Once upon a time — or in a moment that transcends time — The great Gaudiya Vaisnava teacher Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura instructed one of his more academically gifted disciples to write a book that would sum up the vast and profound teachings of Krishna Consciousness. The disciple was Sundarananda Vidyavinoda, who was specifically asked to accomplish this task by quoting only from the work of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta father and intimate spiritual advisor. Bhaktivinoda, in many ways, was the first to express the rich Gaudiya theological system in modern language, both in his native Bengali and in English. He is also renowned as the systematizer of the tradition for the contemporary world. Moreover, he is revered in his lineage as a singularly empowered individual, whose writings are on an equal footing with sacred scripture. The eager Sundarananda thus took his Master’s mandate to heart, and the result is the book you now hold in your hands, Bhaktivinoda Vani Vaibhava.
Originally written in Bengali, the work is a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge, revealing both general information about spiritual life and intimate details of Gaudiya siddhanta. Sundarananda draws on works ranging from Bhaktivinoda’s autobiography to the Thakura’s novels and more sastra-like literature. What’s more, he adopts Bhaktivinoda’s frequent style of presenting detailed information in the easy-to-read format of questions and answers: Sundarananda composed the questions and then allowed Bhaktivinoda himself to answer by quoting the Thakura’s various books.
Sundarananda also divides the book into Sambandha (the path), abhidheya (the means), and prayojana (the goal), which are themes Bhaktivinoda uses in many of his own works, such as Jaiva Dharma, Kalyana Kalpa-taru, and so on. In doing this, both authors follow much of the traditional literature of their lineage. For example, Jiva Gosvami’s satsandarbha is expressed in terms ofsambandha, abhidheya and prayojana, and, in fact, the entire gamut of Vedic literature subscribes to this format, either directly or indirectly. As Kaviraja Gosvami says in his Caitanya caritamrta:
“The Vedic literature gives information about the living entity’s eternal relationship with Krishna, which is called sambandha. The living entity’s understanding of this relationship and acting accordingly is called abhidheya. Returning home, back to Godhead, is the ultimate goal of life and is calledprayojana. These are the three subject-matters of these books of knowledge.”