Prodigious Pritida

Sage Veda Vyasa
Veda Vyasa vast-minded

Today is the glorious Guru Purnima! A day to venerate worshipfully the vishaala-buddhi (vast-minded) Sage Veda Vyasa! A day to pay reverence prayerfully to one’s own spiritual preceptor! And all those tireless teachers from whom we learn any training lesson…On this auspicious occasion this is my humble homage to one of our late monks who made me understand the secret of Karma Yoga in a most unconventional manner! Priti Maharaj a man of simple habits was no doubt a real karma yogi whose selfless and weariless work I had seen in close quarters for more than a decade. He joined the Ramakrishna Order at its Karimganj centre (in the state of Assam) in 1951. He was an initiated disciple of Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj and had sannyasa (formal vows of monkhood) from Swami Shankaranandaji Maharaj in 1961. He passed away on 10 February 2004 at the age of 73.

Prity Maharaj
Swami Prathamanandaji

It was a crowded shrine hall. Mother Durga glowed magnificently. A tune in kedaar raaga wafted in the air, weaving a melody, working to soothe my wavering mind. Curious to know whose captivating vocal it was, I just peeped in through the window. That was the first time in 1976 at Rahara temple hall where Durga Puja was on, that I saw Revered Prathamanandaji Maharaj who to everyone was dear ‘Pritida’.

His music drew me like a magnet; because so long I have been hearing within the Mission campus only bhajans that are simple and straight. Here was a monk who elaborated a raaga in his inimitable style. The first song that captured my attention was ‘Jaya Shiva Shankara’. When his music ended I was, as if, transported to another world where I could feel the enchanting raaga taking an enticing shape.

Relief and Rehabilitation

Just before the conclusion of my Training Centre period in Belur Math, along with four other brahmacharins, I was, in 1977, deputed to Rajahmundry where a massive relief work was started by the local Ramakrishna Mission centre. First three months went into providing primary relief. The Diviseema area of Andhra Pradesh was devastated beyond recognition by the surging tidal waves. Thousands of houses were washed away. More than 20,000 people died in the sea waters that entered into coastal villages.

Prityda with the celebrity N T Rama Rao at the construction site
Pritida with the cine-celebrity N T Rama Rao at the construction site. Courtesy: Swami Aksharatmananda of Ramakrishna Mission, Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India

Our Headquarters at Belur Math urgently decided to construct 1100 new houses for the poorest of the poor in 11 villages bordering the sea coast – not a simple structure but cyclone proof shelters. A mammoth rehabilitation work had begun. Therein entered Pritida like a colossus taking the challenge head on, with whom I had the blessed opportunity to be with, day in and day out, month after month and year by year for almost a decade long since. Against insurmountable difficulties Revered Pritida struggled to make the rehabilitation work a great success. In order to get hollow bricks right at the spot, he created a huge brick manufacturing unit at Puligadda camp on the bank of the Krishna river with hundreds of local poor people getting casual employment. Seeing the hard working monk, the great cine-celebrity and later Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh – N T Rama Rao came in with his helping hand of large donations.

a brahmachari performing hawan for the peace of lives lost during tidal wave devastation
a brahmachari performing hawan for the peace of lives lost during tidal wave devastation. Courtesy: Swami Aksharatmananda of Ramakrishna Mission, Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India

Under the scorching heat of Andhra, at the coastal area, a two-hour drive from Vijayawada, he used to work tirelessly knowing not what the time was or when to eat in the Rehabilitation camp. Meals used to be taken at random – many a time standing on the veranda. Several of his monastic assistants would stare at him in utter disbelief. Available at all time to everyone, oblivious to his personal needs, there he encountered serious stomach problem, which started draining his energy. Before beginning the Rehabilitation work in a massive scale, he gave the idea to perform a hawan for the peace of those thousands of lives lost by the tidal wave devastation and he gave the blessed opportunity to me to do the shodasha upachaara puja (16 item-worship) and hawan which I gladly did on the sea sands amidst fierce winds.

Memorable Medical Work

Once the Andhra work was over, Headquarters asked Pritida to take up the responsibility of running a newly started  medical centre at Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh. He was appointed the Head of that hospital. He needed one assistant immediately to start the work there and his choice deliberately fell upon me. I did not know whether I would be able to rise to his expectations because the place was absolutely strange to me. People were indigenous tribals. The culture was unknown. The path was unchartered.

