Today is Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja’s disappearance day. He comes in the Gaudiya Vaishnava disciplic succession after Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana. He was a renounced ascetic, fully engaged in chanting the holy names of Krishna and meditating on His pastimes. For some time, he made his residence at Surya-kunda in Vraja-dhama, near the temple of Suryadeva, where Srimati Radharani used to come and worship the sun-god—or, I should say,where She used to come to meet Krishna on the pretext of coming to worship the sun-god.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who comes in the disciplic succession after Jagannatha dasa Babaji, accepted Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja as his main guru, his siksa-guru. Once, some of Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s disciples in Vraja approached the Thakura. They complained that although they had come to Vraja to live like Jagannatha dasa Babaji, fully absorbed in chanting the holy names and meditating on Sri Sri Radha-Krishna’s astakaliya-lila, Babaji Maharaja had refused to instruct them in such esoteric topics and had instead engaged them in cultivating tulasi plants, flowers, and vegetables to offer to the Lord. So, these disciples requested Bhaktivinoda Thakura to appeal to their guru maharaja to instruct them in the esoteric practices of Krishna consciousness.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura told them, “Actually, your gurudeva’s instructions are right for you. Because you still have anarthas, for you to try to sit and do nirjana-bhajana [solitary worship] and practice asta-kaliya-lila-smarana [meditation on the Lord’s eightfold daily pastimes] would be artificial, and you would just become degraded. So you should follow your gurudeva’s instructions with full faith and work hard in Krishna’s service. Then, in time, you may be able to chant the holy names purely.”
Eventually, Jagannatha dasa Babaji moved to Mayapur, where he lived by the banks of the Ganges, fully absorbed in chanting the holy names. He had the greatest reverence for the holy land of Navadvipa. Although he was so renounced and so absorbed in Krishna consciousness, as his reputation spread, gentlemen would come to him and give him donations. Once, Babaji Maharaja asked one of his servants to take the donations he had received, which he kept in an old burlap bag, and purchase a large pot of rasagullas. All the devotees were surprised, because Jagannatha dasa Babaji was so renounced and lived so simply. He would eat just the most simple rice and dal. Anyway, the servant brought the sweets, and Jagannatha dasa Babaji offered them to his Deities and then distributed them to the cows and dogs in the dhama. He said that the creatures of the dhama were elevated souls and worthy of service.