This widely recognized spiritual master lived from 1902 to 1982. As is the case with some extraordinary yogis, Prahlad Chandra was never a disciple of any earthly/ external master or guru. [Several others who fit in this category are described on other pages/ posts on this blog, especially on the “This Here” tab above.] An interesting thing about PCB is that he received all of his instructions in yoga from the goddess Kali in dreams and trances. There is a website devoted to his life and teachings here.
Prahlad Chandra Brahmachari was a renunciant devotee of the goddess Kali, who was subject to trance states and visions throughout his life. He spent his later years as a Kali priest in Ramnathpur, West Bengal, having large goddess worship celebrations which attracted thousands of visitors.
He was born into a poor Brahman family in Orissa, somewhere between 1900 and 1910 (the date is uncertain). He was one of five brothers, none of whom ever attended school. His father would spend time in meditation, and sing to Rama. The family lived on land which could grow rice only for four or five months during the year, and the rest of the year was a time of semi-starvation for the family. Occasionally his father might act as a priest, and receive a small amount of money. The children had rickets and malnutrition, subsisting during the lean months on one meal a day of bread made from grass roots.
One day, Prahlad stole some green mangos from a neighbor’s tree, and brought them to his mother as food for the family. When his father found out later, he was furious, and started hitting the child with an axe. Prahlad ran away bleeding, covering the wounds with grass.
He ran off into the woods, and travelled at random until he passed out from weakness. He awoke to see a sannyasi (monk) before him, smiling and compassionate. The sannyasi gave him some flat bread to eat, and touched his wounds with a log of wood. After that touch, the pain disappeared. Prahlad kept that log with him throughout his life. Then the sannyasi searched for a kind of leaf with a tough stem, and grabbed Prahlad’s tongue and wrote lines on it with the leaf. He etched the lines so hard that Prahlad’s tongue bled, and his “senses were lost,” as Prahlad went into a state of trance.
He regained consciousness at sunrise, and the sannyasi was gone. He could only see the remnants of a ritual fire (dhuni) and some coins. He considered his survival of his father’s beating to be a new chance at life. He rode the train in rags to Howrah station, and lived in Calcutta on the banks of the Ganges for several years, sleeping on burlap sacks. He survived in a variety of ways, first by begging, and then by acting as a wandering Kali priest with a picture of the goddess hung around his neck. He would visit shopkeepers and bless them with the goddess’ image, and they would give him a few pennies.
Sometimes he would work as a servant, a dishwasher, or a sweeper, ignoring the caste of the people for whom he worked. He was unhappy at these jobs, but at night he received instructions on yoga in his dreams from the goddess Kali.
During the day, he would contemplate these dreams and fall into trance states. This made him a poor worker, and he was often condemned by his employers. However, he did save some money, and decided to visit his parents after a gap of several years. His youngest brother had died, and his father took the money to renovate the family worship room. He continued to have visits from the goddess in his dreams, and she gave him instructions in meditation and hatha yoga. She told him to leave the household again, and he did so.
He returned to Calcutta, and first took a job as a servant, and then as a wandering priest. The goddess continued her yogic dream instructions, and he perfected his yoga postures, staying in one position for the whole night. Accompanying these practices were states of bliss. He had kept the sannyasi’s log of wood, and the goddess told him in a dream command to chew it. He would scrape off small pieces of the log to chew, and he would start having visions. He could hear verses from the sacred books of India, and see pages written in gold letters. When a person stood before him, Prahlad could “read his heart,” and know the person’s innermost secrets. He gained an ability to tell the future, and took up a new career as an astrologer. While people had looked down upon him previously for being ignorant, now they would call him anxiously to tell their futures, and his predictions were generally accurate.
He continued his nightly yogic exercises, seeing himself as a tool in the goddess’ hands. He continued chewing splinters from the log, and he lost track of time, with “tidal waves” of Sanskrit coming out of his mouth without forethought, in the form of hymns from the Hindu holy books (Vedas and Puranas). He would see visions of light before him, and lose track of his surroundings.
At the age of twenty-four years he attended a funeral ceremony (shraddha) in Hooghly district, where his abilities to predict the future made him a valued guest. His hosts insisted that he continue his visit. He did a large number of predictions, and many people with diseases and legal problems came to speak with him. He underwent mood swings and would often enter into depressions, but he felt that he was following Kali’s will. He acted briefly as priest in a small Kali temple nearby, but upset the villagers there by offering the goddess cooked food. They came en masse to threaten his host, and Prahlad was forced out of the house in which he was staying.
He wandered out and eventually sat beneath a large tamarind tree, in an open space with bushes and thorns. The goddess came to him in a vision, and told him that he should not spend his life with householders, but should create his own space. She said that he would have the barren land on which he sat. The next day, the owner of that land gave him permission to build a small ashram there, and he determined to settle there in Ramnathpur. He spent the next four years in meditation, often at a nearby burning ground. He found it frightening, but went there because it was the Mother’s command.
When he had extra money, he mailed it to his parents, and they sent back a demand: Prahlad must marry. His father had chosen a girl, and told his son to marry her. Prahlad returned to Orissa to argue with them, but they were unwilling to listen to him. He went into a single yogic position (asana) and trance state for four days and nights, and returned to normal consciousness with indifference towards his potential bride and his family. He explained again his unwillingness to marry, and his view of all women as only embodiments of the Divine Mother. He then left the house silently, and disappeared off into the woods. He took a formal vow of renunciation, and put on the clothes of a sannyasi.
He returned to Ramnathpur, and again started doing yogic practice at night. During the day, he would do ritual worship for the villagers and foretell the future. Every new moon, he worshiped the goddess at the burning ground. On one new moon in February, the villagers insisted upon following Prahlad to witness his ritual offering to Ratanty Kali. About fifteen people came, bearing lights and long sticks (lathis). Prahlad took a sharp knife and cut his arm, to offer his blood at the Mother’s feet. The wind whistled, and a storm came up, blowing out the lights and frightening the villagers so that they ran away. Outside the burning ghat the weather was quiet, and the villagers then returned. They found the altar blown over, and Prahlad unconscious and lying in a pit. They sprinkled his face with Ganges water to awaken him. During the storm he had had a vision of the goddess as infinite light, and he had been absorbed into the Mother’s spirit.
About three years after his sudden exit from the wedding, another message came from his parents: Prahlad must return, because his father was dying. He went to his parent’s house, and fulfilled his father’s last wishes, and he gained his father’s blessings. Among other requests, his father told him that he must not neglect the worship of the family deity Rama, even if Kali was his special goddess. After his father’s death, Prahlad was grief-stricken, and roamed through South India as a beggar for a month. He then returned to Ramnathpur.
When he came back to the village, two men asked for initiation from him as their guru. He also became the guru for their families. He then initiated many other people. When he entered a house, the villagers would offer him fruits and sweets, and wash his feet. However, the villagers would go through periods of doubt, and once they condemned Prahlad as a false monk, saying that they would only believe him if he could stay in his room without food or water for seven days. He went into the dark room, and knelt down before the statue of Kali, who filled the room with light. She came in visionary form and took Prahlad onto her lap, and he felt that their souls merged for seven days. He did not eat, drink, or leave the room during that week, until the trance ended at the appropriate time. It was his last trial by the villagers at Ramnathpur.
He had a variety of places where he would meditate. Often he would spend time in contemplation within a hollowed-out tree. He also had a meditation hut on a raised area between some rice and pan fields. Buried under the floor of this hut were five skulls, and he would sit over these skulls. The room also had a trident and an omkar (Sanskrit letter OM) painted on the wall. Later there were pictures of deities, and stick figures on the wall, and a large altar with a picture of a blue Kali. He warned others that this room had great power, and that it would be dangerous for others to live there. Apparently one person stayed in this hut while Prahlad was on a pilgrimage, and this visitor died after a few days there of snakebite. It is still said that the goddess Kali speaks to people who enter the hut.
Prahlad called himself a kite in the hands of Kali, which she keeps whirling. She is infinite light, showing herself as a candle, or as the soothing morning sun, or the violent and scorching sun at noon. He followed her will in practicing yoga and meditation at Ramnathpur ashram for over fifty years. He would offer Kali blood on new-moon night, when he would slit his wrists, and his disciples would hear him moan and gasp. He was often asked for boons by his disciples, especially for healing and for children, and for predicting the future. He had a coconut marked with red sindur powder and a long tongue, which he called Old Mother or Ancestress (Budi Ma). He performed rituals to Old Mother each day, when he chanted mantras and did his ritual fire sacrifice. When visitors would ask him to do things for them, he would ask Old Mother’s opinion. He would put a flower on top of the coconut, and if it remained there, he would agree to the request. If it fell, he would not accede to the request.
