SRI BARSHABHANAVIDEVI DAYITA DAS
In the meantime Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was very concerned that pure Vaisnavism was being overshadowed by many other wrong concepts and also by imitators. He felt that among all his sons and disciples, Srila Saraswati Thakura was the most qualified person to preach pure Vaisnavism; he had more enthusiasm, courage, and qualification than anyone else. Therefore, Thakura Mahasaya wrote him a letter:
All the Vaisnava devotees who were in contact with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Saraswati Thakura knew that the relationship between them was not mundane, like that between an ordinary father and son. Their relationship with each other was completely transcendental, like that between Guru and disciple, as is evident in this letter.
Srila Saraswati Thakura became more enthused now to preach pure Vaisnavism. Apart from delivering hari-kathaand leading congregational chanting, he also started collecting facts about the four Vaisnava sampradayas(branches of disciplic lineage). He started writing and publishing articles about Vaisnava acharyasin Sajjan Tosani.
In 1906, one gentleman called Sri Rohini Kumar Ghosh came to visit Srila Saraswati Thakura. He was the nephew of a High Court judge, Sri Chandra Madhav Ghosh of Barishal. Rohini Babu gave up his home life to have a devotional life in Navadwip. He found a guru from the Baul apasampradaya(one of the pseudo-Vaisnava groups) and started residing in his asrama.One afternoon he came to Srila Saraswati Thakura and heard some invaluable devotional instructions from him. Rohini Babu was deeply touched by this discussion, and when he came back to the asramathat night, it was all he could think about. Without taking his meal, he went to bed. That night, he had a dream in which that Baul Guru and his female companion came as tigers to attack him, but Srila Saraswati Thakura came to rescue him from this danger. The next morning when Rohini Babu was awakened by the sunlight streaming through his window, he immediately left that asramaand set off for Mayapur to beg Srila Saraswati Thakura for shelter at his lotus feet. He was the first disciple of Srila Prabhupada (Srila Saraswati Thakura was thus addressed by his disciples).
In February 1909, Srila Prabhupada built a small bhajana kutirnear the Bhavan, or residence, of Sri Chandrasekharacharya, who was the maternal uncle of Sriman Mahaprabhu. Remembering Mahaprabhu's vraja-lilathat was performed here, he called this Sri Vrajapattan. Srila Prabhupada continued his service at Sri Yogapith (the birthplace of Sriman Mahaprabhu), but stayed at Sri Vrajapattan. At this time his mother, Srimati Bhagavati Devi, was staying at Yogapith and assisting him in his service to Sri Mayapur Dham.
While he was staying there by himself, two very young boys came to him and took shelter at his lotus feet. One of them, Asvini Haldar, came from nearby Ballaldighi. Even though he was illiterate when he first came, by the grace and guidance of Srila Prabhupada he became a great scholar of scripture. Later when Srila Prabhupada gave him initiation, he named him "Vaisnavadas" ("servant of the Vaisnavas"). Sripada Vaisnavadas Prabhu served Srila Prabhupada for the rest of his life. He was known as a very expert kirtansinger.
The second boy, Sri Panchanan Samaddar, came from the village of Vinodnagar, in Jessore district. His father, Sri Tarinicharan Samaddar, had had the good fortune of associating with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Srila Thakura Mahasaya had visited their village once as well. The little boy Panchanan was very attracted to hari-katha,and at the age of twelve he left home one night during the predawn hours and set forth in search of his devotional destiny. Somehow he came to Navadwip and, as if by some unknown attraction, came to Mayapur and met Srila Prabhupada. Hearing from Srila Prabhupada, he knew his destiny was at the lotus feet of this great personality. So he stayed there with Srila Prabhupada. Later Prabhupada sent him to different schools, including the Sanagar School in Calcutta and the Hindu School in Navadwip. But his main teacher was Srila Prabhupada himself. Later he was known as a great scholar and writer, and talented in many arts. In 1913, Srila Prabhupada gave him initiation and named him "Paramananda Vidyaratna." Throughout his life, he was always by the side of Srila Prabhupada and he served his spiritual master in every capacity. Srila Prabhupada made him one of the trustees of the Gaudiya Math.
