sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!

No.17 (Kartik 2007)
Posted: 4 March, 2024

Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Inspired by and under the guidance of

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Ṭhākura Sac-cid-ānanda Bhaktivinoda

by Śrīla Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja

Glorification of the exalted ācārya on his disappearance day

The inclination to remember Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in the mode of separation

The sat-cit-ānanda vastu is the truly abiding substance composed of pure eternal reality, cognizance and bliss. If sat-cit-ānanda vastu remains hidden from our view, from the ordinary people of this plane, we will not be able to conceive of it and it will be beyond our revelation. Indeed, that which remains beyond our vision we describe as being in the unmanifest (aprakaṭa) state. But even though unmanifest, the śuddha-sattva-vastu (the truly abiding substance comprised of pure existence) is never absent in any way. Only when our vision of its absence is itself absent, will we perceive sādhya-vastu (the ultimate object of attainment) and describe it as eternal (nitya) and primeval (sanātana). The sat-cit-ānanda vastu is indeed eternal and primeval and there is certainly no better revelation of its meaning than “Saccidānanda Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura”. Although we constantly have all kinds of discussions about him, on this day, feeling separation from Saccidānanda, we have engaged in remembering some of the especially unique features of his pastimes. Such remembrance is a form of service to his lotus feet. Śrīla Ṭhākura concealed himself from ordinary vision on the new moon day of Āṣāḍha thirty-five years ago today.[1]

[Footnote 1] Āṣāḍha is the third month of the Bengali calendar and falls between June and July. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura disappeared on the new moon day (amāvasyā) of this month in the year 1914.

Reflecting upon the transcendental sat-cit-ānanda vastu is only possible through śabda

We are constantly hearing and discussing the following principles:

prākṛta vastu nahe prākṛta-gocara
veda-purāṇete ei kahe nirantara

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 9.194)

“Perception of spiritual objects (aprākṛta-vastu) is not within the range of the material sense organs, and contemplating them is beyond the range of the mind. The Vedas and Purāṇas proclaim this repeatedly.”

kṛṣṇa­—sūrya-sama; māyā haya andhakāra
ĵā̃hā kṛṣṇa, tā̃hā nāhi māyār adhikāra

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.31)

“Kṛṣṇa is like the sun and māyā is darkness. Wherever Kṛṣṇa is present, the influence of māyā cannot remain.”

Although these statements have become embedded in our minds, we have not realized them in our hearts. There is a process (sādhana) by which the sanātana-vastu (eternal entity) is revealed within the heart. But through the statements just mentioned, we are being warned to first consider carefully the proper methodology of that sādhana. One who initiates discussions about Saccidānanda Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura with words or statements made of sound vibrations that have emerged from the material sky is acting in a manner exactly opposite to Śrīla Ṭhākura’s teachings. My consciousness will never be capable of revealing Śrīla Ṭhākura’s identity through language unless my idam–jñāna (knowledge of this mundane plane) is subdued by tad-jñāna (knowledge of that transcendental plane). Therefore, although it is beneficial for me to remain silent as long as my idam-jñāna dominates, Śrīla Ṭhākura’s words, which are full of assurance, are constantly inspiring us to discuss this subject matter. He has made it clear that the divine truth (aprākṛta-tattva) can only be deliberated on through śabda (words).

The nature of the śabda-tattva referred to by Śrīla Ṭhākura

In this context, śabda must not be taken to mean the words that have their origin in the material sky, nor does it mean the words emanating from the lips, teeth and throat of expert grammarians. It is neither the śabda that the empirical scientists define as being produced by periodic waves of compressed air, nor is it the words of men who simply give credence to philosophers based on popularity. This śabda is absolutely beyond the four faults of the senses;[3] it is eternal (nitya), pure (śuddha), absolutely complete (pūrṇa), liberated (mukta), and immortal (atimartya). It is the unquestionable source of all knowledge (Veda) and the perfect message received in the succession of bona fide gurus (āmnāya-vāṇī). For the purpose of emancipating the baddha-jīvas (souls who are conditioned by ignorance), this lineage of the transcendental message (vāṇī-paramparā) awakens within the core of their hearts, which at that time are supremely pure (viśuddha). In the hearts of those blessed by destiny, this vāṇī has awakened and enabled them alone to become factually established in all siddhānta – the consummate truth. Certainly, the most prominent speciality of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s appearance was manifesting siddhānta-vāṇī[3]. Thus, he who was nadīyā-prakāśa, who revealed the birthplace of Mahāprabhu, was also siddhānta-vāṇī-prakāśa, he who manifested siddhānta-vāṇī.

