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.

20 Comments on “Prodigious Pritida

  1. Aum Namo Narayanaya
    Revered Maharaj
    A very Happy and Blessed Guru Purnima to Maharaj.
    May Maharaj continue to be our guiding light.
    Jai Sri Ramakrishna! Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
    Nisha
    Chatsworth, South Africa

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Nisha
      Trust by His grace, this finds you all hale and hearty!
      May the blessings from the Guru who is none other than ’sat, chit and ananda’, residing in your heart, flow uninterruptedly to make you realise what you really are.
      A very happy Guru Purnima!
      Love, best wishes and prayers
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  2. Revered Maharaj
    Please accept my Pronam on the occasion of Guru Purnima.
    Enjoyed your article on Swami Prathamanandaji.
    Jai Thakur, Jai Maa.
    Probir Kumar Basu
    Gaborone, Bostwana

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Dr Probir Basu
      Trust by His grace, this finds you all hale and hearty!
      May the blessings from the Guru who is none other than ’sat, chit and ananda’, residing in your heart, flow uninterruptedly to make you realise what you really are.
      A very happy Guru Purnima!
      Love, best wishes and prayers
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  3. Pranaam!
    Revered Maharaj,
    Namskaar
    I pray you are doing well and settled in the new Ireland Center.
    I enjoyed this loving and illumining tribute to Revered Prathamanandaji Maharaj on this special day.
    Happy Guru Purnima from that “Irish lady” from California.
    JAI GURUDEV KI JAI
    With Reverence and Gratitude,
    Jen Louise
    California, USA

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Jen
      Trust by His grace, this finds you all hale and hearty!
      Thanks for visiting this blog page and sending me some appreciative words! Here, we have an evening program to celebrate the Guru Purnima event. This Guru Purnima would be the very first such function in this Irish land organised by the Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre.
      May the blessings from the Guru who is none other than ’sat, chit and ananda’, residing in your heart, flow uninterruptedly to make you realise what you really are.
      A very happy Guru Purnima!
      Love, best wishes and prayers
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  4. Thanks you for sharing such a wonderful story of unattached karma yoga.
    Beautiful lesson for us.
    Namaste.
    Srinivasan Lakshmanan
    Singapore

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Srinivasan 
      Thanks for your visit to my Blog!
      Yes, Prity Maharaj was indeed a wonderful Karma Yogi.
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  5. Respected Maharaj,
    Thank you for sharing about Swami Prathamanandaji.
    Am overwhelmed with respect.
    Please accept our pronam on the occasion of Guru Purnima.
    Pronam.
    Shilpi
    Bangkok

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Shilpi
      Thanks for your visit to this blog!
      Happy that in spite of your busy schedule in Bangkok, you had saved some time to go through the Post.
      Hope you could observe Guru Purnima function at your home in a solemn way.
      Love, best wishes and prayers
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  6. Revered and dear Maharaj,
    Please accept my Guru Purnima pranam.
    Many thanks for re-sharing your post on Revered Prity da Maharaj on this auspicious day…
    I’m never tired of reading it repeatedly. What a life of intense activity maintaining at the same time absolute inner poise. He is indeed a role model for monastics and others as well. His manner of taking lunch during the massive Vijayawada relief work is similar to that of Sri Vijnan Maharaj. From the book ‘In the Divine Realm’ by Revered Swami Apurvanandaji which I have recently read we find that Sri Vijnan Maharaj during the supervision of Swamiji‘s temple at the Belur Math would stay at the site from 8 am to 5 pm taking lunch and evening tea there itself so that the work might not be interrupted.(p 202).
    I felt blessed to attend the Guru Purnima here at the Hyderabad Ramakrishna Math. Atmosphere as usual was charged.
    With pranam once again,
    TSSitaraman
    Hyderabad, India

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Sitaraman
      Thanks for your visit to this blog!
      Indeed so, there were and even now are such wonderful minds in the Ramakrishna Order who carry on selflessly without a murmur absolutely hidden from the outer world like the silent dew drops that fall on the flower buds before the dawn and make the buds, bloom. This is the greatness of the Order. It stands as a shining example to all householders who are attuned to follow a spiritual path.
      Happy to know that you attended Guru Purnima function at Hyderabad ashram. This centre attracts such a large number of devotees. Before coming to Dublin, I was staying at Hyderabsd ashram for a week or so. I saw to my utter delight the wonderful activities and the incresing public participation so naturally done. I encourage you and others living at Hyderabad to attend more and more to reap the spiritual benefits.
      Love, best wishes and prayers
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  7. Respected Maharaj
    Please accept my pranam.
    With pranam to Sree Sree Thakur,
    Debanjan Roy
    Kolkata, India

