Leading by Example – Brahma Baba
Audio of Leading by Example
This story may be a little long… but it is well worth the read / listen.
This week, on 18th January, a very special personality will be honoured in the Brahma Kumaris Institution. His name is Brahma Baba the Founder of the Brahma Kumaris.
Before his spiritual awakening he was known as Dada Lekhraj Kirpalani. Dada, is the respectful term given to an elder. Lekhraj was born on 15th December 1876 into a humble family in Hyderabad, Sindh (now in Pakistan). His father’s name was Navalrai Kirpalani and his mother passed away when he was very young. They lived in a joint family and so thus Dada Lekhraj’s maternal love came from his aunts. Dada’s father died young when he was in his forties.
Calcutta as the capital of India was the most happening place in India: for business, for commerce, for tourists and sightseeing as it was a port city. Business was booming in Calcutta. Hence, Dada’s father sent him to work there at the age of 15, with fifteen rupees in hand. In 1911 to appease the feelings of the nationalists, the British government decided to shift its business capital from Calcutta to Delhi. ‘Interestingly, Lord Curzon, who was the Viceroy at the time of the division of Bengal was critical of the move to shift the commercial capital to Delhi.’
Dada worked for the company Tarachand Parsuram and Sons, a jewellery business. Each stint was for 3 years and he was not allowed to return to Sindh during this time. His family would come and visit him instead in Calcutta. At 18 years of age Dada returned home bringing with him that first lump sum salary.
Each time he returned to Calcutta he was promoted. In his second term he had a share of 10% in the business. In his third term he was promoted to General Manager. This was not only because of his artistry, but also for his acumen in designing the right jewellery for the right customer. He had a charm and a charisma that attracted the royalty towards him, and quite simply most of the clients preferred to deal with him.
Although business was going well at Tarachands, Dada was not very happy with the way his boss dealt with him and others. Since the salary was in a lump his boss would just decide to cut out the extra change and give the whole round figure. This had troubled Dada for some time and although he had mentioned his dishonesty to his father several times, Dada’s father had urged him not to leave the job. But enough was enough, and finally Dada gave in his notice and left the company.
At the time Dada had a loyal colleague who also decided to leave with Baba. His name was Sevakram. Many times he had mentioned to Dada: “Please take me when you go, I will go wherever you go.” Dada himself was not sure where he was going, or what he was going to do. Nonetheless, Sevakram had such confidence in Dada and replied: “I will go where you go. You are bound to be successful.” They pooled their financial resources and started another company, Lakhiraj Sevakram and Sons, around the year 1920/1921. Of course this time Dada having the bigger share.
When Dada separated from Tarachand most of the clientele moved with him, this was not through pressure but willingly. His great taste combined with his eye for detail made him a great artisan and jeweller. People simply preferred working with Dada Lekhraj and thus gave him further business.
Not only did Dada’s business flourish, but he won the respect of the kings of India and Nepal. The kings would often say to him: “God made us the kings, but God gave you the royalty.”
Dada’s wife, Jasoda Mata, was a devoted wife. They both married young and had four girls and two boys. Kishan Kirpalani was born in 1910. Second is Kalavati born 1914. Third is Nirmal Shanta born in 1917. Fourth is Navnidhi, nicknamed as Puttu, born in 1920. Fifth is a son, Naraian born 1926, and the last child was a daughter Surya. Both parents brought up the children with a lot of love and good moral guidance. Later Naraian, the son of Dada Lekhraj says that he loved and respected his father so much that he never looked at his eyes; he could never tell the colour of his eyes.
At age 60 Dada began to have visions. This is when he knew that he was entering a new phase of his life. He became very reflective and started going to work less. He was spending more hours in solitude and writing and drawing on his note book, and in a few instances the walls of his house became adorned with his churnings.
After his spiritual enlightenment Dada became known as Brahma Baba. From the late 30’s until 1969, Brahma Baba lived in an ashram in Sindh and later moved with a dedicated group of about 300 men and women to Mount Abu, North West India. Everyone adored him so much. He was like a spiritual father, mother, teacher, friend, guide and much more. Each one has a beautiful and touching story to tell about him.
Dada came to recognize that despite becoming rich and famous, that above everything else it was important to become pure and make the soul pure once again. There are so many people aspiring to become professional athletes, professional celebrities, professional chefs etc., but how many of us think of becoming ‘professionally pure’! This is one thing Brahma Baba focused on and finally attained what we define as the angelic stage.
His spirit departed in 1969, yet his legacy still continues even now. He was a great visionary, and a noble and good-hearted person. During his lifetime and up until today, he has inspired probably millions of people with his simple and elevated lifestyle and aspirations to become a better and truly benevolent person… a world benefactor.
Here are a few examples of his life and how we too can take inspiration from his life.
In those days, cow dung patties were used for fuel. Brahma Baba himself, along with others, would make them in the front yard of the ashram. One day when someone came to the Ashram to meet Brahma Baba, they asked: “Where is the head of this institution?” And others would answer: “This is him… helping us make these patties from cow dung…” The person would be shocked and amazed that someone so senior would be doing a menial task such as this, especially when no other guru would even get off his Gaddi (holy seat) to get a glass of water.
