SRI RAMAKRISHNA DAS PANDIT BABA
He was born in a brahmana family of Gauda in 1857 AD at Bhuratipa Pancagali in Jaipur. His past family name was Rampratap Misra (Panda). Rampratap lost his father in 1865. His father was a Ramanandi Vaishnava and his mother hailed from a family initiated into the Vallabhacarya line. His grandfather belonged to the Ramanuja sect of Vaishnavas. The members of the family were teachers by profession and were patronized by the King of Jaipur.
As a child of only five or six years Rampratap displayed a fascination for devotion. When he was seven or eight years old he went to fetch water daily from a distant spring at Madhavpur for offering worship to Lord Krishna. One day while on his way to the spring, he spotted a tiger eating human flesh. Strangely, he felt no fear and continued on to Madhavpur with the conviction that since the animal had some food then it had no reason to harm him.
At the age of nine Rampratap completed his study of Sanskrit grammar at Panini. It is said that at this time Rampratap came in contact with Nrsimhananda Bhatta at Jaipur, a brahmana from Karnataka who later became a disciple of Siddha Nityananda dasa Baba. Nrsimhadasa was an erudite scholar of the six branches of Indian philosophy and an accomplished musician. He became deeply absorbed upon seeing a performance on the Gita-govinda and Krishna-karnamrita.
After coming in contact with Nrsimha, Rampratap was so overwhelmed by his qualities that he began to wonder how magnanimous Nrsimha’s guru must be. Rampratap held all Vaishnava saints in great reverence. At a later date he went to Vrindavana and took shelter at the feet of Nrsimha. At that time he also came in contact with Radhacarana Gosvami Kakaji of Govinda Temple and started learning Bengali from Professor Kanticandra Sen. At the age of ten years Rampratap acquired command of the Urdu language. At the age of eleven he underwent the sacred thread ceremony. The priest who initiated him into Savitri mantra instructed Rampratap to repeat the mantra.
Thereafter Rampratap received a divine command from Savitri and attempted to run away to Vrindavana on three occasions, but each time he was caught and held by his mother and the royal government. Shortly afterwards, while Rampratap was studying the Vedas at the age of thirteen, he finally reached Vrindavana. There he stayed with the Gosvamis of Govindaji Temple and studied Nyaya under Sudarsan Sastri of Rangaji temple, six sandarbha under Nilamani Gosvami, Srimad Bhagavatam under Nrsimha dasa, and Haribhaktivilasa under Gopilal Gosvami.
At the age of twenty Rampratap completed his studies. Meanwhile, at the command of his mother, he visited his birth place a few times but inevitably ended up in Vrindavana again. After qualifying in his studies, Rampratap took spiritual initiation and Vesa from Nityananda dasa Babaji, receiving the name Ramakrishna Das. After receiving intensive instructions on bhajan Rampratap memorized the entire Govinda-lilamrta.
Having acquiring a sound command of smarana-manana (contemplation) Ramakrishna Das Baba was directed by Siddha Baba to approach Krishnadasa Babaji for further instructions. Afterwards, Nityananda Baba, instructed Ramakrishna Das Baba to go to Varsana to practice bhajan. At Varsana he heard kirtana performed by Gauracarana dasa Babaji and began taking music lessons from him. During that time he neglected his bhajan and spent most of his time learning music. Eventually Siddha Baba called Ramakrishna Das Baba back to Vrindavana and advised him to devote more time to the practice of bhajan.
Ramakrishna Das Baba never spoke with his guru directly, but carried on conversations through his elder God-brother, Siromani. As directed by Siddha Baba, Ramakrishna Das Baba went to Varsana but, finding it difficult to concentrate his mind, he repeated the eighteen-let tered Gopala mantra for seventeen days and was finally blessed with the vision of Lord Krishna with Radha beneath a Kadamba tree at Uddhava Kyeri. When he was asked to seek a boon, Ramakrishna Das Baba said, “I do not know what I want; I pray for the grace of Yugalakisora.” He was commanded to practice bhajan in the cave of Raghava. Ramakrishna Das Baba immediately went to the cave, which was infested with wild animals, and for six years practiced intense bhajan without paying any attention to his physical needs.
