The next in the parampara, after and is an associate of Bhaktivinoda Thakura – a great paramahamsa babaji by the name of Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Technically he was the disciple of Bhagavat dasa Babaji Maharaja, who was a disciple of Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja.
In 1897 Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja came to Mayapur Navadwipa Dhama from Sri Vrndavana Dhama, where he was accredited the exalted title “Bhajananandi”. Srila Bhaktivinoda (Kedarnath Datt), seeing the transcendental behaviour of Babaji Maharaja, would use him as an example of nirapeksa (indifference), as his level of renunciation was beyond belief.
This Vaisnava saint’s life was an example of utter humility and poverty, the true attributes of a Vaisnava. Gaurakisora never accepted any material object from anyone. For his clothing he used the discarded loin cloths from corpses left on the bank of the Ganges. For food, he would collect rice by begging, soak it in river water, and garnish it with salt and chilly. He never asked favors from anyone and lived a fully detached life, devoid of all possessions.
Very little information is available about the past life of Gaurakisora except that he was born in a Vaisya family in the village of Bagjana near Tepakhola on the bank of the Padma. As a householder, Gaurakisora was known by the name Vansidasa (different from Vamsi das babaji). At that time he was engaged in some agricultural trade and from the income took care of his wife and family honestly. After the death of his wife, Gaurakisora renounced his home and went to Vrndavana, where he was initiated into Vairagi Vesha by Bhagavata dasa babaji, one of the foremost disciples of Jagannatha dasa babaji.
Srila Gaurakisora lived on madhukari, begging and slept beneath a tree. He would lie prostrate, offering his humble obeisances to the residents of Vraja, considering them as embodiments of Lord Krsna. He even offered his obeisances to the flowers, trees, and land around him. He spent about thirty years at Vraja mandala serving the deities there. Afterwards, perhaps by the direction of the Supreme Lord, he left for Navadvipa.
During his stay at Navadvipa, Gaurakisora underwent various transformations of spiritual moods. Sometimes he danced on the bank of the Ganges chanting, “Gaura, Gaura”, while at other times he would lie on the ground in an unconscious state. He joyfully moved throughout the groves located on the bank of the Ganges, considering them sites of the divine sports of Sri Sri Radha Govinda. His only clothing was a strip of cloth around his waist and often went totally naked. He chanted japa on beads or sometimes knotted a cloth and used that as a substitute for japa beads. Occasionally, he went to Godruma Dvipa to listen to Bhaktivinoda Thakura recite ”Srimad Bhagavatam.
Babaji Maharaja would often visit Bhaktivinoda. During his last days in retirement, absorbed in Krsna katha, he would hear Srimad Bhagavatam at Bhaktivinoda’s house and they would discuss together. Though Babaji Maharaja could neither read nor write he was regarded as vastly learned and self-realized. His only possessions were the Tulasi beads around his neck and the japa mala he kept in his hand. Sometimes he wore no Tulasi mala on his neck and would chant on knotted cloth as beads – such was his renunciation. Sometimes he would live under an old broken overturned boat, and other times he would scatter fish bones around a place he occasionally used as his bhajan kutir to make materialists think he was a fish-eater, and thus they would not disturb him. But by his pure bhajan he purified the three worlds.
He was the guru of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, the founder of the Caitanya Mathas and Gaudiya Mathas.
In 1898 when Bhaktivinoda’s son, who was now residing in Godrumadwipa in Navadwipa Dhama, first came in contact with the person who was to be his spiritual master, Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, the crest jewel of avadhutas was wearing a tigerskin hat and carrying a basket with puja paraphernalia inside. He offered the boy four or five pieces of rope for chanting his rounds on, and a tilak stamp for marking the body with Hare Krsna carved on it. Bhaktivinoda later told his son, “You must take initiation from Babaji Maharaja, and don’t return to this house if you don’t.” Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji used to walk across a bridge at the same time daily, so on one occasion Bhaktivinoda’s son, Siddhanta Saraswati, blocked his path and in all humility said, “If you don’t give me initiation then I will finish my life by throwing this useless body off this bridge.” Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja didn’t want any disciples – he himself had taken siksa from Bhaktivinoda, and this was Bhaktivinoda’s dear son! Siddhanta Saraswati told him how his father had instructed him to become Babaji Maharaja’s disciple or not return home, so in 1900 Babaji Maharaja gave him the name Varsabhanavi-devi-dayita dasa. He then gave his new initiate the tiger skin hat and basket that had been given to Gaura Kisora by his spiritual master Bhagavat dasa Babaji, which he in turn had received from Jagannatha dasa Babaji.
