Gauravirbhava-bhumes tvam nirdesta bhagavat-priyah | vaisnava-sarvabhauma sri-jagannathaya te namah||
I offer my obeisances to you, Jagannath. Because you were the foremost Vaishnava of your era, you received the title
Vaishnava Sarvabhauma. You are very dear to the Lord and through your divine vision,you designated the place where
Mahaprabhu appeared in this world.
JAGANNATH DAS’S POSITION IN THE DISCIPLIC SUCCESSION
Throughout the world, any devotee who comes in the disciplic succession following Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
Saraswati Goswami Thakur daily remembers Sri Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaj and prays for his mercy.
visvanatha bhakta satha, baladeva Jagannath tanra priya bhakativinoda |
maha-bhagavata vara, sri-gaura-kisora-vara hari-bhajanete janra moda ||
sri-varsabhanavi-vara, sada sevya-seva-para tanra dayita-dasa nama |
[I offer respects to] Vishvanath along with his devotees, to Baladeva and to Jagannath, whose dear disciple is
Bhaktivinoda. Sri Gaura Kishor Das, the great devotee, whose great pleasure is the worship of the Lord. Radharani is the
daughter of Vrishabhanu and is always fixed in service to her Lord. I am the servant of him who is dear to her.
There is also a Sanskrit version of the disciplic succession,where Jagannath is mentioned in the following way:
vaisnava-sarvabhaumah sri-Jagannath-prabhus tatha |
sri-mayapura-dhamnas tu nirdesta sajjana-priyah ||
Next in the line is Jagannath Prabhu, known as Vaishnava Sarvabhauma. Very dear to the saintly, he designated the dham of Sri Mayapur.
There were four dark ages in the history of Bengal Vaishnavism:
(1) preceding the appearance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu;
(2) following the disappearance of the Six Goswamis;
(3) after the disappearance of Srinivas Acharya, Narottama Das Thakur,Shyamananda, and Rasikananda Deva Goswami; and
(4) following the disappearance of Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur and Baladeva Vidyabhushan.
One should not think that the Madhva-Gaudiya disciplic succession following in the spirit of Rupa Goswami has been
disrupted on account of these periods of darkness.Sometimes spiritual masters in the disciplic succession are individual performers of solitary bhajan (viviktanandi), and sometimes they are preachers who delight in increasing the size of thecongregation(gosthyanandi). To an untrained eye, it seems that one can measure the strength of an acharya by the number of disciples he makes, but this is not an appropriate criterion for judgement. Baladeva Vidyabhushan’s disciple was Uddhava Das or Uddhara Das. This Vaishnava had a disciple also named Uddhava Das, who gave the renounced order to Madhusudan Das. This Madhusudan Das was famed throughout the Vaishnava world as the Siddha Madhusudan Das Babaji from Sürya Kund. Madhusudan Das gave the paramahamsa-vesa (babaji initiation) to Jagannath Das Babaji. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur wrote: “All of these Vaishnavas adopted the lifestyle of the paramahamsa, preaching the path of pure devotion by their example. They are thus the objects of the greatest faith and reverence in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya.” From this statement of Srila Prabhupada, we learn that all these bhajananandis not only practiced the anchorite life of solitary worship, but engaged in preaching activities as well, serving as acharyas.
JAGANNATH DAS’S LIFE IN VRINDAVAN
Jagannath Das was born in a respectable family in Tangail district in what is today Bangladesh, in around 1780 AD. According to some people he was born into a family of Varendra-kayasthas in Taras village in Pabna district. The names of his parents are unknown.After taking the paramahamsa-vesa, Jagannath DasBabaji set the exemplary standard of intense bhajan in Nabadwip and Vrindavan, so much so that he was accepted by all the bhajananandi Vaishnavas as their leader. He remained in this world for more than a century. While Jagannath Das was engaged in bhajan in Vraja, acertain professional speaker on the Bhagavata from Katwa decided to move to Vrindavan to make his living, looking for gold and glory. Even though he gave excellent discourse on the Bhagavata, the renounced Vaishnavas showed no enthusiasm for them. When he inquired into the reasons that they were not coming to listen to him, Jagannath and the other Vaishnavas told him any discourse on the Bhagavata given by someone who has other goals in mind cannot be called a true explanation of the Bhagavata. His words can have no beneficial effect on anyone, not even himself. Indeed, such discourses have a negative effect on the consciousness of the listener. The Vaishnavas led byJagannath Das thus advised the professional speaker to give up the business of giving Bhagavata discourses as a means of making his living.By their grace, this money-minded Vaishnava was completely transformed and he gave up his false pride in learning and high birth. He became a great devotee with such humility that he paid prostrated obeisances to every creature residing in the Holy dham. Babaji Maharaj was himself a dedicated and intense bhajananandi, but he did not believe that disciples who were unqualified and filled with material desires should be allowed act in ways detrimental to service to Vishnu and the Vaishnavas on the pretext of engaging in the service of the Holy Name. He engaged less qualified disciples who had taken the renounced order in working the garden next to his cottage, so that he could offer vegetables to the Deity and the Vaishnavas. If the senses are not engaged in the service of Vishnu and the Vaishnavas, one does not develop the qualifications necessary to chant properly and it is impossible to experience the power of the Holy Name. When an individual engages the senses and sense objects in relation to the body and bodily relations, then attachment for these naturally arises. When we are fixed in the consciousness that our very self, including our body and senses, belong to the Lord, and we engage our senses in the service of the Lord and his devotees, then our feelings of love and possessiveness for him increase.