Ramakrishna Mission Hospital at Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh - planned executed and run by Prityda for more than two decades
Ramakrishna Mission Hospital at Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh - planned, executed and run by Pritida for more than two decades

Here at Itanagar under his umbrella cover, I saw before my eyes the blooming of a fresh venture with its own inherent problems. It was a treat to witness how a monk, supposedly innocent of worldly intricacies, tackled from multi various angles one by one troubles galore.

Be it laying the roads, aligning the buildings, fixing the electricals or designing the wards, recruiting and training the staff – from doctors down to sweepers -everything would come  under the scrutinising scan of his sharp eyes.  Here at Itanagar through his watchful eyes I came to know the tips and tricks of ‘man’ management. Pritida was massively brilliant in outwitting the manoeuvre of mischief mongers. Here at Itanagar under his protective wings I was pulled out of my own created cocoon and was exposed to the vast vagaries of people’s mood. It was Pritida who took me in his arms as it were and guided step by step so as to escape unscathed. Here at Itanagar with his able tutelage I had first hand experience in realising that mere outward personality cannot carry anybody farther; only a well balanced interior of mind and heart could sweep the feet off everyone. Revered Pritida was a shining example. He rarely paid attention to his attire. Have I not found my shirts or dhotis missing from the alna (wooden open shelf) only to spot them on his person! Such was his childlike nature that would not fail to charm anyone.

Utterly Unattached

He used to say that his brain functioned so fast that to put the ideas on to paper was almost impossible for him. Even while talking to others, the words from his mouth would flow like a torrent. I received many times his deep appreciation for my secretarial assistance in putting his thoughts in black and white. Many would think that Prityda was restless and could not stay put steadily in one place. Even supposedly enlightened persons viewed him as an enigma. That was not the case. I had seen him lying down on a cot, absolutely carefree, unmindful of any hullabaloo outside and sipping hot tea in a nonchalant manner but seriously hitting on a pleasing solution to a perplexing problem! His involvement in that Centre was total.  Was he attached to the work that he created and cared for, nurtured and nourished? No. At the time of leaving that Centre, on transfer back to Belur Math, he left with a simple bag containing a pair of clothes! Thats all that he possessed!

Ramana Maharishi
Ramana Maharishi

Revered Pritida had enormous admirers among the monks as well as devotees. People flocked to him with their grievances possibly having no method to set right. He took delight in tackling such circumstances. Be it an inter-caste marriage, or falling in penury Revered Pritida was there with ever ready solution in his pocket, always smiling like Ramana Maharishi!

Can I really exhaust about a multifaceted personality? How much have I known about him? Somehow my mind is unable to come to the terms of his termination; rather the thoughts of his traits do create ripples of admiration and astonishment. Slowly and slowly they rise and gather in my lonely moments, whirling into bigger circles like the emergence of smooth flowing air-bubbles, looming large over the head. Prodigious Pritida cannot be forgotten.

When alive he compelled attention, more – when no more.

31 comments

  1. Respected Maharajji,
    Namaskar! I am grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to know such a great monk – Revered Swami Prathamanandaji Maharaj. Thank you for reminding us the ideals of Karma Yoga through the life sketch of Revered Swami Prathamanandaji.
    Pranam
    Lisa Sen
    Kolkata, India

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    1. Dear Lisa
      Yes, the ideals of Karma Yoga have to be repeatedly remembered and how impressive they are when one actually sees them in practice! That was Swami Prathamanandaji who was practical in everything.
      May Swamiji inspire you every moment!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  2. Revered Srimat Swami Vimokshanandaji Maharaj
    Om Namo Narayanaya!
    On this most auspicious day of Guru Purnima I offer my humble pranaam at Revered Maharaj’s holy feet together with flowers of adoration, gratitude and appreciation for all the blessings that Revered Maharaj has bestowed upon us all.
    We are indeed blessed to learn about the remarkable lives of such holy beings such as Revered Prathamanandaji Maharaj. Many may feel that God may be something abstract, existing many hundreds, if not thousands of years in the past. But by learning about the lives of Master, Mother, the direct disciples and Monks of the order, we soon realize that the same divinity manifests itself within our very own lifetime! Truly blessed we all are to have even learnt about the holy life of Revered Prathamanandaji Maharaj, whose qualities would not have risen above and beyond that of any ordinary person without the touch of God.
    How wonderful it has been to learn about such a remarkable life on this holy day.
    My humble pranaam to Revered Maharaj.
    Om Namo Narayanaya!

