In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura emerged as the most prominent emissary and guardian of the supra-mundane mission and teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The indebted Gaudiya Vaisnava community honoured him as the Seventh Gosvami, thus recognizing his contribution to be on par with that of the exalted Six Gosvami, of Vrndavana. For the benefit of the souls in this material world, he authored and wrote commentaries on more them one hundred books on the science of devotional service.
Bhakti-tattva-viveka, 'Deliberation on the Principles of Devotion', is the Thakura's penetrating synopsis of Srila Rupa Gosvami's Sanskrit theological classic, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. In an easily understandable manner, he highlights the distinction between pure and adulterated devotion, enabling the reader to achieve the real fruit of bhakti.
Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja took his divine birth in Tiwaripura, Bihar, India, in 1921. He met his gurudeva, Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, in February 1946, and dedicated his life to serving him. His gurudeva instructed him to translate the writings of prominent Vaisnavas into Hindi. Taking this command to heart, he worked continuously throughout his life and published more than fifty sacred texts.
For years he travelled throughout India teaching bhakti, or loving devotion to God. Between 1996 and 2010, he circled the globe thirty times, touching the lives of thousands and clarifying the conception of pure bhakti, the sole means to realize our spiritual nature. He thus embraced the transcendent conceptions of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, as presented in Bhakti-tattva-viveka.
The unlimited glories of devotion unto the Supreme Lord (bhagavad-bhakti) are visible in the Puranas. as , Srutis, Smrtis, the Mahdbharata and the Ramayana, as well as in the literatures of famous Vaisnava preceptors (acaryas). By understanding the constitutional nature of unalloyed devotion (fuddha-bhakti) and genuinely engaging in its practice, one can easily cross the ocean of nescience and achieve life's ultimate goal of love for the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna (krsna-prema). What to speak of the genuine practice of suddha-bhakti, even the attainment of a slight semblance of bhakti can award the fourfold boons of economic development (artha), religiosity (dharma), sense gratification (kama) and liberation (moksa). Therefore people in general become attracted towards the cultivation of bhakti. But due to being ignorant of the true nature of unalloyed devotion, they usually come in contact with pretentious devotees who desire only wealth, women and fame, and under their influence either practise false devotion or adopt devotional sentiments that are against the principles of pure devotion, all the while imagining them to be pure bhakti. Coming under the influence of those desiring impersonal liberation, they practise either a shadow or a reflection of real bhakti and deceive themselves. Thus they do not achieve the real fruit of bhakti.
Hence, the acarya of the profound science of devotional mellows, the most merciful Srila Rupa Gosvami, has explained in his book Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu the true nature of unalloyed devotion on the basis of scriptural evidences. Moreover, he has described the nature of chala-bhakti (pretentious devotion), abhasa- bhakti (a semblance of devotion), pratibimba-bhakti (a reflection of devotion), karma-misra-bhakti (devotion mixed with fruitive action), jnana-misra-bhakti (devotion mixed with impersonal knowledge), aropa-siddha-bhakti (endeavours that are indirectly attributed with the quality of devotion), sanga-siddha-bhakti (endeavours associated with or favourable to the cultivation of devotion) and so on. In the realm of devotion, Bhakti-rasamrta- sindhu is unanimously accepted as the most authoritative litera- ture, but it was composed in Sanskrit, an ancient language that is comprehensible to very few people in modern times. So for the benefit of human society, in his Bhakti-tattva-viveka Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has presented the grave and deep con- ceptions of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu in the Bengali language in a straightforward and easily understandable manner.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is an intimate eternal associate of the saviour of the masses in the age of Kali, Sacinandana Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, After the associates of Sri Gaurahari, such as the Six Gosvamis, Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja, Sri Narottama Thakura and Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, left this world and entered the unmanifest pastimes, the one hundred years that followed are considered a dark period for the Gaudiya Vaisnava line. This is because during this period in the Gaudiya line no powerful acarya appeared who could carry forward the teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu in their pure form as was done previously. As a result, in a short span of time, on the pretext of following and preaching the doctrine of divine love taught by Sriman Mahaprabhu, many false sects like Aula, Baula, Karta- bhaja, Neda-nedi, Sai, Sahajiya, Sakhi-bhskti, Smarta and jati- gosai appeared and, while engaged in abundant misbehaviour, began preaching their own imaginary and materially motivated, deceitful principles. They defamed Caudlya Vaisnavism to such an extent that educated and respectable people started viewing it with abhorrence. Gradually the Gaudiya conception of devotion began to disappear.
