Who is Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thākura?
Part of a speech delivered by Śrīla Gour Govinda Swami in Cuttack on September 2, 1993.
Śrīla Saccidānanda Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was born with the name Sri Kedarnath Dutta on September 2, 1838. He appeared in the village of Ula, in the district of Nadia, West Bengal, which was his maternal uncle’s home, but the house of his forefathers is in the village of Chhoti in the Kendrapara District of Orissa. Chhoti is the śrīpāt, the native place of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and he resided here.
In this age of scepticism and fruitless nihilism, he exercised his mighty pen to re-establish sanātana-dharma, eternal religion. Inspired by the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācāryas [practical teachers], he wrote book after book, refuting materialistic views based on nihilism and atheism. By speaking on the eternal Vedas, on civilization and education, he enlightened many conditioned souls who had forgotten their real spiritual identity. Without imparting scriptural knowledge there is no means to bring the living entities, who are oppositely attracted, towards para-tattva, the Supreme Truth.
Gaudiya gurus such as Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sānatana Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Jiva Gosvāmī did the work of spiritual masters by analyzing the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and commentaries on it. The Bhāgavatam is the essence of the eternal Vedic sound and the mature fruit of the desire tree of the Vedic literature. Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda nicely strung together the teachings of these Gauḍīya gurus in easy and simple language. Therefore, after the six Gosvāmīs, Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda is known as the Seventh Gosvāmī.
Following in the footsteps of Śrīla Jiva Gosvāmī, in 1884 Bhaktivinoda re-established the Viswa Vaishnava Sabha (World Vaishnava Congregation) and preached the Vedic religion— Upaniṣads, Vedānta Sūtras, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam—as well as the life and philosophy of Śri Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda wrote more than one hundred books, both original works and commentaries, in English, Sanskrit, and Bengali. His numerous devotional songs, immersed in divine love born of full surrender, reveal his deep love for Lord Śri Kṛṣṇa. These songs have inspired all types of people, from ordinary conditioned souls to highly elevated devotees. His books of devotional songs, such as Śaraṇāgati, Gītāvalī, and Kalyāṇa-Kalpataru, are food for the soul and are very praiseworthy in human society. In this age of short-lived sensual pleasure and false renunciation, these books are Bhaktivinoda’s great call for those who are thirsty to get a taste of Vaikuṇṭha [spiritual] love. Who can imagine the kindness he has shown?
Bhaktivinoda’s teachings should be preached more and more. If the leaders of present-day society sincerely desire the welfare of humanity, they should deeply cultivate and introspectively reflect upon these teachings. Please practice these teachings in your life and teach them to the world. This will surely bring auspiciousness and the unlimited blessings of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda.
Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda left this world on June 23, 1914.