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

The Life, Precepts and Contribution of Sac-cid-ānanda Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura

by Śrīla Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja

When it comes to discussing the life of mahā-puruṣas (great self-realized personalities who are transcendental to mortal existence), it would be a mistake to consider their birth, life span and death to be similar to that of mere mortals, because mahā-puruṣas are beyond birth and death. They are situated in eternal existence, and their coming and going from this world is strictly a matter of their own appearance and disappearance.

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura appeared on Sunday, September 2, 1838, and thus illuminated the sky of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. He took birth in a high-class family in a village named Vīra-nagara (also known as Ulāgrāma or Ulā), which is located within the Nadiyā district of West Bengal, not far from Śrī Dhāma Māyāpura, the appearance place of Śrī Gaurāṅga. He disappeared from this world on June 23, 1914, in the city of Calcutta. At that time, he entered the midday pastimes of Śrī Śrī Gāndharvikā-Giridhārī, who are the supreme objects of worship for the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas.

In his brief lifespan of seventy-six years, he instructed the world by personally carrying out the duties of the four āśramas (stages of spiritual life): brahmacārya (celibate student-life), gṛhastha (religious householder-life), vānaprastha (withdrawal from worldly duties), and sannyāsa (formal renunciation). He first underwent brahmacārya, and obtained various elevated instructions. After that, he entered gṛhastha life, and set an ideal example of how to maintain family members through honest and noble means. All householders should follow this example.

During his gṛhastha life, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda traveled all over India as a highly placed officer in the administration and justice department of the British government of India. By his exacting discrimination and expert administrative skills, this great personality managed to regulate and bring to order even those places that were infamous as lawless states. In the midst of family duties, he astonished all his contemporaries by the religious ideal he displayed. Although engaged in pressing responsibilities, he wrote many books in different languages. We have recorded the dates of composition in our list of his books. If the reader studies this, he can clearly deduce Bhaktivinoda's incredible creative power.

Disregarding the opinion of those who might have had a prejudice about language, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has broadcast the transcendental instructions of Śrīman Mahāprabhu in many different languages. He has written approximately one hundred books in Sanskrit, Bengali, Oriya, Hindi, Urdu and English. The names of some of the more important of these works have been given below along with their dates of publication:


(1) Vedāntādhikaraṇa-mālā, 1872

(2) Datta-kaustubham, 1874

(3) Datta-vaṁśa-mālā, 1876

(4) Bauddha-vijaya-kāvyam, 1878

(5) Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā, 1880

 (6) Sanmodana bhāṣya (Śikṣāṣṭakam), 1886

(7) Daśopaṇiṣad-cūrṇikā, 1886

(8) Bhāvāvalī (commentary), 1886

(9) Śrī Caitanyacaranāmṛta bhāṣya

(commentary on Śrī Caitanya-Upaniṣad), 1887

(10) Śrī Āmnāya-sūtram, 1890

(11) Tattva-vivekaù or Śrī Saccidānandānubhūtiù, 1893

(12) Tattva-sūtram, 1894

(13) Vedārka-dīdhiti (commentary on Śrī Īśopaniṣad), 1894

(14) Śrī Gaurāṅga-līlā-smaraṇa-maṅgala-stotram, 1896

(15) Śrī Bhagavad-dhāmāmṛtam (commentary), 1898

(16) Śrī Bhāgavata Arka-marīci-mālā, 1901

(17) Śrī Bhajana-rahasya, 1902

(18) Svaniyama-dvādaśakam, 1907

(19) Brahmamsūtra bhāṣya (commentary)

(20) Śikṣā-daśamūlam etc.

Bengali (prose)

(1) Garbha-stotra (translation), 1870

(2) Śrī Sajjana-toṣaṇī (monthly magazine), 1881

(3) Rasika-Rañjana (commentary on Bhagavād Gītā), 1886

(4) Śrī Caitanya Śikṣāmṛta, 1886

(5) Prema-pradīpa, 1886

(6) Published Śrī Viṣṇu-sahasra-nāma, 1886

(7) Vaiṣṇava-siddhānta-mālā, 1888

(8) Siddhānta-darpaṇam (Bengali translation), 1890

(9) Vidvad-rañjana (commentary on Bhagavād Gītā), 1891

(10) Śrī Harināma, 1892

(11) Śrī Nāma, 1892

(12) Śrī Nāma-tattva, 1892

(13) Śrī Nāma-mahimā, 1892

(14) Śrī Nāma-pracāra, 1892

(15) Śrīman Mahāprabhura Śikṣā, 1892

(16) Tattva-muktāvalī or Māyāvāda-śatadūṣaṇī

(translated and published), 1894

(17) Amṛta-pravāha-bhāṣya

(commentary on Caitanya caritāmṛta), 1895

(18) Śrī Rāmānuja Upadeśa, 1896

(19) Jaiva-Dharma, 1896

(20) Prakāśinī-vṛtti (commentary on Brahma-saṁhitā), 1897

(21) Pīyūṣa-varṣiṇī-vṛtti (commentary on Upadeśāmṛta), 1898

(22) Śrī Bhajanāmṛtam (translation and commentary), 1899

(23) Śrī Saṅkalpa-kalpadrumā (Bengali translation), 1901 etc.

Bengali (verse)

(1) Hari-kathā: Topics of Lord Hari, 1850

(2) Śumbha-Niśumbha-yuddha, 1851

(3) Vijana-grāma, 1863.

(4) Sannyāsī, 1863.