There is another similar story which a senior member of the faculty, describes: He had come to see Brahma Baba for the first time in Mount Abu. Upon his arrival he saw Baba moving some rocks with some brothers from the front of the building. This senior brother had tears upon seeing this scene. He had never seen a guru (holy person), ever come off his seat. He always saw his own gurus on the gaddi; never doing these small tasks.
He Cared and Shared
During the early days of the organization, they had to plan their meals very carefully in order to be economical. Only a certain amount of lentil soup was made, and only a certain number of chapattis, so that nothing would go to waste. One day a few of the old mothers came up to take more soup, but there was none left in the pot. Baba found out and gave them his own soup for them to eat. The reason they wanted more soup was because they didn’t have teeth and couldn’t chew the dry chapattis and so were still hungry! Baba had understood this!
His Wisdom and Intuition
One night, the head cook came to Baba and said: “Baba, tonight we have a dilemma. Either we cannot give milk tonight to the children… (Those living with Dada were known as children, since he was symbolically Baba – the father figure), or we can’t give them yoghurt in the morning. This is because some of the milk that was meant for tonight had become spoiled, and we need the good milk to make yoghurt for the morning”. So Baba thought quickly and said: “Tonight, Baba will distribute the milk”. As each child came up to Baba and looked in his eyes and felt his love, they did not see how much milk Baba was pouring. Normally the head cook distributing the milk would fill their glasses to the top; today it was only half a glass. But everyone was so contented with Baba’s loving gaze that they felt full and satisfied. The milk was secondary and they did not notice. In this way, there was milk for everyone at night, as well as yoghurt in the morning.
There had been someone in the ashram who was sick and had diarrhea on and off for about two months. She hadn’t slept well for that time. In those days professional medical help was not easily accessible on the mountain. Baba found out that she was not well. He came up to her and said: “Child, don’t worry, everything will be alright. Baba will give you an injection and you will soon be ok.” He soon asked for an injection and also some milk. Without her knowing what it was, Baba gave her an injection of milk! She slept very well that night and began to heal. She felt she would have died without that ‘injection of love’.
Once it was April Fool’s day. Baba had some special sweets made for the children. As he passed them around to the children they all felt something in their mouth, something strange. He had filled the centre of the sweets with cotton wool. And so Baba had made sweet fools of them.
Another time. Baba had the soap coloured with some dye. He gave it to one sister specifically. When she started using it, it began to colour her skin. In this way Baba used to play with this little family around him and have fun.
Another one of the senior sisters and meditation teacher relates: “It was 1957 when I first met with Brahma Baba. He was like a grandfather to me then. I was only 8 years old. His personality was very charismatic. After that meeting we moved to London. When I was aged 10 we received a parcel by airmail. In the parcel there were Alphonso mangoes from Mumbai. My brother and I were quite delighted as at that time there was no name or trace of mangoes in London. We wondered who the box was from… and it was from Brahma Baba. He had been sitting in Mumbai eating mangoes, and he remembered us and airmailed the mangoes to us. I was quite taken aback. Up until that point none of our relatives had remembered us, or gone to the trouble of sending us anything!” Such was Baba’s love and generosity.
His Farsighted Vision
The same sister continues her story. “We met Baba again in 1968 in Mt Abu. At that time he told me: ‘Child, you will go to London and serve many people and share this knowledge. And they will ask you: where did you get this knowledge? And you will reply, from Mount Abu!’ And surely that is exactly what happened. When I moved to London and went to give lectures in various places, many people would ask me that question and I would give that same reply. He foresaw my future role and continued filling me with power to be able to fulfill that role.”
Once one teacher related: “There was a training for teachers taking place in Delhi, and I was sent to be part of that. To get to the hall where the training was we had to cross a very busy main road each day to go from where we stayed. When Baba found out about this Baba cancelled the training and asked us all to come to Mt Abu instead. Such was his care and attention for our safety.”
Another meditation teacher related that she went to Brahma Baba and asked him why she was made a female in this birth. In India at that time women had a low position and were not given the opportunities, status or respect that was afforded to men. Baba gave her so much love and reminded her about her own specialties, and also how important women were in the role of world upliftment. She left with a renewed sense of self-respect. Baba knew that the feminine qualities of love, nurturing and compassion were exactly what the world needs at this time, and that women had a very special role to play. Even today it is the women that are the leading force in the Brahma Kumaris Organization.
There was a time when Baba asked one brother to look for some land to purchase in his city. Baba thought that a very good ‘museum’ (permanent exhibition) should be built so that many people would be able to receive spiritual knowledge and upliftment. Baba immediately understood and responded. With a look of surprise from the brother he said: “Don’t worry about the cost child, the money will come from somewhere. You just look for the land and someone will be inspired to help. Baba is here with you”. The brother found the perfect piece of land easily and, as Baba had envisioned, the money arrived and a museum was built. Baba simply had an undoubting faith that anything is possible. We just have to keep a determined thought and unswerving trust, that’s all.
And the stories can go on and on. Brahma Baba started the institution in 1936. It has grown from one little room on a mountain top where Brahma Baba did his intense meditations. And today there are a network of many thousands of centres in over 130 countries around the world.
Those who knew him, and those who knew of him, can never, ever, ever, forget him.
It’s Time… to learn from such a noble man and to be inspired to lead by example.
© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK