Sri Radha Madhava

Sri Radha Madhava

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A Tribute to Sri Sripad Babaji Maharaj by Chandrika Shantananda


Babaji's lifetime was lived in the true tradition
of a vairagi sadhu, and on Dec. 31, 1996
he passed out of it in the same noble manner.
His life intention was to awaken souls to
what he often referred to as the 'clarion call',
the Divine Flautist calling all to live in
conscious awareness.



       For thousands of people through India and in many countries abroad as
well, the year closed with significance and a greater transition than we could
have imagined by an event that will not only remain inscribed in our memories,
but in history as well.  On new year's eve of 1996, one of the most renowned
mystics of our time left his mortal coil and us behind.  The Hindi newspapers
reported it in a beautifully poetic manner as did the 'Jai' victory chants in the
funeral procession, hailing the liberation from the bodily encumbrance and
subsequent meeting with the divine.  With these words still echoing through
this numb body, I cannot help but feel only a deep sense of loss, along with
many others.  That hazy day in Vrindavan when he set out on the last journey,
there were few dry eyes to be found.
       He had been remembered as a child yogi, careless of even minimal
comforts and no personal attachments.  When he travelled, he went with
himself and no baggage.  He never used footwear except for once, I heard,
when he was travelling with a sannyasi he wore one sandal!   It seems that
on the way the sannyasi had left his sandals behind out of respect for Babaji.
Having understood the discomfort of the sannyansi, on both accounts, Baba
insisted upon wearing one sandal while the Sannyasi wore the other! Such
was the sense of compassion. Babaji's ways and means were most
extraordinary, and could not be comprehended by the ordinary mind. He
endeavored to pierce the intellectual function and mind set of those
associated with him that they may develop the intuitive faculty in what he
called the inner sanctum of the mind.
       Babaji never wore stitched clothing and preferred simple or hand-
loomed dhoties.  Even in the deep Himalayas, he could be found casually
draped in a shawl after a cold river bath.  His hair fell in naturally matted locks.  Babaji's unattachment to his own body came from inside.  It was not something to show to the world. It was an overflowing of his natural state of being.
       Babaji lived in a state of detachment and left the world that way.  The disciple who was with him for his last days told about the preparations he made for Mahasamadhi, although the student had not imagined it to be so at the time.  Babaji's leaving his body happened much the same way as a man who would get up from a chair quite willing to stretch his legs.  For several days, he had abandoned external activities; he had no interest in eating  or communicating, except for necessary instructions of the moment.  He remained for hours in a seated posture.  Clearly, he remained conscious in his one pointed concentration.  A doubting man approached him wondering about his quietude, and Babaji surprised the man, telling the man his own phone number and telling him that he would eventually understand!  After that he remained in silence until he joined his Beloved and blissful union.
       Babaji's sammadhi-postured body was then taken to Vrindavan, the place he cherished the most, and remained enshrined for two days while thousands passed through to pay a last homage at the Vraja Academy, where he was the founding acharya.  Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians all came to Babaji.  On the third day, the procession set out through the narrow streets he had loved, making brief stops along the way to Yamunaji.  A band playing devotional songs led the entourage of hundreds accompanying the heavily garlanded palanquin.  Winding through the lanes, to the background of continuous salutations, policemen cleared the way.  The procession stopped at all his favorite temples and pujaris; residents emerged from houses to offer flowers and cloth, many joining in the last pilgrimage. 
       Perhaps a quarter of the town's population gathered at the banks of the Yamuna along with devotees from as far off as America.  As Babaji was carried onto a boat, a dozen or so others set out, bowing low in the water as the crowds looked on.  Downstream at the shrine of Devaraha Babaji's, where he had taken jal samadhi too, just a few years back, Babaji went to the familiar waters where he had so often sat in meditation.  Vedic mantras were recited as the last rites were performed by disciples.  Babaji and Devaraha Babaji were soul companions, and both would have been honored to share this sacred space.
       Babaji's last journey through the holy village that he had reveled in for so many years was nothing less than remarkable and a fitting tribute to such a great soul.  During the procession itself several devotees received intuitive messages from Babaji.  It was an honor to share these last kilometers in the company of a great saint.  Many felt that Babaji was still guiding them in his playful way.
       Babaji's life intention was to awaken souls to what he often referred to as the clarion call, the Divine Flautist calling all to live a life of conscious awareness.  He was dedicated to the work of waking up sleepy minds and dormant bodies. And above all, instilling a burning love for God within one's heart.
       Babaji was no parable-speaking, soft-spoken saint to make anyone feel better about themselves.  In fact, he was a hard task-master who relentlessly exposed you to the depths of your demons, pushed all your buttons and poked holes in your boat, if you still persisted in taking the easy way rather than to confront the rapids of life.  No one was spared if they dared to stay more than twenty-four hours.  Some got it sooner.  He maintained a unique and special relationship with each and every one who came to him.  He took special joy acting as the mirror to people.
       Babaji loved the verses of the saint poets and told many stories about their lives.  When he would talk about a mahatma or his own deity, he would become so immersed in that reality that you knew he was living there.  He had that rare quality of evoking a divine mood at will, and he longed to share this ecstasy of divine love, so that we may also be infused with a passionate thirst and yearning for God.  Many of his stories seemed to come by chance, just at the need of the hour to answer a question.  Babaji would rarely give a direct reply to any intellect; his answers came in a more subtle, indirect way, that they may touch the depth of the soul. 
       He had a special interest in the preservation of the Indian culture and fusing the traditional with the new age of science. The subject most dear to his heart was the environmental protection of holy pilgrimage places, rivers and the Himalayas. 
       Babaji was a revered teacher, master, saint and yogi to many, and his extraordinary personality and spiritual guidance will be missed by them.  May the strength of his teaching be kept alive in their hearts!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your beautiful tribute to Swamiji! You said you feel the loss, but His love seems to be streaming between your lines - at least I feel it in my heart and this is incredible feeling!
    May His love be always with you.

    Thank you again!
    Konstantin

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  2. Dear Chandrika,

    Thank u very much for writing on this blog. Pl. do write more with your experiences with Baba. May be you start another blog. That will be a good tribute to Baba. I am back again in Delhi these days. Started a blog sripadbaba.blogspot.com for giving vent to my feelings and for self satisfaction. Hope to meet you sometimes, if God wishes.

    Pradeep Keshari
    p.keshari@idbi.co.in

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