Vamsidasa Babaji

 

    He was born in Majitpura in the subdivision of Kisoraganja in the district of Mayamanasimha. His father's name was Sanatana Malovrahma. His former name was Bhairavacandra. According to usual custom, he married at an early age but he had no attraction for married life. Being repeatedly requested by his mother, he dealt with his wife for a single day only. He was initiated into the family of Narottama Thakura and accepted the garb of an ascetic. At that time the influence of the Kalacanda doctrine was very prominent throughout the country. He first began worshipping following that particular doctrine, but later entered into the realm of pure Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

    At one one Siddha Sri Gaurakisore Baba went to Navadvipa and seeing the sincerity of service of Siddha baba opined, "After Gaurakisore, he will be a great successor but his doctrine will be different."

    While in Navadvipa, Vamsidasa Baba lived in a hermitage and begged alms. Later when the charge of serving Sri Gaura fell on him, he became totally dependent on begging. He built a simply hut near the house of the elder Gosvami in Caumuhani and lived there with his Gaurahari. When he went out begging, he would sometimes carry Gaurahari with him.

    Vamsidasa never shut the door of his hut, though occasionally his belongings would be stolen by thieves. When his devotees requested him to lock the door he replied, "If He neglects His own house, what Vamsidasa will do?" Once a devotee gave a golden chain for Gaurahari and a thief stole it. When Vamsidasa came back from begging he said to his Deity, "To whom have you given Your chain?" In the evening he got some clue and went to the house of the thief. When he requested the thief to give back the chain the thief pushed him from the verandah to the ground. He did not speak a word, but since then he lost one of his legs. Eventually that thief lost everyone in his family. Being harassed by the municipality, Vamsidasa left his hut and began to live near the social center house of Jhautala. Once in the rainy season, he covered his Gaurahari with a ragged blanket and from time to time wiped His face which was wet with drops of rain. Srimati Lalita Sakhi dasi could not drag him to live in the Nathmandir or to build a roof over his head.

    Vamsidasa's Deity used to speak to him. Babaji never went anywhere except once to Kenduvilva and once to Kheturi. At the end of his life he stayed for a long time in a room north of the Badala ghat. There he served Sri Nitai-Gaura and Gadadhara, Sri Radha-Govinda and Sri Gopala. He engaged in their service constantly without wasting a minute.

    He memorised the entire Prarthana and Prema-bhakti-candrika by Sri Narottama Thakura. Sometimes he sang from Prarthana. He never spoke angrily to anyone, neither did he speak of "I" or "my". He used to address himself as Vamsidasa. He always cooked for himself and offered whatever he made to his Deity, never accepting anything but prasada. Even when he became ill, he simply fasted and never allowed anyone to nurse him.

    There was a campaka tree in the garden nearby which gave two campaka flowers everyday to him. Even in his old age, he could climb the tree like a strong young man. One day, however, he fell from the tree and was severely injured. From that time forward he was unable to go outside and at that time his disciples, Manohara dasa, Govinda dasa and Jagadvandhu dasa, looked after him.

 

The following section is compiled by Nayana-ranjana Dasa from the book "Vamsidasa Babaji" by Bhakti Vikasa Swami.

Position of Vamsidasa

There are two type of exalted devotees of Krsna. The bhajananandi is completely immersed in intense meditation of the Lord, principally by chanting and remembering the glories and pastimes. The gosthyanandi is primarily involved in spreading the name of the Lord by extensive preaching. Of course the boundaries are not rigid, for the Bhajananandi may also sometimes preach and the gosthyanandi also relish bhajans and kirtans. But depending on the moods they generally make one or the other as their primary service.

Vamsidasa Babaji was a bhajananandi. He was completely aloof from the material world, and was totally preoccupied with worshiping his Deities, performing his bhajans and visiting holy places. He had reached the highest levels of spontaneous devotion and seldom bothered with the rules and regulations of vaidhi-sadhana bhakti. For instance he did not chant on beads, did not follow any fixed schedule of worship and did not chant any mantras or prayers for worshiping. His brief interactions with the outside world often left people confused and bewildered.

The true position of Vamsidasa Babaji was revealed by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the founder of the Gaudiya Matha and the initiating spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada. Even though Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, in the mood of a gosthyanandi had made preaching his primary service, as an exalted devotee he could perceive the greatness of Vamsidasa. This mutual affection and respect between the two paramahansas formed the basis of a very sweet and loving relationship. Bhaktisiddhanta would often send his disciples to try and serve Vamsidasa. His disciples would render all kinds of service to Vamsidasa and carefully preserve his remnants which were sent back to be honored by members of the Gaudiya Matha. Vamsidasa had great respect and affection for Bhaktisiddhanta. Once Vamsidasa saw Bhaktisiddhanta coming and smilingly remarked, "Oh, a manjari has come, so won't Radha come also? She will come! She will come!"

Birth and Youth

Vamsidasa was born as Bhairab Chandra in the year 1859 in the village of Majitpur in current Bangladesh. He was the oldest of the seven children of Sanatana Mallabrahma and Srimati Sarvasundari. As the son of a poor fisherman, he lived a hard and austere life, mostly occupied with his family business of catching and selling fish. However on the way back he would stop at a Gaura-Nitai temple and relish the association of Narottama Dasa Babaji, a devotee who stayed at the temple. From him Vamsidasa learned many bhajans of Narottama Dasa Thakura and developed a great attraction for Caitanaya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. His parents, worried by his growing attraction to spirituality married him. However soon after this Vamsidasa left his wife and his six months old son and became a renunciant. He took initiation from Narottama Dasa Babaji, who gave him the name Vamsidasa.

Austerities

Even though Vamsidasa had lived a hard life as a youth, as a babaji he became extremely austere. He was always dressed in one simple loincloth and nothing more. He rarely attempted to procure any food and would often go without eating, sometimes for several days. It was common for him to abstain from both food and water for a day or two. He took very little care of his health, and would bathe in freezing water even when he was sick. Despite all this Vamsidasa looked vibrant and healthy. He was over six feet tall and was constantly traveling. Even at the age of eighty he walked so fast that many of his younger associates could not keep up with him. Much like the Gosvamis of Vrindavana he survived solely on spiritual energy.

The Character of Vamsidasa

Even amongst the babajis, Vamsidasa is unique. He was on the avadhuta platform, that is he was completely beyond any rules and regulations. His hair and beard were uncut and matted. He rarely took a bath and he wore nothing more than a loin cloth. His eyes looked wild and his behavior intimidating.

He often spoke in an un-intelligible manner. Even though he knew the local Bengali dialect, he sometimes spoke in his native Mymensingh dialect which very few people could understand. His sentences would run together and he would randomly jump from one topic to another without any seeming connection. Sometimes he spoke about the pastimes of Krsna in Braja and sometimes about the pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Some times he would animatedly talk and at other times he would remain silent, not even bothering to acknowledge the comments of his close associates. One of his favorite phrases was 'Bhakta-vatsala Hari! Prana-vallabha Hari!' and he would shout this continuously, drawing out the Hari into a long plaintive cry.

Despite his seemingly dis-organized life, Vamsidasa had a keen sense of discrimination when it came to people. He not only shunned the company of non-devotees he also avoided the pseudo-Vaishnavas who would often flock by his side to bask in his glory. He rigidly abided by the principle of adopting that which is favorable to Krsna and rejecting every thing else. With a keen intuition he was able to discern the hidden motives of people coming to him for guidance or blessings and would appropriately respond to them.

Even though Vamsidasa would appear to talk like a madman, he never said anything inconsistent with the conclusions of the scriptures. Though he often spoke enigmatically he was always in agreement with the Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta

Deities

Vamsidasa had three sets of Deities that he carried along with him. He had a small Bala-Gopala (Krsna in the form of a child) that he was extremely attached to. He also had six inches metal Deities of Radha-Govinda and larger three feet wooden Deities of Gaura-Nitai. He always carried his Deities with him and would continuously talk to Them. His mood of worship was that of an affectionate parent. He would talk to Gopala lovingly, sometimes angrily and sometimes pleadingly. He rarely spoke to any one but his Deities. In his unending conversation with the Deities he would often stop as if to listen and then continue talking. Even if people would come to ask him questions, he would reply to the Deities, referring to himself in the third person (as Vamsidasa).

Pastimes of Vamsidasa

When Vamsidasa was visiting Puri during Ratha Yatra, the cart stopped closed to where he was standing. Despite the efforts of everyone assembled the cart would not move. Then Vamsidasa came and after some intimate conversation with the Lord, the cart moved on with ease.

Once Vamsidasa went to the sea in Puri, to give Bala-Gopala a bath. Arriving on the shore be beckoned the sea 'Come here, come here!' Huge waves crossed over the beach and Vamsidasa was able to bathe his Deities.