At this time, in the year 1838, Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura auspiciously appeared in a well-educated and cultured family in the village of Vira-nagara, which is near Sri Navadvipa- dhama in West Bengal. By compiling approximately one hundred authoritative books on the science of bhakti in Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, English and other languages, he ushered in a new era in the Gaudiya Vaisnava line and re-established its lost glory. For this great effort, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas will remain eternally indebted to him. In the modern age, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura set in motion once again the bhakti-bhagirathi, the mighty, flowing river of pure devotion, and for this he is well known as the Seventh Gosvami.
This Bhakti-tattva-viveka is a collection of four essays he composed originally in Bengali on the deliberation of devotional principles. The first Hindi edition of this material was serialised in issues from the fourth and fifth years (1958-9) of Sri Bhagavata Patrikd, a spiritual magazine in Hindi published monthly from Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha in Mathura, On the request of our faithful readers and by the inspiration of the present-day acarya of the Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Vamana Maharaja, it is now being presented in book form.
By the causeless mercy of the founder of the Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti and its subordinate Gaudiya Matha branches throughout India, the most worshipful acarya-kesari' jagad-guru om visnupada astottara-sata Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, Gaudiya devotional literatures are being published by the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti. On the most auspicious occasion of the anniversary of his appearance day, this edition is being presented as an offering placed into his lotus hands. Being the great embodiment of affection and forgiveness, may he transmit the potency of his mercy into the core of our hearts so that we can render maximum service to his innermost desire. This is our humble prayer at his lotus feet.
Lastly, I humbly request the faithful readers to deliberate upon this literature with great concentration. By understanding the true nature of unalloyed devotion, one can relish the ultimate goal of all scriptures, the pure nectar of krsna-prema as exhibited and preached by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
It gives us great pleasure to present this second English edition of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Bhakti-tattva-viveka before our faithful readers. This edition is a direct translation of the Hindi edition, which was directly compiled and translated from the original Bengali by our illustrious spiritual master, om visnupada astottara-sata Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. The first Hindi edition was published in 1990 and the first English edition in 1997.
Owing to its clear and precise presentation of the science of devotion unto the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna in simple and easily comprehensible language, this small book has long been a favourite of Srila Narayana Maharaja. Quoting abundantly from Srila Rupa Gosvami's Bbakti-rasamrta-sindhu and Srila jiva Gosvami's Bhakti-sandarbha, Bhaktivinoda Thakura shows how to discriminate between genuine pure devotion to the Lord and the many forms of adulterated devotion. This subject matter is particularly relevant in modern times, when the exalted spiritual teachings of ancient India are receiving greater exposure than ever. The concepts explained herein will effectively guide sincere spiritual aspirants along the devotional path by providing them with a clear picture of true devotion and helping them to identify those rare souls who embody such devotion.
Srila Narayana Maharaja has a strong determination to see the writings of the great Gaudiya acaryas published in English and widely distributed. This he shares in common with his dear friend and instructing spiritual master, Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who single-handedly and in a relatively short period of time spread the teachings of Krsna consciousness around the entire world. Srila Prabhupada's translations and writings set the standard for the literary presentation of Vaisnava philosophy, and we hope and pray that our current efforts, and this volume in particular, are pleasing to him.
This second English edition differs from the first in that it has been carefully re-edited for linguistic and philosophical clarity. It also sports a new design and has been typeset to a higher standard. Grateful acknowledgement is extended to Lavanga-lata dasi for copy-editing this new edition, to Rsabhadeva dasa, Santi dasi and Giridhari dasa for proofreading the final manuscript, to Atula-krsna dasa for checking the Sanskrit, to Krsna-prema dasa for designing the new cover and to Subala-sakha dasa for providing the new photograph of Srila Narayana Maharaja. On behalf of the many devotees serving in Gaudiya Vedanta Publications, we offer this edition into the hands of our beloved gurudeva, Srila Narayana Maharaja, praying that he will always bless us with the capacity to fulfil his inner heart's longing.
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