By the grace of Radha-Krishna he had now become siddha in lila-smarana. From 2 o’clock in the morning to 2 o’clock in the afternoon he used to do 1i1a-smarana inside the cave. After that he came out of the cave. At this time there used to be a crowd of sadhus in front of the cave. They sought his advice in bhajana. Baba removed their doubts and difficulties. Then patha and kirtana were performed. This continued till evening. In the evening Baba went out for madhukari. After some time, Baba’s absorption in lila-smarana became so deep that it became impossible for him to follow any routine. No one knew when he would sit down for smarana and when he would come out of the cave. Sometimes he remained lost in smarana for two or three days continuously and did not go out even for madhukari. The sadhus who used to collect In front of his cave were deprived of his company.
One day Ramakrishna Das Baba’s mother came to Vrindavana in search of her son. After finding out where her son was from some Vaishnava’s, she waited at the door of Raghava’s cave for three days. Ramakrishna Das Baba used to come out of the cave once in two or three days. One day he came out dressed in tattered clothes and carrying a vessel which was full of holes. He walked straight past his mother, who was standing at the entrance of the cave. His mother followed behind him calling out to him but he did not respond, thus she left for Jaipur in tears.
However, soon after his mother left, Ramakrishna Das Baba’s flow of bhajan was interrupted. Thus be began to think that perhaps he had unknowingly committed some offense. Some local Vaishnavas informed him that his mother had come in search of him but finding no response from him, she left in great disappointment. Fearing that displeasing his mother would seriously hamper his bhajan, Ramakrishna Das Baba wrote to his mother and brought her to Vrindavana. There he arranged for her to stay at Puchari and served her with devotion. Soon he was torn between devotion to his mother and devotion to bhajan.
Around that time one Oriya brahmana boy named Krishnacaitanya dasa came from Orissa and took shelter of Pandita Babaji. The boy was given spiritual initiation and bheka by Prabhu dasaji, as well as training in bhajan. Ramakrishna Das Baba engaged this boy in serving his mother. Within three years, Krishnacaitanya attained bhava siddhi by practicing bhajan. Madhava dasa of Puchari was a disciple of Krishnacaitanya. After seven-eight years passed, Ramakrishna Das Baba’s mother passed away, thus he was able to devote himself entirely to bhajan.
Some years later a strong controversy arose within the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya involving the mantra of Gauranga. Defenders of this mantra were Kakaguru Gutikavala Krishnadasa Baba, and Gopilal Gosvami, the sevait of the Deity Radharamana. The opponents were Jethaguru Siddha Balarama dasa Babaji, Vidyaguru Nilamani Gosvami - the Nyaya scholar, and Jagadananda dasa - the Mahanta of Radhakunda. Since Ramakrishna Das Baba had gurus on both sides, he faced a great dilemma. He left his cave and went to Varsana to live in Mayurkuti. He spent eight years living quietly there in association with the Radhavallabha devotee Priyadasaji and Svamicarana Baba.
As soon as the controversy ended, Ramakrishna Das Baba came back to Raghava’s cave and practiced bhajan with deep concentration for ten years. At this time three strange incidents occurred:
1. One night Ramakrishna Das Baba went inside his cave carrying a coal fire and closed the door, not knowing that the poisonous gas emanating from a coal fire could take one’s life. He lost consciousness due to the gas, but someone invisibly took Ramakrishna Das Baba out and placed him on the bank of the Govardhana. Early in the morning Ramakrishna Das Baba woke up and found that he had been shifted from the cave. For two days he lay there immovable.
2. Once, on the occasion of a festival in the temple of Gangaji at Puchari some pua were distributed. Two bhangi-caste thieves who were anxious to get some pua but were unable to enter the temple, thought that perhaps Pandita Baba Ramakrishna Das Baba would have some of the pua. They went to his cave door and asked him to give them some pua. When they were told that no pua was available there, one of the thieves hit Ramakrishna Das Baba on the forehead with a stick, making him bleed. The other thief went inside the cave, but when he found nothing there he felt extremely repentant and collected some stray pieces of cloth to bandage Ramakrishna Das Baba’s wound.
