Another Side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur 7: Bhaktivinoda’s nistha to the Vamsivadana Guru Parampara
Previous posts in this series:
1: Guru Nishtha
In Chapter 2 Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s authentic mañjarī paramparā was introduced. Beginning from Radha’s younger sister, Ananga Manjari, the sampradāya ācārya, it descends in an unbroken succession of mañjarīs to reach Vilasa Manjari, who is Kamala Manjari (Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s) guru-rūpa-sakhī. When one hankers to take up gopi-ānugatya bhajana, this is how the process can ideally begin: When at the time of receiving initiation we have a guru-mañjarī and a mañjarī-paramparā who will factually be there to guide us in Radha-Krishna’s nikunja-sevā. Because Bhaktivinoda Thakur took dīkṣā in such a lineage, and furthermore instructs in Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi that one should receive ekādaśa-bhāva from such a guru, won’t those wishing to follow him in the rāga-mārga do well to adopt the same process?
Chapter 6 brought us to the next step: to combine Gauranga’s Radha-bhāva worship in Nabadwip with our mañjarī-sādhanā in Vraja, an important topic that the Guṭikā teaches. This is a wonderful process, since the two forms of bhajan complement each other. And furthermore, we will not only attain a mañjarī svarūpa in Vraja, but a male kiśora-svarūpa in Golok Nabadwip as well.
We should not however that Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s Guru-paramparā in Golok Nabadwip not only leads up to Jahnava Thakurani, Nityananda Prabhu and Vamsivadanananda Thakur, but goes on to reach Gauranga’s better half and antaraṅgā śakti, Srimati Vishnupriya Devi, since Vamsivadanananda was her servant and disciple. But before we begin discussing Gaura Prabhu and his Priyaji’s exceptionally confidential madhura-prema līlā, it will be necessary to read and understand the next few chapters first.
There is some very solid evidence that proves without a doubt that Bipin Bihari Goswami and Kedarnath Datta’s guru-disciple relationship was close and that they both maintained great respect, love and veneration for the other to the very end. It is in a spirit of joyful pride that Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself reveals this evidence in his autobiography entitled Sva-likhita-jīvanī:
I forgot to mention one incident. When my Sripad Acharya Kula [the Baghna Para Goswamis] saw the work I was doing publishing Vaishnava literature, they became pleased and awarded me the title “Bhaktivinoda.” This is the certificate they presented to me in Sanskrit:
śrī-kedāranātha-dattāya bhaktāya śiṣyāya
kṛpayā bhaktivinodopādhiḥ pradattā |
śiṣyasya śrīmataḥ sādhor govinda-caraṇaiṣiṇaḥ |
kedāranātha-dattasya jayo bhavatu sarvadā ||1||
prabhoś caitanya-candrasya matasya cānuvartinaḥ |
pracārakasya śāstrāṇāṁ bhakti-mārga-pravartinām ||2||
śrī-rādhā-kṛṣṇa-viṣayāṁ tava bhaktim anuttamām
dṛṣṭvā ko na vimuhyeta loke'smin vaiṣṇava-priya ||3||
yāṁ bhaktiṁ labhituṁ śaśvat vāñchanti bhagavat-priyāḥ |
tāṁ bhaktiṁ hṛdaye dhṛtvā dhanyo'si priya-sevāka ||4||
jīvasya jīvanopāya ekā bhaktir garīyasī |
ato bhaktivinodākhya upādhiḥ pratigṛhyatām ||5||
Sri Sri Rama and Krishna are ever glorious.Here is something very rare in Vaishnava history. Where else have we heard of a disciple’s entire Guru-parivāra have grouped together to honor him in such a prestigious way? And from the way they expressed their praise, we can appreciate how they admired him for his unconditional surrender, his inspirational writing and service to Vaishnava literature and for his steadfast commitment to Radha-Krishna’s yugala-bhajana. Furthermore, to make their verdict permanent, like a scriptural injunction, they composed the document in Sanskrit. Thus the world has come to know Kedarnath Datt as Bhaktivinoda Thakur. Continuing on from Sva-likhita-jīvanī, in paragraph 345, Bhaktivinoda Thakur says:
We, the Goswamis residing in the holy site of Baghna Para have joined to mercifully bestow the title of Bhaktivinode on our devotee and disciple Kedarnath Datta.
1. May you, our pious disciple Kedarnath Datta, who desire nothing but the lotus feet of Govinda, be ever glorious.
2. You faithfully follows the doctrines taught by our Master, Chaitanya Chandra, and you actively preach the scriptures that establish the path of devotional service.
3. Seeing your unwavering bhakti for Radha and Krishna, who in this world would not be enchanted? Therefore you are dear to the Vaishnavas.
4. The greatest devotion that bhaktas ever desire to attain is held in your heart, so you are most fortunate, O beloved sevaka.
5. As you have realized that Krishna bhakti is the ultimate benefit for every jiva, we present you with this title, “Bhaktivinoda.”
