Vamsidas Babaji was a Gaudiya Vaishnava sadhu who lived at Swarupa Gunj, Navadvip during the time of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. He was respected by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, and he used to see to it that Vamsidas Babaji was provided with grains and so on by Gaudiya Matha brahmacharis.
Srila Vamsidas Babaji appeared in the village of Majidpur in the Jamalpur district of Bangladesh. Before the partition of India, this city was formerly in the district of Mymensing. His father’s name was Sanatana Malobrahma and he was previously known as Bhairava. Babaji Maharaj came to Navadvip from East Bengal.
He lived as a total recluse, far away from the hubbub of the town in a solitary place on the bank of Ganga near Baral Ghata in Navadvip, as if he was a mad or crazy person. His only possessions were an old kaupina, karanga and kantha. 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 his deities he had two brass pots, some earthen pots, one plate, one glass, some small cups, panchapatra, 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 would go out of his kuti to collect flowers. Then he would go for bhiksa. He would return to his kutiyaat about noon and made garlands from the flowers for each of the six deities. After that he would cut the vegetables. He used to wash each vegetable a number of times. Then he would clean rice, examining each grain of rice.
He did everything slowly, contemplating all the time on the lila of Radha-Krishna or Gaura-Nitai, and singing or talking to Them. It was 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.
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 everything 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
Fisherwoman approaches Babaji
One day, a lady selling fish approached Srila Vamsidas Babaji, offering him some choice type of catch. Somehow or other, the Babaji’s mind became attracted to tasting the fish. But he immediately rebuked himself and became very angry. He first of all shouted at the woman to go away. Then he shouted at his deities, “How could this happen? How could this happen? I’ve surrendered my life to you Radha Krishna and I’m under Your protection, and still this happens! Why are You 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 stone at him.
When this news reached the Gaudiya Matha, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur called his brahmacharis and forbade them from visiting the baba again except 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. I’ve prevented you because you will not be able to understand this bhava and will only commit offences. So better you stay away.” Later, when that one brahmachari visited, Vamsidas babaji maharaj threw a stone at him and told, “If you want to please me, then never return here again!”
3 boys kept the keys of Babaji’s Kutir
Babaji never locked the door of his kutir when he went out for bhiksa or to bathe in the Ganga. When asked he would say, “If the owner of the house Himself does not keep a watch then 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. When he was out if a cow entered the kutir and ransacked everything, 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.”
Thief steels Sri Gaura’s golden necklace
Once a gold necklace, given by someone to Sri 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 to, 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 veranda 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.
Gaura-Nitai punished for Their connivance
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 always harass me. Don’t you know that I have now become old and cannot bear it all. What can I do?”
Babaji Maharaj did not stay exclusively in the Navadvip area, but also travelled to many holy places where he practiced the spiritual disciplines of bhakti-yoga. Whenever he saw a peepal tree, he would sit under it, taking it to be the Vamsi-vata under which Krishna played his flute to attract the gopis. Once he had installed himself there, it would be difficult to get him to move.
In February 1941, Babaji left Navadvip and headed for Vrindavan. He sometimes walked, sometimes travelled by ox-cart and sometimes by rail. He first went to Katwa where he stayed for two days under a vata tree near the railway station. Then he took the train to Bhagalpur where he stayed for a day again under a vata tree near the station and for four days by the Ganges. Then he travelled on to Gaya where he remained on the banks of the Phalgu River for three days.
He also stayed on a boat in the Ganges near Dashashvamedha Ghat in Benares for three days, spent another three days in Ayodhya by the Sarayu including three hours under a vata tree, at the Triveni confluence at Prayag for ten days, two days at the Vishram Ghat in Mathura, eight days at the Vamshivata in Vrindavan, at the Madhya-curia on the banks of the Yamuna, the Govindevji temple, Kaliya-daha, near a tamala tree on the east bank of Surya Kund at Nandagrama, two days at Pavana-sarovara and then nine days at Vamshivata Ghat in Vrindavan.
Everywhere that he went, he remained absorbed in chanting the Holy Names and meditating on Krishna’s form and pastimes. After three months, he returned to Navadvip Dhama, in the month of Jyestha.
Those who travelled with him recounted that when wandering through Vraja Mandala, he would sometimes sing songs about Krishna’s lila, sometimes glorify Navadvip Dhama, sometimes laugh madly. Sometimes, he would babble incoherently, and oftentimes he would remain completely silent.
While visiting a temple, he was often seen muttering confidentially to the deities, disclosing some personal sentiment to them. All in all, his companions were charmed by his devotional absorption. In an old Gaudiya Math weekly magazine, further accounts of Babaji Maharaj’s travels are given. It is stated there in the four years from March 1943, he travelled to Ambika Kalna, Kharagpur, Baleshvara (Balasore), Soro, Bhadrak, Khurda Road and Purushottam.
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 Haricandra was very young when he renounced the world. He went to Navadvipa around 1906.
Babajis answer to the question – “How can I get Bhagavan?”
There was a person from Navadvipa-dhama who used to come to Babaji Maharaja. One day, he thought, “I have the desire to obtain the Supreme Lord. How can I get Bhagavan?” This person came back repeatedly to see Babaji Maharaja. Finally, one day, he approached Maharaja directly.
“What do you want?” Babaji Maharaja asked him.
“I want to see Bhagavan,” the man said.
Babaji Maharaja replied with only one word: “Then weep for Him!”
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.”
ihachara dharma nahisunasanatana
“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 someone 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.