Ramakrishna Das Babaji: Two Tributes by Manoj Das and Gunananda Das

Dear Friends,

Ramakrishna Das (14 August 1908—8 November 1998)—better known as Babaji Maharaj—was born in the village of Rairpur situated in the district of Jagatsinghpur in Orissa.

Even from his early years he had a strong inclination towards spiritual life. He started reading spiritual books and great epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana at the age of nine and was deeply touched by the life of Raghu Behera who had realized the Divine through the process of nama-japa (repeating the Name of the Divine with faith and aspiration). Quite early in life he had decided to dedicate his life in the pursuit of a divine life. At the age of sixteen he joined the State Services in the settlement office at Cuttack. As he was being pressurized to get married by his parents, he got himself shifted to Ranchi in Bihar. Finally he quit his job and went to Ayodhya in 1928 in search of a spiritual guide. Shri Mouni Baba Ramasarandas Maharaj, a disciple of the great Yogi Shri Raghunathdas-ji, accepted Ramakrishna as his disciple. His days in Ayodhya were spent in intense sadhana. Gradually he came in contact with the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Their writings brought about a complete change in him and he became conscious of the aim of his life. He joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 2 February 1945 as a permanent inmate. He played a very significant role in spreading the message and teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother all over Orissa.

Two articles on Ramakrishna Das alias Babaji Maharaj, authored by Padma Shri Manoj Das and Gunananda Das, have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*
Babaji Maharaj

It was the 8th of November 1998. The 125th Birth Anniversary of Sri Aurobindo was being celebrated at Bhuvaneswar under the auspices of the Government of Orissa. Since the auditorium including the spacious balcony overlooking the stage was completely packed with an audience that comprised not only of the elite of the city and the local devotees but also of those who had travelled from distant places for the occasion, many had to keep standing along the walls or sit down between the rows of chairs. They included top bureaucrats, intellectuals and politicians. The ministers themselves, by lending their hands, initiated the process of removing from the stage all the tables and chairs meant for them, as well as all the other stuff barring the marvellously decorated portraits of the Master and the Mother and the podium for this speaker, so that the floor could accommodate at least a small part of the overflowing audience. Loudspeakers had been arranged for those still streaming in to hear the proceedings from the passages and the lounge outside the auditorium.

But all these swift rearrangements were being carried out in complete silence, without the slightest murmur from any quarter, for the people had come to pay their homage to Sri Aurobindo. They would not allow any inconvenience to affect their mood.

After a brief spell of appropriate music with meditation and the formal introduction of behalf of the State Government, this author spoke on the significance of the celebration for about an hour, but just as he was preparing to sit down, Niranjan Pattanayak, a Cabinet Minister and the chief organiser of the event, quickly handed over to him a slip of paper. He had just received the news that Shri Ramakrushna Das, our beloved Babaji Maharaj, had passed away a little while ago.

The audience waited in an uneasy silence, anxiety writ large on its face because of Niranjan Babu’s unusually hesitant gesture and my grim face. Only some of them knew that Babaji Maharaj was in a critical condition and he could leave us any moment. My announcement of the news seemed to spread yet another layer of silence on the gathering, this time with an almost palpable serenity. We meditated for some time. I am sure a profound sense of gratefulness for the departed soul filled the hearts of most of us.

During that vibrant silence this author was suffused with yet another emotion—a feeling of fulfilment which, he felt, the dear departed must have carried with him. A significant part of Babaji Maharaj’s life was dedicated to arousing the people of Orissa to the Vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Love of the Mother. His was an incredible feat. Having spent his youth in Ayodhya, he hardly remembered his mother-tongue when he joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1945. But not only did he revive his knowledge of Oriya, but also learnt English with a vengeance to understand the works of Sri Aurobindo, no doubt with the unfailing help of his deep faith in the Supreme Guide and intuitive access to the truth that had been revealed to him. He produced booklets in Oriya explaining different aspects of the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, as well as the basic issues of spirituality that moved the minds and hearts of his readers belonging to all strata of society. It was his dream to flood his home state with the effulgence of the Master’s and the Mother’s message and his leaving his body at the very moment when the Government, on behalf of the people, was acknowledging the greatness of the Master, appeared symbolic of the accomplishment of his dream. I do not know of a second person who, living hundreds of miles away from Orissa and rarely visiting the state, had won so much love and reverence of the people of the state and exercised such a lasting influence on their lives.

He was extraordinary in several ways. Born on the 14th of August 1908, in a village named Rairpur in what is now Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa, circumstances obliged him to take up a job in the Settlement Department of the Government at the age of sixteen. But inwardly he remained engrossed in the spiritual lore right from the time he had been able to read. One day he bade goodbye to his milieu and, in search of a guide for his Sadhana, reached the holy city of Ayodhya and was accepted as a disciple by a renowned Guru. Probably it was at this time that his original name, Krushnachandra Routray, changed into Ramakrushna Das, as demanded by tradition, indicating the end of one’s old conventional identity and the beginning of a new life.

Before long, even though he never wished to be a Guru, seekers, attracted by his most amiable personality and transparent faith, were drawn to him. Among them were princes, judges and educationists of eminence. While he became a great support in their search for light, his own quest never stopped even with what we believe to be realisations of lofty planes of mystic reality. It is this blessed and rare quality of Ramakrushna Das—who could have easily presided over an ever-growing circle of disciples—that introduced him to the world of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, either through some of their works or through some authentic articles on them. It did not take his mature psyche long to recognise in them the ultimate he sought. Without the slightest hesitation he broke away from his hermitage and came over to Pondicherry and joined the Ashram on the 2nd of February 1945.

We can imagine the difficulty for one steeped in the traditional ideas of asceticism-oriented spirituality and occupying a position of mentor for numerous others, to join as one among so many sadhaks of Sri Aurobindo Ashram conforming to a radically different life-style, accepting the Mother as the supreme Guide and offering one’s services in any field chosen by Her. For the greater part of his life in the Ashram, Babaji or Babaji Maharaj as he came to be lovingly called, worked in the Ashram Dining establishment, washing dishes. He rarely absented himself from the regular programme of physical education as a member of his group. But, with a keen sense of discipline and an exemplary hold over time, he devoted himself to study, writing, answering questions from visitors whose number kept growing, and replying to a bulging volume of letters.

As time passed, his old admirers traced him to his new abode. Among them were the Raja and Rani of the principality of Ambawa. While Babaji Maharaj was at Ayodhya, they had offered him a precious gift of a large tract of land adjacent to the most celebrated spot in that city of unique antiquity, Ram Janmabhoomi or the sacred Birthplace of Lord Rama. Now the royal couple was keen to effectuate its resolve. Babaji advised them to offer the land to the Mother, which they happily did and the Mother graciously accepted it. (By the way, it was a conscientious gesture of the Government of India to exclude this property from its acquisition when the tumultuous developments around the Rama Janmabhoomi obliged it to take custody of the surrounding area.)

A smooth transition from the old to the new order of Yoga and from the undeclared position of a Guru to the position of a child of the Mother were no doubt remarkable achievements of this progressive sage, but no less remarkable were his humility, his austere way of living devoid of the slightest concern for personal comfort, his unfailing patience in satisfying the queries of visitors as well as his untiring guidance to hundreds of Study Circles formed in Orissa, inspired by him and executed by his worthy lieutenant, Prapatti (Prof. K. C. Pati in his pre-Ashram life).

I joined the Ashram early in 1963 and had the privilege of enjoying his never-failing company for long stretches of time, as those were days when visitors were rare. The education he imparted to me, never through preaching but through his conduct or only when I sought his advice on any issue, is among the most valuable I had ever received. If I were asked about the most memorable quality of this sage, I should say that he had the innate capacity to be spontaneously happy at someone else’s happiness. Indeed, it speaks of one’s nobility or humanity when one suffers at someone’s suffering, but to be able to be quietly happy when someone else was happy, of course for a worthy person, appeared to me a divine quality in this remarkable Yogi…

Manoj Das

*

Ramakrishna Das

‘Tapobhumi’—the land of austerity—is the epithet ascribed to India which has been hallowed by severe austerities practised by the saints and the sages born in it through all ages. Conspicuous in this holy land is the region called Utkala (i.e. Orissa), whose heart bears Nilachala, the seat of Lord Jagannath. An Oriya poet has aptly sung:
bhārata sarase utkala kamala/tamadhye keshara tuhi nilāchala,
which, rendered into English, reads thus:
In the lake of India
Shines the lotus of Utkala;
Thou art its core,
O Nilachala.

In this holy land whenever there is the decline of righteousness and the prevalence of wickedness God sends his Vibhutis, or the saints, or incarnates himself to restore righteousness to its right position by destroying the wicked.

