AkhandanandaBholanath DidimaGurupriya Didi Paramananda
HaribabaBhaijiGopinath KavirajAtmananda
Swami SwarupanandaSwami ChinmayanandaSwami VirajanandaSwami Vijayananda
Swami BhaskaranandaSwami SivanandaSwami BhajananandaSwami Omkarananda
Br KamalakantaBr YogeshdaBr AtuldaBr Hari Harda
Br TanmayanandaPanudaSwami Keshavananda

Bhaiji

Bhaiji

Bhaiji has the pride of place among Ma’s lakhs of devotees. Almost all devotees agree that Bhaiji was the greatest devotee of Ma. None could comprehend Ma’s kheyal and ‘Bhava’ so well as Bhaiji.

He was born in 1880 in East Bengal. At the age of 28, he was initiated by the family priest in ‘shakti’ mantra. In the quest for the shakti incarnate, he travelled to several pilgrim centres, met several seers and Mahatmas but his wish to meet shakti, Ma, the saviour of all, remained unfulfilled. Bhaiji came to Dhaka in 1918 in connection with his job

In late 1924, he came to know about Ma who lived in a cottage at the garden of Shahbagh. He was told that She abstained from speech for several days, then She would do some yogasanas and speak for a while. In the month of December, Bhaiji had Ma’s first darshan and instantly realised that, whom he was looking for all these days, was before him. In his diary Bhaiji has mentioned, “On one fine dawn I went to Shahbagh and had Ma’s darshan, courtesy of Bholanathji.” Her calm composure and look of a housewife left an indelible mark in the mind of Bhaiji. Father of one son and a daughter, Bhaiji lived with his wife and children in Dhaka and worked as personal assistant to Director of Agriculture in the Imperial Govt. As what was custom those days, Ma used to veil Her face with part of Her saree. Therefore, Bhaiji was hesitant to have Her darshan. He thought until She removed Her veil and beckon him as Her son, how could he engrave Her feet in his heart? Almost a year passed before Bhaiji returned to Ma. In between, he kept himself posted about Ma. He also read a lot and wrote a book ‘Sadhana’ on religion, duty and good deed. He sent one copy to Ma. Ma wished to see the author. Bhaiji came and read the entire book before Ma and Bholanathji. Ma said, “After the period of maun, My speech is not yet clear. But speech is now coming out on its own – the book is well written. Try to emulate it with pure thoughts.” Bhaiji felt as if he was a child before his parents.

After this meeting Bhaiji became a regular visitor to Shahbag. On 4th January 1927, Bhaiji became seriously ill. Doctors diagnosed it as tuberculosis.’ Ma’s kindness and compassion showered in many different ways on him. Bholanath prayed to Ma for Bhaiji’s well being. He brought the patient to Ma’s lap and said, “now, take care of Your son.” Bhaiji recovered, almost a rebirth for him. For a long period in between, Ma did not give him darshan. Bhaiji said, “the pain of separation healed the pain of my disease.” In this context Ma has said, “The feeling of restlessness inside is the soul of all puja and worship. The Mahashakti flows within and in endeavours lie the core of creation, stability and destruction.” Within a year, Bhaiji had noticeable change in mood and behaviour. Doctor’s attending to him in Calcutta after a detailed check-up later advised him to take a rest and change. Accordingly, Bhaiji spent sometime in Chunar, near Vindhyachal in Uttar Pradesh. While resting there in the month of October 1927, Bhaiji sent a parcel for Ma’s devotees in Dhaka from Chunar. The enclosing letter requested that the parcel be opened with reverence, since the packet contained something auspicious, which will be worshipped in Ma’s absence. It turned out to be Ma’s footprints on a marble slab, which Bhaiji had collected during his stay at Chunar. Initially at Ramana ashram Dhaka and subsequently at Kashi ashram, these footprints are being worshiped.

