Srila Vamsidasa Babaji

BY: MURARI DAS - 6.8 2016

August 6th is the Disappearance day of Srila Vamsidasa Babaji. Who was this great personality and what are some of the pastimes he performed?

Trying to invoke the mercy of the Vaisnavas

Reading about and studying the lives of exalted Vaisnavas is recommended for those on the spiritual path as it enables us to absorb their mood and dedication to Krsna consciousness. Indeed we find in the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition that writings glorifying and exalting past Acaryas are abound while in contrast autobiographies were very rare.

Having acquired that rarest of jewels, Krsna bhakti, these great personalities are able to also give us a drop of mercy IF we are fortunate (tumi kripa kori, kripa bindu diya), by which we may be able to escape the mire of material existence. By reading about, remembering, chanting their names and appreciating these great personalities in a prayerful mood we are able to invoke their mercy. We find in the 20th verse of the first chapter of the Adi Lila, Caitanya Caritamrta:

"In the beginning of this narration, simply by remembering the spiritual master, the devotees of the Lord, and the Personality of Godhead, I have invoked their benedictions." 
(Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 1.20)

After passing through a life of deep devotional service, Vaisnavas then disappear from external vision. Vaisnavas do not die but enter into Samadhi. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has said that;

"He reasons ill who says that Vaisnavas die, When thou art living still in sound! The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try to spread the holy name around."

In an interview Srila Prabhupada, an Acarya, the likes of which one would be very fortunate to come across within a day of Lord Brahma, says;

Reporter (2): What will happen to the movement in the United States when you die? 
Prabhupada: I will never die.
Devotees: Jaya! Hari bol! (laughter)
Prabhupada: I shall live for my books, and you will utilize.

We can understand that Srila Prabhupada has not left us, but rather lives on in the form of his transcendental revolutionary instructions in his books. Thus one may associate with and get the mercy of Srila Prabhupada by reading his books and following his teachings therein.

Sri Vamsidasa Babaji

This section is based on the book 'Sri Vamsidasa Babaji' by H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Swami.

Sri Vamsidasa Babaji Maharaja, lived in Navadvip the early part of the Twentieth. Being on a high level of devotional practice he was absorbed in intense bhajana and did not follow all the rules necessary for less advanced devotees. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura while engaged in opposing and numerous genres of apa-sampradayas, in other words those sampradayas opposed to the pure path as enunciated by Srila Rupa Goswami, readily accepted Vamsidasa Babaji as an exalted pure devotee.

Srila Vamsidasa Babaji appeared in 1859 in the village of Majidpur, which now lies in Bangladesh. He appeared as the first son to a poor fisherman and was raised in severe poverty. In his early years he began to develop an indifference to worldly affairs which led his parents to hastily arrange his marriage. Shortly after marriage however he left home to become a renunciant.

Some quotes from Sri Vamsidasa Babaji by H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Swami:

Babaji Maharaja would refer to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati as Jagannather Bimala, because Siddhanta Saraswati's childhood name had been Bimala Prasad, "the son born as the mercy of Bimala Devi (the deity of Durga in the Jagannatha temple at Puri)." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati would sometimes visit Babaji Maharaja's Kuti in Navadvipa town, yet he would remain at some distance and simply offer obeisance, Seeing Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati coming, Babaji Maharaja would exclaim, "Oh, a manjari has come! So won't Radha also come? She will come! She will come! 
[Life Overview; Page 3-4]

Ever absorbed in the mood of parental devotion (vatsalya rasa) Babaji Maharaja simply loved Krsna and knew nothing else. He was especially attached to his Gopala Deity, whom he carried everywhere in his right hand and tended like a father caring for a darling child. His Radha-Govinda Deities were six inches high and composed of asta-dhatu. His Gaura-Nitai Deities were about three feet tall and fashioned from neem wood. 
[His Deities. Page 15]

Babaji Maharaja's principal mood of worship was simply to live with his Deities, see Them, and talk with Them in a most intimate and informal manner, sometimes laughing and sometimes quarrelling with Them. Occasionally, indicating Gopala, he would angrily order his associates, "Put Him out! Get Him out from here!" A typical anecdote is that once while cooking, Babaji Maharaja told his Deities, "Just wait, I'm still cooking." A little later he said, "You get outside! Go outside!" 
[His Deities; Page 16]