In the early period of the twentieth century in Utkala, when it was under the sway of wicked forces and its people lost their virtue, followed evil ways and forgot their own religious duties, was born an exceptional child by the name of Krishnachandra Routray on the 14th August, 1908.

His father was Markandeya Routray and his mother was Jhumki Devi. The name of the village where the child was born is Rairpur. It is under the Balikuda Police Station in the Jagatsinghpur Subdivision of Cuttack District. That child later came to be known as Ramakrishna Das, who resided in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, in Pondicherry. In Orissa he was most popularly known as Babaji Maharaj.

While yet a child of five or six years, he often used to fall asleep in the arms of his mother. He would then go out of his body and rise up into the sky and a short while later enter into the body again. On re-entering the body he let out a cry of fear. He narrated the incidents to his mother and wanted to know their cause. But his mother was quite ignorant of these things and she only told him that they were caused by witches.

Young Ramakrishna’s education started at the age of five in a village school called Chatashali. At school he was marked as a good pupil. In addition to the text-books, he devoted himself to the study of the Bhagavatam and the eighteen Puranas which gave him an inclination towards the spiritual life. One of his favourite books was the Dardhyatabhakti. This work in Oriya contains the biographies of a number of saints. One day he came across the life of the saint Raghu Behera. He was only eight at that time. The saint’s life influenced him very much. The story describes how the Lord granted a vision of Himself to Raghu Behera. Ramakrishna was so inspired by this fact that he made up his mind at that very moment to renounce the world and take to the life of a Sannayasin. But this decision would take material shape only later. He carried on his studies till the age of eleven. At the age of nine or ten he had been initiated by his family preceptor with the sacred word ‘Ramakrishna’. He was thus accustomed to the repetition of the Mantra since then.

After completing his studies, Ramakrishna served as a teacher for a few months in a primary school near his village. His elder brother, Sri Baidyanath Routray, was then serving as a gumasta (agent) in the court of Alupada. From him he learnt the art of petition-writing. He then moved to Cuttack and worked there as a moharir (petition-writer). Not many months had passed when he was promoted to the post of a munsarir (secretary). Later, he left Cuttack for Ranchi and served there also as a munsarir. This was the last government service in his life.

Ramakrishna’s spiritual life began at Ranchi. He resigned his government service and went straight to Ayodhya. On arriving there, he heard from a priest about the greatness of Mouni Baba and immediately proceeded to see him at his Ashram. He approached the Baba with joined palms and prayed to him to accept him as his disciple. The Baba granted his prayer and gave him the divine name ‘Rama’ as his Mantra. Ramakrishna formerly used to repeat the name ‘Ramakrishna’. He now repeated only ‘Rama’.

In his family he was called Krishnachandra. When he was admitted into the order of Sannyasins, his preceptor gave him the new name ‘Ramakrishna’ by which he was known thenceforth.

Ramakrishna rose early every morning and went to the river Sarayu to perform his ablutions. He had his bath twice daily—in the morning and in the afternoon. One afternoon, while he was having his bath in the river, he saw Lord Ramachandra in the form of a small child floating on its waters. Ramakrishna had the vision of Lord Rama thrice in three different forms at Ayodhya.

Ramakrishna’s master had a number of disciples. Ramakrishna was one of the few who were engaged in his personal service. He belonged to the closest circle of the master. He was a Sannyasin of the Vaishnava sect.

The various sects of Hinduism such as Vaishnava, Ganapatya, Shaiva, Shakta etc. are often at variance with each other. But in the life of Ramakrishna we see a harmonious blending of all these. While repeating the joint name of ‘Ramakrishna’, he offered his devotion to Shiva too.

The boy Ramakrishna had some white marks (like leucoderma) on his leg. The part of the skin which carried those marks became insensitive. His brother advised him to consult a doctor and to take the prescribed medicine. His father being a religious person advised him to worship Lord Shiva. On his father’s advice Ramakrishna went to a temple about five miles from his village to worship the Lord. He remained at the temple for twenty-one days, praying for his recovery, determined not to budge from the place until his prayer was granted. As a result of this he was completely cured of his illness.

While at Ayodhya, Ramakrishna came across an article on the Mother and Sri Aurobindo published in the Hindi monthly Kalyan. This prompted him to get further information regarding the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and their ideal, and he wrote a letter to an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram to that effect. The inmate sent him some Hindi translations of the works of Sri Aurobindo by mail. He was filled with delight as he went through these books. The ideal of Sri Aurobindo appealed to him so much that he dropped his idea of leaving for the Himalayas.

In the wake of reading the writings of Sri Aurobindo, there also arose a dilemma in his mind. He had been initiated into the Vaishnava cult and was a votary of Sri Rama. To abandon one faith for the sake of another would be a sin he thought. He then remained silent for a time. Now a couplet of Tulsidas flashed into his mind. The couplet said that however dear a person may be, if he stands in the way of God-realisation, he should be eschewed like an enemy. Prahlad forsook his father, Vibhisana his brother, the Gopis of Vrindaban deserted their husbands for the sake of the Lord. Yet these persons are worshipped in the world as noble souls!

Thereafter he understood that the world was ever subject to change. God too takes different incarnations in different ages. Then why should it be a sin to change one’s faith? Following this trend of thought, he wrote to the secretary of Sri Aurobindo Ashram giving expression to his feeling. The secretary handed over the letter to the Mother. The Mother told the secretary to send him her blessings. Accordingly, a blessing-packet containing rose-petals in an envelope was sent. On opening the letter, no sooner had Ramakrishna touched the blessing-packet, he was immersed in a divine bliss. He remained in this condition of bliss for a number of days and, at the same time, carried on his work in the Ashram at Ayodhya as usual. During this time he was not aware of hunger or thirst. He thought of how when a simple touch of the rose-petals could give him such extraordinary delight, what a delight it would be to see the Mother in person!

In those days it was a rule that prior permission of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo had to be obtained in order to see them or to stay in their Ashram. Accordingly, he sent a telegram to the secretary of Sri Aurobindo Ashram seeking permission to join the Ashram. “You may come” was the reply he received from the secretary through a telegram. Immediately he sat down to meditate and tried to repeat the word ‘Ram’. But instead of ‘Ram’, the words ‘Sri Aurobindo’ came up spontaneously to his lips. He now found himself at the threshold of a golden opportunity. He began the preparation for this journey—to Pondicherry, his next abode.

Men generally hanker after name and fame. But the one who kicks them aside, is pursued by them like one’s shadow. Ramakrishna’s life is evidence of this. Had he remained in Ayodhya, he would have been the mahanta (abbot) of the Ashram in which he was living. But throwing away his prospects he came to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the year 1945 and settled there for ever.

With the Mother’s permission he took up work in the common dining hall of the Ashram: it was to clean the utensils after meals. He did this work as his sadhana.

Praise and honour, to which he was indifferent, poured in at his feet. He was loving and kind to all. Thanks to his tireless efforts, the message of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo—the creators of the Supramental Future—has reached every corner of Orissa.

Gunananda Das
(translated by Gourmohan Mohanta)

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Two Rare Press Reports on Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

Throughout the month of August, we have published a special series on Sri Aurobindo. As the concluding installment of the said series, we have published two rare press reports of Sri Aurobindo.

The first report had appeared on 16 February 1910 in the Bengalee. According to this newspaper, Sri Aurobindo was present on the evening of 15 February at the Chandpal Ghat of Calcutta to receive Shyam Sunder Chakravarty and Satish Chandra Chatterjee.

Satish Chandra Chatterjee (16 March 1873—22 June 1938) had joined the Brajmohan College at Barisal in 1901 where, under the influence of Aswini Kumar Dutt, he plunged himself into human welfare and played a pivotal role in transforming the ‘Barisal Swadesh Bandhab Samiti’ (established by Aswini Kumar) into a huge institution which had 159 centres in the entire district. In 1908 he was arrested for his revolutionary activities and imprisoned for two years. After his acquittal in February 1910 he rejoined Brajmohan College as a professor but was forced to leave his services. Afterwards he taught at Ripon College and City College of Calcutta. In 1924 he returned to Brajmohan College as the Principal and served the college in the said capacity till the end of his life.

Shyam Sunder Chakravarty (12 July 1869—7 September 1932) was a noted journalist and orator. In his initial years he was connected with the Anushilan Samiti and the nationalist journal, Sandhya. He was also associated with the Bande Mataram of which he was one of the chief contributors. In 1908 he was arrested and imprisoned at the Mandalay Prison at Rangoon. After his release in 1910 he returned to Calcutta and joined the Bengalee as an assistant editor. Afterwards he started the publication of his famous daily journal, the Servant. When the Non-Cooperation Movement began in 1920 he joined it and was imprisoned for six months. At that time he was also the President of the Bengal Provincial Congress. His published works include Through Solitude and Sorrow and My Mother’s Face.

