Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who was named Kedarnath Datta by his father, was born on 2nd September 1838 in Biranagara (Ulagrama) in the district of Nadia. He was the seventh son of Raja Krsnananda Datta, a great devotee of Lord Nityananda.He would be known as ‘daitya-kulera prahlada’ (Prahlada in the family of demons). This was because Vaishnavism was not very much respected in his family; on his mother’s side, there was no respect for Vaishnavism at all.
His childhood was spent at the mansion of his maternal grandfather Mustauphi Mahasaya, in Biranagara. His environment at this time was very opulent. He got his elementary education at the primary school started by his grandmother. Later he attended an English school in Krishnanagara, started by the King of Nadia; he left that school when his older brother died unexpectedly of cholera. When he was 11 years old, his father passed away. Subsequently, the grant of land that had been conferred upon his grandmother changed owners; at this time the family fell into a condition of poverty – their great wealth proved to be illusory. Still, the young Kedaranatha Datta passed over these difficulties with great endurance.
His mother arranged a marriage for him when he was just twelve (1850 A.D.) to the then five year old daughter of Madhusudana Mitra Mahasaya, a resident of Rana Ghata.
Around this time Kasiprasada Ghosh Mahasaya Thakur (Kedaranatha Datta’s uncle), who had mastered under the British education, came to Ulagrama after the death of his maternal grandfather. He schooled young Kedaranatha Datta at his home in Calcutta. He attended Calcutta’s Hindu Charitable Institution high school and became an expert English reader, speaker, and writer. At the age of 18 years (1856.) Kedarnatha Datta entered college in Calcutta. He started writing extensively in both English and Bengali; these essays were published in local journals. He also lectured in both languages. He further studied English literature at this time extensively and later became a well-known orator in the British Parliament. Between the years 1857-1858 he composed a two part English epic entitled “The Poriade”, which he planned to complete in 12 books. These two books described the life of Porus, who met Alexander the Great.
At the end of 1858 Kedaranatha Datta returned to Biranagara and found the Muzzi’s prediction about that place to have come true; the place was ruined and deserted. Sri Kedaranatha Datta brought his mother and paternal grandmother with him from there to Calcutta. Soon after he went to Orissa to visit his paternal grandfather, Rajavallabha Datta, who used to be a big man in Calcutta, who was now living as an ascetic in the Orissan countryside. His days were coming to a close. He could predict the future, so he knew it himself very well. He wanted Kedaranatha Datta to be with him when he departed this world, which he did in 1859, when Kedaranatha Datta was 21 years of age. After receiving his grand-father’s last instructions, he travelled to all the monasteries and temples in the state of Orissa.
As a young householder Srila Bhaktivinoda began to consider the question of the means of his livelihood. He was not interested in business and decided to become a school teacher. He established a school for English education in the village of Kendrapara near Chutigrama, in Orissa, thus becoming a pioneer in English teaching in that state. He also could see the oppressive power wielded by the landowners of Chutigrama. After some time he went to Puri and passed a teachers examination; he got a teacher’s post in a Cuttack school and later became headmaster of a school in Bhadraka and then in Medinipur His dedicated work was noted by the school-board authorities.
As the headmaster of the Medinipur high school, Kedaranatha Datta looked into the various religious sects, their philosophies and practices. He could see that many of them were taking it all very cheaply. He came to understand that the only real religion that had ever been established in Bengal was that of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu; unfortunately at present, His movement was not well-represented. Due to the misrepresentation, and corruptions and influence of the ‘Apa-sampradayas’ this sincere soul Sri Kedaranatha Datta could not even get a copy of the Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, despite all his efforts.
