In a village called Baligram, two kilometers from Puri, there lived a low-caste tribal person named Dasia Bauri. Dasia was very much in ignorance and didn’t understand very much about what was pious behavior and what was sinful behavior. He had no children; he and his wife were very poor. Dasia was a weaver, and the money he made selling the cloth barely maintained him and his wife. During festival days, Dasia would visit the homes of brahmanas in his village and listen to the songs that glorified the Lord. Even though he could not understand anything, he liked to listen. In this way he was spending his life—working to maintain himself and occasionally hearing some kirtana on festival days.
At one point he accepted mantra initiation from a guru and started to wear kanthi mala and apply tilak on his forehead. He was associating with devotees and hearing hari-katha from them. Slowly he came to learn more, and soon he came to feel that Lord Sri Hari was the only truth. Whatever came Dasia's way, he was content in both happy and distressful conditions. Yet he often thought to himself, "Vidhata, destiny, has given me birth as a low-caste person. How can I get hari-bhakta being born in this low-caste family?"
Then it was time once again for the Jagannath Ratha-yatra at Puri. Thousands of people traveled to Puri from all over the country just to see Jagannath coming out of His temple and riding in His cart. Dasia thought that he should go to Puri and see the Lord. He wondered how the Lord looked. Thinking in this way he went to Puri, accompanied by others from his village. Arriving in Puri, he found a place on Grand Road during the festival. He stood in front of Nandighosh Ratha, the chariot of Lord Jagannath, taking darshan of the Lord.
Dasia was overcome with joy. Seeing Lord Jagannath sitting on the chariot, Dasia offered his obeisances. He started to shed tears as he gazed upon the beautiful face of the Lord. He was in ecstasy to see the beautiful reddish lips and black eyes of the Lord. He offered his prayers saying, "O my Lord Jagannath. I am the most sinful person in this world. Please do not neglect me. Please enlighten my heart with knowledge. You are known as Patita-pavana, deliverer of the fallen souls. O Bhagavan! Please deliver me."
Calling out in bliss, he offered prostrated obeisances to the Lord. He got up and said, "You are the only truth in this universe. Everything else is false. From now on, You are everything to me!" After saying this Dasia left for his village.
Dasia arrived at his house and his wife called him to eat. After washing his feet and hands, he sat down and his wife served the food she had prepared, which included rice and spinach. She put the freshly cooked rice, which looked very white in the middle of a red clay pot. On top of the rice she put black spinach. When she set it down in front of her husband, Dasia saw the red circle of the clay pot, in the middle was white rice, and on top of that was the black spinach. To Dasia's mind it resembled the eyes of Lord Jagannath.
He said, "Oh! This looks like the white lotus eyes of my Lord! How can I eat this?"
His body started to tremble and he could not speak. Tears were rolling down from his eyes, and the hairs of his body were standing on end. He became like a madman and started to say different kinds of things that no one could understand. He was clapping and dancing.
When his wife saw the strange behavior of her husband, she called some of the village leaders and asked them to please come and see how her husband had become mad. She was thinking that since he had gone to Puri maybe someone did some tantra to him to make him mad.
The villagers asked Dasia, "Why are you jumping like this and not eating rice?"
Dasia replied, "This looks exactly like the eyes of my Lord. How can I eat this?" After saying this Dasia started to dance. When the villagers heard this from Dasia, they were surprised to see his devotion.
They asked, "Where did you get this bhava? Did Bhavagrahi, Lord Jagannath, give His mercy to you? From today you will be known as Baligram Das."
They told his wife, "Please serve rice and spinach in two separate bowls."
When she served accordingly, Baligram Dasia ate peacefully.
From that day he fixed his mind on the lotus eyes of the Lord and always remembered the sound vibration of mridanga, karatal and ghanta (bell) during Ratha-yatra. Everything material he considered to be like poison. He became very peaceful, merciful, humble, and truthful. He was always thinking about Lord Padmanabha. He controlled all his senses and, closing his eyes, mediated upon the beautiful face of Lord Jagannath.
Jagannath is very dear to His devotees. The devotional mood of His devotee is everything for Him. He does not consider caste and creed and activities. No austerity, charity, religious activities, vrata, or traveling to holy places can please Him. What is the use of pious activities and charity? What is the use of worshiping the demigods? No one can attain Him by these things. He is Bhavagrahi, the abode of bhava. If one chants His holy name with firm conviction, the Lord belongs to him.