    Avinash
    Durban, SA

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    1. Dear Avinash
      Thanks for your nice comments! Yes, I was happy to meet you and Anu at the Satsang here yesterevening, which was indeed spiritually elevating. Our Order is so holy and contains many such kind-hearted souls like Priti maharaj who do not care for name and fame. Such monks are the salt of the earth and add a tremendous taste in spiritual life.
      May Master bless us to learn insightful truths from such unassuming sadhus!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  3. Respected Maharaj
    Please accept my Pronam on Guru Purnima.
    Believe me, I was completely lost while reading the article, it appeared as if I am seeing Priti Maharaj with my eyes. I was listening to Mahalaya while reading the article and with such serene environment, on auspicious night on Guru Purnima it was just a feeling to bliss to me.It was as if I was seeing Priti Maharaj with your eyes. I am really thankful to you for bringing the life of Monks to us who teaches us so much with their lives. Please keep sharing us your experiences.
    I met recently with Jnanadanananda Maharaj – President of Hyderabad Math and while talking, I said about you and your blog. I was surprised to learn that both of you were initiated at the same time.
    I wish to meet you some day. Please let me know when you come to India.
    Pronam
    Arnab Lahiri
    Bokaro, Jharkhand, India

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    1. Dear Arnab
      You have expressed your intense emotion that you experienced while reading this Post. Very well taken! That shows how deep your involvement to such actual incidents that elevate one’s mind. I am happy.
      Yes, Arnab, the Hyderabad Centre Head, Swami Jnanadanandaji was with me during our 2-year Training Centre period at Belur Math and we had together with other novice trainees had our Brahmacharya initiation in 1978.
      Only Master knows where and when we will be placed! Many a time our wishes by His grace come true!
      May Sri Thakur give you all inspiration!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  4. Adarneeya Maharajji,
    I feel so much embrassed and ashamed to write again and again same words of gratitude (since I am not able to find ENOUGH WORDS) for your sharing your marvellous and soul enchanting description of these events of describing GREAT SOULS AND GREAT DEEDS OF THEIRS.
    I strongly feel that THESE WRITINGS WILL ONE DAY SERVE THE PURPOSE OF ARCHIVES OF GREAT IMPORTANCE FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

    Your description of RELIEF WORK AMIDST SO MUCH ADVERSITIES AND PERFORMING HAVAN ALSO really brought tears into eyes.

    May HOLY TRIO bless us Devotees with MORE AND MORE “GURUs” like YOURSELF, that is my only prayer to HOLY TRIO.

    Bharat
    Mumbai, India

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    1. Dear Bharat
      I understand very well what you say…but this places me in an embarrassing situation as I am only giving in my Blog some incidents from the lives of monks with whom I came into contact with and how and/or what lessons that I could draw from them. To lead a simple life, simple truths are enough. Your loving words of gratitude have gone much beyond their circumference as I don’t perceive my writings worthy of archives for the benefit of the posterity! Therein I am embarrassed!
      Yes, Bharat! Relief and Rehabilitation work in Andhra Pradesh went on for two full years and it was a saga of great endurance. You will be happy to know that Priti Maharaj even built along with the shelter-proof houses for those fisherfolk, Sri Ram Mandir in two villages! And on ekadashi nights when there was no electricity, with the help of kerosene lanterns, Priti Maharaj would make us and join us in singing Ram Nam Sankirtan which would be rapturously heard by the simple villagers who were all deeply devoted to Sri Ram…
      May Sri Thakur bless you more with the feelings for ‘others’!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  5. Revered Maharaj,
    Please accept our PRANAMS on the GURU PURNIMA.
    The article on SWAMI PRATHAMANANDA picturises the tremendous service provided by the revered Maharaj.

    We get enlightened & enriched by reading your writings.

