In 1968 paramahamsa Akinchana Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj was staying at Srila Vana Maharaj's Vrindavan Gaudiya Matha, bhajan kutir, which he did every year for 4-5 months at a time before and during the hot season. In the winter he was in Navadvipa. We slept on the roof together many summer nights, and he never went to sleep. Prayers, quiet bhajan and chanting all night long, every night. He was constantly laughing, and he would always say "Hare Krishna!" with the greatest exuberance I have ever witnessed.
He was the most 'Goswami' alike character. He looked just like you would imagine Sanatana or Rupa Goswami in Vraja to look like. He was the only devotee I ever witnessed who would weep flowing tears while leading kirtan without losing his voice. And he was the greatest kirtana leader in the universe! All the Devotees within the various Gaudiya Math's everywhere agreed that Lord Chaitanya would personally join Babaji Maharaj's kirtana. As long as he stayed at Srila Vana Maharaj's Vrindavan ashram he always led the kirtana starting at 4:30 am. He always played the mrdanga either in kirtan or alone while singing prayers before the Deities.
The Deities at bhajan-kutir were Lord Chaitanya, Sri Govinda in the center, with Srimati Radharani on the other side. There were also Govardhana and Shalagram shila's worshipped daily with the central Deities. The puja standard was first-class. There were about 10-15 ashramites ranging in age from 18 – 80 years old. Everyone was either a brahmacari or sannyasi. Akinchana Krishnadas was the only "Babaji" who stayed regularly at the Vrindavana bhajan-kutir except for Srila Vana Maharaj's Babaji disciple Sri Lalit Babaji who returned to Vraja nitya-lila in 1972.
In the daytime, after noon kirtana, Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj would go down into a cave room which Swami Vana had constructed years before. Srila Vana Maharaj was known to have performed solitary Vraja-bhajan in this basement room for a number of years before he accepted disciples. It was very cool in that room. So everyday Babaji Maharaj would spend the entire afternoon in the cave room chanting his mala.
Babaji Maharaj didn't seem to have any teeth. He was an old Bengali disciple of Saraswati Thakura's who (it is rumored) went to live in seclusion at Haridwar after the disappearance of Prabhupada and the following trouble within the Gaudiya Math. In any case, that was many, many years before. He was about 70 years old when I first received his merciful glance. Making disciples, building temples or collecting money were the farthest thing from his mind; and he never, ever criticized anyone. His only concern was chanting constantly; either kirtan or rounds. He would answer with a laughing "Hare Krishna!" any time anyone would speak to him. He often had a gleefully pained look on his face like he had just heard the world's funniest joke and was going to burst out laughing. And when any one said "Hare Krishna" to Babaji he would laugh out loud in a most infectious manner. When ever he would say "Hare Krishna" he would laugh his way through the mantra. I have never seen Prema-bhakti as exhibited by Krsnadas Babaji Maharaj. All the Gaudiya Math Devotees were so glad when Babaji Maharaj would come to stay. "Time for the uttama kirtana!"
In 1968, for protection from my Vietnam draft legal problems, I proceeded to Govardhana Hill on the order of Srila Vana Maharaj to perform parikrama. By some good fortune I was accompanied by Babaji Maharaj who also wanted to visit Govardhana. On the way we stopped at Nandagram where we stayed for a week at Sanatana Goswami's bhajan kutir (no electric, water, nor latrine). Begging "madhu-kari" from the local Vraja-vasis by proclaiming, "Radhe Syama!", we passed our time in chanting and exploring the home of Nanda Maharaj. Babaji Maharaj didn't speak anything (he only said "Hare Krsihna!"), nor did I speak much Bengali yet, so our relationship was initially based on only saying "Hare Krishna!" to each other.
Next we proceeded to Varshana where he introduced me to Sriji Herself. But due to my blunt material eyes I could only see charming Deities. We also stayed a few days at Man-mandira with a siddha-purush known as Radha-charan Das Babaji. He is one of the most exalted souls I have ever met, and as of 1996 he has resided there for 46 years.
