Nirañjan Prasād Dās was born in February, 1912, in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). I do not know much of his early life, only that he was a teacher, was married and fathered 7 children between 1947 and 1971 (all of whom became Sādhu Bābā's śiṣyas). He emigrated from then-East-Pakistan to W. Bengal in India in 1960 and settled in Navadvīp Dhāma's suburb of Prācīn Māyāpur. There he was one of the first persons to discover Sādhu Bābā in the woods outside Prācīn Māyāpur in 1970. Nirañjan Bābu had had a yogi Guru before, in Sītā Kunda, in East Bengal, but he told me that, after meeting Sādhu Bābā, he had 'erased all he had learned before and never again listened to anybody else'. In his case this was no empty rhetoric, he had really done this. Nirañjan Bābu soon became Sādhu Bābā's most trusted confidante. Among others, Bābā dictated a drama to him about Advaita Prabhu, but it was lost during the great flood of 2000.
I personally first met Nirañjan Bābu in the morning of November 27, 1982, in the godown where I had spent my first night in Sādhu Bābā's ashram. He very shyly entered into the room. I was at once attracted to that, as well as to his twinkling eyes and humble demeanor. As he was the only person in the area who spoke English and I had not yet learned any Bengali, he became my most important link to Sādhu Bābā. I could not imagine then that he would remain so forever, and not only because of his knowledge of English. The very first thing he said to me was: "You are very fortunate..." he paused and then said: "To have taken shelter of Bābā."
Among other things, he was the first devotee to bring me closer to Vilāpa Kusumāñjali, a booklet Sādhu Bābā had personally given me to study and memorize on December 1, 1982. I could read Bengali script and knew a little of the language too, but I obviously needed help in understanding this pivotal text. Nirañjan Bābu did that by dictating his English translation to me, though sometimes he was really shy because of the extreme intimacy of the text. One time he interrupted his dictate and told me: "You see, this is all very difficult (upāsanā), since we have so many desires for this ourselves......"
In December 1982, I wrote a short simple English poem in praise of Sādhu Bābā. Nirañjan Bābu found it and asked me to lend it to him. I did so and a week or so later Nirañjan Bābu returned to the āshram with a beautiful 10-couplet Bengali padyānuvāda. Although I was injured and sick at the time, he dragged me out of my room into the Ashram's courtyard and began to recite first my English write-up and then his own Bengali padyānuvāda, causing tears to stream from Bābā's eyes like Gaṅgā-streams. (The padyānuvada is included in a pdf version of this obituary on www.madangopal.com)
In January 1983 Sādhu Bābā entrusted Nirañjan Bābu with the responsibility of compiling his arcanā paddhati (manual of worship), named Saṅkṣipta Nitya Karma Paddhati, which is still universal literature for all of Sādhu Bābā's disciples. Nirañjan Bābu wrote the introduction himself: (original Bengali text in the pdf):
"This booklet named 'Saṅksipta Nitya Karma Paddhati' has been compiled to further the bhajan of all the sādhakas who aspire for the Śrī Śrī Yugalkiśora of Śrī Vṛndāvana. A small preface is given to this booklet with some details that need to be known about these eternal chores. Śrī Mahāprabhu defined the true shape of all living entities to be 'jīvera svarūpa hoy nitya kṛṣṇa dās' (an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa). Hence it is the main duty of all living entities worship Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Madangopal, absorbed in one's own svarūpa. Only that can make human life useful and most auspicious. Seeing the terrible condition of the living entities in the age of Kali the heart of Śrī Śrī Advaita Prabhu, who is none other than Mahāviṣṇu and Sadāśiva, was broken, hence He invoked the advent of the most merciful Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa on the full moon day of Phalgun in Navadvīpa, through oblations of water and Tulasī-leaves. For those who have a special desire to serve this Lord of the heart, this booklet was published from Sādhu Bābā's Ashram, in Śrīdham Navadvīpa's Rāmacandra Pura today, on Śrī Akṣaya Tritiya, 1391 Bengali year (May, 1984), with the approval of Śrī Śrī Sādhu Bābā, on the installation day of his beloved deity Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Madangopal-Deva, as his special blessing. If this booklet can assist the focused sādhakas in their bhajan then this work of mine will have become fulfilled.iti.
Guru Kṛpā Prārthi, Śrī Nirañjan Prasād Das."
Nirañjan Bābu was the greatest Guru-bhakta I ever met in my life and will probably always remain so. His Guru-niṣṭhā was highly contagious and he was the greatest instigator of whatever Guru-bhakti I may have. Like no one else he made me really understand the importance and the joy of Guru-bhakti. His surrender to Sādhu Bābā was so complete that I ascribe all teachings he gave me to Sādhu Bābā personally, and put them in Sādhu Bābā's mouth without any hesitation, even if I never heard them from Sādhu Bābā's Śrī-Mukha myself. Nirañjan Bābu and his daughter personally lifted me over the threshold of western rationalism, scepticism and scientific thinking and led me into the wonder-world of India's simple yet sublime attitude of faith.
