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Songs of the Vaishnava acaryas
Translated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and His Holiness Acyutananda Svami and Jayashacinandana dasa Adhikari
Dedicated to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who loved to sing the songs of the Vaishnava acaryas
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness was established in New York in the year 1966. After my arrival in the United States in September of 1965, I personally underwent a difficult struggle, and in 1966 I rented a storefront and apartment at 26 Second Avenue. When ISKCON was incorporated, a boy named Chuck Barnett joined me, along with a few others, to form the nucleus for the institution’s future development. At this time I used to chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra underneath a tree in Tompkin’s Square Park in New York. Shriman Barnett and another boy, Bruce, were the first to begin dancing in front of me, and others in the audience joined them. The New York Times published a report of this, with our picture and a headline declaring that I was attracting the younger generation to the Hare Krishna movement.
Later both Chuck and Bruce, along with others, became my initiated disciples, and still later, in 1970, both took sannyasa, receiving the names Acyutananda Svami and Brahmananda Svami. Now Brahmananda is preaching in Africa, and Acyutananda is preaching in India.
When I became sick in 1967, 1 1eft the United States and returned to India. Shriman Acyutananda could not remain separated from me, and therefore he joined me in Vrindavana when I was staying there. Since then, Acyutananda Svami has worked very hard in India. He has preached extensively in Calcutta and other parts of Bengal, he has learned how to sing in Bengali and play mridanga like an expert professional, and now he has compiled this book of Bengali songs with English explanations.
I am greatly pleased to see this collection of songs composed by Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Narottama dasa, and other great acaryas of the Gaudiya Vaishnava community (sampradaya). Songs composed by the acaryas are not ordinary songs. When chanted by pure Vaishnavas who follow the rules and regulations of Vaishnava character, they are actually effective in awakening the Krishna consciousness dormant in every living entity. I have advised Sriman Acyutananda Svami to sing more songs of the Vaishnava padavali and record them in books so that my disciples and others in the Western countries may take advantage of this chanting and thus advance in Krishna consciousness more and more.
I confer all my blessings upon Acyutananda Svami for his genuine attempt to advance in Krishna consciousness. I hope he will thus advance more and more and never be hampered by maya. We should always remember the danger of maya’s influence and endeavor to save ourselves from her great power. We must therefore always merge in the transcendental mellow of kirtana-rasa, for kirtana-rasa is the safest situation within this material world. Hare Krishna.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
It was my good fortune to be in the service of Shrila Prabhupada at Shri Mayapur, the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya, in setting up the groundwork of our Society’s international center there. That year (1971) there was a terrible flood, but although for many days the water was rising, it was diverted from flooding the Society’s property solely due to the embankment created by a road constructed by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, our Parama Guru Maharaja. I wrote a letter to His Divine Grace explaining the situation and I mentioned, “The water has not entered our property. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta’s road has saved us." Shrila Prabhupada, however, wrote back in answer in a different tone: “Yes, we are always saved by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta’s road, so go on glorifying the disciplic succession, and your life will be a great success." Later on, when I suggested writing down the songs of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Narottama dasa Thakura in English translations, His Divine Grace said, “Yes, we must push on this mission of Bhaktivinoda." So here in this book, which is the first of a series of translations of the complete works of the Vaishnava acaryas in the line of succession coming after Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, I have also included a short life sketch of Thakura Bhaktivinoda. In the following volumes, the lives of Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura, Shrinivasa Acarya, and other Vaishnava acaryas will appear.
The songs in this book are mostly by Thakura Bhaktivinoda and Narottama dasa Thakura. While they may sometimes make awkward English poetry, the translations are accurate renderings of the originals. All these songs have exquisite melodies, and cassette recordings are available to accompany the book. It should be noted that these songs and verses are all explanations of pure devotional service and that devotional service to Shri Krishna is obtained only by the mercy of the spiritual master, which can be obtained by serving his desires perfectly. These songs are not substitutes for the main and prime benediction of the age of Kali, the congregational chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, which is of the utmost importance. They are verses which have expanded from the maha-mantra, and they are explanations of the maha-mantra. Thus, because they are expansions of the mahamantra, they are nondifferent from it.
The songs of Shrila Narottama dasa and Bhaktivinoda Thakura are nondifferent from the Vedic mantras. But, as stated by Shrila Prabhupada in The Nectar of Devotion, even if someone does not have initiation into the Gayatri mantra, the chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is sufficient to enable one to attain the highest perfection of spiritual life.
The verses of these songs are wonderful sources of knowledge for preachers of Krishna consciousness. In each and every line there is so much philosophy that one can preach from one line for hours. They are all so pregnant with meaning and they lead to such succinct spiritual conclusions that a preacher need only recall the simple lines of songs like Bhajahu Re Mana, Shri Rupa Manjari Pada, Ohe Vaishnava Thakura, or the Shri Manah-shiksha, and every point of Krishna consciousness will be covered in detail. Shrila Prabhupada is constantly quoting from these lines in his lectures and books, and here also in this book his commentaries are given. Wherever Shrila Prabhupada has translated a song, no separate translations have been given, for his are complete in themselves.
This is the first time that these transcendental vibrations have appeared in the English language, and to introduce them I am including herewith a life sketch of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.