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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Śrī Ananta dās Bābājī Mahārāja (1925-2018)

Śrī Ananta dās Bābājī Mahārāja lecturing in Gopinath Mandir, Radhakund, Kartik 1984

Śrī Ananta dās Bābājī Mahārāja left his body today in sacred Vraja-dhāma in the holy month of Kārtik. He was 93.

Born in August 1925 in Bengal’s westernmost district of Puruliya, he came to Śrī Rādhākuṇḍa in the 1960s and received dīkṣā from Śrī Kunjabihāri Dās Bābājī who asked him to serve the Vaiṣṇavas with pāṭh, devotional lectures on rāgānugā bhakti and rādhā-dāsya. His relationship with his Guru Kunja Bihari dasji was intense. Kunjabihari dasji needed not be informed of his disciple's arrival in Radhakund in advance - he got such a strong intuitive feeling that he walked to the busstop of Rādhākuṇḍa to wait for him. Ananta dasji indeed stepped out of the bus and Kunja Bihari dasji embraced him.

This blog will contain an anthology of quotes from and about him from my Indian diaries from 1982 onwards.

I regard it as a great honor to have translated nearly all of his – originally Bengali – books into English, his books and pāṭhs were perfect. A great rasik ācārya departed.

In the 1990s Śrī Ananta dās Bābājī Mahārāja wrote me many letters to help me translate and answer other questions on rāgānugā bhakti and rādhā-dāsya as well.

Around the early 1970's Śrī Ananta dās Panditji had begun to give pāṭh (devotional lectures) in Rādhākuṇḍa's Govindajī Mandir, and the Vaiṣṇavas wanted to hear Vilāpa Kusumāñjali from him. Kṛṣṇa dās Madrasi Bābā told Panditji that a Gosvāmī in Vṛndāvana had the notes of my Gurudeva’s father, Śrīla Ānanda Gopāl Gosvāmī's lectures on Vilāpa Kusumāñjali. A śrutidhara (Nivāran Bābu) had noted it down, but he passed away and now it was in the hands of the Gosvāmī. Paṇḍitjī went to Vṛndāvana and told the Gosvāmī that he was serving the Vaiṣṇavas at Rādhākuṇḍa (with pāṭh) and hence he wanted to have the notes. Gosvāmījī declined, afraid it would be broadcast, but since he came from Rādhākuṇḍa and was a Vaiṣṇava he could look at it and read it. Paṇḍitjī said: "I don't have the memory of the ṛṣi yuga (previous age when all could be learned from a single hearing or reading)", so he read it but could not remember all of it. When he returned to Rādhākuṇḍa Kṛṣṇa dāsa Madrasi Bābā asked him what happened and Paṇḍitjī said: "He will not give it." Kṛṣṇa dāsa Bābā laughed and said: "You see, it is with me—if you like I can read it to you, but it is written in Malayalam script." The script is Malayalam, but the language is Bengali, so there was no problem for Paṇḍitjī to understand it when Kṛṣṇa dās Bābā read it to him. Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī used to give pāṭh at that time in Govindajī Mandira from 2.30 to 3.30 p.m. Then he would take a little rest and at 4 he would come to Kṛṣṇa dās Bābā and write down what he dictated. The final page was torn out by the monkey and was somehow rewritten.  Kṛṣṇa dās Madrasi Bābā himself said of it (In a letter to me dated May 18, 1997): "Our Mahant (Ananta dās Bābāji) Mahārāj heard these notes at Śrī Vrindavan, but could not get them, so with a broken heart he returned here (to Śrī Rādhākuṇḍ), where this humble self informed him that the same notes are here. When they were given to him there was a complete change in his hari kathā. Then he wrote commentaries first on Śrī Rādhā Rasa Sudhānidhi and then on Śrī Vilāpa Kusumāñjali, Śrī Stavāvalī and Stavamālā." 

