Richard (now Radhanath Swami) met Asim Krishna’s guru, Swami Bon Maharaj. He showered warmth and affection upon Richard and revealed to him that his coming to Vrindavan was not a chance occurrence; the Supreme Lord had personally directed him to his eternal home, Vrindavan. Bon Maharaj also offered Richard to be his special guest who could come and go as he pleased. Bon Maharaj was a highly educated devotee and distinguished in character. At the age of twenty he had met his guru Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati, and upon hearing his powerful message and seeing his spotless character, Bon Maharaj offered his life to the path of devotional service.
Asim Krishna explained to Richard that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was a very special guru who boldly declared that no one should be categorized on the basis of race, nationality, or caste, that we are all eternal souls, not the temporary body. He taught that people must be respected according to their personal qualities, not their birth. Boldly exposing the modern perversion of the caste system, he faced plots to end his life. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati emphasized the spirit of genuine devotion, or bhakti, and dismissed mundane superficialities and pseudo spirituality. At the young age of twenty-three, Bon Maharaja took the vows of a sannyasi, lifelong celibacy, and began to preach throughout India. He was among the first of Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciples to be sent to England and Germany in the 1920s.
Radhanath Swami lovingly refers to Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati as his ‘grandfather guru’, the spiritual master of his own guru, Srila Prabhupada. Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati was a prolific scholar of Vedic scriptures and spoke English fluently. In the early twentieth century, Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati spread the message of the urgent need for all human beings to seek out God and render the highest good to humanity by educating people about the eternal soul and the soul’s eternal relationship with God.
Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati displayed symptoms of divinity even as a child, and as a young boy mastered Sanskrit, Mathematics and Astronomy. He received the epithet ‘Siddhanta Saraswati’ as recognition for his erudition. I heard from Radhanath Swami an interesting aspect of Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati’s character. I would assume such a scholar to be drowning with books and scriptures. However in 1905, Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati undertook a vow to chant the Hare Krishna mantra a billion times. Radhanath Swami is prayerful and grave in his demeanour when glorifying great acharyas, teachers of the past like Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati. Without their blessings, Radhanath Swami says, it’s impossible to make advancement in our spiritual life. “To the degree we consider ourselves as instruments in the hands of the previous acharyas, to that extent, we facilitate the flow of grace”, expresses Radhanath Swami, “and to the degree we feel we are the doers, we restrict the flow of the blessings of the previous masters.”
Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati was also revolutionary in the sense he knew the austere living under trees and mountains may not be possible for modern people. Therefore he introduced the idea that devotee householders could live in palatial homes and the devotee monks could live in big temples.”. While previously Bhakti-yogis would not have had anything to do with the mechanized contrivances introduced by the British, Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati, on the authority of scripture, was demonstrating a higher understanding. That one is perfectly detached from all materialistic worldly entanglement not when one gives up everything but when one employs everything for the service of God. This is understood to be perfect renunciation in yoga.
Radhanath Swami, humbly following the footsteps of Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati echoes the same mood, “If God is good, then His energy is also good; material things should not be used for one’s own personal enjoyment, but they could be and should be used for the service of God.”
I once heard Radhanath Swami give a detailed description of the disciplic succession of spiritual masters, coming down systematically for generations. He mentioned that Bhatisiddhanta Saraswati also comes in one such unbroken lineage of gurus.