BHAKTIVINODE THAKUR’S LIFE STORY
(Engagement Ceremony Lecture - H.G. Radha Girdhari Prabhu & Vrinda Priya Mataji)
About Vrindavana Das Thakur- The author of Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat
Today is a very auspicious day. According to the Vaishanav Calendar, it is the disappearance anniversary of Srila Vrndavana Das Thakura, one of the greatest and most important of all our vaishnav acharyas. He was the author of Sri Chaitanya Bhagvat. There are three principal biographies of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The first was written by Locana Das Thakura, the second by Vrndavana Das Thakura & the next by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami offers his obeisances profusely to Vrndavana Das Thakura explaining that he is non other than the incarnation of Veda Vyasa. He was a direct disciple of Lord Nityananda Prabhu & he was brought up in the house of Vasudeva Dutt who was considered the most merciful & compassionate of all living entities. Lord Chaitanya used to say I was born simply for Vasudeva Dutta. The mother of Vrndavana Das Thakura was a personal associate of Lord Chaitanya & when she was just a child of four years old Lord Chaitanya used to feed her His mahaprasada with his very hands. It is explained that because of this benediction that Veda Vyasa himself had taken birth from her womb.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came in the guise of a devotee to teach every class of men by His example
In the Chaitanya Bhagavat Vrndavana Das Thakura explains that Lord Sri Krishna, The absolute truth, The Personality of Godhead appeared in this age of Kali Yuga as predicted in such scriptures as Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, Vamana Purana and various other literatures. And He appeared as (kchanna) Avatar, in the guise of a devotee. Krishna explains in the Bhagavad Gita the essence and perfection of religion - sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah. Abandon all varieties of religion & just surrender unto me I shall deliver u of all sinful reactions, do not fear. But Krishna appeared again in the form of Lord Gauranga to teach by His example how to surrender to Krishna. Lord Chaitanya came in the role of a devotee. He would not claim himself to be God. Rather if anyone ever called him God he would hold His hears & cry out “Vishnu! Vishnu! Save me from this contamination”. We are eternally the servant of God & He taught this eternal servitorship as the supreme perfection of life. Lord Chaitanya came; God comes in the form of a devotee to teach us how to perfect our lives according to our everyday living. Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught every class of men by His example how to perfect their lives. For the first portion of His life as a child He taught how to be a perfect student, the next portion He taught how to be a perfect example of a Grihastha in the family life & at the last stages of His life He taught the perfect performance of one's duties as a Sanyasi in the renounced order.
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu- An Ideal Grihastha
Chaitanya Bhagavat by Vrndavana Das Thakura specifically emphasizes Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's household life as a married man & he teaches that anyone who wants to be God Conscious must follow in the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya’s example. He married a very beautiful, chaste young lady of the name Lakshmi devi. Lakshmi Devi was His first wife & together They lived with His widowed mother Sachidevi. It is explained that They would not waste a moment; They would keep every aspect of Their lives together in the service of others. Lord Chaitanya & Lakshmi Devi would never cook food for themselves; They would cook for the Lord, for Bhagavan Sri Krishna & they would offer it to Him for His satisfaction. Whatever wealth Lord Chaitanya would earn He would understand it is not my wealth. Whatever I earn is meant for serving those people who are in distress. It is explained by Vrndavana Das Thakura that when Lord Chaitanya, before He would eat, He would always invite various Sadhus to His home, not only sadhus but anyone who is in need, He would invite them to His home. And how? How He would greet them? With such love, with such hospitality. Lord Chaitanya explained that if a husband & and wife do not make a guest feel loved & so much welcome & comfort when they come to their home then that Grihastha Ashram is no better than the nest of birds or the holes that the snakes live in . Grihastha Ashram life means our home is not ours. Our home is meant to serve others. It is explained that one time twenty sanyasis without invitation or without warning came to the home of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. At that time Lord Chaitanya told His beloved mother who was very aged at that time; he said we must prepare a wonderful feast for them. But Sachidevi noticed that there was no food in the house but she could not refuse her son. She knew how strong he was in treating guests in this way, especially Sanyasis. So just at that time somebody happen to come & offer as a donation, all kinds of wonderful things ghee & grains & all kinds of vegetables, fruits & milk. Lakshmi Devi went into the kitchen all by herself & began to cook with such joy & such pleasure. In this way she cooked a wonderful feast. Lord Chaitanya personally directed the serving to make sure they were all completely satisfied. He offered them flowers, he offered them sandalwood pulp, He offered them sweet loving words & when they were fully satisfied with all humility He begged how else can I serve u & these 20 sanyasis when they left they were just overwhelmed with ecstatic love. Lakshmi Devi was none other than Lakshmi the goddess of fortune who incarnated in this world to show how earthly people can be ideal chaste wives. Lakshmi Devi never expected any servants or any help. She would simply accept whatever pleased her husband. It is explained sometimes guests would come she would spend the entire day cooking for them, the entire day serving them, the entire day cleaning everything. she would go every morning early, she would decorate the temple by making nice designs on the floor, by making beautiful flower arrangements, (she would go out) by going to get the Ganges water to make beautiful offerings for them, by decorating the deities so nicely, & sometimes till late at night she would just be serving the husband's guests, cooking for them , cleaning, she would work so hard and she was in total joy, she was in such a bliss because she was tasting the nectar of being the servant of the servant of the servant. Whatever her husband wanted there was no question of complaining or refusing. There was never a question for anything but being grateful for the chance to assist him in His service to other because she knew that nothing He did was for himself. Everything he did was for the benefit of other living beings. Even when He was walking down the streets if he saw any person who was genuinely poor or in distress He would help them in any way he could and because He was such a selfless servant of the society, she was so grateful to have the opportunity to assist him. According to Lord Chaitanya this is what Grihastha life means. (That) Whatever wealth we have, whatever abilities we have, that the husband & the wife together utilize all these resources in seva, never for any sense gratification, never for our own prestige & pride, but to uplift others, especially those who are in distress & and factually due to a lack of God Consciousness everybody the rich & the poor everybody is in distress in this world. Therefore to help uplift other people's consciousness by giving Prasad, by assisting sadhus, by being proper examples as devotees is the greatest charity we can offer.