Some anecdotes from my diary -

October, 1982, first meeting - Jagadānanda takes me to Jai Singh Ghera for lectures of Ananta Dās Pandit—"In this way you can both learn Bengali and hear the great pāṭhas of this great Vaiṣṇava." Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī has clearly the status of a leading Vaiṣṇava, although he lectures in a simple hall on a simple Vyāsāsan. He is corpulent and wears glasses, and has clear leadership charisma. When we walk from Jai Singh Gherā to Keśi Ghāṭ, he happens to walk in front of us. I see that he is also a bābājī. He wears a bahirvāsa. He has an elegant step like a swan, a real sādhu. I am impressed by him.

September, 1983
Ananta dāsjī gives pāṭha in Jaisingh Gherā. He lectures on Vilāpa Kusumānjali, the dressing-sevā, verses 18-44. Paṇḍitjī depicts the Rāsa līlā: "ek dike kalāvati o ār dike kalānidhi". On the one hand the artistic Rādhikā and on the other hand the ocean (or juwel) of arts Śrī Kṛṣṇa."

October 18, 1983
When I arrive in Rādhākuṇḍa for my first extensive stay for Kārtik, Ananta dās Panditji is just giving pāṭha about Rādhā Rasa Sudhānidhi in the kīrtana-hall east of the kuṇḍa (this was much smaller in 1983 than it is now). It is so beautiful and real! With great difficulty I find a place near the entry. I see Jagadānanda sitting in the back. After pāṭh Jagadānanda blissfully exclaims: "He (Ananta dāsa Paṇḍitjī)'s an avatāra!"  I totally agree with him. Ananta dāsjī also gave Dāma-bandhana (chapter 9 of the 10th Canto of the Bhāgavata, the story of Dāmodara Kṛṣṇa bound by the love of His mother Yaśodā) pāṭha in the Rādhā Ramaṇa Mandir that Kārtik month, which I also attended.

August 24, 1984 — After Ekādaśī I go again to Rādhākuṇḍa and yes, this time Kṛṣṇa dās Baba says I can start translating and living with him! Now the time is ripe to live at Rādhākuṇḍa. After my arrival there is no time for idle chatter, though. Ananta Dās Paṇḍitjī gives pāṭha in the Gopīnāth Mandir, right opposite Kṛṣṇa dās bābā’s place. Kṛṣṇa dās Bābā drags me over there just as I arrive, without asking me anything. A great beginning. Kṛṣṇa dās Bābā sits in front, between the senior Vaiṣṇavas of Rādhākuṇḍa, and places his cassette-recorder before Paṇḍitjī to record the lecture. Afterwards he says: "Even if you don't know Bengali you must still come and listen, just to get purified by the sound of the class and the presence of the Vaiṣṇavas."

In September 1984 Ananta dāsji asks me to translate his book "Rasa Darśana (the philosophy of taste)" into English. I give it up after a few pages, it’s too complicated for me.

October 6 1984— Niyama Sevā begins. One month non-stop at Rādhākuṇḍa. Anantadās Panditjī gives pāṭha 3x a day. At midday in the Gopīnātha Mandir (no longer in the small building on the east bank of Rādhākuṇḍa, that became too small now), in the evening dāma bandhana līlā in Kṛṣṇa dāsa Bābā’s Rādhā Ramaṇ Mandir and late in the evening Śrīla Narottama Dās Ṭhākur Mahāśaya's 'Prema Bhakti Candrika' in the Dharmśālā.

May 1985 - One day Madrasi Bābā and me go to Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī in Vrajananda Gherā, as we do more often, to consult him on Caitanya Bhāgavata. I make some remark about certain devotees being so offensive towards Bābājīs and Gosvāmīs, but Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī says nothing. He does not join in in such critique and I feel embarrassed by the short and painful silence that follows.

August, 1985 — I daily go to the Caitanya Caritāmṛta-pāṭha of Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī in Jai Singh Gherā in Vṛndāvana.

