Reminiscences of Sri Aurobindo by Professor Gabriel Monod-Herzen

Dear Friends,

Professor Gabriel Monod-Herzen of Paris was a Doctor of Science in Physics from the Sorbonne. He had behind him a rich experience  as a Professor, a Dean and a Director of several Science Institutes in various universities ranging from Paris to Kabul, Hanoi and Saigon. He was also a member of the “Free French” movement during the Second World War and later the French Consul in Ethiopia. His connection with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry went back to 1935-36 and since then he was an admirer of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

The text of a talk on Sri Aurobindo Professor Gabriel Monod-Herzen had given to the students of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in 1972 has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation. It has been translated into English from French by Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Dear Friends,

Amita told me the other day that since I had had the good fortune to see Sri Aurobindo and since this is the Centenary Year of his birth I could try to relate something of that encounter. Then I thought of applying “Free Progress” to the occasion, that is, I asked several among you to tell me what you would like me to speak about. In this way I collected six different questions which will be the basis of my talk; it is not I therefore who have chosen the topics.

To begin with, how did I meet Sri Aurobindo?

There are several ways to meet a person; it can be as I am meeting you now, personally; or else one can meet a person through his works. Well, it so happened that I met Sri Aurobindo without realizing how.

One day in Paris a very good lady-friend who was interested in India and who had been there and, knowing I was also interested, spoke to me of a young Indian who had just arrived in Paris to study science: would I like to introduce him to people and allow him to work with me at the University? Naturally I said “Yes”. He was a charming young man born not far from Madras, whose name was Ramaya Naidu. We both gave our Physics examinations at the Sorbonne at the same time. He was actually from Pondicherry. He invited me to his house and there introduced me to a big, magnificent man named Paul Richard whose wife, I was told, had remained in Pondicherry and would stay there for the rest of her life. Though I was greatly surprised I did not doubt for a second that this was the Mother. Some time later the lady who had introduced Ramaya to me said, “You know that a journal was brought out in Pondicherry in French called the Arya.” Then she lent me all the numbers she had. I was fired with this literature, and not long ago I found the Notes I had made while reading The Secret of the Veda. I never doubted what Sri Aurobindo was to be for me later. I had completely forgotten that reading, which was my first contact with him.

Many, many years passed. When I came to Pondicherry during the period I was Professor in Afghanistan it was in order to spend my vacation with my mother who lived here since she could not bear the altitude of Kabul because of her health. The first time I came down, a lady whom many of you know, Suvrata (Madame Yvonne Robert Gaebelé) said to us, “You know, there are two absolutely extraordinary people in our town, and I must introduce you to them.” She took us to the Darshan of November 24, 1935. That was the first time I saw Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

I see on this paper that the questioner would like to know what my first impression was. It is very difficult to say in a definitive manner what it was. When I saw Sri Aurobindo seated next to the Mother I had a feeling of certitude, of stability—an impression I had received often before on seeing a huge mountain… At the first glance I had the surety that what I had so long searched for, the solution of my problems, was there. I did not know why, there was no logic in it; but it was an absolute certitude which has never since changed. At that time I did not know any of his works; I began studying them from that period on: that is, 1935-36.

One used to see the Mother pretty frequently then. I was very friendly with Pavitra and in order to see him without bothering anyone I used to go and have breakfast with him in the room he occupied above the Atelier. Later it became a big office. I had the opportunity of seeing the Mother there, who often needed to see Pavitra. She had the look of a kind, gentle, affectionate grandmother. She would come in her dressing gown, with her grey hair pulled back: it was extraordinarily comforting because one felt to what extent she was human, direct, and one could tell her anything, ask her anything. Naturally one avoided questioning her at that moment, but in other interviews I was able to ask for explanations on Sri Aurobindo’s works that I was then getting acquainted with.

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I have also been asked what side of Sri Aurobindo’s work appealed to me most. There are two attitudes in him which I most admire: the first is that he does not reject anything or anyone. There is a place for all opinions, even those which he does not accept, in his work. He has come to find that particle of truth that exists in everything because without it that opinion itself could not exist. One never feels a prisoner of ideas when one reads him. One never says, “This is a falsehood,” or else “That person is wrong”; one says, “Here is an incomplete idea.” Being a physicist, I was deeply struck because I had always been greatly impressed by the fact that the long succession of scientists did not contradict one another, as say those who have not studied science themselves. In fact they complement one another. Take, for example, the ancient Greek thinkers, or those of the Middle Ages, who had very different ideas from ours. Granting what they knew, one cannot say they were mistaken. They had a certain form of thought which, in relation to us and our present knowledge, is incomplete. Sri Aurobindo has maintained this attitude throughout his writings; this gives us the possibility to appreciate all forms of thought, even those apparently in opposition to ours. As a man of science, this is what originally impressed me and taught me so much. I said to myself, “Finally I have found someone who does not demand that I reject certain things in order to carry me towards others, someone who leaves me absolutely free to choose. Naturally, he also leaves me with the responsibility of choice.”

This was the second question. The third was: Sri Aurobindo’s cheerful disposition. When I learned from various disciples that he was humourous and used to smile and laugh readily, I said to myself, “Here is someone in whom I can have confidence, because a philosophy that makes one sad cannot be a wise one.”

I had the good fortune of meeting four or five persons who had really practised Yoga throughout their lives, who had totally consecrated themselves to it. They were all happy, good-humoured. I knew Sri Ramana Maharishi at Tirruvanamali. He used to smile readily in spite of his bad health and pain. I knew Sri Krishnaprem (Ronald Nixon): he was very cheerful and had maintained his British humour intact. I knew his Guru, Srimati Chakravarti: she was equally cheerful. An anecdote confirmed for me Sri Aurobindo’s humour. I was acquainted with the Chief of the French Police here, and I asked him to search through his files to see if he could find something concerning the Ashram in its early days. He came back later very intrigued and said to me, “Just imagine what I have discovered! I can’t give you the files but I can tell you that I found a police report which began by saying, ‘I, secret agent’—this way everybody knew it, didn’t they?—‘being stationed at the corner of rue de la Marine near a room where Sri Aurobindo and his friends had gathered, heard him laugh loudly: which goes to prove that these people are not very serious.’”

Hearing this, I said to myself, “This time I have found the right thing!” Sri Aurobindo was always like that. Purani once told me that a disciple had been very much preoccupied with the idea that in the future we would become Supermen. Not us, perhaps, but later on there would be a humanity higher than the present one on all levels. And so this disciple wanted to know if, given the proper conditions of reincarnation, he would become a Superman or a Superwoman. And he asked how his physical appearance would be. And naturally he wanted to know if he would be handsome. His anxiety was so great that he thought of speaking to Sri Aurobindo about it and asking him what he would look like. Sri Aurobindo very seriously told him: “Have you thought of one thing? You know that the Superman will be able to capture the energies of Nature in order to maintain his vitality. Therefore he need not eat. If he does not need to eat, he will not need teeth. Do you think that will be very pretty?”