Prahlad gained disciples outside of West Bengal in his later life, including ones from the USA. In India he had a core group of about forty disciples, though he initiated large numbers of people (he looked for various physical signs, such as a sharply pointed tongue, which was the sign of a Kali devotee). Some Western disciples came to India and brought him to Brooklyn on several occasions. He would fall into trance states frequently there, becoming the child Krishna, the goddess, and the warrior Arjuna (among other roles), and he would perform fire sacrifices (homa fires) and pujas (ritual worship). He knew no English, and refused to touch money, living the life of a renunciant Kali priest as well as he could in a New York brownstone building.
He spoke to his Bengali devotees about prayer to the Mother:
You must always pray to the Mother. It is Mother who takes you on her lap. She is my god, Mahamaya, the great Kundalini Shakti. You have to wake Her first, and pray to Her first. That is why our worship of the Mother must come first. Because who is he who is my Father? Only the Mother knows. She will take me to him in her arms. If you can wake up Mahamaya, that great power in the sushumna, in the thousand petalled lotus, then you will drink nectar.. this is why I perform the Homa fire before her… Mother is the provider; without the mother, there is no father. When the Mother takes me in her lap, she will merge me with brahman. Mother knows my father’s name, and my caste, and she knows the path to infinity. Without Mother, one cannot find that impossible path.
The goddess is reflected in human women, and also in statues:
You must first pray to the outer mother, only then can you gain the Mother within. It is like seeing your face in mirror. You must see the outer image, so that you can know what you look like… Ma is in many places. Once when I was defecating, I was digging with a stick, and a small statue appeared. The goddess within it spoke to me, and she said, “I am Anandamayi.” I took it back and cleaned it very well, and it shone like gold. Some robbers saw it and thought it was real gold, and they took it away. I began to cry, and the Mother came and said to me, “Let the statue go. Have no fear. They have only taken my outer form. The statue which is established inside you is still there, the robbers have not been able to take it.”
According to his disciples and to people who knew him, he had a variety of psychic powers, especially the abilities to induce visions and to communicate at a distance. As one informant stated:
When Baba (Prahlad) was doing his homa fire, I saw a vision of the goddess, Ma Kali. She was dancing in a river of blood, like a waterfall, but she was beautiful and laughing. She had blue skin and six arms, with weapons and other things in her hands. She laughed with bliss.
His devotees spoke of his having a “cosmic telephone.” He would put his finger on the ground, as if pressing a button, and say that he was in touch with someone at a distance. He was said to be particularly adept at entering the dreams of his devotees. As an American informant stated,
I once had a dream of Baba before I met him, in which I was playing a guitar and singing spiritual songs. He appeared in a loincloth, dancing with one arm up in the air, his legs moving rapidly, stomping to the rhythm of the song. Suddenly, the scene changed, and he was staring at me, six inches from my face, his eyes focused intently on me. A strange power radiated from his eyes. I felt myself expand inwardly, and my heart was full of a bliss that spread through my body. Later I learned that one of his devotees had given him a picture of me. When I met him months later, as soon as I walked into the room his translator told me that Baba wanted to know if I remembered him, that he had visited me. He did not say this to any of the other thirty people in the room. I think he had used the picture as a means of contacting me.
I saw that same look when he gave one of his visitors in New York City darshan. He sat the person down and stared intensely at her for a period of minutes. She later said she had a profound spiritual experience during this period.
Many of his talks are recorded and available online. Here is a sample:
Guru : Keep a diary. Whether you feel happy or sad, write it down. Write about whatever comes into your mind. I told everyone about keeping a diary.Always work and follow your routine. Go to school, college, work, keeping your regular schedule. Don’t avoid your duty. Keep the diary and always write down whatever you are doing. Write about whether you have followed your routine. If your mind is “right,” or your mind is “poison,” write it down. Write about whether you have kept in the company of your satsang.
Premananda (translating): Record how your mind was each day.