The second press report had appeared on 7 April 1910 in the pages of The Times informing the readers that an arrest warrant had been issued in Sri Aurobindo’s name for his article which was published in the Karmayogin on 25 December 1909. The article in question was his famous open letter headed To My Countrymen.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Swami Pratyagatmananda Saraswati’s tribute to Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

Swami Pratyagatmananda Saraswati was born as Pramathanath Mukherjee on 27 August 1880 at Chanduli in the district of Burdwan. He passed his M.A. with honours in philosophy. He started his career as a professor at the National Council of Education where he had Sri Aurobindo as his colleague. Later he joined Ripon College where he had Ramendra Sundar Trivedi as his colleague and taught philosophy as well as mathematics and physics. For some time he edited the journal, Servant. He was fluent in English, Bengali and Sanskrit and made valuable contributions to various newspapers and journals. He was invited a number of times to deliver lectures by the Calcutta University and other educational institutes. He attempted to bridge up the rift between religion and science. ‘Pramathanath developed, very early in life, a wide philosophical outlook, which sought to synthesise the modern scientific spirit of enquiry with the ancient intuitive method of approach to reality. He firmly believed that what the ancient Rishis have left for us has a deep scientific basis and it is for us to explore it with the help of modern science. It is this belief that led him to interpret the age-old Vedanta through modern mathematical terms and symbols and in this way he was absolutely unique and original.’ (Sraddha, August 2010, p. 192) In his renowned book Approaches to Truth, he attempted to explain philosophy through the perspective of mathematics. He was also famous for his knowledge of Tantra and assisted Sir John Woodroffe in the field of Tantra. In his later years his sole preoccupation became the discovery of the rationale of mantras and Tantras. His other published works include Metaphysics of Physics, Science and Sadhana (in six volumes) in English and Vigjnana O Pragjnana and Veda O Vigjnana in Bengali. His Japa-Sutram, which he had penned in Sanskrit, consists of four chapters and four sections along with an exhaustive commentary in Bengali and runs to more than two thousand pages. He died on 22 October 1973.

Swami Pratyagatmananda Saraswati had paid a rich tribute to Sri Aurobindo in the form of a poem titled Sri Aurobindo, Namaste which he had penned on 15 August 1963. As the fourth installment of our special series on Sri Aurobindo, this poem—which we have obtained from Shri Arup Basu, editor of Sraddha, the quarterly journal published from Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata—has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Sri Aurobindo, Namaste

“O Adorable Fire”! the Dawn of Divine Inspiration opens with the hymn to Fire—

As the Power radiant that burns and bores,

As the Light supernal that leads and lays, the Way

To the deepest-laid treasure-bed of abiding Value

Thou art that Fire incarnate, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

The Fire leaps with its threefold Flame—

As Inspiration high and sublime,

As Aspiration that conquers and consorts all,

As Attainment that completes and consummates all:

Not Fire alone that burns in the suns and atoms,

Nor Fire alone that shines in gods and godlike beings,

But, par excellence, the Fire that informs and transforms creation’s Form and Pattern,

Enlightens its Soul, illumines its Spirit:

Thou art that Fire incarnate, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

The Fire that in one pada (dimension) pervades and sways,

The positions and postures of existence here below,

But exceeds, in three other unrestricted, measureless measures;

Of whose deathless glory (Mahima) Vedic hymns sing;

The Fire celestial (Divya) shining beyond the sense that clouds.

Mind that doubts

And Intellect that debates and dogmatises

Thou art that Fire Supramental, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

The Fire that resides as cave-dweller in the Creative Vak (word)

But releases the seeker of Fire Immortal from the cave of dark, dubious being ;

The Fire that is ‘born’ on the altar of Karma (purifying Discipline)

The Fire that ‘grows’ in flames of Bhakti (steady and single Devotion),

That fulfils with the shining Nectar of Jnana (whole Realisation), Thou art that Fire incarnate, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

 

The Fire as seeking Ardour, fearless and tireless, that in Upakos’ala and Nachiketah burns—

Fire as the highest Illumination sought;

The Fire, Agni and Yama, lights and leads;

The Fire as Seeker, Seeking and Sought combined,

As also Guide, Seer and Teacher,

Thou art that Revealing Fire, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

Seers know of padas (dimensions) numberless of Fire;

Tho’ they speak of them, now as three, now as five, now as seven;

They so speak to make transcending Total Significance to us comprehensible;

But it is the unfathomed Immensity of Significance,

Where both star and dust, soul arid sense,

Their import receive, their commerce carry, their destiny fulfil:

Thou art that Fire of Complete Significance, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

Thy incarnation here, now ended, is unlimited in time, space and event:

Thy Life an eternal Code (sutram),

Thy Sadhana an eternally lucid Commentary (bhashyam),

Thy creation in Thought and Harmony, in Whole Yoga and

Divine Communion,

Is an Epic incomparable,

Unique and profound, surpassing and sublime;

O Expression and Exponent of Life Divine, of Perfect Yoga,

Of Meaning and Spirit of all Time, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

Momentous is the Epoch that turns the Wheel and ushers the present age—

Momentous in human sadhana in knowledge, in power, for both emancipation and achievement;

The curtain rises, the stage lighted for the play of new Creative Event:

Mother Bengal wakes with the mahamantra, Bande Mataram:

To thee, Sri Aurobindo, is assigned the role that inspires, leads and fulfils:

To thee is committed the Charge Divine,

Of keeping alive and carrying to its culmination

The Fire—with “threefold flame:

Of Man’s integral self-awakening, self-avowing, self-emancipation here and now:

The last, specially, as the End—

Which to thee, Sri Aurobindo, is Purna Svaraj—Freedom Perfect as in Life Divine, namaste!

The curtain riseth again, the scene changeth:

In the solitude of Asrama,

Broadened and deepened, embalmed and inspired,

By the divinely significant Sea lapping in homage low and ecstatic at

Ramesvaram—and Kanya Kumarika,

Thy asana is unshakeably laid in glory of Purna Yoga,

Invoking and realising,

The Divine Mother as Perfect Power, as Perfect Harmony, as

Perfect Vidya (Knowledge), and Perfect Godhead:

Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati, Maheshwari.

The deluge of radio-active destruction, now mounting high, and looming near, now low, and receding—

What does it spell, Seer! to whom Time has nothing secreted sealed?

Thy immortal Epic Voice in Savitri assures and cheers—

The colossal unrest and abysmal fear of the age,

Is mighty travail of re-birth,

Of Man, Divine in spirit and expression,

From under the appalling pall of blinded belief, confounded lust and greed and spite.

O, that message of Fire Divine, as savious and builder of the coming Age, come true, now!

Devoutly aspires a lagging wayfarer on thy Way,

As the shades are fast falling and gathering,

And his pace slackening on the immensely intriguing, yet arresting shore:

The Shore kneeling and accosting (greeting) the Sea,

Sri Aurobindo, namo namaste!

*

 

Eternity Greets A God—an article on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother by Charles Hamblett with photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Dear Friends,

As the third installment of our special series on Sri Aurobindo, we have published an article on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother titled Eternity Greets A God. Penned by Charles Hamblett with photographs of the various activities of the Ashram taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson, this article was originally published in the Illustrated on 6 January 1951.

Considering the archival significance of Eternity Greets A God, the entire article has been scanned and published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

*

James H. Cousins’ Reminiscence of Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

James H. Cousins (22 July 1873—20 February 1956) was an Irish writer, poet, teacher and critic about whose book New Ways in English Literature Sri Aurobindo has said that it was “literary criticism which is of the first order, at once discerning and suggestive, criticism which forces us both to see and think.”

In 1921 James Cousin had visited Pondicherry and met Sri Aurobindo. His recollections of meeting Sri Aurobindo has been recorded in his book We Two Together (co-authored by Margaret E. Cousins) published by Ganesh & Co. in 1954.

