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Talks by Nirodbaran

at Sri Aurobindo
Centre of Education

Volume 1

Nirodbaran. Talks by Nirodbaran at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.– [Volume 1] / Edited by Ranganath R. and Sudha.– Chennai: Helios Books, 2012.– ISBN 978-93-82540-01-4


Publisher’s Note

14 May 1969

21 May 1969

4 June 1969

10 June 1969

11 June 1969

17 June 1969

18 June 1969

25 June 1969

2 July 1969

9 July 1969

16 July 1969

22 July 1969

23 July 1969

30 July 1969

6 August 1969

13 August 1969

20 August 1969

27 August 1969

3 September 1969

8 September 1969

11 September 1969

17 September 1969

24 September 1969

8 October 1969

14 October 1969

22 October 1969

23 October 1969

24 October 1969

27 October 1969

29 October 1969

31 October 1969

27 November 1969

17 December 1969

24 December 1969

Publisher’s Note

When Nirodbaran came to Sri Aurobindo Ashram, after completing his medical studies in UK, to practise integral yoga, he was surprised to find that poetry was one of the vocations taken up by some disciples as a means of sadhana. Sri Aurobindo encouraged and even inspired them in their efforts through suggestions for improvement and guidance in the art of poetics. Helped by Sri Aurobindo’s active interest, Nirodbaran began writing poetry and indulged in «eccentric innovations» without knowing anything about English metrical forms. Writing in a mystic-surrealistic vein, his poems gradually progressed towards «overhead poetry». After guiding him continuously in his poetic efforts, Sri Aurobindo declared one day that the poet was born!

The genesis of this book came about in this manner: Somewhere around 1968-69, a teacher had the bright idea of asking Nirod-da to speak to the students of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education about Sri Aurobindo. It was deemed that his talks would help prepare the students for Sri Aurobindo’s birth-centenary. Nirod-da had been in close personal contact with Sri Aurobindo for twelve years. Before that, he had a voluminous correspondence with Sri Aurobindo for five years. It was for these reasons that the students were eager to hear him speak about Sri Aurobindo. Nirod-da agreed and he spoke to the students every Wednesday from 10:40 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Very soon, word went round that Nirod-da’s talks about Sri Aurobindo were very interesting and elevating, and the class started to grow. The audience swelled, and soon the venue had to be shifted to the ‘Hall of Harmony’ so that all who wanted to attend could do so.

Someone suggested that the talks should be recorded because they often contained fresh information about Sri Aurobindo, hitherto unknown to many. Since there was only a single cassette, it was used for recording the talk in every class, and then, after transcription, the same cassette would be used for the next class. Nirod-da delivered, on the whole, around 150 talks, all of which were patiently recorded and transcribed by Sudha and Kokila. Nirod-da’s well-known book Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo was written from the notes taken during these talks. Even before the writing of the book was completed, Nirod-da started reading it out to the Mother, who would listen to it with great interest about four times a week. She herself wrote a small piece for the book, which said: «Thanks to Nirod, we have the revelation of an altogether unknown side of what Sri Aurobindo was. It is extremely interesting and very instructive.»

When Nirod-da completed all he had to say about Sri Aurobindo, he continued the classes and he spoke about his correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, quoting profusely from the letters he had received from the Master. He also spoke about the other sadhaks in the Ashram as well as his own experiences. But the focus of his talks was always Sri Aurobindo.

Helios Books is very glad to publish these talks, not only because of the light they throw on some of the lesser known facets of Sri Aurobindo, but also because they reveal the inimitable humour of both Sri Aurobindo and Nirodbaran and their special relationship that we are privileged to witness. We thank the editors, Ranganath R. and Sudha, for their painstaking work in preparing this book.

14 May 1969

Last week I had read to you the life story of a remarkable yogi, which all of you had enjoyed and cherished. [Mahatma Krishnashram’s story]. It seems that our photographer, Vidyavrata1, has met this yogi and that much of the story is true. He doesn’t talk with visitors, and to the chagrin of Vidyavrata, he doesn’t allow himself to be photographed! He was a witness to the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, so now you can calculate his age!

Now that we’re in this mood of storytelling and you children like nothing better, I intend to tell you a story. I feel a little sense of guilt for pushing the Lord from our midst by this digression, but I hope He won’t mind, for He has a sense of humour. The story is about a sadhak2 who is half-baked and half-boiled, like the bun you receive in the Dining Hall; ungainly, charred, crusty, but with some soft stuff in the centre. He is a very ordinary person like any one of you. He doesn’t live in close oneness with nature. He is fond of good clothes, laughs, sometimes weeps; eats and sleeps like everybody else, has a good taste, a sense of humour, enjoys good food and tea. When invited by generous ladies, he is ready to taste rasagullas and pantuas3 made by them. He enjoys good company, likes sweet faces, sudden graces. He has a bit of a poet in him, lifts his eyes to the stars at night and, saying Amen, goes to bed.

You see now that he’s like any one of you4. «Then why bother us with such a story?» you may ask. But I believe that one’s life is very interesting if one can look at it with detachment; it may even appear very comical. The comical part appears when this sadhak, like M. Seguin’s goat5, says: «Il faut du large»6 At times, «magic casements» have opened «on the foams of perilous seas»7 and the voice of the Master has seemed to say from behind the rocks: «Beware, beware, don’t make a fool of yourself. Beware!»

Well, now I will tell you about the Master and his asinine disciple! I will be a little sentimental and personal, but as we have become a close and intimate circle, meeting regularly for three years, sentimentality and personality can be permitted.

My book, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, has made history. The younger generation may take time to appreciate it, but these elderly friends, who have a background of culture and experience, will look at it more lovingly and appreciatively.

This is the one book that has made me what I am and what I want to be in this and other lives to come. The book runs to about three hundred and fifty pages without the preface, and contains letters written to one person only. Except another sadhak who corresponded with Sri Aurobindo, nobody else has received so many letters. The correspondence started in 1934, first in a meagre manner and later in full swing, and ran into three hundred and fifty pages in a few years. But mind you, not from any sense of pride do I say this, but rather from utter shame – though I used to walk on air when I received the letters, and life was a song – it is still a song, but a sad one! I am really ashamed for having taken up so much of His precious time. In a human way, you can see how much of His time has been wasted in satisfying one person’s curiosity and in humouring him. But this correspondence was intended for my soul’s development.

The book, in the form of questions and answers, gives no idea of what and how much I used to write. The letters were often eight to ten pages each, and He used to read all that at night. The only consolation I have for all this youthful enthusiasm and effervescence is that He found my letters interesting (though interesting has many meanings!). But once He called them, when a bit piqued, «your soul-stirring communications!»

At times, when the correspondence was suspended due to too much work or due to the Darshan8, I was naturally dejected and used to lament. He made an exception for me, and to prevent others’ grudging objections, taught me an innocent Divine trick – to hide my private book under cover of the medical report book! I whispered it to one or two persons, and as nothing in this world remains a secret -this too became a universal secret! There used to be indignant protests from other devotees against my blasphemies. Why does this fellow, who doesn’t even accept Sri Aurobindo as Avatar9, still get so much favour and leniency from Him? They used to fret, and they wouldn’t understand why I was so favoured and why Sri Aurobindo treated me like the prodigal son. I didn’t care; I cocked a snook at them! My caravan went on and I ignored the wayside barking.

A glance at the Contents page [of Correspondence] will reveal the large freedom He gave me to discuss any and every subject with Him. At times, He said, «I am trying to intellectualise you,» (and then softly) «but I find that you’re a blockhead, a wooden head.» But it is not so much the content that is important, though it is true that my knowledge of spirit and matter doesn’t go beyond this book. He has given me more than His intellectuality; something else, which no words can describe. It is the tone, the attitude in which He wrote all this, that is the most important thing for me. I suppose that it is the same for all of you here and others outside the Ashram. The tone was a revelation to all the people who read this book, whether outside or inside the Ashram. Most had never seen this aspect of Sri Aurobindo which was reflected in His letters to me.

Some asked how I dared to stand in front of Him for Darskan? Didn’t I tremble before Him? They couldn’t even look straight at Him, so grave and austere were His face and countenance, without a smile. But I forgot everything when I bowed at His feet, and He seemed to be so gracious that I forgot that I had taken so much liberty with Him. Why tremble when He had never even used a harsh word? When had He not forgiven me?

What tenderness, indulgence, encouragement, sympathy, what Divine patience, and above all, what sun-like humour, to raise and encourage the ‘Man of Sorrows’10 in me. At times when I stumbled psychologically, He encouraged: «Shake off the dust, go on the way!» He has rescued me from the slough of despondency with His encouragement and sweetness. He tried to widen my narrow medico-material outlook on things, so that ultimately He succeeded in turning my ‘outlook’ into an ‘inlook’!

Intellectually, I can say that I’ve gained a lot. Whatever knowledge of philosophy or science I’ve gained is limited to this book. I know that there is not only science, but super-science too. How I fought with Him, and against homeopathy especially, but now I can assert and confirm its value. Now while my medical colleagues do not believe in homeopathy, I fully believe in it. And how I fought with Him when He gave His own example to prove that some things which I thought were impossible to change were indeed quite possible to be transformed. He said: «I will keep on beating you and bantering you till you believe.»

There is a kindness that can crush. His unaccountable kindness and Divine largesse have crushed me and have made me His eternal servant, however unworthy! And all this to what purpose? I do not know why He was so generous. I was quite an average human being, why then rain upon me such a cascade of benevolence ? Was it due to previous karma? That can never be, I could never have done so much! I needed to have either been an impertinent sinner like Jogai-Madhai11 or an advanced yogi in prospect. But I was neither, that much common sense God had given me! Why then, I used to ask myself, pour so much unlimited bounty on a very ordinary person like myself ? Once I put Him this question and His cryptic reply was, «Find out for yourself.» Till today I’ve tried to find, to search, discover and seek, but without any result. I do not think that in this life, or others to come, I will find an answer to this problem. Perhaps it is because of this? [pointing to a quotation on the board which read: ‘He who chooses the Infinite, Has been chosen by the Infinite12]. It is still a mystery, but its effect I can never forget. Whatever I am today, and hope to be in other lives, is due to Him. Whatever happens in my life always reminds me of His grace and compassion and has made me, for this life and for lives to come, an eternal servant of the Lord.

I came here to the Ashram without any clear idea of what I wanted.

Idid not have any spiritual seeking, yet I was lured by Him and was caught in His ‘luminous net.’13 Now whenever there is a black cloud in my life or if my feet tend to go astray, He holds me back. Whenever unwholesome thoughts or contrary actions sway me, this correspondence reminds me how much He has done for me, and keeps me steady. This is the eternal debt I owe Him. And this I can swear -that I will be here till my last breath, and that breath shall remain as pure as possible. I know that I cannot repay even a fraction of what He has done and is still doing. It will take hundreds of lives, even if I were to try. Human kindness can be repaid, ladies and gentlemen, but you cannot pay back Divine Grace, because the Divine gives without measure, without bargain or motive.

He left no stone unturned to bring my soul to the Light. All this He has done for me and He has tried to make me a yogi! He began by trying to make me a poet and He succeeded, though not all at once; I began by writing a few lines in Bengali as well as in English, and He had to do lots of corrections, many marginal notes; then finally He succeeded in moulding me – He said, «A poet is born!» There must have been some soul-sparks in me, of course! Since the Lord has done so much for me, I should serve Him as best I can, and do whatever He has prepared for me. Therefore, let me in this life try my best to be true to Him. This is my aspiration and human endeavour.

21 May 1969

Today I will speak to you of the last sad incident14 – the passing away of our beloved Pavitra-da15, the passing away of a true and real yogi. It is said that there is a «... touch of tears in mortal things,»16 but this touch is also sweet at the same time. Within two months, we’ve seen the passing away of two great souls from our midst17. We shall never come to know their true greatness because they lived such simple and apparently common lives: they shared our lives, games, pursuits, as if they were one of us. So perhaps we missed their stature and greatness, which they wore so lightly and simply, or perhaps we forgot their greatness because they were so close to us, just as I forgot the Lord’s greatness being so close to Him. Pavitra-da was entirely dedicated to the Divine. Mother said that, from the very beginning, he followed the path without the slightest vacillation, without turning either to the right or to the left; he followed the footsteps of the Master so closely and unwaveringly. This cannot be easily done or achieved, for most of us look to the right, to the left, behind, below, and to the side, and we long for ‘the fleshpots of Egypt’18 that have been left behind.

I will give you one instance that will show the calibre of his soul. After having finished his course in the Polytechnique (the technology school in France), which as you know is an extremely difficult course, he abandoned all the possibilities of a brilliant career and set himself on the path of self-discovery, wandering all the way to Japan and China and then to Mongolia. Finally he came to the Ashram and surrendered himself to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

The Mother was then not active in the Ashram matters, and Sri Aurobindo alone used to see visitors. When Pavitra-da

As for me, I did not have a very deep relationship with him. But I had many an occasion to watch him from a distance. I always felt, whenever I met him, that here was someone unique; and I came back with an impression of calm sweetness and radiant sympathy. Always he lived in a high plane of Light and seemed to be beckoning us from there.

His very name, ‘Pavitra,’ suited his nature so well. To quote our Master’s words from Savitri, his nature «had not one turbid wave19.» Sweetness and light were the two dominant qualities – the psychic qualities, the qualities of the soul – that permeated his whole being. You must have felt the psychic warmth and the aura in his manner, his demeanour and his ways. He was born of French aristocracy and nobility, and developed those traits further by the practice of yoga.

He was a marvellous example of a yogi. So totally surrendered was he to the Mother that She could move in him as if in Her own house. No restraint, no hesitation in Her relations and approach to him. His room was called ‘the second secretariat’ and was joined by a corridor to Her room. Whenever She had need of him, She used to call «Pavitra, Pavitra!» and he used to come running: «Mère, Mère20 She dropped in whenever She liked, to give him some work, to tell him something, etc. When She went to the balcony for the morning Darsban, she had to pass through his room, and at times Pavitra-da would be sleeping. And She used to hold his hands and say, «Wake up, Pavitra.» His service was an absolute necessity for her, and when She wanted to go out, She had to call him because he used to drive her car. He used to prepare sandwiches for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo; the burden of the European correspondence was on his shoulders; he looked for formulas to prepare our toothpaste, face powder, hair oil, eyewash, etc. He did everything meticulously, unflinchingly and scrupulously.

It seems – I don’t know how far it’s true – that he used to wash Churu-da’s21 clothes, in the beginning. And Charu-da, thinking him to be an ordinary European, let him do it. Charu-da, on his next visit, saw that Pavitra-da had been promoted to a room upstairs in the Ashram, and he exclaimed, «Oh, What have I done!» thereby expressing his embarrassment at his blunder.

Pavitra-da had the true Christian spirit, a real humility. How is it possible to be thus without being, at the very roots, truly great and genuine? Still we did not realize all this greatness, because of his simple and humble ways. If he had put on the robe of a sannyasi22, we would have fallen prostrate at his feet. However great one may be, one moves about, in the outward life, like everybody else. This is the beauty and charm of our yoga.

Once I had to consult him for an article written by me in French. And, somewhat to my annoyance, he began going over all the commas and full stops; and if I had put three etceteras’ somewhere, he said, «It’s not done, two will do!» He was particular for perfection in detail – this is the aspect of Mahasaraswati23. He did everything as perfectly as possible, and that, my friends, is the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s way.

All this cannot but be the manifestation of the inner growth of the soul. Generally, it is the accursed outward nature of ours which refuses to be changed. It is like a dog’s tail, very difficult to straighten. We don’t even want it to change. I thought, «What difference does a little comma here and there make?»

If you’re serving the Divine, there has to be perfection in every detail. His was a flawless service to the Divine Guru. He did his sadhana quietly and imperceptibly. Such was Pavitra-da’s sense of perfection that he never did anything grudgingly, and always with a self-effacement, never pushing himself to the forefront in self-importance. He did everything silently, forgetting himself completely in Their service.

During World War II, Pavitra-da, being a French citizen, had to join the French Army. Every morning, he used to go to the military ground for military training. One day, the order came for him to go to the front. I believe that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo tried hard to get him exempted from it, with no result. Then the Mother told him to be prepared. He kept his uniform ready. The boat was to arrive at a certain date, but either by a miracle or by some fortuitous chance, the ship floundered, and a second ship never came!

Once I wrote asking about this incident and the Mother gave me a long explanation lasting half an hour in which she revealed all the details about the incident. And the fool that I was, I did not note it down! This event is a revealing example of how the Divine protects and saves us when we have surrendered completely. Pavitra-da wasn’t in the least affected by these circumstances, was never disturbed. He took all this calmly, as a part of his sadhana. Again, this is the stamp of a great soul.

Some of our people used to talk very glibly about the quality of our sadkaks here. They said, «Show us one Vivekananda here, if you have any,» and we said, «None! Why do you want a Vivekananda? There is only one Vivekananda as we have only one Pavitra-da, one Amrita-da, one Nolini-da

I will now read out to you some of my correspondence with Sri Aurobindo24:

[Nirod-da:] Guru, what the deuce is «Brahman consciousness»? The same as cosmic consciousness ? Does one come to it after the psychic and spiritual transformations?

Is it something like seeing Brahman in everybody and everywhere or what? It is not spiritual realisation, I suppose, I mean realisation of Self ? You see I am a nincompoop in this business. Please perorate a little.

[Sri Aurobindo:] Eternal Jehovah! You don’t even know what Brahman is! You will next be asking me what Yoga is or what life is or what body is or what mind is or what sadhana is! No, sir, I am not proposing to teach an infant class the A.B.C. of the elementary conceptions which are the basis of Yoga. There is Amal who doesn’t know what consciousness is, even!

Brahman, sir, is the name given by Indian philosophy since the beginning of time to the one Reality, eternal and infinite, which is the Self, the Divine, the All, the more than All, which would remain even if you and everybody and everything else in existence or imagining itself to be in existence vanished into blazes – even if this whole universe disappeared, Brahman would be safely there and nothing whatever lost. In fact, sir, you are Brahman and you are only pretending to be Nirod; when Nishikanta is translating Amal’s poetry into Bengali, it is really Brahman translating Brahman’s Brahman into Brahman. When Amal asks me what consciousness is, it is really Brahman asking Brahman what Brahman is! There, sir, I hope you are satisfied now.

To be less drastic and refrain from making your head reel till it goes off your shoulders, I may say that realisation of the Self is the beginning of Brahman realisation – the Brahman consciousness -the Self in all and all in the Self, etc. It is the basis of the spiritual realisation and therefore of the spiritual transformation; but one has to see it in all sorts of aspects and applications first and that I refuse to go into. If you want to know, you have to read the Arya25.

While referringto greatness, Sri Aurobindo wrote to me: «I daresay that [my disciples are] in no way different from or inferior to Vivekananda or other adbaras26. When did Vivekananda become great ? After going to America and having lectured there. It’s rather difficult to know who is really great, that is why people pass these facile remarks!»

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are not in the habit of saying: «Here are great people like Pavitra and Nolini and Amrita.» These people live with us and we can exchange glances and word-lances with them! But let me not compare them with others, for as Sri Aurobindo says «comparison is odorous» – has a bad smell. But even then, this much I can say: that they’re as great as anybody outside the Ashram.

The Mother had these instruments fashioned with Her own hands; they are, to quote Amrita-da, ‘ripe fruits,’ but unfortunately two of the ripe fruits have fallen. Many questions arise, many doubts, but they’re otiose if we know the underlying truth. I do not say like Shakespeare that ‘ripeness is all’. No, it is not all: it is only a beginning. From here starts a new race.

You may ask why then has this misfortune come? In a way, it is a misfortune. All that preparation for getting ready for the transformation, was it all wasted ? These questions cannot be answered by me. But I can only say that just as the Lord gave up His body for a greater purpose, so too did His disciples.

We know how much Pavitra-da suffered and fought. Until the last moment, he did his work, and his suffering cannot be told in words. Every day, he used to go to the Mother, and although he took an hour to reach Her, he never failed. He couldn’t even raise his legs and so went as slowly as an ant. An ant goes slowly without any trouble, but for him each step was painful.

Earlier, he used to do his exercises, and he kept them up as long as he was able to, and I used to see him running up and down the corridor, going down the steps. He never stopped working in spite of the pain. He knew very well what he was suffering from and all its consequences, but he was always cheerful. Is it humanly possible? Whether he was well or ill, nothing affected him, he was above circumstances. He reminds me of Sri Ramakrishna, who had cancer of the throat but still talked and worked.

His was the spirit that ruled over matter and mastered it. Like his Master, he fought for every inch of the ground. Though apparently he failed, he gained for us much ground. But these failures are never failures. Now, as you know, a mortal struggle is going on for immortality27 and he fought till the last – that’s our victory.

We shall remember him gratefully. May we profit by his bright example and may we be as true in our surrender to the Mother.

4 June 1969

After a long relay of stories, to use a term from athletics, we come back to our main subject. But I’ve been asked to add one more story – one more for your teacher’s birthday28! So here is one – of which I don’t know how much you’ll understand29. I am going to read to you about Mother’s experience:

It was very interesting, the experience I had that night. Nothing like it I ever had in my life. It was the night before the day he passed away. The time was nine o’clock. I felt he was withdrawing, withdrawing in an extraordinary manner. He was coming out of himself and gathering and pouring himself into me. He was coming out consciously and deliberately with the full force of a concentrated will. He continued to do so steadily, ceaselessly for hours. It ended at about one o’clock, I looked at the time.

There was no slackness or interruption or stop at any moment. It was throughout the same steady continuous flow, without a break, without a diminution in the strength. Such a concentrated undiminishing stream it was. The process continued until he was wholly within me as though he was pumping and exhausting all he was in the body till the last drop. I say it was wonderful – I never experienced such a thing. The flow stopped when there was very little left in the body: I let the body remain as long as it was needed for the work to continue, till long, quite long after the doctors declared it dead.

As he was in life, he could not have done the thing, I did not expect it of him, it must have been some past life of his that was at work and did the thing. Not many Yogis, not even the greatest among them could do such a thing. There he is within here, quite wakeful, looking in a rather amused way at what you people are doing. He is merged in me wholly, that is, dwelling within me, not dissolved: he has his personality intact. Amrita is different. He is there outside, one of you, one among you people moving about. At times, of course, when he wants to take rest and repose, he comes and lodges here. A remarkable story. A great and very difficult thing Pavitra has done30.

I was asked for my opinion and I declared his body dead. M. Andre went and told the Mother, and She said that the body should be taken for cremation at 4 p.m. instead of 10 a.m. In spite of the medical announcement of his bodily death, the Mother had found vibrations of life in the body.

You won’t understand the significance of this achievement. Sri Krishna says to Arjuna, «You will dwell in me.» That tells us what a great sadhak pavitra-da was. So ladies and gentlemen, let’s not pass comments on the sadhaks here. If one knows how to look, even the dishwashers in the kitchen have gone far, in spite of the appearance.

You see how one can draw oneself out of the physical body, with a strong will, to be merged with the Divine. He was completely withdrawn, so the whole night this process was going on.


So now to resume our story. Remember, we are speaking about the Mother. The discussion was about how, being born in France, She came into Sri Aurobindo’s life, and about some incidents from her childhood. The Mother was working there independently in France, and Sri Aurobindo here in India, both on the same occult and spiritual planes!

We used to joke amongst ourselves: surrender, surrender, surrender, the most important requirement of this yoga, has been achieved only by two persons: Sri Aurobindo to the Mother, and the Mother to Sri Aurobindo!

Sri Aurobindo told us that if They had wanted, the Mother and He could have established a new religion with the happenings of the Golden Period (1926), but a religion was not what They wanted.

Many of us have seen the golden light emanating from Sri Aurobindo’s body after He left His body. That light remained for a full five days. When Sri Aurobindo passed away, He transferred everything from Himself into the Mother. Mother experienced its passage into Herself almost physically.

My question – a foolish question – to Sri Aurobindo was: «Why don’t you get supramentalised first ?» He said, «Supposing we did that, would you be able to come near us ?»

See the sacrifice! Even now it’s not very easy to be near the Mother, and if she were completely supramentalised? Even Nolini-da would have had to run away! (Laughter)

Ramakrishna had cancer due to the ills of his disciples, so what about Her? She has to swallow all that and become like ‘Neela Kantha’31.

10 June 1969

You know Ramchandra?32 He was a great homeopath, though he was erratic – all great men are. He claimed he’d cured some difficult cases by his homeopathic medicine. Sri Aurobindo said, «Yes, some due has to be given to his homeopathy, but I think the main credit goes to my power! It is by my bringing down of supramental power that the patient did not die here.» So to live in the Ashram and to die in the Ashram is no joke, no ordinary matter, you see.

Once I was not very well, and I went to the Mother every morning, and Mother asked me, «How are you?» I replied, «I’m the same, no change.» Next day when I went, She asked me again, «How are you?» I had to reply reluctantly: «No change.» I knew she wouldn’t be very pleased. Then She said, «Why don’t you do yoga ?» I was foolish enough not to have asked Her what She meant. I thought I had ‘understood’. Then, in one or two days, I went to the doctor and got medicine and got cured! So that was my yoga!!

I remember long ago, somebody had a fever and his temperature was hundred and four degrees Fahrenheit. The Mother asked him to go out and work in the sun! So it depends on cases. To some, She says, «Don’t go to the doctors, they’re hopeless,» and to others – «Go.» She knows who has more faith in Her and who can get cured by medicines.

Some of you may doubt this story that I am about to tell. Long ago, when the Mother was going to the Tennis Ground (which she used to do every day), a motor car was coming at terrific speed from the direction of the Park Guest House on the sea beach road. It was coming at what speed I don’t know, but the driver could not control the car. At any moment it would crash. I was on the Beach Road, just opposite Wilfy’s room; I was also going to the Tennis Ground. I saw and thought: What will happen? I cried to the Mother: Mother, Mother, Mother, save, save! And there were some people watching anxiously, hoping that the catastrophe might be avoided, and I was simply praying to the Mother. The car went to the last gate of the Tennis Ground and dashed against a lamp post. We all ran to it – the driver’s leg was caught under the jammed car door. We had great difficulty in extricating it out of the debris. But apart from that, everything else seemed ail right. I had prayed in such a way as if I myself was in danger. So a cry of that sort, as Thompson says, a «cry; – clinging Heaven by the hems;»33 a prayer of that sort can produce a miracle.

[Nirod-da reads out a Bengali story about the power of prayer.] The efficacy of prayer, of an unselfish prayer, mind you, a disinrerested yogic prayer, is always powerful and great. So let us pray, not for ourselves but for others. So pray for me also, that I may continue these talks with you.

11 June 1969

Some more material about the Mother has come into my hands. It seems that the Divine is taking interest in this class! I will read to you some stories from Srinvantu 34dated 24 April 1969. Some of you must have heard them when you were little children, but they are always fresh, always inspiring, and they never seem to become old. Let me first tempt you with the pictures, if you’re interested in them. Come closer – I don’t know whether you have long sight or short sight!

I remember I once asked Sri Aurobindo about his revolutionary days:

When you wrote that you look upon India not as an inert dead mass of matter, but as the very Mother, the living Mother in bones and flesh, I believe you saw the Truth – or was it just the expression of a poetic or patriotic sentiment ?

Sri Aurobindo: My dear sir, I am not a materialist. If I had seen India as only a geographical area with a number of more or less interesting or uninteresting people in it, I would hardly have gone out of my way to do all that for the said area.

Merely a poetic or patriotic sentiment – just as in yourself only your flesh, skin, bones and other things of which the senses give their evidence are real, but what you call your mind and soul do not self-exist, being merely psychological impressions created by the food you eat and the activity of the glands. Poetry and patriotism have of course the same origin and the things they speak of are quite unreal. Amen.

On one occasion, when nothing seemed to be going right for one person, the world seemed to be going wrong, and many people were upset, Mother consoled that person, «Don’t you worry. I’m the Soul of India.»

One experience of this sort (identification of consciousness) is worth a hundred books – if you’re interested in books. I don’t say you’ll get it immediately but by persistence you can. She has given you all the ideal conditions for it, you have only to do it.


As regards trees, you’re not allowed to cut down trees in the Ashram without Mother’s permission. Our Service tree 35is sacred, and even to cut its branches we had to take Mother’s permission.

I remember, when I was a young fellow, I was doing some gardening – you may find it strange. I am not interested in flowers actively – only passively, like you; I’m more interested in vegetables! A small plot was given to me, beside which was a tree (you might know its flower Health36). It was a useless tree; its branches obstructed the sunlight.

I chopped off some branches and the next day thought of chopping some more. We used to write all sorts of things to Sri Aurobindo at that time. I wrote, «Going to cut off some more branches.» He wrote, «No, no, don’t. Mother doesn’t like it.» So, you see, She was so particular in detail.


When we used to talk to Sri Aurobindo about politics or other mundane subjects in our evening talks, I used to think: since Sri Aurobindo takes part in all our talks and jokes, where is the Divine Consciousness ? I used to ponder and speculate – when I speak, I forget the Divine Consciousness! He answered me, a bit annoyed, «When I write to you, do you think I cut off the cosmic connection?»

And I realised He has all three levels of consciousness together -universal (cosmic), transcendental and individual. When He is talking to me, He knows what’s going on in China or Russia, etc.

17 June 1969

During a particular period, many sadhaks used to write poetry and send their poems up to Sri Aurobindo for his guidance and comments. Sri Aurobindo also used to send them inspiration, even asking them what time they would sit at their desk for writing poetry. About making me a poet, Sri Aurobindo once said to me, «It’s like boring an artesian well in you.»


During the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, when General JN Chaudhuri was Chief of Army staff, it was reported that some of our soldiers felt a special spiritual force working in them and driving away the Pakistanis. Have you ever realised that the world was on the brink of war more than once? And how has it been averted? Mother has said that it was the working or the Force.

18 June 1969

[Nirod-da narrates the Mother’s story of the boy whom She had taught to put his fists in his pocket whenever he was angry, so that he wouldn’t respond violently. ]

I’m sure many of you here are boys of this sort; about the girls I don’t know! Mother surely doesn’t mean here the practice of non-violence. What she means, I think, is control over one’s passions. Control of passions is one thing, non-violence another. Those who are apostles of non-violence will ask you to practise it in all circumstances; but, as you know, Mother and Sri Aurobindo don’t hold this view. There are some occasions when the use of the fist is necessary. If a ruffian comes, then you have to use the fist – your love and compassion will not have any effect.

Buddha said: by love conquer anger, by honesty conquer dishonesty, and conquer the miser by generosity. So here too Buddha upholds non-violence in a way, but I may warn you that he’s not an ordinary human being but a great yogi, so he does not fit into the category of ordinary men. What he does by his soul-force, we can’t. Here is an example of it: his cousin was very jealous of him, always tried to harm him. Once he let loose a mad elephant when Buddha was coming with his disciples. Buddha was unperturbed, the elephant rushed towards him, but he remained calm and quiet, and the mad elephant became calm.

Mahatma Gandhi was a great advocate of non-violence in all circumstances and there was a great difference of opinion between our Lord and him. You know – those who are acquainted with politics -that Gandhi said, «If the Japanese come to India, we shall not fight – just lie down prostrate at their feet, they’ll go back.» Another time, he said about Hitler, «I’ll try to convert Hitler by my force of nonviolence. If he comes to India, I’ll do that.»

[Reading from Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo by A BPurani, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry: 1982 (3rd edition), 159):

Sri Aurobindo: Someone told Jean Herbert 37that the Mother had described Hitler as possessed by a demon. He was greatly shocked and replied that the Mother could not have said so. Of course, the Mother had simply said that he was ‘possessed.’

P: That Russian S38 also took Hitler to be a great man; he was full of admiration for him. He said that the Germans of today are the most cultured nation.

Sri Aurobindo: What culture do they have? I should think on the contrary that Getmany before Hitler was more cultured than the present Germany. That reported interview with the Kaiser expressed the contrast very well.

P: Yes, he said the Nazis were a gang of ruffians and blackguards, without God, tradition and dynasty.

If you read Essays on the Gita, you’ll see what type of non-violence it preaches. You can, by your common sense, know what Japan would have done if the whole country lay prostrate – they’d have wanted nothing better than that!

Here is a story of non-violence that Sri Ramakrishna used to tell: One day, a sadhu39 was passing through a wood and he met a venomous serpent that would bite any passerby – the serpent had no respect for anybody! When the sadhu came, he was asked not to go that way, but being a sadhu, he went and met the serpent. It was on the point of biting him when he said: «Have I done you any harm? If you continue biting, you’ll go to hell, and if you stop doing so, you’ll go to heaven.» The cobra said, «What shall I do?» The sadhu replied: «Practise non-violence. When somebody comes, don’t bite him, just keep still.» So many years passed.

One day, the sadhu passed by the same wood and remembered the snake. He looked for it and at last found it in a hole. It had become lean and thin like a skeleton. «What’s the matter?» asked the sadhu. «No food?» The snake said, «Well, you asked me to practise non-violence! When all the boys came and played with me, twisting and turning me, I did nothing.» «Don’t be so foolish,» said the sadhu. «I asked you not to bite. But I did not forbid you from hissing to frighten away those who would harm you!» So, this story has shown you some ideas on non-violence which you may practise in suitable circumstances. Of course, it is a sign of great cowardice to beat a man who is inferior, weaker than you – it’s no sign of courage.

Now we move on to the next experience of the Mother, on occultism.

[Reading from Srinvantu (24 April 1969), 60]:

Towards the beginning of the present century, I went to the town of Tlemsen in Algeria (North Africa). To the north of this town is Algeria proper, to the south is the Sahara desert, Morocco being in the west and Tunisia in the east. During summer, the place becomes unimaginably hot – so hot that you cannot imagine it. I had been there to learn occultism from a great master, Monsieur Theon, who was probably a Polish Jew. During the hot noon, I used to sit under an olive tree daily for meditation. I could endure the heat all right. One day, during deep meditation, I suddenly began to feel uneasy, and, opening my eyes, found a big cobra standing erect about 3 or 4 cubits in front of me, swaying its expanded hood at me and making a hissing sound. These cobras are locally called naga, and their deadly poison kills instantly. At first, I could not understand why he is so enraged at me. Then I thought that 1 must have sat there closing his hole or retreat; there was a hollow in the tree just behind where I sat. But what should I do now? If I move a little, he will at once strike. I did not move, neither became afraid. I just steadily looked at his eyes with a fixed stare, and exerted my will force to the utmost. After some time, the hissing ceased and he appeared a bit softened down. Now very slowly I drew away my legs one after the other, still keeping my stare fixed and exerting will force. At last the vicious snake suddenly lowered its hood and quickly turning round jumped into the waters of the nearby tank. Later I told this incident to Theon. He told me that we all know that the snake lives there in the hole. After his bath it wanted to go to its abode, but since you barred the passage, that’s why he was angry. If you give him some milk, he will at once be your friend. Since then, all fear of snakes has left me. Formerly I used to shrink at the sight of a snake; I had an acute aversion that I could not check. But that has left me for good.

Theon said that Mother was the Supreme Occultist, the greatest occultist ever born. Let me say in parenthesis that, of all things, I’m most afraid of snakes – even ghosts I can stand, but snakes – they’re so sneaky, you know! Now here is the story of the toad that came to listen to the Mother playing the piano:

The sitting room was upstairs in Theon’s house (the house was built on a hillside) and it was connected by large open doors to a small terrace that sat almost on top of the hill. I played the piano in this room every day. And one day, what did I see hopping in through the open bay windows but an enormous black toad covered with warts – enormous! He sat down on his backside right in the entrance and puffed up his throat: poff! poff! And for the whole time I played, he stayed there going ‘Poff! Poff!’, as though in a state of delight! When I finished, I turned around and he gave me one last ‘Poff’! and hopped away, it was comical!

That reminds me: in the North of Italy, they’re very fond of music, like the Tamil people here. Mother was playing on the organ in a church and forgot all time and place, and when She finished, She heard a big applause. She found that many people had gathered behind Her and were enthusiastic in appreciation. They’re such music-lovers! She used to practise eight to ten hours a day. This is called tapasya40. You might ask, «Where was the time ?!»

25 June 1969

I told you I have a suspicion that the Lord is taking an active interest in our class. Now it appears to be more than a suspicion – well, I will give you today evidence of how He is taking interest. They may be small but they can be significant, if we know how to look at these things. Not that He didn’t take an interest from the beginning, but we weren’t perhaps so conscious about it – at least I was not – and the consciousness seems to have descended, since January! As I was looking through my small collection of books, I came across, very unexpectedly, this green-covered notebook; it had no business to be there. How it came to be there is a mystery. I took it up and pushed it back into its place!

X is a friend of mine. Those of you who have read the Talks With Sri Aurobindo will be familiar with these ‘X’, ‘Y’, ‘Z’ symbols for individuals (whose names need not be divulged!) So this friend X cleans my table, and sometimes, in a psychic41 mood, cleans other things also. Perhaps the psychic influence was too strong that day and things got exchanged – my pen-holder came in my paperweight’s place, and the paperweight went to the windowsill, etc. Naturally I, or rather, my vital42, got vexed, annoyed, and I felt like telling him, «Leave my table alone.»

I was looking for a notebook or some paper to write on, and I came upon this notebook once more and thought of using it. Then, to my surprise, I found there were two records in it which were written as far back as 1959, and I had forgotten all about them. I curiously perused them, found them interesting. I had written the first on 6.9.1959 and the other on 1.10.1959. I was very happy because I could make a present of it to my class. The first is somewhat personal, but as we have grown intimate, we can lift the veil of privacy!

One morning at 6:30 a.m., even before the meditation, 1 quarrelled with the Lord – as I’ve often done deliberately, for otherwise He’ll keep quiet rather than answer me. Once, long ago, when I was on the point of weeping – can you believe it ? – Sri Aurobindo used to say, «Don’t weep, weeping does not help,» and, at other times, He would say, «Crying helps.» So you see, the ways of the Lord are mysterious!

So that morning, before my meditation at 6:30 a.m., I was quarrelling with the Guru within myself. Since, if nothing can be obtained in the simple, gentle manner of a good man, sometimes quarrels are necessary. I was saying, «You’re not giving me any touch of spiritual experience; you’re sitting tight over all the treasures you have gained and you’re holding them back like a miser. How can a man walk on the path without any encouragement ? I admit you have given me some practical guidance in life’s small or great questions, due to which my faith has become more firm and now I understand that I’m not all alone. You are guiding me from behind and you give direct guidance according to my need. But that doesn’t fill my heart; I want some more direct experience and realization, without which I don’t feel that I’m firmly established, I want that now.»

After saying this, I don’t know when I went into a sort of trance or what the Guru calls a kind of samadhi43. First I saw a closed fist -the hand was certainly that of Sri Aurobindo. He had in his firm grip something like an iron rod and held it pressed firmly. He wouldn’t let it go. I couldn’t understand the meaning of it and forgot all about it the next moment. After the meditation, all of a sudden, the picture ‘Hashed upon that inward eye’44 and the meaning too became clear. What it meant was that I must stick fast to what I want. It won’t do if I leave it or forget it. A constant, leech-like tenacity only will give me the response.

This happened some time ago: I have been bothered by my left hand, this shakti45 of mine that was injured quite some time back. I’ll tell you later, on another occasion, how it happened. Lately, the pain became unbearable, the muscle began to twitch and ache – I could not take rest. You might have seen me caressing my hand in the class and wondered why I did it. I endured and suffered, thinking endurance is part of yoga. Then I got impatient and told the Lord, «Do something or I’m finished.» You’ll be surprised to hear that from the next day the pain has become much less.

So these are concrete examples of the Lord’s tangible help. They come only on one condition: sincerity. I am not boasting about it. If you want something sincerely, the Divine, the Lord or the Mother helps. Some have recorded how help came to them, and my friend Champaklal tells me of many experiences of this kind – how the Divine helps him in his work. He has a big stock of materials – like I have books, he has cards and boxes and materials for making birthday cards, which the Mother uses for giving to the sadhaks and others. The corridor is full of them, the staircase is full of them, the room is full of them, and soon my room will be filled up and I might have to leave! If Mother asks for something, he has to find it in this stock. He looks everywhere, and suddenly a box of cards drops and the thing comes out! Innumerable things of this sort are happening day by day.

The second record in my notebook, dated 1.10.59 is about our octogenarian artist, Promod Kumar Chatterji. He was, as you know, Jayantilal’s and Krishnalal’s46 art teacher. Once, in 1959, he painted a portrait of Sri Aurobindo. He is more known as a writer than as a painter. There are stories of his travels and experiences in the north, his contact with the tantric47 sadhus, etc. – he’s a venerable old summer oak. He came to show the painting to the Mother and luckily we too were there. Mother was standing near Her chair, the artist was on the carpet and the portrait was resting on an easel. Addressing Jayantilal, She said, «Just change the angle of the painting so that I can have a clear view. Then I must sit down.» She sat down with a smile and said, «I’ve no standard to judge it.» Then, with Her Lakshmi48 smile, she said, «There’s spontaneity there. You’ve caught something of the spontaneity and freshness of nature and something candid with which He came into this world. His inner being was on the surface; He knew nothing of this world.»

The artist interrupted (which he shouldn’t have done): «He’s looking at you. I painted out of devotion. Look at His eyes.»

The Mother said, «Yes, He is looking, looking.» Then, looking at Jayantilal, She said, «Keep it downstairs for people to see.»

Jayantilal replied: «But I was thinking of framing it before exhibiting it.»

Mother: «Yes.»

Artist: «No, keep it like this. What do you say, Mother?»

Mother: «All right. What will you do next?»

Artist: «I will paint Him as He was during the period when He came to Pondicherry.»

Mother: «Oh, the Ascetic – as I saw Him then.»

These are the two notes I’ve made, don’t you think they’re worthwhile ?

Now what shall I speak about next? The story of the snake -hissing, not biting, remember? Sometimes there are character traits in oneself which one may imagine one has got rid of, but which suddenly spring up without warning when you’re not on your guard. Here is a relevant experience of Sri Aurobindo, regarding anger.

[Reading from Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 25]:

I have heard of a yogi in Benares who was bathing in one of the ghats. In the next ghat, a beautiful Kashmiri woman came to bathe. As soon as he saw her, he fell upon her and tried to outrage her. This was evidently a case of loss of mental control. The true control is not mental. But sometimes, by yoga, things which were not felt before come up. I have heard about it from many persons. In my own case, I saw anger coming up and possessing me. It was absolutely uncontrollable when it came. I was very much surprised as to my own nature. Anger has always been foreign to it.

At another time [1908], while I was an under-trial prisoner in Alipore, my anger would have led to a terrible catastrophe, which luckily was avoided. Prisoners there had to wait outside for some time before enteting the cells. As we were doing so, the Scottish Warder came and gave me a push. The young men around me became very excited and I did nothing, but I gave him such a look that he immediately fled and called the Jailor. It was a communicative anger and all the young men tallied round to attack him. When the Jailor, who was rather a religious man, arrived, the Warder said I had given him an «insubordinate look». The Jailer asked me and I told him I had never been used to such treatment. He pacified the whole group and said while going: «We have each to bear our cross.» But by anger such as I had, I don’t mean the Rudrabhava which I have experienced a few times.

Once, Sri Aurobindo was sitting upstairs in the Guest House verandah49, all alone, and downstairs there were some people waiting to see Him. He saw anger coming – just as smoke comes up – towards Him from downstairs and possessing Him. Afterwards, He knew from whom the anger had come and entered into Him, from whom it was passed on to Him.

[Reading from Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 26]:

N: Is Rudrabhava something like Ramakrishna’s snake-story? Sri Aurobindo: Not at all. It is not at all a show of anger. It is something genuine – a violent severity against something very wrong. Anger one knows by its feeling and sensation. It rises from below, while Rudrabhava rises from the heart. I shall give you an instance. Once X became very violent, shouting at the Mother and shaking his fists at her. When I heard the shouting, a violent severity came down that was absolutely uncontrollable. I went out and said, «Who is shouting at the Mother ? Who is shouting there ?» As soon as X heard me, he became quiet.

I will tell you more about this ‘X’: There was a doctor here, a young man with a short beard. He was from Gujarat, a good worker, but he had a very short temper. It appears that at present he is married and lives happily. He used to go to the Mother, write very often to Her, and he also got letters from Her. All of us thought he was a great favourite of the Mother and was perhaps making great strides in sadhana. One day Sri Aurobindo was going into the room where one waits to see the Mother. The doctor came to the Mother, and She came to the door, and all of a sudden he became violent and began shouting at Her. Then our Shiva50 all-oblivious became aware of what was going on, got up and asked, «Who is shouting? Who is shouting at the Mother?»

At that time, I was in the dispensary and didn’t know anything about it. When I came to know about it, I wrote to Him (if I remember rightly): «Sir, something terrible. It seems you lost your temper today.» He replied, «That fellow, impossible fellow, shouted at the Mother and I could not control my anger.»

[ The school bell rings to announce the end of the period. ]

2 July 1969

Well, I confessed to you the other day my weakness for green vegetables; by putting such lovely flowers on the table, you’ll help me to outgrow this weakness and uphold my nature. Only I can’t say like Wordsworth (I might misquote, that’s my habit!):

To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears51.

In my previous talk, you remember, I told you about one or two of my experiences in dream and in sleep. I will tell you today about another incident, a very minor one, to show you how the guidance comes sometimes in a very amusing manner. It happened after our talk here. Perhaps He wanted to give me more material to talk about. I was a bit worried over a trifling something – I need not tell you about it. Then I saw something in my dream and you will be surprised to hear it. I was playing football and I kicked with my left foot. From the left-wing position to the right-wing position, the ball went over the head of all the people like a parabola and it simply fell at the feet of my intended partner! Mark you, it was done with my left foot. I was so happy. Football fans are here. If you had seen my kick, you would have surely taken me on your shoulders: «Haan baba,52 Nirod-da!» you would have said. But I think ladies don’t like football very much.

Mother described it as a barbarous game – She may not have meant it seriously! She passed a similar remark about badminton. She said, «What’s this game? It’s as though you’ve caught a bird and are hitting it from here to there!» Mind you, She took a fancy to it, a passion for it, and She used to play it. So if She were still as young as you, She would have taken up football too!

I was football-crazy in my young days, but my left foot always betrayed me. I couldn’t manage it. But here in my dream, a miracle had happened; such miracles do happen. They’re very common in dreams, very common indeed. The meaning of the dream was: play football with your trouble and kick it with your left foot. This is the significance that flashed at once. So you see how they come. You see how guidance sometimes comes to you in an amusing manner. I’m sure all of you will have such dreams or hints when you have some trouble or illness. I don’t say you’ll have football dreams – no. Your dreams will be according to your nature; each will have his or her respective dreams. For instance, Kokila – I hope you don’t mind my giving your personal example. She was, last night, very much worried about the Divine will; some time ago, she was worried about another question: whether surrender comes first or love comes first. That is, does the seed grow out of the tree or vice versa? Mark the nature of her perplexity. If she would have a dream, I imagine that in it she would have been singing and soaring like a lark or like a cuckoo53.

I will tell you about another instance that is very simple. It happened long, long ago. A friend of mine came to me asking for my help in the illness he was suffering from. I said, «I am not a doctor now, how can I help you? Go to some other doctor, I have forgotten all my medical knowledge, I have no medicines, etc. etc.» «No, no,» he insisted; some people are very insistent, they stick on very badly. «Very well then,» I said and took up the case. I saw that his case wasn’t very serious. The fever was only 99 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cause seemed something minor. The patient began to improve, but the fever persisted – not a high fever at all, just 99 degrees. But it continued for days, which worried me. Why should it persist when all the other improvements have taken place, this also should have gone away. Then, in this mood of worry, I went to do pranam54 at the Samadbi. Of course, not only when worried, but also in moods of light I go to the Samadbi. Then it was there that I heard something. I heard distinctly the Voice so familiar to me saying, «What are you so worried about? The temperature is just 99 degrees!» I was stunned ... I had never pronounced «99 degrees» to Him and I don’t know that anybody else had mentioned it. Then how could He know ? Yet the Voice says, «The temperature is just 99 degrees.» How could it be?

So you see my friends, the Force is very active indeed. It is omniscient and it does its work very secretly, very smoothly, and, if you allow it, very effectively. I hear that many of our children do have visions, hear voices of gods, at the Samadbi. Nothing surprising about it because children, as you know, are the first to go to heaven, we shall be the last, and all of you in the middle. So you see if we could be as simple as children, I am sure all of us could go together.

So these were some of the facts, indisputable because they are proved by experience, which are telling me all the while, dinning into my ears – deaf ears, «Have faith, Nirod, have faith, a little more faith.» The help is nevertheless there, only we don’t notice it.

Then I come to the poem which I promised to read to you, on Sri Krishna. Sri Aurobindo said it was a lovely poem, a magnificent poem. I don’t know if all of you can understand it, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t because you know Sri Krishna’s life. The poem is composed of a series of pictures from Sri Krishna’s life – life not as you understand it normally, but somewhat esoterically, philosophically; because the opening scene is taken from, borrowed from, as he says, one of the Vaishnava scriptures.

You know something about Sri Krishna’s early life – you have seen the pictures of his youth, his adulthood too. I shall now read out to you this poem by George William Russell (or A.E.), called «Krishna». In the poem, you will find a series of scenes ranging from his childhood to his supreme divinity:

I paused beside the cabin door and saw the King of Kings at play,

Mark the very start, «saw the King of Kings at Play.»

Tumbled upon the grass I spied the little heavenly runaway.

He is the heavenly runaway who has come down here and he has tumbled upon the grass... you have seen pictures of Sri Krishna doing that, haven’t you? Walking on all fours?

The mother laughed upon the child made gay by its ecstatic morn,

And yet the sages spake of It as of the Ancient and Unborn.

The ‘It’ the sages spoke of is the child. Then the period of his youth:

I heard the passion breathed amid the honeysuckle scented glade,

Honeysuckle is a European flower. All those who are reading English poetry will know about it. Honeysuckle – the name suggests ‘honey’ and ‘suckle’.

And saw the King pass lightly from the beauty that he had betrayed.

I saw him pass from love to love; and yet the pure allowed His claim

To be the purest of the pure, thrice holy, stainless, without blame.

I hope you understand, he is passing lightly from love to love and yet the saints say he is the purest of the pure!

I saw the open tavern door flash on the dusk a ruddy glare,

And saw the King of Kings outcast reel brawling through the starlit air.

Tavern door opens ... a flash of light comes upon the streets and reflects a rugged face. Drunken, that’s why he staggers, remember.

And yet He is the Prince of Peace of whom the ancient wisdom tells,

And by their silence men adore the lovely silence where He dwells.

Wonderful! [He reads out the last line again. ]

I saw the King of Kings again, a thing to shudder at and fear,

A form so darkened and so marred that childhood fled if it drew near.

I suppose this is Visbwaroopa55.

And yet He is the Light of Lights whose blossoming is Paradise,

That Beauty of the King which dawns upon the seets’ enraptured eyes.

«enraptured eyes» ... Sri Krishna is the Lord of Beauty, I suppose you know.

I saw the King of Kings again, a miser with a heart grown cold,

And yet He is the Prodigal, the Spendthrift of the Heavenly Gold,

When he showers upon you gold after gold, a downpour, a cascade.

The largesse of whose glory crowns the blazing brows of cherubim,

And sun and moon and stars and flowers are jewels scattered forth by Him.

I saw the King of Kings descend the narrow doorway to the dust

With all his fires of morning still, the beauty, bravery, and lust.

He has summarized now: beauty, bravery and lust... Mark the end of the line. [He reads out the last two lines again. ]

And yet He is the life within the Evet-living Living Ones,

The ancient with eternal youth, the cradle of the infant suns,

The fiery fountain of the stars, and He the golden urn where all

The glittering spray of planets in their myriad beauty fall.

There you are! I don’t feel like giving my talk now, it is 11:10 a.m. Very well, I shall do one thing: 1 will try and finish my talk with this poem, so that you may recapture the fine inspiration. You see the idea is not difficult. The Vaishnavas56 had this conception out of bhakti57? out of devotion for the Lord. Sri Krishna playing the flute, playing with the Gopis, the cowgirls of Brindavan... all out of utter devotion.

[Reading out the whole poem again:]

I paused beside the cabin door and saw the King of Kings at play,

Tumbled upon the grass I spied the little heavenly runaway.

The mother laughed upon the child made gay by its ecstatic morn,

And yet the sages spake of It as of the Ancient and Unborn.

I heard the passion breathed amid the honeysuckle scented glade,

And saw the King pass lightly from the beauty that he had betrayed.

I saw him pass from love to love; and yet the pure allowed His claim

To be the purest of the pure, thrice holy, stainless, without blame.

I saw the open tavern door flash on the dusk a ruddy glare,

And saw the King of Kings outcast reel brawling through the starlit air.

And yet He is the Prince of Peace of whom the ancient wisdom tells,

And by their silence men adore the lovely silence where He dwells.

I saw the King of Kings again, a thing to shudder at and fear,

A form so darkened and so marred that childhood fled if it drew near.

And yet He is the Light of Lights whose blossoming is Paradise,

That Beauty of the King which dawns upon the seers’ enraptured eves.

I saw the King of Kings again, a miser with a heart grown cold,

And yet He is the Prodigal, the Spendthrift of the Heavenly Gold,

The largesse of whose glory crowns the blazing brows of cherubim,

And sun and moon and stars and flowers are jewels scattered forth by Him.

I saw the King of Kings descend the narrow doorway to the dust

With all his fires of morning still, the beauty, bravery, and lust.

And yet He is the life within the Ever-living Living Ones,

The ancient with eternal youth, the cradle of the infant suns,

The fiery fountain of the stars, and He the golden urn where all

The glittering spray of planets in their myriad beauty fall.

Well, what can I say? To be able to write one such poem in one’s whole lifetime is achievement enough! As a poet, I do not like anything better than that one single poem. It would have made me immortal if I had written it! One single poem, Sri Aurobindo said, one single speech, is enough to make one immortal. But to write one poem of this sort, one has to write many poems of other sorts first; a great deal of tapasya is necessary to write one perfect something, either the perfection of a curl58 or the perfection of an eyebrow. There you are. But there is tapasya and tapasya! Sri Aurobindo has told us that He had thrown away many hundreds of poems into the capacious arms of the wastepaper basket before He flourished into a poet. We others have no patience. We have no utsaha59. We want to be something overnight. But I hope ... I have not lost hope, the Lord has given me something, and with the Lord on my back, if I can carry Him, perhaps the poem will scale the Gingy Hills60.

Yes, talking of Gingy Hills reminds me of a story – if you are in that mood. Are you? ... Yes? This happened long, long ago, in my callow days. An excursion was proposed to the Gingy Hills, and my «botanician»61, mathematician and musician friend, Sunil, put my name on the list without telling me. The list went to the Mother. She pored over the list and stopped at my name, and She said (I didn’t know it then, I was told later): «Can he climb the hills?» Then Mother said, «Let Prabhakar carry him on his back.» When I heard about it, I said, «Mother doesn’t know me.»

Anyhow, we started; as we approached, the sight of the hills began to breathe Divine force into my rickety constitution, into my lungs, into my heart, into my liver, into my spleen, into my stomach, so much that I felt I could carry on my bony back ten titanic Battis62! We reached Gingy, we got down from the car and I was surprised to find in our company a pretty maiden! She had come in another car. I was practising yoga and self-control, and now, I wondered: what is this? I didn’t know anything about it. That reminds me again of a young sadhak who asked Sri Aurobindo (the thing has been published, so it is not private), «Is there any harm in looking at girls?» Sri Aurobindo said, in His usual manner, «No, no harm; only when one looks at a girl and one feels like swallowing her like a fruit!» Of course, I had no such temptation; it was only an academic issue at that time. Anyhow, I asked Sunil, «What is this, Sunil – what have you done ?» He stared, he didn’t understand. «Sunil, you haven’t obeyed the shastra vachan63, what is this ? Pothe nari biborjita64. You have brought in a pretty lady here, good Lord, what have you done?!» He laughed, «Hee ... hee!» You know his smile, very innocent, very disarming; he disarmed all my alarm with his simple, innocent smile.

Well, well, let us see the consequences – and there were consequences. Pretty ladies, be careful! When we began to go up, when we began to mount the hill, some poor-looking butterflies and dark, black bees began to hum, began to buzz, began to flutter around the pretty flower. I thought, what should be done ? I said, «See Sunil, what will you do now?» Then at last we made a plot – secretly. We put the pretty maiden under the charge of Batti. You see, I am not exaggerating: there was a lot of trouble, there indeed was a lot of trouble. From that time on, I have learnt from experience and realised the truth of the gospel «Pothe nari biborjita» And I modified the verse of Keats65: «A woman of beauty is a trouble for ever.»

Then now, after all these introductory preliminaries, I hope you don’t mind, after all these prefaces which were somewhat long, a la Bernard Shaw, I start my story. You have given me a free hand, so if you don’t like the hand or the face, you may leave. So we take up the thread now. I want to tell you something about Mrs. Gracy – her experience, you remember, that wonderful experience of hers, how she felt, thousands of miles away, that her own husband had been shipwrecked, at that very moment.

Now perhaps some of you might want to know how it happened; the explanation is simple, though it is difficult to practise it. But, for us, it shouldn’t be difficult. It happened because when she felt the experience, there were not two persons, there was one: what we call identity of consciousness, two in one. She became completely identified with her husband, though thousands of miles away; that distance does not matter for consciousness for it can travel any distance. The Mother can feel one with somebody at the Pole. And she is feeling, all the time, one with us. Isn’t that wonderful?

Here, in this case, identity of consciousness happened through love.

Love brought about that identity, and love is a great, powerful means of bringing it about. But mind you, my friends, it is a special, rare kind of love that you see here; it is not at all what goes normally by the name of love, which is a fleur du mal66. So we shall be very much mistaken if we did the experiment of getting identity first through love; if the order is reversed, there will be a terrible chaos. What we have to get, at first, is the identity of consciousness. Getting the same way of looking at things, and doing it, particularly having the same goal and practising it sincerely – that brings about this identity. For instance, in our path, Sri Aurobindo has said that identity of consciousness is the root; love is the flower and not the other way round. Love is the flower; identity of consciousness is the root, right ? As in the case of Mother and Sri Aurobindo – complete identification, and the heavenly flower as one. So here is Mrs. Gracy’s case. There was no identity of consciousness through yogic effort, but there was a rare instance of psychic love, which brought about this identity. There are similar stories of love between two souls in our ancient tradition: between Savitri and Satyavan, between Ram and Sita; this was the identity-experience all these fine, great, ideal women had in our stories. So this is what, I believe, happened in this way.

I should not talk about love very much, because the word, you know, is too often profaned for me to profane it further! Now that leads me to another story. Its a personal story but not of love, please! Don’t trick your ears that you’re going to hear a love story. No, this story took place when I was seventeen or eighteen, so love was out of the question. At that time, men and women, boys and girls had no chance of being together as you do, so where was the question of love? Love had to be born in marriage or out of marriage; outside marriage was impossible, so it was always in marriage. So it is not a love story at all, it is something else.

It is like this: it happened on the eve of my departure to a foreign country, and I was about eighteen, I think. I went to Rangoon with my mother. I had some relatives, my guardians there; of course, you see, there was a talk of marriage. Before I went to England, my guardians said, I must be tied down. But luckily for the girl or luckily for me, the marriage fell through. So there was no chance of lovemaking or love-breaking; no chance of coming together as, fortunately or unfortunately, you do. To make the story short, the marriage plan was being made, the expenses and other paraphernalia, everything had been settled, the date had been fixed. My poor mother had already been feeling – you know ... because I was the only child – «shobedhon kalo megh»67. But in the end, I was adamant about going to England. I was very happy thinking about it that day, on my way back from the town to the suburb where we were staying. Instead of going along the public road, I took a side lane. Rangoon then was a place full of bandits, full of cut-throats, full of rogues, they could cut your throat for one pie68, mostly with a drawn knife.

So I was coming from my cousin’s place in the town to my own place, my guardian’s place. Avoiding the public road, I was taking a short cut along the railway lines; it was pitch dark, eight o’clock, dim lights were burning along the railway lines, and the station was not far off. I could see the lights of the station. I was going on, absorbed, happy over my ... what shall I say ... prospective voyage to England. By the way, I must say in parenthesis: people don’t believe that I have been to England. I don’t know why. The other day, Pranab69 said in the gymnasium, «Who will believe that Nirod-da had gone to England ?» I thought, What is the special stamp on an England-returned man? Is it because of my native Bengali clothes that they do not believe ? Pradyot is an England-returned man and they would at once admit that he was indeed England-returned. Why? Because he puts on trousers, or because he talks in a European manner? They will accept Arindam also as an England-returned professor, but they will not be convinced about me. Now don’t laugh! I would like to know from you ladies and gentlemen what you think about it. So this is in parentheses!

What was I saying? How I was returning along the railway lines; mark you, it was pitch dark, not a single soul anywhere. And I was absorbed. Suddenly, I felt something, some premonition of something. I looked around and saw, at a distance, two or three silhouettes coming towards me. Before I had time to step outside the railway track, one of them had come quite near and thrust out his hand to catch my throat. Somehow I was simply out of his reach. I gave a jerk like this and stepped aside and shouted, «Mother, Mother.» On the other side of the road beside the railway track, an invisible voice shouted in Hindi, «Kya hai, Kya hai70 I thank Hindi because it saved my life. And I would like it to be the national language, for this reason! (Laughter) As soon as the unseen voice shouted these words, two or three other figures bawled out, in Hindi, «Chup reh, sala71 (Laughter) I am sorry to use unparliamentary language in front of the ladies. But has it not been sanctified by no lesser a person than Sri Ramakrishna72? So I have that authority, please remember that. Then the other fellows understood what these murderers, these rogues were about to do, and one of them said, «Chale jao, jaldi73 I simply ran for my life. I reached the station, panting hard. I was young; if I were as old as I am today ... you know, what the rogues failed to do, nature would have done – through a heart failure (Laughter). If you give me five minutes’ time, I’ll finish this part of the story – I find that you are enjoying it at my cost!

Anyhow, I reached home, with my knees still shaking in nervous fear and shock (there were no glucose injections to be taken then). When I reached home, I sensed a sort of subdued commotion. What’s the matter? I wondered. What has happened? Had the news reached I’ll give you another instance. Vijay Kumar Goswami was a great yogi. When he was a child, he went with some others for a pilgrimage somewhere in Orissa, or some other place, and his mother was in Bengal; he was a young boy of about ten. He hurt himself as he was walking, as some children do, against a stone – he kicked a stone with force, fell down and cried out, «Ma! Ma! Ma!» When he returned home from the trip, his mother asked, «Did you cry out ‘Ma, Ma, Ma’ at any time?» Well... so you see ... there you are ...

9 July 1969

Well, I hope you young people have got over the shock that I gave you the other day74, but it seems to me that you have enjoyed the shock. I take it that you are not so much shocked over the expression as by my utterance of it. You didn’t expect it perhaps from my mouth, thinking me to be a ‘goody-goody’ fellow. Perhaps you did not expect me to use such unparliamentary language. Anyhow, shocks, they say, don’t shock any more – we get them so often these days. Besides, Mother and Sri Aurobindo have said, sometimes knocks and shocks are good for the soul, aren’t they? I think you have plenty of occasions to get some shocks here, so let us be ready to receive them and to give them back.

Now remember, we read that poem on Sri Krishna. To one particular line, I drew your attention: «And by their silence men adore the lovely silence where He dwells.» I hope some of you at least remember this magnificent line, and 1 would suggest to you that you repeat, in your leisure time, some such lines from Sri Aurobindo and the other great poets, as an incantation, a chanting. Poetry, according to many people including Sri Aurobindo, has a very high place in our life. First of all, it gives us delight; secondly, it brings beauty into our life. Well, you can say, so does music, so does painting. I dare say they do; so does dancing. But you can’t dance in the streets, neither can you sing; if you did recite poetry though, it would be all right. And certainly when you are alone, you can recite: you can chant these magnificent, beautiful lines as you go along. For instance, this line, and some lines of Sri Aurobindo, which have a great mantric power; they will help you a lot. From time to time if we find some space here, we shall give you some lines. I would suggest that some of you bring, from anywhere in the vast field of poetry, some similar specimens of poetry in English or French or even German. Now you have all become linguists. I’m sure the best lines of all English and international poetry should be on your lips. You’ll see, some of you at least, how inspiring these lines are, how they pour into us, into our consciousness, some ennobling beauty, by a simple incantation, by a recitation of these mantric lines. I do recite them now and then, and I find that they do have great power.

