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Devotee: We have heard it said that Srila Prabhupada (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja) received the name Bhaktiveddnta from his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta SarasvatI Thakura. Others have said that he received the name Bhaktiveddnta from Srila Sndhara Maharaja and yet others are saying that he received the name Bhaktiveddnta from Srila Kesava Maharaja. Can you please say something to clarify this issue?Narasingha Maharaja: When our Guru Maharaja (Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada) was initiated in 1933 he received both harUndma and mantra-diksa at the same time. At his initiation Srila Bhaktisiddhanta named our Guru Maharaja, Abhaya Caranaravinda Dasa, meaning 'one who is fearless, having taken shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.' During his lifetime Srila Bhaktisiddhanta did not confer any other names or titles upon our Guru Maharaja.In later years, after the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, our Guru Maharaja was engaged in writing articles for a Bengali journal published by his godbrother, Srila Bhakti Sarariga Gosvami Maharaja. Gosvami Maharaja and other leading Vaisnavas of the time were so impressed with the writing and preaching capabilities of our Guru Maharaja that Gosvami Maharaja conferred upon our Guru Maharaja the title 'Bhaktisiddhanta.' This was indeed the most honorific title a disciple could ever expect to receive, the very title of his guru.According to the practice of name giving when awarding titles to deserving disciples, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had never given the name of his gurus, Srila Gaura Kisora Dasa Babajl Maharaja or Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to anyone. Accordingly, some of the senior disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta thought that the title Bhaktisiddhanta should not be given to any disciple, however deserving.This matter was discussed among the senior Vaisnavas with whom our Guru Maharaja was regularly associating and in a mood of deep respect and harmony it was decided that our Guru Maharaja would be given the title 'Bhaktivedanta.During those discussions it was recognized by all present that our Guru Maharaja was a strong preacher in the line of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and that the inspiration of Srila Bhakti Saraiiga Gosvami Maharaja to bestow an honorific title upon our Guru Maharaja was directly inspired by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.In the days of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, certain senior disciples were often called upon when some particular point or issue was in need of clarification Srila Sridhara Maharaja was among those select few disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta who were able to clarify even the most difficult points of spiritual understanding.In the discussion where the honorific title for our Guru Maharaja was being discussed,Srila Sridhara Maharaja suggested that our Guru Maharaja be given the title Bhaktivedanta.The titles Bhakti-siddhanta and Bhakti'Veddnta are synonymous in meaning.
Thus the adjustment was made in keeping with the original inspiration felt by Srila Bhakti Saraiiga Gosvami Maharaja.From that time on our Guru Maharaja became known amongst his Godbrothers as Bhaktivedanta. This occurred in Calcutta in 1939.Some persons may look upon this event in our contemporary Vaisnava history as being of little significance the simple act of bestowing an honorific title upon a Vaisnava. But apparently not so for everyone the event was so spiritually moving that Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja decided for the future to name all his sannydsi disciples haktivedanta a title synonymous with Bhaktisiddhanta. This standard is still carried out among the disciples of Srila Kesava Maharaja even to this day more than half a century later.In contemporary times, our Guru Maharaja was the first person in the line of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta to receive the title Bhaktivedanta (1939).In 1959 when our Guru Maharaja accepted sannydsa, Srila Kesava Maharaja retained our Guru Maharaja's title Bhaktivedanta, given by Srila Sridhara Maharaja and then gave our Guru Maharaja the sannydsa name 'Svami,' which was chosen from the list of 108 names of sannydsis authorized by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in GaudiyaKanthahdra. Our Guru Maharaja then became known as A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja or simply as Svami Maharaja amongst his Godbrothers.Our Guru Maharaja retained the initials 'A. C for "Abhaya Caranaravinda" from his first initiation, but officially his sannydsa title and name was 'Bhaktivedanta Svami.In the Gaudiya tradition, the prefix Svdmi is added to the sannydsa title. However, if our Guru Maharaja had strictly kept this tradition then his name would have been written thus: 'Svami A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami.' In a letter to his disciple Rayarama Dasa, our Guru Maharaja explained something of the complexities of his name as follows:So far the title Svami is concerned, although this word is used generally for sannydsins, this Svdmi is my particular name as a sannydsi. Therefore, it must be suffixed at the end of my real name, A. C. Bhaktivedanta. So far the prefix Svdmi is concerned, every sannydsi has got to do that, but two ways Svdmi (Svami A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami) is not good looking. The end Svdmi is necessary because it is my sannydsa name. The first Svdmi may be transformed into Gosvdml, which is on the same order of Svdmi. Therefore, I use the prefix Tridandi Gosvdmi and suffix Svdmi, as I have printed on my card enclosed herewith. That will be nice. In small lettering, it can be written above my name, Tridandi Gosvdmi. Vaisnava sannyasins are known as Tridandi Gosvdmis, and Mayavadi sannydsins are known as only Svdmi.After the establishment of our Guru Maharaja's mission, the International Society for krishna Consciousness, in the western world, our Guru Maharaja stated in a letter to a senior disciple that he wanted all his qualified disciples to continue the title Bhaktivedanta. However, this has only been done by one of our Guru Maharaja's senior disciples and that is Sripada Bhaktivedanta Tripurari Maharaja.Due to the successful preaching campaign of our Guru Maharaja, the title Bhaktivedanta has now become famous all over the world with special reference to the Bhaktivedanta Purports of the Srimad Bhdgavatam.There are now many Bhaktiveddntas in different parts of our sampraddya, but as for fulfilling the purport of Bhaktivedanta our Guru Maharaja has set the standard in all respects and it behooves other Vaisnavas with this honorific title to strive to live up to the standards that our Guru Maharaja has set as a world-class preacher. Certainly one should beware of being a Bhaktivedanta in name only.