Guru: When you speak or think spiritual things, write it down: “I experienced ananda in meditation,” or “Today I couldn’t do that much meditation.” If you see jyoti (light) in meditation, write it down.
Someone asks Guru if he wants to take a walk.
Guru: Where will I walk?
A child runs by, playing. Guru says, “That boy has wings.” Guru mentions that at Ramanathpur Ananda Ashram many people come on Saturday and Tuesday. He then begins to talk about Kanta Devi’s initiation, that she approached him and said, “I did not take initiation from anybody. You give it to me.” Shortly Guru turns the subject back to Gita, and to the photograph of Guru Premananda gave to her.
Guru (to Premananda): Did you get a bribe from Gita, that you gave her such a big picture? (to Gita) If someone wants to have your Guru’s photo, and they will give that picture the proper respect, then you give it to them. Otherwise, don’t.
Premananda: Only give Guru’s photo to someone who really wants it. Don’t push it.
Guru: Why do you take a Guru? Give him everything to carry.
A young male student begins a conversation about the Guru, and about spiritual practices.
Student: I see all these teachers — Swami Chitananda, Sushil Kumar, and others, but I want to know: Who is the Guru? Who is the Teacher?
Guru: Divine sound or nada. Hold onto the sound.
Student: How do you find the sound?
Guru: Meditation. How do you see a sound, find a sound? A baby is growing in its mother’s womb — how can you see it until it’s born? I don’t want to be a Guru. If I want to be a Guru I will not tell you that myself: “I want to be your Guru.” Slowly everything will come. Can you buy Guru in the marketplace? If you pay with a diamond, can you get Guru?
Student: I want to ask about pranayama (yogic breathing). Should I do it, or is it better not to do it?
Guru: If you do it, do a little bit. Do it slowly. (Guru begins demonstrating alternate nostril breathing). One, five, zero, zero. “One” is God; the body is “Five” (for the five senses and five elements in Hindu cosmology — Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether), and “Zero-Zero” (indicates the two nostrils). The breath becomes still. You must sit properly, with your body straight. You can see light. If you really pursue pranayam seriously, you must observe Brahmacharya (celibacy).
Sanat (translating): He is advising you to do ordinary yoga. If you do this for a long time, passions will be conquered, and you can reach the state that holy person reach. Householders cannot do as saints do. They have to pay the rent, feed the children. It is not possible for them to do rigid sadhana. But they desire Brahma-darshan, vision of God. How to get it? Slowly, by doing normal yoga practices, you attain this.
Guru: I started to do yoga at the age of seven, and I became like this after all those years. It is the same for you … slowly, slowly, you get bhava samadhi, prema samadhi, maha samadhi. Right!
Guru then recounted an incident that occurred while he was performing the fire ceremony in Athena’s yard. He began the story by saying “Brahmamayi!…brain …” Sanat translated.
Sanat: He said that after concentration and meditation, a time will come when you will experience a state of stillness, where you forget everything. For example, He was citing what happened the other day with Mrs. Hart. Baba was sitting in the room where he used to worship and make the fire ceremony. In the moment when the fire ceremony was on, he called for Param Brahmamayi and Brahmamayi. Both were sitting side by side, and while he was doing that ceremony, Brahmamayi went into samadhi. She forgot everything. She doesn’t go through pranayam or all those things. As she simple meditates in that position, so he advises you to do yoga in an ordinary way. Not a difficult way, like yogis will do.
Sanat then moves the conversation into a discussion on the rigors of a yogi’s life, noting “They do not take salt. It is a sin for them to take salt.” As Sanat continues in this vein Guru says “Om, Om, Om, ah ma. Shanti.”
Student: How do you (break) the Brahma Granthi, Vishnu Granthi, Shiva Granthi (the obstructions to kundalini at the various chakras).
Guru: You must go slowly on these things … when it happens, you will know. First: repeat your mantra. After that, the light comes. Third: divine sound. The first is mantra, dhyan (meditation) on Guru’s form; then you will be shown the light. After that light comes nada, sound. Finished. Then you don’t need mantra anymore.
“Om,” no. “Hare Krishna,” no.
This is a talk given by PCB on the birthday of Sri Ramakrishna [there is much much more info about Ramakrishna elsewhere on this site]:
Om welcome, Om welcome, Om welcome!