Now, I wanted to say something or read out to you something about prayer. You remember the magnificent prayer of Lady Gracy. Here is one prayer some of our students may know; as a matter of fact, I borrowed it from them. I’m going to share it with you. It is a prayer by Charles Lamb. I don’t know if you young people have heard of Charles Lamb. He is supposed to be one of the best English essayists, a prince of essayists, both for his style and personality. Well, in French they say: «Le style c’est I’homme même»75 – Lamb was a wonderful man who consecrated or sacrificed all his life for the sake of his sister who was on the verge of insanity. Some of you must have heard about Charles Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare. As a matter of fact, it was both the brother and the sister who had edited it. Here is the prayer: it is not exactly a prayer, he’s writing to a friend of his in this vein. This friend had complained about some of his troubles and this is Lamb’s answer76:

Robert, friends fall off, friends mistake us, they change, they grow unlike us, they go away, they die; but God is everlasting and incapable of change, and to Him we may look with cheerful, unpresumpruous hope, while we discharge the duties of life in situations more untowardly than yours. You complain of the impossibility of improving yourself, but be assured that opportunity of improvement lies more in the mind than the situation. Humble yourself before God, cast out the selfish principle, wait, in patience, do good in every way you can to all sorts of people, never be easy to neglect a duty tho’ a small one. Praise God for all, and see His hand in all things, and He will in time raise you up many friends or be Himself instead an unchanging friend. God bless you.

The thing has come, as all of you can easily see, from the very core of his heart, and prayer does come from the heart. Isn’t it in «The Rime of the Ancient Mariner» that Samuel Taylor Coleridge says77:

Farewell, farewell! But this I tell To thee, thou Wedding-Guest! He prayeth well, who loveth well, Both man and bird and beast. He prayeth best, who loveth best All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.

I’m sure all of you young children do pray, and all your prayers do certainly spring from your heart. I remember such a prayer from the sweet lips of a child somewhere in one of Galsworthy’s novels. I read it long, long ago. A very small scene, but it is very strange how some things stick in your mind and many others you forget. The scene was like this: there was a child about four or five years old, and his mother was teaching a prayer to the child; the child was kneeling down and the mother standing by the side of the child, making him repeat the prayer. At one stage, the child fell into a half-sleep, and then in that half-sleep he was muttering the prayer. The prayer was something like this – at first, he started with the Lord, then in his half-sleep, he muttered, «Mummy, give us our daily bread.» So God became Mummy! How sweet, I was so touched by it.

Well, that again brings back my own memory of when I was a child of that age. I hope you won’t mind, ladies and gentlemen, a little autobiographical touch – I had started with the idea of telling the Guru’s life, but the disciple comes into the story very often (Laughter) and drives Him out. If you’re interested, yes ? Well, I was about eight or nine. My mother used to take me and my younger sister to the temple in the evening. My mother suddenly took a religious turn because she had lost her second son; I was the eldest. She was very fond of that son, not so fond of me. My father, on the other hand, was fond of me. So parents divide their affections, you know. My brother was very handsome, very spirited, very frank and straightforward, and very affectionate; he would make friends with everybody, young folks and old. So such a soul, as everybody thought and feared, could not live long, and he did pass away when he was six or seven years old. That’s a sad story; well, as I said before, there is «a touch of tears in mortal things.»

Anyhow, so all her fondness and love and affection fell upon me, as she feared that I also could be lost. She thought of perhaps insuring my life with the Divine, and began to take us to the temple in the evening.

This temple, I still remember, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, was on the top of a hillock, in the village. From the top of the hillock you could see a vast view, a panorama of a landscape as far as the eyes could see. On the horizon were the eastern hills that form the eastern border of India, and on both sides of the temple were two ashwatha 78trees, stalwart, tall, as if they were the guardian angels of the temple, murmuring all the time, especially in the afternoon, when the wind-gods passed by. (I hope I’m not boring you with my descriptions?)

In the temple itself, there was a huge statue. The temple was not made of cement but of clay; there was a huge statue of the Buddha, in a sitting postuve, padmasana, his hand outstretched, giving protection and blessings – that is the conventional pose, as you know – and his robe falling in folds. The hand was tinged with a lotus-red colour. The face had a beautiful, ‘beatific’ smile of calmness, as Sri Aurobindo says, and the bliss of Nirvana. Something of that sort I used to feel; now I don’t know what I’ll feel like if I see that statue. On both sides of the Buddha, there were other gods and goddesses in prayer and supplication. Indra, Sati, Parvati – all these gods. Before him, on a sort of a wooden bench, candles were kept burning every day, particularly on festival days. On each amavasya and purnima79, hundreds of candles would burn there, flickering, dancing, and illuminating the face of Buddha, and Buddha’s face reflecting back and illuminating the whole hall, something like the philosophy of Samkhya Purusha and Koti Prakriti80. Well, in the evenings then, my mother used to take us to the temple; we used to kneel down and she would recite many mantras she had committed to memory, and, parrot-like, we would repeat them. Then, at the end of the prayer, she would make us recite, along with her:

O Lord Buddha, whatever ‘punya karma I’ve done, good deeds I’ve done, I distribute those good deeds, those results to everybody. Let all beings be happy, let all the gods partake of my good deeds and in return bless me.

This was the kind of prayer that she used to say and we also used to utter, very often. Now when I look back and think over it, I feel somewhat amused. At the age of eight or nine, what good deeds had I done ? Where is the fruit of those good deeds, the punya phal of giving to other people ? But that doesn’t matter, a prayer is a prayer. I don’t know what good deeds I’ve done, and whether as a result of good deeds, I have come over here. But my mother didn’t know what seeds she was sowing. Either as a result of this religious tendency or for whatever reason, God alone knows, she was not prepared for my leaving her. If she had known that my coming to the Ashram would be the result of her devotion in my early childhood, I don’t think she would have taken that turn at all. Now, when I grew up, my mother became worldly, and then I too became a materialist. All sense of prayer had gone, and when I became a doctor, prayer would not come to me at all.

A few years ago, one day, the Mother accosted me here. (There are some flowers, you know, which She has named ‘Prayer’.) So there were some ‘Prayer’ flowers with Her. We used to go to the Mother for pranam and She used to give us flowers; she always had a few flowers in Her hands. She said that day, «You don’t pray, I suppose.» Then I said, «Mother, very rarely. Very rarely, I pray, Mother.» Then she took a few flowers, four or six, I think, and she said, «Here are some flowers. Pray for whatever you want and you will have it.» I prayed; I am waiting! (Laughter) I am still waiting! These boons, these oracles, you know, they don’t consider this mortal lifespan of ours as the most important, and realization can spill over to future lives. Prayer can be fulfilled in the eternity of Time. But I am here on earth, an earthly fellow; I would like to have it in this very life. Well, let’s see. At another time, She said, «Don’t ask me for material things, ask me only for spiritual things.» I laughed, and thought to myself, «Mother, have I left all material things behind in order to ask them again from you?»

But that is Her way.

Sri Aurobindo said everyone will arrive at the Divine. Amal Kiran once asked the Mother if he would realise God in this life. The Mother replied that he would, unless he did something idiotic and cut short his life. It was very prophetic. For that is just what he almost did, you see, and I’m going to tell you how. Some of you, perhaps, know the story. I think it is no secret or, at least, it’s an open secret. Amal is supposed to be our ... what shall I say ... our poet, our archaeologist, our scientist, and he had many other feathers in his cap, like being the editor of Mother India81. I shall tell you what he did to almost cut short his life. He had gone over to Bombay from here, for a short while. He wrote to Sri Aurobindo in 1938, towards the end of July82:

I am all agog...

Agog’ is a very colloquial expression, some of you may be conversant with it.

... to know whether I should pack up for Pondicherry.

He was thinking of coming back.

Should I come away with my heart still below normal by medical standards ?

He had not completely recovered; his heart was still below normal.

I surely can’t expect it to catch up with normalcy so soon after that mistake of mine with the tonic stimulant powder given me by a friend.

He had been ill, so his doctor-friend had given him some stimulant-powder, because his heart was weak. As a matter of fact, if I remember right, he had gone to see a boxing match, where he became very excited and his heart irregular. Perhaps that is the reason, I don’t know of any other reason. So he found his doctor-friend who gave him some stimulant.

You know that owing to an error in [following] instructions, instead of taking the normal dose (1 /12 of a grain), ...

I don’t know whether you have an idea of what a grain is; nowadays one talks in terms of milligrams, is it not? So that was the dose.

... I swallowed more than 4 grains, which means about 50 times the normal dose, over 4 times the dose a horse might be given and neatly 25 times the dose at which the drug begins to be sheer poison for human beings. Unfortunately I gathered these figures after the event. I also remained without medical aid for 45 minutes!

How did he survive, God knows! Twenty-five times stronger than the poisonous dose!

And it is a very strong dose. In my awful condition, I only kept calling to the Mother and you. Of course I am again up and doing, and can’t take this setback very seriously, though I have a semi-collapse now and then, and the medicos say I need regular attention and should not exert myself. The Mother and you get me out of all scrapes.

I suppose you know that. That is what they are for: to get us into scrapes and to rescue us.

The sweet grace of you both has been unfailing. And I don’t think I am much frightened by theoretical possibilities of death. Will my undertaking to come away do me any harm? This is a year in which, I believe, the truth-consciousness may make up its mind, or rather its Supermind, to descend.

In 1938, there was talk about it, so we thought that now, now that it will descend, we must be in the Ashram. By the way, that reminds me, there was talk during Sri Aurobindo’s time, a rumour that the Supermind will be descending here – in the playground (Laughter), so we reported it to Sri Aurobindo, «There is a strong rumour that the Supermind will descend in the playground.» Sri Aurobindo, as was His habit, said with a smile that was almost a non-smile, «I shall miss it!» (Laughter)

I was expecting a wire from the Mother in May;

Mother had told Amal before he went to Bombay that She would let him know about the descent of the Supermind! He had extracted a promise from the Mother – he knows how to do all that.

It’s almost the end of July now – but the year is not yet out, and August 1583 is pretty close. Won’t I be losing something great if I don’t throw all caution to the winds ?

Sri Aurobindo replied (I hope you’ll understand His humour. One thing I find, I appreciate one thing in you all – that you’ve grown into a sense of humour. Thanks to us!):

You must on no account return here before your heart has recovered. No doubt, death must not be feared, but neither should death or permanent ill-health be invited. Here, especially now when all the competent doctors have gone away or been sent to a distance from Pondicherry, there would be no proper facilities for the treatment you still need, while you have them all there. You should remember the Mother’s warning to you when she said that you would have the realisation in this life provided you did not do something silly so as to shorten your life. That ‘something silly’ you tried your best to do...


... when you swallowed with a cheerful liberality a poison-medicine without taking the least care to ascertain what was the maximum dose. You have escaped by a sort of miracle, but with a shaken heart. To risk making that shaky condition of the heart a permanent disability of the body, rendering it incapable of resisting any severe physical attack or shock in the future, would be another ‘something silly’ of the same quality. So it’s on no account to be done.

You need not be afraid of losing anything great by postponing your teturn to Pondicherry. A general descent of the kind you speak of is not in view at the moment and, even if it comes, it can very easily catch you up into itself whenever you come, if you are in the right openness; (other [than] a dog or a cat, all can) and if you are not, then even its descending would not be of so urgent an importance, since it would take you some time to become aware of it or receive it. So there is no reason why you should not in this matter cleave to common sense and the sage advice of the doctors.

There is no irony there! So this is apropos of his miraculous escape after swallowing twenty-five times the recommended dose – a miracle of some sort, you can see, and the wonderful part of it is that, during that time of his ill-health, Amal used to go into a sort of a trance, and in that trance, he used to compose poems: poem after poem, poem after poem, that have come out in the name of The Adventure of the Apocalypse – a wonderful collection of poems which he could not have written in his waking consciousness. Some of these poems I think I’ll read out to you later.

So there, ladies and gentlemen, there again, a phenomenon: in trance, in samadhi, you can say things, you can write things which in your normal state of consciousness you can never do. The phenomenon or the way on which this is based is obvious – because our normal waking consciousness goes to sleep and makes it easy for the higher consciousness to act in us, to pour things into us, and we become nothing but passive instruments for the downpour from the superior consciousness. That is one of the ways in which we get it. The other way: when we are conscious, it is only by virtue of the silence of the mind that things come. That is why so much insistence is laid on the silencing of the mind. Then, as it happened in Sri Aurobindo’s case, things came down from above. Sri Aurobindo, as I have told you again and again, with respect to Arya84 and other things, wrote from complete silence of the mind, and as He said, not only through silence of the mind. The words came to His fingertips as He was typing, straight down, not even through the mind. So such things are possible.

Now to go back to something here (Srinvantu dated 24 April 1969) -I don’t know, I think I have read most of the things written by Mother here. «From Japan» -I found it very beautiful indeed, so if you allow me, I would like to read the last article by the Mother on Japan. Many of you know about it, have seen in your films, have heard the talk from the Mother, about how She spent quite a number of years there and became very fond of the country. I don’t know whether She will be so fond of it today, because Japan has undergone much change.

[Reading from Srinvantu, 64-66]:85

The art of Japan is a kind of directly mental expression in physical life. The Japanese use the vital world very little. Their art is extremely mentalised; their life is extremely mentalised. It expresses in detail quite precise mental formations. Only in the physical, they have spontaneously the sense of beauty. For example, a thing one sees very rarely in Europe but constantly, daily in Japan: very simple people, men of the working-class or even peasants go for rest or enjoyment to a place where they can see a beautiful landscape. This gives them a much greater joy than going to play cards or indulging in all sorts of distractions as they do in the countries of Europe. They are seen in groups at times, going on the roads or sometimes taking a train or a tram up to a certain point, then walking to a place from where one gets a beautiful view. Then, at this place, there is a small house which fits very well into the landscape, there is a kind of small platform on which one can sit; one takes a cup of tea and at the same time sees the landscape. For them, this is the supreme enjoyment; they know nothing more pleasant. One can understand this among artists, educated people, quite learned people, but I am speaking of people of the most ordinary class, poor people who like this better than resting or relaxing at home. This is for them the greatest joy.

And in that country, for each season there are known sites. For instance, in autumn leaves become red; they have large numbers of maple-trees (the leaves of the maple turn into all the shades of the most vivid red, in autumn, it is absolutely marvellous), so they arrange a place near a temple, for instance, on the top of a hill, and the entire hill is covered with maples. There is a stair-way which climbs straight up, almost like a ladder, from the base to the top, and it is so steep that one cannot see what is at the top, one gets the feeling of a ladder rising to the skies—a stone stairway, very well made, rising steeply and seeming to lose itself in the sky—clouds pass, and both the sides of the hill are covered with maples, and these maples have the most magnificent colours you could ever imagine. Well, an artist who goes there will experience an emotion of absolutely exceptional, marvelous beauty. But one sees very small children, families even, with a baby on the shoulder, going there in groups. In autumn they go there. In springtime they go elsewhere.

There is a garden quite close to Tokyo where irises are grown. A garden with very tiny rivulets, and along the rivulets, irises—irises of all possible colours—and it is arranged according to colour, organized in such a way that on entering one is dazzled, there is a blaze of colour from all these flowers standing upright; and there are heaps and heaps of them, as far as the eye can reach. At another time, just at the beginning of spring (it is slightly early spring there), there are the first cherry-trees. These cherry-trees never give fruit, they are grown only for the flowers. They range from white to pink, to a rathet vivid pink. There are long avenues all bordered with cherry-trees, all pink; they are huge trees which have turned all pink. There are entire mountains covered with these cherry-trees, and on the little rivulets bridges have been built which too are all red: you sense these bridges of red lacquer among all these pink flowers and, below, a great river flowing and a mountain which seems to scale the sky, and they go to this place in springtime ... For each season there are flowers and for each flower there are gardens.

And people travel by train as easily as one goes from house to house; they have a small packet like this which they carry; in it they have clothes to change, that’s quite enough for them; they wear on the feet rope or fibre sandals; when they get worn out they throw them away and take others, for it costs nothing at all. All their life is like that. They have paper handkerchiefs, when they have used them they get rid of them, and so on—they don’t burden themselves with anything. When they go by train, at the stations small meals are sold in boxes (it is quite clean, quite neat), small meals in boxes of white wood with little chop-sticks for eating; then, as all this has no value, when one is finished, one puts them aside, doesn’t bother about them or encumber oneself. They live like that. When they have a garden or a park, they plant trees, and they plant them just at the place where, when the tree has grown, it will create a landscape, will fit into a landscape. And as they want the tree to have a particular shape, they trim it, cut it, they manage to give it all the shapes they want. You have trees with fantastic forms; they have cut off the unnecessary branches, fostered others, contrived things as they liked. Then you come to a place and you see a house which seems to be altogether a part of landscape; it has exactly the right colour, it is made of the right materials; it is not like a blow in your face, as are all those European buildings which spoil the whole landscape.

It is just there where it should be hidden under the trees; then you see a creeper and suddenly a wonderful tree: it is there at the right place, it has the right form. I had everything to learn in Japan. For four years, from an artistic point of view, I lived from wonder to wonder.

And in the cities, a city like Tokyo, for example, which is the biggest city in the world, bigger than London, and which extends far, far (now the houses are modernized, the whole centre of the city is very unpleasant, but when I was there, it was still good). In the outlying parts of the city, those which are not business quarcers, every house has at the most two stories and a garden; there is always a garden, there are always one or two trees which are quite lovely. And then, if you go for a walk, it is very difficult to find your way in Tokyo; there are no straight streets with houses on either side according to the number, and you lose your way easily. Then you go wandering around – always one wanders at random in that country – you go wandering and, all of a sudden, you turn the corner of a street and come to a kind of paradise: there are magnificent trees, a temple as beautiful as everything else, you see nothing of the city any longer, no more traffic, no tramways; a corner, a corner of trees with magnificent colours, and it is beautiful, beautiful like everything else. You do not know how you have reached there, you seem to have come by luck. And then you turn, you seek your way, you wander off again and go elsewhere. And some days later, you want to come back to this very place, but it is impossible, it is as though it had disappeared. And this is so frequent, this is so true that such stories are often told in Japan. Their literature is full of fairylore. They tell you a story in which the hero comes suddenly to an enchanted place: he sees fairies, he sees marvelous beings, he spends exquisite hours among flowers, music; all is splendid. The next day he is obliged to leave, it is the law of the place, he goes away. He tries to come back, but never does. He can no longer find the place: it was there, it has disappeared. And everything in this city, in this country, from beginning to end, gives you the impression of impermanence, of the unexpected, the exceptional. You always come to things you did not expect; you want to find them again and they are lost. They have made something else which is equally charming. From the artistic point of view, the point of view of beauty, I don’t think there is a country as beautiful as that.

There you are. All this is authentically true. This is the Japanese life on one side, now compare it with ours.


Spiritual experience develops one’s subtle sights and sounds. One sees visions and hears voices that may seem authentic, but they may often be quite false and misleading. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo wrote letters to the sadhaks at the Ashram, saying, «Don’t listen to the voices, listen to what we write to you.» But still, the sadhaks cling to the voices. They’re so possessed by the voice they hear, they stick to it and take it as the truth. If you have pride, vanity, desire, you are done for. If you don’t have them, it’s all right, but if you keep them, other forces come.

The Guru writes to a sadhak, «Don’t listen to these voices.» Still he doesn’t believe the Guru, he believes them. Hitler had no Guru to tell him not to listen to those voices. Those who are sincere can discriminate between the true and the false; otherwise, the glamour, the maya86 can delude them. All these are often the results of some insincerity in the being.

16 July 1969

Nowhere shalt thou escape my living eyes.» [This quotation was put up on the blackboard.] The line is from Savitri87. It has the flavour of that epic. Whoever may have picked it, I must thank him or her. It is very apt, very appropriate, and very true indeed, as some of you at least must have felt, in your own experiences. I’ve given you in my way a few instances showing the truth of this line from Savitri – His «living eyes» are all the time with you and I could give you many more examples of this truth. Perhaps, from time to time, I might, but I have already shown you enough of my feelings. So this proves that they are «living eyes» and you cannot escape, you can’t. Whether you see them or not, they are with you, I can assure you that much today. I think I couldn’t have done it some years ago, but today I can assure you that the «eyes» are there with you, only you have to be a little more indrawn in order to be able to perceive them. Day in and day out, I have undergone that experience, in areas which are mostly private and confidential, therefore I can’t speak to you about it, but from the small instances I have given you, it is enough to show how living these «eyes» are. You can’t hide anything from them, they know but don’t tell you; yet sometimes they do!

Today ... Let me consult my green book ... to see what I have on the cards. My memory is short, it betrays me; therefore I have to keep a little bit of a record to refresh my memory. Yes, last week, you remember, I read out to you a talk by Mother, on Japan. Showering high praise on the Japanese for their love of beauty, which you have seen already many times on the cinema screen, She came to the subject of their moral life which, She said, if you remember, is guided very strictly and rigidly by moral codes. There is hardly any spirituality in that beautiful land, and She gave a very striking example: how She awoke the psychic being in a friend of hers, but then he regretted that he could not obey the command of that psychic being because he was morally bound to his emperor. He would betray the emperor if he obeyed the inner voice. So that shows the distinction between the moral law and the spiritual law. He wasted a great chance that the Mother had granted him. As you know very well, we are trying hard to awaken in us the psychic being, which, as per the Katha Upanishad, is «no bigger than this thumb88», but very well hidden deep inside our being, very secret. For years and years, we have been pining for it. Well, we don’t get it easily, and this gentleman got it and lost it. There you are. One should never waste opportunities when one gets them without even asking for them.

You remember a similar instance I recounted to you here in the class. Sri Aurobindo told us how he gave the experience of the silent Mind to an idiot, and that idiot lost it – naturally. So we are all idiots in some ways, we often don’t know the value of things; only when they go away, then some of us are conscious about what we have lost. I will raise this point a little later. The distinction between spirituality and morality, they are not the same thing – some of you know it very well. Now I will read out to you some talk we had with Sri Aurobindo on this subject of Japan. Very interesting, and the comments are somewhat similar to Mother’s. Yes, I start from the relevant portion

[Reading from Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 45]:

Japan, at one time, had an ideal. The power of the Japanese for self-sacrifice, patriotism, self-abnegation and silence were remarkable. They would never lose their temper in front of anybody, though perhaps they might stab afterwards. They could work so silently and secretly that no one knew anything before the Russo-Japanese War broke out. All on a sudden it broke out. The Japanese are kshatriyas, samurais, and their aesthetic sense is of course well known. But European influence has spoiled all that, and see now how brutal they have become, a thoroughly un-Japanese thing. Formerly they could look upon their opponents with sympathy. Look now at Japanese sentries boxing European officers. Not that the latter don’t deserve it. Look also at the Japanese commander challenging Chiang Kai-shek to come out into the open field. This sort of bragging is not at all truly Japanese.

[Reading from Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 296]:

In the war between Russia and Japan, the Japanese admitted that the Russian artillery was remarkable; it didn’t miss its mark, but the infantry was not so good; for, when they got a good opportunity they failed to take advantage of it. On the other hand, the Japanese army is perhaps the best in the world. In spite of overwhelming numbers against them in China, they have been able to conquer. Chiang Kai-shek had trumpeted that he would defeat the Japanese in a very short time. They didn’t give any reply, but at the end of each defeat we find that they had advanced farther into China.

[Reading from Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 241-2]

Disciple: They say the Japanese are not good in the air. They missed their targets many times.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t know about that. The Japanese are good at concentrating on one thing at a time, but aeronautics requires concentration on many points at once ...

I was thinking about how some races have the sense of beauty in their very bones. Judging from what is left to us, it seems that all people had once a keen perception of beauty. For example, take pottery or Indian woodcarving, which, I am afraid, is dying out now. Greece and ancient Italy had a wonderful sense of beauty.

Japan, you know, is remarkable. Even the poorest people there have that sense. If the Japanese produce anything ugly, they export it to other countries! But I am afraid they are losing their aesthetic sense because of the general vulgarization. By the way, the Chinese and the Japanese got some of their art impulse originally from India. Their Buddhist images have Indian inspiration. It is only later that they developed their own lines.

So here was some further information about what Japan was, and what Japan is; and I don’t know what Japan will be in future; but, I think, speaking from a few of my experiences, that this is a good sign because you must break your strict moral rules in order to be spiritual, and they are passing through this change, this transition. That is my way of looking at things, my personal opinion. Anyhow, this is what Japan is.

Now a few points about the difference between spirituality and morality. I’ll give some examples only as I am not an expert on philosophy. Had Buddha adhered to moral rules, he could not have left the world, because moral rules will bind you to the laws of society. He would have had to be King, and look after his wife and children and his subjects. That would be moral. So is the case, I suppose, with Sri Aurobindo. He could not have left his family; neither could I have. I could not have left my poor old mother behind, and it doesn’t concern you so much because you have been brought here by your own parents. So that is moral law. When you belong to society, you have to obey the rules of the society. If your parents have brought you up, fed you and bred you and married you off, for good or for ill, you have to obey those rules. This is moral law. You can break the moral laws only when you have another call from above – the spiritual. Responding to this higher call, Buddha left the world, for the good of the world, and Sri Aurobindo left the world for the sake of a greater world. Moral laws can be ignored only when the spiritual call is there, not otherwise.

So this is the call of the spirit! The call of the spirit does not obey this moral law because it is a higher law; it is the law of God, whereas the moral laws are the laws of man. This is, in a nutshell, the distinction between the two. So the Japanese and those who are strictly moral, I’m afraid they don’t, or very rarely, hear the voice of God, because they have adhered, all along in their life, to Procrustean laws and rules where there’s no chance of the tiny whispering voice within being heard. So in order to be able to lead the spiritual life, you have to break some of the moral rules – the moral barriers. But so long as you don’t hear that voice, you have to obey the moral law. In our land here, you see, we have become spiritual. Moral laws are not for us brothers. The first thing we have established in our spiritual life is freedom.

Now the word «brother» reminds me of a joke. I’ve fallen into this joking mood! This joke was told to us by no less a person than Sri Aurobindo himself, therefore please listen. It is not this profaner who is speaking. One day, in our «talks», we told Him, «There are so many bothers in the Ashram: servant bother...» (it was there then too; today it’s getting worse). «Somebody said to me doctor-bother – because I was a doctor at that time – then engineer bother, so many bothers in the Ashram.» Then Sri Aurobindo said, smiling, «Yes, bothers are our brothers!» He waited for a while; there was a hint which we could not catch. He said, «Don’t you know the story?» We said, «No,» then He started telling, looking down like this (very rarely did He look up; He would always be looking down, with a half-parted smile, impersonal, like a statue talking, and we would be listening). He said, «It was at the beginning of the Ashram. There were a few, just a handful of inmates. Pavitra had joined the Ashram recently. So these few inmates were talking together round the table. Pavitra-da approached them and said, «Gentlemen, I’m your brother.» He had arrived recently and did not know English well, so I don’t know how he pronounced ‘brother’ in his French accent: perhaps as ‘borrther’. These people took the word to be ‘bother’. Then they protested violently: «No, no, no, you are not a bother.» [Laughter) The more they protested, the more Pavitra-da insisted, «No, no, no, I’m your bother.» (Laughter) So this thing went on; that’s why Sri Aurobindo said «bothers are our brothers». There used to be quite a lot of fun of that sort here; well, we enjoyed with Him and treated Him as one of our own. That fun is gone now. During such hilarious moods, Mother used to come in slowly; then, you understand, as soon as we heard Her step, all of us became good boys, no mischief at all. Even Sri Aurobindo Himself -ah ... ah ... a! All goody-goody,» Gopal bodo shubodh balok89

There is another joke of Pavitra-da. I’ve heard it from my friend Amal, but you must take it with a pinch of salt. Pavitra-da used to, at the beginning, it seems, do some carpentry work, and Amal was in charge of the Furniture department. Pavitra-da prepared some blocks, and after preparing them, he took them to Amal and said, «You see I have prepared these blockheads (Laughter) to understand my table90.» (Laughter) You see what a compact expression: he said so many things in one single word! But don’t you think that we Indians have a better pronunciation and command of the English language – we are no better. I gave you long, long ago an example cited by Sri Aurobindo Himself in one of the Majlis91 meetings. A Punjabi said, «We are all liars.» What he meant was «lawyers.» Sri Aurobindo said, «What a profound truth he had uttered!» (Laughter)

Then another humorous instance is a reflection on me. I was a student of Class 8. I think many of you here are better than me, being students of the International Centre. As a student of history, my history teacher asked me to read a passage in which there was a French word. Mind you I was a student in one of the very distant and provincial schools. I had no idea of what French was. The teacher asked me to read the passage. I was reading it, everything in English, so I said «Rendaze vooze.» The teacher asked, «What?» I said, «Rendaze vooze.» He smiled and said, «No, ron-day-voo.» So I cursed the French language! Why should you introduce all these words into any other tongue? There is no necessity for it. I came to love this word when I came to read Sri Aurobindo’s «Pilgrim of the Night»: «I made an assignation with the Night; in the abyss was fixed our rendezvous.» If you want to use that word you must use it in this way, not in history or geography. So there you are! All of us make these faux pas. Somebody will laugh at our cost, but they won’t laugh long, they are caught in a similar faux pas one day or another. Anyhow, so this is what it was.

Now I read out a passage to you by the Mother, which she gave to somebody:

There is only one country in the world that knows that there is only one Truth to which everything should be turned, and that is India. Other countries have forgotten this, but in India it is ingrained in the people and one day it will come. We must all recognize this and work for this. India is the cradle of the Truth and will lead the world to the Truth. India will find its real place in the world when it realises this.

Mother was talking, I believe, to some people who had gone to see Her, a gathering of men and women (again I have to make the distinction, can’t help it, but it is formal). Mother hopes that:

Men present would not be offended that it is only the women who know how to use this power which comes from serving the Truth.

Please write it down and remember it [He reads out the last sentence again].

Now a friend has given me this book. There’s something very fine about prayer. I shall read out to you a story entitled «Prayers Have Wings» from Tales of India by Daulat Panday:

Once upon a time, two angels flew down from Heaven, to settle on the topmost branch of a tall pine tree in Kailas. It was a beautiful moonlit night, and all around among the snow-covered hills and valleys there reigned a silvery peace and silence. The angels looked around and saw that every now and then wings flapped in the still mountain air, and vanished Heavenwards.

«Who could these winged creatures be? And where could they be going?» asked one angel of another. «They are the prayers of human beings living on earth, and they are flying upwards to reach the throne of the great God Brahman, the Creator of the Universe,» replied the othet.

«Have you noticed how pretty some of them are?» asked the first angel.

«Yes, but most of them are quite ordinary, and a few seem to be positively ugly,» replied the second. «Let us follow them and see where they are going.» So saying, they both spread their wings and flew up towards the fleecy clouds overhead. Higher and higher they flew, and as they soared upwards, they found that many of the winged creatures that were dark and ugly could not go beyond the clouds, and fell back to earth and died. For these were the prayers of selfish, greedy people who prayed for their own good, even at the cost of others. Other prayers, less ugly, but still not good enough to attain any height, pierced the clouds and melted in the rarer atmosphere above, like mist in the morning light. Whereas those sincere prayers that had come straight from the hearts of good and kind people, soared higher and higher, beyond the moon, and even beyond the farthest star.

When the angels had reached the gates of Heaven, they found a beautiful creature with translucent wings that shone like so many opals, waiting there. As they passed near it, they saw its face which was like an innocent child’s, so frank and pure that they could not doubt that it had come from a simple and honest heart.

The angels entered the gates of Heaven and passed into the hall where they found several beautiful creatures, but none to compare with the one they had just seen. They went together to the throne-room where they saw that these creatures conveyed their messages to the great God Brahman, and returned to the hearts that had sent them.

First came a pearly-winged prayer who bowed low and said, «Oh great Lord, I pray that there may be plenty in my land so that even the poorest may have enough.» And to this the Lord Brahman replied, «So may it be!» And the prayer backed away in silence whilst another took its place.

This one prayed for wisdom and courage, for it had come from the mighty heart of a warrior, and it too was soon granted. Many others followed, but none of them were half as beautiful as the one the angels had seen at the gates. And just as they were wondering what had happened to it, the whole place was filled with a sweet fragrance, and soft strains of music commenced to fall upon their ears. The angels turned round to see from where these were coming, and lo! there stood the very one they had been thinking about. More lovely and opalescent than ever.

Bowing low before the throne of Brahman, it said in a humble voice, «Oh Lord of all Creation, accept my deepest gratitude for the countless blessings that Thou has bestowed upon me.» Brahman was so pleased with this prayer that all Heaven overflowed with joy. The sun rose in all its glory, and rainbows danced in the heavenly skies.

«This prayer must have come from the heart of a King, or at least from a very wealthy man, for he could not be in want of anything. Otherwise he could not send up such a prayer,» said the second angel to the first. «Let us follow in its wake and see where it goes.»

Thus both the angels followed it, and to their utmost surprise, they found that the beautiful creature led them to the hut of a poor beggar boy who was sleeping on the floor, and quickly entered his heart. Soon after this, the boy woke up and smiled.

«I would like to test him and find out how he managed to send up such a prayer» said the first angel to the second. «So let us assume the shape of two weary travellers and go and speak to him.» Thus they changed themselves into two travellers who looked very tired and hungry and knocked at the door. The little boy came out and received them with courtesy, and offered them all the fruits and nuts that he had collected after many days of toil. And when they expressed pity for his miserable condition, the boy only smiled and said, «I have much to be grateful for, kind sirs, for look at the sun which warms me the whole day long, and the birds that sing for me. There is also the music of rushing waters to soothe my ears, and the gentle winds to fan me to sleep. Even the King does not have more. And I am truly grateful for all these and so many more joys that the kind Lord has granted to me.»

The angels looked at each other with surprise, and blessing the boy over and over again, they took their leave. Once they were out of his sight they changed their forms again and flew back to Heaven to tell this story.


You know perhaps that I have a nephew, Bibhash, who was a fledging and has now flown away! Well, he used to stay with me in my room in the Ashram. I saw that he used to come home very late at night, falling asleep here and there, and was getting out of control. So I reported to the Mother saying, «Mother, he doesn’t come in time or doesn’t turn up at all. What shall I do ?» Calmly, She replied, «Doesn’t matter, he comes to me at least.» So I left the matter there. But he became more and more unruly, and one day I gave him a slap. I felt very bad and somewhat in a frightened manner, next morning I told Mother, «I couldn’t control myself and I beat him,» and, immediately, She said, «Yes, because you beat him, he is unruly.» Sabbaash!92 Because he was unruly I beat him, and here were the tables turned on me!

Once, when Mother was a child, She saw that Her mother used to beat Her brother; so one day, when She could not stand it any more, She said, «If you beat him any more, I shall leave this house for good.» From that day on, Her mother never beat him. See the Kali aspect in Her even as a little child!

22 July 1969

I remember, long, long ago, somebody lost something and Mother told him, «Don’t go by your small mind: ‘I left it here and then there, etc.’ Rather go by intuition.» I’ve tried to put this into practice, in my own small way: sometimes I don’t succeed; sometimes I’m right.

You have to practise and learn how to interpret such messages. I have had many queer indications of that sort – dream-revelations. Suddenly you get a flash. It’s strange how things are revealed. Once, I wrote a poem and sent it out for publication. I didn’t know that it would be published. I wasn’t at all sure. I dreamed I saw the journal and the poem. And really it was published! Long, long ago, I wrote an article in The Times of India about Puttur, and I dreamed I had got a hundred rupees in my hand; and really I got that sum.

When I read a poem, a passage, all of a sudden, I get such intuitive understanding. Sri Aurobindo said, «Without trying to think of Supermind, think of Intuition93.» It’s very important for artists and poets, even for the layman, and for medical men too, who often ask themselves: what drugs will be best to give?

At one time, while we were working with Sri Aurobindo each day, Mother used to come in at some point in the afternoon, sometimes at 12:30 p.m., sometimes at 1 o’clock, or at half past one. So I used to try out my intuition and say, «Mother will come at half past one today.» And she came more or less at the time intuited, perhaps with a few minutes leeway.

That is the way you have to develop faculties. Just try it out in harmless situations. Everything is Divine Will. If your will is in contact with the Divine Will – it is done.

23 July 1969

That spectacle of shoes over there, this plethora of shoes of various sorts made by Govindaraj94, reminds me of a queer vision I had long, long ago. I’ve spoken about it earlier, that I have something of the nature of Hamlet in me. Sri Aurobindo said that, all the time, all the time, I Hamletise! I don’t know whether you understand the meaning of the word. When I’m faced with a situation where I can’t take a decision (shall I do this or shall I do that), I have no vital intuition; I never had any which could tell me what decisions should be made, what path should be followed. Sometimes I refer the problem to a higher authority to help me decide these small things. Larger issues are, of course, quite clear.

I’ll give you an instance. To help you understand it fully, I shall also say that I’m not a man who likes too much company, nor am I too sentimental a person. My friend Madhav has often paid me a compliment, telling me that I’m an effusive Bengali, but I’m afraid that’s not me. Well, this is what happened: you know that, some time ago, several Central Government Commissions were coming to assess our Education Centre95, and it was a point with me whether to attend those functions or not. I thought: what’s the use? All stale, academic questions in which I have no interest. There’s no poetry there, nor any good tea! Then what’s the point? But at the same time, I thought, as a teacher, it was my duty to attend the functions. So in a dilemma like this, I was taking a nap, thinking perhaps that in my dreams some solution will come. All on a sudden, I saw I don’t know which room, something like the other section, maybe the East Block of our school, and, at the foot of the stairs, plenty of shoes and slippers. Well, that was the indication for me – you understand – to attend! (Laughter)

So sometimes, decisions or guidance or suggestions come in a very outlandish manner – in the manner of shoes or in the manner of umbrellas, etc. It is very strange indeed when you think about it. I have given you some instances from time to time to show you how these bizarre, weird, strange vision E-Library/-03 Disciples/Nirodbaran/-01 English/Talks by Nirodbaran/-images come. From where and how do these visions come? Who sends them? You are left in no manner of doubt about the decision though, as you can see; sometimes it is rather complicated, but very often you feel that this is what you have to do. So this is one instance. As I was entering the room today, the reception that the slippers gave me reminded me of this strange incident.

But my proper subject is something else, which I shall start on now. We have much to be jubilant about in the events that occurred between our two meetings. Let me consult my notes for all that has happened both on the home front and on the soma front. Perhaps some of you will be puzzled by the word ‘soma’ because you are children of the modern age. Soma, by the way, in our Indian mythology, stands for the Moon God. So you can understand which front I am meaning96. And it is said that if you drink the Somarasa, you become immortal like the gods; and that the poets, by drinking it, experience ecstasy. Here is a passage from Future Poetry about this soma: «Soma is the Vedic Moon-God, whose plant of intoxication has to be gathered on lovely mountain heights in the moonlight and whose purified juice and essence is the sacred wine and nectar of sweetness, rasa, madhu, amrita, without which the gods themselves could not be immortal97

This is what Sri Aurobindo says about Soma.

Now our astronauts have invaded this Moon God. Some people say that there is nectar over there, so if they can bottle some nectar, then our human race will be conquering death and stealing a march over the Supermind just as the Russians tried to steal a march over the Americans (but failed to). Perhaps some of you have read in the newspaper that a yogi had a vision and, in his vision, saw that there is gold dust over there. Now if there really is gold dust on the moon, there will be a big competition between the human and asuric powers and we shall be in trouble!

However, this is on the soma front. I don’t say anything about the home front. I mean the Indian political situation. I don’t mean the home front of the Ashram! Those who are politically inclined will be very much intrigued by what has happened. But politics is banned in the Ashram, as Sri Aurobindo said. We talk a lot about it, take part in it, and we help those involved in it, but we don’t discuss it amongst ourselves. That reminds me: I once asked Sri Aurobindo a political question. He answered by saying that politics is banned in the Ashram and then He wrote two pages on it (Laughter), closed with a seal: strictly confidential, strictly confidential! So, as a true disciple, I kept it confidential, read it all by myself. Later on, of course, I broke the seal and revealed the contents to a few intimate friends. So that is that.

The following incident happened when I was in Edinburgh -please believe me when I say that I was there! (Laughter) Whatever others may say, I was indeed there and for a number of years. I even got a medical degree! If you want, I can show you the papers. Well, when I was there, a friend came over from London to visit me as well as to see the city. Edinburgh is supposed to be a very beautiful city. Then we went out sightseeing. Perhaps some of you know that there are two famous structures in that city: one is a castle, which is on top of a hill, not a very high hill, but the castle is built in a very, what shall I say, formidable manner. The whole structure seems to be rising from the rock itself, very steep; you understand that, at the time it was built, one had to defend oneself against enemies and there were lots of civil wars in Scotland.

However, my point is not that. We saw the castle, and walked down the pathway to see the other famous structure, which is called the Hollywood Palace – not your American Hollywood. You have heard about Mary, Queen of Scots: she lived there for some time, sometimes up there in the castle and sometimes down in Hollywood Palace. The guide came and he was taking us around to various places, explaining «This is this», «this is that», «this is the jewel», so on and so forth. Then we came to a big mirror, a life-size mirror. As we were walking towards it, the guide said to my friend, «Please stop.» My friend was a young lady. Addressing her, he said, «Young lady, I warn you not to look into that mirror.» We were surprised. That mirror was the mirror that had belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. Well, there is a prophecy or a superstition that whoever looks into that mirror will marry thrice and come to grief – just like Queen Mary. Well, my companion was a modern lady, so she looked all the more at the mirror, with a sweet smile. I don’t know what she saw. Then we passed on. From what I learned later, I understand that the prophecy turned out to be true in her case. I don’t know how the lady managed to marry thrice! I am not sure, but I heard that some such fate did overtake her. That is the story. You are free to take it as you wish – as truth or as a superstition! So I warn the ladies over here, those who have the intention of going abroad, if you happen to go to Edinburgh, please beware of that magic mirror!

I’ll tell you what Sri Aurobindo said about marriage. Of course, marriage is getting out of fashion; you know that very well by now. And we understand that, in Auroville (I’m not very certain whether it is true or not), there will be no marriages98. Now, I’d written to Sri Aurobindo with some complaints. I think somebody was going away from here; at least, I understood it in that sense, and, as I have told you, the prospect of anybody going away used to give me heartache.

So I wrote to Sri Aurobindo: «I hear ‘Y’ is going away to deliver a message.» I don’t remember the details exactly. Sri Aurobindo wrote to me in answer: «not message, marriage.» And I’d read it as ‘message’ earlier. Because Sri Aurobindo used to write at a tremendous speed – one letter colliding with another and there was ample opportunity for misunderstanding and misreading things. Then He wrote back: «There is nothing about message – marriage, marriage – two marriages in fact. Not that he is going to marry two wives, but he is going to see the misfortune of two others consummated and gloat over it!» There you are.

Too much of levity; perhaps some people are getting disgusted with my levity; they want something serious, and every time I become so frolicsome. Well, here then is something serious. I told you, long, long ago I believe, how Sri Aurobindo had the habit of «disturbing» my sleep at two in the morning. He used to wake me up. A few days ago, a similar circumstance, a similar thing happened. I am in the habit of taking some rest – if I may be allowed to use a euphemism, meditative rest, and in other words, simply, sleep – for about an hour in the afternoon from one to two; that is my usual habit. And from two o’clock, I start working till four o’clock. Being quite a good student, I work hard. So I was sleeping. I don’t know whether I was tired, but I don’t think I was tired. Sometimes I feel tired, either due to lack of sleep or some other reason, like too long a chat with my friend Champaklal on the terrace, when there are good things to talk about.

Anyhow, I was sleeping, it was about a quarter to two, and I heard the beautiful, sweet chiming of the clock in my room. Oh! I thought, there are 15 minutes more, let me loll and let me roll a bit, this side and that side. Then I looked at the clock, saw there was still some time left. At exactly two o’clock, somebody called me. I won’t try to reproduce that voice because it was sweet, and you know my voice is anything but sweet (Laughter) and that is because, my friends, when I was born my nurse did not drop any honey onto my tongue (Laughter), that’s why! Anyhow, it was a very sweet voice, and in that drowsiness I said «Ke?99 I jumped up, looked about this way and that way – no one. Then I understood at once whose the mischief was, so I had to get up and start working. Wouldn’t give me any rest! But the funny part of it is that it is a very understanding voice, and when I am enjoying the rasa100 of inertia, then and then only, the voice comes, sometimes sweet, sometimes thundering, sometimes very grave, and, at other times, very musical – the entire range! I can imitate the thunder: «Nirod!!!» (Laughter) I am used to that, but I cannot reproduce the sweet tone.

So, here is an instance, ladies and gentlemen, a small one, which shows how the Force is so alert, so awake – as stated in the verse that was written here the other day («Nowhere shalt thou escape my living eyes»). Don’t think I had prayed for it. I had not prayed at all; on the other hand, I’d wanted to loll a little more. The voice knows my good intentions, but due to my laziness, slovenliness, sluggishness, unwillingness, and reluctance, it helps me at two in the night and even two in the afternoon. Two o’clock has something, I don’t know what – maybe an association with my fate; perhaps I’ll die also at two o’clock, though it will be an immortal death! So that is what I want to say to you, ladies and gentlemen. I will give you from time to time some instances of this sort, I have quite a number of them – small ones that show how the Divine helps you.

And if the Divine helps you in such small matters, how much He will be helping you in big matters as well! I gave you the instance of the shoes, and then the call – somewhat humorous, but in the sweetest voice – and I am sure many of you here have, at one time of another, received such indications, either in dreams or in waking moments. But the fact is that, as Mother has said, Sri Aurobindo is here, very near to us, very, very near indeed. Now this I could not have told you with so much assertion a few years ago. But I am getting more and more proof that He is there and helping all of us. And Mother has also said that if you try, you can come in contact with Him, it is easy. It is not as difficult as it was before. He is in the air, He is in the light, He is beside you, He is behind you, He is with you. He has come so near. So this is the beginning. Those of you who have read my correspondence with Sri Aurobindo have seen how I had lamented over so many things. This was much before most of you had come. Before, life here was some sort of a desert.

Now we come to the main stream of my talk. You remember that we postponed discussions of Sri Aurobindo’s life, took up the life of the Mother and we have covered quite a lot of ground. You will remember that we’d reached the point where Mother had come, was living in a separate house, inviting all the inmates to tea, and Sri Aurobindo was meeting Her every day. They had started the Arya101. Now I will read out to you the last part of this passage from Nolini-da’s Reminiscences. He is talking of his experience of two storms, physical ones. Pondicherry, you know, used to be visited almost every year by some storms or tornadoes or cyclones. And it is one of those cyclones which had, you know, destroyed the pier. Now Nolini describes one such cyclone, and how Mother was brought to live within their household, thanks to the weather!

[Reading from Reminiscences (1969), 66-69]:

At that time we were in the old Guest House; it is old indeed, for after that storm the very look of the house was changed. In those days, Pondicherry used to have regularly every year, in October or November, cyclones of a rather severe type. We do not get anything like them now. The Mother’s presence seems to have pacified the wild forces of Nature to a great extent. In those days it would not do to bar our doors and windows with ordinary bolts and latches, they needed to be held securely by regular bamboo poles.

It all happened after nightfall. The sky had been overcast the whole day, it was dark all around and heavy showers fell at intervals – real nasty weather, you would say. We were upstairs. In those days we all lived in the rooms upstairs, the ground-floor was only used for meals. We had just had our dinner and had moved upstairs. In the meanwhile the wind had been gathering strength all the time and the downpour grew heavy. Suddenly, there was a terrific noise, of things creaking and crashing down, which meant that the doors and windows were giving way before the ferocious gale. With it came a whistling sound and splashes of rain. The doors and windows of the two rooms occupied by Sri Aurobindo were blown away, leaving them bare to the wind and the rain, like an open field. He moved to the room next door, but there too it was much the same. The first floor was becoming impossible to stay in, so we started moving downstairs. We had barely reached the ground-floor when the shutters and windows along the walls of the staircase fell with a crash on the stairs. We escaped by a hair’s breadth. Things did not seem to be very much better in the rooms downstairs. There too the doors and windows had given way and allowed free entry to the wind and rain. All of us gathered in the central hall, and somehow huddled together in a corner.

In the early hours of the morning the storm abated and by daybreak all was clear. Indeed to us it seemed much too clear. That is to say, the rows of what we call ‘health trees’ that lined the streets and were considered among the attractions of the city now lay prostrate in heaps on the surface of the roads, making the roads impassable. Gangs of workmen arrived from the Municipality with their axes and tools but it took them some time to cut through a passage. Even now you could see, especially on the way to the Lake, huge trees lying about uprooted on the ground with their limbs broken and twisted out of shape. And now we had to think of our daily needs, about breakfast and lunch. But where to find the milk and foodstuffs, rice and pulses ? Where were the shops ? Everything was in shambles. I do not know if during a war the opposing forces battling through a town or village would leave it in a condition somewhat similar to this. The number of wounded and dead was fairly large, somewhere in the region of a thousand.

I cannot now recall the exact year of this upheaval. Most probably it was 1912 or 1913, that is, shortly before the outbreak of the Great War. We may suppose perhaps that this minor upheaval came here as the harbinger of that world-shaking calamity.

But it was no less strange that, not long after the end of the great War, there came another storm, not of the same intensity but on a somewhat similar scale. This time it brought a different sort of message and turned out to be a blessing for us in the end.

The Mother had already arrived for the second time, this time for good. She was at the Bayoud House where the Dowsetts once lived. We were at the Guest House and I remember well how Sri Aurobindo used to call on her every Sunday and dine with her. We too would go along and have a share of the dinner. I need not add that the menu was arranged by the Mother herself and she supervised the cooking in person; she also prepared some of the dishes with her own hands. That is the reason why I say we were really lucky to have a share in those meals. At that time we could only appreciate the physical taste of the food we were served; today I realize what lay behind it.

After dinner we used to go up on the terrace overlooking the sea front. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother stood aside for a talk and we stood by ourselves. Sometimes we would request Sri Aurobindo for some automatic writing102 after dinner. The writings that came through his hand in those days were frightfully interesting. I remember somebody came and began to give an analysis of the character of each one of us; he had many things to say about Motilal Roy103 as well. One day someone suggested that something might be given about the Mother. But she immediately protested, ‘No, nothing about me, please.’ At once the hand stopped automatically.

Well, during the Mother’s stay in this house, there came a heavy storm and rain one day. The house was old and looked as it if was going to melt away. Sri Aurobindo said, ‘The Mother cannot be allowed to stay there any longer. She must move into our place.’ That is how the Mother came in our midst and stayed on for good, as our Mother.

So those who know how to see behind the appearances can read the significance of this great event.

Now we are ready to take up the Master’s life once again. He has been left in the lurch for a long time. We have covered the story of His life till the year 1920,I believe – Sri Aurobindo’s life along with a few of His companions – I won’t call them disciples because Sri Aurobindo said He had no disciples, just friends or companions.

Now, in Purani’s book, some interesting events have been recorded. Here, for instance, is one such detail:

Sometime during 1919 and 1920, Sri Aurobindo used to get an irritation in the right eye, which became red. Those who lived with him in the same house attributed this problem to the cigars which he smoked in those days.

Perhaps you know He had two ‘habits’, if one may so call them. One was smoking cigars, the other was drinking tea. Later, He gave up these habits without the least effort or difficulty. So somebody attributed the irritation to the nicotine. [Continuing to read from Purani]:

One day, at eight o’clock in the evening, the eye was swollen. He told the inmates of the house that the swelling would go down after two hours. Then, as usual with him, he began walking to and fro and meditating. After two hours, the eye was normal. He always believed that the swelling had nothing to do with the cigar – at least in his case.

It is absurd to attribute the irritation of the eye to the cigars.

Now again I come back to my reminiscences. When we were attending on Him, at one time, He used to have some dry cough, an irritation of the throat. Once, when I wrote to Him about His health, He replied to me, saying: «I have from time to time some irritation of the throat; dry cough and some headache which is above the head.» (Laughter) What did He mean by «above the head»?

So when we were serving Him, we used to find Him having this irritating cough – a futile, useless cough. Mother used to give Him some French pastilles104, I don’t know whether you know them – they were very commonly available then, these pastilles; but now they are not available. They would have a temporary effect. I used to think, what is the matter, why should He have this irritation ? But at that time, mosquito coils were used to ward off the mosquitoes. Sri Aurobindo was not in the habit of using a mosquito curtain and there were a lot of mosquitoes, particularly in the evening, so all around the room, near the wall, we used to light these mosquito coils. So all around the room, about 5 or 6 of these coils were burnt, and by Sri Aurobindo’s bed – one here, one there, one on this side. There was no electric fan in those days. So I used to think that it must be due to this blessed smoke of the mosquito coils that He had got this cough – that was my guess then, but now I realise that it had nothing to do with the coils either, that the cause was something else. Anyhow, here in the book, Purani says: «After two hours, the eye was normal.»

Now here is another interesting detail: «From 1924, even the occasional taking of wine was given up.» So He was a rasika,’105 enjoying all the best things of life. «Occasional taking of wine.» Purani notes further: «...and in 1926, he gave up, at one effortless stroke, his habit of smoking.» «At one effortless stroke» – no cajoling it, no dallying with it, no declarations like, «All right, today I’ll smoke seven or eight, tomorrow I’ll smoke four, and reducing it gradually, I will stop it at last.» That was not His way: once He had taken a decision, it was final and decisive. No prolonging of the issue. So Purani notes and it is very true.

Now that brings me to the subject of how He gave up tea. That also is very interesting. He used to have a cup of tea regularly. Mother allowed Him these two indulgences – a cup of tea and a good cigar. He had already given up smoking. Now about the tea. Mother used to give Him the best kind of tea from China – Chinese tea. (I personally think that Chinese tea isn’t so good!) However, when the accident106 took place, naturally He had no tea for two or three days. Then afterwards it started again – with one cup of tea. I don’t know, sometime in the morning, I suppose. Yes, He was lying in bed, He was not sitting. There was plaster on the leg, so He was not allowed to sit up. He was reclining, so tea had to be given in a feeding cup. Can anyone drink tea from a feeding cup? Impossible! I was fed up with it! What is all this – beautiful tea from China in a feeding cup? And He used to gulp down the tea. «Oh!» I would say «what is this? You have to sip it, you cannot gulp it down!» So He was just like a child drinking sherbet107. But then, I did not know who prepared the tea. I had half a mind to prepare the tea myself and bring it to Him. You know I am a good tea-maker, they say so (Laughter) – and a good tea-drinker too! Yes, then one day, all on a sudden, He said to us, «From tomorrow, I won’t take any tea.» Mark you, the habit of so many years thrown out at one stroke! These are simple things, but perhaps you have no experience of these addictions. They are so difficult to give up, very difficult indeed. For whatever it is worth, I confess to you my weakness. Concede to me a little bit of indulgence. I must have my tea at ten in the morning and again at four in the evening, otherwise I get a headache – a terrible one, which is not above the head, my friends! (Laughter) Very much inside the head!

So Sri Aurobindo gave up tea at one stroke. But before that, He had told us in the Talks, and some of you might have read it, about how He used to get a little disturbed when the tea was not coming. He was not able to work, it is true. In His own words, He used to fret: «Oh, when will the tea come? When will the tea come?» There was a servant who used to prepare the tea at different times, according to his caprice, according to his fancy. He used to make it one day at two o’clock, one day at half past three, one day at four, one day at half past four. So Sri Aurobindo had to wait and be at the mercy of the servant. What nonsense was this! Waiting for tea, and the tea not coming! He could not concentrate on His work. Then, in this condition, one day, He saw written on the wall – 4 p.m. (subtle writing). And exactly at 4 p.m., the tea came. Another day, it was half past four. So each time, the time for the arrival of the tea would be indicated on the wall. He knew the time. Then He used to be patient. There you are, I hear the bell ringing, is it not? So with this we end today’s session.

30 July 1969

Well, I don’t know why, but I enter this room every time with a certain kind of nervousness, in spite of all that Mother says about being calm. I’ve not been able to analyse the reason for my nervousness, though – I am sufficiently old in experience as well as in age. Perhaps I expect or I fear some newcomers. I try to release my tension by laughing away my nervousness; that is one of the reasons why I have tried to be cheerful at your cost.

Anyhow, today I’ve taken a very pious resolution to become more serious; but as you know, all these pious resolutions (as your experience may have told you) often end in brilliant failure! And it is particularly difficult for me to be serious because, whatever my external appearance might be, my true nature is anything but serious, and like all of you, I’m young at heart. I remember, when I was as young as all of you are, my friends used to envy me my mirth and jollity. It was, as it were, my whole psychic being – but if you object to the term ‘psychic being’ here, I can say my ‘psycho-vital’ was very much in front. But when I came to the Ashram to do yoga, all my jollity and mirth vanished after some time. I couldn’t understand why, so I wrote to Sri Aurobindo about it, complaining. I shall read out the letter to you. Perhaps some of you already know about it. When my friends from the past heard that I’d left them and come over to Pondicherry to do yoga, they fell down in shock. They thought that perhaps it was more possible to go to the moon than for Nirod to go to do yoga! (Laughter) I came in 1933; one year’s bliss and happiness I enjoyed. Then I wrote to Him in 1935

[Reading from Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo (1955), 263-4]:

You have often spoken of the Man of Sorrows108, in connection with me. But I was a cheerful fellow at school and college. So I am afraid he is a contribution, partly at least, of your Yoga.

Sri Aurobindo wrote back:

Not of my Yoga, but of the blasted atmosphere that has been created here by the theory that revolt, doubt and resultant sorrow and struggle and all that rot are the best way to progress.

Of course, all these things – doubt, revolt, hunger strike, etc. – all these things may be new for you, but they were very frequent in those days, very frequent indeed. So how much you have progressed these days you can see. And He says:

The Ashram has never been able to get out of it, but only some people have escaped. The others have opened themselves to the confounded Man of Sorrows and got the natural consequence. But why the devil did you do it ? The Man of Sorrows is a fellow who is always making a row in himself and covering himself with sevenfold overcoats of tragedy and gloom and he wouldn’t feel his existence justified if he couldn’t be colossally miserable – when he gets on people’s backs he puts the same thing on them. Yoga on the other hand tells you, even if you have all sorts of unpleasantnesses, to live in the inner sunlight, your own or God’s. At least most Yogas do, except the Vaishnava – but the Yoga here is not a Vaishnava Yoga.

So there you are. By the way, here we find Sri Aurobindo using very liberally, at least in my case and in one or two other cases, some very familiar slang terms in English: ‘blasted’, ‘confounded’, ‘devil’, etc.

Well, whatever might have been the reason then for my state, I’m happy to declare to you now, friends, that I have kicked off the old Man of Sorrows. You can see that for yourselves. And how could I be otherwise when I am in your youthful, daffodil company? (Laughter) I am very happy. But somehow, some people in the Ashram still have a lingering notion that I am a man who doesn’t smile. (Laughter) A very grave, very solemn, very austere yogi or sadhak. So when some visitor comes and expresses his wish to see me, they discourage him by telling him, «He does not see anyone.» (Laughter) In spite of that, some visitors gatecrash into my room and they are surprised to find that I am not a philosopher like Kireet or a psychologist like Kishore Gandhi or a historian like Sisir109, but a poet. «Well,» they say. «Why,» they remark, «you are like a pomegranate. A hard, harsh exterior, but inside, red seeds, sweet grains; why did they give us this impression, we don’t know.» You may not agree with all that, but at least agree with this much that I may not be a pomegranate, not a pomme110 either, but a coconut! (Laughter)

Just when I was on the point of coming to class today, a visitor crashed into my room – two people, as a matter of fact: one was a visitor, and the other an old gentleman of the Ashram. And unfortunately, I was just taking tea! (Laughter) Tea time is a very private, sweet time, when I don’t like anybody interrupting me – I don’t mean you people -you will increase the flavour of the tea by your presence. (Laughter) So I was on the point of frowning at them, but somehow, by the exercise of self-control, I managed not to. «I have come to have your ‘darshan’» one of them said. Anyhow, I made him sit, made him smile, and he went away very much pleased, saying, «Please, please remember me, bless me.» I said, «The Samadhi is there to bless you.»

So there you are, for what I say about my nature is true and what other people say is not true. So it is as I said: yes, it is partly due to poetry and partly or mainly due to the letters of Sri Aurobindo that I was able to find a little bit of life, a little bit of joy in yoga, and I was on the way to rediscovering my psychic being, which had withdrawn far, far behind. And you know perhaps, that I am a bit of a poet, not much, though poetry now has become less popular, all the world over and in the Ashram too! Our current expression about the present Ashram conditions is that the Ashram is passing through Vaishya Yoga – Vaishya, you know, means commercial and scientific. Science has destroyed the beauty of the moon. My friend Nishikanto was lamenting the other day, «See what these people have done -» (Laughter) «now we cannot write any poetry about the moon. We cannot compare any beautiful face with the beauty of the moon.» We cannot say like Yeats, «The silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun111.» Neither can we say what Sri Aurobindo wrote to me in a line of verse: «a wave of joy on heaven’s moon-stoned floor». You know what «the moon-stoned floor» would really be like – powder! (Laughter) We can’t use these expressions any more. The astronauts have murdered the moon for poetry. I have composed two lines of verse about this:

The astronauts have so defaced the moon

The poets have dropped into inter-lunar swoon.

(Laughter) Now about the great business of Auroville, again a verse of mine:

Auroville is the great talk in every mouth

Though it’s still a good ten miles’ walk to the south.

I don’t know whether it is in the direction of south or north! But the moon has come so near that we can go there in an omnibus. (Laughter) So this is poetry. You see, I’m in a poetic mood. Poets love beauty and delight. Wherever there is no delight, no beauty, poets cannot be there, according to Nirod. I suppose you know that. I think it was the great poet Hafiz – ever heard his name ? He was a Sufi poet, Persian poet -who said that for the sake of the mole on the cheek of his beloved, he could fling away Samarkand and Bokhara – he was such a spendthrift, he would give away Samarkand and Bokhara for the sake of the mole on his beloveds cheek! It is easy to say, for Samarkand and Bokhara did not belong to him! (Laughter) But Timurlane heard of it; he was the Baadshah112 then. He got wild, so it is said. He called for the poet and demanded, «How dare you give away my kingdom?» The poet said with a smile, «Shahanshah, Jahanpana113, what can I do? My love has made me such a spendthrift.» Timur was very much pleased with the answer, and instead of punishing him, gave him lots of priceless gifts. So this is the story as recorded, and the commentator adds that it is love alone that makes you a king or a queen, even though you may have been a pauper. Well, I can’t say anything about it, you people may know better. But whether true or not, from some of us it is demanded that all human love be redirected to the Divine – from some of us at least it is demanded. No human love, either for the mole or for the soul – all your love must be offered at the feet of the Divine. I quoted to you earlier the famous verse by Thompson: «All things betray thee, who betrayest Me114

The other day, you remember, I told you how Sri Aurobindo gave up at one stroke His age-long habits. Now following the chronology, we come to 1920 – January. Before that, there is another record that we can look into. Mukul Chandra Dey, an artist who afterwards became the Principal of the Calcutta School of Art, came to Pondicherry and met Sri Aurobindo115. He took sittings for four days in order to draw a portrait of Sri Aurobindo.

Now, in 1920, Sri Aurobindo received a letter from Bombay from a well-known barrister, one of the leaders of the Nationalist Party of Tilak. His name was Joseph Baptista, a Christian. In that letter, on Tilak’s advice, the party invited Sri Aurobindo, through Baptista, to accept the editorship of their paper. The idea was that this would afford to Sri Aurobindo an opportunity to return to politics, and the party would also get His valuable support. We know that Tilak and Sri Aurobindo had the same political ideology as far as the question of Indian freedom was concerned. Now here is the long reply from Sri Aurobindo in 1920. I don’t know, as it is all about politics, how many of you will be able to understand the letter, but some will. So I’ll read it.

[Reading from Life of Sri Aurobindo by A. B. Purani (1960), 194-196]:

Dear Baptista,

Your offer is a tempting one, but I regret that I cannot answer it in the affirmative. It is due to you, that I should state explicitly my reasons.

In the first place I am not prepared at present to return to British India. This is quite apart from any political obstacle. I understand that up to last September the Government of Bengal (and probably the Government of Madras also) were opposed to my return to British India and that practically this opposition meant that if I went back, I should be interned or imprisoned under one or other of the beneficent Acts which are apparently still to subsist as helps in ushering in the new era of trust and cooperation. I do not suppose other Governmenrs would be any more delighted by my appearance in their respective provinces. Perhaps the Kings Proclamation116 may make a difference, but that is not certain since, as I read it, it does not mean an amnesty, but an act of gracious concession and benevolence limited by the discretion of the Viceroy. Now I have too much work on my hands to waste my time in the leisured ease of an involuntary Government guest. But even if I were assured of an entirely free action and movement, I should yet not go just now. I came to Pondicherry in order to have freedom and tranquillity for a fixed object having nothing to do with present politics – in which I have taken no direct part since my coming here, though what I could do for the country in my own way I have constantly done – and until it is accomplished, it is not possible for me to resume any kind of public activity. But if I were in British India, I should be obliged to plunge at once into action of different kinds. Pondicherry is my place of retreat, my cave of tapasya – not of the ascetic kind, but of a brand of my own invention. I must finish that, I must be internally armed and equipped for my work before I leave it.