In 1911 the Vaisnava devotees were confronted by a great deal of hostile criticism from the orthodox brahmanasof Bengal, known as the Smarta Samaj. These brahmanas,although bereft of real scriptural knowledge, were very proud of their own birth and social position, and their doctrines of rules and regulations. Because of their elevated social status, it was easy for them to influence the masses, who were ignorant of pure devotional conclusions. Even some Vaisnava devotees supported the brahmanasin order to get some favor from them. At this time Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was ill and bedridden. But he was still very concerned about the situation and wanted someone to confront the brahmana panditasface to face. In accordance with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's desire, and having been so requested by the famous scholar Sri Madhusudan Goswami of Vrndavan, Srila Prabhupada arranged a meeting with the brahmana panditasat the town of Balighai, in Medinipur district. Pandit Sri Visvambharananda Dev Goswami presided over this meeting.
Srila Prabhupada read there his famous article, "Brahman and Vaisnava." When he arrived, the assembled scholars were sitting in two different groups: those who believed in the superiority of brahmanasover all other classes of people, and those who believed in the superiority of Vaisnavas, irrespective of birth or social position, over all other classes of people. At first Srila Prabhupada quoted from many scriptures glorifying brahmanas.The joy of the assembled brahmanasknew no bounds, because even they did not know that there was so much glorification of brahmanasin so many different scriptures. But then Srila Prabhupada started his glorification of Vaisnavas, again based on scripture, which far exceeded the glorification of brahmanasin quality and quantity. This time the brahmana panditaswere not so pleased. Unable to respond to the evidence presented by Srila Prabhupada, they started shouting. One or two of them desperately tried to present new arguments, but Srila Prabhupada crushed those also by dint of his scriptural knowledge and irrefutable logic. He personally answered all questions and refuted all arguments by the brahmanas,and thus established the superiority of pure devotees over all classes of people.
In that same year, at a meeting attended by many devotees and scholars of religion, Srila Prabhupada established the truth that the Gaura Mantra is eternal and should be chanted by all devotees. He based his conclusions on the evidence of many scriptures, such as the Chaitanyopanisadfrom the Atharva Vedaas well as other Upanisadsand Puranas.Thus he crushed the theory that the name Gaura is not an eternal name of the Supreme Lord and that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was not an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Unbeknownst to Srila Prabhupada, his Gurudeva Srila Gaurkisor Dasa Babaji was also present in the audience and ecstatic to hear his conclusions.
In March 1912, Srila Prabhupada was invited by the Maharaja of Kasim Bazar, Calcutta, Sri Manindra Chandra Nandi, to deliver hari-kathaat the "Kasim Bazar Sammilani," an annual religious conference. But when Srila Prabhupada arrived there, he saw that the organizers were more interested in their mundane concept of religiosity and in pleasing other people than in promoting the concept of pure devotion. To protest these concepts, which were contradictory to pure devotion, Srila Prabhupada fasted during his entire stay there and accepted prasadam(food that has been offered to the Supreme Lord) only after his return to Sri Mayapura Dhama.
On November 4, 1912, Srila Prabhupada, in the company of a few devotees, set out to visit the holy places where Sriman Mahaprabhu and his associates had their pastimes, such as Srikhanda, Yajigram, Katwa, Jhamatpur, Chakhandi, Daihat, and so forth, and preached about pure devotion there. In Sridham Mayapur and the surrounding areas, and sometimes in other villages of Bengal and in Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada constantly preached and answered spiritual questions.
In 1913, Srila Prabhupada established a press called Bhagavat Yantralaya at 4 Sanagar Lane, Ka1ighat, Calcutta, and began publishing and printing such books as Sri Chaitanya-charitamrtawith his commentaries called Anubhasya, Srimad Bhagavad-gitawith the commentaries of Sri Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura, the Gaurakrsnodayaby the Oriyan poet Govinda Das, and so forth. In the evenings he would lead sankirtanaand afterwards deliver hari-katha. Many distinguished gentlemen of Calcutta would come to listen to him. In 1914 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura disappeared from this world to enter into the transcendental abode of his eternal pastimes. In January 1915, Srila Prabhupada moved the printing press to Sri Vrajapattan at Mayapura, and continued publishing and printing books from there. He finished his commentaries on Sri Chaitanya-charitamrtaon June 14, 1915.
After the disappearance of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, his famous and widely distributed Vaisnava magazine, Sajjana Tosani,continued publication under the editorship of Srila Prabhupada. In July 1915 he moved the Bhagavat Yantra press to the town of Krsnanagar, and began publishing Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's books.
On November 17, 1915, on the holy day of Utthan Ekadasi, Srila Prabhupada's diksaguru, Srila Gaurkisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja, disappeared from this world. Srila Prabhupada immediately set forth for Navadwip from Mayapura. Sripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhbusan (later Srimad Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaja) has described this incident in the biography of Srila Prabhupada, Saraswati Jayasri. A few so-called Babajis of Navadwipa began arguing with each other about who would give samadhito the transcendental body of Srila Gaurkisor Das Babaji. They all had some ulterior motive, namely to own this samadhitemple themselves so they could make money in the future from devotees and pilgrims. Apprehending a breach of the peace, the Inspector of Police, Sri Barindra Nath Singha, arrived there.
After much argument these Babajis said that Srila Prabhupada was not a sannyasiand therefore did not have the right to give samadhito Srila Gaurkisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja. Srila Prabhupada responded in a thunderous voice, "I am the only disciple of Srila Babaji Maharaja. Although I am not a sannyasi,I have observed brahmacharya(celibacy) all my life. By the grace of Srila Babaji Maharaja, I have not lived a secret life of illicit conduct and debauchery, like some 'monkey' renunciates. If there is someone among those present here who has a genuinely pure character and who is a renunciate, then he can give samadhito Srila Babaji Maharaja and we have no objection to that. If there is anyone here who, in the last one year, or six months, or three months, or one month, or even in the last three days, did not have any illicit contact with a woman, then he can touch this blissful transcendental body. If anyone else touches this body, he will be ruined."
Hearing this the inspector asked, "What will be the proof of this?" Srila Prabhupada replied, "I will believe their words." Everyone present was amazed to see that all the so-called Babajis left the scene, one by one. The Inspector of Police was dumfounded.
Then by the order of Srila Prabhupada, the Vaisnava devotees with him were fortunate enough to carry the transcendental body of Babaji Maharaja. Some people said, "When Srila Babaji Maharaja was alive, he said, 'My body should be dragged on the ground of Navadwip so it can be covered by the dust of Navadwip.' His instruction should be obeyed."
Then Srila Prabhupada said, "Even though we are stupid, ignorant, and offensive, we should still be able to understand the significance of these humble words of my Gurudeva, which were spoken to destroy the pride and arrogance of materialistic people. Even Lord Krsna considers Himself fortunate to carry the body of my gurudevaon His shoulders or head. After the disappearance of Srila Haridas Thakura, Sri Gaursundara took his blissful body in his own arms and danced; such was the reverence he showed him. Therefore, following in the footsteps of Sriman Mahaprabhu, we shall also carry Srila Babaji Maharaja's blissful body on our heads."
On November 17, 1915, Srila Prabhupada gave samadhito his Gurudeva, on the Nutan Chara of Navadwip, on the banks of the Ganga. Sixteen years later, the moving currents of the Ganga arrived at that holy place. By his instruction, on August 21, 1932, some of his disciples from Sri Chaitanya Math, including Sripada Narahari Prabhu and Sripada Vinoda Vihari Prabhu (later Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja) and others, removed this samadhiby boat across the Ganga from Navadwipa to Sri Chaitanya Math, Mayapura.
After the disappearance of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Gaurkisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada was grief stricken and was feeling the pangs of separation. At that time a wonderful incident took place. Srila Paramananda Vidyaratna has described this in Saraswai Jayasri:
Srila Prabhupada was feeling very discouraged in the absence of Srila Thakura Mahasaya and Srila Babaji Maharaja, seeing the helpless condition of the spiritual section in the country and the Propaganda of thesahajiyas (imitators). He was thinking, "How will I fulfill the desire of my spiritual masters? How will I be able to preach the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu? I do not have enough money or manpower. Nor do I have any knowledge or talent that would enchant the public. I have no material skill or wealth. How can this grave task be performed by me? I won't be able to preach the message of my spiritual masters.
Thinking all this, Srila Prabhupada displayed his pastime of gloom and depression. Then one night he saw in a visionary trance that Lord Gaursundar had arrived from the east side of the Yogapith temple with His associates. Amid the sound ofsankirtana, He was ascending to His birth site. With Him were the sixgoswamis. Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and Srila Gaurkisora Dasa Babaji were also present in their effulgent transcendental forms. Addressing Srila Prabhupada directly, they said, "Why are you in such a state of anxiety? Begin your task of establishing pure religion. Everywhere preach the message of Sri Gaura and spread the service of the holy name, abode, and desire of Sri Gaura. We are always ready to help you, being eternally present with you. In your mission of establishing pure devotional service, you will always receive our help. Behind you innumerable people, unlimited wealth, and extraordinary scholarship are waiting to help you. Whatever you need at any time will immediately appear to serve your mission of pure devotion. With full enthusiasm, proceed with your preaching of the message of pure devotion as it was preached by Sriman Mahaprabhu. No material problems can impede you. We are always with you." The next morning Srila Prabhupada told us about this visionary trance with great ecstasy.