As the second installment of our special series on Sri Aurobindo, James Cousins’ reminiscence of Sri Aurobindo has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

James H. Cousins’ Reminiscence of Sri Aurobindo

‘A two-day visit (August 22-23, 1921) to the Yogi-philosopher, Aurobindo Ghosh, gave me an intimate touch with the long tradition of India. Out of political agitation in Bengal, Sri Aurobindo escaped to the French colony of Pondicherry on the coast of south-east India, and settled for a life of exile, devoted to philosophical, literary, and yogic study and practice. His home soon attracted disciples and visitors, and became recognised as an ashrama in the tradition of the rishis of old. My visit arose mainly out of literary interests. I had read with appreciation a small book of Sri Aurobindo’s English verse, and had written an article on it. He had begun a review of my “New Ways in English Literature” with the brief, but sufficing sentence: “It is not often that literary criticism of the first order is produced in India. ‘New ways in English Literature’ is eminently of this class;” and “The Renaissance in India”, which included my preliminary impressions of the revival of Indian painting in Bengal, was made the text of a series of chapters on the same theme by the sage covering a year of the magazine of the Ashrama, “Arya”, and published as a book under the same title as mine.

‘My first visit to Sri Aurobindo, 9 to 10 a.m. was difficult. He left all the talking to me. But my second interview next morning was the other way round: he had presumably taken my measure from my previous day’s talk (a risky thing for even a sage to do), and talked for the allotted hour. What he said is as completely forgotten as what I said the previous day: but I retain a flavour of gentleness and wisdom, breadth of thought, and extent of experience that marked him out as one among millions.’

*

Conversations with Sri Aurobindo recorded by Narendra Nath Dasgupta and Haradhan Bakshi

Dear Friends,

The month of August is a special month for all Aurobindonians as Sri Aurobindo’s birthday falls on the fifteenth of this month. Like all the previous years, this year too—as our humble homage to Sri Aurobindo—a special series on Sri Aurobindo will be serialized in the online forum of Overman Foundation through August.

As the first installment of our special series on Sri Aurobindo, notes from the diaries of Narendra Nath Dasgupta and Haradhan Bakshi, two of the early disciples of Sri Aurobindo (who had the opportunity to converse with Him) have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

Narendra Nath Dasgupta (11 July 1894—23 May 1961) was a double M.A. from Calcutta University who had won a god medal in Experimental Psychology. He worked as a Professor of Philosophy in Feni College located in the district of Noakhali (now in Bangladesh). He was also an active participant in the freedom struggle of India and was an associate of the illustrious revolutionary Jatindranath Mukherjee better known as ‘Bagha Jatin’. At the same time he was also inclined towards spirituality and had visited Pondicherry in 1925 to meet Sri Aurobindo. Twenty years later he joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram with his entire family. He was made the manager of the Ashram Press and later was Head of the Department of Philosophy when Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education was established. Sri Aurobindo had described him as being “firm as a rock” and the Mother too—in one of her conversations recorded in the Agenda—described him as “a man who lived his whole life with the idea of serving Sri Aurobindo.”

Haradhan Bakshi was a soldier in the First World War. He had stopped a bullet with his belly. Since no anaesthetic was available he laid flat and the bullet was dug out. When he was being shipped to the Prisoner of War camp, he jumped overboard and swam ashore. He had written a book on war strategies in Bengali titled Loraier Natun Kayeda. He met Sri Aurobindo in 1916 and became an inmate of the Ashram on 30 December 1930. His activities included boiling water for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, guiding and regulating the lines of visitors on Darshan days and distributing flowers and incense sticks at the Samadhi. The last of his duties was to accompany the body of deceased Ashramites to the crematorium.

It is interesting to observe that in these diary-notes, Sri Aurobindo’s name was mentioned as ‘A.G.’ (abbreviation of Aurobindo Ghosh) and ‘Shri Aurobindo’ whereas the Mother was addressed as Mirra Devi.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Conversations with Sri Aurobindo recorded by Narendra Nath Dasgupta

October 28, 1925—First Day at Pondicherry

A.G.: In this yoga what is required first and foremost is calmness. This calmness must be brought down even to the physical.
Do you have any attachments?

I: Attachment? Yes, I have—nothing big—small movements such as the desire to smoke…

A.G.: No harm in that.

*

I: At times I shed tears due to emotional delight.

A.G.: Is it associated with anything or does it take automatically?

I: At times it is associated with your name while at others it happens automatically.

[A.G. remained silent. Then I asked him]

I: May I join the morning meditation?

A.G.: Yes.

I: The evening conversation?

A.G.: Yes.

(I touched his feet and took my leave).

*

November 6

I: In the letter to Shreesh-babu you had said: It is not possible to suggest oneself to the supramental—calm will to call down calmness. Is this too ‘suggesting… oneself to the supramental’?

A.G.: No, no—I had said it a propos a new method of cure by suggesting. One can’t become a superman through such a suggestion as “I’ve become superman, I’ve become superman”. The maintaining of calm will can’t be suggested.

I: Isn’t calling down with one’s will against the spirit of true surrender?

A.G.: No. You are talking of absolute passivity. If you merely open yourself passively, the Higher Power may come or it may not. There may also be chaos and confusion within you.

*

November 17

I: What is the difference between mental calmness and mental passivity? Sometimes I see that my mind has become wholly passive, there is no activity, it is calm—again at times I see that there is activity in the mind and simultaneously calmness too.

A.G.: What you say about mental passivity is not correct—then the mind becomes more calm—in this yoga chitta-vritti-nirodha is not necessary. Don’t confuse it with the old practice of yogasadhana. If you remain totally passive many bad things may come from the universal; horizontal forces of Nature may attack which may cause confusion. You have to establish calmness within the mental activity.

*

November 17

I: Meditation by means of Prakriti

A.G.: What?

I: I mean if I concentrate above the head and meditate, often the mental consciousness does not remain awake—can it be harmful?

A.G.: Then the Higher Prakriti works, there will be no harm. You were going to say something about meditation by means of Prakriti…

I: It is there in your “Saptachatustaya”.

A.G.: That is only a programme of work—what is there in it?—show it to me some time.

I: In that state I feel as though I am going up—an upward movement—the mental witness is not alert. Is it a movement of the vital force?

A.G.: There is a will in the mind, there is a will also in the vital mind—vital force is a separate thing. You have to watch the play of each one. Often the vital will, rushing upward, attacks the buddhi (intelligence) and tries to make it serve its purpose. First of all it must be controlled by the mental will. Later when the Higher will descends all these are transformed. Until the Higher will descends, the vital being must be kept under control with the help of the mental will.

(Reproduction from memory after five days—so it is doubtful whether everything has been reproduced correctly—Note by the Disciple)

*

December 8

I:… I feel that I have achieved some mastery over the being. It did not happen in the past when I sat passively.

A.G.: It is possible to be a perfect instrument of God after the whole being is purified. Before that passivity can be harmful. The calm is a must.

*

January 24, 1926

I: I find that when I attempt to reject something it is as though I am pressing it downwards. Nowadays when I try to throw away the weakness that I find in the play, that goes on in my consciousness, I merely press it downwards.

A.G.: There should certainly be the pressure of the will from above, but you have to press it out of the being. Don’t push it into the lower being—throw it out.

I: By ‘throw out’ I understand it is as though driving it out horizontally. But I feel that it is easier to press it down.

A.G.: If only that is done, it will remain. When it rises again, exert pressure and throw it out.

I: The play that goes on in the mental being seems to take place in front. At the back the mental Purusha keeps watch.

A.G.: You see the mental Purusha at the back? Not in front? The real Purusha will watch from above and, in calmness with the help of light and will, press on the impurities and throw them out.

I: Sometimes I experience that state. A positive calm descends from above and fills the mind and everything becomes luminous—these are rare experiences. On a few occasions just before I fell asleep, a current of force had come down from above, and then I was afraid that perhaps the system would break down. The next moment when I awakened the ‘I am Brahman’ consciousness, the fear went away. And that force kept coming down. There was a stream of bright light in that column of force.

A.G.: (He smiled on hearing that I was afraid.) It happened in your sleep because your mind is still active. I don’t say it to hurry you up. I’m not saying that it is bad. This kind of experience comes from time to time only in order to get the mind accustomed. If it comes down from above before the mind is thoroughly accustomed, then it results in the mind forming various wrong ideas.

I: The mind is not as active as it used to be earlier…

A.G.: Remain in the calmness above and pacify the mind with the will. Individual will is necessary to purify the chitta and the prana. Absolute passivity is a must for bringing down light, calmness and will in the physical being. Until that is attained individual will is necessary.

*

The Mother with Haradhan Bakshi on 25 October 1954

Excerpts from Haradhan Bakshi’s diary

24.9.1926:

“On the 15th of August when I came out of your room after bowing down to Mirra Devi, I became aware that there was something psychic working in and through my mind. From that time forward the psychic element in the mind is gradually developing.”

7.11.1926:

“Consciousness and power descended and penetrated the whole Adhara. For some time the mind is aware of some new thing coming down. The preparation was going on in a concentrated process from the day of the 15th of August 1926. These few days one has the feeling that it is on the point of having come. The mind has not sufficient light about what it is and what it means. So there was a tremendous resistance from the mind to the descent. I pray for more light and knowledge on the subject.”