While crossing the river Mahanandi, Vamsidasa instructed the boatmen to drop him near a point where he claimed was a snake. When the boatman dropped Vamsidasa and his associates at the point, a yellow snake appeared. Holding his Bala-Gopala Deity Vamsidasa exclaimed, 'See Anantadeva has come!' After some time the snake went away.

Once on a full moon night of Ashvini, Vamsidasa instructed his associates not to set up any tent but camped out in the open. At this time fifty attractive women, dressed in white, came and offered obeisances to Vamsidasa and left without saying. Despite the late hour, they were unescorted, something that never happens in rural India, and none of the locals had any knowledge of them. The devotees concluded that they were demigoddess who had come to get the blessings of Vamsidasa on this auspicious day.

One day Vamsidasa cooked sweet rice for Bala-Gopala, but before offering it he angrily threw it away, accusing Gopala of having already eaten rice-gur (sweet rice with semi-processed sugar extract from palm trees) in the Radha-Govinda temple in Vrindavana. One of the persons who happened to hear this sent a letter to the temple priest
inquiring about the offering to Radha-Govinda on that particular date-time. A reply soon came indicating that the offering on the day was sweet rice cooked with palm-tree gur.

Once a man suffering from cholera (considered fatal in those days) lay outside the hut of Vamsidasa, expecting him to cure him. For three days he lay there moaning with intense pain, without eating and drinking anything. Finally Vamsidasa came outside and place a Tulasi leaf on his tongue. The man was instantly cured and he got up and went home.

When Vamsidasa became too old and infirm, he would have trouble going out to do madhukari (begging food from devotees). Once in such a situation he exclaimed to his servant, "Did you hear what Gauranga was saying? He has told Vamsidasa, 'you do not go begging for three days. Now you are too old, so I will feed you.' This Gauranga wants to feed
me!" Saying this Vamsidasa fetched a stick and waved it threateningly at his Gaura Deity. "You do not have to go outside for serving me. If You go outside, I will break Your legs!!"
 


From HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami's book on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur:

Vamsidasa Babaji was a Gaudiya sadhu who lived at Swarup Ganj during the time of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura's mission. He was respected by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and he used to see to it that Vamsivadasa Babaji was provided with grains and so on by Gaudiya Matha brahmacaris, whom he'd send to Swarup Ganj from the Yoga Pitha Mandir.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura also received the blessings of Srila Vamsidasa Babaji Maharaja in Navadwip. Seeing Srila Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Varmsidasa Babaji Mahasaya would say, "Someone very close to my Gaura has come to me."

On Janmastami he was in Baleshvar, a town in North Orissa. At midnight he said to Gopal, "Last year I gave You some palmfruit. This year I shall give You some mango. Gopal, don't be impatient, mango is coming to You." Within ten minutes a brahmana teacher called Jogendra Mukherjee arrived, explaining how he had just dreamt that a sadhu wanted a mango, so he went to the market and bought one. That brahmana was then told, "Yes, yes, you come. He said he wanted a mango."

One day, a lady selling fish approached him, offering him some choice type of catch. Somehow or other, the Babaji's mind became attracted to tasting the fish. But he immediately checked himself and became very angry. He first of all shouted at the woman to get away. Then he was shouting, "How could this happen? How could this happen? I've surrendered my life to Radha Krishna, I'm under Their protection and still this happens! Why You are not protecting me?"

He went storming into his bhajan kutir. People gathered while he fussed and fumed at his Deities inside. Then he came out, bringing the Deities tied by rope and threw Them into the Ganga. He kept the end of the rope under his foot. When one man inquired why he was doing this, the baba threw a rock at him.

When this news reached the Gaudiya Matha Mandir, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta called his brahmacaris together and forbade them from visiting this baba again, save for one who would just deliver supplies. After a few days, he again called them together and said, "Some of you think I've stopped you from visiting Babaji Maharaja because he is in maya. That is not so. But you are not able to understand this bhava. So stay away."

Later, when that one brahmacari visited, Vamsidas Babaji Maharaja threw a stone at him and told, "If you want to please me, then never return here again!"

Previously his reception had always been unpredictable. Sometimes the Baba would welcome him. Sometimes he would accept the gifts without saying a word. Sometimes he would just sit and stare. Sometimes he would take the gifts and angrily throw them in the river.