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The next question is: “What has been in my opinion, Sri Aurobindo’s special contribution to our knowledge, which distinguishes him from other teachers?” I had often asked myself the same question, because I had a passion for his works.

I wanted to write a book in French on Sri Aurobindo, and I had many opportunities because Sri Aurobindo was still here at that time. He agreed with my project and each time I wrote a chapter I would give it to Nirod, who would then read it to Sri Aurobindo and Sri Aurobindo would send it back with his comments. I am going to make a confession because we are talking here freely. Whenever there was a question which baffled me, I would imagine a solution and write it down, as if I was certain about it; and very often Sri Aurobindo would send me word: “No, it’s not like that. These are the facts.” And so I had the guidance I wanted, because if I had asked him directly, I knew that very probably he would have sent a message as follows: “It’s unimportant.” He knew quite well that this was a little game on my part and he accepted it, because he was not able to let any errors go by, even those of little importance. And he did this with absolute precision, and I give you the following two examples.

Generally one makes the distinction between the literary mind and the scientific. Sri Aurobindo is the perfect proof of the artificial and inexact character of that distinction. Here is a purely literary man, with the knowledge of ancient Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and four modern European languages, who certainly respected science but never practised it; yet he had the scientific spirit. Here is the first example.

During the war Sri Aurobindo would have the English communiqué read out to him every day. I know this because when I would go for breakfast with Pavitra it was the time for military news. The receiving room was at Pavitra’s, who was then in charge of conveying the news to Sri Aurobindo. One day Purani went to Sri Aurobindo in the afternoon and, referring to military matters, said, “It’s terrible to think that yesterday again the German submarines sank 65,000 tons of Allied shipping.” Sri Aurobindo said, “No, 67,500.” He did not want any approximations.

Now for my second example. While I was writing my book I related how Sri Aurobindo began publishing the Karmayogin at Calcutta again after coming out of prison; and how in the newspaper once, he suddenly (as I wrote) “received the order to go to Chandernagore.” The next morning I was sent a little piece of paper where the word ‘recut’ which I had used was crossed out by Sri Aurobindo and in its place “perçut” was written. Well, one really has to know French in order to make a correction like that. Sri Aurobindo had a literary mind but of a perfect precision. It is a good point to keep in view: when you read him, say to yourselves that each word has been chosen and no other can be put in its place.

Here then is a primary original characteristic of Sri Aurobindo’s teaching: his openness to all opinions, his capacity to understand them and then to inject a new element.

I believe it was the corrections he made in my book that showed me just how rare it is to meet a teacher who is so completely attached to the Truth as to be able to see it everywhere, even under a mass of errors. And this not only in dealing with current theory but also in contemplating the unfolding of time.

Sri Aurobindo never depreciated the past in order to give value to the future—which is the goal of his action. On the contrary, he has sought as far as possible the eternal truth. For India he rediscovered it in the secret of the Veda, followed its evolution through the Upanishads up to the epics, then in the spiritual expansion that ensued, guided mostly by the Gita, until the appearance and magnificent development of the cult of the Divine Mother which characterizes our era and gives the key to the future, a future entirely different from the past.

This is another profoundly original aspect of Sri Aurobindo: to show the new and at the same time inevitable character, according to the Divine Will, of the transformation he announces and to indicate that everything which had preceded it was in effect a preparation.

I wish to emphasize this point: that which Sri Aurobindo announces and describes is not a theory which pleases him or which is to him personal; it is a truth he has experienced. One cannot help remarking once again that this is precisely the scientific attitude, and Sri Aurobindo knew this, since he himself said that his room was his laboratory. There he tried everything, verified it before offering it to us. I think you all understand how his teaching was, and still is today, the inspiration behind my work as a physicist.

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We have here another question: his relationship with his disciples. I was not able to observe this directly since I did not have the good fortune to see Sri Aurobindo except at Darshan. But I had an indirect relationship with him through my books. And I have already given you an example of the care with which he attended to it. When it was finished, Nirod came to announce that Sri Aurobindo had asked him to tell me, “It can be published. No important errors remain.”

Another thing that I was able to confirm with him—and I have seen the same in the Mother—is that neither he nor the Mother is indulgent. They understand all the failings of the disciples but are not weak in dealing with them, not at all! When there is a mistake, they see it and speak of it. But they speak of it with a smile, and when it is not a serious matter they add, “If you insist, try, you will see, you will have the experience.” This always inspired absolute faith in the sense that I had the impression of seeing someone who possessed the Truth but who, at the same time, was closer to me than my own self, and to whom consequently I could say everything, someone who could understand all. I could even hope to understand what was being said to me, because it was said in such a familiar way: no big words, nothing extraordinary, no difficult vocabulary. Take the Mother’s Conversations. With what precision of language and thought she manages to deal with the highest subjects without ever using complicated words! It is truly an example. The reader has the feeling of finding everything very simple, even that which he has not understood at all.

Before arriving at any conclusions I must speak to you about a final, rather delicate question—without answering it—because it has been posed to Sri Aurobindo himself on a number of occasions and he has not answered. It is: “Why has Sri Aurobindo not spoken of his own Sadhana, since everybody would like some information on the subject?” I once asked Pavitra the reason for this reticence. Pavitra answered, “The reason is extremely simple. Sri Aurobindo used to say, ‘I don’t eat this, or I don’t eat that; I use this type of soap or that toothbrush, I meditate at such and such an hour. Everybody will do the same thing.’ And that is precisely what Sri Aurobindo does not want, because it is not by copying him that we can become him. It is up to the disciple to choose not only his hours for meditation but even the smallest necessities of life. It is up to him to acquire the proper attitude which will permit him to utilize his daily routine for spiritual progress.”

It is said that ready-made clothes never fit as well as those made to order. Well, it is the same thing regarding spiritual life but with much vaster consequences. If one imitates someone even though it be his Master, one is not what he could be and what he should be in all sincerity. Sri Aurobindo wanted to allow each of his disciples to discover the truth of himself. One can verify this in his letters. What is extraordinary is their varied forms. One feels therein the respect he had for that which was unique in each disciple. He used to answer apparently insignificant questions, without forgetting to add a little remark, brief but just necessary, and this without ever stressing errors.

There is only one really important case where he spoke of himself, in a very revealing manner. A disciple wrote to him, saying that what Sri Aurobindo had done was marvellous, admirable, but that surely he had come to this life with a past that was helping him, that he was, as one commonly says, well-equipped. To the disciple the proof was that when Sri Aurobindo wanted mental silence he obtained it and, what is unique, in three days he had been able to reach the state of Nirvana. Sri Aurobindo answered:

“… You write as if I never had a doubt or any difficulty. I have had worse than any human mind can think of. It is not because I have ignored difficulties, but because I have seen them more clearly, experienced them on a larger scale than anyone living now or before me that, having faced and measured them, I am sure of the results of my work…”

This statement—from a letter of December, 1933 (Second Series, p. 72)—seems extremely important to me, because it affirms at once Sri Aurobindo’s understanding of our difficulties and the possibility to overcome them, of which he was a living example.

