Updated: Nov 26, 2021
Sripad Bijoy Krishna Goswami
Bijoy kept on banging the door of the room which wouldn’t open. The priest came and enquired why he wanted to go inside the room where the deity Shyamsundar were worshipped. But Bijoy wouldn’t listen and kept asking Shyamsundar to open the door. The priest smiled and asked what made him believe that Shyamsundar would listen to him. Then Bijoy looked straight at him and replied, “He plays with me every day. You can see the red ball that he took and kept with him without returning. I need the ball.” The priest smiled and left him. After being unsuccessful, Bijoy changed his strategy and pleaded with Shyamsundar politely to return the ball but the door didn’t open. So, Bijoy took a vow not to eat till he got the ball back. Everyone in the household failed to force him to have his dinner. His mother also slept without food and kept his dinner a corner. At night she got up hearing some voices and came out of her room. She heard Bijoy asking, “I didn’t eat because I had vowed not to touch food till you return the ball, but why didn’t you eat your dinner?” After some moments of silence, he again continued, “I was not aware that you loved me so much. Now both of us are hungry, let’s eat.” His mother went in after sometime and saw Bijoy sleeping on the floor and the dishes empty.
Sri Ananda Chandra Goswami was the ninth-generation descendant of Sri Advaita Acharya, whose intense austere practice resulted in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s arrival for spreading ‘Naam Sankirtan’. He was a devout vaishnava and restrained from taking water or food without worshipping their deity Shyamsundar. Once he started on a journey to Puri, prostrating all through the way from his home in Shantipur. It took him one and a half years to reach Puri and have darshan of Lord Jagannath. Soon after, on 2nd August, 1841, on the day of Jhulan Purnima, he was blessed with his second son, whom he named Bijoy Krishna. One day, while reading Srimad Bhagavatam, Ananda Chandra in a state of Bhav samadhi, left his body. Bijoy Krishna was only three years old at that time. He enrolled in a Sanskrit school at Sikharpur and studied Vedanta under Sri Acharya Gopal Goswami. He completed the course ahead of his class and joined the Sanskrit College at Kolkata. His mother wanted him to get married and in an auspicious moment, he tied the knot with Yogamaya Devi.
Goswami ji followed the family tradition of becoming the spiritual Guru of devoted families. Once when he visited the home of a devotee, the devotee asked to lead him on the path of liberation. Stunned on hearing his plea, Bijoy Krishna replied, “How can I grant you freedom from bondage when I, myself am bound to this material world?” That night he left his profession and joined the Calcutta Medical College to pursue a career in medicine.
One day he heard a professor demeaning Indians. Disturbed by the racism that prevailed, he called for a hunger strike. That was the first organized student movement in Indian history. Bijoy Krishna left the medical college but was given a license to practice homeopathy. His exposure to Upanishads in the Sanskrit college made him a firm believer in the formless ‘Brahma’ and the realisation that the entire universe is an illusion dawned on him. He renounced his Hindu heritage and joined the ‘Adi Brahmo Samaj’ under the influence of Acharya Devendranath Tagore. As a result, he was declared an outcast and his family suffered from extreme poverty.
As an Acharya, he travelled to different centres and delivered lectures, wrote books and articles in various religion journals and also organised mass prayers. During this period, many miraculous incidents happened involving their deity Sri Shyamsundar. Shyamsundar used to came in his dreams and also appear infront of him with his list of demands. He started getting strange requests from their deity. As a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, who believed in reasoning and debates, he was in a fix. After witnessing such miracles, he would get lost assessing and examining those happenings with logic and reason. At the same time, he became more and more intimate with the deity, Shyamsundar. Shyamsundar behaved in unusual ways. There was no end to his requests and wishes. Sometimes he would be upset with Bijoy and at other times would appear before him in his divine, attractive form. When he was a preacher, Bijoy used to visit his family home often. Once, in the afternoon, he was relaxing when Shyamsundar arrived and complaint that he had not been offered water that day. Bijoy called his aunt and told, “Your Shyamsundar is grumbling that you have not offered him water.” His aunt retorted sharply, “Oh! Our Shyamsundar didn’t find anyone else and had to go to a brahmagyani, believer of brahma, to complain that he has not been given water”. Bijoy continued, “Why don’t you check once?” His aunt went in and found out that water had not been offered that day. Shyamsundar would repeatedly come to him and tell him whenever the priest forgot something or didn’t take care of the deity properly. The more Bijoy wanted to drift away, the tighter Shyamsundar held him. Bijoy was so attracted by Shyamsundar’s divine flute that he couldn’t keep himself away. The clever Shyamsundar smilingly kept a watch over him day in and day out. One day, when he sat deep in meditation, Shyamsundar appeared before him and expressed his wish for a golden crown. Bijoy Krishna replied that he no longer believed in manifested forms. Shyamsundar smiled and continued, “Who asked you to believe in my manifested forms? I only asked you to make me a crown of gold.” Bijoy denied saying, “I don’t have enough to feed my family, how can I get you jewellery?” After a few exchanges, Shyamsundar told him that his aunt had some gold coins which could be made into a crown. Bijoy, curious, went to Shantipur and met his aunt. His aunt handed him some gold coins and narrated before him how Shyamsundar came in her dreams asking for a crown. Bijoy was stunned.
Bijoy Krishna returned to Kolkata and got busy when Shyamsundar appeared before him again inviting him to travel to Shantipur and take a look at his new ornaments. Bijoy Krishna retorted back saying that he was a follower of Advaita, non-dualistic philosophy and has no faith in Krishna’s form. Shyamsundar giggled and said, “I never asked you to believe in my form. What’s the problem in appreciating my jewellery?” Whenever Bijoy Krishna sat down to meditate on the formless, Shyamsundar would appear before him. Bijoy travelled back to Shantipur and opened the doors of the temple. His heart melted when he saw his once upon a time playmate, Shyamsundar shinning in new ornaments and smiling at him with the flute perched on his lips. Bijoy Krishna burst out, choking in tears, “Why did you drive me away, destroyed my love, if you wanted me to come back to you?” Shyam Sundar smiled and replied, “I thought you didn’t believe in me. But why do you worry. If I destroyed, then I will build it back. What’s your problem? The beauty is magnified manifold when it is rebuilt after being broken.”
The next day he returned to Kolkata to resume his duty. During a mass prayer, he went into a trance and fell down unconscious. As the Brahmo movement spread, he tore away from the conservative leaders and joined the ‘Brahmo Samaj of India’ under Keshab Chandra Sen. He worked for the education of women and joined hands with Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar in bringing about abolition of child marriage. He introduced Sankirtan in Brahmo Samaj and wrote many Brahmo songs. Again, there was a split and he became a part of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. He soon realized that his path will not lead him to realization of God. He was disheartened and frustrated. At that time, he met a saint who told him that spiritual advancement is not possible without surrendering before a Sadguru and that his Guru will appear at the right time. God cannot be realized by logic and reasoning but only by Guru’s grace. Bijoy Krishna’s only goal became to find a Sadguru. He could not rest in peace and travelled along the foothills of Himalaya, the Ganga and Narmada basins, met the baul, llamas, tantriks, aghoris, ramaits and all possible sects. During his search, he met many other saints but none of them accepted him as their disciple. instead they said that his Guru is waiting for the opportune moment to reveal himself before him.
He went to Gaya Hills and stayed in the ashram of Raghubar Das Babaji in the foothills of Akash Ganga Hills. One day he heard the shepherds talking about the arrival of a powerful saint on the top of the hill. Bijoy Krishna went up and came face to face with Sripad Brahmananda Paramahansa, who revealed that his ashram is in Mansarovar and he was the Guru that Bijoy Krishna was so desperately searching for. The saint took him on his lap, initiated him and disappeared. Bijoykrishna became unconscious and stayed in a state of samadhi for eleven days. Raghubar Das Babaji took care of him during this period. He continued his sadhana in the Akash Ganga Hills for sometime and then at the instruction of his Guru, went to Banaras and took Sanyas from Sri Hariharananda Saraswati.
The spiritual experiences and the practice of Ajapa sadhana had transformed Bijoykrishna. During lectures, he would become immersed in Naam Sankirtan and go into a state of ecstasy or Bhav Samadhi. While still a Brahmo Acharya, he contracted a deadly disease which the physicians were unable to cure. One of his disciples approached the miraculous saint Lokanath Brahmachari to save him. Many disciples saw Lokanath rahmachari, Bijoykrishna’s Guru Brahmananda Paramahansa ji, and many other saints appear and disappear at his bedside. Against all speculations, he miraculously recovered, got up from his bed and immersed himself in Naam Sankirtan. Soon after he left Brahmo Samaj and lived in a hermitage in the jungles of Gendaria in Dhaka with his disciples and extended family consisting of Mother, Mother-in-law, wife and children.
He spent his time reading, listening to devotional songs from Guru Granth Sahib, Imitation of Christ, Bhaktamala, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Ram Charita Manas, Mahabharat and Bhagavad Gita. He adopted Akash Vritee, not making any effort to earn, beg or borrow, and depended only on God for the sustenance of his extended family that included his disciples. Yet there was never a want for anything in his ashram. Honey used to drop from the mango tree under which he sat down to meditate. This honey would also ooze out from his matted hair. A snake used to crawl up his body when he was engrossed in Ajapa sadhana. Everyone was scared but the snake spread its hood across his nose and chest, listening to the AnahataNada, soothing sound emerging from his spine and central nervous system when he became immersed in pranayama. When the mind returned to external senses and gross breathing started, the snake would climb down and go away. Goswamiji assured that when a person became non aggressive, in that passive state, snakes and tigers see no difference between the person and any non-living entity.
One day Goswamiji started shivering in spite of being wrapped with a warm shawl. He asked to look for a man outside in cold winter. When the man was located, he gave his shawl to the man and stopped shivering. Another day he asked to look around in northern direction, if any animal was straying on a tender plant. If found, the animal should be allowed to eat five leaves and then driven away. His disciple found a goat chewing on the leaves of the plant and drove it away. When asked, Goswamiji replied that the plant had sent him a distress call. A fence was built to protect such plants. Yet another time, a mango tree complained that a big nail was driven in its trunk and it was suffering in pain. A search was carried out in the jungle and at last a boy remarked that he had put a nail on a tree to hang a portrait for worshipping and had forgotten to take it out. The nail was then taken out and the tree was relieved.
One of Goswamiji’s dear disciple worshipped a Shalagram Shila. He used to bathe, worship the Shila with tulsi and offer prasad. One day he offered hot porridge to the Shalagram and went to read a scripture. Goswamiji suddenly started sweating. Goswamiji directed his disciple to go to the Shalagram and fan him. The Shalagram shila was also seating profusely. After fanning the shila, it became dry and so did Goswamiji. He explained that the porridge was so hot that the Shalagram was not able to eat it. He advised, “When you worship an idol as God, He should be nursed and cared for in the same way as you would to a small child. Then only your service turns into worship and your idol becomes alive. Otherwise it is the same as worshipping a stone and wasting your time.”
On his Guru’s instructions, he next went to Vrindavan to attain the highest state of devotional love for Sri Radha Krishna. He would get immersed in sankirtan singing, “Jai sachinandan! Jai Radhe!” His body would show all the eight sattvic bhav. In the beginning he tried to control his emotional outburst, but his face would turn red, his body would tremble and start sweating profusely, his voice would quiver and tears would overflow incessantly, hair all over his body would stand erect out of ecstasy and his matted hair would look like a dozen snakes raising their hoods. Oblivious, he would dance vigorously in the midst of the devotees. The atmosphere would get electrified and the devotees would join in this ecstatic dance and they also would go into samadhi or fall down unconscious. Maa Yogamaya Devi left her body in Vrindavan. Goswamiji wrote to her daughter that Maa Yogamaya had entered her cherished immortal state and shone brightly in the company of sakhis. Goswamiji joined the Kumbhmela at Prayag and started Naam Sankirtan and worship of Sri Chaitanya and Sri Nityananda. The opponents attempted to malign him but instead his name and fame spread all over. Many yogis, naga sadhus, motheists, joined the sankirtan and got initiated into devotional love. He would remain seated day and night immersing himself in the Leelas of Vrindavan. Sometimes he would move in his finer body leaving his gross body behind and at other times in order to retain his outward senses, he would get involved in reading, listening to scriptures, initiating his devotees, solving their spiritual and material problems.
Later, he moved to Puri and continued his Ajapa sadhana. He came to be known as Jatia Baba because of his huge matted hair. He said, "Anyone living in Puri Dham must do three things every day- Have darshan of Lord Jagannath, take a bath in the sea and have Mahaprasad. Mahaprasad is divine and is never contaminated by touch, oral or otherwise. Daily intake of Mahaprasad grants freedom from the cycle of Karma.” When the Puri Municipality ordered killing of monkeys, Goswamiji protested against this barbaric order but his plea was ignored. Goswamiji was not the one who would tolerate this cruelty. He sent his disciples to Kolkata and made the general people aware of this notorious action. The governor then sent an order to stop shooting and killing monkeys.
His ashram in Puri stood beside the Narendra Sarovar. The Bakul tree in the ashram premises would lower its branches for him to pluck flowers for his deity, Radha Shyamsundar. The Nageswar Champak tree would bear only five flowers every day that he would offer to the ‘Pancha Mahadev’ in Puri. When he couln’t reach high, the Bakul tree bent down and grew on the ground. Everyday Goswamiji used to take bath in the sea. Some days when he couldn’t go out, he would sit down meditating and come out saying has already taken a bath in the sea. The devotees would also notice his body wet with water as if coming out after a swim. Devotees visiting the Jatia Baba Samadhi Mandir can still see this Bakul tree growing on the earth and get a feel of divine ecstasy in this calm and serene atmosphere.
Image Credit: Eila Sahu