Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Though Shri Haridasa Dasa Babaji who is in the line of the Gadadhara Parampara, is not in the line of our Bhaktivinoda Sarasvata Bhaktivedanta Parampara, he is a very striking inspiration for all devotees about the greatest service of Grantha Seva i.e. rendering service to the greatest Holy Books in creation -> the Scriptures composed by the Associates of Lords Nityananda Gauranga. Very less is known about him and his life so we would like to present a short biography.
Shri Haridasa Dasa has been a unique saint who attained siddhi (perfection in devotional service) through the service of Gaudiya Vaishnava literature. Shri Manohara dasa Baba has said to him, "I entrust you with the responsibility of discovering, translating and publishing the books of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Acharyas and writing and publishing others and bless that you may attain siddhi through this."
Haridasa Dasa used to say, "I do not live by bread but by service to the Great Works composed by the great Associates of Lords Nityananda Gauranga - by discovering, and translating Them, by writing commentaries on Them and by printing Them so that They are made available to the devotees. They are my Ishta, the objects of my exclusive devotion. Without service to Them I cannot live." He actually worshiped them as the devotee worships God. In his anxiety to find some scripture which was supposed to be lost, he lost all sleep and hunger. If he could not find it, he prayed to it and wept for it, as the devotee prays to God and weeps for Him. At last he has the mercy of the Holy Book and the Acharya who composed it, as the devotee has the mercy of God by finding Him.
He devoted his whole life to the service of Gaudiya Vaishnava literature. His contribution to Gaudiya Vaishnava literature is incomparable, looking at the number, size and importance of the works he has compiled and published one would wonder whether it is possible for a single person to do that work in a single lifetime.
Ever since Shri Haridasa Dasa started his sadhana in the form of Grantha Seva, he got up early in the morning and sang aloud the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna with the accopaniment of khanjani and then sat down to work. He lived on madhukari (begging) and worked 17 hours a day in service to the Holy Scriptures of Lords Nityananda Gauranga. He would copy the old manuscripts, edit and translate them and write commentaries to them. He also go them printed. The entire work of writing, printing, proof-reading and distributing was done by him single-handed. He also collected money for paper and printing by madhukari.
Once on account of writing all the time Haridasa Dasa's hand got paralysed and water began to flow ceaselessly from his eyes. The doctor and his friends advised him to stop reading and writing for some time. But he did not head their advice. He said, I have seen so many times that disease aggravates to the extent of becoming fatal if I become slack in service to the Holy Scriptures and it disappears if I work with great vigor. It is true that if a work is done without any selfish motive and with the sole purpose of causing happiness to the Holy Books, the Holy Names, the Lord and His devotees, then it goes on smoothly inspite of all the difficulties that come in the way. Haridasa Dasa continued the work with still greater determination and assiduity and both his eyes and hand became normal.
His Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana alone is a work which would normally take a whole lifetime to be completed. It is the encyclopedia of the vast Gaudiya Vaishnava literature.
(1) The first part of the encyclopedia gives the meaning of the difficult Sanskrit words and technical philosophical terms used in all the published and unpublished works of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
(2) The second part gives the meaning of all terms of Vraja-Bhaashaa (language of Vrindavana Dhama, Udiya (language of Puri Dhama), Bengali (language of Navadvipa Dhama) and Maithila languages used in the Vaishnava verses from the time of Vidyapati and Chandidasa upto the time of Shri Narahari Chakravarti.
(3) The third part gives the substance of each of the Gaudiya Vaishnava books and the biographies of their authors and each of the Vaishnava saints, who lived at the time of the compilation of the work.
(4) The fourth part gives a detailed description of all the tirthas (holy places), dhamas and the festivals of the devotees of Lords Nityananda Gauranga.
When the work comprising 2065 pages in double crown size was ready for publication, Haridasa Dasa has to face the problem of finding finance for printing. It was not an easy task for a vairagi Babji like him who lived on Madhukari. He thought that Gaudiya Vaishnava Abidhana was an essential part of his service to the Gaudiya Vaishnava literatures and the Vaishnavas and he decided to undertake the project depending entirely upon the mercy of the Lord and the Vaishnavas. The printing was started and the money started coming, one does not know how and from where.
Before taking to the Vaishnava life, Haridasa Dasa was known by the name Harendra Kumar Chakravarty. His birthplace was in the village of Madhugram in the Pheni subdivision of Noakhali district in what is now Bangla Desh. He came from a line of scholarly Brahmins: his father's name was Gagan Chandra Tarkaratna and grandfather was Goloka Chandra Nyayaratna. Haridas Das only had one brother, Manindra Kumar, who left home to take up a life of renunciation while still quite young. Neither brother ever married, but observed the principles of celibacy throughout their lives. Manindra Kumar took initiation from the same spiritual master as his brother and came to Navadvipa Dhama where he lived at the Haribol Kutir for fifteen years, taking the name Mukunda Das Babaji.
Harendra Kumar was a very clever student and passed all his academic exams with honors. In 1925 he graduated from Calcutta University with an English M.A. in Sanskrit, specializing in Vedanta. He was first in his class and awarded a gold medal. Later he sold this medal to buy a piece of land in Shri Navadvipa Dhama. A little before graduating, he took initiation from the Vaishnava Guru in the line of Shri Gadadhara Pandita.
After graduation, he taught for some time in Kumilla, at the Ishwar School, but only for as long as it took to pay off his debt to his teachers and spiritual master. During this time, his intelligence, learning and sterling character impressed everyone. As all good teachers, he combined the personality of a tough disciplinarian with that of a gentle parent-figure. He was known for his punctuality and devotion to duty, as well as the affectionate care he gave to his students.