It is reported that Ma had emphatically said, “nothing will happen to Bhaiji in the next six-eight years.” With these words in mind, Bhaiji’s confidence was renewed and he rejoined his office duty. On the first day of his rejoining, Bholanath and Ma accompanied him to his office. Mr. Finley, Bhaiji’s officer, asked him, “how could you recover from that dreadful disease?” Bhaiji promptly said, “It’s by the grace of Mataji who lives at Ramana ashram though doctors did their best, but Her kindness, compassion and care for me although clinched it in my favour.” Mr. Finley said that in their country too, such things do happen. Once he got back to his office job, Bhaiji was gradually completing his duty as a family man. He married off his daughter soon. Baba Bholanath liked Bhaiji very much. He had so much faith and confidence in Bhaiji that many times when Ma travelled to destinations unknown, he asked Bhaiji to escort Her.

During the early days, Bhaiji’s devotion to Ma resulted in the composition of one song, “The song of a madman” (Pagler Geet): Ma listened to the song and said, “The universe is full of ecstasies, all creations mirror them. If you can enlighten yourself with all that, you’ll realise the Leelas everywhere in the universe are all the same. People look for contentment, in absence of this ‘Bhav’ and remain unaware of the real truth of life.” Bhaiji wrote many such songs in praise of Ma and presented a compilation by the name of “Sri Charano Mein,” dedicating to Her. One day while Ma was sitting on Siddheshwari seat with several devotees around, Ma suddenly asked Bhaiji to sing the song of a madman.” With so many people around, Bhaiji hesitated. Ma laughed and said, “he has only written the song, he couldn’t be a madman.” Ma’s words pierced Bhaiji. Then he sang the song, wholeheartedly.

When devotees swelled in Dhaka, Bhaiji organised daily kirtan. At Ramana Ashram, stotras, which came out of Sri Ma’s lips, were sung in stanzas. In 1931, during a similar recital, Ma interrupted and said that stotra was incomplete. Was there any alternative to it? By Sri Ma’s inner inspiration one night at 3 o’clock, Bhaiji woke up and spontaneously wrote the song, ‘Jai Hriday Basini’. Ever since, this song is sung daily in Ma’s ashrams. Ma’s devotees are well aware of this heart touching song. Once Bhaiji asked Ma, “Ma who are you?” Ma laughed and said, “This body is always the same. What it was in the past is still the same and would remain in future too. This body is present in whatever form the devotees would like to see. Why don’t you think that this body is the outcome of your prayers. You people wanted and got this body. Only this much knowledge is essential. But you must all know that this body has not come into being for bearing its fruits of the past. You must understand that this body is an assemble of different ecstasies.”

From 26th Jan 1927, Bhaiji started the tradition of kirtan on every Saturday. The kirtan prayed to Hari as much as Ma. Later, during daily kirtan recitals, Bhaiji made it a ritual to sing songs in praise of Ma. This was the beginning of Bhaiji’s proximity to the God incarnate, Sri Ma. All this began in Shahbagh. In his book, Matri Darshan, Bhaiji has written, “after Kamalakanta joined us, I asked him to use ‘Ma’ naam in the kirtan. Because I thought, if we were dedicated to Her, ‘Ma’ naam would add to the beauty of recital;  Ma is the original syllable spoken by every human being all over the world daily. Therefore, kirtans as prayer to Ma should be our natural easy exercise of Sadhana.”