[Footnote 2] The four faults of the conditioned soul’s senses: (1) bhrama – illusion, or the tendency to come to the wrong conclusion based on appearances, (2) pramāda – the tendency to make errors in general, (3) vipralipsā – the tendency to deceive as characterized by baseless denial of something beyond the senses, and (4) karaṇāpāṭava – the insufficiency and limitations of the senses.

[Footnote 3] It will be explained that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura is the intended meaning of siddhānta-vānī.

Śrīla Ṭhākura is worshipful because he played the central role in revealing ancient Nadīyā

Śrīla Ṭhākura mahāśaya is indeed known as “Nadīyā-prakāśa” for he revealed the actual birthplace of Nadīyā-śaśī – the moon of Nadīyā, Śrīman Mahāprabhu – where the Supreme Lord enacted His early pastimes. Therefore, we lovingly serve Nadīyā-prakāśa by establishing and worshipping his deity form. Śrīla Ṭhākura is present in his eternal deity form in sevya-sevaka-bhāva[4] at Svānanda-sukhada-kuñja within Śrī Nāma-haṭṭa, the marketplace of the holy name, or the aprākṛta Svarūpa-gañja. Situated thus, he is reminding us:

muktā api līlayā vigrahaṁ
kṛtvā bhagavantaṁ bhajante

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 24.112)

“Even liberated souls accept divine forms so they can participate in the transcendental pastimes of Śrī Bhagavān and serve Him.”

[Footnote 4] The object of one’s service, or the personality to whom one renders service, is known as the sevya, and the servant is known as the sevaka. In this sentence sevya-sevaka-bhāva can be understood in two ways: (1) In the mood of a sevaka, Śrīla Ṭhākura is worshipping sevya, ŚrīBhagavān or (2) Śrīla Ṭhākura is accepting our service in the mood of the sevya and simultaneously serving his worshipful Lord in the mood of sevaka.

Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda is the progenitor of Siddhānta-vāṇī

The transcendental message (vāṇī) he manifested is the very form of the original goddess of transcendent knowledge – Sarasvatī. That vāṇī is indeed Siddhānta-vāṇī or Siddhānta Sarasvatī. By studying the example Śrīla Ṭhākura set in his own life as well as by studying the granthas (sacred texts) written by him and the direct continuation of his transcendental message (vaṇī-paramparā), we learn that without taking shelter of the immaculate instructions received through the succession of bona fide gurus (āmnāya-vaṇī) or of the irrefutable evidence of Vedic sound-vibration (śabda-pramāṇa), we cannot bring delight (vinoda) to sat-cit-ānanda bhakti. With this in mind, and with the sole aim of worshipping Śrīla Ṭhakura for his satisfaction, we exclusively take shelter of Siddhānta-vāṇī (Siddhānta Sarasvatī) and respectfully offer ourselves to his lotus feet.

tāte kṛṣṇa bhaje, kare gurura sevana
māyā-jāla chuṭe, pāya kṛṣṇera caraṇa

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.25)

“Therefore, the entangled jīvas should absorb themselves in kṛṣṇa-bhajana and simultaneously do guru-sevā. Then only will they be released from the net of māyā and finally attain the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”

Characteristics of some of Śrīla Ṭhākura’s relatives and acquaintances

On many occasions, I have heard people say that when Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was in the gṛhastha āśrama, they had been his very close relative. They wanted to show that they had been intimate with him and familiar with his identity. Simply hearing this recount, my most venerable ācāryadeva, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura would say, “They could not even see him, let alone be near him or know his real identity.” In Jaiva-dharma, written by Śrīla Ṭhākura himself, in the Fifteenth Chapter entitled “Prameya – Jīva-tattva (the established proof regarding the living entity)”, we have learned the significance of such statements and the benefit they give when they ultimately bear fruit. Therein we find the following analysis:

“Mind and speech both have their origin in inert matter, and they cannot be made to touch cit-vastu (transcendental objects) despite the greatest endeavour. The Vedas declare, ‘yato vāco nivartante aprāpya manasā saha – speech and mind return unsuccessful in their attempt to reach brahma.’”

