In this article, ‘Prabodhānanda and Prakāśānanda’ first published in Sajjana Toṣaṇī, Vol. 13. issue 1 in 1901 under the title ‘Samālocana’, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura reviews a book which claims that the Vaiṣṇava ācārya Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī and the māyāvādī Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī are one and the same person.
(translated by Swami B.V. Giri)
Śrīyukta Aghoranātha Caṭṭopādhāya Mahāśaya has written and published the biography of Śrīnivāsa Ācārya which is a very readable book. Caṭṭopādhāya Mahāśaya became known to the world by publishing Bhakta Caritāmṛta, and the biographies of Śrī Hari Dāsa Ṭhākura and Śrīmat Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī. Many things have been written in this book such as the birth of Śrīnivāsa Ācārya Prabhu, stories of his childhood, his studies, his travels, his journey to Śrī Vṛndāvana, his Vaiṣṇava initiation from Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭā Gosvāmī and his propagation of Vaiṣṇava dharma. In the twentieth chapter, many things such as Ācārya Prabhu’s visit to Śrīdhāma Navadvīpa etc. have been described.
There are many things to be discussed about this book. Within the text all the footnotes attempt to defeat the arguments of many people. After deliberating upon the composition of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmīta he could not make a decisive conclusion, so in a footnote, he followed the book Bhaktamāla and wrote that the previous name of Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, the uncle of Gopāla Bhaṭṭa, was Prakāśānanda. By admitting this, he goes against the description given in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, which is a very authentic text. It is written in that book that during Śrī Mahāprabhu’s Navadvīpa līlā, the Lord refers to Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī, a resident of Kāśī, as a māyāvadī. Long after that, when Mahāprabhu had accepted sannyāsa and was travelling in the South, He saw Prabodhānanda as a householder Vaiṣṇava belonging to the Śrī sampradāya. Shortly afterwards, He delivered a māyāvadī named Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī in the city of Kāśī.
So it is our belief that Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, the uncle and śāstra-guru of Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa, was a different person from the māyāvadī resident of Kāśī, Prakāśānanda, and he later took shelter of Mahāprabhu and engaged in bhajana in Kāmyavana. We cannot reject this belief based upon the words of a modern Bengali translation of Bhaktamāla. It is not impossible that Mahāprabhu also gave the name Prabodhānanda to Prakāśānanda when he took shelter of Vaiṣṇava dharma. But there is no reason why the scholar Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī should be considered to be one with Prakāśānanda. There is nothing in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmīta that would make the author think he was a māyāvadī at any time. It is believed that he showed sadness at not having the shelter of the feet of Śrī Caitanya-candra when he was a member of the Śrī sampradāya. If it is said that Śrīla Prabodhānanda was contaminated by the defects of māyāvāda at any time, one will fall down due to śrī-hari-nāma aparādha.
Now Aghoranātha Bābu’s writings have become dear to the Vaiṣṇavas. The defects of dry brahmavāda cannot be found within them. It is our hope that his subsequent writings of devotional works will be full of bhakti-rasa.