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Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakura
vande bhakti-vinodam shri gaura-shakti-svarupakam
“I bow to Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakur, the personi?cation of Shriman Mahaprabhu’s potency, the king of all those who know the scriptures and the ocean of the sweet rasa which comes from Shrimati Radharani.”
—Shrila Bhakti Rakshak Shridhara Goswami
The ancient Vaishnava line of pure devotional service which was spread by Madhvacharya in the thirteenth century was inconceivably enriched by Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the supremely merciful incarnation of Lord Krishna. Shriman Mahaprabhu appeared in 1486 in Navadwip, West Bengal to deliver the sinful living entities of Kali-yuga, the present age of hypocrisy and quarrel. He spread His movement of devotional love through congregational chanting of the holy name of Krishna (the Hare Krishna Mahamantra) and pure devotional service. Shriman Mahaprabhu is known as the most muni?cent incarnation, as He distributed pure love of God to innumerable people throughout India without consideration of their qualification. He predicted that one day His message of pure devotional love would spread all over the world. Under His guidance and instruction, His intimate associates and followers have given the world an immense wealth of Vaishnava literature: the six goswamis (headed by Shrila Rupa Goswami) left a myriad of works, from the Bhakti-rasamrita Sindhu (a treatise on devotion) to the Hari-bhakti Vilas (a treatise on Deity worship); Shrila Vrindavan Das hakur wrote the ?rst major biography of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Chaitanya Bhagavat, focusing on the early part of Shriman Mahaprabhu’s life; Shrila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami wrote the Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita, focusing on Shriman Mahaprabhu’s later pastimes. These are just a few examples, and the full extent and content of the Vaishnava literature produced by Mahaprabhu’s followers are still known to only a few fortunate souls.
This pure devotional movement remained vibrant and continued even after the disappearance of Shriman Mahaprabhu. In fact, it brought one of the greatest spiritual awakenings in India for hundreds of years, leading to a renaissance of ancient Vedic culture. Unfortunately, the theology and practice of this pure devotional line were buried in ignorance and misconceptions during the nineteenth century in Bengal, Shriman Mahaprabhu’s birthplace. As many as thirteen pseudo-Vaishnava groups (apasampradayas) claimed to be Vaishnavas but did nothing more than arouse hatred and prejudice against Vaishnavism in the minds of the general public, because of their practice of sense enjoyment in the name of religion. Such pseudo-Vaishnavas are called Sahajiyas (those who cheapen). Nineteenth-century India was under British Rule, and the oppressive and exploitative ruling class cared very little for the material prosperity or intellectual awareness of its subjects. In addition, some of the prominent intellectual representatives of the ruling class displayed extreme religious and cultural chauvinism, looking down upon the “native” culture and religious concepts as something that should be suppressed for the bene?t of all. The so-called Brahman class, ignorant of their own spiritual heritage and morally weak, relentlessly imposed their sel?sh concocted religious edicts over all the other classes of India’s Hindu majority—a people already morally, socially and ?nancially feeble after more than four centuries of Muslim dominance. The spiritual and moral conciousness of the populace had fallen to new depths. Many educated and in?uential Bengalis were turning away from their own spiritual and cultural heritage. Some of them had joined the impersonalist religious cult called the “Brahma-Samaj”, founded in 1826 by Rammohan Ray, and others were looking to the west for intellectual and social reform. But a new and great cultural and intellectual renaissance, yet to be recognized, was slowly taking place in Bengal. This is the background of the appearance of one of the greatest saints of the pure Vaishnava line of Gaudiya Vaishnavism—Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura.
Excerpt from the Autobiography of Bhaktivinode Thakura
“I began to feel like my life had been spent uselessly. I had not accomplished anything. I had not been able to taste the nectar of the joy of serving Shri-Shri Radha-Krishna, the personification of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. If I could, I would have liked to retire from my job in a few years. Then I would go to Mathura/Vrindavana, and somewhere in the woods on the bank of the Yamuna I would make a little shelter for myself, so I could be a recluse and engage myself in devotional service. But due to my old habits, it would probably be hard on my body, so I should not live there alone. Perhaps I would have a companion. Then I went to Tarakeswar on some errand.
While I was sleeping there, Mahaprabhu came to me at night and said, “You are thinking of going to Vrndavana, but what about the work you are supposed to do in Navadwip, which is close to your home?”