Even though Srila Prabhupada was already a great renunciate and an eternally liberated (nitya-siddha) spiritual personality, in order to preach extensively as a traveling mendicant (parivrajaka) and to set an example of Daivi-Varnasrama Dharma,he decided to take sannyasain the year 1918. By accepting the saffron cloth, he actually took a humble position below his two gurus, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Gaurkisora Dasa Babaji, who had both accepted the paramahamsa-vesa(the white cloth of a renunciate Vaisnava who has given up varnasrama dharma; sannyasa,which requires wearing a saffron cloth, is part of varnasrama dharma). On the full moon day of March 7, 1918, on the auspicious occasion of the appearance festival of Sriman Mahaprabhu, Srila Prabhupada took sannyasain Sri Mayapur according to Vedic rites. Early in the morning he shaved his head and then went to bathe in the old Ganga, near Vaman Pukura. Sri Ramgopal Vidyabhusan, Sri Ananta Vasudev Prabhu, Srikant Dasadhikari (later Srimad Bhakti Prakag Aranya Maharaja), and a few other devotees accompanied him. On the way Srila Prabhupada spoke on such topics as the story of Ajamila, the sannyasapastime of Sriman Mahaprabhu, and some verses from the Srimad Bhagavatam.After bathing he offered his dandavatsand returned to Vrajapattan. The devotees had collected and arranged all the necessary paraphernalia there. Srila Prabhupada went inside the temple and, remembering his Gurudeva, he took tridandi sannyasa(the word "tridandi" signifies the threefold vows of serving the Supreme Lord with body, mind, and soul).
In the meantime all the devotees were waiting outside. Among them were Sripad Paramananda Vidyaratna and Sripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhusan. A big crowd had also assembled to celebrate the appearance festival of Sriman Mahaprabhu. When Srila Prabhupada emerged as a sannyasi,everyone became very sad, and remembered the sannyasapastime of Sriman Mahaprabhu. Overwhelmed with devotional emotion, all started crying.
That same day, Srila Prabhupada established Sri Chaitanya Math and installed the Deities of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga and Sri Sri Radha Govinda there. This Sri Chaitanya Math in Mayapur is the Akar Math (the original or parent math) of all the Gaudiya Maths all over the world. In the afternoon he delivered a lecture about the appearance of Sriman Mahaprabhu to the assembled crowd. The next day he initiated some of the surrendered devotees, such as Sripad Haripada Vidyaratna, Sripad Ananta Vasudeva Prabhu, and Sripada Bhakti Prakasa Prabhu.
After taking sannyasa,Prabhupada displayed his extraordinary pastimes of renunciation and austerity. This was described in the memoir of Sripada Ananta Vasudeva Prabhu quoted in Saraswati Jayasri:
Later that month Srila Prabhupada gave a very scholarly lecture called "Vaisnava Darsana" ("The Vaisnava Philosophy") at a literary meeting in the Krsnanagar town hall. In May he took some of his disciples with him to preach in different places. In Daulatpur he stayed in the house of Vanamali Poddar and preached continuously for several days. There he initiated quite a few devotees including Sripada Yasodanandana Prabhu and Sripada Narahari Prabhu.
At this time, his disciple Sripada Nayanabhirama Prabhu (later Srimad Bhakti Viveka Bharati Maharaja) earnestly assisted Srila Prabhupada with his preaching activities. Srimad Bharati Maharaja would preach in very simple language and present the Vaisnava concept in a simple, but attractive, way. Srila Prabhupada engaged Srimad Bharati Maharaja to speak to the general public. Srimad Bharati Maharaja would sometimes make them laugh and sometimes make them cry. His preaching captured their hearts and they would come by the thousands to listen to him. He was an expert kirtanasinger. Srila Prabhupada always knew the greatest strength of each of his disciples, and he would engage them accordingly. Before he left this world, he told Srimad Bharati Maharaja that he was a hardworking, practical person, and should serve the mission.