Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura [1874-1936] was a lifelong celibate and a influential teacher of bhakti all over India. In his childhood he quickly mastered the Vedas, memorized the Bhagavad-gita, and relished his father's (Bhaktivinoda Thakura) philosophical works. He became known as ''The Living Encyclopedia'' for his vast knowledge.
By all historical accounts, he was extremely intelligent and excelled in math, astronomy, Sanskrit, and other languages. The University of Calcutta offered him a chair, but he declined so that he could dedicate his life to continuing the spiritual work of his father, Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
He preached convincingly against caste system and philosophical deviations from Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Srila Sarasvati Thakura earned the title ''silitha-guru'', or ''lion-like master'', for his fearless and powerful delivery of the Vaisnava conclusive teachings: The adherents of impersonal school of thought would often cross the street to avoid confronting him. Besides being a tireless preacher, he was ornamented with all divine qualities and a dear devotee of Lord Krishna. He established 64 Gaudiya temples in India and abroad and wrote and published more than 108 books and essays establishing the theistic science of bhakti.
''Do the spiritual masters, after they disappear, bestow their mercy upon the living entities? The souls of great thinkers of bygone ages, who now live spiritually, often approach an inquiring soul and assist him in his development.'' (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, The Bhagavat: Its Philosophy, Its Ethics & Its Theology)
Great spiritual masters are always ever well-wishers of all surrendered souls. There is no point in time when they stop offering guidance to those who submissively inquire about their own spiritual nature. It is our greatest fortune, therefore, that we are connected to the spiritual lineage of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada.
We know from those who were fortunate to be his disciples – to have lived in his time and have witnessed firsthand how he personified Sri Caitanyadeva’s teachings – that he possessed the divine quality of incessantly chanting Krishna’s holy names and speaking krsna-katha. He never tired of chanting and preaching.
Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada was famously known as the simha, or lion guru, because he was fearless and uncompromising in his preaching. He saw the world as if it were on fire. He did not waste time trying to rescue the bodies of the conditioned souls from the immediacy of their suffering. Rather, he bypassed the deceit and hypocrisy rampant in his age (as well as ours) and tried only to retrieve by spiritual means their souls, which he saw as engulfed in the flames of material existence. Conditioned living beings are often obstinate in their refusal to hear Sri Caitanya's divine message, thinking themselves comfortable enough in material existence, and Srila Sarasvati often used strong language to shake them from their illusion. He would remind them that ''a sadhu who flatters is an enemy. A sadhu has to be a like a butcher — ready with one stroke to slash the neck of the goat of material desire with his strong words.'' Many were afraid to hear him speak lest the true value of their material pursuits be revealed!
His Divine Grace was also known as a ''living encyclopedia'' due to his vast knowledge of the scriptures and his ability to perceive the Vedic conclusion. He dispelled the doubts of the thousands who flocked to him for advice.
He entered the world to propagate the sankirtana mission. He wanted nothing more than to invite everyone to Kirtana and infect them with the bliss of chanting the holy name. He considered sri-krsna sankirtana the best form of meditation, sacrifice, and worship in Kaliyuga. He considered any religious process that did not include the yuga-dharma as ''cheating religion.''
A preacher of the holy names is always full of life because he is always fully in touch with the divine realm. There was a time when grila Sarasvati Thakura started a daily newspaper to disseminate Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's precepts. A distinguished gentleman then asked the Thakura how the Gaudiya Mission could produce a daily newspaper filled only with spiritual topics. Srila Sarasvati Thakura replied that this material universe is a small portion of the Lord's entire creation — just a tiny corner in the Lord's ultimate manifestation and a place where the jivas who desire to enjoy separately from Krishna can live until they are spiritually reformed. The material world itself consists of innumerable universes, and this particular universe, he said, is the smallest. Within this universe are countless planets, and on planet Earth there are several countries. In India there are a number of cities. Kolkata is one of them. Srila Sarasvati Thakura remarked that if the city of Kolkata could sup-port several daily newspapers to discuss only material topics that benefit no one, how much more information should be available for a daily spiritual newspaper that brings news from the spiritual realm, a much grander realm? Spiritual messages are ever fresh and true, while news from this dead world provides only stale messages to crow-like people. The swan-like devotees have no interest in them.
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