Recollections of Ramkrishna Das, known as Babaji Maharaj, written by Dakshina Vanzetti in 1998 and published in Sri Aurobindo Niwas, Jagatsinghpur, Orissa, in 2009. Babaji has named the Sri Aurobindo Sadhana Peetham and supported its work.
In spiritual life sometimes we find there is a particular place in this world where we feel most close and connected to our psychic being. For me that place is at the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in Pondicherry, India. But for a space of 10 years or so during my infrequent and treasured visits to Pondy, there was a second place my soul would get that feeling of homecoming – just around the corner from the Ashram in a small room at No. 13, Saint Gilles St., the walls covered, every inch, by years and years of calendars of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and there seated behind a small table alongside his bed was Babaji. That room was vibrant with peace and sweetness and Babaji’s constant invocation of the Mother’s Presence.
As a Westerner, with English as my only language, I couldn’t understand much of the dialogue that took place in that room during visiting hours, as many seekers and devotees would come and ask Babaji questions and receive his guidance and compassionate gaze. Mostly he would speak in Oriya, sometimes Hindi, and most rarely a few words in English, but understanding with the mind seemed not at all what I was there for. Instead, I would absorb the vibrations and feel grateful to be present in this place where my psychic being felt at home, in the company of a disciple of Mother and Sri Aurobindo who emanated Their Presence and the spiritual radiance of a realized great soul. At the same time, Babaji did not let me turn to him as a spiritual teacher, but made it firmly clear that my devotion should be offered directly to Sri Aurobindo and Mother as my guru, not allowing any attachment in me for him in that type of capacity to develop. But he encouraged me to write whenever there was a difficulty, and over the course of those years have received from him a gracious stream of blessing packets and messages and short letters just at the time they were most needed.
Here in the U.S. we have a small Ashram, Sri Aurobindo Sadhana Peetham (named by Babaji). We had to go through many upheavals in the course of the evolution of this tiny collective community which is dedicated to the practice of Sri Aurobindo and the
Mother’s Teachings and offered to them. Faced with hard times of struggle and difficulty, I often felt the strong longing to come to India and leave this work of continuing an Ashram here in the ocean of materialism, where it seemed so few felt the need and calling for this type of life. Every now and then in a moment of crisis my faith would be tested and I would write to Babaji asking if I could come to Pondicherry. He would always send an encouraging reply with the message to rely on the Mother, that she would save us and that the work of the Ashram here was important for America and always ask us to repeat Mother’s name to invoke Her Presence and Protection. The bulk of letters that I received were variations on this same advice, but always they came charged with the force of the Grace and the Divine’s Love.
This Divine Love and simplicity and humility are the aspects of Babaji s being that are unforgettable to me. Whether addressing the saint or the worst sinner, he treated all equally, listening with compassion and speaking to the Divine in the depths, always referring every question to the Mother.
One other aspect was his immeasurable faith in the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and the realization of Their vision and work of the physical transformation. Especially in later years, Babaji spoke out more and more about the action of the Supermind in the earth’s atmosphere that was hastening the speed of our spiritual evolution and working on the transformation in the physical body. It was one reason that he put so much emphasis on nama japa and the repetition of Mothers name, as she herself said that, for the transformation of the physical, the repetition of the mantra was essential. But always this advice came with a force of living Truth, so much so, that his words continue today to vibrate in my own spiritual practice and that of so many others whose lives he profoundly touched and hastened along the path of the Integral Yoga.
With never-ending gratitude to you dear Babaji.
[text was written in 1998 and originally published in Sri Aurobindo Niwas, Jagatsinghpur, Orissa, in 2009]