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 Bhaktivinoda Thakura and complained that although they had come to Vraja to live like Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, 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. They requested the Thakura to appeal to their guru maharaja to instruct them in the esoteric practices of Krishna consciousness.
Srila Bhaktivinoda 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 Maharaja 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 simplest 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 the creatures of the dhama were elevated souls and worthy of service.
Later, Babaji Maharaja would not accept prasada until he had shared his food with ten newborn puppies. He would wait until they came, and he would count them with his hands. (In his old age, Babaji Maharaja’s eyelids drooped over his eyes and prevented him from seeing.) Only after the puppies had begun to eat would he also partake. He would say, “They are puppies of the dhama. They are not ordinary living entities.” He had so much faith in and affection for the dhama.
He had less affection for Mayavadi impersonalists. He used to say, “Let the dogs come in for darshan, but the impersonalists—kick them out!”
Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji lived to a very old age. In fact, some Vaishnavas say that he was just waiting for Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to come—someone to whom he could impart his special knowledge and realization, for the benefit of humanity.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had requested to be transferred from his post in Orissa to Bengal so he could be near Navadvipa-dhama. And eventually, he was posted at Krishnanagar, near Navadvipa. There, he did extensive research to determine the actual birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He studied various old maps, consulted the local people, and visited different places. Eventually he found a mound where many tulasi trees were growing. He had the intuition that this was the actual birthplace of Lord Chaitanya, but still he wanted confirmation.
At the time, Jagannatha dasa Babaji was the most renowned Vaishnava, and he was Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s siksa-guru. Thus, Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s disciples carried him to the place where Bhaktivinoda Thakura had found the mound and tulasi plants. Babaji Maharaja was so old (over a hundred and forty years old, some say) that his disciples had to carry him in a basket. And his eyelids were so heavy that he had to open them with his hands to be able to see. So, the disciples brought him, but they didn’t tell him that it was the site Bhaktivinoda Thakura had determined to be the birthplace. Still, when Babaji Maharaja arrived there, he spontaneously jumped out of his basket and began to dance in ecstasy, singing the holy names. And by doing so, he confirmed the location of Mahaprabhu’s birthplace.
Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s bhajana-kutira and samadhi are there in Navadvipa-dhama, in Koladvipa. Devotees who perform Navadvipa-parikrama visit there and get his mercy. We also pray to him for his mercy, that we may be instrumental in fulfilling the desires of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and the other acharyas in the line of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu coming to us through Srila Prabhupada and his disciples.
Today especially, we think of His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja, who left this world on Jagannatha Dasa Babaji’s disappearance day, also in Gauda-mandala-bhumi.
Two years ago, I was in Dallas for the disappearance day of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, just a few months after Goswami Maharaja passed away. As we were observing the ceremony in the temple, I was thinking how Goswami Maharaja was the perfect servant and therefore the fit representative of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Then I thought of him in relation to all of the acharyas in the last two centuries—Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Srila Prabhupada (who are the most prominent of them)—and how he really took their mission to heart. He was absorbed in fulfilling all aspects of their mission: developing Mayapur, distributing books, spreading the chanting of the holy names throughout the world in various ways—all the programs that were so important to our predecessor acharyas.
Although I could speak of Goswami Maharaja’s surrender and service for days, we now have the rare opportunity to hear from His Grace Amoghalila dasa Adhikari.
So, I am thinking of one or two incidents I can mention, and some realizations I had from them. One was the last morning Srila Prabhupada was in Bombay, in Juhu. After about a month in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada was leaving that morning for Vrindavan. By Giriraj Maharaja’s mercy, I was fortunate to be able to be in Srila Prabhupada’s room. Madhava Prabhu was also there, and Upendra was in and out of the room.
Srila Prabhupada was just lying on his bed. He could hardly move; he couldn’t even sit up by himself. He was so weak he could barely speak. But then he said something. It was hard to hear, so I leaned close and asked, “What, Srila Prabhupada?” He said, “Call Tamal.” So Upendra went out to get Tamal Krishna Maharaja. When Goswami Maharaja came into the room, he offered dandavat-pranama and then got up. Srila Prabhupada asked him about the arrangements for going to Vrindavan. Goswami Maharaja said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada,” offered dandavat-pranama, and went out. A minute or two later, he came back in. He offered dandavat-pranama, got up, and then told Srila Prabhupada the answer to Prabhupada’s question. Then he said something, got something ready, again offered dandavat-pranama, and went out. This happened at least three times: he came in and went out, came in and went out, and came in and went out—all within just a few minutes. Practically every minute, he was coming in, offering dandavat-pranama, getting up, talking to Prabhupada for a few seconds or half a minute, offering dandavat-pranama again, and going out.