At the time that I saw this letter The Life Divine had just appeared in two volumes. My mother and I had read them with passionate interest, such passion that meeting the Mother one morning at Pavitra’s I said to her, “Mother, this is the fourth time I am reading the first volume…” To which she answered, “That’s very good, but it would be good if you read the second also…”

That’s what I did. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. The impression I had, reading The Life Divine, was not at all that of receiving what is ordinarily called a lesson in philosophy, but that of listening to a traveller who had discovered a new land. He climbed a hill first, then a mountain and he described the panorama, first in one direction: in spirit he made me see its different aspects, from night to morning, under the stars, in daytime, with sun and clouds, I saw the seasons following each other… Then he turned in another direction to reveal another aspect; finally, I thought I knew this new land, knew how I would be able to live there.

And naturally the strong impression made me desire and then will to go to that country myself, made me desire to leave, to walk towards him… And it is perhaps for this reason that I am here today with you.

But don’t imagine that I was very far! My position—and I feel that there are many in the same situation—is a bit like a traveller who leaves for the United States (for example), having read very well a guide-book of the country. He disembarks and begins the stretch from New York to Washington. He notes the perfect concordance between what he sees and what the guide-book has taught him and he concludes that the book probably speaks the truth about the rest of the country. But this remaining portion is immense. I therefore took Sri Aurobindo’s book as a guide and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as teachers. I forced myself to apply what I was learning to my daily work, that of a physicist in his laboratory, of a professor before hundreds of students: I always found precise and true indications.

Particularly in my laboratory where I had the opportunity for many years to advise researchers who were preparing their theses. Naturally they knew nothing of Sri Aurobindo and I did not speak to them of him; also I had to continually make an adaptation of his thought which was a marvellous job for me since I confirmed each day how the new vision of the world that Sri Aurobindo gives us was rich and true in its practical application.

This is applicable to students and professors of all ages. You know that in the case that interests us at present this application is “Free Progress”. Thanks to you, I begin to know its beauty and difficulty, and above all to become that which is lacking, so as to conform better to the original inspiration. But I must tell you that after having spoken in France with young people and with those not so young, I found, especially among the former, a good majority who understand that that is the direction necessary in order to come close to the realization of an ideal which is the essence of our lives.

I would like you to find in this testimony a further reason to make the Birth Centenary year, according to the wishes of the Mother, for all a very good year.

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Eric Hughes: In Memoriam

Eric Hughes1931-2016

On March 6th, 2016, Eric Hughes passed away after suffering a stroke. He was 84 years old.

Eric was well-known as the caretaker of Matagiri (meaning Mother’s Mountain), a 42-acre retreat in Woodstock, New York, which he co-founded with his life-long partner Sam Spanier who he had met over fifty years ago. Sam, an accomplished painter, had become a disciple of the Mother. Both went to Pondicherry and met with her, meetings which led to profound spiritual experiences which changed the course of their lives.

Winner of the Edward Albee award for his play The Empty Room, Eric had a deep love of theatre and the opera. He worked as a copy editor for many years both in Manhattan and later in upstate New York. Eric translated the 13 Volumes of Mother’s Agenda of the Supramental Action Upon Earth from the original French into English for the Matagiri community. His work contributed to the final official translation. He also edited a book entitled On Collective Yoga containing quotes from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Over the years, Sam and Eric received thousands of people at Matagiri. After Sam’s death in January of 2008, Eric continued to greet visitors and share insights until his passing. He will not only be remembered as someone who had the wealth of Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s wisdom at his fingertips, but also for his quick and acerbic wit. He did not suffer fools easily, but was inspired to meet any true seeker.

Matagiri, which is now incorporated as a non-profit organization, will continue under a Board of Trustees including Julian and Wendy Lines, whom Eric named as his successors. They both have been students of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga since the early ’70s.

Eric Hughes: A Tribute by Julian and Wendy Lines

Dear Friend of Matagiri,

I write you with an ache in my heart over the news of Eric’s passing. He was the co-founder of Matagiri and an extraordinary friend and mentor.

The wealth of Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s wisdom was at his fingertips. He had an acerbic wit and did not suffer fools easily but was inspired to meet a true seeker.

Please find below an account of the circumstances of his passing and a short obituary for the Woodstock Times. Both he and Sam had numerous local friends.

With love and prayers for his soul’s journey,

Julian and Wendy Lines

The Details:

Eric passed away in Kingston Hospital at 6:43 pm EST Sunday evening (the beginning of Shivaratri in India).

Wendy and I were informed by Maryanne Buchele (who was housesitting and looking in on Eric with her husband, Klaus) that he had fallen Friday morning. He managed to call her cell and she was at Matagiri within ten minutes.

As he could not get up she called 911. The Woodstock Rescue squad came and really felt that given indications of a stroke, he should go to the hospital. Maryanne rode in the ambulance.

Fairly quickly his speech became less slurred and he was making steady progress (both praising and sniping at the nurses).

Close friend Lucy Barbera, Matagiri Board member Brian Nagle and Maryanne visited him Saturday in Kingston Hospital and all had good reports.

We all thought he would be home after making sure his balance and walking were secure again.

When Wendy and I called, she quipped that he had decided to take a vacation while we were away.

We had previously had a few emails and phone calls and told him of the lovely ceremony linking the Peace Tables in Auroville and Moscow and New York and how Maddye, Miriam’s daughter, had read so well. When he saw her photo from the event, he said “she has something to contribute” and suggested I convey his message to her, which I did.

During Brian’s visit on Sunday morning Eric was agitated as he had been earlier when Melissa de Madeiros (a former resident) called him. She emailed me in India and I spoke with the nurses, then with Eric, then with Melissa. He was concerned they were giving him a test he did not want or authorize but the nurses assured me they were only taking a blood sample.

When Maryanne came in Sunday afternoon he was still agitated but calmed down enough to have a simple test to measure his blood flow. With her reassurance he agreed to the test.

They talked and he drifted in and out of awareness and was seeing a light on the ceiling and tried to use a packet of tissue as a remote (to change the cosmic channel). He was looking up and not at the TV on the wall.

Maryanne told him to remember Mother and to receive all the love people were sending him. He calmed down considerably and was peaceful.

The doctor said he fell asleep after she left and passed in his sleep not long afterwards. All of us, including the doctor, were shocked at the sudden turn of events.

Eric was very ready to go since Sam’s passing and I can’t help but feel Sam was coming for him through that light in the ceiling.

It is all so sudden, but then Eric’s nickname was “The Flash” and he always acted quickly.

