Dasa Babaji Maharaja
Srila Gaurakisora's Internal and External Identity
Srila Gaurakisora dasa babaji appeared over one hundred years ago in the district of Pharidapura, next to the place called Tepakhola in the village of Vagyana, which is situated on the shore of the Padma River. Srila Gaurakisora was born in a mercantile family, and was nicknamed Vamsidasa by his father (not to be confused with Vamsi dasa babaji). During boyhood, his mother and father arranged for an early marriage. He remained in household life until he was twenty-nine years old. As a householder he worked as a broker in the grain business. After the death of his wife, Srila Gaurakisora left his business and approached Srila Bhagavat dasa babaji in order to accept the traditional Vaisnava babaji dress.
After taking babaji initiation from Srila Bhagavat dasa babaji, who was a disciple of Srila Jagannatha dasa babaji, Srila Gaurakisora travelled from village to village in Vrndavana, continually performing solitary worship of Lord Krsna for thirty years. During this time he would sometimes travel to the holy places in northern India as well as in the nine islands of Navadvipa. He associated with other famous devotees such as Sri Svarupa dasa babaji in Jagannatha Puri, Sri Bhagavan dasa babaji in Kalana, and Sri Caitanya dasa babaji in Kuliya. Srila Gaurakisora dasa babaji became very famous among the paramahamsa devotees in Vrndavana during that peroid, and was recognized as a bhajananandi, or solitary worshipper. Although Srila Gaurakisora dasa babaji received such exalted honor, he never secretly endeavored for even a drop of material sense gratification. Babaji Maharaja entirely rejected such inclinations and simply performed his pure, unalloyed devotional pastimes in the deepest mood of renunciation.
In March, 1894, when the Yoga Pitha in Mayapura was revealed, Srila Gaurakisora dasa babaji took the permission of Srila Jagannatha dasa babaji to go to Navadvipa Dhama from Vrndavana Dhama. From this time until his disappearance, Srila Gaurakisora stayed in the area of Sri Navadvipa Dhama, living in different holy villages, realizing them to be non-different from Vrndavana. He would gather dry foodstuffs from the householders of the holy dhama by begging, and offer them in his hand to the Lord. To cook, he would often collect dry wood from the pathways and wash discarded pots he found along the roadside near the Ganges. To meet his practical necessities such as clothing himself, he would go to the shore of the Ganges River and collect and wash the discarded cloth that had been used to cover the corpses in the burning grounds. In this way he always remained independent of others by using rejected items that served no purpose for anyone.
Srila Bhaktivinoda often related the behavior of Srila Gaurakisora dasa babaji as an example of "nirapeksa", or total indifference to worldly existence. He often discussed the matchless renunciation, pure dedication, and spontaneous attachment to Krsna that Babaji Maharaja displayed. Sometimes Babaji Maharaja would visit Godrumadvipa, one of the nine islands of Navadvipa where Srila Bhaktivinoda spent his last days in retirement. Srila Gaurakisora dasa babaji would often go there to the charming garden known as Svananda-sukhada-kunja and hear discourses on the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other topics concerning the intimate conclusions of devotional service. This enhanced his mood of dedication. His entire wealth included a necklace of Tulasi beads and a set of Tulasi mala he kept in his hand for counting the Lord's names. He also cherished a few Bengali literatures, such as Narottama dasa Thakura's Prarthana and Prema-bhakti-candrika.
Sometimes Srila Gaurakisora would not even wear Tulasi mala around his neck, but instead would be seen undressed, holding a torn knotted cloth in his hand for chanting, and uttering harsh sounds in disgust for no apparent reason. Although externally Srila Gaurakisora was not a learned Sanskrit grammarian, the purport and conclusions of all the scriptures radiantly illuminated his heart and character. It was impossible for anyone to secure an opportunity to serve him. He was never eager to accept any manner of service from anyone. Whenever anyone saw his genuine state of renunciation, they could only remember the exemplary life of Srila Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami.
