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29. His Character
IN A Glimpse into the Life of Thakur Bhakti-vinode Pandit Satkari Chattopaddhyaya Siddhanta Bhusan, who was commissioned by the Thakur Bhakti Vinode Memorial Committee to write a short biography of the Thakura in 1916, has written glowingly of the Vaishnava character of the Thakura. He explained that Thakura Bhaktivinoda was so charitably disposed that no one ever went away from his home disheartened, and he who once called on him was sure to meet him again with a smiling face. Shrila Bhaktivinoda befriended men regardless of their rank, a phenomenon especially visible when he widely preached the Holy Name. He never bore any grudges, and those who were jealous of him or attempted to impede him in his spiritual mission were, in the long run, ashamed of their conduct and often came begging his pardon, which he never refused. His sense of universal brotherhood made him the friend of all, and he was always eager for the benefit of all. Whoever contacted him was immeasurably benefitted. The Thakura was never proud, and his amiable disposition was a characteristic feature of his life. He never uttered a word that would injure another's feelings, and he never chastised anyone unless he was perfectly confident that he had the right to do so for that person's welfare. On the other hand, whoever received a warning from him always felt himself purified by the experience. He did not possess the least shadow of vanity, although he was honored and respected throughout Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. His profound knowledge of philosophy endeared him to the educated, and his devout bhakti made him the friend of both the gentle and the ruffians.
As a government official he was always taken into confidence by the British officials, and he was consequently well-acquainted with the reasoning behind government decisions. He had witnessed the hard days of the Great Mutiny, and while he was in office he assisted in quelling many disturbances. The biographer writes, "His administrative ability was marked even by the ruling chief of Tipperah, His Highness Maharaja Birchandra Manikya Bahadur, and his son, H. H. Maharaja Radha Kishore Varma Manikya Bahadur always esteemed his counsels and respected him as a friend and an honorary advisor of the state. The Government of Bengal also on more than one occasion wanted to vest him with honours and titles, but he humbly declined the same each time on the ground that such honours would, instead of doing him good, stand against his holy mission. Even so late as 1897, when the plague raged furiously in the heart of Calcutta, his advice was valued and adopted by Sir John Woodburn."
Commenting further on the extraordinary morality of the Thakura, Pandit Siddhanta Bhusan writes, "Never was a man found more strict in the observance of the moral duties than our Thakur. From his very infancy till his last day he was a great advocate of truth and never allowed his associates to deviate from the path of duty, which he himself observed with more than strict accuracy. He avoided companies whenever he had the least suspicion of evil motives in them and never harboured them so long they did not come to repentance. He had to encounter unpleasantness on many occasions; in the execution of public duty under the Government, by refusing to accept any present from any person ... He was above corruption. He never supported the least shadow of immorality and never crossed the threshold of any place which he knew to be immoral. He had a great dislike for theatres as these were places where public women were brought in to take part in the play. He knew that common people, who cared little for religion and who had generally happy-go-lucky days to spend were apt to go astray in the broad wilderness of the world if he himself refrained from showing them the proper way by his own example. Example is better than precept and so his absolute distaste for anything immoral helped many good souls to open their eyes and also persons already in confusion to correct themselves. When the well-known dramatist, Girish Chandra Ghosh, came to request him for presiding over the gathering on the opening day of his well-known play Chaitanya Lila, he had to politely decline the offer."
In this regard, Dr. Ramakanta Chakravarti explains that a Calcutta stage artiste and demi-monde (a woman with a scandalous reputation) named Shrimati Binodini was to play the role of Lord Chaitanya. The famous priest of Kali, Ramakrishna, attended as the guest of honor instead. Although the play was very popular and well-received, we see that the Thakura would not lend his dignity and authority to such a mundane presentation.
Pandit Siddhanta Bhusan continues, "He was a complete abstainer and a perfect teetotaler and never chewed even a betel ... The word 'debt' was, as it were, unknown to him and he was very prompt in making payments. He was always true to his word and punctuality was at all times specially observed in him." The Thakura was always courageous and acted for the welfare of everyone. He kept his personal needs to a bare minimum and led the simplest of lives, avoiding the indulgences of worldly men.