Next in the matter of the work itself, I do not at all look down on politics or political action or consider I have got above them. I have always laid a dominant stress and I now lay an entire stress on the spiritual life, but my idea of spirituality has nothing to do with ascetic withdrawal or contempt or disgust of secular things. There is to me nothing secular, all human activity is for me a thing to be included in a complete spiritual life, and the importance of politics at the present time is very great. But my line and intention of political activity would differ considerably from anything now current in the field. I entered into political action and continued it from 1903 to 1910 with one aim and one alone, to get into the mind of the people a settled will for freedom and the necessity of a struggle to achieve it, in place of the futile, ambling Congress methods till then in vogue. _That is now done and the Amritsar Congress is the seal upon it. The will is not as practical and compact, nor by any means as organised and sustained in action as it should be, but there is the will, and plenty of strong and able leaders co guide it. I consider that in spite of the inadequacy of the Reforms, the will to self-determination, if the country keeps its present temper, as I have no doubt it will, is bound to prevail before long. What preoccupies me now is the question of what it is going to do with its self-determination, how will it use its freedom, on what lines is it going to determine its future ?

You may ask why not come out and help, myself, so far as I can, in giving a lead ? But my mind has a habit of running inconveniently ahead of the times – some might say, out of time altogether into the world of the ideal. Your party, you say, is going to be a social democratic party. Now I believe in something which might be called social democracy, but not in any of the forms now current, and I am not altogether in love with the European kind, however great an improvement it may be on the past. I hold that India, having a spirit of her own and a governing temperament proper to her own civilisation, should in politics as in everything else strike out her own original path and not stumble in the wake of Europe. But this is precisely what she will be obliged to do, if she has to start on the road in her present chaotic and unprepared condition of mind. No doubt people talk of India developing on her own lines, but nobody seems to have very clear or sufficient ideas as to what those lines are to be. In this matter, I have formed ideals and certain definite ideas of my own, in which at present very few are likely to follow me, since they [that is, the ideals and ideas] are governed by an uncompromising spiritual idealism of an unconventional kind and would be unintelligible to many and an offence and stumbling block to a great number. But I have not as yet any clear and full idea of the practical lines; I have no formed programme. In a word, I am feeling my way in my mind and am not ready for either propaganda or action. Even if I were, it would mean for some time ploughing my lonely furrow or at least freedom to take my own way. As the editor of your paper, I should be bound to voice the opinion of others and reserve my own, and while I have full sympathy with the general ideas of the advanced parties so far as concerns the action of the present moment and, if I were in the field, would do all I could to help them, I am almost incapable by nature of limiting myself in that way, at least to the extent that would be requisite.

Excuse the length of this screed. I thought it necessary to explain fully so as to avoid giving you the impression that I declined your request from any affectation or reality of spiritual aloofness or wish to shirk the call of the country or want of sympathy with the work you and others are so admirably doing. I repeat my regret that I am compelled to disappoint you.

Yours sincerely,
Aurobindo Ghose

You see the firmness, the clear perception and conception of what He wants to do, what is in His mind. And He is not going to budge before He has got that.

[Reading some lines from the letter again]:

itself, I do not at all look down on politics or political action or consider I have got above them. I have always laid a dominant stress and I now lay an entire stress on the spiritual life, but my idea of spirituality has nothing to do with ascetic withdrawal or contempt or disgust of secular things. There is to me nothing secular, all human activity is for me a thing to be included in a complete spiritual life.

That is why He says all life is yoga: all human activity is included in a complete spiritual life.

What preoccupies me now is the question of what it [the country] is going to do with its self-determination, how will it use its freedom, on what lines is it going to determine its future ?

That was the question which preoccupied Him in 1920. He knew that India would be free; perhaps you have heard Mother’s prophecy, Mother’s vision. She saw India as free and it took about thirty-two years to be materialized on the physical plane. So in 1920, He knew that India would be free, but what would she do with that freedom? What India is doing now with her freedom, all of us know. So you see, even at that time, He was thinking along this line; it was not that He was thinking only of the Supermind. He said He was helping India in His own way.

Let me see now... I remember, here it is. I wrote to Him in 1935:

It is rather depressing to hear about the atrocities committed by some Mohammedans on Hindu families in Bengal...

That was in 1935. All these Hindu-Muslim riots were going on at that time. So we were rather depressed, though we had very little to do with Bengal or Gujarat or anything else. But we couldn’t help being a little provincial, even at that time. So I said it.

[Reading from Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo (1955), 323-325]:

With the corning of Independence, I hope, such things will stop. Now I would like to ask you something. In your scheme of things, do you definitely see a free India ? You have stated that, for the spreading of spirituality in the world, India must be free. I suppose you must be working for it! You are the only one who can do something really effective by the use of your spiritual Force.

Then Sri Aurobindo wrote back:

That is all settled. It is a question of working out only. The question is what is India going to do with her independence ? The above kind of affair? Bolshevism? Goonda-raj117? Things look ominous.

So even at that time, He had this fear. Well, that was on September 16, 1935. Receiving the reply, I wrote back after two days, on September 18,1935. After writing a number of illogical things, I wrote:

Please don’t think of what India is going to do with her independence. Give her that first, and then let her decide her fate for herself. Independence anyhow – your Supermind will do the rest.

Now He flew into a temper (Laughter) and wrote:

You are a most irrational creature. I have been trying to logicise and intellectualise you, but it seems in vain.

I don’t know how it is in vain. He had only written three or four letters to me until then, and He gives up hope! Sri Aurobindo continued:

Have I not told you that the independence is all arranged for and will evolve itself all right ? Then what’s the use of my bothering about that any longer? It’s what she will do with her independence that is not arranged for – and so it is that about which I have to bother. To drag in the Supermind by the tail here is perfectly irrelevant. We have been talking all the time on an altogether infra-supramental basis – down down low in the intellect with an occasional illumined intuitive or overmental flash here and there118. Be faithful to the medium, if you please. If you do not become perfectly and luminously logical and rational, how can you hope to become a candidate for the next higher stage even? Be a little practical and sensible.

So there you are. How much He was working on it, you see, and what a strong dose I got. (Laughter)

We are still not out of the woods, as we say in English. On the home front, India is passing through, as I told you the other day, very interesting developments which are taking place with our Indira Gandhi at the helm of affairs. If I start talking politics, we shall be going off at a tangent! So I continue now with the letter to Baptista:

You may ask why not come out and help ...

A very logical question!

_ myself, so far as I can in giving a lead? But my mind has a habit of running inconveniently ahead of the times, some might say, out of time altogether into the world of the ideal... and I am not altogether in love with the European kind, however great an improvement it may be on the past. I hold that India having a spirit of her own and a governing temperament proper to her own civilization, should in politics as in everything else strike out her own original path and not stumble in the wake of Europe.

I suppose you know very well how we have been copying the European model of democracy. We have a parliament which we call the Lok Sabha. We give the name Lok Sabha, but who are these ‘Lok’ or people?

Even if I were, it would mean for some time ploughing my lonely furrow or at least freedom to take my own way.

During our time with Sri Aurobindo, we asked Him many questions.

You know very well, perhaps, that He had been invited more than once to take over the Presidency of the Congress. This was even during Mahatma Gandhi’s time. His reply was a ‘No’. We told him, «If you go there, people will follow you, take your lead.» Then He said, «I am not so sure that they will follow me, you people will follow me because I am your Guru, but who there will accept me as their Guru?» Here ends His letter to Baptista:

As the editor of your paper, I shall be bound to voice the opinion of others and reserve my own... I repeat my regret that I am compelled to disappoint you.

Yours sincerely,
Aurobindo Ghose

Yes, that reminds me of something else. There was a proposal that the government should be administered by a collective body of rishis. Sri Aurobindo remarked, «Yes, the rishis are all right, but as soon as they start governing the country, they will start quarrelling like Kilkenny cats!»

Now I will end this session with another of His letters, rather a long one. This is written to Barin. You know Barin was His younger brother, and he was sent to the Andamans for life imprisonment, but due to the King’s Armistice119, he was released in 1920. He wrote a letter to Sri Aurobindo, and Sri Aurobindo replied in Bengali. The letter is known as Pondicherrir Paira120. Barin asked Him several questions, stating some of his views. Here is Sri Aurobindo’s reply

[Reading from Life of Sri Aurobindo by A. B. Purani (1960), 198]:

... After these fifteen years, I am only now rising into the lowest of the three levels of the Supermind and trying to draw up into it all the lower activities. But when this Siddhi will be complete, then I am absolutely certain that God will through me give Siddhi of the Supermind to others with less difficulty.

Absolutely correct. That is why all the time we used to pester Him: when will your Supermind come down? When will your Supermind come down? Not that we wanted to be Supramentalised all at once. And He prophesied that for those who would come afterwards also, that is, all of you, things will be much easier and you can see that. We have undergone many ordeals and trials and experiences for your sake, ladies and gentlemen; on our backs we have taken many whippings so that you may be happy, you may enjoy the fruit. Anyhow, that is a message of great hope; whether you reach the Supermind or not doesn’t matter, but some spiritual result you are sure to get.

Then my real work will begin. I am not impatient for success in the work. What is to happen will happen in God’s appointed time. I am not disposed to run wildly and leap into the field of work in the strength of my little ego. If even I did not get success in my work, I would not be shaken. This work is not mine, but God’s. I will listen to no other call; when God moves me, then I will move.

He wrote to Dilip in another letter:

Even if I know that I will fail, I’ll not stop doing my work till the last breath – but I won’t fail.


So, I don’t work for success. It’s God’s will that I am doing.

Well, it is a long letter, ladies and gentlemen – shall we take it up another day? What do you say?

6 August 1969

Happiest who stand on faith as on a rock.»121 [This was the quotation put up on the blackboard as thought for the day.)

Ah! I’m happy, and when I am happy, everybody is happy! [Sees a newcomer] I’ll have to be very careful now! Well, before I take up the half-finished letter, I’d like to share with you a very interesting and illuminating conversation I had with Sri Aurobindo on the subject of the film Vir Bhimsen that we saw the other day, and since you were there in spite of the very heavy rain drenching you through and through, I was very happy to see that you still take great interest in our Puranic stories; you’ve not become so modernised as to lose the taste for our spiritual traditions and the glory that India once was and still is, though covered with poverty and other problems. At the beginning, as I was entering the playground, there was a light drizzle. I met Pranab at the gate, and he said, «Namashkar, Nirod-da.» Somehow he has taken a very venerating attitude towards me! (Laughter) Then he told me, «It doesn’t matter if it rains today, tomorrow we will screen the movie once again.» This comment seemed to mean that if it would rain, he would make it a point to show the film the next day. «You must see it.» I don’t know what he liked so much in the film! (Laughter) Please remember, this is our confidential class and what is spoken here in the class must not be repeated elsewhere!

But probably, knowing him as I do, and Bhima122 being such a great hero, he must have taken a great delight in the heroic exploits of Gadādhar123 Bhima. You also must have enjoyed it, I’m sure. But what you liked most I don’t know – Bhima’s gadā124 or Krishna’s chakra125 or Draupadi’s sad plight, or perhaps the dancing of the dwarf. If you ask me, I’ll tell you what I liked most – I liked it for all this and for a glimpse of India’s former glory. Different people have different tastes and they like different things according to their different tastes, isn’t it so?

That reminds me of a story told by none other than Sri Ramakrishna. He said – I don’t swear that every word is true, but the essence is there. You know Ramakrishna was a very witty avatar – but then, all avatars are witty! So the story goes like this: There was, once, a sankirtan patha in some holy place, a temple or some similar place. You know what sankirtan is – kirtan, bhajan, devotional songs woven around the figures of Sri Krishna and Radha and other gopis126, etc., etc. So passersby were attracted by the kirtans. One of these passersby – a very ordinary man of the village – came and sat there; he began to take in with rapt attention the music, the devotional dance, etc. Then, you know, there were various devotional attitudes and sentiments expressed through these songs and this ordinary man began to shed tears, profusely. Well, at the end of it all he said was, «Babu127, I liked it very much, you’ve seen by the shedding of my tears; it was wonderful!» «What made you like it?» «When the singer was crying Bondhu he, Bondhu he!’128 it reminded me of my beloved; I began to shed tears out of joy.» So there was no question of religion moving him; it was only because the refrain of the song reminded him of his beloved that he could not help shedding tears.

So ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know what you liked most in this story; but what I liked was my shared delight between Bhima’s gada and Krishna’s chakra. But, somehow, Sri Krishna was uppermost in my mind. I don’t know if it has ever occurred to you (to some, it must have) that this Sri Krishna that you saw was none other than Sri Aurobindo. Perhaps you know that he was one of Sri Aurobindo’s incarnations. That was what touched me most and I was constantly thinking: Ah, so Sri Aurobindo came as Sri Krishna and did all this. It gave me an immense pleasure to see Him tangibly, concretely, in the film. However crude, however ludicrous the film may have been, one could see a glimpse of Sri Krishna and the truth that He represented. And knowing this as well as you do, that it was Sri Aurobindo who was Sri Krishna, I took a great delight, forgetting all these crudities and all the small, minor flaws in the film. It came as a sort of a revelation.

But apart from all that enjoyment, when I saw the battle of Kurukshetra, I felt somehow, I don’t know whether I am right or wrong, that we, all of us here, must have taken part in this battle! We must have fought, we must have killed, we must have been killed, we must have died, and we must have lived again. Somehow that was the impression I got from watching that great holocaust. As I said, I may be entirely wrong, and it could all be just my fancy. Perhaps I am just flying kites in the air!

But my association with Sri Aurobindo and my prolonged service to Him somehow corroborate and confirm this belief, this faith, that perhaps as a rat or as a cat or, at best, as a common soldier, I might have been there, taking some small part; so too might all of you, either as fighters or wives of fighters or daughters of fighters. Some such connection must have been there either at Kurukshetra or somewhere else, which has brought all of us here in this life. I think the Mother said once that we have all met before in previous lives; either in the French Revolution or in the Russian Revolution or in the Indian Revolution; wherever They have been, we must have been there too somehow, somewhere; otherwise we would not have met today in this field of the Yoga of Transformation129. That’s my personal view.

Anyway, when I saw the film, there were some questions that troubled me. Since I identified Sri Krishna with Sri Aurobindo, seeing Sri Krishna’s personality at that time, and Sri Aurobindo’s personality as I knew it, I couldn’t reconcile the two. I had seen Sri Aurobindo as very gentle, nay, tender, almost childlike, sometimes a bholanath130. Here was a different person, a charioteer, a shrewd statesman, a man of action who was even prepared for war. So here were these two different personalities: this Sri Krishna fronting violent action and carnage, and on the other hand, Sri Aurobindo, the gentle bholanath! So as I was pondering over all these, turning them over in my mind, Sri Aurobindo appeared to me and I had a long conversation with him.

The talk is somewhat long. I’ll read out131 a part here and a part there because you don’t expect me to remember everything that I heard and said. Even as I was seeing the film, I was asking questions, and He was answering me. Just as He had uttered the Bhagavad Gita on the battlefield, so it was here. So it goes in this way. I asked him:

Well, sir, all this carnage, ail this massacre that 1 see perpetrated here, you are the author of all this. I will, however, ask about that later on. Please tell me first, why do you make the Pandavas suffer so much? The Pandavas, who are your devotees, who are your bhaktas, who are your friends, who took shelter for their life and death at your feet, for what capricious reason have you made them suffer so much?

Then, well, as I’d provoked Him, so He too answered in a provocative tone:

You should have known by now that those who love me, and those whom I love, suffer most.

And I muttered:

Strange idea of love!

(Laughter) Then He said:

Otherwise, what’s the use of love? What is love for? Is it only for a pot of honey ? Is it only to tread on a rosy path ? Love has to be tested in the burning fire, in order to see how far it is genuine.

Remember the line in Savitri: «... must fire always test the great of soul?»132 So there you are. These Pandavas were great of soul. And love is a thing which is divine. If it is genuine, it has got to pass through fire. So that was the answer He gave me. Further, He said (as I was watching the film):

The Pandavas are clearly chosen instruments. They have come here for a special purpose of mine. I’ve got to do some work through them. So they have to be prepared to go through trials and difficulties and hardships. Pain is necessary, knocks and shocks are good for the soul. See on the other hand the Kauravas. They have enjoyed a happy life, a life of ease, a life of comfort. To what end? It is all because of their mama (uncle) who brought ruin and multifarious hardships to them.

As soon as He uttered the word «mama», my thoughts went to my nieces, whose presence in the Ashram has mama-fied133 me for many people! (Laughter) To continue with Sri Aurobindos reply:

Also, don’t you forget that though I am inflicting ‘punishment’, as you call it, or suffering, I am always with the Pandavas. Also please note carefully that punishment is not what it seems to be. It is the natural consequence of one’s own limitation of consciousness and of one’s own acts. I have never deserted them. Wherever they are, I am with them, I guard them, I protect them, I guide them. My love is always with them. Is that not enough? You see only the dark side of things because the Man of Sorrows in you is pleased to show you only that. Please see a little more widely, a little deeply, a little more intuitively and perceptively.

[N:] All right, sir. I accept. Still, a greater puzzle troubles me. How could you have allowed Draupadi to be dragged, to be insulted publicly before so many, in front of such a vast audience ? Why did you allow that ? For what reason? Can you explain that ?

I asked him this with burning indignation. He answered:

Peace! You are evidently moved too much by ladies.


So am I. But first of all, kindly remember that I was not there when she was being dragged. Secondly, what were her five husbands doing ? What were the great heroes, Bhishma, Drona, etc. doing when this poor woman was being dragged before all this vast audience? They didn’t dare lift a small finger? They were all kshatriyas, they were all heroes, they were all nobles. Why didn’t they protest ?

[N:] That is another question. My question is, why didn’t you? You certainly knew what was going to happen. Anyway, why did you allow it to happen? And this ignominy for a woman is unbearable. You know that very well, and you came only when, at the extremity of her pain and suffering, she cried out,’ Trahi-mam! Trahi-mam134!

[SA:] Yes, I did come.

[N:] But you came rather late!

[SA:] Yes, I came rather late, but why? Because she called me rather late. She was waiting and looking to her husbands to come and protect her. They didn’t budge. Then she looked around at the audience, they didn’t care a jot. So, utterly helpless then, she began to cry for me, and I came at once. That heart-piercing cry, that cry of lamentation and agony! When you have found that everything is lost, it is at this moment when you call the Divine that He comes to rescue you.»

Well! So, as He said:

You must desire most intensely, if you want the Divine. But there is a deeper mystery behind it. Shocking indeed! With your rational pate ...

I hope you know the meaning of the word pate’ – head

... you do not see it, you do not understand.

I was all agog. Let’s see, lets hear what deeper mystery He is going to reveal. Then He said:

It is such atrocious behaviour that strikes against the Divine Seat and tilts the balance for the God of Justice. The way the Kauravas acted atrociously towards a helpless, God-loving woman sealed their doom, and the Pandavas woke to the idea of grave vengeance. Then Mahakali’s wrath fell upon the Kauravas because they’d insulted Her own Shaktis, Her powers. Beware! Have you finished your questions ? I’ve elsewhere to go, so many are calling me.

[N:] I have another question. Now I accept poor Draupadi’s humiliation, but what about Abhimanyu, that poor boy? Why was he sacrificed at the altar? Was this not a terrible sacrifice?

[SA:] Yes, and it is for the same reason. It was necessary to awake fully the wrath of the slothful, sentimental Pandavas. Even the revelation of my Vishwarupa135 could not utterly convince Arjuna to take up arms and fight against the Kauravas. He was still hesitating. But when Abhimanyu died at the hands of so many ‘heroes’ in an unfair manner, that did the trick. You have read Homer, I suppose. You know the story of Achilles. He was sulking in his tent because of a wrangle between himself and Agamemnon for nothing mote than a woman! But when he heard that his great friend Patroclus had been killed by Hector, then all his wrath flared up and he went out in a mad fury to fight. So his friend had to be sacrificed. Here too Abhimanyu had to be sacrificed in order that the others might join in the fight; and you saw Bhima’s gada break Duryodhan’s proud thighs and Bhima’s hands tear open the chest.

I shuddered and said:

That, I think, is too much. Particularly Draupadi soaking her hair in Duhshasan’s blood!

[SA:] Ah, since when have you become so humane?! Three cheers for St. Nirod!


Is it your Buddhist blood or Gandhi’s non-violence at work?


You must remember, my friend, that it was the heroic age when men and women were heroes and heroines. I suppose you won’t approve of Kurukshetra either, and would advocate the gospel of love and compassion. Gandhi said that battle was completely symbolic. Well, that is what India has come to today. See the condition of the world: Russia, America, Israel, Nasser, Mao Tsetung. Well, really, our Indira Gandhi is hard put to it to manage her house. She looks with one eye at Russia, with another eye at Ametica and perhaps with both eyes at China ...


... and this is our position today. So where is our gospel of nonviolence leading? No, you can’t have non-violence, till...

He did nor complete the sentence. He asked:

Have you read my Essays on the Gita?

[N:] Yes, I have read it.

[SA:] Read it again and look with a fresh eye at the passage where I have dealt with this question.

Then he left me. I came home and read the passage. Let me read it out to you

[Reading from Essays on the Gita (1966), 354-355]:

No real peace can be till the heart of man deserves peace; the law of Vishnu cannot prevail till the debt to Rudra is paid. To turn aside then and preach to a still unevolved mankind the law of love and oneness? Teachers of the law of love and oneness there must be, for by that way must come the ultimate salvation. But not till the Time-Spirit in man is ready can the inner and ultimate prevail over the outer and immediate reality. Christ and Buddha have come and gone, but it is Rudra who still holds the world in the hollow of his hand. And meanwhile the fierce forward labour of mankind tormented and oppressed by the Powers that are profiteers of egoistic force and their servants’ cries for the sword of the Hero of the struggle and the word of its prophet.

So this is the message interpreted by Sri Aurobindo. Perhaps you know Sri Aurobindo said that when He was in jail, the Gita was put into His hand. Not literally, mind you, but in a subtle manner, as things are given to you in your dreams, in your visions. So He told us that this Gita was given to Him by Sri Krishna. And if you read Essays on the Gita, which I recommend very strongly to all of you, particularly to those who are grown up, you will have no doubt that it was Sri Aurobindo Himself who was Sri Krishna. Who else could be the author of the luminous and revealing interpretation that He gives, the intimate and understanding tone in which He expresses Himself, and the deeper secret, undiscovered by anybody yet, that He lays bare? There have been so many interpretations of the Gita, all of them partial, for none has that ‘uttamam rasa’ or supreme taste which is His alone, because He is dealing with His own ancient message. For that matter, you will see that any other book that He has written is all out of personal experience.

Take His narrative poem «Baji Prabhou», for instance. In His descriptions of the battle, of the see-saw of fortunes, of the flight of the soldiers and of their forward movement, the minutest details are given. It would have been impossible, I believe, for any writer to recreate such intricate movements of the battle, merely through imagination. This is true of His other books too. In His past lives, He has played so many roles and He has relived them now, brought them out through his works. Essays on the Gita, particularly, is one of the most fascinating books that I’ve ever read. We have no doubt that Sri Krishna was reborn as Sri Aurobindo, and carried on the same struggle even in our day, inwardly and outwardly – from the higher inner chamber in which He lived for so many years. Not as a fighter all along, nor as a charioteer, but as a commander of a great spiritual power, marshalling and directing that spiritual power which knows no time and space, He has moved, He has guided the world-chariot. When Hitler was in the ascendant, all of you know that it was Mother and Sri Aurobindo who championed the cause of the Allies; and Mother declared it was Her war. She even said in one of Her most firm notices, «Those who speak against the Allies are traitors.» At that time, Churchill stood up from Britain and De Gaulle from France for the cause. They were the champions, Arjuna and other Pandavas against the Hitlerite Kauravas. And after so many ignominious defeats, you know what happened ultimately: the Allies were triumphant, the Fascists were crushed, the Japanese were routed – Pakistan met with the same fate later on; and the humbled China turned tail and went back. Still, unfortunately, India is hugging the dry and dark bones of her dark prophets136.

Perhaps you don’t know that during the visit of Cripps, with his proposal for Indian Independence, Sri Aurobindo sent His emissary from here to Delhi to persuade the Congress to accept the British proposals. Sri Aurobindo had never done such a thing before. But he saw that Cripps had come on the wave of a great inspiration. Had it been accepted, as so many clear thinkers say today, India’s fate would have been different. There would have been no Pakistan. There is such a thing as fate. When this mission failed, we said to Sri Aurobindo, «You see, your mission has failed.» He said, «I knew it,» and I pounced on the pronouncement: «If you knew it, why did you send your emissary?» He smiled in His usual, enigmatic way and, looking up, said, «Well, I have done a bit of nishkama karma137, knowing very well it would fail.»

Again, that reminds me of Sri Krishna. As you know, He went on a peace mission. He knew very well that His peace proposal would not be accepted, but He wanted to give a chance to Duryodhana. «Do accept peace. Let’s live amicably,» He said. The result, you know: Duryodhana arrested Him. Here, fortunately, Sri Aurobindo was far away, safe, and, after all, the Congress are our own people; they merely refused to accept the Cripps proposal. This is the story.

You see then, there are so many parallelisms between Sri Aurobindo’s life and Sri Krishna’s, and you know very well what happened on 24 November 1926: the great Descent. He said to us that, on that day, which we call the Siddhi Day138, Sri Krishna’s consciousness descended into Him.

I have finished my tale. I spoke about a conversation I had with Sri Aurobindo, but please remember that the conversation I had is not to be accepted as the gospel truth. I may have heard wrong, I might have interpolated my own interpretations, so please don’t pass them on as Sri Aurobindo’s exact words. It was a semi-imaginary talk that was held under particular circumstances, as I hope you understand. I don’t swear to the truth of it, so please remember that.

Now we come back to the Life of Sri Aurobindo. Where were we?

[Reading from The Life of Sri Aurobindo by A. B. Purani (1960), 198-200]:

I do not want a society founded on division. I want a Sangha139 which is the image of spiritual unity and founded on the spirit ... Our business is not with the formless spirit. We have to keep life in motion ... If one pours the spiritual power into all these impure forms, the water of the causal ocean into a raw vessel – either that raw vessel will break and the water be spilt and lost, or the spiritual power will evaporate and only the impure form remain. In all fields it is the same. I can give the spiritual power but that power will be expended in making the image of an ape and setting it up in the temple of Shiva.

We have a Bengali proverb: ‘Shib godte banor goda hold (Instead of the image of Shiva, a monkey’s image was made.)

If the ape is made powerful by the putting of life into it, he may play the part of the devotee Hanuman and do much work for Rama, so long as that life and that power remains. But what we want in the Temple of India is not Hanuman, but God, the Avatar Rama himself ... If we remain individually everywhere, something will be done indeed, but if we remain everywhere, as parts of a Sangha, a hundred times more will be done. As yet, that time has not come ... As we go on doing this, there will be established a spiritual community. This is my present idea. As yet, it has not been fully developed, all is in God’s hands, whatever he makes us do, that we shall.

You write about the Deva-Sangha: I am not a God, I am only some much-hammered and refined iron. No one is God, but in each man there is a God and to make him manifest is the aim of divine life. That we can all do.

I do not want hundreds of thousands of disciples. It will be enough if I can get a hundred complete men, empty of petty egoism, who will be instruments of God.

If the raw person goes amidst the raw, what work can he do ?

13 August 1969

Well, today I scratch my head; I have entered this – what shall I call it – ‘the hall of expectancy’ with a somewhat guilty face, for which I as well as you are responsible. We share the great fault, for I understand that, in our last talk, I’ve confounded some of you about the veracity and genuineness of the conversation I had with Sri Aurobindo. Well, it is none of my fault. However, the very fact that you enjoyed the talk makes me free from all the guilt, and proves the purity of my intention, which is to give you delight. To weave some fanciful myth around Mother and Sri Aurobindo is itself something ennobling, uplifting and satisfying. So, on that account, I need submit no apology to you. But you should also remember that I’ve given you sufficient hints as to the nature of this talk, so you can’t blame me either.

Imagination, friends, is a great power. Milton has said that by the power of imagination you may «make a Heaven of Hell and a Hell of Heaven140». Just think where I would have been if I were not a poet, and what if the poets, artists, musicians, and even the scientists had had no imagination – where would they have been, had there been no power of imagination, though Shakespeare confines imagination to the possession of a pack of poets, lovers and madmen141! I think some of you have read Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan drama where her inquisitors accuse her, saying that the voices she used to hear were all born of her imagination, to which she replies, «That is how the messages of God come to us.»142

Similarly, when one day one of us asked Sri Aurobindo, «How does one see the Divine in everything, in every man?» He replied, «By your power of imagination. Imagine that the Divine is there in everybody, in everything.» I could not resist the temptation and asked, «But is that not imagination?» And pat came His counter-question, «What is imagination?» I couldn’t reply. Mother has also said somewhere that the very fact that you imagine something proves that it must exist somewhere, otherwise you can’t imagine it. So even if my talk were imaginary, it could have occurred on some occult plane about which I’ll speak presently.

Well then, suppose, from now onwards, we strongly imagine that Sri Aurobindo is all the time with us, even here: in our pursuits, in all our trials and woes and tribulations, in all our hardships, will it be an imagination or a fact ? You can answer that question by yourselves. When I go to sleep at night in Sri Aurobindo’s room – all of you know perhaps that I have that good fortune – I try to imagine, turning my side towards Him, towards His bed, that He is there. Well, it gives me some solace, satisfaction, and sometimes, good dreams.

But without going so far, in this hard, matter-of-fact world of ours, as Hamlet says, we have to sometimes draw our «breath in pain143», where imagination is a door of escape to a happier world. When your life is measured out each day to two spoons of sugar, 100 cc. of milk and a few ounces of spirit, etc., etc., you may call to the goddess of imagination and you will see that all your ‘kumdos144and brinjals have turned into ‘rasagollas’ and ‘pantuas145. (Laughter) That’s how we try to forget reality and take our flight into a world of imagination. It is a solace, a consolation; it is very useful to people who are particularly imaginative.

So ladies and gentlemen, if I have transported you to that land of imagination, it is all to my credit and to your benefit. You have gone for a moment into a world of eternity from this limited, finite world of ours; and you’ll hope and pray that from time to time I may do that duty again.

Now perhaps some of you have heard the name of Oscar Wilde. At least, you have read his beautiful story «The Happy Prince146», haven’t you ? One day when he was sitting in his drawing room doing hard and heavy work, some friends came to visit him. They asked him, «Well, Oscar, what’s the matter? Why are you working such late hours? What have you done in the afternoon?» He said, «Well, I have been to the zoo. And what a lovely company of birds and beasts and monkeys and tigers and lions it was. Far away from the company of you people. I saw a royal Bengal tiger poised on a rocky eminence, majestically. I have seen a bear hugging a bearess ... I have seen monkeys coming down as soon as they saw me and stretching their arms to shake hands with me, knowing I was their descendant (Laughter), open their mouths, stretch their hands for some peanuts to swallow. I have seen a kingfisher dive into a pool...» – so on and so forth. As he was going on in this strain, Mrs. Wilde, who’d been listening quietly, knitting at the same time, pulled him up, «What is this ? What is all this nonsense you are saying?» Everybody was surprised. «You have been sitting with me in the drawing room, all afternoon, and you say you have been to the zoo!» He smiled, «Well, my dear, sometimes one must imagine; otherwise what is imagination for, particularly when I am sitting with you?» (Laughter)

But, poor fellow! To this happy and gay man fate dealt a heavy blow. He was sent to prison. But he made capital out of his prison life: his undaunted spirit produced, by his power of imagination, a masterpiece of literature – De Profundis. Just so, I understand, the great French poet Francois Villon produced many ballads in prison. Prison has been made famous by many people for many things. We know very well Sri Aurobindo went to prison and had the vision of Vasudeva. I followed His footsteps into England, took up His father’s profession,I followed Him in a sort of Swadeshi movement147 and followed then its consequences. Then, in my thirties, I followed Him to Pondicherry to take up His yoga. I followed Him into poetry too, but now I am stuck (Laughter) on the waiting list! (Laughter)

That’s what it is ... I am trying to be a bit ‘Wilde-ish’ as you see, particularly in your sweet and happy company. But by now you have learnt to discriminate when I am serious, and when I am playful, when I am teasing, when I cover truth with truth like Narad before Aswapati’s queen148 – after all, there is not much difference between the two names, Nirod and Narad – question of a vowel or two. (Laughter)

So if I tease you now and then, it is not at all out of malice. Teasing, rightly done, is a fine art. It is a sign of, if I may say so, affection, love, tenderness. Brothers and sisters tease each other – I used to do so at least – friends tease each other, lovers certainly do. So teasing is a fine art, if you know how to do it. Perhaps you remember Keats’ famous line addressing the Grecian urn – any of my students here? Ah, there!

You [the rest of the audience] may also have read it, please excuse me if I misquote:

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

As doth eternity ...149

Mark here the beautiful meaning of the word ‘tease’. So, as Sri Aurobindo says in Savitri:

Something that wished but knew not how to be,

Teased the Inconscient to wake Ignorance150.

There you are, again – ‘Teased’ – very original use of the word ‘tease’. He certainly meant that this was done not out of malice, but out of joy, not out of duty, but out of delight, hence ‘tease’. I have made up a rhyme:

Wherever there is playful teasing,

It is a sign of love’s increasing.

When from love flies away the teasing

Be sure that love is freezing.

(Laughter) So ladies and gentlemen, if I teased you out of your ordinary thought and transported you into a world of timeless eternity, you have my apology. It was done with a very good intention. Now I’ll make further amends for the sin committed unintentionally or half-intentionally. (Laughter)

I’ll narrate to you a genuine talk I had with Sri Aurobindo; again, here also, without the awareness of my external consciousness. I’ve published Mother’s letter to me regarding this matter in this book, Talks with Sri Aurobindo [Holding up the book for all to see]. It is like this, as I have written here in the note:

I don’t know how it happened but it was on a very significant date: the first day of the month of February, 1.2.63. In the month of February falls Mother’s birthday, and on the very first day, so a very happy day indeed. So as usual I sat down for meditation -rather, tried to meditate; meditation is still a trial for me! – in Sri Aurobindo’s room, somewhere in the morning at about 6:00 or

6:30. Somehow fortune favoured me, I at once became – I hope you know what that means ? But at the same time, I was aware of the external world too, there’s the beauty. When I had gone inside, I began to have a talk with somebody, I didn’t know who that person was; a long talk. But the funny part of it is that as soon as I came out of the meditation, I forgot all about it completely, a blank. Then when I came down for breakfast with my friend Sisir151 – we two have breakfast together always – as soon as I saw him, everything flashed back; there is a reason, because there was reference to Sisir in it. So I told him: «When I came out of the meditation, I forgot all that had passed. But as soon as I saw you during our breakfast, everything revived as in a flash. Sisir, you know, I was telling you in my meditation that at this place there will be our school building, there this, and there that, and so on!» I wrote about it to the Mother.

I couldn’t give Sisir any precise detail, though I had worked out all that in meditation. Only here it will be this, there it will be that, etc. Then it somehow struck me that I’d rather – [Nirod-da suddenly sees Arindam-da152 in the audience] Hello, my friend: you are there! Good God! (Laughter) You came in like a thief! (Laughter) – So it struck me that I should write about it to the Mother. Usually I don’t do it. Then Mother promptly sent me this reply, as you have seen, written in her own hand in French. I don’t remember now whether I wrote the letter in French; I probably would not have because I gave up study of French long ago. But somehow ... I will read out the French version first, to be followed by the translation in English.

Le nuit demiere nous (toi et moi et quelques nutres) avons ete ensemble assez longtemps dans la demeure permanente de Sri Aurobindo qui se trouve dans le physique subtile, (ce que Sri Aurobindo appelait ‘the true physical’)... mes benedictions.

So there you see again ... Oh yes, all of you know French? No? What a pity. Now the English version:

Last night we (you and I and some others) were together for quite a long time in the permanent dwelling of Sri Aurobindo which exists in the subtle physical (what Sri Aurobindo used to call ‘the true physical’)153. All that happened there (much too long and complicated to be told) was, so to say, organised in order to express concretely the rapid movement with which the present transformation is going on; and Sri Aurobindo told you with a smile something like this: ‘Do you believe now ?’ It was as if he was evoking these three lines from Savitri:

God shall grow up, while the wise men talk and sleep;

For man shall not know the coming till its hour

And belief shall be not till the work is done.

I think this is a sufficient explanation of the meditation you are speaking of.

My blessings.

So there you are. I was happy to see that it’s not all imagination; it had some reality in it.

From that time onwards, I don’t know from that time or a little before, Mother has spoken to many people about Sri Aurobindo’s beautiful dwelling there, where He is very happy, surrounded by bhaktas (devotees) who had come down from above, and those who have departed from here, having a very happy time; and She also said that some of us do go there to visit Him, sit by His side, have a talk with Him. I had an occasion also, long after that, to be told by the Mother that I had been there, and she has told many others also about it; only at that time I didn’t know, in my waking consciousness, that I had been there.

That reminds me again of another experience I had long before this. I didn’t know anything about the abode that Sri Aurobindo had there or had built there. The Mother told us about this when She was meeting us downstairs in the salon154. In the morning, we used to go to do pranam to Her. There used to be quite a number of people. One day, She told me, «I’ve been meeting you for consecutive days and we were having a long talk.» I was eager to hear what She had to say. Then She said, «I won’t tell you anything now. I’ll follow the course as the talk is not yet finished just now. Then, after it is finished, I’ll tell you all about it.» Three or four days passed, yet She didn’t say anything to me. She just looked at me; that was typical of Her. I don’t remember after how many days, She spoke to me, but not there in the presence of other people, «You were there with Sri Aurobindo and there were many others around Him. I went to see Sri Aurobindo for some work, some purpose, but these people who were surrounding Sri Aurobindo didn’t allow me. They asked: ‘Who is she? She has no right to come in’. So they would not allow me in nor would they tell Sri Aurobindo that I had come to see Him.» Then the Mother continued her story and told me that I’d been sitting there. I came out and told Sri Aurobindo that the Mother had come, She wanted to see Him. I asked these people, «Why don’t you allow Mother to come in and see Sri Aurobindo?» They vehemently protested, saying, «She is not one of us.» I don’t remember the exact words. But all this was said in a spirit of revolt, in a spirit of bad will. Then I protested and said, «It is nothing of the sort. I know that She has done me a lot of good, I have been immensely benefited by Her; so I deny all the charges that you level against the Mother.» Then She said something in confidence, which, I am sorry, even if you were my best friends, I couldn’t tell you! So that was another occasion when I had a talk with the Mother, without my knowing about it in the waking state.

Now we pass on to something my friend over here has given me to be read out to you on the coming occasion of the Darshan. This is from the book of our late friend Purani. It is a description about how they celebrated the fifteenth of August in 1924. Somebody has written very beautifully; he has recorded his impression of that day. It is very long, so I shall read out to you some selected passages at random.

[Reading from Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo (1974), 486-89:

Who can describe this day? Nothing can be added by the colours of imagination, poetic similes, and loaded epithets. It is enough to say ‘It was the 15th of August.’ No other day can come up to it in the depth and intensity of spiritual action ...

... Him you can trust implicitly. You need only to give up your little self, the rest is his work, you have no worry, no anxiety! No effort – only the way of loving surrender! How easy!

Sri Aurobindo Himself told us to be free of the sense of responsibility – you have read it in his books.

From early morning the Ashram is humming with various activities: decoration, flowers, garlands, food, bath etc..

By the way we used to get up ... or not sleep at all those days. Even I got the taste of these Darshans. The whole night used to pass in decorating the seat, in gathering flowers and garlands.

Today is the rare chance of seeing the Divine. There he sits – in the royal chair in the verandah – royal and majestic.

It was a wonderful sight ... of course I hadn’t seen Him in the verandah but in the Darshan room. A friend of ours who attended Sri Aurobindo during the accident, a doctor, said «Sir, at Darshan you look grand.» (Laughter) Then somebody said, «He doesn’t look grand here?» (Laughter) But really it is unforgettable!

As one actually stands in front, all curiosity, all pride, all thoughts, all questions, all resolutions are swept away in some terrific divine Niagara.

There is a fine poem composed by my friend Nishikanto, I am sorry I can’t just now remember it...

At four o’clock all gather at the usual place of sitting – the verandah ...

I suppose you know the Prosperity verandah?

And let the world become Divine! Another powerful aspiration that came to the surface was. ‘Expression is not needed – let the whole of eternity – flow away in this silence!’

20 August 1969

Well, first of all, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll congratulate you on having a very good Darshan! I’m sure the Lord blessed

you with both hands. And you have a special claim to His blessings because you have been so much interested in this class where we are supposed to be talking about His life, though the life of the disciple is taking a greater part. And since I’ve been telling now and then about my experiences, it would be justice if I demand from you some of your own experiences in return, like friends. Otherwise it will be all one-sided indeed.

[Some of the listeners narrate stories of similar experiences.]

... I hope all of you can hear me? Yes, soon after the Darshan, I don’t remember on which day, one of our young friends asked me about an experience I’d had and if I would mind telling all of you about it. «Well,» I said, «not very much, but it all depends on my mood.» Then the friend wished that the mood would prevail. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know what to say. But the problem was solved for me. Now I’m going to tell you – whether you enjoy it or not, that’s up to you.

It is something that happened just yesterday. After having a fairly good lunch in the company of a sweet lady, I was having a good nap in the company of my old accustomed friend – the easy chair. I was rolling about in the chair. I was somewhat tired because for two days I’d had no sleep either at noon or at night. So my bones were creaking, my muscles were muttering. I resolved to have a jolly good rest at any cost, even if the Voice called. «Hmmm!» I’d planned I would say, as if I would be able to resist the Voice if it came! Well, anyhow, I was relaxing. The fragrance of the incense from the Samadhi, carrying the blessings of the Lord, wafted sweetly towards me slowly, and winds were coming to me from the fields of sleep, through the Service Tree155. As a result, a deep sleep came upon me. Then something happened, after how long I don’t remember. I saw an old man, not very prepossessing, but not an ordinary old man that we see in the Ashram or anywhere else. This old man seemed rather unusual. I don’t know how, but he did not seem to be an earthly old man: he was quite strong, quite dignified, very simple. He was talking to me, narrating a story. Two of us were there listening; he took a very long time, the story was very interesting. When it finished, I asked the other fellow, «Have you taken down notes ?» He said, «Yes.» «Let me see.» He showed me. «So what have you done ? You have left out the most important point: the illustration.» Then I addressed the old man and said, «Look at this fellow, he has taken down everything else, but left out the most important part of it, the illustration, which gives life, doesn’t it?» By the way, that very morning, I was telling my students, as I always do, that whatever you write, you must give illustrations. I don’t know whether it was the echo of what I had been saying in the morning. However... this is what happened. I remember nothing about it and it was a long talk or a long story. That’s all I know. I had the feeling – of course, it may be my imagination – that the old man was none other than Sri Aurobindo. Why did He appear as an old man? That He alone knows! Sometimes God comes to you in many guises and disguises. All of you know that, don’t you?

I remember, a long, long time ago, when I’d started, shall I say, my yoga – it may be too grandiloquent to say that. I saw in a dream, or a vision, if you like, a beggarly woman coming to me with a beggarly boy in her lap, an ungainly, dark chap. I wrote to Sri Aurobindo, «What is this? Who is this beggarly woman with a child in her lap?» And I was surprised to hear that it was the Mother. And who was the child? «It was your psychic being!» (Laughter) «She came to put you in contact with your psychic being.» And I was not very much delighted by the psychic being! (Laughter) Anyhow, truth is truth.

So that’s how they appear and I am sure many of you have had such experiences. Then there the talk ended and I went into a deep sleep, for how long I don’t know. Something else followed, which has no connection at all with what I had seen and heard. A dream in which I saw, of all persons, Jayantilal, preparing tea in my room. (Laughter) It was not he who was making the tea but somebody else was preparing it for him; all these are vivid details, mind you, my friends – you may call them imagination, maybe something like Wilde’s ? – but it is not so. It is a dream, but a reality on another plane. So I saw actually the water boiling furiously. I was wondering why Jayantilal’s tea is being made in my room? Well, I went to the next room, you know, the last hall. There I saw something else being prepared in a somewhat slovenly fashion: water had been spilt all over the floor and something had caught fire. The carpets were burning, there was smoke and I took all the trouble to stamp out the fire and smoke. Then suddenly my eyes opened and I saw it was two o’clock! (Laughter) From half past twelve till two o’clock, this thing had gone on. So I said most reluctantly, «I have to get up, time for work.» So, two o’clock!

I was telling some friends that this is the new technique now that the Divine has adopted with me. Not using His voice, but this curious way of giving me an experience in my sleep and shaking me up. The other day I saw that somebody had entered my room; I don’t know what I was doing, perhaps sleeping, or maybe just unwilling to get up. But he took hold of my hand and began to pull me violently as if he’d pull me through the window and throw me on the ground. I was resisting. It was a veritable tug-of-war. My eyes opened, and it was half past one in the morning! And some such unpleasant dreams come round about half past one or half past two and bother me, trouble me. I cannot but do what has been asked for me to do. What do you say? So this is the play going on with my poor soul.

I’m sorry I used the expression ‘poor soul’. Please don’t report it to the Mother, She does not like this expression, ‘poor soul’. I understand that somebody once inadvertently said, in the Mother’s presence, «My poor soul.» «What!» She thundered. «Poor soul? The soul is never poor! Never use that expression.» This is typical of the Mother. If I say ‘poor soul’ to Sri Aurobindo, He would probably laugh it away. (Laughter) The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, they are two personalities, with unity in consciousness but difference in external manner. (Laughter) One tolerates a joke, the other doesn’t. And particularly jokes of this kind with the soul, with the Divine, with the Supermind. You could very well say to Sri Aurobindo: the Supramental’s tail is dangling. (Laughter) He would enjoy it, Mother would not. That is why whenever Mother used to come to Sri Aurobindo’s room, all of us would stiffen up and stand at attention like policemen! Terrible! (Laughter)

So you see this experience of the talk or all these things were given to me, I don’t know for what. I was mulling it over in my mind about what to talk to you, turning over in my easy chair. Really, it has now become a tough job to prepare for this famous lecture. To say something that’ll entertain you and instruct you at the same time is a tough job, my friends. My only reliance is on His famous verse: «All can be done if the God-touch is there156.» Don’t worry, if the Lord wills, it’ll be done. I must gratefully admit that so far the ‘touch’ has not failed me and the God-touch has come this time too; He was compassionate to me and to you all. But please understand that this is not imagination at all. I may have fooled you a bit in the past, but this is no fooling here (Laughter); this is true, it was an actual conversation that took place, though I didn’t know or remember anything about it in my waking consciousness.

Such things are possible and such things have happened. I told you long, long ago, that when Sri Aurobindo was in jail, He used to be visited by Vivekananda. You remember, it occurred consecutively for about fifteen days, mind you. Vivekananda came to meet with a definite purpose, gave Him instructions about the Supermind and would not leave Him (I am quoting His very words) till Sri Aurobindo had grasped everything that Vivekananda was saying. Just as we do with some persons: we insist on explaining something so that it enters into their heads before we leave them. That was what Vivekananda did for fifteen days, my friends. He explained everything about the Supermind in great detail: this is that, this is that, etc. So there is clear evidence that such things do happen and fresh evidence is here in this Bulletin157 of 15 August 1969; all of you must have read it, I’m sure. The Bulletin article describes how Mother had a three-hour talk with Sri Aurobindo on Auroville. A very interesting talk: She said She was giving Him all the information about Auroville. So why shouldn’t you believe poor Nirod-da having a talk like this?

[Reading from Bulletin of SAICE of 15 August 1969, 83-85]

May 31, 1969

The night before yesterday, I spent more than three hours with Sri Aurobindo and I was showing him all that was about to come down for Auroville. It was quite interesting. Here were games, there was art, there was even cooking! But all that was very symbolic. And I was explaining to him as though on a table, in front of a vast landscape. I was explaining to him the principle on which physical exercises and games were going to be organised. It was very clear, very precise, I was giving as though a demonstration, and I was showing on a smaller scale, a miniature representation of what was going to be done. I was moving people and things (gesture, as though on a chess-board). But it was very interesting, and he too was very much interested: he was laying down the broad laws of organization (I do not know how to explain). There was art and it was so beautiful, it was quite good. And how to make the houses pleasant and pretty, upon what principle of construction. And then even the kitchen, it was so amusing, everyone has brought forward his invention ... This went on for three hours – three hours of night, it was enormous! Very interesting.

Interviewer: Yet, conditions upon earth seem to be very far from all that...

Mother: (After some hesitation) No ... It was just there, it did not seem to be foreign to earth. It was a harmony. A conscious harmony behind the things: a conscious harmony behind the physical exercises and the games: a conscious harmony behind the decoration, the art; a conscious harmony behind food ...

Interviewer: I mean that all this seems to be at the antipodes of what is there now upon earth.

Mother: Not...

Interviewer: No?

Mother: I saw X ... today and I was telling him that the whole organisation in respect of art and sports and food and all others were ready in the subtle physical – ready to come down and take body – and I told him: «What is needed is just a handful of earth (gesture indicating the hollow of the palm), a handful of earth where one could grow the plant... One must find a handful of earth to let it grow...»

The only difference in my case is this – that I don’t remember at all the conversation that I am supposed to have had with Sri Aurobindo in the subtle physical. But I believe that, one day, things will improve, I’ll be able to recount to you, if God permits, verbatim, some conversation I had with Him, or you’ll be able to delight us by telling us of your own experiences. That is the day I am waiting for.

Now with this problem in my mind, I was going up to my bureau. I was wondering what I could talk about in this class. I had two or three things on hand: one, I had to complete a half-finished article for some paper; two, I had to feed you Glaxo babies158 with some nourishing food; third, some other articles were to be completed. So I wanted to find out what this talk would be about. I couldn’t find any answer. I said to myself, perhaps there is no single purpose in God’s work. God fulfils many purposes in one action. As we say in Bengali: ek dhile du pakkhi mare159, so who knows what purpose He had – perhaps multiple purposes – let us see and it might reveal itself.

So I was wondering about the subject of this talk. I decided to wait and see. I had started with my half-finished article, and the words began to flow through my pen, the thoughts began to flow through my head, and the article was finished in no time. God knows whether it was bad or good, but it was finished, which had never been achieved before. For my earlier articles, I have had to take a lot of trouble, do a lot of thinking and a lot of cutting, a lot of crossing out. So, I thought, here is one purpose. The second purpose would be your enjoyment of the talk. I hope you’ve enjoyed the experience I had. Did you enjoy the talk? Now perhaps some of you will be saying or writing: «That’s all right, sir, but what about your experience of the Darshan? About that experience you have not spoken as yet. You have kept us hanging.»

It is quite true. Let us come back then to the mainstream of our talk, as they say in French, Retournons a nos moutons160.

As I was saying, the friend requested me to tell you something. I didn’t know what to do, as I said; I was thinking like Hamlet: to be or not to be, to say or not to say; but since the friend was young and a former student of mine, and said it in a very mellow, soft, sweet voice, tender-heartedly, my soft heart couldn’t disappoint her laughter; but the experience was so small and meagre that I feel as if I am making much ado about nothing. It is a mighty little drop; after you’ve heard, you’ll see for yourselves. But since you’ve asked for it, I’m obliged to put it before you. Well, it is like this: I was trying to prepare in my own way, as all of you do, for the Darshan occasion. I ate all right, slept all right, did my work all right, though there was much distraction -what from ballet dance, what from music in the Playground, etc., etc. All these occasions disturb you a bit, but I turned a deaf ear to all these because they say a great occasion needs a great preparation. I don’t know whether my preparation was great or small, I tried in my small way to prepare myself well.

The Darshan day arrived. From the morning, we were expecting something to happen, but nothing happened. Meditation came, passed, except that some sort of quietude was felt, that’s all. Then I was a little depressed. What’s all this ? There was so much expectation, but all failed, no grace, no compassion. Prayer goes unanswered. All this was going on and then the time for the Darshan arrived and I am sure what I felt all of you felt too. Again, with an air of expectancy, I waited for the Mother to come. She came, looked at us for quite a long time. As you know, we stand on Kamala’s terrace161 because we do not like to be jostled about in the crowd. So there we were standing, and you know perhaps that Mother looks first on that side. God knows why! Mother’s intention is very difficult to discern. Sometimes She looks for half a second, sometimes one minute, sometimes two minutes; some of us there do guess, but it is only a guess. Perhaps you saw, those who were near, that Pranab came twice and looked at our side. Well! These are passing instances. Anyhow, Mother came, and She looked at us. We were very glad indeed to see the Divine, but nothing unusual happened. We were waiting and waiting, when She came back after seeing all of you and distributing Her gracious blessings to all of you children. When she came back and stood there, something I saw, something which I had never seen till now. What was it ? I saw that Her face had become young. A youngish face like one of yours. There was no crease, there was no wrinkle, there was no sign of old age on Her face. She was very young indeed – an unearthly tinge was there. The colour was something mellow, something sweet, not at all earthly. I can’t describe it. She was human, yet not human – She had a beauty which you don’t find in this world of ours; it was not the dazzling beauty of a Helen or a passionately beautiful Mona Lisa. It was the calm, quiet beauty of a Goddess. And Her face was very young indeed. This is what I saw and it was for the first time. So the silent tears that I had shed were wiped away. I was happy, but I could not retain that experience. It comes now and then, and passes, as all experiences do. It takes time for these experiences to stay permanently in one’s consciousness. So this was the unique gift I had for the first time in the Darshan.

Then, in this context, I am reminded of a vision the Mother had long, long ago, I don’t know whether it was after Sri Aurobindo’s passing or before. It was most probably after His passing away. She spoke to me about this vision. She said that She saw Herself; She saw that She had become a young woman of about fifteen or sixteen, about that age, very young and exquisitely beautiful, naturally, with flowing hair and wearing a robe. Sri Aurobindo was also with Her, He had also become a young man, near about Her age. They were somewhere, She said, the exact place was not clearly indicated, sitting somewhere in an open field, somewhere near Hyderabad; I don’t know why Hyderabad. It may be because at that time many Hyderabadis were coming for Darshan. So somewhere near Hyderabad, they were sitting in an open field. Their house was nearby and they were talking with each other.

Some of the Ashram sadhaks, inmates, were passing that way, looking at them strangely, in a queer fashion, as if asking: «Who are these people? Where have they come from?» They could not recognise them. They had changed so much that even the Ashram sadhaks, the old ones, could not recognise them at all. Then Mother said, «Look at these people, they don’t know us, they don’t recognise us.»

But here162 the resemblance was there, one could make out that this was Mother’s face. The form and the shape were still there, but the beauty was unearthly. Before this, many people have told me about their spiritual experiences. They said that Mother is becoming young, very young, and I said, «All right, all right,» but something in me was not convinced; not that I did not believe, but I was waiting for a personal experience. So once for all, the doubt, the disbelief vanished. I read out a letter the other day, where Sri Aurobindo was asking, «Do you see now ?» I am confirmed now in that belief.

And what is going to happen? What does the future hold for us ? If you have read this Bulletin, you ought to be able to find out. Perhaps I had a fore-glimpse of that fulfilment. I think it is Satprem who asks the question: «How is the world problem going to be solved? How will the whole world be convinced?» And he himself imagines that only a glorious body of the divine would be able to convince the world. Nothing short of that. Mother said, «Yes, it is so.» The old sadhaks do remember that the Mother gave us a message long, long ago: «It is not the crucified body of Christ, but a glorious body that will save the world» – not the crucified body of Christ, but a glorious body or a glorified body which everybody will see and be convinced that there is such a thing as a divinity, there is such a thing as divinisation of the body, there is such a thing as a conquest of death; in other words, a supramental body. And I believe I had a fore-glimpse of that in this un-aging youth and beauty of the Divine Mother that I had been graciously given to see. And along with this, if the Lord descended with His supramental body, then what moja163! (Laughter) Let me read out the passage from here to those of you who have not read it and to others who have read it too. It’s wonderful!

[Reading from Bulletin of SAICE, August 1969, 99-100]

May 31, 1969

S: ... I always have the feeling that the only solution is that you should have a glorious body, visible to everyone, then all could come and see – come and see the Divine, how it is!

Mother: (Laughing). That would be very convenient indeed!

S: It would be such an upsetting of all their notions ...

Mother: Yes, certainly! It would be so convenient. Would it be like that? ... As to that, surely, I am in full agreement with you! And I would be very glad if it were anyone, does not matter who, I have not the least desire that it should be myself.

S: Come and see the Divine, how it is!

Mother: Yes, how it is! (Mother remains gazing for a long time).

June 4, 1969

Mother: I looked into the matter a great deal, after you had left me last time, the whole day ... There is some sense in that being a wonderful solution (the glorious body). When you said it, something became concrete all of a sudden. But there was no personal sense in that... The body has no ambition or desire whatsoever or even the aspiration to become that (the glorious body), but there was only a kind of delight in the possibility of that being done; it if were done, it matters not who or where or how: only if it were done. And I looked at it with very very close attention: not for a moment did it have the idea it must be this (Mother pinches Her skin with Her fingers), you understand? It was: let there be this incarnation, this manifestation – choosing one person or another, one place or another, no, nothing of that kind existed: the thing by itself was the wonderful solution. That’s all.

... But what has become its business – in such an intense way that it cannot be expressed – is «Thou, Thou, Thou, Thou ...» no word can translate it; the Divine, to use one word. It is all, it is for all – to eat the Divine; to sleep the Divine; to suffer the Divine ... so on (Mother points both hands upward). With a kind of stability, immobility.

27 August 1969

Let me begin, ladies and gentlemen and friends (I’m being somewhat formal), with a word of apology to those elderly people here who are beginning to show some interest in our leisurely talks. I would like to remind you a bit gently that this class is meant for youngsters. My young teacher-friends164 have selected me perhaps because I am not a philosopher, not a ‘savant’, so that I may talk to them in a simple manner, of simple things.

The word ‘savant’ echoes in my memory of something that happened long, long ago. Once, when I had just learnt French and I had taken up teaching French (I shouldn’t say teaching, but rather, learning French by teaching), this young lady was one of my students. I don’t know for what reason, she asked, «Monsieur, are you a ‘savant’?» I don’t know whether she remembers it. As you know, I am not a ‘savant’ at all, and till this day, I have not become one. A little of savoir165 I may have, but I am not a savant. So please remember, my older and elder friends, that this class is meant for children and young people. Therefore, it’s likely to be below your standard. Please shut your eyes to that and you might take interest in something else that suits you, preferably. You might find sometimes that the subject matter and, particularly, the manner of presentation are somewhat frivolous, trivial and light, but I can’t help it.

Already there has been a complaint that my talks are too entertaining -too much entertainment and there is too little instruction! So this dark shadow is hanging over my head and this complaint has come from nowhere else but from my own home. My very dear, dear niece -I leave the name unuttered (Laughter) – my own niece (as Ulysses says, «This is my son, my own son, Telemachus!») (Laughter), so I say, this is my own dear niece who complains. That puts me on my guard, I feel inclined to tell her. I ask my young friends here: please pacify my home front. (Laughter) She is my mental and physical health inspector, I mean instructor. (Laughter) So if something goes wrong there, you can understand, she will go on a tea-strike and I shall be paralysed, there won’t be any further talks – so please tell her, cheer her up and pacify her and tell her that there is a lot of substance in my talks. (Laughter) Whatever she might say, I find great pleasure in talking to you, in meeting you. In fact, God has given me two pleasures, for the moment: one, meeting you, seeing your bright, young faces full of future prospects and promise; and seeing that you take so much interest in the talks about Mother and Sri Aurobindo and a little bit about me. That gives me encouragement, that gives me impetus, and I feel that, whatever my dear niece may say, I had better stick to my own nature and way of doing things.

The second pleasure is on a different plane – it is a poetic plane, a sensuous plane. Every day, when I get up in the morning, when I go up, the first thing that I do is to come out of my room and see from the small terrace the bright, beautiful morning sky. Sometimes, it is very quiet and calm and serene. Everything, as it were, in a sort of trance. No breath, no wind, nothing at all, nothing stirs. The trees -quiet. Even the houses are congealed into a sort of a trance. The nice, tender buds, the young leaves, so quietly beautiful. And I feel what Wordsworth has said in his bright sonnet «Westminster Bridge»166 – I suppose you remember the last two lines:

Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;

And all that mighty heart is lying still!

You actually feel that stillness. I don’t know if you young people have much time to spend over these small, beautiful, natural scenes. Perhaps you enjoy your own scenes – I don’t mean ‘sins’! [Spelling the word] (Laughter) – that are better than these scenes of nature. So there are these two pleasures; as long as I can have them, I’d like to cling to them.

Then after this frivolous introduction, I’ll come to the serious part, otherwise I’ll be like the priest saying to another: «You rise by your gravity and I sink by my levity167.» (Laughter) Well, I am trying to keep a balance between the two. (Laughter) So we come to the serious matter now. The other day, I opened to you a bit of my mind as I have done so often and I hope I will continue to do so, because you are supposed to be nice friends. The serious matter that I wish to talk about today is about my experience on the Darshan day. I could not finish or I did not finish telling you what happened later during that day. That I am going to tell you now. It is a small thing. I told you I was very happy, my dark or black melancholy was wiped away by the fine experience that I’d had, so I was quite happy anyway, had a good dinner and a good sleep.

Again, at that fateful hour – two o’clock – sleep broke, I sat up, and tried to meditate. As soon as, or soon after I had started, something began to speak through me – it was not the Lord’s Voice now speaking from nearby or from somewhere else, but the Voice speaking through me, spontaneously, as if I was the instrument. And it came all on a sudden and very quick, but I felt that it could not be anybody else who was speaking. The first few words, because they came all on a sudden, I missed; the last part I remember. Of the first words I remember only «if» or something of that sort. So what I could make out, by putting two and two together, is something like this. «All your troubles will be over.» He enumerated the troubles which I suppress, not anything specific but, you understand, general ones, all kinds of troubles: «All your troubles will be over.» Then I spoke: «What was the first part? I missed that.» Such experiences don’t repeat themselves. So what I could make out is this, «It is by realising the divine (because perhaps the word ‘divine’ was there) that all your troubles can be overcome.» So that was the last bit of my experience on this fifteenth August. If He had given me that realisation, I would have been very happy. (Laughter) When you lay down conditions, things become very difficult. However, I was very happy to hear Him speak to me.

Although it is difficult, I know the Lord is with us, supporting us. If He wills, nothing can be easier, though He says ‘if, etc.; we know very well His ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’!

Then, of course, I had lately been thinking about some of my troubles, some of my difficulties, not big ones – it is these little things that trouble you most, don’t they? There is a fine verse in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri. We’ll see how admirable it is: «The little Mind is tied to little things168.» So either you have a little mind or a big mind, you can see; and this is in the epic by Sri Aurobindo. Where lies the beauty? The truth is universal, everybody knows it, but the poetic beauty of it I don’t need to discuss here. How true it is, how memorable it is, how simple it is, how direct it is – a universal truth: «The little Mind is tied to little things» – so my little mind was tied to these little things. Please don’t take me for a perfect man. I am full of imperfections. I hope, in future, if I realise the divine, my imperfections will disappear.

Since I am talking of my experiences, I may as well speak of one which I had, an initial experience, before I had started yoga. That is also in connection with the Mother. It happened long, long ago, as I said, before I had started yoga. Let me remind you again that I was in England (Laughter), and when I was there along with my niece, well, I met Dilip-da169. He went on a tour, after seeing the Ashram and having met Mother. So he spoke to us much about the Mother, about Sri Aurobindo and about the Ashram. I didn’t feel much interested, particularly because I was a bit prejudiced – don’t mind my blasphemy – against Sri Aurobindo because our opinion about Sri Aurobindo at that time was that He had run away from politics, leaving the country rudderless, pilotless, as it were, failing in His mission. So we youngsters and other people who were politically-minded, but immature and unripe, had passed that serious stricture upon Him. What was yoga?

Sri Aurobindo, a yogi! I had nothing in common with yoga. So I was a bit prejudiced.

All the same, when I finished my medical course, on my way home I thought: let me go and see this Ashram. Of course, the pressure from my niece was great – nieces know the art of applying these pressures very well, and sisters too! I said, all right, let me put my prejudice in my pocket for a while and see what it is like. So I came via Colombo, landed at Pondicherry station – not what it is today, my friends. Infested by flies, just like a cowshed. So I landed somewhere about four o’clock in the morning. Took up my lodging in a hotel; in a third-class, fourth-class, wretched hotel somewhere there. Not your Shankar Lodge and other places of today. Then, next morning, I went to see Dilip-da, he was living in Tresor House. The house was bought specially for him. I went to see him in my European clothes, if you please (Laughter), fully European: trousers, neck-tie, hat, and a stick and boots (Laughter) – a third-class dandy (Laughter), Beau of Goldsmith!

