Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) is a prominent preceptor acharya in our succession of spiritual masters and disciples coming from Lord Krishna. He was a pioneering spiritual leader, a householder, a magistrate working in colonial India under the British rule, a prolific preacher, writer, and poet. Honoured as the “Seventh Gosvami”, he wrote volumes of books reintroducing the pure teachings of Lord Chaitanya at a time when those teachings had practically become lost. He composed hundreds of devotional songs glorifying Krishna to uplift the consciousness of the suffering people of this world. He corresponded with philosophers, theologians, leaders, scholars, and professors of his time and sent books, including The Life and Precepts of Lord Chaitanya, to university libraries in foreign countries, planting the seeds for a worldwide movement of Krishna consciousness.
Sri Sacidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura appeared in 1838 in a wealthy family in the Nadia district, West Bengal.His childhood name was Kedaranatha Datta.
Jaganath Das Babaji Maharaj -initiated Srila BhaktivinodaThakur.
Along with his devoted wife, Bhagavati Devi, he raised ten children, including the illustrious Bhakti siddhanta Saraswati Thakura, who later became a great spiritual leader in his own time and the spiritual master of ISKCON’s founder-acharya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Always anxious to use every moment in loving service of Krishna, he followed a strict austere daily schedule :
8 p.m.-10 p.m. Rest (two hours)
10 p.m.-4 a.m. Write
4 a.m.-4:30 a.m. Rest
4:30 a.m.-7 a.m. Chant Japa
7 a.m.-7:30 a.m. Correspondence
7:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Study sastras
9:30 a.m.-10 a.m. Bath,prasadam (half-litre milk, fruit, 2 chapatis)
10 a.m.-1 p.m. Court Duties
1 p.m.-2 p.m. Refresh at home
2 p.m.-5 p.m. Court Duties
5 p.m.-7 p.m. Translate Sanskrit sastras to Bengali
7 p.m.-8 p.m. Bath,prasadam (half-liter milk, rice, 2chapatis)
Summary Daily Schedule:
Sleep 2.5 hours
Write 8 hours
Japa,study 5.5 hours
Work 6.5 hours
Biographers list three major preaching achievements of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura:
(1) Wrote 100 authorized spiritual books.
(2) Discovered appearance place of Lord Caitanya.
(3) Introduced preaching innovations.
Apart from books (in Bengali, Oriya, English) explaining Mahaprabhu’s message, he wrote hundreds of poems and songs full of spiritual sentiments and sastric siddhanta (philosophical conclusions).
Some of his well-known writings are
Sri Krishna-samhita, KalyanaKalpa-taru, Sri Caitanya-siksamrta, Sri Navadvipa-dhamamahatmyam, Jaiva Dharma, Sri Harinama¬cintamani, Bhajana-rahasya, Gita-mala, Gitavalli, Saranagati, and commentaries on Bhagavad-gita and Caitanya-caritamrta.
In 1888, SrilaBhaktivinodaThakura revealed Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s janmasthan at the Yogapitha in Sridhama Mayapur. Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja, a famous siddha saint, and paramahamsa rasika Vaisnava, confirmed the Thakura’s discovery. This most auspicious event delighted the Gaudiya Vaisnavas from Gaura-mandala to Vraja-bhumi. He established the worship of Lord Gauranga and Srimati Vishnupriya at Yogapitha.
As he was keen to spread Lord Caitanya’s teachings in the Western countries, in 1896 he sent to universities around the world a book of slokas titled “Sri Gauranga-lilasmarana” which had a forty-seven page English introduction: “Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts.”
It should be noted that SrilaPrabhupada was born in 1896, which was the same year when BhaktivinodaThakura sent his books overseas.
SrilaPrabhupada giving all credit to the previous acharyas once said that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the origin of the Krishna Consciousness Movement in its pure form.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura made three predictions concerning a person and a phenomena: “A personality will soon appear,” wrote Bhaktivinoda Thakura, “and he will travel all over the world to spread the teachings of Lord Caitanya.”
His second prediction: “Very soon the chanting of ‘Harinamasankirtana will be spread all over the world. Oh, when will that day come when people from America, England, France, Germany, Russia will take up karatals and mrdangas and chant Hare Krishna in their towns?”
The third prediction: “When will that day come when the fair-skinned foreigners will come to Sri Mayapur-dhama and join with the Bengali Vaisnavas to chant, Jaya Sacinandana, Jaya Sacinandana. When will that day be? ”
All these predictions were brought to fruition through SrilaPrabhupada by the grace of the previous acharyas.
