09.12.17 (VT) According to Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakurji, bhakti is “the practical side of things”. Talking about the change that came over him after taking initiation, Bhaktisiddhanta said, “Up to that time, my idea of religion was confined to books and to a strict ethical life, but that sort of life was found imperfect unless I came in touch with the practical side of things.” (Sardella 2013b, p. 75.)
Bhaktisiddhanta was one of the first Gurus to start initiating foreigners. As well as initiating several foreigners himself, Bhaktisiddhanta also instructed his disciples to make as many Western disciples as possible. While carrying out his instructions, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada founded ISKCON and opened 108 temples around the world, and Narayan Maharaj traveled abroad making hundreds of disciples.
Speaking of his desire to see the world united through bhakti, Bhaktisiddhanta’s father, Bhaktivinoda Thakur, stated in his Sajjana-toshani magazine in 1882, “ When will the day come when the white-skinned British people will speak the glory of Shri Shachinandana on one side and on the other and with this call spread their arms to embrace devotees from other countries in brotherhood, when will that day come! The day when they will say “Oh, Aryan Brothers! We have taken refuge at the feet of Chaitanya Deva in an ocean of love, now kindly embrace us,” when will that day come!
In Braj, Bhaktisiddhanta’s appearance and disappearance days bring together the leaders of the Gaudiya Maths, who come together to celebrate the feeling of gratefulness that they all share. At a meeting of the World Vaishnava Association held to discuss how the different Gaudiya Maths can combine their strengths to spread the world about Bhaktisiddhanta’s teachings, Paramadwaiti Maharaj said that each math should come out in full force with the pictures of their gurus and festoons and banners. “If we show how many different groups belong to this family of Saraswata Gaudiya Vaishnavas, how many saints and powerful preachers have come through this line in such a short time, then people will begin to grasp the importance of Saraswati Thakur’s role in spreading Krishna consciousness.
Bhaktisiddhanta showed us how to lead a joyful life of service – “the practical side of things”.