Nirañjan Bābu never went to Braja simply because Bābā never took him there, even if I encouraged him to go there. He said: 'উনি না নিয়ে গেলে দেখাবে কে দ্বাদশ বন?' 'Unless he takes me there, who will show me the 12 forests?'
We had very close association in Sādhu Bābā's parṇa kutir, straw hut, the bhajan kutir where Bābā had given me the honour of residence from February to August, 1983. Often, while visiting me in the kuṭir, Nirañjan Bābu lamented his decision to enter household life: "You see, I used to be very fond of this conjugal life, but now alas alas! I can only just visit the āshram occasionally whereas I would have liked to be a full time member and thus fully associate with and serve Bābā."
When our gurubhāi Bābul Dā saw Nirañjan Bābu and me talking on the roof of the Ashram he said: svarūpa-rāma rāya! (colloquial Bengali for "These two are just like Mahāprabhu's dearmost servants, only talking about Kṛṣṇa with each other")
Nirañjan Bābu one time complimented me by saying: "You come from so far and you really come here to do bhajana, while the others are only waiting for the next meal to come from the altar."
I left Navadvip in April 1984, not to return until March 2000.
Meanwhile, in 1993, Nirañjan Bābu's wife left her body right in the chamber of the famous downtown-doctor Bhaumik, exclaiming Rādhe Rādhe! Rādhe Śyām!' totally unexpectedly.
From the mid-1980s to early 1990s I badly neglected Śrī Gurudeva but Sādhu Bābā would not be Sādhu Bābā if he would have just let me rot in saṁsāra, so:
durdaive sebak yadi jāy anya sthāne,
se ṭhākur dhanya tāre cūle dhari āne
"If by some bad luck the servant goes away, blessed is that master who drags him back by the hair." (CC Antya 4.47)
Bābā had sailed off, but he had left someone behind, as the Devatās sing in the Bhāgavat (10.2.31):
svayaṁ samuttīrya sudustaram dyuman
bhavārṇavaṁ bhīmam adabhra sauhṛdaḥ
bhavat padāmbhoruha nāvam atra te
nidhāya yātaḥ sad anugraho bhavān
"O self-luminous One! Your grace towards the devotees is limitless! On the strength of Your grace the devotees take shelter of the boat of Your lotus feet and cross over the ocean of material existence, which is otherwise hard to cross. These devotees in their turn are so kind towards the conditioned souls that they keep this boat of Your lotus feet in this material world for their redemption."
For me, that boat was Nirañjan Bābu. From early 1995 to early 2002 Nirañjan Bābu sent me long letters with all he could tell me about Sādhu Bābā's astonishing activities and teachings, thereby confirming many things Bābā had taught me personally and adding many many things which I did not know yet. So once again Nirañjan Bābu became the conduit between Bābā and me. Among the many things he sent me was the Abhisekhastakam, an 8-couplet Bengali song he composed himself in praise of the appearance of Sādhu Bābā in this world, which I have used to open Sādhu Bābā's hagiography with, which is posted on madangopal.com.
When I returned to Navadvīp in March 2000, after a 16-year absence (I travelled there mainly to meet him), Nirañjan Bābu was called from his home. When he arrived we embraced and his body shuddered of emotion.
Later, in a room of the ashram, he took up a fan and began to fan me, though he was old enough to be my grandfather and vastly superior to me in all respects. I asked him to discontinue, explaining that I regarded him as my Guru simply because of his total surrender to Bābā - his words were Bābā's words, for sure.
During the same conversation I once uttered the words 'Guru Vāṇī', which caused Nirañjan Bābu to open his mouth in awe and fold his hands, saying 'Oooh Bābā.....'.
He told me that the biggest Pandits of Navadvīp used to come to Bābā's ashram with hands folded out of respect.
About our friendship he said: āmār bandhu -eto boro bandhu. eto boro pāramārthika samparka. ei samparka iha-para kāle chinna hobe nā. āmār sob āche, kintu er madhye advaita āmār boro bandhu. ei-ṭā prasaṁsā noy - eiṭā truth - actually so." yadi bhālobāste hoy, bandhuke bhālobāsbo. "My friend - such a great friend. Such a great transcendental connection. This connection will never be severed - not in this life nor in the next. I have everything, but my greatest friend is Advaita. This is not a glorification - this is actual truth. If I should love anyone I should love my friend." ki kore jāben āpni? "How can you go?" (How can you leave this place where you are loved so much?) He quoted Rupa Gosvami's famous verse "tuṇḍe taṇḍavinī ratiṁ vitanute" ('I yearn for millions of tongues' etc) and Mīra-bāi's 'vinā prem se nā mile nandalāl' ("without prema you cannot attain Nanda's son").
