After receiving mantra-diksha from Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj, he joined the Order in 1926 and had his sannyasadiksha from Swami Vijnananandaji in 1937. Swami Shivanandaji told him “Stay here and serve the Narayanas (patients). This itself will get you bhakti, mukti and everything else.” He was popularly known as Ban Baba or Banbihari Maharaj.
To undergo some treatment, Ban Baba was at the Order’s then hospital centre at Rangoon from 1929 – 1932. There he learnt the art of dressing and medicines for curing wounds. Then, from 1932 for about 35 years he dressed nearly 40 – 50 wounds every day at the Ramakrishna Mission Home of Service, Varanasi. People, and even senior surgeons, believed that a patient would be cured if Banbihari Maharaj would but take up the dressing of the wounds and the care of the post-operative period. He attained mahasamadhi on 15 June 1996 at the age of 93.
Lessons from Swami Muktananda
Early 1930, one morning, Banbaba came face to face with a beautiful young lady (aged about 16-17 years) in front of the old OPD building. Wonderstruck, he kept gazing at her heavenly beauty in astonishment. “What are you gazing at?” she asked Banbaba and saying “Look” removed the cloth from the upper part of her body. What a ghastly sight! Her whole chest had a putrid smelling wound with maggots wriggling in it. Terribly shocked Banbaba just shut his eyes. Recovering from the shock in a few seconds, he requested her “Mother kindly wait. I shall get the keys of the dressing room and dress the wound.” He returned in just two minutes with the keys only to find her missing. Searching the whole premises and all enquiries failed to locate her; nobody had seen such a woman near the hospital. Later, on many occasions, his sevak had tried to ask Maharaj for further details about the incident, but to no effect. It is presumed that Mahamaya herself had come in that form to show Banbaba the impermanence of the material world that we experience, and had once for all taken away the gender difference from his psyche. 115The Vedanta Kesari December 2020 PAGE SPONSOR : DR. SUBRAMANIYABHARATHIYAR R., KANCHEEPURAM This was reflected in Banbaba’s later life, when men and women, young and old, equally and without inhibition would speak with him and get their wounds dressed by him without hesitation. Soothing and endearing were the words he spoke as he dressed the wound of the patients in order that they may forget their pain. Some even used to smile with the pain.
— Swami Aprameyananda
My father is sick!
Banbaba’s dedication made him adopt any means to serve the rogi narayans. Here is a report of a hot summer afternoon’s happening. That particular day, it was Banbaba’s turn to be in the ward while other monastic members had gone for their afternoon rest.
A person brought an unconscious well-built elderly man and dropped him in the veranda and moved on to complete his other engagements. Banbaba saw him lying uncared for. He was smeared with dirt and was stinking. This apart, he was running a high temperature. Realising that it would be impossible for him to single-handedly rescue the man, Banbaba struck at a plan and started crying loudly in order to draw the attention of his co-monastic members. “Oh! Where are you all? My father who had come here as a pilgrim contracted high fever and has now become unconscious.” In no time necessary help arrived!
Through the helping hands of other monastic members, cold sponging and necessary first aid the fever was brought down, the dirt was washed off and necessary medications were administered. As the rogi narayana was gaining consciousness, one of the swamis observing that there was no similarity between Banbaba and the man, questioned him “Tell us the truth. Is this person really your father?” Very humbly Banbaba answered, “If he is not my father, who else is he? If I had not cried out as my father, I would not have received any help from you all.”
— Swami Aprameyananda