Writings

A class I gave in Mayapur on the Appearance Day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura

From Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir!

Date:    February 14, 2009
Verse:   Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.23.54
Speaker: HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami
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Today is the appearance day of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. So we will focus particularly particularly on him. First of all let us read the verse first.

indriyarthesu sajjantya prasangas tvayi me krtah
ajanantya param bhavam tathapy astv abhayaya me

TRANSLATION: Not knowing your transcendental situation, I have loved you while remaining attached to the objects of the senses. Nonetheless, let the affinity I have developed for you rid me of all fear.

PURPORT: Devahuti is lamenting her position. As a woman, she had to love someone. Somehow or other, she came to love Kardama Muni, but without knowing of his spiritual advancement. Kardama Muni could understand Devahuti’s heart; generally all women desire material enjoyment. They are called less intelligent because they are mostly prone to material enjoyment. Devahuti laments because her husband had given her the best kind of material enjoyment, but she did not know that he was so advanced in spiritual realization. Her plea was that even though she did not know the glories of her great husband, because she had taken shelter of him she must be delivered from material entanglement. Association with a great personality is most important. In Caitanya-caritamrta Lord Caitanya says that sadhu-sanga [Cc. Madhya 22.83], the association of a great saintly person, is very important, because even if one is not advanced in knowledge, simply by association with a great saintly person one can immediately make considerable advancement in spiritual life. As a woman, as an ordinary wife, Devahuti became attached to Kardama Muni in order to satisfy her sense enjoyment and other material necessities, but actually she associated with a great personality. Now she understood this, and she wanted to utilize the advantage of the association of her great husband.

HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami: So here we can see that the importance of sadhu sanga is being emphasized, being focused on. Srimati Devahuti is appreciating this and of course she is very, very exalted personality. She is not just as Prabhupada mentions in a certain way here that she is not just a women, an ordinary wife but in her humility as a vaishnavi she is thinking herself like that. And she is saying that, “My relationship with you is really just being based on my material propensities, my tendencies to become attached to a man, to my husband so I became attached to you like that. But now, now I understand more, now I can appreciate you more. You are very great transcendental personality. So particularly now at this later stage in our relationship I would really like to get the benefit of that. I need some transcendental mercy from your transcendental association. I need some transcendental benefit from the transcendental side of our
relationship.”

So as Srila Prabhupada says here, Lord Caitanya Himself emphasized this point:

‘sadhu-sanga’, ‘sadhu-sanga’ — sarva-sastre kaya
lava-matra sadhu-sange sarva-siddhi haya

(CC Madhya 22.54) That association with a sadhu is so extremely valuable, so incomparably valuable that even if you have just a very little bit, just by little bit of it, it can be enough to give you all perfection. You can go back to godhead just on the basis of that, lava-matra, just momentary, a fraction of a second of association.

It is so powerful that even many lifetimes of material association, bad association of all sorts and with all compounds and all adds up and is stored up there within the heart that you have just a moment’s association with the sadhu and then despite all the rubbish accumulated, over practically an indefinite time in the material world its all wiped out. Completely wiped out, finished. And not only that you come just come back to a clean state, a zero position but you are delivered back home back to godhead just on the basis of that. This is something truly unique and it should be appreciated as such.

And there is one verse in the 9th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam 4th chapter where the Supreme Personality of Godhead is instructing Durvasa Muni who is in the process of coming to his senses having offended Maharaj Ambarish and then achieved an extremely dangerous position as a result.

So the Supreme Lord is preaching to Durvasa Muni appreciating the value, the importance of the devotees and one thing He says is that, “The devotees are so important, their association is so valuable, the devotees are so wonderful. They are extremely dear to Me. And even if you are not really a devotee if you just become a devotee of the devotee somehow you become attached to a real devotee. Then you still become very dear to Me, to the Supreme Lord.”

So perhaps certainly in some respect this is our position today. We cannot claim to be very much as devotees or anything. But we are struggling to maintain our position as aspiring devotees or make a little progress somehow. But we have had the good fortune of the association of Srila Prabhupada. We are having the good fortune of the ongoing association of Srila Prabhupada through his instructions, his books, his lectures, his movement in so many ways and his sincere followers. And Srila Prabhupada was, is a devotee of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, he is certainly great, great devotee. And Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, what a devotee! What an amazing devotee!

So through this connection in parampara if we remain attached to the lotus feet of the devotee, Srila Prabhupada who is a devotee of the devotee Srila Bhakti Siddhanta then in this way we can achieve all good fortune. There is no doubt. But there is no limit even Prabhupada explains that the same good fortune that Arjuna got form hearing Bhagavad-gita from the lotus lips of Lord Sri Krishna himself that same good fortune is available to us. Same good fortune! So it is like that.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur such an exceptional devotee, certainly at his time in the class of his own. He appeared on this day at 3:30 in the afternoon of Feb 6th 1874. 135 years ago he appeared in this
world in Jagannath Puri. In that house it is still this on the main road of Jagannath Puri. So he appeared there. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur his father of course who himself is most exalted eternal associate of the lord.