The Thakura made an onslaught against those who belonged to the apa sampradayas who were polluting Gaudiya Vaishnavism by basically thirteen deviant philosophies – Aula, Baula (2 types), Karttabhaja, Neda, Daravesa, Sani, Sahajiya, Sakhibheki, Smarta, Jatagosani, Ativadi, Cudadhari and Gauranga-Nagari. These deviant groups, mostly because of their boldness, had been seen by the public as the Gaudiya Sampradaya, though actually none were following the pure Vaisnava regulative principles strictly, as laid down by the followers of Sri Krsna Caitanya (namely the Goswamis). Being a follower of the Goswamis or not is interdependent on qualifying one to be a Gaudiya Vaisnava.
Sri Kedaranatha Datta’s first wife died, so in the town of Jakhapura he married Bhagyavati De.In the year 1861 Sri Kedarantha Datta accepted the post of Deputy Magistrate in the Government of Bengal. Then he became Collectorate Officer after seeing the corruption of the government workers. He established an organization called the “Bharat Samaj”. He wrote an English book in 1863 called “Our Wants.” Later in 1863 he stayed at Burdwan, where he composed two novel poems in Bengali: “Vijinagrama” (deserted village) and “Sannyasi. The rhyme and style of these two poems were original; they gave birth to a new way of writing poetry in the Bengali language.
Sri Kedaranatha Datta – In the post of Deputy Magistrate. In the year 1866 Kedaranatha Datta took the position of Deputy Register with the power of a Deputy Collector and Deputy Magistrate in the district of Chapara. He also was known to have become quite fluent in Persian and Urdu. In 1868 Kedaranatha Datta was transferred to Dinajpur (West Bengal) as Deputy Magistrate and at this time he received copies of the Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrta. He read Caitanya Caritamrta repeatedly; his faith in Krsna Consciousness developed until he was absorbed in the pure ‘bhakti-shastras’ day and night. He was incessantly submitting heartfelt prayers for the Lord’s mercy; he came to understand the supreme majesty and power of the one and only Absolute Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna. He published a song about Lord Caitanya entitled ‘Saccidananda-premalankara’. In 1869, while serving as deputy magistrate under the government of Bengal in Dinajpur, he delivered a speech in the form of a treatise he had written on the Srimad Bhagavatam to a big congregation of many prominent men from many parts of India and England.
Between the years 1874 and 1893, Bhaktivinode Thakur spent much time in seclusion chanting the holy name (though he still executed his worldly duties perseveringly); he wrote several books in Sanskrit such as Sri Krsna samhita, Tattva-sutra and Tattva-viveka.He wrote many books in Bengali such as the Kalyana-kalpataru; in 1874 he composed Datta-kausubha (in Sanskrit). While in Puri he established a Vaishnava discussion society known as the Bhagavat-samsat in the Jagannatha-vallabha gardens, where Sri Ramananda Raya did bhajan. All the prominent Vaishnavas joined this group except for Raghunatha dasa Babaji, known as Siddha Purusha. He thought that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was unauthorized, as he did not wear ‘kanthi-mala’ or ’tilaka’; moreover, he advised other Vaishnavas to avoid Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s association. But soon thereafter Raghunatha dasa Babaji contracted a deathly illness for his offense. In a dream, Lord Jagannatha appeared to him and told him to pray for the mercy of Bhaktivinoda Thakura if he at all wanted release from the illness and death. He did so; Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave him special medicines and cured him, and also blessed Raghunatha dasa Babaji with a true awareness of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s position.
Others had a natural affection like Sri Swarupa dasa Babaji, who did ‘bhajan’ at Satasana near the ocean in Puri; he showed much affection for Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and gave him many profound instructions and insights from his own realisations on the bhajan of the holy name.