Earlier, one day Bhaiji had gone to Shahbagh with his friend Niranjan. Both were of a serious nature who did not like kirtan much. Ma asked those who had missed the evening kirtan should do it now. Suddenly, Ma said ‘today is Saturday, why not do kirtan together overnight.’ Niranjan, thereafter, participated in kirtan for a while and left. Only Bhaiji was left and spent the whole night in kirtan recital. During the early hours, Ma beautifully sang ‘Hari, Hari, Hari bol’. Bhaiji was moved by this experience and realised kirtan was no less than any other exercise of sadhana. Ma had given Bhajji Her gold chain to wear it as a sacred thread  across his heart. With this, many changes occurred in Bhaiji’s life. He started cooking his own meals and cultivated a lot of habits of a pious Brahmin. After receiving the gold chain, Bhaiji desired to wear the actual sacred thread. Wearing this, he started doing the daily puja with the help of a brahmin priest. In all his decisions, thoughts and dreams, Ma was ever present. He has mentioned several related incidents in his book. In late 1929 for almost three years, Bhaiji visited Ma very early in the morning for Her darshan. He woke up pre-dawn to finish his chores. If he went very early, he would go round Ramana, or lie and would wait on the steps of Ramana Kalibari. At 5 o’clock, he would go to the ashram, and return only at 10-11 o’clock, after spending a lot of time with Sri Ma. Ma would not speak always as She often abstained from speech. One day an old devotee commented ” he does not come to see Ma, but this calf (Bhaiji) who comes to you daily irrespective of rain, cold or simmering heat, and walks with you – I enjoy watching him.”

After he recovered from his illness Bhaiji worked for three years. One day, plucking off the petals from a flower, Ma said to Bhaiji, “you have shed a lot of your ‘Bhava’, but there remains a lot. When everything is shed, I would remain subtly in you like this flower stem.” Six months later, Ma said to Bhaiji, “I can see that your working life as a family man is getting over.”

A few months later, Bhaiji seeking change of scene to rest, took four months leave. But, on 2nd June 1932, at 11.30 in the night Bhaiji left Dhaka with Ma and Baba Bholanath. When they were staying in Raipur village, Dehradun,  people in the nearby village thought only Bholanath was the saint who had come there for his sadhana. They thought, Ma being his wife, had accompanied him. They took Bhaiji as an attendant because of his devout service to the couple. Later, when letters with government stamps kept coming to the local post office in the name of Bhaiji, they got to know who he really was. With a piece of cloth (dhoti) covering down to his knees, Bhaiji went out, seeking alms. Whatever he received, was shared by the three of them. Once, Bhaiji got only wheat flour, which they mixed with water and drank. Most of the time, unleavened bread (roti) and vegetable stew made up their diet. Ma has many times applauded Bhaiji’s service during this period.

Once, Ma was going to Uttarkashi with Bhaiji. On the way in Mussorie, students were playing on the school ground when the bell rang. Within moments, the ground became empty as the students quickly returned to their classes. Looking at the discipline, Ma was thrilled. She said to Bhaiji: “If one attempts a little  meditation and participates in religious activities from this age and with this kind of spirit of happiness and discipline, it would be wonderful. It is on the foundation of the celibacy of childhood that the rest of the three ashrams depend.” Bhaiji was moved by Ma’s words. He thought about an institution where children could study in general as well as progress spiritually. This was the idea of what took shape later as Ma Anandamoyi Vidyapeeth and Kanyapeeth.

After the death of Bhaiji, at the initiative of Yogi Bhai, Anandamoyi Vidyapith started in Almora. At present it is at Kankhal Ashram. Similarly at Didi’s initiative the Kanyapeeth, which later shifted to Varanasi, was established. When in Dehradun, Bholanath had introduced Bhaiji as his spiritual son. That’s why people started calling him Bhaiji. The name was perhaps given by Hariram Bhai Joshi. Whoever had seen Bhaiji during this time has said, the main  effort of Bhaiji in those days was to let as many people have Ma’s darshan as possible. He took special efforts to bring the devotees to Ma for Her darshan. However, he himself spent little time with Ma, and he hardly spoke. Standing behind Her, he would intensely look at the God incarnate. Courtesy of Bhaiji, many got the chance to serve Ma.