It is very hard for Wendy and me to be so far away as we were  when Sam passed, yet it gave us the opportunity to remember Sam at the Ashram then. We gathered with Anie Nunnally, one of his oldest friends, who recently moved to the Ashram from the Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles, and shared memories of Eric and Sam…

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Courtesy: http://www.matagiri.org

Sri Aurobindo: A Reminiscence by Dr. V. V. Athalye

Dear Friends,

The following article is the translation of an extract from a Marathi book titled Atma-Vritta (My Life Story) by Dr. V. V. Athalye, published in 1958. The extract is from page 136. Translated by J. S. Kuppuswamy, this is an illuminating document on the attitude of Sri Aurobindo as a politician when he had led the Nationalist Party.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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In 1910, January, the Hooghly District Political Conference was held near Calcutta. Some of our medical students went to the Conference. The delegates to the Conference were divided into two groups: Moderates and Extremists. The Extremist group was lodged in a bungalow called Dutch Villa. Naturally, we too stayed there. The leader of the Extremists was Aurobindo Ghose. He was given an independent room. The others occupied the open spaces in the bungalow. One incident of this occasion stands out for its great sublimity, and is worth remembering. Before the start of the Conference Aurobindo was seated in his room. He was surrounded by his colleagues, and Dr. Paranjpe, though a worker from Vidharbha and not from Bengal, went in because of his acquaintance and got for himself a seat next to Aurobindo.

We students stood outside the room and listened to the discussion going on inside. Aurobindo’s colleagues were making forceful speeches, exhorting him to trounce the Moderates in that Conference, by any and every means. Aurobindo would not agree to this improper method. Seeing that he was not coming round, Paranjpe broke in: “Aurobindo Babu, you don’t know politics. You must bring down the Moderates by any means fair or foul, by hook or crook.” The Maharashtrian workers in the field of politics have an over-high opinion of their own political sagacity!

“What are these Bengalis after all? Just simpletons who hold the Marathas in dread: such is their past.” This, in effect, was the tone of Paranjpe’s remark to Aurobindo.

Aurobindo was very calm. After everybody had spoken, he said, “No, I shall never agree to that. Do you have any idea what great work Surendranath Banerji and his Moderate Party have done in Bengal politics? We are standing on their shoulders and because of that we appear tall. Besides this, whatever be anybody’s work, I shall not be a party to bringing about their downfall by foul means. We shall fully respect the Moderate Party and place before the Conference, in clear terms, our stand of Independence. If our ideal is sacred and lofty and just, the Conference cannot but give its verdict in our favour. If you do not accept this policy I shall withdraw from this Conference.”

The sublimity of Aurobindo’s advice was so effective that his colleagues and Paranjpe shut up as if they had been slapped in the face. The Conference was conducted in accord with Aurobindo’s policy and the votaries of Independence had a victory over the Moderates by straightforward methods.

Aurobindo’s noble yet powerful stand made a great impression on me. In my later life, on many such occasions, this teaching has kept me watchful.

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Salute to Sri Aurobindo by Rash Behari Bose

rash-behari-bose

Dear Friends,

Born on 25 May 1886 Rash Behari Bose was a renowned revolutionary who played a pivotal role in organizing the Ghadar Revolution. He was associated with the leading revolutionaries of his time like Jatindranath Mukherjee alias Bagha Jatin, Amarendranath Chatterjee and Jatindranath Banerjee (better known as Niralamba Swami) and was also involved in the plot to assassinate Lord Charles Hardinge, the then Viceroy of India, on the occasion of transferring the capital of British India from Calcutta to New Delhi. To evade arrest in connection with the Ghadar Revolution he shifted to Japan in 1915 and found shelter with various pan-Asian groups. He became a Japanese citizen and was instrumental in persuading the Japanese Government to support the Indian nationalists. In March 1942 he convened a conference at Tokyo where the decision to establish the Indian Independence League was formally taken. In the following conference which took place in Bangkok on 22 June 1942, he invited Subhash Chandra Bose to join the League as its President. The Japanese Government honoured Rash Behari Bose with the Order of the Rising Sun prior to his death on 21 January 1945.

On 11 March 1942 Rash Behari Bose had paid a tribute to Sri Aurobindo. The said tribute has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Salute to Sri Aurobindo.

This is a salute to him to whose inspiring call we owe the birth of positive Indian nationalism. Sri Aurobindo is the foremost of those seers on Indian nationalism, who are still hale and hearty and due to whose burning speech and thundering pen, patriotism came to have a fresh and profound meaning for modern Indians. To him this salute is offered.

If spiritual culture is granted to be the soul of the Indian nation, then Sri Aurobindo is a living embodiment of it. He has succeeded in measuring the depths of its mysteries, which are as old as the Indian nation itself. Today he is seen leading a life of silence in communion with God, having fully realized that silence is the precursor of mighty creation. This salute is offered to him.

Sri Aurobindo’s faith and ways of searching after the ultimate truth accord well with the faith and ways of the noblest of Sufis, the mystics of Islam. And in the eyes of hundreds of millions of Hindus he is a Yogi of a very high order. Thus, in him is seen harmonized the essence of those two noble faiths, Hinduism and Islam, on the balanced fusion of whose spirits depends the rejuvenation of future Indian culture and the re-establishment of the future Indian state. This salute is offered to him.

Sri Aurobindo has long realized the true mission of India. According to him a free India would serve the world by preaching to it the great heritage of her spiritual culture. Today Mother India stands to be free from foreign bondage. The time sees to be ripe for Sri Aurobindo to come forward, as he did decades ago, and give us lead in the fulfillment of Mother India’s national mission. This salute is offered to him with a prayer that he may respond to the call of the Mother.

This salute is offered to him in the time-honoured Indian custom of asking for the blessings of the elders and pioneers before undertaking a great and noble task. May he be pleased with my fresh determination to do my bit in the cause of making India of the Indians and Asia of the Asiatics.

I salute you, Sri Aurobindo. Bande Mataram.

Rash Behari Bose

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Sri Aurobindo Ashramer Adikatha—An Exhibition on the Early Years of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry

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Dear Friends and Well-wishers,

On the occasion of Darshan Day (24th April 2016) Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre of New Alipore (Kolkata) had organized a two-day long exhibition titled Sri Aurobindo Ashramer Adikatha (Early Years of Sri Aurobindo Ashram) depicting—through a large collection of rare photographs from the Archives of Overman Foundation—Sri Aurobindo’s journey from Calcutta to Pondicherry and his early years, notable events like the arrival of the Mother in 1914, publication of the Arya, the gradual development of Sri Aurobindo Ashram under the Mother’s guidance and leadership, India’s independence, Sri Aurobindo’s physical withdrawal and the formation of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.

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Handkerchiefs used by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, two saris of the Mother, books and cards autographed by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother—borrowed from Overman Foundation especially for the said exhibition—were also displayed.