Another Charan dasa Babaji, preached and printed books advising that one should chant the ‘Hare Krsna Mahamantra’ in ‘Japa’ and ‘Nitai Gaura Radhe Syama Hare Krsna Hare Rama’ in ‘kirtan’. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura preached long and hard to him; after a long time Charan dasa Babaji came to his senses and begged forgiveness from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, admitting his fault in spreading this nonsense ‘mantra’ all over Bengal; six months later Charan dasa Babaji went mad and died in great distress.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura was one of this age’s foremost devotional scholars, yet humbly presents himself as the insignificant messenger of the Lord as we can note from this following message of his; “The way how I got the inspiration to compile this book (Sri Srimad Bhagavata Arka Marichimala) is a Divine Mystery which I felt not proper from my part to disclose as it might be bridging spiritual conceit, but subsequently I realise that it would be an undoing to my spiritual master which might stand as an obstacle on the path of my spiritual progress therefore without any shame I record the fact that while under the benediction of my Guru Sri Bapin Behari Goswami who belonged to the great heritage of Thakur Vamshibadananda, a faithful follower of my Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu I was deeply penetrating upon Srimad Bhagavatam, one day in a vision Sri Svarup-Damodara, the right hand personal Adherent of Lord Sri Chaitanya, instructed me to compile the slokas of Srimad Bhagavatam in accordance with the principles of ‘Sambandha’, Abhidheya’ and ‘Prayojana’ as laid down by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu – so that the book will read with an easy understanding with great interest and delight by the loving devotees of the Lord. Sri Svarupa-Damodar Prabhu further guided me by giving a wonderful explanation of the first sloka of Srimad Bhagavatam and also showed me how I have to explain the slokas under the light of Gaudiya-Vaishnava Philosophy.”(B.P Yati. 1978. Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sri Srimad Bhagavata Arka Marichimala. Chapter 20., supplication 3. inclusion. page 479.)
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura became manager of Jagannatha Puri Temple; he used his government powers to establish regularity in the worship of the Deity. In the Jagannatha Puri Temple courtyard he established a ‘Bhakti Mandapa’, where daily discourses of Srimad Bhagavatam were held. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura would spend long hours discussing Krsna and chanting the holy name, especially at Tota-Gopinatha Mandir, the tomb of Haridasa Thakur, the Siddha Bakula and the Gambhira. He made notes on the Vedanta-sutra which were used by Sri Syamalala Goswami in the edition of the Govinda Bhasya by Baladeva Vidyabhusana that he published.
Near the Jagannatha-vallabha gardens, in a large house adjacent to the Narayana Chata Matha, on the 5th day of the dark fortnight of Magha in the year 1874, the 4th son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura took birth. He was named Bimala Prasada (later known as Om Vishnupada Paramahamsa Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada). Bimala Prasad (Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati) was born in Sri Purusottama Kshetra (Jagannatha Puri) on 6th February 1874 AD, answering the prayer of Bhaktivinoda for the Lord “to send a Ray of Visnu” to preach the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world.
In 1874 Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered the Raja of Puri had misappropriated Rs. 80 thousand for sense gratification. This money belonged to the temple, so Bhativinoda Thakura forced the Raja to give Lord Jagannatha ‘bhoga’ 52 times daily. This diminished the money quickly; the ‘raja’ was angry at Bhaktivinoda Thakura and began, with the help of 50 ‘pandits’, a ‘Maran-karmani tantric yajna’ meant for killing Bhaktivinoda Thakura which went on for 30 days; when the last oblations were poured, it was the king’s son who died and not the pure hearted Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
He left Puri on special business; returned to Bengal and saw Navadwip, Santipura and Kalana. He was put in charge of the subdivision Mahisarekha in Haora. After that he was transferred to Bhadraka. In August 1878 he was made head of the Subdivision Naraila in the Yashohan district.While in Naraila his two famous books Sri Krsna-samhita and Krsna-kalpataru were published. These two works brought the devotional attention of many of India’s pandits and educated men.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura took ‘pancaratrika diksa’ initiation from Bipin Bihari Goswami, descended from the Jahnava family of Baghnapara.Many people had adopted Vaishnavism at Naraila, but they could not tell who was a Vaishnava and who not; Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave them shelter and instructed them on this matter most exactingly.