Ashram Brahmacharini Billoji  in 1934 had the opportunity to plait Ma’s hair and take Her out in the former’s car. Brahmacharini Udasji was recruited by Bhaiji to be at Ma’s  personal service. If someone came to him with his family problems Bhaiji solved them himself, taking care that these household matters did not come in the way of Ma’s divine ecstasies. He believed that the devotees would be side-tracked from Divinity if these matters intervened, though She would not be harmed. As Ma always said, “as you play the drum, so you hear.” Once, a youth came to Ma with queries. Bhaiji learnt that the boy wanted to know the results of his examinations. Bhaiji scribbled something on a piece of paper, handed it over to the boy and asked to read it only after the results were declared. The boy passed out in second division; he found the writing on the chit identical. Bhaiji had accompanied Ma and Bholanath to Dehradun, taking leave from his office for four months.

The period over on the return journey, Bhaiji was advised by Ma to break journey at Kashi for darshan of Kashi Vishwanath and a bath in Ganges. The bath proved to be near fatal for Bhaiji. but a man rescued him; Bhaiji had almost drowned. Here in Raipur, a strange thing happened. Ma, who was sitting behind the temple, had wet clothes  so much so that a lot of water could be squeezed out of them. At that time, Kamala Kant Brahmachari was beside Ma. He noted the date and time. Later when Bhaiji revisited Raipur and recounted the Kashi accident, the time and date turned out to be exactly the same. Therefore, thanks to Ma’s kheyal, Bhaiji came back twice from the door of death. First when he had contracted T.B. and secondly in Kashi, the drowning incident.

During the very first darshan of Ma, Bhaiji’s wife was the main helper in Ma’s darshan, who later, however, objected to his frequent visit to Ma. Bhaiji bore all this pain and prayed to Ma, “Ma give her wisdom and peace.” In 1937 before Her birth celebrations, Ma had come to Calcutta. From there She was scheduled to visit Dhaka. She asked Bhaiji’s aunt, Purnamoyi Devi, to accompany Her to Dhaka. (Purnamoyi Devi was the maternal aunt of Bhaiji’s wife Manikuntala Devi.) When Purnamoyi Devi went to Dhaka, Manikuntala Devi disclosed to her all her reservations. She also rebuked Sri Ma for drawing Bhaiji away from his family. Purnamoyi Devi could not comprehend all this. There was a mood of bad feeling in the place where she stayed. When she went to Ma, the latter told her in a closed room. “Ma, I have brought you here for a very special purpose. And that can not be done without your help… Jyotish (Bhaiji) had mentioned there is no better cook than her wife. She makes wonderful sandesh with a smell of lemon and also several other dishes… Jyotish is not keeping well. He will go from here in a few days. You somehow try to get his wife to invite him for meals at home. Neither Jyotish nor his wife should know the idea came from this body. Stay there and use your intelligence for this purpose.” Purnamoyi felt at sea. The lady who is offended when her husband’s name is mentioned, comes out with such words against him – it was impossible! But it was Ma’s directive, with Ma’s blessing, impossible can also happen. When she was invited by Manikuntala Devi for meals Purnamoyi Devi said she would not eat anything as she was not well. When Bhaiji’s wife insisted, the aunt said, “I come to your house after so many years, saw that Jyotish does not come home and you too cannot tolerate even the mention of his name. At this age, Jyotish left his home to become a sanyasi-all this has disturbed me much.” Bhaiji’s wife said, “It’s all my fate. But you definitely will not eat?” At last the aunt said. “Ok, I will eat, but you must do what I suggest.” When Bhaiji’s wife promised, the aunt asked her to invite Jyotish and feed him the preparation that he liked so much. Manikuntala Devi was stunned at this suggestion. She said, “will he come if I invite him?” The aunt said, she will convince him. Ultimately, as Ma had said, Bhaiji’s wife prepared wonderful dishes to feed Jyotish in the presence of Purnamoyi Devi. Whatever animosity she had, Bhaiji’s wife was very happy to serve her husband with the food she had cooked once again and for the last time. Soon after, Bhaiji went from Dhaka to Calcutta, from there to Dehradun and Mount Kailash. On the return journey he left his mortal coil at Almora. ‘Karunamoyi’ Ma was aware of this last visit of Bhaiji to Dhaka. That’s why she brought aunt Purnamoyi Devi to enact the parting scene between Jyotish and his wife.

