Śrī Śrīmad Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja
[April 10, 2023 is the disappearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, India. Below is an excerpt of his glories from 'My Beloved Masters' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
RECEIVING DĪKṢĀ INITIATION
Generally, Śrīla Prabhupāda would grant dīkṣā-mantras to aspiring devotees only on the specific recommendation of senior devotees. Prior to awarding dīkṣā, the birth names of the aspiring initiates would be noted in a register. Alongside each of those names, Śrīla Prabhupāda would personally choose and write a suitable Vaiṣṇava name to be conferred to each aspiring devotee.
On the day Śrī Śrīmad Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja was to receive dīkṣā, Śrīla Prabhupāda had written down the name ‘Śrī Sarveśvara dāsa Brahmacārī’ beside his previous name. When Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja presented himself in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s quarters to receive the mantras, a devotee mistakenly told him he would not be receiving dīkṣā that day. Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja replied, “It is only appropriate that things proceed according to my adhikāra, my qualification. It is quite sufficient for me to learn how to properly honor and chant the harināma I have most mercifully received.”
Overhearing this, Śrīla Prabhupāda awarded him dīkṣā, but changed the name he had written from ‘Sarveśvara’ to ‘Svādhikārānanda,’ which means ‘he who delights in his qualification.’
SIMPLE LIVING, HIGH THINKING
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja perfectly exemplified the maxim “sādā jīvana, ucca vicāra—simple living, high thinking.” On his upper body he wore a phatuā, an armless shirt with two pockets sown onto the front, and around his waist he wore a short, knee-length cloth. In the winter, he found it sufficient to wrap himself in a simple blanket and go about his business. Although he always accepted others’ gifts, he rarely used them himself. Instead, he would distribute them among the Vaiṣṇavas in Vṛndāvana.
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja would say, “Śrī Nārada Ṛṣi instructed the hunter Mṛgāri to break and throw away his bow, give up all concerns for his livelihood and simply perform bhajana. After promising he would arrange for all Mṛgāri’s necessities, Śrī Nārada Ṛṣi left that place. When he returned six months later, Mṛgāri said, ‘Gurudeva! Please do not send so many things.’ Śrī Devarṣi Nārada told him to use whatever he needed and distribute the rest.“
I have taken the lesson of this story to heart. I consider all the items people give me as having been sent by my gurupāda-padma as manifestations of his mercy. I never think that a particular person per se is giving these items to me. Rather, I consider such donors as postmen sent by my gurudeva to deliver various items on his behalf. Whatever I need, I keep, and whatever I have no use for, I distribute to other devotees.”
HIS CAREFREE DETACHMENT
A Vrajavāsī once donated a piece of land to Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja in Ramaṇa-retī, Vṛndāvana. With the assistance of a few devotees, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja secured construction materials like bricks, gravel, sand, stone and cement and had them delivered to the site. However, when he visited the land just a couple days before the scheduled cornerstone laying ceremony, the brother of the donor approached Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja and said, “The land my brother donated to you was not this lot, but actually the adjacent lot. Please construct your bhajana-kuṭīra over there.”
When Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja heard this, he said, “Forget it, brother. I have no need for a bhajana-kuṭīra. My godbrothers have many places of their own and they readily offer me shelter at their lotus feet. If I am faced with issues before the construction of my own place has even begun, I can only imagine the grief I should expect in the future. Please keep this land for yourself. Hare kṛṣṇa.”
As Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja turned to leave, the man told him, “Wait! At least take all your building materials with you. You can use them elsewhere.”
“Keep them,” Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja replied. “They are now yours.”
When Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja told me about this incident, he remarked, “The nature of material possessions is such that the greed to own them causes conflict between even brothers.”
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja was so detached that he was completely disinterested to meet the donor of that land even once. He thought it to be a waste of time.
INSPIRING GRAND SERVICE WHILE REMAINING POSSESSIONLESS
Once, while Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja was visiting the house of Śrī Banavārī Lāl Siṁhāniyā in Kolkata, he performed kīrtana throughout the entire night. In the morning, Śrī Banavārī Lāl Siṁhāniyā’s niece told her father, “Śrīmatī Rādhārānī was dancing to the beat of Bābājī Mahārāja’s kīrtana the entire time he sang.”
Later that morning, when Śrī Banavārī Lāl Siṁhāniyā-jī tried to offer Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja a donation, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja said to him, “I have no need for anything. If you truly want to offer some service, then arrange to build a temple at the place of my gurupāda-padma’s appearance in Śrī Jagannātha Purī, which Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja has acquired.”
Śrī Banavārī Lāl Siṁhāniyā-jī began to cry. When his sister-in-law asked him why he was crying, he told her everything and considered, “I am sure the three of us—my father, my brother and I—can manage to build a temple.” After consulting with his family, it was decided they would surely construct a temple there.