Śrīla Ṭhākura warned us continuously: it is impossible to obtain knowledge of transcendental objects through gross and subtle senses. Śrīla Ṭhākura is himself sat-cit-ānanda bhakti-vinoda (the sat-cit-ānanda form who brings delight to the personification of bhakti), so what question is there of him having a material covering? It is completely impossible for the gross body with its external senses or the subtle body to approach him or comprehend his identity, and it would defy all logic to claim that they could. He is a mahāpuruṣa (a noble and exalted personality) who is nitya-mukta (eternally liberated) and atimartya (beyond mortality). Mortal living beings who are bound by the illusory material energy are completely unable to form any conception about who he is.

Realizing Śrīla Ṭhākura’s quality of being beyond mortality

The manner in which Śrīla Ṭhākura has demonstrated how to reflect on jīva-tattva within the Fifteenth Chapter of Jaiva-dharmamakes evident his qualities of atimartyatā (immortality) and sarvajñātā (omniscience). He has exposed various irrational arguments for rejecting cetana-vilāsa (the blissful activities of spiritual life) based on fear of jaḍa-vilāsa (the attempt to enjoy transient matter), which appears to be similar. He has informed us that to bring about true divination of an object, total and pervasive knowledge about it (vyāpti-jñāna), as well as guidance from superior counsel are necessary. In this context, one may put forth the argument of “seeing a pearl in an empty oyster shell” and “mistaking a rope for a snake” to establish that the phenomenal world is a total falsity, but these contradict fundamental axioms. From these astonishing insights of Śrīla Ṭhākura, I am realizing his position as the atimartya ācārya.

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is the Ācārya

Even within the field of traditional philosophical deliberation, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is the ācārya in every sense of the word. By virtue of his literary contributions to the field of philosophy, such as his commentariesVedānta-bhāṣya, Upaniṣad-bhāṣya, Sahasranām-bhāṣya, Gītā-bhāṣyam, and so on, it is easily apprehensible to us that without a doubt, he is situated on the most elevated platform within the community of ācāryas. Formerly, Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhuṣaṇa obliterated the controversy that sprang from the unfounded charge that Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, for lack of a formal commentary, were not authentic adherents of Vedānta. Subsequently, Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda arose as the most exalted and noble personality to reform the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava society. And yet, we cannot see the entire manifestation of Śrīla Ṭhākura’s contribution because many of his treatises are hitherto unpublished. Therefore, it would be an act of great beneficence upon the entire world for noble-hearted seekers of the truth to endeavour to publish this literature.

Śrīla Saccidānanda Ṭhākura’s delineation of true benevolence (paropakāra)

The false concept that the jīva is a temporarily covered or reflected form of Bhagavān, and the proposition that real benevolence means to free the jīva from sat-asat-vilakṣana-anirvacanīya[5] and reinstate him as Bhagavān completely differs from the knowledge we have acquired from this most elevated ācārya’s teachings about benevolence. The purpose of Śrīla Ṭhākura’s commentaries is to establish the jīvas on the platform of Absolute Truth by fixing their faith in the reality of their eternal devotional existence. The word para (supreme) in paropakāra (benevolence) indicates an object’s beginningless, natural attribute of being the greatest. Actions that seek to nullify the real greatness of the living entity cannot be called benevolent. That entity who is fully saturated by eternal bliss (nityānanda) is truly para, and real benevolence to the jīva awards him the fruit of becoming fully established in nityānanda. What is the use of accepting the existence of jñāna (knowledge) but denying the existence of jñāta (the possessor of knowledge)? How can such conceptions benefit the conscious soul? The living entity is by nature ānanda-svarūpa (a form that is inherently made of happiness), but if he becomes spiritually inactive by negating ultimate reality along with his own existence, who will remain to experience that ānanda and to whom will benevolence be shown? Śrīla Ṭhākura condemned such so-called benevolence as contemptuous. He did not accept it as benevolence at all because in relation to their conception of vyavahārika mithyā-vastu[6] (the falseness of commonly experienced reality – the phenomenal world), even their paramārthika satya-ānanda (their concept of true happiness as the experience of oneness with the absolute reality – brahma) becomes a symbol of falseness and devoid of ānanda.

[Footnote 5] Māyāvādīs consider māyā, the basis of the material world, to be neither sat (real) nor asat (unreal). Thus, they claim, māyā is inexplicable (anirvacanīya).