8.11.1926:

Haradhan: Is it not yet time for me to get Mirra Devi’s direct help?

Shri Aurobindo: Before you get that direct help you will have to fulfil certain conditions. Her help is for transformation. It may be that there are people around her who are allowed for other purposes—they may feel something great and some great joy—but [it is] only when you are open and ready that she can help you. And again, you will have to establish a personal relation with her (smiles). All right, I will tell her about it. Not that she has not an eye on you…

Haradhan: On the contrary, I am aware that she is aware of my existence and I am also open to her. But I am not the proper judge about time and things.

Shri Aurobindo: Yes, when the time comes she will call you. All the same I will refer the matter to her, for in these things she knows more than me, having the immediate hold over the thing. But, before that, that vital personality you refer to must consent to go.

Haradhan: It has begun to open; it is no more my central existence; it is completely exteriorised. Only I was thinking whether I should go to her after it is cleared up or now.

Shri Aurobindo: I will tell her and she will decide.

Haradhan: Kindly tell her about this and let me know when my time is come.

14.11.1926:

Shri Aurobindo: Mirra asked me to tell you that she will first see you on Thursday. After her meditation with the ladies, that day is fixed for Barin; he goes after them. And when Barin comes down, you will go. There you will have to meditate for 10 or 15 minutes—not a mental meditation—but remain calm and passive, so that she may see what is there and what help she has to give you. It is one thing seeing from a distance and another from near at hand. Afterwards she will tell you what you are to do etc.

Diary entry dated 19.11.1926 referring to 18.11.1926:

Shri Aurobindo: What did you feel when you were meditating near her?

Haradhan: I felt that she was looking into my mental and vital consciousness.

Shri Aurobindo: Nothing more?

Haradhan: No, nothing more.

Shri Aurobindo: But it was much more than looking into the mental and the vital. The first time as she looked at you there was a strong rush of forces. Then there was an opening into the past, where she saw that in one of your past lives you had been an occultist, somewhere in Europe probably,—not that such a thing may not happen here—but it is probably in Europe. You had vital powers—there you might have misused them and got that obstacle in the vital, that has given you so much trouble in past life and also in this life. Then she wanted to see what it was. It was behind the heart so she could not see it properly or catch hold of it. Then she went into the psychic being and followed the obstacle down to its roots—and its roots were stuck fast in the physical. She wanted to uproot it, but it was too strong for her. She called the power of Shiva, but it could not be uprooted. She called the power of Vishnu and then only she could uproot it and destroy it, in the essence, in the psychic being. A scar was seen at the place from [where] it was uprooted. Then she looked into your mind, she found that there was no obstacle and that it was an ordered mind and she felt the wideness that is necessary for receiving the knowledge. In the heart also there was no difficulty. In the lower vital where consciousness has only begun to infiltrate, it was hard, so she did not go in. Next you will have to open the lower vital and the physical and get rid of the impressions that might be left by the being in any part of your life.”

19.11.1926:

Haradhan: You [addressing Sri Aurobindo] told me lately that I have to find out my personal relation with the Mother. As I have not any knowledge of the planes above where only the true relations manifest, I waited for some indication. As it comes to me now I think that as You are my Father and Truth, so She is my Mother, and for me She is the manifestation of Love, Knowledge, Power and Mastery. So far as I can see and understand, I think that Mahalakhsmi and Krishna, the One Lord in all His Aiswaryam, are likely to manifest here. And Their seat, in me particularly, is in the centre of light on the head.

What did my Mother tell you about me?

When may I see Her again?

Can I come to bow down to Her every morning?

25.11.1926:

2 to 2.30 p.m. I meditated at the feet of Shri Mirra Devi.

After the meditation, she said, “We are going to have meditation in the evening. If you like you can join.”

Haradhan: I shall be very glad to join if you permit me.

Devi: Yes you may come at 7.30.

Haradhan: Can I come to bow down to you in the morning?

Devi: Yes but the time is short. If you come only to see and then go.

Haradhan: That’s all I want. Simply bow down and go away with your blessings. Can I join the afternoon meditation?

Devi: I shall let you know tomorrow morning. Come this evening and also tomorrow morning.

*

Manoj Das Receives “Auro-Ratna Award” 2015: A Report

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

The sixth “Auro-Ratna Award” ceremony was organized on Sunday, 15 November 2015 at the ‘Hall of Harmony’ of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry. In this ceremony which was hosted by Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Padmashri Manoj Das, famous author, was presented with the “Auro-Ratna Award” for his invaluable contribution in the field of literature. Shri Manoj Dasgupta, Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and Registrar of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. Dr. Dilip Dutta, Trustee, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Dr. P. Raja, noted writer and critic and Shri Partha Sarathi Bose, Managing Trustee, Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre Trust and Principal of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir (New Alipore) also graced the occasion as special guests. The list of other distinguished guests included Shri Debranjan Chatterjee (Librarian, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Library), Shri Swadesh Chatterjee (Teacher, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education), Dr. Sharad Joshi (Chairman, Sri Aurobindo Memorial Trust, Baroda), , Shri Arup Basu (Editor, “Sraddha”), Shrimati Gopa Basu (Librarian, Sri Aurobindo Bhavan Library, Kolkata), Shri Subrata Sen (Secretary, Sri Aurobindo’s Action West Bengal Trust), Shri Sushil Patel and others.

The ceremony began at 10.30 a.m. with the Mother’s organ music. Shri Anurag Banerjee, Founder and Chairman of Overman Foundation, briefly spoke about the history and objectives of the “Auro-Ratna Award” and narrated in detail the biography and achievements of Shri Manoj Das. He further added: ‘It is our privilege that we are being able to felicitate Shri Manoj Das—about whom Ruskin Bond had once remarked, “There are only a few good story-tellers left in the world today and Manoj Das is one of them” and Dr. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar had bracketed him in the art of short story with Rabindranath Tagore and Munshi Premchand—with the “Auro-Ratna Award” named after Sri Aurobindo to recognize his invaluable contribution in the field of literature.”

Shri Banerjee then requested Shri Manoj Dasgupta, who graced the occasion as the Chief Guest, to say a few words about Shri Manoj Das. The following is the text of Shri Manoj Dasgupta’s speech:

“This was not in the programme [referring to the rainfall taking place outside the Hall]… (laughter) I had agreed to Anurag’s request to… we should not say a word…anyhow, Overman Foundation, to Manoj-da, simply because—well, it is always a great joy when one of your family members receive a prestigious award. And I think Overman Foundation—by awarding this present to Manoj-da—is clearly honouring themselves more than honouring Manoj-da. About his literary achievements you have just heard—what a colossal being Manoj-da is. But you know, when you are a family member, you hardly recognize all that. And Manoj-da literally was a family member in the sense that my uncle Himangshu Niyogi who was the President of Pathamandir of Calcutta and a long-standing devotee and worker of the Mother—I sometimes wondered whether he loved his nephew, that is, myself more or Manoj-da. That’s why I say he was like a family member. And it is very awkward to say anything about a family member. The only thing I can say is that to me Manoj-da represents what in Bengali we say a true bhadralok—a true gentleman. In this long sixty years of my association with him, he has been an epitome of really a bhadralok. And that bhadralok was not something artificial. It is spontaneously like a flower that blooms; it was his swadharma, his very nature. But I must tell that this bhadralok does not represent any weakness; on the contrary, Manoj-da—those who have come very close will know—he is a man of strong will and great determination. But what struck me most was that even when he had to, say, protest against what we considered was something not right on the part of higher authorities, his language was always very, very polite but the truth he never diluted. And off late what I have really admired that even when he has to say something against or castigate those who are indulging in what I may say nefarious activities against the Ashram, his language was very firm but polite. So as I told you, to me, Manoj-da is really an epitome of bhadralok. And I am yet to find another in the Ashram. They are very rare. They are rare in the world but they are very rare in the Ashram—a true bhadralok. With this, I am extremely happy to have the honour of presenting this award to Manoj-da. In passing I may say that I am sorry. For the rain I have not come dressed up as a bhadralok. (laughter)

Shri Anurag Banerjee remarked: “Well, we can vouch for one thing. Both the Manoj-das are genuine bhadraloks. (laughter) He then requested Dr. P. Raja to recall his association with Shri Manoj Das. What follows is the text of Dr. P. Raja’s speech:

“I don’t know where to begin. Here is a friendship that lasts for the last forty years. 1976—so many things happened in my life. I got my degree, I got a wife, I got a job, I started writing, I discovered Manoj Das also. I was working as a tutor in English in Arignar Anna Government Arts College, Karaikal. Karaikal—as you know—is a very sleepy town. You do not know what to do after 4.30 in the evening. The only place where we can go about is that river Arasalar. And if you cross the river, there is the sea. Nothing more than that. We used to take a stroll but after 5 o’clock or 6 o’clock I used to go back to my college library and start reading. It was only there I discovered Manoj Das. There were so many magazines and in one magazine, Imprint, where Prof. Manoj Das was regularly writing his short stories. I took real interest in his short stories as they were different from the run-of-the-mills writers. I thought that I should take up this writer for my Ph.D degree.

