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27. Summary of Life and Qualities
THE Thakura's biographers have summarized his life and accomplishments in various ways, each of them exhibiting keen appreciations of various aspects of the character and accomplishments of this maha-bhagavata, our beloved acarya.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gives a summary appreciation of the Thakura in a transcription of a lecture given, according to the text itself, on Gaura Purnima in 1969.
"It was the desire of Bhaktivinoda Thakura to spread the life and precepts of Lord Chaitanya in the western countries. So with this in view-of publishing the book Sree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts-he sent copies to various universities' libraries, and one of the copies was found in the McGill University in Montreal. After seventy-two years, this book was found in the library by one of our students, and he brought it to me. From a materialistic point of view, I was born in a different family, and Bhaktivinoda Thakura belonged to a different family, and my spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, happened to be the fifth son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Although at home Bhaktivinoda Thakura was actually the spiritual master of my spiritual master, still he recommended Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, when he was a young man about eighteen years old, that, 'You go to Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji and become initiated by him.' Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a magistrate and my Guru Maharaja belonged to a very respectable family, so he narrated the story before us ... when he was recommended to be initiated by Gaura Kisora Babaji Maharaja. This Gaura Kisora Babaji Maharaja used to respect Bhaktivinoda Thakura as his guide, therefore we take it [that in our] disciplic succession that Bhaktivinoda Thakura guided Gaura Kisora Babaji Maharaja, and Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja initiated my spiritual master. Therefore, Bhaktivinoda Thakura is accepted as the spiritual master of the spiritual master of my spiritual master. He is in the fourth generation, grandman spiritual master.
"So, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's Sankirtana Movement, which Bhaktivinoda desired in 1896, and somehow or other, coincidentally, I do not know what was his desire, I was also born in that year. And, by Krishna's desire, I came to the disciplic succession: [to] Sarasvati Thakura, and he asked me to go to the Western countries and preach Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings. The spiritual line of understanding is different from the materialistic point of view. The idea is that I was born in a different family and Guru Maharaja was born in a different family. Bhaktivinoda was at that time a magistrate, a government servant. By Lord Chaitanya's desire we have come in the same line of disciplic succession. What was taught by Bhaktivinoda Thakura in 1896, that these teachings of Lord Chaitanya should be spread in the Western countries, by chance or coincidence, it is now happening. We should take it for granted that whatever is happening at the present moment by my humble endeavor, it is all the grace of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Therefore, on this auspicious ceremony of Lord Chaitanya's Appearance Day, it will be greatly beneficial for us to hear from Bhaktivinoda Thakura what he wrote seventy-two years before, and after seventy-two years, being a humble servant in that line, I am trying to distribute [his teachings]. There is a spiritual coincidence, and we should take advantage of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's book.
"Practically, this Chaitanya Movement was-of course Lord Chaitanya inaugurated this Movement five hundred years ago, and after that, so many psuedo-Caitanyites depreciated the whole thing-but the Chaitanya Movement in its pure form, as it is, was restarted by Bhaktivinoda Thakura ...We should take it that Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the origin of the Krishna consciousness movement in its pure form.
"Bhaktivinoda wrote [almost] one hundred books ... Just imagine-he was a very responsible officer, a magistrate, and he was grihastha; [he] also had many children. Altogether he had ten children, and he had to take care of children, the office of magistrate and extra religious work. He was made superintendent of the Temple of Jagannatha, because the government knew that Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a very highly advanced religious person. Whenever there was some religious question he was consulted. In spite of all his responsibilities, as officer, or as family man with so many children, he executed his family life very nicely or else he could not have produced a child such as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. At the same time he served the Supreme Lord in so many ways. That is the beauty. He has written so many books and in spite of cumbersome duties. That is the beauty of his life ... he would come from the office in the evening and take his meals and go to bed. That was his program. And he'd sleep from eight to twelve at night, four hours, and then get up and write books until morning. That was his program.
"In this way, he wrote hundreds of books, some published, some in the course of [being] published. All this became possible because he was a sincere, faithful servant. To write so many books with so many responsibilities, for an ordinary magistrate is not possible. But because he was sincere, he got the strength from the Supreme Lord. One does not need to seek strength separate from the Supreme Lord. But if you are sincere the Supreme will give you sufficient strength. Actually, Bhaktivinoda Thakura brought my Guru Maharaja [to this world to be] his son. He prayed to Lord Chaitanya that, 'Your preaching and teachings have been so much depreciated, it is not [in] my power to correct them.' He prayed to Lord Chaitanya, and after his prayer Lord Chaitanya sent my Guru Maharaja as his son. And he took up the matter very seriously."
