Today is the tirobhav of Sri Sri 108 Siddha Manohar Das Babaji Maharaj of Govinda Kunda. His life was a remarkable celebration of intense vairagya coupled with japa and lila-smaran. The famous Siddha Mahatma Sri Sri 108 Kishorikishorananda Das Babaji (Tin Kudi Baba) took shelter of him and was taught the process of bhajan by him. Both of them were great jewels in the Vaisnava Samaj of Brindavan illuminating the path of pure raganugiya bhajan by demonstrating it themselves in their thoughts, words, and deeds. I have put together a brief history of the life of Siddha Manohar Baba for the pleasure of the Vaisnavas while praying for his kripa so I can meet with success in my bhajan.
Siddha Manohara Das Babaji was born in Madhavapura in the district of Nadia in 1847 and was named Mahendra. His father was Sri Bholanatha Adhikari and mother was Pyarisundari. His mother died when he was six years old and his father died when he was thirteen. When he was six years old he had a dream that a saint came and took him to a forest, then set the forest on fire on all sides. This dream awakened in him a distaste for material life. After the death of his father he took diksha from Sri Nandakishor Goswami, a decendent of Advaitacharya and went to Nabadwip to study Sanskrit grammar, alankara, and nyaya.
He took bhek from Sri Svarupa Das Babaji of Nabadwip and was given the name Manohar Das. While in Nabadwip he had the good fortune of enjoying the association of Siddha Caitanya Das Babaji of Nabadwip and Siddha Bhagavan Das Babaji of Kalna.
In 1881, Manohara Das Babaji went to Brindavan and for five years he studied bhakti sastras under Prabhupad Sri Gopilala Goswami the sevait of Sri Radharaman Mandir. At that time he enjoyed the association of great siddha mahatmas like Balaram Das Babaji of Jhanumandala, Jagadish Das Babaji of Kalidaha, and Nityananda Das Babaji of Madanmohan Thaur.
Afterwards he went to practice bhajan at Kusuma Sarovara, Kamyavan, and Nandagaon. Once he went to do Braj Mandal parikrama with Siddha Ramakrsna Pandita and some other mahatmas. Though he eventually selected a secluded spot for his place of bhajan, he was forced to leave the place out of fear of Muslim troublemakers. In 1893, after receiving instruction in a dream, he went to Govindakund to settle for good and live at the base of Giriraj. Siddha Ramakrishna Pandit lived in nearby Pucchari at the time, so often they would get together for Hari-katha. During this time many Vaisnavas came to sit at his feet to learn Srimad Bhagavatam.
In 1915 Manohar Baba built a cave in Govindakund in which he lived and performed his bhajan. He came out only in the evening for madhukari. He slept for only one or two hours per day. The rest of the time he spent doing japa and lila-smaran. It is said that he did no less than seven lakhs of japa daily. He avoided the company of people and spoke very little. He was very humble and bowed to all and never allowed anyone to touch his feet. He was so absorbed in his bhajan that he was mostly unaware of his body at all. Sadhus would sometimes suggest that he use a mosquito net at night, but he said, “mosquitoes don’t do any harm to us. They help us in bhajan by keeping away sleep.”
Once it became extremely cold at night in Braja with the temperatures dropping below the freezing point. Baba used to wear only rags to cover his body. His body began to shiver and shake which created an obstacle to his bhajan. Getting angry with his body he removed his clothing and jumped in the icy-cold waters of Govindakund. A sadhu living nearby checked on Baba to find out what all the commotion was about. Baba replied, “The body was asking for more clothes, it’s always demanding something, it needed to be disciplined.” The sadhu told Baba that the cold is very severe and that he needed to use a blanket, but Baba said, “Bairagis, who have renounced the world have no business using blankets.”
Manohar Das Babaji’s wholehearted and determined application to bhajan and his complete indifference to worldly affairs was profound and proverbial. Demonstrating intense bairagya and deep absorption in japa and lila-smaran he set an example for sadhakas of how bhajan is to be performed. Siddha Sri Kishorikishorananda Babaji (Tin Kudi Goswami) took shelter of him and learned bhajan from him. The same kind of bairagya and absorption in japa and smaran were seen in his behavior as well.
“Manohara Dasa Baba used to say that bhajan is not possible without the complete surrender at the feet of the Lord and total dependence upon Him. It is only in the state of utter dependence on Him that one enjoys the calmness of mind which is necessary for bhajan: A mind that is disturbed by various kinds of worldly anxiety is not fit for bhajan.”
He defined bhajan as: “A state in which the mind is constantly absorbed in meditation of the Lord and revolts at the thought of everything else as poison”.
He also said: “One must be firm in bhajan. To a man who practises bhajan steadfastly and with all his heart and soul, staking for it his life and everything else, obstacles begin to appear as illusory as the ‘horns of a hare.’ The Lord Himself makes the path of bhajan smooth for him. But this does not happen in a day; both perseverence and patience are necessary.”
He wrote two books. One pertaining to Krishna-lila titled, vaidagdhI-vilAsa and a book about Harinam titled, nAmratna-mAlA.
In 1947 on the 13th day of the bright fortnight in the month of Sravana (July-August) he entered nitya-lila.