Today is the birthday of Sri Ramakrishna. It is a great holy day. Here at Ananda Ashram are a number of devotees, and Premananda, Yogananda, Nityananda.
Today it is fitting to remember Sri Ramakrishna, to worship him. His “immortal words” (Kathamrita) are a very great thing. Sri Ramakrishna! Sri Ramakrishna! Sri Ramakrishna! Priceless jewel! You can’t put any price on it. There is no limit to its greatness.
This great man of ours, Yuga Avatar Ramakrishna, has given immortal nectar by his darshan. Drinking that immortal nectar, the universe—I’m not saying only India but Amer ica, London, Russia, Germany, Japan, Poland, Hawaii, and all there other countries—everyone is swimming in that nectar. Some have dived into it, some have drunk of it, and others see Ramakrishna all the time. Thus their lives are blessed.
Today is a great day, the greatest day. All these days are going by, day after day is passing by, yet who really has peace of mind? That which is called Brahma, or consciousness, or Prem.
Prem Kalpataru Sri Ramakrishna!
Prem Kalpataru Sri Ramakrishna!
Jagat Guru Sri Ramakrishna!
Ramakrishna, how worthy was his life! Even now he is still with us, he is walking around, he is deathless. It seems to the eyes of ordinary people that Ramakrishna Parama hansa has given up his body. But no, this is “maya” talk. Truly he is still alive.
Why? As when the light shines, the darkness is removed, so by the light of his compassionate grace, his immortal nec tar-like message, the words of truth, by all these things millions of people have become madly intoxicated. Sri Ramakrishna, throughout his whole life, in what a beautiful way he spent his life! Again and again he used to laugh and say: “I am but a fool. I am a fool!”
Swamiji’s original name was Naren. How many times Naren tested him! How many times he hurt him. And yet if Naren didn’t come Thakur would worry and suffer. In the same way that this American, Premananda, is testing me, or will test. Truly this has been his work. Until one takes the gold in one’s own hands, to look at and see whether it is actually real or not, until then one cannot make use of it. So someone says it is “gold,” does that make it real! Ah! But when it is given to a goldsmith …
Then one day Ramakrishna said laughing to Sri Ma, “Oh Ma, you have been wanting to wear a golden tulsi leaf bangle, haven’t you?” The gold was called “bangle.” Then again, when it is made into an earring, it is not called “gold,” it is called “earring.” And again, it is a necklace or a bracelet for the hand—truly, from gold a lot of different names are born.
It is true that he was born in India, but he has taken birth all over the whole world. Why? Because everyone loves him so much. It can be seen that in an ordinary household a father loves his son. He also loves his mother, and all his children as well. And yet as we are seeing right now, does he not love Ramakrishna as well? In this whole world, people who have not drunk of Ramakrishna’s name are very rare.
“Whole Area.” So I am unlearned. I am also that kind of really unlearned fool.
Today in Ramanathpur Ananda Ashram, in front of all the Ramanathpur devotees, I pranam that great man, that Yuga Ava tar Ramakrishna a thousand times. This compassionate one, truly worthy to be remembered, this great man Sri Sri Ramak rishna, to him I bow down.
You know, I have no power to give a speech. I am com pletely ignorant. I haven’t studied any shastras. I can’t speak any languages very well. Just by feeling this little bit, by his blessing, this bit ..
On this day, the first day of our Chaitra month, today I bow down to Ramakrishna, most venerable Lord, guru of the world. Oh great one! Man-filled-with-light! Hey Paramahansa! Hey knower of Brahman, hey wish-fulfilling tree, oh light filled moon: remove this darkness from the “whole area.” He has, in his own body, given everything away.
And sometimes he used to say to Mathur Babu, “I am so very poor, very destitute, give me a little bit, I want to help the very, very poor” Ah-ha! He used to give them the very clothes off his own body! If he saw a need, from his own body he used to give. Rich devotees would give him shawls, good blankets, very good things, and right away he would help the poor in their need.
Swamiji also said, “Where is our God? Where is the Lord? In men’s hearts! Those who love mankind, it is they who truly love God.” Sheva-dharma. Service is true religion. Today in America, people from house to house, taking Sri Sri Ramak rishna’s picture, or Swamiji’s picture to their breast, have become intoxicated. It is a true saying that under the lan tern there is darkness. The light is revealed at a distance. We live, no doubt, right near the Ganges, but we hardly ever take a bath in it. This is caused by our ignorance.
So he is the Wish Fulfilling Tree. From age to age he is here and will remain. Ordinary men give up their bodies and die, but he was not an ordinary man. He was high. His every single word was immortal. Just as if one drinks “Amrita,” one becomes deathless, so those who have drunk his immortal words, they also become deathless, they are alive.
So I have spoken this unlearned speech, but one must feel it within. His message was “Tyag-Dharma,” the religion of renunciation. Tyag-Dharma is our one and only means. Prem.
He said to Naren, “Naren! why don’t you sing a song? I want to hear one.”
Naren said, “Oh! You have a great fancy! You always want to hear songs, don’t you? My stomach is on fire, I am whipped by sorrow, I have become so oppressed, and still I have to sing a song for you?”
“Oh?” said Thakur. “You have become sad? You are in need? Why don’t you go to Ma? Bishwajanani, Ma Jagadhama, go to Bhavatarini and tell her. Your sorrow will be removed.”
Swamiji answered, “You go and tell her on my behalf.”
“Naren, Naren, you go and tell her, Bhavatarini, she who ferries us across this world of illusion. Go now, go once and tell her.”
Swamiji, obedient to Thakur’s order, went to the temple of Bhavatarini. But he forgot about his terrible poverty. He only asked Her: “Ma! Give me love, give me devotion, give me pure knowledge. May the whole world be blessed. May the whole world be at peace.” Ah! What a beautiful feeling!
When he came back, Thakur asked him, “Well Naren, what did you get from Mother?” “Oh Thakur! I forgot! I forgot about the sorrow at home!” “Okay,” said Thakur, “you go again tomorrow.”
Day by day, three days later Swamiji said, “Thakur, it’s no use. It won’t work by me. I couldn’t want my own happiness any more. This whole world is crying at the whiplashings of poverty. For that I am praying to Bhavatarini.”
On this, Ramakrishna’s birthday, I have spoken this very little bit. But I am a fool. I don’t know how to give speeches. Yet I spoke anyway, to Premananda, Yogananda, and Nityananda, three boys.
Sivaratri day was Premananda’s initiation day, the day he had gotten diksha. For a month, in great suffering, much sor row, by many paths, through many obstacles they have come here. On Sivaratri day. Our Sivaratri is a very great night. Wakeful. So they arrived. Mother’s grace is like this. I saw the serious illness of the tree. “Diarrhoea.” Vomiting blood! What hardship! This is called Prem. “Guru-God, God-Guru!” To get the darshan of guru. It said in Premananda’s letter: “I don’t have much money. We will go by land, by train, by bus.” This great weariness, by so many paths, so many steps, coming by walking, not getting food, no time for getting rest, in this way they have come.
For this reason today I pray to Sri Ramakrishna, Wish Fulfilling Tree, Sri Sri Ramakrishna, “Hey Kalpataru! Hey Yuga Avatar! Thakur! Hey Gem of Love! Please, sitting right within them, grant them Light.”
He has already done something. If he hadn’t, would this feeling have dawned in them? They are young boys. Where is any entertainment, where is any cinema, where will they get any luxury or enjoyments here? Everything is given up. Ah! What religion, what high feeling. See what great renuncia tion! What tired paths, what suffering they got. This is religion. And where is ours? Surrendering the mind and body — this is religion.
Enough. Today I have finished here. For the peace and benefit of the whole universe, the whole area, whole Asia, whole world, for that, bowing down to Sri Ramakrishna thousands of times, I end my speech.
The above is a really big new picture of the globular cluster Messier 92 also known as M92 or NGC6341. Click it for full size. This is a segue to things unrelated to Prahlad Chandra, although it is a wonderful expression of how the universe is providing instruction all the time, in every way, simply by being itself.
Below: Pictures I like that have turned up recently. As always, click for full size. I wouldn’t want you to miss a thing. Also, sometimes they don’t animate, if they are animations, unless you click. Depends on your browser, I think.
Maybe they are old-hat to you but they came as new to me.
The above is a new lunar snapshot released by NASA this week.
This one sums it up-
Today’s musical offering, by Innocence Mission, the Prayer of St. Francis: