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Bhāgavata Paramparā - The disciplic succession

Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Śrī Heramba Kumāra Banḍopādhyāya (Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja) appeared on 18th November 1904, (Uṭṭhāna Ekādaśī) in an aristocratic brāhmaṇa family in Kāñcanapāḍa, East Bengal.


He was saintly, forbearing, amiable and virtuous. His devout mother raised him with strong spiritual orientation, personally reading out many scriptures to him. She would also make him recite the Bhagavad-gītā daily. By eleven, he had already memorized the whole text. He was a born leader and adored by all.


From an early age he felt utter disdain to pursue worldly ambitions, and after one particular mystic encounter, where Nārada Ṛṣī, an eternal associate of the Lord, gave him a mantra in a dream, he became even more determined to renounce this world. Eager to obtain the grace of the Lord, he left home for the Himalayas, where he performed severe austerities only to return to Kolkata following a prophecy which assured him of a grace of a sad-guru.   


Later that year in 1925, he met His Divine Grace Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura (Śrīla Prabhupāda) while on a pilgrimage to Navadvīpa dhāma. In his very first meeting he accepted Śrīla Prabhupāda as a māhāpuruṣa and began frequenting the Kolkata Gauḍīya maṭha. By regularly and intently hearing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s hari-kathā, his inclination to serve Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas steadily increased. As a result, he began engaging his earnings by anonymously sending requisite daily needs to the maṭha. 


In September 1927, on Rādhāṣṭamī, he accepted hari-nāma and mantra-dīkṣā from Śrīla Prabhupāda receiving the name, Śrī Hāyagrīva dāsa brahmacāri, and shortly thereafter moved as a full-time resident to the maṭha. 


Śrī Hāyagrīva brahmacāri’s ever-enthusiastic penchant for service, leadership, erudition, affectionate dealings and endearing personality soon won everyone’s heart. Initially he assisted his senior god-brothers in their preaching engagements; gradually evolving as a prolific preacher himself. He also came to be known as the main pillar of fundraising for the Gauḍīya Maṭha.

Śrīla Prabhupāda once remarked, “Hāyagrīva brahmacāri is full of volcanic energy. He is always ready to perform any kind of service with utmost enthusiasm. And regardless of the situation, he always returns successful.”

Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Gosvami Maharaja
Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Gosvami Maharaja

Śrī Hāyagrīva brahmacāri was even offered sannyāsa by Śrīla Prabhupāda, however he humbly begged to continue as a brahmacāri for the fear of some services getting hampered. Hearing that he prioritized service above all else, Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “You are already a sannyāsi in the truest sense. Simply an outer dress doesn’t constitute sannyāsa. Inclination to perform sevā is the only measure of seniority.”


Śrī Hāyagrīva brahmacāri also spearheaded Gauḍīya mission’s foray in South India, at Madras, and played a vital role in acquiring the land at Rajahmundary for Śrī Ramānanda maṭha, where other godbrothers had given up after trying their best. Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, his senior godbrother once noted, “The apparent end point of our attempts to serve Śrīla Prabhupāda is for him a beginning of fresh endeavors.”


Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted him to be a part of the first preaching party to the West, however when one well-wisher noted, “Śrī Hāyagrīva brahmacāri is very young and handsome, and England is a place of beautiful women and lose morals. It is better to send an elderly devotee.” Śrī Bhakti Pradīpa Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja was sent in his place. 


He followed Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vāṇi with utmost sincerity and integrity. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words and ideals were like lines etched on stone for him, and he never deviated, as much as a hairline, from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vicāra dhārā. 


To reciprocate with the enthusiasm exhibited by the locals of Assam during the temple inauguration at Sarbhoga in 1936, Śrīla Prabhupāda promised to visit Assam every year. But soon thereafter Śrīla Prabhupāda departed from this world. So to honour his spiritual master’s promise, Śrī Hāyagrīva brahmacāri visited Sarbhoga yearly to celebrate Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance day. He asserted, “Whatever Śrīla Prabhupāda has spoken can never be false. He will appear here every year in his Deity form.” In this way he exemplified the consciousness of a fully surrendered disciple, fulfilling the words and innermost desires of Śrī Guru.


