This article has been written on the basis of ones which previously appeared in the old Gaudiya magazine and various statements made by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur and his disciples who knew Vamsi Das Babaji Maharaj personally. Srila Vamsi Das Babaji Maharaj appeared in the village of Majidpur in the Jamalpur district of Bangladesh, near the city of Jamalpur. Before the partition of India, this city was formerly in the district of Mymensingh. According to Sri Hari Das, his father’s name was Sanatana Malobrahma and he was previously known as Bhairava.
Babaji Maharaj came to Nabadwip from East Bengal. He was a paramahamsa Vaishnava who acted in the manner of an avadhuta. The word avadhuta refers to one who has shaken off from himself all worldly feeling and obligation. He does not care for social conventions, particularly the varnasrama-dharma, i.e., he is quite eccentric in his behavior. Nityananda Prabhu is often characterized as an avadhuta. He lived there under a tree on the banks of the Ganges, demonstrating a very high standard of renunciation. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur was attracted by his Vaishnava behavior and his disregard for the rules and regulations of society at large, in the fashion of a paramahamsa avadhuta. He himself paid his obeisances to Babaji Maharaj from a distance, but did not allow his disciples to associate with him. For even though Babaji Maharaj was a paramahamsa Vaishnava, an ordinary beginner in devotional practice would likely misunderstand his indifference to the rules and regulations and end up committing offenses at his feet.
The primary purpose of the rules and regulations is to bring pleasure to Sri Sri Radha and Govinda. A practitioner who has not yet overcome his mundane conditioning may very well judge an advanced Vaishnava according to rules and regulations which were designed to help him advance to the next level of spiritual realization. If he measures a perfected soul by the standards which have been set for the beginner, there is a possibility of committing offenses which could result in fall down from the devotional path. It is said that Babaji Maharaj had two cloth bags. He kept his Nitai-Gaura deities in one, Radha-Govinda in the other. He regularly worshiped them, taking them out of the bags and serving them mentally with mantras. Then, when he had finished, he would place the deities back in their bags. On occasion he would leave them outside the bags so that people could look at them. Once in a while, he would put tobacco in a hookah and offer it to Radha and Govinda from a distance, but not to Nitai-Gauranga. People would come with offerings of rice, fruits, vegetables, flour, bananas, etc., but Babaji Maharaj would ignore them. When he noticed an accumulation of these offerings, he would mentally give them to his deities and then distribute them to whomever happened to be present. What person could understand this kind of behavior? Babaji Maharaj only wore a kaupina, a strip of cloth covering his private parts. He left his hair and beard uncut and unkept. Yet he was tall enough to be able to pick fruits for his puja from high branches in a tree without making use of ladders or other paraphernalia. On one occasion, he fell from a tree and from that time on he took on the guise of a lame person.
Babaji Maharaj’s Teachings
Babaji Maharaj was normally occupied with his devotional activities; he minded his own business and spoke little. Many people would come to him; often they would ask him questions. If he took notice at all, he would sometimes answer indirectly, but mostly he remained silent. He would be observed talking to the deities, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying desperately. If he did give spiritual instruction, he would rarely cite scripture, but always spoke from his personal realization. In two or three short phrases, he was often able to make a deep impression on the listener. Once, he had a regular visitor who kept asking him, “How can we attain God?” Babaji Maharaj just remained silent, giving no answer to the questioner. One day, he suddenly looked at this visitor and asked him, “What do you want?” The fellow replied, “I want to find God.” Babaji Maharaj answered in one word, “Cry.”
Those who visited him reported the short answers that he gave to their questions. Some of these were noted and are given here.
Q: Baba, what should we do?
A: If you worship Nitai, you will get Gaura. All your unhappiness will disappear and you will experience the beginnings of real joy.
Q: How can one become free from the demands of the senses?
A: suniya govinda-rab, apani palabe sab, simha-rabe yatha kari-gan (Narottama Däs). “They will all flee at the sound of Govinda’s name just as the deer flee at the sound of the lion’s roar.”
Q: Baba, you find no happiness in this world, then?
A: There is no joy here, unless you worship Gaura-Nitai. That is our eternal world, while this illusion is your world. Your happiness in this world is like the laughing or crying of a dreaming baby.
Q: How can we recognize the blessings of Krishna or the Vaishnavas?
A: je kare tomara asa, tare koro sarva-nasa — “You ruin everything for someone who aspires to attain you.” kahake-o taka dey, kaharo taka nei — “To some he gives wealth, while others are penniless.” Toma sthane aparadhe nahi paritrana — “There is no pardon for an offense at your (Vaishnava Thakur’s) feet.” How can you stop it? Who will deliver you? Who will understand me if I try to explain? I haven’t got the slightest bit of attachment to the Vaishnavas.
Q: How will I attain Krishna’s mercy?
A: If you cry, you will get his mercy. Who cries? If you cry with tears of love, you will get the Lord’s mercy. Mukhe bali hari, kaje anya kari, prema-vari cokhe elo na — “I recite the names of Hari, but I act otherwise. So the tears of love do not well up in my eyes.”
Q: How can we be happy? In renunciation or in enjoyment?
A: There are saintly persons on the Sarayu who chant the names of Sita Rama. They are happy, they know no distress. Those who stay with King Duryodhana know no joy. Those who are with Yudhisthira are happy. Happiness and distress are brothers. Enjoyment and renunciation. Some people enjoy and some renounce.
Q: Have you ever been to Mayapur?
A: Yes. Some call it Mayapur, some call it Nabadwip. There are buildings all over the Mayapur temple site and the deity is worshiped under a neem tree. I once went to Mayapur with a torn wrapper and a waterpot. Sachinandana Gosai (Mahaprabhu) came and took my waterpot. I sat down and waited and a few minutes later Sachinandana Gosai came and gave it back. Then I came back here.
Babaji Maharaj’s disappearance day was on the Sukla Caturthi of Shravan.