Instructions by Vamsidasa

Though many people, attracted by the fame and austerity of Vamsidasa would come to him for benedictions, Vamsidasa would generally ignore them. Once in a while he would get angry at people asking for material benefits and strongly chastise them. However sometimes when he was approached by a sincere seeker then Vamsidasa would instruct him in his typical fashion by conversing with the Deities. Some of his instructions are:

"Whoever offends a Vaishnava cannot be saved."

jive-daya name-ruci vaisnava-sevana
iha chara dharma nahi suna sanatana

"Kindness to all living beings, taste for the holy name and service to the Vaishnavas - apart from this there is no other religion."

Once a man asked Vamsidasa how to attain God. Vamsidasa replied: "The personality of Kali is extremely powerful. When Kali came, Krsna told Narada, 'Now it is time for Me to go.' Sri Narada asked, 'What will be the future of the creatures in this world?' Krsna replied, 'Those who worship the brahmanas and feed them will attain Me.' Narada asked, 'What of those who are too poor to serve the brahmanas?' Krsna replied, 'Those who worship Me with flowers and Tulasi will attain Me.' Narada then asked, 'What of those who are lame from birth?' Krsna replied, 'If some one only once at the end of the day calls My name with undivided devotion, he will attain Me!'"

Final Pastimes of Vamsidasa

On March 17th 1944 Vamsidasa returned to his home town of Majitpur. He did not actually enter the town as it is traditional for renunciants not to return to their former family. He lived there for some time and finally on Caturthi, July 23, 1944, Srila Vamsidasa Babaji Maharaja concluded his earthly pastimes and resumed his service to Lord Krsna in Goloka.


VAMSIDASA BABAJI -- Biography # 2

Vamsidasa Babaji was a siddha-mahatma in the disciplic succession of Sri Narottama Thakura. The name of his diksa-guru was Harilal Vrajavasi and the name of his vesa-guru was Ramananda Vrajavasi. But it was difficult to know that he was siddha, because he lived far away from the world in a solitary place on the bank of Ganga near Baral Ghata in Navadvipa, as if he was renounced by the world, as an idiotic and worthless destitute. But the fact is that it is not the world that had renounced him, but he, who had renounced the world as worthless. He hardly had any worldly possessions. His only possessions were an old kaupina, karanga and kantha. Once Sripada Haridasa Gosvami asked him why he did not wear bahirvasa. He replied, "I live only with ka, which means kaupina, karanga and kantha. I have nothing to do with ba", which means bahirvasa or outer garment. "Bahirvasa brings relationship with the outer world and the people, who are bahiranga, that is those, who are attached to the outer world. My Gaura has asked me not to wear bahirvasa and mix with people who are bahiranga."

Vamsidasa Babaji lived in a world of his own. His world centered round his Deities Gaura-Gadadhara, Nitai, Radha-Krishna and Gopala. For the service of these Deities he had two brass pots, some earthen pots, one plate, one glass, some small cups, panca patra, bell and conch-shell and nothing else. Baba passed day and night in the service of the Deities and in sweet talks with Them. Early in the morning he went out from his kutir to collect flowers. Then he went for bhiksa. He returned to the kutir about noon and made garlands from the flowers for each of the six Deities. After that he started cutting vegetables. He washed each vegetable a number of times. Then he cleaned rice. He examined each grain of rice. If he found any grain from which the husk was not removed, he removed it with his own hand. He did everything slowly, contemplating all the time the lila of Radha-Krishna or Gaura-Nitai, and singing or talking to Them. It was only late in the evening that he could cook and offer bhoga to the Deities. He had no consciousness of time. Morning and evening, day and night had no meaning for him. Almost the whole night he kept awake, talking and singing.

Once Sripada Haridasa Gosvami was surprised to see him cooking for the Deities at about 9 a.m. He said to him, "Baba! It would be fine, if you prepare bhoga for the Deities like this in the morning everyday." He replied, "I do not know morning or evening. Am I their father's servant so to feed them at appointed hours? If They want to eat like that, let Them make Their own arrangements for cooking. Let Gadadhara cook for Gaura. Nitai is avadhuta. He has no caste. He can go and eat anywhere. I do not worry about my Gopala. A milch-cow comes here everyday and gives Him milk. He can live on that. I have to worry about Radha-Krishna. For Them I will have to cook a little rice and vegetables. If I don't, They will go to Vrndavana and do madhukari."

