Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura altered the course of religious history by reviving and forcefully propagating pure Krsna consciousness. His boldness in combating cheating religion earned him the appellation Lion guru – yet his heart was soft with divine love for Krsna. Based in Bengal and traveling throughout India in the early twentieth century Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasva Thakura laid the foundation for and was the inspiration and guiding force behind the later worldwide spreading of the Hare Krsna movement.
Replete with anecdotes told by disciples who lived with him this devotional philosophical, cultural and historical study gives intimate insights into the activities, teachings, and character of an empowered emissary of the supreme lord.
From my initial days in devotional life I was fascinated by the personality of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. I often reflected on the painting of him in the ISKCON temple at Bury place, London, his serious gaze as if descending directly from Goloka Vrndavana. He was known as a lionlke guru fro his power in combating no devotional theories. Who would not be impressed by his erudition strictness, austerity, fearless dedication to truth, unflinching devotion to the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Sri Radha Krsna and unveering preaching of their glories?
Our own spiritual master, his divine grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada another empowered acarya through his unbreakable bond of devotion to this gurudeva Srila Sarasvatu Thakura has linked us eternally to him and the entire parampara.
There is no intrinsic difference between the teachings of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura and those of his divine grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Considering this and that Bhaktivedantavani is perfect and complete one may question the necessity of studying bhaktisiddhanta vani. In reply we should understand the principle that the guru is one yet manifests in multiple forms each a distinct individual with a specific and unique contribution. All acaryas deliver the same message but with differing style and emphasis. No guru is self made but is dependent on and to be understood in terms of the Parampara he represents. Without clear understanding of these subtle points of guru tattva no one can be a genuine sisya hence for spiritual progress it is essential to learn in depth and from an authorized source about the character activities and teachings of previous acaryas.
Typical of a bona fide guru his divine grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada never took credit for his achievements but attributed them to the blessings of his own guru maharaja. Devotees who worship those achievements will naturally be eager to know of the extraordinarily empowered sadhu who gave rise to another acarya as significant as his divine grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who repreatedly pointed out that it is not sufficient simply to believe that god is great one must know how he is great similarly a sincere disciple should not merely accept as axiomatic that his guru is exalted but should strive to comprehend how he is so by reverently studying his instructions and behavior.
Whatever a pure devotee of Krsna does and says is invaluable for conditioned souls trying to follow in his footsteps. This is especially true of those special äcaryas who come to this plane specifically to uplift fallen souls. Thus in the course of preaching duties in Bengal during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, I relished several opportunities to hear stories and teachings of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura from some of his direct disciples and grand disciples. Gleaning here and there gems of information about our parama-guru, my heart filled with wonder and pride at being connected to such a towering transcendental luminary, and my eagerness to learn more about him increased. Realizing that numerous valuable pastimes and instructions of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakuta could be systematically collected from his remaining disciples, I sometimes contemplated doing so. But as an insignificant member of the devotee community, I felt it would be presumptuous to attempt such an important endeavor that would entail approaching many senior Vaisnavas.
Yet toward the end of 1985, having gradually built up courage and considering that no one else was likely to undertake this task, I set out to meet
the few disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati still present in the world, (Unfortunately, before I was able to meet Srimad BR. Sridhara Maharaja, who might have revealed oceans of nectarean events, he had become indisposed and was hardly speaking; and then he passed away.) Initially I visited different ashrams of the Gaudiya Matha diaspora and met a few elderly sannyasis and brahmacaris. The quest for Srila Sarasvati Thakura’s householder disciples led me to many places in Bengal, Orissa, and Vrndavana, including some remote spots and dead ends. Although eventually I found the whereabouts of most of the few remaining disciples, many of them either did not take me seriously, or having had minimal association with Srila Sarasvati Thakura, had little to say. Others were happy to meet me but seemed unable to focus on the topic for which I had approached them.
Having gathered smatters of information, by good fortune I was advised a devotee to meet Sripada Jan ekhara Prabhu, who had joined the Gaudiya Matha in 1926 as a bra hmacari and who frequently saw and heard much from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. After the breakup of his guru’s institution, Jan Sekhara Prabhu withdrew to live as a householder.
During several visits of a few days each, as we sat together on the floor of
the tiny thatched-roof temple at his home in Cuttack, Orissa, Jab ekhara Prabhu Revealed dozens of stories about Srila Sarasvati Thakura. He told me you are like a train and I have the goods. You will take the goods to the destination. For many years I was carrying these memories of my guru maharaja. Sometimes I reclaed them yet being engaged in family affairs I was mostly forgetting them. But now that you have come these things will not be lost they will be revealed to the world refelcetion the love he had received from his gurudeva Jati Sekhara Prabhu was kind to me. He appreciated his godbrother A.C. bhaktivedanta Swami’s contribution in spreading their guru’ mission but as a lifelong supporter of Sri Ananta Vasudeva Prabhu and Srimad B.K. Audulomi Maharaja both controversial figures in Gaudiya Matha history he maintained distinct differences of opinion regarding certain things that his divine grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada had done. While Jati Sekhar Prabhu and I could not agree on everything we met on the happy ground of jointly glorifiying Srila Saravati thakura to the world and thus developed a relationship of mutual respect and affection.
My original intention was simply to compile unpublished anecdotes of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati but ultimately I decided to give a more composite overview of his activities, achievements, and teachings. Hence I chose to also present his biography and some of his philosophical explanations, essays, and discourses, and to include already told vignettes well worth repeating. This led me to consult available literature by and about Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, especially the diverse biographical works in Bengali and English as well as his extant letters and abstracts of lectures and conversations. From Sarasvati Jayasri an anthology of disciples recollections that was first printed in 1935 I culled dozens of anecdota never before published in English. Although unsystematic and documenting only from 1911 to 1925 Sarasvati Jayasri is the most authoritative contemporary work about srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati from which all subsequent biographies have directly or indirectly drawn much information. And my previous failure to have interviewed srimad B.R. Sridhara Maharaja was largely compensated when some fifteen years after his departure I gained access to various narratives and insights recorded in transcriptions of conversations with him. Another valuable source for me was the body of statements by his divine grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada about his guru maharaja.
Several times when I thought my task nearly complete, important research material that I was previously unaware of became available to me. Thus the undertaking seemed to assume a life of its own gradually expanding to an extent I had not imagined upon its commencement. Major input was proffered by a Russian disciple of Sripada Bhakti Pramoda puri Maharaja who on Maharaja’s ordre had learned Bengali and spent years collecting and preserving the printed vani of Srila Sarasvati Thakura during which he became closely acquainted with it and with many orally preventive anecdotes about Srial Saravati Thakura. This devotee graciously spent several weeks with me combing over the text providing suggestions clarifications relevant material and photos of Srila Sarasvati Thakura. His contribution significantly meliorated the growing tome.
Since Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s vaibhava is principally manifested in his vilasa and vani Sri Bahtisiddhanta Vaibhava attempts to give an intimate look at his vilasa through reminiscences of those who lived with him and to thereby reveal his attributes character and achievements insofar as they may be apprehended by limited sensibility for a great person is known not only by his achievements and instruction but also by his conduct his commitment to live by what he professes and his genuine regard and empathy for others as manifested at each moment and in every detail of his life. In addition Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava presents drops from the vast and fathomless ocean that constitutes Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s vani which being inseparable from and the very meaning of his vilasa reveal not only his extraordinary intellectural depth but even more the magnitude of his transcendental personality. And because that personality is saturated wit hand nondifferent from Bhakti Vinoda Sri bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava necessarily also provides some insights and anecdotes illuminating the renown of Srila Bhaktivinoda thakura.
Readers eager for what they consider nectar, and thus inclined to hear only stories and not philosophy, are urged not to skim through the specifically philosophical sections of this book, for without bhakti-siddhanta it is impossible even to begin to appreciate the qualities and activities of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. As he himself taught, although väni and vapu are inseparable, vãni is mote important than vision through materially formed eyes; vapu can be understood through vãni, but not vice versa.’ His very name being expressive of philosophical instruction, to neglect or pooh-pooh the vani that is the essence of his being is necessarily a disservice and offense to him. Actual benefit will accrue to those who peruse the entire contents thoughtfully and prayerfully, with faith that imbibing his message will lead to the summit of spiritual perfection.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s numerous unique, divinely inspired, and amazingly perspicacious philosophical insights were typically presented in a Bengali so turgid and difficult to satisfactorily translate, that in their pristine form they are accessible only to those few adepts possessing sufficient linguistic, cerebral, and devotional qualifications. Therefore nearly all seekers in subsequent generations will better approach the legacy of Srila Bhaktisiddhnta Sarasvati Thakura via the simplified yet no less spiritually potent expositions of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Indeed, for persons with little grounding in those teachings, many of the topics in Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava will likely be incomprehensible. This book is not for beginners.
Inevitably, not all readers will accept Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati as
he is. Even a number of his professed discipular descendants will approach his
vãni with “half-hen” logic, to ignore, minimize, or redefine whatever does not appeal to their own sense gratificatory notions of bhakti. Yet Sri Bhaktisiddhanca Vaibhava was written principally for the elucidation of purified men who are thoroughly honest, in other words, devotees sincerely aspiring to follow in toto the sacred path shown by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.2 Loving devotees who hold bhakti-siddhanta in their hearts will comprehend these topics, which are always pleasing to Vaisnavas. Genuine bhaktas become blissful by hearing them, whereas camel-like nondevotees and pseudo-devotees cannot enter into these matters. And if such persons do not understand, then what in all the three worlds could be more satisfying.
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