His Guru

Srila Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja

He was born in the village of Bagjan in the district of Faridpur in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) near a place called Tepakhola on the bank of the river Padma. The names of his parents are not known. But they named him “Vamsidas”. He earned his living as a grain merchant. Although he was married early, probably when he was a teenager (according to the prevailing social custom of the day), he was not attracted to family life and spent most of his time in devotional practices, in an introspective mood of devotion.
After the death of his wife he left his family and his village and went to Vrindavan. He became completely absorbed in his bhajan and, while living in great austerity and renunciation, rendered devotional service to his Lord in the mood of pure devotion. Shortly after coming to Vrindavan, he took shelter of Shrimad Bhagavat Das Babaji, who was an intimate associate of Shrila Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaj, and received the Vesh, the garb of a Babaji (a reclusive renunciate Vaishnav), from him. Henceforth he was known as Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji. For thirty years he lived in different places in the Vraja-mandal and intensely practiced his bhajan. He used to beg for alms (madhukari) and spend his nights under trees. He considered all Vrajavasis as eternal associates of Krishna, and would bow down to the trees and animals of Vrindavan. From time to time he went on pilgrimage to different holy places of North India and the Gaur-mandal. During these pilgrimages, he met with Shri Swarup Das Babaji in Puri, Shri Bhagavan Das Babaji in Kalna, and Shri Chaitanya Das Babaji in Kuliya.

Srila Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja

Around 1894, when by the divine effort of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura, the true birthplace of Shriman Mahaprabhu, Shri Mayapur Dham, manifested itself, Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji Maharaj came to reside in the Gaura-mandal at the instruction of Shrila Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaj. From then until his disappearance he stayed in different places in Shri Navadwip Dham. He would cook plain rice in abandoned clay pots, offer it to his Lord, and take prasadam. Day after day he would just live on plain rice and a few green chilis. Sometimes he would live only on the water of the Ganga, and sometimes he would just fast. But day and night he would chant Maha Mantra Hare Krishna. He was completely detached from any kind of mundane association, and most of the time he would be alone in a deep mood of divine love. Sometimes he would chant on Tulasimala, and sometimes he would chant on some rag that he had knotted himself.

Seeing Shrila Babaji Maharaja’s extraordinary renunciation and pure devotion, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura was always amazed. Sometimes Shrila Babaji Maharaj would come and visit Shrila Thakura Mahashay in his residence, called Svananda-sukhada Kunja, in Godrumadvip and discuss Shrimad Bhagavatam with him. Together they would spend many hours discussing hari-katha. Shrila Babaji Maharaj was especially fond of two books, Shrila Narottam Das Thakura’s Prarthana and Prema-bhakti-chandrika. Like that of Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami, his renunciation was colored with his deep love for Krishna.

In 1898 Shrila Saraswati Thakura first came in contact with Shrila Babaji Maharaj in Svananda-sukhada Kunja. At that time Shrila Saraswati Thakura heard Shrila Babaji Maharaj singing a song dedicated to Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami in a deep and earnest mood of love. Hearing that song sung by Shrila Babaji Maharaj, Shrila Saraswati Thakura became overwhelmed with love. The theme of the song was the way in which Shrila Das Goswami was looking for Shrimati Radharani and asking for Her mercy. Shrila Prabhupad wrote down that song and made it available for devotees of later times.

