1959 was a particularly noteworthy year for Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha, as paramaradhya Srila Gurudeva, the Samiti’s founder-acarya, arrived there with some disciples a week before Janmastami. This year, the servants of the matha enthusiastically observed Sri Janmastami by fasting for the whole day, performing sankirtana, reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, offering bhoga and so on. At midnight the deities’ abhiseka was performed with sankirtana, the blowing of conch shells and the jaya-dhvani of thousands of faithful people. That evening Srila Acaryadeva gave a deep philosophical lecture filled with scriptural conclusions. By quoting the following verses, he established that Krsna is the non-dual Supreme Absolute Truth (advaya-jnana para-tattva): ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.28), aho bhagyam aho bhagyam nanda-gopa-vrajaukasam / yan-mitram paramanandam purnam brahma sanatanam (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.32), isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah / anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam (Brahma-samhita 5.1) and mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya (Bhagavad-gita 7.7). Apart from this, he also established the distinctive characteristics of Sri Yasoda-nandana in relation to Sri Devaki-nandana.
Observing Kartika-vrata in Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha
All the mathas under the jurisdiction of Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti observed kartika-vrata, damodara-vrata and niyama-seva from 16 October to 15 November 1959. This year, kartika-vrata was celebrated with special festivities and great enthusiasm because of the presence of paramaradhya Srila Gurudeva himself. For the whole month, everyone observed the many regular, distinctive aspects of this great vrata, such as sri mangala-arati, morning kirtana, reading from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, reading from Brahma-sutra (or Vedanta-sutra), tulasi-parikrama, ahnika and other duties, discussions of bhakti literature, bhoga-arati, istagosthi, maha-prasada seva, sandhya-arati and so forth. The devotees also followed ideals such as moderation in eating and drinking, sleeping on the floor and taking prasada on leaf plates instead of metal plates.
During sri damodara-vrata, Chidghanananda Brahmacari gave discourses on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta every morning; in the evenings tridandi-svami Sri Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja explained the Nimi-Navayogendra dialogue in Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the afternoons, from 3–5 p.m., paramaradhya om visnupada astottara-sata Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja himself gave elaborate commentaries on Vedanta-darsana and Govinda-bhasya. He completed explanations up to the first and second lines of the eleventh sutra of the first chapter of Govinda-bhasya.
During his discourse, Srila Gurudeva summarized eight other authentic commentaries on Vedanta and established the supremacy of the Govinda-bhasya among them. He read regularly from the commentaries of Sri Sankara, Bhaskara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vijnana Bhiksu, Vallabha and Nimbaditya, as well as from gaudiya vedanta-acarya Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s Sri Govinda-bhasya. Srila Acaryadeva also emphasized maha-mahopadhyaya Sriyuta Haridasa Siddhanta-vagisa Mahasaya’s Bhagavat-bhasya at many points in the discussion. Along with the sannyasis and brahmacaris from the Samiti, educated, respected and eminent scholars from Sri Navadvipa-dhama were also present in the audience during the discourse on Govinda-bhasya. Among them were Sri Kumuda Kamala Naga (BA, BL), Sri Makhana Lal Saha (BA, assistant headmaster of Navadvipa Siksa-mandira), pandita Sriyuta Navina-candra Cakravarti (smrti-vyakarana-tirtha) and Sri Vardakanta Datta worth mentioning. The respectable Varada Babu, a great scholar of Sri Sankaracarya’s kevaladvaita-vada, was also present as an opponent, and this gave the audience a rare opportunity to hear a comparative discussion on Govinda-bhasya by Srila Acaryadeva.
