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Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja's Appearance Day 150th anniversary

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja

On February 29th 2024 we celebrated the most auspicous festival of the appearance of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja, the spiritual master of our beloved Guru, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

The following is Srila Prabhupada's recollection on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura spoken at the occasion of his appearance day on the 7th of February 1969 in Los Angeles.

'He is mercy representation of Lord Caitanya. And he appeared as the son of this Bhaktivinoda Thakura. At that time he was known as Kedaranath Datta. Kena Datta. And he appeared in 1867 as the child of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. And the house is still preserved in Jagannatha Puri. At that time Jagannatha Puri, he was magistrate in Jagannatha Puri, and he was... The system in the Jagannatha Puri, the manager, the official manager, is the district magistrate. So he was district magistrate. And in February 1867, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura appeared. And when he appeared, his, this what is called, the intestine?

Madhudvisa: Umbilical cord?

Prabhupada: Cord, cord. What is it called?

Visnujana: Umbilical.

Prabhupada: Embryo cord. That embryo cord was like this. Yes. That means brahmana from the beginning. You see? So when he was a child... He appeared in February. Then... When the Ratha-yatra takes place? In July. So February, March, April, May, June, July. So when he was six months old, the Ratha-yatra festival was held. And by chance the big cart stopped in front of that house. That is generally in the Jagannatha car stops. Just like our car also stops somewhere, and you have some difficulty to push it again. That's nice. That also happens in Jagannatha Purī. It was stopped, and some people were... Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to push with His head. So that was wonderful.

So anyway, the cart stopped, and mother of our Guru Maharaja, the child Guru Maharaja, so she took the opportunity, and because she was manager's wife, so everyone respected with the child. So she put the child on the leg of Jagannatha. And as there are so many garlands, one garland immediately fell on the child. Yes. Automatically. So in this way Bhaktivinoda Thakura could understand that "This child is not ordinary child," and he knew that "I prayed to Gaurasundara to send me somebody. So this boy, this child, is sent by Him." So he took care of him very carefully. And in this way his name was Bimala Prasada, Bimala Prasada Datta.

So when he was three years or four years old, he took one mango from the Deity room and ate it. So Bhaktivinoda Thakura said, "Oh, you have done a great wrong thing. You have taken the mango of the Deity before offering Him? It is a great offense." The child took it very seriously, and my Guru Maharaja never took mango throughout his whole life. Whenever mango was offered, he would say, "Oh, I am a offender. I cannot take that." You see?

So there was a big meeting. [aside:] What is this sound? [chuckles] Somebody's sleeping? All right. [laughter]. In Midnapur district, when he was young man, he was holding meeting. He was a great astrologer, and he opened an astrological school when he was young man. And there are many big students still practicing. They are all students of my Guru Maharaja. And there was a meeting in Midnapur district. The subject matter was "Brahmanas and Vaisnavas." So in that meeting Bhaktivinoda Thakura was invited.

At that time he was not very in healthy condition, indisposed. So he asked Sarasvati Thakura that "You go and speak there." So he spoke the distinction between brahmanas and Vaisnavas, and he defeated so many learned panditas. Then the whole audience began to take..., touch his lotus feet and touch with water and drink it, in this way, when he was young man. That book is also available in Bengali, Brahmana-Vaisnava.

Then, after disappearance of Bhaktivinoda Thakura in 1914... Bhaktivinoda Thakura organized this Krsna Caitanya's movement in pure form from Mayapur. He published many books and papers, Sajjana-tosani. When he passed away in 1914, at that time, he entrusted the matter to Siddhanta Sarasvatī Thakura, that "I am going, my work unfinished, about this Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement. You take charge of Brahmana-Vaisnava very seriously the word of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. So since 1914 to '18, he was simply thinking that "How I can expand this movement?"

So in 1918 he started this movement with the help of some disciples. Krsna sent him. So one of the disciples, he is now Tīrtha Maharaja. Perhaps he is... He belonged to Ramakrishna Mission Society. So he is very ambitious. So he took the opportunity of starting this movement, finding out the saintly person. So apart from that point of view, with his help this Gaudiya Mission was started, and gradually it developed.

So in Calcutta, Guru Maharaja started in 1918. And, I think, in 1922, when I was young man, one of my friends, he took me to Guru Maharaja. That was my first meeting. And, of course, he was speaking to everyone, but he found me as something. So immediately after my meeting, he said this, that "Why don't you preach this Caitanya's cult in the Western countries?" That is a memorable day. Of course, I did not know that I will have to do it. [laughter] You see? It is...

Boy: What?

Prabhupada: [aside:] Stop. Whatever you do not understand, you will ask later on, not in the middle. I could not understand that time. You see? It was... I talked with him in so many ways: "Who will hear your Caitanya's message? We are dependent country." At that time I was Gandhi's devotee. In 1920 I gave up my educational career and joined this Congress Movement. Because Gandhi's program was to boycott the university education and the British law court, so we took this opportunity and gave up education. You see? [chuckles]

So then Dr. Bose, he was my father's friend, so he asked, "What this Abhaya is doing?" So my sister told him, "Oh, he has appeared in the B.A. examination, but he is not doing anything." So Dr. Bose was my father's friend. So he appointed me the manager of his laboratory. I did not know anything; still, he appointed me. So that was in 1921. In 1920 I gave up my education. Of course, I was married in 1918, and I got my first child in 1921.

