The Appearance Day of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura

by Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda

From a lecture given in London on 3rd September 1971

So today is a very auspicious day, Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s birthday. He was one of the ācāryas of the disciplic succession from Kṛṣṇa. 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 If you want to know the transcendental science, then you must approach a guru – tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum eva abhigacchet (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.2.12). You must approach guru. Guru means the disciplic succession, as I have explained.

So Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is an ideal guru. He was not a sannyāsī; he was gṛhastha, householder, living with family, wife, children. Still, he was guru. So anyone can become guru. Not that a sannyāsī can become guru. A householder also can become guru, provided he knows the science.

kibā vipra, kibāśūdra, nyāsi kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 8.128)

Kibā vipra, kibā śūdra. Vipra means brāhmaṇa. And śūdra is the fourth-grade human being. Brāhmaṇa is the first grade. So, kibā vipra, kibā śūdra. He may be a first grade human being or the lowest grade human being, or he may become a sannyāsī or a gṛhastha. It does not matter. Anyone who knows the science of Kṛṣṇa can become guru. This is the verdict, because spiritual science does not belong to the bodily platform.

So Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was gṛhastha…very responsible officer, a magistrate. He was so exalted that he would come from his office generally at five o’clock, then take his supper and immediately go to bed. Immediately. So suppose he went to bed at seven o’clock in the evening and woke up at twelve o’clock at night; it is sufficient sleep; five hours. One should not sleep more than five to six hours. Minimize as far as possible. The Gosvāmīs used to sleep not more than one and a half hour, or two hours. Sleeping is not a very important thing. Even big politicians, they used to sleep for two hours. So especially in the spiritual line they should minimize as far as possible eating, sleeping, mating, defending. Minimize. Gradually it comes to nil.

Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, he was eating only a little piece of butter every alternate day, not daily. So Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura regularly was coming from his office, and after taking his supper immediately he goes to bed and woke up at twelve o’clock, and he used to write books. He wrote, he left behind, about one hundred books. And he excavated the birthplace of Lord Caitanya and organized how to develop it, in Māyāpura. He had so many business. He used to go to preach about Śrī Caitanya’s philosophy. He used to sell books to foreign countries. In 1896 he attempted to sell Life and Precepts of Caitanya to the MacGill University in Montreal. So he was busy, ācārya. So one has to adjust things. Not that “Because I am a gṛhastha, householder, I cannot become a preacher. It is the business of the sannyāsī or brahmacārī.” No. It is the business of everyone. The whole world is suffering for want of knowledge. The present civilization is animal civilization. They do not know anything beyond eating, sleeping, mating and defending. That’s all. An animal does not know beyond these four principles of life: eating, sleeping, mating and defending; that’s all. Human life is meant for something else: “What am I? What is God? What is my relation with God? What is this material world? Why I am here? Where do I have to go next?” There are so many things one has to learn. Athāto brahma jijñāsā. This is human life. Not eat and sleep and have sex life and die some day, like cats and dogs. Therefore, there is need of ācāryas, teachers, for propagating spiritual knowledge, Kṛṣṇa conscious-ness. Although he was a gṛhastha, a householder, a government officer, magistrate, he was ācārya. So from his dealings, from his life, we should learn how one can become a preacher in any stage of life. It doesn’t matter what he is.

There was one incidence, very interesting. When he was the magistrate in Jagannātha Purī. Jagannātha temple is a very big establishment. In the temple, fifty-six times daily, bhoga is offered. And you will always find at least five hundred to one thousand people gathered. If you go and ask in the Jagannātha temple that “We are one men come from outside. We want prasāda,” yes, immediately ready. The Jagannātha temple is managed by a body, and it is the custom that the local magistrate of the district be-comes the president, or manager. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was manager in that sense, because he was magistrate. The managing committee was presided by him. So there was a complaint. This Jagannātha temple is situated in Orissa, Utkāla. This state was originally belonging to Dhruva Mahārāja. His son’s name was Utkāla, Mahārāja Utkāla. Anyway, so this Utkāla, there was a pseudo yogī. He declared himself that… Just like you’ll find nowadays, also, there are so many rascals declaring that “I am an incarnation of God.” And they know some mystic power, play some jugglery, and foolish people take them, “Oh, he is God.” So there appeared one like such pseudo God, pseudo Viṣṇu, in a village in Orissa. He was dancing rāsa dance, and foolish people were sending their daughters and wife to dance with him. You see? People are so foolish, they do not know. They want to be cheated, and these cheaters come. He declared that “I am God. I am Viṣṇu.”

So, there were some sane men also. They took objection, “What is this nonsense? This man is dancing with ladies and girls.” So they filed a complaint. At that time, it was British rule. They complained to the governor or the commissioner, very high officer. The commissioner knew that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura… His name was Kedāranātha Datta, his household name. So the commissioner of that division, he knew that Kedāranātha Datta is a religious man, and he’s magistrate in charge. So he handed over the case for inquiry, “What is this complaint? You please inquire and do the needful.” The omnipotent Lord can manifest even in wood and stone.

So he [Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura] was a pure devotee, and he understood that “This rascal is a bogus man, cheating people. I must inquire.” So he went to the village in plain dress with some constables, police constables. They were also in plain dress. And as soon as he approached that rascal yogī, he said, “Oh, you are Kedāranātha Datta. So, very nice. I shall make you king of India. Please don’t try to bother me.” Because he could know that “He has come to inquire about my rāsa-līlā.”

So Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura first of all said, “Sir, you are such a great yogī. Why you are in the village? Why don’t you go to Jagannātha Purī? There is a temple there and Lord Jagannātha is there. Better you go there and see the Lord and be happy. Why you are in this village?”

“Oh, Jagannātha?” Ah, that is made of wood. I am personally the Supreme Lord. That is made of wood.”

Then Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, he was a devotee, he became like fire. He was insulted. Arcye śilā-dhīr guruṣu nara-matiḥ. According to śāstra, if somebody thinks… Just like here is a deity. If somebody thinks, “Oh, it is made of stone…” It is stone to the eyes of the non-devotee, but it is personally Supreme Personality of Godhead to the devotees. It requires the eyes to see. Devotees see in a different angle of vision.

Just like Caitanya Mahāprabhu, when He entered Jagannātha temple immediately He fainted. “Oh, here is My Lord.” And the non-devotee is seeing, “It is wood, a lump of wood.” Therefore, to the non-devotee, Jagannātha remains always as wood, but to the devotee, He speaks. That is the difference. Premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.38). If God is everything, why wood, through wood and stone, God cannot manifest? If God is everything? That’s a fact. God, omnipotent. He can express Himself even through wood and stone. That is God’s omnipotency. That is called omnipotency. Not that God is unable to express Himself through wood and stone. Then how’s He omnipotent? Omnipotent means His potency can be expressed through anything. Because anything, everything, is the expansion of God’s energy. Parasya brahmaṇaḥ śaktis tathedam akhilaṁ jagat. The whole world is manifestation of the different energies of God. Just like through the energy of electricity, the electric powerhouse, although far, far away from this place, was expressing. Through this glass, through these wires, the power can be expressed. There is a process.) Fearless in the face of death.

So Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura became very much… Because a devotee cannot tolerate blasphemy of another devotee or God. So as soon as he said that “Why shall I go to Jagannātha Purī to see the wooden Jagannātha? I am personally Viṣṇu,” Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura immediately ordered his constables, “Arrest him. Arrest this rascal.” So he was arrested. And when he was arrested… He had some yogic mystic power. All the constables, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and his family members became affected with high fever, a 105 degrees fever. So when he came back, his wife became very much disturbed that “You arrested Viṣṇu, and we are all going to die. We have got now high fever.”

Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura replied, “Yes, let us all die, but this rascal must be punished.”

This is the view of pure devotee. So the yogī was put into the custody. And there was a date fixed for his trial, and all these days, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura himself and his family especially, they were suffering from high fever. Maybe that yogī was planning to kill the whole family. But it was going on as fever. So on the trial day, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Kedāranātha Datta, when he came to the bench, the man was presented, the so-called yogī, and he had big, big hairs. So Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura ordered that “Bring one barber and cut his hair.”

So no barber dared. The barbers thought, “Oh, he is Lord Viṣṇu. If I offend, then, just as he’s suffering from fever, so I shall also die.”

So Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura ordered, “Give me the scissor. I’ll cut.”

So he cut his hairs and ordered him to be put into jail for six months, and in the jail that ‘Viṣṇu incarnation’ managed to take some poison, and he died. So this is one of the incidents. There are many incidences.

He was a very strong man. He punished many paṇḍas in the tīrthas who exploit visitors. So this is the position of devotee. In spite of his becoming a responsible magistrate, a householder, still, he was ācārya. So we have to follow the ācāryas. So this Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s birthday, we should adore, we should worship, because in the modern age, he reintroduced the disciplic succession. From Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu… Five hundred years ago, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu taught this philosophy, but within two hundred years… Because this material world is so made that whatever you introduce, in due course of time, will deteriorate His legacy. So Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura happens to be ācāryas. And he has left behind many books. Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta, Jaiva-dharma. These are very important books. They are in Bengali, in Sanskrit. And many songs. He has prepared many books of song. So we are trying to present Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s books also in an English translation. Gradually you will get it. So our adoration, our worship is to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura today because he may bless us to make peacefully progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Ācārya-upāsanā, simply by the blessings of the ācāryas we can make very rapid progress.

Viṣṇujana: Śrīla Prabhupāda, what did Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura mean when he said, “I am going, my work unfinished”?”

Prabhupāda: Hmm?

Viṣṇujana: When Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura stated that he was leaving this planet with his work unfinished.

Prabhupāda: Then let us finish. We are descendant of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. So he kept unfinished so that we shall get the chance to finish it. That is his mercy. He could have finished immediately. He is Vaiṣṇava, he is all-powerful. But he gave us the chance that “You foolish people, you all also work.” That is his mercy. We should pray to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura that “We are your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, so we have some right to beg some mercy from you. The grandchildren get some indulgence from the grandfather.”

So I pray like that. It is Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s mercy. A Vaiṣṇava can… Kṛṣṇa doesn’t require anyone’s help. Still, He is asking, “Surrender to Me.” He does not require anyone’s surrender. But it is for him good, one who surrenders. Not that Kṛṣṇa is in need of anyone’s service. He is complete. But He comes as if He is in helpless condition and asking for us to surrender. So that is for his good. One who is surrendered, he’ll get the result. Kṛṣṇa is self-sufficient. Similarly, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is self-sufficient. But if he said that “I (am) keeping unfinished,” that means he gave us the chance, the opportunity. So we should always pray to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura to be merciful upon us so that we can execute his unfinished task. That should be our…and never we should think that “What Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura could not finish, I have finished.” Don’t think like that. It is not like that.

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