In a recent editorial, (Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Relationship with Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī, by Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu), the author attempts to vindicate the position of Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī. The author also attempts to discredit numerous statements in the book, The Authorised Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā indicating that Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī was a caste-conscious gosvāmī and that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura took initiation from the Gosvāmī only for decorum’s sake. It is stated in ‘The Authorised Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā‘ that Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī was in the sahajiyā community that is known as ‘jāti-gosāñi.’ In other words, Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī was a sahajiyā.
Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu certainly disagrees with our conclusions. In an email correspondence to which he makes reference, Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu states that in his opinion Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī was the ‘vanguard’ of Vaiṣṇavism at the turn of the century. I could not disagree more with his conclusion.
Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu suggests that the author of The Authorised Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā, my insignificant self, is not a bona-fide source of information because I have a śikṣā-guru from Gauḍīya Maṭha -thus I am an unreliable reference source. This seems quite ironic, since Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu himself is a śikṣā disciple of someone outside of ISKCON, namely Fakir Mohan, a disciple of Ananta Vāsudeva, who caused an epidemic of sahajiyāsim in the early 1940’s, thus reducing the sincere followers of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura to tears (see page 82 of The Authorised Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā).
But then, that might explain Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu’s affinity for Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī. Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu and I have discussed this matter by email and I am surprised that he continues to insist that I was wrong about Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī, or that I have no valid reference source. Although I have no intention here to ‘beat a dead horse,’ I am nonetheless compelled to say a few words supporting the validity of The Authorised Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā.
Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu doubts that Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja ever said anything about Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī being a sahajiyā, because I have not given him proof ‘in writing’. Possibly he thinks I would invent such statements or that I have a poor memory, as he has stated in his article. In both cases he is sadly mistaken. At this time, we are pleased to announce that the Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja Folio, consisting of six hundred transcribed lectures, darśanas, and numerous books by Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, is now completed and available to a limited audience on CD ROM.
In this folio there are literally mountains of the sweetest devotional nectar and even a few verifications of my statements concerning Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī being a sahajiyā!
A sample from the folio verification is quoted here ‘in writing’, from a darśana with Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, given on Febuary 4th 1982, in Navadvīpa.
“Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī, he was the formal guru, diksa-guru, of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. His son Bhāgavata Gosvāmī, he was a good scholar and was principal of Sanskrit college. And his father was Vipina Gosvāmī. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura took his initiation from him. But later on that jāti Gosvāmī (Vipina Vihārī), he was overconfident of his flesh brāhmanism and he spoke out that, “Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī he is a śūdra, born of a śūdra family, so I can bless him.” That excited very much our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was living, he put this to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura that, “Vipina Gosvāmī says so and he is very proud that you are his disciple. And by his ill-advice, he is doing disservice to the sampradāya.” Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura did not do much but only very mildly protested. That this does not view well. Then Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura connected with Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja and took his bābājī dress from him and accepted him as guru.
“Then one incident happened. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura passed away and our Prabhupāda began to make disciples. In the district of Jessore, in a particular locality, there were some disciples of Prabhupāda, who took initiation from Prabhupāda, our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. Then one man in competition with the disciples of Prabhupāda, he came direct to Vipina Gosvāmī, the guru of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and he took initiation from Vipina Gosvāmī and he showed that his position was higher, because Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is his guru-bhāi, godbrother. So he must be given respect.
“But followers of Prabhupāda did not care for him that, “You have gone to that sahajiyā guru, Vipina Gosvāmī, jāti-gosvāmī, you took initiation, we don’t care for you!” Then that man was lost. He does not get any recognition amongst the disciples of Prabhupāda. And they very forcibly, they are preaching their cult in a novel way as Prabhupāda wanted to do. Then again he (that man) left Vipina Gosvāmī and took initiation from Prabhupāda and afterwards took sannyāsa also from our Prabhupāda and was a good preacher.
That also we found that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s guru, Vipina Gosvāmī, from him that gentleman, that was Bhāratī Mahārāja, he took initiation first from Vipina Gosvāmī and then when he found that he is not getting any place in the sampradāya, he left him and again took initiation from Guru Mahārāja. And Guru Mahārāja gave him initiation, though already initiated, taken initiation from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Gurudeva. That also we know. So absolute consideration and relative as I told, I am telling always.” (Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, Febuary 4th 1982, Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha, Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, West Bengal, India)
The faulty position of Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī is clearly known among the bona-fide followers of Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, although Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu suggests that their authority is no authority whatsoever. Actually, it is only those who have lent their ear to the anti-party and other sahajiyā sections, avoiding the association of the successor ācāryas of Śrīla Saraswati Ṭhākura, that are not clear on this matter.
We do not like to write articles simply criticizing devotees, even the fallen ones. What has been said about Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī in The Authorised Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā was said only out of necessity to counter the line of argument presented by the anti-party. Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu does not grasp this point very well. Had I intended to simply throw mud for the sake of mud-slinging, I could have easily presented other historical facts about certain anti-party members that would have been better suited for the pages of PADA (A now defunct website that posted negative gossip about the Vaiṣṇava world).
The verification of the contents of the book The Authorised Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā rests on the tradition of hearing from a bona-fide spiritual master. Bhakta Rūpa Prabhu demands written evidence about the histories of the Gauḍīya sampradaya at the beginning of this century but the fact is that such ‘written evidence’, if any, is scarce. Therefore, we must naturally rely upon the divine relationship which exists between guru and disciple. We should remember that śravaṇam, or hearing from the pure devotees, is not only valid but the most authorized way to obtain spiritual enlightenment and accurate information.
tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a bona-fide spiritual master. Surrender to him and inquire from him and render service at his lotus feet. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you, for he has seen the truth.” (Gītā 4.34)
In the future, the book, The Authorised Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā may itself be a source of ‘written evidence’ for future generations of devotees in the matter of defending the Sārasvata paramparā against the anti-party propaganda. Indeed, it already is.