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Debanjan
      Thanks for your kind visit!
      No comment, observation or remark?
      I would appreciate if you place any of the above instead of simply conveying pranam!
      Love, best wishes and prayers
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  8. Revered Swamiji,
    I enjoyed reading the article about Swami Prathamanandaji Maharaj!
    I feel we learn so much reading about how so many Swamijis lived and worked tirelessly without attachment for uplifting of worldly people around! I salute and revere all monks of Sri Ramakrishna Order who have dedicated their lives to Sri Thakur, Holy Mother and Swamiji’s work!
    I enjoy your Gospel classes too.
    Namaskar and very best regards,
    Purnima Mujumdar
    Toronto, Canada

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Purnima
      Thanks for your visit to this blog!
      Indeed so, there were and even now are such wonderful minds in the Ramakrishna Order who carry on selflessly without a murmur absolutely hidden from the outer world like the silent dew drops that fall on the flower buds before the dawn and make the buds, bloom. This is the greatness of the Order. It stands as a shining example to all householders who are attuned to follow a spiritual path.
      Thanks for listening on YouTube to my classes on the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna! They are given on Sundays in the form of Readings from and Reflections upon the Gospel.
      Love, best wishes and prayers
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  9. Aum Namo Narayanaya
    Maharaj
    Happy belated Guru Purnima. I trust this finds Maharaj well.
    Thank you for the beautiful insight into Swami Prathamanandaji‘s life. A fabulous role model and a perfect example of Holy Mother‘s teachings that we should work as well as dedicate time to spiritual activity. The Swami was dedicated to the ideal of excellence and not his colossal successes which enabled to be completely unattached and simply walk away when redeployed.
    Humble Pranam
    Rohith Jeebodh
    South Africa

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Rohith
      Thanks for your charming comment!
      I indeed search for the unique quality in any life of a person whether a monk or a householder that attracted my attention. Even though the Late Prity Maharaj was an enigma to many of the people who surrounded him, I could find a pattern that he himself erected during his unimaginable hectic life. He was a Karma Yogi a few could fathom!
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  10. Respected Swamiji
    I enjoyed your wonderful recollections of Pritida.
    In my lifetime, I have been fortunate to experience from close two indefatigable Sadhus.
    Swami Sridharanandaji and his work Vivekananda Hospital at Lucknow and the fabulous temple built there plus his spiritual ministry to all devotees of Thakur…Now in his nineties his energetic work at Sydney amazes all.
    Also saw at first hand I saw the purposeful and energetic efforts of Swami Lokeshwaranandaji in bringing Thakur and Swamiji’s message to the then USSR taking him to the Kremlin and finally in starting an Ashrama at Moscow.
    At times as a diplomat I was scared to go with him to many corners but he always said “Remember, this is Thakur’s work. Trust Him.” Of course, this was in addition to his tireless job at Ramakrishna Institute of Culture at Gol Park.
    Pranam.
    Devasis Chowdhury
    Bangalore.
    P.S.:

    Swamiji I could touch you holy feet and receive your Aashirvad quite a few times in Singapore.
    I am following your work in Dublin.

    Like

    • ||Aum Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Devasis
      Thanks for your kind visit to this blog!
      Yes, I do remember you though for some time our contact was discontinued. Being a fledgeling centre, just started a year ago, this Centre at Dublin needs lots of attention and enterprise. We have a small circle of devotees but very sincere and always ready to do unselfish seva.
      Your recollections of great souls like Revered Sridharananda Ji Maharaj and late Revered Lokeshwarananda Ji Maharaj have rekindled my nostalgic memories with them. I came to know of the former when I joined the Kanpur Centre and the latter when I was posted to Sishumangol centre in Kolkata. Varied experiences though, yet the vast hearty concern and love issued from them have got imprinted in my mind which is, for eternity, became indelible. Glory to Sri Guru Maharaj who brought the unseen blessings to me!
      Hope your regular visit to Bengaluru centre continues for your own spiritual progress.
      Love, best wishes and prayers,
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

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