Recently, we made an interesting discovery while doing some research on Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s poem glorifying Haridāsa Ṭhākura. The ninth stanza is well-known amongst the devotees and reads:
“He reasons ill who tells that Vaiṣṇavas die, when thou art living still in sound.
The Vaiṣṇavas die to live and living try to spread the holy name around.”
This is the way you will see the verse throughout the internet and printed in contemporary books also.
The poem, consisting of 10 stanzas, was originally written in English by Bhaktivinoda in 1871 after he visited the samādhi of Haridāsa Ṭhākura in Jagannātha Purī. In the version of the poem that we find today all over the internet, the last line of ninth stanza reads, “…to spread the holy name around.” However, I thought I remembered that line being different. My recollection was that the original line was, “…to spread a holy life around.”
Our research has proved my otherwise wretched memory to be correct. We found a 1929 edition of Bhaktisiddhānta’s Harmonist magazine, wherein the entire poem was printed and the last line of stanza 9 reads:
“The Vaiṣṇavas die to live and living try to spread a holy life around.”
The complete poem is given below.
Of course, one may think that to say, “…to spread the holy name around” sounds better, but that raises the question, “Who are we to change the words of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura?” Keep in mind, this is not a matter of translation. Bhaktivinoda wrote the poem in English. It seems that the conditioned souls of this world are infected with the disease of ‘change’ – addicted to changing everything—change, change, change!
In fact, in the present day, the disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda who are in charge of the Bhaktivedānta Book Trust (BBT) have made more than 7,000 changes to Prabhupāda’s original books. One may argue that those changes were simply to improve the language, but sadly, while trying to ‘improve’ Prabhupāda’s use of the English language, a significant number of those changes have philosophically altered the meaning of what Śrīla Prabhupāda had originally written. Among other things, the siddhānta has been changed to fit the narrative of ‘society consciousness’ rather than that of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
At present, devotees worldwide are very disturbed by the changes to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s original books and they have every right to be so. They are now fighting in the courts regarding the changes in Prabhupāda’s books. Unfortunately, they never stop to think how much this affair displeases Śrīla Prabhupāda. It is shameful, it is an abomination!
Here is a quote from His Divine Grace regarding changes to the writings of the spiritual master:
Śrīla Prabhupāda: “You cannot make any changes in my spiritual master’s book.”
Govinda Dāsī: What about the incorrect grammar?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: “You cannot change one comma, not even a comma, not even a punctuation mark. That is the etiquette! The etiquette, is called ārṣa prayoga… which is…whatever the guru has spoken, that is set in cement for eternity.
” I am practically seeing that as soon as they, our students, begin to learn a little Sanskrit they immediately feel they have become more than their Guru.
” Then the policy is kill their guru and become guru themselves.
…”As soon as he learns Guru Mahārāja is DEAD, I am so advanced that I can kill guru and become guru, then he is finished.””
So let this be a warning to devotees everywhere. That which our Guardians have given us will deliver us from saṁsāra, the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, we should not be over-intelligent and change their teachings, thinking that we know better. Such arrogance and pride should never arise in the heart of a pure devotee.
Original Poem of “Ṭhākura Haridāsa”
by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura
1) Oh born of Moslem parents Haridas!
And trained in youth in Moslem creed
Thy noble heart to Vaishnava truth did pass
Thy holy acts thy candor plead!
2) Is there a soul that cannot learn from thee
That man must give up sect for God
That thoughts of race and sect can ne’er agree
With what they call Religion broad
3) Thy love of God and brother soul alone
Bereft thyself of early friends
Thy softer feelings oft to kindness prone
Led on thyself for higher ends!
4) I weep to read that Kazis and their men
Oft persecuted thee, alas!?
But thou didst nobly pray for th’ wicked then!
For thou wert Vaishnava Haridas!
5) And God is boundless grace to thee, Oh man!
United thee to one who came
To save the fallen souls from Evil’s plan
Of taking human souls to shame
6) And He it was who led you all that came
For life eternal, holy, pure!
And gave you rest in Heaven’s endearing Name
And sacred blessings ever sure!
7) Thy body rests upon the sacred sands
Of Svargardvar near the sea,
Oh, hundreds come to thee from distant lands
T’ enjoy a holy, thrilling glee!
8) The waters roar and storming winds assail
Thy ears in vain, ah, Vaishnava soul!
The charms of Vrindavan thy heart regale,
Unknown the wheel of time doth roll!
9) He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die
When thou art living still in sound
The Vaishnavas die to live and living try
To spread a holy life around!
10) Now let the candid man that seeks to live
Follow thy way on shores of time
Then posterity sure to him will give
Like one song in simple rhyme!