Once Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and his son-cum-assistant went to see Bhaktivinoda’s ‘guru’, Vipin Bihari Goswami (Bipin Behari Goswami). Vipin Bihari Goswami was coming in the disciplic succession from Sri Gadadhar Pandit the plenary portion of Srimati Radharani. The followers of this line are generally Raganuga Bhaktas, worshipping Sri Gaura Gadadhara in a loving spontaneous mood of ‘bhava’. This mode of worship is not for those who are materially confined by the dictates of the body and senses, but for those who are already experiencing their eternal loving relationship with the Divine couple Sri Radha Krsna.
There is an interesting little story which captures the mood of Bhaktivinoda and that of his son, then named Siddhanta Saraswati. In their ‘siddha deha’ as pure ‘nitya siddha’, eternal associates of Lord Krsna, Bhaktivinoda Thakura is Kamala Manjari, one of the maid servants of the ‘gopis’, and Siddhanta Saraswati is her assistant Nayana Manjari. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s dealings with his ‘diksa guru’ were always exemplary, even though Vipin Bihari Goswami was not very advanced, being a ‘kanistha adhikari guru’, whereas the Thakura was an ‘uttama adhikari’, ‘paramahamsa’ of the highest order. Still Bhaktivinoda always played the humble disciple. On one such occasion in the presence of young Siddhanta Saraswati, Bhaktivinoda Thakura paid his respectful obeisances to his ‘guru’. Vipin Bihari Goswami replied by placing his feet on the Thakura’s head. For the young fiery Siddhanta Saraswati this was too much! It was one thing that his father had accepted him as his formal initiating spiritual master, but this was going too far. Srila Siddhanta Saraswati was only seven years old at the time, but when Bhaktivinoda Thakura left the room leaving the two of them alone, Siddhanta Saraswati decided to set things straight and told Vipin Bihari Goswami that “You are acting like a big, big ‘guru’ and you place your feet on the heads of those who you don’t know. If you knew who the Bhaktivinoda Thakura is then you would not do it. But you do not know! My father is a great exalted ‘nitya siddha’, eternal associate of Sri Radha and Krsna who has come here to fulfil Their mission. Do you think that you are so advanced that you can place your feet on the head of such a person? I think not. You have proven yourself to be a ‘kanistha adhikari’ (neophyte) by not being able to distinguish between those who are advanced and those who are less advanced, therefore I suggest that you desist from this practice any further.” Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura then re-entered the room and the conversation changed. Later that day Vipin Bihari Goswami mentioned to Bhaktivinoda, “Your son is bold to the point of being rude.” Later Thakura Bhaktivinoda found out about the conversation and used to jokingly glorify his exalted son to his friends, saying how he is fearless, that he even chastised my ‘guru’ Vipin Bihari Goswami.
Reflecting on this incident we can see that even if one’s spiritual master is not an ‘uttama adhikari’, ‘maha bhagavat’ devotee of the Lord still one should be satisfied, and serve him anyway. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who himself was certainly a ‘maha bhagavat’, set the example how to serve and show respect. On the other side of the transcendental coin, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati showed a nice lesson to us. We should not show ourselves to be more advanced than we really are, lest we commit offences against those who are actually advanced.
In 1881 Bhaktivinoda Thakura began publishing ‘Sajjana Tosani’, his Vaisnava journal.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had previously pilgrimage to Kasi, Prayaga, Mathura and Vrindavan (‘Vraja Mandal’) in 1866. At the close of his stay in Naraila he desired to again see the land of Vraja. He took three months for this purpose. At this time he met Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji there, who had a program by which he moved every six months between Navadwipa and Vrndavana. Meeting him, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura accepted him as his eternally worshippable ‘siksa’ (instructing) ‘guru’.
From Vrndavana he came to Calcutta and bought a house at 181, Maniktala Street, now called Ramasha Dutta Street, near Bidana Park. He started daily worship of Sri Giridhari (the transcendental form of Krsna who appeared in the form of Govardhan Hill) and called the house Bhakti-bhavan. He was appointed head of the subdivision of Barasa.