After I came back from Tarakeswar, every Saturday I would go from Krishnanagar
to Navadwip to look for the places of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. But I could not find anything, and that made me very sad. The people there are very concerned about making their own living. They do not make any effort to find the places of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes.
One evening my son Kamal, a clerk, and I were standing on the rooftop looking around. It was about 10 o’clock at night, and it was dark and cloudy. Suddenly we happened to see a brightly lit mansion across the Ganges, to the north. When I asked Kamal he said he had also seen it. But Kerani Babu (the clerk) said he did not see anything. I was very amazed.
In the morning I looked in that direction again from the rooftop of that house (the queen’s mansion) and noted that there was a palm tree there. When I asked the local people they told me that that place is called “Ballal Dighi” (the lake of the Ballalls). There is an old ruin there of the fort built by King Lakshman Sen. The following Monday I went to Krishnanagar, and the following Saturday I went to Ballal Dighi. Again that night I beheld that amazing sight. Later I went all around that place on foot, and by talking to the older residents I found out that this was Mahaprabhu’s birthplace. Eventually I visited all the villages where Mahaprabhu’s pastimes took place which are described in the Bhakti Ratnakar by Shrila Narahari Chakravarti and also in the Chaitanya Bhagavat. I wrote Shri Navadwip Dhama Mahatmya and sent it to Calcutta to be printed.
In January of 1894 we had a big meeting in the Krishnanagar A.V. school. Many learned, rich and famous Bengalis came to that meeting. Dvarik Babu (the chief engineer of Nadia District, Dwarakanath Sarakar) and I presented all the facts about Shri Mayapur in our speeches to all of those present. Everyone agreed with us and gave their blessings for starting devotional service in Mayapur, to recognize Mayapur as the birthplace of Mahaprabhu.”
Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura, the son of Shri Ananda Chandra Datta (belonging to the famous lineage of the descendants of Shri Purushottam Datta) and Shrimati Jagat-mohini Devi, was born on Sunday, September 2nd, 1838, in Birnagar (also known as Ula Gram) in Nadiya district, West Bengal, in the house of his rich and famous maternal grandfather, Shri Ishwar Chandra Mustauphi. His parents named him “Kedarnath”.
Most of his childhood was spent in the opulent household of his maternal grandfather in Birnagar. Birnagar was a very beautiful and prosperous village, with a happy and carefree populace. The sounds of laughter, music, poetry, and storytelling could be heard in all the neighborhoods, garden paths, and bathing ghats. Shri Kedarnath was a lovable child who made friends with a lot of people in his household and in the village. As an extremely intelligent child, he made friends with a lot of adults and asked them a lot of questions. He was very inquisitive about spiritual matters, and most of his questions were about the nature of Divinity, the nature of the living entities, and the relationship between the two. Unfortunately, almost all his spiritual inquiries were met with half-baked, confusing answers.
From early childhood his unusual talent for writing was noticed. He would go anywhere if he could hear about the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. By the time he was six years old he had mastered the facts and history therein. When he was nine he started studying astrology.
Ten-year-old Shri Kedarnath was full of spiritual questions which he would ask many different people—the person who crafted the deity form of Goddess Durga, the Muslim guard of his grandfather’s treasury, his teacher in school, his uncle at home, and so forth. He has written about these conversations in his autobiography, in his own unique, interesting, lucid, storytelling way. It seems that he had some deep conviction in his heart about a monotheistic personal God, and he knew that God to be Rama, or Krishna. As a little boy he was very attached to the chanting of the name of Rama.
He lost his father at the age of eleven and when he was twelve, he was married, according to his mother’s desire, to his ?rst wife, the daughter of Shri Madhusudan Mitra. He referred to the arrangement of his childhood marriage (not uncommon in those days) as “playing with dolls”. Even though he viewed the situation this way, he did not protest.