In 1900, Shrila Saraswati Thakura got initiated by Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji, at the instruction of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura. Shrila Saraswati Thakura was Shrila Babaji Maharaj’s only disciple. Shrila Babaji Maharaj was absorbed in his pure devotional bhajan and had had no desire to make any disciples. But due to the exclusive devotion and sincerity of Shrila Saraswati Thakura, Shrila Babaji Maharaj had to change his mind. It has been said that after being repeatedly requested by Shrila Saraswati Thakura for initiation, Shrila Babaji Maharaj told him he would give him initiation only if he received Mahaprabhu’s permission. Then the next time Shrila Saraswati Thakura approached him he said he had forgotten to ask Mahaprabhu for His permission. Instead of being discouraged, Shrila Saraswati Thakura came again and humbly submitted his request. Then Shrila Babaji Maharaj said, “Morality and scholarship are not the prerequisites for being favored by Krishna. One does not become qualifed for initiation, through having those qualities.” Being repeatedly rejected in this way, Shrila Saraswati Thakura did not give up his determination to receive Shrila Babaji Maharaja’s mercy. Shrila Ramanujacharya had been rejected by Shrila Goshthipurna eighteen times before finally being accepted by him. When Shrila Saraswati Thakura requested Shrila Babaji Maharaj again and again with great humility and sincerity, Shrila Babaji Maharaj became very pleased with him, and with great affection gave him initiation. Shrila Babaji Maharaj never allowed anyone to touch his lotus feet. If someone tried to take the dust of his lotus feet he would curse them: “Everything will be ruined for you.” So insincere materialistic people were afraid to touch his lotus feet. But at this time he himself gave Shrila Saraswati Thakura the dust from his lotus feet. Shrila Saraswati Thakura’s initiation is reminiscent of Shrila Narottam Das Thakura’s initiation by Shrila Lokanath Das Goswami. Shrila Babaji Maharaj instructed Shrila Saraswati Thakura to preach Mahaprabhu’s message all over the world.

Many good people were very eager to render some service to Shrila Babaji Maharaj. But it was almost impossible for anyone to get an opportunity to do so. Once the king of Kashim Bazar, Raja Manindra Chandra Nandi, sent a distinguished gentleman to invite Shrila Babaji Maharaj to come to his palace. Shrila Babaji Maharaj responded, “If I go to the palace of a king I may become greedy for money. Then my relationship with the Raja will become unfriendly. Therefore it will be better if he leaves his wealth and family and friends and comes here to stay with me. I will build a home for him here like mine, out of another chhai (the covering of a boat), and together we will spend our time in hari-bhajan with great ecstasy.”

Even during cold winter nights, Shrila Babaji Maharaj slept outdoors, on the bank of the Ganga, under his chhai—the semi-cylindrical wooden covering of a boat, open at both ends. One can imagine how the cold night wind from the river would pass through the chhai. Thinking of this hardship someone insisted on leaving a quilt for Shrila Babaji Maharaj. But instead of covering himself with the quilt, Shrila Babaji Maharaj hung it on the inside wall of the chhai. When asked the reason for this, Shrila Babaji Maharaj replied that just by seeing the quilt, he would not feel cold.

Sometimes some sincere Vaishnav would come and stay with Shrila Babaji Maharaj as his servitor. Once he told his servitor, “Tomorrow we will observe the festival of Shrila Sanatan Das Goswami s disappearance day (tithi).” The servitor asked, “Where shall we find the paraphernalia for the festival?” Shrila Babaji Maharaj said, “Do not tell anyone anything. Instead of eating our meal tomorrow, we will just chant Harinam all day, without interruption. That is a festival for destitutes like us.”

Shrila Babaji Maharaj was very much against any kind of insincerity or deceitfulness on the part of a devotee. He would call insincere devotees monkey renunciates (markat vairagi). A monkey eats fruit and vegetables and roams in the forest wearing no clothes. So he bears some similarity with a renunciate. But actually he is very aggressive, greedy, and lusty. Those who take the garb of a renunciate and, forgetting how Shriman Mahaprabhu punished Chhota Haridas, secretly engage in sense grati?cation and debauchery are called monkey renunciates . Seeing so many monkey renunciates in the places of Vaishnav pilgrimage, Shdila Babaji Maharaj became very unhappy. As if to express his own feelings about this, one day Shrila Babaji Maharaj wore a very fancy and expensive dhoti and chadar and appeared in Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura’s residence. Seeing Shrila Babaji Maharaj in these fancy clothes, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura was very surprised. Shrila Babaji Maharaj said, “It is better to wear fancy clothes than to wear the garb of a renunciate and secretly engage in sense grati?cation. Just see how these monkey renunciates have so much power and position. They are oppressors of the real Vaishnav practice.”