December, 1985 - In the afternoon I go with Dharmavīr and Rohiṇi Bābu to Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī's pāṭha on the Bhramara Gīta, song to the bee, in honour of the first anniversary of the expiry of Nṛsiṁha Ballabh Gosvāmi in his house in Taṭīya Sthāna. During the pāṭha a prominent mahātmā enters, offering flowers to Nṛsiṁha Ballabh Gosvāmī's samādhi and talking through the pāṭha, not realising because of his old age that he disturbs. Panditji continues undisturbed.

August, 1986 — In Jaisingh Gherā Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī lectures from Caitanya Caritāmṛta, the Mahāprabhu-Rāmānanda Samvāda.

August 27, 1986 — Śrī Kṛṣṇa Janmāṣṭamī. Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī now really closes off his lecture-series with a special Janmāṣṭamī-pāṭha. Though Janmāṣṭamī is not the most rasika festival, Paṇḍitjī still makes it rasika by reading the first verses of the birth story from the Bhāgavata (Canto 10, chapter 3), how the lotus flowers blossomed, the bees buzzed and the birds sang, and how the breeze over the Yamunā carried a sweet scent. He can get rasa out of anything. 

September, 1986, Barsana - Gopīballabh tells me that the Rādhā Ramaṇa Banyātrā has arrived, headed by Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī and Puruṣottama Gosvāmi. We check them out just outside of Barsana, near the College, they have a big Shibir where Paṇḍitjī sits on a vyāsāsana. He speaks in Hindi about the meaning of the different līlā-sthalis. He names the eight līlā-sthalis of Douji Mahārāja as Douji, Rāla, Chaṭīkarā, Bhadravan, Āḍiṅ, and Narī Semarī. Deha Kund is a small lake where Paṇḍitjī holds a short speech. I am spacing out somewhat and when I turn around I face Paṇḍitjī close up; smilingly he tells me in Hindi: "If you bathe here you get a gopī-deha!" 

February 10, 1991 — I go to see Panditjī Ananta dās in Gokulānanda Gherā. Panditji sits writing behind his desk as we bow down to him. I hand him a copy of my English translation of Vilāpa Kusumānjali. He leafs through it attentively (although to my knowledge he doesn’t know English) and then returns it to me with a smile, saying: “এই কাজ আপনারই উপকার হইবে !” You will be the one who has most benefit from this!" You can interpret that in two ways: "The translation work is so intense that no one but the translator can go so deep into the text', or: "Nobody in your countries will be interested in this topic except you." 

February 16, 1991 — Keśī Ghāṭ, Vṛndāvana. Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī gives pāṭha on Vilāpa Kusumānjali verse 12. He explains that Rādhārāṇī is the icchā-śakti and hence the origin of creation, and thus the hlādinī-śakti is the foundation of the world.

February 20, 2000 -
I returned to India after a 9-year absence. In the evening we go for darśana of Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī. He sits on a chair in front of a small corona of Western disciples and greets me very heartily. We speak in Bengali; a wonderful exchange of praises starts. Panditji is surprised to hear me speaking Bengali so fluently (much better actually than in the '80s), and asks me আপনার দেশে কত বাঙ্গালী লোক আছে? ("How many Bengali people are living in your country?") কেহ নাই ("Nobody"), I reply. I then return the compliment by saying that Jagadānanda told me that I should learn Bengali by going to the lectures of one Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī. To this Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī says: "There are two foreigners who know Bengali — Jagadānanda and Advaita. Jagadānanda used to attend my pāṭhas with a khātā (notebook)." Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī asks me what changes I noticed in these nine years. I say this and that and then I say: আগে থেকে অনেক বেশি বিদেশী লোক আছে , দ্বিগুণ বা ত্রিগুণ ("There are twice or thrice as many foreigners here than before") He then says: "That is because of you." He then compares rāgānugā bhakti with the stream of the Gaṅgā, and I say that he has brought this stream down to earth — I am only carrying it. He then replies by saying: "Bhagīrathi told Śiva that only He was able to carry the Gaṅgā-stream on his head. That is why you wear the jaṭās." He then requests me to translate Mādhurya Kādambinī. I object: ভাষা ত কঠিন The language is difficult. He assures me: "Rādhārāṇī will help you."

February 22, 2000 — Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī starts 7 days of pāṭh about the single verse 26 of Rādhā Rasa Sudhānidhi. The first item of the verse deals with the phenomenon of lāvaṇya. Everything that is touched by black also becomes black; there is only one exception and that is the complexion of Rādhā. It remains golden, even if Kṛṣṇa, with His black complexion, assumes it. During Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa's kuṇḍa milana (at midday, as is described in Govinda Līlāmṛta, chapter 8), They do not recognise Each other, out of extreme navatā, the feeling of novelty which arises from anurāga. It is the limit of anurāga.

February 23, 2000 — We are invited for prasāda by Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī. He tells us we should stay at Rādhākuṇḍa, because my guru vaṁśa was totally dedicated to Rādhārāṇī. আনন্দ গোপাল গোস্বামী রাধারাণী ছাড়া কিছু জানিতেন না তাহার পুত্রও তেমনই  ("Ānanda Gopāla Gosvāmī did not know anyone else but Rādhārāṇī - the same goes for his sons.")
In his pāṭha he says “The word kudeha (in Rādhā Rasa Sudhānidhi 60) means 'bodily consciousness', and nirmalaḥ means manjarī svarūpāveśa. He also tells that Kṛṣṇa bathes in the Yamunā further (downstream) than Rādhārāṇī, so that He can be touched by the waves that She makes.

February 25, 2000 — Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī says that Anaṅga Manjarī is a sakhī, not a manjarī. She is only a manjarī by name, due to her tender age. She is after all situated in the middle of Rādhākuṇḍa.

March 4, 2000 - I ask Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī if it is not an aparādha that my books are being copied, since they are so intimate, and he says: "No, that is not your fault", but he reminds me that he told me (in 1996) that I should not translate such intimate books. He finds it better if I translate Mādhurya Kādambinī. Panditji says that his Gurudeva said that everyone must pay for the books, otherwise they will throw them away or disrespect them. If I suggest that unqualified people will read these books he says: "Why should they be unqualified? They come from so far, spend so much money to come here and tolerate all these hardships here, fasting and so.” 

November 5, 2000 — I consult Anantadas Paṇḍitjī on Mādhurya Kādambinī. Anurādhā tells me that Anantadas Paṇḍitjī also humbly offered his obeisances when I bowed down to him. Anantadas Paṇḍitjī says that the three kinds of faith, sattva-raja-tama, are all laukika śraddhā. smaraṇa, dhyāna and dhāraṇā take place in sādhana bhakti stara, dhruvānusmṛti in bhāva bhakti stara and samādhi in prema bhakti stara. When bhāva stara is attained ruci also increases. rati bhajana means those who worship in nāyikā bhāva, embraced and kissed by the Lord. Mahāprabhu gave due regards to Nṛsiṁha, as He did to all deities in Their temples when He wandered in South India. All Viṣṇu-mūrtis are respectable for us, but They are not our dhyāna dhāraṇā upāsyas.

February 22, 2001 — Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī had a bad accident; one of his eyes is stitched after he fell into his own spectacles. I tell him I wonder who will read Mādhurya Kādambinī, but he says it will be read by those who are seriously investigating.

March 1, 2001 — Dinahari tells me he asked his Guru Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī if the exiled deities in Rājasthān are the originals and the ones in Vraja pratibhūs. Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī replied: "No, the ones here (in Rādhākuṇḍa) are the originals.'

March 12, 2001 — I ask Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī about Śrīla Ānanda Gopāla Gosvāmī's statement in Vilāpa Kusumānjali purport of verse 75 "আমি রাধাদাসী" ইহা চিন্তা করিয়া আনিতে হয় না | আমাদের চিন্তা করিয়া "রাধাদাসী" এইভাবে আনিতে হয় | Paṇḍitjī explains that the awareness of 'I am Radha's maidservant' is natural to the jāta-rati bhaktas; they need not deliberately think like that. But the ajāta-rati sādhakas must train their minds in thinking like this.