Vamsidasa Baba never locked the door of his kutir when he went out for bhiksa or to bathe in the Ganga. If someone asked him why he did not lock the kuti, he said, "If the owner of the house Himself does not keep a watch and has a soft corner for the thief, what is the use of locking the house? I do not even keep the keys of the lock with me. The lock has three keys. All the three are with the three boys. One is with Gaura, one with Nitai and one with Gadadhara." After entrusting the lock and the keys to the three boys, Baba used to be free from anxiety. If while he was out a cow entered the kutir and turned everything topsy turvy, he would be angry with the boys. If someone stole something from the kutir he would say, "Gaura has a soft corner for Nadiyavasis, the residents of His own dhama. Therefore He gives things away to them. I am after all an outsider." Once a gold necklace, given by someone to Gaura, was stolen, when he had gone out for bhiksa. On returning to the kutir he kept on scolding Gaura and asking Him whom He had given away the necklace, for about two hours. Towards the evening he got a hint. He then went to the house of the thief and asked him for the necklace. The thief pushed him down the verandah of his house. He was hurt. But he did not say anything. But how could Gaura tolerate this? The thief soon died as well as all the other members of his family.

Once Baba had to punish Gaura-Nitai for Their connivance in a theft. The two brass-pots, in which Baba' used to cook for Gaura-Nitai were stolen. How could this happen without the connivance of Gaura-Nitai? So They were punished. Baba scolded Them and did not give Them anything to eat that day. The punishment had its effect. The next day someone came quietly and delivered one of those pots. Baba said, "This small pot is Nitai's. He will be fed today. If Gaura wants to eat, He must also bring His pot." Baba always did what he said. He cooked and offered bhoga to Nitai. Gaura drew a long face as He kept looking at Nitai eating. In the meantime another man came and delivered the other pot. Baba then cooked in that pot and offered bhoga to Gaura. When Gaura also had eaten, he said with tears in his eyes, "Do I ever want to punish You? But both of You are so naughty that You must always tease me. You do not know that I have now become old and cannot bear it all. What can I do?"

It is difficult to understand what bhava Vamsidasa Baba had towards Gaura. It sometimes appeared to be sakhya (friendly), sometimes vatsalya (parental) and sometimes madhurya, like that of a Nadiya-nagari (lady of Nadiya) towards Gauranga as Nadiya-nagara (an attractive citizen of Nadiya). If it was basically madhura, it is easy to understand that he sometimes exhibited vatsalya-bhava towards Him and sometimes sakhya, because madhurya-bhava includes all other bhavas. According to Haridasa Gosvami his bhava was of Nadiya-nagari type, because he used to compose songs of this bhava and sing. He has quoted some of these songs. Two of them are reproduced below:

kena giya chilama ganga-tire o nagari |
nyana kataksa bane gaura kaila mana churi ||
ami ekhana ki kari o nagari ki kari ||

"O Nagari! How I repent having gone to the bank of Ganga. Gaura cast a side long glance at me and stole my heart. What shall I do now, O Nagari! What shall I do?"

bala go nagari gaura kallena ki ||
grha gela kula gela mana kela curi |
sajani! ekhana ami ki kari ||
nayana kone, kane kane gaura kallena ki |
ami je prana mari gaura kallena ki ||

"Tell me O Nagari what Gaura has done to me, He winked and whispered and did, I do not know what to me. O Sakhi! Now I know not what to do, Life is running out of me. O! What has Gaura done to me?"

Towards the end of his life Baba once went to his birth place Majitpur in district Maymansinha. He carried the Deities with him. On the way he neither ate, nor slept, nor passed stool or urine. On reaching Majitpur he stayed in a dilapidated temple. After that he went to Vrndavana and Puri. In Vrndavana he stayed on the bank of Yamuna, in Puri on the bank of Narendra Sarovara. He never went inside a temple for darsana. During these travels the sadhus of the Gaudiya Matha rendered great service to him.

Nothing is known about Baba's life as a householder, except that he was married at an early age and his son Haracandra was nine or ten years old when he renounced the world. He went to Navadvipa about the year 1906. The author once tried to see him in 1932, but could not, because the door of his kutir was closed, though he could hear him talking to the Deities in Maymansinha dialect. He left the world in 1944.

(Excerpts from OBL Kapoor's "The Saints of Bengal")
 

[This article and more information at  www.stephen-knapp.com]

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