Friday, November 18, 2016

Vaishnava scholar Fakir Mohan Dasji nearing the end


I just heard from Madhavananda Dasji of Bhubaneswar ISKCON that Fakir Mohan Das, a noted scholar of Orissan religious history and literature, is extremely ill and will probably not survive this crisis. His kidneys are failing and various other problems mean that the 90 year old sage and naishthika brahmachari is close to the end.

We met for the first time in many years just a few days ago in Vrindavan, where he had come for Karttik Niyam Seva, as was his wont. It was a wonderful, sweet meeting. I am sorry I missed the opportunity to associate with him more over the years as he is a fountain of knowledge about the history of Chaitanya Vaishnavism in Orissa.

I was a bit sad that he left Vrindavan when the heart problems struck again, but for him, Orissa is every bit as much a divya lila sthan as Braj. He was staying here with Nabadwip Chandra Das, a disciple of Gaur Govinda Maharaj, who was himself a childhood friend of Fakir Mohan's. When Gaur Govinda Maharaj opened the Bhubaneswar temple, he introduced his disciples to Fakir Mohan and encouraged them to associate with him. Among those whom he influenced are Prem Prayojan Das, Bhakta Rupa Das and Madhavananda Das, and many others.

He is truly a learned and humble Vaishnava. And though he has accomplished so much, he still has so many desires for service to the Vaishnava sampradaya left unfulfilled. I sincerely hope that someone will take up where he has left off, for without an understanding of Chaitanya as seen in Orissa as well as the later history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism there, our picture will be incomplete.

What to say? He will be sorely missed, he is a unique and lovely person, a jewel in the Oriya Vaishnava world. May his glories be widely known and his contributions to our knowledge be widely disseminated in other languages besides Oriya.

I feel very fortunate that I was able to get one last darshan. Jai Radhe.

I met Fakir Mohan Ji for the first time in 1980 or thereabouts. I was staying at Kanupriya Goswami's house in Prachin Mayapur translating Jiber Svarupa o Svadharma. He and several other disciples of Kanupriyaji came for the annual festival that year. I was also a student of Kanailal Adhikary at the time, who was an associate of Fakir Mohan's from the times they worked together for Sundarananda Vidyavinoda.

Though I hadn't seen him in the meantime, I was very happy that Gaur Govinda Maharaj's disciples sought out his association and admired his wealth of knowledge and insight into Vaishnava history and theology.

His attempts to seek out the Orissan roots of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the other Sylhet Vaishnavas who came and played such a big role in the formation of the Chaitanya movement are extremely valuable for our understanding, especially since it seems that the Bhagavatam and Sridhar's commentary were an important part of their heritage.

I especially found Mahābhāva-prakāśa, the small Oriya book by Kahnai Khuntia, a Mahaprabhu associate mentioned in CC, a member of Prataparudra's court, that he discovered and published, to be a valuable source of information about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's relationship with the Orissan king. It has not yet been translated into English, and I hope it will be soon. I have referred to it in this article about Prataparudra.

But Fakir Mohan Dasji also made a huge contribution to the tradition of Bhaktivinoda Thakur by helping to recover his ancestral home in Chhoti Mangalpur in Kendrapara district, where the Thakur spent a pivotal part of his life, along with the Radha Madhava deities that were worshiped there by that branch of his family.

Of course there is much more that he did, and a lot that remains unfinished. His guru did not give him permission to make disciples, which is rather unfortunate as he has no one to take up the work from where he left off, and I am sure there is plenty. Even if his writings in Oriya were translated into English it would be a great contribution, but only a beginning in terms of sharing his gifts to the sampradaya.

Most of all, when I saw him this time, I saw him as a lovely, lovely Vaishnava sadhaka, with an extreme purity of heart and total dedication to his service and to his bhajan.

I feel like I am jumping the gun a bit here, writing a premature obituary. It was just a few days ago that I saw him and he was glowing and enthusiastic. He made me enthusiastic to inquire more from him. I even invited him to come and speak at Jiva Institute to share a bit of his insights with the international students who are here for the Bhakti Tirtha course, and he was enthusiastically preparing to give a talk on Jiva Goswami to them when this latest health problems struck.

May he live forever. Jai Radhe.



1 comment:

Jagadananda Das said...

Fakir Mohan Dasji did indeed leave his body in Bhubaneswar on the 18th of November. He will be missed. I am sorry I could not have more association with him. May his work continue. Jai Gaura!