Shrila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja lived for one hundred forty-four years. He took diksha from Shri Madhusudana Dasa Babaji and did bhajana for many year at Surya Kunda in Vrindavana. Thakura Bhaktivinoda received valuable instructions on pure devotional service from Jagannatha Dasa Babaji.
gauravirbhava bhumeh tvam nirdesta saj jana priyah
vaisnava sarvabhaumah sri jagannathaya te namah
I offer my respectful obeisances to Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, who is respected by entire vaisnava community and who discovered the place where Lord Chaitanya appeared.
His practice was to live six months in Shri Navadwipa dhama and six in Vraja mandala. “During his time,” said Thakura Bhaktivinoda, “Shri Jagannatha Dasa Babaji was the.most advanced rasika Vaishnava in Gaura and Vraja mandalas, and Purushottam Kshetra (Jagannatha Puri).” Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave him the title Sarvabhauma, the chief of the Vaishnavas.
At one hundred twenty-five years old his body appeared bent like a semi-circle. His eyelids hung over his eyes like heavy stage curtains. Standing on either side, two disciples would lift his droopy eyelids so he could offer Tulasi manjaris to his Deity of Shri Giriraja Govardhana.
Since Jagannatha Dasa Babaji could barely walk, Bihari, his Vrajavasi servant, used to carry him on his shoulders. But whenever there was a Nama kirtana Jagannatha Dasa Babaji would bolt out of his basket and leap four feet into the air. In great ecstasy he would begin to sing and dance. He performed vigorous bhajana despite physical limitations.
He was fond of chanting loudly in both japa and kirtana. During kirtana he would sing: Nitai ki nama enechi re! Ki nama enechi rei Ki nama diteche re! “0h Lord Nityananda, what a wonderful name You have brought. 0h Nitai, what a wonderful name You have given.” After chanting almost the whole night, the next morning he would offer 1,108 dandavats to the Deities. He was always enthusiastic to serve the Vaishnavas.
He lived as an ascetic following a strict diet and the yearly Chaturmasya (four month fast). The first month he ate only four bananas in the evening; second month only guavas; third month only whey; fourth month only boiled banana flowers without salt.
Once he begged a roti (flat bread) from a Vrindavana street sweeper. Hearing about this, the leading men of Vrindavana said to Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, “Baba, you are the crest jewel of Vraja. It pains us to hear anyone criticizing you. But now everyone is talking against you. They are saying, ‘Baba’s gone mad. If he defies the age old traditions what will happen to society.'”
Babaji Maharaja replied, “You are all learned people. Don’t you know the importance of the dust of Vrindavana? It is so surcharged with Krishna prema that even Lord Brahma desires to become a particle of Vraja raja (dust of Vrindavana). Therefore, isn’t a Vrindavana sweeper who is constantly serving the dust; breathing it, rolling in it, and bathing in it more pure than anyone else?” Silence filled the air indicating everyone’s acceptance of Babaji Maharaja’s reply.
While living in Navadwipa dhama Jagannatha Dasa Babaji showed deep respect toward all residents. Even when some puppies ate from his plate he didn’t protest. Bihari, his servant, became disgusted to see dogs devouring his guru’s Prasadam and he drove them away. Jagannatha Dasa Babaji scolded Bihari, “These puppies are residents of the holy dhama. They are not ordinary living entities. I will not eat until they come back to share the Maha-prasadam from my plate.”
At the age of one hundred forty-two he couldn’t see or walk. To confirm his findings Thakura Bhaktivinoda requested Jagannatha Dasa to see Lord Chaitanya’s appearance place. Intoxicated with Gauranga prema, Jagannatha Dasa Babaji lept high in the air and began chanting and dancing at the discovery of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Yogapitha. “Out of compassion for all the conditioned souls Jagannatha Dasa Babaji transferred his power of bhajana, knowledge of the sastras, and prema bhakti directly into the heart of Bhaktivinoda Thakura,” said Shripad B.V. Narayana Maharaja.
Jagannatha Dasa Babaji had many disciples. He often gave the following instructions:
(1) “You must avoid women, men who associate with women, or with a man who in any way associates with a man who associates with a woman.
(2) “To realize the supreme goal of life you must repeat Harinama regularly and steadfastly. Steadiness is so important that it must be maintained even at the cost of one’s life.
(3) “Never forget Gaura who is more merciful and benevolent than Krishna. Krishna is like a just ruler who takes into account your offenses in His administration of justice. Gaura does not take your offenses into account. Whereas, Krishna is more interested in the dispensation of justice, Gaura is more interested in the distribution of mercy. From this point of view, Gaura-kirtana is more useful than Krishna-kirtana. Gaura-kirtana means: Shri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Shri Advaita, Gadadhara, Shrivasadi, Gaura bhakta vrinda.
(4) “Krishna is the avatara of Dvapara-yuga. Gaura is the Kali-yuga avatara. We should sing the name and glories of the avatara in whose age we live; just as in a kingdom we praise the ruling king.” jaya saci-nandana gaura hari, jaya saci-nandana gaura hari.
The Sonar Gauranga Temple in Gopala Bagh, Vrindavana houses Gaura-Nitai Deities once worshiped in Surya-kunda by Shri Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. In Krishna lila he serves as Rasika-manjari.