Sri Vamsidasa Babaji Mharaja was a great Vaisnava who lived in Navadvipa during the first half of the twentieth century. His behavior was so unusual that in any culture less spiritually enlightened than India’s, he almost certainly would have been considered crazy. Although Physically present in this world, he had little connection with it. He was about six feet tall and strongly built. His hair and beard were uncut, matted, and disheveled. He hardly ever bathed, and his eyes looked wild. He wore only a simple covering over his groin, and nothing more.
This book introduces us to a personality of such extraordinary, inscrutable character that we simply offer him obeisance and beg for his mercy.
To those devotees who helped and inspired me in my first days of Krsna consciousness. I especially remember Janananda Goswami, Prabhavisnu Swami, Kalakantha Prabhu, Rohininandana Prabhu, and Vicitravirya Prabhu for their good examples and kindness. I should have said it long before, but anyway I am saying it now: “Thank you!”
This edition has been renamed ( Sri has been added to the former title, Vathmidasa Bdbãji) and revamped—corrected, rewritten, edited, and expanded. It also contains further information, derived from the following sources: an article by Sri Siddhanta SarasvatI in the magazine Sajjana-toani, old editions of the Gauiya (the erstwhile magazine of the Gaudiya Mission), and Associates of Sri Caitanya, by Sripada B. B. Tirtha Maharaja.
Also new are photographs (taken by Gopijanaballabha Prabhu) from the site of Sri Vathmidãsa Bãbãji’s bhajanakuti at Navadvipa.
Editing was done by Guru-Krsna Prabhu, layout by Vrndavana-candra Prabhu, and the printing was overseen by Sri Giridhari Prabhu. My thanks are due to them and to all others who contributed in various ways to this glorification of Srila Vathidãsa Bãbaji.
Since publishing the first edition of Vathmidãsa Bãbãji I was able to visit Babaji Maharaja’s birthplace at Majidpur and collect more information about his early life there, as given by his descendants and a local biographer. Moreover, some statements have been corrected, the short chapters “Vaitimidãsa and Casteism” and “Majidpur Today” added, and the whole text thoroughly re-edited and reorganized, the result hopefully being a more readable and interesting book,
Jati Sekhara Prabhu departed from this world on 6 February 1995, the advent day of Advaita Acarya Prabhu.
I first met Sri Jati ekhara Dasa in 1986 at his home in Cuttack, Orissa, while I was researching the life of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatl Thakura, of whom Jati Sekhara Prabhu was a disciple. When in the course of discussion Jati Sekhara Prabhu mentioned the name Vamidãsa Babãji, I asked him to tell me more, for I had previously heard of Vathmidasa. To my delight, for the next few hours J ati Sekhara Prabhu elaborated on the character and activities of Srila Vamidasa Bãbãjl. Jati Sekhara Prabhu had personally seen him do and say many wonderful things, and testified how Vathmidasa was a maha-purua in vãtsalya-rasa.
Jati ekhara Prabhu gave me a booklet he had written in Oriya about Vamidãsa Babãji, in which some of Bãbãji Maharaja’s travels were recounted, based on a diary Jati Sekhara Prabhu had kept while accompanying Bãbãji Maharaja to Purl, and on similar journals by other devotees who had traveled with Babãji Mahãrãja in North India. These details, together with whatever else Jati Sekhara Prabhu told me, form the basis of this book. Also herein are several anecdotes told by Bhakti Bardhaka Sagara Maharaja (a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura), who in this book is referred to by his brahmacarl name, Ananta Vivambhara. Like Jati Sekhara Prabhu, he had spent substantial time with Bãbaji Maharaja.
The introduction is based on a talk by Jati ekhara Prabhu, who concluded by saying, “I am very humble, very weak, and very much in the clutches of maya, so am unable to speak anything properly about him. I speak as he is merciful to appear in my mind. Please excuse me. I pray to all the Vaisnavas, ‘Please be merciful to me so that I may remember Vam idasa wherever I am.’ Vath ldasasmarar e sakala-vighna-na a: ‘Simply by remembering Vamgidasa all obstacles are destroyed.’ I may be far away from Vathidãsa, but remembering him is my bhajana.”
Jaya rila Varhidasa Babaji Maharaja!
Three babajis of Navadvipa—rila Jagannatha Dasa Bãbaji, Snila Gaura-kisora Dasa Bãbaji, and Srila Vammidasa Babaji—were deeply absorbed on the level of pure Ktsna-bhakti described in Vaisnava literature, foremost of which is Srimad-Bhagavatam. These perfect devotees of the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya demonstrated the importance of worshiping Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the most merciful incarnation of Krsna. Krsna is madhurya-vigraha, “the embodiment of sweetness,” but that sweetness is not readily accessible to conditioned souls. However, when Syamasundara (Krsna) appeared as Gaurasundara (Lord Caitanya), He came as auddryavigraha, “the embodiment of munificence.” This time He appeared especially to benefit the unfortunate, distressed people of Kali-yuga. Although Krsna is unapproachable to offenders, in His form of Lord Caitanya He is not so strict. If anyone utters the name Gauranga with a little faith—or even no faith—Lord Caitanya immediately overlooks all of that person’s offenses and makes him eligible to receive krgta-prema. It is this all-merciful Lord Caitanya, along with His brother Lord Nityananda, whom our Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas urge us to approach.
Jagannatha Dãsa Babaji, Gaura-ki ora Dasa Babaji, and Vathidasa Babãji worshiped Lord Caitanya. As bhajananand sadhus they did not preach, but were absorbed in intense bhajana, austerity, and renunciation at a level inimitable by ordinary persons. Being paramahañ’tsas, they did not observe all the rules necessary for immature devotees—they did not wear tilaka or use japa-maias, nor did they chant a fixed number of mantras or follow daily regulated programs of sadhana.
In Aisvarya-kãdambini, rila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura states that devotees on the higher level of devotional service, practicing manasa-bhajana (devotional service performed principally within the mind), do not want any restrictions on their free-flowing offering of spontaneous love to Kriia. This elevated level of devotional service is not to be imitated. In Bhaktirasam ta-sindhu, Srila Rüpa Gosvãmi warns: Sruti-smrti-puraadi- pañcaratra-vidhith vina
aikantiki harer bhaktir utpãtãyaiva kalpate
The purport of this verse is that the scriptural regulations of devotional service are essential, and neglect of them by a practitioner of Hari-bhakti will simply cause disturbance. Yet in the same book Srila Rupa Gosvami instructed:
smartavyah satatam visnur vismartavyo na jätucit
sarve vidhi-nisedhai syur etayor eva kinkarali
Always remember Krsna (Visnu) and never forget Him. All rules and regulations are subservient to this injunction.
For a reluctant student, a disciplined atmosphere is necessary to see him through his course. But an eager student does not need inducement or pressure to open his books. Similarly, for those who have not developed spontaneous taste for devotional service, rules are required, but they serve no meaningful purpose for devotees who have already attained the elevated stage. Varmidãsa Bãbãji was a topmost paramahamsa whose character and behavior were so unusual that only the most advanced devotees, on that same level of perfection, could clearly recognize his greatness.
yet while unorthodox in his practices, Srila Vathidãsa Bbaji was not without discrimination. He rigidly adhered to the principle of anukulyasya saikalpai pratikulyasya varjanam: to accept anything favorable and reject everything unfavorable for the execution of devotional service. Unlike persons who simply pretend to be advanced devotees, those who are actually immersed in spontaneous devotion to Krsna never deviate from the correct philosophical understanding of Krsna consciousness. Even though Varthsidasa often seemed to babble like a madman, he never said anything inconsistent with the approved conclusion of the scriptures. Whatever he spoke was concordant with Gaucliya Vainava siddhãnta, and he was never influenced by the speculations of pseudodevotees.
At that time, many members of apa-sampradayas were posing as devotees and crowding Navadvipa with imaginative ideas and practices—ordinary people were likely to accept anyone who was exhibiting bhava to be a great devotee. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati vehemently protested the deviations of the apa-sampradayas. Yet they readily accepted BabajI Maharaja as an exalted pure devotee. Had they not informed us of Srila Vamsidasa Bãbãji Maharaja’s actual position, probably his transcendental ecstatic behavior (as described in this book) would have been considered extreme eccentricity or mundane madness.
We should be careful not to misunderstand and make erroneous judgments, based on our limited experience, about the activities of an advanced devotee.
rila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati would say that rila Jagannatha Dãsa Babãji, SriIa Gaura-kiora Dasa Babãji, and Srila Vamidasa Bãbãji were close associates and are always worshipable by aspiring Vaiavas. While Srila Vamgidasa Bãbaji is not known to have physically associated either with Srila Jagannatha Dasa Bäbãji or Srila Gaura-kisora Dasa Bãbaji, since all of them are nit ya-siddha maha-bhagavatas they are eternally united on the spiritual platform of service to the servants of Sri Sri Rãdha-Krsna in Vamidãvana. It may be questioned that if liberated souls such as these three bãbãjis have nothing to do with the material world, then why do they come? Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura has given the answer. Dar ane pavitra koro ei tomara gula: “Just by seeing a great devotee, one is purified.” Devotees cannot be evaluated simply in terms of how many temples they establish or disciples they make. Merely by the presence of rare pure devotees on the level of Srila Vathmidasa Bãbãji, the world is benefited immeasurably. To see or to hear about such Aviva’s is itself purifying. Therefore one should read this book with great reverence for the sake of personal purification.
Despite his wild appearance and demeanor, rila Vathidasa Bäbãji Maharaja was a bona fide saint of the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. All almanacs of the Gaudiya Matha and its offshoots record his tirobhvaiithi. Yet prior to the publishing of this book, few devotees ci the Western world had even heard the name Vamsidasa babãji. Hence, with great pleasure, and in expectation of iceiving blessings from Srila Varhmidasa Bãbãji and my readers, I hereby present this book. Admitting my inability tio properly describe the transcendental personality of Srila Varhidasa Bãbãji, I request that the faults in this presentation be overlooked.
May Bãbãji Maharaja bless us all?
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