“I started searching for more of his stories [in] Imprint, Caravan, Illustrated Weekly of India, Bhavan’s Journal, including The Statesman’s Literary Supplement. We were getting all these magazines in the Arignar Anna Government Arts College, Karaikal. And I asked the librarian where I can get his collected short stories. Our librarian said: “We do not have till now a collection of his short stories.” Then when I came to Pondicherry—my native town—I asked my good friend Mr. George Moses who was editing a magazine called Youth Age. Some of you may be familiar with George Moses for he was the only Inspector General of Police. He was a senior S.S.P., senior S.P. and there was only one top police official in Pondicherry at that time—the year 1977. So he said, “Why don’t you meet Prof. Manoj Das? If you are interested in reading his stories why don’t you meet Manoj Das?” I told him: “I cannot go all the way to Orissa and see this gentleman.” He said, “Stupid fellow, he is in the Ashram. He is quite close. Why don’t you go and meet him?” I was really shocked and stunned! So, it was Mr. George Moses who took me to Prof. Manoj Das’s house. At that time he was residing in Eswaran Dharmaraja Kovil Street. So it was George Moses who took me there and when we knocked the door, Mrs. Manoj Das came and opened the door for us. Then George Moses asked we have come here to meet Prof. Manoj Das. She spoke very beautiful, immaculate Tamil as any Tamilian would speak in Pondicherry. So I thought Prof. Manoj Das has married a Tamil girl. We waited for around half an hour and he came. And Mr. George Moses introduced me in a different vein. He said, “Here is one writer whom I want you to meet.” And I showed him some of my writings that have already appeared in Indian Express and several other literary journals. And after brushing through them he said: “I am happy to see one local writer in Pondicherry.” So that was actually the beginning of our friendship in Pondicherry.

“Then I told him, “Sir, I would like to do Ph.D on your short stories.” He said: “That is your funeral! Nobody has worked on my short stories—that is your funeral—where would you get your secondary resources?” I simply left it at that and requested for his collection of short stories. And the very first book that he gave me was The Crocodile’s Lady and Other Stories. And it is autographed and signed. I only wish that Prof. Manoj Das gets the Nobel Prize so that I can sell the book for a crore. (laughter). I am still keeping it intact in my collection of books. And with this our friendship developed.

“I used to request him: “Sir, I do not know much about the outside, literary world. Will you please help?” He gladly said “yes” and took me by hand like an elder brother and took me to various parts of India by publishing my works in various journals and newspapers all over India. At that time he was also contributing to a weekly called the Asia Week, Hong Kong. So he said: “Why don’t you contribute to that?” My first article on Ananda Ranga Pillai—I have written several articles on Ananda Ranga Pillai and his diary—it appeared there and the Asia Week editor requested me for an article on Subramania Bharati. And money started pouring in. I thought there was a lot of money in English writing. I had not started writing in Tamil at that time. With this the friendship was continuing. And one day I went to Madras University and met the Chief of the University—Dr. M. S. Nagarajan—for the English Department. So I told him: “Sir, I would like to work on Prof. Manoj Das’s short stories.” He said: “Well if you can do, you do. Because there are no secondary resources available on Manoj Das, what will you do?” I said: “I will make the secondary resources.” Then every week on a Saturday or a Sunday, I used to go to his house, sit with him, pester him with lots and lots of questions. And I tape-recorded everything that he said. And one interview after another started appearing in Times of India, Hindu, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Statesman—so many other magazines including India Today. So I took all these—after about six months—and showed them to my supervisor in Madras University. He said: “Yes, now you can proceed. Now that you have secondary resources, go ahead.” This is how my research on the short stories of Manoj Das began.

“So I was benefitted by his friendship in two different ways. One, I started writing my thesis. Two, I was establishing myself as a writer. He was in every way responsible for what I am today. Most of you may know me by my name—I wrote in Mother India for a very long time and now and then I write for Action and other Ashram journals. But most of you would not have seen me. But I am thankful to Mr. Anurag Banerjee for bringing me here. And this is for the first time I am addressing the Ashram audience. So this friendship that lasts for forty years, I sincerely wish—I pray to the Mother—that it should continue till I breathe my last because these days it is very difficult to get good friends. Even if you get good friends it is difficult to retain the friendship. Today he is a good friend and tomorrow he becomes an enemy. God knows what’s happening in the 21st century. But we were 20th century friends and I hope this friendship will continue.

“I am honoured, Sir, to be inside the Ashram School. For the first time I am entering the school. I told my friend Anup-ji that you should take me around this school because I have not seen… I have entered the ‘Knowledge’ building twice when I went to meet Prof. Manoj Das. So, George Moses introduced me to Prof. Manoj Das. Prof. Manoj Das introduced me to various journals and newspapers. And I am thankful to him for what all he has done to me. That’s why I consider him as my guru. Thank you Sir.”

After Dr. P. Raja’s speech, Shri Anurag Banerjee invited Shri Partha Sarathi Bose of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre Trust to read out the message sent by Shrimati Chitra Bose (Founder of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir) for Shri Manoj Das and introduced him in the following words:

“Shri Manoj Das is a Trustee in the Board of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre, New Alipore, Kolkata—one of the active and vibrant centres in West Bengal. Shrimati Chitra Bose, daughter of late Harendra Nath Majumdar whom most of our elders in the Aurobindonian circle knew, is the Managing Trustee there. She has sent a message for the occasion. I request Shri Partha Sarathi Bose—who is like my elder brother—who is also a Trustee actively involved in the work of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre to read the message from Chitra-di.”

Shri Partha Sarathi Bose, before reading out Shrimati Chitra Bose’s message, said: “This is in Bengali because you can understand emotions come out best in your mother-tongue.” The translation of Shrimati Chitra Bose’s message is as follows:

“As I sit down to write about our dear Manoj Das, a flood of memories is streaming to my mind. My husband and I have received his aid for long. To strengthen the foundation of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and facilitate an intimate contact with the Ashram, we would visit Pondicherry every year during the course of which we were introduced to Manoj-da which took the shape of a friendship marked with respect. He has cordially accepted us and helped us in many ways. Due to the blessings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre of New Alipore has attained a successful form as well as a well-wisher like Manoj-da. We cherish his presence in the Trust Board as an invaluable treasure. I have asked him many questions about spirituality; his answers were simple yet so beautiful that they are embedded in my memory. Another great quality of Manoj-da which we were introduced to was his humility. Despite being a celebrity I have never seen any trace of pride in him. When I had congratulated him when he had received the Sahitya Akademi Award, he was as indifferent as ever—as if the award meant nothing! This is an important lesson we ought to learn from the ever-smiling Manoj-da. I am very elated that my very dear and son-like Anurag—on behalf of his organization, the Overman Foundation—is paying respect to Manoj-da’s contribution today.”

Then Shri Partha Sarathi Bose said: “For the last words I am going to go live to Kolkata where Chitra-di is waiting.”

Shrimati Chitra Bose was on the telephone; the English translation of her message is given beneath:

“Today all the members of Sakti Centre as well as myself are extremely delighted. And as I have already said to Anurag—I am repeating again—Overman Foundation is felicitating such a good-hearted and talented individual like Manoj-da and for this I am thankful to him. Manoj-da, may you remain in good health and bliss by the Grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I pray that may the world of literature be enriched even more by your contribution and your scholarly writings on Sri Aurobindo be published gradually so that we may be benefitted. I convey my respectful salutations to you though I am unable to remain present today. If I could have been physically present in today’s programme, it would have given me immense delight. Manoj-da is our very own. One more thing: may the youth of today’s generation be inspired by your ideals; may they fight successfully in the New Path by the Grace of the Mother. Please bless them. Manoj-da is our very own. I not only convey my regards to him but my love as well.”

Shri Anurag Banerjee then said: “Shri Manoj Das is such a personality who is loved, adored and respected by all. Some of his admirers who could not manage to attend today’s programme have sent their messages to me.” He then read out the messages sent by Shri Manoj Das’s admirers one-by-one.

