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14. Krishna-samhita and Other Works
IN 1880, while residing in Narail, the Thakura published Krishna-samhita. This book received high critical acclaim, even from European scholars like Dr. Reinhold Rost, a great Oriental scholar of the day and a famous linguist. He wrote from London on April 16, 1880: "A long and painful illness has prevented me from thanking you earlier for the kind present of your Sree Krishna Samhita. By representing Krishna's character and his worship in a more sublime and transcendent light than has hitherto been the custom to regard him in, you have rendered an essential service to your co-religionists, and no one would have taken more delight in your work than my departed friend Goldstucker, the sincerest and most zealous advocate the Hindus ever had in Europe."
The Thakura also mentions receiving a letter some years later from the famous American 'transcendentalist', Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose works he had earlier studied. The Thakura had felt inspired to send the famous philosopher a copy of his book and got the following response:
10th May 1886, Concord, Massachusetts
Dear Sir, I have received with pleasure the book you so kindly sent me. I am sorry that I do not know the language and cannot read it and can only send my thanks.
R Waldo Emerson.
The Krishna-samhita contained an eighty-three page introduction in Bengali prose in which Bhaktivinoda Thakura discussed the philosophy and development of Indian religion from both the historical and geographical perspectives. The samhita portion comprised 281 Sanskrit verses divided into ten chapters, which discuss the spiritual world, the energies of God, Krishna's pastimes, His incarnations, Krishna as the original personality of Godhead, and the confidential associates of the Lord. Accompanying the Sanskrit verses were the Thakura's Bengali prose translations and explanations. Concluding the book was a forty-three page resume in which he presented the philosophy of Krishna consciousness in terms of sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana, just as he had done in his Bhagavat lecture, which exactly followed Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's presentation of Bhagavata philosophy in the Chaitanya-caritamrita, and Jiva Gosvami's presentation in the Sandarbhas.
In 1880 the Thakura also published a small book of songs, called Kalyana-kalpataru ('The Desire Tree of Auspiciousness'), which describes spiritual life from the beginning stages up to the highest levels of transcendence. It seems clear from the extremely elevated sentiments expressed by the Thakura therein that his pure devotion had fully manifested at this stage of his life. The book is organized into three major 'branches': (1) Upadesa-Advice. In this section the Thakura describes in nineteen songs the various anarthas (unwanted things) that can deviate the practitioner from pure devotional service, beginning with the anartha that brought the soul into this world: lust. He exposes all of the impediments in order to prepare the reader for the next stage: (2) Upalabdhi-Attainment. This section describes how one must attain, assimilate, realize and apply all of the advice in the first section, and it is further divided into three divisions: (i) anutapa-repentance due to genuine realization; (ii) nirveda-detachment from material temptations; (iii) sambandha-abhidheya-prayojana-vijnana-realization in knowledge of one's relationship with the Supreme, realization of practical action in accordance with that relationship, and realization of the ultimate goal of life. (3) Ucchvasa-Spiritual Emotion. This section describes the ecstatic sentiments of a self-realized soul and is divided into four sections: (i) prayers offered by a pure soul in transcendental humility; (ii) prayers which express hankering for devotional service; (iii) confession of the mind with pleading in petition to the Lord; (iv) songs of worship and praise which describe the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord, as well as the devotional mellows exchanged with the Lord. At the end of the book, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura falters in his description, feeling apprehensive about describing the intimate exchanges of a pure soul with the Lord. He takes this feeling of hesitancy as an indication from Krishna that such things should not be described to those lacking sufficient advancement to appreciate them, and he ends his songbook there.
This book was very well received and very popular, and one of the Thakura's biographers correctly states: "...it may very truly be termed an immortal work and stands on the same level as the divine writings of Narottama dasa Thakura." The Thakura reports in his autobiography that the songbook was "received with affection".
While in Narail the Thakura also started his great monthly Vaishnava journal, Sajjana-toshani, which was written in Bengali and was meant to educate the learned and influential men of Bengal about the sublime nature of Lord Chaitanya's mission and teachings. Seventeen volumes were published over the years which included many articles by the Thakura, and after his departure, his son, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, took up the work and printed it in several languages, including an English edition called The Harmonist.