By Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das Maharaj: When Sri Sri 108 Pandit Sri Krishna Das Babaji Maharaja, Bhakti-tirtha, was about 15 years old, three desires (‘sankalpas’) mysteriously arose in his mind: “I will worship Radha-Krishna in the mood of gopi-bhava,” “I will study Srimad Bhagavatam!” “And I will chant Harinama and do Sankirtana!”
As a tender teen, Babaji Maharaja had no idea what is gopi-bhava. Nor did he know that the rest of his long life of 101 years would be spent realizing these three desires. From where did these three beautiful, transcendental ‘sankalpas’ come from? Bhagavan Sri Krishna answers in Sri Gita (6.44): “purva abhyasena tenaiva, hriyate hy avaso pi sah”: Because of performing ‘bhakti yoga sadhana’ in a prior life, one is automatically attracted to the same practices in this life.”
In 1918 (Magha Sukla Trayodashi), Babaji Maharaja appeared in Dakshina Khanda, West Bengal near the village of Gaura-Govinda Nitya-Parisada Sri Narahari Sarkar Thakura. Babaji Maharaja appeared in wealthy Brahmin family of Krishna bhaktas hailing from the Kasyapa and Shandilya gotras. At the age of five, Babaji Maharaja lost his mother and was raised by his grandparents.
In 1940, Babaji Maharaja graduated with honors from high school, and then stayed home managing the family estate. Most of the day, he chanted Shri Shri Radha-Krishna Nama (aka the Hare Krishna maha-mantra).
Babaji Maharaja recalls those days saying, “I felt so much bliss in my mind while chanting Hare Krishna that I lost all interest in material life. I decided that I will leave home, become a sadhu and live in a Himalayan cave doing bhajan like Dhruva and Prahlad Maharaja.
Detecting my mood of detachment, my uncle gave me a Gita to read, hoping that I would learn about duty, stay home, get married and so on. However, the Gita had the opposite effect and, after reading it, especially 9.33; 18.65-66), I became even more determined to leave home and become a sadhu.
“Then one night, Radha-Krishna appeared in my dream. They looked very beautiful dancing together in a most exquisite and attractive way. I moved towards them, but then They vanished, leaving me with an intense thirst to see Them again.”
A short time later, Babaji Maharaja’s uncle’s baby of two years old was visiting his home. He gazed at Baba and suddenly surprisingly said in a most distinct way, “Dada! I give you a blessing: Become a sadhu!” At first, Babaji Maharaja couldn’t believe his ears, but then he thought that Bhagavan Shri Krishna must be speaking through that baby’s mouth.
“Being a young Indian boy, however, I was afraid to leave home and I worried about getting food and shelter. Then Krishna appeared in a dream holding a club and said, ‘Don’t worry or fear. Just leave home and become a sadhu. If anyone tries to harm you, I will destroy them with this club!’”
Babaji Maharaja left home and went to Gaya for Vishnu Darsana, Ganga snana, then on to Haridwar where he arrived after a month of walking. Babaji Maharaja lived on the bank of the Ganga under a tree, and in a garden house offered by a sympathetic devotee. Babaji Maharaja passed a few years in Haridwar staying in different places, chanting Hare Krishna and studying Bhagavad-gita.
Babaji Maharaja then came to Vrindavan Dham in 1940 and did Vraja Parikrama, subsisting on madhukari (offerings given to sadhus), before settling in Cakalesvara, Govardhana. In Govardhan, Babaji Maharaja met a ‘niskincana’ sadhu who lived there, doing bhajan and living on madhukari. Feeling the utmost respect and attraction to him, Babaji Maharaja took initiation from that Gaudiya Vaisnava saint named Shri Shri 108 Sanatana Das Babaji Maharaja, who was the favorite ‘vesh’ disciple of the famous Govinda Kunda Siddha Baba, 108 Sri Sri Manohara Das Babaji.