The first message was from Shri Matriprasad, Secretary of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry:

‘Respected Elders and Dear Friends,

‘Brevity may or may not be the soul of wit, but it almost never fails to be the hallmark of sincerity. I shall be brief for several reasons, the most significant one being that I want to be perfectly sincere.

‘It would be superfluous for me to speak once again about the greatness of Manoj-da as a writer, his eminence as a thinker and his renown as a scholar, for I need not proselytize here for the benefit of those who had been perhaps fully converted probably at a point of time located long before I myself was old enough to even turn the pages of some book. Connoisseurs have often described Manoj-da as a raconteur par excellence, as one of the foremost contemporary creators of great fiction. However we must be cautious as to what we exactly mean by the word “fiction”. Ordinarily one would say that a fictional work is something that holds the reader’s attention because of the power of conjuration that a skilful trickster of words may be able to weave from the gossamer stuff of his imagination. Such a characterization would imply that the work is in itself a phantasmagorical construction and nothing more than that, and therefore in a real sense untrue.

‘However such a description cannot do justice to the works of great creators. The real aim of an outstanding writer of fiction—or for that matter any form of great literature—is to use imagination as a powerful tool of investigation by the help of which our consciousness may pierce through the veil of appearances in order to catch a glimpse of a truth that such appearances are trying to conceal. Manoj-da can be counted as a writer of this type of fiction—a fiction that seeks to reveal a hidden truth and capture an elusive reality by the power of imagination.

‘I had always thrilled to the words of Shakespeare when he had described the aspiration of a poet and the role that imagination played in his avocation:

‘“The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.

‘Just as for poetry, a great work of fiction also turns into a shape and provides a local habitation and a name to that airy nothing which nevertheless points to SOMETHING luminous and beyond.

‘I cannot help but recall here what Sri Aurobindo had once revealed as to the greater purpose of literary creation: true artistic creation, is not merely for recreation and for some momentary amusement. As he had said: “… to the men of old the poet was a seer, a revealer of hidden truths, imagination no dancing courtesan but a priestess in God’s house commissioned not to spin fictions but to image difficult and hidden truth.

‘Assisted by his powerful sense of imagination it is to such a pursuit that Manoj-da has dedicated himself unreservedly for more than six decades.

‘I have known Manoj-da for a very long time. I can still recall clearly the first time that I saw him more than half a century ago. I smile to myself whenever I recall that I was not at all nervous or intimidated when I saw him for the first time. How could I have been uneasy as an eight year old when I could never have even guessed that I was conversing with a writer whose fame had already been established? Rather I was secretly amused: growing up in an obscure mofusil town, I was nonetheless confident that my linguistic skills were quite adequate for my handling of any conversation in the cosmopolitan town of Pondicherry since I was conscious, that though I was merely eight years old, I was already aware of the identity of each letter of the English alphabet—although even that knowledge was limited to the capital letters only. I can still remember when the first time we had met, Manoj-da making his faltering incursions into what must have been quite an unchartered territory for him—that of Hindi’s syntactical pitfalls. But he was helpless and was therefore compelled to undertake that perilous adventure since Hindi was the only language in which he could have communicated anything to me.

‘I emerged from that first encounter with a sense of additional self-confidence: it was now confirmed that after all I could hold my own very easily even in a new town and answer with a panache any question put to me. Further I could even reduce the questioner to the state of one who has to hesitate and scamper for elusive words while trying to tell me something in Hindi.

‘Growing up with him and Pratijna-di, one could not help absorbing gradually one thing very effortlessly. It came as naturally as the act of breathing: the love of books. There were books all over. It became a matter of challenge for oneself if one would dare plunge into a so-called difficult book. By this time I had also discovered the joys of the lending library in our Centre of Education, which the Mother had named “Bibliotheque Choisie”. I was already confidently discounting at least half the good advice of Polonius—though not a lender I had become a thoroughly reckless borrower! I can still remember one scene: I had just returned from school and in my hand was a book with a yellow and green cover. It was a translation of a few short stories of Chekov, a translation in French. As I entered the boarding, Manoj-da looked at me and asked me as to what I was carrying in my hand. As an eleven-year old or so, I had no idea as to who on earth Chekov was. In fact I was not even sure whether I would be able to pronounce that name correctly. I thought that rather than explaining to him anything, merely handing over the book to him would be a more rewarding strategy. Manoj-da looked at the book. Obviously the title in French may not have meant much to him but he read the name of the author and I still remember how he handed back to me that book with these words: “Chekov! That is very good!” Nothing more was uttered than this apparently simple matter of fact statement but if given a choice I would never hesitate to turn the clock back and become once again that eleven year old and experience one more time the sheer delight, that thrill and the euphoria that I had felt when encouraged in this manner by a mentor.

‘Thank you Manoj-da, for all such precious gifts with which you have loaded me.

‘Years rolled by and in the Higher Course I remember a project that I had opted to study under his guidance. The title of the project was “Aspects of Modern Thought”. What a delight it was to be initiated into the hidden sanctuaries of the minds of those thinkers who have moulded the outlook of our age.

‘Thank you once again Manoj-da, for leading me to those lights.

‘Strange as it may seem to everyone, this is the first time that I am actually expressing my gratitude. Why only now? I do not know! Perhaps there are feelings that remain more true, provided we do not utter them too often and thereby reducing them to clichés.

‘Then why now? Because today, he is being conferred an award known as “Auro Ratna” and I felt that I might never get another opportunity like this one. Although awards and accolades have been heaped upon him from innumerable institutions and establishments, I am also aware that the one thing he cherishes most is to put all that he is and all that he has, at the service of Sri Aurobindo. That to him is far more precious and meaningful than any other worldly recognition and I therefore wanted to discharge on this occasion a very personal debt!

‘While continuing to express, language can still be so mysteriously deceptive. We always use phrases such as “the burden of debt” and “discharging of debt”. Has this debt been a burden? Yes and no!

‘If I were to count and gauge the sheer volume and weight of the precious gifts that he has given to me, what better word than “burden” could have described them? Yet if I were to measure the joy and delight with which I have enjoyed those gifts, how could I ever use the phrase “burden of debt”?

‘Similarly we do use the standard phrase “discharge of debt”! One assumes that expressing one’s gratitude is in a certain sense a “discharge of debt”! Very true! But since the feeling of gratitude is in itself a source of fulfillment and joy, would one ever like to get rid of it by the so-called “discharging” of it!

‘To sum it all up, all that I want to say today can actually be compressed in just three words: Thank You Manoj-da!

‘And I add for myself a slightly longer string of words: I can never forget you!

‘And I also take the liberty of absorbing into myself others who are present here on this occasion as also many others who are not physically present here and appropriately convert the “I” into a “We” and rephrase what I have said into: “WE can never forget you!”’

The next message that was read out was sent by Dr. Goutam Ghosal, Professor of English, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan.

Professor Manoj Das: A Tribute and an Estimate of His Genius

‘Professor Manoj Das has spent more than half of his continuing life trying to live out the principles of integral life and more than fifty years in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, teaching and writing simultaneously. It is not easy, because he has been a creative person in the true sense of the term. For, the usual image of a creative genius speaks of a restless, impulsive individual, who is unable to follow the basic discipline of life. Every discipline is a bondage for him or her. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and also Nolini Kanta Gupta speak of a new kind of artist, whose life will become an exquisite piece of art.

‘We see an inkling of this artist in the life of Professor Das. Even Ruskin Bond is enthusiastic about his stories and cannot check his emotion about them. His speech is as fluent as his writing. He can write and speak stories with equal ease. He can write and speak about Sri Aurobindo with equal force and clarity. He can combine in him that rare power, when speech appeals to the mass and the intellectual sitting in the same audience. I heard him speak about Shakespeare at Sri Aurobindo Nilay, Santiniketan. There was not a single quotation from Sri Aurobindo in that speech and yet something of an untold Aurobindoiana was there in that eloquent exegesis.

Sri Aurobindo in the First Decade of the Twentieth Century bears the reflection of a laborious research, which will guide many researchers in the future. Not many have realized perhaps the importance of his slender biography of Sri Aurobindo, which I prescribe for my students so that they can quickly scan the essence of Sri Aurobindo: the writer and the evolution of his consciousness from man to a new species beyond man. Sahitya Akademi had been contemplating to assign the task to another writer of eminence of that era. But then, the Mother perhaps had another person in her mind. Ultimately, in 1972, it was assigned to Professor Das by the Grace of the Mother.