Shrila Babaji Maharaj usually would not give any instruction. But just by seeing him people felt their hearts were puri?ed. He preached by his own conduct or devotional practice (achar). But sometimes he would deceive those materialistic people who would go to him with some ulterior motives; because they were not interested in hearing hari-katha, he would not deliver hari-katha to them. Instead he would let them speak about mundane things and they would leave without realizing that they had not received his mercy. Shrila Saraswati Thakura Prabhupad wrote of him:

Even after seeing Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji, many people—the immature and the clever, the young and the old, the scholarly and the foolish, those lacking devotion and those proud of their devotion—did not have the proper transcendental vision to see him. This is the transcendental power of a pure devotee. Hundreds of people came to him for his instruction, to ful?ll their material desires. But that instruction was actually deceiving them. Many people take the garb of sadhus, and many people outwardly act like sadhus, but in reality, not only are they not sadhus but they are very far from any sadhu. But there was no such impurity in my lord. By his own example he demonstrated that purity was truth. His genuine affection was incomparable to anything in this world. One who received that affection would consider the eight kinds of yogic perfection to be of no value. He had no dislike for his competitors or his enemies. Even to those who received his mercy, he did not demonstrate any external favor. He used to say, “In this world there is no one who is the object of my liking or disliking. I consider everyone to be respectable.” Another inconceivable thing was that some deceitful, materialistic people, whose mood was unfavorable to pure devotion, always used to surround my Gurudev without understanding his real position, and considering themselves objects of his affection, kept their attachment to petty things. But he did not outwardly make any effort to get rid of them, nor did he accept them in any way.

Shrila Babaji Maharaj had inconceivable love and respect for his only disciple, Shrila Saraswati Thakura Prabhupad. He told Shripad Jagadish Bhaktipradip (later Shrila Bhaktipradip Tirtha Maharaj), who received his Harinam initiation from Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura and his Diksha initiation from Shrila Prabhupad, “You should always associate with Saraswati Prabhu. He is my spiritual master and an ideal Vaishnav. Just see what kind of example of renunciation he has set, despite being the son of a wealthy person. Abandoning all kinds of bad association, he is earnestly serving the holy name, taking refuge in Shridham Mayapur. His renunciation is incomparable. He is an intimate associate of Shri Rupa and Shri Sanatan and my Mahaprabhu. You should also serve the Vaishnavs with body, mind, and words. Always engage in nam-sankirtan—chant the holy name very loudly.” He referred to Shrila Prabhupad as “my master” (amar prabhu). If anyone came to him with an offering of some fruit or vegetable from Shrila Prabhupad, Shrila Babaji Maharaj would accept that with great happiness and ask the devotee about Shrila Prabhupad with great reverence and affection. One of Shrila Prabhupad’s most dear and intimate disciples, Shripad Paramananda Vidyaratna Prabhu, has left the following account: One day in 1911, by the order of Shrila Prabhupad, I went to the Nutan Chada [on the bank of the Ganga] of Shri Navadwip Dham to have darshan of Om Vishnupad Shrila Gaurkishor Babaji Mahashay, with some green chilis to offer him. Babaji Maharaj was an effulgent personi?cation of intense renunciation in the mood of pure love for Krishna. He would soak some rice or beans one day and eat that for up to seven days with some green chilis. When he heard that I had come from Shri Mayapur, he asked me, “How is my master? Please offer him my dandavat. Please tell my lord he should set aside everything else and preach about Shat Sandarbha.” At that time I saw Vanamali Babu in his association. In the afternoon many people came for his darshan. I heard that every day at that time many people would come to have darshan of his lotus feet. He would sit in front of his chhai and grant everyone the good fortune of having his darshan. I saw Babaji Maharaj chanting Harinam on a rag that he had knotted himself and turned into a mala. He chanted Harinam loudly for some time and ordered everyone present there to do so as well. Being so ordered by him, everyone chanted Harinam loudly. Before evening I bowed down at his lotus feet and came back to Shridham Mayapur.

Shrila Gaurkishor Babaji Maharaj disappeared from this world in the year 1915 (on the 30th of Karttik) at the predawn hour to enter his eternal pastime.