After the disappearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda, and on the repeated insistence of many of his senior godbrothers, Śrī Hāyagrīva brahmacāri accepted sannyāsa from Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Gaurava Vaikhānasa Gosvāmī Mahārāja in 1944 and came to be known as Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja. 


He had great affection for his godbrothers. If ever, any of them experienced any adversity, he would immediately come forward to extend his support, without any concern for his own comfort or distress. At times when his godbrothers were in monetary need, he would even borrow to be able to serve them by fulfilling their requirements. He deeply touched many lives by his divine benevolence which was free from the concept of ‘I and Mine’, and truly embodied the phrase, ‘vāsudaiva kuṭumbakam – the whole world is one family.’


He epitomized the spirit of Vaiṣṇava sevā. He would go as far as saying, “Our service has only two objects: Viṣṇu and Vaiṣṇavas. Of the two, service to Vaiṣṇavas is more important. I will choose to serve Vaiṣṇavas even if I were to borrow. And in case I were to leave this world before paying back my debts which I incurred in service of Vaiṣṇavas, I will happily take birth again to repay them and avidly take on more debts to remain in their eternal service. My constant prayer is that I may eternally maintain this consciousness without deviation.” 


He was also an expert mediator. Thus, whenever any differences arose amongst his godbrothers in the course of their services, they would call upon Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja to amicably settle the matter.


Amongst his most notable achievements was the acquisition of the birth site of Śrīla Prabhupāda in Śrī Jagannātha Purī. Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja was unanimously entrusted and encouraged by his godbrothers to undertake this most herculean task which involved many legal, financial and administrative snags. Enduring many physical and mental adversities, it took almost twelve painstaking years of intense and persistent efforts to accomplish this task. 


Subsequently, in the role of an exemplary ācārya, he preached widely, accepted hundreds of disciples and established as many as eighteen branches across India under the flagship of his spiritual mission – Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha. He organized parikramās of Vṛndāvana and Navadvīpa dhāma, established many preaching centres, restored many holy sites, and published many books and magazines to spread the message of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. 


On February 27, 1979, at 9 am, Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja entered the eternal pastimes of Śrī Rādhā-Nayanānātha in the midst of resounding kīrtana. 


His Final Instruction was – 


“Never leave devotional service of Lord Hari, whatever the circumstance may be. This is my prayer, entreaty, desire, and instruction. Practice devotional service in all circumstances. Always give respect to senior Vaiṣṇavas; never hesitate to do so. This will bring auspiciousness.”


Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja is regarded as one of the most intimate associates of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura. He was a living personification of a sad-śiṣya and was deeply admired for his volcanic service spirit towards Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. 


His divine life and ideals eternally remain a great source of inspiration and unending auspiciousness for all those who take shelter at his lotus feet. 


Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda is a disciple of Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābāji Mahārāja. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Prabhupāda preached that the Gauḍīya Maṭha stood for the dignity of the entire human race, by teaching wholesale surrender to the Absolute Truth. Especially active in the field of publishing transcendental literature, his erudition was profoundly commanding and elaborate. He revolutionized Kṛṣṇa conscious preaching by giving preference to pure devotional qualifications over lineage, and it was he who set the precedent of Vaiṣṇava tridanḍa-sannyāsa (the renounced order of devotional life) in accordance with the injunctions of the revealed scriptures.

In a poem describing the descending divine succession of the Brahma-Madhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda wrote mahāprabhu śrī caitanya, rādhā-kṛṣṇa nahe anya, rūpānuga janera jīvana, “Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is none other than Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, the life and soul of the true followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.” To exemplify this sublime ideal, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta established sixty-four Gauḍīya Maṭhas in India in the 1930’s, and all through he embraced the line of worship of Lord Caitanya as non-different from Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.