In 1914, on the tirobhavatithi (disappearance day) of Sri Gadadhara Pandit (the incarnation of Sri Radha), Thakura Bhaktivinoda entered the Lord’s eternal pastimes.
In Radha-Madhava’s nitya-vraja lilaBhaktivinodaThakura takes the form of Kamala-manjari to serve SrimatiRadharani. His pushpasamadhi is in his bhajanakutir at Radha-kunda.
Some interesting incidents that happened in the life of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur
The Emancipation of a Ghost
At Camparana many people were worshiping a ghost who was living in a banyan tree. These dishonest people worshiped the ghost because he had the power to change the mind of the judge in the court to give the decision to favour the person who had worshiped him and the tree. Thakura Bhaktivinoda wanted to stop this nonsense mundane worship.
One day the father of Pandita Ramabai, a famous girl scholar, came to Bhaktivinoda for alms and the Thakura engaged him in reading Srimad-Bhagavatam underneath the tree where the ghost resided. After one month when the Srimad-Bhagavatam was completed, the tree crashed to the ground, and the brahma-daitya [ghost] left for good. After this incident, many people developed faith and attraction for the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The Chastisement of the Mystic Bishakishena
In the town of Kamanale, near the capital of Orisa, there lived one powerful mystic named Bishakishena. By mystic power he could perform many powerful supernatural feats. He had two companions named Brahma and Siva, and he declared that he himself was Maha-Vishnu. All the small kings of Orisa bowed down to him and would regularly donate money. They would also send women for his rasa-lila dances. Bishakishena declared that he would drive away the British and become the King of Orissa. The British government thought that he was plotting a political revolution against the government and hence the District Governor sent out orders to arrest the offender. No one had the courage to touch him. The Orissa division then was under the charge of Mr. Ravenshaw, a District Commissioner from England. Mr. Ravenshaw knew the power of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, who was then the Deputy Magistrate at Puri. He especially requested and gave him charge of the prosecution of this bogus Maha-Vishnu.
When Bhaktivinoda approached the yogi to arrest him, Bishakishena showed some of his supernatural power and said to Bhaktivinoda, “Ah, you are Kedaranatha Datta and you have come here to inquire about my activities, but I warn you not to disturb my activities for I am the Supreme Lord Himself!” Bhaktivinoda then replied, “My dear sir, you are a great yogi. Why are you living here, you should come with me to JagannathaPuri where you can have the darshan of Lord Jagannatha.” To this Bishakishena angrily replied, “Why should I come to see Jagannatha? He is only a hunk of painted wood, whereas I am the Supreme Lord personally.” Bhaktivinoda immediately arrested him and put him behind the bars at Puri.
Bhaktivinoda laid three dozen Muslim constables and seventy-two police men from Cuttack for guarding his cell day and night. The other two rascals who called themselves as Brahma and Shiva, were prosecuted by one Mr. Taylor who was the Sub-Division Officer at Kodar.
The trial of Bishakishena continued for eighteen days. On the sixth day of the trial Bhaktivinoda’s second daughter, fell so sick, that she was almost on the verge of death. This was an exhibition of the mundane mysticism of the Bishakishena.
On the last day of the trial Thakura fell very sick with high fever and suffered severely. With great difficulty, he was carried to the courthouse. Upon beginning the trial he declared his final judgment that Bishakishena should be thrown in jail for eighteen months under strict imprisonment for political conspiracy. While Bishakishena was leaving the court, Doctor Walter, the District Medical Officer, caught hold of Bishakishena and cut off all his hair. By this Bishakishena lost all his power. After three months Bishakishena committed suicide by taking poison. By this pastime Thakura Bhaktivinoda and the energy of Lord Caitanya proved that any earthly aggrandizement or power cannot stand before the godly divine power of a pure devotee of the Lord.
The Story of Bankima Chandra
When Bhakti vinoda was staying at Barasat he met the well-known Bengali novelist Bankima Chandra. Bankim Chandra at that time had written a book on Krishna and this book was full of European ideas and speculations and stated that Krishna was just a mundane person with some good qualities.
Bhaktivinoda argued with shastric references, and convinced Bankima Chandra to change his ideas and his book to agree with the divine teachings of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Here are some interesting pictures from the life of Bhaktivinoda Thakur :
(left)Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s photo with autograph and (right) the first page of his original SvalikhitaJivani. (1896)
At the request of his son, Lalita Prasad, in 1896 Bhaktivinoda wrote a detailed autobiography called SvalikhitaJivani that covered 56 years of his life from birth up until that time. The book was published by Lalita Prasad in 1916 after Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s death.