In 1881, in the course of excavating for the construction of the ‘Bhakti bhavana’ at Rambagan in Calcutta, a Deity of Kurmadev was unearthed. After initiating his seven year old son, Bhaktivinoda entrusted Bimala with the service of the deity of Kurmadev.
On April 1, 1884, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was appointed the senior Deputy Magistrate of Serampore, where he admitted Bimala in the Serampore High School. When Bimala was a mere student in class five, he invented a new method of writing named Bicanto. During this period he took lessons in mathematics and astrology from Pandita Mahesa Chandra Cudamoni. However, he preferred to read devotional books rather than the school texts.
During the last year of his stay at Barasat (1886), Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura published an edition of the Bhagavad Gita with the Sanskrit commentary of Srila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakur, which he translated into Bengali (the “Rasika-ranjana” translation). Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had undertaken this task at the request of Babu Sarada Carana Mitra, ex-judge of the Calcutta High Commission. Sriman Bankima Candra wrote the preface, acknowledging his own indebtedness to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura; he noted that all Bengali readers would be indebted to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura for his saintly work.
From Barasat, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was transferred to Sriramapur. He visited the residence of Uddharana Datta Thakur, a great associate of Lord Nityananda, at Saptagram. At Khanakula he visited the place of Abhirama Thakur, and saw the place of another great devotee of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Vasu Ramananda, at Kulinagrama. At Srirampura he composed and published his masterly writing, Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, and also the Vaisnava-siddhanta-mala, Prema-pradipa and Manah-siksa. He was also publishing Sajjanatosani on a regular basis. In Calcutta he set up the Sri Caitanya Yantra, a printing press at the ‘Bhakti Bhavana’, upon which he printed Maladhara’s Sri Krsna-vijaya and his own Amnaya-sutra and the Caitanyopanisad of the Atharva Veda.
Finding the Caitanyopanisada was a difficult task. Hardly anyone in Bengal had heard of it. Consequently Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had to travel to many places in Bengal looking for it; finally, one devoted Vaisnava pandita named Madhusudana dasa sent an old copy he’d been keeping with him at Sambalpur for Bhaktivinoda Thakura; Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote a ‘Sanskrit’ commentary on the book and called it Sri Caitanya Caranamrta. Madhusudana dasa Mahasaya translated the verses into Bengali; this translation was called Amrita-bindhu.
In Calcutta srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura started the Sri Visva-Vaisnava Sabha, dedicated to the preaching of pure bhakti as taught by Lord Caitanya. To publicize the work of the society, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura published a small booklet entitled Visva-Vaisnava-kalpavi.
Also he published his own edition of the Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, with his Amrita-prabhava Bhashya commentary. And he introduced the Caitanyabda or Caitanya-era calendar, and gave assistance to the propagation of the Caitanya Panjika, which established the feast day of Gaura Purnima. He lectured and gave readings on books like the Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu (of Srila Rupa Goswami) in various Vaishnava societies; he published in the Hindu Herald, an English periodical, a detailed account of Sri Caitanya’s life. It was at this time that the learned Vaisnavas recognized Kedaranatha Datta and given the honorary title as Bhakti Vinoda Thakura.
In the year 1887 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura resolved to quit government service and go to Vrndavana with Bhakti Bringa Mahasaya for the rest of his life. One night in Tarakeswar, while on government service, he had a dream in which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared to him and spoke, “You will certainly go to Vrndavana, but first there is some service you must perform in Navadvipa, so what will you do about that?” When the Lord disappeared, Bhaktivinoda Thakura awoke. Srila Bhakti Bhrinha Mahasaya, hearing of this dream, told Bhaktivinoda Thakura to apply for a transfer to Krishnanagara; he did, even turning down offers of personal assistantship to the chief Commissioner of Assam and the seat of the Minister of Tripura State. He even tried to retire at this time, but his application was not accepted. Finally, in December of 1887 he arranged for a mutual exchange of personnel himself for Babu Radha Madhava Vasu, Deputy Magistrate of Krishnanagara.
