and the arrival of an extremely dangerous and fearsome condition in their lives of service, the sadhus became afraid, and when they made with anxious hearts their sorrowful prayers for the welfare of all souls known at the feet of the Supreme Lord, Srila Sachchidananda Bhakti Vinod Thakur—the embodiment of the mercy of the Avatar of good for the world, the Hero of Nadia, Sri Gaurasundar—appeared, increased the joy in the sadhus’ hearts as the father of Bimalananda (Sri Bimal Prasad Datta—Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur), and illuminated the eastern mountain of Nadia to fulfil the desires of His Lord’s heart.
Though the birth and other Pastimes of the Supreme Lord and His associates may seem like material things, they are supramundane (aprakrta). You all have heard this point many times. Bound by the results of their karma, souls are forced to take birth in this world in order to undergo the results of their actions. The Supreme Lord or His associates, however, compelled by mercy, accept the Pastime of birth by their own will in order to take souls from the material world—the dangerous, anxiety-ridden world—to the spiritual, joyful world, and to bestow upon them their true fortune: the joy of the Supreme Lord’s service. One (the conditioned soul) is controlled; the other (the Lord or His devotee) is independent. A partial analogy: prisoners and teachers, who benefit prisoners, can both be held within a prison.
That aside, the Supreme Lord’s associates do not take birth in any social class. Why? Although they take birth in the midst of a social class, they have no relationship with it. Hanuman took birth in a class of monkeys, and the Supreme Lord’s carrier Garuda took birth in a class of birds. Nevertheless, the whole world worships them. Even in the scriptural laws for this world’s spiritual social order (daiva varnasram), it is seen that persons born in any social class will be identified as a brahman, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra, and so on according to the characteristics of their actions and qualities; a person’s occupation will not be determined by their birth. Therefore, how will it be possible to identify the Supreme Lord’s associates, who are eternally liberated, by the identity of their social class? For this reason the teacher of all souls Srila Sanatan Goswami—on the subject of the familial identity of Srila Das Goswami Prabhu—used the phrase kayastha-kulabja-bhaskarah [“the sun above the lotus of the secretarial class”]. The sun has a small relationship with the lotus. The lotus is a soft flower born from water, and the sun is the revealer of the world, a glowing ball of fire. The class, or definition, of these two entities is not the same or similar. Still, the sun accepts a small relationship with the lotus by distributing itself to the lotus and causing the lotus to grow and bloom. The Vaisnavas’ small relationship with social classes is comparable to this, though this example can only be taken partially. Actually, the social class the Lord’s associates or devotees accept when they appear becomes purified. Consider this evidential verse from the scriptures on this subject:
kulam pavitram janani krtartha
vasundhara va vasatis cha dhanya
nrtyanti svare pitaro ’pi tesam
yesam kule vaisnavamadheyam
[“The social class in which a Vaisnava appears becomes purified. His mother becomes glorious, his residence or locality become prosperous, and his ancestors dance in heaven.”]
Mad-bhakta-pujabhyadhika: [Krsna said: “Worshipping My devotees is greater than worshipping Me,”] if we consider statements from the scriptures like this one logically, then we are also able to understand that the appearance days of devotees are even more auspicious than the appearance days of the Supreme Lord. This is because the devotees’ lives and characters give us a better chance to clearly learn about the Lord than the Lord’s life and character does. It is for this reason that the Supreme Lord appeared in this world in the covering of a devotee as Sriman Mahaprabhu and taught devotion.
In this way, the atmosphere of the world gradually changes because of the appearance of Thakur Srila Bhakti Vinod, and the Thakur’s extraordinary characteristics attract the keen attention of the virtuous and fill them with joy.
In terms of his worldly identity, as a young boy with no father, he spent time at his maternal uncle’s house engaged in study and other activities. Seeing his astonishing genius, heart-melting behaviour, unprecedented poetic capability, and deep attachment to dharma, his relatives were astounded and exceedingly affectionate towards the boy. The Thakur strongly adhered to dharma during his early life, and even pandits were bewildered upon seeing his unlimited learning of all the religious scriptures. Even in his youth, Thakur Mahasay wrote numerous books in various languages. Seeing the boy’s youthful beauty, his relatives had him married.
When he grew up, as if he were an ordinary soul immersed in pastimes of karma, Thakur Mahasay accepted the post of a deputy magistrate, which was very difficult for a Bengali to attain, moved to Odissa, and lived near the temple of Sri Jagannath.
