Pranab-da: “HE HAS A GRAND PSYCHIC”
“One day Mother told me: ‘I‘m not saying that I’ll leave the body. But if some day I do then I shall diffuse myself with you.’” (Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, I Remember, p. 239)
I had come to the Ashram in 1958 and in those times the only name that was predominant in the atmosphere of the Ashram, apart from that of the Mother, was that of Pranab-da or Dada! I remember seeing Dada every time with the Mother and my early childhood impressions were that he was a great man who stood for Truth and Justice—one who was fearless and very powerful, especially in the Department of Physical Education. So we, the kids, used to be a little afraid of him because whenever we did something wrong we knew that Dada would really punish us for our misbehaviour or badmashi!
We used to be not only frightened of Dada but we knew that he was our protector and defender – he was our inner conscience. So we used to love him on one side and on the other side we were scared of him. That was our beloved Dada.
And of course, I remember him playing tennis with the Mother. I watched him many times playing by Her side. He would gently assist the Mother and make Her play the game rather than himself play for his own entertainment!
He carried a nobleness around him, a confidence of inner power and outer strength for indeed he was the bodyguard of the Mother. I do remember him, very clearly, walking behind the Mother as She entered the Playground with a royal pace. This unforgettable scene is etched on my soul: we, the group members, used to stand on both sides of the Playground gate when the Mother and Dada entered it. As the Deity paced toward the room in the Playground, Dada would walk behind Her with long strides, a couple of feet behind Her. Together they presented the very picture Durga with Her lion!
Dada was really a very mysterious figure for us, the children. A man with a glowing face, a personality that did not tolerate untruth or falsehood, a man much loved and honoured even by the Mother—did She not celebrate his birthday in a grand manner?
For us 18th of October was a red letter day in our calendar, apart from the main four Darshan days. We used to prepare gifts for him on his birthday… look forward to the celebrity lunch at Corner House…we breathed a very special festive air on that day. We prepared many gifts for him: but he did nothing for himself out of the way on his own birthday. Dada remained the same, unaffected or untouched by the celebrations: he had the same smile and gentleness as on any other day. On that day too, he wore his normal white shorts and shirt, of course along with a red rose given by the Mother, tucked in his shirt button. Of course he would be very thankful in his attitude to all the children but he ever remained an enigma to us: why was he so very special even in the eyes of the Mother? Why did She write to him:
“To my beloved child and faithful companion in the building up of the New World.
With my love, my trust and my blessings for ever.”
(By the Way, Part-III, p.161)
“From the Mother to her dearest son, with love and blessings.”
(By the Way, Part-III, p.176 )
We could not understand.
It is only much later that, as we grew up, that I came to know why the Mother really took him as Her bodyguard in a very special sense. It was long after that a deeper understanding of him dawned in my mind, and that too thanks to him! After finishing my Higher Course in the Ashram School in 1969, I left for Auroville and then to Hyderabad to pursue higher studies. Later, on the advice of Nolini-da I returned to the Ashram in 1981 and joined the Physical Education Department and worked with Dada.
One day, when I was working with Dada, I had the greatest privilege of seeing his personal diary, a diary which he had not shown to many people. In his personal diary I saw with my own eyes what the Mother had written about him, his role in this birth and how because of him She is still continuing to exist in her physical body even after Sri Aurobindo had left his body! He was so very generous and kind in sharing with me his very personal diary in which the Mother had written many confidential things to him. I can still feel the tremour that I had in my body when I read and touched that diary, his most sacred diary. In fact, I can give you in his own words some things about this sacred diary:
In the gap of these long years, between the years I had left the Ashram and Auroville, my own understanding of spiritual truths had deepened and I could understand somewhat why the Mother had written to him:
“To thee chosen by my love when the time has come to begin my work at the most material level”.
“To thee whom my love selected when the time had come to start my work on the most material level—
I did not see in thee the man, but the human being capable of supramentalisation, the aspiration for physical perfection, the effort towards transformation, the will to divinise the body and a natural and spontaneous capacity to do so, a physical harmony already partly realised and a growing possibility of expressing materially the psychic consciousness. With the certitude of final Victory.”
