His Early Life
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur was born February 6th, 1874, in Jagannath Puri and the name he was given was Bimala Pradas. His father, Bhaktivinode Thakur knew how important it was to keep the movement of Nama-sankirtana (the congregational chanting of the holy names of God) going, he prayed to Lord Caitanya to send him an assistant and a successor to fulfill this mission.
Later in the year, during the Rath Yatra festival, the rath cart stopped in front of the house of his father, Bhakti Vinod Thakur, who at the time, was a Magistrate of Puri and the Superintendent of Jagannath Puri temple.. When his mother climbed up on the chariot, She placed the child at the lotus feet of Lord Jagannath. And then, one of Lord Jagannath’s garlands fell on the baby. baby. Bhaktivinode Thakur was assured this child was the answer to his prayers.
His father taught his young son everything about Krishna Consciousness, and at the age of seven, Bimala Prasad could recite and explain all seven hundred verses of the Bhagavad-gita. Even as a child, he was extremely strict about Krishna consciousness. So much so that once when he had eaten a mango that was not first offered to the Lord, he had vowed to never eat mangoes again. He was very strict in maintaining his vows. In 1905, he had vowed to chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra one billion times. He was reciting a minimum of 192 rounds of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra every day, following in the footsteps of Srila Haridas Thakur. At that time, he was staying in the Yoga Pith in Navadvipa, Mayapur, where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura desired that his son be initiated by Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, his devoted disciple of his. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura came to the babaji to ask for initiation Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, who didn’t have any disciples, hesitated to accept such an educated person because he himself couldn’t even write his own name. Disappointed, Sarasvati Thakura went back to his father and related to him what had happened, but Thakura Bhaktivinoda sent him out. Again, and again Srila Bhaktisiddhanta came back with the same answer. At this point Bhaktivinode Thakur said, “Unless you take initiation from Gaurakishora dasa Babaji your life is useless, and no longer may you enter this house”. When he went back, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati met Gaurakisora dasa Babaji on a bridge and exclaimed, “My father has told me that human life is worthless without a spiritual master, so if you refuse to accept me as your disciple I must kill myself”. After this, Babaji could see the sincerity in his heart and accepted him as his disciple.
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur took up the mission to preach Krishna consciousness very seriously and was later known as the Simha Guru (Lion Guru) for his ability to defeat people with logic and conviction in the absolute knowledge of the scriptures.
Following the order of his Guru, he established the Bhagavat Press in Krishnanagar in 1915. He established 108 Gaudiya Maths during his lifetime, beginning from the year 1920. He revolutionized the Krishna consciousness movement by initiating people from different castes, gender, and backgrounds. He accepted everything favorable for the execution of preaching Krishna consciousness.
In 1922, Srila Prabhupada met Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur for the first time and was mesmerized by his spiritual potency. This meeting took place at Ultadanga Junction Road which is now a newly acquired property of ISKCON KOLKATA. It was here, where Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur had instructed Srila Prabhupada to spread Krishna Consciousness in the English language to the English-speaking people of the world. That which was impossible even to think at that time! Although he had very few meetings with Srila Prabhupada, he never failed to instruct him personally to preach Krishna Consciousness to the west.
In 1933, he told Srila Prabhupada, “Rather I would prefer to take out the marbles and stone and sell it and publish some books.” Srila Prabhupada has been carrying on the legacy of his spiritual master to distribute books and print them whenever he had money. He passed on this legacy to his disciples and other members of the movement, so that the sound of the Brihat Mridanga would reach far and wide. In 1937, in Vrindavan, on January 1st, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, left this mortal world to join the eternal pastimes of the Lord.
In 1933 he was determined to spread this message of Krishna Consciousness to the western world. Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur sent his disciples to England to preach and open up Gaudiya Maths in the West, but not being able to convince the Westerners to take up spiritual life, they returned to India fairly unsuccessful. Fortunately for all of us he had one disciple who was a great success, Srila Prabhupada. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada carried out his Guru Maharaja’s order and has spread Lord Caitanya’s Nama-sankirtana movement to every corner of the globe. Srila Prabhupada always remained in humble circumstances, preparing himself for the mission that would not only fulfill Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada’s order and wish but would fulfill the desire of all the great Vaisnavas in our lineage and gain the praise and amazement of other sampradayas, religionists and scholars alike.
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies