[February 24, 2020 is the disappearance day of Vaiṣṇava Sārvabhauma Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on the same tithi on February 27, 2017. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a very special day. It is the disappearance day of Vaiṣṇava Sārvabhauma Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. The appearance and disappearance days of a Vaiṣṇava are both auspicious and for the eternal welfare of the conditioned souls [because such days especially invoke their remembrance]. It is considered an offense if one does not observe them.
THE FIRST VAIṢṆAVA PAÑJIKĀ
Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja instructed Śrīla Prabhupāda to prepare the Navadvīpa Pañjikā (Vaiṣṇava Pañjikā) which would include all the auspicious tithis like Janmāṣṭamī, Ekādaśī, and other important tithis such as the appearance and disappearance days of various Vaiṣṇavas. This service was specifically entrusted to Śrīla Prabhupāda due to his expertise in astrology. So, it was on the order of Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, that Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura created the first Vaiṣṇava Pañjikā, in Vaiṣṇava history. This was the contribution of Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja.
THE REAL BIRTH PLACE OF MAHĀPRABHU AND ŚRĪVĀSA-AṄGANA
Secondly, it was due to the mercy of Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, that we are able to know the birthplace of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
It was he who [confirmed] indicated the birthplace of Śrīman Mahāprabhu. That is why he is glorified in his praṇāma mantra as:
gaurāvirbhāva bhūmes tvaṁ nirdeṣṭā sajjana-priyaḥ
vaiṣṇava sārvabhauma śrī jagannāthāya te namaḥ
[I offer my respectful obeisances to Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, who is respected by the entire Vaiṣṇava community and who discovered the place where Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared.]
Despite all the historical evidence Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura had acquired, he requested Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja to confirm the birth place of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Although, at that time, Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja was manifesting sickness pastimes and was almost 140 years old, he honoured the request of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, by paying a visit to Śrīdhāma Māyāpura and confirming it as the exact location of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s birth (Māyāpura Yogapīṭha).
Upon reaching the site, forgetting his advanced age, he leapt out of his basket and danced, completely lost in celebration. His servant, Bihārī Dāsa, who used to carry him everywhere in a basket, was astonished to witness this. He inquired, "O Bābājī Mahārāja! What are you are doing? What is this pastime?" Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja responded, "Don’t you see Śrīman Mahāprabhu has come along with all His associates? They are performing saṅkīrtana here!" Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja was able to witness this, whereas ordinary people were bereft of such vision.
Thus, through this pastime, he not only confirmed the birthplace of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu but also gave us the valuable teaching that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is eternally performing His pastimes in Navadvīpa-dhāma, and only those who are very fortunate are able to witness them.
adyāpiha sei līlā kare gaura-rāya,
kona kona bhāgyavān dekhibāre pāya
(Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Navadvīpa-māhātmya, Pramāṇa-khaṇḍa)
[Gaurāṅga’s pastimes are still going on, but only the fortunate devotees get to witness them.]
In addition, just by feeling the earth of the location of Śrīvāsa-aṅgana, Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja successfully identified the site. Later when some portion of earth was dug up from that area, the skin part of the mṛdaṅga which Chānd Kāzī broke was discovered. Mahāprabhu’s associates possess transcendental vision through which they have darśana of the dhāma. Therefore it is said, 'dhāmera svarūpa spuribe nayane– The true form of the transcendental realm will appear in the vision of a true dhāma-vāsī.’
KIRTANA BY GHOSTS
Once his sevaka, Bihārī Dāsa was denied permission by Bābājī Mahārāja to go and hear some kīrtana performance. However, upon hearing his repeated appeals, Bābājī Mahārāja inquired, "Won’t you feel scared?" Bihārī Dāsa questioned, "Where is the question of being scared? You are my protector." Then Bābājī Mahārāja allowed him to go but prohibited him from honouring any prasāda there. In fact, he instructed Bihārī Dāsa to bring back and hand over the prasāda to him. Bihārī Dāsa did just as he was instructed. Bābājī Mahārāja then noticed and pointed out that some hair and nails were present in the prasāda. The next day Bābājī Mahārāja inquired again, "Are you still not scared?"
Nevertheless, Bihārī Dāsa continued to visit that place for kīrtana for another two or three days. Finally, those performing kīrtana there confided in Bihārī Dāsa, "We have committed a grave offense of devasya apaharaṇa (stealing the Lord’s wealth/property). As a result, we are now suffering in these ghost bodies (preta yonī). What service can we offer to Bābājī Mahārāja so that we could get liberated from this abominable condition?"
In such circumstances, such an offender may receive a human body; however he will have to sustain by begging for seven lifetimes. The ghosts offered some money to Bihārī Dāsa requesting him to offer it to Bābājī Mahārāja. Bābājī Mahārāja instructed, "Do Vaiṣṇava sevā with this money". Bābājī Mahārāja specifically instructed him to feed the cows, rather than [feeding those who pretend to be sādhus].
DEEP RESPECT FOR ALL RESIDENTS OF THE DHĀMA
Once when his sevaka tried to drive away four or five puppies who would come to lick from Bābājī Mahārāja’s plate [while he was honouring prasāda], Bābājī Mahārāja remarked, "Bihārī, if you wish to drive away these dogs, you may as well take away my plate. They are residents of the dhāma. Do not offend them!" Such was his astonishing conduct; can anyone understand this? Such pastimes are very difficult to understand!
Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja’s samādhi-mandira is in Navadvīpa. We pay our respects there by visiting every year during the parikramā.