Respected Jagdish Chander Hassija (1929-1997) was a senior brother and one of the most prolific and articulate writers of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. Adi Dev was perhaps his most seminal work in terms of its influence and significance in the lives of many students of the Brahma Kumaris or "BKs". Written in the 1970s in the authors native Hindi and then later translated and printed in English, Adi Dev chronicles the story of the founder and the early community, along with providing the essence of knowledge that is now the foundation of all Brahma Kumaris work worldwide.
Since its printing, Adi Dev has become a story of inspiration for many. The exciting and revolutionary tale of young girls and women against the forces of tradition and patriarchal hierarchy is one that continues to move many.
In Adi Dev Jagdish artfully weaves together two key elements for the reader: the old social history and the new spiritual knowledge that took almost 30 years to become clear. The dilemma with any historical account, particularly one that is so deeply romantic and mythical in its proportions and sense-making, is its 'accuracy'.
In light of original documents re-discovered in 2007 by a couple of dedicated BKs, it became clear that some of the events, interpretations and even timeline given in Adi Dev was simplified and adjusted to create a much neater theological package, rather than the messy one that more rightly represents how the knowledge developed, and the way events occurred.
I am being intentionally careful with my language as all those who knew Jagdish, including myself, hold him in great esteem. I believe his intention was noble. Jagdish bhai wrote Adi Dev at a particular time and place in history, with a specific focus and intention: The Brahma Kumaris was expanding internationally and a concise historical account was required to provide an unseen global population an overview of BK spiritual philosophy, as well as an account of how it came to be. In the late 1970s, no thought was given to the possibility that - almost forty years later - original documents would show a complex, revolutionary series of narratives interlaced with instances of social rebellion in the context of thickly embedded politics and a convoluted legal system. One thing that is clear and true in Adi Dev is that the spiritual journey of and fierce independence of early members directly threatened thousands of years of culture, class, tradition and family.
The main pretext of Adi Dev is that the knowledge developed simply and quickly as a result of clear spiritual insights experienced by the founder, Dada Lekhraj (now known as Brahma Baba). This is in contrast to what we now understand: The knowledge came as a series of awakenings with little understanding to accompany them. Spiritual insights were reviewed, and sense-making occurred in light of the Bhagawad Gita, the key spiritual scriptures of that community. Furthermore, the knowledge was co-discovered. Dada would have insights that would then be fleshed out through the young girls' visionary trance experiences in meditation. At times girls would experience something in trance that they would tell Dada about. He would mull it over and try to make sense of it. It was a slow and steady for also convoluted and equivocal process of discovery, marked with a series of “aha” moments and great clarity. Certainly though, the spiritual knowledge was not an overnight discovery which is implied in the pages of Adi Dev. For example, the first spiritual experiences came as early as 1934. Yet, the understanding of the soul and Supreme Soul, and the yogic thought-based mind-heart union of souls with the Supreme Soul, was not understood until almost 30 years later. In Adi Dev it is postulated as being within a few years.
In the 1980s some of the senior sisters, such as Dadi Prakashmani (the Administrative Head of the Brahma Kumaris from 1969 until 2007) and Dadi Chandramani would talk about those early days and relate stories that confirm the above. However, somehow those stories somehow became lost in the passage of time: As the community expanded, classes became more general and the Dadis stopped relating such personal experiences of the early days.
Interestingly, it is only after most of the original members had passed that all of this "new understanding" came to light. The documents were discovered in May 2007 by which time Dadi Prakashmani, who could have responded with honesty and clarity as an authority on the history, as a beacon of integrity, was already unwell in hospital. Dadi passed away in August 2007. The documents were brought to the attention of seniors in October.
Adi Dev is a wonderful book that blends the spiritual knowledge of today, and integrates them with the experiences of yesterday. Adi Dev is a key text, however it is not an accurate account of what took place. It is an important historical account that tells of the key events, social conflict and deep spiritual experiences of the early members. However much of the knowledge was comprised to tell a somewhat neater and more palatable account that took place.