After many days we finally arrived at Mount Govardhana, but we got off the bus (at Babaji's insistence) before the bus drove over the hill and on to the bus station. Early the next morning, after bathing in Shyama kunda & Radha kunda, we walked around Govardhana hill barefoot, carrying our bedding, chanting all the way. Sometimes Babaji Maharaj, while always chanting, would laugh out loud and other times he seemed morose like he was missing Krishna. Just like Srila Prabhupada, Babaji Maharaj never wasted a single moment without Krishna Consciousness. By evening we had completed the task and returned safely to Radha-kunda for the night. The next day we went back to Mathura by bus and onwards to Vrindavana by Tonga.
Sanatana Goswami's sacred bhajan-kutir is on the banks of the eternal Pavan-sarovar lake. This kunda is so special because Sri Krsna takes His daily bath here eternally. It is said that a morning bath in Pavan-sarovar gives liberation from material bondage forever (at least a shira-snan). All the devotees would bath daily in this sarovar. It is very charming.
Attached to this austere ashram is a very sacred tirtha, the samadhi of Akinchan Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj, who is a real bhajan-anandi.
Nandagram is the lila-stali chosen over all others by Babaji Maharaj to leave his old body. Some Devotees believe that Babaji Maharaj is eternally in shakya-rasa with Lord Krishna. Although he would never say, still, I remember him at Madhuvana singing a Hindi song about Krishna's friends with tears streaming down his face.
In the samadhi is a large picture of Babaji Maharaj looking kind of pained. I have never exactly seen Babaji with that look before. I always remember him laughing and very happy. He was so humble that we were all afraid to offer him obeisance's because he would always do the same in return. He would never accept obeisance's. Can you imagine a Vaisnava of Babaji's character bowing to a prakrta-bhakta and former beef-eater like me? I wasn't fit to wash his feet.
Please allow me to speak more about Akinchan Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj. One time he was leading a large sankirtana party through the streets of Vrindavana. It was the middle of summer (In Vrindavana!!). When we reached Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami's Gaudiya Math, Babaji Maharaj fainted. We all thought he might die, so we continued chanting and took him into Bhakti-Saranga Maharaja's Amalitala ashram. Finally we got Babaji Maharaja to wake up and then he got sick to his stomach. When he felt a little better he asked us to continue on and he would catch up later. Sure enough, on the last stretch, there was Babaji Maharaj with mrdanga in hand and a beaming grin on his face.
On another occasion I was following Babaji Maharaj walking around Giriraj Maharaj. In all the years together I never heard Babaji Maharaj speak much. Example: "Babaji Maharaj, is it true that you're in shakya rasa?" To which he replies, "HARE KRISHNA!!!" Even when he was meeting with his Godbrothers he would always sit at their feet, and he would simply laugh and proclaim, "Hare Krishna!!!" whenever he was told anything. So we were walking past a Devotee who was performing 108 dandavat parikrama around Govardhana when suddenly Babaji Maharaj turned to me and said, "Ucharan Koro!" ("Pronounce it" - the Holy Name). My chanting was so poor that Babaji Maharaj had to break his silence.
As I mentioned before, Babaji Maharaj never slept. He was always up all night performing bhajan; at least during the summers when he would always stay in Vrindavana with Srila Vana Maharaj. First thing in the morning Babaji Maharaj would lead all the kirtana with all the many traditional Gaudiya Matha melodies. Then, after Chaitanya Charitamrta reading (in Bengali), Babaji Maharaj would sit alone before the Deities and sing endless sweet bhajan's for a few hours. He would also sing (recite) so many verses, and he would always begin with all the Guru vandanas, Siddhanta-Sarasvati, Gaura Kishore, etc. During the afternoon he would stay in Swami Vana's underground room to chant. I often went down to serve him and I never saw him sleeping. At night he would again lead the kirtana, and after Prasadam he would sit on the roof to pray, all night! The best way to describe Babaji Maharaja is a laughing "Hare Krishna!!"