Well, when Dilip-da saw me – I dropped on him like a bolt from the blue! «Eh, tumi? Kokhon? Koththeke? Ki kore170?» (Laughter) So many questions with a broad grin. He said, «You were the last person I expected here!» (Laughter) Anyhow, he was very pleased and said, «Bosho, bosho, bosho, cha khao171». (Laughter) He was very generous. I had tea. Then he said, «Tell me all about you. Why have you come here?» I told him that I had no yogic intentions at all. I’d come to see what the place was like. «Good, how many days are you going to stay?» I said, «Two or three days. My mother is waiting; I can’t stay long.» «Would you like to see the Mother?» «Well, I would, if possible.» He sent a note to the Mother. The reply came, Mother said, «He has not written to me. Does he want to see me ?» Then, somehow, the meeting was arranged for us. The next day or the day after, at about three o’clock in the afternoon, I was in the hotel, I had only one set of European clothes. All my things had been put by the steamer authorities, by mistake, not in my room, but in the cell or hall or somewhere else. So I had only one suitcase with me with my necessary things. So Dilip-da said, «You have no dhoti172, so I shall give you this dhoti, put it on and come. Very well, but come punctually.» Then the day came. I took lunch. I didn’t take fish or meat, only vegetables (Laughter) – trying to be a little bhogadharmic173 when going to the Mother.

In our shastras174, they say you must go to the temple as pure as possible, so I didn’t eat any egg or fish or meat, only vegetables, and didn’t take much of even that; I was on an empty stomach or half-full. I was feeling very nervous, though I was a medical man. (Laughter) But what to do, the nerves are not under the control of a medical man or engineer, least of all, under Nirod’s! Man is, after all, a man! And I was young. What to do? All the time, there was some fear. Then, I thought I must pray. My mother – I’ve told you all how she used to make me pray; some vestiges were left in my memory after a lapse of many years in which I had never prayed. So what she had taught me was there in my subconscious. So, I thought, let me pray a little before going.

I sat down, Buddha-like, for prayer or for meditation; but, by Jove! As soon as I sat down, God alone knows what I felt. I saw that this part of my head, no exaggeration at all, this part of my head was hanging here (Laughter) and this part [indicating his body] had vanished. (Laughter) I was conscious of this part [indicating his head] hanging just like Trishanku175 – neither in heaven nor on Mother’s lap – but curiously enough, it was accompanied by a joy and, at the same time, a fear. What is this condition, I wondered. My medical science had never said that such things were possible and yet it had happened, at once, without any preparation or notice. As soon as I sat down, as if the thing was ready to catch me. Now mind you, see how things happen. A conscious force had been sent. That is what surprises one.

Let me allude to many similar things. All of you perhaps know about His experience in Baroda. It came without any preparation, from nowhere. We have been reading His poem «Godhead» and all of you have read it. Sri Aurobindo was going to the bazaar, you know, in a rickety horse-carriage. He couldn’t manage, the horse was wild and it started to run amuck. Sri Aurobindo was on the point of being thrown out, and all of a sudden, the Godhead came, from within. See how such things happen. Well, this is philosophy, let’s not go into metaphysics.

Here, I can understand it: Mother had given an appointed time, so She must have sent some force in order to test me or to put me into the right frame of mind. She does that. So, as I was saying – for how long I don’t know, it appeared to me like an eternal moment – I was hanging. Then the thing passed, and I saw I was Buddha in padmasana176. And then it was time to start for the interview. I went to Dilip-da’s place. He cut a nice, beautiful rose from the terrace garden which did not belong to him. (Laughter) He did not care. Roses, after all, are everybody’s property and particularly when they are meant to be given to Mother. So he picked out a very beautiful rose and said: «Take this, let’s go.» Changing my clothes, becoming a young Bengali man again, I went to see Mother.

Mother used to give interviews at that time in what you call Library House – in other words, Rajen’s office, the place where Rajen sits at the table there – there Mother used to meet the visitors. Well, I was waiting there and Mother came dressed in a magnificent saree. That beauty was not beauty that I had ever seen. She appeared to me veritably like a goddess, with a crown, jewels, and the saree (I don’t remember the colour); and Her manner of walking – majestic. In this way She came, but, unfortunately, attended by some human beings. (Laughter) There was Nolini-da and some others also, and perhaps Amrita-da also. She took her seat, looked at me, and I did pranam at Her feet, offered Her the rose; She blessed me. Then, by Jove, She started looking at me and kept looking at me, it felt as if for eternity, smiling and smiling endlessly, as if She would simply drown me in Her smile; and the others were looking curiously. (Laughter) I felt very much abashed, embarrassed. I didn’t know what to do – I looked at Her once. (Laughter) But She poured Her smiles on me, as if She had found a lost soul or what I don’t know, or a would-be lost soul. Then, quite a few minutes passed. Now I can understand that Mahalakshmi had descended into Her, and for what purpose. She remarked to Her attendants: «He is very shy!» (Laughter) «He’s very shy.» It is true, though it is supposedly a feminine quality. I don’t know why I have this trait in me. Then She asked me a few routine questions: where do you practise? So on and so forth. Then we parted.

Dilip-da called me home. It was somewhere near four o’clock or so in the evening; we had good tea now, we had omelettes, etc., etc. (Laughter) Then I don’t remember whether he accompanied me home. All that I remember is that he gave me some loose sheets of Conversations with Sri Aurobindo. They were typed sheets; at that time, they had not yet come out in book form. So he gave me quite a number of sheets, if not the whole book. He said, «Read them.» As I was leaving the next day, I thought I should read them. Either he wanted me to give them back to him or I could, perhaps, keep them with me. So I read them because I had nothing else to do. But many of you have read these Conversations and know what the contents are. The first and the second parts were about yoga, and they did not interest me in the least, until I came upon something that spoke about art. I said, «Here is something interesting. What does it say?» One thing that particularly attracted me was that yoga can develop art in you and lead you to perfection. Then I said, «Here is something.» So I took interest in yoga, and thought, ah, if yoga can do that, then perhaps it’ll be worth the effort. That was my subconscious intuition. So I read it.

The next day I was to leave. Dilip-da came to see me off, put me in – not a rickshaw, at that time, it was pousse-pousse, very queer kind of vehicle. You hold the steering mechanism, and somebody pushes from behind! (Laughter) I sat in the pousse-pousse, he saw me off from there, wishing me bon voyage. I went to the station, bought my ticket, waited for the train to leave, bidding goodbye to Pondicherry. I sat comfortably, looking through the window. Then came something else unexpectedly. As I started looking through the window, what I saw was the face of the Mother. Extremely beautiful, ravishing beauty. Not the beauty that is calm and serene. And mind you, not only on one side: whichever way I turned my head, She was there. She would not leave me. I looked this way, She was there; I looked that way, She was there; I looked another way, She was there. That face, all the time looking at me with a smile beyond all description. Then at last I got tired of seeing Her face! I was thrilled with ecstasy and joy and Ananda, 178 but I could not bear even that for long. I said, «What is this ? Whichever way I turn, I see Her.» I got tired; and as soon as I felt tired, the thing vanished.

So you see, even Ananda177 our frail human mould of clay cannot bear for long. It shatters the vessel. A long preparation is necessary to bear the downpour. There is a line in Savitri: «Mortality bears ill the eternal’s touch178.» It was so true in my case. That is why the Divine pours His bliss by drops, by a trickle, by a thin stream. It is the same with His force. These are my experiences. I got tired of it! So that was that. That was the initial experience – before I started yoga, before I had thought even that I would do yoga.

So I told you I started yoga like the Master, by the back door! Here is another parallel with the Master179. The other two parallels I forgot to mention the other day: that like Him, I was also a French teacher (Laughter), as well as an English teacher. So, I find so many parallelisms between the Master and His disciple that, I think, these two parallels should meet somewhere one day.

But now I realise that the first meeting in the Library sealed my fate, that She had entered my name in Her permanent list. (Laughter) The rest of the thing, how it developed, perhaps I might tell you another day. So things do happen, my friends, in a most unexpected manner. And as a matter of fact, it is the unexpected that always happens. When you expect much, with eagerness and desire, then nothing happens. You must keep yourself blank, without too much eagerness or expectancy, then it comes; what you have not expected, in the least, suddenly occurs. But in spite of these experiences, in my spiritual history there was a lot of trouble, a lot of heartache, a lot of doubts. So, you see, spiritual experience, on one hand, and frailty of human nature, on the other. Now I will finish this talk by reading Nolini-da’s text, very apt, appropriate for all of you and particularly for the young people here and elsewhere:

Youth of today, seek your soul, find your soul, follow your soul. That is the one thing needful in this age upon earth. To save yourself, to save mankind, that is the only way. That is the only way towards perfect self-fulfilment, for the individual, for the nation, for mankind. And it is exactly this part of yourself which has been most neglected, overlooked, treated as if non-existent.

True education should be based upon that bedrock, the soul’s consciousness, all else is a burden leading to confusion, unless it is linked and coordinated to that single frame of reference. All else can be an enrichment and an asset only as a channel for the expression of the soul’s light.

The soul is your true person, the eternal. The person that you know as yourself, the person that thinks, feels, acts in a given manner familiar to you is only an echo, a shadow, often a caricature of the true person behind this mask, that has its own way of thinking and feeling, acting. That person often laughs, often weeps at the ludicrous attempts of the outer person to initiate its movements.

The inner person knows, feels, acts always rightly and beautifully. Whenever you have a gesture which you feel to be fine and beautiful, happy and at ease, that, you must be sure, comes from your soul. Encourage that shy and modest person within you and you will see how the world begins to change and yourself to start with.

That soul of yours, that inner person is not very far from you, for you are still young: it is as you grow old that coat after coat of dark forgetfulness is imposed upon it and you go astray and afar, it becomes more and more difficult to recover. But when one is young it still inspires you secretly even through your apparent aberrations. Your aberrations are ardent attempts to recognize and to come in touch with your hidden person, your soul.

Perhaps you know this much, that nowhere else do educationists speak of the soul. And our politicians speak of a secular country. It is a bug-bear! Mother says that that small voice is very shy, very sensitive.

3 September 1969

In our last talk, I referred to my initial adventure in the spiritual field. I told you how I walked into the lion’s den with just a stick in my hand, somewhat perhaps in the manner of Mark Twain appearing in the court of the Emperor of China; and both of us had strange experiences as a result, at least some of which I have related to you. I believe that you had much food for amusement at my cost!

But what I’ve been musing upon since our last class was the destiny or adverse fate of those friends of mine who helped me in this path, and helped others too. You know very well what has happened to them, to one at least. While they have left the Ashram, I’ve stuck on or got stuck. They were far stronger persons than I was or I am, far greater capacities they had than I had; and they had, I believe, a call, an urge towards this life, while, as I have told you, I had none. I was an unwilling victim and the irony of fate is that, as I said just now, I got stuck; I stayed on in the Ashram for good. I got stuck over this mystery, but found an answer in Sri Aurobindo’s writings. He wrote: «Strong people depend upon their strength, whereas weak people need support,» so I suppose, in my weakness, I needed the support of the divine and was able to remain here in spite of my weakness.

I told Him once, in one of my difficult moments – I had quite a number of them – that I didn’t know what had brought me here. I didn’t know what yoga was, I didn’t know that He was the Divine or an Avatar. «But this I know for certain that You have the power to keep me here; and there is no power on this earth which can take me away if You don’t want it.» I have quarrelled with Him a lot, as you know, wordy duels, rather windy. I even had the temerity to differ with Him and even to say that He was contradicting Himself. (Laughter) But in the end, whatever He said, I took it to be the final truth and I’ve tried to follow it. Perhaps therein lay my strength.

On another occasion, in another difficult moment, I wrote to Him, in half-fun and half-seriousness, «Please don’t forsake me,» and followed it with an anecdote which was current in our college days. Perhaps it will be interesting for you to hear because you love anecdotes. It was something like this: I was a student in intermediate arts and I had come as a fresher to the college. There was a librarian – not like our Medhananda180, by any means – a short, stumpy fellow, with close-cropped hair, half grey, half black, half brown! His complexion – I shouldn’t use the fine word ‘complexion’ – his colour was perhaps a patch darker than mine; and his trousers not much better than I had! He was a very irritable fellow, nobody liked him. He was the butt of all the students’ ire. He was slavish to the stronger people and a tyrant to the weaker. That was his nature. So all the students, including myself, used to poke fun at him; sometimes he used to catch us, sometimes we escaped. But very often he used to complain about us to the Principal, who was an Englishman. His complaints were so heavy and numerous that the Principal took no notice of them (Laughter) and he knew him very well. One day, I also was caught in the trap – you will be surprised to hear that, perhaps -my name was sent up and the Principal called me. The librarian said, «You have been called.» Well, with a trembling heart, I went before the Principal. He looked at me. First time that I came so near the Sahib! He asked me some questions and let me go. Then I went to the library and, from a distance, I showed my thumb181! (Laughter) Well, so this gentleman, as luck would have it, was visited by the Principal at an odd hour, when he was smoking a cigarette, if you please. I don’t know how far this story is true; it might very well have been concocted by the mischievous students. So when the Principal came, the poor fellow didn’t know what to do with the cigarette, he was taken aback by the visit – nonplussed, and the whole burning cigarette he put into his pocket (Laughter) and, with folded hands, stood like this before the Principal. «Sir sir, sir sir, sir, sir,» he started stammering, the Englishman wondering what’s the matter with this fellow, why he couldn’t utter a single word properly, while you understand what was happening in his pocket. (Laughter) It seems the cloth had caught fire and it was burning his skin too, but he couldn’t do anything, he was standing on his right leg, next moment on his left leg, then somehow the interview was over. But just before that, at the last moment, he said, «Sir sir, sir sir, cut me or beat me, don’t forsake me.» ‘Kato ar maro, as the saying goes in Bengali.

So I narrated the anecdote to Sri Aurobindo. «Cut me, Sir, or beat me, but don’t forsake me.» In the margin, when the book came back, I saw some words which I have never forgotten since then. In the margin, He had written, «Never! But beat a lot.» That word «never», coming just like a breeze from heaven, has worked upon me like a mantra. I felt so relieved, as if I had no responsibility at all. At all times, during difficult moments and trials, I have that faith, that He will never forsake me. I have that firm assurance entrenched in my heart. But at that moment, I forgot, or I was not satisfied; so I wrote to Him again, because we know that the Divine plays with words. So I wrote to Him: «Of course, I was very happy to have some assurance from you that you will never forsake me, but am I quite clear in understanding your statement? Is everything above board [Nirod-da asks the class: I hope you understand the phrase?], or is there some snag?» He wrote back: «Everything is above board.» So doubly assured, I felt very happy. You can understand when a word to that effect from Mother or Sri Aurobindo comes to you, what a great relief it is and that single word ‘never’ has stuck to me, as I said, like a mantra.

After His passing, there was some doubt in my mind: «Now that He has left his body, what about the assurance He gave me – ‘never’?» But, by and by, gradually I felt and I saw concretely that the word ‘never’ has ever maintained its relevance and promise.

Once or twice, Mother told me on my birthday: «I see Sri Aurobindo always occupied with you.» (Laughter) She told me the same thing more than once. I was certainly very gratified, felt fortified to hear that; but hearing is one thing, my friends, and having the concrete experience of it is another. And I have told you some of my experiences to prove that He has kept His promise and I believe He will continue to keep it.

I will read out a passage from the Essays on the Gita182 bearing on this:

Love of the Highest and a total self-surrender are the straight and swift way to this divine oneness. The equal Divine Presence in all of us makes no other preliminary condition, if once this integral self-giving has been made in faith and in sincerity and with a fundamental completeness. All have access to this gate, all can enter into this temple: our mundane distinctions disappear in the mansion of the All-lover. There the virtuous man is not preferred, nor the sinner shut out from the Presence; together by this road the Brahmin pure of life and exact in observance of the law and the outcaste born from a womb of sin and sorrow and rejected of men can travel and find an equal and open access to the supreme liberation and the highest dwelling in the Eternal. Man and woman find their equal right before God; for the divine Spirit is no respecter of persons or of social distinctions and restrictions: all can go straight to him without intermediary or shackling condition. «If» says the divine Teacher, «even a man of very evil conduct turns to me with a sole and entire love, he must be regarded as a saint, for the settled will of endeavour in him is a right and complete will. Swiftly he becomes a soul of righteousness and obtains eternal peace.»

This is the word of the Divine Teacher, Sri Krishna Himself. Now Sri Aurobindo interprets:

In other words a will of entire self-giving opens wide all the gates of the spirit and brings in response an entire descent and self-giving of the Godhead to the human being, and that at once reshapes and assimilates everything in us to the law of the divine existence by a rapid transformation of the lower into the spiritual nature. The will of self-giving forces away by its power the veil between God and man; it annuls every error and annihilates every obstacle. Those who aspire in their human strength by effort of knowledge and effort of virtue, or effort of laborious self-discipline, grow with much anxious difficulty towards the Eternal; but when the soul gives up its ego and its work to the Divine, God himself comes to us and takes up our burden. To the ignorant he brings the light of the divine knowledge, to the feeble the power of the divine will, and to the sinner the liberation of the divine purity, to the suffering the infinite spiritual joy and Ananda. Their weakness and the stumblings of their human strength make no difference. «This is my word of promise,» cries the voice of the Godhead to Arjuna, «that he who loves me shall not perish.» – Mark the words: «This is my word of promise ... not perish.» Previous effort and preparation, the purity and holiness of the Brahmin, the enlightened strength of the King-sage great in works and knowledge have their value, because they make it easier for the imperfect human creature to arrive at this wide vision of self-surrender; but even without this preparation, all who take refuge in the divine Lover of man, the Vaishya once preoccupied with the narrowness of wealth-getting and the labour of production, the Shudra hampered by a thousand hard restrictions, woman shut in and stunted in her growth by the narrow circle society has thrown around her self-expansion, those too, papa-yonayah, on whom their past karma has imposed even the very worst of births, the outcaste, the Pariah, the Chandala, find at once the gates of God opening before them. In the spiritual life, all the external distinctions, of which men make so much because they appeal with an oppressive force to the outward mind, cease before the equality of the divine Light and the wide omnipotence of an impartial Power.

So let us remember: «This is my word of promise that he who loves me shall not perish.» We don’t need to be great scholars. He clearly says here that, even without the preparation, all who take refuge in the divine Lover will be saved. You know the famous story of Sri Chaitanya. Perhaps you have seen the film in the Playground. Those two scoundrels, Jogai and Madhai, in their intoxication, hurt Sri Chaitanya badly and he was bleeding from his forehead, and even then he said: «Merecho kolsbi kana. Ta boleki prem dobona?»(Because they have hurt me, shouldn’t I love them?) This is the Divine Friend, Divine Love.

Then another anecdote comes to my mind, apropos of the relation between Sri Ramakrishna and his famous disciple with the independent spirit – Vivekananda, before he was converted. You know, I suppose, that Vivekananda was a fiery spirit and he would not accept all that his guru Sri Ramakrishna said, without testing it first. And Sri Ramakrishna encouraged him, «Yes, do test at every step. Don’t accept anything without testing.» There you are – so there are teachers and teachers. There are many examples of that sort, but those we shall take up another day.

So he would not accept whatever Sri Ramakrishna used to say to him. «I don’t believe it» used to be Vivekananda’s reaction. Sri Ramakrishna told him «You know, I see the Mother; I talk with Her, She feeds me.» Vivekananda used to listen quietly to all that Ramakrishna used to say and he did not answer. On one occasion, he lost his temper: «I don’t believe all that you say!» Then Sri Ramakrishna lost his temper: «Tobe re shala, ekhane ashish keno?» (If you don’t believe what I say, why the hell did you come here, why the devil did you come ?) Here «shala» would mean that. Then Vivekananda gave an answer: «Ami ashi, apnake bhalo bashi bole» (Because I love you, I come), and Sri Ramakrishna simply embraced him and forgot everything. It doesn’t matter whether you believe or don’t believe, the fact that you love me is enough. This is what divine love is. A true love. If we can love the Divine in this way well, forgetting our ego, that itself is a big achievement. Mother also said in one context, «I show my Divine form only to those who love me» – Divine form, mind you.

Sri Krishna said to Arjuna after the world vision: «I’ve shown these forms to you, which I don’t show even to the gods, this ‘VishwaPurusha’ vision because you love me, you are dear to me.» So such is love, such is the power of love, but love pure, unstained, undemanding, self-giving. That is the key to heaven. All that does not mean, my friends, that because I have loved Him I say all this to you; it is nothing of the sort. I didn’t love Him at first sight. (Laughter) I simply had some convictions; I don’t know how it was. I had not read much at that time and I had not had much occasion to know Him well, and yet there was some conviction, minor perhaps, I don’t know how. I had that conviction that He had the power to save me. So that conviction led me to say «You can save me.» This book (Essays on the Gita), as I’ve said to you younger people, is a wonderful book. The more you read it, in spite of yourself, you will become better human beings and your nature will change.

After seeing the vision, Arjuna was flabbergasted, as you can well understand. He prays, after that world vision, for that Godhead’s forgiveness for that casual carelessness and negligent ignorance with which he has treated Sri Krishna sometimes.

[Reading from «The Vision of the World-Spirit», Essays on the Gita (1966), 375]:

For whatsoever I have spoken to thee in rash vehemence, thinking of thee only as my human friend and companion, ‘O Krishna, O Yadava, O comrade,’ not knowing this thy greatness, in negligent error or in love, and for whatsoever disrespect was shown by me to thee in jest, on the couch and the seat and in the banquet, alone or in thy presence, I pray forgiveness from thee the immeasurable. Thou art the father of all this world of the moving and unmoving; thou art one to be worshipped and the most solemn object of veneration. None is equal to thee, how then another greater in all the three worlds, O incomparable in might? Therefore I bow down before thee and prostrate my body and I demand grace of thee the adorable Lord. As a father to his son, as a friend to his friend and comrade, as one dear with him he loves, so shouldst thou, O Godhead, bear with me. I have seen what never was seen before and I rejoice, but my mind is troubled with fear. Î Godhead, show me that other form of thine. I would see thee even as before crowned and with thy mace and discus. Assume thy four-armed shape, Î thousand-armed, Î Form universal.

Anuria could not bear to see Sri Krishna’s Vishwarupa183.

[Continuing to read from Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, 458 (19th January 1936)]:

Sri Aurobindo: Do I understand rightly that your contention is this, «I can’t believe in the Divine doing everything for me because it is by my own mighty and often fruitless efforts that I write or do not write poetry and have made myself into a poet»?

All that let us leave for another day. He wrote a long answer, then at the end, He said:

I am obliged to stop – if I go on, there will be no Pranam.

Mother used to give Pranam till twelve o’clock.

So send your Jeremiad back tonight and I will see what else to write.

He crushes me with His kindness!

Have written this in a headlong hurry.

So I sent it again and a longer answer came back. That again perhaps I’ll read sometime afterwards. But here I shall read some pertinent portions. So He says:

... It does not matter if you have not a leechlike tenacity – leeches are not the only type of Yogins. If you can stick anyhow or get stuck, that is sufficient. The fact that you are not Sri Aurobindo (who said you were ?) is an inept irrelevance. One needs only to be oneself in a reasonable way and shake off the hump when it is there, or allow it to be shaken off without clinging to it with a ‘leechlike tenacity’ worthy of a better cause.

Then at the end, He said:

Whoever was fit – for that matter, fitness and unfitness are only a way of speaking; man is unfit and a misfit (so far as things spiritual are concerned) – in his outward nature. But, within, there is a soul, and above, there is Grace.

Mark you, «within, there is a soul, and above, there is Grace.» And He continues:

«This is all you know or need to know»

This is a reference to Keats

... and, if you don’t, well, even then you have at least somehow stumbled into the path and have got to remain there till you get hauled along it far enough to wake up to the knowledge. Amen.

There you are! I needed to stick on here, and even if I wanted, I couldn’t leave. A similar message was sent through me, I remember, to my tottering and leaky boat, my friend Nishikanto – a message that said, «Ask him to stick on anyhow, anyhow; he needn’t do anything, bother about yoga, etc.; ask him to stick on anyhow.» Those of you who know him acknowledge him to be another sticky fellow with a stick in his hand. (Laughter) So poor fellow has stuck on anyhow and he hopes to stick on more! With stomach ‘hole-y’, with lungs unholy (Laughter), with a heart palpitating, and look how cheerful he still is! He doesn’t care a bit, what a wonderful fellow! There is nothing in him that is safe and sound, all the organs are insured (Laughter), and yet how wonderful it is. All of you don’t know what is happening inside him. The doctors have written him off (Laughter) – but there is a Supreme Doctor! How cheerful he is! He wants to die sometime soon and be born in the Green Group184 ... but that message of Sri Aurobindo makes him hold on -»Ask him to stick on anyhow!»

But it is a way of saying, for is there any power in us by which we can stick on? Impossible! It is He who makes us stick and uses it for His stick (Laughter). It is He alone. So if you can have that reliance, my friends, all is safe. That nirbhaya185, as He says, is the keynote of sadhana. But don’t know why I am telling you all this. Things have changed such a lot. My friends, you must remember that whether you have capacity or incapacity, it doesn’t matter in the least; yoga or bhoga186, it doesn’t matter. A girl told me, «I don’t know yoga.» You don’t need to know it. You know Mother. Let Her take care of you. Don’t bother about all that. Who knows yoga? Who knows if you have spiritual capacity or not ? To bother our heads about capacity will end us in ruin. Let us do our work and be cheerful with some sense of humour – that is very necessary, very necessary indeed. Otherwise we’ll make asses of ourselves.

But yes, I was tellingyou, all this is a past story, ladies and gentlemen. You have no difficulties at all. You take life merrily! The Ashram has become like a sea today, hasn’t it ? Open wide the gates – the steamers are coming, launches are coming, barges are coming and going freely. But at that time, narrow was the path, hard and razor-edged all the way. That’s why we had so many trials and tribulations, which you don’t face today because we have done tremendous sadhana for you! (Laughter)

Well now, how much time is left? Five minutes? So all this while, I have been beating my own drum. I want to now beat the drum for the Guru. I will read, since there are only five minutes left, a passage written about Sri Aurobindo – an appreciation, a picture, when He was in the political field in Calcutta. The title is «The Lotus of India’s Manasarovar187» – I suppose you know it and who the Lotus is.

Have you ever seen the spotless all-white lotus? The hundred-petalled lotus in full bloom in India’s Manasarovar! No lily or daffodil this, growing in odd and obscure corners of a European dwelling, scentless, mere play and display of colour! Of no use in worship of the gods, of no need in a sacrificial celebration. Sheer pomp and vanity in the western way. Our Aurobindo is a rare phenomenon in the world. In him resides the sattvic188 divine beauty, snow-white, resplendent. Great and vast – vast in the amplitude of his heart, great in the glory of his own self, his swadharma as a Hindu. So pure and complete a man – a fire-charged thunder, yet tender and delicate as the lotus-leaf. A man rich in knowledge, self-lost in meditation. You can nowhere find his like in all the three worlds. In order to free the land from her chains, Aurobindo has broken through the glamour of western civilisation, renounced all worldly comfort, and now as a son of the Mother, he has taken charge of the ‘Bande Mataram’. He is the Bhavananda, Jivananda, Dhirananda of Rishi Bankim189, all in one.

You, fellow-countrymen, touch no more those bloated, whining, moderate papers servilely echoing their master’s voice. This Aurobindo’s word will flood our breasts with cascades of patriotism, provide the impetus to the country’s service. The words of the ‘Bande Mataram’ will drive out your fear, steel your arms with the might of thunder; fire will course through your veins, death will put on a face of spring-time splendour. The mantric power of the ‘Bande Mataram’ will expel the venom of Anglomania; the infirmities sapping the national stamina will be things of the past. You will come to realise that those rifles and guns, jails and tribunals, governors and viceroys are so many empty-nothings. The feringhi’s190 frown and threat, rage and roar will vanish like an evil dream.

True, he has had his education in England, but he has not succumbed to its bewitching spell. An efflorescence of the glory of his country’s swadharma and culture, Aurobindo is now at the feet of the Motherland, as a fresh-bloomed lotus of autumn, aglow with the devotion of his self-offering. Oh, was there ever its like? Aurobindo is no fop sprung from the vulgarities of English life. That is why, a true son of the Mother, he has set up the Bhawani Temple191. There, bow down to the Mother, with the mantra of ‘Bande Mataram’. Swaraj is now no far-off event.

8 September 1969

When I told you in my talk last Wednesday that I went, like the Lord, to prison, but, unlike Him, saw nothing, perhaps you didn’t get the hint. Well, I did go to prison! After my matriculation, in 1920 or 1921, the Non-Cooperation Movement192 started. People were leaving schools and colleges to spread the word in the villages. After the annual matriculation and university exams, there was usually a leave for three months. So during this period, just for sheer fun, we joined the Non-Cooperation Movement. We had to go about lecturing in the villages. Then we two – I and a friend of mine (not Prodyot) – went about, far from home, preaching Hindu-Muslim unity, etc.; then we took food at people’s houses – nice experience really! We would roam from village to village and come back late at night. My mother, who knew nothing of all this, would ask me, «Where did you go ?» and 1 would just hush the thing up by avoiding answering her. While we waited for the examination results to be announced, we told ourselves, «This won’t do, we can’t join college now; we must continue this national work.» We made a fanciful and romantic move – we wrote to the Registrar of Calcutta University not to publish our results, and to strike out our names from the rolls!

Somehow, the news of our dubious deed leaked out, and my mother was very worried and said, «You foolish fellow, what is this you have done? You should study; this is the time for it. You have struck out your name?» Soon, some of my relatives came to know of it and they came over to see me – they were well-placed in the upper circles of society, so you can understand my predicament. They began bombarding me, «What have you done ? Why have you done this ?» (They were asking this especially because there was a chance of my getting good results). Thus, they tried to persuade me to retract what I had done, but they failed in their persuasion. So they left me, but they were clever – they wrote to the Registrar: «This boy acted out of foolishness,» etc. etc. So the results came out and they were good! We were all very happy to see them.

Before their publication, we had decided not to budge, but now I changed my mind. Also because the Non-Cooperation Movement had come to a sort of a standstill. I told my mother, «I’ll go to Calcutta. I don’t want to study any more in the local school of Chittagong.» There was a big railway strike at that time, stretching from Chittagong to Calcutta. So we had to take special permission from the magistrate. It was the first time that I was facing a magistrate (a European) in the court and he gave me the special travel pass. I made the long journey and at last reached Calcutta. I joined a second-class college as the best ones had no vacancies. There too, the Non-Cooperation Movement had started. There were all kinds of rowdy people in our college – it was a second-class college, as I said. We were lodged in a hostel with about two hundred other students. There also, the Non-Cooperation Movement organisers came and gave us lectures to join them. So we chose our leaders and plunged into the movement.

Somewhere in July, the tempo increased. I remember that, in September or October, C. R. Das193 and his wife – or maybe it was his son, I don’t remember – were arrested, and the whole of Calcutta was affected by it. There was great excitement and movement. Then picketing began. They went in front of shops and asked the shopkeepers to boycott British goods and to call for hartals194. As leaders were being arrested, there was great excitement on a large scale. Now the students came forward and took up the lead. Leaders came to our hostel and told us that we must take up the challenge. The British government is arresting our men, we must stop them. So one after another, leaders from the hostel came forward and batches were formed.

The Prince of Wales was to visit India soon, and Mahatma Gandhi said he must be boycotted. The spinning of charkha and wearing of khaddar195 became more widespread. Volunteers were necessary to preach then; everywhere you could hear the cries:

Charkha kato!

Prince of Wales ko boycott karo!

Khaddar pehno196!

How effective it was! So all of us said, the call has come – what should we do? We must do something. We formed a group of ten to twelve boys; we went to a place, sat down and volunteered our names. Most of us were enlisted. I was the youngest in the group. It was to start the next day. I decided to go, without any hesitation. I packed my things in a trunk: books and clothes. Then I went to meet some friends and relatives. There was also a monk, a far-off relative of mine, who was a lecturer in the ancient language of Pali at Calcutta University. He was a very fine man; there was something spiritual in him. I went to tell him about my decision that I was going for picketing. Then I gave him two letters – one for my mother, the other for Prodyot, my friend. I gave instructions to the monk that if I did not return he should deliver the letters (for it would mean that I’d been arrested), otherwise he shouldn’t. He was very much surprised to hear all this, but he was a person who never persuaded anybody for or against anything.

Then something very interesting happened – there was a young chap at my college, younger than I, who attached himself to me and said, «I’ll come along with you.» All my fellow-volunteers were naturally surprised and tried to dissuade him, but nothing doing, he clung to me. I had never known him except by face, and here he was, wanting to come with me. I said, «Sabbash197! Come along.» So both of us went first to the quarters of the officers organising the local movement, where we had to enter our names. There, people from all walks of life were coming in as volunteers – workers, mill-hands, bidiwallas198, students, all came. Each had a khadi flag in hand and shouted:

Khaddar karo!

Prince of Wales ko boycott karo!

Hindu-Muslim ek ho-o!199

We began our procession from the centre of Calcutta. We passed many policemen on the way, but up to the end, nobody was arrested. Whenever I saw a policeman, my heart palpitated. So throughout the procession, I had two predominant feelings: patriotism and fear! That day I wasn’t arrested. I came back, but nobody knew200. The second day, I went to my morning classes; then in the afternoon, my young friend and I started again from the same place.

There were crowds and crowds, a lot of shouting and great pandemonium. On every lip were the cries of Bande Mataram and Allah Ho Akbar201. One batch was arrested and there were louder shouts. We marched along quite a distance, near the police station, and near the river Ganges. Then we came to the sergeants’ quarters – saw a big lawn where they were relaxing and having drinks: sorbet and tea, etc. We passed by, shouting the slogans, then a sergeant came out and asked, «What are you shouting?» We replied suitably. Then he thundered: «Why?» We said, «Because we are picketing.» We were arrested! So we didn’t return home, and I don’t know what they must have all done at home. But the funny part is that from all those in our college who had enlisted their names, only two persons had kept their word – my young friend and I.

We were taken and put into a ‘hajat’ – a temporary prison. We were about a hundred persons, out of which there were very few students. The others were mill-hands, labourers and workers. So you can imagine how hungry we all were by the end of the day. I never used to take much tea back then! We were lucky to get delicious dishes like luchis202, vegetables, halva203, etc. from the Marwadis204, who were very generous to us. At about 8 p.m., the police van came, a very big one, and many of us were bundled in. Our van went out and we shouted ‘Bande Mataram’ throughout and there was an echo from the crowds along the way. The police threatened to beat us with lathis205, but we continued shouting, always getting a response from the huge crowds.

Then we came to Alipore Jail, where Sri Aurobindo had been incarcerated. It was 9 p.m. Our names were entered, we were given two smelly blankets and one bowl each, also smelly and rusty. You have read the fine description of the bowl that Sri Aurobindo gave in His Tales of Prison Life206:

Properly washed and cleaned, my self-sufficing plate and bowl shone like silver, it was the solace of my life. In its impeccable, glowing radiance in the ‘heavenly kingdom’, in that symbol of immaculate British imperialism, I used to enjoy the pure bliss of loyalty to the Crown. Unfortunately, the plate too shared in the bliss, and if one pressed one’s fingers a little hard on its surface it would start flying in a circle, like the whirling dervishes of Arabia.

So that was all the property we had! The vans came one by one, filled with people shouting ‘Bande Mataram’. Then we all met and there was such a pandemonium, all enquiring about each other, shouting and echoing. It was dinner time, but how could we take food in that horrible bowl? But luckily enough, it was the day for serving meat! Once a fortnight, or once a month, they served meat, and as luck would have it, we had arrived on that very day! But the problem was – where to wash? We wanted to wash ourselves, our hands and feet. There was a sort of a drain there where a thin flow of water ran along, so we had to be satisfied with that. Imagine, we had to wash even our mouth there!

After all this, we went and sat down on a pavement sort of thing that was built all around, and some of the prisoners working there served us rice and meat. The meat was hardly recognisable; it was only gravy with the smell of meat; and in that huge amount, two or three pieces of meat floating. Somehow we gulped it down to appease our hunger. The rice – oh, if only you had seen it! Very often, there were cockroaches floating in it or even mice. You know, it was the old, rotten rice that had been stored in shops for months and was bought by the jail authorities at a very low cost. And they couldn’t even afford to clean it, the quantity being great (cooked for about a thousand prisoners). Luckily for me, I didn’t get any mouse, but cockroaches, I did. Then there was a vegetable dish that was very coarse. They collected all sorts of leaves and rotten cabbages and old vegetables and threw them into big cauldrons of boiling water. The dal207 was nothing but water – no oil, no spices, nothing. Only to show that they had cooked it, they made a little oil float on it. And anybody who was ‘lucky’ got a small bit of a chilli and he would shout: «Ah, lonka pe chhi (I’ve got a chilli)!»

In the morning, we had the famous lapsi208 that Sri Aurobindo has so wonderfully described. It was really tasteless and horrible. As for sleeping accommodations, while there was total room for about a hundred persons, we were three hundred of us, in our section alone! So we spread a blanket on the floor, which served as a mattress, and with the other we covered ourselves. And space being little, we slept huddled together. As for nature’s call, we had to go just behind the room used for sleeping. So you can imagine the abominable stink! Oh, it was simply horrible!

Then they began allowing relatives and friends to visit us, and they all came and asked us, «What do you want? «What do you need? Tell us.» We said, «We don’t want anything much, but give us dhotis and a few cakes of soap.» We had no soap there. So they brought them very gladly and we too received them very gladly.

There was also, along with us, Mahatma Gandhi’s eldest son who was a very nice fellow. He used to receive, from time to time, parcels from the big shots, and he would share the contents with all of us. Poor fellow! We were so many that he could give us only a litle bit of the food stuff: chilli pickles, sweets, etc. He was a sort of a leader amongst us.

One day, a big officer came to enquire about the jail conditions, and we revolted and threatened to go on a hunger strike. He said, «Be patient, be patient, I’ll look into the matter.» Suddenly, after a week or two, there were revolutionary changes. We began getting fish, vegetables, curry, halva, rice, chapatti, etc. for all the four meals -we were fed with a prince’s diet! But the only condition was that we would have to cook it all ourselves. So much the better, for plenty of us knew cooking. And, moreover, we got ghee, oil, spices, everything – everything we wanted. Every day was like a veritable marriage feast. We could not believe that such a transformation had taken place. Of course, there was a purpose behind all this opulence – the government wanted to please Gandhi. In our batch of prisoners, one of my friends, who was from the same village as I, became the chief cook and I became his assistant! He was a very nice fellow, worked very hard the whole day long. What a change there was!

Then there was talk that the government would reduce our sentence from seven months to two months, and would let us go. So naturally there was a consultation as to who would go first, as everybody was eager to go home. Some went out first, promising that they’d plead for us! Then the time came for our chief cook to go, and the burden fell on me! I became the head cook and my young friend, the boy from my college, became my assistant. This went on for about fifteen days. We enjoyed the post for we were given immense freedom. We saw the whole jail system. I was very much respected due to my role of chief cook. So the prison life was quite easy and we all felt almost as if at home.

After cooking, we usually had a swim in the pond there, then went up on the terrace and sang and danced. As for brushing our teeth, we had no toothpaste or brush, but we discovered two or three neem trees209 in the garden, and soon the whole garden was uprooted! We saw the place where prisoners were whipped. Their hands and feet would be tied, and they would be put into a type of frame and whipped mercilessly. Fortunately, we didn’t actually see anybody being treated thus. We saw the hospital. We didn’t see the place where Sri Aurobindo was held prisoner, for we weren’t interested. Those days, Mahatma Gandhi was our hero. We saw other places also.

There was quite a hierarchy amongst the prisoners. For example, a banker would become the head due to a long period of imprisonment which had brought him experience, and an uneducated thief would get the lowest rank, etc. Gandhi’s son even had a special servant who cooked strictly vegetarian food for him and did all the other work for him.

One incident I still remember, and I still repent over it. One day, I was cooking fish and a ‘low-class’ prisoner came and pinched two fish. I, in the foolishness of my youth, reported it to the superintendent. And the unfortunate fellow got such a thrashing... Oh God! You see, I still haven’t forgotten it. What was the use of my reporting? So what if he took two fish from two hundred or three hundred of them? But all this didn’t strike me then.

We even held pujas210 there. We invited Subhash Chandra Bose and he came for the puja. C. R. Das also was invited, but I don’t know whether he was there. Anyway, we had good fun during those two months of prison life.

Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. When the Non-Cooperation Movement was going on and I hadn’t the slightest idea of taking it up, and while some other students were taking part in it, my niece (with whom I went to England later), was in a women’s hostel then (she was in second year intermediate, and I in the first year), and I went to see her. We were talking and she suddenly said, «Mama, if you had been to prison, we would have been so proud of you!» You ladies, how you can fire up men’s ambitions! Thus the seed was sown; then you know all that followed. I do not know the reaction of my mother.

But of one thing I am certain, that this prison life was a turning point in my life. Before that, I had an ideal but it wasn’t very strong. In the jail life, though it was simple and happy, I got something there that made me decide to be serious now. What was in my mind began to take a definite shape. It was a real turning point in my life.

After coming out of prison, I went to see my nieces, nephews and all other relatives. My niece simply burst out with, «Mama, you’ve grown fat. We thought you would become thin and depressed, that you would be thinner. But you look so happy.» In spite of it, they would not believe that we had actually enjoyed life in the jail.

In prison, there was another interesting thing. We could get anything by bribing the guards. They would hide bidis, cigarettes, etc. in their turbans and get them for us. There was quite a bit of gambling, once we could flatter the guards. And one of the chief occupations or enjoyments was playing cards. So this was the big adventure. Quite a romantic sort of life!

I continued to work for the Non-Cooperation Movement even after coming out of prison. In April, we were to observe the jallianwalla Bagh day – that meant fasting. My mother didn’t know anything about it. She asked me to eat and I said, «I won’t take anything.» She got worried – you know how mothers are! «Why, why, my son, are you not well?» «No, I am all right, but I’m not hungry.» Then, at noon, I felt very hungry and was somehow bearing it, when my mother came with some bael sorbet211. «You’ll have to take this!» Really, we are not even supposed to drink water, but after such a lot of coaxing on her part and temptation on mine, I took it. But the hunger was not appeased, though I felt much better. I tied a towel tight round my stomach – you know, that’s how they used to fast – and somehow the day passed. Then at night I had a good, heavy dinner.

11 September 1969

Yet shall they look up as to peaks of God

And feel God like a circumambient air

And rest on God as on a motionless base212.

[After having written the above quotation on the board]

What a feat of memory!

Friends, comrades and fellow-travellers! (I am becoming Shakespearean!) Because I’ve been suffering from some troubles and since you are my very, very good friends, I will as usual lay down my heart of troubles before you and hope that you will shed some sympathetic tears (which is very common among you) over my problems. Although I say ‘my heart of troubles’, it is not my ‘sweet heart’ that troubles me, to quote Amrita-da213; it is my fuzzy head that is the seed of the trouble. A peculiar kind of headache I’m suffering from, for a long time now, which unfortunately cannot be located. It is neither like Sri Aurobindo’s headache which remained above the head, nor is it beneath. If you would excuse my use of medical knowledge, neither is it frontal, nor occipital, nor temporal, nor intracranial. Well, it seems to be somewhere in the mind. That means, it is a psychological headache. And the causes are various. But one particular cause that I have found I’ll tell you later. When I suffer from it, I feel like Shakespeare (that’s why I started my lecture in imitation of Shakespeare) addressing, you know, the famous piece which goes something like: «Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,/ Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow ...?»214 etc. Or I feel like sending an

SOS to my Guru as I had done once in rhyme:

O Guru, O Guru,

My head, my head

and the damned fever -

Iam half-dead


with pain and pressure!

But blessed liver

functions quite well.

Please send the other

to hell, oh to hell!

And He replied in a similar vein:

Cheer up! Things might have been so much worse. Just think if you had been a Spaniard in Madrid or a German communist in a concentration camp! Imagine that and then you will be quite cheerful with only a cold and headache. So:

Throw off the cold,

damn the fever,

be sprightly and bold

And live for ever.

(Laughter) But since none of these sources is available and you are the nearest (Laughter), I appeal to you. Funnily enough, this malady comes usually on Tuesdays215. (Laughter) It lasts for a long time, unless some remedy is found, but fortunately it is found and that too by my lady-physicians. (Laughter) They doctor upon the doctor! They’re some sort of aswini kumaris216. Don’t be surprised that I call them kumaris. We are all kumaras and kumaris in spite of marriage217.

However, yesterday, just when I was threatened with this headache, one of these aswini kumaris glided in with a fine packet of aspro (aspirin) to cure my headache. This aswini kumari, who goes by a mortal name (Laughter), said with a gracious smile, «Take this and you’ll feel ever so much better.» Well, her smile had already cured it by half, and the rest was done by the packet. It worked like a charm. So I could not do better than present it to you, fearing that you also at one time or another must be suffering from headache or heartache due to some indigestion either of liver or of stomach, and so you too can take this packet conveniently. You will see what a relief you get by it.

Well, I suppose I should get to the subject of my talk today without beating about the bush any more. The thing is that there is an article here: «My Friend and My Master», written by one of our old sadhaks, whose name was Charu Dutt. These ladies, when they were barely bigger than a thumb, used to call him ‘Dadu and would be regaled by his fascinating stories. Mother once remarked about him that he was a born storyteller. For the rest, what he was and what he did, etc., has been very well put here, in this somewhat long article. I’m not quite sure that we’ll be able to finish it within the limited amount of time we have, unless you allow me to go beyond time and space for a while. (Laughter) So I’ll read it without further delay or introductory remarks.

He wrote this piece after the passing of the Master. He says that he had already published, in two special numbers of an outside magazine218, some articles on Sri Aurobindo, but there were other things of a more or less intimate nature which, out of delicacy, he’d kept back at the time, and many of his friends are now pressing him to write about them. Still, he’s hesitated for several months.

[Reading from Sri Aurobindo Circle, 8:1952]

Since the passing away of the Master, strange tales about his earlier life have been sprouting out, like mushrooms, all around us. The phenomenon is natural enough after a long period of reticence and it can do harm, for Sri Aurobindo is above human appraisement. But in this atmosphere, I feel very shy about unpacking my bundle of rags, invaluable though they are to me. If he had but once glanced at them, they would have turned to priceless shawl and brocade. Still he is my all, and, wherever he may be, I am sure he would protect me and guide me. I look for no protection against censure, for censure is to me a laurel crown; it is guidance I need, as to what can be said and how. In the matter of very intimate experiences, human language is an inadequate medium of expression. My readers have probably heard of the great mystic of Sindh, Shah Latif. He has told a story, something like this, bearing on the point: «One day I was sitting by the village well meditating on my beloved. (The Sufi loves to call God his beloved, his M’ashuqa). The women of the village were coming and going with their pots. Suddenly I saw three very pretty girls, approaching the well. As they passed by me laughing merrily, I heard them speaking of the delirious joy they had felt in their husbands’ company the night before. One of them, the youngest, was shy and spoke very little. The other two chafed her and said, «What, little one, you did not experience any joy?’ ‘Joy!’ was the reply, ‘Yes, sister, very great joy. But how can I describe it in words?’ They passed along. I closed my eyes and said to my beloved, ‘Truly, M’ashuqa, can that bliss be described?’»

Do I not know the ecstasy of union with my Master ? Of course I do, but without his Grace I cannot convey it to others. Well, I lay my difficulty at his feet, let him solve it as he will. I never hesitated to tell him anything. Face to face with him, all sense of awe and fear, of shyness and shame, vanishes into thin air – a soft sweet rosy light of love pervades me. But am I so unfortunate as not to know that my Aurobindo is also the Lord of all – and the Supreme transcending all ? No, I certainly know him to be all this, but my direct perception, my intimate contact is of the Lord of my heart. If he leads me to realise his other aspects, I shall realise them. When on the 5th of December last, at early dawn, I saw him in his last sleep, tears gushed out of my eyes, and I said almost audibly, «I shall never see that sweet face again!» I wept then for my friend, comrade and master of yore who had passed away – not for the Lord of the Universe who is deathless. Thereafter he consoled me and I wept no more. But a void remained in the heart, a hidden grief that something that was is no more. But it is equally true that He is ever present within me, present more intensely than he had been before.

Well, I shall just give a sort of an introduction in one or two words which will also come in the course of the article. Charu Dutt had been an I.C.S. officer, a government servant; and though he was an I.C.S. officer, he took part in Sri Aurobindo’s revolutionary activity. So he addresses Sri Aurobindo as the Leader and the Chief. He served under Him and was a very loyal friend. So the intimacy grew from that time, but there was a break, then it was renewed again. This much is enough for an introduction, the rest you will find in the article itself:

In the remote past, when I was a school boy, Benoy, the eldest brother of Aurobindo, came to live in our little town. He used to regale us with interesting stories of many lands, and spoke often of his favourite brother, Auro, of his sweet temper and brilliant genius, of the fond love that their father bore him. But along with all this lavish praise he would always refer to his brother’s stubborn nature – «But, by Jove! He was as obstinate as a mule!» Now we are all familiar with the old portrait of Sri Aurobindo as a boy of eleven. His brilliant intelligence and sweet temper are apparent enough thetein, but there is nothing to indicate that he was «obstinate as a mule».

I am sure there are many mules here! (Laughter)

In his actual life, however, we have had many instances of an unbending nature, that is to say, of firm determination rather than of stubbornness. His famous letters to his wife amply indicate this firmness, along with a loving and affectionate nature. His failure to appear at the riding test in England was no idle whim. As he explained to me one day, it was the least unpleasant way of letting his father know that he did not want to join the I.C.S.

See how considerate He was. In this connection, I remember a story but I don’t know if it is true. When Sri Aurobindo was in Calcutta and taking part in political activities, He knew one of the youngsters who had joined the movement. I don’t know whether that youngster was the only son or one of many sons, but he used to remain absent from home for quite a number of days, and naturally his mother used to be upset about it. So he told his tale of sorrow to Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo said, «No, no, no, don’t do that. You should not cut off all connections abruptly. First you should tell your mother, ‘Mother, I’m going, I’ll come back the day after tomorrow.’ Then when you come again, tell your mother, ‘This time I’ll come after a week.’ Then you’ll prolong the absence in this way, so that your mother gets used to your separation.» So this is His consideration for others’ feelings!

I always looked upon Aurobindo as a resolute man, – a man who knew his mind. As my revolutionary chief, he was never whimsical or capricious. But his outstanding quality was an infinite compassion; his justice was ever tempered by mercy. I am speaking, just now, of the period before his final departure from Calcutta, when he acted principally under the guidance of his rational intelligence. Once in 1907, a report came to him that a certain young revolutionary worker had been guilty of grave misconduct. I was then in Calcutta. Ordinarily, in such cases, we took the necessary action and informed him of it. But he took up this particular case himself and ordered a very severe punishment. When he told me of it, I assured him that his order would be carried out without delay. My difficulty was that I was not myself convinced of the young fellow’s guilt. But it was not for me to reason why, when I received an order. So I issued the necessary directions. Next morning, I found him sitting listlessly with a sad look on his face and asked, «You quite well, Chief ?» He replied, «I don’t feel comfortable about that matter of yesterday. Have I been hasty ? You never said anything, Charu!» «Do I ever say anything when you issue an order?» I got up promptly and walked out saying, «Let me see how far things have gone. If at all possible, I shall stay execution of your order.» Luckily, it was not too late, and the previous order was countermanded. His mercy stepped in to temper the severity of his justice. Those who have had the good fortune of attending on the Master personally, here in the Ashram, have had daily experience of his sweet temper and his beautiful smile. But we others, we have seen instances, too, where a sadhak, gone astray, was recklessly proceeding to dig his own grave, while the Master was trying persistently to save him. The Lord of the sinful, the Lord of the destitute, the Lord of the weak, has ever been like this!

When in 1890 I came to Calcutta for my studies, I used to hear a great deal about Aurobindo Ghose. Whatever we heard astonished us greatly. The son of a rabidly Europeanized man like Dr. K. D. Ghose, a boy brought up in England from early boyhood, has so thoroughly Indianised himself in his dress and food and habits that people can never cease talking of it. And when he married, he chose a very young Bengali bride and went through the whole of the old-fashioned Hindu rites! People told us that he was a man vastly learned in Western lore and was now engaged diligently in learning Sanskrit and various modern Indian languages. Young as we were, we could not quite tally things. But we said often to ourselves that Bhupal Babu’s little girl, Minu, was indeed a lucky wife. Her clever husband was bound to be the Diwan219 of Baroda one day. I had always been very anxious to have a glimpse of this prodigy, but had no luck. In 1896,I went away to Europe for a few years, and it was not till my return home that I met him casually on the Baroda station platform, as I have already stated elsewhere.

In the seventies of the last century, when the famous Keshub Chandra Sen220 had gone to England, he had created a sensation, and the Punch221 wrote of him:

Who is this Keshub Chandra Sen?

Bigger than a bull, smaller than a wren,

Is this Keshub Chandra Sen?

Twenty years later, much the same question passed and repassed in the Indian mind with regard to Aurobindo Ghose. Who and what is this wonderful young man ? Is he going to be somebody truly great or is he going to droop and wither like so many others ?

And what did his English fellow-students think of him? A couple of very short stories would give my readers some indication of this. In the second year of my service, (I had not met Aurobindo as yet), I had a boss of the name of Percy Mead. He was a very nice fellow, only a little older than I. Once, while we were camping not far from each other, he asked me to go over to his camp the next day, saying, «There are some important matters pending, which we can fix up when we meet. Then we shall have a short walk, a simple meal and a long chat. In the morning I shall ride with you a part of the way to your camp.» I rode up, accordingly, to Mead’s camp the next day, arriving at about 4 p.m. The work took us about an hour to finish. After that we rambled in the fields till dusk. After a quiet dinner, we chatted for a couple of hours on a variety of things, big and small, and got into bed about midnight. In a little while, Mead called out, «Dutt, are you a Bengali?» I said, «I am, but why do you ask?» He replied, «There was an Indian student in my days at the varsity, a great classical scholar, who had well-nigh beaten all record in Latin and Greek. His name was Aurobindo Akroyd Ghose. I knew him well. In fact, he helped me materially in my studies. Do you know him? I have an idea that he was a Bengali, though some fellows, because of his English middle name, said he was a Christian.» I laughed, «No, he is not a Christian, he is a Hindu Bengali. I know his people, but I have not actually met him as yet.

He is the vice-principal of the Baroda college.» Mead said, «It is a pity that the man is an Indian and has had to come to this country. He would have been a famous professor in Cambridge. Well, Dutt, remember me to him when you meet him and tell him Percy Mead of Cambridge was inquiring after him. Good night!» A couple of years later, I recounted the tale to Aurobindo. He replied promptly, «Yes, I remember young Mead. He was a nice fellow, not stuck-up like the average public school man.»

Another English civilian, once a fellow-student of Aurobindo, made a funny remark to me, some years later: «Fancy, Ghose a ragged revolutionary! He can with far greater ease write a big lexicon or compose a noble epic.» I have forgotten the mans name, but he had a great regard for his fellow-student of the old days. I wonder if he is still alive and read Savitri. Truth to tell, no one understood my chief, not even his clever Maharaja. In 1907, when I met His Highness in Baroda, he said to me quite solemnly, «Try and persuade your friend not to resign his job here. Let him go on extending his leave. Otherwise they are sure to lock him up.» When I told Aurobindo this, he laughed out, «The old man will never understand my politics. Still, he is fond of me, I suppose. Of course, you would say it is the fondness of the Moslem housewife for the fowl that she is fattening up for the festive meal.»

That is typical Aurobindonian stuff; the remark carries the pakka Aurobindonian seal.

But I was always sure that I understood his politics. I had a fear all along that he would suddenly leave us, one day, to go up to a higher plane. Well, has he not done so more than once? From Baroda to Calcutta, from Calcutta to Pondicherry, from Pondicherry to another world, as soon as he received the call from within, or from above! As long as I did not realise that he was the embodied Divine, I tried to appraise his actions by my intellect. That he was always a Yogi, a seeker, I never doubted. Towards the end of his Baroda days, he initiated Deshapande and Madhavrao222 in the Onkar Mantra223, and they practised it assiduously. What he did, or tried to do, all along, for an absolute duffer like me, I am going to relate presently. When the time truly came for me to enter the spiritual path, he took a decisive step. His compassion towards me was boundless. He had gone on preparing me by a series of very subtle steps, before he finally threw wide open the portals of my heart. All this I shall recount, as I go on.

In 1910, at the end of my compulsory furlough, I rejoined my job in Sindh. The chief left Calcutta the same year and took up a new line of work here in Pondicherry. All this I have related already. In 1925,I retired from service and took up residence in Bengal. For some time I had to encounter very stormy and inclement weather, and my wife used to tell me constantly, «Go and see Ghose Saheb; he will give you peace.» But I could not get over my huff as yet; I could not forget how he had deserted us, at a critical time. I worked for Rabindranath [Tagore] for about seven years. I took up literary work. I dabbled in art. But nothing brought me peace. Probably, association with the great poet somewhat broadened my narrow and blood-thirsty patriotism. It was, however, nothing to speak of. Occasionally some letters of Sri Aurobindo came to my hand; I read them eagerly, but without much understanding. About this time, a young sadhak of the Pondicherry Ashram wrote a very kind letter to me, somewhat in this strain, «There are many of us here who are very keen on meeting you. Won’t you pay us a short visit ?» However much of a rationalist I might have been, I believed that these people were in quest of something sublime and, what is more, they had, in their Master, the greatest spiritual personality of the age. Still, I did not respond to the cordial invitation of this young Yogi. I wrote to him, «I shall not go to your Ashram to satisfy my curiosity. When I go, it will be to offer myself.» Idle words! For, today, I know whose loving hand was invisibly pulling the strings the whole time, unfit though I was for a spiritual life.

At this time, I was fully occupied in writing on a variety of subjects – physical sciences for the young, a biography of Shivaji for the University, a history of the national movement for the Congress, novels and short stories for the general reader, and a number of reviews for periodicals. Strangely enough, it was a writing of this last class that changed the whole tenor of my life.

Mark how one’s tenor of life can be changed by simple incidents. Perhaps you remember the line in Savitri224:

A casual passing phrase can change our life.

To continue with the article:

It was like this. I wrote a very long review of Jawaharlal’s Autobiography in the Viswa-Bharati quarterly225, which attracted some notice, at least of people who knew me. A sadhak of the Pondicherry Ashram sent this review up to Sri Aurobindo with certain words of hyperbolic praise about myself and asked this question, «Did you, Guru, have any contact with this gentleman of yore? Political?» The reply of the Master came down promptly, «Charu Dutt? Yes, saw very little of him, for physically our ways lay far apart, but that little was very intimate, one of the band of men I used most to appreciate and felt as if they had been my friends, comrades and fellow-warriors in the battle of the ages and would be so for ages more. But curiously enough, my physical contact with men of this type, there were two or three others, was always brief. Because I had something else to do this time, I suppose.»

The young sadhak sent this reply to me in Calcutta. On seeing it I was overwhelmed by a sense of shame and sorrow. I sat stupefied for a while. Then my good wife said, «I have told you so often before. Go to him for a while, he will give you peace.»

I wrote immediately to my Pondicherry friend, «The time has come for my pilgrimage to your Ashram. Please take Sri Aurobindo’s permission and make necessary arrangements.» What wonderful Grace! Here I am, an insignificant person; for thirty whole years I have, through a stupid huff, kept away from Him and spoken irreverently of Him, at least in my thoughts, and He, the great Soul, has been, unknown to me, drawing me, gently but persistently, to His feet once again. The reply from Pondicherry came promptly. Sri Aurobindo has permitted me to be present at the next Februarv Darshan. Not only has he accorded his gracious permission, but has cracked a homely joke at my expense – «Does he still smoke that old pipe of his? If so, how can he live in the Ashram?» I was then in a very happy mood. I replied, «Tell Sri Aurobindo that my pipe is my servant; I am its master.»

He was a very witty man, you can see. Sri Aurobindo’s friends were all witty men! (Laughter) If not witty, they were made witty.

Thus far it was easy enough; but I was a stranger to the Mother of the Ashram! So much had I heard about her, both from her devotees and her detractors! I had paid no heed to things that people said of her. It was easy enough to see that she was a remarkable and powerful personality. I had in the past come into contact with great European women like Mrs. Besant and Sister Nivedita, but there never was any question there of my prostrating myself before them, they were not Divine personalities! However, these things had not passed through my mind before I was actually face to face with the Mother in Pondicherry. When the difficulty arose, the Master himself, in his infinite Mercy, solved it for me. Otherwise my Yoga would have ended even at its commencement. It is best that I should own up to what happened. In these days, there used to be a general blessing by the Mother, on the eve of the Darshan. Along with others, I filed into the meditation hall escorted by a kind friend. At the very last moment, the thought passed through my mind, «If I do not feel inclined to touch the feet of this European lady what then ?» I decided immediately that I would not play the hypocrite.

Such was the man – straightforward. No hypocrisy, no diplomacy; what he felt he would say and he would do. He was known in his service as the ‘Revolutionary Judge’. He used to speak openly of revolution. So you see, here is the man: «I would not play the hypocrite» – that is sincerity!

If I did not feel disposed to touch the Mother’s feet, I would just do an ordinary namaskar by raising my joined hands to the forehead, and then, immediately on returning to my quarters, I would write a letter to her – «Revered Mother, unable to fall in with the Ashram discipline, I am leaving Pondicherry forthwith.» The Master saved me from this dire disaster. As soon as I glimpsed the Mother’s radiant feet, I cried to myself, «Fool, fool! You thought these were human feet!» and rushed forward to seize them. A powerful current passed through my frame, and the problem of the Mother’s personality was solved for ever. On the morrow of the Darshan, Nirodbaran, the Master’s constant attendant, asked me, «What happened, Sir? Why did the Master say, – ‘So, Charu Dutt did bow down before the Mother!’» I explained, in all pride, to the friends present, how the Master had saved me.

Yes, Sri Aurobindo had asked us, «Did Charu Dutt bow down to the Mother?»

Let me, now, describe in short my first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo. My readers can easily imagine how, with trembling feet and a heart all a-flutter, I crossed the threshold of the hall. I had my eyes closed. At the time when I faced the throne, I opened my eyes and had just one glimpse of a face, sky-blue in tint, a shadowy peacock feather on the head. A beautiful benign face, but I could not bear to look at it again. I averted my face and walked away.

This I remember very well because all of us were curious to see him pranam! (Laughter)

My one thought, if I had any thought at all at the time, was that I must not break down. A couple of days later, Puraniji, an old sadhak, came to see me and said, «Charu Babu, I asked Sri Aurobindo -’How did you find your old friend, Sir?’ – He laughed and replied – ‘Charu would not let me have a look at him.’» It was perfectly true. How could I look him in the face! Thus began my sadhana. Who knows, probably I am still going round and round the starting point. But one thing is quite clear to me. It is that I have received His Grace and that the end is certain.

The very first time that I had the chance I submitted to the Mother that I was absolutely ignorant of things divine and that my sole spiritual observance was the nightly recital of a very short prayer that my own mother had taught me in my infancy. The Divine Mother solemnly looked into my eyes and assured me that my prayers would be guided in future. And guided they have been, steadily and effectively. That earnest look of the Mother was my initiation.

There are one or two tales to relate in this connection. For several years, I had the habit of reading the whole Gita daily – the kind of reading known as Parayana, where the words and their significance flow side by side spontaneously. But this was a habit cultivated within the last 25 years. During the first decade of this century, when I [first] came within Sri Aurobindo’s orbit, I was a casual Gita student, reading that scripture with the help of the commentaries and thinking out the meaning in the usual way. I never, however, studied it with Sri Aurobindo. He discussed history and politics with me, read poetry and drama to me in many languages, but never attempted to teach me religion or philosophy. As I have mentioned already, he had given some spiritual instruction to a couple of friends in Baroda; but when, one day, I put him one or two questions about sadhana, he put me off summarily by saying, «Not yet.» But, really speaking, he had never been indifferent to my spiritual welfare. He gave me only as much as I was capable of receiving at the time. I understood the mantra ‘Bande Mataram’. So he tacked me on to the realisation thereof, in Karma. Still, my being was not satisfied, subconsciously it craved for subtler gifts.

In 1906, one day I said to him, «You give so many nice things to others. I have a request to make today for myself. Let me have an old copy of the Gita, one that you have handled for some time.» He said nothing at the time but when he came to me again he brought me a very well-thumbed copy of the Gita. He gave it to me very lightly and I took it from him very lightly too. But the real meaning of this giving and taking appeared to me forty years later. When, in 1908,I burnt all his letters and destroyed all books bearing his name ...

Because of his huff!

... I managed to preserve this Gita, though it has in it some writing in Devanagari. The book is very old and the pages brittle. So we have never touched it except just to do a pranam occasionally. In 1946, one morning, I don’t know why, I said to the Mother, «Ma mere, Sri Aurobindo gave me a copy of the Gita forty years ago. I want you to keep it.» Next morning I handed the book over to her. Soon after this, there came a Darshan day. After the ceremony was over, at 5 P.M., Nirod came to our house carrying something inside his scarf. He called out from the gate: «What will you give me, Sir?» I replied, «Anything you desire.» He came forward and put the old Gita in my hand, saying solemnly, «I am repeating Sri Aurobindo’s words, ‘Sir -I gave you the Gita in 1906 and asked you to keep it. I give it to you again today and ask you to keep it.’» Thus he gave me this priceless book twice – once as my friend, the second time as my Lord and Master, showing clearly that both were the same.

17 September 1969

Well, light has descended on my home front! (Laughter) What with the descent of light on my home front and the breeze that is coming from the Himalayas ... I am especially happy, my friends, this morning; I have a reason to be happy. The reason of my happiness is this that, after a long, long time, I heard His voice last night, calling me by name, right into my right eardrum. I was very much puzzled, sprang up from my deep sleep, looked this way and that; saw nothing but a dark void. But I understood whose voice it was. I looked at the watch; it was about quarter past eleven. So I was wondering why He had called me at this unearthly time. Does He mean to allow me some sleep or not? At the same time, there was some doubt whether it was His authentic voice or that of the other gentleman in His disguise.

Anyhow, perhaps I understood what He wanted. I sat for meditation, but nothing happened, and I lay down again quietly. But in the morning, I was wondering why He had given me this visit at such an unusual, unearthly time. There are sometimes reasons, sometimes there aren’t. Another reason, I found to my satisfaction, was this: I was telling my young friends here, yesterday, that I had no headache about what to say today so I don’t need any aspirin – because I will straight away plunge into this story («My Friend and My Master» by Charu Dutt) which was left half-finished the other day. Then this young lady over there (Bithi) interposed: «No introduction?» I said, «What introduction!?» And I dismissed it at once. But the thing haunted me: Introduction, introduction... No introduction! Nothing came, so I appealed to the Headquarters: «Do please give something to save my face and which will serve as a preface to what I shall read.» And then perhaps I thought this was the reply so that I might say that I have heard the Voice of the Lord. Whether this was the right explanation or not, it made me happy, and it makes you happy too. I believe that the Lord came, visited me and gave some food to distribute to you so that you may be happy. So in conclusion, I am happy, you are happy and the world is happy. If the world is not happy, as we say in our parlance, let it go to H ...! But it doesn’t matter at all whether the world is happy or not; we believe that so long as we are happy, the world is bound to be happy. The happiness of the world lies within us – a very great, a very proud, a very insolent remark, but it is true. We have made Giri226 happy. (Laughter) We have made Indira Gandhi happier, though we have made some other people unhappy. But you understand then, that the happiness of the world lies with us. So let us be happy and cheerful all the way, with no tears, no heartaches, no heartbreaks!

Now that you are satisfied with the short introduction, I can start the story. How far have I read? I don’t remember; the page mark has been removed. To continue:

[Reading from Charu Dutt’s article «My Friend and My Master»]

In that remote age, there was another thing, a very subtle thing that Sri Aurobindo gave me. It is still with me, secretly installed in my heart. It was of great use to me at one time; but ever since the Master and the Mother have taken up abode in the recesses of my heart, its work has become secondary. Still there it is, ever ready to help me. Let me explain more clearly. In those days, I had a very srrange faculty (not Yogic because I knew no Yoga). If I sat still absent-mindedly, especially in the dark or half dark, I felt clearly my blood coursing in my veins and arteries and consequently I could count quite easily the beating of my pulse. Still more strange was my power to look inside my thorax and abdomen and see clearly my internal organs – heart, lungs, liver, etc. I had only to concentrate for a little while to be able to do this. Sri Aurobindo knew of this queer faculty of mine, but never encouraged me in any way. One day, in ordinary conversation, I said to him, «Aurobindo, why don’t you give me some nice object on which I can concentrate more easily.» This time he did not say «Not yet» to put me off summarily. But he did not give any assurance either. He went back to Baroda in a couple of days. Soon afterwards I had this peculiar experience. It was a dark, drizzly evening. I was stretched in my long chair with eyes closed. Suddenly my gaze turned inwards. I visualised not only the inside of my chest but saw clearly, inside my heart, seated in Padmasana, an entrancing figure, all made of light, – a Yogi in meditation. The face was beautiful but resembled no face that I had ever known. That luminous image has been with me ever since, and, at all times, I have found it absolutely easy to be concentrated on it. Latterly the face of the image has sometimes got mixed up with the Masters face, but not often. Aurobindo never admitted that he had given any such image to me. Whenever I questioned him, he replied in an offhand way, «O! That image of yours? I know nothing about it.» Of course, there is no longer any need for speculation. A direct path of approach has been opened up by the Mother in my heart.

It was at this same period that Sri Aurobindo wrote to me once from Baroda, asking me, «When you sit in silent concentration (or absent-mindedly, as you call it), do you see any colours? One colour or many colours?» I replied, «Always one colour, a beautiful rosy light, but, why this question?» There was no reply. When he came to me again, I chafed him, saying, «You had better not let me see any colour other than blood-red, Chief;»

«Blood-red», I understand, for revolution.

«...otherwise your work is likely to suffer.» He mumbled in a preoccupied way, «My work! True.» Thus we met from time to time and again parted. But he knew always that I was his devoted and faithful friend. For, as I came to realise in 1940, he had never really forsaken me. The parting in 1910 was, for me, indeed hard to bear. The pain of that separation I nursed in my mind for thirty whole years. At the very first opportunity, I laid bare my lacerated heart before the Mother. She asked me, in all tenderness, «Do you understand now, why Sri Aurobindo came away here in 1910?» I answered gaily, «Yes, I do, Mother. As soon as I understood it, I ran up to you.» My barque had at last reached its haven and I was indeed happy.

There has been, till very recently, a lot of discussion about the Master’s move from Calcutta to Chandernagore and again, from the latter town to Pondicherry. Some malicious people have been deliberately spreading lies to belittle him and to cast dirt on his character. In this connection, I had the great good fortune of receiving a long letter from Sri Aurobindo. He stated clearly therein that he had moved both times in obedience to orders from above. Interested people did not believe this and continue to put their own interpretation on his movements. The least offensive was what his friend Shyamsundar once said [comparing Sri Aurobindo to the cowherd of Brindaban] – «My Kanai has gone to Mathura and put on a royal head-gear.»

Let that be. I found my Kanu again in 1940. He was wearing the divine peacock feather on his head. But, as I have stated already, I could cast but one stolen fleeting glance at him, during the first Darshan. In the August Darshan, my wife was with me. We gazed at him to our hearts’ content. On the morrow, Purani came to us and said, «Do you know what Sri Aurobindo said yesterday? – «This time I had a good look at Charu, and I recognised Lilavati quite easily.’»

I have omitted to relate an experience which I had on my return to Calcutta after the first Darshan. Let me tell the story fully. It may have a subtle meaning. As I saw Sri Aurobindo, that first time, there was a sky-blue radiance about him and he had a peacock feather on his head. I have already mentioned this. Everyone does not see him like this, but I certainly did. And there was a subtle reason for it. In 1937,I was in bed, for several weeks, with severe pain in my knees. When I recovered, a sister-in-law of mine said to me, «Brother, during your illness, I made a vow to my Govindaji, that you would after recovery put a Bakul garland round his neck twice a year – on Dol Purnima and Ras Purnima. Have I acted wrongly?» I said with some hesitation, «You should have taken my permission first, sister. But never mind. I shall fulfil your vow in your name.» Accordingly, I garlanded the deity several times on the specific days. To my knowledge, I did it mechanically without even bowing down to the image. But who knows what was happening subconsciously.

In another way too, I was in close touch with the image of the divine Flute-Player. At that period, for some years, I used to paint Dhyan images of our Gods and Goddesses, in the Indian way. I never got to be good at it, but I pursued the art very diligently. My favourite subject was Krishna the flute-player, and I had done over twenty-five pictures of Him. All this might have something to do with my first view of Sri Aurobindo in February 1940. My understanding is too crude to account for it. But what happened a few days later cannot, by any means, be called an affair of the mind. My nephew received me at Howrah on my return from Pondicherry in March and took me straight on to their shrine of Govindaji, saying that it was Dol Purnima day and I had to garland the Deity. As usual, I approached Govindaji with the garland of bakul. But it was no earthen image that I saw this time. Govinda opened his eyes with a gentle smile, and looked at me, exactly as Sri Aurobindo had done at Pondicherry. The resemblance was truly striking! I took two handfuls of the festive red powder and smeared his cheeks saying, «If this is what you willed to do, why did you make me wait so long?!» There was a crowd of devotees present who shouted out «Jai Govindaji». I did not, however, continue garlanding our household deity for long. My sister, the devotee of the God, gave me my release a year later, saying, «You have now got your own Govindaji, Dada!»

And, truly, Govinda had become mine definitely. There is no doubt about it. The beautiful face of the blue boy of Brindaban, with his bewitching smile, is ever present in my heart. I am not a learned man; in all probability, I am not even a true lover of learning; the God of wisdom is, to me, a distant divinity. But the charmer of my heart 1 know and understand, by the very force of my love. I cannot resist the temptation of recounting a rather childish tale. It was not long ago. On the morrow of our Darshan, while receiving the flower garland from the Mother, I said to her, «My Mother, how beautiful Sri Aurobindo was yesterday!» The Mother replied, with a benign smile, «Wasn’t he magnificent (magnifique227)?» Something prompted me to say, «Not magnificent, Mother! He was charming (charmant)!’ Later on, when I heard that the Mother had repeated this bit of childishness to the Mastet, my heart was full. I felt as if my tribute of tender love had reached Him.

Let me tell two very short tales about a sadhak’s contact with his Master. I have already recounted how I smeared Govindaji’s image with the festive red powder in Calcutta. Subsequently, I was, once, seized with a keen desire to put some red Abir228 on the feet of my living Govinda. How could it be done? We discussed the question again and again at home. At last, when the day of the festival arrived, my wife solved the problem by going straight up to the Mother and laying our earnest desire at her feet. The Gracious Mother agreed at once to put some red Abir on the Master’s feet, on our behalf. Next morning she gave us the powder sanctified by the touch of His feet.

I don’t remember exactly whether Mother gave the powder to me or whether She did it Herself. My faint recollection is that perhaps it was given to me to touch to «the Master’s feet», as he says.

The other story also indicates the Mother’s great compassion. In those days, I had been, for some years, in the habit of turning the rosary, while meditating on the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. One morning, I said to the former on the staircase, «My Mother, I am in the habit of turning my rosary daily. May I bring it up tomorrow and place it at your feet? I am very keen on it.» Needless to say, I got her permission immediately. Next morning, as I touched her feet with the rosary, I was prompted to say, «Mother, is it possible to place this rosary at Sri Aurobindo’s feet?» The Mother smiled benignly and replied, «Why not? Give it to me. I shall do it today.»

That I remember.

On the morrow, I got my rosary back. The Mother said, «I told Sri Aurobindo that it was yours.» I was in raptures.

During these last few years, when, like so many others, the only glimpse I had of him was for five or six seconds at Darshan time, the heart was ever thirsty for closer contact with him. I shall not recount here my visions of him in sleep and in meditations. Many of these I have brought to the Mother’s notice, from time to time, and that has given me intense satisfaction. But I have had contact with the Master in my waking moments too. Of a few of these, I shall tell my readers here. Contact with a Divine personality does not occur through the eyes alone. The ears play a very important part, at times.

You heard just now about how I used to hear Sri Aurobindo’s voice occasionally.

For several months, I, along with a few others, used to sit at the head of the main staircase, early every morning, to receive the Mother’s blessings. Almost invariably we used to hear the Master doing his exercises in bed and felt his presence almost tangibly.

There is a long tale that I shall narrate later on, perhaps when we shall come to touch upon the subject of His exercises. It is a very humorous tale, but at the same time, very serious also. I should not anticipate, I should not break the thread of this story just now. But just remember He also used to do exercise in bed (Laughter) after His accident. It was at the very sound or unsound advice of our chief doctor – Manilal. He said, «Sir, you must do some exercise.» It was quite comical. (Laughter) Sri Aurobindo doing exercise! Anyhow, so it is true that he heard the Master doing exercise in bed. You may speculate on it: how exercise in bed could be heard at a distance, not seen! But I say that it is true.

Then, when he came to stay in the Darshan hall for a few weeks, we could sometimes hear him downstairs, a gentle cough or a word uttered, now and then, during Nirod’s perusal of the papers. Also, sometimes, standing in Amrita’s room, I would hear the Master’s footsteps as he walked upstairs.

You know He shifted from the main room to the Darshan hall when the main room was under renovation.

All these were invaluable experiences in the path of Yoga. But, one particular experience which I had, some three years ago, is well worth recounting. I was having an afternoon nap one day when, all of a sudden, feeling a tremendous upheaval of some sort inside me, I sat up in bed, bathed in perspiration. Five minutes later, I went into the next room and stretched myself in a long chair, still feeling rather dazed. Dr. Nirod appeared unexpectedly and said that the Master had sent him to ask me a particular question. The question was very unimportant, and yet such as could be answered by me alone in this place. I asked Nirod when Sri Aurobindo had given him the mandate. He replied, «Just about a quarter of an hour ago.» It was, then, at that precise moment that I had felt such a tremendous tug inside. My response to the Master’s recollection of me!

I have said already that Sri Aurobindo wrote a letter to me on the subject of his visit to Chandernagore. He had said to Purani the evening before, «I have got to write to Charu tomorrow morning; remind me of it, Purani.» Again, at midnight, he called out to Purani from his bed, «I have to write to Charu early in the morning, don’t forget.»

Purani, by the way, used to attend on Sri Aurobindo at 2 a.m. From 2 to 4 a.m. was his duty. He saved us so much trouble by choosing these unearthly hours for his duty, and we could sleep.

Before I left for Calcutta the next day, I received the letter from Nolini Babu. After thirty-five years, a letter in his handwriting came to my hand. It thrilled me. But he, too, as Purani told me in the morning, was thinking of the letter, the previous evening, off and on. Herein lies the infinite Mercy of the Divine towards his humble devotee.

In speaking of Divine Mercy, can we differentiate between the Mercy of Sri Aurobindo and that of the Mother ? In truth, we cannot think of the one separately from the other. In my first Darshan, I made two pranams, one to each. But it was only just that once! I never committed the mistake again. Even today, when apparently the Mother alone sits and receives our pranams, do we not all know that the Master is always behind her? Has he not taught us this external Truth again and again, in words and action! In 1940, when I came to Pondicherry first, I was much feebler physically than I am today. By whose grace have I grown stronger ? That of Sri Aurobindo alone? Of the Mother alone? I shall relate a short tale by way of reply. About five years ago, one morning, as I was doing my pranam to the Mother, I was suddenly prompted to say, «My Mother, I have one great sorrow in my life. Being something of a cripple, I cannot put my forehead on your feet, like the others.» The gracious Mother replied, «That is easily remedied! You can sit two steps below where I stand, and put your forehead on my feet.»

Mother used to stand at the head of the staircase.

Two mornings in succession I did this and I was in raptures. On the third day, I said to the Mother, «Mother, you have fulfilled my heart’s desire, and satisfied me completely. I shall not trouble you again. From tomorrow I shall touch your feet with my hands as usual.» Two days later came the Darshan. I did not know if the Mother had told Sri Aurobindo anything. But I saw that he looked me all over from head to toe as I approached and, as I learnt from my wife and one or two others who were just behind me, the Master’s eyes followed me as I walked away, for as far as I was visible. From that day, the stiffness of my knees went on decreasing rapidly. This sort of thing is happening constantly here, as everyone knows. Call it a miracle or not, as you like! I call it Divine Grace – the Grace of the Master and the Mother.

But what people outside are constantly asking is this: was there anything miraculously visible in Sri Aurobindo’s actions before he came to Pondicherry? I shall not in reply say either yes or no, but relate certain small incidents directly within my knowledge, and leave the reader to draw his own conclusions. I am not claiming for my Master any occult powers. I shall be satisfied with recounting my experiences. There will always be traducers like Shishupala to challenge the divinity of an embodied divine Person! First comes the story of Sri Aurobindo’s marksmanship, which I once told in the pages of the journal Parichay, fifteen years ago. It has since been retold in many languages, even in authoritative biographies of the Master. It was many years ago that Aurobindo had come to me in Thana on a short holiday. A dark, dull, drizzly evening; we had nothing particular to do and were amusing ourselves with a little saloon rifle. My wife said to Sri Aurobindo, «Come, Ghose Saheb, take a hand.» He would not at first agree, giving the excuse that he had never touched a gun and that he knew nothing about shooting. As we refused to let him off, he picked up the rifle at last. I tried to explain to him the technique of aiming over a V-sight. But he turned to my wife and said, «You stand by me, Lilavati, Charu is too hasty.» Then he started firing, and after just one or two slight mistakes, got the target again and again. The target was the head of a match stick at about twelve feet! Fifteen years ago I said, by way of joke, «If realisation in Yoga does not come to such a man, will it come to bunglers like you and me!» I say the same thing even now.

Another time, when Aurobindo came to us at Thana, my brother-in-law, Subodh Mallik, was staying with us. We had a great time together. Aurobindo and Subodh became very friendly during their stay in Thana, and this friendship of theirs ripened into close association, when Subodh entered into political life a year later. At his insistence, Aurobindo accepted the direction of the National College and of the newly started daily paper, Bande Mataram. During this period he lived mostly in Subodh’s [house in Wellington Square] – not only as an honoured guest, but practically as a member of the family. Our mother he addressed as mother and she addressed him as either Aurobindo or simply as Baba. It was indeed marvellous – a vastly learned man, a great political leader like him, dropping his formidable personality and becoming one with another family, in love and affection! In the Calcutta house, Aurobindo became, to my wife, even more of a brother then he had been in Bombay. Ordinarily he was averse to accepting personal service. But it was by no means an uncommon sight to see Lilavati wiping the sweat and combing his hair tenderly after his return from work, and he protesting, «But why ? I have got no lice in my hair.» The ladies of the house cooking little things for him was a daily occurrence, both in Thana and in Calcutta. He never objected to that, as he was a connoisseur of good food. But be it remembered that he was always a small eater. Let me relate a short tale: It was an evening in my Thana bungalow, when both Aurobindo and Subodh were staying with us. My wife asked, «Will you people have melon ice?» Aurobindo replied with enthusiasm, «Excellent idea! But let us have plenty of it.» The Sberbat was duly made and put into the freezer. As it was going to take a little time to be ready, Subodh proposed a game of cards to pass the time. Aurobindo said, «Most certainly, only, I do not know any of the games you people play. I used to play whist a little in England, as a boy.» Subodh cried out, «All right, whist let it be.» We started to play – Subodh and I against Aurobindo and my wife. Aurobindo said to his partner, «We are going to beat them hollow, Lilavati. But you must explain things, a bit, to me.» He said, he remembered the names of the four suits and also that there were thirteen cards in each suit. That was about all. His partner told him that the objective was to take tricks and explained to him how this was to be done. Then began the game. It was very one-sided, for he managed to rope in most of the high cards and seemed to know, for certain, what cards each player held. Quite innocently, without an effort, he did all this and won game after game. After a little while, I threw my cards down on the table saying, «How do you expect us to play, O Tyagarajan229! if you take the best cards yourselves, the whole time ?» Why I called him Tyagarajan that evening, I don’t recollect now, but he mentioned the word to Purani only a couple of years ago. I don’t think I shall be wrong if I say that his card-playing was on a par with his rifle shooting, which I have already described. It was gramarye230 of some sort, as the medieval people called it. My wife said graciously, «All right, you quarrelsome people, we shall forego all we have won. Now, go and get ready for the ices.» Her partner said, «We have certainly won by superior skill, and we give away our winnings out of sheer generosity, Lilavati. Well, I shall get through my Ahnik231 and come back in fifteen minutes for my ices.» But he did not return in fifteen minutes, nor even in half an hour. When about forty minutes had passed, the servant said, «The ice has set so beautifully, madam. In another ten minutes it will begin to go soft again.» I said to Subodh, «Come, let us call him.» We carried a couple of brass cups each and threw ourselves on his closed door. Subodh and I weighed full twenty seven stone, so my reader can imagine the racket we made. But it had no effect. We went back to my wife and reported that her guest must have fallen asleep. So we had two fat helpings of that delicious melon ice. When we had finished, Aurobindo came along rubbing his eyes. We made profuse, but insincere, apologies for having taken our share of the ice before [he could take his share]. He smiled and said, «Greedy fellows! Never mind, Lilavati, give me my share. It has gone soft, you say ? Well, it could not have lost its sweetness.» Then I asked, «While you were meditating, were you not upset by some big noise?» He replied glibly, «Big noise! No. But something seemed to disturb me for a moment, then I went off again. But I have enjoyed this Sherbat immensely, Lilavati.» Rightly did I bestow the name of Tyagarajan on him, that evening!

Many stories have been told of Sri Aurobindo’s wonderful memory in his old age – especially those that we have heard from Nirod in connection with his literary work.

I don’t remember them myself. My memory has failed me!

But his memory was outstanding even when he was a comparatively young man. In 1906-7, sometimes, when he returned from his college he found us engaged in playing poker or dice. As he did not take any interest in these gambling games, he would pick up some book and go through it rapidly while waiting for his tea. We had noticed this and had resolved to test him and find out if he really read through the whole book or merely glanced out a page, here and there. One day, he found a six-penny novel – utter trash – lying on the divan, and plunged into it forthwith.

My friends, do you get encouragement to do likewise?! (Laughter)

He read the book rapidly and, at the end of half an hour or so, threw it down. Subodh was looking at him through the corner of one eye. He took up the book promptly and asked, «Have you really been over the whole book?» «Yes.» «Can you repear to us any portion of it?» «Yes.» Subodh called out to me, «Now, Charu, for the viva voce examination.» I opened the book at a certain page at random. It began this way: «The Mand and I went out into the moonlit garden.» I read the line and said, «Now go on, Chief.» Well, with very little alteration he repeated the whole page. This is a more striking feat of memory than any that I have ever come across. Yogic power? I don’t say so. But it is marvellous concentration!

Perhaps some of you know the marvellous story of Vivekananda -another feat of memory. I don’t know all the exact details. He was on a tour of India as a wandering sannyasi. He arrived somewhere in southern India and stayed with a rich Zamindar or a Raja232. And he was casually turning the pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. A learned pandit came to see him and saw him turning over the pages and closing the book as Sri Aurobindo had done in the example just cited. The learned pandit was very much shocked by this very slovenly, casual way of looking at the Encyclopaedia, «Sir, is this the way to read?» – Perhaps I’m putting it in my own way. (Laughter) «What, have you read it?» Vivekananda answers: «Yes.» «Can I test you a bit ?» «Yes.» So from whichever page he turned to, the pandit asked him something, and Vivekananda answered correctly word for word. The pandit was simply amazed and demanded: «How could you do it?» Vivekananda replied, «Well, my friend, there is a simple way. If one observes Brahmacharya for twelve years in mind and heart and action – then he can get this power of memory.» You know what Brahmacharya is. But to be a Brahmachari or Brahmacharin, in mind, even in thought – that is the greatest challenge, as you can well understand.

So there, what marvellous concentration! I find that, in my case, in spite of Brahmacharya or whatever I am doing, my memory is vanishing! (Laughter) Perhaps I’m doing it in the wrong way! (Laughter) Ladies and gendemen, the bell has rung. If you give me some more time, I can finish reading Charu Dutt’s article. Shall I or shall I not ? Your dining room bell is calling you. Shall I finish it ? Yes ? Thank you. You’ll be amply rewarded.

It would be superfluous to narrate any more tales of this sort. For the average unprejudiced reader, it should not be necessary. Who but an absolutely wooden-headed man would say that the Master wrote His The Life Divine and Savitri by the power of his intellect alone ? His powers in his more youthful days were but forerunners of his later Yogic realisation. They were indications of his innate spiritual capacity. Otherwise, no ordinary man, who had never handled a gun, could suddenly display the kind of marksmanship that I have described. Nor could such a man take up casually a book of a hundred pages and in half an hour practically know it by heart. Nor could he, an absolute novice, play such a game of whist where he knew beforehand what cards each player held. All these things are certainly not logical according to our way of thinking. But they can all be explained by what he himself has called the «logic of the Infinite».

The course of Sri Aurobindo’s life has undoubtedly been mysterious. He has himself said in a letter that it has not been visible on the surface and therefore it has been beyond the ken of the ordinary man. Then again, he had always been, even in the days of his political activity, averse to pushing himself forward. He had been ever inclined to work from behind other people. He said once, by way of joke, that it was the British Government who dragged him out into publicity.

He said to us that He never hankered for name or fame.

When he was arrested the first time, for sedition, I was in Thana. Barin was staying with me. Suddenly a wire came to the effect that Aurobindo had been arrested for sedition and that he was disinclined to make any defence. I sent Barin back that very day with a strong letter that we must defend the case and that I was coming to Calcutta as soon as possible. Rabindranath [Tagore] published his famous poem, «Aurobindo, accept the salutation of Rabindra.» There was a great commotion in the country. The main point in the case was whether Aurobindo Ghose was the Editor of the Bande Mataram, or not. In the office we found the press copy of a letter written to some correspondent to the effect that «Our editor, Aurobindo Babu, is out of town just now and that we shall send a reply to your letter as soon as he is back.» As this press copy was most damaging to our case we destroyed it. Ultimately, the prosecution failed to prove that Aurobindo Babu was the editor, and the magistrate, Mr. Kingsford, had to acquit him. A couple of days later, one afternoon we were celebrating the happy event very noisily – when a sepoy came and said, «Rabi Babu has come.» We rushed out to the front door. The poet spread out his arms and held the Chief in a close embrace, saying with a tender smile, «You have deceived me, Aurobindo Babu.» The latter replied, «Not for long, I assure you.»

I hope you understand. What he meant was that Sri Aurobindo was arrested and He would have been convicted, so they were all thinking of Him as a martyr. But as He was released, so he (Rabi Babu) said he was deceived!

Then the poet sat and talked with us for a while. I said to him, «We did not allow our friend to go to jail, Sir. There were one or two papers of a damaging kind, which we destroyed in good time. But, this is only the beginning! Your poem will be justified in the end.» Manmohan, Sri Aurobindo’s brother, laughed, «Sir, this man, Charu, is always saying – we are out to kill, not to offer ourselves to the demon!»

In his now famous letters to his wife, Aurobindo made his relation with her perfectly clear. I did not know of these letters till they actually appeared in print. One day I had asked him in the course of conversation, «Chief, you knew that you were going to plunge into the vortex of revolutionary politics. Why did you marry ? Don’t tell me if you don’t want to.» He thought for a moment and replied very slowly, «Well, Charu, it was like this. Just then I was very despondent and felt that I was destined to lead the life of a pedagogue. Why, then, should I not marry?» Aurobindo married, be it noted, in April 1901. And, in 1903, he initiated his Bhavani Mandir movement, and pushed it vigorously.

One afternoon, subsequent to Rabindranath’s visit to Sri Aurobindo, [described above], Bhupal Babu, Aurobindo’s father-in-law, came to see us in the Wellington Square house. The Chief had not as yet returned from his college. Bhupal Babu said to us, «Charu, Subodh, I have come to ask Aurobindo to come and dine with me this evening. My daughter, Mrinalini, has come to Calcutta to meet him, if possible. So I would like Aurobindo to stay the night in our house and return to you tomorrow morning. Do send him along.» We were all tremendously excited over this invitation. When Aurobindo came home about 5 p.m., he could see that something out of the common had occurred. We gave out a loud yell on seeing him and all spoke together. He laughed and said, «One at a time, please.» Then I said, «My dear fellow, this sort of gala occasion comes but once in a blue moon! Aurobindo is going to visit his spouse this evening.»

Next time, friends, I’ll read to you the correspondence I had with Him apropos of His marriage.

He said with a suppressed smile, «Yes! go on.» It was Subodh’s turn to speak. He said, «Bhupal Babu came to invite you. You are to dine with him this evening and spend the night in his house. It appears that Mrs. Ghose has come down to Calcutta expressly for the purpose of congratulating her lord on his acquittal.» Aurobindo said merely, «I see.»

That was very typical of Him.

Then my wife started, «There is nothing to see. Please get ready quickly and put on the clothes I have laid out for you. They have all been properly pleated and crinkled by Subodh’s bearer.» No reply from the other side; nothing but a shy twinkle in the eye. My wife, encouraged by the twinkle, went on, «And look here, Ghose Sahib, Subodh’s wife and I are weaving two beautiful garlands of Jasmine – one for you and one for our Didi233. I shall instruct you about them, later on.» The poor philosopher quietly capitulated. He had not a chance of speaking. After tea, he was hustled into the dressing room for being valeted by Subodh’s bearer. He did not protest. After all, who was going to listen to him that evening, our great Chief though he was. When he came out, he looked gorgeous in his fine dress, but there was also a simple shy smile on his face. We had all been waiting to greet him. Lilavati stepped forward with the two garlands and said, «One of these you are going to put round Didi’s neck and the other she is going to put round yours. Please don’t forget.» The Chief with a tender smile replied, «It shall be done, Lilavati.» As he was getting into the carriage, Subodh called out, «And, please don’t come back till tomorrow morning.» Turning to the Durwan, he ordered, «Lock the gate at 10 p.m. Ghose Saheb is not coming back tonight.»

Next morning, quite early, a servant came upstairs and said to Subodh, «Ghose Saheb wants to know, sir, if you are all coming down to tea.» «Ghose Saheb? When did he come back?» «He returned about 11 p.m.» We all trooped downstairs. There he sat in his armchair, quietly smiling to himself. We fired a volley of questions at him. He replied calmly, «Well, I had a superb dinner and returned here about 11 p.m. Lilavati, your instructions regarding the garlands were carried out to the letter.» Lilavati asked plaintively, «But why did you come away so soon?» The Chief’s reply was, «I explained things to her and she allowed me to come away.» I suppose these explanations were, later on, embodied in the famous letters.

There are people who often ask, what happened to Mrinalini, spiritually. I shall quote but one sentence from Sri Aurobindo’s letter to me dated 5-12-1944:

«I did not take my wife for initiation to Sri Saradeshwari Devi; I was given to understand that she was taken there by Sudhira Bose, Debabrata’s sister. I heard of it a considerable time afterwards in Pondicherry. I was glad to know that she had found so great a spiritual refuge, but I had no hand in bringing it about.»

So now you see why I said you’d be amply rewarded!

24 September 1969

Well, friends, some good news! Today there’s a marriage party to which I have been cordially invited from the side of the bride. So perhaps our party here might get cut short, I hope you won’t mind. Once in a blue moon, such parties come to us. Don’t grudge us our enjoyment at your expense!

I read out to you quite a long article by one of our gentlemen in the Ashram, Charu Dutt; and you’ve had some fresh glimpses into the life of our Master. You’ve also observed, I believe, how close a tie Charu Dutt had with Sri Aurobindo, not only in this life but in many past lives; and the tie was so close and intimate that he could not bear the separation for long. When Sri Aurobindo took His leave from us, Charu Dutt also passed away, after a year and a little more, all of a sudden. All these bear out the fact that there are ties which we carry on from birth to rebirth and perhaps into the distant future as well. Who knows what ties we all had, in the past!

Now I told you that... Ah! I see my old friend Arindam over there ... He is sitting in a very different mood. [Arindam-da responds: «I am very attentive, Sir.»] Yes, I wish I hadn’t seen you or observed you, rather. [Arindam-da promptly replies: «I have taken off my spectacles; I can’t see you!»]

Now I shall read something about marriage – the correspondence I had with Sri Aurobindo on the subject, which appeared to me to be somewhat touching. With some trepidation, I broached the subject to Him. [Nirod-da puts on bis spectacles, with one glass broken. (Loud laughter)] You may have a good laugh at this, but I have tears in my eyes! When I was coming here, suddenly I saw that this fellow234 has failed me. Fine crucial235 lines blurring my vision! I am going to read out this correspondence which many of you may be familiar with, but the youngsters here may not know. As I said, I touched on the subject of marriage with a certain fear that I would get a stern rebuff, but I thought that, in order to be able to draw Him out, I must face the beating, so here it is. Somebody had written, in Bengali, an essay or an article on various spiritual gurus and about their marriage. I reported it to Sri Aurobindo, and Sri Aurobindo’s name was also mentioned there. So I thought here is an opportunity to draw Him out, because that subject of His marriage made us curious. So I wrote:

[Reading from Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo (1995), 575-576]

[Nirod-da:] Somebody writing about the life of Confucius in Bengali says: «Why do the Dharmagurus marry, we can’t understand. Buddha did and his wife’s tale is heart-rending.»

[Sri Aurobindo:] Why?

Mark the tone!

What is there heart-rending in it?

[N:] He goes on: «Sri Aurobindo, though not a Dharmaguru, has done it too, and can be called but dharma-mad ...» Well, Sir?

[S.A.:] Well, it is better to be dharma-mad than to be a sententious ass and pronounce on what one does not understand.

[N:] «We feel so sad about his wife, so too about the wife of Confucius.»

[S.A.:] Poor sorrowful fellows!

[N:] «So we don’t understand why they marry and why this change comes soon after marriage.»

[S.A.:] Perfectly natural – they marry before the change – then the change comes and the marriage belongs to the past self, not to the new one.

[N:] «The wives of Buddha and Ramakrishna felt proud when they were deserted.»

[S.A.:] Then what’s the harm?

[N:] «If married life is an obstacle to spirituality, then they might as well not marry.»

[S.A.:] No doubt – quite right, very logical. But then when they marry, there is not an omniscient ass like this biographer to tell them that they were going to be dharma-guru or dharma-mad or in any way concerned with any other dharma that the biographers know.

[N:] So, according to this biographer, all of you, except Christ, showed a lack of wisdom by marrying!

[S.A.:] Well, if the biographer of Confucius can be such an unmitigated ass, Confucius may be allowed to be unwise once or twice, I suppose.

[N:] I touch upon a delicate subject, but it is a puzzle.

[S. A.: ] Why delicate ? And why a puzzle ? Do you think that Buddha or Confucius or I myself were born with a pre-vision that they or I would take to the spiritual life? So long as one is in the ordinary consciousness, one lives the ordinary life – when the awakening and the new consciousness come, one leaves it – nothing puzzling in that.»

So there you are. You have observed perhaps that the tone is a little sharp: abusing the writer and calling him «an unmitigated ass». Now I found in this book, rather accidentally, that this article of Charu Dutt is followed by an article by my noble self, writing about «Sri Aurobindo: Creator of Poets» in 1952. So if you are interested in poetry, I might read out how Sri Aurobindo was a creator of poets, by which I mean particularly of this noble self! Here, perhaps, in the first part, I will be repeating what I had said in class, the other day, about my first visit to the Ashram, but it is worth repeating because I had written it down, and there are some facts, perhaps, which I had not presented correctly in class. So there may be some repetition, but please don’t mind.

[Reading from «Sri Aurobindo: Creator of Poets», Sri Aurobindo Circle, 8: Nov. 1952]

It was in January 1930 that I paid my first passing visit to the Ashram. A close relative and intimate friend of mine was the direct inspirer of that visit. With very litde idea about Yoga and much less respect for it, I came and met Dilip Kumar Roy, whose acquaintance I had made earlier. He was very much surprised to see me and seemed almost to say, «You here?» But when the first shock was over, his generous heart responded to my unexpected, though perhaps not quite unwelcome, appearance in a European garb. He helped me to get an interview with the Mother. But before going to the interview, I felt like a man who has suddenly lost all control of his nerves: an unusual tremor ran through the system. «Unless these blessed nerves become quiet,» I thought, «it is impossible to go to see the Mother.» So I sat silently for a while. As soon as I had closed my eyes, a very strange, uncanny phenomenon took place, whose mystery even now disturbs me with delight. I felt like [I was] being suspended in air; the whole body from the neck downwards had disappeared, only the head remained hanging in space! It was deliciously frightful and unexpectedly overwhelming; but the fright got the better of the sweetness and I opened my eyes into the world of Matter. With this exhilarating surprise, I started for the interview with the Mother. How well I remember it! Not I alone, but all those who have had that rare privilege cannot, while looking back, but consider it a unique opportunity. With some, it was even a crucial turning point in their life, though [they] hardly so realised at that moment. As soon as I entered, the Mother greeted me with a broad smile and took all my nervousness away by her ineffable sweetness. I could never imagine that anything so supremely felicitous could exist on this dolorous earth of ours. With that blissful contact guarded in my memory, I came away and left Pondicherry that very night. But as I boarded the train, with my thoughts turned towards home, surprise of surprises! – the very sweet and living face of the Mother whom I had seen only once and for a few minutes, young with a superhuman beauty, smiling with a radiant expression of Divinity, began to float vividly before my eyes; whichever way I turned, whatever I did, it never left me for a moment, so much so that I was, at the end, almost oppressed by the sweetness and delight! Of such weak and unworthy elements are we poor mortals made. At last, when the train chugged out of the station and other memories and attractions came to occupy the heart, the marvellous vision faded away. These three astounding, unfamiliar experiences may have opened a hidden door within, but I never harboured the idea of doing Yoga: it was out of the question!

As the mind regained its old habitual equilibrium and the night bestowed its peace, I remembered that Dilip had given me a few typed sheets of Conversations with the Mother and that he had particularly drawn attention to the chapter «Art and Yoga». I began to read the book; something in that chapter held my interest; I learned for the first time that Yoga can make one a poet or an artist. «Well,» I thought, «if such is the case, I might think of giving Yoga a chance in some remote future. Meanwhile, the life of bhoga ...»

So I plunged myself deeper and deeper into the worldly life; the heights that I had glimpsed and the ideals that I had cherished had withdrawn behind a veil. Suddenly, one day, arrived a printed copy of Conversations with the Mother with the Mother’s blessings written on it. I was then in Burma [now renamed as Myanmar]. See how the «hound of heaven236» pursues! I was exceedingly surprised. A revelation! «She remembers me!» was my delightful surprise. But nothing more; for, even then, I was a man of the world and no inner change had taken place to draw me away from it. At last, after three years of bitter, circuitous life, I again boarded the train for Pondicherry. This is how initiations take effect. This is how I came to Pondicherry. Now [I shall describe] my life in the Ashram.

The Ashram was at that time humming with the activities of poets and musicians; creative activity was in full swing with Dilip Kumar Roy as the nucleus. I caught the inspiration and began to cherish the ambition of budding into a poet. Dilip gave us some preliminary lessons in Bengali metre. One day, I composed a short poem which was, metrically, almost faultless. Dilip forwarded it to Sri Aurobindo with his comment and note of appreciation. That was my first, indirect contact with Sri Aurobindo. Henceforth, the impetus received from him began to push me towards further activity, but almost all of [my efforts] were mere versifications, devoid of any originality, Sri Aurobindo remarked to Dilip that I was too much under Tagore’s influence, and I must get rid of it if I wanted to be a poet with a true, individual originality. But how was I to do that? After a patient and prolonged exercise, I succeeded, but failed to tap the deeper source of the Goddess. An undertone of dissatisfaction ran through all my creative endeavours. At such a psychological crisis, a presumptuous idea to compose in English dawned upon me. It was prompted by my failure in Bengali poetry. Thereby, I thought, I would get Sri Aurobindo’s direct contact and guidance. This was the predominant factor that inspired me to take up the hazardous journey through the seas of English Poetry. I am today almost where I began, for I started very late; but the sudden brain-wave has been amply rewarded in more ways than one, and had it not been for the unfortunate circumstance of his accident in 1938, when all our poetic activities came to a halt – a fate from which very few of us have recovered -I would have perhaps touched some magic island. But as long as the voyage lasted, Sri Aurobindo never failed to guide our boat through all the poetic troubled waters and depressions of the spirit. That checkered history of which this article is meant to serve as an introduction, I wish to unfold later on, not for any personal glorification, if any were possible, but to reveal the genius of the Master, his indefatigable energy, his sparkling wit and his unique method in handling the instrument from the very beginning of its birth and trying to give it a distinctive mould. From that point of view, it will be highly interesting and instructive to the students and lovers of Poetry and that is my sole motive.

I don’t know how many here are lovers of and students of poetry. There are a few samples of poems here, but I’m not very enthusiastic about reading them out to you. Now I shall speak a little bit about my previous, antecedent history of life: how I became a poet. I told you how I happened to come here. I hope you won’t grudge my title to a poet. It is Sri Aurobindo who christened me as one, so I can have some legitimate, though somewhat egoistic pride. But really, as I said, my becoming a poet is a miracle. Just as my coming to yoga was another miracle. If people ask you to give them some examples of miracles in the Ashram, you can refer them to my case; here is one shining example. You know perhaps that I was a medical man. Medicine and poetry don’t mix with each other. But I was a bit of a Bengali like my friend over there [indicating Arindam-da]. Bengalis are a little romantic and sentimental, as you know very well – moon-gazers or philosophers. Secondly, I hail from a place237 which can be legitimately and proudly called «The Kashmir of Bengal», by which I mean the natural beauty of the scenery there, though the natural beauty of the people is far less than that of the Kashmiris. (Laughter) So these are two factors, I suppose, which helped, by yogic force, to draw out the latent poet in me. I’ll read out one or two previous, preliminary examples, if you don’t mind. You may say that you could write better than this and certainly you would. But as I say, I was a novice; I knew nothing about poetry and I was taking a leap into the unknown of English poetry, like a daring explorer. Considering all this, it is not a bad example. Too romantic perhaps. Here it is:

Like a flame of flowers on yonder tree,

Like the rippling waves of the sea,

Very fine rhymes! (Laughter)

Dance, dance, O my soul, thou playmate of Light,

Winging the sapphire height.

I’m sure any one of you can compose this kind of poetry, rhyming light with height, tree with sea. Priti would do it, I think. The second stanza:

Into the luminous calm of skies

Uplift my leaden eyes

And on a widening vision pour

The sun-wine of thy soar.

You see what magnificent two lines at the end! (Laughter) Then, in a footnote, I added:

A small poem, not exactly mine, because after three or four successive nights of tears and trials on many different subjects, the Muses rewarded me with the first stanza and then left me in the lurch.

Then, fortunately, in hopped Amal and helped me out by adding the second stanza, thus saving me from Arjava’s wrath.

I don’t know whetheryou’ve heard of Arjava – agreat poet, a Cambridge mathematician. There is another miracle for you, my friends. Another miracle! A Cambridge mathematician turned into a poet in the Ashram by Sri Aurobindo! His name was Arjava – you know, Arjava means ‘straight’ – and he was really tall like an Englishman, like young Norman, standing straight like a tal gachh238. He used to walk with a stick. And I had the bad inspiration to make him my teacher for teaching me a little metre. So the fellow – I’m sorry – took great pains to initiate me in the intricacies of English metre, inserting them into a medical head! But he demanded that I must write, must compose poems on each metre that I learned, otherwise he would fly into a wrath and his whole face would become red like a tomato. (Laughter) I didn’t know what to do. He was a good metrist, but at the same time very exacting, very demanding. Can one manufacture poems to order? But I had to write, otherwise he would have nothing to do with me.

So I had to face Arjava’s wrath, an Englishman’s wrath, please remember! So I had to compose somehow. Here is the first result. I got stuck up, then Amal saved me by saying: «It is just a trickle; what to do?»

The Spirit did not blow; its cruel irony sends me into another rhyme:

Trickle, trickle, O mighty Force divine

Pour, pour thy white-moon dreams

Into my stomach, heart and intestine

In little silver streams.

Well, sir, what have you to say? Is the soul dancing too much?

(Laughter) Because, in the first one, I have «Dance, dance, O my soul

Sri Aurobindo wrote back:

I have no objection to the soul dancing, but to make it dance and wing a height at the same time is a little aerobatic. Also to pour wine (even of a soar, though what the wine of a soar may be, I don’t know) on the eyes would hardly be beneficial to the vision – in most cases.


I admit however that these are perhaps rather too prosaic and Johnsonian objections to the sun-wine of your or Amal’s dancing soar. As for the second, two most damnable blunders, sir. ‘Intestine’ is stressed on the second syllable...

Now you have to know a bit of metre. I suppose you know that English words have a stress. You know that, don’t you? It may be on the third syllable of a word, it may be on the fourth, for all I know, or it may not be at all – very whimsical, very capricious. So ‘intestine’, unfortunately, is stressed on the second. So he says: «Intestine is stressed on the second syllable and pronounced ‘intestin’, so how the blazes is it going to rhyme with ‘divine’?»

You understand, ‘divine’ is stressed on the second syllable. In order to understand the joke properly, perhaps I’d better do a little ‘acrobatics’.

[Getting up from the chair, Nirod-da looks for the duster, but it is not there. ]

I’ll do what my Anatomy professor in college used to – [wiping the board with his hand, rubbing his hand on his hips, putting his hand in his mouth, and wiping the board again, this time with spit] – he used to do like this! (Laughter)

Our Indian teachers of the English language will, perhaps, give their students some idea of these correct stresses. So you see here – ‘divine’ [stressing the second syllable] as we say, not ‘divine’. We’re not particular about how we pronounce these, we Indians. So, in order for ‘intestine’ to rhyme with ‘divine’, the stress must fall on the third syllable, otherwise it can’t rhyme. Just because the termination is the same, the two can’t be said to rhyme. English teachers will be furious if we try to rhyme words in this way. Of course, nowadays, modern poetry allows any kind of liberty, but I’m talking of our time. So Sri Aurobindo says that I can’t do such rhyming, it’s illegitimate. Fortunately, in Bengali and Sanskrit, there are no such stresses or non-stresses. So to continue with what He says:

Intestine is stressed on the second syllable and pronounced ‘intestin’, so how the blazes is it going to rhyme with ‘divine’ ? A doctor mis-stressing ‘intestine’ – shame! How are you going to cure people if you put wrong stresses on their anatomical parts ?

Second blunder – Yogically, psycho-physically, etc., etc. stomach, heart and intestine lodge the vital movements, not the physical consciousness – it is there that anger, fear, love, hate and all the other psychological privileges of the animal tumble about and upset the physical and moral digestion. The Muladhara is the seat of the physical consciousness proper. So you have to amend the third line into ‘Invade the mournful bottom of my spine’ -

‘Bottom’ is not very cultured. (Laughter)

So you see, ‘spine’ and ‘divine’ rhyme excellently: ‘Invade the mournful bottom of my spine.’ That will make it poetically beautiful and psycho-physically correct.»

My next exercise met with a better fate. Arjava also liked it and asked me to send it to Sri Aurobindo. So don’t you dare think that I made only abysmal blunders; I also struck upon some happy notes now and then. But you have to pass through blunders first, my dear friends, either in poetry or in the prose of life. Don’t you think so?

Now I shall give you another example. Later on, I wrote a line like this, in one of my early poems – the first line went like this:

My clouded soul, do you know where you are ?

And I thought very highly of it. (Laughter) I asked Him if it sounded flat and He commented:

Flat ? By God, sir, abysmal! The soul can get as clouded as it likes, but do you know where you are ? In Pondicherry, sir, in Pondicherry.


The most clouded soul can know that. You might just as well write: ‘My friend, do you know that you are an ass ?’...


...and call it metre and poetry.

So that’s how we went on, friends. And lastly, I don’t remember if I have read out this letter to you, but I think that in order to put a finishing touch to the subject of my poetry, in order not to leave you under the impression that I was as bad as all that, I shall read out another line in Bengali which I wrote when I was composing Bengali poems. I don’t remember the exact lines but it went something like this:

Moner horini dekhia pagol hoi239.

I thought it was a wonderful, symbolic line that I had written. Sri Aurobindo simply wrote in the margin: «Really?» (Laughter) So such jokes are permissible between the Guru and the shishya240, but it depends on what kind of ‘shishya’ you are!

Now here are one or two letters apropos. I came here in 1933, and I wrote to Him, in 1934, that I didn’t know much of literature:

[Nirod-da:] I should like to be a literary man. Do you approve?

[Sri Aurobindo:] It depends on what kind of «literary man» you want to be, ordinary or yogic.

A literary man is one who loves literature and literary activity for its own sake. A yogic ‘literary’ man is not a literary man at all, but one who writes only what the inner will and Word wants to express. He is a channel and an instrument of something greater than his own literary personality.

A couple of years later, He wrote, «To be a literary man is not a spiritual aim; but to use literature as a means of spiritual expression is another matter. Even to make expression a vehicle of a superior power helps to open the consciousness.» There lies the utility of dance or music or whatever art form you like. In 1933, He wrote, «There should be no ‘desire’ to be a ‘great’ writer. If there is a genuine inspiration or coming of power to write, then it can be done, but to use it as a means of service to the Divine is the proper spirit.»

[Reading from Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo (1955), 683]

[Nirod-da:] I have such a push to write poetry, stories, all kinds of things, in Bengali! I haven’t got a clear vision of what to do, how to proceed, how to establish a harmony between the spiritual and the mundane.

[Sri Aurobindo:] Ambitions of that kind are too vague to succeed. You have to limit your fields and concentrate in order to succeed in them. I don’t make any attempt to be a scientist or painter or general. I have certain things to do and have done them, so long as the Divine wanted; others have opened in me from above or within by yoga. I have done as much of them as the Divine wanted. You mentalise, mentalise, discuss, discuss, hesitate and hesitate.

[N.:] If by chance I could throw away all troubles about progress in Yoga and push on with literature, that would be some solution.

[S. A.:] There is no incompatibility between spirituality and creative activity – they can be united.

[N.:] At moments I have aspirations for being many-sided, then comes a voice -’Leave all those things, seek for something more precious, happy’ – the eternal contradiction!

[S.A.:] Fluctuating of course comes in the way of action and therefore of success. One can do one or the other or one can do both, but not fluctuate eternally.

Since I am talking of poetry, here is some more correspondence with

Him on the subject.

[Reading again from Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo (1955), 48}

[Nirod-da:] Need one aspire even for writing poetry ?

[Sri Aurobindo:] Aspiration is an essential part of the sadhana.

[N.:] If one waits calmly, does not the Grace descend by itself without our asking ?

[S.A.:] Not unless one is in a state of Grace – in a psychic condition.

[N.:] If a person asks for something and doesn’t get it, he is likely to get disappointed.

[S.A.:] If he asks with the vital, yes. Your mind is too active in these matters. Get your mind silent, learn to feel within, to aspire from within – then things will come more easily.

[N.:] Please give me one direct and decisive rule to follow.

[S.A.:] Aspire for the opening to the right place of inspiration ...

I think the bell has gone, so we have to go! There is another letter which I’d wanted to wind up with; perhaps we can do it later on. So that was the beginning of my poetic career.

8 October 1969

Dear children, I hope my addressing you as children doesn’t make you think that I am inspired by your great Prime Minister241, that I am imitating her style, her manner, though I admit that the expression coming from the mouth of a lady Prime Minister is sweeter than in the metallic male tone of a teacher. The word ‘metallic’ reminds me again of something else. Once, in the presence of Sri Aurobindo, I sneezed very loudly. He was sitting on the bed, we were around Him. I don’t know what provoked my olfactory nerves, but I had no control. The more I tried to control the sneeze, the more it seemed ready to burst and finally it did. And He remarked: «What a metallic sneeze!» (Laughter)

I was going to tell you: it seems a long time since we have met, though as a matter of fact, it is just a week. We have missed only one class, but the time sequence or the time relation depends on so many things. Particularly where the relationship is rather intimate, the period of separation seems long. That I suppose, you all know. Shakespeare has a beautiful expression which goes something like this: «And grew a twenty years removed thing/ While one would wink.» There it is the separation between lovers. But here too, as I said, just one class has been missed and it seems such a long time. So they say time is relative. Once, if I remember right, Prof. Einstein was asked, by someone who was not very well acquainted with science, to give, in as simple a manner and as few words as possible, an explanation of his Theory of Relativity. Einstein paused, then said something to this effect: Two friends, a golden lad and a golden lass [Nirod-da comments: These last few words are my colourings], were sitting on the bank of a river, talking and laughing and chatting away. They were so engrossed and absorbed in each other that the golden sun set unnoticed during their talk. It became dark. One of them suddenly realised the lapse of time: «Good Lord! We have spent such a long time together, but it seems as if we have met only for half an hour.» So Einstein said with a smile, «That is relativity.»

Short or long, whichever way you take it, at least this lapse of one class relieved me of my headache. I had a good respite that restoted my vigour for this talk. I have told you more than once about how and when my headache starts. Right from Monday morning, my mind starts to simmer and my head starts aching with the worry: What is to be done this week? What subject to talk about in class? But now I have become wiser, more experienced. Though my mind still simmers, I don’t really get upset as I say to myself, «You see how the Guru helps us in these critical circumstances.» Last night, I had a very strange experience. Not a very big one, it is small fry, but very interesting. I have to get up usually at about 3:45 a.m. Perhaps some of you know that I do a bit of... some sort of work; I won’t use the word chore’ because it is a sacred, though very small, work at the Samadhi. Now, my friend Mohanlal-ji and others come to the Ashram for their respective work at about that time. Mohanlal-ji work is to sweep the staircase. So I have told him: «As soon as you come, please give some rude knocks on my door so that I may wake up from my sleep.» So he does it very faithfully, without fail. Sometimes I get up at once, sometimes I say to myself: «These people have come, let them do the preliminary work and I’ll get up after ten or fifteen minutes.» You know what happens: I go back into sleep, and poor Mohanlal-ji has to come up again after fifteen or twenty minutes and knock again! Many a time it happens in this way. So, yesterday he knocked, my sleep was interrupted, and I said as usual, «I’ll get up.» Then, a nice, beautiful sweet nap -I was caught in its net. And, suddenly, I heard a very sweet voice, not the thundering one, calling: «Nirod-da!»Hello!» I said. Nirod-da?! Whose is this tempting voice ? I had forgotten all about time and space. I was wondering whose this sweet voice, so familiar, could be. I looked at the watch that I keep by my side, saw that it was 4 o’clock. Then I understood, got up, and went down. I started working. Then, as I was working, I was brooding over this experience. Why this sweet voice ? Then I thought, perhaps it was because, the day before, when there was a heavy shower in the morning, very heavy indeed, I’d skipped the work, I didn’t go. Not because I didn’t want to, but I was helpless. I wanted an umbrella; I came downstairs into my room to look for it, and found that the umbrella was absent. I didn’t have the desire or inclination or courage to be soaked in that heavy rain, even for Divine service! But I saw the two regular ladies, very well protected by their raincoats, from head to foot, doing their work well. So I thought: they will manage all right, my presence is not absolutely necessary; I’ll have a good, sound sleep! Then I thought, these ladies might have thought that I’ll repeat a similar trick this morning too (Laughter), so I imagine that the soul of one of these ladies must have come up, inviting me to my duty. That is how I interpret it. Then I thought also of the Lord’s strategy. How He changes things to suit His purpose, modifies His strategy from moment to moment, and this time how He sent the sweet voice, rather unkind though (Laughter), to wake me out of my delicious sleep, and particularly when I saw that my friend over there, on the side, Champaklal, was sound asleep. I couldn’t but feel a little annoyed that I would have to go. However, as I was working, my mind too was working at a rapid pace. Sri Aurobindo said to me once, «Your mind is very active.» Up to the present time, it remains so. Sometimes it stops, sometimes it doesn’t. So the mind started acting and I was quarrelling with Him mentally, «What are all these devices that you adopt?» Then, suddenly, I thought: there’s a fine experience which I can share with you, my intimate friends. I don’t know whether you’ll find it interesting, but it’s very revealing. Then the work finished at about half past four, and I went up and tried to meditate. Impossible! Thoughts began to come in from all sides: from environmental consciousness, from above, from below, from cosmic consciousness even. They began to pour in and in and in, till meditation was lost, sleep too was lost! (Laughter)

But ideas came in and kept coming in. So ideas went on in this way: How did I come to take up that work? You know very well, I’ve told you, that I have not much taste for physical work – I’m allergic to it! And there I boast a little of being similar to my Guru! He too said that He didn’t like physical work very much but, as was His nature and wont, He conquered that distaste by no other measure than cooking fish for the cat at the behest of the Mother (Laughter). So He gave me that example when I told Him that I do not have a liking for physical work. «Well,» He said, «I’ve done this.» Now these were always His ways, manner and method. Whenever I was asked to do something or I refused to do something, He would say, «I’ve done this, you know very well.» He used to put before me His own great example and I would refuse to agree: «You are an Avatar, we are petty people; how can you, by your great example, persuade us, compel us to do what you’ve done.» Then He said, if I remember right: «Till you accept this example, I’ll go on beating and beating you.» This has been inherent in my nature. I think it is, (if my Bengali friends don’t mind) a Bengali trait – we don’t like physical work. We like poetry, we like music, we like dancing, but physical work, no!

I remember, when I was a boy of eight or ten, my elder brother (my cousin brother really – we were a joint family in the village) asked me to go and buy some oil from the bazaar. I couldn’t protest, but my dark face became darker! (Laughter) Sheepishly and meekly, I took the bottle, but my baudi242 was very kind to me and she protested and said, «No, no, he doesn’t like that sort of thing, don’t send him.» Ladies are sometimes kind! But my hard-hearted brother wouldn’t budge, so I had to go very reluctantly and do the job. That reluctance to do physical work has persisted, though Sri Aurobindo’s example has done something to reduce that antagonism or antipathy to doing the work. When, again and again, He gives His own example, then what to do? So I reconcile myself. I have done a bit of physical work in the medical department, as you know, though not much to my credit; and I did some service to the Lord, less creditably, even, I should say, ignominiously243.

However, the recent physical work that I have taken up, as I said, is at the Samadhi. How did that happen? One morning, at about three o’clock, I think, I had to come down, and I saw Ila – I suppose you know her – and one or two other ladies working there. But after a short while, Ila fell ill and her husband came to take her place. I suppose you know Nolini Sen and Iladevi – parents of Amita and Chitra. Then Nolini Sen was working, poor old man, and I took pity on him. I asked, «Can I help you?» He said, «Yes, you can.» I was expecting to hear a «No!» (Laughter) That’s how I started working with him, from three in the morning, if you please. So it went on and on till Nolini Sen went to the other world. (Laughter) So now the work has got stuck on me – I have to get up at about that time. Formerly, it was three o’clock; now, little by little, it has come down to 4:00 a.m. So punctually I have to come down to the courtyard where the Samadhi is; something goads me to do so. My conscience has become a little more enlightened, illumined. But the physical inertia always comes in the way. Very often I used to say to myself, «What’s the use, I go there for half an hour, for the sake of going only, these ladies do the work much better, let me drop this work.» Whenever I have that in my mind, I see the picture of the Samadhi in my dream. It’s very strange: I see that some people have come, only one or two persons, and they are arranging flowers. So at once I understand the message that says, «Lazy fellow, get up!» More than once it has happened. So you see now how it happens! I’ve told you, He has helped and does help me in various other things, in studies, in compositions, in sadhana, but sometimes not in the way I like. But He doesn’t care very much for my liking; He does His job. In this small physical work as well, how tenaciously He is after me. He won’t leave me. As I’ve said, and I am not exaggerating, more than once I’ve seen this – some laziness, some inertia, some unwillingness comes in, and finding some excuse, some justification, I think of skipping the work, and then I get a vision of the Samadhi, or some sweet call – «Nirod-da!» – that’s a new feature! (Laughter)

So then I was reconciled to do as much work as I could. Next, I thought that, at least on the Darshan day, I might not, indeed, I need not go, because on the eve of the Darshan days, so many ladies come there to take part in the decorations and to do some punya-karma244. (Laughter) So I thought, since so many ladies, five or six of them, sometimes even visitors along with them, come to work there, in the midst of all these Prakritis, my presence as the one Purusha would be very embarrassing. I couldn’t move this way or that way without rubbing shoulders! (Laughter) So one Darshan day, I did not go. But, afterwards, I felt very uncomfortable, thinking: Why should I consider the ladies ? It is my job. I should slip in, make a place for myself, and do my work, though it is hard, though they butt in everywhere. Then, on the next Darshan day, I thought, No, I cannot take any decision, I leave it to You to do whatever You like. Either have one Purusha among many Prakritis, or let the Prakritis have their sway over You. Then, after two or three days and just before the Darshan, if I am right, again I had a vision of the Samadhi in my dream. I saw just a few people there and they were doing the work. So the indication was quite clear that my presence was absolutely necessary. I could not remain in bed till late, whether the Prakritis were there or not, I had to make my way amongst them and do my job.

So there, you see, is the help; the unfailing guidance is always there behind you. It is there even in small things like this. Now it has come to such a state that I have understood that it is impossible to escape, to leave the work, till God wishes you to.

Now the talk of Purusha and Prakriti reminds me of a great story. Some of you might know it. I’m talking of the story of Mirabai245. You know that she left her palace, her husband, her friends, the world, for the love of her Lord, and made a pilgrimage to Brindavan. I’m not quite sure which place this incident occurred at, but it is a true story. She went all alone – you have seen in the film246, I suppose, haven’t you? Her laborious journey took her through the desert and other strange places. Remember that she was a princess! All kinds of travails and hardships she had to bear, many adversities she had to face till at last she reached Brindavan. There, the priest would not allow her entry into the temple. When he’d heard that it was Prakriti or a woman who had come to have the Darshan of the Lord, he’d said, «No! No Prakriti is allowed here.» Then Mirabai sent back the answer, «I thought that there is only one Purusha [God] and all the rest of us are Prakritis» When the priest heard that answer from the mouth of this girl, he was completely stunned. «Here is an exceptional woman,» he realised, and he opened the gates of the Lord’s temple.

So I revise my opinion in the light of this illuminating remark, and I say that I am also considered to be one of the Prakritis. Now all these thoughts began to come in, as I said, in my attempt at meditation and the result was – no sleep. Then I said, «O Lord, thou hast helped too much,» and I smiled. Why did I smile? Because that reminded me of a story – I’m becoming a grand old storyteller in the footsteps of our Charu Dutt! That story was told by none other than Sri Aurobindo Himself. You know, we used to have all sorts of talks with Him, freely, without any restraint. One day, He was explaining to us, or telling us something – I don’t remember what it was about, but He added this phrase, «O Lord, thou hast helped me too much.» We had no clue about what he’d meant. Four or five of us were there; we looked at Him, a little puzzled. «Oh, you don’t know the story?» He asked. Then He told us. During the Boer War in South Africa (where Mahatma Gandhi was at that time), the Boers were on one side and the British on the other. Two Boers were escaping on horseback after some fighting. One of them was short and stumpy. They were running for their lives and the British were in hot pursuit. Then, this unfortunate, stumpy fellow slipped from his horse and fell down. He didn’t know what to do; the British were coming, he would be caught any moment. He tried once or twice to get up on the saddle but couldn’t, either because he was short or he was nervous. Then the best thing he could do was to pray to the Lord, «O Lord, help me to my saddle.» Praying thus he leaped up, and instead of landing on the saddle, he fell on the other side (Laughter) and his pursuers came and caught him. Then he said, «Lord, thou hast helped me too much!» (Laughter) So that is the story behind «you have helped me too much».

Now you see then how that single cry of «Nirod-da!»- sweet yet unkind – has brought out a whole story from the subconscience, for your pleasure and for your profit. That is why I say that the Lord’s blessings are with us. I don’t need to worry much about what I’m going to say. He will inspire me; He will give me the subject. If there is a little bit of headache, I make a ‘call’ to Him and keep quiet; the response comes. It comes in this way, unexpectedly, I don’t even know when it’ll come, but it does come, as you see here. He never fails. You know the verse in the Gita: mamekam sharanam vraja. «Take refuge in me; take shelter in me alone, I will deliver you from all sin.» Though this is not a sin – I mean from all difficulties and all troubles of your life. «If you take refuge in me alone.» More than once, He has shown us this.