[Footnote 6] From Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s Tattva-sandharbha (Text 40), we learn that the Māyāvādī followers of Śrī Śankarācārya use the example of mistaking a rope for a snake to prove that worldly existence (vyavahāra) is neither real (sat) nor unreal (asat) and is thus inexplicable. Their logic is as follows: If snakes were not real, then there would be no possibility of mistaking a rope in the darkness to be a snake, for a nonexistent thing can never be conceived of. Thus, they explain, the mistaken perception of the snake is not unreal, nor is it actually real, for in the light it will be seen that no snake is present. Thus the Māyāvādīs conclude that a third, inexplicable (anirvacanīya) category exists which is neither sat nor asat, and they claim that māyā is of this third category.

However, the actual principle of mistaking a rope to be a snake has nothing to do with the explanation given by the māyāvādīs. Snakes and rope are both real, and in order to mistake a rope for a snake, one must have had prior experience of both. In poor light, he mistakes the rope to be a snake because his mind superimposes his prior impression of a snake onto the rope. Someone who has never actually seen a snake, such as an infant, cannot mistake a rope for a snake. Therefore, it is concluded that there is no possibility of some inexplicable third category like the māyāvādīs’ sat-asat-anirvacanīya, which they use to explain māyā.

The achievement of temporary fruit is not the goal of benevolence

If the result of an action is undoubtedly seen to have a non-permanent nature, then seeking opportunities to engage in it or becoming subservient to it is not in accordance with the explanation of benevolence given by Śrīla Ṭhākura, nor with any of his teachings. In his analysis of the results of action, he has apprised us that only attainment of the Absolute Truth (tattva-vastu) bestows the highest limit of ānanda in the svarūpa (intrinsic nature) of the living entity. Indeed, with the desire to attain that highest limit of ānanda, the jīvas accept the flickering happiness of gross and subtle material nature as the prayojana (the ultimate goal of life). Such temporariness is never included in the conception of benevolence taught by Śrīla Ṭhākura. The fruit of this so-called benevolence gradually dwindles until it becomes so weak that it can no longer be detected. It withers away to such an extent that it is at last destroyed, and one sorrowfully realizes that it was completely insignificant.

Attainment of prayojana essentially depends on mercy, not on one’s own sādhana

The process that leads one to finally obtain the ultimate goal (prayojana) – as conceived by Śrīla Ṭhākura – successively bestows both the ability to perform sādhana and later the sādhya itself.[7] Certainly, by definition, the word sādhya means “that which can be attained through performing sādhana and is thus dependent on sādhana”. Nevertheless, by hearing the teachings of Śrīla Ṭhākura on sādhya-vastu (the final object of attainment) from the mouth of Siddhānta-vāṇī, we can understand that the sādhya-vastu is, in reality, beyond the reach of sādhana. Thus, attainment of sādhya is actually dependent on the mercy of the Absolute Truth (tattva-vastu). Moreover, the imperfections of language are bound to interfere while expressing the definition of the word sādhya.[8] It is concluded that, in all respects, sādhya manifests through ārādhana – loving worship. It is stated in Vedānta-sūtra (3.2.24) “api samrādhane pratyakṣānumānābhyām – In all respects, it is by the power of subservience to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī that the living entities become established on the platform of viśuddha-sattva and thus behold the Absolute Truth. That Absolute Truth becomes directly visible before them (pratyakṣa) and is the basis and substance of all their thoughts (anumāna).” In other words, the tattva-vastu becomes the object of their anuśīlana (the cultivation of constant endeavours to serve), as well as the object of their constant meditation (dhyāna).[9] In the absence of perfect ārādhana, or śuddha-bhakti, the conscious being, due to misuse of his free will, finds himself in the presence of mundane perception and false knowledge.

[Footnote 7] Initially, one obtains the ability to do ārādhana (loving worship) – in the stage of sādhana – by mercy, and later mercy alone gives the result of that sādhana – the sādhya (or prema-bhakti). Hence attainment of the prayojana completely depends on mercy.

[Footnote 8] From the viewpoint of an etymologist, the word ‘sādhya’ indicates “that which can be attained through performing sādhana and is thus dependent on sādhana”. But in reality, the attainment of the sādhya is beyond the reach of sādhana. Thus it is clear that the imperfections of language are interfering with the actual definition of sādhya.

[Footnote 9] “Directly visible” (pratyakṣa) is parallel to “the cultivation of constant endeavours to serve” (anuśīlana), and “the basis and substance of all their thoughts” (anumāna) is parallel to “constant meditation” (dhyāna).

Anuśīlana of the tattva-vastu is in fact abhidheya (the procedures of devotional service)

From the Vedānta-sūtra (3.2.26) “prakāśaś ca karmaṇy abhyāsāt”, we can learn the actual conception of anuśīlana (the cultivation of constant endeavours to serve Bhagavān). This anuśīlana is completely different from fruitive work (karma) or regular studies (abhyāsa); rather this sūtra is a mantra[10] that dispels the misconception that merely accumulating knowledge is the means to attain the desired goal. In a practical sense, one cannot attain one’s desired fruit simply by gaining proficient knowledge about a particular subject matter. The only means to obtain it is to engage in anuśīlana with great earnestness. In the same way, mere knowledge cannot actually bring us within direct proximity of the tattva-vastu. The tattva-vastu will manifest to us only after we properly engage in its anuśīlana again and again. Therefore, the meaning of prakāśaś ca in this sūtra is “manifestation of the tattva-vastu”, and the meaning of karmaṇy abhyāsāt[11] is “the result that can be attained by engaging in anuśīlana again and again”. In every grantha by Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda, we will discover this truth by deliberating on the chapters in which abhidheya is discussed.

[Footnote 10] The root mana means “mind” and tra means “to deliver”. Thus, a mantra is that which frees the soul from the platform of mental speculation.

[Footnote 11] The most general meanings of karma include both action and the result, or product, of action. The literal meaning of abhyāsa is to concentrate, practise, exercise, or study something repeatedly.

Śrīla Ṭhākura appeared in Vīranagara

Rather than attempting to speak something about Śrīla Ṭhākura Saccidānanda independently, we should take shelter of Siddhānta-vāṇī. Only then will we be able to truly know him completely. What jagad-guru Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Prabhupāda has revealed to us in his introduction to Jaiva-dharma is the sole essence of what we should learn about Śrīla Ṭhākura. There, he revealed that the place of appearance of caitanya-vastu (Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu) and advaita-vastu (Śrī Advaita Ācārya) is also the very place of appearance of sat-cit-ānanda-vastu (Śrīla Saccidānanda Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura). Such amazing oneness saturated with speciality is always observed in ātma-tattva (spiritual reality). Furthermore, he manifested his pastime of appearing to the world in the place called Vīranagara (in Gauḍadeśa). This is fitting, for it is impossible for ātma-tattva to manifest anywhere that lacks spiritual strength (bala).[12]

[Footnote 12] The literal meaning of vīra is “strength”, and the meaning of nagara is “town” or “city”.

All dualities converge in perfect harmony within the aprākṛta-tattva alone

Despite my desire to become purified by discussing many more topics about Śrīla Ṭhākura, I fear my doing so will make this article too lengthy. I have thus concluded here by briefly mentioning his appearance, even though it is the day of his disappearance. Such a contradiction may seem inconsistent from the ordinary perspective, but considering the third sūtra of Śrīla Ṭhākura’s grantha, Tattva-sūtra, “viruddha-dharmaṁ tasmin na citram – the existence of contradicting attributes in the Supreme Absolute Truth is in no way astonishing, for it is entirely natural in Him,” we come to know that in the aprākṛta (supra-mundane) sat-cit-ānanda-vastu the beautiful harmony of all contrary attributes is eternally present. Apart from this, the appearance and disappearance of the mahājanas both serve the same purpose. Therefore, the disappearance day – the day of separation – is also a day of celebration. This amāvasyā is indeed a most auspicious tithi (lunar day), for it has granted the illumination of great auspiciousness.[13]

[Footnote 13] The lunar day of the new moon is called amāvasyā. It is the last day of the waning moon and it leaves the night completely dark. Therefore, with respect to mundane considerations, it is an inauspicious tithi (lunar day). Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja has concluded by reconciling the apparent contradiction of auspiciousness in inauspiciousness. The event of Śrīla Ṭhākura’s disappearance, although apparently leaving the world in darkness, is a most auspicious celebration due to the special opportunity to remember and glorify him. Thus, this dark tithi, the day of separation from Śrīla Ṭhākura, has become illuminated by auspiciousness.

namo bhaktivinodāya sac-cid-ānanda-nāmine
gaura-śakti-svarūpāya rūpānuga-varāya te

“I offer my praṇāma unto Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, the exalted personality who brings delight to Bhakti-devī (bhakti-vinoda) and who is known by the name Saccidānanda because he is the embodiment of pure eternal reality, cognizance and bliss. He is the personification of Śrī Gaura’s internal potency, Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita, and he is the foremost rūpānuga Vaiṣṇava.”

Translated from Śrī Gauḍīya Patrikā, Year 1, Issue 5, 1949
CC-BY-SA Rays of The Harmonist No.17 (Kartik 2007)

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