Jagannatha Dasa Babaji


gauravirbhava-bhumes tvam, nirdestha saj-jana-priyah

vaishnava-sarvabhaumah shri-jagannathaya te namah

     "I offer my respectful obeisances to Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, who is respected by the entire Vaishnava community and who discovered the place where Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared."

     Shri Jagannatha Das Babaji Maharaja was born  in the Mayamansingh district of West Bengal. Gaudiya Vedanta-acharya Shri Baladev Vidyabhushan had a disciple named Uddhava das. His disciple was Shri Madhusudana Das Babaji who lived in Suryakunda.  Madhusudan Das Babaji's disciple was Jagannatha Das Babaji Maharaja.

     Jagannatha Dasa Babaji lived in Vrindavan and performed his bhajan there for quite some time.  He became famous among the devotees there as one who was perfect in Krishna-bhakti.  In 1880, Shrimad Bhaktivinoda Thakura went to Vrindavan and saw his lotus feet for the first time.  While there, he received many divine instructions on Hari-bhakti from Jagannatha Dasa. Some time later, Babaji Maharaja visited the Barddhaman district during the month of Phalgun. He stayed at a town called Amalajorha.  At that time, Bhaktivinoda Thakura again had the good fortune to take darshan of his holy feet.

     Seeing Bhaktivinoda Thakur's enthusiasm for preaching the holy name of Krishna, Shrila Babaji Maharaja was very happy.  He stayed in Amalajorha during ekadashi, and that night there was kirtan and Hari-katha.  Later, at Amalajorha, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura established his Prappana-Ashram.

     In 1893, Shrila Babaji Maharaja went from Koladwip (the part of Nabadwipa where Shrila Shridhara Maharaja's temple is presently located) to Surabhi-kunja in Godrumadwipa.  There he took his seat. His arrival in Surabhi-kunja was a wonderful event. Shri Jagannatha Das Babaji revealed many lost holy places in Mayapura, including the Yogapith, Shrivasa Angana, and others.   It is said that when he came upon the holy place of Mahaprabhu's birth he danced, although he was very old and walked with difficulty. For some time he remained in Nadia and performed his bhajan on the banks of the Ganges. His bhajan kutir and samadhi mandir are still there at present. He ordered Bhaktivinoda Thakura to build a hut so devotees could stay near his bhajan kutir, and Bhaktivinoda did so.

     When Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was twelve years old, he was an expert in the Jyoti-shastras explaining Vedic astrology.  Hearing this, Shrila Babaji Maharaja one day called upon him to prepare the Vaishnava calendar in accordance with the proper siddhanta. He did so and Babaji Maharaja was very pleased. With this, the Nabadwipa Panjika, the Vaisnava calendar recording the dates of the appearance and disappearance of important Vaishnava saints and the celebration of important festivals, began.

     Shrila Babaji Maharaja always had great enthusiasm for kirtan and Vaishnava seva. Even when he was nearly 135 years old, he went on preaching the message of Shri Chaitanya throughout the world for the benefit of the fallen masses. In his old age, although he was almost paralyzed by infirmity, whenever it was time for kirtana he would still raise his arms in ecstasy.

     Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja was the vesa or Babaji guru of Bhagavat dasa Babaji Maharaja. Bhagavata dasa in turn gave the dress of a babaji to Gaurakisora dasa Babaji. Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s servant's name was Bihari dasa. He was extremely strong and powerful. In his old age, Babaji Maharaja could not walk. Bihari dasa used to carry him in a basket on his shoulders so that Babaji Maharaja could move from place to place. When he went to Calcutta, Babaji Maharaja would stay at the house of Bhaktivinoda Thakura on Manikatala Street. Bhaktivinoda was always very eager to invite him to his house for prasada, but Babaji Maharaja was very renounced and would come only occasionally.

