Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Songs of the Vaishnava Acaryas
Öhäkura Bhaktivinoda led a life of incessant labor and activity for Çré Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He effected such immense good in the world that his work is only to be compared with the
unbounded works of Çré Caitanya Himself and the Gosvämés. It was the spiritual attempts and divine writings of this individual that turned the
scale and led the intelligent and educated community to believe in the noble precepts and teachings of Lord Caitanya.
If we look back one century, we cannot but be astonished to find how degraded was the condition of the Vaiñëava faith which had its pure
origin in the deep and majestic spiritual philosophy of Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Even vastly learned paëòitas could not fathom the superexcellent precepts of Lord Caitanya’s philosophy, yet due to
incredulity born of the ignorance of uncultured men, the Vaisëava faith had been degraded and was considered a beggar’s excuse for living at the
expense of society. It was by sheer love for the Godhead that Öhäkura Bhaktivinoda expounded the deep philosophy which had remained concealed in the pages of the Vedas, the Upaniñads, the Puräëas, and the Bhägavatam. By his action toward divine service and also by his words, set in simple language to be easily understood by readers in general, he has
given this philosophy to the world. It is his writings and his divine, unparalleled character that have helped to produce a class of educated and enlightened men who are now proud of their Vaiñëava faith and of their acquisition of the spiritual knowledge of the pure and sublime philosophy of Kåñëa, on which the stern teachings of Çré Caitanya are based.
Though born in opulent circumstances (on September 2, 1838), Öhäkura Bhaktivinoda, who was given the name Kedäranätha Datta, had to meet
many difficulties in his early life. His childhood was spent at his maternal grandfather’s house at Bérnagar (Ulägräm), from where he came to Calcutta at the age of thirteen, after the death of his father. After he
completed his education, he was requested to be present at the time of his paternal grandfather’s death. His grandfather, Räjavallabha Datta, had
been a famous personality of Calcutta and had retired to a lonely place in Orissa to spend his last days as an ascetic. He could predict the future and
knew when he would die, since he could commune with supernatural beings. Öhäkura Bhaktivinoda was present at the eventful time when that great soul passed away, and after receiving his grandfather’s instructions, he visited all of the major temples and äçramas of the state of Orissa.
Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura then entered the educational service and introduced English education into the state of Orissa for the first time. He wrote a small book about all the äçramas of the state and mentioned an äçrama which was on his ancestors’ property. "I have a small village Choöimaìgalpur in the country of Orissa of which I am the proprietor,"
he wrote. "In that village is a religious house which was granted by my predecessors to the holy men as a holding of rent-free land. The head of the institution entirely gave up entertaining such men as chanced to seek shelter on a rainy night. This came to my notice, and I administered a severe threat that his lands would be cruelly resumed if in the future
complaints of inhospitality were brought to my knowledge." Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura later took to the government service and was transferred to Bengal. In one town he gave a historic speech on the Çrémad-Bhägavatam which attracted the attention of thousands. He made the world know what hidden treasures pervade every page of the Bhägavatam, which should be read by all persons having a philosophical turn of mind. He was transferred some years later to a town called Champäran. In this town
there was a brahma-daitya living in a great banyan tree, and he was being worshiped by many degraded people. (A brahma-daitya is a type of ghost.)
One day the father of a famous girl scholar came to Bhaktivinoda for alms,and Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura at once employed him in reading the Bhägavatam under the shade of the banyan tree which was the abode of the ghost. After one month, the Bhägavatam was completed, and then and there the tree crashed to the ground, and the ghost was gone for good.