When Babaji Maharaja would go out – whether to bathe in the Ganga, to collect alms, or whatever – he would leave the door of his kuti wide open. Time and again, whatever few items he kept therein would be stolen. Devotees repeatedly requested him to put a lock on the door, but he would respond, "If the owner doesn't watch over the house, then what can Vamsidasa do? Or he would point to Gaura-Nitai and say, "If the residents of the house are thieves, what is the use of putting a lock?" 
[His Deities; Page 17

One gentleman who often came to visit Babaji Maharaja would repeatedly ask him for mercy (as is common in Gaudiya culture when approaching a sadhu). One day Vamsidasa tore off his kaupina and thrust it at that man saying, "You want mercy? Take it!" 
[Associates and Followers; Page 24]

A young girl about seven years old would daily bring a pot of Ganga water for Babaji Maharaja. During a particularly severe storm she still brought the water into the kuti. Although Vamsidas told her not to go back outside, she anyway opened the door to leave. But as she was exiting, Babaji Maharaja jumped and pulled her back inside. At that instant a thunderbolt hit the very spot where she was about to step. 
[Pastimes in Navadvipa; Page 32]

Sometimes without informing anyone, Babaji Maharaja would put everything, including his deities in an old sack and then leave. No one would know where he had gone or when he would return. [Pastimes in Navadvipa; Page 33]

In the diary that Jati Sekhar Prabhu kept during the trip, he noted that throughout the roughly three months that he accompanied Babaji Maharaja, he never once saw him go to defecate, urinate, or bathe. He also observed that as Babaji Maharaja would traverse the road, many people, recognizing him as a maha-purusa, would present him offerings such as ghee, flour, and sugar. Sometimes the residents of villages that Vamsidasa passed through would collect varieties of food items and arrange a festival in his honour. But Vamsidasa never cared for the villagers or their arrangements and would simply continue his journey. Sometimes the devotees accompanying him would stop in a village to cook for themselves, but Babaji Maharaja did not care whether they were with him or not, and often proceeded without them. Sometimes he walked, sometimes he stopped, sometimes he cooked for his Deities. There was no telling when he would halt or resume; it could be at any time of the day or night and without informing anyone. His unpredictability made it difficult for the attending devotees to keep pace with him. 
[Journey to Jagannatha Puri; Page 43]

In Chaudwar, the boatman stopped the boat near the canal. Babaji Maharaja disembarked, and when the tent was erected he entered it. After some time a yellow snake appeared. Fearing that someone might take a stick to kill it, Vamsidasa warned, Don't kill that snake! He is Anantadeva!" Then he told Gopala, whom he was holding in His hand, "See? Anantadeva has come!" After a few minutes the snake slithered away. 
[Leaving Puri; Page 51]

It was the full-moon night of Asvina, and shining rays were reflected upon the sand. Babaji Maharaja said there was no need to set up the tent. About fifty attractive women, all dressed in white, came and offered obeisance to Babaji Maharaja and then departed without saying anything. No men or children were with them.

The next day, Babaji Maharaja's followers asked local inhabitants if there was any village nearby, and were told that the entire area was agricultural fields with no villages for a considerable distance. Residents of those adjoining villages did not know of any unknown women who had been in the area the previous night. Consequently, the devotees and villager concluded that the mysterious women were celestial beings who had come to offer respects to Srila Vamsidasa Babaji Maharaja. 
[Leaving Puri; Page 52]

At eight o'clock in the evening on the twenty-third day of Sravana, Sukla Caturthi, 1351 (according to the Bengali calendar, and corresponding to 23 July 1944) – the tirobhava-tithi of Srila Raghunandana Thakura – Paramahamsa Srila Vamsidasa Babaji Maharaja concluded his pastimes in this world and went to Goloka Vrndavana to there continue his service to Lord Sri Krsna. 
[Heading Back; Page 91]

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati would say that Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, Srila Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji, and Srila Vamsidasa Babaji were close associates and are always worshipable by aspiring Vaisnavas…….

It may be questioned that if liberated souls such as these three babajis have nothing to do with the material world, then why do they come ? Srila Narottama Dasa Thakur has given the answer. Darsane pavitra koro ei tomara guna: "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 Vamsidasa Babaji, the world is benefited immeasurably. To see or to hear about such Vaisnavas is itself purifying. 
[Introduction; Page xvi]

The book Sri Vamsidasa Babaji is available from BVKS Books and from many ISKCON temple book shops: