vilasatu hṛdi nityaṁ bhakti-siddhānta-vāṇī
—Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
“The message of Sri Bhakti-siddhanta demolishes the illusion of the entire world, finishes the intellectual’s mad pursuit of liberation, properly adjusts scriptural regulations, and is an abode of loving attachment for Sri Radha’s Lord. May that message play within our hearts eternally.”
Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math was founded by Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj on the basis of the teachings of his Gurudev, Bhagavan Sri Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. The nat-mandir in the center of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math was named by Srila Sridhar Maharaj the Bhakti-siddhanta Sravan Sadan, ‘the place where Sri Bhakti Siddhanta Vani is heard.’ This name has a dual meaning: (1) the place where the conception of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur is heard; (2) the place where the teachings of pure devotion are heard.
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj has commented that if we seek to understand how to apply in our personal lives and within our Missionary community the teachings of the earlier acharyas of the Rupanuga-sampraday and the scriptures of pure devotion (Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Srimad Bhagavad-gita, and so forth), we should not look above Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. This is to say that the teachings of Srila Saraswati Thakur are of foremost authority in this regard.
Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj has strong personal appreciation for the teachings of Srila Saraswati Thakur and cites instructive stories, examples, and principles taught by Srila Saraswati Thakur abundantly within his preaching. In particular the Upakhyane Upadesha and the question and answer anthologies assembled from the preaching Srila Saraswati Thakur are especially dear to him and he has expressed his desire that these be translated and preached within the English language.
In an effort to fulfil the desire of Srila Acharya Maharaj, assembled below on this page is a series of posts organised by theme which present English translations of these Bengali texts.
Readers are humbly requested to bear in mind that the text presented in this section is translated from Bengali and may at times not read as smoothly as commonly spoken English.
Question: Who is able to understand the secret of devotional service (bhajan-rahasya)?
Answer: An especially faithful servitor (visrambha-sevaka) of the lotus feet of Sri Guru—the best of the followers of Srila Svarup Damodar and Srila Rupa Goswami—is able to understand the secret of devotional service (bhajan-rahasya).
A devotee fixed (in devotion) to Sri Guru (Guru-nishtha bhakta) who has pleasing, affectionate love (priti) and extremely firm faith (sudridha-visvasa) in the lotus feet of Sri Guru is a ‘faithful servitor’ (visrambha-sevaka). The Sruti said—
yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
The meaning of the scriptures is revealed to the great soul (mahatma) who has unwavering devotion for Sri Guru just as they do for the Lord.
Question: Is the service of Sri Guru (Guru-seva) especially necessary?
Answer: The service of Sri Guru-pada-padma (our dearly beloved Gurudev) is first of all necessary. In this world, even to obtain piety, knowledge or one’s various other (non-devotional) desired ends, a guru is necessary. However, the knowledge given by all these gurus yields extremely insignificant ends. Our spiritual Guru–pada-padma is not a giver of insignificant ends. Our Guru-pada-padma is a giver of true spiritual welfare. The moment one becomes devoid of the mercy of Sri Gurudev, all sorts of other (non-devotional) desires emerge. If devotees who are fixed in devotion to Sri Guru (Guru-nishtha Vaishnavs) do not instruct us how we must take shelter of our Sri Guru-pada-padma, how we must behave with our Sri Guru-pada-padma—if they do not teach us all this, then we will certainly squander a jewel we have already obtained.
Question: What should be the propensity of the heart of a sincere (non-duplicious) servitor of Sri Guru?
Answer: A sincere (non-duplicious) disciple will regard Sri Guru as their Devata and their atma (Gurudevatatma, Srimad Bhagavatam: 11.2.42). They will know Sri Guru to be their Devata, viz. their Lord, and as their atma, viz. the one and only recipient of their affectionate love (priti). “Sri Gurudev is my eternal Master (Prabhu), I am His eternal servant”—this is the ego (abhiman) and conception (vichar) of a disciple. The service of Sri Guru is their life, wealth, and existence. They do not know anything apart from Sri Guru. Thinking of their guru in all circumstances—while resting, dreaming, eating, serving (and so forth)—(they practise) Gurvanugatya (faithful subservience to Sri Guru). Thus they know Krishna’s dearmost, their Guru-pada-padma (dearly beloved Gurudev), to be non-different from the Lord—to be fully independent. “Sri Gurudev may accept or may not accept my unfit service but sincerely, with my body, mind, and speech (kaya-mano-vakya), I will always remain ready to engage in his earnest service (aikantika-seva) in every respect. If he spurns me (lit. kicks me) then I will know that is (a result of) my unfitness; and moreover that my Guru-pada-padma is correct (in doing so). It is factually truth that I cannot avert (myself) from my Guru-pada-padma for even a moment if I am to refrain from becoming distracted from the service of my Guru-pada-padma by transitory mundane matters (vishaya). So that I do not fall into any bad association, so that I do not deviate from my Guru-pada-padma, my one and only prayer is, “Oh Gurudev, please mercifully accept my service.”
My hope (bharasa) is, “Even though I am unfit, he bestows great mercy upon the unfit.” By taking hope in his causeless mercy, I will become enriched with stronger ardent desire for the service of my Guru-pada-padma.
Question: How (by what means) should we engage in service?
Answer: The scripture said—
prāṇair arthair dhiyā vāchā śreya ācharaṇaṁ sadā
The jiva soul should engage exclusively in the the service of the Lord with their heart (prana), wealth (artha), intelligence (buddhi) and speech (vakya). The service the Lord is the supreme good (mangal), and aversion to the service of the Lord is the root of (all) misery (duhkha).
Heart (prana) means consciousness (chetanata) and affectionate love (priti). The principal (mukhya) way by which the service of the Lord is effected is the way of the heart. Wealth, intelligence, and speech devoid of heart are not able to truly (pleasingly, sushthu) serve the Lord. For this (reason), the word ‘heart’ (prana) has been mentioned first. Sri Gurudev awakens this heart. Sri Gurudev teaches (all) forms of service to disciples who are inclined towards service. Sri Gurudev speaks about service with those who desire to engage in service.
Question: How does actual service to Krishna (Krishna–seva) happen?
Answer: Actual service to Krishna (Krishna–seva) happens only through the service of Krishna’s devotees, viz. Guru and Vaishnav. Sahajiyas are not able to understand this. They think, “One who worships Krishna (directly), he is the greatest” and thus they consider themselves Vaishnavs, take service from others and themselves abandon the service of Guru and Vaishnav. However, one who has heard the teachings of Sri Chaitanyadev and the Goswamis knows that truly truly the service of Krishna (Krishna–seva) happens only through the service of Krishna’s devotees, viz. Guru and Vaishnava.
Those who abandon the service and guidance of the sadhus and Sri Guru (Sadhu-Guru-seva and anugatya) and feign the service of Krishna (Krishna–seva) and the service of the holy Name (Nam-bhajan), make offences (aparadha) with every step they take. Whenever one is making offence (aparadha), they are not chanting the holy Name of Krishna (Krishna–nam) or engaging in the service of Krishna (Krishna–seva). On the contrary, all surrendered devotees who proceed under the guidance of Guru and Vaishnav and serve them (practice Guru-Vaishnav anugatya and seva) (in truth) serve Krishna and chant the holy Name of Krishna, by the mercy of Guru and Krishna. Only those who serve Krishna’s devotees, viz. Guru and Vaishnav with faith and affectionate love (adara and priti) receive the mercy of Sri Chaitanyadev and the Goswamis.
