In the month of Śravaṇa 1880, when Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja was staying in the kuñja of Śrī Rūpa dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura arrived at the kuñja of Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Vasu with the intent of having darśana of Śrīdhāma Vṛndāvana. At that time, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was searching for certain lost scriptural texts. When he came to the kuñja of Śrī Rūpa dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, he had his first darśana of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja and thus manifested the meeting pastime of the eternal Vrajavāsī guru and disciple in the Vraja of this world. It was here that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura received a copy of the ‘Dāsa śloki’ of Śrī Nimbāditya, which he later published in Bengali.
Hearing the powerful hari-kathā of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura understood that Bābājī Mahārāja was a great bhajanānandi–mahāpuruṣa, and thus he surrendered himself forever at Bābājī Mahārāja’s lotus feet. He realized that the actual result of his pilgrimage had been obtained:
tīrtha–phala sādhu-saṅga, sādhu saṅge antaraṅga, śrī kṛṣṇa-bhajana manohāra
The actual result of going to the holy places is to obtain sādhu-saṅga, because in saintly association one attains ‘antaraṅga,’ or the opportunity of receiving confidential instructions for kṛṣṇa-bhajana, which steal the mind.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s travel to Śrīdhāma Vṛndāvana was successful. Śrīman Mahāprabhu, in the same way, expressed the feelings of His heart upon having darśana of Śrī Īśvara Purī in Gayā:
prabhu bale gayā yatra saphala amara
yatra ksane dekhilan caraṇa tomāra
saṁsāra-samudra haite uddharaha more
ei ami deha samarpilan tomare
kṛṣṇa-pada-padmera amrta-rasa pana
amare karao tumi ei cahi dāna
Caitanya-Bhāgavata, Ādi 17.50–52
Receiving the darśana of Śrī Īśvara Purī’s lotus feet, Śrī Gaursundara said, “That moment I obtained the darśana of your beautiful lotus feet, My pilgrimage to Gayā became successful. Please save Me from the ocean of material existence, I have offered My body unto you! Please make Me drink the transcendental nectar of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet; this is all I beg from you!”
In this same way, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s mind became restless in love, and many prayers befitting an ideal disciple appeared on his tongue. Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahāśaya was pleased, seeing that a person so learned and well versed in the scriptures possessed such powerful and natural enthusiasm to preach nāma-saṅkīrtana as practiced and preached by Śrīman Mahāprabhu. He thus encouraged Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura to preach even more broadly śrī gaura-nāma, śrī gaura-dhāma, and śrī gaura-kāma (Śrī Gaura’s name, abode, and desires) throughout the world.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura returned from Śrī Vṛndāvana and began preaching extensively to fulfill the heart’s desire of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahāśaya. By reading the autobiography of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda, one will see that from that time onwards, he preached with even more force about the holy name and the precepts of pure bhakti. He began giving many eloquent lectures on the subject of dharma in many places throughout Bengal.
Meeting Again at the Place Called Amlajoda
After this first meeting, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura had the great happiness to obtain the association and instructions of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja many times. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura himself wrote about some of the prominent meetings.
Once, Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja was staying in a place called Amlajoda within the district of Vardhamāna, preaching the spotlessly pure śrī–rūpānuga-bhakti. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, who at that time was planning to go to Vṛndāvana to obtain sādhu-saṅga and take up residence in the dhāma, was traveling from place to place, also preaching hari-kathā and hari-kīrtana. On the Ekādaśī of the month of Phālguna (February-March), on Wednesday the 23rd, in 1891, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura decided to stop in Amlajoda, where he had the good fortune of again receiving darśana of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was also highly respected and greatly honored by the residents of Amlajoda. By the combined efforts of the protectors of the śrī–nāma-haṭṭa, Śrī Yukta Ksetranatha Bhaktinidhi, and Vipanipati Śrī Yukta Vipin Vihari Bhaktiratna, the āśrama named ‘Prapanna Āśrama’ was constructed in the midst of a garden in the village of Amlajoda.