JAGANNATH DAS MEETS BHAKTIVINODE THAKUR
Jagannath Das Babaji met Bhaktivinode Thakur for the first time in 1880 AD. Their second meeting took place in the village of Amlajora in Burdwan district in 1891. On this occasion, they spent the entire night (it was Ekadasi) discussing Krishna-katha. Jagannath Das Babaji encouraged Bhaktivinode Thakur to preach Gaura’s name and abode. The Thakur gave the following account of this eventful night in his Sajjana-tosani magazine: “After spending the whole night in the Ekadasi vigil, people from the entire village gathered together at eight in the morning to go on nagara-sankirtan through its streets.With the venerable Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaj at the head of the group, they made their way to the Prapannashram. It is impossible to describe Babaji Maharaj’s ecstatic transformations during this kirtan. Though he is over a hundred years old, he dances like a lion, sometimes singing out the couplet, nitai ki nama eneche re | nama eneche namer hate, sraddhara mule nama diteche re ||
‘What divine name is this that Nitai has brought? He has brought the Name to the marketplace and is selling it for the price of faith!’“As Babaji Maharaj sang, he cried and fell to the ground in ecstasy. I then saw something transpire which I had never seen before. All present were affected by his mood: their eyes filled with tears and their hairs stood on end, and even though they could barely sing, they remained absorbed in the kirtan and danced wildly.” Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur has also Written about Jagannath Das Babaji in his autobiography: “In 1892, Jagannath Das Babaji and many other Vaishnavas participated in the sankirtan festival in Godrum and then in Sri Mayapur. In the month of Magh in 1299 (Bengali), Babaji Maharaj came from Kuliya-Nabadwip with his associates to Bhaktivinode Thakur’s residence, Surabhikunj, in Godrumadvip. A great sankirtan festival was held there on Wednesday, the 27th of Magh.”
BABAJI MAHARAJ DESIGNATES MAHAPRABHU’S BIRTH SITE
A physically powerful Vrajavasi named Bihari Das Babaji was Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaj’s personal servant. He used to place Babaji Maharaj in a large wicker basket and carry him from place to place. Even though Babaji Maharaj was very aged, his sight was still good. His eyelids drooped, however, covering his eyes, and he had to lift them in order to see. It is said that Bihari Dasji carried Babaji Maharaj in the wicker basket as far as the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Upon arrival, Babaji Maharaj got out of the basket and began to dance madly, singing the names Jaya Sachinandan Gaura-Hari. Everyone was amazed to see the old Babaji dance in this way. Through his divine vision, Babaji Maharaj pointed out the site of Mahaprabhu’s birth and then later the site where the Kazi broke a mridanga. This place is now known as Khola-bhangar Danga and is, of course, the site where Mahaprabhu had His all-night kirtanas-Srivasa Angan.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur described this events in Sajjana-tosani as follows: “At eleven o’clock in the morning on Thursday, the 20th of Phalgun in 1299 of the Bengali era (1892 AD), devotees filled three boats on the west bank of the Ganges in Nabadwip town. The great devotee Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaj was carried in a palanquin. By the time the party reached Mayapur it was impossible to count the number of people who had gathered. Dwarika Babu and a party of devotees carrying colorful flags were waiting for the renounced Vaishnavas with a joyous kirtan at Mahaprabhu’s janma-sthana. When all these devotees had gathered in the raised area where Mahaprabhu appeared and started to dance, it was such a wondrous sight as had likely not been seen in Nabadwip Dham for nearly four hundred years. Later the devotees sat down and after discussing the matter, decided that deity service should be established both at the birthplace and at Srivasa Angan. Jagannath Das Babaji Mahashay proposed that Jagannath and Sachi Devi should be worshiped in one building and Mahaprabhu with Lakshmi Devi and Vishnupriya standing on his either side in another. On the other hand, deities of the Pancha Tattva should be consecrated in Srivasa Angan.”