3. One morning a venomous snake coiled around the throat and chest of Ramakrishna Das Baba, after sometime the snake uncoiled itself and slithered away. That night Ramakrishna Das Baba heard a voice which said, “You must leave this cave and go elsewhere.” He then moved to Syamakuti at Kusum-Sarovara
During Ramakrishna Das Baba’s stay in the cave, Balwant Rao, the elder bother of Madhava Rao, the King of Gwalior, once came and expressed his loyalty to him. It was arranged that Balwant would take spiritual initiation from Krishnacaitanya dasa. But when Krishnacaitanya suddenly died, Balwant was initiated by Kesavdeva of Gopinathabag. During Ramakrishna Das Baba’s stay at Syamakuti this Balwant secretly brought jewelry worth six lakh of rupees from his mother’s treasure with the aim of donating the sum to the Vaisnavas. He told Ramakrishna Das Baba, “The King will confiscate the money if he finds me spending it openly.” Ramakrishna Das Baba refused to accept the wealth and after severely chastising him, told him to contact Haricarana dasaji, the mantra-sisya of Gaura Siromani. Gaura Siromani made all arrangements to utilize Balwant’s money for constructing a temple, maintenance of the Deity service and financial assistance to renounced Vaishnavas. One lakh out of the total amount lies in the government treasury accruing a monthly income of six hundred rupees, which is awarded to Vaishnavas belonging to the four sampradayas for their maintenance.
During Ramakrishna Das Baba’s stay at Syamakuti, Gauranga dasa and Priyasaran dasa practiced bhajan under his guidance. From time to time King Banamali Raya Bahadur and King Manindra Candra Nandi came to meet Ramakrishna Das Baba. Kripasindhu dasa also came and surrendered at the feet of Ramakrishna Das Baba.
In 1918 A.D. Ramakrishna Das Baba fell seriously ill with influenza. Kamini Kumar Ghosh and Dinescaran dasa came from Vrindavana and shifted Ramakrishna Das Baba to the garden of Madanamohana. At that time floods and a severe epidemic of plague raged at Govardhana, thus Ramakrishna Das Baba stayed in Vrindavana for two years and listened to Harikatha from Purusottama Bhatta of Mathura. For the next three years Ramakrishna Das Baba stayed at places like Keari vana, Dharamsala in Delhi and the garden of Madanamohana. At this time Ramapratap instructed Gauranga dasa in Vaishnava sastras and also taught Kripasindhu about bhajan and vairagya.
Three years later, during Ramakrishna Das Baba’s stay at Barahaghat Barduari, one dacoit arrived there introducing himself as the Prince of Nepal. Ramakrishna Das Baba arranged for this dacoit to take spiritual initiation from Radhacarana Gosvami and taught him bhajan for two months. The dacoit, however, finding his desires unfulfilled fled after cheating some persons.
During the flood in Vrindavana, Ramakrishna Das Baba took shelter in Dharamsala at Mirjapur and after six months fell seriously ill with malaria and was almost at the point of death. Kripasindhu, who was in great distress, received a divine command from Lord Caitanya in a dream and thus in Oct-Nov of 1332 (1925 A.D.) he brought Ramakrishna Das Baba to the garden of Dauji, were he recovered. He and Kripasindhu then concentrated on bhajan together. After some time Kripasindhu became inattentive to Ramakrishna Das Baba’s care which caused him to become critically ill again. Once more, Lord Caitanya appeared in a dream and severely chastised Kripasindhu for neglecting Ramakrishna Das Baba. Kripasindhu then became attentive to Ramakrishna Das Baba’s needs. At that time Ramakrishna Das Baba was practically completely withdrawn from the external world, devoting himself entirely to bhajan. One day he blessed Bindobihari Vedantaratna Gosvami, a descendant of Bhugarbha Gosvami’s family, by giving him vesasraya.
Ramakrishna Das Baba was deeply admired by his disciples as throughout his life he was the highest ideal of Istanistha, Vairagyanistha, nistha in Akincana-Bhakti, nistha in guru, Vratanistha and Sampradayanistha. As a result of his bhajan, he was revered as guru by all Gosvamis, Vrajavasis and Virakta Vaishnavas.
