September 13, 2008

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura  bhaktivinoda-thakur2.jpg

Saturday is my usual day for giving the Bhagavatam class here in Mayapur. So it was my fortunate lot to get to speak about Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. It is also the first day of our ISKCON World Hari-nama week and the devotees here have planned a whole week of activities centered around the chanting of the holy names in the local area.

The two events are natural companions. The Krsna consciousness movement as we know really stems from the efforts of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. His highly organized Nama-hatta groups had over 500 branches and he traveled extensively to chant and speak about the glories of the Nama. He also wrote an amazing amount of stuff about the Nama and Krsna consciousness-over 100 books. He provided the proto-type for the Gaudiya Matha, and later, ISKCON.

For my class I consulted with ‘The Seventh Goswami’ by my godbrother Rupa Vilasa prabhu.


A wonderful book describing the life of Srila Bhaktivinoda.

After giving a brief overview of the birth and early days of the Thakura’s life. I picked out two chapters which I read to the devotees: “Preaching the Holy Name” and “A Mighty Pen” because both of these focus on the description of the glories of the holy name and the Thakura’s attempts to spread it.

These describe his activities from 1889-1893, a period immediately following his discovery of the true birth place of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in 1888. It was one of intensive spiritual endeavor when he would travel from village to village and chant and speak to crowds of thousands. He went to Vrindavana and he also wrote ten books, including the Jaiva Dharma. I won’t repeat it all here but here’s Bhaktivinoda’s own description of his preaching programs [from Seventh Goswami]:

5th Asvin Caitanyabda 406, Monday, the Nama-hatta sweeper, assistant and flag-bearer [Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Bhaktibhrnga Mahasaya and Sitanatha] arrived in the town of Ghatal, Midnapur District, after dark. The devotees escorted the Nama-hatta employees with sankirtana to the Hari-sabha. More than a thousand devotees of the Nama assembled and engaged in massive sankirtana. The next day at sunrise, along with all the devotees of Ramjivanpura, they performed blissful kirtana and inspected the activities of the Nama-hatta in the prapannasrama [preaching center] of Sriyuta Kunjabihari Paina. More than a thousand devotees assembled, loudly chanting the name of Hari. The Nama-hatta commander for that area, Sriyuta Umacarana Vidyaratna warmly welcomed the sweeper, Bhaktivinoda, his assistant, Bhaktibhrnga, the devotee, Sitanatha, and the assembled Nama-hatta employees. The sweeper, Bhaktivinoda, gave a lecture on the glories of the Holy Name.
“The captivating lecture and Vaisnava songs [I had] personally composed filled the assembled devotees with prema. Travelling salesmen, Sriyuta Ramadasa Babaji and Sriyuta Daracandra Tarkalankara, satisfied the assembly with sweet lectures. The assembly dispersed three hours after darkness had fallen with loud chanting of Hari and pure Nama-sankirtana. [This means the assembly engaged in chanting and hearing all day and into the night!]

“7th Asvin, at daybreak, street sankirtana went out with a great gathering of Ramjivanpura villagers. The special decorations and mandapas [raised platforms] in front of the houses were a wonderful sight to see. Thereafter, the sankirtana party went on the main road and, coming from their homes, the devotees were chanting the name of Hari in great devotion. At one mandapa the travelling salesmen [Sriyuta Ramadasa Babaji and Sriyuta Daracandra Tarkalankara] and Bhaktivinoda Thakura explained the glories and the truth of the Name, while from all four sides the village womenfolk raised their voices in ululation. In some places the school children, breaking loose from their teachers’ care, and crying ‘Haribol!’, ran towards the sankirtana party. The devotees were feeling mutual bliss. The minds of everyone present were captured by this enchanting scene…

8th Asvin, in a massive gathering at Ramjivanpur, all the Nama-hatta employees did Nama-kirtana from house to house. At the houses of Sriyuta Umes Chandra Modak, Sriyuta Ananta Gayen, Sriyuta Ramachand Datta, Sriyuta Srinivasa Rauth and Sriyuta Ramkalpa Rauth, a great multitude of people received the message of Mahaprabhu. Finally, at the natya-sala [theater] of Sri Parvatinatha Mahadeva, nearly two and a half-thousand persons came together, where the commander glorified Mahaprabhu from the Vedas and the Puranas. At that time of pure devotional preaching, the sweeper Bhaktivinoda showed the uselessness of the impersonal philosophy. Later, at the prapannasrama of store-keeper Sriyuta Yadunath Pal, the Rasika Mandali performed kirtana.

9th Asvin, all the Nama-hatta workers gathered at Hatipur Devakhand, where nearly three-thousand people assembled at the natya-saIa of Jagajanani Bhadrakali. The travelling salesmen of that place, Sriyuta Kesava Chandra Chakravarti had made many arrangements with gates and mandapas. The villagers took the Nama-hatta workers with great enthusiasm from the bank of the river to a pandal [pavilion-tent]. Along the way, village women, filled with ecstasy, were ululating [an ancient practice which is supposed to generate auspiciousness and lauds heroic enterprises]. Those present will not forget the enchanting scene. At that time everyone lost material consciousness, submerged in the ocean of Krsna-prema. After all the devotees were properly seated on the mandapa, the following song was sung:
” ‘Nityananda has come to the Marketplace of the Name. Whoever is coming, run quickly. Those two rascals Jagai and Madhai have looted the storehouse and taken all the goods. You will find the partners Advaita and Sanatana are the storehouse managers. Gadadhara Pandita is the guard. Haridasa is the watchman. Sanjaya and Sridhara are the bearers. Kesava Bharati and Vidyavacaspati are brokers, and Krsnadasa and others are managers. Srivasa Pandita is the treasurer, and Kedaranatha is the sweeper. The cost of the goods in the store are the nine kinds of devotional service. The gold coin is prema. There is no limit. With whatever you have got, buy what you can. There is no shortage, brothers, take as much of the goods as you can. For obtaining love of God, this is the best advice. The message is the nectarean name of the Lord, so let there be no useless strife. Let everyone, whoever he may be, share the same plate.’

12th Asvin. Nama-hatta workers assembled at Bhaktinidhi’s Vadan Ganj prapannasrama in the morning. Later at Koyapat Bazaar, nearly four-thousand people came to see the Nama-hatta workers. The first few minutes were spent in getting the people to be quiet. Bhaktinidhi’s lecture was followed by a lecture by Bhaktivinoda on the verse vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam… from Srimad-Bhagavatam. With this verse he destroyed the impersonalist philosophy and established the truth of pure devotion to Bhagavan Sri Krsna … During all of these lectures the listeners’ hearts were filled with devotional ecstasy, exhibited by frequent applause and crying of ‘Hari!’ with love-filled enthusiasm.”

 There is one particular quote that jumped out from his work Nama-bhajan which seems to succinctly sum up his work:

“NAMA alone is a complete suspension of the fleeting mental operations. The more the heart is pellucid, the more diverse pastimes of the Spiritual Kingdom play in it.”

“The flow of the milk of this felicity is so very fast running that no other means can give even the smallest drop of it. Jivas have no other wished-for wealth than the grace of Krishna.”

If you get the chance, give “The Seventh Goswami” a read and get in touch with our roots.

All glories to the Holy Name, Who appears through the agency of His pure devotees!

All glories to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura!

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