Babaji Maharaja took sannyasa in 1941 (babaji vesh) before Shri Raghunath Dasa Goswami’s Samadhi. Babaji Maharaja spent time with his guru in Radha Kund and Govardhan, studying sastra in the association of Sri Kunjabihari Das Babaji, Gaura-Gopala Dasji, Sri Dina Sarana Maharaja, Priyacharana Dasji Maharaja, Parameshvara Dasji Maharaja, and Shri Advaita Das Babaji Maharaja.
Babaji Maharaja studied Sanskrit for a few years in Vrindavan and received degrees in Sanskrit grammar, earned the title ‘Vaishnava darsana tirtha’ and became a Bhagavata Acarya. Returning to Govinda Kund in Govardhan, Babaji Maharaj did bhajan and served his Guru and the other great ‘Govardhan nivasi bhajananadi sadhus’ staying at Govinda Kund.
Not only was Babaji Maharaja an amazing Pandit, a strict ‘vairagi’ (renunciate) and a perfect gentleman, he was expert in cooking, book keeping and managing temples and ashrams. Appreciating Babaji Maharaj’s superb scholarship, honesty and impeccable behavior, several Vrindavan temple trusts requested his service as Mahant.
For 35 years, Babaji Maharaja selflessly served as the Mahant of the Gwalior Mandir, Kusuma Sarovara; Mahant of Siddha Manohara Das’s temple in Govinda Kunda, and the Radha-Syamasundara Mandir in Prema Sarovara.
Of his 101 years as a sadhu-sannyasi, Babaji Maharaja did Radha-Krishna bhajan in Vraja Mandala for 80 years. All his belongings fit into one shoulder bag. Babaji Maharaj never had a bank account, personal ‘kutir’ (house) or any land. He wandered here and there living a completely renounced life—moving between Govinda Kunda, Radha Kunda, Kusum Sarovara, Prema Sarovara and Barsana. He initiated many devotees, wrote several books on Gaudiya Vaisnava tattva, sadhana and sadhya, and often went to Bengal, Assam and other places to discourse on the Srimad Bhagavatam, and preach ‘suddha Radha-Krishna bhakti bhajan’, and the ‘prema dharma’ introduced by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
During his long life, Babaji Maharaja freely taught Sanskrit and the secrets of the Srimad Bhagavatam to scores of eager brahmacaris and Babajis. As a service, whenever Babaji Maharaja was requested by other Gurus like Sri Sri 108 Pandit Sri Ananta Dasji Maharaja, he would give sannyasa vesh (bheka) to their disciples.
Babaji Maharaja was a gentle, humble, unassuming sadhu with a fantastic memory full of slokas from the Bhagavatam, Gita and other sastra. He deeply knew all the Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhantas, and he would compassionately share his vast wisdom with anyone seeking his shelter.
Babaji Maharaja constantly stressed the need to take complete shelter in Harinama; always be completely humble; never offend any Vaishnava; and always remember the nitya-lilas of Radha Govinda Yugala. Govinda-lilamrta and Shri Raghunath Dasa Goswami’s Stavavali were his constant companions.
Babaji Maharaja satisfied the thirst of all seekers who came for his Darshan. He emanated friendly warmth, care, and oceans of wisdom. Babaji Maharaja treated everyone like his own, making sure each and every devotee was satisfied and comfortable. And, most importantly, before leaving his sublime association, everyone just had to take Krishna prasadam, which he often personally served with the utmost love.
On January 11, 2019, at 7.10 A.M. Srimati Radharani came to Babaji Maharaja’s kutir in Barsana, and said, “Hey Baba! Now come with Me. We have to go to Nandagram to cook breakfast for Shri Nandanandana.” And thus Babaji Maharaja’s incredibly long life of Harinama, Gopi-Bhava and Bhagavata came to a beautiful close. He fulfilled his three sankalpas, perfected his bhakti sadhana bhajan, and went to Goloka Vrindavan to blissfully serve His beloved Radha Govinda Yugala for time eternal!
108 Sri Sri Pandit Sri Krishna Das Babaji Maharaja, Bhakti-tirtha ki jai!
Jai Jai Sri Radhe! Jai Gurudeva! Jai Gurudeva! Jai Gurudeva!