Nevertheless, after only three years of teaching, he began to feel a strong desire to pursue the spiritual life and so began a life of bhajan, living sometimes in Navadvipa, at others in Vrindavana. He came back and taught for a while at Kumilla College, but not long thereafter renounced material life definitively. After that, he remained in Navadvipa and lived on madhukari. For one and a half years he lived at Radha Kunda on madhukari. During this period every morning he swept the land around Radha Kunda. After that he went to Puri Dhama and served in Shri Haridasa Samadhi Matha.
Whenever Haridasa Dasa was asked who his father was, he always gave his Guru's name and never talked about his previous life or his degrees or academic accomplishments.
In 1944, he attended the Ratha Yatra in Puri Dhama and then returned to Govinda Kunda in Vrindavana and practiced intense bhajana. While there, the siddha mahatma Manohar Das Babaji ordered him to work on recovering lost Gaudiya Vaishnava scriptures. Haridasa Dasa Babaji took this order seriously and until his dying breath was deeply involved in this service to Gaudiya Vaishnava literature of Lords Nityananda Gauranga and Shri Shri Radha Krishna.
He returned to Navadvipa Dhama and started the Grantha Seva (Scripture Service) as a mode of sadhana (spiritual practice) which lasted till the end of his life.
He discovered Madhava Mahotsava, the great work of Shrila Jiva Goswami and Artharasaalaka Tika of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu written by Shrila Mukunda dasa, a disciple of Shrila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami.
The extent to which Haridasa Dasa received the blessings of the Divine Lord to accomplish this service to the Holy Scriptures can be seen from the following anecdote. Many people heard him tell this story, but this account has been taken from an article written by the devotee Suresh Chandra Datta in the Phalgun 1364 issue of Sudarshan magazine:
"Once Haridasa Dasji was engaged in a search for Shrila Sanatana Goswami's great scripture Krishna Lila Stava, but was not meeting with any success. There was end to his grief. He lost all sleep and cried day and night. One day he sat on the bank of the Yamuna in Vrindavana Dhama weeping and crying, "Ha! Prabhu Sanatana! Ha! Prabhu Sanatana!" As he was descending the stairs to the water, he saw a bundle floating on the waves, touching the shore. Curious, he plucked the bundle out of the water and found an ancient manuscript of the Krishna Lila Stava. He took the manuscript and held it to his head, then to his chest, and then to his nose, ecstatically smelling the perfume of old paper mixed with incense and sandalwood. He was overwhelmed with joy. He touched it to his forehead, higged it again and again with tears streaming out of his eyes and blissful tremors and horripilations appearing all over his body for receiving this mercy from Shrila Sanatana Goswami. Late he translate and published it."
Haridasa Dasa had all the godly qualities described in the Bhagavad Gita. He had the humility that is the ornament of the Vaishnavas, and stayed free of faultfinding. He kept all the principles of sadachar, and showed a powerful spirit of renunciation. His attractive personality impressed all who came in contact with him.
He prefered to remain out of the public eye. He never went to large gatherings, and though he was often invited to lecture or give discourses on the scriptures, he always refused. Even so, all who were interested in Vaishnava literature recognized his contribution and expressed their gratitude to him. Swedish professor Walther Eidlitz and the German scholar E. G. Schulze in particular praised him lavishly for his publications. It is impossible not to be impressed by what Haridas Dasji was able to accomplish on his own and without riches or political clout, simply through hard work and unfailing determination.
Though he was an imposing figure, light-skinned, tall and long-armed, with wide-eyes and a steady smile, his face luminous with spiritual power and devotion to Vaishnava practices, and yet he was so hospitable that he would rise up from his seat to eagerly greet any guests to his kutir.
He was ready to undertake any effort to achieve the needful in establishing the authentic Vaishnava path. At some time early in his life he heard the sweet singing of a youth singing Radha Madhava's names in a beautiful voice and was plunged into a sea of feeling for the Lord, a feeling that all his university education or a life of austerity never undid. All this is the proof of the unequalled mercy of his teachers and spiritual masters on him. His humility before his teachers always amazed anyone who witnessed it, such as when he met his university professor Dr. Amareswar Thakur later in life and prostrated himself on the ground in front of him.
Haridas Dasji always seemed to be rushing from one library or manuscript collection wherever he heard of one, from one end of the land to the other. He looked through countless manuscripts like someone obsessed trying to find any evidence of works that had hitherto been unknown--writings by Mahajans, Goswamis and Gaudiya Vaishnavas of Lords Nityananda Gauranga. He never thought about whether food or shelter would be waiting for him, his only concern was to go where there was a possiblity that some new literary discovery could be made. But the discovery alone was not enough, he wanted to make these jewels shine for all, and so he translated and published so many such works. Simultaneously, he was constantly gathering notes related to the geography and history of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya. Everywhere he went, he would inquire into the family histories of Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu's Eternal Associates. Though his efforts alone were glorious, the success he achieved in compiling the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana--the fruit of these researches, was even more glorious.
The Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana was the last work completed by Haridas Dasji. He would work on it 16 or 17 hours a day. In fact, he finished the second volume (Parts 2, 3 and 4) of the Abhidhan on the day before he left his body. He was in Calcutta going through the last proofs of the first volume and he said, "I am not well. When the Abhidhana is finished, I will be too." On September 20, 1957, he fell ill, and after only seven or eight hours of sickness he entered the spiritual world. He was only 58. Had he remained for another three days, he would have seen the first completed printed editions of the first volume. The Bengal government appointed a commitee for the publication of the second volume was completed a year later and it was published under the supervision of that commitee a year later.