(Pranab Kumar Bhattacahrya, By the Way, Part III, p. 336)
Dada was a person who was really chosen by the Mother for Her own work of physical transformation. As most of us know, even when Dada had come to the Ashram in 1945 or so, the Mother has said that his body was already prepared for the physical transformation. There is an interesting conversation between Sri Aurobindo and the Mother when Dada had come to the Ashram first time:
“I have heard it from the Mother and Sri Aurobindo remarked on seeing me the first time: “Pranab has a strong vital.” Then he added: “He has a grand psychic.” In answer the Mother told him: “That’s why he can do.” But what the Mother mean when She told Sri Aurobindo “he can do” I did not understand it then.” (By the Way, Part III, p. 150)
Again, on other occasion, in 1958, the Mother wrote to him:
“My beloved child,
You are for me the living and perfectly representative symbol of the physical life ready for the transformation and wanting that transformation consciously. In all plenitude of the Supreme Presence I say to you: “I love you.” (Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, I Remember, p. 335)
Personally, I feel that his was a body that has been prepared since many births for the supramental transformation. So it seems he had surrendered his body for this exclusive work of the Mother.
In fact, very interestingly, in the year 1980 I had a dream in which I had seen Dada’s body which had many spots of golden cells – cells that were transformed, all luminous and golden in hue. They were spread all over his body. When I told Dada about my dream, he confirmed it but then he said there is a lot more work that needs to be done and, that until the whole work is done, nothing is done! So was the man who had really, quietly done his supramental integral yoga and he never bragged about his achievements. He came quietly, did his inner work quietly and passed away in silence. His external being was almost a “camouflage” of his inner work: no one could have guessed that the person who was seen always smiling and chatting and telling stories to young and old was really engaged in the extremely serious business of physical transformation. Nor could anyone have guessed that he was well stationed in his psychic being for it was the Mother who had given him the gift of the psychic realisation in the 1960s!
This question of Mother “choosing” him for Her work is very relevant because, as all of us know, when Sri Aurobindo left his body it was but natural that the Mother would also leave her body instantly because of Their absolute identity on the psychic level. But She had promised to Sri Aurobindo to continue His work and to complete it.
So in those days, She called Dada and told that he should not leave Her unaccompanied even for a moment, not even for a single moment! So Dada, sleeplessly and tirelessly, remained as a shadow to the Mother during those critical days and saw to it that the Mother really stayed back in Her body for sake of humanity and the earth. Here is what is written by Her to Dada and reported by Dada himself:
“After Sri Aurobindo left His body the Mother wrote to me on a piece of paper in French:
‘I want to tell you to what point you are what Sri Aurobindo asked you to be when He left His body—the material support of my body, the energy that enables it to face all the ordeals after this sudden and irreparable collapse of that feeling of total and absolute security that gave me thirty years of unmixed happiness.’”
(Pranab kumar Bhattacahrya, By the Way, Part-III, pp.150)
So you can see how Dada acted like a physical anchor for keeping the Mother tied to Her physical body! It is but for Dada we can say now, that The Mother would have left Her body along with Sri Aurobindo. We owe Dada much in what he did in this hour of crisis!
He himself wrote somewhere that he was the uttar sadhak, that is, one who continues the work of the guru after the guru has left his or her body. Indeed he continued Her work in the physical transformation and at the same time he seems to have been the last bastion or scaffolding in the Mother’s building of the Ashram.
He had come a long way before becoming the Mother’s uttar sadhak! It was in 1934 that for the first time Dada had seen the pictures of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo in his house. As he later told us, he was surprised to see in the temple of Chandi-mandap the photographs of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and in the beginning he had not liked it.
He said to himself: ‘How can there be photos of two human beings, however great they maybe, in Chandi-mandap?’ But then, slowly, after a few days, he started liking Them – or was it that he started to recognise Them from his previous births? He had even begun to offer flowers on the photos of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. The flowers that he used to put were the kamini flowers. Later, after coming to the Ashram, he came to know that the Mother had named the kamini flower: “At peace in the vital, the result of abolition of desire”.
I personally feel that towards the end of his life Dada had achieved an absolute peace in his whole being, not only in the vital but the physical and the other parts of the being.
When he chose to leave his body on 8th of January this year (2010), I went to see him in the office of the P.E.D. where I had chatted with him for long hours. But somehow when I went into the office, I did not see death on his face: it was really glowing. The face was really glowing in a mellow gold colour. There was tremendous peace and there was benevolence on his face. It was as if he had really conquered death on some level of his being. I have also seen many people in the Ashram who have passed away. But Dada’s body was very different. It was as if death had not touched him. It was he himself who had chosen to leave the body in order to continue the Mother’s work on a different level.
He was indeed a great soldier of the Mother’s work. He was the very leader of all the soldiers of the Mother’s work—the Kartikeyan of the Mother’s soldiers! He was indeed one of those apostles of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother who have really grasped the New Consciousness and anchored it in the earth consciousness. I feel that sadhaks like Nolini-da, Champaklal-ji, Pavitra-da have really succeeded in planting the great Supramental consciousness in the human consciousness and it is because of them that today we can all speak with such confidence about the Supramental Force working upon earth.
And I feel that these apostles’ work is very important because the Mother and Sri Aurobindo also require some human agency so that the New Consciousness and Power brought down by Them are engraved upon the human consciousness.
Pranab-da or Dada was, in my understanding, one of those intimate “agencies” of the Supramental work for the earth. We really miss him, and at same time, I do not miss him because I always feel that he is around helping all of us in our fight for Truth and Justice, Order and Discipline on the physical level. My first impression of him remains the last one in my heart: a beautiful slave of God marching alongside the Divine in Her work upon earth. May the Peace he achieved in his passing—the peace of union with the Divine—pervade the Ashram and all other institutions and people close to his heart.
Dada Remembers his Birthday
It was Dada’s birthday the following day. (18.10.98)
Rajkumar came in in the morning and wished Dada ‘Bonne-fete en avance!’. Dada said ‘thank-you’. Then Rajkumar asked him: ‘Dada, when the Mother was physically there your birthday was celebrated with great festivity. Did you ever go to the Mother on your birthday?’
Dada replied: “Nothing more than usual. I would wake up on my birthday greeted by the Mother wishing me ‘Bonne-fete’. The Mother would give me two birthday-cards, one I could show to others, and the other was strictly personal. This second card was not to be shown to anybody. Then She would give me the boxes full of all kinds of gifts, clothes, shoes, chocolate, sweets, offered to me by various people. Boxes full of things as in a marriage. All very expensive things. Foreign chocolate. A boxful just for me. And another for those who carried the boxes for me. Then there would be a tussle for who got the empty chocolate box. These chocolate boxes were truly very beautiful. Then as was the rule, I went to see Her at ten in the morning. Even after the Mother left, this arrangement continued for quite some time. Now naturally it has stopped. The Mother used to give me money too on my birthday. In the beginning She gave me an equivalent that was ten times the years I was completing. Then She started giving me a hundred times my age. She always told me to spend little and save more. It would come in handy later. And it is true, even today I spend money for my personal expenses from what I had then saved. The Ashram still gives me money as the Mother had arranged. On top of this every Saturday the Mother used to give me twelve rupees in the beginning which became twenty-five later for my pocket-expenses….
While Dada was talking to us a lady came and wished him for his coming birthday. She asked: ‘Dada, how do you feel on your birthday?’
Dada answered: “I feel no difference because the vital has no age.”
(Courtesy: Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, By the Way, pp.44-7 )
The Mother’s pencil sketch of Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya.
Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya with the Mother.
The Mother with Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya.
About the Author: Dr. Ananda Reddy joined the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, at the age of 11 years, in 1958. Born to a family of philosophies, his father Prof. V. Madhusudan Reddy, who did his PhD on Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy of evolution, brought him out to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and left him in the care of the Mother. From 1958 to 1969, Ananda Reddy was student of the Ashram School where he studied passionately most of the works of Sri Aurobindo. Inspired by the ideals of the New Consciousness and the New World, as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Ananda joined, with the Blessings of the Mother, Auroville. He looked after the Aspiration School in its initial stages until he went away in 1976 to Hyderabad to pursue higher studies. On completing his Masters in Literature and in Philosophy in 1978, he pursued his M.Phil at Osmania University with a view to attempt PhD in Sri Aurobindo’s thought. However, his aspiration was fulfilled only in 1988. He joined the Post-Doctoral studies and taught for almost two years at Pondicherry University in the Sri Aurobindo School of Eastern and Western thought. On getting an opportunity to teach philosophy at Assumption University, Bangkok, he left India and experienced teaching in a foreign university from 1992 to 1995. On his return to India, he started his dream project at Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Centre of Advanced Research (SACAR), in 1996. On 29th February 2000, SACAR was inaugurated by Nirodbaran. In 2008, the Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) invited SACAR to become its Recognised Research Centre for conducting different programmes in Sri Aurobindo Studies.
Apart from conducting workshops and participating in International Seminars all over Europe and the United States, Dr. Reddy took regular classes for adults at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, giving them explanations of Sri Aurobindo’s books: The Life Divine, Savitri, Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita. Along with these classes, he also gave weekly classes at Savitri Bhavan, Auroville, on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s vision. Most of his classes were audio-recorded and now a huge collection of his talks in MP3 format is available at SACAR. He is at present the Director of SACAR and he also looks after the Institute of Human Studies as its Chairman. Apart from his regular teaching at SACAR and Savitri Bhavan, he is also a teacher at “Knowledge”, the higher course division of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. He is a recognised scholar in Sri Aurobindo’s thought but he cherishes to be acknowledged more as a sincere child of the Mother.