    Chitra & Rupen
    Ranchi, Jharkhand, India

    Like

    1. Dear Chitra & Rupen
      Thanks for your visit to this Blog. Happy to know that it was beneficial to you.
      May Sri Thakur provide you all goodness!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  6. Revered Swamiji
    The Satguru is a golden rock dropped into the ocean of this world.
    Splash! ripples of His Light emanate into waves of expansive power submerging all in His infinite Love.
    The omnipotent rock glows brighter every day.
    The waves radiate with growing magnificence.

    Brian Eriksson
    Durban, SA

    Like

    1. Dear Brian
      Wonderful expression of the effective working of the Guru shakti! I was happy to see you in the yesterday’s Guru Purnima satsang. And many, many thanks for gifting an invaluable book on Yoga which is meant for advanced aspirants.
      May Swami Shivapadanandaji in his subtle existence guide you is my prayer!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  7. Respected Swamiji
    Many thanks for this blog. Although I never went to Itanagar but I have met Priti Maharaj when he visited RKMSP, Kolkata and I know doctors from Asaam had special regard for him and respected him so much. It was nice to know his life story.
    Kind regards
    Dr Gurusaday Pal
    UK

    Like

    1. Dear Dr G Pal
      Thanks for your visit to my Blog! Yes, its true that doctors in RKMSP where I was an Assistant Administrator for a few years, had special regard for him. Also I have seen those poor neighbours who would come for treatment from the adjoining bastis (Shacks) had a high regard and love and also a child’s fear for Priti Maharaj! His pre-eminence lies in mixing with very ordinary people who would throng him in his days at RKMSP to get some solution to their many a vexed problem and he was always ready with one!
      May such lives inspire you!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  8. Revered Maharaj
    Om Namo Narayanaya!
    Maharaji’s blog has profoundly influenced the lives of many devotees around the world, with such ennobling, purifying and heart-rendering articles! How wonderful to read a little about Revered Prathamanandaji Maharaj’s life and how he alleviated the pain and suffering of the afflicted, clearly we see that Maharaj worked through freedom and love. This is a brilliant example of “self sacrifice”!

    With grateful thanks for posting such radiant and inspiring articles on illumined personalities,

    With respectful pranams
    Avitha
    Pietermaritzburg, SA

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    1. Dear Avitha
      Thanks for your encouraging comments!
      Yes, you have rightly pointed out the core of his nature – freedom and love. He was an utterly independent type. He would brook no silly opposition. And his Love was for all. Unbounded. Unobstructed. His heart went out to everyone irrespective of caste or creed, race or religion, gender or gentile!
      May Master nourish the same spirit within you!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  9. Om Namo Narayanaya!
    Salutations and prostrations at the feet of the Holy Trinity, Swamiji Maharaj and Swami Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj.
    Thank You, Swamiji Maharaj for providing such a beautiful glimpse into the life of Revered Prathamanandaji Maharaj who epitomised Karma Yoga. I just wished that the article would not end because it made for such captivating reading! Hence, I was unable to control the feeling of disappointment when I reached the end. Perhaps Swamiji Maharaj will narrate further interesting anecdotes from Revered Maharaj’s life during the next visit to Ladysmith! Is there possibly a biography available?

    Hari Om Tat Sat!
    Nirmala Balkaran
    Ladysmith, SA

    Like

    1. Dear Nirmala
      Happy Guru Purnima greetings to you!
      The net-etiquette of writing Blog posts, it is said, lies best when expressed in brief. People have no time and patience too to read long posts and hence I shudder to go on meandering in unchartered lanes with words. I am extremely glad with your response in that this post has enkindled a great interest in knowing ‘more’ of that personality.
      No, not exactly a biography but sort of, rather I can call it, a collection of many admirers’ reminiscences put together, of course in Bengali language is available in India.
      I can’t guarantee of course, that during my forthcoming visit to Ladysmith sub-centre, I would dwell upon other interesting incidents as I don’t have the habit of pre-meditating on the theme of my Talks. Its all best left to Mother’s Wish!
      May Master ignite your thirst for knowing ‘more’!

      Swami Vimokshananda

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  10. Dear Maharajji,
    This anecdote is an eye opener on the Karma Yoga in day to day life. The selfless work combined with universal spirit of love commingled with renunciation all were perfectly manifested in the being of “PritiDa”, so endearingly called.