In December 2001, while studying the holy Bhāgavat at home, Nirañjan Bābu suffered a stroke, causing him severe brain damage. During my next trip to Navadvīp, in February, 2002, when I came to his house to visit him, he fell in my arms, a venerable old man falling in the arms of a western hippie and weeping with divine emotions. I did not know what to do - I wondered what Rāma Rāya would have done when Mahāprabhu fell into his arms.
Nirañjan Bābu would interrupt his monologues with sobs of Rādhe Rādhe! Rādhe! He said: 'I have seen Gurudeva, while tears streamed from his eyes, saying Rādhe Rādhe! Rādhe!"
He would humbly lament: ei -vastuṭā pelām nā "I could not attain Kṛṣṇa." kobe tā pāi jāni nā "I don't know when I will get it"
Nirañjan Bābu sporadically visited that year's Sitanath Utsava. When he did, on February 17, 2002 he told me: “We will meet again here.” I responded: “Bābār charan tale. (at the footsoles of Baba) ” Nirañjan Bābu (to other bhaktas, about me:) "He is a good man. He has an Indian heart.'
During my last visit to Navadvip in Kartik 2003 communicating with Nirañjan Bābu had become difficult. He could not understand me verbally anymore, but he could read still, so I scribbled down my questions and remarks on pieces of paper, in Bengali script and he would respond to that. As far as that was possible I recorded that, though there were long pauses of silence in between. I showed Nirañjan Bābu printouts of some of the webpages of madangopal.com, our then freshly started website, and he loved it though he probably did not understand what the internet was and how far-reaching a tool it can be. By then meetings with him just took place in his house - he was no longer able to visit the ashram, not even by rikshaw.
From my Indian diary, October 6, 2003: "Nirañjan Bābu preaches to me heavily to remain focused on Bābā. It is so important to him that, despite his extremely advanced age (91) and concomitant weakness, he grabs me by the collar and shakes me to press me to surrender to Bābā alone. He misunderstands my tīrtha yātrā for a search for other sādhus, although I try to convince him it is not like this. He says Bābā called me Advaita because it means one, and not two (Gurus). He did not call me Advaita, but you." I write in response: "Nirañjan means "pariskāra" (crystal clear)." Nirañjan Bābu smiles broadly. He says he and his family never go to listen to lectures anywhere - they will remember Bābā's paths (lectures) forever.
He said: "Although Baba expired, he is hearing everything. Also now. You can go to Shāntipur, but you will not find anyone like Sādhu Bābā there." Guru jāi bolechen tāi sab "Whatever the Guru has said, that is all"- otherwise you will fall down. A-dvaita (your name) means there is no second (Guru). (If you think like that) he will come down to you - in your heart. That is why Bābā has given you that name, in Vṛndāvana."
I last saw Nirañjan Bābu in person in front of his Prācīn Māyāpur home on October 28, 2003. Nirañjan Bābu energized me by quoting Sanātan Dās - ‘গুরু পাদপদ্মে রহে যাঁর নিষ্ঠ ভক্তি; জগত তারিতে সে ধরে মহাশক্তি’ "Those who are fixed in devotion to the lotus feet of the Guru bear the great power to deliver the world." We embraced and, anticipating I would probably not see him again, I told him: ābār dekhā hobe - yekhāne hauk nā keno. ekhāne vā okhāne -- mṛtyu ki? - "We will meet again, whether it is here (in another birth) or there (in our mañjarī dehas) What is death to us?" Since then we had had no more contact.
A few years later my Guru-brother Golok wrote to me, saying I should not send any more donations for Nirañjan Bābu s treatment because he had become unable to sign the receipts, let alone having been able to respond to letters. His daughter Krishna had already taken over his correspondence by letter with me in 2002. Despite the fact that we had not contacted for nearly 5 years and there was no hope of his recovery, his demise is, of course, still a great loss.
He was so old that he even outlived his eldest daughter Krishna with 2 years.
Now I feel orphaned once again, after the demise of Sādhu Bābā (1986) and my mother (2005).
Speaking of my mother, the brain damage she suffered from several strokes, which made it impossible for her to even recognize me, let alone communicate, did make the farewell easier. The same goes for Nirañjan Bābu.
Nirañjan Bābu had a number of favorite ślokas, he mentioned the first five verses of Kṛṣṇa Karnāmṛta, anarpita carim cirāt karuṇayā avatīrṇa kalau (CC Ādi 1.4), kā kṛṣṇasya praṇaya janibhūḥ śrīmatī rādhikaika (Govinda Līlāmṛta 11.122), rādhā kṛṣṇa praṇaya vikṛtir hlādinī śaktir asmad (CC Adi), but his favorite verse must have been this:
rādhā karāvacita pallava ballarīke
rādhā padāṅka vilasan madhura sthalīke
rādhā yaśo mukhara matta khagāvalīke
rādhā bihāre bipine ramatāṁ mano me
(Rādhā Rasa Sudhānidhi - 14)
Full pdf-version of the hagiography available on my site, linktab 'Articles'