The Ideal Way to Follow Ekādaśī-tithi, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s Condition in Bhāva, and Establishing Prapanna Āśrama
Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura observed every Ekādaśī-tithi perfectly, following to the example shown by Śrī Ambarīṣa Mahārāja in the Śrīmad–Bhāgavatam. On Ekādaśī in Amlajoda, they stayed up all night doing hari-kīrtana, showing to all the general people the unprecedented example of how to follow Ekādaśī.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has related these divine events at Amlajoda in his magazine ‘Śrī Sajjana-toṣaṇī, Year 4 Volume 23:
After staying awake all night on Ekādaśī, at eight in the morning all the devotees in the village gathered together and performed nagar-saṅkīrtana. With parama-pūjyapāda siddha Śrī Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahāśaya leading the way, the party arrived at Prapanna Āśrama.
It is impossible to describe all the bhāvas that manifested in Bābājī Mahārāja at the time of kīrtana. At an age beyond 100, he would dance like a lion in the bliss of prema, and in the middle of his dance, he would sometimes shout out:
nitāi ki nāma eneche re, nāma eneche namera haṭe śraddhāmūle nāma diteche re
Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu appeared on this Earth with wonderful names! He opened the marketplace of the holy names and distributed this wonderful prema–nāma for the price of faith.
While singing these lines of poetry and others similar to it, he would shed incessant tears and tumble in the dust of the earth. The scene that took place at that time was so amazing, nowhere else is it possible to see such a wonderful pastime. Seeing the ecstatic emotions of Śrīla Bābājī Mahāśaya and becoming submerged in the bliss of his kīrtana, almost all present wept with hairs standing on end. Everyone danced ecstatically in the kīrtana for a long time, their voices choked with emotion. After the completion of the lengthy kīrtana, there was a brief lecture on the subject of nāma-haṭṭa. Being very pleased, Bābājī Mahāśaya gave the order for the manifestation of the ‘Prapanna Aśrama’ to begin that day. Receiving the approval of Bābājī Mahāśaya, Vipanipati Mahāśaya completed the task of establishing the Prapanna Āśrama that very same day. During the opening of a school or a medical dispensary, a prominent resident of the area is selected to be the chairman. However, during the opening of the Prapanna Āśrama, Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahāśaya, who at that time was present in the assembly of the devotees, was given the chairman’s seat. This was proper etiquette in every respect. Therefore, if one wants to construct a Prapanna Āśrama in any village, it should be established in this manner.”
In this village called Amlajoda, Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja spoke with Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura day and night about Gaura and Kṛṣṇa. They also had many discussions on the Śrīmad–Bhāgavatam and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta.
Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja Arrives in Śrī Gaura-dhāma to Permanently Reside There
In the manifest lifetime of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, the viviktānandī–sādhus were propagating the idea that Śrī Vraja-dhāma is the place for perfected personalities and Navadvīpa-dhāma is the place for sādhakas, for it bestows the tendency to perform sādhana. They propagated the misconception that Śrī Vraja-dhāma is superior to Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, and that just by arriving, by any means, in Śrī Vraja-dhāma, one will achieve perfection. This offensive conception that Śrī Gaura-dhāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa-dhāma are different thus became prevalent. Vaiṣṇava-sārvabhauma Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja took a firm vow to uproot this misconception completely and throw it far away. Hence, although being an eternally perfected Vrajavāsī absorbed in transcendental pastimes, he resided in Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma until his divine disappearance. He instructed Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrī Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, and many of his followers to manifest the brilliantly radiant nature of Śrī Gaura-dhāma by staying there and giving the perfect example of performing hari–bhajana. The previous ācārya Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura has sung about this siddhānta as follows:
śrī gauḍa maṇḍala bhūmi jebā jāne cintāmaṇi
tāra haya vraja bhūme vāsa
One who knows the land of Śrī Gauḓa-maṇḍala to be spiritual touchstone achieves residence in the land of Vraja.
Following this conclusive truth, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja stayed in Śrī Gauda-maṇḍala and entered into the transcendental pastimes there, performing kīrtana of this siddhānta with a loud voice.
Staying in Kuliyā Navadvīpa
That place in Kuliyā Navadvīpa where Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja resided and did his bhajana became famous as bhajana-kuṭī. Considering Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, who at that time was staying in Kṛṣṇanagara, to be his dear associate, Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja asked him to construct a compound on the bhajana-kuṭī area. Taking this order on his head, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura used his assets to fulfill this desire. Now, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s samādhi is present in that compound. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura came to this place many times to see Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja and hear Gaura-Kṛṣṇa kathā from him.