Grandeur and opulence of every kind was always waiting with folded hands to serve him. He was always able to expose the cheating tendencies lying within the hearts of the imitationists. Although a person may have lived far away, Srila Gaurakisora could scrutinizingly reveal the falsehood which they perpetrated in the name of the Lord's service, and save others from the hands of insincerity. But the ability to communicate with the Lord in the heart was not Srila Gaurakisora's principal virtue. Babaji Maharaja exhibited the highest mood of pure dedication to the Supreme Lord because his perfect character was the personification of deep separation realized in Lord Krsna's service. This mood of separation actually distinguished him from the other Vaisnavas, and is what eternally spreads the luster of his lotus feet.
The Vaisnava Impostor
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has written as follows in connection with Srila Gaurakisora :"Many types of persons---clever, judicious, young, old, foolish, scholarly, and proud---came into contact with Srila Gaurakisora , yet could not realize his real identity. This is the mystic opulence of the Lord's pure devotee. Hundreds came and consulted with Srila Gaurakisora about their insignificant material desires. He would always give them suggestions which were in fact meant to deceive them. Innumerable men accepted the babaji dress and pretended to be exalted devotees of the Lord. However, my master, Srila Gaurakisora , never accepted a devious mode of life, as the sincerity in his activities were self-evident. His affectionate nature was matchless, and whenever he would obtain opulent offerings, he remained fixed in his renunciation."
Srila Gaurakisora never displayed any distaste for his rivals, nor did he exhibit any special affection for those who were attached to him. He would often say, "I am not inimical or overly affectionate towards anyone. Everyone is worshippable by me." Another noteworthy point is that many foolish and devious materialists, who were in opposition to the conclusions of pure devotion would come and surround him, considering themselves the dearmost objects of his affection. Although they engaged themselves in the pursuit of worldly things, Srila Gaurakisora never displayed any intention of driving them away, yet at the same time he showed no symptoms of compromise.
The Charming Garden of Svananda-sukhada-kunja
In 1898, when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was staying in Godrumadvipa, just after the garden of Svananda-sukhada-kunja had been built, he first met his spiritual master, Srila Gaurakisora . One day, humbly following the direct instruction of Srimati Radharani, and chanting in a sad voice, Srila Gaurakisora , the chief of the followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami, arrived in the beautiful garden of Svananda-sukhada-kunja. This transcendental crown jewel of the renounced order was wearing a tigerskin cap and carrying a basket containing various paraphernalia used in his personal bhajana. Srila Gaurakisora had previously received the basket and cap from his spiritual master, Srila Bhagavata dasa babaji, in Kalana. After his arrival, he offered Srila Bhaktisiddhanta four or five sets of Tulasi beads, a wooden stamp with the words "Hare Krsna", the tigerskin cap, and his other personal items which he used when worshipping. In January, 1900, Srila Gaurakisora initiated Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in Svananda-sukhada kunja.
The great devotee, Srila Gaurakisora , often came to the garden Svananda-sukhada-kunja to hear Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's explanations of the Srimad Bhagavatam. He usually arrived at around three o'clock in the afternoon and left at five. On several occasions he spent the night in a corner of the garden in a small hut, and sometimes he would stay at Pradyumna-kunja in Bardhaman at the home of Sri Ksetranatha Bhaktinidhi and Sri Bipina Bihari Bhaktiratna. Cattopadhyaya Bhakti Bhrnga would also regularly come to Navadvipa to hear Srila Bhaktivinoka's lectures. Sometimes Srila Gaurakisora honored prasadam from Svananda-sukhada-kunja and sometimes he fasted, while other times he cooked for himself. Sometimes he acted as if he was afflicted by a disease called 'siroroga', insanity and blindness. Srila Bhaktivinoda arranged a proper diet for him, but to his dismay, Babaji Maharaja continued to remain couched in a grave mood of renunciation, refusing to pay any attention to the diet.
By 1908 Srila Gaurakisora had seemingly lost his external vision. The following year he stopped travelling and decided to reside in a bamboo hut in Navadvipa for performing his solitary bhajana. Srila Gaurakisora would live in Pradyumna kunja, which was previously owned by Saratcandra Vasu of South Calcutta, and from there, visit or stay at Svananda-sukhada-kunja, where he would remember the Lord's holy names in solitary worship. Being free from gross physical consciousness, Srila Gaurakisora often failed to recognize whether he was dressed or not. Thus, he often went unclothed to bathe at the Sarasvati River. After bathing, he would enter his small bhajana kuthira and begin calling the cowherd maidens of Vrndavana in a deep voice.
Calcutta, the World of Illusion
While Srila Gaurakisora was enacting his divine pastimes as if his eyesight were becoming weak, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta asked him to go to Calcutta for proper medical treatment. Srila Bhaktivinoda also requested him many times to go there, but Srila Gaurakisora said, "I will never go to the world of 'maya', Calcutta." Srila Bhaktivinoda then assured him that his servant, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta , would remain there with him in Calcutta so he would undergo no inconveniences. Upon hearing this, Srila Gaurakisora answered, "I will never accept his service. I will first drown myself in the Ganges River. If I drown myself, maybe I can take birth as a ghost." Srila Gaurakisora stood up and began to quickly run towards the Sarasvati River which flowed in front of Svananda-sukhada-kunja. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta , running behind him, humbly requested again and again that he come back, but he disappeared and was neither seen nor heard from for forty-five days. Then suddenly, he arrived one day and said, "By committing suicide I will not attain to the lotus feet of Lord Krsna. Nevertheless, I cannot tolerate anyone directly serving me." Although requested hundreds of times to accept medicine, Srila Gaurakisora never consented. He always strictly followed Ekadasi without accepting even water. On days other than Ekadasi, he would often eat mud from the banks of the Ganges River, or cracked rice with dried peppers soaked in Ganges water. Because his renunciation was genuine, it gave pleasure to the Supreme Lord.
From 1903-1904, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta lived in Mayapura at the present day Yoga-Pitha, where the Adhoksaja Visnu Deity was uncovered when the construction of the Sri Caitanya Matha began. At that time the Yoga-Pitha was known as Kanthala-tala. Srila Gaurakisora would often spend much of his time there. This period serves as an unprecedented chapter in the world of pure devotion as exemplified by the unique relationship shared by the spiritual master Srila Gaurakisora and his disciple, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Although apparently blind, Babaji Maharaja once arrived alone at Sri Mayapura at the Yoga-Pitha at two o'clock in the morning. Later that morning, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, amazed to see his spiritual master, inquired, "When did you arrive, Gurudeva?" Babaji Maharaja replied, "I arrived at about two this morning." Astonished, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta asked, "Who brought you here last night? How did you find someone to show you the path?" Srila Gaurakisora replied,"Oh, someone showed me the proper way." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta then said, "Externally, you appear to be blind. If someone had not brought you that long distance by hand, then how could you have come ? Was it Krsna who brought you here last night?" Hearing this, Babaji Maharaja could only smile. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, sharing an internal relationship with his spiritual master, realized the purport of this exchange. In those days there were no footpaths to walk from Kuliya to Mayapura and no landing places for a boat. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta again inquired, "Who could have brought you across the river in the dead of night?" Srila Gaurakisora, in the same amused way, said, "One person took me across the river." His disciple then realized that the person was none other than Lord Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja.
The Sri Brhadbhagavatamrtam Lecture
Once, for the entire month of Vaisakha, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta explained the 'Sri Brhadbhagavatamrtam' of Srila Sanatana Gosvami at the Yoga Pitha. Srila Gaurakisora and Sri Yukta Ksetranatha Sarakara Bhaktinidhi attended.
The Genuine and Imitation Bhajananandi
While Srila Gaurakisora was residing at a dharmsala in the village of Kuliya, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta came and asked him many questions regarding the residents of Vrndavana and the various devotees who were performing solitary worship there. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta especially asked about the famous solitary worshippers who were considered to be perfectly realized souls in the estimation of the general public. Srila Gaurakisora laughed again and again at his query, and said,"They are all impostors."
One babaji residing at Kusuma-Sarovara was renowned as a great bhajananandi. In addition, he even had one or two disciples who were reputed to be perfectly realized devotees. But Srila Gaurakisora did not even slightly recognize them as genuine babajis. After some time, the so-called exalted soul in Kusuma-Sarovara became afflicted with leprosy of the throat and died after extreme suffering. He lived in the holy dhama, but his behavior was offensive toward Srila Gaurakisora because his mind was bent on sense enjoyment.
