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Edited by - Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj

VOL.XXVI JUNE, 1928, 442 Chaitanya-Era No. 1.


The Harmonist is now ready to approach the seekers of Absolute Truth, and specially persons who have got an aptitude to promote their devotional culture also, in her twenty-sixth year of publication. This Journal made her appearance long ago, though in Bengali, to create an inquisitive field among her readers who like to discern their connection with the transcendental world, although their bearing was limited to the horizon of mundane activity. The different leading ideas of religion may be arrayed to three varieties namely – (1) ever-shifting longing for ameliorating the present predicament, (2) seeking eternal rest by dismissing the three-fold locations of observer, observed and observation with a view of ignoring a personality of the cosmic fountainhead, (3) regaining the perpetual position in the corporate spiritual kingdom, evading wrong temporary interest that tempts in misguiding to lord over the phenomenal existence. We can classify the schools of religionists and philosophers on one of these three specifications. Apart from polytheistic view, we have different faces of Monism in Deity, both in the forms of personality and impersonality. Sometimes the impersonal forms terminate in pure atheism and sometimes to other multifarious speculations. In India and abroad we find hundreds of mental speculationists who show their irregular dance to carry the impressions of innocent people who follow them to a destination unknown. Their emulations can never be considered fruitful unless they positively assert for something for our present acquisition. Professors who are apt to describe the different limbs of personal God are decidedly misled to restrict their hallucinative adventures to temporary objects of nature. The Harmonist though an advocate of the devotional thought has in her scope the determination of saving the readers from plunging into sensual efforts and as such she is often found to remind her readers not to confound the Divine personality within the material range of visual inspection. Generous readers, we believe, have marked the distinction between the conceptions of enjoying the universal phenomena and submitting oneself to the ever-existing, infinitely extended, inexplicable Object of devotion. We do not know how far we have succeeded in placing the true aspects of a region where we have no access at present on the table of our respected judges, but they can easily admit that our attempts are sincere when we undertook the translations of some original works left to us by the devotional sages in other languages specially meant to diffuse the veiled truth underlying the natural phenomena. Appreciations reached us from different quarters which have no doubt encouraged us to continue the progress of the Journal for the benefit of those who are not conversants in the indigenous languages of India. We have dealt on different current topics that may lead to enlighten our readers on special views of devotional life.

Thakur Bhaktivinode

It is not possible to understand Thakur Bhaktivinode by dissociating him from Sri Chaitanya and His most illustrious followers and associates. He did not set up as an Incarnation of God. He led to all external appearance the ordinary life of a householder. He did not claim any originality for himself in his writings nor did he establish any new doctrine or practice. He only walked with a loyal heart in the path which has been followed by all former devotees and which is laid down in the holy Scriptures, the meaning of which was made clear by the teachings and practice of Sri Chaitanya and His associates. His career is, therefore, perfectly simple in its purpose. Thakur Bhaktivinode wrote as he lived. In his books he tried to convey what according to Sri Chaitanya is the real meaning of the eternal religion that has come down to us in the records of the Scriptures through the chain of preceptors. There would have been no necessity for the appearance of Sri Chaitanya if the Scriptures had not been grossly misunderstood. There would have been no necessity for the lifework of Thakur Bhaktivinode if the life and teachings of Sri Chaitanya and His associates had not been misunderstood and misstated. The position of Sri Chaitanya and His associates in regard to our ancient Scriptures and of Thakur Bhaktivinode as their loyal follower, need not wound the susceptibilities of any reader who is not specifically opposed to our ancient Scriptures. Thakur Bhaktivinode’s attitude should also appeal to all exact thinkers as being at best definite and free from ambiguity of method or object. Accordingly the works of Thakur Bhaktivinode can be profitably considered only by those who at best tentatively admit the validity of his general position. The scientifically critical attitude need not start on, or proceed with, the study of a subject with previously formed prejudices. We would, therefore, ask those who may study the works of Thakur Bhaktivinode in the original not to form any conclusion on a large and un-familiar subject before they have accorded him a patient hearing really free from bias. In the pages of the Harmonist we have been trying to re-state what Thakur Bhaktivinode has told us in a comprehensive manner and from his own experience as a pure devotee of God, in his numerous works.

The kind heart of Thakur Bhaktivinode felt keenly for the sufferings of man and like a competent physician was not satisfied till it could find out the very root of the disease that afflicted humanity all over the world. Once convinced of the nature of the disease and of the method of its real and permanent cure he at once adopted the only way of helping others out of their misery by preaching those principles and practising them himself in order to be able to realise from actual personal experience the truth that he was to preach.