Giving the Giridhārī-śilā to Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura
When Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja came from Navadvīpa to Calcutta, he would usually go and meet Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in Bhakti Bhavana. He thus followed the advice of Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura:
gṛhe vā vanete thāke hā gaurāṅga bale dāke
narottama māge tāra sāṅga
Whether a person lives in his home as a householder or in the forest as a renunciant, if he exclaims, “Ha Gaurāṅga!” Narottama dāsa begs for his association.
While Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was performing the pastime of a householder, Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja would go to meet him directly. To establish the perfect ideal of good behavior for the householders, Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja gave Śrī Giridhārī, or a Govardhana-śilā, to paramahaṁsa śiromaṇi Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.
In 1293 Baṅgābda, when Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja came to Bhakti Bhavana, Śrī Vipina Bihārī Gosvāmī from Bāghanāpāḍā took the caraṇāmṛta of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja in order to satisfy Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. There was a photo taken at that time of Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja on the roof of Bhakti Bhavana. This photograph is worshipped in present times by the viśuddha Śrī Rūpānuga Vaiṣṇavas.
The Necessity of Service According to Qualification
While Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja was staying in his bhajana-kuṭīra in Kuliyā Navadvīpa, some people who had given up household life and were wearing the cloth of renunciants came to obtain some instructions on bhajana. Considering their qualification, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja instructed them to water the eggplant vegetables, which had been planted for Kṛṣṇa’s service. Having the false ego of being fully matured in bhajana, they were displeased with this instruction of Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja. They questioned why they should again perform the materialistic work of householders, since they had left their home to become detached from this sort of sensual work and had come to Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s lotus feet. Some thought that if even after leaving material life, they had to perform this sort of work again, it would be better to instead return back to their home. Understanding the mood of their heart, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja brought all these disciples before Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and after clearly explaining their concerns to him, he asked the Ṭhākura, “You are the best deliberator, please give your opinion.”
Some of these persons possessed the false ego of being detached, loincloth renunciants. Some had a lethargic nature and were full of anarthas. Some were secretly vyabhicāris (performers of illicit activities), some kept independent desires, and some were anyābhilāṣīs, full of ulterior desires. Considering all their respective qualifications, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura advised one person among them to go on pilgrimage to the four dhāmas, to others he instructed to return to their homes and get properly married. He advised those simple persons, who were weak due to the disease of anyābhilāṣa, ulterior desires, to fully follow the instructions of Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja without any hesitation, and to fully surrender unto him. In this way, Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, through Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, gave mercy to those in the grip of unwanted desires.
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s All-knowing Nature
Many people would come to receive the darśana of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. When they would leave his company, they would give him donations. He would keep all these donations in a small jug. Every fifteen days he would have the money counted and most of it spent. If the servant of Bābājī Mahārāja ever took out 10 or 15 rupees and put it in another place without telling him, Bābājī Mahārāja would become very sober and speak in a loud voice, “Oh! Where did the 15 rupees go?” Bābājī Mahārāja never counted the money himself. Also due to advanced age, Bābājī Mahārāja’s eyelids would always be closed; he could only see if he held them open with his hands. He thus mostly kept his eyes closed in the presence of his servant. But still Bābājī Mahārāja knew everything. The servant then fearfully returned all the money.
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s Disdain for the Hypocritical Residents of the Dhāma
Whatever donations Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja received, he would spend however he saw fit. One day, Bābājī Mahārāja told his servant, “Go! Take 200 rupees of the collected donations and exchange them for rasagullas. I will feed rasagullas to all the cows of the dhāma.” The servant asked, “Why do you want to feed rasagullas to the cows of the dhāma instead of feeding the Bābājī Vaiṣṇavas of the dhāma?” Bābājī Mahārāja replied, “You don’t know, most of the bābājīs here associate with women. Taking the cloth of bābājīs, they are having illicit association with women. Therefore, I am not feeding them rasagullas, but rather, I am giving the rasagullas to the cows.”
Deceiving with Worldly Commodities
Sometimes Bābājī Mahārāja would give someone five or ten rupees. Sometimes he would give someone a shawl, blanket, or clothes; however, to those who desired their own auspiciousness, he would not cheat them in this way but always give them strong chastisement.
Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja would take prasāda on a large plate. One time, while staying in Kuliyā Navadvīpa, a female dog from a nearby hut gave birth to five puppies. When Bābājī Mahārāja would sit down to take prasāda, the puppies would start eating from his plate, standing on all four sides. Because his eyes were closed, he would count them with his hand to make sure all the puppies had come. If the servant was upset and tried to chase one or two of them away, Bābājī Mahārāja would angrily say, “Go! Take my plate. Today I will not eat. They are all dhāmavāsīs and you are always intent on driving them away!”