Pilgrimage to Mansarovar:

Bhaiji’s Mahaprayan. For sometime, Bholanath was insisting on finalising this pilgrimage. Finally on 10th June 1937, Ma and Her group began their journey from Almora. They reached Kailash via Verinag, Askot, Dharchula, and Garbiang. At Garbiang, a Bhutia lady Rumadevi, who was connected with Ramkrishna Ashram, met Ma. She only arranged for the passage from Garbiang to Kailash. She accompanied Ma on Her return journey to spend the rest of her life with Her. She lived mainly at Kishenpur ashram, Dehradun where she breathed her last. The fifth Part of Didi’s book “Sri Sri Anandamayi” (in Hindi) has details of this pilgrimage to Mansarovar. On the return journey, Bhaiji fell ill. He was brought to Almora where local doctors attended to him, but without any improvement. On the way, when he fell ill, Bhaiji expressed his apprehension to Ma, “Khukuni (Didi) looks after the cooking. She also takes care of you. How will she manage alone?” Ma assured him that she Herself will manage and get the job done by others. During this hour of grief and uncertainty, when others were sad and worried about Bhaiji’s illness, Ma took upon Her the responsibility of organising the things done there. All devotees, particularly Bholanath and Hariram Joshi cried in helplessness. But there was no improvement to Bhaiji’s health in sight. On 17 August 1937, the day of Shravan Shukia Panchami, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Bhaiji slowly pronounced ‘Ma, Ma’ took his sanyas mantra and breathed his last. Before the end came, he told Hariram Bhai and Didi that, “You and Ma are same, Me and Father (Bholanath) are same. We are all the same.” The most ideal devotee of Ma left a void amongst Ma’s devotees, which can not be filled. Ma who had abstained from speech for sometime, now asked the others to arrange for his samadhi. “He has already taken his sanyas,” She said.

Ma described Bhaiji’s sanyas…. “Bholanath and Jyotish were the first to reach Mansarovar. This body stayed back to wait for Akhandananda Baba. On our reaching, we heard that after bathing, Jyotish left his clothes in the water, caught hold of Bholanath’s feet and said, ‘Baba, I wish to become an Avadhoot Sanyasi here and go away to the other side. Baba bid me good-bye.’ He took out his sacred thread and placed it at the feet of Bholanath, who was stunned on the sudden transformation of Bhaiji, and said, “what are you doing? Your Ma has not come yet. Come on, put your clothes on.” “This body was strolling at Mansarovar, mantras were coming out spontaneously. This body saw Jyotish too strolling behind. He came running, fell at my feet and said, ‘This is the sanyas mantra, Ma, I have got it.’  He was in great ecstatic mood. Remaining at My feet for sometime, he took off his thread and gold chain and started pronouncing the mantras. He was advised to continue wearing the sacred thread and gold chain.”

During this time, he did some spiritual exercises on the bank of the holy lake Mansarovar. That day while walking together, Jyotish said, “Can I abstain from speech from now with your permission?” Ma said, “it’s not advisable during the journey. But when you express such a mood, this body gives you the name “Mounananda Parbat” (The mountain of Reticence). From that day onward the sanyas mantra and his total emotional renunciation continued during his illness. Everybody has been told now about it, since the time has come. Before the end, he was absolved of the responsibility by taking off the sacred thread and gold chain.”

In that moment of sorrow, on Ma’s advice, Hariram Joshi and other devotees chose a spot near Patal Devi temple in Almora for Bhaiji’s Samadhi. Now a Shiv Mandir stands on that spot which is now part of Anandamayi ashram. This is also the place where at the initiative of Yogi Bhai Ma Anandamayi Vidyapith was established.

 

Sri Charane, Bhaiji’s  compositions published in 1928, dedicated to Sri Ma’s feet..