But then I’ll tell you another incident. I’m going to tell you this just to prove to you how the Lord helps. As I said, I was thinking yesterday, about what to speak in this class. Lying in my easy chair, I was waiting for my lunch. A visitor came in at noon, an elderly lady! She said, «Oh, I’ve been thinking so much of coming to see you.» Thinking and thinking, I said to myself, how strange. But I couldn’t check myself and asked, «What kept you back?» «Well, I was not sure whether you would like to see me.» I said in reply, «You don’t need to stand on all these formalities. We are all members of one family, though perhaps I have some bad reputation.» «Reputation?» she was taken aback. «No, no, I mean, some people say that I don’t take too kindly to strangers.» Then she replied, «Oh! But when I think of you, I feel so inspired.» I said, «Good Lord!» (Laughter) I suppose some others would have said «Thank God!» (Laughter) «I would like to know so many things from you because you have been in close contact with Sri Aurobindo.» That’s good. Then I calmed down. I had already heard about this lady and the strange and extraordinary circumstances, which I am not obliged to tell you, under which she had come here. But then I never thought that she would take a fancy to see me. I don’t know how it happened. But as she said, she had been thinking for long of coming to visit me. Why did she come yesterday? That was my question. Why did she come just yesterday, when today is our class. So I thought, Let me see... this lady must have been sent by some Force in order to give me some subject upon which I can talk.

Then our conversation followed – very illuminating indeed, very interesting as well – about her life, her turn towards yoga, etc. I led her on gently and asked, «How did you turn to yoga?» She said, «All in a flash.» «How is that ?» She said, «You see, I was living a worldly life for a number of years. All on a sudden, the world seemed to me hollow, empty, without any sense, and as soon as that sense prevailed upon me, I started for Pondicherry.» Then to encourage her I said, «The same feeling occurred to me also, in my medical profession, all on a sudden.

But did you have any connection with Pondicherry?» She said, «No, not at all. I only knew that there was a Mother in Pondicherry, that’s all. I had not read a page of Mother’s or Sri Aurobindo’s works. No, on the other hand, when the people from Srinvantu ...» – I suppose you know that Srinvantu is a magazine on the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and on their teachings and other relevant matters – « ... used to come with their packets to be posted, I was a government servant in the Post Office then, and I used to, purposely, deliberately, put them aside.» I asked, «Why? Out of fear?» «Not quite, but I thought this was very high and dry stuff, not good for any consumption. Then, one day, I went to see a relative of mine who had some connection with the Ashram. There was a picture of the Mother. She said, «This is the Mother.’ Before that, I had not seen any picture of the Mother or Sri Aurobindo. Then I stood before Her picture. As soon as I stood before Her, everything in me became quiet. That’s all; and I forgot that moment’s experience afterwards. I was busy doing my usual work concerning my family, my children, office work, so on and so forth.» Then I asked her, «Did you have any religious feeling when you were a child?» «Yes, to a certain extent. But when I was coming to Calcutta after I had finished my school course, my mother gave me a very strange piece of advice; she said, ‘You are going to Calcutta, don’t run after sannyasis! It was very strange, I’d had nothing of the sort in my mind at all. I was going to Calcutta for my studies and that too in a college where there is a system of co-education, but instead of warning me not to mix with boys, she asked me not to mix with sannyasis! Perhaps she had a perception that I would turn out one day to be a sannyasini or something of that sort. But I was not aware of that at all, it was far removed from my mind.» So she came to Calcutta, joined college and lived there. But somehow she began to frequent the temple at Dakshineshwar, now well-known because of Sri Ramakrishna, and she used to spend quite a lot of time over there. That’s how things went on – studies, on one hand, and visits to Ramakrishna’s temple, on the other. She was a graduate and was preparing for M.A., but she had to give up her college studies. Then, she said, with her studies over, «I then got married!» And she smiled. Then I said, «Yes, women, whether they become doctors, lawyers, or teachers, all end up getting married! All these roads lead to marriage!» Then she said, «After a time, my married life became unhappy.» I smiled! (Laughter) «Then, about two years before my coming here,» she said, «I had a dream. I saw a temple, and seated there was a sannyasi with a disciple. When the disciple saw me, he said to the Guru, ‘This lady has come here for initiation.’ But the Guru refused – ‘No!’» Then what passed between the Guru and the shishya, she doesn’t know, but after a while he consented and gave her diksha. But she could not at all identify, in real life, the Guru she had seen in her dream. When an astrologer met her sometime later on, he told her that this was a genuine diksha, and that she did not need to worry about it, she would find her Guru. Then, as I said, two years later, all in a flash, it all happened. She felt that life had no meaning at all, and she started for Pondicherry, without any particular inclination. When she came and saw the picture of Sri Aurobindo in the Reception Room, she at once recognised who this was. It was exactly the same person she had seen in her dream!

So there again, friends, ladies and gentlemen, here is a glimpse of how the Divine or Sri Aurobindo is working everywhere. I know many other similar cases of this nature. By and by, I will tell you, how, one after the other, people hear, all of a sudden, for instance, ‘Go to Pondicherry’ So those people who have had some aspiration in their life, the Divine is helping them in one way or another, to send them over here, or helping them in other ways. A classical example, of which perhaps you may have heard and about which one day I may tell you more, is the story of a Rumanian described in the book The Lost Footsteps. I don’t know whether you people know about it; a remarkable example and that was during Sri Aurobindo’s lifetime. Perhaps He Himself didn’t know about it in his instrumental outer nature! His emanation was doing everything.

Then the lady departed, as we shall also depart just now, saying, «I came to hear something from you, but I’ve told you about my experience instead.» So here then, ladies and gentlemen, you see how the work is going on even in this small field of ours. Since you take interest in Him, He takes interest in you and there is a mutual friendly help. It is to our mutual benefit.

14 October 1969

Well, I was very glad, very surprised to receive an invitation from you, through your charming teacher [Addressing the children of Progres]247. It seems, you even threatened to invade my small castle if she did not convey your invitation to me. I was glad because I would be able to meet you children, I was surprised because I didn’t know why you had invited me! It seems you wanted me to give a talk. I was wondering whether it was because of my appearance, or for my talk that you have invited me. I was sure it is not because of my appearance, but because I can talk. So I seem to have gained some fame and reputation as a speaker. You understand my English? Yes. That is a bit of a surprise because when I was young, a child like you, I was supposed to be very shy and somewhat tongue-tied. You know what is tongue-tied? When I became a little older, after I passed out of school, I wanted to go to England. I had no father then, I’d lost my father when I was a child like you. I had a guardian, and when I suggested to him that I would like to go to England, he asked, «What for?» I replied, «I want to be a barrister.» He said contemptuously, «Huh! Huh! A fellow who can’t talk two words wants to be a barrister!» There you are! Either out of shyness or due to some other reason I could talk but I could not speak!

Similarly, when I came to see Mother, a number of years after my return from England, I met Her there for the first time, where Rajenda’s library (Reading Room) is at present. Mother used to meet people there. That was the Darshan room. It seemed She was very happy and surprised to see me, and began to smile and she kept on smiling and I was feeling very uncomfortable! I was looking up and looking down – once up and once down – and She kept smiling all the while; not a word was coming out of my mouth. Then She commented, «He is very shy.» So a shy person, a dumb person like I am, has become a speaker. Is this not a miracle? So here is one more miracle before you.

There are many other miracles the Guru performed on me. I was a big ass, He has made me an intelligent ass; I was a medical man, He has made me a poet; so if these are not miracles, what are they? A fellow who could not write a single line of poetry has now become a poet. One who could not utter a single word, who used to feel shy in the presence of people, has now become a speaker. There is a verse which says: The Divine Grace can make a dumb fellow talkative, and one who is lame can be made to jump over a mountain248. The Divine Grace, the Divine Power can do that. I did not believe this when I was a child; but now when I am a grown-up man, Sri Aurobindo has proved it to me by my own example.

In the former days of the Ashram, there was a lady – though she was not much of a lady -a woman of middle age. At that time, I was the doctor in charge of the Ashram Dispensary. She used to come to the dispensary and bother me much. She was a quarrelsome woman, she used to fuss over nothing; she was fat, squat and bulky. By the way, you know Promod Babu Chatterjee’s house249? She used to live there. She used to cook for Sri Aurobindo nice ‘luchis’ and she took great pride in it. «I cook luchis for Bhagawan!» and with great gusto she used to distribute prasad to everybody. You know what ‘prasad is – Bhagawaris prasad250. That is why that house is named ‘Prasad House’. As I said, she used to cook for Sri Aurobindo and that’s how her pride began to swell. She used to quarrel with almost everybody, not sparing me, and used to complain to Mother. One day – as you know I was a doctor and also I was with Sri Aurobindo, doing Him some service, so I was in Sri Aurobindo’s presence even that day. She came up running to the Mother: «Mother, Mother!» she said. «What’s the matter?» «See, Mother.» She was carrying a big bottle of medicine. «Doctor Nirod has given me this. How to take, how many times to take it, nothing has been said. Mother, Mother, he is no doctor, he is a poem he is a poem!» (Laughter) So Mother came with a smile, told this story before Sri Aurobindo and I was there. So there you are, even that lady gave me that tribute of being a poet, though she didn’t mean it as a tribute. She didn’t know the distinction between a poem and a poet – so she said that I was a poem! (Laughter)

That reminds me of many things, but one thing in particular. As I said, she was very quarrelsome, used to quarrel with everybody, and each time she would threaten to jump into the sea. I am quite sure that the sea would have refused to take her! (Laughter) She was so bulky, she would have been too heavy even for the sea! Anyway, she used to write letters in Bengali to Sri Aurobindo, addressing Him as ‘Baba’. She would write that such and such a thing happened, so if you don’t do something, ‘I will commit suicide, I will jump into the sea.’ And poor ‘Baba’ used to be very affectionate and write sweet letters in Bengali, saying, ‘If you commit suicide, who will prepare luchis for me ?’ So she was satisfied, «Ah, Baba has said ‘Who will prepare luchis for me, so I won’t commit suicide.’» That is the story. I have strayed far away from our subject to something quite different. That’s the trouble with old men. I’m sorry, my friends don’t like that I should call myself old, but I can’t help it, that is why I seek the company of young people. They give me something of freshness, something of life, something of cheer, so I forget that I am old. That is one of the reasons why I accepted this invitation. It is not that only I give you, you give me also something, unconsciously and very graciously, because children are very kind, very gracious, and very frank; they are very beautiful. Now, can you give me a watch? Otherwise I’ll go on talking.

Now, today I’ll tell you the story of a child, a somewhat big child, not very wise either. Some of you at least know this big child, whose name is Nishikanto – you know him? All of you know him? Good! He is a friend of mine, a poet, and has remained a child in spirit. You’ve seen how he dresses himself; though in spirit he is young, his body has become old. But it doesn’t matter if the body is old, so long as the spirit is young. I too feel quite fresh and young in spirit. It doesn’t matter if you suffer, it doesn’t matter if you fail, but freshness of the spirit is what you must have, what you must maintain.

Now Nishikanto and I came to be friends. The way it happened is a very interesting story. It is a very long story which I’ve written, but I’ll tell you just the important part. He was, before coming here, in Shantiniketan. In fact, he was brought up there from when he was a young boy. And he was a great favourite of Tagore and Nandalal Bose the great artist, as well as Abanindranath Tagore. Nishikanto was both a poet and an artist. I think he does some sketches even now; if you are interested, when you go to Corner House, you can pay him a visit and look at his face. Well, he was a poet even at a young age, he was a born poet. You know what a born poet is ? Right from his mother’s womb, he was into poetry. That’s what we call a born poet. I’m not a born poet, I have been made into a poet. There is a big difference between the two.

So Rabindranath became very fond of him because he showed a great power of genius. Abanindranath and Nandalal also grew very fond of him. But as he grew older, somehow he felt that Shantiniketan was not the place for him. He was then twenty or twenty-one years old. However, he stayed on as long as he could; Tagore used to call him very often to his house. He gave him good food and Nishikanto the poet has this weakness – he is very fond of good food. I’ll tell you later on about it. Even now, though he is not well, he is very fond of it, so don’t tempt him with rasagollas! So Tagore used to invite him, call him, read out his own poems which were very striking. Tagore used to ask for his judgment and his opinions. One day, Tagore had written a Bengali novel and he asked Nishikanto: «I have a hero – a character, what name do you suggest for him?» He said, all on a sudden, without thinking, «Nirodbaran!» You know I suppose that my name is Nirod and Baran. He didn’t know anything about me at all. As soon as he uttered the name ‘Nirodbaran’ (he occasionally sees visions of gods and goddesses and other figures), a face floated before his eyes – a luminous face. Very strange! Then after some time – I’m cutting the story short – he left Shantiniketan. Tagore tried to tie him down, to bind him down in so many ways, but he couldn’t. So, one day, he ran away.

He went to Sarnath near Bodhgaya where Buddhist people come on pilgrimage. There he stayed for some days. One day, he was meditating on the bank of the river Niranjana; deep-plunged in meditation, he saw Buddha’s figure appearing before him and telling him: «I am not confined only to this place.» He understood the meaning of that sentence. It meant that he need not be only there, he could go elsewhere in search of Truth. But there, in Sarnath, he met a friend of mine who told him about me, in their talk, that a friend of his is in Pondicherry, whose name is Nirodbaran. So now he understood the significance of the name that he had uttered without knowing. «Now I must go to Pondicherry from where the call comes.» So he started for Pondicherry.

You see how the Divine works. That is what I am trying to drive at. When you are destined for something, you are guided to that destiny by various ways, by ways that you are not conscious of. So, one day, he came here, knowing nothing about our Ashram except one name – Nirodbaran. Who is Nirodbaran? What is he like? What does he do? My friend had told him only this much: «Nirodbaran is there, if you want to go, you may go. Tell him about this.» Then, somehow, he managed to come here. I was staying at that time in the house where Ranju-da stays now. So, one fine morning, I find this gentleman coming to my place; he was rather bulky, with a suitcase in hand; he had a chador251 put across his chest like a Bengali babu, and his gait was a little self-conscious, conveying the air of being ‘somebody’. And he had his hair in a bob – in Shantiniketan, poets keep that hairstyle. So he came up and asked, «Are you Nirodbaran?» I looked up and said, «Yes.» «I’ve come to see you.» Then he told me that so and so had sent him, had told him about me. At that time, remember, the Ashram was quite different – not like the Ashram of today; now whenever you like, you can go to Ganpatram252, whenever you like, you can go to the bazaar, etc. At that time, it was absolutely different, it was impossible to do such things. There was no Ganpatram. Even if I had a cup of tea, I would feel guilty; now I can take ten cups of tea without feeling anything. Anyhow, at that time, the rule was that no outsiders should be allowed into a sadbak’s room. Now you can take as many outsiders as you wish! That was the rule of the Ashram then. So I could not take him into my room. I put a chair in the verandah outside, and said, «Let us sit here and let us talk.» Then we had a long talk, after which I took him to Nolini-da, who was the Secretary of the Ashram. I was hoping that Nolini-da would be able to do something for him, if possible. He had come like a vagabond, with very little money. It was not known whether Mother would allow him to stay in the Ashram and give him a room, etc. Then it was reported to the Mother, and She said, «No, I can’t give him a room. If he wants to stay on, let him stay outside and have his own food and room. I can’t accept him.» Poor fellow, but he was not discouraged. He took a room somewhere, a very dingy, small room full of mosquitoes and perhaps a bed full of bugs, but he didn’t mind it at all. So he stayed on, cooking for himself. Then Dilip Kumar Roy came to know about it; that such and such a great poet has come here from Shantiniketan; he had made a name for himself in the outside world at that time. So Dilip-da and somebody else went to see him. You see how the Divine Grace works. And Dilip-da was very much impressed by his talk and by his poetry which he showed him. Then he came back and wrote a long letter to Sri Aurobindo pleading on his behalf, saying that he was a genius, and if not a genius, at least he had great possibilities; so why not accept him in the Ashram?

Mother was managing the Ashram at that time, so Sri Aurobindo told the Mother about Nishikanto. Mother sent Nolini-da to him to get some information from him. She said, «Ask him if he has, at any time, seen any sannyasi or lived with a sannyasi.» Mother knew nothing of it, remember that. He hadn’t written any letter to Her, nothing of this sort had been told to her. Then Nolini-da went to him and asked him, «Mother wants to know if you have ever lived with a sannyasi? Then Nishikanto said, «Yes, when I left Shantiniketan, I went somewhere to the north and I met a sannyasi and I lived with him for some time. I asked the sannyasi if I could be accepted as his disciple and he said ‘No baba, I won’t accept you as my disciple. (Amaar ghore tomaar chal nei253 – that is what they say in Bengali – it means you are not for me.) I see behind you your Guru and the Mother – they’re your Gurus’. You see how yogis have this faculty. «So my child, don’t go about here and there seeking for gurus, your gurus are fixed for you. And when the time comes, you will find them, go back home, my child, and lead a quiet life.» So Nolini-da came and reported the story.

How did the Mother know about it ? That is not difficult to answer: Mother, being the Divine, knows everything that we are doing. Just try to understand – with Her sitting over there in one room, not going out anywhere, have you ever thought how it is possible to run this whole Ashram of 1500 people ? And without coming in contact with them! Had it been any other place, there would have been a big row, a big fight, a big head-breaking and yet you see nothing of all that here. Have you children ever thought of it? You do some mischief, that’s all – how much freedom you are getting. Mother loves you, gives you directions but never comes much in contact with you physically, and yet what nice and beautiful and cheerful children you are. How is it so? Whenever you do something wrong, there is some unease in the heart. Isn’t there? Just think! One simple thing makes you feel so uneasy, and the Ashram, containing 1500 people, having so much freedom, is still running so smoothly ? Not for fear of X, nor for fear of Y, but it is for the love of the Mother that you are so nice. Her love is everywhere, Her will is everywhere. That’s what you are not conscious of at times, but sometimes, I suppose, you consciously feel it. She’s doing so much for us. That love is the great power that is keeping us all united in this way. You are quarrelling and you lose your temper, at once you feel something there, something has gone wrong which you should not have done and should not do, not out of love for yourself but out of love for Mother and love for Sri Aurobindo. There are many other things, if you come to think of it, but one thing alone you can, even you children can understand – that She has such a great Power. Power of love, power of knowledge, power of peace, anything that you want from Her She gives you – the power to cure your illness even. In return, She wants that you should be nice, you should love God, you should love the Divine and try to do little by little everything for Her, for the Divine, for God, not for yourselves; not for your name, not for your fame, not for your reputation, not for your glory; this is what She expects from all of us.

However, let me come back to the story about Nishikanto. In those days, Mother used to walk on the big terrace and we used to stand below and look at Her. One day, Nishikanto was also standing somewhere in the corner and he saw the Mother for the first time and «Ah!» he exclaimed. «This is the Mother I have seen in my dreams and in my visions. It is She.» Mother also saw him, but the answer to Dilip-da’s letter came in a not very happy tone. Sri Aurobindo wrote for the Mother, that it is better that Nishikanto does not remain here. This is not his path. He will have a lot of trouble, a lot of suffering, a lot of pain, so let him go somewhere else. But Nishikanto was very stubborn, very strong – «Nothing doing, I’ll stay here. It doesn’t matter if I have suffering, I will stay here.» Then it was told to Mother that he wants to stay here, and she wrote back; these were Her words: «All right, but tell him that he will see and know many things.» That means not book knowledge, but visions of gods, goddesses and other forces; just as he saw the ‘luminous face of Nirod’ earlier. It may be my divine face which stays somewhere far away, God knows where; and he saw Buddha too. So Mother said that all these things he’ll see, but seeing is not always very blissful. If you see, for instance, an apsara254 finished! So there are big dangers too. And anyhow they warned him, and said that he should take care.

So he stayed on here and went on sketching and writing poetry. He is a great poet, he is a great painter, he is a great cook and he is also a great petook255! I’m not exaggerating at all. Poor fellow has no control over his tongue – both ways. If you go and ask him something, he will go on telling you stories one after the other, like a grandpa: «Bujhechho, bujhechbo, Nirod, bujhechho’i256» It goes on in this way. It’s difficult to come away. No control over the tongue. Same problem also when you cook before him. Don’t invite him, never invite him please! Never! Never! Nobody would invite him, for everybody knew about his greed, yet he used to come to our house or elsewhere and say, «Kicbhu khabar achhe? Kichhu dao khete257! He is not like me – no shyness. So everyone was warned by the doctors and by the Mother that Nishikanto must not be given any food. But he used to get information whose birthday it was, and at that time would appear and the poor ladies could not refuse! He had no control over his tongue in this way as well.

So there are many stories about him, but all those will take us a long way off from what I want to say. Now, as I said, he is a great cook. His yoga was writing poetry. One day, after Sri Aurobindo’s accident, neither he nor I could write any poetry. So he was thinking what to do and said he would cook. At that time in the Dining Room, a cook was badly needed, so Nishikanto was gladly taken. Mother said, «Very good idea, go,» and he started cooking. And Sri Aurobindo gave him a great compliment (because they used to make ‘prasad’m the Dining Room) that he was an excellent cook! Of course, we knew about his cooking expertise, because we used to hold parties and he used to cook for us, and we ate and enjoyed. He was an excellent cook! But he could not retain the post of cook for long. There again he stumbled, he tripped. After he had cooked or as he was cooking, he used to taste everything, so the ladies used to protest, «How dare you taste these things before they are offered to the Divine ?» They couldn’t bear it, but he couldn’t bear it either. He said, «How am I going to know that the cooking is good or not, if I do not taste it ?» So the quarrel went on; finally, the ladies won and he had to leave. That’s all.

Then he started trying all sorts of experiments in cooking, preparing cheese for Mother, cooking something for one, cooking something else for another. And that led to his undoing’, as we said. One day, he said, «I will prepare vinegar – strong acid – very sour.» His idea was to prepare vinegar to make curds with which he would prepare cheese for Mother. What kind of cheese, I don’t need to tell you! Now, he was preparing vinegar in an original way: from mangoes. So he used to pluck raw mangoes and boil them; you know how sour raw mangoes are! And he used to put some sugar in it. Then, one day, he drank a big glass of concentrated, strong, sour mango juice, and you know what happened! At once, there was a strong pain in his stomach and it began to bleed. He had an ulcer – that means a hole was made in the stomach, you understand? That’s what happened. You know something of chemistry? If you take a strong acid and put it on the skin, what happens? It burns, doesn’t it? Similarly here, his stomach lining just got burnt away, and it began to bleed. So the queer fancy he took brought about the beginning of a disease. That is why I used to call him ‘Asura! That is the asuric power. How could any sane man think of taking a strong liquor, just out of fancy to taste it ? So it ended in an ulcer!

I told you earlier that he was a ‘petook’ – you know what that means – he could eat two big dishes of rice, sweets, etc., at a time, and then he never did any exercises like you children do, and he grew a tummy like that of Ganesh. Over and above that, as he was a painter, he used to just sit cross-legged and paint, day in and day out. All this with no physical exercises, mind you. Then I told him, I prophesied: «Look here, Kobi (I call him ‘Kobi’), if you go on in this way, you’ll have another disease called diabetes, I warn you.» And my prophecy came true. On the one hand, ulcer in the stomach, on the other hand, diabetes. Finally, today he has no proper lungs, both his lungs have hundreds of holes, and he has a heart that may stop any time. Doctors have warned him: «Take care, your heart may stop any moment.» It has almost become like a chicken heart! So his lungs are not functioning, his heart is almost on the point of stopping, his liver is out of gear, his stomach has a big hole, his kidneys have many small holes. So not a single organ is intact. Every hour or every two hours, he feels a pain in the stomach, a burning pain. So he carries some biscuits in his pocket; as soon as the pain starts, he chews them. The other day, he had forgotten them and came and asked me, «Have you any biscuits ?» I said, «I’m sorry, I don’t have.» With clock-like regularity, the pain comes. So this is the way he is going on.

There is a long story still to be told, but perhaps I shall tell you some other day. Now this is the present condition and yet, my friends, what I want to tell you is this, that his greed itself has punished him, for his ‘petookami’! You can see that, can’t you? Now he can’t enjoy food: no rasagollas, no sweets, very small quantity of rice, that’s all. That is one lesson you should learn, my children, that you will be punished for your gluttony. He did not realise it then, now he is realizing it. So he has become a walking patient now! But you have marked, I suppose, how happy and cheerful he is. That is the striking thing about Nishikanto. He doesn’t care whether he dies or whether he lives. Can you ever imagine such a man? When I have a headache, I turn, I groan, I lament, «Ma re, Baba re258!» I call Guru, «Save me!» Whereas this poor fellow: not a single organ is healthy and yet how happy, how cheerful he is. He goes about walking, goes to the bazaar, comes to my room, comes to the Samadhi with a stick and a lungi259 put on like a Mussalman. That is one thing you have to learn from him, how a man in his condition can bear all this. How is it possible ? Because he has complete faith, complete trust and confidence in the Mother. «It doesn’t matter whether Mother will let me die, I don’t care! I don’t fear!» So that is the root cause of all happiness in life, my children. That is a bright, shining example of how a man can be happy in spite of all troubles – and physical troubles are the most difficult in the world to bear, you know that.

One day, he told us that he was going to the Lake Estate. His ulcer was bleeding, blood was flowing, he could feel it, and it was paining, but still he continued walking. Then he came and reported to the Mother all that had happened, then the Mother asked, «How is it that with that bleeding you went on walking to the Lake?» Then he answered, «Why not, Mother, I am the child of Mahakali!» Mother said, «That is all right – then it is all right.» It is not a show, my children, it is not bravado. He does see the Mother as Mahakali, the Divine.

The other day, I proposed to him, «Kobi, give up all these ideas! Some Frenchman has come; he has some power to heal, go to him. He will heal you, he will give you some relief.» He thundered at me, «What, Nirod, you tell me such things? You ask me to go to him? When I have my Mother and my Sri Aurobindo, you ask me to go to that man? If Mother can’t cure me, can that fellow cure me? Never!» So you see what a strong, unshakable faith he has.

Well, children, my story isn’t finished yet, but the time is over. On another day, God willing, I will finish the story.

22 October 1969

Well, a rainy day, ladies and gentlemen! On such days, we used to play football instead of listening to a lecture, or sometimes we used to purposely get wet in the rain, so that we might get a holiday. I don’t feel very warm today – my inspiration has got all drenched in the rain; I hope that you can pass me some enthusiasm, some warmth from your young hearts!

I have been asked to tell you, in these two closing talks of this session, something of my association, or rather, our association with Sri Aurobindo. I suddenly thought of doing it now – I had fixed it in my mental calendar to do it in due order of time, but young people like sweet disorder, like our poet Herrick who likes sweet disorder in the dress! And then, they live always in the present. And I too am not quite sure of the future, therefore I thought, perhaps I may as well bow down to the call of the children and to the wisdom of the young people. But the subject is rather difficult. The association here is not an equal one between ordinary men; it is an association between common human beings, on the one side, and the Divine, on the other. Though the Divine has taken a human habitation and a name, it is no mere human figure there about whose anatomy, physiology and psychology you can pronounce an expert medical judgment and find at last that there is no mystery. As our Dr. Sanyal says: «Where is your psychic being? Where are all the centres you speak of: your Anahata, Nabbipadma260, etc.? Where are all these? I have dissected so many bodies, I’ve found none, and I’m a renowned surgeon!»

So there you are! But I suppose that, about the semblance, the mask that we know as ‘Sri Aurobindo’, I could mumble a few words. Our association with Him is something unique, something unparalleled, rarely to be found in spiritual history. Perhaps you have some idea of Arjuna’s association with Sri Krishna, Ananda’s with Buddha, St. Paul’s with Jesus Christ, and similar ones of others; in our modern days, associations of Vivekananda, particularly, and of his friends with Ramakrishna, and lastly, in our present time, here, of Pranab-da and Vasudha-ben261 with the Mother. Our association too belongs to that class, that category, but I won’t say that it is of the same stature. However, it is an association worth dying for a thousand times and double those times living for, and yet perhaps you won’t be able to solve the mystery, even by serving Him. So there lies my difficulty. What to speak of the Ineffable? What have we seen of the Master, the Lord that we can speak of? Even what we have seen – the very superficial crust, we have no power to express. However, I shall try to give you some glimpse of whatever little we have seen of that great ocean-depth and the vast sky-space that is Sri Aurobindo. But my fear is that it will be too personal as well as a little sentimental. You will excuse me if it is so. That is why I always avoid speaking much about these too-personal experiences.

Well, memories surge up, as it were, from the backward abysm of time, one after another: that fateful night262, when Sri Aurobindo was lying helplessly on the floor of His room, the doctors rushing in, the Mothers grave concern, the consternation in the whole Ashram, the gloom, the frustration overwhelming everybody who had come for the Darshan. Then the decision was taken to send for specialists from Madras, waiting anxiously; and in the midst of all this, the Master, the Lord, lying in his bed, quietly, calmly, most unperturbed, most unconcerned. That is the first picture. Then the doctors arrived. The accident had taken place at about 2 o’clock or 2:30 a.m. – making us wait impatiently, they came at 7 or 8 in the evening: a specialist and a radiologist. Their examination, their diagnosis, their great verdict came, and Sri Aurobindo was confined to bed for a number of months. Complication after complication, then His recovery, His learning once again to walk, leaning on human crutches (Laughter), then our witnessing His life: His eating, His sleeping, His writing poems – The Life Divine, Savitri – autographing hundreds of books. Then our touching His sacred body, touching His hair, giving Him a bath. Then His exercises in bed, according to the prescription of Dr. Manilal. Now and then, the Mother coming into the room, with a sweet smile, sometimes with a glass of coconut water in Her hand, casting a very quick glance at us mischievous fellows, and many other memories come. Then the memory of the famous ‘talks’ when the impersonal aspect of the Purusha became personal, very intimate, like that of a human being, talking with us on various subjects: politics, religion, philosophy and what not; cracking jokes with us on very trivial matters like Nirod’s snoring, P’s kicking (Laughter), so on and so forth; and the last, fatal touch – His passing away and the grand spectacle that He made us see: His whole body becoming golden for several days.

All these are memories that surge up when you ask me about my association with Him. Where shall I begin and how shall I express all these things? Would you like me to cram all these within two concluding lectures? I forgot to mention also His hearing the War news, His dictation of Savitri. These are things that we have seen, but what we have not seen, what we have not heard from Him, that is a region which has been unexplored and will never be explored by us. That is why He has said that His life has never been on the surface for men to see. How shall we be able to know that sitting there in that room ... [A visitor enters] Well, I suppose you know this gentleman – a distinguished visitor from our great poet’s Home of Peace – Shantiniketan, who has come with a party to our home of rain! [Addressing the visitor] I am speaking of our association with Sri Aurobindo. Our students want to know something about Him, so I was telling them that the subject is too personal, and besides, very little can be said about Him because, as Sri Aurobindo has said, very little of His life has been on the surface, for men to see. And these superficial aspects which have been noticed by us, the children are curious to know, firstly, because they are children, secondly, because they have no idea of what these aspects are like, so I am trying to give them some idea.

I have given you a rough panoramic survey of our association with Him. Now we shall start from the beginning. How was this physical contact established? You know very well from our previous talks about my psychic and intellectual contact with Him before I met Him on the physical plane. That was all perhaps a sort of preparation for this physical meeting. You know what happened in the year 1938 – just on the eve of the November Darshan. That was the fateful year. People from many parts of India had come for the Darshan. I don’t know if some of you were here in 1938. Perhaps you were dreaming in some higher sphere, of coming down and taking birth! One of the distinguished visitors that year was Miss Wilson, the daughter of President Wilson of America. She had come all the way from America to have her first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo.

Darshan then was something of which you have no idea today. You have heard about it, to a certain extent, you have made some mental figure of it, but that cannot be as vivid as what was seen with one’s own eyes. You have seen the sofa where Mother and Sri Aurobindo used to sit side by side – Mother on the right side of Sri Aurobindo, not on the left side. Sri Aurobindo, would sit there with just a chuddar thrown across His chest in the Bengali fashion, his imposing figure right in front of us. His dhoti was an immaculate white – what we call ‘phorash danga’ in Bengali – creased, crinkled, pressed, all done under the Mother’s direction; and folded and nicely put on, and the pleats or ‘kancha’ as we say in Bengali, reached almost to His feet, as you’ve seen in the picture. His hair was beautifully parted in the middle -long flowing hair, very thin, silken – and His beard flowing down and covering His chest. That’s all about His dress and outer bearing – the outer bearing only. There was the Mother, sitting by His side, and presenting quite a different picture: all rosy, beautifully dressed, all colourful and gorgeous, with rings on Her fingers. She was wearing a crown, in our eyes, with an enchanting smile – Mahalakshmi’s smile – really bewitching; calling us, as it were, not to adore Shiva but to adore Her! (Laughter) In fact, Sri Aurobindo was grand, aloof, austere, Shiva-like. If you have read His poem «Shiva», it was something of that sort. Settled somewhere on the peaks of Silence, with a faint ray of a smile which could be more imagined than perceived (Laughter), which would give us the touch of that something happening in this clay world of ours. Many of us have had, then, the experience of seeing Shiva and Parvati sitting side by side!

This is, in a few words, our impression of the Darshan. From the inner point of view, even a single Darshan has radically changed the lives of many people. One single look, one single smile saved so many people from their material, physical troubles, and seekers were lifted into another sphere. One single Darshan has often proved to be a veritable turning point in their lives. Sri Aurobindo said: «To everyone I give a pointed look.» Every Darshan had always an air of mystery, an air of sublimity, which could not be expressed in words, seeing which, Rabindranath said: «You have the Word, and we are waiting to accept it from you.» After a Darshan, one of our doctors, trying to be poetic, said, «Sir, you looked grand at the Darshan» Doctors can’t have a better expression, you must remember, unless the doctor is a poet! (Laughter) So that was the Darshan experience people looked forward to, and when, that year, the Darshan was interrupted by this stroke of Fate – I don’t know what to call it – we can imagine the disappointment, the frustration, the despair, the gloom of all these people. And particularly when they learned about the accident that had befallen their beloved Master, you can imagine! One prayer, one silent prayer that rose unanimously from the heart of the devotees was for the well-being of their Lord and Master, not perhaps regretting so much the Darshan that they had missed. Even Miss Wilson, who had come all the way from America, accepted it with submission. From that single gesture, you can see what a great soul she was. She didn’t rage, cry, lament, or regret. Her reaction was a calm, quiet submission and a prayer for the Lord, to the Lord. The accident had happened so unexpectedly. To quote Savitri:

Across the path of the divine Event

The huge foreboding mind of Night, alone

In her unlit temple of eternity,

Lay stretched immobile upon Silence’ marge263.

Well, two incidents come to mind which are full of significance, I should say, of cosmic significance; which have shaken the world to its very roots, and changed the course of world events without our least knowledge. One is the accident, the second is Sri Aurobindo’s passing away. The accident was a great victory on the part of adverse forces. Nolini-da gave an explanation of it, saying that, at that time, in 1938, there was a war-cloud threatening the world. Sri Aurobindo told us later that, for some reason, Mother and He did not want a war then. So very probably He took upon Himself that catastrophe and avoided it or postponed it for a year. That is what Nolini-da said and he must surely know what he was talking about because he must have had some perception of it. That does not contradict my view when I say that the hostile forces had gained a great victory. Dr. Manilal asked in his somewhat childlike manner, «Sir, why did it happen to you?» And Sri Aurobindo shot back, in a similar tone, «Why shouldn’t it happen to me ?» (Laughter) But the surface explanation He gave was that He had not believed or thought that these adverse, hostile forces would dare to touch Him, so He had not been on His guard. Moreover, He had been guarding the Mother, He had been busy guarding Her all the while. He didn’t take any cover, any protection for Himself.

So these are all mystic, occult events, very difficult to understand, and very difficult to talk about. But these are things that have been heard from His own mouth. Had not the accident taken place, I believe things would have taken a different course, and perhaps we would have had Him today in our midst and the realisation the Mother is waiting for, working for, day and night, would have been accomplished long ago. But things happen at their own appointed time. And though He has left His body, you know very well the phenomenon that took place on that day. Authentic record is there that His whole body was suffused with a golden colour and it remained so for many days. It is a phenomenon not recorded in history before. What exactly was behind this phenomenon? The Mother said that, whenever She used to visit Him, She used to notice always the Supramental Light that Sri Aurobindo was bringing down upon earth. Unfortunately, though we have lived beside Him for twelve years, day and night, like His shadows, we didn’t see even a single hair of the tail of the Supramental! (Laughter) He didn’t give us that vision. I was fortunate in having this vision only after He passed away. He thought perhaps that it would be too unfair to disappoint this poor fellow! (Laughter) So He gave me that vision, which I took to be very real, material. However, that was what He was doing and the meaning of it is, as we know today, that He fixed in the earth consciousness forever the Light that He and the Mother had been trying to bring down. Before that, as They have said, the Light was coming down and going away; they could not fix it, but this time it was fixed. How ? By Him sacrificing His own body. There are verses in Savitri that refer to this phenomenon:

It is finished, the dread mysterious sacrifice,

Offered by God’s martyred body for the world.

Mark each word: ‘sacrifice’, ‘God’s martyred body’, ‘for the world’.

And I still remember these lines because they were some of the last lines that He changed in Savitri, while He was dictating. They were not in this form at the beginning; they were changed to the present version during the last days, just before He passed away – when He decided to leave His body. You can see the purpose and you can see the reason, in the word ‘martyr’. Therefore I say that the purposes behind these two incidents, which may not be evident to our level of understanding, are very clearly evident to the Mother and others who have the right perception, the right intuition. Now, sometime around 2:30 a.m., when the whole world had gone to sleep, when the Mother also had retired: «It was the hour before the Gods awake», Sri Aurobindo alone was awake. A light was burning in the corner room (facing Pavita’s house264).

On many an occasion, my friend Nishikanto and I passed by that corner, after our midnight promenade (which we used to have very often), on our way back, to the Dispensary, for me, and to his house, for my friend. We would see that light burning, and sometimes I used to hear, from the Dispensary, the tinkling of the tea cup (Laughter) – no imagination! And I used to feel so happy. I used to listen to the musical sound. Champaklal told me later that a flask of tea used to be placed before Him and some biscuits and a cup and a saucer and sugar and everything. So it’s not all imagination that He used to take tea, and the tinkling of the tea cup was unmistakable, my friends. So we passed by, sometimes at one o’clock, sometimes at two o’clock – we were at that time like owls (Laughter) – and enjoyed the sight of the light very much. Sri Aurobindo quietly sitting down to work when all the world had gone to sleep, at midnight, that reminds me, in a small way, of the lines from Milton’s poem «Il Penseroso»:

Or let my lamp at midnight hour be seen in some high lonely tow’r.

And that night too, He was perhaps busy with the writing of Savitri. It was the only period of the whole day when He could devote His time to His great work. The rest of the correspondence He used to finish at another time. So perhaps He was in His poetic mood, incanting some verse that He had found by inspiration, all of a sudden, coming down from above, and He might have been muttering and incanting it; He used to mutter, I’ll tell you all about that later on. He was human in that respect. But, as I said, guarding the Mother at the same time, He was passing from that room to His bedroom, or to the bathroom on the other side, and somehow He tripped on a tiger skin that was on the floor and His knee struck very hard upon the head of the tiger. He was Divine, but He had a human body. He fell down, and there He lay. He lay down there quietly, not calling out to anybody; there was nobody there, except the Mother in the other room. So He was perhaps waiting for Her to come at some time or the other. He would never disturb anybody even normally, never call anybody, unless absolutely necessary. He would accept no service from anybody, unless compelled to do so. So the Divine compelled Him to accept this. However, it seems the Mother received a strong vibration in Her sleep or in Her trance, as I should say, and felt at once that something had happened to Sri Aurobindo. This is, my friends, what I had referred to long ago, the unity of consciousness between the Mother and Sri Aurobindo; and She came and found Sri Aurobindo lying on the floor. At once, she rang the emergency bell, and Purani rushed up; he was awake, preparing hot water for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo at 2 o’clock. The Master used to take His bath around that time, and that too with boiling water, my friends, no mixture, no dilution. (Laughter) Pure, boiling water, and at that time of the night! The Mother told Purani, «Sri Aurobindo has had an accident, go and call the doctor.» Fortunately, Dr. Manilal was here at that time; he had come for the Darshan. If he had not been here, my poor shoulders would have had to bear the burden of the Avatar! Well, he turned up and we followed. To see what? To see Him lying like a child there in His room by the door. There He was, with His upper body bare. He had a sort of embarrassed smile on His face, for giving us unnecessary trouble. It seemed as if, in the twinkle of an eye, I saw something. I don’t know whether it was due to the reflection of the light or a hallucination or vision – call it whatever you like. It seemed as if I had the glimpse of what the Vedas and the Upanishads call ‘the golden beauty of a God’ – the whole body bathed in golden light – golden Purusha. Yeats says in one of his poems: «World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras.» However, that was only a moment’s vision.

Then we were busy trying to find out what had happened. Dr. Manilal set about it: each movement of the limb followed by a soft «ah!» not more than that, a little twitching of the face and one or two answers, a few words. So Dr. Manilal, an expert medical man, came to the decision that it was a fracture. The Mother was all the time beside Sri Aurobindo, fanning Him; there was no electric fan at that time. Sometimes, She was going out and coming back, and asking Him, sweetly, «Is it hurting you? Is it hurting you?» Then we doctors set about medical treatment, putting the leg in plaster provisionally, then we laid Him in his bed.

The bell has rung. It is a long story and my tempo is rather slow, but these things cannot be done at a fast and furious pace. (Laughter)

23 October 1969

I don’t know whether I am happy or sad to find the room so unexpectedly packed, but Sri Aurobindo says that it is always the unexpected that happens, of course, in appearance only. I don’t know who has tom-tommed about this talk! Among this crowd, there are quite a number of distinguished guests, as you have noticed, from our great poet’s Home of Peace to our home of rain265. But, as Mother says, rain is the symbol of new life, new creation, so we welcome them here. But I’ll warn them, at the same time, that the subject matter will be a bit personal. By the way, it is not a speech, it is supposed to be a talk.

I am neither a talker nor a speaker. All the same, since the subject is going to be personal, the talker is likely to be somewhat unsteady, and so will the talk be too. Like teacher, like students. I am not a speaker like my friend (Sisir Ghosh) over there, I talk to my friends and my students and my children in a friendly way, more like a grandfather, though I am not of that age! (Laughter) So they know my whims, they know my failings, and they accept them in good grace. I will request you to do the same.

I was telling my friends here, about my personal contact – I shouldn’t say ‘my’, it sounds a bit egoistic – about our contact with Sri Aurobindo during the last twelve years before His departure. I shall resume the talk from where I had left off.

We saw Sri Aurobindo lying on the floor, upper body bare, the lovely lower body in a very white, immaculate dhoti, His right leg a little flexed, by which I mean a bit bent, with an embarrassed smile, as if to say «I am very sorry to trouble you». Plaster was put, etc. Then we tried to carry Him to His bed. We found the Divine Body a litte heavy, weighty like His own philosophy and teachings (Laughter), and we were three or four of us there. I was of a feather weight; Dr. Manilal and Dr. Becharlal carried the weight of their age; Champaklal and Purani were the only two heavyweight champions. So we somehow struggled through. He was kept quiet. It was a unique experience for everybody! Somehow we managed to put Him into His bed and He was calm and quiet, like a child. Then everything was in proper order. We were sitting by the side. The Mother came in a little later and had a discussion with us as to what was to be done next. Dr. Manilal said this French hospital was no good. Somebody suggested that a friend of Doraiswami from Cuddalore could be called. He came and suggested that he had a friend in Madras – a bone specialist, Dr. Rao by name, who should be called.

Incidentally, I might mention a very curious astrological prediction. A friend of mine in Bombay went to consult a Bombay astrologer on some private matters of his own concern. He was on the way to Pondicherry for Darshan, and he casually mentioned it to this astrologer. The astrologer asked, «What for?» He said, «For Darshan.» I don’t know whether the astrologer remained silent for a while or consulted his papers, but he said all on a sudden, most unexpectedly, that there was going to be no Darshan. My friend said, «Nonsense!» Then he said, «I tell you there will be no Darshan this time.» My friend came here to find that there was really no Darshan! So astrologers do predict things which sometimes turn out to be right!

I told you the atmosphere of the Ashram: the people who had gathered from all parts of India, and Miss Wilson who had crossed the seven seas; you can imagine what their mental condition was – the depression and the frustration. I learned later that the Mother gave a special Darshan in the evening for all, with Her enchanting smile. She took away from the heart of the devotees much of the grief and dejection caused by the accident to their beloved Master. Imagine what the Mother must have felt too!

Now, on our part, we found that Sri Aurobindo was lying quietly in His bed, and our duty was only to wait and watch; we were four or five of us sitting behind the head of the bed, ready to attend to any call, but calls were very few. He was lying flat on His back, calm and quiet and peaceful like a summer sea, most oblivious of the surroundings, but yet in a sort of a wakeful trance. We could see the signs of life only when the Mother came now and then to enquire about His needs, but His answers were very few: He was very laconic, as we say. As for us, Dr. Manilal used to go now and then to enquire: «How are you, Sir?» And his answers were monosyllabic: «yes», «no», that’s all. Otherwise, He lay there, immobile. There is a line in Savitri, about Savitri: «Immobile in herself she gathered force» – modified, it could have been applied to Sri Aurobindo.

We were coming and going, He took no notice of us either. I felt a bit hurt (Laughter) from, as we say in Bengali, ‘abhiman266, though it is, excuse my saying so, a woman’s prerogative (Laughter). I was not free from it. I thought: is this the Sri Aurobindo of the Correspondence, the Sri Aurobindo that I knew ? He doesn’t deign to look at me even once.

But that was one aspect of Sri Aurobindo, the impersonal one, that we came to know about as we became more and more familiar with Him. Then, seeing that He was so tranquil and serene, the tension, the anxiety that we felt at the beginning gave place to some relief. We also began to enjoy ourselves, with some light talk, light jokes, but all behind His back. Particularly when Purani was there – some of you know him perhaps – he was so vivacious, so full of life that there was no room for any gloom. He used to joke all the while and he knew Sri Aurobindo better than any of us at that time because he had been here for a longer time and was in contact with Him from the early days. So he knew personally that Sri Aurobindo didn’t mind all this at all. Then I thought: let me make a survey of the room, since I’ve nothing to do. First of all, I began with a survey, not of the room, but of Him! So far, we’d had no chance of looking at Him directly for a long time. We were busy with our work and there was no chance at all of standing before Him and having a good look.

So now as He was lying in bed, fully stretched out and relaxed, I approached from behind and looked at Him. One glance satisfied me, assured me that here is a very manly figure. Nothing weak or feminine about it – please don’t mind, I don’t mean in a pejorative sense. My first look was at the head – that head about which we have wondered so much, which has perplexed us so much. The head was round, large, global, commensurate with His global consciousness – a sculptured head, I should say. Then His chest was broad and large, what we call in Sanskrit vishald. His shoulders, as Barin-da has said somewhere, were brihatskanda267.

We had no opportunity of looking at His shoulders at that time, because He was lying flat. But Barin-da knew better, and I found out later that it is so. The lower part of the body was in proportion with the upper. But as I went on looking, I was surprised to see that the legs were rather thin. But when I came to the feet, I was still more surprised, it was a marvel. They were tiny, delicate, almost like the feet of a child. Amrita also speaks of his sweet, small feet. Later, when we used to see Him walking, I would say to myself: «How could these small feet carry such a big burden?»

However, all in all, I was quite satisfied, in spite of His thin legs and the delicate feet, that His figure was a very manly one. I’d had no opportunity to touch His body as yet. Neither did I have a chance to hear properly His voice, because, as I have said, He was very monosyllabic. So I couldn’t get any impression about the quality, the tone, the timbre of the voice itself. The other day, somebody who had heard His voice long ago had written in Mother India that Sri Aurobindo had a feminine voice. I simply uttered, «Rubbish!» The man didn’t know what he was talking about; or perhaps, at that time, Sri Aurobindo had had a feminine voice, which later turned into a masculine voice, because transformation was going on all the time. (Laughter) Anyhow, when I came to hear His voice, there was no femininity at all. Many people have asked us, «What was His voice like?» Well, I don’t know. Some of you might be able to express in words the quality of a voice, but I fail to do so. So people asked: «Is it like Nolini-da’s ?» «Yes,» I said, «Something of Nolinida’s, a little bit of Purani’s, a little bit of til, til, til if you gather together, perhaps it will be something like Tilottama268» (Laughter) I could only say that it was a male voice; it was soft, it was grave, but at the same time, there was some inexpressible sweetness – not a feminine sweetness at all. Perhaps you won’t believe that a male voice can have sweetness! But this I discovered much later; at that time, I had no chance to hear His voice. He was so silent, His voice was almost non-existent. So this is the description of His outward figure.

Then I started to look around the room itself. It was almost Spartan in its appearance, I would say – that means stark, bare, except for two tables, very simple; perhaps they had been bought second-hand from Mlle. Pierre, one at either extremity. And a semicircular table in the middle, and an almirah with some carving on top, and some Chinese paintings that are still there. That’s all. And yes, there was a long cane chair, don’t remember in which room, which was the only luxury that He could afford or that He wanted.

Now, all of us, you will find, have in our room a bolster, an easy chair, an electric fan, mattresses, and what not. I remember, I don’t know how far it is true, but as the sadbaks wanted more and more things, as their demands increased, the Mother, being the Mother, began to supply and satisfy all these demands: mattresses, pillows – not one, but two – and one easy chair to boot, etc. One day, Sri Aurobindo remarked to Mother, «What a sadhak needs is one mat and two bricks!» (Laughter)

On one of the tables there were scattered some papers and some slips, all pell-mell. But about that also Mother remarked in one of the talks: «Sri Aurobindo does not keep things in order, but He knows exactly where He has placed them.» About that I got evidence later, when He asked me once about the Savitri notes. He was sitting on the bed, and the notebooks were behind in the drawer. He said, «Get me those Savitri notes. You will find there a notebook with a blue cover, it is long, etc.» After having failed once or twice, the third time I was successful in finding it. So He remembered all about His things: where He had kept them, how He had kept them, though there was no order. Then, in His almirah, there were a few books. I was surprised to see so few books. I had expected that at least one almirah would be full of books. Go to Nolini-^’s room, you will see how many books he has; go to Sisir-da’s room, and I am sure he also must be having a very good library! But here only a few books were there, and most of them, I found out later, were presentation copies from Radhakrishnan and others. What He had of His own were a few volumes of His Arya, and of Shelley, Shakespeare and one or two other poets, and His own works naturally, that’s all. From that day, I took a resolution to give up reading (Laughter) because if He has got so much knowledge without reading (Laughter) and from His vast field of yoga, well, I have come to try the yogic method, so let me try it. I would advise you the same (Laughter), but remember, my friends, before He became a yogi, what a tremendous lot He had read. Books used to come by trunk-loads from Bombay. So before you become yogis and yoginis, don’t take up this practice of non-reading! (Laughter) You’ll be a headache to your teachers and a problem to your parents! However, I can do that! So that was my observation about the room and about His Person.

We were now waiting for the doctors. We were relaxed – since the patient was quiet, we did not need to be impatient or have any anxiety. Our anxiety, our concern over any patient depends more on that patient’s nature, doesn’t it? If the patient screams and tosses about in the bed, he puts us too into tossing about, mentally. So long as he remains quiet and calm, as all patients should – being a doctor, I know a bit of that – then most of the anxiety is relieved. So here was an ideal patient. But He left us wondering whether the accident was serious at all! (Laughter) Anyhow, we ‘had no human fears’; ‘a slumber’ had sealed our spirit269, we had nothing to do but wait. Please remember, children, from 4 or 5 o’clock that morning till about 7:30 that evening, Sri Aurobindo was lying in one position, flat on His back. There was only a slight movement of the unaffected leg now and then, just to get relief, to change position, while the other leg was in plaster. Only the most urgent needs were attended to, and rest of the time, He was alone to Himself with Himself. You can imagine whether any other great man could have done that. I’ve not seen many great men, but as far as my imagination can go, I cannot conceive of anybody, however great he may be, remaining quietly in this position for so long. And that too, to remain all alone, without uttering any cry or sound, is it possible ? I don’t know. Here is the sign of a yogi, I’d say. You might think that perhaps the accident was not so grave after all. Now about that, I’m going to read out to you some passages apropos of the accident, about what He said to us later on.

We used to have talks, as you know, and we used to ask Him all sorts of questions: foolish, wise, idiotic, ridiculous; everything was welcome. That was the other side of Sri Aurobindo, the personal side, the human side, if you like. So, one day, Dr. Manilal asked Him about the accident, when Sri Aurobindo led him to the subject. Sri Aurobindo said: «It may be then this ‘utkata karma that caused my accident!» According to Jain Shastra, ‘utkata karma’ is a karma that cannot be avoided. Then Dr. Manilal got a chance, as we say, he got an opening, and asked: «Why this unmerited suffering in your case?»

Sri Aurobindo said, «How do you know it is unmerited? Perhaps it was to give me knowledge of intense pain.» That «perhaps» reminds me of another anecdote: once we were asking Him several questions; to each question, He was saying perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Then I said, a little puzzled, «Why do you say perhaps, perhaps, perhaps? Couldn’t you give a positive answer?» Then He replied, «Because the Supermind has not descended yet.» So there you see, through a small joke, a sublime truth. That was Sri Aurobindo. His «perhaps» was just a way of talking. «The pains I had experienced so far were of an ordinary nature which I could transform into ananda. But this was intense. And since it came swiftly and suddenly, I could not change it into ananda? – a very frank admission. «But when it settled down into a steady sensation I could.» So you see what He was suffering from and how His appearance then belied the whole thing. «Besides, we shall see afterwards its full significance. Of course, I accept it as a part of the battle.» – the battle, as you know, that is going on still.

Now here is another anecdote. Here the questioner is my humble self. But before that, Dr. Manilal said: «You said that You have conquered death which comes by a natural process, but that You have no complete control over accidents.»

Sri Aurobindo asked: «Where did I say that?» Manilal used to often misquote or say something which was not quite true.

Then I butted in: «If I remember rightly, You wrote to me that diseases can’t end Your life, but still You can’t wholly control accidents.»

Sri Aurobindo said: «Oh! Diseases usually run a long course, so one has time to act on them. But if there are diseases of a sudden or severe nature that can end one’s life immediately, then conquest is not possible. And about accidents, the body has its own consciousness and is always alert. But if the mind is occupied with other things, an accident can take one unawares. As regards violence – for example, of a riot – I would have to concentrate for four or five days in order to protect myself. The hostile forces have tried many times to prevent things like the Darshan, but I have succeeded in warding off all their attacks. At the time of my accident, I was more occupied with guarding the Mother and I forgot about myself. I didn’t think the hostiles would attack me. That was my mistake.» – a frank avowal.

In another talk, He said, «As for the Ashram, I have been extremely successful, but while I have tried to work in the world, the results have been varied. In Spain – in Madrid -I was splendidly successful.» – you know that Sri Aurobindo is referring to the Spanish civil war. «General Miaja was an admirable instrument to work on. Basque was an utter failure. Negus was a good instrument, but the people around him, though good warriors, were too ill-organised and ill-equipped. The work in Egypt was not a success. In Ireland and Turkey, the success was tremendous.» All that Kemal Pasha had done – poor fellow, perhaps it is better that he didn’t know it – was done from here. «In Ireland, I have done exactly what I wanted to do in Bengal. The Turks are a silent race.» He said about Lenin ...

We have to stop here. Your Dining Room bell is calling.

24 October 1969

Well, friends, and members of this class, we have been presented a beautiful handkerchief in appreciation of your attendance and of my lecture, by our gracious and gentle friends from Shantiniketan. I’ll leave it here so that, on every occasion we meet, we may be reminded of it.

I hope you won’t mind my occasional consultation of notes; it is not an examination, after all. (Laughter) My memory fails me at times and I become somewhat nervous on seeing a big crowd before me. Now, first of all, I hope my friend Sisir will excuse me if I have defied, and will continue to defy, his perfect English tongue. Though I’ve been made a teacher of English, and even a professor, I have no legitimate claim to it. It is, by all means, a fluke that I’ve become so! (Laughter) Here, in this Ashram of ours, many kinds of miracles are taking place. As Sri Aurobindo has said, «The Force is giving birth to poets» – by «birth», He means spiritual birth. Those who had no poetry in them got it here. So also, artists, painters, etc. are being born here constantly, sometimes in mushroom-profusion, and I am one of them. My entire life, small as it is, has been an exhibition of back-door success ... Please don’t frown, I am not going to sing my own song for long. I will now, before I take up our proper subject, for which you are waiting somewhat impatiently, start by a little digression in the manner of Lamb, if you like.

My young friends know how my friend Nishikanto and I have been sustained by two mantras received from our Master. In my case, He wrote to me, «I will never forsake you,» and when Nishikanto was passing through a difficult period, from which he is still not free, He said: «Let him stick on.» Well, he has been sticking on, though sometimes he is rather sticky! He is sticking on so much that he has become thin as a walking stick, and carries a stick in his hand. He is literally carrying out the figurative sense of the word! Yesterday, he came to me – we do meet now and then. We used to meet frequently, but now there is some separation due to various reasons – not inner reasons – inwardly, we are as friendly as before. He came and said, «Let me embrace you.» (Laughter) Well, unfortunately, I am rather allergic to embraces. (Laughter) I said, «Kobi, that won’t do.» «All right,» he said. «You stand there and I stand here, and in between us, there is an empty space. Now, you stretch out your arms, I stretch my arms, you do this [embracing space]? (Laughter) That is Nishikanto par excellence. Again, the ladies present here will say: now he has started blowing his friend’s trumpet. Very well, I’ll cut it short.

The digression I wanted to make was about me. I’ve told you about how Sri Aurobindo’s mantric words have sustained me through all my trials and ordeals and in my moments of despair and frustration. I’ve also talked about how He is helping me as well as others. But I am concerned with myself for the present and here is another instance of His help. These are domestic troubles (my friends from Shantiniketan, please note), which I share with my friends here. I share with them my stories of shukho and dhukho, hanshi and kaanna270. I’ve told you how, from time to time, I suffer from some headache; a major headache is this class, of which you are the cause and the Lord is the physician, or if I may put it the other way: He is the cause, He is the physician, and He is the cure.

Here is one more of the headaches, which I call Padmasini271 headache! (Laughter) Please don’t mind, my friends, perhaps I’m talking in riddles. What I mean will be clear by and by. It means ‘troubles about servants’. To explain the matter a bit at length, Padmasini was in charge of these servants. When one was absent, depending on her whim, depending on her will and the servants at her disposal, she would replace him or her. Now poor Padmasini (or rich Padmasini, I don’t know which) is out of the picture. The responsibility of the servants has been taken away from her, whether for good or for ill, we don’t know. But now I realise that this much-maligned Padmasini had some good points in her.

However, now that she is no longer in charge, what we have to do when our servant is absent is that we have to find one for ourselves. No Padmasini, no Kameshwar, no other Ishwar! (Laughter) We have to go out to find one from somewhere. Now, this is a matter which ladies can do very well, but someone like me cannot do. The absence of servants hangs like a Damocles’ sword on my head, and yesterday, it came very near falling on me. I have a small page boy, not Viola, by any means, yet whom my friend Sudha found very sweet! But he didn’t turn up yesterday! And it was raining cats and dogs, so I could not go out and find a servant. What to do? So my subconscient mind started working, and the blood vessels in my temples began throbbing. What to do ? – all the vessels were now washed, the room was cleaned, but still the questions: What should I do? Where shall I go? Well, anyhow, in such a crisis, what I do is to make a call to the Master, an S.O.S. I said to Him, «At this critical juncture, what am I to do? Tumi agatir gati, jar keho nahi tumi achho tar272. There’s a class in the school, and all your bhaktas are waiting.» I threw this bait because, as you know, the Lord is a slave of bhaktas; if not for me, for you He’ll definitely do something. Then, moving between the extremes of doubt and faith, I came to the class and forgot all about it. When I went out after class, the more I neared the Ashram, the greater became my throbbing headache. But, lo and behold, the miracle had taken place! In my absence, another servant had come – the elder brother of this young fellow – without my asking him. How did he come sharp at 11 o’clock? You can understand how happy I was. I felt like dancing and singing, but I only said, «Allah is great.» So, if this is not a miracle, I don’t know what is!

I will tell you another small incident. This happened yesterday, so I take it as an indication of destiny that it should be told to you. A friend of mine came to me yesterday to tell me of a miracle that she’d experienced. She arrived at Madras station, but the train was an hour late, so she’d missed the Madras-Pondicherry bus. She would have to wait for hours, with her children and her friends, for the next bus. You can understand her difficult position. All of a sudden, there floated, or flashed, before her mind’s eye, the picture of an old driver of Abhay Singh273. She is somewhat perceptive. She thought, «What’s this? Let me go out and see if there is an Ashram car there, by chance.» And lo and behold, she found the same driver she had visualised. He had fetched some passengers from Pondicherry to Madras. Then, after some talk, the driver agreed to bring all of them home to the Ashram. «So this is a miracle,» she said. «I wish I could write about it.» I said, «Don’t you worry, I will write about it for you, and I’ll use it for my talk.»

Well, friends, what I mean is, you can see at once the point of my digression and how it is connected with our subject in many of these classes. Some of you may scoff at it and think that it is a small incident or maybe even a mere coincidence, but as Sri Aurobindo said, «What are coincidences? There is no such thing.» These are trivial incidents, no doubt, but I lay great importance on these because I look on them with the eyes of faith. I see the Divine Hand working even in such trivial matters, provided we rely on Him entirely. If we allow Him to do the work which He is ready to do, if we discover the secret of surrender to Him, then He takes care of the smallest details and arranges everything as needed. Even in this small instance, the Divine Hand is seen. And it is very important to me because I am, or rather was, somewhat of a materialist. Like Pranab, we want some tangible facts in order to believe. It seems he said to Mother one day: «It is no use telling me all these high-flown things; you show me by doing them.» I have said the same thing to my Master, again and again in my mind: «Your high philosophy is all right in its place, but do give us something tangible, something which we can touch.»

Well, He has started giving it to me, and I have told you some of these incidents. If He is working in these small matters, you can understand, my friends, that He will never fail us in the more important ones. Reliance is the secret of sadhana – entire reliance, complete faith. Then what is said in the Gita: «ahaṃ tvāṃ sarvapāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ274 That is literally true. Everybody will fail us, but the Divine will never fail us, if only we cling to Him or if we allow Him to catch us. As He said in one of His letters to me: «Give some tuft of hair by which the Divine can catch you: some tail, some hair, either a lock here or a tail behind.» That is what I see happening from day to day; that’s a daily revelation for me. Still, my friends, this dog’s tail of human nature still has some doubt. Again and again, I hear Him saying: «O Nirod of little faith!» Faith alone – to have faith and to be faithful, or the other way: to love the Divine, and love Him alone. Or you can love others, young friends, but love Him at the same time. But, for some of us, He’s the ‘Hound of Heaven’ – «All things betray thee, who betrayest Me275.» He keeps watch over us all the time. As I said, some of my old friends will be surprised to hear all this from me – one who has been a doubter throughout – «Bhoother mukhe Ram Nam276 They forget that the ‘bhooth’ has been transformed into Hanuman; and slowly, the light is growing in the East, the day is not far off when what our great poet277 has sung will come true: «Ei shagorer mahamanober teere» and what another poet has sung: «Ei nohe kahini, ei nohe shopone278 Here on this shore of Pondicherry, the Home of Truth, everybody will assemble. That is the message. And there is One who is working it out, She alone can save and serve the world. «She only can save herself and save the world279» – that majestic line from Savitri rings constantly in my ears.

Yesterday, I read out a passage from Talks with Sri Aurobindo to show you how Sri Aurobindo, when He’d had that accident and broke His leg, had transformed the intense pain that He suffered into ananda. That reminded me, yesterday, of another incident that I had reported to Sri Aurobindo. Once, Tagore was bitten by some very vicious ants and he was having intense pain. He didn’t know what to do, but, by a great effort of mental concentration, he succeeded in cutting off the mind from the body, and there was an instantaneous relief and joy. I don’t know if it has been recorded in Jibon Smriti. Then Sri Aurobindo commented: «Yes, that is a spiritual experience.»

Another famous instance is that of Ramana Maharishi, the great Maharishi about whom Sri Aurobindo had a very high opinion. Ramana Maharshi had cancer in the upper part of one hand, near the shoulder, and had to be operated upon several times, but not being identified with the body and living in the Self, he was able to remain indifferent to all of it.

I’ll give you another very small instance. A young girl fell seriously ill. She was suffering very much from pain all over the body. There was no relief. The doctors could not do anything. Then she began to cry and poured out her heart to the Mother. All of a sudden, she felt that all the pain had vanished and was replaced by delight, by joy. These are concrete experiences that happen even today. I am reminded of these two lines from the poem «The Kingdom of God» by Francis Thompson: «Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,/ Cry – clinging to Heaven by the hems». Well, some cry, some don’t cry, some call out to the Divine aloud, some don’t, but the truth is that the Divine responds, and today He is so ready to respond to your tiniest call, if you do it sincerely.

Now why does the poet say «my Soul, my daughter»? That is something revealing. I don’t know what its significance is. We have heard of the soul being addressed as a bride, as a mother, but, for the first time, I’ve heard it called «daughter». Fathers may appreciate and understand at once the value of a daughter, but Thompson was not a father. From the poetic point of view, I think the whole beauty of this line would have been murdered if it had the words «my soul, my son» (Laughter) or «my soul, my bride» instead! The poetic beauty comes through admirably with «my soul, my daughter.» However, that’s a digression, and I am sorry to have digressed too far. Like Lamb280, always coming back to the centre of his point in spite of numerous digressions, I’ll try to go back to where we had stopped.

I was presenting to you the impersonal aspect of the Guru, with which most of you are not familiar, and we are partly responsible for that because, after the publication of the two books, Correspondence and Talks, everybody has taken Sri Aurobindo to be a very humorous person, all the time enjoying and having fun with us. But, my friends, the truth is nothing of the sort. He used to come down from His Olympian heights only at certain times. But even when He did come down, the impersonal aspect was always present. You won’t be able to conceive of such a phenomenon perhaps, but when He was talking or eating or doing any daily task, we could feel the presence of the Purusha behind the individual persona. Everything He did was at a slow pace: no hurry, no speed in doing anything, as if the whole of Eternity were before Him. What we do usually, when we take up some work or when we speak, is that we lose ourselves, we become identified with what we are doing; we are so passionate. But He was never like that. For that matter, when He was talking with us, He would never, or very rarely, look at us; He would very rarely call me by name. There you are!

To give you one or two instances of the impersonal aspect... but I am anticipating! What to do, my friends? When I start speaking of Our Lord, I forget myself. Memories, one after the other, surge up, as Shakespeare says, from «the dark backward and abysm of time281» like stars out of the gulf of the night. However, all that will come in its regular sequence and place.

One evening, He told us all of a sudden, after His impersonal mood had passed (which used to happen sometimes in the evening), «I was seeing today how Nishikanto was getting on.» We were very much surprised, and I said to myself, What? In this impersonal mood, when He’d be concerned, we thought, with sending Divine Force to General José Miaja in Spain or with bringing down the Supramental Light, He says He was seeing instead «how Nishikanto was getting on»?! Nishikanto or Nirod or anybody else He loved was never far off from Him. Always, constantly, He had so much compassion for Nishikanto.

Now then, to come back to the point we’d stopped at in our last class, we were waiting for the doctors to arrive after Sri Aurobindo’s accident! (Laughter) It was taking very long. Mind you, Pondicherry at that time was not what it is today. Madras was not a stone’s throw from here, and there was no Abhay Singh with his cars to rush from Madras to Pondicherry at every beck and call. There were just a few cars plying in the town. Pondicherry is very different today. The local people will not be happy if I tell them that it is due to the Ashram.

People don’t accept this unpleasant truth. So we were waiting and waiting. As soon as we heard a horn, we’d go out of the room, and crane our neck to see, through the window, if the car had come. No such luck! When our chief doctor, Dr. Manilal, used to get nervous in that way, he would give us a gentle admonishment: «Ah, keep quiet, keep quiet!» (Laughter)

At last, the doctor arrived, sometime around eight in the evening. It seemed that Time had stopped for such a long while, but now it began to move. The Mother came; Sri Aurobindo was lying in bed, and all of us surrounded Him. Mother was in the centre with the doctor; we apprised him of the situation and the facts of the case. He took a good look at the patient, not so much at the leg, as it was in plaster. Then he said, «Plaster has to be removed.» It was done. He examined the leg and said, «Yes, there seems to be a fracture, there is a bump here.» Then what was to be done? Sri Aurobindo was made to sit up with his legs stretched. Then there was a discussion between the Mother and the doctor. Mother was putting all sorts of intricate questions to him about the diagnosis, about the prognosis, etc. He was extremely surprised to see a lady having so much technical knowledge, while Sri Aurobindo was sitting quietly, not uttering a single word -not one word. With an amused, bewildered face, and a radiant smile, He looked once at the doctor, once at the Mother and smiled as if He couldn’t understand what was going on, or who was concerned in the matter! (Laughter) Mother was explaining to Him what the doctor said, but He was completely silent – no words! He had left everything to the Mother because He knew very well that She had a good knowledge of this science. But it was a revelation to me. I am a little bit of a sceptic, you understand! I have different perspectives, one of a medical man and the other of a poet. So I was watching.

Sri Aurobindo was looking really marvellous. I gave you some perception of my momentary vision of Him as the ‘Golden Purusha’ when we had found Him lying on the floor after the accident. But, here, it was not a momentary vision at all; it was a Golden Child that I saw. He had become somehow quite like a child – innocent, unconcerned with the things that were going on, least bothered about them, and His whole body was glowing. It was a sight! Then the examination was over, and the doctor said, «I can’t say anything definitely, I have to wait for the radiologist.» But the radiologist was taking his own time to come. Finally, he arrived sometime about 11:30 p.m. We had been waiting all that time. He came with his portable machine, fortunately. He was a young man, very businesslike so as to give us some confidence in him. No bhakti, no respect for anything, but he knew his business. He did his job in a matter-of-fact way: took pictures, developed them on the spot and gave us the pictures.

Both the doctors in consultation passed the verdict that it was a very grave and serious type of accident which the specialist had rarely met in his private practice. It stunned us. If you like, I can give you a diagrammatic view of the fracture. But, mind you, two things in my student life I always hated: one was drawing and the other was mathematics (Laughter). They were my bugbears. I have received much punishment from my drawing master. So please don’t laugh at my diagram, though I have become a medical student, as I said, by the back door. There are two bones in the upper leg, as you know. [Drawing the diagram on the board.] I have told you that, when He fell down, the thigh bone was fractured. Two fragments jammed into each other. So the doctor said, «It would be a very risky job to try to pull one fragment down and make it in line with the upper one; as it is so solidly and strongly infracted, there is a great danger. I would not do it.» But, fortunately, these two fragments had not gone behind the thigh and knee. Had that happened, the main blood vessels that were running here, behind, would have been torn, there would have been profuse bleeding, and that would have endangered His life. There you can see the hand of Providence again: how dangerous the situation was, yet not life-threatening.

So the doctor said, «I would not try to reduce it either by empirical force or by putting two needles, as they do, and applying traction. It will be extremely painful.» And Mother said at once that she’d have nothing to do with such procedures and would not allow them.

She would not allow any further physical pain to be inflicted on Sri Aurobindo, if it was possible to spare Him any inconvenience of this sort. So the doctor said, «I’ll put the leg in plaster and keep it in traction at the foot of the bed. This is the only thing possible under the circumstances.» Mother submitted and agreed, since an operation was out of the question. Mechanical contrivance also not being possible, this was the best that could be done. The doctor took his leave, saying that he would pay us a visit again after some weeks, and that we should inform him from time to time about the condition of the patient.

Each of us was allotted his respective duty for the recovery of our sacred Patient. My duty was to move the small knee bone – the patella – from side to side, and it was the job of our Chief Doctor, Dr. Manilal, to take the whole charge of the Divine Patient. And then Mother said, «Now that you have fixed your duties, arrange also your hours of attendance.» We saw that we were short of one person. So we told Mother that we needed one more person to fill the remaining time slot. Mother went and looked through the window which faces Prasad House. She saw Dr. Satyendra there chatting with somebody. «Call Satyendra!» (Laughter) That is Her way! So we began our duties.

The next day, Dr. Manilal came. He used to come in the morning at about eight o’clock or so, after his breakfast. The first thing he did was pranam to Sri Aurobindo in bed and then he asked: «How are you, Sir?» Soon, Mother came, and we were waiting there. That day, Mother asked Manilal, «What do you say? What is your opinion?» He remained quiet, didn’t give any reply. And Mother put on Her Mahakali aspect, at once. Manilal was perhaps being evasive. Because he was an experienced surgeon, he knew how grave the situation was, that it was very serious indeed. So perhaps he didn’t want to reveal everything; at the same time, he had faith and reliance that everything would be all right. And as for Mother, you know that nothing can be concealed from Her. She knows everything. She sees everything. So She thundered: «Don’t hide anything, we know the truth!» We were simply stunned. It was the first time we saw Her Mahakali aspect. Sri Aurobindo was lying calm and quiet like Shiva, while Mother thundered at the doctor. All of us retreated into our shells, as it were, from shock. And Manilal was an experienced doctor who had attended upon the Maharaja of Baroda, but now his face became so small! (Laughter) Then Mother, with folded hands, began to pray to Sri Aurobindo.

27 October 1969

Well, friends, today is our last-but-one sitting – our swan song for this term will be on Wednesday. I am very grateful to you, first of all, for giving me some respite, some breathing space. To speak for three consecutive days, for a man who is not used to doing so, and particularly on a subject that is very high and sublime, is not easy. I am not at all reluctant to speak to you about our beloved Lord, about whom you are so eager to know something. Out of the four or five of us who came into close contact with Him, only two or three are still alive, and of these few, I am taking the burden of speaking to you. My friend Champaklal doesn’t believe in talking; my other friend, Dr. Satyendra, I don’t know what he believes in! (Laughter) So, forced by circumstances, I am the only one who has been given this task of saying something about the Lord. You know very well that to speak of the Divine is not a very easy job. There is no human being, however great he may be, about whom one can speak at length, with or without preparation. But one needs some inner preparation too before one can speak about the Divine, which is why I’d hesitated. My hesitation had no other reason. Otherwise, as I said, it is a joy, almost my duty.

As the days pass, I realise more and more how kind He has been to me and how He bestowed His special favours upon me. Once, when I asked Him why I was the fortunate recipient of his special favours, he replied cryptically: «Find out for yourself.» Perhaps, as time unfolds the secret, more and more meaning will emerge. Perhaps one of the tasks I have to do is this, to speak about Him. He has left me to do this, and I am trying my best to do justice to Him, as you can see, with whatever necessary qualifications He has given me. Mr. Nirad282 is slowly, gradually being transformed into Narad283, as I told you. ‘i’ is being changed into ‘a’ but ‘I’ doesn’t go so easily, as you know (Laughter), though it is a small ‘i’ here284!

However, I feel, as I’ve told you before, more than once, that there is a Divine Compassion, a Divine Grace acting upon your class. And I have ample proof of this. Even yesterday, on the eve of the class, as it has happened before, a visitor rushed into my room: «Are you so and so ?» «Yes,» and I said, silently, inwardly, «your humble servant.» He said, «I’ve come from such and such a place, I wanted very much to see you. I’ve read and liked your books, your Correspondence, your talks, and most of all, the articles you write; they are simply elevating, ravishing...» All high superlatives! I was pleased (Laughter) – who is above praise and flattery? He continued, «You see, what I feel in your writing is a sort of closeness that you have felt the Lord has given you. I feel the same closeness with Sri Aurobindo. That is why I like it so much. I feel as if there is an affinity between you and me.»

Then he narrated the account of his life, which was strangely thrilling. I will tell it to you one day, as it is very interesting. But one thing I can tell you about right now: how Sri Aurobindo, or the Divine, is acting outside the Ashram. This gentleman didn’t know anything about Sri Aurobindo or the Ashram (I gave you a similar example the other day.) This man had just graduated from college with an M.A. degree, but he didn’t know what to do after college. «Then suddenly an old man appeared to me. I began feeling that he was directing me and leading me, till at last I came to know that this old man was no other than Sri Aurobindo.» So you see how the Divine is acting throughout the world, sometimes in these occult ways.

Remember The Lost Footsteps, written in Rumania285? I don’t think even the Lord Himself knew how He was acting outside in that case (Laughter), because it was His emanation that was acting. I’m sure that if I had asked Him about any such incident in the world outside our Ashram, «Do you know about it ?» He would have said, «I know nothing!» So His physical consciousness did not know it, but His Divine Consciousness was acting everywhere and this is how even today He is pulling people here. «Go to Pondicherry,» He said to a doctor who was practising in Burma. The man was surprised for he had never even heard of Pondicherry. «What is Pondicherry?» he wondered286.

Then I’ll tell you another instance where my ‘I-ness’ will flourish a little, please don’t mind. It is concerning our Laljibhai287. He was in Africa, you know, before he came here. There, he had organized a meeting at a small Centre288 in a very affluent manner. He had invited many guests. Then, as he was struggling to manage all the arrangements, he suddenly heard a voice telling him: «If Nirod were here, he would have organised everything well.» (Laughter) It was a bolt from the blue. «Who is Nirod? I’ve never heard of any Nirod!» he wondered. Then, when he came over to the Ashram, he enquired, «Is there anybody by the name of Nirod?» They said, «Yes, yes,» and they showed him my room. He came to me and recounted to me that he had heard Sri Aurobindo telling him to come here. This was the story of a man who is now connected with the Ashram. But various are the ways of the Divine even in the outside world.

So, many people come and tell us, «Come and talk to us of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, otherwise how can we know about Them?»

But they forget that this is the realm of the spirit; we don’t want mass propaganda. Those who are chosen for this path will come by themselves. One day or the other, they are bound to come. Either through straight or roundabout ways, from the front or through the back door, but they are bound to come. And one of the ways is what I have been talking to you about. He is Himself taking interest in His work: He is guiding people in His way, and that is why He has said, «A new Light, a new Spirit is working.» More and more people will come. I have just given you examples of this guidance of the action of the Lord and the Mother. When I speak of the Lord, I’ve told you again and again, I speak of the Mother as well. I make no distinction between the two, neither should you.

So this was one instance. Again, why should he have come just yesterday? And that lady also came just that day on the eve of our class and has not shown me her face again! (Laughter) So you come to believe, willy-nilly, that there is some Will, some Intelligence directing everything. Then, again, another little bit of digression before I come to our proper subject. Last time, I gave you some examples of how the Divine Hand is behind everything. This instance also illustrates it. But I emphasized the fact that, even in our small, material life, the Hand is always present. I’ll give you another example of Their influence, but this one is in the psychological field, not the material one.

Some days ago, I was subject to some abhimaan289, for some reason or another. Now, this abhimaan was against the Mother. I was saying to myself, while trying to meditate – «Mother, You don’t love me; for that matter, You don’t love anybody except a few persons: x, y, z (I named them in my mind). Yes, You have some sort of love for us, which is an impersonal love, not personal.» Then my inner, better self tried to argue with my outer nature or ego: «Don’t be foolish,» etc. etc. But the abhimaan wouldn’t be consoled so easily. Then I went to bed at night (everything seems to happen for me in sleep!) and I had a dream in which I saw the hand of the Mother placed upon my forehead and She kept it there for a long, long time. And the surprise of surprises is that She took the name of one of the persons whom I had mentioned in my mind, and said, «I pay special attention to him for such and such reason.» Now what have you to say about it? How did it reach Her at once, and in such detail, including the very name which She picked up and used for explaining why She had taken up that person. How did my thought communicate itself to Her? And I am sure it is not because She has given me any special attention; the attention is there for all of you too, you must have felt some such close response at times. Only, like a foolish wise man, I speak about it, and you wise people keep quiet. (Laughter)

So that is what surprises me. The response is so close, so near, and communicated at once; in a split second of time, my thought went to Her and the response came back. And would you believe it, the feeling of Her touch remained with me for quite a number of days. Even now, when I concentrate, I feel Her touch here on the forehead. So here is the psychological help I mentioned. The prayer was sent to the Mother, and the response given, all in the occult world. There are many other instances; I know one which I won’t tell you today. Perhaps you would have been very much thrilled to hear it as it is a love story, but I’ll tell you the next time we meet. I know you are fond of love stories, personal or impersonal, but I’ll tell you later on, for you are surely curious or eager to pursue the subject of the Lord.

Let me go back a little in time – back to our flashback! So when Sri Aurobindo had broken his leg bone in that accident in 1938, the specialists were summoned. Now the consultant doctors had come and were holding a conference. Sri Aurobindo was sitting, impassive as a child, unconcerned about everything, looking now this way, now that, as if we were discussing somebody else! And His whole body was glowing with a light which is not found on land or sea! A Golden Child! Some of you are familiar with the golden moments when Sri Ramakrishna would behave like a child. Those who have read his Kathamrito290 have found how he too, in one of those childlike moods, used to sit on the laps of his disciples or even on their shoulders. Sri Aurobindo didn’t go so far. Had He sat on our shoulders, it would have been difficult to carry the burden! (Laughter) Neither was He so dramatic. There was nothing of drama in Him. All movements were under perfect control. It was not a moral control; it was an automatic, spontaneous mastery of nature. Was it arrived at by some discipline that He had practised or was it His inborn nature, I don’t know. But what we have seen is that all His movements, all His gestures were under control: His eating, drinking, speaking, walking, everything was at a measured pace, in a measured quantity, and with a measured manner. To use our Sanskrit terms, His ideal in His physical life was the Aryan ideal of dhira and sthira – still and steady, and so, no dramatisation at all. About that we’ll speak more as we go along.

So that vision of Sri Aurobindo was the most unforgettable picture for me. Even now, two or three pictures are always floating before my eyes, and one of them is this: The Divine Child, the Golden Child, sitting at the foot of the bed like this, most innocently [enacting the expression]. You remember Mother made these remarks upon seeing the photograph of Him as a child: «Here He is innocent and ignorant of this world; He knows nothing of this world» – not her exact words perhaps. It was something of that sort. But just such a bonny baby He was now, a Golden Child. I am sure that some of you would have felt like embracing Him. That reminds me of my friend, Dr. Becharlal, who was a devotee. You know how devotees are very emotional sometimes. More than once we saw him look at Sri Aurobindo, particularly after the accident, start weeping and run away from the room. Poor fellow couldn’t control himself. He used to be so moved, especially when understanding the Lord’s suffering. His grief was genuine; it wasn’t at all a show. And Sri Aurobindo Himself remarked, «Here is a true bhakta?

Then the next scene was, as we have seen, of Mother thundering at Dr. Manilal. Poor fellow, I told you his face grew small. Then I told you also what Mother did next. I had modified the scene a bit, for some reason, but today I can tell you the whole truth; you will understand.

We were standing on one side, and Sri Aurobindo was stretched in the bed with His hands under His head. All was quiet. Mother lay prostrate on the floor, near His bed, in an attitude of prayer, with no words. She had prostrated Herself full-length, and Sri Aurobindo was calm. That is another unforgettable moment, friends. From that gesture, we came to realise how grievous, how grave the accident was, and that it involved His life. The Mother prayed that He should save Himself and save the world. There were many complications, and we had to face many difficult times. But one after the other, they were eventually over. So there we saw the Mother’s wrath, Her rudraroop291. As we say in Sanskrit:

vajradapi kathorani

mriduni kusumadapi

That is, She was hard like a diamond, yet soft like a flower. Friends, I can tell you that we have seen even harsher, even more thunderous aspects of the Mother. You can have no conception at all of how hard She can be when needed. With all of you, She is as soft as butter and as sweet as honey. But, in other circumstances, God knows! But I shouldn’t frighten you: We have seen Her softness earlier too, with which we are familiar today. She has told us, «Those who want to do sadhana, I am very strict with them, very, very strict.» She had said it, with measured words and measured gesture, in the class held in the Playground, if some of you remember. One or two examples of Her strictest hardness we had the chance to see, but it is not for you young children.

So, after this interlude, we will now resume our story: Champaklal, as you know, was His attendant from a long time ago. He came here as a young boy and he told the Mother one day, long ago, before Sri Aurobindo was accepted as an Avatar and a Guru, «Mother, I would like to wash Sri Aurobindo’s clothes.» «Would you like to wash?» «Yes, Mother.» «But do you know what people will say about you?» «What will they say?» «They will talk against you because you are doing some menial work.» «Ah, that doesn’t matter, Mother. I don’t care for these people, I shall do the work.» So, from that day onwards, he started becoming the personal attendant of the Master and he was the only one who had access to Him at all times. So we were the two persons, as a matter of fact, who were constantly with Him. The others did attendance duty in their own time slots, which they had decided among themselves. Purani, as I said, chose the oddest hours: he came on duty at two o’clock, early in the morning, but it was very convenient for us!

That reminds me of something – again, a personal reference, and I hope that you will not mind. Before His passing, when the situation took a very bad turn, Dr. Sanyal had to be called in. We sent him a telegram. He came on leave and stayed for some days. Just before he left, he said to Sri Aurobindo, «I am going, but Dr. Nirod is here.» Then Sri Aurobindo said, «He is no doctor to me, he has come to serve me.» Well, so we were constantly in attendance upon Him, we had the good fortune to be almost like His shadow. We had to only sit idly and watch and wait for a call and to attend to it.

Dr. Manilal was our chief, our boss in all our medical duties and, if there was anything at all to do, it was his privilege to attend to it. In his absence, I had to! (Laughter) But as I have said, there was very, very little to do at the beginning. He was lying flat and his manner was like Lord Shiva’s through the whole day: calm, quiet, composed, and most impersonal. Dr. Manilal, looking well-shaved and well-dressed, would come in the morning, after his breakfast, and, before doing anything else, he would bow down and put his head on the left side of Sri Aurobindo’s bed; and He would bless the doctor with His left hand on his head. Then came Dr. Manilal’s usual question, «How are you, Sir?» «All right,» He would reply with one or two words and a little smile – now He had begun smiling a little!

The air of reserve, of aloofness and resoluteness that surrounded Him in the beginning, as I’d said, began to give way to a little bit of familiarity – the snow, the frost had begun to thaw. It was manifested by a little smile and one or two talks for which Dr. Manilal is to be thanked, because he was the spearhead of our attack at the fortress of His remoteness (Laughter) and he had the privilege of his age, the privilege of his position and the privilege of his experience. Before he came here, he was for some time the personal attendant of the Maharaja of Baroda. So he knew the ways and means of dealing with great people: his personality was not obtrusive. He did not try to push himself in front. Such an unobtrusive personality, and at the same time, a devotional ardour – the combination of these two made him a very fine instrument. Because he had been a disciple for a long time, he had accepted Sri Aurobindo as the Guru and the Divine. So both these attitudes were integrated in him in a very fine way. When he used to come, I would run behind him, for so far I had not dared to come alone in front of the Master; I was a bit shy! (Laughter) So abhimaan and shyness were the two qualities I had. I used to peep from behind, to see Him, to hear His voice, to see His smile. That is how we started.

Then, after two or three days, Mother had a dinner table prepared for Him. It was portable – with wheels – and could be pushed. It would be pushed beside His bed and Sri Aurobindo would sit up and take His food. Mother Herself used to push it to Sri Aurobindo’s bed, and later pull it out and keep it back in its place. Some of you have noticed perhaps a long mirror in Sri Aurobindo’s room – the table used to be kept in front of it. Even now, the table is there, but it is used for Champaklal’s things. One day, a funny thing happened. Mother came in the morning to give Him breakfast. We didn’t know Mother’s ways then, but Champaklal should have known better! Both of us rushed to help Mother, while She was trying to pull up the table and we pulled it right out of Her hands! Then She complained to Sri Aurobindo, smiling, «They are taking away my work!» Sri Aurobindo also smiled. But we understood that it is not good to be too forward. (Laughter) So one lesson we learned that day was that Mother also finds joy in serving Sri Aurobindo, in serving the Lord: it is a joy, it is a dedication, it is an offering.

So that was about the breakfast. There were three meals. Breakfast at eight o’clock or so, very sparse – bananas, some bread and butter, and no milk. You will be surprised to hear that He never touched milk. I’m sure He used to drink milk when He was in Calcutta, but not here. The reason was because Mother doesn’t take milk, and why doesn’t Mother take it? Perhaps because the Japanese don’t take it! (Laughter) So Sri Aurobindo also did not have milk, and I can sympathise with that because I don’t like milk! I am not a milk baby at all!

Another interesting thing that came to my notice was ... of course, everything was interesting, but I had a particular interest in this. I had heard that He was very fond of tea. And during those three or four days, we were so busy with other things that none of us thought of tea, not even Mother. Then Manilal thought of giving Him some substantial drink. He said, «Sir, it would be good for you to take some drink.» «What drink?» asked the Lord. «Marmite,» said Manilal. «Marmite? What is it?» He had not even heard of it and had no idea of what it was like. Dr. Manilal explained that it was a vitamin product, a very good drink and health food. He took it, though He didn’t like it very much. He was an ideal patient.

Then we thought of tea, and Dr. Manilal told the Guru: «You can have a cup of tea and a cup of Marmite.» Sri Aurobindo said, «I can’t take both.» But somehow Dr. Manilal persuaded Him to take both, each at its respective time. So tea was brought and I was very watchful (Laughter). But I saw that tea was brought in a feeding cup because He was lying down in bed after His sponging. I felt so disgusted, and said to myself: «What is this, a tea-lover drinking tea in this way? Is it glaxo food?» But after two or three days, all of a sudden, He declared, «From tomorrow, I won’t take tea!» So at one stroke, a habit of so many years was given up. I am still trying hard to give up the habit of tea-drinking! My friends, wherever I go, I have to think of two things: 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (Laughter). At these two hours, I must have some tea, anyhow and anywhere. It is my weakness. The Lord gave up His habit in one stroke, while the disciple is struggling hard.

Oh, I was talking about His food: in the morning, the food was very spartan, and around noon, He had a good meal. In the afternoon,

He had nothing, and at night, at about eight o’clock or so, He had dinner. But his special meal was at noon. You may like to know what this principal meal was like, what it consisted of. Well, there was everything, from savouries to sweets, and there would be Indian as well as European dishes. Fruits, sweets, vegetables, bread, butter, sandwich, etc. And Mother used to set the table, first putting three clean, white, linen tablecloths: the first one a little thick, the second a little thinner, and then the thinnest on top. How beautifully She did everything! If you had seen Her do it, you would have admired Her work – so flawless! Then She would bring the table and arrange all the dishes along the border and on the left side would be a drink – a glass of orange juice. Dr. Satyendra stood on the right side of Sri Aurobindo and used to fan Him lightly. Mother used to give the dishes one by one, placing them before Him, and He used to take whatever was given with a passive obedience. He took whatever Mother placed in front of him. Mother used to do full justice to all the food items. He never questioned, never asked for anything more. Mother sometimes used to say, «This has been cooked by so and so, how do you find it?» «Good. All right.» Nothing more. He would eat slowly, like this [demonstrating], as though offering each morsel to the Divinity within. He took a long time, about an hour, for His meal.

At the end, as I said, He usually drank a glass of orange juice. He would sip it slowly – one sip, and He would look at the glass, another sip, again He would look at the glass, as though to see how much He had sipped each time. And when a little remained at the end, He would leave it, and we used to eagerly wait till He finished His meal. We would wait for that moment, and we would rush to Champaklal, who was the custodian of all the prasad, and he would give one or two drops of the leftover juice in each of our cupped palms, and how we relished it! All this we did behind His back, mind you, not in front! One day, He took only a sip and left it because it was fermented. And we were very happy and were eagerly waiting to take a bit more of the Divine drink. Then He looked at us and said, to our utter surprise: «Don’t drink it today!» (Laughter) How did He come to know about it? He must have known from within, for He had not been otherwise informed about our enjoying the prasad.

Then there is another interesting thing that you may like to hear. Mother used to come in to comb Sri Aurobindo’s hair. At times, She was in a trance, walking with unsteady steps, and we were afraid that She would fall. But never did She knock against anything, never. Then She would begin combing the Lord’s hair, and would leave the comb stuck there. Then She would plait the hair and tie – what do you call them ... yes, ribbons. If She were still in a trance, the ribbons would not be tightly tied and they’d fall off. And believe it or not, my friends, I re-tied them properly afterwards! (Laughter) I soon learned the trick! And while Mother was busy combing the Master’s hair, we naughty fellows used to have a jolly good time behind Her back, a lot of fun, laughing and joking around amongst ourselves. And one day, She remarked: «I have eyes at the back!»

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that Champaklal and I used to wash the Lord’s hands in a bowl of water. Champaklal washed them before the meal, and I, after.

29 October 1969

We part, O friend, but meet again we must.»[This was the quotation written on the blackboard.] Well, friends, we meet here, or there, or elsewhere. It is said that true friendship leads you to the Divine – that is the purpose of friendship, so also the purpose of love.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that you liked last session’s talk very much. Since it has pleased you, perhaps I may continue in the same manner. It confirms the truth that you are very curious to know how the great of soul live; what the manner of their life is, etc. This is the very question that Arjuna asked Sri Krishna: «What is the language of one whose understanding is poised? How does he speak? How does he sit? How does he walk?» So these are simple questions that we common people are curious to know about the great of soul so that we may draw some benefit or advantage. That is the very question I asked Sri Aurobindo in my correspondence, some of you may remember, when I learned that there were quite a number of people living in the Brahmic consciousness. So I wrote as follows292:

[Nirod-da:] Could you whisper to me the names of those lucky fellows who are those «half a dozen people» so that I may have a practical knowledge of what the blessed thing – the Brahman consciousness — is like ?

[Sri Aurobindo:] NO, SIR. How can you have a practical knowledge of it by knowing who has it ? You might just as well expect to have a practical knowledge of high mathematics by knowing that Einstein is a great mathematician. Queer ideas you have!

(Laughter) Well, I’d put my question somewhat badly, without thinking much. As a matter of fact, I meant the same thing that Arjuna meant, but my consciousness and Arjuna’s consciousness are widely different, and I had not had much time to think about it beforehand; so I put the question in a rather odd manner and got a good slap in reply!

However, many people have also asked me the same thing, to tell them something about Sri Aurobindo’s outer life. How does He eat? How does He talk? Does He sleep? Does He sit in meditation? When He is in meditation, does He close His eyes ? Does He levitate ? (Laughter) All these people were very curious to know all this, just as you are now. So, once or twice, we asked the Mother what to do when these people are asking us to write something about these facts of the outer life of Sri Aurobindo. Mother didn’t encourage, She threw cold water over it by saying, «No, no.» We asked, «Why, Mother?» She said, «Then they will be satisfied with the outer appearance, and will forget the inner Divinity. Better not.» I couldn’t tell Her at that time, but I am telling Her now that the answer that I would give would assure Mother that even the appearances, in Sri Aurobindo’s case, would be of a sublime order. That you’ll see. I have given you some glimpses already.

I started this flashback in an orderly manner but, as I said the other day, a sweet disorder intervened, and I began to go forward and backward like a shuttle. That is sometimes very interesting, but at other times it brings in confusion. So I thought, let me try again today. I am not a man of science, I am a man of art – sometimes my imagination flies before my reason, and I am confused. So I have tried again to come to the original point. We can divide this period of Sri Aurobindo’s life into two parts. A general title to the story is «The Lord, Involved in an Accident,» which I have divided into two parts:

1)The Leg in the Cage; and 2) Out of the Cage.

It sounds a little blasphemous to talk of the Lords leg in the cage! Perhaps some of you will be offended! But it is the Lord who has initiated me into these liberties and licenses, and I have too much initiative to forget it. However, if you prefer, we can divide our narrative into two distinct parts as follows: 1) When Sri Aurobindo was lying in bed in a sort of ‘static mobility’ (confined to the bed), and

2)I can call the other part ‘dynamic mobility’.

Then I spoke about His breakfast, for which He was made to sit up, naturally with a backrest. I don’t know how far He felt comfortable. Mother served Him from a small plate: some bananas, some bread and butter. One day, all of a sudden, perhaps because She was in a humorous mood or because She took pity on me, Mother asked: «Do you like bananas?» That is one thing I don’t like very much. So I promptly said, «Mother, I don’t dislike them!» (Laughter) Sri Aurobindo smiled: He appreciated the remark; Mother also smiled, but did not offer me bananas. (Laughter) So that was the first joke I dared to cut with Mother, and perhaps the last.

There was very little medical assistance that was needed, but once, at midnight, Dr. Manilal had to be called because Sri Aurobindo was complaining of a growing pain and He couldn’t sleep. So Manilal arrived and saw that it was some sort of adjustment that was needed in the position of the leg. If the leg remains in one position for a long time, and particularly when the knee has been affected, with the bones fractured, one has to be very careful not to move it. Moreover, the doctors had given strict instructions and the leg was completely immobilised between two sandbags. So, after the adjustment, there was a sigh of relief from all of us. And Sri Aurobindo also felt comfortable and pleased.

Then I told you how He used to drink tea in a feeding cup. It shocked me to see Sri Aurobindo, the Rasik of all rasiks, the Rasa of all rasas, drinking such a delicious beverage in the way a patient drinks medicine. Perhaps Nripendra293 would have liked it very much!

Dr. Manilal, who had taken charge of the Divine Patient, had the great good fortune of touching the Divine Body, of nursing it and tending it. One day, he said, «We must give the Lord a bath.» But since a bath was impossible, we decided to give Him a sponging. Then he told Sri Aurobindo, «Sir, we propose to give you a sponge bath.» He neither said yes’ nor no’. Then Manilal told Mother, I suppose, for one couldn’t do anything without asking Her approval. Mother supplied sponges, a big cake of Paris soap, fine face powder and Eau de Cologne. Dr. Manilal was in charge of sponging, and our old friend Purani was in charge of keeping everything ready. A carpet was spread on the floor and two big white basins were used, one for hot water and another for cold water. I was in between Manilal and Purani, a go-between, as it were, and was passing the sponges and face towels to Manilal. The bed was as it is now, and we were standing at its head. So soap was applied, first of all, on Sri Aurobindo’s back. The sponge came back to Purani, he cleaned it and put it in clean water. Then, when the water became dirty, it was thrown away. Then the chest was done. So it went on in this way, applying soap, cleaning it with sponge and wiping it with a dry, clean, white French towel. Then His face -Sri Aurobindo closed His eyes – and when the face was clean, His beard was cleaned. After that, Eau de Cologne was rubbed on His body, then a liberal dose of talcum powder was applied on the front and the back – on the back, particularly, it was necessary, because, you know, when a patient of that age is confined to bed for a long time, the skin breaks – we call it bedsore. And we hadn’t thought of it in the very beginning; it happened later and caused us much anxiety.

So after a lot of powder was rubbed on Him, He used to lie down. After that, He used to have a cup of tea. One day, it so happened that all of us were present there because all were needed for something or other; when the whole sponge bath process was over, Dr. Becharlal, with his emotional attitude, went and stood there, looking at Sri Aurobindo besmeared with the ‘ashes’ of the powder. He called all of us, «Come, come, look at the Lord, how beautiful He looks. Doesn’t He look like Shiva with all these ‘ashes’ besmearing the body?» He started weeping and we drove him away from there. Poor fellow, he couldn’t keep his tears back. So that is the story of the sponging. One more thing: I don’t know why or how, but till a very late stage, we didn’t think of His hair. The hair was loose and He was lying in bed. Nobody thought of doing anything about it, we forgot completely. We sponged His body, we sponged His face, but did nothing to His hair; perhaps we thought it was a woman’s job, and we had no right, no cleverness, no skills there; and nobody even thought of asking the Mother. Somehow, we neglected it or forgot it completely. That story will come up again later.

Now I’ll go into the medical field. The next problem was that of what you call evacuation: movement of the bowels. Dr. Manilal was naturally concerned about it. Because of Sri Aurobindo’s static position in the bed, His bowels started a non-cooperation movement -they would not move. Then Dr. Manilal said, «Sir, Your bowels are not moving, we have to do something about it.» He proposed all sorts of medical remedies, but Sri Aurobindo said, «No.» Then he said, «Sir, you can try ‘Triphala’. It is not a medicine, it is a combination of three fruits. It is quite innocent and innocuous – you can take it, Sir.» «No, I’ve not taken medicines for a long time. My body is not used to taking medicine of any kind.» No go! What to do? He flatly refused -complete non-cooperation. Then He said, «Whenever there is such trouble, I apply Force.» And Dr. Manilal said, «Why don’t you apply it, Sir?» Then He replied, «It’s not that I’m not applying Force, but it’s not acting.» (Laughter) «Because the body is not accustomed to receive the Force in this static position. It is somewhat tamasic, and sometimes I also feel lazy to apply the Force.» (Laughter) All of us roared with laughter at this frank admission. Then we were wondering what to do. «All right, I’ll try.» Then He started being a little more vigorous and the result was very fine. But sometimes it became erratic: the result was excessive or it was diminutive, too much or too little. We said, «What is this, Sir?» Then He answered with a smile: «It is a question of too much or too little.» We couldn’t understand the reference. Then He told us the story that I told you the other day, about the two African soldiers trying to escape from the British during the Boer War, and one of them being helped ‘too much’ by the Lord!

So that is the story of the evacuation. And you see that our relations with the Lord have already become more friendly, more chummy, by this time. The walls of unfamiliarity were breaking, little by little, and then started the famous ‘Talks’ or ‘Evening Talks’. It happened in this way, all on a sudden. I had gone out for some work one evening. I returned after half an hour or so and saw, to my surprise, that all the rest of his attendants were sitting by Sri Aurobindo’s left side, and He had started talking while lying down. I was very curious to hear and, little by little, I approached them. All were craning their necks because Sri Aurobindo’s voice was very soft and very low, though very sweet, and He spoke in a very slow, distinct rhythm. But He was talking! Unless you were near the bed, it was not possible to catch the words. So I was unfortunate that day because I couldn’t get into the crowd, I was behind. And from the next day, I made it a point not to run away at that time and keep as near as possible.

Every evening, because we had nothing to do, and He had nothing to do, somewhere around 6:30 or 7 o’clock, Dr. Manilal would come up after his tea, and Sri Aurobindo would start talking. Dr. Manilal would ask questions naturally and Sri Aurobindo would answer, and then He’d start talking of His own accord. There was no other purpose of these talks except to provide a diversion for us poor fellows who were attending on Him. Most of us were with Him almost twenty-four hours each day, except for our meals. That reminds me – Dr.Manilal would often tell me and the others, «Go, go, there’s nothing to do. Have your meal, take some rest.» But we’d refuse to budge. Not that we had to do anything out of fear that Sri Aurobindo would say something, but it was simply that we did not like to budge from His presence. What was there in that Presence? There was something that I cannot describe. It was that Presence, it was that magnetic attraction that kept us there, and we refused to go elsewhere even for an instant. And our life was, for many days, a song of joy and beauty and love. And what energy we felt within ourselves! You have no idea at all. We hardly had two or three hours of sleep at night. Though we had no duty, we couldn’t sleep and yet we never felt tired. Day after day we passed in this way, full of energy, full of joy, full of vigour.

31 October 1969

Today is our real swansong. It seems some of you were not pleased with the last swansong – the swan didn’t sing well! So I thought, since you say we are friends, we shouldn’t part in grief; I thought of meeting you again to see if we can part in a happy mood.

I still don’t know why you were disappointed – perhaps you expected too much. Perhaps you wanted me to pour out all my treasures, which I refuse to do. If I empty it into your capacious basket, all at one go, what shall I live with? It seems that when Dickens finished writing his Oliver Twist, he began to weep, because that was his most favourite book, and he didn’t know what to do after its completion. Similarly, if I empty all my stock, I may start weeping, and to leave me like that would be «the most unkindest cut»294 from friends like you. Therefore, I have to go a little slowly, for if I exhaust my stock, then you will try to seek friendship somewhere else. (Laughter) Well then, today, I don’t know whether it has been pre-planned by Fate, but I thought of cheering you up a bit by showing you the lighter side of our Lord -His humour, His fun. Some of it has been published, others have been kept back, so I will reveal to you today some of those tales which have been held back.

You know, perhaps, that I worked in many departments of the Ashram before I found my true vocation. As soon as I came here, or soon after, I was assigned to the Building Service, where I had to do some accounts. (Laughter) Well, from there, I was transferred somewhere else – from the frying pan into the fire, perhaps! – to work under Rishabchand295 and keep the paint accounts! Again, I was shifted from there, for I was, as they say, a square peg in a round hole. I don’t know how I came to work in the timber godown (Laughter), which was on the ground floor of the building where now your famous science laboratory is installed. It was a real godown – a dark, dingy, windowless place that made you really ‘go down’ there, psychologically! (Laughter) I was not at all happy with that work either, but what to do? I had to supervise the carpenters. I knew nothing about carpentry at all, so what could I supervise? And I wasn’t interested either; I had not developed a yogic attitude at all. So I used to while away my time by reading novels or other books.

At that time, correspondence with Sri Aurobindo was an ongoing feature in the Ashram296. So I wrote to Sri Aurobindo: «Can I read books in between my work duties?» He gave me a reply which I have never forgotten and which brought a change in my attitude. He said, «I don’t know your work.» It gave me such a shock because I thought that He knew everything about all the workers – not in the occult way, but because we used to give regular reports to the Mother. I thought: what is this indifference? «I don’t know your work»: What does it mean? I couldn’t understand at once that He was speaking of the way I was going on, my lack of interest in the work. Then, slowly, I started feeling a change inside. I began to take interest – not joy, as yet, but some interest. I began to work – the carpenter’s work was a very dry sort of work, dry as sawdust! But still, somehow, something happened, and I think, from then on, when He saw perhaps that I was genuinely trying to be a yogi or a sadhak, the tone of His letters changed! What was formal earlier began to take a personal turn. That I remember very well indeed.

This introduction is necessary for what I’m going to read out just now. Some men were commenting on my godown work. They were saying, «He is an England-returned man and he has been given the work of a timber-godown supervisor.» So I wrote to Sri Aurobindo about these unsavoury comments. Then He wrote back: «Men are rational idiots. The timber godown made you make a great progress and you made the timber godown make a great progress. I only hope it will be maintained by your successor.» And He crowned it by saying that one day I should justify the ‘timber throne’. (Laughter)

So from there I was asked to go over to the Dispensary. I think there’s a letter here that explains how it happened. All these things have happened in a very queer way. There is no real scientific explanation for these occult happenings. I wrote to Him that, after having spent so many years and so much money on my medical education, now I find that I am uselessly employed in the carpentry department, etc. Then Sri Aurobindo grabbed this opportunity and wrote: «We thought you might not only be not enthusiastic, but the reverse of enthusiastic about again becoming a medical gent. When, however, you spoke lovingly and hungeringly about Rs. 20,000, I rubbed my eyes and thought, ‘Well, well! Here’s a chance!’» That’s all. Mark the humour.

So I was transferred to the Dispensary and now I will read out some ‘medical’ jokes from my correspondence with Him. I think the ladies here won’t mind if some of the jokes refer to women. This occurred in 1936. Some lady complained about me to the Mother, and Sri Aurobindo wrote to me: «She says you spoke wrathfully to Dr. Becharlal. And Dr. Becharlal spoke wrathfully to her and accused her of high crimes and misdemeanours (like irregularity in eating) of which she was not guilty. So she is very wounded and won’t go to doctors any more!! Fact? Or liver?» Then I wrote back; I will read out my reply to you, and from the contents you’ll also see in what vein I dared to address Him:

Spoke wrathfully? Good Lord, how? When? This is an imitation of His style.

I thought I was a very calm and peaceful man ... (Laughter)

... but if Your lips part in a sarcastic grin, I will tell You what happened. Well, Dr. Becharlal and I were breaking our heads over the budget when she entered. The complaints entered my ears before the furrows over the brow were smoothed away. And in that careworn expression, I asked Dr. Becharlal: «What’s this complaint about recurring nausea? What do you think?» Then he asked her in Gujarati: «Have you indulged in some indiscretion in your diet?» He was saying this without looking at her, because he was writing the accounts, and I was standing by the side. I suggested, «Can it be worms?» Then he asked some further questions, regarding grinding of the teeth, etc. So I can’t see how I spoke wrathfully to Dr. Becharlal, or even supposing I did, what did she understand this from? By my intonation or by the frowns and furrows over my brow? Alas, she doesn’t know that the world has many factors to cause those linear agitations ...


...other than her troubled condition! I suppose she might also have taken umbrage at the suggestion of a suspicion regarding that indiscretion which she rigorously denied!

So that’s that. Was it her liver or hypersensitivity by yoga or our wrathful talk – You may decide. Anyhow, henceforth we shall try to keep all furrows and depressions inside, and our expressions sprightly and frolicky as patients would desire.

And now a little personal dig from Him:

Well, I don’t know why, but you have the reputation of being a fierce and firebrand kind of doctor who considers it a sin for patients to have an illness.


You may be right, but tradition demands that a doctor should be soft like butter, soothing like treacle, sweet like sugar, and jolly like jam.

So! (Laughter) He leaves it there. Anyhow, that’s the advice He gave me. I don’t know how far I followed it.

Now I will refer to some other medical notes in my letters. I wrote one day: «Do you know what my weight is ? Only 51 kg. 102 lbs. 7st. 4 lbs. I was staggered to find it so low, wondered how I was walking about!» His reply: «Quite a considerable weight. I used to, in the nineteenth century, walk about with less than 100 lbs – found no difficulty.»

Well, in another case, a patient had fallen down and sustained an injury of the joint. To find out how serious the injury was, we had to make all sorts of movements of the injured limb to verify mobility, etc., by moving the joint this way, that way, up and down. These movements have special terms in medical science: abduction, aduction, etc. So I wrote to Him: «Abduction is quite all right.» Then He noted in the margin, «Abduction of a joint, sir? What’s this flagrant immorality? What happens to the joint when it is abducted? And what about the two colliding bones? Part of the abduction? Right, abduct him to X.» (Laughter)

Then there was this other patient. This patient, again a lady, came complaining of something, so I sent a report to Sri Aurobindo: «Can’t touch her without making her bring out tears. They are always thinking: how heardess, what brutes, what animals these doctors are.» His reply: «Much safer than if they think: ‘what dears these doctors are, darlings, angels.’» (Laughter)

Then another patient – this was a male patient – suddenly caught some disease after he had taken a sea bath. An elderly sort of a man, he had agonising pain in the chest and fever, and he had a previous history of T.B. So our diagnosis, or what we suspected, was that it could be the beginning of pneumonia, or the old T.B. might be flaring up, but this was a provisional diagnosis. Next day, we went to see him – lo and behold, a miracle! Every symptom had vanished and he was quite all right. So I asked Sri Aurobindo: «In one night, everything gone, Sir! Is it your Force?» Then He writes: «Subhan Allah297! With your diagnosis, one would have expected him to already be in paradise.» (Laughter)

So these are some of the jokes that I could, in a short time, gather from my books. Now I have something else. I need not give the context, as it will be quite plain from His answer:

It is certainly naive to think that because a girl is simple, i.e., instinctive and impulsive and non-mental in her movements, she can be relied upon to be an asexual friend. Some women can be, but it is usually those who have a clear mental consciousness and strong will of self-control or else those who are incapable of a passion for more than one person in their life. You are lucky enough not to be that person.

(Laughter) Then let me tell you some more about my correspondence with Him. One day, I did not get my notebook back, so I asked Him what had happened. He wrote:

Sorry, but your luck is not brilliant. Had a whole night – i.e. after 3, no work – was ready to write [to you]. Light went off in my rooms only – tried candle power, no go. The Age of Candles is evidently over.


So ‘requests, beseeches, entreaties’ were all in vain. Not my fault. Blame fate. However, I had a delightful time: three hours of undisturbed concentration on my real work – a luxury denied to me for ages.


Don’t tear your hair. Will be done another day, with luck.

(Laughter) Then, on another occasion, I don’t remember the context, but I wrote: «Shall I stop this correspondence?» He replied:

Not necessary to stop. Unless you are afraid of word punctures in the skull. My indignations and abjurations are jocular and not meant to burn or bite. I don’t mind your correspondence. It is a relief. But when people write two letters a day, in small hand, tunning to some pages without a gap anywhere ...


... and one gets twenty letters in the afternoon and forty at night – of course, not all are like that, but still! – it becomes a little too too ...

This is very private, but I think I can speak about it now. Sri Aurobindo once wrote:

I have brought down a verse from heaven [about all] the correspondence, like Bahaullah – which proves that if I am not an Avatar, at least I am a prophet.


It is, I fear, full of ‘chhandapatan and bhashapatan298, but it expresses my feelings:

Shadhokgoner hriditole correspondence korbo bolejodijagto na pipasha Thaktam ami hanshi mukhe magno Supramental shukhe, Hay re hay kothay je she asha299?

But for heaven’s sake, don’t show this undivine outbreak to anybody!


They will think I am trying to rival Dara300 in his higher poetic moods.


But I was so elated, I couldn’t keep it back. I rushed to Dilip da and showed him the poem. He simply enjoyed it: «ha, ha, ha, hi, hi, hi!» And then he said, «You write to Sri Aurobindo that it’s perfect. There’s no ‘bhashapatan, no ‘chhandapatan at all.» I don’t know whether He was pleased when I relayed that message though, because I’d broken His oath. Now I’m doing it again here, but perhaps He’ll excuse me because of you!

This next note is about literature. As I had a lot of work in the Dispensary, I complained to Him that I had not much time to write poems – only one and a half hours each day. He replied:

Luckyman! Ample time, sir, ample time, both to realise the Brahman and to write another Iliad or Nirodiad.


Good Lord! What can one write in 1 or 1.5 hours? If I could only get that [much] time for immortal productions every day! Why, in another three years, Savitri and Ilion301 and I don’t know how much more could be all rewritten, finished, resplendently complete!»

(Laughter) This is something different in another context:

Queer idea all you fellows seem to have of the prestige of the Ashram. The prestige of an institution claiming to be a centre of spirituality lies in its spirituality, not in newspaper columns or famous people. Is it because of this mundane view of life and of the Ashram held by the sadhaks that this Ashram is not yet the centre of spirituality it set out to be ?

Lord, man, it is not for changing or moulding character that this Ashram exists. It is for moulding spirituality and transforming the consciousness. You may say it does not seem to be successful enough in that line, but that is its object.

This is in another vein:

The vital needs something to hook itself on to, but, for a sadhak, women are obviously the wrong things for it to hook itself on to – it must get hold of the right peg.

(Laughter) I had a dream about a meeting somewhere, and I couldn’t understand its meaning, so I’d written to Him about it, and He replied:

The place where you were is as much a world of fact and reality as the material world, and its happenings have sometimes a great effect on this world. What an ignorant lot of disciples you are! Too much modernisation and Europeanisation by half!

(Laughter) Then, in another context, He wrote:

What one fears is usually what happens. Even if there were no other disposition, the fear calls it in. Who knows, if you had not feared, you might have had the waist of a race-runner and the hair of Samson.

(Laughter) I told you this story I think, when I spoke of Pavitra-da. Khitish was an old disciple. One day, Sri Aurobindo told us:

You don’t know the story of Pavitra and Khitish and the ‘bother’? Pavitra, who had just come here with a rather Frenchified English, said to Khitish: ‘I am a brother to you all,’ and Khitish cried out, ‘Oh, no, no!’ Pavitra insisted [again], but Khitish cried out, with pain and politeness in his voice, ‘Oh, no! no! no!’ It turned out that Khitish had heard, all through, ‘I am a bother to you all!’ So brothers are bothers, and bothers are brothers to us, insisting on inhabiting the Ashram – or at least visiting it, like the vaccination.

(Laughter) At one time during my tenure of office as a medical practitioner, the government suddenly took it into its head that all our sadhaks and sadhikas must be vaccinated, without any exception. Mother somehow saved one or two. So it was Amrita-da’s turn and Sri Aurobindo wrote:

Amrita was to have offered himself as a victim on the altar of vaccination...


... but he has been kindly bitten by the dog of the Privy Councillor, so although there is no hydrophilic danger, it is better for him to [be] cured before being bitten by the vaccinator.

(Laughter) Again, I don’t remember the context for the following note. After giving Him a medical report, I wrote:

Please don’t flare up.

He wrote back:

I didn’t flare up. I was cold with horror.


Doctors don’t mean it when they do that kind of thing. It is not deliberate murder with them, but involuntary or, shall we say, experimental homicide.

(Laughter) Then, on another occasion, I wrote:

Mother told me to practise the intuitive method, I thought.

Sri Aurobindo replied:

She said that you have to stop jumping about from guess to guess and develop the diagnostic insight – seeing what comes from the intuition and then looking at the case to see if it is right. But to take the first thing that comes, and act on it, is guessing, pure and simple. If, after a time, you find that your perceptions turn out to have been automatically right each time, then you can be confident that you have got the thing.

In a similar vein:

Well, there are some who, after killing a few hundreds, learn to kill only a few. But that is not intuition, that is simply learning from experience ... Experience is necessary; book-knowledge is useful for the man who wants to be a perfect doctor; observation and discrimination are also excellent, provided they are correct observation and discrimination, but all these are only helps for the flair to move about, supported by a perfect mental confidence in the flair.

Then I asked Him to show some errors in our scientific diagnosis, and He replied:

No time for showing the glorious science its errors. Too busy trying to get the Supramental Light down to waste time on that. Afterwards, sir, afterwards.

(Laughter) You see, my style used to be a little too brief in the medical reports that I used to send to Him. In one report, I wrote: «Better; pain.» So he wrote back:

Is it that he has a better pain? Of that the fact that he has a pain shows that he is better?


Or that he is better, but still has pain?


An appropriate style lends itself to many joyfully various interpretations.

(Laughter) In another context, I wrote:

I find, Sir, that as a result of your Force, ‘A’ had some vomiting today.

His answer was:

Evidently, my Force is growing, just as my handwriting is improving.

(Laughter) I told you, whenever I saw somebody going away, I used to feel a little bit of a flutter here [pointing to his heart]; so I wrote:

By Jove, your Force is growing strong! See the number of departees!

His reply:

They are not departees yet. ‘X’ [has] gone on a spree – says he will, one day, come back. ‘Y’ sent as a missionary by the Mother; don’t expect his mission will be very fruitful though.


‘Z’ went for her property – property and herself held up by her family, as we told her it would be, etc. So no sufficient proof of Force here. If they had all gone saying ‘Phirbo na, kokhono phirbo na302as ‘X’ threatened once, this proof would be conclusive.

(Laughter) He spoke about His handwriting improving. Once He wrote something and there was a word which I read as «message», so He wrote back:

There is nothing about message. Marriage, marriage – two marriages, in fact. Not that he is going to marry two wives, but he is going to see the misfortune of two others consummated and gloat over it.

(Laughter) I told you, perhaps, that I used to have two health problems which were almost chronic: 1) A cold and fever, and 2) A boil in the nose. Very often, I used to cry out to Him for help. So I wrote:

Nose boil boiling down; terrible headache, fever too. Feeling fed up,


He wrote back:

Cellular bolshevism probably.

I asked:

What’s this cellular bolshevism?

He replied:

Bolshevism of the cells surging up against the Tsar – yourself.


Also, the Bolsheviks carry on their propaganda by creating communistic cells’ everywhere, in the army, industries, etc. You don’t seem to be very up to date in contemporary history.

(Laughter) Then the boil burst, and I wrote:

Pus still coming out of the nose!

His reply:

What a bad-tempered ‘pussy’ cat of a nose!

Then the last one, I should wind up now. I wrote a poem (I had just started writing poetry those days). So I asked Him:

How do you find the poem, Sir ?

Sri Aurobindo replied:

So soft, so soft,

I almost coughed,

then went aloft

to supramental regions,

where rainbow-breasted pigeons

coo in their sacred legions.


N.B.: This inspired doggerel is perfectly private. It is an effort in abstract or surrealist poetry, but as I had no models to imitate, I may have blundered.

(Laughter) He didn’t send back my poem; He kept it back, so I sent a complaint:

Where is my poem?

Then He wrote a poem representing my attitude:

O must I groan and moan and scarify my poor inspired bones To get my poem back as it were a bill from Smith or Jones! N.B. Abstract poetry, very abstract.

(Laughter) Once I asked Him how I was getting on: «Have I progressed or not?» Then He said:

You are opening, opening, opening

Into a wider wider scopening

That fills me with a sudden hopening

That I may carry you in spite of gropening

Your soul into the supramental ropening

N.B. Surrealist poetry.


27 November 1969

[A talk given to the students of Mother’s School, Delhi, during their visit to the Ashram. Kireet bhai first introduced Nirod-da.]

I’ll tell you a few words about Nirod-da. He came to the Ashram several decades ago. When he came back from England, he returned with a medical degree. But he turned to poetry under Sri Aurobindo’s guidance. He began to write poetry – and he is known to us, first and foremost, as a poet. It is important to tell you the value of the privilege that he had. He wrote hundreds of letters to Sri Aurobindo, and he got answers from Him, on a number of subjects. He also used to be with Sri Aurobindo for many, many years. And if you read Mother India, you’ll often find excerpts from Talks With Sri Aurobindo there – they are all recorded by him for he was a participant of those talks. He had a correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, and a part of it is published in these two volumes [pointing to them], and I must tell you that when I myself first read The Life Divine, I did not understand it so well as I did after having read these two books of Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo. So, personally, I owe a great debt to him for getting for me illumination from Sri Aurobindo on many, many important points, not only of metaphysics, but chiefly of Yoga. If you read this correspondence, I’m sure you’ll find therein a great fund of humour. I don’t know if you are interested in humour, but «Humour is the salt of life» as Sri Aurobindo says. And if you really want to see the humour of Sri Aurobindo and also of Nirod-da, then you’ll be extremely delighted to read these two books. Actually, he can speak to you on many things – particularly of his contact with Sri Aurobindo; but I have made a special request to him to tell you something of his correspondence, because you will find therein some taste which is not only of the mind, but also of the soul.


[Nirod-da begins his talk.] Well, young friends and old friends, first of all let me greet you, with a hearty welcome to your parent institution.

My friend Kireet has lifted me sky-high by heaping high praise on me; it is his nature to do so. However, I am very glad indeed to meet all you young people, because I believe that meeting young people is a great advantage to elderly people. They can always receive something from the young, and that is why I agreed to meet you face to face. I can draw something more precious from you than what you may get from me.

I consider it a very good sign that our young girls are now waking up to a new life, a new vision, a new spirit. Certainly, it is a very happy sign for the future that particularly our Indian girls are now waking up from their old habits, from their old customs, from their subjection to their parents, to their brothers, etc. As a matter of fact, in this modern age of ours, if you are familiar with what is taking place in the whole world, you will see that there is a revolution going on among the youth, and in some countries, it is the young girls or young women who are taking the leading part. It has been sung by one of our poets that, so long as women are not awakened, there is no hope for India, and I think it is for the most part true.

Woman, as you know, represents the Shakti. In our Indian mythology and tradition, woman has always been considered as man’s Shakti. If the Shakti is confined to the kitchen, to the bearing of children, etc., then there is no hope for man. And it is a very good augury that womanhood today is breaking all those old shackles. The prison wall is broken down, and we see everywhere the rise of that new vision. Even in the Ashram, having lived here for so many decades, as my brother Kireet said, I see how many Indian women, with or without their husbands, their sisters, their brothers, and their children, are flocking here, dressed in beautiful saris, with their vanity bag hanging from their shoulders. A new spirit, a new life I see in them, which means that something has touched their soul; they are looking for something. And I believe that it is the one direct result of the freedom of India. Since the day India has achieved her freedom, this has happened. And today I am happy still further, to see that we have a woman as our Prime Minister. And you know how she is fighting tooth and nail, against the old guards who are standing in her way, for a new vision, for a new regeneration. So I may call it a new age – the Age of the Woman.

Here in our Ashram, you must have noticed how a new life has been breathed into everything; how boys and girls are mixing freely and taking part in all activities without any distinction of gender. Mother wants me to forget, to banish this old conventional sense of man and woman. We must forget that. We must live in a higher consciousness where this distinction does not exist. At one time in India, I don’t know how this concept originated, but there was a ban on women taking part in spiritual life. Perhaps you know the Sanskrit adage: ‘Nari narakasya dwaram’ – woman is the gate to hell. And ‘Kamini’, ‘kanchan (woman and gold) have to be avoided; and further on, ‘Pothe nari biborjita’ – when you are going somewhere, leave the woman behind. So that has been the experience of our old people. But today, the Divine has Himself or Herself come down as the «Woman, in order to raise womanhood all over the world. The result, you see, is clearly apparent in the Ashram and elsewhere. Mother has said somewhere in Her talks that woman, not man, serves the Divine best; and perhaps man’s vanity is hurt, but She must speak the truth. So there you are, my young friends, young girls particularly, there is a bright future for you, and we are waiting to be ruled and governed by you, at least at present!

Now, you want me to speak to you about my association, my contact with Sri Aurobindo. I don’t know... it is very difficult to speak about this subject. Particularly as so many of you are young, too young to understand, but all the same, there are others who are more grownup, so I’ll try.

All of you are coming from Delhi, which is a great centre. You have come from the political centre of India to the spiritual centre of the whole world. You have seen and you have heard about many great people, great by their actions, by their speeches, by their great movements all over the world – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Radhakrishnan, Smt. Indira Gandhi, so on and so forth. They are all the time before your eyes, but there is another order of great men, who are not so much before your eyes and who live a secluded life. They are called yogis, who live in union with God, with the Divine, and exercise their influence upon men and upon the world silently, secretly, from behind the veil. And of those yogis, Sri Aurobindo was the summit. All the yogis have said that He was the Lord of Yoga, or the Lord of the Yogis. If I may be poetic, I shall use an image: He was the thousand-petalled Sun.

Though Sri Aurobindo was living in a single place for so many years, since 1910, I don’t know if you will believe me if I say that He has moved the whole world by His ideas, by His thoughts, by His spiritual power, through His writings, and through His subtle, invisible spiritual force. Mother and Sri Aurobindo have not gone anywhere, not a single step from where they are, and yet you see today how people from all over the world are flocking here to seek the Light, to seek guidance, to seek protection from them. You people come, batch by batch, all the way from Delhi, so are other people coming all the way from America, from England, from France and many other places. And as the years will roll by, you will see that the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry is becoming, more and more, the spiritual centre of the whole world. This is another order of greatness which we call spiritual greatness, for which we need not go from place to place and lecture about it, but still people come to this greatness, drawn, as it were, by some magnetic influence, just as bees are drawn to flowers for honey. Many people have said, «Why don’t you people come out and preach and do propaganda?» We say, «That is not the way of spirituality. That need not be done, that has been done before by others.» Sri Aurobindo does not believe in such advertising, such propaganda. The souls who are ready for the call, the souls who are in a receptive mood, will come automatically, by themselves. And He said He does not call anybody, people come on their own. They hear the call within themselves, in the heart, and they are drawn by some invisible power and influence. He doesn’t want thousands and thousands of disciples, He wants a chosen few who have heard the call, who are ready to obey the call and to pay the price for it.

What is the call? It is the call for a new life, a new race, a new age. Both Mother and Sri Aurobindo have come down here, into this clay world of ours, with a particular mission. It is not to establish another religion like Buddhism, Islam or Christianity. All these -isms are now back in great numbers. But Sri Aurobindo and the Mother do not want to found a religion; they want to establish a new race, a new race of Supramental beings, out of this human material. And I believe that many of you will, one day, belong to this new race. That is their mission and that is what they are doing day and night, night and day. You may have already got some proof of it; you may have had some taste of it, if you have looked a little more intently, quietly, at all the activities that are going on in the Ashram, and particularly in the new city – the City of Dawn (Auroville) – which is on the anvil. Many years from now, perhaps, you’ll see that City of Dawn rising, little by little.

So, young friends, let us have this aspiration today that we should like to belong to this new race. If you are really interested in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, I would advise you, first of all, since you are students, to learn, to study well and to develop your mind, your intellectual faculty, and at the same time to develop your life as well; to not live in the old ways of life, to make your life an offering to the Divine, to do all your studies, all your actions, all your activities, not for yourself, not for your parents, but for the Divine. For which, I suppose, your Delhi Centre stands, and which that Centre is trying to fulfil, following in the footsteps of its parent organisation, Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The more you develop inwardly, the more light will come into you, and you will see and you will realise that something stupendous is going on all over the world, with Sri Aurobindo Ashram as the centre.

Well, as my friend Kireet told you, I used to be a medical man. I don’t know how, or by what accident, I thought of leading this life! Giving up my medical practice, I came to the Ashram and accepted this life. I was about thirty years old or so then, and at that time, the sadhaks and sadhikas used to write letters to Mother and Sri Aurobindo and would get their answers. I also toed the line, as they say, and began to write to Sri Aurobindo all about the difficulties that I began to face in my new life. And I was surprised to see that Sri Aurobindo was writing back to me in a very friendly manner, in a very intimate way, as if He had known me for a long time, I don’t know why. I tell you frankly, I was very much baffled; but still, when He had stretched out His hand in friendship, I was only too eager to accept it, and I took full advantage of it. So here are the two volumes of correspondence between us, of questions and answers. Questions about everything: medical questions, spiritual questions, literary questions, political questions. Regarding the last category, I used to write to Him in secret, and He used to answer secretly, and He would say: «You must not show it to anybody.» So the Divine used to play some tricks too!

Some of you who are of age, who have some intellectual understanding, I’m sure, will appreciate these two volumes, and will be able to gather much food for thought, much substance for the renewing and rebuilding of your life. Because I am sure many of you are in my shoes, if I may put it this way, as amateur philosophers. These were the common questions that troubled me: Does the Divine exist? «What is Divine Power? etc. Not big, high, philosophical questions like those of Dr. Radhakrishnan or Bergson, but of a common man, of an average student. And He has answered me in the same vein, making the answers as simple as possible, and as full of rasa as possible. Had there been no rasa, I think I would not have enjoyed them as much as I did.

