Bhaktivinoda Thakura

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Bhaktivinoda Thakura

Bhaktivinoda Thakura ( September 2, 1838 , † 1914 ) was a scholar and saint of Hinduism of Vishnuit stamp who spread the religion of Krishna in the Gaudiya Vaishnava teachings, the specific way as they are in the teachings of the mystic Chaitanya and is represented in the Bhagavatam .


Bhaktivinoda Thakura was born as Kedarnath Datta on September 2, 1838 in the Bengali village of Ula. In 1852 Bhaktivinoda moved to his uncle Kashiprasad Ghosh in Calcutta to get a higher education there. Kashiprasad was a pioneer of western modernity and culture. Bhaktivinoda lived with his uncle until 1858 and was introduced into the society of Calcutta - especially into the circles of the bhadralok , the new Bengali administrative elite of the British. In 1856 Bhaktivinoda enrolled in the Hindu School, one of the best schools in Calcutta. His classmates are u. a. the Tagore brothers and Keshub Chandra Sen . He studies the Brahmo Samaj , but ultimately rejects it. At the same time he met the Reverend Charles Dall, with whom he met almost every day to study the Bible.

In 1866, Bhaktivinoda entered the civil service. During his time in the civil service, he was constantly exposed to British influence and pressure to modernize. On the other hand, he finally finds the time and the self-confidence to deal with the religious practice of his own culture, namely primarily Hinduism with a Vishnuitic character. In 1868 he first came into contact with Chaitanya's teaching in the form of literature .

In 1879, Bhaktivinoda's most important work, Krishna-samhita , appears, a historical and philosophical essay on the character of Krishna in response to the anti-Krishna propaganda of Brahmo Samaj and the Christian missionaries. Many bhadralok found Krishna's morality and action in the Bhagavatapurana questionable - an attitude of mind that can be traced back to Christian and Victorian influences. In his work, Bhaktivinoda calls for a reassessment of the Krishna tradition in order to make the bhakti movement socially acceptable again.

Conflict between Hinduism and Christianity

In order to understand Bhaktivinoda Thakura, one has to consider that his work is a reaction to a "clash of cultures" in the 19th century. The British rule India , the locals are humiliated and, because of their different religions, viewed by the Protestant colonial rulers as " pagans ". Both sides encounter one another with hostility and intolerance. The Europeans consider the Indian religion to be “superstition”, and for the Indians themselves the complex, widespread Vishnu piety has degenerated into an empty stamp. Those who respect themselves study European philosophy and do not concern themselves with "old fables", especially not with the widespread devotional book Bhagavatam .

Bhaktivinoda Thakura too initially deals intensively with Christianity and the depths of occidental philosophy, for the Bhagavatam he has nothing but contempt. But then reading about the deified mystic Chaitanya falls into his hands, and through this reading he finds new access to his own religion and philosophy.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura stands in the spiritual tradition of Chaitanya and his disciples, especially the "six Gosvamis ", whose teachings he deepens and renews. Because of his spiritual merits, he is sometimes called the "seventh Gosvami".

Revisiting Chaitanya's teachings

According to Chaitanya , all relationships and feelings are just distorted reflections of spiritual feelings in a spiritual world that is animated and populated by spiritual beings.

  • Since the fallen being has the natural pursuit of relationships and feelings, it would like to return to the spiritual world (the kingdom of Krishna), where it can establish this relationship with Krishna in one of five given relationships (benevolent-neutral, submissive, friendly, parental-caring and in spiritual passion).
  • The people who were born again too often have "forgotten" by their oversized identification with the world their spiritual ties to Krishna, so that by missionaries and especially by chanting the Hare Krishna - mantra has to be resurrected her "Krishna consciousness."

Bhaktivinoda Thakura revisits these teachings; It is his great merit to have brought them closer to an English-speaking audience (missionary). Christianity has undeniably influenced his view . He calls Krishna the "Heavenly Father" and assigns Chaitanya the role of " Messiah ". Possibly this is a reason why people who are pre-Christian can find relatively easy access to the Krishna religiosity represented by him and his disciples (which differs from the religious conception of most Hindus, the Advaita Vedanta , in important points).

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