In 1908 Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja lost his external eye sight, so he then stopped travelling and just chanted and performed worship of Krsna. Being aloof from external consciousness, sometimes he would not dress his body – instead he would sit in his bhajan kutir internally absorbed in Krsna’s pastimes and in a very deep voice be heard calling the names of the gopis of Vrndavana.
Once Srila Varsabhanavi-devi-dayita dasa, Siddhanta Saraswati, offered to take Babaji Maharaja to Calcutta to see an eye specialist, but he refused saying, “Never! I will never go to the material world.” His disciple protested, “But in Calcutta I could serve you nicely. You wouldn’t have to undergo any inconvenience.” But Babaji Maharaja was adamant declaring, “I will never accept this service. Better I throw myself in the Saraswati (Jalanghi) and drown.”
Once Babaji Maharaja turned up at the Yoga Pitha (Lord Caitanya’s birthplace) at two in the morning. Amazed, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati enquired how he got there in the pitch black of night. Babaji Maharaja replied, “Someone brought me here.” “Who could have brought you such a distance at this time?” enquired Bhaktisiddhanta. Finally his mind concluded, “It must have been Krsna who personally brought you here or else how did you cross the Ganges? How did you find your way across the dark fields?” But Babaji Maharaja would not answer more than, “One person brought me across the river, that’s all.”
One day Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja wrapped his body and two feet with a cloth. Sitting covered like this he said, “Many persons, after being informed by others, come here to collect the dust from my feet. I tell them I am not a Vaisnava. If you go to the vicinity where there are Vaisnavas with their feet pretentiously decorated and extended to touch, you can have unlimited dust. How can I bless you? I don’t have barfi or sandesh or rasagulla, or even sweet words. How can I bless you? Nowadays people are interested in spiritual masters who can give these things – wealth, good wife, sweet words – these cheating things are now taken as anakula (favourable).”
Every virtuous person looked forward to rendering service to Srila Gaurakisora. However, he rarely allowed anyone the chance to serve him. Once Manindracandra Nandi, the Maharaja of Kasimbazar, sent a distinguished messenger to escort Gaurakisora to the former’s palace. Gaurakisora, however, did not accept the Maharaja’s invitation saying that if he visited the palace he may feel tempted by the wealth of the Maharaja which may result in a strained relation between the two. Hence, Gaurakisora suggested that instead of him visiting the palace, let the Maharaja free himself completely from the shackles of wealth by donating everything he owned to his relatives and then come to live with Gaurakisora in a specially prepared shed where both of them could practice Haribhajan in peace.”
Srila Gaurakisora was very selective about accepting invitations for food. He believed that partaking of food here and there could adversely affect the spiritual life of a devotee. Once a devotee name Haren babu partook of prasada offered at the festival held at Bhajan kutir at Navadvipa. For this Gaurakisora stopped communicating with Haren for three days. On the fourth day Gaurakisora explained that the prasada of the above festival had been financed by a woman of questionable profession, a pumscari (one who is moved by other men).
Once, on the eve of Sanatana Gosvami’s disappearance day, Gaurakisora decided to celebrate the occasion. The devotee attending him asked who would provide them with the materials for the celebration. Srila Gaurakisora replied: “Remember not to speak to anyone about it. We shall miss a meal and continue around the clock chanting the holy name. This could be the typical festival for those of us who have taken the vow of poverty.”
Narendra Kumar Sen, a resident of Agartala (Tripura), once approached Gaurakisora to learn about Guru pranali or Siddha pranali. Gaurakisora told him, “The Supreme Lord cannot be realized through worldly knowledge. Only through the chanting of the holy name can the true nature of the Lord be revealed. As the Lord is revealed from the letters comprising the Nama, the devotee gradually begins to understand his own nature and becomes acquainted with seva.
Once a physician told Gaurakisora that he intended to move to Navadvipa and take up charitable practices. Gaurakisora advised the physician that if he truly desired to live in Navadvipa then he should give up the plan for a charitable practice because it would only encourage materially minded people to save money. Those who sincerely practiced Hari bhajan should never get distracted by the chains of welfare activities.
