Book excerpts Acarya Kesari A subtle distinction between the ideas of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla...

A subtle distinction between the ideas of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura

After paramārādhya Śrīla Gurudeva accepted sannyāsa, following every Gaura-pūrṇimā, he invariably went to meet with pūjyapāda Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja, from whom he had received his sannyāsa-veśa. When he went to Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha in 1952, he took some of us maṭha residents with him. All the Vaiṣṇavas offered daṇḍavat-praṇāma to each other upon arrival and then began an iṣṭagoṣṭhī. The participating devotees, besides our gurupāda-padma, included Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja, Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Mahārāja, Śrīmad Bhakti Āloka Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja, Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Mahārāja and Śrīmad Bhakti Vikāśa Hṛṣikeśa Mahārāja. Many sannyāsīs and qualified brahmacārīs were present.

In this iṣṭagoṣṭhī, someone very politely posed the question, “There is a slight difference between the commentaries of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura on the fifth verse of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Śrī Upadeṣāmṛta: kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta, dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam. How may this difference be reconciled?”

Venerable Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Mahārāja asked, “What seems to you to be the difference between the two commentaries?” The enquirer clarified his question. “Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written in his commentary that the madhyama-adhikārī who properly understands his responsibility towards kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs will offer them respect from the core of his heart. He can hear kṛṣṇa-nāma from their mouth, providing they are free from the faults of associating with women and māyāvādīs, even though such kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs may be of meagre intelligence and bereft of sambandha-jñāna. If such kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs have received dīkṣā-mantra from a bona fide guru and are engaged in hari-bhajana, upon hearing kṛṣṇa-nāma from their mouth, the madhyama-adhikārī will respect them by offering daṇḍavat-praṇāma.

“However, Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has explained it a little differently, on the basis of the words dīkṣāsti cet, which refers to those who have accepted dīkṣā. He says that the madhyama-adhikārī who properly understands his responsibility towards the kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs will offer respect from the core of his heart to those who are chanting Kṛṣṇa’s name, provided they have been initiated into the kṛṣṇa-mantra by a bona fide guru, have understood that Kṛṣṇa and His name are non-different, and have accepted the transcendental name of Kṛṣṇa to be the only sādhana. The madhyama-adhikārī will show respect by physically offering his daṇḍavat-praṇāma to those initiated Vaiṣṇavas who continuously chant kṛṣṇa-nāma with great affection, who have attained their own svarūpa by nāma-bhajana, and are established in madhyama-adhikāra ; and he will also offer them respect in his mind.

“Thus it seems that there is some difference between these two commentaries. Which of the two explanations should we accept? Alternatively, how do we reconcile the apparent difference between them? How can they be harmonized?”

On hearing this, all of the Vaiṣṇavas requested prapūjya-caraṇa Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja to solve the apparently problematic question. Pūjyapāda Śrīdhara Mahārāja became very thoughtful and began his reply. “Ordinarily, the commentaries of two members of our guru-varga have the same meaning. Nevertheless, the explanation of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is supported by śāstra. According to the verse, no dīkṣāṁ na ca sat-kriyām from Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Padyāvalī (29), kṛṣṇa-nāma is so powerful that it bestows results even up to the point of liberation, as soon as it touches the tongue of dog-eaters and other untouchables. It does not even wait for pious activities, preparatory rituals and so on. In śāstra there are many statements to substantiate the unprecedented effect of kṛṣṇa-nāma :

  • (a) yan nāmadheya śravanānukīrtanād … śvādo ’pi sadyaḥ savanāya kalpate
  • (b) aho bata śvapaco ’to garīyān yad vartate jihvāgre nāma tubhyam
  • (c) yan nāma sakṛcchravaṇāt pukkaśo ’pi vimucyate saṁsārāt
  • (d) sakṛd api parigītaṁ śraddhayā helayā vā bhṛguvara naramātram tārayet kṛṣṇa-nāma
  • (e) sāṅketyaṁ pārihāsyam … haraṁ viduḥ
  • (f) yadābhāso ’pyudhan … mahimānaṁ prabhavati (Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Kṛṣṇa-nāma-stotram)
  • (g) mriyamāṇo harer nāma … kiṁ punaḥ śraddhayā gṛṇan
  • (h) patitaḥ skhalito bhajanaḥ … pumān nārhati yātanām

“This scriptural evidence supports the conclusion that even a dog-eater, who has not accepted dīkṣa, becomes supremely pure simply by chanting harināma. Whether he has śraddhā or not, kṛṣṇa-nāma delivers him from the endless cycle of birth and death when he chants even once. What to speak of chanting, even one who hears kṛṣṇa-nāma is at once liberated from material existence. Those who chant the name of Bhagavān while coming or going, slipping, falling, sneezing or in any other way will not have to taste the dire sufferings of repeated birth and death. So if anyone chants kṛṣṇa-nāma and is free from ungodly qualities opposed to bhakti, it is certainly proper Vaiṣṇava behaviour to honour him mentally, whether he is initiated or not.”