     When he was in his old age, Babaji Maharaja was nearly blind. Many people would come to see him and to offer him donations for the service of Sri Krsna. His servant Bihari dasa would keep all these donations in a bag.  One day, Babaji Maharaja said,  “Bihari! How many rupees have I got?” Bihari dasa had put some rupees aside for some service he had planned to render Babaji Maharaja.  When asked by Jagannatha dasa Babaji about how many rupees were on hand, Bihari placed some rupees in his hand and kept twelve Rupees aside. Even though his eyesight was failing, however, Babaji Maharaja detected the discrepancy. “Bihari!” he said, “Why have you kept twelve Rupees aside? Give me all the rupees!” Smiling at this fun, Bihari surrendered the remaining coins to his guru. At that time, Babaji Maharaja made his wishes known as to how the money should be spent. The total came to two hundred rupees. Babaji Maharaja ordered Birari dasa to take the money at once and buy sweetballs, rasagulas, to feed the all the cows in Nabadwipa dhama.

     Once Babaji Maharaja was on the banks of the Ganges, living under a makeshift canvas tent. Nearby that place there lived a dog with five puppies. Whenever Babaji Maharaja would take prasada, the dogs would come around and lick the food from his plate. When Bihari dasa caught hold of one of the dogs to drive it off, Babaji Maharaja told him: “Bihari! If you wish to drive these dogs off, you may take my plate away as well. I shall not eat today.” When Bihari complained, “But guru maharaja—these dogs are unclean!”  Babaji Maharaja remarked, “No. These dogs are residents of the holy dhama. You may not abuse them.”

     Many people used to come and beg alms from Jagannatha dasa Babaji. He did not want to give them alms, but told them to do service. One day a man named Sri Gaura Hari dasa came and asked Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja for alms, but Babaji Maharaja would give him nothing. When the man persisted for three days, fasting outside Babaji Maharaja’s tent, Babaji Maharaja finally relented. He tore off a piece of his kaupina, his undergarment and gave it to Bihari dasa, his servant, with the instruction to present it to the beggar as alms, thereby informing the beggar that he must first learn to control his senses before taking up the profession of a saint.

     One day, Sri Babaji Maharaja remarked about the professional readers of Srimad-Bhagavatam, “This kind of professional Bhagavata kirtana is simply prostitution. Those who make their living by reading Srimad-Bhagavatam are offenders to the holy name of Krishna. No one should listen to the kirtana and Bhagavatam readings that they produce. And one who listens to such offensive readings and thus commits offenses against the holy name of Krsna certainly go to hell. Those who are involved in this professional reading should immediately give it up. Such a person should worship the residents of Vrndavana with great care and attention, considering himself most fallen, and thus pray for forgiveness.”

     Srimad Bhaktivinoda Thakura remarked of Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja that he was the topmost general among Gaudiya Vaisnavas.


Biography # 2

    Siddha Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja lived for one-hundred forty-four years. He took diksa from Sri Madhusudana Dasa Babaji and did bhajana for many years at Surya Kunda in Vrndavana. Thakura Bhaktivinoda received valuable instructions on pure devotional service from Jagannatha Dasa Babaji.

    His practice was to live six months in Sri Navadvipa dhama and six in Vraja mandala. "During his time," said Thakura Bhaktivinoda, "Sri Jagannatha Dasa Babaji was the most advanced rasika Vaishnava in Gaura and Vraja mandalas, and Purusottam Ksetra (Jagannatha Puri)." Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave him the title Sarvabhauma, the chief of the Vaisnavas.

    At one hundred twenty-five years old his body appeared bent like a semi-circle. His eyelids hung over his eyes like heavy stage curtains. Standing on either side, two disciples would lift his droopy eyelids so he could offer tulasi manjaris to his Deity of Sri Giriraja Govardhana.

    Since Jagannatha Dasa Babaji could barely walk, Bihari, his Vrajavasi servant, used to carry him on his shoulders. But when­ever there was a Nama kirtana Jagannatha Dasa Babaji would bolt out of his basket and leap four feet into the air. In great ecstasy he would begin to sing and dance. He performed vigorous bhajana despite physical limitations.

    He was fond of chanting loudly in both japa and kirtana. During kirtana he would sing: Nitai ki nama enechi re! Ki nama enechi re! Ki nama diteche re! "0 Lord Nityananda, what a wonderful name You have brought. O Nitai, what a wonderful name You have given." After chanting almost the whole night, the next morning he would offer 1,108 dandavats to the Deities. He was always enthusiastic to serve the Vaisnavas.

    He lived as an ascetic following a strict diet and the yearly Caturmasya (four month fast). The first month he ate only four bananas in the evening; second month only guavas; third month only whey; fourth month only boiled banana flowers without salt.

    Once he begged a roti (flat bread) from a Vrindavana street sweeper. Hearing about this, the leading men of Vrindavana said to Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, "Baba, you are the crest jewel of Vraja. It pains us to hear anyone criticizing you. But now everyone is talking against you. They are saying, 'Baba's gone mad. If he defies the age old traditions what will happen to society.'"

    Babaji Maharaja replied, "You are all learned people. Don't you know the importance of the dust of Vrindavana? It is so surcharged with Krishna prema that even Lord Brahma desires to become a particle of Vraja raja (dust of Vrindavana). Therefore, isn't a Vrindavana sweeper who is constantly serving the dust, breathing it, rolling in it, and bathing in it more pure than anyone else?" Silence filled the air indicating everyone's acceptance of Babaji Maharaja's reply.

    While living in Navadvipa dhama Jagannatha Dasa Babaji showed deep respect toward all residents. Even when some puppies ate from his plate he didn't protest. Bihari, his servant, became disgusted to see dogs devouring his guru's prasadam and he drove them away. Jagannatha Dasa Babaji scolded Bihari, "These puppies are residents of the holy dhama. They are not ordinary living entities. I will not eat until they come back to share the maha-prasadam from my plate."

    At the age of one hundred forty-two he couldn't see or walk. To confirm his findings Thakura Bhaktivinoda requested Jagannatha Dasa to see Lord Caitanya's appearance place. Intoxicated with Gauranga prema, Jagannatha Dasa Babaji leapt high in the air and began chanting and dancing at the discovery of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Yogapitha. "Out of compassion for all the conditioned souls Jagannatha Dasa Babaji transferred his power of bhajana, knowledge of the sastras, and prema bhakti directly into the heart of Bhaktivinoda Thakura," said Sripad B.V. Narayana Maharaja.

    Jagannatha Dasa Babaji had many disciples. He often gave the following instructions:

(1) "You must avoid women, men who associate with women, or with a man who in any way associates with a man who associates with a woman.

(2) "To realize the supreme goal of life you must repeat Harinama regularly and steadfastly. Steadiness is so important that it must be maintained even at the cost of one's life.

(3) "Never forget Gaura who is more merciful and benevolent than Krishna. Krishna is like a just ruler who takes into account your offenses in His administration of justice. Gaura does not take your offenses into account. Whereas, Krishna is more interested in the dispensation of justice, Gaura is more interested in the distribution of mercy. From this point of view, Gaura-kirtana is more useful than Krishna-kirtana. Gaura-kirtana means: Sri Krishna Caitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara, Srivasadi, Gaura bhakta vrnda.

(4) "Krishna is the avatara of Dvapara-yuga. Gaura is the Kali-yuga avatara. We should sing the name and glories of the avatara in whose age we live; just as in a kingdom we praise the ruling king." jaya saci-nandana gaura hari, jaya saci-nandana gaura hari.

    The Sonar Gauranga temple in Gopala Bagh, Vrindavana houses Gaura-Nitai Deities once worshiped in Surya-kunda by Sri Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. In Krishna lila he serves as Rasika-manjari.

[This article and more information at  www.stephen-knapp.com]

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