The deep sense of urgency he felt to propagate the divine teachings of Lord Caitanya for the benefit of the suffering world of misconception is exemplified in the indomitable conviction of his statement: “If fire burns the whole world, do not waste time trying to put it out. All necessities can be met only by serving Kṛṣṇa.” Outwardly, the way of love was worshipped by him with grandeur, awe, and reverence, but his object was the simple and beautiful Divine Love of Vṛndāvana, and his temperament in establishing that in the world was just like a lion’s.

vilasatu hṛdi nityaṁ bhaktisiddhānta-vāṇī

(Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhar Dev-Gosvāmī Mahārāja)

“With his first step, he vigorously cut asunder the whole plane of exploitation, and with his second, he put a stop to all the calculations of the different scholars with their different conceptions of salvation, liberated stages. With his third step, he minimized the hardness and stiffness of the rules and regulations of calculative devotional service, by a touch of the Divine Love: crossing Vaikunṭha, he gave us the worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Govinda.”

He caused the domain of love to descend into this plane with the service of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda, establishing the flow of divine love from the heart as all in all. He  represented the service of Śrī Śrī Rādhā Govinda as the highest attainment.

The real existence of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda is in bhakti-siddhānta-vāṇi, his divine teachings. May that bhakti-siddhānta-vāṇi dance eternally within the core of our heart.*

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada

Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābāji Mahārāja

Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābāji Mahārāja was the embodiment of worldly detachment and devotional attachment. He was the bābāji disciple of Śrīla Bhāgavata Dāsa Bābāji Mahārāja, who was the bābāji disciple of Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābāji Mahārāja. An intimate associate of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa uncompromisingly refuted pseudo and professional religiosity. Constantly absorbed in the devotional mood of divine separation, his external actions could not be comprehended by the general public.

On the direction of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura received holy initiation (dikṣa) from Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābāji Mahārāja. Although by nature Śrīla Gaura Kiśora was seen to be prevalently dedicated to bhajana in solitude, his beloved disciple Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī felt that the mercy of his gurudeva overflowed within his heart, inspiring Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī to dedicate himself to a life of preaching the message of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.


Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura sang the glories of his revered Gurudeva, Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābāji Mahārāja, saying: “All spiritual knowledge is contained within a particle of the dust of his lotus feet.”*

Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja

Śrīla Saccidānanda Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda

Śrīla Saccidānanda Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda, the nineteenth century pioneer of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, was born in 1838 in Bengal. He worked tirelessly to preserve the spiritual tradition and literature of India; he composed, edited, and published more than 100 books in Sanskrit, Bengali, and English.

The pioneer of pure devotion, it was Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura who foretold that people the world over would join under the banner of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s Hari-nāma-sankīrtana (congregational chanting of the Holy Names of Lord Kṛṣṇa). By his profuse writings, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura infused the current which was to be the renaissance of a devotional civilization, which had become overgrown with spurious interpretations und misrepresentation.


He advocated exclusive surrender (śaraṇāgati) to the service of the Supreme Lord’s pure devotees as the life of devotion, and to this end he composed a great stream of books, prayers, poems, and commentaries in Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, English, and other languages, which are now revered by the genuine devotees as scripture. His style of presentation was chiefly analytical, simple, and appealing. He taught that the apparently sophisticated philosophies and doctrines which deviate one to materialism, salvation, voidism, etc. (karma, jñāna, śūnya-vāda, etc.) must be abandoned by the true aspirants of devotion; yet, he acknowledged that from the universal standpoint such ‘charming’ distractions served to segregate the insincere from the sincere. Thus he foresaw that inevitably the intelligentsia of the world must come to appreciate the all-attractive path of divine love given by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.


The Ṭhākura inaugurated the worship of Lord Caitanya at the holy site known as Śrī Yoga-Piṭha, the advent location of Śrī Caitanya-deva in the holy Śrī Dhāma Māyāpura.*

Sri Sacidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Sri Sacidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura

*Adapted from the website of Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭha

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