He had been praying, “Please send me a ray of Vishnu. I want to carry on this movement; I want to see this movement carried on. So please send me someone who can help me and who can continue on the mission.” So he was praying like that just as Advaita Acarya whose appearance day it was little while ago, couple of weeks ago, as he was praying seeing the degraded condition of people in Kali-yuga. So we need some special mercy. We need someone to descend. Otherwise in this situation what will happen? So Srila
Bhaktivinod Thakur have also been thinking like that. There is only so much I can do but we need someone also who can push this on and carry on this mission and really drive this mission deep into the heart of a Kali-yuga society and change the world as Lord Caitanya wanted and predicted.

So it is a fact actually that Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur appeared in answer to that prayer. Initially Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur was of course very hopeful, it wasn’t exactly clear immediately although it
became more clear as time continued and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta gradually started to grow up. It is described we heard, Srila Prabhupada himself has described how few months later, five months later or so he appeared in February. The Ratha yatra in Puri is usually in July. So at that time approximately five months later the Ratha yatra festival happened and the Ratha yatra cart were proceeding down that road to the Gundica temple and as it happens sometimes, they stopped. They happened to stop right outside the house of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. It happens they stop sometime somewhere along that road but normally they carry on shortly after that. But this case they stopped there for three days, right outside the house.

So Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur’s wife she took that opportunity to take that little child and climb up on the Ratha yatra cart. Prabhupada explains because she was the wife of big magistrate, very important person and very important in fact in the administration of the temple. So she was able to that. She climbed up somehow, got up on the chariot and presented the child to Lord Jagannath Himself, placed the child at Lord’s lotus feet.
Spontaneously, five-month-old child, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta reached out to the lotus feet of Lord Jagannatha. At that moment a garland fell from Jagannatha and just fell over on Srila Bhakti Siddhanta and immediately she and everyone who was there appreciated, “Ah! Special mercy! There is some special significance here.”

So this was a type of sign and Bhaktivinode Thakur took it in that way. Actually at birth Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his chest tightly. Tightly, not just hanging there but
tightly around his chest. And it made a mark, left an impression on his chest. That was also taken to be an important sign of whom he is, where he is coming from in the previous lifetime. So like this these things happened and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur gradually started to become more hopeful that, “Perhaps here we have that person who is the answer to our prayers.”(Please don’t mind if I refer to my notes from time to time.)

So let’s see. In October that year Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s wife and the children moved to Ranaghat. You may know Ranaghat  its on the way from Calcutta. Somehow or the other it has become the stronghold of the Christians in the meantime. Still that Ranaghat, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta stayed there for the first three or four years of his life under the care of his mother. He was the 6th child of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, the 4th son and the third child 3rd child by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur’s second wife, Srimati  Bhagavati devi.

So as we mention there were these signs. Perhaps he is the great transcendental personality who has appeared here. Not just as some conditioned soul, but as some exalted spiritual person to really make a
contribution to the mission of Krishna consciousness. Another thing happened which also Prabhupada mentions. In fact Prabhupada mentions in the famous class on the disappearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. I think it was Los Angeles 1969 or thereabouts,(Someone in audience confirms the year) 1968.

One day in the summer Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur was three or four, that sort of age. So this was the summer, it was mango season. And in those days mango season meant mangos are free, there are too many mangoes, you can’t sell them! They are free. So in every house on the table there is a pile of mango and children, anybody can take just one anytime. So there was one very beautiful mango sitting on the table. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta as a small child, he took it that, “Here’s another mango is for me.” This was just the practice. The children could just pick up mango take it. So he picked it up and started eating. But actually it was unoffered and Srila Bhaktivinode came in just the middle of all this and there is this little three year old child eating the mango but unoffered.

And of course Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur was bringing up Srila Bhakti Siddhanta very much according to the vaisnava standards. So Prabhupada says that Bhaktivinode Thakur mildly rebuked him. Mildly chastised him that, “Oh you have done a very bad thing. This was to be offered to the deity but you have taken it before it was offered.” And even though Srila Bhakti Siddhanta just a small child,from a three year old, we do not expect much in terms of responsibility and soberness from a three or four year old child.

But Srila Bhakti Siddhanta took it so seriously that he took a vow on the spot, “I will never eat mangoes again in this life. I am an offender.” And indeed he maintained this vow. For the rest of his life he never took
mangoes. And of course people would offer him so many things and they would offer mangoes but when they did Srila Bhakti Siddhanta always refuse and say, “No. I cannot. I am an offender.”

So like this we see that these are very clear signs that this is very special devotee who is not just a nice little child devotee but this is a very special devotee. So then Srila Bhaktisiddhanta from his early days also he showed incredible intellect, amazing intellect. He had something like a photographic memory. At the age of seven he memorized Bhagavad-gita. I think very few of us sitting here has done that, I don’t know how many, but perhaps Prahladananda Maharaj!

But Srila Bhakti Siddhanta at the age of 7 had memorized Bhagavad-gita completely. Another sign that this is very special transcendental personality. Also at the age of 7 in 1881 Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur gave Srila Bhakti Siddhanta his first chanting beads. His first tulasi beads for chanting and ordered him. “You must chant everyday.” With children again it’s nice if they chant and previously in our gurukulas there was this
attempt to discipline them make them chant but in many cases it didn’t work very well. But in this case Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur disciplined him like that. “You must chant.” And he chanted everyday. And to not only did he chant everyday. He kept those beads for his whole life. He used the same beads for his entire life, those beads that he was given at the age of 7 by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur.

And also at the age of 7 around the same time 1881 Bhaktivinode Thakur acquired a Kurma shila, a shaligram shila and Srila Bhakti Siddhanta became very attracted to this and requested his father can I worship this shaligram shila, Kurma shila. So Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur allowed that. From the age of 7 he was worshipping shaligram shila not just some stuff doll deity type in very informal types of deities but actual shaligram shila under the personal supervision of Bhaktivinode Thakur. So it appears that by this time
Bhaktivinode Thakur it was quiet clear to him that we do have someone very special here.

So in 1892, of course there are so many details but we don’t have so much time. In 1892 means he is now 18. He enters Sanskrit school in Calcutta and immediately excelled, immediately was so outstanding. Not just the best but just in a class of his own in Sanskrit studies. That particular Sanskrit school, they were on the  mayavada side. Philosophically they were following Panini’s system of grammar, which of course is the main system of grammar. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta under one teacher. There was a particular system of Panini’s grammar they were following. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta memorized this in three months and memorized the sandhi rules in three days.

The teacher, one I think Prithvidhar Sharma or something he said, “You shouldn’t rush things like this. You are going too fast.” He said, “Normally people study this grammar for their whole lives.” and he said, “Infact there is a benediction if you study it for your whole life you will get liberation.” And we all know what was so called liberation he was meaning. That was not vaisnava liberation because the whole school at that time was mayavada orientation. So he told Srila Bhakti Siddhanta like this. “You should give more attention to this. And then you will achieve liberation.”

Srila Bhakti Siddhanta there are a number of stories. He was something like a rebellious student. First of all he was more or less on the same level as his teachers as far as understanding the subject, or better than then. Then he of course objected to the mayavada slant. So much when that man said that, “You should study more carefully then you can get impersonal liberation.”

Srila Bhakti Siddhanta said, “Then as of today I reject you. The goal of my life is neither mastery of grammar or liberation. The goal of my life is worship of Hari and developing love for Him. I have been studying the
different Vedas and Vedantas, which you have been trying to teach me only in a secondary way, with that in mind achieving pure Krishna consciousness. So eventually he challenged one of the teachers. It’s a long story. And there was a debate and he defeated that teacher but they became kind of, well he was becoming progressively less popular with the teachers and even with the head master and he and he left the Sanskrit school in 1895.

So then his life started developing different ways. He was working for the king of Tripura for some time. It appears from 1895 to 1900 or something like that. He did some sort of secretarial type of context and also teaching the royal children to some degree. So he was doing that for some time. During this period from 1895 well particularly from 1896 to 1898 he was focusing on astronomy. In those days the Vedic system of astronomy was based on Surya Siddhanta, but the calculations, the system of calculations has to be adjusted every 100 years.

I am not an astronomical person, I don’t know all the details is, but there are some shifting of the heavenly bodies and so therefore the calculations need to be adjusted every 100 years or so. Otherwise you will be calculating Janmashtami to be one day but then it will be the next day, basically. So that the adjustments have not been made for 800 years. So another words the calculations were quite out. So Srila Bhaktisiddhanta very elaborately recalculated everything to bring everything up to date. In this way and other ways he revolutionized astronomy. He revolutionize astronomy and again he was studying under some pandits but very quickly he became much more expert in this science than they were.

During that time 1898 very important thing happened. Well in 1897 Srila Bhaktisiddhanta started observing caturmasya rigidly. He would sleep literally on the earth with no blanket, just sleeping on the earth. He would eat just once a day boiled rice with little, few drops of ghee on it. No salt no spices no vegetables nothing. Just rice. And he would do this for the whole caturmasya period very strictly. And when he would eat he would throw that plain rice on the ground, on the earth. Put his hands behind his back lean forward and eat as much as he could eat without sitting up. As soon as he sat up that was it for the day. That was his way of observing caturmasya. Actually the gopis also during their Katyayani vrata they were observing the same vow. So anyway he was doing that. That was 1897 when he started that.

Then 1898 an important thing happened. Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj arrived in Navadwip and came and met Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur and the two of them became very close associates. This is at Godruma where the house is now. So they became very close and actually and so close that you can say both were taking shelter of each other at certain stage.

Although Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj is following Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur now in our parampara but the relationship was like that. And Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur instructed Srila Bhakti Siddhanta, “I want you to be initiated by this person.” And of course Srila Bhakti Siddhanta he was extremely appreciative of Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj although he was feeling himself unworthy to be accepted by such an extraordinarily renounced devotee, he accepted the instruction of his father.

So we know that story basically. Interesting story. He went to Srila Gaur Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj and asked him very humbly. He said, “Will you please be very merciful and initiate me.”  And basically Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj sort of laughed it off. He said, “Me? Initiate? No.” He said, “I initiated someone once and they cheated me, so I decided never again. So it’s ok don’t worry. Just go and find someone else.”

So Srila Bhakti Siddhanta waited and Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj said, “Well, let me ask Mahaprabhu. Come back in the few days.”So Srila Bhaktisiddhanta came back in a few days and asked, “What did Mahaprabhu say?” And Srila Gaur Kishore said, “Oh I forgot to ask him!” And again he said, “This is not a good idea just find someone else. But again Srila Bhaktisddhanta begged him, “Please ask Mahaprabhu, please.”

And Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj said, “Alright, alright I will ask him. You come back again in a few days.” So after few days Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur came back again and asked Srila Gaura
Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj.  “So, what did Mahaprabhu say?”

Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj said, “Yes I asked Mahaprabhu. He didn’t say anything.” And again he said, “You know I think this is not a good idea, go and find someone else.” But then it’s a very deep, extremely deep exchange. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta fell at his lotus feet crying and he repeated that line from one song,

karuna na hoile, kandiya kandiya, prana na rakhibo ara

That, “If you will not be merciful at me then weeping and weeping I will not be able to maintain my life”. So after a little time being together, going back and forth, Gaura Kishore das Babaji Maharaj agreed, “All right, all right, I will initiate you.” So Srila Bhaktisiddhanta took bath in the Ganges and came back and was initiated by Srila Gaura Kishore das Babaji Maharaj. That was January 1900 and afterwards I mean immediately afterwards Srila Bhaktisiddhanta wrote something about the whole experience. Let me read it, or part of it:

“When out of false ego I was thinking I am a great scholar and philosopher in mathematics and philosophy. Let any big pandit come at anytime day or night and I will cut his propositions to pieces. At that time I got the darshan of the lotus feet of Sri Gurudev. He ignored everything that was previously appreciated in me. My truthfulness, my moral and pious life my intellectualism. He ignored them knowing them to be of a little value. When I saw that he ignored whatever I thought was good in me I realized how good he himself must be who could neglect so many “good qualities” in me.

“What inconceivable wealth he possessed. Being neglected by him I understood that there was no one more fallen and contemptible than myself. That was my actual identity. The very things that I would judge to be desirable such as scholarship and upright character, this exalted soul regarded as valueless. I have concluded that within himself this noble personality possess priceless treasure.

“I then pondered that even he is extremely puffed up or is exceedingly merciful. Then I boldly said to my Gurudev, “You are the worshipper of cheater and debauchee Krishna, so why would you be compassionate to someone like me dedicated to ordinary morality?” Humbly and sincerely I prayed to the supreme Lord for his mercy. Later by His grace, the Lord’s grace I recognized that without receiving the blessings of this peerless saint and without serving him nothing good can happen to me. When I accepted that and acted accordingly and then received the transcendental, the causeless unlimited grace of my Sri Gurudev and refuge at his lotus feet I deemed my life fulfilled.

“I have considered my Gurudev to be unequal in vairagya but somewhat short of learning but he reduced to powder my audacity from all book learning. With the mallet of his mercy he revealed that whatever I have judged to be the highest ideal was in fact most low and despicable. When by his grace that instruction first entered my ears my diminutive brain lacked the capacity to accommodate such transcendental knowledge!”

Of course again this is the unlimited natural humility of the pure vaisnava Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. There is so much more that can be said but I think we are out of time.

Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur ki jai
Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur ki jai
Srila Prabhupada ki jai
Hare Krishna.

(Loud applause from audience.)

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