Deception and Actual Residence in the Holy Dhama
One day, a doctor, very anxiously desiring to stay in the holy dhama of Navadvipa and serve the Lord, came and revealed his intentions to Srila Gaurakisora. The young devotee had made arrangements to remain in the holy dhama as a doctor and treat sick persons. He planned to beg from the residents of Navadvipa, and with the profit, buy medicine. He would then be able to give free medical treatment. He considered that in this way he would perform his bhajana and at the same time perform the highest welfare activity for the community. To confirm his plans, he went to get the advice of Srila Gaurakisora. When he arrived and presented his proposal, he quoted the following verses spoken by Murari Gupta in the Caitanya-caritamrta:(Adi Lila 10:50-51):
pratigraha nahi kare, na laya kara'
Srila Gaurakisora could understand the restless nature of the doctor and his inner motives for wanting to live in the holy dhama for his so-called devotional service. Srila Gaurakisora made this very evident to him when he explained, "Murari Gupta is an eternal associate of Lord Caitanya, and always lives in the transcendental world of Navadvipa Dhama. He never suggested any intentions of living in the Supreme Lord's holy dhama by supporting himself through some clever means to materially enjoy there. He never supported his family at the expense of any temple, nor was he ever interested in earning money to keep his belly full. He would never accept charity or wealth from his friends or others. He was a direct storehouse of love of Godhead, and by his mercy, anyone would obtain the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Whomever he treated would become cured from all disease and obtain loving affection unto the Supreme Lord. If one does not follow his exemplary lifestyle, but imitates his activities for sense indulgence in the name of pure bhajana, then one must eternally suffer the miseries found in the diseased state of material existence.
"You are a patient suffering from the disease of material existence. How can you properly cure others? Crying, you must seriously pray for the mercy of Srila Murari Gupta. Then you will be able to understand what is the actual benefit for others. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu simply taught that one should seriously chant the holy names of Lord Krsna. Anything contrary to that is less intelligent. Just give up your bad intelligence and begin the process of hearing and chanting the glories of the Supreme Lord. If someone performs devotional service with other intentions, everything will be lost, including service to the holy name. Administering free medical treatment for worldly prestige and living in the holy dhama have nothing in common. A person who wants to enjoy the fruits of his activities can never actually live in the holy dhama."
Hearing the instruction of Srila Gaurakisora, the doctor asked, "Then what is my duty?" Srila Gaurakisora replied, "If you actually want to live in the holy dhama, you should first completely give up this idea you are entertaining. Abandon the misconception that benefiting materialistic persons by distributing free medical treatment is favorable for your worship. Any services you offer, or any religious practice which is not in connection with saintly persons who are factually performing bhajana, will be the cause of deep material bondage. As of now, it would be better if you returned home and chanted the holy name and maintained your livelihood. If this is what you really want then go home. Don't deceitfully maintain yourself in the holy abode of Navadvipa by some clever means."
The New Babaji
A new devotee who had just taken up the dress of babaji would often come and talk with Srila Gaurakisora. Finally he decided to live in the holy dhama, and so he approached a landowner queen to purchase three-quarters of an acre of land. After hearing this, Srila Gaurakisora said,"The supreme abode of the Lord is transcendental. How is it possible that this queen has become the owner of the holy dhama? How is it that she is entitled to sell that new babaji a portion of land in the holy dhama? All the jewels within the universe are not valuable enough to purchase even one speck of dust from the holy dhama. So how can any landowner amass enough wealth to become the owner of a plot of the transcendental abode of Sri Navadvipa Dhama? Has this new baba, by the exchange of his devotional magnimity, become entitled to a portion of land in Navadvipa Dhama? Let anyone who has such a materialistic mentality remain living at a distance from the holy abode. An attitude like that will certainly be offensive. Anyone who thinks the holy dhama is material is considered by the true devotees of the Supreme Lord to be a prakrta sahajiya or cheap impostors."
Deception and Devotional Service
One day a resident of Bangladesh who was a very wealthy landlord, scholar, brahman, and great devotee of the Lord, came with his friend to see Srila Gaurakisora. The landowner was apparently so deeply absorbed in devotional ecstasies that his friend had to assist him by holding him as he walked. When they arrived before Srila Gaurakisora, the landowner was holding the shoulder of his friend in order to walk as his body was trembling in ecstasy. Several of the assembled devotees recognized the landowner and knew he was respected as an advanced devotee in the devotional community. The devotees very reverently arranged a sitting place for the visitor and requested him to please be seated.
At that time Srila Gaurakisora was enacting his divine pastime as a blind person. When he heard the devotees respectfully greeting the visitor, he asked,"Who has come?" The landowner's friend introduced his companion by elaborately describing his erudition, devotion, and non-attachment to the material world and its temptations in spite of him possessing unlimited wealth. He then described how only one fortnight before, a thief had broken in and stolen forty-five thousand rupees from the landowner's house. Although suffering such a setback, the landlord, knowing that devotion should be one's ultimate attachment in life, had come for Srila Gaurakisora's divine association. The friend added, "I am his only friend. He has left all other material association and now only associates with me. You will be able to realize his greatness just by talking with him. He once asked me a question about a confidential exchange between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Ramananda Raya from the Caitanya-Caritamrta. I told him that only you, Srila Gaurakisora, could properly answer his questions. We have already been to see many scholarly persons in Navadvipa, yet we cannot come to any agreement regarding the inner meaning of this conversation. We think that only you can explain it properly."
After the friend of the great devotee completed his introduction, Srila Gaurakisora replied,"I will tell you how you can understand the conclusion of this conversation. But before trying to understand these confidential topics between Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya, you should renounce the association of this rascal impostor landowner and take shelter of a pure devotee of the Lord. You should hear the Caitanya-caritamrta one hundred times from beginning to end in the association of advanced devotees of the Lord. In this wasy, crying and being absorbed in devotional ecstasy, you will be able to realize the purport of these conversations. At present all the devotees here want to congregationally chant the Lord's holy names. We don't have time to discuss anything else." Then Srila Gaurakisora loudly requested that everyone perform Hari Nama Sankirtana. Everyone began to chant the holy name of Krsna. After hearing this, the landowner and his friend immediately left.
Later that evening, when almost everyone had left, one or two persons told Srila Gaurakisora, "That very learned landowner was so absorbed in devotional ecstasy that we saw no trace of wordly consciousness in him." Another person sitting nearby also spoke up in defense of the landowner, "That person was so immersed in various loving devotional ecstasies that he could not even walk by himself. How can you say he was not on the highest level of Bhava-bhakti?" Srila Gaurakisora then replied,"After speaking with him a few moments, I could understand that he had no good intentions in his performance of devotional service. One cannot measure a person's devotional advancement by the popular vote of ordinary people. If a person is not serious in his devotional practice, then even if he displays external signs of renunciation, material indifference, or ecstatic symptoms in spontaneous devotion, he should not be considered to be actually renounced and experiencing devotional moods. As soon as a difficult test comes, false renunciation will not endure.
At the first opportunity, detachment
searches out the shelter of practitioners who are
seriously fixed in their intentions to execute devotional
service. In our practical devotional service, we
never show anyone our devotional ecstasies. One
should perform devotional service in such a way
that deep attachment to the Lord will internally
blossom in the heart. Even if one makes an external
show of symptoms of attachment to the Lord, he will
not receive the Lord's causeless mercy if he does
not actually develop internal loving attachment.
When there is an actual deep loving attitude, Krsna
Himself will approach the advanced devotee. A person
who lacks even a trace of sincerity and unflinching
devotion, and whose heart is filled with material
desires, simply decorates himself with some nice
dress. Krsna remains proportionally aloof or available
according to the degree of one's surrender. On the
other hand, if one is spontaneously immersed in
devotional attachment to Lord Hari, then even if
he externally appears to be suffering from leprosy,
Krsna becomes spiritually overjoyed by the slightest
trace of his transcendental loving service. When
we can fast and chant Hare Krsna day and night,
always crying out for the service of Srimati Radharani
without offering any external show to others, then
Sri Krsna, who is the very wealth of Srimati Radharani's
life force, can be captured." Gaurakisora
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