Vrindavan, 2011.12.08 (VT): Unfortunately, we missed a couple of important dates this week. One day we will not fail to bring this kind of news to those hungry for Vrindavan’s eternal, spiritual, ever-newness.
On Dwadashi we reported on the disappearance of Ramdas Das, the American pujari who left his body in the Dham. Two other significant figures departed on the same tithi.
One of those is Gauranga Das Babaji, who resided on the Chattikara Road between the ISKCON temple and the Vrindavan Research Institute; the other is Kunja Bihari Dasji of Radha Kund. More of him some other time, here is a glimpse of Gauranga Das Babaji Maharaj provided by Visakha Devi, the disciple of his godbrother Hridayananda Dasji Maharaj.
Gauranga Das Babaji was born in 1887 on Magh Shukla Trayodashi in Changari Pota in 24 Paraganas district in West Bengal. Born in an aristocratic brahmin family, his childhood name was Dhirendranath Chakravarti. He was highly educated and uncommonly intelligent.
While still in college he received the merciful glance of Sripad Ramadas Babaji Maharaj who was performing sankirtan in the streets in Kolkata. It became difficult for him to continue his education thereafter. Instead of attending school, he would sit at the feet of Babaji Maharaj and listen to his Hari katha and heart-melting kirtan. Thus, only a few days after passing his university exams and obtaining his MA, he left his home and joined Babaji Maharaj who told him to reside in Braja.
Gauranga Das Babaji went to Vrindavan and did bhajan under the guidance of Siddha Pandit Ramakrishna Das Babaji, Siddha Advaita Das Babaji and other great mahatmas. He fashioned clothing from old jute sacks and wandered around Braja Mandal calling out the name of Sri Radhika, “O Pyari Ji! O Pyari Ji!” Noticing his wonderful devotional characteristics, his kaka guru Sripad Sital Das Babaji asked him to stay in his ashram at Raman Reti and do bhajan there.
Whenever any devotee came from Braja to Bengal, Ramdas Babaji would immediately inquire about the welfare of his dear disciples living there. Upon hearing about the bhajan of Gauranga Das Babaji, tears of joy would roll down his cheeks. The devotion of Gauranga Das Babaji was so great that Pyari Ji herself gave him darshan and fed him payasanna with Her own lotus hand.
As time went on Sripad Ramadas Babaji Maharaj left this world. When the news reached the ears of Gauranga Das Babaji he proclaimed, “Everything is gone for me! I will not stay here anymore!” Saying this, he entered his bhajan kutir and closed the door. He refused to eat or drink. He did not even touch a single drop of water. Thirteen days after the departure of his beloved Sri Gurudev, he departed from this world to join him in the nitya-lila.
Gauranga Dasji and the Kalpatarus of Vrindavan
From the Uddharan blog of Vishakha Dasi.
Sri Gauranga Das Babaji Maharaj had a special relationship with the trees of Vrindavan. He talked to them and read to them from RÄdhÄ-rasa-sudhÄ-nidhi and other shastras. During the initial phase of his Vraja-vas, Baba lived amongst the trees and creepers deep in the forest of Vrindavan. He had only his cloth, water pot and mala for possessions. To keep his body in this world he did madhukari.
One evening Baba returned late from madhukari, so he did not read as he usually did. As Baba lay down to sleep under the big barun tree (three-leaved caper), he heard the tree speaking,
“Baba! Won´t you read to us today?”
Baba replied sorrowfully, “Maharaj! I am a vairagi. I have not even a lamp or a match to light it with. How can I read in the dark?”
The tree replied in an affectionate voice, “Just see what I brought for you.” In the knot-hole of the tree, Baba found a big candle and a box of matches. So he sat down to read, and the tree was quite satisfied.
At the later stage of his life Baba took up residence in Radharaman Nivas at Raman Reti. There he never allowed anyone to pick the leaves or twigs from the ashram’s neem trees. Once he asked his servant Manohar Das to tie up a low-hanging branch, but when he did Baba was overwhelmed with sharp chest pains. When the branch was cut free, the pain subsided. The next day, Baba saw a vision of the tree personified as a young boy whose whole body radiated light. The boy cried, ¨How could you tie me up? You have not come here to bind, but to grant freedom (from the bonds of maya).¨ Baba offered his full dandavat to the tree and tearfully begged forgiveness.
Among Sri Gauranga Das Babaji Maharaj’s better-known disciples is Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor, the writer of Saints of Bengal, Saints of Vraja, and The Life of Love, the English translation of Boro Babaji´s biography, and other books. On the day Dr. Kapoor first met Baba, Baba gave him some special advice. Dr. Kapoor writes in Saints of Bengal:
Gesturing towards the neem trees of his ashram, he said, “If there is anything that afflicts you, do not worry. Go and tell your tale to a kalpataru over there. Every tree in Vrindavan is a kalpataru. If you embrace it and speak your heart to it, it listens and helps. There is nothing it cannot help you with. It can even present you the most cherished objects of your heart – Radha and Krishna, if you so desire.”
BÄbÄ continued, “Listen and I will give you an example. A young boy, aspiring after the darshan of Ká¹›á¹£á¹‡a, renounced the world and came to Vrindavan. Although he was from a high class family and was brought up in the lap of luxury, he became a BÄbÄjÄ« and lived in utter seclusion in the forests and practised bhajana thoughout the day. Only once in the evening he would go out into a nearby village for mÄdhukari. He roamed half-naked, wearing only a loin cloth made of gunny.
One winter morning when the weather was drizzly, he began to shiver with cold. Since there was no other shelter in the forest, he sat inside the hollow of an old tree and began to meditate on Ká¹›á¹£á¹‡a, shedding tears in His remembrance. After some time passed he heard a voice coming from another tree in front of him. That tree said to the tree in which BÄbÄ was hiding, “Look, a mahÄtmÄ has taken shelter of you. Grant him your mercy.’
‘Why don’t you grant him your mercy?’ replied the other tree.
“Then from the tree in front a peacock flew down and stood before BÄbÄ with it’s tail unfurled. Then another peacock flew down, and another, till a semi-circle of peacocks was formed around BÄbÄ. And the next moment he saw standing before him in the midst of the peacocks ÅšrÄ« Ká¹›á¹£á¹‡a Himself, with a peacock feather in his crown, the flute held in His hands near His mouth and a bewitching smile on His lips.”… Gauraá¹…ga DÄs BÄbÄjÄ« did not name the young BÄbÄ who was thus blessed with the vision of ÅšrÄ« Ká¹›á¹£á¹‡a by the mercy of the kalpatarus of Vrindavan. But as I came to know later, the story related to none other than himself.”