In those days, there was a large kadamba tree at the Mayapur janma-sthana. Babaji Maharaj came and danced under this tree. Sri Gaura Kishor Das Babaji also used to sit under that tree chanting the Holy Name in deep trance. Jagannath Das Babaji spent the last years of his life in a cottage in Koladwip named Bhajan Kutir. This is where Babaji Maharaj’s samadhi tomb is now situated. As a service to Jagannath Das,Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur had a concrete veranda built for this cottage.
BABAJI MAHARAJ IN CALCUTTA
Babaji Maharaj also came to visit Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur in his house,Bhakti Bhavana, in Ram Bagan in Calcutta. There he also met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur,upon whom he showered unlimited affection. When he learned that Saraswati Thakur was an expert in astrology, he asked him to make an almanac based on the Vaishnava calendar. Later, the Chaitanya Math began publishing the Navadvipa-Panjika in accordance with Babaji Maharaj’s wishes. Though Babaji Maharaj would not allow anyone to take his photograph, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur was able to arrange to have one taken when he came to visit Bhakti Bhavan. This photo is familiar to all disciples of the Gaudiya Maths, as it appears on their altars. It shows Babaji Maharaj sitting on a wooden seat with his worshipable Giridhari deity on his chest. If Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur had not gone to this trouble, we would be eternally deprived of knowing what Jagannath Das Babaji looked like.
Babaji Maharaj deeply loved Bhaktivinode Thakur. We have heard that he later gave his Giridhari to Bhaktivinode and that this deity is still being served in Bhakti Bhavan.
BABAJI MAHARAJ’S DISAPPEARANCE
When approaching the end of his sojourn in this world, Babaji Maharaj became hunched and tiny looking. Nevertheless, he would still dance in kirtan, and when he did, he stretched to his full height of six feet. When absorbed in the ecstatic mood of kirtan, he would sometimes jump five or six feet into the air. With his tall figure and long arms, he made people think of Mahaprabhu. Jagannath Das’s disappearance took place on the sukla pratipad of the month of Phalgun, Monday, February 25,1895. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur wrote of it in Sajjana-tosani (22,2): “At ten o’clock in the morning, in the Bhajan Kutir in Koladwip in Nabadwip town, the old general of the Vaishnavas went to his eternal abode. Siddha Babaji Mahashay went to the spiritual world, leaving this world in darkness. Our mundane eyes will no longer be able to behold his ecstatic dancing in kirtan. May he bestow his blessings on us from his place in the eternal abode.” Rasavihari Goswami of Puruniya in Burdwan district of Jagannath Das’s initiated disciple. Rasavihari Goswami in turn initiated the independent King of Tripura, Raja Ishan Chandra Manikya Bahadur. Rasavihari Goswami’s deity, Rasaviharijiu, is worshiped to this day in the Raja’s palace.
rupanuganam pravaram sudantam
vande jagannatha-vibhum varenyam ||
I venerate Jagannath, the best of the Vaishnavas, the foremost of the followers of Srila Rupa Goswami, the king of Gauranga’s dear devotees, who takes pleasure in remembering Radhika and Madhava. sri-surya-kundasrayinah krpalor vidvad-vara-sri-madhusudanasya | prestha-svarupena virajamanam vande jagannatha-vibhum varemyam I venerate Jagannath, the best of the Vaishnavas, who was the dearest associate of Sri Madhusudan Das Babaji, the most merciful resident of Surya Kund.
vande jagannath-vibhum varenyam ||
I venerate Jagannath, the best of the Vaishnavas, who stood out from the rest of the devotees of Sri Dham Vrindavan just like the moon amongst the stars. He was the protector of the assembly of Vaishnavas who are uniquely dedicated to the chanting of the Holy Name.
vande jagannath-vibhum varenyam ||
I venerate Jagannath, the best of the Vaishnavas, effulgent with devotion to Hari, endowed with knowledge and renunciation, a veritable thunderbolt to those who are wicked and pretenders, and ever affectionate to the faithful. samprerito
cakre hi taj-janma-grha-prakasam ||
devair nutam vaisnava-sarvabhaumam
vande jagannath-vibhum varenyam ||
I venerate Jagannath, the best of the Vaishnavas, who was directed by Gauranga Himself to point out the place where he appeared on this earth. He is worshiped by even the gods as the sovereign of the Vaishnavas on this earth.