In this way, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s encouragement and inspiration accomplished such a great service, though he himself was possessionless and maintained his life by begging alms.
SWEETLY WELCOMING A GODBROTHER
In 1956, Guru Mahārāja travelled to Mathurā from Kolkata in a reserved coach accompanied by a large group of devotees to lead Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha’s Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā. Along with Śrī Dīna-bandhu dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja travelled to the Mathurā rail-way station all the way from his residence at Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s bhajanakuṭīra in Nandagrāma. When Guru Mahārāja and his party arrived at the station, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja jubilantly welcomed them by performing exceptionally beautiful saṅkīrtana and sweetly playing mṛdaṅga.
He used to say, “Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja is especially venerable for having carefully protected the tradition of performing Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā, a practice Śrīla Prabhupāda had earlier reestablished.
HIS HEART-TOUCHING KĪRTANA
In 1962, after the conclusion of the Kumbha Melā in Haridvāra, it so happened that by chance, Guru Mahārāja and the presiding ācārya of Śrī Caitanya Maṭha travelled to Dehradun at the same time with separate preaching parties. It was during this time in Dehradun that Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja left the Śrī Caitanya Maṭha party and, with his little bundle of bedding in hand, met with Guru Mahārāja at Gītā Bhavana. Guru Mahārāja was just finishing his morning lecture when Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja arrived. Seeing him, Guru Mahārāja became overwhelmingly delighted and called out, “Bābājī Mahārāja! Madhureṇa samāpayet—with sweetness, we conclude. Please retire this assembly with your melodious kīrtana.” Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja then sang Sakhe! Kalaya Gauram Udāram.
At that time, my godbrother Śrī Bhakti Prasāda Purī Mahārāja said to me, “Sanskrit kīrtanas like this do not suit the audience here. Who will understand its meaning? Only nāma-kīrtanas like ‘rādhe rādhe govinda, govinda rādhe’ will be appreciated.”
I did not respond to this, but remained silent. When Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja concluded the kīrtana by chanting the mahā-mantra, the in-charge of Gītā Bhavana, an elderly gentleman wearing large pendant earrings, jumped to his feet and called out, “Sohnā, sohnā!”
“What is he saying?” I asked Śrī Purī Mahārāja.
“Sohnā is Punjabi for ‘very beautiful,’” he replied.
I then asked, “You were saying that Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s kīrtana would not be well received here and that no one would understand it. If this is the case, why is this person saying, ‘Very beautiful?’ Is he not Punjabi?”
“Yes, he is Punjabi,” he said, “but I do not have an answer to your question.”
The next day, Guru Mahārāja asked another person, an expert singer, to perform kīrtana before his class. Two minutes into the kīrtana, the same elderly person stood up and, with folded hands, said, “Please request Bābājī Mahārāja to sing. Although we do not understand the words he sings, his voice touches our hearts.”
Guru Mahārāja then asked Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja to perform kīrtana. Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja sang Namāmī Nanda-nandanaṁ, Rādhe Jaya Jaya Mādhava Dayite, Kṛṣṇa Deva Bhavantaṁ Vande and other Sanskrit kīrtanas, and everyone listening was immensely pleased.
After the kīrtana, I told Śrī Purī Mahārāja, “According to my understanding, there are three reasons these people appreciate Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s kīrtana despite having no understanding of Sanskrit. Firstly, Bhagavān Himself has said, ‘mad-bhaktaḥ yatra gāyanti tatra tiṣṭhāmi nāradaḥ —I am present wherever My devotees sing My glories.’ Having become anyābhilāṣitā śunyaṁ, or free from even the slightest tinge of extraneous desires, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja performs kīrtana from the core of his heart, and thereby engages in ānukulyena kṛṣṇānuśīlana, a favorable activity performed purely for the pleasure of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. His kīrtana is therefore fully capable of compelling Śrī Bhagavan, the embodiment of bliss, to appear and turn this place into His residence, Goloka Vṛndāvana. When the embodiment of bliss is personally present, isn’t it only logical that everyone present will experience bliss, directly or indirectly?
“Secondly, it is said:
smarantaḥ smārayantaś ca
mitho ’ghaugha-haraṁ harim
bhaktyā sañjātayā bhaktyā
bibhraty utpulakāṁ tanum
The devotees remember and remind one another of Śrī Hari, the remover of all misfortune. Thus, their devotion causes the appearance of devotion in others, and their bodies become agitated with ecstasy, with the hairs of their bodies standing on end.
“According to this verse, bhakti is infused in the heart by the bhakti already present in another’s heart. Although language is essential in communicating matters of the heart, for one whose heart is devoid of bhakti, mere knowledge of language is insufficient to inspire bhakti in the hearts of others. It is only because of the pure bhakti present in the heart that one’s words are infused with divine power. Only then is it possible for bhakti to be transmitted to the hearts of one’s listeners, and only then will the listeners feel inspired to render devotional service.
“Thirdly, Bābājī Mahārāja’s kīrtana is the very embodiment of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s words ‘hṛdaya hôite bole, jihvāra agrete cale, śabda rūpe kare nṛtya—when one speaks from one’s heart, Kṛṣṇa dances on one’s tongue in the form of sound.’ It is for this reason that Bābājī Mahārāja’s kīrtana touches the hearts of those who hear it.”
HIS UNPRETENTIOUS, EASYGOING NATURE
One time, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja joined our Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā party while we were camped at Śrī Brahmāṇḍa-ghāṭa. At that time, I was charged with the service of managing suitable lodgings for the pilgrims and was staying in a rather humble shed-like structure. Upon seeing my simple shelter, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja decided it was favorable for his bhajana, and so he set up his bedding there, next to mine.
I was immediately apprehensive. “He is like a guru to me,” I thought. “It is
inappropriate for me to stay with him, as if he is some familiar roommate.” Remaining honest, I humbly told him, “Bābājī Mahārāja, your sleep is likely to be disturbed if you stay here, because I get up many times during the night to check on the camp patrol. Please allow me to arrange a more suitable place for you.”
“No, no,” Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja said. “You will not disturb me. Perform your service without worry for my comfort.”
During those nights together, I observed that no matter how many times I got up and came back, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja would be sitting up-right in his mosquito net chanting the harināma mahā-mantra the whole night through. He chanted in a very soft voice, so as not to disturb the devotees nearby. He was always incredibly sensitive and considerate when it came to the convenience of devotees.
HIS EXEMPLARY HUMILITY
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja always remained equipoised. He did not respond to praise with immodesty gushing like milk boiling over or by becoming puffed up like an inflated balloon, nor he would flare up into a fit of rage at criticism. In either situation, he would simply say “Hare kṛṣṇa” and move on.
Once, one of his godbrothers wrote him an insulting letter in language quite unbefitting a Vaiṣṇava. Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja responded by writing, “O Vaiṣṇava Ṭhākura! You have written the truth because you really love and care for me. Previously, you used to encourage me through praise, but through your recent letter, you have bestowed your most sincere mercy upon me.”
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja was always absorbed in the most exemplary humility.
A FRIEND TO ALL
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja was ajāt-śatru. In other words, he never considered anyone to be his adversary. Although he divided most of his time between the association of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vilāsa Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Guru Mahārāja, he would freely visit all his godbrothers without any inhibition whatsoever.
The bond between Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja and Guru Mahārāja was especially thick. His postcards to Guru Mahārāja would always begin with the words “to the supremely merciful Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja,” and they never consisted of more than a couple sentences. Those who read his letters or heard him speak were thoroughly convinced that he was entirely indifferent to discussing worldly matters.
PERFORMING KĪRTANA DURING GURU MAHĀRĀJA's DISAPPEARANCE PASTIME
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja was well-known for savoring the taste of kṛṣṇa- nāma as he was constantly performing kīrtana wherever he went. He was particularly keen on performing kīrtana of śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāma mahā-mantra, and he would become so overjoyed to hear others chanting it that his eyes and face would blossom.
A few days before Guru Mahārāja manifested his disappearance pastime, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja came to the Kolkata branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha. Every day during his stay, he would sit nearby Guru Mahārāja and deeply absorb himself in performing kīrtana. The night before Guru Mahārāja entered nitya-līlā, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja performed hari-kīrtana in the Gauḍīya library adjoining Guru Mahārāja’s bhajana-kuṭīra all night long in a mood of painful separation.
When Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja heard of this, he said, “I too wish to leave this world while listening to the kīrtana of Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, who is perfected in chanting the holy name.”
When Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja saw that Guru Mahārāja’s disciples were suddenly without shelter, he overwhelmed us with boundless affection and encouraged us from the core of his heart to preach the message of Śrī Śrī Guru-Gaurāṅga.
MERCIFULLY GRANTING ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE HIM
Once, when Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja enacted the pastime of becoming ill, I stayed with him for some days after he was admitted to a hospital in Delhi. When I was informed I had to leave for some other urgent service, I engaged my godbrother Śrī Navīna-madana Brahmacārī in his service.
After completing my service elsewhere, I returned to the hospital to serve Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja. Upon my arrival, he softly told me, “When you serve me, I do not feel the slightest bit awkward or hesitant. I prefer your service over that of all others.”
By enacting the pastime of falling ill, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja, who would rarely accept service from anyone, bestowed great blessings upon me by granting me the opportunity to serve him.