Even after the completion of sri damodara-vrata, the study of Govinda-bhasya continued for another five days, due to the special request of the elderly Varada Babu and Sri Kumuda Kamala Naga. During these last days there was an elaborate and detailed discussion of aphorisms such as athato brahma-jijnasa, janmady asya yatah and sastra-yonitvat. While explaining these sutras, Srila Acaryadeva specifically established Sri Bhagavan’s name, form, qualities and pastimes and at the same time used logic and scriptural evidence to refute Sankaracarya’s view that brahma is nirvisesa (without personality), nihsaktik (without power), arupa (formless) and nirguna (without attributes). He also established that bhakti, not jnana or mukti, is the subject matter expounded in Vedanta-sutra. The words jnana and mukti are not mentioned anywhere in the five hundred and fifty aphorisms of Vedanta-sutra. Rather, it is only Sri Vrajendra-nandana Govinda who is established, along with His prema-mayi bhakti, in Vedanta-sutra’s aphorisms: anandamayo ’bhyasat, api samradhane pratyaksanumanabhyam, etc. Finally, harinama-sankirtana is clearly specified by the aphorism anavrttih sabdad anavrttih sabdat, and this is made clearer still by the confirmation of harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s words param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam.
Vedanta-sutra establishes that advaya-jnana para-tattva Sri Krsna and His sakti Srimati Radhika are non-different, and thus clearly indicates the worship of Sri Yugala. The Upanisads show that para-tattva can never be nirvisesa, nihsaktik, arupa and nirguna, without transcendental qualities. Taittiriya Upanisad (3.1) states: “yato va imani bhutani jayante, yena jatani jivanti, yat prayanty abhisamvisanti, tad vijijnasasva tad brahma – One should know that brahma is He from whom all living beings are born, by whose power they remain alive, and into whom they enter at the end. He is the one about whom you should inquire, He is brahma.” In this verse three cases are used, namely the ablative case (apadana), the instrumental case (karana) and the locative case (adhikarana). How, then, can brahma be impersonal, without potencies or form?
Srila Gurudeva’s explanation of all these subject matters was ever-fresh and very remarkable. On the last day, Varada Babu said, “People would benefit if the reading of Govinda-bhasya continued for another few days. I have never before heard such a beautiful discussion on Vedanta in my Navadvipa town.” Srila Acaryadeva jokingly told him, “If you faithfully hear Govinda-bhasya for another few days, then you can become liberated from Acarya Sankara’s advaita philosophy.” Hearing this, Varada Babu laughingly agreed.
On the first day of urja-vrata Srila Acaryadeva instructed the audience as follows. “Kartika-vrata niyama-seva is a part of caturmasya-vrata. Fully mature bhakti, which is the fruit of observing caturmasya-vrata, will not develop if one only honours urja-vrata and not the full four months. In fact, this negligence actually reveals disrespect for caturmasya-vrata. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates observed caturmasya-vrata with great conviction and devotion, and in this way they instructed sadhakas in the whole Vaisnava community as to the means of attaining bhakti. Only those who do not generally accept difficulties in their performance of service to Sri Hari or who are averse to renunciation will abandon caturmasya-vrata as a whole and have faith only in kartika-vrata.
“What to speak of only observing kartika-vrata, nowadays people in modern pseudo-devotional sects (apasampradayas) do not even do that. Under the pretext of dharma, the purpose of life for such people is eating, sleeping and sexual enjoyment. The phrase from sastra, tapo-vesopajivinah, refers to these kinds of people. They do not respect Sriman Mahaprabhu’s teaching in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya-lila 6.236), ‘bhala na khaibe ara bhala na paribe – do not eat very palatable food and do not dress opulently.’ These people are counted among inferior and undisciplined sampradayas, insofar as they also deviate from the glorious statement, ‘mahaprabhura bhakta-ganera vairagya pradhana – renunciation is the basic principle of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s devotees’ (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 6.220).
“It is not that the observance of caturmasya-vrata is only meant for Vaisnavas. It should be observed by the followers of every religion, and also by karmis, jnanis, tapasvis and all other classes of people. Even the sampradayas of Sankara, the smartas and others observe this vrata. All kinds of sadhakas have observed kartika-vrata since ancient times, because it is a principal part of the caturmasya-vrata. Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti instructs and encourages their followers to observe this vrata fully. Those who are following Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti are well versed in this subject matter and will remember this even in the future.”