When paramārādhya Śrīla Gurudeva heard pūjyapāda Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s opinion, he said with great humility, “Śrīpāda Śrīdhara Mahārājajī’s explanation of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s commentary on this verse is in accordance with śāstra in all respects, and it is full of good conclusions. There is no doubt about that. However, I have something further to say on this subject. The first point is that jagad-guru Śrīla Prabhupāda has associated with Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura since his very birth. From his childhood he studied Vaiṣṇava literature such as Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta under Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s tuition, and heard his explanations of Vedānta-sūtra and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. He is steeped exclusively in the bhaktivinoda-dhārā, the flowing current of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s conceptions. At the same time he is an unparalleled scholar, thoroughly versed in Veda, Vedānta and all śāstra. It was he who acquainted us with the gracious Śrīman Mahāprabhu and His associates, especially with Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Without a doubt, he knows the moods of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s heart. He must certainly have seen Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s translation and his commentary, Pīyūṣavarsiṇī-vṛtti, on this verse. Yet, he has still given a distinct explanation in his own translation and commentary, Anuvṛtti. He has certainly done this intentionally. Therefore we must understand the commentary of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura through the medium of Śrīla Prabhupāda, and we should give prominence to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s commentary.
“The second point is that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has determined the Vaiṣṇava sadācāra, appropriate conduct, in relation to the general glories of kṛṣṇa-nāma. However, the fruit of śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma that Śrīman Mahāprabhu practised and propagated is the ultimate goal, or prayojana, namely, the attainment of kṛṣṇa-prema. Now, one cannot progress even one step in the direction of that ultimate prayojana unless one chants kṛṣṇa-nāma with sambandha-jñāna and is free from aparādha and so on. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 8.24, 26, 29–30) it has been stated:

kṛṣṇa-nāma’ kare aparādhera vicāra
kṛṣṇa balile aparādhīra nā haya vikāra


One must consider the effect of offences while chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. It is because of these offences that one does not become ecstatic while chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa.

eka ‘kṛṣṇa-nāme’ kare sarva-pāpa nāśa
premera kāraṇa bhakti karena prakāśa


Chanting Kṛṣṇa’s name just once destroys all sinful activities, and pure devotional service, which is the cause of prema, becomes manifest.

hena kṛṣṇa-nāma yadi laya bahu-bāra
tabu yadi prema nahe, nahe aśrudhāra
tabe jāni, aparādha tāhāte pracura
kṛṣṇa-nāma-bīja tāhe nā kare aṅkura


If one chants harināma again and again, but ecstatic love does not develop and tears do not appear in the eyes, then one may know that it is because of many offences that the seed of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa does not sprout.

“Keeping in mind the particular consideration mentioned in these verses, Śrīla Prabhupāda has given the instruction to honour in one’s mind the person who is endowed with sambandha-jñāna, that is, one who has received dīkṣā, who is free from aparādha, who understands that Kṛṣṇa and His name are non-different, and who understands that aprākṛta-nāma is the only sādhana. He also continually engages in the service of kṛṣṇa-nāma, and strives for the ultimate goal, kṛṣṇa-prema. It is this type of nāma that Śrīman Mahāprabhu describes in ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrnāmṛtāsvādanam and paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam in His Śrī Śikṣāṣṭaka (Verse 1).

“Pūjyapāda Śrīdhara Mahārāja has quoted a part of a verse, no dīkṣāṁ na ca sat-kriyām, from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 15.110). In Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Anubhāṣya on this verse, he himself has said that measures such as puraścaryā (regulative principles before initiation) have been given so that one can achieve perfection in chanting one’s mantra. But for śrī nāma mahā-mantra there is no consideration of the regulations of puraścaryā, because all the results of puraścaryā are obtained automatically simply by uttering kṛṣṇa-nāma once. So for the perfection of śrī mahā-mantra, there is no consideration of puraścaryā or any other pious activities.

“However, in this same verse, the last line, mantro ’yaṁ rasanā-spṛg eva phalati śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmātmakaḥ, has a confidential meaning: ‘This mantra, composed of Kṛṣṇa’s names, offers its result simply upon touching the tongue.’ Specifically, rasanā-spṛg means touching that tongue which is sevonmukha, inclined to render service. The tongue cannot possibly manifest kṛṣṇa-nāma at any time unless it is sevonmukha. The presence of various anarthas and aparādhas prevent śuddha-nāma from arising on the tongue which is inclined to enjoy inert matter. This has been stated in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.232):

ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi
na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau
svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ


Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s name, form, qualities and pastimes are all transcendental principles. They are not perceptible to the material senses such as the eyes, ears and tongue. Śrī nāma, rūpa, guṇa and līlā manifest on the jīva’s tongue when the tendency to render service arises in his heart.

“In this way, as the sādhaka gradually becomes elevated by continually chanting the holy name, he earns the qualification to serve Kṛṣṇa. He then realizes the transcendental nature of nāma, dhāma and so on, and he becomes established in madhyama-adhikāra. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has stipulated in this verse from Upadeṣāmṛta that one should honour such a madhyama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava within one’s heart, and at the same time, with one’s body, one should offer daṇḍavat-praṇāma.”

When the assembled Vaiṣṇavas heard Śrīla Gurudeva’s thoughts, which were pregnant with substantial siddhānta, they all supported his opinion and applauded him heartily.

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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