As I said, why He bestowed so much Grace on me is still a mystery and an unsolved problem. I asked Him once, «Why are you so kind to me?» He said, «You find out for yourself.» I tried hard, tried, tried and tried, but even till today, I am unable to find the real reason. One reason that strikes me is that perhaps it was so that I might be able to speak about Him to you people. But I may say this much, that these are the two volumes that have made me from what I was to what I am today. Not so much because of what He has written, but because of His kindness, His compassion, His friendship. You know what friendship is, my friends! You have lots of friends, boys and girls. Friendship gives you warmth, friendship gives you inspiration, friendship gives you faith. A true friend is a rare thing in the world, and if that friendship comes from the Divine, it is a treasure immortal, invaluable. And that is what I received, through His Grace, for a number of years. This correspondence has not only helped me in sadhana, but also in poetry. He has sometimes rebuked me, in a very gentle manner; He has sometimes made fun of me, but throughout, there is a pervasive sense of friendship. The Divine is a guide, a friend, a helper who never fails. Even if we fail the Divine, He does not fail us. There lies the beauty of Divine friendship.

That reminds me of another incident. Once I told Him, «Please don’t forsake me. I am somewhat of a foolish fellow, with not much knowledge, not much brain, not much wisdom, not much spiritual power. But I have come to you, please don’t forsake me.» He replied so graciously and promptly: «Never!» And I feel, my friends, at every step, His unfailing hand supporting me, helping me in the long, great journey towards some very far, distant goal. I say to you all, it is not because He was especially fond of me. God loves those who love Him. If you love Him or love Her (it’s the same thing; when I speak of Sri Aurobindo, I mean the Mother as well), if you love God, if you love the Divine this much, He will love you that much more. If you offer Him this little, He will offer you that much more, that is what I have experienced in my life. Your defects, your drawbacks don’t matter at all. Once you fall at His feet, you call Him in your troubles, in your difficulties, in your dangers, in whatever situation of life you are, He is sure to come to you, either visibly or invisibly


It is not only in spiritual life that He helps, remember that. Even in your physical activities, in games, in sports, in studies, He is there to help you. As I told you just now, in my poetry, in my art, in my writing, all the time, that help is there. Try it, make an experiment, you’ll see – but have faith. I remember an anecdote. You know Sri Ramakrishna had a great disciple, Vivekananda, and he was very fond of him. But Vivekananda was a doubter; he could not blindly accept what Ramakrishna preached. He would say all the time, «I do not believe all you say,» and Ramakrishna would say, «I see the Divine Mother, I touch Her, I talk with Her.» «I don’t believe it. If you show me, then I shall believe.» So that was Vivekananda. He was a pakka303 scientist. You must give me the proof – the proof of the pudding lies in the eating! Then, one day, Ramakrishna lost his temper and said, «Then, sala304, why do you come to me?» and began to abuse him. And Vivekananda gave a reply, «I come to you because I love you.» Then Ramakrishna forgot all his anger and hugged him, embraced him. That is what love is. We have only to love the Divine and do everything for Him or for Her. Then it does not matter where you go or what you do; you may be a scientist, you may be an artist, you may be an athlete, you may be a politician, it doesn’t matter. In all your activities, the Divine will help you. Truly, let us engage in all activities as an offering to the Divine, as instruments of the Divine. We are not sannyasis, we are not ascetics; we accept life. We want to change this life from what it is to what it should be.

You know very well what life is like today – you are coming from outside, so you know it better than we do. In the student world, there are strikes – you are from Delhi and in a much better situation. Go to Calcutta and you will see how they harass the professors, and they say, «We don’t want this, we want Mao Tsetung.» Throughout the year, perhaps only for ten or twelve days, they go to school or college. So this is life, it is so hard for the poor as well as for the rich. And Indira Gandhi is trying her best to put this tottering, rattling, shaking house into some semblance of order. This is what life is today, and Mother and Sri Aurobindo are trying to change this life into another pattern -a Divine pattern. And I am sure They will succeed, Their mission will not fail. Let us all take part in it and make it a success.

Now let me read a few letters. I was telling you just now how the Divine Force is active and helpful in all our activities. Here is what Sri Aurobindo says about Himself: «...In my own case, the first time I started yoga, Pranayama, etc., I belaboured five hours a day for a long time and concentrated and struggled for five years without any least spiritual result...305»

Let us not think that because Sri Aurobindo is the Divine, everything was easy for Him. It was not so. He has said somewhere that all His life has been «a great struggle». Never did anything come smoothly to Him; He had to fight, He had to struggle, He had to work hard. Here, I have just read out to you one instance in His spiritual life. Just consider this carefully – five hours a day doing Pranayama and for five years! Can you think of it? I won’t be able to do it for even five minutes a day! And even then, there was no result, except that the results were in other fields – He began to write poetry and prose, which came to Him like a flood, but nothing of spirituality. If you know something of His life, His previous life – I mean, from childhood (your teachers may have told you about it) – you will have seen what a series of struggles and hardships He had to face.

One day, I wrote to Him:

It seems that it is futile to make any effort for anything, especially as one gets to meditate; one thought after another surges up ... All efforts are useless, useless306!

So He writes back, rebuking me:

All that is the physical mind, refusing to take the trouble of the labour and struggle necessary for the spiritual achievement. It wants to get the highest, but desires a smooth course all the way, ‘Who the devil is going to face so much trouble for getting the Divine’ -that is the underlying feeling. The difficulty with the thoughts is a difficulty every yogi has gone through – so is the phenomenon of little result after only a few days of effort. It is only when one has cleared the field and ploughed and sown and watched over it that big harvests can be hoped for.

One must either use effort and then one must be patient and persevering, or one can rely on the Divine with a constant call and aspiration. But then the reliance has to be a true one, not insisting on immediate fruit.

So that is one thing, my friends, that you can do. Have faith, have trust in the Divine. It is easier for you young people than it is for us older ones. We begin to doubt at every step: «Is the Divine coming? When is He coming? Where is He coming? I am calling and calling, there’s no answer. He does not come, let me give up.» This is the way with us old men. But young people are also impatient in another way – they want quick results. I will give you an instance. One day, I had a slight fever and a very bad headache, and I wrote to Him307:

Guru, O Guru,

My head, my head,

And the damned fever!

I am half-dead

With pain and pressure.

But blessed liver

Functions quite well.

Please send the others

to hell, Oh to hell!

He wrote back in the same vein:

Cheer up! Things might have been so much worse. Jusr think, if you had been a Spaniard in Madrid or a German communist in a concentration camp! Imagine that and then you will be quite cheerful with only a cold and headache. So,

Throw off the cold,

Damn the fever,

Be sprightly and bold

And live for ever.

17 December 1969

Friends, shall I greet you with namaskar or «bonjour» or «good morning» or «salaam»? Sisir was telling me just now that, in Shantiniketan, Rabindranath instructed the teachers to greet the students with namaskar. According to Tagore, the teachers must greet the students with namaskar – that way, it can help to awaken the soul in the students. And here, Pranab, as you know very well, greets you always with a namaskar and a broad smile. I don’t know whether he smiles broadly at all of you or not, but I am fortunate in seeing his broad smile as well as his folded hands each time he greets me.

Well then, at last we meet. Some of you, I understand, have been waiting eagerly for this talk. I was not very eager, because, as you know, it gives me a headache every time, and this time it was no less, particularly after the long vacations, which I enjoyed to the full. I forgot all about this talk. Some of your faces floated before my eyes, but that was in another context. But as the days of sacrifice came nearer and nearer, I asked some of my inspirers: «What shall I do?» Well, some of them smiled and said, «Pray to the Lord,» and others said nothing of the kind, simply smiled an enchanting smile. Perhaps they thought that this is a smile of inspiration! But it left me no wiser! (Laughter)

To tell you honestly, I was feeling a bit nervous – just like the nervousness some of you feel before your athletic competitions or before your exams. But, fortunately, the examinations have been mercifully done away with by the Mother. But athletics competitions are still there, and if I am right, some of you do feel nervous – you experience sleepless nights, breakfastless mornings, lunchless noons, constant calls of nature, etc. (Laughter) Vomiting and committing many follies. (Laughter) I heard the story of a young friend of mine who is appearing for the final M.B.B.S examination. Poor fellow, neither can he eat, nor can he drink. If he dreams, he has nightmares about examiners! That reminds me, ladies and gentlemen, of my student days. I hope you’ll permit me to begin with some anecdotes from my medical student days.

We too had some examiners who were rather strict, but not unfair. They were not bent on killing us or failing us, but all the same, they did hold some strict and difficult tests. But, on the other hand, there were others who were very encouraging. Though they were Britishers and I was an Indian, it made no difference. I shall give you one or two examples.

You know that medical exams are supposed to be very strict -there are two internal examiners and two are visiting professors from another university. For instance, if you are sitting here for examinations, they will call for external examiners from Madurai or from Calcutta. I was sitting for my exam in medicine. The written test was over, but the bugbear was the oral one, where we had to confront four examiners, just like in the Indian Administrative Service exams now, I understand.

So two of my professors were there as internal examiners and two others from outside. One of the latter posed me a very stiff question, but my internal examiner intervened – «No, no, no, that doesn’t matter,» he said. And I got off. In another exam, there was a board of four or five members and I was appearing for four subjects at a time, though I’d had the option of doing them two at a time. So there my internal examiner said, «Well, he is appearing for four subjects» – which meant «let us be a little lenient to him.» (Laughter) Then, in my clinical examination in the hospital, my clinical professor was also there. As soon as I entered the hall, he was very chummy; he put his hand on my elbow like this and said, «Come along, Mr. Tay-luck-dar308!» (Laughter) I said, «What is this Tay-luck-dar?» Anyhow, though the pronunciation frightened me, his taking me by the elbow so very intimately instilled some courage into my heart. There also, I managed to pass.

In another exam, my British professor, who had been in the tropical countries for a few years, asked me, «Well, Mr. Talukdar, suppose you were hit ...» Good Lord! I thought. (Laughter) « ... from the back, by a man with a lay-dhee309» – what’s lay-dhee, I couldn’t make out, and I was frowning. «You don’t understand?» «No, sir.» «You don’t know lay-dhee?» «Sir, I’ve never heard of it.» (Laughter) «It has a knob, something you walk with.» «Ah, I understand, sir, we call it a lāṭhi? (Laughter) You know Englishmen can’t pronounce these Indian words correctly.

Then, in another oral exam, I was asked: What are the symptoms or properties of a particular drug – say, for instance, morphine or opium? I began to tell the examiner, and he was satisfied. Then I told him something which he hadn’t heard of. He asked me, «Where did you get it from?» I said, «Sir, our professor has written it in his book.» He got up, went to the professor. I don’t know what talk he had, but he came back and was quiet, didn’t say anything. So there you are. I have given you some examples of the attitude or the spirit of some of the teachers.

Here, in India, I don’t know how far it is true, but things seem to be a little different. I’ve told you about how students become nervous wrecks; some even commit suicide. Yes, I forgot to mention the first exam that I had, in the first year of physics. Well, I had never studied physics in college. I’d been a student of arts. But, all the same, I had to pick up medical physics and medical chemistry in order to enter the medical career. So there were all the apparatuses on the table for the physics oral exam and the professor began to ask me questions. I simply fired away like a parrot! He was very happy. «Have you read my notes?» «Yes, sir, I’ve read your notes.» «That’s all right.» (Laughter) So fortunately, I had the gift of taking good notes when the professor was giving the lectures – almost verbatim. I am not exaggerating; you can see from Talks with Sri Aurobindo how many notes I had taken. So, such were our teachers and such were the examinations. Sometimes, when you face a strict professor, there is some trouble. To quote Amrita-da, your «sweet heart» troubles you. But that is all in the game, as they say.

So, as I said, I had to pass through this trouble for today’s talk: What to say? What not to say? All that I’ve narrated until now was not in my mind at all. I was praying calmly to the Lord to give me some inspiration, and, all on a sudden, I had a flash of inspiration to speak of my experiences. Now, I see that there are plenty of new faces who have joined us in our pilgrimage to the Light Eternal, and I hope that, by their inspiring company, they will give us some stimulation and make our journey less arduous. So far, we can say, the Divine, the Lord has not failed us. He has sustained us at every step. Whenever there was fear of a breakdown, I have seen that He has held us up. That is, I believe, for two reasons: one, an aspiration from my heart, the other, a collective aspiration from the crowd. So ladies and gentlemen, I would ask you to keep up this constant collective aspiration in order that our class can serve some useful purpose.

It is extremely funny or interesting that during these vacations, this long period, from the day we stopped our class to this day when we met, I didn’t have that feeling of inspiration or exultation at all. The Lord forgot me completely! I tried to invoke Him, I tried to evoke Him, I tried to provoke Him. (Laughter) No answer – I was bypassed completely, which proves that part of the exultation and stimulation must have been contributed by the aspiration of your young hearts which help me to be buoyed up like a colourful balloon in the air.

Well, this is an introduction [indicating what he is about to read out]. Today, a young friend from this crowd has asked me to read out to you the introductions from the two books here, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo and The Mother of Love. One introduction is by my humble self, the other by the scholar himself – Madhav Pandit310. I’m sure my introduction is not new to you. I’ve talked about much of the same material in this class, in snatches, in parts; yet, if you’ll allow me, if you’ll bear with me for the repetition, perhaps it won’t be a mere waste of time. Repetition in such things, my friends, is a blessing. Repetition is a rhetorical figure, some of you literary students may know; it is used as an alankar311 with effect. So I believe this repetition too may have some effect.

[Reading from the Preface of Correspondence (July 1954)]:

The history of this correspondence dates back to the early thirties, 1933 to be exact, when I made the Ashram my permanent home ... Sri Aurobindo explained to me in this letter how the outer life can be made a field of yoga and how work done as a part of Karmayoga312, with the right attitude, can be a very good training for the completely yogic life. But very little of this advice was put into ptactice: the flicker of light kindled in the Ashram got enveloped by the darkness of the world around ...

I’ve told you about this last year.

I was at that time working in one of the Ashram departments,- not the medical one; even though a doctor, I had a strong distaste for the medical profession.

I told you which department I was working in, if I remember right -in the timber godown, if you please! So I went down there (Laughter) and emerged as a ‘timber god’, an epithet given by the Lord Himself.

One day, when my notebook came back from Sri Aurobindo, I _began to read what he had written, when to my utter bewilderment I came across the sentence, «Well, sir, do you understand now?» I was so taken aback that I could not believe my eyes. «Is this a joke or a slip of the pen?» I asked myself, for I did not remember his having addressed anybody as «sir»!

By the way, somebody who is not familiar with these English terms told me, sometime ago, «Sri Aurobindo respects you very much.» (Laughter) So there you are.

How great was the thrill when I saw pages filled with a fine close handwriting, though written at a tremendous speed! «Oh, how much he has written!» would be the first thought...

... not what He has written. (Laughter)

And the contents used to be indeed a feast for the gods, though I must say it was for him a god’s labour to answer to so many letters and note-books in one single night ... Friends wondered how I dared to take such an extraordinary liberty with Sri Aurobindo; to some it even appeared sacrilegious. They often asked me, «Don’t you tremble with fear when you face him during ‘Darshan’?» Fear? Where was the question of fear when his face, his eyes would say ma bhaih313, his lips parted in a sweet smile and his whole body bending in love and sweetness to bless the head lying at his feet ?

I remember clearly the scene. He had a rose in His hand; somebody had offered it to him. He was dangling His rose like this when I approached, a sweet smile was there. I bowed, simply bent down like that [Re-enacting the gesture now]. I came away after doing pranam to the Mother. I don’t know, people who were behind me, told me afterwards «Just when you left, Sri Aurobindo was looking at the Mother like this.» [Re-enacting this gesture too] (Laughter)

... the temptation to draw Sri Aurobindo out was so irresistible that we did not much weigh the wisdom of our queries ...

Some of you have heard about how I had once made a very insolent remark: «I don’t understand how you’ve lived dangerously when you had a fat salary,» so that was the silly, insolent, stupid question I posed to Him, and you may remember the reply. It is very tempting to read out this letter to you (Laughter), and for some of you it will be quite new, for the children particularly. Shall I read it? I hope I’ll be able to find the passage. Yes, here it is!

[Reading from Correspondence (1995), 92]:

[Nirod-da:] You wrote the other day that you had lived dangerously ... [Rest of the question as described above]

[Sri Aurobindo:] There is a coward in every human being – precisely the part in him which insists on ‘safety’ – for that is certainly not a brave attitude. I admit however that I would like safety myself if I could have it – perhaps that is why I have always managed instead to live dangerously and follow the dangerous paths, dragging so many poor Nirods in my train.


[N314.:] All that we know is that you did not have enough money in England – also in Pondicherry in the beginning. In Baroda, you had a handsome pay, and, in Calcutta, you were quite well off.

[S. A.:] I was so astonished by this succinct, complete and impeccably accurate biography of myself that I let myself go in answet! But I afterwards thought that it was no use living more dangerously than I am obliged to, so I rubbed it all out. My only answer now is !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, you see, twenty-six exclamation marks I saw exactly in my notebook: it’s still there. His original answer had been written in pencil, not in ink, and He’d rubbed it all out. I was simply stunned, wondering what have I done, what have I done. (Laughter) Lost so much, so much, really so much writing! He’d simply let Himself go first in reply, I’m sure about it, but He rubbed it all out!

[S. A.:] ... Karl Marx himself could not have made a more economic world of it! But I wonder whether that was what Nietzsche meant by living dangerously ?

[N.:] (The next day I wrote) I am rather grieved to know that you rubbed off what you wrote, and that my attempts to draw you out have failed very narrowly! Everybody’s opinion is that nothing can be got out of you unless you are «pricked» (not my term) – so much of your life in which we know so little!

Sri Aurobindo here wrote in the margin: «Why the devil should you know anything about it?»

He is a very modern Guru. He used expressions like «why the devil», «damn it», etc. (Laughter) Even «Subhan Allah!» I came across, the other day, in a letter. I learnt all this from Him, and I swore in a letter315, «By the Guru!» (Laughter) So He wrote back: «By the Guru! What kind of oath is this?»

Now, to continue with my reply to Sri Aurobindo’s letter about «living dangerously316»:

... of course, I don’t mean that lack of money is the only danger one can be in. Living poorly seems to me to be akin to living dangerously, isn’t this mostly true ?

Now note His style in the reply:

Not in the least. You are writing like Samuel Smiles. Poverty has never had any terrors for me, nor is it an incentive. You seem to forget that I left my very safe and ‘handsome’...

Handsome written within quotes, if you please!

... Baroda position without any need to it, and that I gave up also the Rs. 150 of the National College Principalship, leaving myself with nothing to live on. I could not have done that if money had been an incentive ... If you don’t realise that starting and carrying on, for ten years and more, a revolutionary movement for independence,...

Mark you, revolutionary, not non-violent!

... without means and in a country wholly unprepared for it,...

Mark every word!

... meant living dangerously, no amount of puncturing of your skull with words...


... will give you that simple perception. And as to yoga, you yourself were perorating at the top of your voice about its awful, horrible, pathetic and tragic dangers, so ...

The next day I wrote back:

I beg to submit my apologies. I committed this folly because of ignorance of facts. Believe me.

I’ve become a lamb (Laughter)

I did not know that you were the brain behind the revolutionary movement, and its real leader, till I read the other day what Barin babu has written about you. Now I really know what is meant by the phrase «living dangerously.» Of course, I was not referring to anything about yoga or the inner life. But why put me to shame by dragging my poor self into it ? My dangers don’t prove anything, do they?

Sri Aurobindo: Wait a sec. I have admitted nothing about Barin babu – only to having inspired and started and maintained, while I was in the field, a movement for independence ...

So there you are! Now I continue with the Preface:

... He gave us this exceptional privilege and we employed all our skill and art to dispossess him of his vast wealth of knowledge ... For me nothing on this earth could have surpassed the rasa and the beauty that we enjoyed all these years excepting, of course, the personal contact with him to which the accident now opened the way.

How an indirect contact through letters could be made so close, vivid and tangible is an art whose magic Sri Aurobindo alone seemed to know ... If Sri Krishna has bewitched the hearts of men by his flute, Sri Aurobindo has captured their hearts and minds by the magic of his pen... Our heart repeats the marvel of his name and awaits his arrival through the very pathway that he has built with so much labour of love and compassion.

24 December 1969

Last time I read to you my homage to Sri Aurobindo, and today I will read the counterpart or the complement to it, the homage to Mother by Madhav, a very genuine and moving record of his love and gratitude to the Mother of Love:

Whatever the form the Ashram as an organisation may assume to meet the exigencies of the community, to us sadhaks it is and it will continue to be what it has always been: our Mothers Home. We came here because our Mother was here, we live here because She is present here and we will follow Her wherever She is – not merely in this life but in all lives to come. All our lives are centred round Her Person, even as all life in the Ashram is woven round Her Personality. Every leaf, every brick in the Ashram vibrates with only one note, Mother, Mother! The entire Ashram is so much permeated with the Presence of the Mother that some years ago, a visitor – a Dutchman of some consequence, if i remember right – asked the Mother if this was not a dictatorship. All around were taken aback, incensed. The Mother did not take offence. She nodded and added with a smile, «Benevolent dictatorship!» Indeed, a divine lordship under whose hegemony we die to live.

If to us it is the Home of God into whose portals we are grateful to be admitted, what is the Ashram to Her? To the Mother, the Ashram is Her own extended Body in which She receives all who seek the Light of Truth, nourishes their growth with Her own life-blood and builds up a reservoir of a Truth-Consciousness which shall ensure to Man a New life of terrestrial Immortality. Naturally, human terms and human values have no relevance to Her. She sees and works in terms of Forces that are at play, and knows that men and circumstances are only the physical ends of these invisible agents that are battling for the domination of the earth. The Ashram is for Her the chosen field where the ancient combat between the army of Light and the Hosts of Darkness shall at last be decided. The Adversary has all the means of material power, wealth and numbers at his disposal. She has only one means which is at once Her weapon and Her armour: LOVE.

With sheer Love, She has come into this world of hate and falsehood to front the Enemy in his own fief. Unknown to man, for whose deliverance She has come, She developed Her physical embodiment into a live mould for the Earth’s aspiration and when She stepped on the scene, it was Sri Aurobindo, the Seer sempiternal, who proclaimed Her advent to the sons of God and laid at Her feet the domains of the three worlds awaiting transformation, placed in Her hands all the treasures of the Spirit he had garnered from of old.

Such is She, Love Incarnate, Empress of our hearts, whose one single look is enough to transport us to heights of heroism, extremes of self-abnegation, sublimities of ecstasy. To serve Her, in whatever way She allows us to do, is our life’s highest privilege. To see Her, to get a word from Her, gives a sense of fulfillment to out deepest soul.

Speaking today, in 1965, in the 87th year of Her golden body, through every pore of which seep the soothing drops of Love divine, through the limpid blue eyes of which stream forth torrents of melting Compassion, this writer cannot but recall the first day he met Her, over twenty-five years ago. Oh, the marvel of that moment! His soul burst out of its prison-bars in a flood of tears and tears and tears, and each time he looked up to Her, She spoke through Her indrawn eyes in the only language they have ever spoken to him thereafter, the language of Love.

Much has happened during the intervening years. Much has he tried Her phenomenal patience; much has he hurt Her heart of tender solicitude; much has he strayed in the blindness of his ego, which she suffered in silence. But not once did She greet him without that familiar glance of Love.

Gradually, increasingly, totally, there came over a change. She had dug and dug tirelessly into the hard layers of his ignorance and lit the chambers of his soul which leaped into the arms of its Maker. All became a sea of Love.

M. P. Pandit

After reading this piece, I don’t feel like saying anything more, but you will be disappointed if I don’t, I suppose.

Well, this leads us naturally back to the period where we had abruptly broken our narrative and had taken, at your request, a very big leap at the end of the last session. We shall try to recover this unexplored phase, which is very significant, though I am afraid we don’t know much about it. As per the principles of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, you can’t leave anything unfinished. You have to go back till you’ve conquered the problem fully. The intervening period, from about 1920 to 1938, a long span of time, we shall try to cover hurriedly, with whatever little information is at our disposal, gathered from various sources.

It was a very important period in the Ashram life. We remember that the Mother came and made the Ashram Her home. She took charge of the few sadhaks who were with Sri Aurobindo. There was no Ashram at that time – it was a sort of ‘club’, if I may use the term! (Laughter) She took charge of Sri Aurobindo’s physical and material well-being also, since His friends were not taking good care of Him. She started building up the Ashram, step by step, which is now flourishing like a Banyan tree on all sides – till, as Madhav says, every leaf, every brick in the Ashram, and I’d add a little further, every one of you too, vibrates with only one note: Mother! And Sri Aurobindo is in the background, supporting her action.

If you will allow me, ladies, to address you particularly, you would have no place here in the Ashram, had there been no Mother. If I may go further, Sri Aurobindo would have gone on exploring the invisible and the visible spheres or planes, beyond the Supermind, without paying any attention to creating an ashram. I have given you a glimpse of His early life, His life before He came here. If I may now recall, you know, what sort of a life it was here before Mother came. He came to Pondicherry from British India, with a few brave young revolutionaries, living a very precarious, a kind of bohemian life -what we would call ‘living dangerously’; on the one hand, the police317, and, on the other hand, no money in their pockets. It was a kind of communistic adventure – they all had only one towel, which they used in common, and Sri Aurobindo used it last, after everybody else; and we now have three or four each! (Laughter) This is communism par excellence – no private property. There was hardly any distinction between Sri Aurobindo and His ‘disciples’. They lived like comrades -in the outer life. Sri Aurobindo refused to call Himself ‘Guru’. There was hardly any respect given to Him; they addressed Him not as Sri Aurobindo, but as Moshai318, and Sri Aurobindo treated them just like young friends. He said once, «This Guruship has been imposed on me.»

I don’t know how far the story is true. It seems, once, a visitor was shocked to see the few inmates behaving so riotously, behaving with Sri Aurobindo as if He was their pal, and this visitor tried to teach them some manners, tried to reform them. And when he objected to their behaviour, Sri Aurobindo admonished him, saying: «Leave them alone, I know how to deal with them.» This was the life they used to lead. Later, Mother tactfully managed everything, and taught the children and the other elders to respect Him; She put order into the chaos. She took charge of attending to Sri Aurobindo personally; She arranged for some proper, nourishing food for Him since He had become thin, fragile, ascetic-looking, and tried to give other home-comforts, and finally took charge of the whole Ashram.

I shall read out to you something apropos of this from the talks we had with Sri Aurobindo

[Reading from Talks with Sri Aurobindo (2001), 1:182):

[Nirod-da:] You once spoke of the brilliant period of the Ashram.

[Sri Aurobindo:] Yes, it was when sadhana was going on on the vital level. And if we had stopped there, we could have started a big religion or a vast organisation. But the real work would have been left unattempted and unachieved.

Why did you retire ? Was it to concentrate more on your work?

No. It was in order to withdraw from the general physical atmosphere. If I had to do what the Mother is doing, I would hardly have found time to do my own work; besides, it would have entailed a tremendous labour.

The Mother’s coming must have greatly helped you in your work and in your sadhana.

Of course, of course.

I remember – while saying this, Sri Aurobindo was very much moved; He was otherwise not very easily moved.

All my realisations – Nirvana and others – would have remained theoretical, as it were, so far as the outer world was concerned. It is the Mother who showed the way to practical form. Without her, no organised manifestation would have been possible. She has been doing this kind of sadhana and work from her very childhood.

So you’ve heard His reply to our question. Further, He has pronounced in no unmistakable terms that His yoga is not possible for those who do not accept the Mother as Guru. Again and again, He has been thundering at us: Mother is the gate, She is the way, She is the Word, the Mediatrix. There were some who refused to accept Her, and the consequences were disastrous. They were ready to accept Him, but not Her, and they were deluded for She is the Shakti for transformation, manifestation.

Did He also foresee that one day He would leave us? Long, long ago, He hinted once that He would have to go. That is why, when He withdrew in 1926 after His Siddhi319, he enjoined all the inmates to accept the Mother as Guru, to call Her ‘Mother’, not Mira. He Himself once said that what He would have done in ten years, He achieved in one year with Mother’s cooperation and collaboration. So you can see what a tremendous force She has brought with Her. What Sri Aurobindo brought down, Mother received instantly, like an electric current. So very receptive! She is the Shakti, you can feel it when you stand before Her; if something has gone wrong in you, you feel it immediately, in Her presence; whereas in Sri Aurobindo’s presence, you didn’t feel the same thing, for He was a wide, wide ocean. We naughty fellows could even go on with our mischief! (Laughter) The transformation of our nature is the very fundamental process of our yoga. Due to it, there have been some revolts, which is the sad part of the story320.

I used to wonder, friends, while reading Prayers and Meditations, at the similarity of the ideas of Mother and Sri Aurobindo about yoga, transformation of nature, the subconscience, etc. There is so much parallelism in Mother’s practising the yoga of the Gita in Paris! The two were widely separated by space, custom, culture, and yet they had the same spiritual destiny.

One day, everything flashed before my eyes, as it were! It may simply be my imagination, friends, but I had a vision – a poetic vision. I saw, through a moments parting of the skies, the gods seated in all their splendour, eyes turned to Lord Vishnu, with his consort, Lakshmi, seated on a golden throne in their majesty and grandeur. There was a solemn hush in the Assembly, as if they were waiting for some momentous event or for some important announcement. Narada, the divine sage, was sitting there, and he stood up and began singing a hymn of praise to the Lord, and then prayed, «Lord, the suffering earth is crying for Thee!» The Lord heard and kept quiet for a moment. And then, «Yes, Narada, I have heard the cry, the call,» He replied in a slow, delicate speech, his face shining like a thousand-petalled sun. «I am going down to the earth, to the East, and Lakshmi, your beloved queen, will go down to the West. You gods and goddesses who want to take part in our leela321, go down and prepare the field ...» Then Narada, very happily singing on his lyre, floated down, and the earth could hear his ecstatic music and lived in hope. Through its agony and distress, the world heard the divine song, and there was a mood of prayer. Soon after, I saw two shafts of light, one blue, another white, shooting down, one towards the East – to the sacred soil of India, and the other towards the West – to the sacred soil of France.

I don’t need to explain the vision, ladies and gendemen, it is quite clear. You know how, before She came here, Mother used to see in her visions so many sadhus, but one was constant, whom She called ‘Krishna’, and she recognised that very face when She met Sri Aurobindo, and She understood that by His side Her work would begin and continue.

There, in Paris, in a very strange manner, She got a worn-out copy of the Gita, and She began practising its yoga from Her very early youth. That’s how destiny works. From this you can see that my vision is not just a firework-flash of imagination! They have come with a mutual pact. I cannot conceive of any Indian woman doing in the material plane what Mother is doing with Her superb and supreme powers of organisation. The West is master in the material field, and India, at the present, is weaker in that field. So it was destined that Mother should be born in the West, and Sri Aurobindo in the East, and Mother, crossing the seven seas, should come and join Him here, after having imbibed the best of the Western culture for Her (and His) purpose.


1 One of the early sadhaks who came to the Ashram in the thirties. He was almost the official photographer of the Ashram. He used to go out frequently, and had once been to see Shri Krishnashram.


2 A sadhak is one whose aim in life is to attain the divine consciousness. He is engaged in sadhana, which is the fixed discipline to be followed in his chosen path.


3 Indian sweets.


4 Nirod-da


5 From a French story for children, written by Alphonse Daudet in 1869. Seguin has a goat who is treated well and has all it wants, but pleads for some liberty and wants to get to the mountain. Seguin warns it of the dangers on the mountain, including the wolf. When the goat escapes, it takes to the mountain and roams wildly, happy until the evening, when the wolf kills it.


6 «The rope needs to be loosened.»


7 John Keats, «Ode to a Nightingale», 1819, Stanza VII.


8 Refers to the four occasions each year, on Feb. 21 (Mother’s birth anniversary), Apr, 24 (Mothers final arrival day at Pondicherry), Aug. 15 (Sri Aurobindo’s birthday) and Nov. 24 (the great Siddhi day when the descent of the Overmind Consciousness into Sri Aurobindo’s very body occurred), when the Mother and Sri Aurobindo used to sit in the room upstairs, giving their silent blessings to the Ashramites and the visitors who used to flock to the Ashram on these days. Darshan can be loosely termed as the sacred viewing of great spiritual petsonalities, held to confer great spiritual benefit to the viewer.


9 The avatar in the Indian conception is the very descent of the supteme Divine into a human being who shows humanity the path to be followed for spiritual liberation.


10 From the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah 53.


11 Jogai and Madhai were two Brahmin brothers of Navadwip in Bengal, who had been criminals and murderers, but were converted to a spiritual life by Sri Krishna Chaitanya.


12 Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, SABCL, 1972, 20: 47.


13 From Sri Aurobindo’s poem «Who»: «In the luminous net of the stats He is caught,» SABCL, 1972, 5:40.


14 Pavitra (Philippe Baibier Saint-Hilaire), a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, passed away on 16 May 1969. A Frenchman who joined the Ashram in the 1930s, after having been to Japan, China and Mongolia in search of spiritual guidance, he was a Polytechnician and became the Director of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. He was one of the spiritual stalwarts of the Ashram.


15 The name suffix ‘-da’ roughly translates to elder brother’ and denotes affectionate respect.


16 Sri Aurobindo, Savitri


17 The reference is to the passing away of Pavitra-da and Amrita-da.


18 Old Testament Bible, 16.3.


19 Sri Aurobindo, «Passionate in flow, had not one turbid wave», Savitri, SABCL, 28: 15.


20 French for ‘Mother, Mother.’


21 One of the early sadhaks from East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh). Charu Dutt was a judge or magistrate during the British rule and a freedom fighter who saw no contradiction between the two roles. A close friend of Sri Aurobindo, he came to the Ashram after retirement and lived there for the rest of his life. He used to distribute rice in the Dining Hall to the ashramites.


22 A sannyasi is one who has renounced the world in favour of a mendicant’s life, in order to realize God. The ochre robe that he puts on is the outward symbol of this renunciation.


23 When the Divine or the Supreme Reality manifests itself into the lower world of Ignorance, it reveals its four principal aspects: 1) Wisdom and Knowledge (Maheshwari), 2) Power, Force, Violence and Destruction (Mahakali), 3) Splendour, Opulence, and Beauty (Mahalakshmi), and 4) Service, skill in works (especially those involving intricacy and detail), and practical knowledge (Mahasaraswati).


24 Reading from Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, 1987, 991-2 (letter dated 12.7.37).


25 The monthly magazine of philosophy and yoga that Sri Aurobindo edited and published single-handedly in Pondicherry from 1914 to 1920. It published serially most of the major works of Sri Aurobindo, which were issued as complete books later.


26 Adhara is the container, the physical vessel that holds the consciousness of each individual.


27 Sri Aurobindo’s yoga aims at the achievement of immortality in this mortal frame and the sadhaks in the Ashram are pursuing the yoga towards this end.


28 Nirod-da’s birthday.


29 Nirod-da read out what Mother had said about Pavitra-da on 25 May 1969.


30 The Mother, Agenda, 13:186-187.


31 Sanskrit for ‘Blue-throated’ – referring to Lord Shiva, who drank up the poison that surfaced from the churning of the primordial cosmic ocean.


32 Ramchandra was a Kashmiri homeopathy doctor settled in the Ashram, whom Sri Aurobindo used as an instrument or conduit for his curative action, Ramchandra had some extraordinary cures to his credit, including a Frenchman on his deathbed whom all the French doctors had given up on. Of course, Ramchandra gave all credit to Sri Aurobindo.


33 Francis Thompson, «Kingdom of Heaven».


34 A magazine in Bengali, published from Bengal.


35 The tree near Sri Aurobindo’s Samadhi has been given this name by the Mother.


36 Indian tulip, a small yellow flower of the Portia tree, belonging to the Malvaceae or Mallow family.


37 A French author of some repute, interested in the religions of the East, in the Bhagavad Gita, and in the teachings of Sri Aurobindo. He came to Pondicherry and was given permission to translate The Life Divine into French. Sri Aurobindo gave him the Indian name of Vishwabandhu.


38 Stalin.


39 A wandering hermit pursuing a spiritual life and, often, wearing ochre clothes as a mark of his vocation.


40 Intense concentration of consciousness, often incorrectly translated in English as «penance».


41 The psychic being is the Divine spark in every living creature, which develops into a fully conscious and individualized Divine presence through spiritual evolution. It is the Antaryamin, a delegate of the Divine self in the lower planes of body, life and mind.


42 The human being has many elements in himself, quite distinct from each other. He has first of all a body, which is made of matter. Next he has a vital being, which is the energy, power, or prana element in him; then he has the mind, which is his rational, intellectualizing element. The vital is that in man which gives him life, energy, power dynamism, desires, emotions or feelings, ambitions, etc.


43 Samadhi usually means a yogic trance, in which the yogi has internalized his consciousness and has no awareness of the waking state. The term is also used for realized yogis when they leave their bodies on purpose. The body is then said to be in a state of samadhi. It also refers to the location where the holy body is interred.


44 William Wordsworth, «Daffodils», 1804.


45 Purusha is consciousness and Prakriti is Shakti. Power, Force. Both are always bound together, inseparably but in different proportions. Shakti is often described as the left flank of the Purusha. Nirod-da is referring to his left hand as his Shakti, in a light-hearted way.


46 Both were artists in the Ashram. They joined the Ashram in the thirties.


47 A Tantric sadhu is one who follows the Tantra path of yoga. Tantrics appeal to the Shakti aspect of the Divine to give them liberation from the clutches of ignorance. It is a very bold system that does not shy away from the obstacles in the path of yoga.


48 Mahalakshmi is the goddess of beauty and splendour. Here it means a very sweet and beautiful smile.


49 This was when Sri Aurobindo was living in the Guest House in the early twenties. In the later twenties, He, along with his entire entourage, shifted to the present Ashram building.


50 Nirod-da is referring to Sri Aurobindo rhetorically.


51 «Ode: Intimations of Immortality» from Recollections of Early Childhood (1803).


52 Hindi for «Yes, sir», implying «He is the one!»


53 Nirod-da is playing on the meaning of the student’s name in the vernacular: ‘Kokila means cuckoo.


54 Pranam is the act of bowing down in humility and praying in a spirit of surrender and supplication.


55 The universal, cosmic aspect of the Divine. The Divine has three aspects – the transcendental, the universal or the cosmic, and the individual. Vishwaroopa or the cosmic aspect of the Lord is the vision that Sri Krishna bestowed on Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.


56 The members of the religious movement or group in Hinduism that worships Sri Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu. It is a devotional path.


57 Devotion or bhakti is the adoration of the heart for the Lord – in this case, for Sri Krishna.


58 «The hand that sent Jupiter spinning through heaven, Spent all its cunning to fashion a curl» – from the poem «Who» by Sri Aurobindo.


59 Enthusiasm, personal effort.


60 A place near Pondicherry.


61 Nirod-da is trying to rhyme ‘botanist’ with ‘mathematician’. That is his style.


62 Prabhakar’s nickname.


63 The word of the Scriptures.


64 «You must abandon ladies on the way.»


65 Referring to «A thing of beauty is a joy forever» from «Endymion» (1818) by John Keats.


66 Les Fleurs du mal (often translated as The Flowers of Evil) is a volume of French poetry by Charles Baudelaire, first published in 1857.


67 The only jewel which is a dark cloud. It’s a variation of the original: the only jewel which is a blue gem, because «Nirodbaran» means a dark cloud.


68 A currency coin of very small value.


69 Pranab Kumar Bhattacharyan was the director of the Physical Education department of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and a very close attendant of the Mother. He came to the Ashram in the mid-forties from Behrampore in West Bengal, along with his mother, father and six brothers.


70 «What is it? What is it?» in Hindi.


71 «Shut up, you rascal!» ‘Said means rascal and can also mean brother-in-law.


72 Sri Ramakrishna’s language was rustic, never sophisticated and polite, though of course it has no bearing on his profound spiritual development.


73 «Run away, quick!»


74 He is referring to his usage of the word ‘sala, which is a rude word in Hindi.


75 «The style is the man himself?’ from Discour sur le style (Discourse on Style) by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, spoken before the French Academy on 25 August 1753.


76 Letter to Robert Lloyd (October 1798), The Poetry and Prose of Coleridge, Lamb and Leigh Hunt (The Christ’s Hospital Anthology, 1920), 150.


77 Lyrical Ballads (1798).


78 An Indian tree, very large and wide-spreading.


79 Amavasya means new moon and purnima means full moon.


80 The two ultimate principles of existence are Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha is Soul or pure Consciousness, silent, immobile, witness, and inactive. Ptakriti is Nature, of body, life, and mind. It is mechanical, unconscious energy and power. Purusha does not act, but reflects the movements of Prakriti.


81 A monthly magazine about Indian culture, based on Sri Aurobindo’s teachings, which has been in existence for more than sixty years. Its founder-editor is Amal Kiran.


82 Amal Kiran, Life-Literature-Yoga, 41-42.


83 Sri Aurobindo’s birthday.


84 A monthly journal of philosophy and spirituality, edited single-handedly by Sri Aurobindo from 1914 to 1920, in which all his major works were published serially.


85 Reprinted later in Collected Works of the Mother [CWM], 1984, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry, 4:306.


86 Maya is the power of illusion, ignorance and delusion.


87 SABCL, Book 2, Canto 1, 29: 699.


88 Katha Upanishad, II/l, shlokas 12 and 13. SABCL, 12: 256.


89 Bengali saying: «Gopa! is a very good boy.»


90 Translated badly from the French: des blocs pour soutenir la table.


91 The Indian Majlis was an Indian association in London when Sri Aurobindo was a student there. Situations and subjects relevant to India were discussed there, and young Sri Aurobindo learnt of the ill-treatment of Indians by the British back home and then resolved to work for India’s liberation.


92 Hindi expression that is the equivalent of «Bravo!» normally used as encouragement, but here indicative of Nirod-da’s surprise at the tables being turned on him.


93 Without trying to fool oneself that one can get the Highest Supermind, one should try to get the more modest and lower Intuition first.


94 The sadhak in charge of the Ashram’s footwear department.


95 This was because the Registrar of the University Centre had applied to the government for UGC grants.


96 The first manned spacecraft landed on the moon on 20 July 1969.


97 SABCL, 9:331-32.


98 Marriage as an institution, the Mother felt, belongs to the old world, where one gets stuck in a system and has to remain in it forever. She said that two people can live together as long as they are bound by higher ideas, and if the bond between them weakens, they can separate instead of continuing to stay together and suffering.


99 Who is it?-in Bengali.


100 Rasa is a Sanskrit term meaning essence, sap, juice, or, metaphorically, enjoyment of the essence of a thing. But it is true enjoyment, not the vital, impure pleasure of hedonism.


101 The Arya was a monthly on philosophy and spirituality, which Sri Aurobindo edited single-handedly from 1914 to 1920. Most of his major works were first published in serial form in this magazine.


102 The reference is to what is commonly known as ‘planchette’, in which a sensitive medium makes himself or herself very quiet and receptive. The medium has a paper and pencil in hand. A Spirit is called and, under the Spirit’s guidance and impulsion, the hand writes down automatically on the paper whatever the Spirit is saying. There is no conscious intervention by the medium. It was a well-known phenomenon in the nineteenth century in Europe.


103 Motilal Roy was a tantric yogi in whose house in Chandernagore Sri Aurobindo took refuge for nearly a month or so.


104 A sort of peppermint lozenge, imported from France, that could cool and soothe an infected or sore throat.


105 One who enjoys life and all its small pleasures without any sense of guilt or remorse.


106 In the middle of one night in November 1938, Sri Aurobindo was walking across His room to the bathroom when He inadvertently stumbled over the tiger skin in the passage. His fall was heavy enough to cause a fracture to His leg. All the details are given in Nirod-da’s book Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo.


107 A flavoured drink made of fruit juice.


108 Since Nirod-da was always complaining that he was not getting any results for his sadhana and lamenting about his incapacities and shortcomings in yoga, Sri Aurobindo used to call him the ‘Man of Sorrows’ semi-humorously.


109 Kireet Joshi was an IAS officer who resigned his post and joined the Ashram. He later became the Registrar of the SAICE. Kishore Gandhi was an ancient sadhak of the Ashram. He was a professor of sociology and he was the editor of all the three volumes of Letters. Sisir Kumar Mitra was a professor of Bengali from Shantiniketan, who had left and joined the Ashram. He was a history professor by training and wrote several books. He was the headmaster of the Ashram School.


110 Apple, in French.


111 From «The Song of Wandering Aengus» (1899).


112 Emperor, in Urdu.


113 King of Kings, Protector of the World, in Urdu.


114 Francis Thompson, «The Hound of Heaven», Poems (1909).


115 When Sri Aurobindo used to live in the Guest House.


116 This was the King’s Proclamation of pardon granted to all political prisoners just before the visit of the British King to India in the thirties.


117 Literally, the rule of thugs, in Hindi.


118 These are the spiritual planes above the level of mind or pure reason. They are arranged in an ascending order: Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, Overmind, and the Supermind. Briefly, the Higher Mind is the plane where the mind has fallen silent or thoughts are seen to be occurring on the surface. In the Illumined Mind, thought is replaced by sight and light. In the Intuitive Mind, knowledge is no longer by thought or sight, but by complere identity with the object of knowledge. The Overmind is the plane just below the Supermind, which is the first plane where the One starts to become the many, where one sees the unity of all things but also the divergence of all possibilities. The Supermind is the plane of Gnosis where there is no ignorance – there is only the immutable Oneness of all creation.


119 Refer footnote number 23 above.


120 Lerter of Pondicherry, in Bengali.


121 SABCL, 29:499.


122 Bhima was one of the five Pandava brothers in the epic Mahabharata. He was a brave warrior and physically a very strong man. Here Nirod-da is comparing Pranab to Bhima because Ptanab was also physically very strong.


123 Mace-bearer.


124 Mace.


125 Spinning metal disc with serrated edge: the mighty weapon or Lord Krishna.


126 The gopis at milkmaids of Brindavan were all in love with Lord Krishna the cowherd, symbolizing the individual souls who are all in love with the One Krishna. ‘Rasa Lila’ (the play of Divine Love) is a symbol of this spiritual play of love, of the One Krishna having infinite relations with all individual souls.


127 Sir, in Bengali.


128 O Friend, my Friend.


129 The traditional path of yoga aims for liberation from the bondage of the lower narure into the ineffable silence and peace of the Supreme. But the aim of integral yoga is not liberation alone. It is the complete transformation of the lower nature, even of the body. It is not an escape into God’s ocean of Sat-chit-ananda, but the very divinization of matter itself.


130 Master of simplicity; another name for Lord Shiva.


131 As Nirod-da clarifies in the next talk, dated 13 August 1969, this was a conversation he had with Sri Aurobindo within his own mind.


132 Book VI, Canto I, 423.


133 The author means that he is now recognized and known in the ashram as ‘mama because of his nieces.


134 Protect me! Protect me!


135 The Universal form of the Divine, as distinct from the Transcendent and the Individual.


136 What Nirod-da means is that Indians have no faith in Sri Aurobindo, who is guiding world destiny. They should have more faith in Him that all will end well.


137 Disinterested work, an ideal preached in the Bhagavad Gita.


138 On November 24,1926, the Overmind Consciousness was established permanently in Sri Aurobindo.


139 A spiritual collective, with all members following a common goal.


140 «The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.» Spoken by Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), Book 1, lines 254-5.


141 «The lunatic, the lover, and the poet/ Are of imagination all compact.» Spoken by Theseus in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene i, Lines 7-8.


142 Saint Joan: A Chronicle Play In Six Scenes And An Epilogue (1924) by George Bernard Shaw, Scene I.


143 The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, by William Shakespeare, Act V, Scene II.


144 Pumpkins.


145 Rasagollas and Pantuas are Indian sweets.


146 The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888).


147 Self-rule. The struggle for self-rule was part of the Indian Independence movement.


148 When Princess Savitri chose Satyavan to be her husband, Narada the divine sage descended from heaven, visited Aswapati and his Queen, and broke the dreadful news of Satyavan’s impending death (in exactly one yeat’s time). The Queen remonstrated and pleaded with Savitri to change her decision, but Savitri stood firm.


149 John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn (1820), lines 44-45.


150 Book I, Canto 1,2.


151 Sisir Kumar Mitra, historian and headmaster of the Ashram school.


152 Arindam Basu, eminent professor of philosophy.


153 Behind the physical world, there are other worlds, real and concrete, but made of much finer, subtler substance. During sleep or even in a trance, we enter into these subtle worlds.


154 ‘Salon’ is the Long Room on the first floor, parallel to the stairs ascending from the Meditation Hall to the First Floor. At the southern end, there is the narrow staircase going up to Mother’s Room on the Second Floor.


155 The tree above the Samadhi, given the spiritual name of ‘Service Tree’ by the Mother.


156 SABCL,28:3.


157 The Bulletin of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education is a quarterly that carries news of the Ashram, the School and other items.


158 Glaxo was a company that made milk powder for babies – the expression implies jokingly that Nirod-da has to find material to spoon-feed his students with, for each of these talks.


159 To kill two birds with one stone.


160 Let us come back to our sheep.


161 The south-east corner of the Ashram Building, on the first floor.


162 In the Darshan vision witnessed by Nirod-da.


163 Fun, in Bengali.


164 Young fellow-teachers who were the audience for these talks.


165 Knowledge, in French.


166 «William Wordsworth, «Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802» (published 1807).


167 A saying that is often wrongly attributed to Sydney Smith (1771-1845), English writer and Anglican cleric, or to John Home Tooke (1736-1812), English politician and philologist, but they were merely quoting the original speaker, a witty eighteenth-century Irish barrister by the name of Keller who addressed this line to a judge.


168 Book II, Canto X, page 257.


169 Dilip Kumar Roy was fairly well known in his time. He was the son of the famous Dinendra Nath, a well-known writer. Dilip Kumar Roy was a singer. Later in life, he established an ashram in Pune, which still exists. He was a close disciple of Sri Aurobindo and was the recipient of a very large number of letters from Sri Aurobindo.


170 Eh, you? When? From where? How?


171 Sit down, sit down, sit down – have tea.


172 A long piece of cloth, mostly white, worn as a lower garment by many Indian men. It is usually tied round the waist and covers the legs.


173 Being pious regarding food.


174 Religious scriptures.


175 The story is in the ‘Bala Kanda’ portion of the Valmiki Ramayana: Trishanku, a king of the Solar Dynasty, wished to ascend to heaven in his mortal body. His Guru, Vasishta, refused to perform the needful rites as it would be against the laws of nature. Cursed by Vasishta’s sons, forced to leave his country and wander the lands, Trishanku met sage Viswamitra, a rival of Guru Vasishta, who promised to help him instead. The yagnas (rituals) began and by the power of the great sage, King Trishanku started ascending to heaven, greatly to the chagrin of the Devas. Indra, using his divine powers, caused Trishanku to fall back to earth. The furious Vishwamithra would not accept defeat and used his powers to arrest the fall of the king, suspending him mid-air. Trishanku prayed to Vishwamithra for help and the great sage used his powers to create a parallel heaven in a portion of the southern sky, with a parallel Indra to rule it! Upon this, the alarmed Devas appeared before the sage and tried to pacify and convince him to withdraw his support for Trishanku’s unnatural act. Vishwamithra was gradually convinced, but could not break his own word to Trishanku about sending him to heaven, so he compromised by asking the Devas to let the King inhabit the new heaven that was created for him, though with the condition that it would not interfere with Indra’s authority, to ensure which, the unfortunate Trishanku would reside upside down in his new heaven! And thus Trishanku was suspended in his own heaven as a compromise between the earth that he belonged to and the heaven that he sought. The phrase ‘Trishanku’s heaven’ is still used widely in India to describe such situations faced in real life.


176 Lotus Position used for meditation in Hatha Yoga.


177 Divine Bliss, causeless and self-existent.


178 SABCL,28:7.


179 Nirod-da is drawing a parallel between this experience of Ananda and the Godhead experience of Sri Aurobindo in Baroda.


180 A German citizen from Tahiti who was a member of the Ashram from the fifties. He was in charge of the Ashram Library since its inception.


181 Gesture equivalent to «cocking a snook» at someone.


182 (1966), 319-320.


183 Cosmic form.


184 The Green Group is that of the youngest children in the Physical Education Department. It is often said of old sadhaks who die in the Ashram that they will be born again and enter the Green Group as children.


185 Fearlessness.


186 The path of enjoyment as opposed to Yoga, the path of discipline and askesis.


187 A translation of the article written in Bengali by Upadhyay Brahmabandhav on the eve of the first appearance of the Bande Mataram newspaper in 1906.


188 Pure. Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas are the three modes of Nature in the Samkhya philosophy. They correspond to the principle of intelligence, light, balance, harmony (Sattva); the principle of kinesis, energy, action (Rajas); and the principle of darkness, nescience, sloth, sleep, and ignorance (Tamas).


189 These are noble characters in Bankim Chandra’s novel. The author of the article is saying here that Sri Aurobindo is equal to all of them at once.


190 Foreigner, in Urdu and Hindi. The word often carries a derogatory connotation.


191 A temple to the Divine Mother who is representative of the nation.


192 The Non-Cooperation Movement was one of the powerful tactics used in the struggle for Indian Independence. It was first enunciated by Sri Aurobindo in a booklet entitled «The Doctrine of Passive Resistance». Basically, it advocated complete non-cooperation with the British authorities in all matters – social, economic, judicial, educational, etc. -by being self-reliant. The reference here is to the movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi, which advocated breaking laws peacefully and filling the jails willingly.


193 C. R. Das was the lawyer who defended Sri Aurobindo in the Alipur Bomb Case and got him released from prison. His speech in the coutt was a masterpiece and one of the highpoints of the Freedom Movement.


194 A form of strike action, used often during the Indian Independence Movement. It is a sort of mass protest, often involving a total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, etc. as a form of civil disobedience. In addition to being a general strike, it involves the voluntary closing of schools and places of business. It is a peaceful breaking of the law that is meant to protest against an unjust or unacceptable decision or system of the government.


195 Charkha was the hand-operated spinning wheel on which all freedom fighters were supposed to make thread from cotton, which would then be woven into khaddar/khadi, a coarse kind of cotton cloth which was used to make garments for Indians. It was a gesture of self-reliance and an economic blow to the British enterprise of importing machine-manufactured cloth from Manchester.


196 Spin the thread (to make cloth at home)! Boycott the Prince of Wales! Wear homespun cloth!


197 Congratulations! Good job! Keep it up! – in Hindi.


198 Sellers of bidis, locally manufactured Indian equivalents of cigarettes.


199 Weave your own cloth! Boycott the Prince of Wales! O Hindu and Muslim, be united!


200 Nirod-ata means that nobody knew of his participation in the Freedom Movement. The average middle-class family was reluctant to let its family members join in the political movement, because of fear and the uncertainties of the situation.


201 ‘I salute the Mother’ (referring to Mother India) and ‘God is great’, respectively.


202 The Bengali word for snacks made by deep-frying round pieces of dough, called ‘poories in Hindi.


203 An Indian sweet dish.


204 The Marwadis (Rajasthanis) were patriotic businessmen who often supported such movements with charity. In this case, they were supplying food to the Indian freedom fighters lodged in prison.


205 Batons.


206 15-16.


207 Lentils, usually cooked with spices.


208 A kind of gruel made from broken wheat.


209 Azadirachta Indica – a miracle tree with many medicinal applications. Native to and grown everywhere in India.


210 Special rituals for worship and prayers on holy days, especially during Durga Puja.


211 A drink made of the pulp of bad fruit (Aegle marmelos), mixed with lime juice.


212 Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, 11:1: 704.


213 A well-known joke from Amrita-da,


214 William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act V, Scene III, lines 40-41.


215 These talks were given mostly on Wednesdays and, a few times, on the preceding Tuesdays as well.


216 Divine physicians.


217 Because whether they are married or not, all the members lead a chaste life in the Ashram.


218 A nonAshram publication.


219 Chief Minister, principal advisor to the Maharajah.


220 A great Bengali preacher.


221 Magazine.


222 Both were close friends of Sri Aurobindo in Baroda, their friendship dating back to when they were students together in the UK.


223 A mantra is a set of mystic words given by a guru to an adept of yoga, which, when chanted repeatedly, produces subtle changes in the nature and inner being of the adept. ‘Om’ is the seed sound that originates the universe. It is used at the beginning and the end of most mantras. It is an extremely powerful sound when recited correctly and with full faith.


224 Book IV, Canto III, 373.


225 The quarterly magazine brought out by the Visva Bharati University founded by Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan.


226 V.V. Girl, the fourth President (from 24 August 1969 to 23 August 1974) of the Republic of India.


227 Magnificent.


228 Mica powder – serves the same purpose as kumkum.


229 Sri Aurobindo is being addressed in this manner, because he was a born yogi and all the signs of renunciation were apparent in him. «Thyagarajan» is the supreme royal practitioner of renunciation.


230 Occult magic or sorcery.


231 Daily practice, most probably of pranayama or meditation.


232 In that period, there were landlords, who were like kings ruling over a small territory. These were really Zamindars (literally, ‘Holders of Land’) but they were often referred to as Rajas of small kingdoms.


233 Elder sister.


234 Nirod-da’s jovial way of referring to his spectacles.


235 In the original meaning of ‘cross-shaped’.


236 From the poem by Francis Thompson.


237 Chittagong, in present-day Bangladesh.


238 Palm tree, in Bengali.


239 Seeing the deer in my imagination, I go mad.


240 Guru: Teacher, preceptor. Shishya: student, adept – in Hindi.


241 Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the third Prime Minister of the Republic of India for three consecutive terms from 1966 to 1977, and for a fourth term from 1980 until her assassination in 1984.


242 Brother’s wife.


243 Because it was done reluctantly, not as a joyful self-offering.


244 Pious deed.


245 The famous sixteenth-century Rajput Princess, married to a Rajasthani Prince, was a woman saint who worshipped only Lord Krishna. Her famous, inimitably passionate bhajans (devotional songs) are being sung all over India even today, after 400 years or more.


246 Film on the life of Mirabai, shown in the Playground.


247 ‘Progres’ is the name of a certain section in the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.


248 Mookam karoti vachalam, pangum langhayati girim.


249 Present day ‘Prasad House’


250 Sweets, etc., that have been offered to God with prayers and then distributed among the worshippers as God’s blessings.


251 A shawl-like cloth to covet the upper part of the body.


252 Cottage Restaurant.


253 Literally it means: «I have no food for you in my house.»


254 Heavenly dancer – incredibly beautiful and fatally attractive, as per Indian mythology.


255 Glutton.


256 Have you understood – in Bengali.


257 Is there anything to eat? Give me something to eat – in Bengali.


258 Oh Mother, Oh Father! – in Bengali.


259 A lower garment worn mostly by Indian men, similar to the dhoti.


260 Two subtle centres (of the seven) in the human body.


261 ben is a name suffix meaning ‘sister’.


262 Reference is being made to the night when Sri Aurobindo tripped over a mat and broke his thigh bone.


263 Book I, Canto I, 1.


264 Presently, the north-western corner of the Ashram Dispensary.


265 Home of Peace: literal translation of ‘Shantiniketan’; Home of rain: Pondicherry. He is referring to his name – ‘Nirodbaran means dark cloud.


266 Pride, ego.


267 Broad-shouldered.


268 A celestial being composed of exquisitely beautiful and perfect elements collected little by little from all the three worlds of Brahma.


269 From «A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal» (1798) by William Wordsworth.


270 Happiness and sorrow, laughter and tears.


271 The sadhika in charge of the Ashram’s domestic department.


272 You are the Last Refuge; He who has no one has You – in Bengali.


273 Abhay Singh was a veteran sadhak in charge of many departments, chiefly, the transport section, with all its vehicles.


274 I shall deliver you from all sins, do not grieve. (18.66)


275 From the poem «The Hound of Heaven» by Francis Thompson (1859-1907). What it means in this context is that if the soul is ready within, but the outer nature is not, conditions of life get arranged in such a way that it appears that the Divine is pursuing the sadhak and not the other way round.


276 The name of God in the mouth of the atheist.


277 Rabindranath Tagore.


278 This is not a story, nor is it a dream – in Bengali.


279 CWSA, Book VI, Canto 2.461.


280 Referring to Charles Lamb, popular British essayist (1775 – 1834).


281 The Tempest, Act I, Scene II.


282 ‘Nirod’ is the Bengali version of ‘Nirad’, so the speaker is referring to his own name here.


283 The heavenly sage, the God-man who mediates between men and the gods.


284 Witty play of words: ‘i’ represents the alphabet as well as the ego. ‘Small’: he implies that he is a ‘small’ person.


285 The book The Lost Footsteps was written by a Rumanian who had been a political prisoner in Communist Rumania and suffered rigorous tortures there. When he was contemplating suicide, Sri Aurobindo came to him in a subtle form and encouraged him to face life courageously. He acknowledged this fact in the book that he later wrote, but, not knowing who Sri Aurobindo was, referred to Him as ‘Aurobin Dogos’.


286 This is the case of Dr. Sircar, who came from Burma to Pondicherry in the 1960s along with his sisters.


287 Lalji Hindocha, a wealthy Gujarati from Africa, who was advised by the Mother to leave Africa and come to India, because She foresaw the troubles in East Africa, when all the Indians there had to leave and go to UK or Canada or India.


288 An establishment where disciples and followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother can congregate, study, and attend lectures.


289 Pride – in this case, wounded pride.


290 A book in Bengali, now translated into English, describing Sri Ramakrishna’s talks and behaviour with his visitors.


291 Aspect of Divine anger, in which there is no personally motivated disturbance, no ill-feeling, no agitation or hatred.


292 Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo (1955), II: 993.


293 The Ashram doctor then for many years.


294 «This was the most unkindest cut of all» – from Mark Antony’s famous burial speech in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene ii, line 183.


295 Rishabchand, a Marwadi businessman from Kolkata who joined the Ashram in the thirties, was one of the earliest biographers of Sri Aurobindo. His shop, «Indian Silk House» in College Street, is a very well-known establishment.


296 Sadhaks used to write to Sri Aurobindo about their problems in sadhana and he would reply with suitable guidance. This was a daily feature.


297 Glory to Allah, in Urdu – the words can also be used to denote the speakers surprise at and appreciation of a marvel.


298 Defects in metre and diction, in Sanskrit.


299 Bengali verse: If in the hearts of the sadhaks had not risen a craving for correspondence, I would, with a smiling face, stay merged in Supramental bliss. Alas, alas, where is such a hope?


300 One of the first Muslim disciples of Sri Aurobindo, who was infamous for the frivolous rhyme words in his so-called poetry, like Almighty’ and ‘tea’!


301 An epic poem by Sri Aurobindo in quantitative hexameter, a very difficult metre to handle, but Sri Aurobindo, an acknowledged master of prosody, thought he had succeeded in this poem.


302 «Will not return, will never return» – in Bengali.


303 Ripe, complete, or confirmed, in Hindi.


304 Rascal – in Bengali.


305 Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo (1995), I: 370.


306 Correspondence I: 65-66.


307 Correspondence, II: 756.


308 Nimd-da’s surname was ‘Talukdar’, pronounced ‘Thaalookdhaar’.


309 Actual word is pronounced laatthi, but the professor mispronounces it.


310 Madhav Pandit was a Konkani Ashramite and scholar. He was the author of many books expounding Sri Aurobindo’s yoga and philosophy. He also wrote books on the Tantra and the Vedas.


311 A rhetorical device. The Sanskrit word means decoration, beautification, ornamentation.


312 Karmayoga is the dedication of all one’s actions to the Divine, by practicing equality and renunciation of desire and motivation in works. Renunciation of the fruits of one’s works is the essence of karmayoga – nishkama karma (desireless actions).


313 Have no fear – in Sanskrit.


314 Ibid., 100-101.


315 Ibid., 757-8.


316 Ibid., 101-2.


317 The police were constantly monitoring his residence. There were always policemen in mufti outside the house and, astonishingly, one of them even entered the house as an inmate!


318 Sir – in Bengali.


319Siddhi’ means perfection, completion. In yoga, it means attainment of mukti or liberation, enlightenment. For Sri Aurobindo, the Siddhi day is November 24, 1926, when he attained the Overmind, the Krishna Consciousness, just one grade below the Supermind.


320 In the traditional paths of yoga, it is enough to get liberation. Your consciousness rises to a level higher than the mind and you let your outer nature of body, life and mind carry on in the old, entrenched, imperfect man. All desires and negative character traits may remain, but the sadhak is not identified with it, so he feels no imprisonment. He is free. But in the Integral Yoga, the aim is liberation and also the transformation of the outer nature, to make it perfect and free of defects.


321 Leela is the Divine Creation of the Cosmos. The Lord creates out of Joy, Bliss, so it is His play.