Later, after Srila Prabhupada left us, when I was Goswami Maharaja’s personal secretary, I mentioned this to him. He said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada instructed me to do this. He said that, because familiarity breeds contempt, it is very important when somebody is intimately serving the spiritual master that they keep a reverential mood.” Goswami Maharaja, of course, was such an intimate servant of Srila Prabhupada’s, yet he always maintained that deep reverence—of course love, also, but at the same time he always had such deep reverence for Srila Prabhupada. He was such an ideal example of a personal servant and disciple.
I am also thinking of one other incident then, when I was Goswami Maharaja’s personal secretary in 1978 in Bombay. I think the real reason he wanted me to be his personal secretary was so he could train me, because he had seen how disturbing my mismanagement was (Giriraj Maharaja told me this). I had been the vice president and so-called manager of Hare Krishna Land, and at one point during that time, Giriraj Maharaja had mentioned to Tamal Krishna Maharaja, “Amoghalila is mismanaging the affairs here.” Goswami Maharaja had said, “There is no mismanagement . . . There is no management!” He felt that I needed some training, so he made me his personal secretary, to train me.
He trained me a lot, though I didn’t follow his training so well. One time, he was teaching me how to clean the floor. I mean, I had been a devotee for six or seven years, so I had been cleaning floors for a long time. But once, when I was cleaning the floor, he said, “No, that’s not how you clean the floor,” because I had the cloth bunched up or something. So, he took the cloth from me, got down on his hands and knees, spread the cloth out big, folded it over, and started cleaning the floor. I tried to stop him: “Maharaja, it’s okay, it’s okay. I’ll do it.” But he responded, “No, I want to show you how to do it.” And he cleaned for quite a while. He cleaned a large area, and I was protesting, but he said, “No. Just watch what I am doing.” He had the cloth spread out quite big, and he cleaned for some time. I tried to stop him again, but he explained: “No, Srila Prabhupada did this to me. Srila Prabhupada showed me like this. He got down on his hands and knees and he cleaned the floor to show me how to do it. So why can’t you let me show you how to do it?”
So, Tamal Krishna Goswami was the perfect servant of Srila Prabhupada. And as you said, Maharaja, the perfect servant becomes the ideal representative. Goswami Maharaja was so strict in following Srila Prabhupada, exactly to the detail—even how you open up a cloth and fold it and clean the floor. Every detail—everything! These are just a couple of little incidents I was thinking about.
Giriraj Swami: When you began, saying how Tamal Krishna Goswami would come and offer full obeisances, I thought of what some devotees told me about his routine in Dallas after Srila Prabhupada left. Every night he would go into Srila Prabhupada’s room where the deity of Srila Prabhupada was installed, and he would chant his last Gayatri and put Srila Prabhupada to rest. He wanted to do that as his personal service. And they told me that whenever Goswami Maharaja would leave the temple premises, even for an hour or two, he would first circumambulate the building. They gave me the impression that he was circumambulating Srila Prabhupada, although, of course, he was circumambulating the other Deities as well. But he was very conscious of Srila Prabhupada. In general, he was always very conscious of his lords and masters.
I also think of how Goswami Maharaja had one of Srila Prabhupada’s teeth. He placed this tooth in a silver kavaca and hung it around his neck. Indradyumna Swami, who is quite expert in getting deities and sacred relics, once was asking him about the tooth—what was eventually going to happen to it. And Tamal Krishna Goswami, understanding that Indradyumna Maharaja was trying to see if he could one day get the tooth, just laughed and said, “Don’t even think of it. I am taking it with me. Even after I leave, it will stay with my body.” And it did. His idea was that by the tooth being put into his samadhi, people who circumambulated his samadhi or offered obeisances there would get the benefit of circumambulating Srila Prabhupada’s tooth, of offering obeisances to his tooth. And on the absolute platform, Srila Prabhupada’s tooth is as worshipable as he is.
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s disappearance day, February 20, 2004, Carpinteria, California]