    A mother’s child, a unique yogi, a lover of humanity – the author bow down to him and through him to the Holy Trio who are always our inner guide and best friend.
    Jai Maa!
    Jai Thakur!
    Jai Swamiji!

    Thanks & Regards,
    Subhadip Dutta
    Noida, India

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  11. Revered Maharaj
    My humblest pranams at the feet of the Holy Trinity, Maharaj and Swami Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj.
    My greeting on this auspicious time of Guru Purnima
    Atmano mokshartham jagad hitaya cha,
    “For one’s own salvation, and for the welfare of the world”.
    The motto of the ‘Ramakrishna Order’ is so true in the life of Revered Swami Prathamanandaji Maharaj. While reading the blog, the picture becomes so vivid in the mind. How Maharaj must have engaged and dedicated his service to those in distress and need. One can see that Maharaj only remembered that whomsover you may serve, you are serving God. I can only imagine how Maharaj must have made all the village people feel. A true Karma Yogi.
    Maharaj, please continue giving us glimpses of these great souls.
    Om Namo Narayanaya
    Jai Thakur
    Jyothi
    Asherville, Durban, SA

    Like

    1. Dear Jyothi
      I convey both the Swamis’ prayer for your spiritual progress on this Guru Purnima celebration.
      Yes, in a Karma Yogi one can discern the two cardinal qualities:
      1) Absolute detachment
      2) Dedication of fruits to Lord
      Absence of kartritva (doership) and bhoktritva (enjoyership), as Gita says.
      I was a witness to this Swami’s practice of these traits in actual life. Thousands of poor and suffering tribals of Arunachal Pradesh literally worshipped him when he was serving them and when he left that place, not a drop of tear came out from his eyes!
      May the motto of the Ramakrishna Order inspire you too in your personal life!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  12. Dear Swamiji,
    I am a student of Vedanta of Sao Paulo, Brazil. I like very much your blog. We are attached to Vedanta Center in our city and Swami Nirmalatmananda is its head. We have created a webpage with documents, articles, photos, songs, spiritual talks, etc, on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda and Vedanta. If you can please visit:

    http://www.estudantedavedanta.net/

    May the Lord bless us all!

    Estudante da Vedanta

    Like

    1. Thanks for your visit and happy to know that you liked this Blog.
      Yes, I saw your website. Well done!
      May the thoughts of Vedanta enrich your life!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  13. Respected Rev Maharaj,
    I am really deligheted to go through your writeup on Priti Maharaj. As you know I worked under him from 1981 till he left the hospital. I do not know how to describe his contribution to the hospital and mankind. I was always thinking, why nobody is writing on him. But seeing your writeup I am overwhelmed. We always remember him and you. His demise is a great loss for the humanity.
    Dr K Zaman
    Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

    Like

    1. Dear Dr Zaman
      Thanks for your visit to this blog!
      Indeed I wan an eye-witness to his loving nature for you and other doctors and staff of the Hospital. I can understand how much pain his absence has caused especially to you and Kumkum. Life has to go on…his memory will ever remain green in our minds.
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  14. Pranams Maharaj,
    It is quite interesting to read about your experiences with Priti Maharaj. We all liked the photo of your’s doing hawan at Rajahmundry Relief Centre also. Mr. Mani has bought me the book The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna from Gol Park centre. I will read it. Now he is reading.
    Om Sai Ram!
    Jayamani
    Kolkata, India

    Like

    1. Dear Jayamani
      I am happy that you got the book The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Presently at three places here in South Africa I have been blessed to take monthly classes on The Gospel. Whether it is beneficial to the devotees or not, I care not judge but it is immensely so to me as a spiritual practice.
      Oh! You could recognize me in the photo! That was way back in 1977 !
      May Master bless you all !
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  15. Message for Brian Erikkson

    Once, very long ago, when I did not know the way in the tumultuous darkness of the void, you looked with your spirit and saw and told me it was Jesus.
    And you were right.
    He makes each golden rock and drops them into the oceans of this world to emanate His light, rippling in the ever-expanding spiral of His infinite love
    Search very very deeply, inside yourself, before your consciousness, and you will find who you have always known
    Meditation:
    “When I consider the heavens, the work of His fingers …”
    And remember William Blake
    Mandy Steele

    Like

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