Feeling ashamed, the servant would be forced to bring back the puppies, and would leave them near the plate of Bābājī Mahārāja. Once Bābājī Mahārāja counted that all were present, he would happily take prasāda with them from one plate.
Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja is a mahā-bhāgavata. It would be inauspicious for an ordinary person to imitate his behavior. The mahā-bhāgavata is independent, beyond all rules, regulations, and logic. They perceive the dhāma and guru everywhere; however, if an ordinary, unqualified practitioner imitates them, they can commit offenses.
Protecting the Etiquette of the Paramahaṁsa dress from the Unqualified
Many dishonest people would come near Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja to accept a loincloth or the dress of a paramahaṁsa from him. One time, a Bābājī by the name of Gaura Haridāsa was very insistent on taking veśa from Bābājī Mahārāja. However, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja didn’t want to give him veśa under any circumstance. Thus, for three days, Gaura Haridāsa lay outside Bābājī Mahārāja’s hut without eating or drinking. In the end, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja did not give him veśa personally, but ordered his servant Bihārī dāsa Vrajavāsī to give him.
Complete Intolerance for Rasābhāsa and Conclusions against Siddhānta
Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja would not tolerate anything that was even slightly opposed to siddhānta or that was rasābhāsa. He said, “Just by having the arrogance of being the disciple of a great personality, one may not actually be a real disciple. Those who don’t have the proper character or mindset and who don’t fully accept chastisement and authority from guru are disciples in name only.” Those with the arrogant self-conception of being followers of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, could never actually preach the message of Śrī Rūpa and Raghunātha. Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja would become very angry seeing their independent nature. One time, a famous so-called Bābājī, accompanied by his group, came near the hut of Bābājī Mahārāja singing a speculative imaginary song ‘nitaī-gaura-rādhe-śyāma’ full of the fault of rasābhāsa. Noticing this group, Bābājī Mahārāja took a stick in his hand and shouted, “Forbid them from coming this way! Chase them away.” Seeing this, no one dared to come nearby.
The Ideal Example of Practice
When Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja was coming from Śrī Vṛndāvana to stay in Navadvīpa-maṇḍala, a gentleman of Kolkata came to Bābājī Mahārāja and propitiated him strongly, “Please mercifully come to Kolkata and place your lotus feet in my home.” He had the desire to accept harināma from Bābājī Mahārāja. Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s instruction was that, “Even if invited, one should never accept any grains from an enjoyer.” He was never willing to go to Kolkata. This person stayed outside Bābājī Mahārāja’s hut for fifteen days praying, showing his fixed determination. Finally, it was agreed that Bābājī Mahārāja would not go to the gentleman’s house in Kolkata, but would rather visit his garden in Kasipura, and while there he would not take anything. Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja went by boat with his servant Bihārī dāsa to the person’s garden. He sat and spoke lengthy hari-kathā to him, giving him the instruction to chant śrī–harināma. That person tried very hard to give some donation or food to Bābājī Mahārāja, but he wouldn’t accept anything from a sense enjoyer. Then, in the afternoon, the supremely independent Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja went with his servant to Bhakti Bhavana (Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s place of residence in Kolkata). Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was amazed to see Bābājī Mahārāja. There, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja begged and accepted food at the home of a pure Vaiṣṇava. Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja wouldn’t accept the grains of an enjoyer. Even upon being begged a thousand times, he wouldn’t accept any object from him. In this way, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja showed the perfect example to protect the sādhakas’ bhajana.
Hearing of the character and practice of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja illustrates the following instruction from Śrī Caitanta-bhāgavata:
bhaktera dravya prabhu kāḍi-kāḍi khāya
abhaktera dravya prabhu ulaṭi nahi cāya
The Lord snatches away and eats the foodstuffs of the bhaktas, but He will never take the foodstuffs of a non-devotee.
Srila Jaganatha das Babaji ki Jaya! Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur ki Jaya! (Excerpted from a up and coming Bhaktabandav book publication, “The Four Rūpānuga Vaiṣṇava Ācāryas of the Śrī Gauḍīya-sampradāya”. Available from [email protected] )