Vrindavan, 2017.11.17 (VT): Today is the disappearance day of Shri Ramdas Babaji.
Shri Ramdas Babaji Maharaj was born on April 4, 1877AD in Kumarpur, in what is now Bangladesh. His parents named him Radhika Ranjan (a name of Shri Krishna), but everyone called him “Radhika.”
“Radhika” loved music and had a photographic memory. Growing up, he could remember everything he ever read, and sing every song he had ever heard. Studies therefore came easy for him, and he was always the first in his class. His voice was extremely beautiful and everyone loved to hear him sing.
“Radhika” was a very compassionate child. While playing in the neighborhood, he used to let parrots out of their cages. He could not stand to see anyone in pain. As a young man, he took it upon himself to nurse a local sweeper who had smallpox. His family were Shaktas who offered animal sacrifices to the Mother Goddess. But Radhika’s tears brought an end to that family tradition.
When Radhika was about eight years old, he met the famous saint Jagadbandhu, who was then only 13. The two became inseparable. Although they were close friends, Radhika considered Jagadbandhu his shiksha guru. The two of them performed kirtan together day and night. “Radhika” learned the path to Eternal Vrindavan from his “Bandhu”.
Jagadbandhu would faint in bliss whenever someone said the name “Radhika”. So he called him “Sarika” (mynah bird) instead. And sometimes he called him “Ram”.
In 1892 a British Magistrate wanted to force a group of tribal people to convert to Christianity. Jagadbandhu and “Radhika” gathered the tribes, “untouchables” and other marginalized groups for a kirtan procession, which grew to 1.5 miles in length. The loving association of Jagadbandhu and “Radhika” made these marginalized groups feel accepted and they took full shelter of Vaishnavism.
“Radhika” goes to Vrindavan
Under Jagadbandhu’s guidance, “Radhika” visited Nabadwip where he stayed at the famous Harisabha. There he met many of the great saints of his time. He then proceeded to Vrindavan.
In Vrindavan, “Radhika” performed intense spiritual practice and at the age of 17, he had darshan of Shri Radha and Krishna at Radhakund’s sangam ghat.
When “Radhika” returned to Bengal in May of 1885AD, Jagadbandhu told his companions:
“I am bringing a young tree of Harinaam to Calcutta. It was nourished by the sweet air and water of Vrindavan. Now it has become strong, and can persevere through the harshest storms.”
“Radhika” received Harinaam from Shri Bhairav Chandra Goswami of the Nityananda Vamsha, and diksha and Babaji vesh from Shri Radharaman Charan Das Babaji Maharaj (Boro Baba). It was around this time he became known as Ramdas Babaji.
Around this time, Jagadbandhu’s preaching took a different path than the one Ramdas was to follow. Although they no longer were together physically, internally their special connection remained.
Jagadbandhu had revealed Braj ras to Ramdas, but now Shri Radharaman Charan Das Babaji revealed the ras of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lila to him. Under the shelter of Shri Radharaman Charan Das Babaji, Ramdas became like an endless raincloud of Sankirtan, flooding the world in the downpour of Harinaam.
Ramdas Babaji’s wondrous kirtan
Ramdas Babaji traveled with his Guru, performing kirtan in all the places where Mahaprabhu had lived. On the day when Mahaprabhu did any particular lila, Ramdas and his Guru would go to that place and sing about that same lila. The people who heard him sing felt transported back in time. It was as if, through his voice, Ramdas Babaji painted a living picture of Shri Chaitanya’s Lila on the canvas of their hearts. His kirtans were not pre-planned, even though they lasted for many hours. The words sprang from within him as if from a divine Source.
Ramdas Babaji was the image of ecstasy when he sang: his body would shake and tears flowed down his cheeks like rivers, soaking his clothes and muddying the ground where he sat. He sang with his eyes closed and was completely lost in the lila. Thousands of devotees came like hungry bees to drink the nectar of Ramdas Babaji’s sankirtan and many took initiation from him.
Do not build new temples; renovate old ones
Ramdas Babaji’s Guru instructed him not to build any new temples. His philosophy was – when so many old and historic temples are crumbling, new ones should not be built. Instead, Ramdas used his influence to preserve dozens of ancient temples, including Shri Pathbari Ashram in Calcutta – where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu danced for nine hours to the recitation of Gopi Geet by Srila Raghunath Bhagwatacharya. He also saved Shri Haridas Thakur Math, which contains Haridas Thakur’s tomb (samadhi), which was about to be auctioned off to the Christians to be made into a church.
Other places renovated by Ramdas Babaji include: Madhaitala (sadhan sthali of Jagai and Madhai); Atisar Gram (Sripat of Anant Acharya); Shri Radhakanta Math aka Jhanjapita Matha (Puri); Shri Radharaman Bagh aka Samajbari (Nabadwip); Nitai-Gauranga Matha (Cuttack); Shri Krishna Chaitanya Sanatan Shiksha Sangha (Varanasi); Jatan Bar (Varanasi); Govinda Kund Ashram (Vrindavan); Aitota Math (Puri); Old Jagannath Math (Chandannagore); Akaihat Mandir and Nupur Kund; Vishramtali Math and Rajutali Math (Birbhum); Shripat of Chandidas at Kirnahar; Nityananda Ashram (Bankura); Nitai-Gaur Ashram (Chandrakona, Midnapur) and Nrsingha Mandir (Nabadwip).
The heart-rending disappearance of Ramdas Babaji
In 1946, Ramdas Babaji’s elder godsister Shrimati Lalita Sakhi Dasi left this world. She was a great saint in her own right. She was also very close to his Guru and was like a shiksha guru and elder sister to him. Her loss was difficult for him to bear. After her departure he sang the following lines during her suchak kirtan.
“Since you held my hand in the form of Sri Guru, I have nothing more to wish for.
Tie me up in your bonds of love. I have come to be tied by you.
There is no difference between the Name, the Named (God) and the Giver of the Name (Guru)”
In 1953 on the anniversary of Shrimati Lalita Sakhi Dasi’s disappearance, Ramdas Babaji ended the day like every day, and went to take rest. At about 2:30 A.M. he woke up and sat on his bed and called his personal attendant.
He said, “The time has run out. Didi dakche (Big sister is calling me). I have to go. Call everyone here and bring my Thakurji.”
Babaji Maharaj then took a bath and performed his morning rituals. Sitting on his chair, he said, “It is over now. All of you chant the Holy Name.” As Kirtan began, he called out “Jagadbandhu! Radharaman!”
Then he sat on the floor and began to sing the holy name. Tears were flowing endlessly from his eyes. All the residents of the ashram sang with him. His beloved pictures of Nitai-Gaur and Gurudev, which were worshipped on the temple altar, were brought and placed before him.
Babaji Maharaj gazed tenderly at the Darlings of his heart. He was chanting, but slowly his eyes began to close and he became motionless, and entered into the eternal Abode.
From that moment on, the kirtan has continued day and night at Babaji Maharaj’s samadhi at Shri Pathbari Ashram. (V)