He was ?rst educated at a Sanskrit tol (elementary school) where he learned Sanskrit, Bengali, and arithmetic. Lather, when he was seven, his grandfather Shri Mustauphi Mahashay sent him to an English-medium school in Krishnanagar, called “Krishnanagar College”. Shri Kedarnath excelled in English, and received a class promotion and an award. Some time later, some educated men organized an English school in Ula in the parlor of Shri Kedarnath’s uncle’s house. Again Shri Kedarnath excelled in reading and reciting, and learned Bengali and mathematics as well. In his mind he always pondered over spiritual matters. Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura wrote, “Even while Father was living I began to become a little thoughtful. ‘What is this world? Who are we?’ These two questions were in my mind when I was ten years old. On some days I thought I had the answers, on other days I had none.”
When Shri Kedarnath was fourteen his maternal grandfather, Shri Mustauphi Mahashay, passed away. So, he went to Calcutta with his mother, Shrimati Jagat-mohini Devi. His maternal uncle, Kashiprasad Ghosh, requested Shrimati Jagat-mohini Devi to come to his house near the corner of Hedua and Beadon Street along with her children. She did not want to live in Calcutta, so she left Shri Kedarnath with his uncle and went back to Ula. Shri Kashiprasad Ghosh was highly educated and was well-known in the intellectual society of Calcutta. He enrolled Shri Kedarnath at the local school, called Hindu Charitable Institution. Shri Kedarnath studied there for four years, and at this time displayed his mastery of the English language. Some of his articles in English were published in “Hindu Intelligence”, a prestigious newspaper.
In 1856 Shri Kedarnath enrolled in the Hindu School, which became the University of Calcutta. Among his classmates there were Shri Satyendra Nath Tagore and Shri Ganendra Nath Tagore (brothers of the famous poet Shri Rabindra Nath Tagore, who became a Nobel laureate in 1913). While Shri Kedarnath was at the Hindu School, various intellectuals—such as Professor Clint, Reverend Duff, and Keshav Chandra Sen (who afterwards became a leader of the impersonalist cult, the Brahma Samaj)—were attracted to him because of his literary talent and his mastery of the English language. At this time he also came in contact with a member of the British Parliament, George Thompson, who taught him how to be an effective orator.
In 1856, Shri Kedarnath published his book of English poetry, Poriyed. Reverend Duff and others praised it highly and encouraged him to continue writing. Some of his English poems were published in the magazine called the Library Gazette. He read extensively from Sanskrit and Bengali literature, as well as the writings of various European authors. Among them were Addison, Carlyle, Hazlitt, Macaulay, Goethe, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer, and Voltaire. The members of the British Indian Society were very impressed by his scholarly speeches.
He also studied the impersonalist Brahmo religion, Christianity, and Islam. In particular he studied the Bible and the Koran, and he also studied the work of Channing, Newman, and Theodore Parker. Shri Kedarnath wrote in his autobiography that he preferred Christianity to Brahmoism because of the idea of a personal God. The eldest son of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, Shri Dwijendranath Tagore (the eldest brother of the poet Rabindranath Tagore), was a close friend of his. Together they studied many books about philosophy and religion. Shri Kedarnath called Shri Dwijendranath Tagore “Bada Dada” (“big brother”), and in his autobiography, Shri Kedarnath has mentioned that he appreciated Bada Dada’s liberal character and they had mutual affection for each other. Later he refuted many of Bada Dada’s impersonalist arguments in his spiritual novel, Prem Pradip.
In 1858, Shri Kedarnath set forth for Puri. On the way, he stopped at Chhutigram to visit his paternal grandfather, Rajvallabh Datta. Shri Rajvallabh Datta blessed Shri Kedarnath, saying that one day he would become an exalted Vaishnava. Shortly after that, he passed away. Then Shri Kedarnath went to Shri Jagannath Puri, where he passed the teaching examination. Then he got a job as a teacher in Cuttack.
Later the famous Bengali scholar, educator, and social reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who was Shri Kedarnath’s teacher and mentor, recommended him for the job of headmaster in the high school in Bhadrak. It was in Bhadrak that his ?rst son, Annada Prasad, was born. In 1860, he wrote his Maths of Orissa in English, which was praised by the historian Sir William Hunter. His next work was Bijangram, written in Bengali in amitrakshar chhanda, unrhymed meter. This is the ?rst work ever published in unrhymed meter in the history of Bengali literature, contrary to the notion that Michael Madhusudan Datta was the ?rst to use it in Bengali. This long poem was written after Shri Kedarnath went to see the devastation of his childhood village of Ula by an epidemic. The former beauty, prosperity, and joyfulness of Ula were contrasted with its destruction by disease and subsequent desolation. Due to his mastery of imagery and narration, the poem makes a very vivid and lasting impression on the reader’s mind.