Bhaktivinode Thakur – Modern day exemplery householder
In our modern day there was a great descendant of Lord Chaitanya in disciplic line who also showed the highest principles of exemplary behavior in the Grihastha Ashram. His name was Bhakltivinod Thakur. He lived from the mid nineteenth century into the earlier twentieth century. He is practically a contemporary example. Bhaktivinode Thakur showed how one can be so responsible & so highly respected in society & simultaneously be a perfect servant of God & humanity. He was a District Magistrate. He was a Judge under the British government which was incredibly demanding. It is explained that Bhaktivinode Thakur, he was such an expert magistrate that he would solve thirty to fifty cases every single day. What took every other magistrate in India a half hour to do, he would do in 5 minutes because he had such a crystal clear consciousness, within minutes he could know who is guilty & who is innocent, what their punishment or what their reward should be. It is explained that they would not even allow him to retire, he was so valuable. When he was living in Nawadwip Dham, the British government built a railway track from the court house to his house just to facilitate him to get there on time. That’s how valuable he was to them.
Bhaktivinode Thakur - The Most Efficient Time Manager
It is explained that he would get home from work around 7 pm, he would take little prasad, he would do some preaching, he would take rest about 8 pm or 9 pm. By 10 or 11 pm he would be awake. Every night he would spend six hours in writing books about Vaishnav philosophy. As a Grihastha he wrote over one hundred books in various languages himself describing the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam & the life of Lord Chaitanya. At about 4'o clock in the morning he would chant japa for about two and a half hours immersed in prayer & meditation on the holy name till about 6.30. He would take little rest then he would rise & he would do his correspondence for exactly half hour. Then guests would come. He would meet guests, preach to them. There were always lines of guests coming to get his spiritual advice. He would do that for 1 hr. (17.25) Then he would read for an hour from the shashtras for about an hour & he would walk back & forth on his varenda getting exercise and meditate on what he had read from the scriptures. Then he would take little prasad, spend little time with his family. By 9.45am ,when was living in Jaganath Puri, at one time he was magistrate there, he would take his carriage to the court house & be there promptly by 10 am. He would try cases from 10 until 1 pm. He would come home, take little rest, take little prasad, be back by 2 pm and from 2 pm to about 6 pm he would again be doing this, his job as a judge. This was his life. Every moment he was the most responsible person in the society then anyone would be. But when he was not doing his service for the government, every single second was with Krishna. Throughout the land he was famous as a person who never ever wasted a moment. He was either preaching, writing books about Krishna Consciousness, reading the shastras, chanting the holy names or counseling others.
Bhaktivinode Thakur- A perfect father to his children
He had ten children; they were fully nourished, physically, mentally and spiritually. Each one of his 10 children was an exalted devotee of the lord. His wife, Bhagavati devi dasi was thoroughly in the same mood as him. She raised those 10 children with such love and devotion in such a way that they all became great devotees of God. She was always there to assist her husband in all of his preaching and everything he wanted to do. One of those 10 children that he raised was Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur who is my Param Guru & he used to extol the glories of his father as if he had a thousand mouths. Infact before Bhakti Siddhanta was born Bhakti Vinod seeing the distressful condition of the people in the society, he prayed to God, please send one of your eternal associates as my child to deliver the teachings of Bhagavad Gita to the world. In an answer to his prayer, this great nitya siddha, paramhamsaacharya was born to him. The schedule I am speaking of was the exact schedule he would keep everyday when he was living in Jaganath Puri. Besides being a Magistrate working from 10am to 1pm & from 2pm to 6 pm, spending 6 hours a day writing vaishnav literatures, spending two and a half hours a day chanting the holy names, doing correspondence & preaching hours and hours a day. He was also the superintendent for the Jaganath temple. The British Government saw nobody but him that could do the job nicely. It is explained that at that time the offerings for Jagananth, everything was dirty, everything was disorganised. He went in there & made it the most prompt & the efficient temple in all of India. He performed all these duties and still raised 10 children perfectly and provided for them everything they needed. In this way Bhakltivinod Thakur taught that the example given by Lord Chaitanya is not something that is out of reach, it is most practical.