(5) Kalyāṇa-kalpataru, 1881

(6) Manaù-Śikṣā (translation and commentary), 1886

(7) Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vijaya (published), 1887

(8) Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma-mahātmya, 1890

(9) Śaraṇāgati, 1893

(10) Gītāvalī, 1893

(11) Gītāmālā, 1893

(12) Śoka-śātana, 1893

(13) Śrī Navadvīpa-bhāva-taraṅga, 1899

(14) Śrī Harināma-cintāmaṇi, 1900

(15) Śrī Prema-vivarta (published), 1906 etc.


(1) Vālide Rejiṣṭrī, 1866. etc.


(1) Poriade, 1857–58.

(2) Maṭhas of Orissa, 1860.

(3) Our Wants, 1863

(4) Speech on Gautama, 1866

(5) The Bhāgavat: Its Philosophy, Its Ethics, and Its Theology, 1869

(6) Reflections, 1871

(7) Ṭhākura Haridāsa, 1871

(8) The Temple of Jagannātha at Purī, 1871

(9) The Monasteries of Purī, 1871

(10) The Personality of Godhead, 1871

(11) A Beacon of Light, 1871

(12) Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, His Life and Precepts, 1896 etc.

When one sees this list, one can easily infer that the author was a vastly learned scholar of many different languages. I think it necessary at this point to shed some light on a special feature of the author’s life. Although he was a pre-eminent scholar of Western thought, he was completely free from Western influences.

Western educators say, “Don’t follow me; follow my words.” In  other words, “Don’t do as I do; do as I say.” The life of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura refutes this principle, for he personally applied and demonstrated all the instructions of his books in his own life. Therefore, his instructions and manner of bhajana are known as “Bhaktivinoda dhārā” (the line of Bhaktivinoda).

There is not a single instruction in his books that he did not personally follow. Therefore, there is no disparity between his writings and his life, between his actions and his words. They are one in all respects. It is natural for readers to be curious to learn about a great personality who possesses such extraordinary character. Modern readers, in particular, who seek to know about any subject, cannot have faith in an author’s writings without being acquainted with him. 

After retiring from his government responsibilities, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda adopted the stage of vānaprastha, and intensified his spiritual practice. At that time, he established an āśrama at Surabhi-kuñja in Godrumadvīpa, one of the nine districts of Navadvīpa. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura remained there and performed bhajana for a considerable time.

Later, he accepted the life of an ascetic, and stayed at Svānanda-sukhada-kuñja, which was nearby. While residing there, he established the appearance place of Śrī Caitanya-deva and many other places of gaura-līlā. In this, he followed the example of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His followers, the Six Gosvāmīs, who had discovered the birthplace and other pastime places of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. If Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda had not appeared in this world, the pastime places and instructions of Śrī Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu would have disappeared from the world.

The entire world of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas will therefore remain indebted to him forever. It is for this reason that he has been awarded the highest honor in the Vaiṣṇava community by being addressed as the Seventh Gosvāmī.

This mahā-puruṣan instructed the world both through the ideal example of his personal life and by writing books in many different languages. In addition, there is yet another unique gift that he bestowed, and it would be a display of ingratitude on my part if I neglected to mention this. Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda brought a great personality into this world, who was the commander-in-chief in propagating the dharma revealed by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. This great personality is my beloved Gurudeva, and he is renowned throughout the world as jagad-guru oṁ viṣṇupāda paramahaṁsa-kula-cūḍāmaṇi aṣṭottara-śata-śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura. It was an incomparable and unprecedented accomplishment on the part of Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura to bring this mahā-puruṣan into the world. The Vaiṣṇava community honors Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura with the shorter title of Śrīla Prabhupāda, and hereafter, I will also refer to this supremely liberated mahā-puruṣa as Śrīla Prabhupāda.

Śrīla Prabhupāda appeared as Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura's son and successor. Throughout the world, he raised the brilliant banner of Śrī Madhva-Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava dharma, which was practiced and propagated by Śrīman Mahāprabhu, Śrī Caitanyadeva. In so doing, he brought tremendous welfare and elevation to the religious domain. Even Western and Far Eastern countries like America, England, Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland and Burma were not deprived of his mercy. He established sixty-four Gauḍīya Maṭha preaching centers in India and around the world, and from these he propagated the teachings of Śrī Caitanya. He also circulated all the books of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and thus established his incomparable fame throughout the world.

By the influence of time and the onslaught of the age of Kali, various types of corruption and false doctrines had infiltrated Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava dharma. As a result, thirteen distorted sects (apasampradāyas) had emerged, and they are named in this śloka:

āola bāola kartābhajā neḍā darveśa sāī
sahajiyā sakhī-bhekī smārta jāti-gosāī
atibāḍī cūḍādhārī gaurāṅga-nāgarī
totā kahe e teraha saṅga nāhi kari

"Totā says that he will not associate with the thirteen apasampradāyasāola, bāola, kartābhajā, neḍā, darveśa, sāī, sahajiyā, sakhī-bhekī, smārta, jāti-gosāī, atibāḍī, cūḍādhārī and gaurāṅga-nāgarī."

Śrīla Prabhupāda significantly curbed the mischievous activities of these apasampradāyas through his preaching and by publishing the books of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.

From the English rendering of  Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta
Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s Hindi translation of 
Jaiva-dharma published by Gaudiya Vedānta Publications.
Contents slightly reordered for Rays of The Harmonist 
No. 26 2014 Bhaktivinoda Edition.

Rays of The Harmonist On-line, No. 26, Kartik 2014, “The Life, Precepts and Contribution of Sac-cid-ānanda Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura” by Śrīla Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure that it is always freely available. You may redistribute this article if you include this license and attribute it to Rays of The Harmonist. Please ask for permission before using the Rays of The Harmonist banner-logo.