It is with joy that we thus honor you in the month of Magh in the 400th year after the birth of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Signed, Sri Bipin Bihari Goswami, Sri Tinkori Goswami, Sri Gopal Chandra Goswami, Sri Gaurachandra Goswami, Sri Ramachandra Goswami, Sri Yajneshwar Goswami, Sri Binod Bihari Goswami, Sri Yadunath Goswami, Sri Binod Bihari Goswami, Sri Yogendra Chandra Goswami, Sri Gopal Chandra Goswami, Sri Hemachandra Goswami, Sri Chandra Bhushan Goswami, Sri Kanailal Goswami, Sri Haradhan Goswami. (paragraph 342)
I responded to this honour by dedicated the following verses to the Goswamis of my Guru Pat.
jayataḥ śrī-rāmakṛṣṇau bāghnāpallī-vibhūṣaṇau |
jāhnavī-vallabhau rāmacandra-kīrti-svarūpakau ||1||
vyāghro'pi vaiṣṇavaḥ sākṣāt yat prabhāvād babhūva tat |
bāghnāpālly-ātmakaṁ vande śrīpāṭaṁ gauḍa-pāvanam ||2||
śrī-vaṁśīvadanānanda-prabhor vaṁśa-pradīpakān |
ācāryānumatān sarvān mad-deśika-varān prabhūn ||3||
teṣāṁ prasāda-leśena jaḍopādhau gate mama |
bhaktivinoda-prakhyātir dāsasya vidyate'dhunā ||4||
yeṣāṁ kṛpā-lavenāpi bhūṣito'ham upādhinā |
teṣāṁ pāda-saroje me sāṣṭāṅga-daṇḍavan-natiḥ ||5||
śrīrāmapurataḥ | kṛtāñjalir nivedanam etat teṣāṁ cira-sevakasya sarva-vaiṣṇava-dāsānudāsasya bhaktivinodopādhikasya śrī-kedāranātha-dattasya
I offer salutations to Sri Krishna Chaitanya Chandra.For all the followers of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, his reply to his parama-pujyapāda Guru acharya parivāra of Sripat Baghna Para should be even more meaningful and instructive than the certificate they gave him. What we are referring to here is his mood of full self-surrender to the Goswami descendants of Thakur Vamsivadana, whom he accepts as his guru-varga and eternal instructors on the bhakti path. And to immortalize his oath, Bhaktivinoda Thakur also conveys his message in Sanskrit, so that his words of surrender will be taken as a permanent testimonial to his commitment to them.
1. May Balaram and Krishna, the worshipable jewels of Baghna Para, the beloved deities of Jahnavi Devi and the bringers of fame to Sri Ramachandra Goswami, be ever glorious.
2. I worship the holy tirtha of Baghna Para, which purifies the land of Bengal. Its divine shakti is so great that even a tiger was turned into a great Krishna bhakta.
3. I also worship all the descendants of Sri Vamsivadananda Thakur, who are my guru-varga and instructors on the path of bhakti.
4. By just a fragment of their blessings, my bodily identification has disappeared and henceforth I shall be known as “Bhaktivinoda.”
5. Because it is by their mercy that I have been graced with this auspicious title I offer my sāṣṭāṅga praṇāma at their lotus feet.
Signed at Serampore by Kedarnath Datta, now entitled Bhaktivinoda, the eternal servant of Sri Ramchandra Goswami, his descendants, and all of the Vaishnavas
Now it must be said that there are many who do not wish to respect Bipin Bihari Goswami as the guru of Thakur Bhaktivinoda. To support their stand, some say that the two strongly disagreed on where the actual site of Sri Gauranga’s birthplace is located and this dispute led to their separation. But this story has not been told accurately, and therefore is misleading. So what actually happened?
When Bhaktivinoda Thakur discovered Gauranga Mahaprabhu’s birthplace at Mayapur in 1892, Bipin Bihari Goswami supported his work in establishing and promoting that site. He was even a committee member in charge of looking after the Janmasthan until Bhaktivinoda Thakur passed away in 1914. So if we say that these two great personalities ever quarreled over this issue, it would be untrue. But in 1916, when Gauranga’s Janmasthan was rediscovered in Prachin Mayapur, two years after Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s demise, it seems that Bipin Bihari Goswami joined the Nabadwip faction on the basis of the supporting evidence that they had.
Now let us ask, what do you think Bhaktivinoda Thakur would have done had he lived up until 1916? Would he have started fighting with his Gurudeva, Guru-varga, and a majority of the Vaishnavas who were at that time in favor of supporting the Prachin Mayapur Janmasthan? It doesn’t make sense that he could ever do such a thing, especially after we read his declaration of surrender to his Guru Acharya kula, the descendants of Thakur Vamsivadana. So isn't it more likely that he would have followed the option to change his mind? It certainly appears so owing to the unconditional surrender he had at his Sri Guru’s lotus feet.
But Fate wrote a different story, and no one can say for sure what the Thakur would have done in 1916. And thus the bhaktas have come to know two Janmasthans and the controversy over which is the right one has contributed to splitting the Vaishnava world in two!
Now why do devotees bicker over such matters and become hard-hearted towards each other? Because, frankly speaking, just consider the following: If someone comes to the Mayapur Janmasthan and offers his obeisances there with faith, wouldn’t the Supreme Lord bless him in the same way he would bless the bhakta who offers with devotion a pranam at the Prachin Mayapur Janmasthan?
For rāga-mārga bhaktas, however, the exact geographical location of Mahaprabhu’s birthplace in our world really doesn’t matter so much. This is because their focus goes to the Lord’s aṣṭa-kāla līlās in Golok Nabadwip, as we were reading about in Chapter 6. There is a great advantage for those who worship in this way. Because then their meditation goes to their ultimate destination, the place where they will finally end up serving the Lord. And there the Lord never leaves Nabadwip to take sannyas. Rather, he remains eternally in his most attractive nitya kishor form to relish madhura loving pastimes with the bhaktas.
It is for this reason that there is a rahasya involved in the Mayapur Janmasthan that very few people know about, a secret that will be revealed to those who know of Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s connection to Vamsivadanananda Thakur. We will talk about this in later chapters.