So in 1922, when I saw my Guru Maharaja and when I was convinced about his argument and mode of presentation, I was so much struck with wonder. I could understand that "Here is the proper person who can give real religious idea." That I appreciated at that time. And at that time I thought, "This great personality is asking me to preach. I would have immediately joined, but now I am married. It will be injustice." Of course, I thought like that, in that way. Of course, Guru Maharaja did not say anything that "You give up your family life." No, never said. He simply gave the idea. So I thought that "It would have been better if I was not married."

Anyway, then 1923 I left Calcutta on my business, and I established my headquarter at Allahabad. So all the days I was thinking of this, "Oh, I saw a very nice saintly person. But I am now off from Calcutta." So I was thinking like that. Practically he initiated me, because I was thinking of..., always. Then in 1928 there was a big fair which is called Kumbha-mela. At that time I was doing business in Allahabad. My business was very flourishing. It is well-known drug shop. So the persons who went to organize our Gaudiya Matha's camp in that fair, somebody has told that "Here is a Bengali gentleman's business. You can go, and he is very religious man. He will help." So all the disciples of Guru Maharaja, they approached my shop, my store, drug store.

And I was..., because I was thinking of them, so I thought, "Oh, here is the men." You see? You see? I was very glad—"So they have come again"—because I was separated from them in 1923, and again I saw them in 1928, after five years, and I was thinking of Guru Maharaja simply in this way: "Oh, I met a very nice saintly person. Very nice saintly person. If I can see him again?" Like that. So in this way, with my help, the Allahabad center of Gaudiya Matha was established.

Then I was initiated in 1933. In 1933. And in 1936 I was, at that time, in Bombay, and Guru Maharaja was very much indisposed, and he was at Purī, Jagannatha Purī. We have got our temple there. Guru Maharaja established sixty-four temples, small and big. Just like I am increasing, he increased. So most of the temples were in Bengal. In Bengal there were about fifty out of sixty-four, and one temple was at Allahabad, one was in Madras.

In this way, outside Bengal, about three, four, one Benares. And he sent Bon Maharaja also in 1933 to London for preaching, but unfortunately, some way or other, he could not do anything, so Guru Maharaja called him back in 1934. He was not satisfied and sent another Godbrother, gosvami.

In 1936, just on the 13th December, I wrote him one letter. Not 13th. I think by the beginning of December, 1936, I wrote one letter to Guru Maharaja. I knew he was little kind upon me, so I wrote that "Guru Maharaja, you have got many disciples. I am also one of them. But they are doing direct service to you. There some of them are brahmacaris, some of them sannyasis, but I am a householder. I cannot..." Of course, I was giving sometimes some monetary help, but I could not give any direct service, so I asked him that "If there is any particular service I can do for you?"

So that letter was replied in 13th December, dated 13th December, from Purī. And he passed away on the 31st December. Just a fortnight before. So the reply was the same as he wanted me to do this preaching work in 1922, when I first met him, that "You try to preach whatever you have learned from me, the English-knowing people in English. That will do good to you and to the people to whom you shall preach. That is my instruction." So I took up that... And then he passed away in 1936, 31st December. So I consulted some of my Godbrothers, senior Godbrothers, "Guru Maharaja has told me like this. What can I do?"

So you have heard the name of Professor Sanyal, and there were other Godbrothers. They asked me to write on the Vaisnava-siddhanta in English. So perhaps in 1935 I wrote one poetry. The part of it, somebody, you have got. He was very pleased. Since then he was insisting me that "You write on, preach in English." At that time I was thinking, "What can I do?" So anyway, after his passing away, this Back to Godhead paper was started, as late in 1944, I think, because the expenditure was three hundred, four hundred rupees per month.

So somehow or other, it has begun, the blessings of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, as he wanted me, he desired me. So because he desired, my... I am not very expert or educated or nothing extraordinary, but only thing is that I believed in his word. That is... You can say that is my qualification. I believed cent percent in his word. So whatever success is there, it is just due to my firm faith in his instruction. So I am trying to follow. And by his grace, you are helping me.

So actually, the responsibility will now depend on you. I am also old man. I may pass away at any moment. This movement should go on, you see, this movement started by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then accelerated by Gosvamis, and then again Visvanatha Cakravarti. And when... Just like whenever there is... Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati [Bg. 4.7].

When there is some slowness, either Krsna Himself or some representative comes to give it a push. So you should know it that this movement should be pushed on. This should not be neglected. And I am glad that you are catching the ideas very nicely, and try...

Simple thing: you chant sincerely and follow the rules and regulation. The rules and regulation are not very strict. They are very simple. But because you are trained in a different way... But I am so pleased and obliged to you that you have adopted. I never expected. When I came first in Boston, I was thinking, "Oh, who will accept these Vaisnava rules and regulation? These people are after meat [chuckles] and wine and illicit sex, and how they will accept it?" I was hopeless: "How they will chant?" You see? So by the grace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, at least, I am hopeful that this movement can be accepted by anyone. It is not so hopeless as I thought.

But apart from my calculation, you are realizing. This movement should be pushed on. Just like great souls always think of the poor souls, similarly, you should also feel. That is the way. Lord Jesus Christ, he also prayed for the sinful persons. So this is very good. If we struggle hard to push this movement, then, even we..., you don't get any follower, Krsna will be satisfied. And our business is to satisfy Krsna. That is bhakti.'

For a full run down of the Vaishnava festivals, check out our handy calendar

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