Vanity thought #242. Vamshidas Babaji.

Just as I concluded that I have no qualifications to reflect on the life and devotional service of Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji and should better stick to simple things prescribed to us by Srila Prabhupada I decided to write something about Vamshidasa Babaji. From the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak.

If Srila Gaurakishora wasn’t paying attention to the dealings of the material world around him, Vamshidasa Babaji lived as if the world didn’t even exist, if you can call his existence living. He didn’t “live” in the conventional sense. Living implies lots of things we take for granted, it implies some sort of a purpose, some progression from youth to maturity to old age, it implies having some goals and keeping schedules, it implies being part of the society, it implies, on the most gross level, eating, sleeping, mating and defending with the view to survival and happiness.

Vamshidasa Babaji had none of that. He was a total avadhuta, completely oblivious to any kind of social expectations or restrictions. As I mentioned earlier, he couldn’t even talk to people, he talked only to his deities, nobody else. He didn’t have a concept of time or space or natural sequence of things, he just talked to his deities and cooked for them, that’s all he did, ever.

Sometimes he fasted for days without taking even water and he didn’t notice anything was out of ordinary, he just forgot to eat for the reasons known only to him and his deities. HH Bhaktivikasha Swami wrote a book about his life some twenty years ago that was based on memoirs of one of the devotees who took part in Srila Vamhidasa’s travels and that devotee testified that Srila Vamhidasa didn’t follow even basic principles of human life. He had never seen him take a bath, for example, and he had never seen him to pass either urine or stool, Vamshidasa’s body had no material needs like that, it was sustained entirely by the spiritual energy, much like the bodies of six goswamis of Vrindavana.

When Srila Vamshidasa was around eighty years old he was travelling a lot and younger people couldn’t keep pace with him, he had too much energy and he didn’t need much rest. Reminds me how Srila Prabhupada’s disciples had trouble keeping with him on his morning walks, too.

One could imagine the standards of devotional purity of Srila Vamshidasa, so what is the point of trying to learn something from his life – it’s impractical and downright suicidal to bring any aspect of his “sadhana” into my life. What can I learn from him that I don’t know I can’t apply to my own life? If I’m afraid I’d be of no interest to Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji, what’s the point of trying to find something in common with Srila Vamshidasa? There is something, however – there’s the living proof that this world is just an illusion over our eyes.

Yesterday I mentioned that Srila Gaurakishora often talked to Lord Chaitanya during his bhajans and he learned all he needed to know from Him and the Supersoul. For Srila Vamshidasa this source of knowledge wasn’t complimentary, it was primary. Sure, he learned human language when he grew up in the family of a poor fisherman but everything beyond that was totally foreign unless his deities explained it to him. People trying to maintain a conversation of Srila Vamshidasa were never satisfied with his answers because he had a completely different value system and completely different structure to his thoughts.

One could say he had knowledge of the future, he displayed it on several occasions. Once he saved a little girl from being hit my lightning, and once he directed the boatman to take him to a meeting place with a snake which he presented to his deities as Anantadeva. He knew where the snake would appear and he knew what color it would be and he knew his deities would like to meet it. There are probably more incidents like that which are skipping my memory right now, that’s not important.

He wasn’t predicting the future – he had no concept of time flowing in any direction at all, time had no influence over his soul. When people asked him something in terms of what was going on, why, and what was going to happen next, he was totally bewildered about such method of thinking. If it wasn’t pleasing to Krishna it had no reason to be thinking about, much less trying to figure out its trajectory through the time. Srila Vamshidasa genuinely couldn’t even feint the interest in such things, his consciousness was visibly drifting away to his deities. A group of merchants once wanted to know about the prospects of the post-world war trade. Srila Vamshidasa had no clue what they were on about and wasn’t even listening. Worlds War II? Trade? Prospects?

This kind of vision of the reality is fundamentally different from our lives, and I think it’s fundamentally different even from our dreams, I can surely speak only for mine here. No matter how deeply I look into my heart I still think in terms of past, present and future. I think about the process of my purification, for example. I have a contaminated heart now and I hope will become cleaner in the future. In my everyday life I might tell myself not to worry about anything and not to make plans but I still see things in sequence of cause and effect, I’m just telling myself not to worry about effects, which implies I realize the connection with causes.

So I might not have anything practical to learn from Srila Vamshidasa but it’s still very reassuring to know that the only thing that really matters is devotional service to guru and Krishna and everything I see and experience and take for real is just a play of Krishna’s energy and there’s no objective, independent existence for anything I’ve ever known. Krishna is always in absolute and total control of every minute details of the world as I know it.

It’s one thing to know it theoretically but when it comes to practical life we know that if you drop something it would fall. The story of Prahlada Maharaja being dropped from the cliff and saved by Vishnu is nice but it happened once in the entire universe to the greatest devotee of all time, when I drop a pen off my desk it falls, there’s no Visnhu’s intervention here, just the laws of nature.

Vamshidasa Babaji is the testament that it is not true at all, that my pen might or might not fall by the sweet will of the Lord, it’s a waste of human life trying to predict what will happen while ignoring the presence of the Supreme Controller right there in my heart.

When I just joined the devotees I heard this many many times – if you chant Hare Krishna anything can happen. Yes, sometimes, if you chant devotedly, I thought, and over the time I grew very cynical about Krishna’s interventions. Now I wish that simplicity had returned to me, that I could really forget about the mechanics of my life and concentrate on the Holy Name only.

Poor me of little faith.

Yet, thanks to Srila Vamshidasa, I feel just a tad safer and a tad more detached than yesterday. I still worry too much about every little thing but it’s nice to KNOW that there’s always a fallback option to everything – Krishna.

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