During his stay at Krishnanagara, Bhaktivinoda Thakura used to go to Navadwipa and search for the birthsite of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One night he was sitting on the roof of the Rani Dharamshala in Navadvipa chanting on his ‘Japa-beads’, when he spotted a very tall Tala tree with some very strange substance attached to it; near the tree was a small building that gave off a remarkable effulgence. Soon afterwards, he went to the Krishnanagara Collectory where he began to study some very old manuscripts of Caitanya Bhagavat and Navadvipa Dhama Parikrama by Narahari Sarkar, and some old maps of Nadia. He went to the village of Ballaladibhi and spoke with many elderly people there, and uncovered facts about the modern-day Navadvipa; in the year 1887 he discovered that the place he’d seen from the dharmasala rooftop was in fact the birthplace of Mahaprabhu. This was confirmed by Srila Jaganatha dasa Babaji, the head of the Gaudiya Vaisnava community in Nadia.
A great festival was held there. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura published the Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya. When the birthplace was uncovered, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji would worship Lord Caitanya there (this episode was told in regard to Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s Life.) Once one of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s son contracted a skin disease; Jaganntha dasa Babaji told the boy to lie down at the birth site of Lord Caitanya for the night – he did so, and the next morning he was cured.
In February 1891 he gave a lecture on his investigation into the whereabouts of the actual birth site of Sri Caitanya; his audience included highly learned men from all over Bengal, who became very enthusiastic at the news. Out of this gathering the Sri Navadvipa Dhama Pracharini Sabha was formed for spreading the glories of Navadvipa-Mayapur. All the learned pandits, having deliberated fully on Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s evidence, agreed that the Yogapitha was the true birthsite of Mahaprabhu. That year, on Gaura Purnima, a big festival was held to witness the installation of Gaura-Vishnupriya Deities at the Yogapitha. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura personally, in a spirit of pure humility, went door to door collecting to raise funds to build a temple on the very site. His venture was highly successful and the temple was built.
In October 1894, at age 56, he retired from his post as Deputy Magistrate, though this move was opposed by his family and the government authorities. He stayed at Surabhi Kunja and preached, as well as revised his old writings. Sometimes he went to Calcutta; there he begged door to door for building the Yogapitha temple. In July 1896 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura went to Tripura at the request of the the king, who was a Vaishnava. He stayed in the capital for four days and preached the glories of Sri Hari-Nama. His mercy far outreaches the geographical boundaries of India or even Asia, taking Krsna consciousness to the West. Back in Godruma, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sent out a small booklet, written in Sanskrit, to Sri Gauranga-lila-smarana-mangala-stotram, with a commentary by Srila Sitikantha Vacaspati of Nadia. The intro, “Caitanya Manaprabhu, His life and precepts”, was in English and This book found its way into the library of the Royal Asiatic Society in London, the library of McGill University in Canada (the year is 1896) and other respectable institutions. It was reviewed in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society by Mr. F.W. Fraser, an erudite European scholar.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s son Bimala Prasad (latter Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati) had been residing at Puri as a ‘naisthika brahmacari’ (celebate student) and was engaged in bhajan at the Gandharvika Giridhari Matha, one of seven ‘mathas’ near the ‘samadhi’ tomb of Haridasa Thakur on the sea-shore. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, desiring to help his son, had the monastery cleaned and repaired when he came to Puri himself at the beginning of the 20th century. After the young (Bhakti) Siddhanta Saraswati left Puri for Sri Navadvipa Mayapur, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura constructed his own place of ‘bhajana’ on the beach, calling it Bhakti Kuti; one Sri Krsnadasa Babaji, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s devoted assistant and disciple, joined him there at this time, and he became very dear to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and was his constant attendant up to the end of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s life. He began solitary ‘bhajan’ (worship and devotional meditation) at this time; he had many visitors at this place, and some of them simply wanted to disturb him, whereas others were sincere and benefited greatly from his spiritual inspiration.
