Bhaktivinoda Thakur is credited, along with his son Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, with pioneering the propagation of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the West and its eventual global spread.
37 Facts About Bhaktivinoda Thakur
Bhaktivinoda Thakur tackled the task of reconciling Western reason and traditional belief by dividing religion into the phenomenal and the transcendent, thus accommodating both modern critical analysis and Hindu mysticism in his writings.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur dedicated himself to a deep study and committed practice of Caitanya's teachings, soon emerging as a reputed leader within the Caitanya Vaishnava movement in Bengal.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur edited and published over 100 books on Vaishnavism, including major theological treatises such as Krishna-samhita, Caitanya-sikshamrita Jaiva-dharma, Tattva-sutra, Tattva-viveka, and Hari-nama-cintamani.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur opposed what he saw as apasampradayas, or numerous distortions of the original Caitanya teachings.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur pioneered the spread of Caitanya's teachings in the West, sending in 1880 copies of his works to Ralph Waldo Emerson in the United States and to Reinhold Rost in Europe.
The revival of Gaudiya Vaishnavism effected by Bhaktivinoda Thakur spawned one of India's most dynamic preaching missions of the early 20th century, the Gaudiya Matha, headed by his son and spiritual heir, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote an autobiographical account titled Svalikhita-jivani that spanned the period from his birth in 1838 until retirement in 1894.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur died in Calcutta on 23 June 1914 at age 75.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur felt unconvinced by conventional explanations and started doubting the reality of the many Hindu gods and goddesses worshiped in village temples.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur made regular visits to his mother and sister in Ula for recovery and convalescence.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur authored an article on Vaishnavism as well as a book Our Wants.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur soon revealed himself as a linguistic savant, within a short time learning Urdu and Persian that were required for his government duties.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur mastered Sanskrit for his Vaishnava pursuits, enough to be able to read the Bhagavata Purana with traditional commentaries and to write his own Sanskrit poetry.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur found a copy of Caitanya's biography Caitanya Caritamrita by Krishnadasa Kaviraja and a translation of Bhagavata Purana in 1868 after an eight-year search.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur became increasingly appreciative of the philosophical sophistication and ethical purity of Caitanya's teaching but struggled to reconcile it with the prevalent perception of Krishna, Caitanya's worshipable God described in the Bhagavata Purana, as "basically a wrong-doer".
Bhaktivinoda Thakur came to the conclusion that both faith and reason have their respective, mutually complementary places in religious experience, and neither can be ousted from it altogether.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur gained a reputation for remembering passages from a book on a single reading, and soon learned enough to compose his own poetry in Sanskrit.
In 1880 Kedarnath and his wife accepted diksha into Gaudiya Vaishnavism from Bipin Bihari Goswami, a descendant from one of Caitanya's associates, Vamsivadana Bhaktivinoda Thakur, which formalised his commitment to the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya.
On 4 October 1894, at the age of 56, Bhaktivinoda Thakur retired from government service and moved with his family to Mayapur to focus on his devotional practice, writing and preaching.
In 1908 Bhaktivinoda Thakur formally adopted the lifestyle and practice of a babaji at his house in Calcutta, absorbed in chanting the Hare Krishna mantra until his death on 23 June 1914.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur's remains in a silver urn were interred at his house in Surabhi-kunj.
From 1874 till his departure in 1914 Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote profusely, both philosophical works in Sanskrit and English that appealed to the bhadralok intelligentsia, and devotional songs in simple Bengali that conveyed the same message to the masses.
In defense of the tenets of Vaishnavism, Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Krishna-samhita employed the same rational tools of its opponents, complete with contemporary archeological and historical data and theological thought, to establish Krishna's pastimes as transcendent manifestations of morality.
Unabated by the criticism, Bhaktivinoda Thakur saw Krishna-samhita as an adequate presentation of the Gaudiya Vaishnava thought even to a Western mind, and in 1880 sent copies of the book to leading intellectuals of Europe and America.
Soon Bhaktivinoda Thakur received a favorable response from an eminent Sanskrit scholar in London Reinhold Rost, and a courteous acknowledgement of the gift from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
In 1886 Bhaktivinoda Thakur published another important work: Caitanya-siksamrita, which summarises the teachings of Caitanya and includes Bhaktivinoda Thakur's own socio-religious analysis.
In Jaiva-dharma, another key piece of Thakur's writing, published in 1896, Bhaktivinoda employs the fictional style of a novel to create an ideal, even utopian Vaishnava realm that serves as a backdrop to philosophical and esoteric truths unfolding in a series of conversations between the book's characters and guiding their devotional transformations.
Jaiva-dharma is considered one of the most important books in the Gaudiya Vaishnava lineage of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, translated into many languages and printed in thousands of copies.
At the request of his son, Lalita Prasad, in 1896 Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote a detailed autobiography called Svalikhita-jivani that covered 56 years of his life from birth up until that time.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur did not display much concern for how this account would reflect on his status as an established Gaudiya Vaishnava spiritual leader.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur contributed significantly to the development of Vaishnava music and song in the 19th century.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur composed many devotional songs, or bhajans, mostly in Bengali and occasionally in Sanskrit, that were compiled into collections, such as Kalyana-kalpataru, Saranagati and Gitavali.
In 1886 Bhaktivinoda Thakur attempted to retire from his government service and move to Vrindavan to pursue his devotional life.
Gradually Bhaktivinoda Thakur directed criticism at various heterodox Vaishnava groups abound in Bengal that he identified and termed "a-Vaishnava" and apasampradayas : Aul, Baul, Saina, Darvesa, Sahajiya, smarta brahmanas, etc.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur did not stop short of making practical efforts to implement his vision.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur preaches that human thought should never be allowed to be shackled with sectarian views.