This delightful summary of the Thakura's life by Shrila Prabhupada certifies a very important point for our understanding: that the pure cult of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had been lost for all practical purposes, and that Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura re-established the whole thing almost single-handedly. He also points out that it was the desire of Thakura Bhaktivinoda that the Krishna Consciousness Movement would spread all over the world. He thus credits this desire of the Thakura and Lord Chaitanya as resulting in the appearance of Shrila Sarasvati Thakura and Prabhupada's own subsequent linking with the line of disciplic succession. Thus, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a result of the desire and grace of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, as substantiated by Shrila Prabhupada in the above statements. Prabhupada also puts special stress on how the Thakura was given empowerment or strength by the Lord to write transcendental literatures for the benefit of the world. We see how Shrila Prabhupada also followed wonderfully in this line, executing the austerities of early rising for the composition of transcendental literature. He poignantly states with respect to the Thakura's literary accomplishments that he accomplished so much "despite cumbersome duties" and that this was "the beauty of his life."
In a biography of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura written by Bhakti Kusum Sraman Maharaja, he identifies three major areas of the Thakura's achievements: first, his books and writings in various languages dealing with the science of Krishna consciousness as found in the teachings of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the revealed scriptures; second, the discovery of the Lord's actual birthplace; third, the innovations he introduced for the purpose of preaching the teachings of Lord Chaitanya and the Six Gosvamis throughout the world. Beyond this, the Thakura established the Deities of Lord Chaitanya and Shrimati Vishnupriya at Mayapura, and in Godruma-dvipa, his place of bhajana, he established and worshiped the Deities of Gaura-Gadadhara. He also personally preached about pure Krishna-bhakti, and his activities demonstrated his limitless enthusiasm and determination for broadcasting Vaishnava dharma. These characteristics are all indications of his being an eternal associate of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
The Thakura was dedicated to the principle of truth from his childhood. His firm sense of responsibility in carrying out his duties, his ideal example of householder life, his eagerness to spend every moment possible cultivating and studying the science of Krishna consciousness, his punishing of the so-called avatara, Bisakisen, despite severe opposition, his checking the murderous activities of the Kanjhar thieves in Vrindavana, his association with and affection for those who were dedicated to the worship of Krishna, and his visiting of various villages for spreading the message of Lord Gauranga both before and after his government retirement-all of these examples were meant for the edification and inspiration of all sincere and intelligent persons.
In the Chaitanya-caritamrita Madhya-lila 22.75 Lord Chaitanya tells Shrila Sanatana Gosvami:
sarva maha-guna-gana vaishnava-sarire
krishna-bhakte krishnera guna sakali sancare
"A Vaishnava is one who has developed all good transcendental qualities. All the good qualities of Krishna gradually develop in Krishna's devotee."
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the personification of this verse. The twenty-six qualities of a pure Vaishnava are mentioned in the same chapter of Madhya-lila cited above, texts 78-80:
kripalu, akrita-droha, satya-sara sama
nidosha, vadanya, mridu, suci, akincana
sarvopakaraka, santa, krishnaika-sarana
akama, aniha, sthira, vijita-shad-guna
mita-bhuk; apramatta, manada, amani
gambhira, karuna, maitra, kavi, daksha, mauni
"Devotees are always merciful, humble, truthful, equal to all, faultless, magnanimous, mild and clean. They are without material possessions, and they perform welfare work for everyone. They are peaceful, surrendered to Krishna and desireless. They are indifferent to material acquisitions and are fixed in devotional service. They completely control the six bad qualities-lust, anger, greed and so forth. They eat only as much as required, and they are not inebriated. They are respectful, grave, compassionate and without false prestige. They are friendly, poetic, expert and silent."
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has discussed these twenty-six qualities at length in his introduction to Thakura Bhaktivinoda's Jaiva Dharma. He mentions there that the Thakura displayed all of these qualities of a pure Vaishnava and that the most directly perceived was his eagerness to remain always fixed in the devotional service of the Lord, without wasting a single moment. The Calcutta High Court Judge, Sarada Charan Mitra, a friend of the Thakura who supplied him with valuable old manuscripts, remarked in the 1916 introduction to the biography-A Glimpse into the Life of Thakur Bhakti Vinode: "I knew Thakur Bhaktivinode intimately-as a friend and a relation. Even under pressure of official work as a Magistrate in charge of a heavy subdivision, he could find time for devotional contemplation and work, and whenever I met him, our talk would turn in a few moments to the subject of Bhakti and Dwaitadwaitavad and the saintly work that they lay before him. Service of God is the only thing he longed for and service under Government, however honourable, was to him a clog."