Bhakti Hridaya Bon
|Bhakti Hridaya Bon|
|Predecessor||Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura|
Bhakti Hridaya Bon, also known as Swami Bon, was a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and a guru in the Gaudiya Math following the philosophy of the Bhakti marg, specifically of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Gaudiya Vaishnava theology. At the time of his death he left behind thousands of Bengali disciples in India. His current successor is Gopananda Bon.
Reference books on Bon's life include "On the path to Vaikuntha", "Viraha-vedana" (Bengali), and "Vaikunther Pathe" (Bengali), "My First Year in England", etc. He is noted for his translation into English of Rupa Goswami's Sanskrit classic, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu; as also his educational activities in Vraja Mandala, considered a sacred area associated with Krishna, located between Delhi and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Swami Bon was the Rector of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy in Vrindavana,[unreliable source?] and Founder of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Academy in Nandagram, Uttar Pradesh. He initiated a few Westerners such as Lalitananda Bon (R.S. Brown) and Vamana dasa (Walther Eidlitz) who was converted to Gaudiya Vaishnavism by meeting Sadananda in a concentration camp in India. and Asim Krishna Das (Allan A. Shapiro).
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Later, in 1924, at the age of 23, he was the third disciple to accept lifelong Tridanda Sannyasa from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada and quickly became one of his leading preachers. He preached the message of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, delivering many lectures all over India, including at the Royal Albert Hall in Kolkata. He also established a new Gaudiya Math in Madras (now Chennai) and he organized successful theistic exhibitions in Kolkata and Dacca.
He was so successful as a preacher, introducing the message of Sarasvati Prabhupada and Chaitanya up to the highest levels of social and intellectual society of that time (during the British Raj) that he soon became known all over India.
Because of his good breeding and high education he was sent by his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, to the UK and Germany to preach. He took Chaitanya's teachings to the very top of society (even being received in audience by the king of England) and gave many lectures throughout England and Europe. Bon converted two German men, E.G. Schulze (Sadananda) and Baron Koeth, whom he brought back to his guru, Sarasvati Prabhupada, for initiation.
In 1942, after the disappearance of his guru, Sarasvati Prabhupada, Bon voted for Bhakti Vilas Tirtha to be the next Acharya of the Gaudiya Math.
Bon went by foot on a solitary pilgrimage into the Himalayas for years of severe penances (described in his Bengali book, Vaikunther-pathe, On the way to Vaikuntha). His vows were (1) not speaking to anyone, (2) eating only fruits and nuts off of trees, (3) sleeping bare bodied on the ground, and (4) not taking a single step without chanting the Maha-mantra. He journeyed 650 miles on foot and lived at the source of the Yamuna River under very severe circumstances. In his book he writes about his vision darshan of his Gurudeva, who revealed to him his siddha-bhajan-pranali, and ordered him to go serve Vrindavana-dhama. Thereafter he retired in Vrindavana where he constructed a small bhajan-kutir on land donated to him. He also excavated an underground cave-room where he spent many years performing secluded bhajan (chanting in meditation).
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By the age of 70, Bon had initiated over one thousand mostly Bengali and other Indian born disciples, out of which were 10 Tridandi Sannyasis (monks). In some East and West Bengali villages such as Vishnupur the entire populations, husbands, wives and children, were his disciples. Bon lived in Vrindavana in his ashram, "Bhajan Kutir." He was active in attracting scholars and other people to Vraja Dham for theological studies, as well as creating a post-graduate college in Vrindavan, the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (Aff. University of Agra), where many local people received their education. He also founded the Sri Krishna Chaitainya Primary School in Nandagram in 1970, and he had ashrams in Vrindavan and Nandagram in Uttar Pradesh, and Kolkata in Bengal. He spent much of his time associating with his close friends and godbrothers, such as "bhajananandi" Krishnadas Babaji, and Bhakti Shuddha Ashram. He was close with all his godbrothers.
Bon revealed his spiritual identity (svarupa siddhi) in his books, such as Vaikuntha Path Par (Hindi & Bengali) in which his spiritual name is given as "Kunda Latika Manjari," with his eternal service always in Pratham yama nitya lila.
He initiated the following 11 (Vaishnava) Tridandi sannyasis (monks):
- Krishnananda Bon (Former Acarya)
- Rashananda Bon (Former Acarya)
- Rasikananda Bon (Former Acharya)
- Mohananda Bon
- Sudhananda Bon
- Syamananda Bon
- Madhavananda Bon
- Gopananda Bon (Present Acarya)
- Kesavananda Bon
- Satananda Bon
- Premananda Bon (Former Secretary)
During his life, Swami Bon wrote many books, including his master-piece translation and commentary of Sri Rupa Goswami's Sanskrit classic, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Books by Swami Bon which have been published include the Gita As a Chaitanyite Reads It, Sri Chaitanya, Viraha-vedana, On the Way to Vaikuntha (Hindi & Bengali), and seven more books in German, English, Hindi and Bengali.
Service to Vraja Dham
Swami Bon also served Vraja-dhama by offering the local people accredited education.
1) He built the Vaishnava Theological University (later became affiliated with the University of Agra as the Institute of Oriental Philosophy), in Vrindavana, where many Vraja-vasis received BA, MA and PhD degrees;
2) He constructed the Sri Krishna Chaitanya Primary School next to Sanatana Goswami's bhajan-kutir in Nandagrama.
3) He maintained Sri Sanatana Goswami's bhajan kutir in Nandagrama where many of his Godbrothers would stay, and until now this tirtha is under the care of his disciples. It is also the sacred spot where Akinchan Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj has his samadhi (tomb).
4) His personal Math in Vrindavana near Madana Mohana temple is called "Bhajan Kutir" where he lived a quiet life with his brahmacari and sannyasi disciples. Swami Bon was always very strict with the four regulative principles, and he never acted or spoke as sahajiya or fallen in any way; he was a fixed-up, lifelong celibate sannyasi who mostly performed private bhajan after returning from his tapasya, followed by educational activities in service of Vraja Dhama.
Many of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's leading disciples would often come to visit him in Vraja, including Srila Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj. He also went to visit his Godbrothers and their disciples in Bengal every couple years.
He died in the company of chanting disciples at 9:04 PM on July 7, 1982 at his Bhajan Kutir in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. The story of his death is reported in the book "Supreme Divinity and Sad-guru" by Tapodhir Krishna Dastidar.[dubious ]
- "Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu". translation by Swami Bon Maharaj - Rector, IOP, Vrindavan. Archived from the original on 2 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
- "The Education of Human Emotions by Klaus K. Klostermaier". Retrieved 2007-02-16.
- Richard Shaw Brown (1997). Vraja-Rasa-Bindhu.
- Lalitananda Vana (1971). Sri Bepin Sakhi Vilas. OCLC 31935694.
- "Allan A. Shapiro - initiated by Swami Bon". Retrieved 2007-03-28.
- "Ref to Swami Bon Maharaj - Rector, IOP, Vrindavan. UP, India". Retrieved 2007-03-28.
- Bhakti-Rasamrta-Sindhuh. by Sri Rupa Gosvami Review author[s]: Agehananda Bharati, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Feb., 1968), pp. 412–413 doi:10.2307/2051795
- B. H. Bon Maharaj. IPC 18, 1973: 200261. ... 3.455: B. H. Bon Maharaj, 'Life and message ofSri Caitanya', IPC 17, 1972
- Comparative History of Religion by B.H. Bon 
- Booklet Second Year of The Gaudiya Mission in Europe written by Bon describing his meeting with Joseph Goebbels