Baba was generally respected by the Acaryas of all the sampradayas of Vraja, because of his devotion, learning and broad-mindedness. He was well-versed in the sastras of all the sampradayas and was also conversant with the modes of their religious practice. Pandita Amolaka Rama Sastri and Baba Hamsadasa of Nimbarka Sampradaya, Sri Sudarsanacarya, Sri Dulari Prasada Sastri and Ganapati Sastri of Ramanuja Sampradaya, Sankarsana Dasa Ji of Ramananda Sampradaya and Sri Purusottama Bhatta Ji, the famous scholar and katha vacaira of Pusti Sampradaya - all came to him for advice on matters relating to the sastras or religious practices, and Baba always advised them according to the philosophy and practice of their own sampradaya.
Sri Sudarsana Acarya from the Ramanuja Sampradaya and an erudite scholar of the six branches of theology, said: “Whenever I found it difficult to solve some particular philosophical problem, I would sit before Pandita Baba (Ramakrishna Das Baba) and the answers would come to me. Prabhupada Pranagopala Gosvami also had the same experience in the association of Ramakrishna Das Baba. Many believe that this supernatural power which Pandita Baba possessed was the grace of Nityananda dasa Babaji.
But some vicious people of a particular sampradaya got jealous of him. They once tried to defame Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana, the most respected Acaryas of the Gaudiya Sarhpradaya, by preaching that they originally belonged to their sampradaya, but were ousted from it on account of their misconduct. Baba forcefully criticized them. They felt very much humiliated and conspired to kill him. One day they hid themselves somewhere near his cave, so that when he went out for madhukari they might attack him on the way. But when Baba came out of the cave and started towards the village for madhukari, they saw that a lion was following him like a domesticated dog. When he reached the village the lion hid himself somewhere near the samadhis of the gosvamins on the right side of the village. When Baba returned to his cave the lion again followed him up to the cave and disappeared. The miscreants were both surprised and frightened. They realized that Baba was a siddha mahapurusa and their hostile attitude toward him was transformed into one of love and devotion.
At one point Baba’s health became worse. He asked Kripasindhu Dasa to call Gadadhara Dasa Baba Ji, kirtaniya and his party from Govardhana and arrange for one month’s astakalina lila-kirtana in the asrama. This was another indication to Kripasindhu Baba that Pandita Baba was preparing for the end. He made all arrangements for the kirtana. The kirtana went on for a month and Baba remained all the time absorbed in lila.
One evening, when all those, who were close to Baba were sitting round him, he said, “When I leave the body, you leave the bagici and go elsewhere.” Perhaps he said this to ensure that none of his attendants took possession of the bagici after him. Someone asked, “Baba, your samadhi?”
“No samadhi. Your bhajana will be my samadhi.”
“And what about utsava?”‘
“No utsava. That day all of you bring madhukari, sit together and eat.”
Then he turned his eyes towards the young sadhakas of his asrama and said, “Save these boys from women.”
The next day was Radhastami. Baba fasted as usual. On Ekadasi again he fasted. Kripasindhu Baba insisted on both the days that he might take some pancamrta or at least some water, because he was getting weaker and weaker with every fast, but. in vain. On greater insistance he said with folded hands, “Please do not break my fast.”
After a couple of days he asked Kripasindhu to call Kusala Sinha Ji and Hari Sinha Ji by wire. Kripasindhu did not pay any heed to this, because he thought Baba’s condition was not yet too serious. The next day Baba asked again, “Have you sent the telegram to Jaipura?”
After this Baba went into samadhi. The telegram was sent.
On dvitiya, the second day of Krishna-paksa of the month of Asvina, Baba suddenly spoke out. He said to Kripasindhu, “See, See Priya and Priyatama (Radha and Krishna) have come.”
“Priya-Priyatama are alone, or your manjari svarupa (siddha body) is also there?” asked Kripasindhu.
Baba replied, “My manjari svarupa is also there.”
On caturthi, the fourth day of the month in 1940, Baba asked Kripasindhu to prepare for him a bed of the raja (holy dust) of Vrindavana. Everybody was shocked to hear this. The bed was prepared and Baba was laid on it. Just then arrived Kusala Sihha Ji and Hari Sinha Ji from Jaipura. Kusala Sinha Ji had brought Govinda Ji’s prasadi mala (garland) with him. He put the mala round Baba’s neck. The moment he did this Baba left the body. Govinda Ji came in the form of the mala and took him away.
[ From OBL Kapoor's Saints of Vraja, with some dates updated. ]