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Ramakrishna Baba: The blind saint who lived and died in kirtan

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OBL Kapor has described many of the inspiring saints of Braj, including Shri Ramakrishna Das Babaji and his brother Shri Radharaman Das Babaji. Born in a religious family in Calcutta, both the brothers moved to Vrindavan as soon as they got the chance.

The elder of the two brothers, Ramakrishna Das baba, made two only disciples, who he initiated after he became blind. He shunned fame but his absorption in bhakti and absolute refusal get tied up in parapeksha (dependence on others) led him to become one of the renowned saints of Braj.

OBL Kapur← OBL Kapoor. P.C. Open Library

Ramakrishna Das’ refusal to get tied up in parapeksha was witnessed first hand by the chronicler of Braj’s saints. Shri OBL Kapoor. Normally, Babaji would visit three houses to ask for madhukari. If he did not get any food then, instead of wasting more time in search of food, he would fast for that day.

Baba normally lived alone in a jopedi (shack) in a solitary place. Once, when Babaji became ill, he went for treatment in his Guru’s ashram in Vrindavan. Kapoor met him and persuaded him to take some milk for the sake of his health. Babaji refused to accept anything from outside Braj. Kapoor describes what happened when Baba found out who was paying for a few days’ milk:

“I requested him to take some milk because he was too weak. After a good deal of persuasion he agreed. I arranged for the supply of milk. A few days later my friend, Sri Harirama Singhaniya, an industrialist of Calcutta, came to Vrindavana. He requested me to take him to some siddha saint for darshan. I took him to Baba. He was very much impressed by him and wanted to do some service for him.

I said, “Baba does not accept any service from anyone. He also does not need anything except madhukari. With great difficulty he has agreed to take milk for a few days.” At once he said. “Then please let the milk be supplied at my expense.” I agreed rather reluctantly.

Singhaniya Ji had not yet paid for the milk. But it could not remain hidden from Baba’s keen spiritual sense that henceforth the milk he would drink would be purchased with the money of a person who lived outside Vraja. The very next day he called his disciple Madana Mohana and said, “Madana, I will not live here, Take me back to Maghera immediately. ”

Madana said, “Baba, everything here is so favourable and your health has begun to improve. You should stay here until you are quite well.”

“No, No. You don’t know. There is parapeksa (dependence on others) here. I cannot stay here for even a moment.”

OBL Kapoor presents Ramakrishna Das Babaji’s life as an “illustrious example of ceaseless bhajana”. Born in 1911 in Jasohara in East Bengal, “he did  not lose time in determining his goal and dashing towards it like an arrow”.

At only 18 years of age, he was initiated by Rama Das Babaji of Pathabani Ashram in Calcutta. After living in his Guru’s ashram and serving his guru for some time, he went to Varanassi to study scriptures.

As soon as he had completed his studies, he came to Vrindavan and took Babaji vesh from his godbrother, Shri Rajani Babaji Maharaj of Govindakund. From here, he proceeded to Maghera, a small village about four miles from Chhatikara to begin his “life-long ceaseless bhajan”.

“An essential part of his bhajana was kirtana. He performed kirtana four times during the day, prabhati kirtana early in the morning at 3.30am, madhyanha kirtana at midday, arati kirtana in the evening and abhisara kirtana at about 10pm.

He performed kirtan at such a high pitch that his voice would be heard in the remotest corner of the village. His engrossment in kirtana was so deep that sometimes he exclaimed aloud “Ha Nitai!” or “Ha Radhey!” and fell senseless on the ground. All the rest of his time he spend in Giridhari-seva and lila smarana.”

Baba lived in a small hut with hardly room to lie stretched out. The hut was in a low-lying area which would flood in the rainy season. The area was infested with mosquitoes but, the advice of villagers to move to another place, Baba chose to remain in that place and felt that the conditions were favourable as fewer people came to visit.

Baba did not accept disciples. He lived alone in his hut, He ate only two rotis in the day and a quarter of a roti at night. He slept for only an hour or so and refused to waste time on bodily needs. Living in this way, Baba went blind. He then accepted two disciples – Pranagauranga Das and Madana Mohana Das – who lived near him in separate huts.

Even when Baba was ill, he did not seem to be suffering and seemed oblivious to the afflictions of the material body.

“Baba was physically ill, but spiritually he seemed to swim always in the ocean of bliss. The waves of the ocean tossed him up and down and he sometimes laughed, sometimes wept and sometimes cried aloud like one who has one mad, because the bliss was too intense for his frail body and mind to contain.”

On several occasions, when people touched him, they got a shock of spiritual power like an electric current.  Baba’s material body was truly just a vehicle for his spiritual practice. In the tradition of the great saints and Rishis, Baba was fully aware when the time to leave his body was approaching.

At midday on Trayodasi, May 13, 1984, Babaji demanded to be taken to his guru’s ashram in Vrindavan, where kirtan had been going on continuously for thirty years. Kapoor describes what happened as soon as Baba reached the ashram:

“Baba said, “Take me to the place of kirtana.” He went and sat there and remained sitting in meditation for about half an hour. He was, perhaps, waiting for Nrsinha Chaturdasi, which was to start after half an hour. As soon as Nrsinha Chaturdasi started, he shouted, “Jai Nitai! Jai Radhe!” and left the body to meet his Gurudeva and Parama Gurudeva in transcendental Vrindavan, and to play his part in the divine lila of Radha-Krishna under their guidance.

Everyone had thought that Baba had gone to Vrindavana, but would return to Maghera after a few days, as he had done before. But this time he was called to transcendental Vrindavana, from where no one ever returned. If he appeared to have gone to the phenomenal Vrindavana, it was because what appeared as the phenomenal Vrindavana was itself the transcendental Vrindavan. It appeared as phenomenal to people, whose vision was perverted.

To one like Baba, whose spiritual eyes had opened, it was the same transcendental Vrindavana, where Krishna-lila was eternally going on, where not only the gopas and gopis, but the birds and animals, the trees and creepers and even the grass and the dust were made of sat (existence) cit (intelligence) and ananda (bliss) and were eternally engaged in the service of Krishna, where everything was tuned to the flute of Krishna, where even time stood still or flowed, and space expanded or contracted like the petals of a lotus, according to the sweet will of Krishna.”

Jai Nitai! Jai Shri Radhe Shyam!

(Based on “The Saints of Braj”, OBL Kapoor, Chapter 24, “Sri Ramakrsna Dasa Baba Ji”, Aravali Books International, New Delhi, 1998).

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