At that time he had a good opportunity to discuss dharma: he established a stage beside the Temple of Sri Jagannathdev and, following Srila Sanatan Goswami Prabhu, would discuss Srimad Bhagavatam and other scriptures in the company of numerous devotees, pandits, and brahmans, and cut away the bondage of material existence from the souls of this world. He would become so greatly distressed by the misery of the souls who were averse to Krishna that from time to time, forgetting himself and loudly calling, “O Gauranga! O Nityananda! Once glance towards the souls of this world, O Lords!” he would cry profusely. Because of this anxious appeal by Bhakti Vinod Prabhu to the Lord, the souls of this world one day attained the foot-dust of the manifest embodiment of Sri Gaura Mahaprabhu’s mercy: Srila Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad.
Within a short time Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur’s name spread everywhere and many educated and respected gentlemen joined him as servants during his Pastimes as an Acharya engaged in preaching the dharma. Prior to Srila Thakur’s preaching, the pure Vaisnava-dharma preached by Sriman Mahaprabhu had become so degraded, corrupted, and disordered by selfish persons that people considered Vaisnava-dharma to be extremely despicable, to be the dharma of detestably low-natured persons. People considered it to be the dharma of the auls, bauls, kartabhajas, sahajiyas, sakhi-bhekis, neda-nedis, and so on, and mocked it. Yet by the appearance and endeavour of Srila Bhakti Vinod, Vaisnava-dharma became free from degradation, again self-manifested its pure nature as the dharma of the soul situated atop the heads of all other dharmas, and attained beauty like that of the newly risen shining sun in the sky of the world’s dharmas. All the virtuous souls understood that Vaisnava-dharma is the one and only pure, effulgent, non-envious, devotional and pleasing (‘bhakti-vinodan kari’) dharma of the self, within which there is no duplicity or contamination. They understood that if all other dharmas are perfectly performed individually and collectively, then they will attain the beautiful position of stairs towards Vaisnava-dharma.
The dharma preached by Sriman Mahaprabhu can refute the misconceptions of so-called harmonisers of spirit and matter and reveal the one and only spiritual harmony of all dharmas. Thakur Mahasay substantiated this in his writing and endeavours. Actually, after Sriman Mahaprabhu and His associates, a second example of the way in which Thakur Mahasay protected the souls of this world from aversion to the Supreme Lord is extremely rare. No one ever saw that Srila Thakur Mahasay fostered an envious mentality towards anyone at any time, yet he had not even a drop of hesitation to proclaim the impartial truth. He never indulged false devotion, non-devotional conceptions, or deceitful dharma in the name of devotion. His pen fearlessly and loudly declared the truth. He considered worldly fame [pratistha] comparable to pig stool. At that time, the greatest playwrights of Bengal specially requested Srila Thakur Mahasay to introduce a drama about Sri Gauranga but he refused, as he staunchly considered such matters adulterated. When a great yogi from Odissa who declared himself—from the peak of a mountain of the pig stool of pratistha—to be an Avatar of Mahavisnu was proceeding with his party down the road to hell and spreading thorns along the path of sanatan-dharma, Srila Thakur Mahasay strongly repressed him. When Thakur Mahasay organised a campaign to purify polluted holy places throughout India, droves of fallen, sinful, and sorrowful persons felt themselves to be fulfilled by touching his cooling lotus feet. How many more examples about him shall I give? By his touring India, numerous antithetical dharmas were abolished. It is not possible for me to even summarise his glory with all these examples.
Srila Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad in a few verses (and elsewhere in extended form) briefly revealed the secret identity of Thakur Mahasay. Thereby the learned understand his true identity. At the end of his Anubhasya on Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, Srila Prabhupad wrote:
tahara karuna-katha madhava-bhajana-pratha
tulana nahika tribhuvane
tara sama anya keha dhariya e nara-deha,
nahi dila krsna-prema-dhane
[“There is no comparison within the three worlds to His merciful teachings of the practice of devotion to Krishna. No one has ever assumed a human form and distributed the wealth of Krishna-prema like him.]
sei prabhu-sakti pai’ ebe ‘anubhasya’ gai’
ihate amara kichchhu nai
yavat jivana rabe tavat smariba bhave
nitya-kala sei pada chai
[“Receiving his mercy, I now present this Anubhasya, within which there is nothing of my own. So long as I live, I will remember him within my heart. I eternally aspire for his feet.]
sri-gaura-krpaya dui mahima ki kaba mui
prakata ha-iya seve krsna-gaurabhinna-deve
aprakasya katha yatha tatha
[“He is a manifestation of Sri Gaura’s mercy. What can I say about his greatness? He is one of the Lord’s divine associates. He appeared and served Lord Krishna’s non-different form Sri Gaura. This expression should not be spoken anywhere and everywhere.”]
When we hear these few verses, our mouth and pen completely stop, “What am I thinking?! Attempting to prepare a deity of Siva, we are making a monkey!” Where is our ability to sing the Thakur’s glories like this? What is the spotless character of this super-human Mahapurusa, and who am I? A most fallen, lowly human being! We simply have the solace that even a remote connection with Srila Bhakti Vinod Prabhu can bestow ultimate auspiciousness upon the soul. Actually, Thakur Mahasay’s mercy flowing in thousands of streams from thousands of mouths has purified the universe.
There were no materials, thoughts, or subjects which Srila Thakur did not connect with Krishna. In his endeavours two currents are predominant: like the flow of the Ganges (by his practice and preaching) he purified the entire world and transformed it into materials for Krishna’s service, and like the flow of the Saraswati and Vedavyas, he churned all the Vedic scriptures and freely distributed everywhere the butter of Krishna-prema in an easy and simple way. In this world there is no comparison or substitute to Srila Bhakti Vinod’s unparalleled gift. In the world of literature also Thakur Mahasay’s unprecedented greatness has been and will be remembered always and everywhere. Today, Thakur Mahasay’s published and unpublished jewel-like books—his books of aphorisms, hymns, songs, and lectures; his books about the Lord’s Pastimes and the science of rasa; his books of critical review, commentary, and interpretation; his books on theology, poetry, composition, and philosophy; and all his other noteworthy books—being further illuminated by the pleasing, serving light of Sri Chaitanya-Saraswati—have shown that they are non-different from the supremely compassionate origin of all Avatars’ non-harm producing mercy in uplifting the souls in this world. Time is short, so I will say a couple more things and then take your leave.
Srila Bhakti Vinod Prabhu showed the fulfilment of all his endeavours in his service to Sri Gauranga’s Dham. You have all heard about his manifestation of the Dham. Many selfish persons opposed his discovery of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s birth place in many ways, yet he unwaveringly fulfilled Sri Gaurasundar’s desire of manifesting the Dham so perfectly that today the lies from the tongues of these selfish persons have stopped. They cannot find any way to suppress Mayapur any more; everyone now freely sings Mayapur’s glories. In a phrase, Srila Thakur Bhakti Vinod was the combined form of Svarup, Sanatan, Rupa, Raghunath, Ray Ramananda, Haridas, Sri Jiva, Krishnadas, and Narottam. This is because the fulfilment of all the Goswamis’ endeavours is seen within him in full form. In manifesting the Dham, in restoring the lost holy places, in writing spiritual books, in establishing the truths of devotion, in renunciation, in philosophical analysis, in preaching about the Lord, and in the Pastimes of delivering souls through Hari-nam-sankirtan—the fortunate souls who saw the glory of Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur’s extraordinary ability in all fields rolled about at his feet.
He appeared on today’s date. Thus, this day is also supremely worshippable, desirable, and merciful. I have no gift with which to worship this great day, but you are all great devotees. May you all mercifully grant me the qualification to worship this holy day. By your mercy, may earnest prayer for Srila Bhakti Vinod Prabhu’s mercy awaken within me, may I be gloriously adorned, internally and externally, with the kirtan prescribed by Sri Gaura, and may I be engaged in the service of Sri Vinod-Saraswati’s followers eternally. This is my prayer.
vaisnavebhyo namo namah
[“I offer my obeisances unto the Vaisnavas.”]
More than fifty years after it was published, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj commented on this article as follows:
“I once gave a lecture about Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur and then published it in Gaudiya Darshan as an article. By my good fortune, Srila Guru Maharaj and Srila Swami Maharaj very much appreciated it. I sat down to write out the lecture and it came out very nicely. I do not know whether or not it is has been published since then. If not, it can be. It is in Bengali but it can be translated. It is a very good article. I like it very much.”