Thursday, January 12, 2017

BInode Bihari Baba in Barsana

The Rutgers students who came for a three-week course during their Christmas break went with a few others from Jiva including myself. We went to Binode Bihari Babaji's ashram near Priya Kund and then went with him on Barsana parikrama.

I first met Binode Bihari Das Babaji Maharaj in 1984 when his guru Tinkori Goswami came to Nabadwip. In those days, Tinkori Prabhu was the topmost bhajananandi in the Gaudiya Vaishnava world. It was a great surprise to everyone when, like Jagannath Das Babaji, he decided to spend the last part of his life in Gauda desh. So naturally there was a great attraction to go and visit him in Manipur Ghat, not far from the crematorium.

I visited several times since in those days there was a general enthusiasm building for Mahaprabhu's 500th appearance day anniversary. Tinkori Prabhu had many disciples in Nabadwip, and I used to join them daily for early morning nagar sankirtan through the streets of Nabadwip, singing "Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Hare Krishna Hare Rama, Sri Radhe Govinda." As the anniversary drew closer, more and more such groups started forming, some chanting Hare Krishna, some Nitai Gaura Radha Shyam, some Bhaja Gauranga or Vishnupriyara Prananath. Ramananda Goswami took out a group from the Srivas Angan temple singing different Gaura padavali. It was quite an exciting time.

Tinkori Prabhu left his body before the 500th, however, and his Samadhi was built there in the ashram. After he left, however, I was invited a couple of times to speak on Chaitanya Charitamrita. I may even have done so when Tinkori Prabhu was present, I don't remember. Binode Bihari Baba was Prabhu's personal servant at the time.

It was rather embarrassing for when I introduced myself as Jagadananda, he immediately said, "Not the Jagadananda who used to come to Manipur Ghat and speak on Chaitanya Charitamrita." I said, "No, you must be thinking of Jagadish." But he insisted, "No, Jagadananda. Don't you remember me, I am Binode Bihari!"

I don't know why I have such a hazy memory of such important events. Sometimes I think I have lived my life in a kind of unconscious daze. Anyway, I was flattered like anything that he remembered me, and ashamed that I did not remember him from that time. I said, "I am such an ahankari manush that I only think of myself. I remember all the Vaishnava disciples of Tinkori Prabhu, but I don't remember anyone specifically, and over the years I have forgotten all of their names. But I am so glad that you remember me, I will come another time and stay for a while and get your association, if you bless me."

Then I translated for him as he gave a short homily to the Rutgers students and other members of the group: "We are not these bodies, that is the first thing to remember. We are in confusion because we separate ourselves from that which is truly close to us, and we try to possess the things that we can never have. This body is not the real self, and yet we try to make it our self. And we try to distance ourselves from Krishna, who resides everywhere within and without, and who is the Soul of our soul. Krishna is ours and we are Krishna's. The purpose of life is to realize this."

Then we went out on the Barsana Parikrama, during which Babaji distributes toffees to all the children and monkeys. Everyone knows he is coming, and even some older people come to get his mercy. We ended up in the Ladli temple for arati. It was a very nice atmosphere everywhere. There were many Gaudiya vairagis in the temple and most came to sit around Baba when he arrived. Some Braja vasis also came and they told stories and sang songs while waiting for arati.

Toni, one of the girls in the Rutgers group, took many photos. I found the ones of me and Baba to be interesting because it showed how Baba was surprised as he recognized me and my reaction. I am only putting a few of the pictures here as a sample. She took at least fifty.

This is me in a selfie with Toni, the photographer. Jai Radhe.

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