March  24, 2001 — I translate 3 days pāṭh of Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī. How the kiṅkarīs themselves can see Svāminī when She is on তিমিরাভিসার ? Just as the bees find the flower by smelling it, the kiṅkarīs find Her by smelling Her.

November 4, 2001 — Like Mathurā Prasād last year, Anantadās Paṇḍitjī says, according to Acyutānanda, that a midnight bath is not necessary on Bahulāṣṭamī. One who is born at 1 a.m. does not celebrate his birthday at that time but in the daytime. The śloka also does not mention midnight. kārtike bahulāṣṭamyāṁ tatra snatvā hareḥ priyaḥ.

November 14, 2001 — Dīpāvalī. Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī lights dīpas for a boat to be floated on the kuṇḍa and lights some fireworks like the ālāt cakra (firebrand).

November 28, 2001 — I ask Ananta dās Paṇḍitjīji whether the three adhikārīs described in C.C. Madhya 22.64-67 are vaidhi or rāgānugā bhakti adhikārīs, since Rūpa Gosvāmī says that rāgānuga bhakti is not prompted by śāstra and yukti. He says they are both, because although rāgānugā bhakti is not prompted by śāstra, it is also based on it. The madhyama adhikārī understands the philosophy himself but cannot explain it, the uttama adhikārī can explain it. When I ask him about the following 4 verses, 68-71, what is the difference between them and the other three adhikārīs, since now the division is considered according to rati and prema, Paṇḍitjī says that the first three are classified according to faith and the other three (Ś.B. 11.2.45-47) according to advancement in bhakti - rati and prema. Even the madhyama adhikārī has rati, but not the prākṛta bhakta. mati for Kṛsṇa is also called ratyaṅkura. The uttama bhakta has prema." Then I ask him about the difference between mātsarya and vidveṣa in the guru (Bhakti Sandarbha 238). He says: 'mātsarya means being unable to tolerate another bhakta's superiority. nirmatsarānāṁ satāṁ. He commits aparādha but also has bhakti. There will be a delay in prema.”

February 25, 2002 — Nityānanda Trayodaśī. Ananta dāsji tells me that these short trips and all the trouble are just there to increase my eagerness and save me from aparādha.

February 26, 2002 — On Kunja Bihārī dāsjī's maps is written that Rādhārāṇī takes 24 minutes to walk between Nandīśvara, Vṛṣabhānupura, Rādhākuṇḍa and Vṛndāvana. Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī says it takes Candrāvalī longer - in this way she never reaches Kṛṣṇa in time.

March 16, 2002 — When I take leave from Ananta Dās Paṇḍitjī he praises me again for translating the Granthas. I say: এই সব গ্রন্থ ত আপনার কাজ - আমি শুধু শুকের মতন কথা বলছি  Paṇḍitjī – “শুকের মতন হউক - এই বৃন্দাবনে আপনি শুকের মতন জীবন যাপন করিবেন.”

October 31, 2002 – Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī’s classes are still increasing in popularity – in 1984 the Bhagavat Bhavan on the shore of the Kunda became too small, so he moved to the Gopīnātha Mandir, then in 1995 this was again too small, so he had his own pāṭh-bāṛi built, and now, in 2002, this is again too small! If you come too late there is simply no more space to sit. More than 1,000 persons attend. People sit on the staircases!

October 31, 2004 – Ananta dās Paṇḍitjī says in his Rādhā Rasa Sudhānidhi pāṭha that sa no dharmī (Govinda Līlāmṛta 8.112) means that śṛngāra rasa is a dharma, but Kṛṣṇa Himself is the dharmī or source or embodiment of that rasa, and he quotes Gīta Govinda’s śṛṅgāra rasa mūrtimān as evidence.