Vrindavan, 2017.08.06 (VT): Today after a long time I went to Bhagwat Niwas. Usually there is Harikatha at the time I went. But when I arrived, the ashram was silent. The sounds of kirtan did not waft from the temple building, and no devotees could be seen hovering like hungry bees around the katha hall.
Everything was empty. I poked around for a while trying to understand why. Just as I was about to leave, an elderly Babaji with a long white beard called me over and said to me in Bengali, “You know the stocky, dark Baba with glasses… he left his body this morning.”
“You mean Karunakar Baba? He’s my Gurubhai!”
It seemed strange. Last time I met Karunakar Baba, he was absolutely fine. I couldn’t understand how he could be here one day and gone the next. The elderly Babaji then explained that Karunakar Baba had been bitten by a snake on his finger. They took him to the hospital in the middle of the night, but it seemed the hospital didn’t have antivenom in stock. They took him to another hospital, and to some folk medicine specialist in Pani Gaon. At last they returned to the ashram, where he passed away amidst the sacred melody of Harinam sankirtan.
Karunakar Baba performing abhishek of his Guru – Baya Baba’s murti
Karunakar Baba was a homeopathic doctor in Orissa before he left household life to become a Babaji. He received diksha from the famous Orissan saint Sri Baya Baba (Sri Sachinandan Das Babaji Maharaj), and bhek (Babaji vesh) from Baya Baba’s younger godbrother Sri Kaliya Baba (Sri Hridayananda Das Babaji). His shiksha guru was Sri Sant Das Babaji, from whom he learned ashta-kaliya lila smaran according to the Gutika of Siddha Krishnadas Babaji of Govardhan.
Karunakar Baba was always very friendly and kind. He continued to serve the Vaishnav community as a homeopathic doctor for some time after coming to Braj, thus earning himself the nickname “Doctor Baba.” I still fondly remember going with him in a small group to Barsana and Govardhan and seeing the beautiful garden where he used to stay at Puchari, sitting in his room at Radharaman Bhajanashram in Radhakund on occasion, and talking about his memories of Gurudev and his experiences in Braj.
For the last years of his life he lived in Bhagwat Niwas in Vrindavan, passing his days in intense jap and lila smaran.
Karunakar Baba always wanted to die in Vrindavan, and said so several times over the ten years that I knew him. His health was not very good – he suffered from diabetes and heart problems – and he said he was ready to go anytime. “That’s what I came here for,” he would say. This morning, Radharani fulfilled his desire.
The following is a story told by Karunakar Baba to our gurubhai, the late Sakhicharan Das.
Throw Yourself in the Fire
An Orissan bhakta named Kshetravasi had searched earnestly for a guru for over twelve years. In that time he sought out many sadhus, but he felt that none of them was his true guru. He was feeling completely hopeless and distraught and felt that he had no power to go on. But then he remembered something that Sri Aurobindo had said, “throw yourself in the fire and God will be there.”
Sri Baya Baba
He had heard that if one commits suicide at Puri by throwing oneself under the wheels of Jagannath’s cart, that the person’s desire is fulfilled in the next life. So, he resolved to end his life on Ratha Yatra day with Jagannath Dev as a witness.
On that day, he went to the temple road to wait for the cart. First Baldev’s cart sped by, and then Subhadra Devi’s. Last came Jagannath’s cart. As the cart approached, Kshetravasi ran towards the cart and flung himself on the ground.
At that moment, Jagannath’s cart stopped. Kshetravasi fainted senseless on the ground. When he regained consciousness that evening, he found that some sadhus had brought him to an ashram near Narendra Sarovar. They told him stories about their Guru, Sri Baya Baba. He was impressed by their mood and their way of speaking, and desired to have his darshan. He was told that Baya Baba was now in Cuttack and that perhaps he could meet him there.
Kshetravasi now felt some hope and prayed, “If you are really my Guru, I will be able to see you there in Cuttack.”
When Kshetravasi arrived, there was kirtan going on outside of Baya Baba’s room, and a crowd waiting to bid him farewell. A car was packed and waiting for over half an hour to take Baba to Kendrapara, but Baba just continued to wait in his room and no one knew why. Kshetravasi arrived and went in to make his obeisance to Baba, but before he could speak, Baba rose up and said, “So you’ve come! Then, Baya is going. You come along with me to Kendrapara.”
Sri Baya Baba with disciples
Kshetravasi had never met Baba before, but without anyone informing him, Baba waited over half an hour for his arrival. How did he know? Perhaps Jagannath Dev had informed him in meditation? Or, as Kshetravasi (now our dear gurubhai known as Karunakar Das Babaji) puts it, “Such a siddha baba is all-knowing. In both the prakat and aprakat (manifest and unmanifest) time, he performs such lilas with his disciples.”
Kshetravasi’s long time desire was now fulfilled. He received diksha a couple of days later and he recounts some of the details…” I was asked to sit cross-legged on the floor and face to face directly in front of Baya Baba who was seated in the same fashion. He held my hands and closed his eyes for a while, then he placed my hands on his thighs and tilted my head towards him and breathed the mantras in my ears. Baya Baba’s body trembled and I could feel his tears dripping on my thighs as he infused me with his bhav-shakti.”