(At the time) when my conception was, “I am a greatly learned in mathematic scriptures, I am greatly learned in philosophical scriptures,” by good fortune I obtained the association (darshan) of Sri Gurudev. When he then struck down my great truthfulness, my pure, ethical life, my scholarship, and so forth, knowing them to be trifling, I understood, “I cannot conceive how great this personality is who can strike down (all) my great virtues!” By him striking me down, I was able to understand, “There is no one so lowly or abominable as me; this is my nature. This great soul (mahatma) is not attributing any value to scholarship, ethical character, and any of the things I am considering to be supremely desirable.” Then I understood, “Such invaluable things must be present within this great personality!” Then I considered, “Either he is extremely merciful or he is extremely egotistical (ahankari).” Then I humbly prayed to the Lord for mercy. Thereafter, by the mercy of the Lord, I was able to understand that apart from the mercy and service of this type of great personality who is devoid of desire for anything of this world (Nishkinchan Maha-purush) there is no other road towards my welfare. When I properly understood in this way, I then received the shelter and abounding mercy of Sri Gurudev and thus became fulfilled.
Through the strike I have received from Sri Gurudev, I have understood that if the people of this world are not struck down in the same way, they will not become conscious, their proper awareness will not come about. So I am saying to everyone, “I am the greatest fool; among all the people present in this world, I am the greatest fool; you all should not be a fool like me, you all should not remain absorbed in calculative (illusory) subjects, (but rather) you all should enter into subjects of the spiritual world (Vaikuntha-katha), (then) you will become great personalities.” I am speaking to you all the good words of he whom, by the mercy of the Lord, I have understood to be the supreme good (param-mangal)—Sri Gurudev.
Question: Who are Gaudiya devotees?
Answer: The devotees of Vishnu are Vaishnavs, the devotees of Krishna are Karshnas and the devotees of Sri Radha are Gaudiyas.
The devotees of Sri Gaura who are followers of Sri Rupa (Rupanugas) and are sheltered within parakiya-madhura-rasa are Gaudiyas. The Gaudiya devotees are followers of Sri Svarup Damodar Goswami Prabhu, the avatar of Sri Lalita Devi. Because of this the Gaudiyas are the followers of Sri Svarup Damodar and Sri Rupa Goswami, and Sriman Mahaprabhu therefore said to Sri Svarup Damodar Prabhu, “tomara Gaudiya kare eteka vyavahara, your Gaudiya behaves such.”
The Gaudiyas serve within the manjari system. Sri Radha-Govinda, Sri Radha-Gopinath and Sri Radha-Madan-mohan are the Deities of the Gaudiyas. The scripture says:
śrī rādhā saha śrī madana-mohana
śrī rādhā saha śrī govinda-charaṇa
śrī rādhā saha śrīla śrī gopīnātha
ei tina ṭhākura haya gauḍīyara nātha
“Sri Radha with Sri Madan-mohan, Sri Radha with Sri Govinda and Sri Radha with Sri Gopinath—these three Deities are the Lords of the Gaudiyas.”
ei tina ṭhākura gauḍīyāke kariyāchena ātma-sāt
e tinera charaṇa vando̐, tine mora nātha
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Ādi-līlā, 1.19)
“These three Deities have accepted the Gaudiyas as Their own. I offer my obeisance at the feet of these three Deities, they are My Lords.”
The Deities of the Gaudiya Vaishnavs are indicated in the eighteen-syllable mantra: Krishna is Madan-mohan, Govinda is Govinda, and Gopi-jana-vallabha is Gopinath. Experience of Madan-mohan Krishna is sambandha, the service of Govinda is abhidheya, and being attracted by Gopijana-vallabha is prayojan.
Madan-mohan Krishna is the Deity of sambandha. Govinda is the Deity of abhidheya and Gopinath is the Deity of prayojan.
Generally, the devotees who are sheltered at the feet of Sri Gaura are known as Gaudiyas. The devotees of the land of Gauda (Central West Bengal) are also known as Gaudiyas. Just as the devotees from the land of Utkal are known as Udiya devotees, the devotees from Bengal are also denominated as Gaudiya devotees.
Question: Are karmic reactions the Lord’s mercy?
Answer: Intelligent persons consider karmic reactions the Lord’s mercy. They endure them and live on, having surrendered themselves to the Lord in thought, word, and deed. They accept whatever great adversities occur to be the reactions to their own actions and do not fault the Lord. Rather, they accept all adversity on their heads as mercy and become more enamored with the Lord. This the Bhagavat’s teaching.