“So there is a disciplic succession, and the ācāryas, they’re authorities. Our process of knowledge is very simple: we take it from the authority. We don’t speculate. Speculation will not help us to come to the real knowledge.” (Srila Prabhupada’s lecture given on Sept. 3, 1971 in London)
It is the 19th century, the British have already colonized India and western influence has already started taking its shape in Bengal. Christianity is seeping slowly into Bengal and some people are slowly getting influenced by this Abrahamic religion. Synthesis of Christian texts and Upanishadic books are in process. The British along with Bhadralok (the members of social elite) have already belittled Hinduism and Gaudiya Vaishnavism was no exception. In this period of chaos a great personality – Kedarnath Dutta – took birth amongst the Bhadralok. This great personality was later to be called Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
Since he had taken birth among the Bhadralok he had quite a lot of experience with their mentality. Also, he knew the different sects i.e. Shakta, Brahmin etc. and at the same time he studied Christianity and western philosophy. This allowed him to understand their thoughts and how to preach to them differently.
In the early 19thcentury, Gaudiya Vaishnavism was factually detached from the philosophical Gaudiya Vaishnavism. In the Gaudiya lineage, after Baladev Vidyabhushan, for about hundred years are so, preaching was next to nothing. There were very few Gaudiya Vaishnavas who were righteously following the rules and regulations and practicing bhakti but didn’t have much hold upon the general public. A large number of people were following deviant Vaisnava sects, which were propagating incorrect teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They were eating meat and engaging in carnal association and were considered authentic in their endeavor of passing down the Gaudiya Siddhanta. There were also others who just chanted Harinam and danced but had no philosophical understanding of Mahaprabhu’s teachings.
Bhaktivinoda as magistrate
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was an extraordinary soul. He preached uniquely. At that time the Gaudiya Sampradaya didn’t receive much respect and was looked down upon but because of his preaching (in states like Bengal and Orissa) he brought back the Sampradaya to its original standard. As Srila Prabhupada said “…we should adore, we should worship, because in the modern age he reintroduced the disciplic succession”. By accepting Jagannath Das Babaji as his Siksha Guru, he got connected to the Gaudiya line. This one connection set the wood on fire and now a great Krishna Conscious Society exists because of him. He instigated Nama-hatta (preaching program), abolished majority of heterodox Vaishnava groups, philosophically assaulted caste brahmins, printed canonical Vaishnava texts and penned down various transcendental literatures and explained authentically the life and activities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So a lot has been done by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur to preserve this wonderful heritage and words falls less to glorify him.
Even though he has left the mortal world he still lives in the Vaishnava community through his wonderful bhajans and books, which explain the Gaudiya philosophy in a succinct and simple manner.
In Mayapur, the disappearance day is celebrated in a unique way. The early morning class is dedicated in glorifying the great works done by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. After the class gets concluded, the devotees wholeheartedly sing melodious kirtans and different bhajans of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur in the main temple hall. At noon, the Bhoga aarti takes place and the devotee community in whole sings the well-known bhajan “Bhaja Bhakata Vastsala”. Parallelly, flowers are being offered to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and then all devotees honor prasadam together. Some devotees, because of their intense admiration and devotion, go across River Jalangi and pay homage at Svananda Sukhada Kunj – the resident of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. Thus, the divine personality’s disappearance day is celebrated with kirtans, glorification and prasadam.
May 15, 2022
Sunanda Das, Temple of the Vedic Planetarium