Shri Kedarnath entered the civil service and, in 1866, at the age of twenty-eight, became Deputy Magistrate and Deputy Collector at Chhapra. There he found a Muslim teacher to teach him Urdu and Persian. In March of 1868, he was appointed Deputy Magistrate at Dinajpur.
The local zamindar of Dinajpur, Kamal Lochan Raya, was a descendant of Ramananda Vasu, who was a follower of the path of Vaishnavism as propagated by Shriman Mahaprabhu. Therefore Kamal Lochan Raya favored the concept and practice of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Shri Kedarnath was very happy to associate with the Vaishnavas there, and to ?nd copies of Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita and a Bengali translation of Shrimad Bhagavatam, as well as Bhakta-mala. By reading Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita again and again, he became very attracted to Shriman Mahaprabhu and spent many hours studying and analyzing the path of pure Vaishnavism. In his autobiography, he has written, “From this time, I started thinking of Shri Chaitanya Dev as the Supreme Lord. The seed of faith in Vaishnava religion in my heart fully sprouted at this time. I loved to read Vaishnava scripture night and day.” At that time he used to submit his questions to the Supreme Lord with great sincerity and pray for His mercy. Shortly afterwards he was transferred to Champaran for a few months, and then to Puri. There his dedication to Shriman Mahaprabhu’s path grew very intense. (Actually, to a student of Vaishnavism, it is readily apparent that Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura was an eternally liberated soul, and an eternal associate of Shriman Mahaprabhu. So one should not assume that he became a great devotee of Shriman Mahaprabhu at one particular point in his life, even though externally it might seem that way. Also not very much time elapsed between his ?rst contact with Shriman Mahaprabhu’s associates and the beginning of his writing and preaching about pure Vaishnavism, and yet his knowledge and realization of Vaishnavism were practically endless. It was not humanly possible to know and realize so much in such a short time.)
When Shri Kedarnath went to Puri with his family, he was deeply absorbed in his study and meditation on Shriman Mahaprabhu. Therefore he was looking forward to going to Puri, where Shriman Mahaprabhu performed the last twenty-four years of His pastimes. The books on Shriman Mahaprabhu’s pastimes, such as Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita and Shri Chaitanya Bhagavat, were Shri Kedarnath’s constant companions. He also studied other Vaishnava scriptures, such as Shrimad Bhagavatam and its commentary by Shridhar Swami. At this time, other scholars of Puri, such as Gopinath Pandit, Hariharadas Pandit, and Markendeya Pandit, who had previously studied the Nyaya and the Vedanta, started associating with Shri Kedarnath and studying Shrimad Bhagavatam with him. Shri Kedarnath also studied the Vaishnava literature written by the six goswamis. Scholars and spiritually inquisitive people listened with great interest to his discussions of Vaishnava philosophy at the daily meetings held at the temple of Shri Jagannath. In 1874, Shri Kedarnath’s fourth son, Shri Bimala Prasad (Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada) was born in Puri. Altogether Shri Kedarnath remained in Puri for ?ve years.
Subsequently he was transferred to different places in Bengal, and he visited the principal Vaishnava holy places. In 1878 he was transferred to Nadal, in Jessore district, where he became very popular as a great Vaishnava magistrate. Many kirtan singers used to come to sing their songs to him. There he published his Krishna Samhita in 1880 and Kalyana Kalpataru, a collection of his own poems, in 1881. Krishna Samhita was highly praised throughout India. In Nadal Shri Kedarnath was initiated by Shri Bipin Vihari Goswami. He followed all Vaishnava practices very strictly. He decided to interest educated people in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and therefore started a Bengali monthly, Sajjana Toshani, the ?rst Vaishnava newspaper. After three years in Nadal he went on a pilgrimage for three years to Allahabad, Ayodhya, Benares, Vrindavan, and so forth. In Vrindavan he met Shrila Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaj, who was considered the leader of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Shrila Babaji Maharaj became his religious guide and helped him with his missionary work. In 1886 the goswamis of Vrindavan gave him the title Bhaktivinod. Previously, he had written Shri Chaitanya Gita under the name of Sachchidananda Premalankara, and so he became known as Shrila Sachchidananda Bhaktivinod Thakura.
Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura began the greatest mission of his life: preaching Gaudiya Vaishnavism through books and lectures. He founded the Vaishnava Depository, a printing press. The books which set forth Vaishnava philosophy were in Sanskrit. He undertook the exposition of the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophical system to the educated public in a simple and readable form. His style was sweet, free-?owing, lucid, and readable. He was a great master of Bengali prose, and in his hand it became a perfect medium for scholarly concepts expressed in a simple and attractive way. One retired professor from the University of Calcutta, who is well-known by his pen name, Vanarasinath Bharadvaj, wrote a book about the extraordinary contribution of Shri Kedarnath Datta to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Bengali literature. He called him “the undiscovered literary genius of Bengal”. Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura’s work Shri Chaitanya Shikshamrita demonstrates his integration of Gauriiya Vaishnava philosophy with that of other schools. Subsequently he published Bhagavad-gita with its commentary by Vishwanath Chakravarti and his own Bengali commentary, Rasik-ra–jana, as well as Gunaraj Khan’s Krishna Vijaya. Many educated people from all classes became his disciples.
Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura had a dream in which Shriman Mahaprabhu commanded him to render service to Navadwip, the birthplace of the Lord, which had fallen into obscurity. Very soon thereafter Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura was transferred to Krishnanagar as Subdivisional Magistrate. He went there with great joy, hoping to ?nd the place where his beloved Shriman Mahaprabhu had been born. While in Puri he had obtained Narahari Chakravarti’s Bhaktiratnakara and a book by Paramananda Dasa, which greatly aided his archeological investigation. After much effort, he succeeded in ?nding the birthplace of Shriman Mahaprabhu. With the help of the scriptures and his own research, conducted by asking the local people about the history of the surrounding place, he was able to pinpoint the very birthsite of Shriman Mahaprabhu. He also got help from government surveyors and engineers and consulted government maps. His ?ndings were supported by the most revered Vaishnava devotee of the time, Shrila Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaj. At a meeting in Krishnanagar attended by many Vaishnava devotees, scholars, and inquisitive educated people, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura presented his ?ndings about the birthsite of Shriman Mahaprabhu. Everyone was completely satis?ed with his ?ndings, and very respectfully agreed to help him to establish the site.
Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura then composed his Navadwip Dham Mahatmya, glorifying each place within the boundary of Navadwip, which was published in the same year. He established “Shri Navadwip Dham Pracharini Sabha” (Society for the Glorification of Shri Navadwip Dham) in 1894, with the ruling prince of Tripura as its president. The society established a temple at the birthsite of Shriman Mahaprabhu and installed the deities of Shri Shri Gaura-Vishnupriya there. From then on daily deity worship as well as periodic festivals were maintained. On this occasion, a great festival took place, which was attended by thousands of devotees. Shrila Thakura Mahashay established “Shri Mayapur Seva Samiti” (Organization for the Service of Shri Mayapur), and exalted Vaishnava devotees, as well as many distinguished citizens from all over Bengal, became members of this society. Thus he established Shridham Mayapur as the bona ?de birthplace of Shriman Mahaprabhu. All his life he stressed the importance of developing Shridham Mayapur, and by his effort, and the effort of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada, Shridham Mayapur later was developed into a town of temples.
In 1896, Shrila Thakura Mahashay started travelling on his preaching mission. First he went to the state of Tripura, on the invitation of the Maharaja of Tripura, and gave lectures to the assembled scholars and intellectuals. On the ?rst day he talked about pure Vaishnavism and the glories of Harinam, and on the following two days he talked about Shriman Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. The spiritually inquisitive people of Tripura, who had never heard such a presentation, realized the beauty of Vaishnavism. After returning from Tripura, Shrila Thakura Mahashay preached in the villages of Bengal and the areas surrounding Calcutta. At the same time, he wrote and published much Vaishnava literature. His books were widely read and appreciated, and he was given the honor of being made a Member of the Royal Asiatic Society (MRAS) in London.
The famous scholar and writer Shishir Kumar Ghosh, who was the founder and editor of the Amrita Bazar Patrika of Calcutta, read some of the books written by Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura. He became a great admirer and follower of Shrila Bhaktivinod hakur, and began coming to him to listen to his hari-katha. He requested Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura to preach widely in Calcutta. Shishir Kumar Ghosh, who had great in?uence over the intellectual section of Calcutta, called Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura “the seventh Goswami”. Very soon Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura became known for his simple and saintly character, his unlimited knowledge of the scriptures, and his uncompromising stand on the pure Vaishnava concepts, which he upheld through his own conduct and preaching (achar and prachar).
Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura was a proli?c writer of Vaishnava literature. His poetry and prose bear testimony to his extraordinary literary talent. In his literary style, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura was much ahead of his time. No other acharya has presented so much Vaishnava philosophy in such simple, and yet extremely attractive, Bengali prose. Even today, his books are easy for the common people to understand. He has systematically explained many Vaishnava practices that all Vaishnava devotees must know and follow in their personal lives.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura established his own Bhakti Kuthi in Purushottam Dham (Jagannath Puri) in order to preach and practice pure devotion. Later he established another bhajan kutir in Shri Godrum, Navadwip Dham, called Shri Svananda-sukhada-ku–ja. Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji, who had great respect for Shrila Thakura Mahashay, used to come there and spend many hours discussing hari-katha with him. Shrila Babaji Maharaj also encouraged other devotees to surrender unto the lotus feet of Shrila Thakura Mahashay. Shrila Thakura Mahashay saw Shrila Saraswati Thakura as the next acharya in the Gaudiya Vaishnava line, and he greatly encouraged Shrila Saraswati Thakura in his preaching work by giving him instruction and inspiration.
In 1908, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura accepted the paramahamsa vesh (the garb of a Vaishnava renunciate). On June 23rd, 1914, on the disappearance day of Shri Gadadhar Thakura, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura left this material world to enter the afternoon pastime of Shri Shri Radha-Krishna.
Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura captured the hearts of the people of Bengal and interested them in Vaishnavism through his sweet transcendental personality, his powerful writing, and his extensive preaching. Throughout Bengal great sadness was felt at his disappearance, but the Vaishnava devotees knew that Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura’s message would be carried on by his worthy successor, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada.
Maharaj, Shrila Bhakti Vallabh Tirtha, Shri Gaura-parshad o Gaudiya Vaishnavacharya-ganer Samkshipta Charitamrita, vol. 2, Calcutta: Shri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, 1994.
Maharaj, Shrila Bhakti Vilas Tirtha. Introduction to Jaiva Dharma, by Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura. Madras: Shri Gaudiya Math, 1976.
Saraswati Jayashri, ed. by Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod, Calcutta: Shri Gaudiya Math, 1934.
Vidyaratna, Shrimad Paramananda, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakur, Mayapur: Shri Chaitanya Math, 1976.
Bhaktivinode Thakura's Vision
As an example of the quality of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura’s books and his unparalleled spiritual depth, the following are his concluding words to the Bhagavata-arka maricimala, The Brilliant Rays of Shrimad Bhagavatam:
“How I got the inspiration to compile this book is a divine mystery. At first I felt it improper on my part to disclose this, as it might be bridging spiritual conceit. But subsequently, I realized that it would be a slight to my spiritual master, which might stand as an obstacle on the path of my spiritual progress. Therefore, without any shame I record the fact that while under the benediction of my Guru, Shri Bipin Behari Goswami, who belonged to the great heritage of Thakura Vamshivadananda, a faithful follower of my Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, I would read Shrimad Bhagavatam. One day, while I was deeply penetrating Shrimad Bhagavatam, I had a vision of Shri Svarupa Damodara, the right-hand personal adherent of Mahaprabhu. He instructed me to compile slokas of Shrimad Bhagavatam in accordance with the principles of sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana, as laid down by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In this way that book would be easily understood, extremely interesting, and absolutely delightful to the loving devotees of the Lord. Shri Svarupa Damodara Prabhu further guided me by giving a wonderful explanation of the first sloka of Shrimad Bhagavatam, and also showed me how to explain the slokas in the light of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy.
Therefore, under the direction of Svarupa Damodar Prabhu I, Bhaktivinod, humbly compiled this book. With the utmost humility and sincerity, I crave the blessings of the readers, as well as the listeners, of this holiest of holy books.
Finally, I dedicate this work to the lotus feet of Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.”