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This exhibition—which was the first of its kind in West Bengal—was inaugurated by Mr. Biswajit Gangopadhyay, Managing Member of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata, in the morning of 23rd April and it continued till the evening of 24 April 2016.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation

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Sri Aurobindo’s wife Mrinalini Devi: A Reminiscence by Ila Sen

Dear Friends,

Sri Aurobindo married Mrinalini Devi (6 March 1887—17 December 1918), the eldest daughter of Bhupal Chandra Bose and Gopalkamini Devi in April 1901. During Sri Aurobindo’s imprisonment in connection with the Alipore Bomb Trial, Mrinalini Devi stayed with her parents at Shillong where she had the family of Ila Sen as her neighbours.

Ila Sen, wife of Nolini Kanta Sen and mother of Dr. Satyabrata Sen (Sri Aurobindo’s physician), Chitra Sen and Amita Sen (both senior inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry) who taught Bengali in the early years of the Ashram School has shared her reminiscences of Mrinalini Devi (who was known as Minoo-di to her juniors) in an article which has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation. Translated from the original in Bengali, this article reveals the author’s impressions of Mrinalini Devi during the period 1908-1909.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation

*

Sri Aurobindo and Mrinalini Devi

I saw her in my childhood, with the candid love of a tender soul. The sweetness of Minoodi’s character was incomparable—she had charmed the children’s minds with her selfless affection and by playing with them. Every evening boys and girls of our age gathered on the lawn of her family home and Minoodi would join in all our simple games including hide-and-seek. She would choose such unimaginable places for us to hide in that it would be very difficult for the “thief” to find us. Mixing thus with all, she had made for herself a special place in the world of our childhood-life.

This reminds me of a day when seeing that Minoodi had not yet come I went towards their sitting-room to look for her. At the sound of some conversation I peeped through the window to find the wife of the Magistrate sitting there with a cup of tea. She was requesting Minoodi to do something and then, a little shyly, Minoodi sat in front of the organ, played and sang a song by Tagore. I had never heard her sing like that before, so I simply stood there till the song was over. When I joined my friends that day the play was not so interesting, but I wasn’t very eager about it either. My mind was filled with the words and tune of the song I had heard.

There was a deep intimacy among all the Bengali families that then lived in the city of Shillong, playfield of Nature’s beauty. Nowadays such close feelings seem to be very rare indeed. It was in our neighbourhood, a few houses beyond ours, that Sj. Bhupal Chandra Bose, Minoodi’s father, lived. We had unlimited access to all these houses, and because Minoodi’s younger sister was of our age we came to know many things. That is how we first heard of Sri Aurobindo’s imprisonment. Feeling that Minoodi must have a deep grief in her, there grew in us a silent respect for her and we started observing her still more carefully. After Sri Aurobindo went to jail it was, for one and all, the only topic of discussion. Though we children did not quite understand the gravity of the situation, we were quite aware of it and imagined all sorts of things. We often wondered what this Personality must be—He who welcomed prison for the sake of his country. Every morning when father read the papers and explained all to my mother, I, under some pretext or other, stood there to listen to him. Among the ladies also, the talk went on—‘what a calm and steady girl this Minoo, never an expression of anxiety on her face.’

From the time of Sri Aurobindo’s imprisonment we never saw Minoodi in any showy dress: a broad black-bordered saree on her beautiful fair body, her dark curly tresses surrounding a pleasant smiling face. She also used to partake only of a vegetarian diet with her grandma. She would eagerly prepare many types of dishes, but never, even at the request of the elders, did she ever touch them. We had witnessed this so often—because whenever she saw us returning from school she would come and take us in and feed us with sweetmeats.

Their garden was a real wonder. Bhupal Bose, an officer in the Agricultural Department, had carefully made this garden a glory of beautiful flowers, fruits and vegetables. The bungalow-type house was surrounded below the windows by grape-creepers covering the walls. Here and there you would even spot a few bunches of grapes swaying in the breeze. On the veranda there was an apiary: a long wooden case with a small opening where the bees fluttered about—we spent hours curiously watching them. In the front garden there were innumerable flowers of varied shapes and colours.

When on Sundays, before sunrise, we used to go by their garden on our way to Prayer-meeting to listen to the chanting of hymns, we often saw Minoodi in her usual saree, her hair let loose and wearing wooden sandals, plucking flowers in the garden. She would then take them to the meditation-room. This was a beautifully decorated place of worship. Near the wall in the centre was a long bench, covered with white, where beside a statue of Kali were carefully placed the portraits of Sri Ramakrishnadev and Sri Saradamani. The perfume of incense and the beauty of flowers seemed to carry you to another world. To me this room bore a strange mysterious sign. I used to go there almost everyday. It was not very well ventilated as it stood between two rooms; there was just one window that opened to the garden, and this dimness increased its mysterious feeling. On the wall were arranged a few pictures of great saints. On one side hung a small picture of Vivekananda and on another, resting on a wooden shelf was a picture of Sri Aurobindo. Every day Minoodi stayed closed in this room, in silent worship for a long time. If I went in soon after her “Puja” I noticed fresh flowers beautifully arranged at Sri Aurobindo’s feet with incense still burning at the side. Knowing that it was the special offering of the one who had just left, I also would bow down to that unseen and unknown Greatness.

From far and near many people came to see Minoodi, to pay homage at her feet as to a mother. If she knew beforehand she never came out to meet them. But sometimes, when she was walking in the garden, unknown people just stepped in and without caring for any introduction simply bowed down at her feet—it must have been in remembrance of Sri Aurobindo… But could there have been no other reason? The extraordinariness, the simplicity of character that radiated from her beautiful face, was surely not common at all.

Thus it was we loved her in our children’s candour, without knowing about the joys and sorrows of the grown-up mind. We understood that there was a pain in her and from our hearts we gave her the sympathy that words cannot convey.

The news of Sri Aurobindo’s acquittal came when we were at school. How happy we were! Immediately all classes stopped and we ran to Minoodi’s house. The reason of this joy was surely the feeling—at last Minoodi’s sorrow was at an end…

Later when Sri Aurobindo left for Pondicherry, we often used to wonder why Minoodi did not join Him there. Much later we came to know that Sri Aurobindo had promised to send for her as soon as it was possible. Perhaps it was this waiting that had to be the sadhana of her life. Because, after years, when full of hope she at last left for Pondicherry, a sudden attack of influenza took her life within two or three days at Calcutta.

The soul that went through the hopes and fears of this short-lived existence, ever waiting for its Lord—would it not have come immediately to rest at His feet?

While studying the life of Sri Aurobindo many may have wondered about her, who had one day been His wife and companion. That place in which Sri Aurobindo had accepted her is by itself enough to introduce her specialness… But, sketched by the tender touches of my childhood, her memory remains in a halo of beauty, affection and simplicity, like the pure delicate fragrance of a cluster of white jasmine.

