Vrindavan, 2017.05.03 (VT): Siddha Gauranga Das Babaji Maharaj had a special relationship with the trees of Vrindavan. He talked to them and read to them from scriptures like Radha Ras Sudha Nidhi and Vrindavan Mahimamrit.
When he first came to Vrindavan, Baba lived amongst the trees and creepers deep in the forest. His only posessions were the clothes on his back, a water pot and jap mala. To keep himself alive, he accepted alms from the Brajwasis.
Sri Gauranga Das Babaji Maharaj
One evening Baba returned late from madhukari (gathering alms), so he could not read to the trees like he usually did. As Baba lay down to sleep under one very large tree, he heard the tree speaking.
“Baba! Won’t you read to us today?”
Baba replied sorrowfully, “Maharaj! I am have nothing. I don’t even have a lamp. How can I read to you in the dark?”
Softly and lovingly the tree said, “Just look inside my heart and take my gift for you.”
Baba saw a hole in the tree and peered inside. There he found a big candle and a box of matches. When Baba sat down to read, the big tree and all his neighbors were very happy.
(Unfortunately, that very tree was thoughtlessly cut down in 2009 and an ATM was built in its place. Judging by its rings and the width of its trunk, the tree was more than 200 years old. Baba’s disciples and grand-disciples were heartbroken by its loss).
Later in life, Baba lived in an ashram called Radharaman Nivas, in the Raman Reti neighborhood of Vrindavan. Even today the ashram is filled with beautiful neem trees.
The tree tied by Manohar Das
Baba never allowed anyone to pick the trees’ leaves and twigs, because he knew they were conscious beings. In fact, they are saints in the form of trees.
Once Baba asked his disciple Manohar Das to tie up a low-hanging branch of a big neem tree. The branch blocked the devotees’ view during Baba’s daily pravachan (spiritual discource). But when Manohar Das began to tie up the branch, Baba experienced severe chest pains as if he was having a heart attack. Only when the branch was cut free, the pain subsided.
The next day, a young Brajwasi boy came to Baba looking very sad. His body seemed to radiate a divine energy. Baba felt the boy looked familiar. Suddenly the boy started crying.
The boy said said, ¨O Baba! How could you tie me up? You have not come here to bind souls, but to set them free.” Baba then realised the boy was the tree personified. He bowed and begged forgiveness for his actions.
In his book The Saints of Bengal, Baba’s disciple Dr. OBL Kapoor writes,
Gesturing towards the neem trees of his ashram, Baba said, ‘If there is anything that afflicts you, do not worry. Go and tell your tale to a kalpataru (wish-giving tree) over there. Every tree in Vrindavan is a kalpataru. If you embrace them and speak your heart to them, they listen and help. There is nothing the trees of Vrindavan cannot help you with. They can even grant you the most cherished treasures your heart – Radha and Krishna – if you so desire.’
Baba continued: ‘Listen and I will give you an example. A young boy, aspiring for the darshan of Krishna, renounced the world and came to Vrindavan. Although he was from a high-class family and was brought up in the lap of luxury, he became a Babaji and lived in utter seclusion in the forests and practised bhajan thoughout the day. Only once in the evening he would go out into a nearby village for madhukari. He roamed half-naked, wearing only a loin cloth made of gunny.
‘One winter morning when the weather was drizzly, he began to shiver with cold. Since there was no other shelter in the forest, he sat inside the hollow of an old tree and began to meditate on Krishna, shedding tears in his remembrance.
‘After some time passed, he heard a voice coming from another tree in front of him.
‘That tree said to the tree in which Baba was hiding, “Look, a mahatma has taken shelter of you. Grant him your mercy.”
‘Why don’t you grant him your mercy?’ replied the other tree.
‘Then from the tree in front, a peacock flew down and stood before Baba with its tail unfurled. Then another peacock flew down, and another, till a semi-circle of peacocks was formed around Baba. And the next moment he saw standing before him, in the midst of all the peacocks, Sri Krishna Himself, with a peacock feather in his crown, smiling a bewitching smile, his lips kissing his beloved flute.’
Gauraṅga Das Babaji did not name the young Baba who was thus blessed with the vision of Sri Krishna by the mercy of the trees of Vrindavan. But as I came to know later, the story was about himself.