Today is the 63rd tirobhav of Paramaradhya Sriyukta Lalitadasi Sakhi Ma & the 56th tirobhav of Paramaradhya Sri Gurudev Namacharya 108 Sri Sripad Ramdas Babaji Maharaj. Festivals are being held at Samaj Bari and Path Bari Ashrams, with sucak kirtan being performed, nagar-sankirtan, and grand feasts being served.
My beloved Sakhi Thakurani and my beloved param-gurudev Sripad Babaji Maharaj are such prominent and important personalities in my life, so on this sacred day I feel the need to write something about them. Their glories are beyond the reach of mere words. It is impossible for me to properly glorify them or describe their divine characteristics. So in my own simple way I will just present a small glimpse into their lives and activities, hoping that it will bring pleasure to my Vaisnava readers.
Lalita Sakhi Dasi was always engaged in seva. She had taken up the task of cooking for Thakurji and serving in the ashram, but dearer than anything else to her, was the service of her gurudev, Sri Radharaman Charan Dev. Externally, she was always engaged in service, but internally her bhava was that of a sakhi of Braja. She imagined that the ashram was the kunja of Radharani and all the Vaisnavas in the ashram were Radha’s sakhis.
Lalita Sakhi Dasi was born Sri Gopal Krishna. Later when he attained the sanga of Radharaman Charan Das Dev Babaji Maharaj in Puri, the young boy known as Gopal was given the name Jayagopal by Baba who accepted him as one of his own.
One day Madhava Pasupalaka, the sringari panda of Jagannathji came to visit Baba and gave him the carana tulasi of Jagannath and His prasadi mala. At that time Jayagopal was standing behind Baba and was fanning him. Madhava Pasupalaka said, “Baba, when I see this boy and some of his companions dancing before Jagannath they appear to me like the sakhis of Braj. You will be surprised to know one day when I was offering dhupa to Jagannath, I actually saw them wearing gaghra like the sakhis of Braj! I said to myself, ‘Perhaps Baba has made them put on the sakhi vesh today. Oh! How beautiful they look.’ Exactly when I was lost in that thought, the mala worn by Jagannathji slipped and fell down…I thought that had some special significance. So I brought it to you, and you gave it to this boy. That day I did not reveal that to you. Today prompted by Jagannath I have specially come to tell you.”
Baba said, “You are a favorite of Jagannath, and you can make the impossible possible. Kindly bless him that he may realize the bhava he covets. Baba gestured to Jayagopal who then went and offered his dandabat before the sringari panda who then placed his hand on Jayagopal’s head and said, “May Jagannath bless you.” As if a step of the immediate fulfilment of the wish and blessings of Jagannath received through the panda, Baba performed a lila. He asked Kunja Babu to sing a kirtan pada relating to Radhaji’s standing on the flat roof of Tungamani mandir to see Krishna going to the forest. Jayagopal placed the Sri Murti of Radhika on a cauki. With every change of bhav in the kirtan, he changed the dress, position, and movement of the Murti to assist in the visualization of Their gostha-lila.
When the kirtan described Radha and Krishna in Radhakunda, he made Radhaji sit by the side of Krishna. He stood behind Them and started to fan Them. Radhagovinda, Kishorigopal, and four or five others began dancing in front of the Murtis. Baba Mahasaya then began a kirtan describing the beauty and glories of Radhakunda. Everyone danced and sang in ecstacy, except for Jayagopal who was then weeping constantly.
Tears fell incessantly from his eyes. Suddenly he fell unconscious. At this time Baba Mahasaya came dancing near him and uttered a mantra in his ear. He got up, flung one corner of his cadara over his head and went and sat in the corner of the temple sobbing and weeping. Just then a man came holding a sari and said, “Jagannath sitting in my heart told me that one of you needs a sari, so I have brought it, who will wear it?” Navadwip Baba made Baba Mahasaya wear the sari. The situation aroused sakhi bhav in his mind and he began to dance like one possessed by a sakhi of Braj! Tears of love constantly streamed from his eyes and the sattvika bhavs appeared on his body. Others caught this emotional current emanating from him and they too began to dance and sing under the spell of this bhava.
After about an hour, Baba came to his own. He then gave the sari to Navadwip Baba and whispered something in his ear. Navadwip Baba then made Jayagopal wear the sari. After Jayagopal was dressed in sari, Navadwip Baba brought him near Baba Mahasaya. Baba said, “Radharani has–out of Her infinite kindness–bestowed this sublimest and sweetest bhav upon you. Retain it carefully and be happy. Vesa alone will not do any good. You have to live according to this bhav in thought, word, and deed. In this sakhi bhav don’t even once think of your own happiness. You will have to convert this bhav into your svabhav, you will have to make it completely your own, your natural disposition. The best way to do this is to constantly do the seva of Radha Krishna according to this bhav.
Navadwip Baba said, “What should we name him?”
Baba said, “What do you propose?”
Navadwip Baba said, “I wish that henceforth he be called Lalita Sakhi Dasi.”
She was a greatly learned scholar and many big pandits of Nabadwip would come to her with questions on sastra. It was seen that Radha and Krishna would be personally present when she gave Bhagavat-path. She used to love to celebrate Jhulan, Ras, and Holi lilas with great eclat and bhava. She wrote several wonderful kirtans herself which are sung to this day. She also was responsible for the writing of The Life of Love, the biography of Radharaman Charan Das Dev. She also wrote commentaries on Sri Surat Kathamrita and Sangita Madhava and had them published.
Now, I will tell something about the disappearance of Sripad Ramdas Babaji Maharaj. It is intimately connected with the departure of Sakhi Ma. Inspite of illness during 1945-46 Babaji Maharaj tried his level best to perform all his duties. Babaji Maharaj was in Sri Khanda on November 18, 1946, when Sakhi Thakurani who was staying in Radharaman Bagh of Samaj Bari left to enter the nitya-lila. She did this quietly without revealing her intentions to anyone. It happened so suddenly that even Babaji Maharaj himself could not forsee the event. Babaji Maharaj commented to Basu Dada that his whole life’s deliberation became topsy-turvy because of the departure of Sakhi Ma.
The first Viraha Mahotsav of Sakhi Ma was held on December 5, 1946. After that Babaji Maharaj spend a lot of time in Orissa during 1947-48 to fulfill particular duties, but it was evident that the loss of Sakhi Ma was becoming increasingly difficult to bear. The lonliness took him to places deep in his thoughts. Travelling from village to village performing sankirtan and holding festivals went on from 1948-1953. During 1953 the 100th year advent of Sri Radharaman Charan Das Dev too place. The sucack kirtan of Narahari Sarkar Thakur was solemnized at Sri Path Bari Ashram on December 3, 1953. The loss of separation and the eagerness to meet was so aptly depicted in the kirtan that words could not describe it.
His mixed feelings were thus: When you held my hand in the form of Sri Guru, I have nothing more to expect. Nam and Namdatta are not separate.
Tie me up in your bonds of love. I have come to be tied by you.
There is no distinction between Nam, Nami, and Namdatta.
The lila vividly depicts itself whenever there is lila prasanga. That day Babaji Maharaj was uncontrollable as he continued to gift gems of his wisdom to all that were present. The atmosphere was electric. He ended the sucak kirtan by emphasizing that Nam and Namdatta are one and inseparable. Hence, we should chant Nam with utmost sincerity.
On December 4, 1953, Babaji Maharaj ended the day like any other day and went to take his rest. At about 2:30 A.M. he woke up and sat on his bed and called his sevak. He said, “No more this time—Didi (Sakhi Ma) is calling me—Didi is calling me–I have to go. Call everybody here and bring my Thakur here.”
He took bath and after finishing his necessary chores he returned to his room and paid his respects to all the photographs in his room. He sat on a chair and said, “All is gone! All of you chant Nam!” Then in a deep-throated voice he called out, “Bandhusundar! Bandhusundar! Radharaman! Radharaman!” He then said, “Let me sing on the floor.” He got down from his chair and started chanting:
“(Bhaja) Nitai Gaura Radhey Shyam ~ (Japa) Hare Krishna Hare Ram”
Tears were shooting from his eyes as if from a mechanical pump. Everyone joined in the chanting. In the meantime the photos he worshipped daily of his Sri Gurudeva and Nitai Gaura were brought from the Mandir. Babaji Maharaj gazed at Them in a reverie. Then in a booming voice, as if the essence of his whole life’s quest and it’s divine answer sprang out from his within and burst into, “Jaya Nityananda Ram!” which shook the entire ashram. The chanting continued. Babaji Maharaj was chanting, but gradually his eyes began to close and he became motionless, and entered into the realm of Sri Nam.