sancarya sarvam nija-sakti-rasim
yo bhakti-purne ca vinoda-deve ||
tene jagatyam hari-nama-vanyam
vande jagannath-vibhum varenyam ||
I venerate great Jagannath, the best of the Vaishnavas, who infused the devoted Bhaktivinode Thakur with all of his own potency, and through him unleashed the flood of Harinama throughout the universe.
ihaparm prema-rasabdhi-magnam ||
vande jagannath-vibhum varenyam ||
I venerate Jagannath, the best of the Vaishnavas, always immersed in the ocean of sacred rapture and engaged in forcefully preaching the Holy Names and the Lord’s abode. He danced ecstatically in the Yoga Pith at Mayapur.
gaura-prakasena ca moda-yuktam ||
vande jagannath-vibhum varenyam ||
I venerate Jagannath, the best of the Vaishnavas, who is totally attached to the holy dham of Mayapur, who is joyfulfrom the vision of Gauranga, whose eyes flow with tears from the chanting of the Holy Names.
he deva he vaisnava-sarvabhauma
bhaktya parabhuta-mahendra-dhisnya ||
vande muhur bhaktivinoda-dharam ||
O Lord! O sovereign of the Vaishnavas! Through your devotion you have overcome even the heavens. I constantl venerate the most pious line of Bhaktivinode Thakur that has grown out from your body and works.
JAGANNATH DAS AND THE BABAJI COMMUNITY
His Holiness Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami, the chairman of the editorial board of the Chaitanya Vani magazine wrote an article summarizing some of the important contributions made by Vaishanava Sarvabhauma Jagannath Das Babaji. This article was published in the book Sri-Sarasvati-Jayasri,
published by the Bagh Bazaar Gaudiya Math in 1948.
On Sept. 28, 1922, after the Calcutta Gaudiya Math’s annual festival, Srila Prabhupada travelled to Vrindavan, where he arrived on Saturday, Sept. 30. Through the efforts of Dr. Balahari Das, he and his disciples stayed at the Ghosh family residence near the Lala Babu temple. On Oct. 3, Srila Prabhupada went for darshan of Rupa Goswami’s beloved deities, Radha and Govinda. He and his disciples went to look at a few places, seeking a site to establish a math in Vrindavan.
On hearing of Prabhupada’s arrival, Madhusudana Goswami Sarvabhauma came from Radha Raman Ghera to visit him. They discussed scriptural matters for two hours and Prabhupada presented him with the latest copy and a few back issues of Gaudiya magazine. Madhusudana Goswami was very pleased with the high calibre of discussion founding Gaudiya and stated that one day it would be the guiding publication for all Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
On Oct. 4, Srila Prabhupada visited the Madana Mohan temple of Sanatan Goswami. On his way back, he visited the famous Pandit Ramakrishna Das Babaji in Madana Mohan Thor, a walled garden near the Radha Ballabha temple. In the discussion that followed, Pandit Babaji claimed that the chanting of the Holy Name is on the same level as any other devotional activity and that all the various songs, even those that contradict the Goswamis’ teachings, are equivalent to the Maha Mantra. He also stated that unless one was educated in the study of logic, or nyaya, one could not be qualified for the study of Vedanta. He also argued that it was unnecessary to discuss mundane and spiritual matters.
Srila Prabhupada replied in accordance with the teachings of the Goswamis, as furthered by Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur, Baladeva, Jagannath Das and Gaura Kishor Das Babaji. He said, “The Goswamis have taught that the chanting of the Holy Names is the primary devotional practice as well as being the goal of all such practice. Divine remembrance of the Lord and his pastimes comes naturally to one who is engaged in such chanting. High level discussions of spiritual truth characterized both Mahaprabhu and His followers, the Goswamis. If one does not have an acute sense of discrimination between the spiritual and mundane, then one equates the debauchery of the Sahajiyas with devotional activities. This is the royal road to self and mass deception.
“Siddha Jagannath Das Babaji’s teachings were in line with those of Rupa Goswami: he would in no way embrace any snappy jingles that made a confusion of the divine sentiments. Offenses to the Holy Name can in no way be equated with the pure Name. The scriptures talk to the positive effects of chanting either with faith or without it, but this is not at all the same as chanting without giving up the ten offenses. It is self-deception to think that you can allow yourself to commit any one of the ten offenses, knowingly or unknowingly, and still chant the Holy Names effectively.”