In 1908, three months before he took ‘sannyasa’, a son of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura who was working in the writers building in Calcutta, came home to inform Bhaktivinoda Thakura that Sir William Duke, chief secretary to the government, was in Calcutta; formerly Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had served under him as a magistrate. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura made an appointment to meet him the next day at the writers building. Sir William Duke met with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura on the street outside the building and personally escorted him into his office. With folded hands, he asked forgiveness for having once planned to remove Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura from office of district magistrate; this was because he thought that if such qualified Indians take up such posts, the British would not last much longer in India.
In those days, while studying Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s activities (then Kedarnatha Datta), he’d come to his house and would be fed ‘puri’, ‘luchi’ and sweets by the Thakura’s wife. But now he was begging forgiveness as he was getting on in life; Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura answered, “I consider you to be a good friend and a well wisher all along.” Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was pleased with him and gave him his blessings. Later Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura admitted he was astonished that Sir William Duke wanted to harm him in some way.
In the year 1908 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura took the external ‘vesa’ dress of a ‘babaji’ at Satasana in Puri technically which is called his accepting ‘paramahamsa-sannyasa’, among the ‘Gaudiya sampradaya’; until 1910 he would move between Kolkata and Puri, and was still writing books; but during that year he shut himself up and entered ‘samadhi’, ‘claiming paralysis’. It was on June 23rd., 1914, just before noon at Jagannath Puri, that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura Prabhupada left his body; on the Gaudiya Panjika this day was also the disappearance day of Sri Gadadhara Pandita. But from Orissa his bodily remains were taken back to his beloved Godruma, in the land of Nadia. Amidst ‘sankirtana’ his remains were interred in Godruma after the next solstice; the summer solstice had just begun when Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura Prabhupada had left his body.
Remembering His Divine Character.
In an obituary about Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Sarada Carana Mitra, Calcutta High Court Judge, wrote: “I knew Thakur Bhaktivinode intimately as a friend and a relation. Even under the pressure of official work as a magistrate in charge of a heavy subdivision he could always 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 ‘achintya bheda abheda’, ‘dvaitadvaita-vada’ etc., and the saintly work that lay before him. Service of God is the only thing he longed for and service under the government, however honorable, was to him a clog.”
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Daily Schedule
7:30-8:00 PM – take rest.
10:00 PM – rise, light oil lamp, write.
4:00 AM – take rest.
4:30 – rise, wash hands and face, chant ‘Hare Krsna Mahamantra japa’.
7:00 – write letters.
7:30 – read.
8:30 – receive guests, or continue to read.
9:30-9:45 – take rest.
9:45 – morning bath, breakfast of half-quarter milk, couple of ‘chapatis’, some fruits.
9:55 – go to court in a carriage.
10:00 – court began.
1:00 PM – court finished. He’d come home and bathe and refresh.
2:00 PM – return to the office.
5:00 PM – translate works from Sanskrit to Bengali.
Then take evening bath and meal of rice, a couple of ‘chapatis’, half-quarter (1 pint – 20 onces, or approximately half litre) of milk.
He always consulted a pocket watch, and was always accountable for keeping time very punctually.
He was always charitable to ‘brahmanas’, and equally befriended other castes. He never showed pride, and his amiable disposition was a characteristic feature of his life. He never accepted gifts from anyone; he even declined all honors and titles offered by the government to him on the grounds that they might stand against his holy mission of life. He was very strict in moral principles, and avoided the luxurious life; he would not even chew betel. He disliked theaters because they were frequented by ‘public women’.
He spoke Bengali, Sanskrit, English, Latin, Urdu, Persian and Oriya. He started writing books at age 12, and continued turning out a profuse number of volumes up until his departure from this world.
As with all of the wonderful personalities we have touched on there are so many things that can be said to glorify such incredible devotees, but just to keep this book in perspective we are just trying to give a taste. For further details on Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Rupa Vilasa Prabhu, a disciple of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has compiled a book on the life of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura entitled “The Seventh Goswami”.