Thakur Bhaktivinode became convinced as the result of un-biased study of the works of the associates of Sri Chaitanya and the old Scriptures following the method laid down in those works that the words of Sri Chaitanya were nothing but the same language that he could hear God Himself always speaking to his own heart. He has proclaimed this in no uncertain words in his writings declaring Sri Chaitanya to be no other than the teacher Who is ever present in the heart of everybody and constantly admonishing him from within. He pleads with pathetic earnestness that all may unreservedly believe in this statement which he makes from his own personal experience and which is confirmed by all the Scriptures he had studied. By listening to the voice from within he believed that all will be bound to argue with him some day that the only way of bringing about real harmony in this world is that of chanting together the Holy Name in the manner that has been taught by Sri Chaitanya. His philanthropy was not confined to sect, creed or country. His kindness extended unstintedly to the whole of animate and seemingly inanimate nature. He was confident that all religions will one day admit the supreme necessity of chanting the Holy Name and range themselves under the banner of Sri Chaitanya.

Turning to his own countrymen he implored them to have faith in the old institution of varnasrama and to set about its re-establishment in a pure form. He has told us that the varnasrama institution is eminently fitted for the spiritual purpose and is superior to any other system that is to be found in this world. Its true significance was missed when it degenerated into a hereditary affair. This degeneracy which characterizes the caster system need not blind us to the merits of the real institution. It is the only machinery that is capable of purifying the heart of the people en masse; and all true patriots should think over this matter with an unbiased mind to be fully convinced of the immediate and imperative necessity of its re-establishment. All the problems of this country and of humanity awaiting solution can be settled by India if it simply re-occupies its spiritual position as featured by the varnasrama institution. All of us can obtain the necessary enlightenment on the subject from the teachings of Sri Chaitanya and His associates as elaborated, we may add, with this special object in view, in the writings of Thakur Bhaktivinode.

Thakur Bhaktivinode does not underestimate work or knowledge. He only warns us against work or knowledge divorced from relation to God. He condemns non-work and non-knowledge which cut at the very basis of life. He is an advocate of the most strenuous work and of knowledge in every form on condition that they are pursued with a mind really alive to its relationship with God for the purpose of serving God therewith. It is Sri Chaitanya alone who can enlighten us about this relationship of the jiva with God. We must, therefore, most attentively listen to what He has to say on the subject. We must not jump to a definition of the kirtan of the Holy Name without hearing from the lips of devotees who are truely un-biased in this matter what the kirtan that is proclaimed by Sri Chaitanya as the worship of this age of discord really means and how it is related to work and knowledge. As a matter of fact it is only by chanting the Holy Name in the manner laid down by Sri Chaitanya in conformity with the teaching of the whole body of the Scriptures that we can be aroused to the true knowledge of our relationship with God which is essential in the pursuit of word and knowledge, without which it is not possible to maintain our life in this world, in a way that is not inconsistent with the highest purpose of life viz. the service of God.

To those who are opposed to organised sect in any form Thakur Bhaktivinode says that the so-called nonsectarians also form a sect of their own. It is necessary to follow and obey the devotees of God. This is possible only within an organisation. It is not possible to lead a holy life by avoiding association with devotees. The church offers a society of the good consciously pursuing a common spiritual purpose in place of one made up mostly of bad people who have no such purpose. The society of devotees is indispensable. By opposing this not liberalism or non-sectarianism but the anarchical, disruptive, egotistic sentiment alone is displayed. Instead of directing one’s energy against principle of association, without which life in this world is impossible it would be really profitable if we would seriously endeavour to purify the society and make it conform to the true principles. The Sampradaya or church thus understood requires to be preserved and not abolished.

Purity within the congregation will be secured by all its members abstraining on principle from sitting up as a preacher of religion without previous regular discipleship under a true devotee of God qualifying to such service. No one should preach the religion the truth of which he does not realise by his own practice. Those who in imitation of the example of certain great devotees betake prematurely to a life of solitary devotion are less useful to society than those who set about preaching what they have learnt from sadhus and themselves actually practise the same in their own lives.

Thakur Bhaktivinode draws our particular attention to those text of the Scriptures that condemn trade in the name of religion. No one must on any account try to earn his livelihood by selling the Word of God. There are a hundred and one legitimate means of maintaining one’s family approved by the Scriptures that should be adopted for the purpose. It is denounced by the Scriptures as an offence against God Himself to become a preacher on hire. Most of the worst evils of all current religion are traceable to this source. The paid readers of the Bhagabat should be persuaded to adopt some other method of earning their livelihood. The abuse of diversion of religious endowments to secular purposes including the maintainance of the family of the preacher is strongly condemned by our Scriptures and must be prevented by legislation, if necessary, as the very first step in the direction of reform of religion in this country and elsewhere. It is these vested interests that have been the agents of religious corruptions in the past and are the official opponents of their removal at present. The same remarks applies to the mercenary gurus and dealers of mantras. The process in un-scriptural and there is according to the same authority, not only no possibility of any benefit either to the person who practises such a trade or to one who submits to receive the mantram as a marketable commodity, but on the contrary it constitutes a positive offence against the Divinity, and is, therefore, extremely harmful to such guru and disciple.

These are also several other important points to which we have to attend if we want to preserve the purity of communal worship. Those who occupy the pulpit must not deviate from the true principles of the religion and indulge in promulgating the concoctions of their imaginations. No one is fit to be a teacher of religion who is not really free from all taint of any ambition for popular applause or self-conceit.

Thakur Bhaktivinode warns everybody to be extremely cautious in the election of the spiritual guide. The preceptor must be fit in every way to instruct one in the true principles of religion. The preceptor who initiates is to be implicitly obeyed and cannot be discarded except for two definite reasons viz. (1) if the disciple at the time of choice of preceptor failed to choose as his guru one who is ignorant of the principles of religion and is not a Vaisnava, i.e. a true devotee of the Absolute, such a guru has to be discarded for the reason that he is of no practical help; and (2) if the preceptor although he happened to be a Vaisnava and well-versed in the principles of religion at the time when initiation was received from him, subsequently becomes a professor of illusionist doctrines or a hater of Vaisnavas such a guru should also be discarded.

Thakur Bhaktivinode lays special stress on the avoidance of all association with un-godly persons. These un-godly persons fall broadly in two classes viz. (1) those who are carnally addicted to women and (2) those who are without devotion for Krishna. There will be absolutely no spiritual progress if such aloofness is not strictly maintained despite the adoption of every other process that is recommended by the Scriptures.

The central topic of Thakur Bhaktivinode’s teaching, in strict conformity with that of Sri Chaitanya, is the supreme importance, nay the absolute necessity in this age, of worship by the method of taking the Holy Name. Thakur Bhaktivinode’s special contribution to this all important subject is his detailed treatment of every variety of offence that has to be carefully avoided if the Name has to be taken in the proper manner. He ascribes the present corruptions of the Vaisnava church which professes to follow the teaching of Sri Chaitanya mainly to mis-understanding of this cardinal subject. The Name coupled with offence is productive of perdition. The whole subject is minutely treated in very simple language in his Sri Hari-nama-chintamani which is a unique work in the whole range of literature and deserves to be translated into every language of the world.

Thakur Bhaktivinode most strongly opposes the blasphemous practice of the public singing of the devotional amorous hymns by impious persons, and on the authority of the Scriptures, condemns also those who encourage such practice by submitting to listen to such songs.

Thakur Bhaktivinode considers it essential that the spiritual varnasrama institution should be re-established in this country and elsewhere for the benefit of people in general as the status of a Vaishnava is not attainable by any except spiritual Brahman. The Vaishnava is, however, above varna and asrama which are again quite different from ‘caste’ in as much as the former serve a purely spiritual purpose while the latter is a product of history and embodies purely distinctions of social grades based on birth.

Thakur Bhaktivinode distinguishes true humility from the caricature of it that ordinarily passes under its name. The humanity of the Vaishnava consists in carrying out the precepts of his religion without minding any wordly discomfort or dishonour to himself. He is prepared to give due worldly honour to everybody without having any interest in his own in such matters for their own sake; but he never defers to the judgement of any worldly person in the matter of the religion. He is as tender as he is firm; but this is realisable only by one who himself possesses single-hearted devotion to Krishna. In preaching the true religion from door to door, despite all manner of apparent personal discouragement and hardship, with a heart that overflowed with infinite kindness for suffering humanity without distinction of caste, creed or colour. Thakur Bhaktivinode set the ideal to his followers of true philanthropy that brings no evil in its train.