gauravirbhava-bhumes tvam, nirdestha saj-jana-priyah
vaishnava-sarvabhaumah shri-jagannathaya te namah
"I offer my respectful obeisances to Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, who is respected by the entire Vaishnava community and who discovered the place where Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared."
Shri Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja was born in the Mayamansingh district of West Bengal. Gaudiya Vedanta-acharya Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana had a disciple named Uddhava das. His disciple was Shri Madhusudana Dasa Babaji who lived in Suryakunda. Madhusudana Dasa Babaji's disciple was Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja.
Jagannatha Dasa Babaji lived in Vrindavan and performed his bhajan there for quite some time. He became famous among the Devotees there as one who was perfect in Krishna-bhakti. In 1880, Shrimad Bhaktivinoda Thakura went to Vrindavan and saw his lotus feet for the first time. While there, he received many divine instructions on Hari-bhakti from Jagannatha Dasa. Some time later, Babaji Maharaja visited the Barddhaman district during the month of Phalgun. He stayed at a town called Amalajorha. At that time, Bhaktivinoda Thakura again had the good fortune to take darshan of his holy feet.
Seeing Bhaktivinoda Thakur's enthusiasm for preaching the Holy Name of Krishna, Shrila Babaji Maharaja was very happy. He stayed in Amalajorha during Ekadashi, and that night there was kirtan and Hari-katha. Later, at Amalajorha, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura established his Prappana-Ashram.
In 1893, Shrila Babaji Maharaja went from Koladwip (the part of Navadwipa where Shrila Shridhara Maharaja's Temple is presently located) to Surabhi-kunja in Godrumadwipa. There he took his seat. His arrival in Surabhi-kunja was a wonderful event. Shri Jagannatha Dasa Babaji revealed many lost holy places in Mayapura, including the Yogapith, Shrivasa Angana and others. It is said that when he came upon the holy place of Mahaprabhu's birth he danced, although he was very old and walked with difficulty. For some time he remained in Nadia and performed his bhajan on the banks of the Ganges. His bhajan kutir and samadhi mandir are still there at present. He ordered Bhaktivinoda Thakura to build a hut so Devotees could stay near his bhajan kutir, and Bhaktivinoda did so.
When Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was twelve years old, he was an expert in the Jyoti-shastras explaining Vedic astrology. Hearing this, Shrila Babaji Maharaja one day called upon him to prepare the Vaishnava calendar in accordance with the proper siddhanta. He did so and Babaji Maharaja was very pleased. With this, the Navadwipa Panjika, the Vaishnava calendar recording the dates of the appearance and disappearance of important Vaishnava saints and the celebration of important festivals, began.
Shrila Babaji Maharaja always had great enthusiasm for kirtan and Vaishnava seva. Even when he was nearly 135 years old, he went on preaching the message of Shri Chaitanya throughout the world for the benefit of the fallen masses. In his old age, although he was almost paralyzed by infirmity, whenever it was time for kirtana he would still raise his arms in ecstasy.
Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja was the veda or Babaji guru of Bhagavat dasa Babaji Maharaja. Bhagavat dasa in turn gave the dress of a babaji Gaurakishora dasa Babaji. Jagannatha dasa Babaji's servant's name was Bihari dasa. He was extremely strong and powerful. In his old age, Babaji Maharaja could not walk. Bihari dasa used to carry him in a basket on his shoulders so that Babaji Maharaja could move from place to place.
When he went to Calcutta, Babaji Maharaja would stay at the house of Bhaktivinoda Thakura on Manikatala Street. Bhaktivinoda was always very eager to invite him to his house for Prasada, but Babaji Maharaja was very renounced and would come only occasionally.
When he was in his old age, Babaji Maharaja was nearly blind. Many people would come to see him and to offer him donations for the service of Shri Krishna. His servant Bihari dasa would keep all these donations in a bag. One day, Babaji Maharaja said, "Bihari! How many rupees have I got?"
Bihari dasa had put some rupees aside for some service he had planned to render Babaji Maharaja. When asked by Jagannatha dasa Babaji about how many rupees were on hand, Bihari placed some rupees in his hand and kept twelve Rupees aside. Even though his eyesight was failing, however, Babaji Maharaja detected the discrepancy.
"Bihari!" he said, "Why have you kept twelve Rupees aside? Give me all the rupees!"
Smiling at this fun, Bihari surrendered the remaining coins to his guru. At that time, Babaji Maharaja made his wishes known as to how the money should be spent. The total came to two hundred rupees. Babaji Maharaja ordered Bihari dasa to take the money at once and buy sweetballs, rasagolas, to feed all the cows in Navadwipa dhama.
Once Babaji Maharaja was on the banks of the Ganges, living under a makeshift canvas tent. Nearby that place there lived a dog with five puppies. Whenever Babaji Maharaja would take Prasada, the dogs would come around and lick the food from his plate. When Bihari dasa caught hold of one of the dogs to drive it off, Babaji Maharaja told him: "Bihari! If you wish to drive these dogs off, you may take my plate away as well. I shall not eat today." When Bihari complained, "But guru maharaja – these dogs are unclean!" Babaji Maharaja remarked, "No. These dogs are residents of the holy dhama. You may not abuse them."
Many people used to come and beg alms from Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. He did not want to give them alms, but told them to do service. One day a man named Shri Gaura Hari dasa came and asked Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja for alms, but Babaji Maharaja would give him nothing. When the man persisted for three days, fasting outside Babaji Maharaja's tent, Babaji Maharaja finally relented. He tore off a piece of his kaupina, his undergarment and gave it to Bihari dasa, his servant, with the instruction to present it to the beggar as alms, thereby informing the beggar that he must first learn to control his senses before taking up the profession of a saint.
One day, Shri Babaji Maharaja remarked about the professional readers of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, "This kind of professional Bhagavata kirtana is simply prostitution. Those who make their living by reading Shrimad-Bhagavatam are offenders to the Holy Name of Krishna. No one should listen to the kirtana and Bhagavatam readings that they produce. And one who listens to such offensive readings and thus commits offenses against the Holy Name of Krishna certainly go to hell. Those who are involved in this professional reading should immediately give it up. Such a person should worship the residents of Vrindavan with great care and attention, considering himself most fallen, and thus pray for forgiveness."
Shrimad Bhaktivinoda Thakura remarked of Shrila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja that he was the topmost general among Gaudiya Vaishnavas.