A young seeker wearing only a kaupina, once stayed with Gaurakisora for some days. later he arranged, through the agency of an employee of a female estate owner, to obtain five kathas of land as a donation from the woman. When Gaurakisora heard about this he was extremely annoyed: “Navadvipadhama is beyond this material world. How can a worldly land owner dare to hold land here and even think he can donate five kathas out of it? A mere grain of sand of the transcendental Navadvipa is more valuable than all the precious gems in this world put together. Moreover, how advanced could this young kaupina clad devotee be if he dares to collect so much land in lieu of his bhajan merit?”
Once a devotee offered some sweets to Lord Gauranga and then took the offering to Gaurakisora, urging him to partake of it. Gaurakisora told the devotee, “Those who are non vegetarian, those who commit adultery, or offer food to Lord Gauranga with a particular motive, their offerings never reach Lord Gauranga and are never sanctified as prasada.”
Srila Gaurakisora regularly begged for rice, after which he would cook the rice, offer it, and partake of the prasada. He never touched any foodstuff offered by someone else. Once during monsoon, Gaurakisora stayed in the rest house at Phulia Navadvipa. Some prasada was left in a vessel for him to respect later. Meanwhile a snake passed by the vessel and a woman there happened to notice it. When Gaurakisora sat down to take prasada the woman appeared there and informed him about the snake. Gaurakisora, however, firmly stated that he would not touch the prasada until the woman left. After the woman left, Gaurakisora said, “Look how maya works! Taking the form of compassion, maya attempts to hit deep into her target slowly. Maya can assume countless forms. She always prevents a mortal being from practicing Haribhajan.”
Giribabu and his wife once ardently requested Gaurakisora to stay in their house at Navadvipa. Gaurakisora was moved by their sincere devotion and finally agreed to oblige them on the condition that he would live only in their toilet room where he would perform Hari bhajan. Giribabu tried to persuade him to change his mind but Gaurakisora remained firm. Giribabu reluctantly arranged to have the toilet thorougly cleaned and Gaurakisora used it for Haribhajan. A realized soul can practice Haribhajan anywhere in an unconcerned manner, and wherever he resides, that place becomes Vaikuntha.
Srila Gaurakisora was a highly spiritually advanced soul. He never allowed deceitful practices or any discussion which was not within the purview of the holy books. One day when a devotee questioned Gaurakisora about a well known reiciter of ”Srimad Bhagavatam, who was in the habit of chanting “Gaura, Gaura”, Gaurakisora remarked, “He doesn’t say “Gaura, Gaura. Rather what he means to say is, “More More” (`Money, Money.’) Those who recite ”Srimad Bhagavatam for payment are not entitled to chant the name of theSupreme Lord.”
Srila Gaurakisora never delivered discourses openly, yet his spotless character drew everyone to him. Upon meeting Gaurakisora, even a staunch materialist would become inclined take up Haribhajan.
On 22nd June, 1914 Bhaktivinoda Thakura passed from this world into his samadhi, deep meditation, on Lord Krsna in Bhakti Bhavan, and then on November 17th, 1915 Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, on the auspicious Utthana Ekadasi, also left this world. His body was placed into a samadhi tomb, but sixteen years later, due to flooding, the samadhi had to be moved. There was a clamour of local babajis trying to claim the samadhi, but the bold Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati (Varsabhanavi-devi-dayita dasa) told everybody frankly, “I am the only disciple of Paramahamsa Babaji Maharaja. Even though I have not accepted sannyasa, I am a celibate brahmacari and by the grace of Babaji Maharaja I am not secretly addicted to abominable habits or involved in fornication as some monkey-like people are. If there is someone amongst the people here present who is a renunciate of stainless character, then he can have Babaji Maharaja’s samadhi. We have no objection to that. He, who within the last year, or the last six months, three months, one month or at least within the last three days, has not had illicit connection with a woman will be able to touch this spiritual blissful body. If anyone else touches it he will be completely ruined.” Hearing these words, the Inspector of police, who had come to judge for a fair and honest decision said, “How will evidence be had for this?” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati replied, “I have faith in their word.” At this, one by one all the bogus babajis slipped away without a word.
Note: Special thanks to Jaya Tirtha Caran prabhu from NZ for allowing us to use some of the content from his site to compile these pages.