THE VISHVA VAISHNAVA RAJA SABHA
According to Sarasvati-jaya-sri, it was Jagannath Das Babaji who identified the sukla pancami of the month of Magh, also known as sri-pancami, as the birthday of Vishnupriya devi, the wife of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He told this to Bhaktivinode Thakur, and from him the custom was established throughout the Vaishnava world, so that everyone honours Vishnupriya Devi on this day.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur chose Vishnupriya
Devi’s appearance day to reinstitute the Vishva Vaishnava Raja Sabha or World Vaishnava Association. This was done in the midst of a kirtan on Feb. 5, 1919 at the Ultadanga Math, also known as the Bhaktivinode Asan. The following article appeared in Amrita Bazaar Patrika, a Calcutta English-language daily, on the following day, the 10th of February: “On Wednesday last was celebrated with great eclat the Advent Ceremony of Sri Sri Vishnupriya Devi at the same Asan (1 Ultadanga Junction Road). The occasion was solemnised by the reinstitution of Sri Vishva-Vaishnava- Raja Sabha as inaugurated by no less a personage than Sri Jiva Goswami himself eleven years after the passing of Sri Sri Mahaprabhu and as given a fresh impetus by Sri Bhaktivinode Thakur 33 years ago.” Srila Prabhupada gave an explanation of the history of the Vishva-Vaishnava-Räja Sabhä, which was published in Sajjana-tosani, vol. 21, no. 9.
SRILA PRABHUPADA’S SWAPNA-SAMADHI
After the disappearance of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur and Srila Gaura Kishor Das Babaji Maharaj, the grief-stricken Srila Prabhupada stayed in Mayapur in the place called Vraja-pattana (now a part of the Chaitanya Math grounds). He wondered, “How can I fulfill the desires of my gurus by preaching the pure doctrine of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu throughout the world. Where will I find the power to do so? I have no followers to help me and no money to speak of. I have no great learning by which I can enchant the mundane. In short, I have no assets of any kind that qualify me to perform this difficult task. It seems that I shall not be able to fulfill the desires of my gurus.” Srila Prabhupada went into an apparent state of deep depression, thinking that it would be impossible for him to continue the preaching mission. His work on writing a commentary on Rupa Goswami’s Upadesamrta came to a halt after only eight verses. One night, however, Prabhupada had a dream-like vision in which he saw all the members of the Pancha Tattva, being led by Mahaprabhu in sankirtan, dancing toward the birthplace at the Yoga Pith in Mayapur, approaching the Nata-mandira from the east. They were followed by the six Goswamis and by Vaishnava Sarvabhauma Jagannath Das Babaji, Bhaktivinode Thakur, Gaura Kishor Das Babaji and other members of the disciplic succession, all appearing in effulgent, divine forms. They consoled Prabhupada, saying, “Why are you worrying? Get the task of preaching pure devotion underway. Preach Mahaprabhu’s message everywhere: spread service to Gaura-dhama (Mahaprabhu’s abode), Gaura-nama (his name), and Gaura-kama (his desire or work). All of us are at the ready to support you at every turn. We will help you at every moment in your efforts to preach pure devotional service. Countless people, unlimited wealth and extraordinary scholarship are all waiting for you to call on them. Whenever you need anything at all, it will come to you to be engaged in the service of the preaching mission. Simply go forward to preach the message of love of God as given by Sriman Mahaprabhu, giving it your total effort. No worldly force will be able to disrupt this effort. We are with you always.” The following morning, Srila Prabhupada came and told Paramananda Prabhu and some other faithful followers about his dream. From that day onward, he displayed an unbounded enthusiasm for the worldwide preaching of Mahaprabhu’s message. He completed his Anuvrtti of the Upadesamrta, and started making great efforts to publish books on bhakti. These efforts have borne fruit inasmuch as those seeking service to the divine throughout India have been washed up in the flood of pure devotional preaching that he started. The flood has even begun to inundate the West. It thus seems to me that Srila Prabhupada is constantly repeating Mahaprabhu’s instructions to all of us:
jare dekho tare kaho krsna upadesa |
amara ajnaya guru hana taro ei desa ||
ihate na badhibe visaya taranga |
punarapi ei thani pabe mora sanga ||
Instruct whomever you see in the religion of Krishna. Become a spiritual master on my order and deliver everyone in this land. Do this and you will never again be entangled in the waves of materialistic life. Indeed, you will have my company again, here in this very place.”