Vanity thought #409. Gaudiya sunrise

We all know that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati is compared to a ray of Vishnu. By that logic his father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, was nothing less than the sun itself.

By all accounts in the 19th century the world of Gaudia vaishnavism was in the darkness, gone were the days when ordinary people would sing songs of Narottama Dasa Thakura, in were the days of worshiping Kali and devising various ways to brown nose the British. Popular imagination was captured by the likes of Ram Mohan Roy who had absolutely no qualms about producing fake scriptures in support of his outrageous ideas, manufacturing his own stuff and calling it “Veda” to fool the fools.

Such rascaldom had penetrated Gaudiya teachings, too. There was a rogue publishing house that produced numerous light reading books about Lord Chaitanya in the first half of the century that were filled with all kinds of mistakes and misconceptions and that formed the “cloud” of public knowledge on the subject.

Cloud, of course, is a modern term for storing data on the internet, but it’s also very descriptive of the public knowledge unattached to any particular source and easily available anywhere where there are people (note to myself – interesting idea to explore further).

So people had only vague and erroneous ideas about Gaudiya vaishnavism and practicing devotees themselves slipped into such degraded customs that they only exacerbated the situation. There were all kinds of perverts making public shows of their crossed dressed devotion and no respectable gentlemen would go anywhere near that crowd and anyone even remotely associated with them.

Meanwhile gurus from traditional parishads reduced themselves to milking people for money on a farm scale, divvying up the country like modern salesmen. They’ve been practically collecting taxes like the government – on time, on preset rates, avoiding double taxation but not tolerating any evasion. Once the “zonal acharya” passed away his “disciples” were inherited by his children and the extortion continued for generations.

As far as spiritual guidance – they didn’t provide any. At most they delivered short talks on their scheduled visits and things like initiations were dished out according to established tariffs.

If there were any walk-in idiots they were sold all kinds of mantras and revelations and sent on their way to explore their siddha-swarupas.

All in all, worship of Krishna, what to speak of worship of Lord Chaitanya, was completely off the map, a weird superstition for backward folk up in the uncivilized countryside.

And then came Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and Gaudiya vaishnavism was changed forever. He was like a rising sun dissipating the darkness and purifying all the slime accumulated during the night. All misconceptions were cleared up, all pretenders were put in their places, and by the time Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati took his turn to preach Gaudiya vaishnavism was restored to its rightful place and its rightful mindshare in the Bengali society.

People still propagated all kinds of home made doctrines but no matter what they preached they had to run it by vaishnavas first, everything had to appear in accordance with the Bhagavat philosophy, at least externally.

When Srila Bhaktisddhanta Saraswait took to preaching he had all the foundations in place already and he took it to he next level. One thing he could always rely upon was the legacy and the authority of his father, which was unassailable.

When Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura took to preaching, however, there was nothing, just his firm faith in the mercy of Lord Chaitanya. He didn’t have time to sit and ponder the gravity of his mission, how monumentally important it was and how it would shape the lives of millions of people for over the century and counting.

He didn’t think much about his qualifications, his initiation into a proper parishad, his varna situation, he just went out and told people about Krishna and Lord Chaitanya, that’s all. All he had was faith and everything else worked out nicely in the end.

I think this is the most important lesson we can learn from his life – simplicity and faith. On the surface we might think of him a a great vaishnava writer or an exemplary grihastha or a powerful preacher or an extraordinary scholar but all those things simply followed the fact that he had faith. He didn’t know sanskrit, he had some bad habits from his childhood, he didn’t have a guru, but he had faith, and the Lord supplied the rest.

His daily life wasn’t all meditation and reading books, he had a job and responsibilities that came with it, but he filled all the available space in his life with Krishna consciousness, little by little, bit by bit, taking every chance he had to share his realizations with people around him.

I don’t know why anyone would abandon him and his followers and run off to some babajis somewhere. Those babajis might be very advanced, might be not, but anyone giving up shelter of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is not likely to find real bhakti anywhere else. Krishna sent him to us, we took advantage of his contributions to Gaudiya vaishnavism, and now we think we need something better? What nonsense.

Anyway, today is supposed to be about glorifying Srila Bhaktivinoda, not looking for faults in fellow devotees. On the other hand, the mere existence of such attitudes is very offensive to the memory of such a great and generous soul.

May the Lord protect me from ever slipping from the path laid out by our acharyas and Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura in particular.

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