An original photo of Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, the spiritual master of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, recently discovered by the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre in Kolkata. The photo was found inserted between the pages of an old book previously owned by a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati.
Srila Jagannatha Das Babaji Maharaj was the sovereign emperor of the Gaudiya Vaishnava world. No human talent can ever describe his fathomless love for Lord Goursundar (Gauranga). He spent many years in the adoration of Sri Radha-Govinda in Sri Vrindavan. He was a highly revered personality. Everywhere he was renowned as "Siddha Baba" (a great devotee who has reached the Goal or attained Ultimate Success).
Generally devotees talk about the contribution of Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji in confirming the birth place of Lord Caitanya. However, there is also one more very important contribution, which probably is even more important than confirming the birth place of Lord Caitanya, which is never or rarely discussed. This is that, Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji is the first person in our guru parampara who chanted the Pancha tattva maha mantra as with "Jaya Sri Krishna Caitanya...".Before the time of Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, the Panhca Tattva maha mantra was chanted as " Jaya Sri Gauranga Prabhu Nityananda....". Devotees following the guru parampara from Srila Jaganatha dasa Babaji then followed the same.. "Jaya Sri Krishna Caitanya.."
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur beheld his lotus-feet for the first time in Vrindavan in 1880 and received many precious pieces of advice about Haribhajan from him. Srila Babaji Maharaj said 'there is the danger of committing ten offences while chanting Hare Krishna mahamantra. But there is no consideration of offence in uttering Pancha Tattwa –"Sri Krishna-Chaitanya Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Adwaita Gadadhar Srvasadi Gour-bhakta-vrinda."
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur met Srila Babaji Maharaj for the second time at Amlajora village in the district of Burdwan in the month of Falgun 1298 Bangabda (Year of the Bengali era). Srila Babaji Maharaj observed the holy fast enjoined on the eleventh day of a lunar fortnight (Ekadashi) at Amlajora village and discoursed on God day and night. Though he was very old, he was fond of devotional dance and congregational singing of the Holy Name. Next day Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur established 'Sri Prapannashram' at Amlajora village. Srila Babaji Maharaj was very happy to see the ceaseless loving efforts of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur in preaching and propagating the gospels of Lord Gouranga.
While staying in Navadwip, Srila Babaji Maharaj would remain absorbed in his Nam-Bhajan (the adoration of the Holy Name) on the bank of the Ganges at Kuliya. (His Bhajan-cottage and his Samadhi-temple still exist there) Srila Babaji Maharaj asked Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur to construct a shed in front of his cottage for the devotees. Srila Thakur gladly carried out his order.
In 1893 Srila Babaji Maharaj came from Kuliya, Navadwip to Sri Godrum Suravi Kunja and made Thakur Bhaktivinode and other devotees extremely happy. Srila Jagannatha Das Babaji Maharaj paid a kind visit to Sri Mayapur. It was with the divine inspiration of Srila Babaji Maharaj that Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode discovered the Birth-site of Mahaprabhu. Srila Babaji Maharaj ascertained that the discovery was true. He pronounced it to the entire world and danced in ecstatic joy in the holy Birth-place of the Lord. Devotees marveled at his wild dance at such a ripe old age. Dancing impetuously with loud roars, he swept the devotees away on the wave of transcendental enthusiasm. The sound of Sankirtan filled the three worlds and maddened the Vaishnavas present there.
Srila Babaji Maharaj had a great affection for Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur whom he asked to prepare a Vaishnava Almanac. From Srila Babaji Maharaj, the world has learnt that the fifth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Magha is the day of Sri Vishnupriya Devi's appearance.
Srila Babaji Maharaj disappeared from this world in Navadwip in 1895 at the age of about 147. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur described him as "the Old Commander of the army of devotees".
Some of his immortal messages to this world are;
- Those who make money by interpreting the Bhagavatam are offenders at the feet of the Holy Name. The transcendental words of Krishna never appear on their lips. Their attitude is more abominable than that of prostitutes. Those who listen to the talks of such speakers will be ruined.
- If you want final success in your Bhajan, you must maintain strict regularity in chanting the Name. Don't go to bed before completing the fixed number of chanting everyday. Stick to your vow even at the cost of your life. If you adore the Holy Name with such sincerity, you are sure to attain perfection or final success. At first you will have to toil hard. But ultimately you will get eternal rest at the blissful feet of Lord Gouranga.