Ila Sen

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Johannes Hohlenberg’s Recollections of meeting Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry

Johannes Hohlenberg

Dear Friends,

Johannes Hohlenberg (1881—1960) was a Danish artist and author whose published works include a biography of Søren Kierkegaard and treatments of the latter’s works. He visited Pondicherry during the First World War, met Sri Aurobindo and also made a portrait of his. Sri Aurobindo would later recall about him, ‘In 1914 when the Mother came here, there came also a Danish painter who did a sketch of me. At the end of every meditation, he used to say, “Let us now talk of the Ineffable!”’

Johannes Hohlenberg, who was well-read with the works of Max Théon, also met the Mother in France. On his insistence, she taught him the art of exteriorization. Years later the Mother would recall to Satprem: “… I taught him how to do it [exteriorization], and what’s more I was there, he did it in my presence. And, my child, the moment he went out of his body, he was throw into such a panic! The man was no coward, he was courageous but it terrified him so! Sheer panic…”

The first part of Johannes Hohlenberg’s recollections of Sri Aurobindo is quoted from a letter he had written to a devotee of Sri Aurobindo in 1948. This letter, originally written in French, is brought to light from the Archives of Overman Foundation.

Anusuya Kumar, Ph.D from the School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark recently presented a meticulous research work on Johannes Hohlenberg where she discussed his encounters with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It is from her presentation that the second part of Johannes Hohlenberg’s recollections and his painting of Sri Aurobindo are republished in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

[1]

Johannes Hohlenberg’s letter to a devotee of Sri Aurobindo

“Concerning my visit to Aurobindo in Pondicherry in 1915 it is difficult to give details.

“First it is 33 years ago, and my staying there was very short owing to the fact that I was arrested by the Englishmen and put on board of the first ship leaving for Europe. It was during the first war and, as I later knew, my frequent visits to Aurobindo’s house had thrown suspicion on me for being a spy or a revolutionary, as at that epoch his brother was considered as a very dangerous rebel and even he himself was not looked upon with favour. Indeed I was warned by the British consul in Pondicherry, who told me that, though he knew that Aurobindo was perfectly innocent and absolutely honest, I was very likely to be arrested, if I left Pondicherry for English territory. And that is what happened. So my sojourn in India, that was intended to last much longer, was interrupted after little more than a month and all my plans overthrown. Later on my journey home I was again arrested and detained in London for 3 weeks, for the same reason. But that is another story.

“Now I must tell you my reason for going to India.

“In the years 1906-12 I lived in Paris, where I was very intimately befriended with Paul Richard, who in 1910 went to India as a candidate for the chambre de députés, for the French colonies. During this trip he made the acquaintance of Aurobindo, who at that time or shortly after started a monthly magazine: ARYA, that was published in a French and an English edition. It was agreed that I should come to India to help him in this task, and early in the summer of 1914 everything was ready for my departure for Pondicherry to join Mr. Richard, who had returned thereto after having failed to be elected as a député. Then came the war and postponed my departure for nearly a year. At last in the spring of 1915 I was able to start, but at the same time Mr. Richard had to leave India for doing military service in France. For this and other reasons the editorial project had to be given up so far as I was concerned. Still I went on and made the acquaintance of Aurobindo, introduced by Mr. Richard, and made his portrait. Shortly after I left Pondicherry and was arrested, as above said.

“As to the kind of conversation I had with him it is impossible to me, after so long time, to give you any detailed record. They treated religious and moral topics, and my impression of him was that of a very wise and noble spirit. Of the mystical experiences you say he went through at that special epoch he gave no direct evidence, but of course it was felt through his acts and words. Later I wrote a book YOGA, which I dedicated to him and that for a great part is based on the entertainments [perhaps from the French term ‘entretiens’ meaning conversations] I had with him. As a model he was excellent and most obliging.

“Now for the picture of which I send you a photo by the same mail. An unretouched photo, as you may know, never gives an exact impression of the original. The picture is darker than it appears in the photo, deeper and warmer in colour. The brush strokes and the many small lines that look like a network especially in the face, hair and beard are due to rugosities [roughness or coarseness?] in the colour surface and are not seen in the original. The size of the canvas is 80 x 60 cm. The picture is known by Madame Mirra Richard, née Alfassa, who saw it in France at my return journey and who, as I understand, is still in Pondicherry. She liked it very much and certainly still remembers it and can tell you about it.

“This is what I can tell you concerning this matter. I hope it will be sufficient…

Yours very sincerely”

Johannes Hohlenberg's painting of Sri Aurobindo[2]

Johannes Hohlenberg wrote the following after meeting Sri Aurobindo for the first time:

“He received me on a big overshadowed verandah which was open to the one side. The furniture there was extremely simple. There was a table with three chairs around it. On the bare and naked whitewashed walls were a pair of Japanese mats or rugs hanging. Below the ceiling were some garlands of dried mango-leaves… One of the young men led me up to the verandah and I waited there for some minutes. Suddenly, it seemed that I was not alone in the space and turned around to see him standing just in front of me. He had soundlessly entered from a threshold. I looked into an extraordinarily beautiful face. He had a finely chiselled forehead framed with mahogany hair falling down over his shoulders. The eyes were dark with flashes of sienna-terra light. A decisively shaped sharp nose and unusually defined lips that were full and sensuous. A thin black beard fell below the throat. He was dressed in a kind of white cotton robe with a length thrown over his shoulder on one side. The robe was open in the front to the bare chest. He had naked slender feet lightly touching the floor. It was late afternoon with a hint of dusk in the air. The light gave his olive skin a transparency as if it were self-illuminating. When I shook hands with him I could not help becoming self-conscious how his golden arm contrasted with my own red-grey-white European skin. My own body beside his standing there seemed like it had been scrubbed by some abrasive cleanser and washed of natural color. Bleached to the bone. We sat down and began to talk in French and English. Both languages were equal to him. It was amazing to hear him quote Homer one moment and then the Vedas or Shakespeare. It was as if he belonged to all worlds and cultures at once… But this was only one side of his personality. Another seemed to live in infinity. I seemed to sometimes notice a slight hint of a smile on his face when he saw my amazement at his penetrating words. It was like I had been shot through the heart and mind.”

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The Mother’s Interviews with Dr. Indra Sen about the Supramental Manifestation of 29 February 1956

Mother

Dear Friends,

Dr. Indra Sen (13 May 1903—14 March 1994) was a noted scholar, author and educationist who obtained his Master’s degree in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of Delhi and Ph.D from the University of Freiburg in Germany. He taught Philosophy and Psychology at the Hindu College in Delhi. In 1939 he visited Pondicherry and soon became a staunch follower of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In 1943 his wife Lilawati was asked by the Mother (who renamed her Violette) to settle down in Sri Aurobindo Ashram as inmates along with her two children. Dr. Sen also joined the Ashram in 1945. He had presented several famous papers on psychology in academic circles but for him the study of psychology was not sufficient without a corresponding spiritual realization because, according to his daughter Dr. Aster Patel, he wanted a realization in consciousness of the spiritual truths of existence. In the works of Sri Aurobindo he found the basis of a wholeness which ‘would make the experience a fact of personal corroboration.’ He coined the term ‘Integral Psychology’ which was accepted by Sri Aurobindo as the proper term for presenting his psychological work.

As the year 2016 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Supramental Manifestation upon earth, two interviews of the Mother (which took place on 13 May and 22 May respectively) with Dr. Indra Sen about the said manifestation  are published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Indra SenDr. Indra Sen

13 May 1956

The Mother: Were you here on the 29th February?

Indra Sen: Yes, Mother, I was here. I arrived the same day in the morning and I was present at the “Questions and Answers” and the Meditation.

The Mother: Did you feel anything then?

Indra Sen: No, Mother. All I was aware of is that it was a calm and quiet meditation. It is only on the Darshan Day, the 24th April, that a vague and faint sense of reality of the New Force came to me. And since then the feeling of it has been growing, but I don’t have a clear and concrete sense of its existence.

The Mother: Well, what happened was something tremendous. Suddenly a flood of light came pouring forth, as if the divine gate had been thrown wide open. It continued for twenty minutes. Or, rather, I watched it for twenty minutes and then stopped the meditation. I could not carry on the meditation indefinitely—you know how restless people become.

When the light was pouring, I thought that at the end of the meditation I would find everybody knocked out, lying flat. But when I opened my eyes I found them as after any meditation. I myself had to make a special effort to come into my external being and it was with great difficulty that I could utter a word.

Indra Sen: Was this advent unexpected?

The Mother: Absolutely. But all my greatest experiences have come like that. I am in my usual consciousness and they come suddenly, as if to show their reality in the fullest contrast and vividness. They have the best value when first received in this way. When one is informed beforehand, the mind begins to play a part. On the present occasion, when the mind came in I was on our side of the divine gate: there was then just a magnificent light, nothing more. Those who live in their emotions had a better chance to feel things than those who live in their minds.

Indra Sen: What should I do to acquire a sense of the Supermind?

The Mother: The Supermind will work itself out—by the decision of the Supreme. Sri Aurobindo was instrumental in bringing it. The working of the Supermind in my body has gone on since the 5th December, 1950. It has been a progressive individual working; so I thought things would go on like that. But in January this year Sri Aurobindo appeared to me two or three times and it was as if he indicated that the Supermind was coming on a universal scale.

What has come has got engulfed at present and it has to work itself out. Nature did not reject it—she could not. The Supreme decided that the time had come and He released the Force. But the Inconscient has covered it up. It can be felt in the subtle-physical, but in the physical there is hardly anything yet. The manifestation is only a little more than two months old and it will show itself gradually. I can definitely feel it in the subtle-physical, but my sensitiveness is perhaps a little unusual… Two disciples here in the Ashram and three outside simultaneously had rare experiences as a result of what had happened.

A marked difference has now come in our Yoga. Things that were easy are now achieved without effort. Things that appeared difficult appear easy. Things impossible seem now achievable and likely.

The pouring of the Supermind is constant, but at Balcony time every morning it is more concentrated.

People have been here twenty to thirty years—talking of the Supermind’s coming and prepared for it, as it were—yet they did not notice it when it came!

The manifestation was a cosmic phenomenon and I took time to return to this individual self and it was difficult to speak the first word.

In half an hour I formulated the whole experience and wrote it down.

22 May 1956

The Mother: Things are now all changed for me—radically changed.

Indra Sen: How, Mother?

The Mother: Previously everything worked under the pressure of the Mind of Light. Sri Aurobindo secured this working when he left his body. Now it is the Supermind that directly guides and governs. The manifestation is just over two and a half months old and yet a new situation—an absolutely new situation—has come into being.

What has happened now I call a manifestation and not a descent, because it is not an individual event: the Supermind has burst forth into universal play. It has become a principle at constant work upon all earth—a possibility of a general order, as when the mind was first diffused over the earth.

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Surendra Singh Chouhan’s Review of J. B. P. More’s A Critique of Modern Civilisation and Thought: Facts, Non-facts and Ideas

Title: A Critique of Modern Civilisation and Thought: Facts, Non-facts and Ideas. Author: J. B. P. More. Publisher: TLPMS & Illakiya, Pondicherry. Number of pages: 197.

A SPIRITED RATIONAL ENCOUNTER WITH MODERN CIVILISATION AND THOUGHT

we are the hollow men
we are the stuffed men
shape without form
shade without colour

T. S. ELIOT

J.B.P. More, the distinguished author of this book A Critique of Modern Civilisation and Thought  has scanned clinically in depth the follies and flaws in all the ethos that we have come to understand about modern/western civilisation and thought. The learned and well informed author with incisive analysis has torn apart many inbuilt myths and illusions of this civilisation. He has done so with proven evidence and indisputable hard facts. He has passionately argued with clear ray of reason that the modern way of life and culture is the product of endless greed, insatiable lust for power and savage competitive instincts. This has resulted not only in the destruction of one another but also in the obliteration of whole cultures, languages, religions and civilisations and peoples. This has happened in the American continent, in Africa, in Asia and elsewhere, in the name of certain unscientific western ideas, values and ideologies and the physical and psychological colonisation of other people’s lands and minds since the sixteenth century by the westerners.

The historiographer author seems to have entered the essential core of modern civilisation and thought and, in the process, has discovered the hidden dark circles in them. The shell is all dazzling outside but there is something drastically wrong as we travel deeper into the core of the modern values, lifestyle and structure… the author moves in and around this gigantic structure put up by megalomaniac individuals, craving for power and domination, and underpins the follies and foibles of modern civilisation from diverse perspectives and aspects.

The central thesis of the book is based on facts and non-facts. The author holds that facts like the law of gravity do not create problems, but non-facts or ideas, invented by the brains of men are bound to create problems at various levels as they are virus-infected. The brain is structured to deal with facts and not with abstract non-facts of its own creation. Abstract non-facts can never become facts. The author seems to hold that ideas and ideologies pollute the mind and human relationships and creates never-ending tensions, conflicts and wars in society and the world.

The author strongly holds that all that we have valued about modern civilisation and thought have not solved the miseries of man and has proved itself to be pathetically deficient at various levels of existence since the past two centuries. The author has amplified energetically the shortcomings and fallacies of various aspects of this civilisation and culture through 25 well argued essays, preceded by a long Introduction, which criticises and refutes a broad spectrum of modern thought, theories and concepts.

Colonisation and exploitation have been the bane of this civilisation.The rampant devastation of the diverse social , political, cultural, linguistic and economic fabric of the people who inhabited the vast continents in favour of a strait-jacket ideology, system, culture, economics and politics, promoted by power-hungry megalomaniacs is a tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes. It all began in the 16th century. The so called explorers and the travellers have been the inaugurators of this civilisation the world over. Vasco da Gama and Columbus heads this list, backed by the expansionist designs of the Popes and the European monarchs. The vast populace of the various continents was held captive and became victims of the unspeakable horrors of killings and destruction in Africa and the Americas especially– Black people became slave commodities while the Red Indians were robbed of their lands and exterminated during the expansionist phase of this civilisation. So called progress made by the advent of Industrialisation, technology and capitalism brought in its wake enormous disparity between the peoples and nations, caused innumerable wars in which millions were slaughtered. The author has supported his standpoints and pronouncements with irrefutable facts and historical evidences. The list of calamities and outrageous misdeeds of the so called purveyors of modern civilisation is endless. Western civilisation and the scientists who are deemed to be its pillars promised much, but they cannot put an end to the triple miseries of man i.e. sickness, old age and death. Instead they talk of going to the moon, Mars and Venus as if Paradise is located there! And they spend enormous amount of money to go there! But on earth, the vast masses of people are held in subjection and in utter inequality through various means and pretexts.

As Sri Aurobindo observed in His magnum opus Savitri ‘An idiot hour destroys what centuries made’. This was precisely done by the successive two world wars and the other wars that had followed them, which exposed the hollowness and fragility of western values and the so called high moral stand of the modern/western civilisation’s ethos.

Unbridled arms race and proliferation, wars after wars and killings after killings of human beings in various parts of the world, destruction of animal, bird and aquatic species, forests, lakes and glaciers, the eco-system and the climate, pollution of air, water and earth, never-ending inequalities and injustices in society are some of the appalling consequences of the so called ‘progressive’ capitalist western civilisation within the space of just two centuries…This is what the author has tried to impress upon the readers in page after page of this monumental book.

The author in his profound deliberations, which are far reaching in range and scope, has dealt heavy blows on the various features of the western civilisation and thought by unflappable reasoning and sound assessment. On the whole, his work is a strong indictment of modern civilisation.

The holistic ambiance was totally missing in the birth and growth of modern civilisation and thoughts – and instead, there was a wholesale violent assault on other people’s lands, cultures, wealth and civilisations. It seems, on reading in between the lines of the book, that the author is gifted with “Seeing Intelligence ” which implies that he probed with sharp eyes the deeper malaise that impacted and infected the psyche of the modern/western civilisation and thoughts. A series of well documented facts recorded in pages after pages of the book has effectively de-glamorised the myths and fantasies surrounding the so called high achievements of this civilisation as the sole torch bearer of progress. The author, admittedly, is a neutral observer of the global scene. He has studied the rise and fall of the civilisations. He is well versed in the rhythm of the upward and downward curve of the past and modern thoughts, armed with this supernal understanding he has given to the readers altogether a new unflattering perspective of modern civilisation. It was necessary to chart this course of the maddening ways of this civilisation and its modes of thoughts to warn us about the pitfalls of this complex illusory cobweb of ideas and ideologies of progress which can never bring about peace and harmony in the individual, and in the society.

When the first man dared death and suffered life , it was, as it were , preordained that he and his countless future generations would create endless and diverse forms of cultures, civilisations and modes of thought and so it happened. Again the millenniums passed by and the river banks became the nursery of the great civilisations and cultures.Thought became dominant. The cycles moved on and then came the middle ages and the age of new theories and scientific inventions. Charles Darwin propounded the theory of evolution which declared that only the fittest will survive in the ongoing march of the civilisations. Darwin only announced the evolution of forms not what lay behind the evolutionary complexity of forms. But the westerners caught upon Darwin’s speculation as a scientific fact and used it to justify all their past deeds like colonisation, slavery, extermination and even capitalism. Besides certain ideas invented by western scholars like the notion and superiority of the Aryan race resulted in the terrible holocaust in Germany, the idea and gospel of “Superman” by Nietzsche gave rise to the self aggrandizement of its supporters. J.B.P.More through convincing arguments exposes in this book the pitfalls of inventing irresponsible abstract ideas and ideologies.

As Michel Danino noted that the barely three-century-old Western scientific and technological civilisation, which has erected dazzling constructions on the foundations of greed and plunder is now showing all the signs of advanced decay, its “red evening” is already deepening into a sickening night. On his part, the French thinker Pierre Thuiller has rebuked sharply thus – Westerners remain convinced that their mode of life is the privileged and definitive incarnation of Civilisation. They are unable to understand that this “civilisation has become as fragile as an eggshell…In their eyes, a society is dead only when it is physically destroyed… They do not realize that the decay of a civilisation is inner before anything else … the modern civilisation lives by the moment…” J.B.P.More in his turn has dug deep into the western civilisation and thoughts and portrays its fallacies and dangers in no uncertain terms.

The significant purpose of this book is not only to educate people but also to enlighten them about the essential true history, culture and civilisation, based on facts as opposed to the history as we know of and as we are told, which have been essentially built upon ideas, values and ideologies. It is ‘Grace à’ Monsieur J.B.P.More that we have a unbiased first-hand report of various facets of ‘modern civilisation and thought’ and the havoc wrought by it in the past two centuries. It is also the first large scale attempt to critique modern/western civilisation from a neutral stand-point. The style is aphoristic, conversational and crisp. The different themes are deftly handled with sustained restraint. J.B.P.More has succeeded in putting across the message with telling effect logically and with a high degree of historical perception, consciousness and responsibility… It is for the readers of this book to reflect upon the observations made by the author in every page of this book, written so effortlessly and passionately.

*

About the reviewer: Surendra Singh Chouhan is an ex-student of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE); after finishing his Higher Course he taught for a year in SAICE. He is an international educator and a frequent visiting trainer and faculty in the world of academia who had taught Philosophy to the Chinese students in Shanghai under the auspices of Shanghai Normal University. Presently he is hired by a multinational Chinese company to oversee its corporate interests in Sri Lanka, Nepal and India.

*

Photographs of the Mother taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson

henri

Dear Friends,

Considered to be the father of photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson (22 August 1908—3 August 2004) was a world-famous French photographer who co-founded ‘Magnum Photos’ along with Robert Capa, David Seymour, George Rodger and William Vandivert. He spent more than thirty years on assignments for the Life magazine and other journals. He documented some of the great upheavals of the twentieth century which included the Spanish Civil War, the liberation of Paris in 1944, Mahatma Gandhi’s funeral in 1948, the fall of the Kuomintang administration in China, the student rebellion at Paris in 1968 to name a few. His published works include reputed titles like The Photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson (1947), The Decisive Moment (1952), The Europeans (1955), People of Moscow (1955), China in Transition (1956), Photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson (1963), About Russia (1973), etc.

In April 1950 Henri Cartier-Bresson had visited Pondicherry and taken several photographs of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Some of his photographs of the Mother were uploaded in the online forum of Overman Foundation on 13 April 2014. As the second installment of the ongoing pictorial tribute to the Mother, some more photographs of Her taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson in April 1950 have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Photographs courtesy: Ms. Tara Jauhar

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