Grihastha life means a life of sacrifice.
Human life means a life of sacrifice. (22.25 shloka)Nayam deho .....thatho . The Lord explained that this human form of life is meant for self realisation whether you are a Brahmachari, Grihastha, Vanaprashtha or a Sanyasi. Every ashram is meant for self realisation not for sense enjoyment. Some people think now I am a Grihastha, now I will enjoy my senses and when I grow old, I will become a Sanayasi & perform tapasya. This is an illusion, this is cheating yourself. Bhaktivinod Thakur explains 'Grhe thako vane thako, sada hari bole dako, sukhe dukhe bhulo nako, vadane hari nam koro re’ Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote hundreds & hundreds & hundreds of beautiful songs glorifying the goal of life & love of Krishna. Tonight we sang 'Jaya Radha Madhav Kunjabihari' this is one of the beautiful bhajans written by this great Thakur Bhaktivinod. In this song he is explaining whether you are a Grihastha or whether you are a Sanyasi, it makes absolutely no difference, if you just take shelter of the holy name and take shelter of the mood of (?) chanting which is to be the servant of the servant, your life will be perfect, you will be free from all distress and taste the sweetness of the goal of life- pure love. Prahalad Maharaj explains that when a man & his wife are attached to sense gratification and are attached to building an empire for their own prestige, then that household is like a deep dark well. You are once fallen in it, its practically impossible to come out. But Prahalad Maharaj explains that by living one's life with God in the centre, with Bhakti in the centre, one's family & home is non different than Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. Bhaktivinod Thakur in one song has sung 'Je-dina grhe, bhajana dekhi, grhete goloka bhaya carana sidhu, dekhiya ganga, sukha na sima paya’ The translation is that whenever I come home, I see that the very house I live transformed into Golok Vrinadavan, the spiritual world. Goloka Vrindavan appears in my home whenever I see the worship and service of Lord Hari going on there. Bhaktivinod Thakur explains that this is the greatest joy. To be greedy is the propaganda of this whole world, to be a servant, to be generous, to be charitable; to look for others is the propaganda of all the great scriptures, the propaganda of God and all the saints. Human life is meant for service. Krishna will provide everything. But let us use everything in glorification of God, in service of others and that is where real joy & that is where real love can be found. This is the true spiritual conception of family life. In this way our own spiritual master Srila Prabhupada explained that the Grihasthas in his mission, he considered better than Sanyasis because they were utilising their God given talents so much in the service of the Lord.
Glorification of H. G. Ranchor Prabhu (Radha Girdhari Prabhu) & Vrinda Priya Mataji
So today really is a very rare and wonderful occasion because we are witnessing an engagement ceremony that is based on these holy & divine principles. Ranchor and Vrindapriya, or you may know them as Rajeev & Vinita, they happen to be born out of millions of human beings. How many marriages take place in this world? But when do we ever see a marriage where the two parties are coming together with the love and trust in one another for the service of God and the upliftment of humanity. They are setting an example for the world to follow. We have some Sanyasis here, we have some Brahmacharis here. But let’s face it, how many people will follow their example in life. Most of society will be Grihasthas. The most vital need in human society is for Grihasthas to teach by their example a life of selfless service, generosity, compassion and devotion to God. And they are coming together for this purpose. They are dedicating so much of their time and energy in service of humanity under the direction of their Gurudev. Yesterday we had a wonderful occasion to be at Ranchorji's house. His father and mother are such pious and kind people. To raise children with the aim of making them pure devotees is the great responsibility of every Grihastha. But the children will not learn by our words but by our example. And we see practically the greatness of these personalities that we have mentioned and the great contribution and humility that they are offering to the world. So I am just personally so overwhelmed & pleased to see this. Bhaktivinod Thakur and Lord Chaitanya explained that the first and foremost responsibility of the Grihasthas is to seek shelter and guidance from genuine sadhus. Lord Chaitanya was always seeking to serve Sanyasis. When Sri Ishwara Puri, His Gurudeva, came to Nawadvip, He was constantly serving him, feeding him, inquiring from him, offering his whole family to him. Bhaktivinod Thakur was constantly associating with great souls like Gaura Kishore Das Babji and Jagannatha Das Babaji & seeking out their guidance. Brahmacharis & Sanyasis do not fetch such a good example for the people in general. But when Krishna Conscious householders learn how to properly respect them & serve them, their lives become perfect. And that example given by the Grihasthas in that sense is the highest example in the whole world to follow. And we really see this most sublime and divine mood of devotion in Ranchor and Vrinada Priya. So really I am just so happy and joyful and I think everyone here is so happy and joyful to see this wonderful arrangement. With the divine blessings of their parents, grand parents, on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, my Guru Maharaj, on behalf of our whole line of great acharyas, I beg all these great souls to bestow their infinite blessings on Ranchor and Vrinda Priya and pray that everyone here tonight offer your prayers and blessings that their marriage be a wonderful marriage, full of joy, full of happiness, full of devotion and love for Krishna and full of service and more service and more service for the people of this world who are so much are in need of Krishna. Hari Bol!