Bhaktivinode Thakur left us all a great legacy of devotional songs and poetry. Today being the day he passed away in 1914, it is an opportunity for those of us whose lives have been enriched by his words, to take a few minutes and read one or two, or sing them as well.
This morning I sat with my daughter and we sang the song beginning Atmanivedana… from the Saranagati collection. Each song in that book is a nuance of devotional theology; the songs progressing from one aspect to another so that every thought and theological conclusion involved in surrender to God has been expressed. It is a wonderful library of hymns.
The Thakur was writing at a time when much of his thought was regarded as antiquated and merely a remnant of India’s long and beleaguered history. The intellectuals of the day, the English-educated bhadralok, were mostly involved in appeasing their British overlords in order to secure the best paying jobs. The theological aim of the day was to form a Hindu-Christian syncretism so that Hinduism would not be seen as backward.
Bhaktivinode Thakur was fixed in his understanding of the perennial value of devotional bhakti, and taught that it was not something subject to the vagaries of the age. In defiance of many of his contemporaries he wrote his songs and published them.
Thirty-three years after his death the British left India for good and perceptions of India’s philosophical history began to change. In 2015 India is enjoying a resurgence in many ways. People are more proud of India and its traditions, and the Thakur’s songs are being sung by his modern followers all over the country.