‘Time was short. He had to hurry. But then, his creative mind quickly sketched the map of his chapters with the help of the phrases culled from Chittaranjan Das’s prophetic speech: poet of patriotism, prophet of nationalism, lover of humanity. He makes an inspired summary of Sri Aurobindo’s childhood and boyhood preceding those key chapters. And then touches on Savitri, the commentaries on Indian culture, poetry, aesthetics and the destiny of man. The book is a masterful summary of the life and works of Sri Aurobindo. Because Professor Das is a creative writer, it is easy for him to focus on the creative issues in the Master. This is one of the key books on Sri Aurobindo missing in the distribution list of SABDA. I request the authority to look into it.

‘Professor Manoj Das lives and moves like a common man. May be, he is all the time aware of the Presence of the Mother around him. I watch him with amazement as he comes to the Samadhi in the evening and encircles it with difficult steps, with his head down in a quiet gesture. Who said the artist can never surrender? Here is a living example before us.’

The next message which was read out was sent by Shri Gadadhar Mishra and Shyama Kanungo of Matrubhaban, Orissa:

Sri Manoj Das, the divine litterateur par excellence

‘It was a long ago, perhaps in the year 1962, I went to meet Prapatti on his tour to Orissa, with my series of questions on various subjects on earth, with all inquisitiveness of a college going student. Surprisingly he pointed me out to one with him with a comment that henceforth he only will answer my questions. And a cascade of answers followed. His answers quenched all the rational-irrational emotions; the entire load of questions was exhausted by his heart touching reply. This enigmatic man was none other Sri Manoj Das.

‘This was my first introduction to Sri Manoj Das. With the passing of years, I felt being in contact with a heart that has the depth of loving, stainless, joyful beatitude and fragrant incense radiating out from the grand Presence of the Mother. It appeared as if the Divine Mother not waiting for his conscious consent had lodged Herself in the depth of his heart. This was proved when he had Her first Darshan. He had in so many words expressed that he was simply astonished how people could go back to their normal life after discovering Her physical Presence on earth! After his first visit he came back to Orissa only to return for good.

‘In the march of evolution, with the emergence of principle of Mind, man could collaborate more effectively with the evolving force for the manifestation of a luminous Future. Here comes the role of writers—those who could handle ideas. While reading, people usually unconsciously identify themselves with the characters in books. Creative writers deftly guide people’s thoughts and feelings to a height and vastness that will impel their consent to go beyond the limited mental frame of thinking to a conscious and willing collaboration to elevate themselves. Such is the magic of words in the hands of this litterateur par excellence.

‘All the books of Sri Manoj Das have achieved the fragrance of this chemistry of conscious collaboration from the readers to joyously project themselves into the world of very high sensitivity beyond the boundaries of ego driven values that he blasts with tender satire. This master stroke takes the form of a grand pedestal to the Force that leads us beyond our small personalities. His literature is a testimony of faith, confidence and assurance for a bright Future.

‘It is a matter of great pleasure and honour that Sri Manoj Das is being awarded with “Auro-Ratna” award, 2015, for his exemplary and illustrious contribution in the field of literature. Our deep gratitude at the Feet of the Mother continues as Sri Manoj Das aspires and excels.’

The next message was from Shri Biswajit Gangopadhyay, Managing Member of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata. The English translation of his speech is as follows:

‘Anurag Banerjee has requested me to write a few words on the occasion of today’s programme. My expression is not just my own but it also conveys the warm greetings of innumerable admirers of Manoj-da at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata. Though Manoj-da writes in Oriya and English, yet few can match his profound knowledge about the course of Bengali literature right from the early age to modern times. Needless to say, Bengali is his second mother-tongue.

‘Right from the time of the inception of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata, we have developed an inner bond with Manoj-da. The original link was of course Himangshu-da. It was Himangshu-da who had nominated Manoj-da to be the first recipient of ‘Sri Aurobindo Puraskar’. Whenever Manoj-da visited Kolkata, he would dine at Himangshu-da’s residence where chital fish’s muithya was certainly served. Another incident deserves to be mentioned here. There are two Manojs in the Ashram. One is ‘Dasgupta’ and the other is ‘Das’. While referring to them, Himangshu-da had made a beautiful differentiation between the two for the sake of convenient identification. Whenever he would speak of Manoj Das, he said “Manoj”. And when he referred to Manoj Dasgupta, he would say “Bhagne Manoj” (Manoj the nephew).

‘Not only in the Ashram but in the outside world as well, Manoj-da is an important representative of the Ashram. In 1948, the Andhra University had presented Sri Aurobindo with the ‘Ramalinga Award’. While concluding the message which he gave on the said occasion, Sri Aurobindo had written: “A vast inner and outer progress is needed if we are to fulfil India’s true destiny.” In order to bring about this inner and outer progress, even at such an advanced age, Manoj-da is working as a sincere comrade just as he did when he was communist in his youth.

‘Manoj-da has received several national and international awards and recognitions in his lifetime. Today’s award is an inner salutation of a young co-traveller whose warmth will spontaneously touch a sensitive individual whose name is Manoj Das.’

Shri Anurag Banerjee then invited Shri Kritatma Kumar, son of Shri Lalit Kumar (President, Aurodhan Art Gallery, Pondicherry) to read out the message the latter had sent for the award ceremony.

‘Welcome!

‘I am ex student of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and have one wonderful incident to share on this occasion of our beloved professor Manoj Das being re-honored for his contribution as an instrument of the Divine Mother.

‘I was fortunate to be recruited by the Tatas and by its Chairman and Managing Director Mr. Russi Modi.

‘One evening he invited me for a get-together at the Shawak Nanawati Technical Institute (S.N.T.I.), Jamshedpur, of over 1000 trainees and young technocrats who were from the I.I.T.s and other leading institutes, his guest of honour was none other than Dr. Raja Ramana, the great Indian space scientist, and once India’s defence minister.

‘The Chairman of Tata Steel greeted the gathering and started by saying: “Friends, I have, as you see, achieved measurably a lot of name, fame, gained a lot, a big mansion, travel in jets and drive a Mercedes, etc. But I am willing to exchange all of this for what you have and I don’t—YOUTH.”

‘With these opening words he handed the microphone to the guest of honor.

‘Dr. Raja Ramana drew the attention of the young as to how fortunate they were to be working for one of the best companies in the world and after a few other words of wisdom, he suddenly came to a topic that caught my ears. He said, “You are amongst the brightest youth of our country and have an important role to play for the great future of our nation; for this you need to be, as the great yogi Sri Aurobindo said, original thinkers.

‘“I strongly recommend all of you here to read the short stories of one of the great and original writers of our times, Professor Manoj Das from Pondicherry.”

‘I was not sure what I heard so far away from here, as the person he just referred to was my own Manoj-da, who is amongst us, as one of us, and someone who is admired and respected by so many even so far! My pranam to him!’

After the messages sent by the admirers of Shri Manoj Das were read out, the “Auro Ratna Award 2015” was presented to Shri Manoj Das. Dr. Dilip Dutta, Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, presented Shri Manoj Das with the angavasram and certificate of “Auro-Ratna Award 2015” while the trophy was presented to him by Shri Manoj Dasgupta, Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.

What follows is the text of Shri Manoj Das’s acceptance speech:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“How much I wish that on this occasion I could be allowed to remain silent. But the protocol demands that there is something like a speech of acceptance. I oblige the demands of protocol. Well, I remember, years ago, when Manoj-da [Manoj Dasgupta] became a Trustee—I still remember—at the entrance of the building known as “Knowledge”, I congratulated him: “Manoj-da, congratulations.” Well, by the way, I must tell you if I had the far-sightedness I would have understood that a Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram is not to be congratulated. I should have said: “Manoj-da, my sympathies are with you.” (laughter) “And I pray for you.” Anyway, that’s a different question. When I congratulated him, I remember word-by-word a line he said. He said: “Manoj-da, ami jibone nijeke kokhono eto ojogyo mone kori ni.” That is, he—in his humility—believed that the position of Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram was such that he was not sufficiently prepared to uphold the dignity of the position. I should exactly say the same thing today. I feel scared to be a part of this ceremony where an honorific like “Auro Ratna” is bestowed on me.

“Some of you might be wondering: do I express this kind of humility every time I receive an honour? So many awards I have received, you have already heard from my friend’s citation. But, no, never! I don’t do that at all. I don’t remember—an American actor—when he was given an award, he said: “I do not deserve it.” But I also do not deserve many other things. For example, my arthritis also I don’t deserve (laughter). But whenever there is an award given to me, my aptitude is different. I am confident, I deserve it as much as I deserve my arthritis also because I know nothing comes to one’s life unless it has a role to play in his life. If something painful comes to me, either it is my karma or I must remember that through that kind of painful experience, Providence has designed my growth—my inner growth. So I do not show humility anywhere else.

“Well, I have been in the Ashram for fifty-two years. And in one of the award-giving grand ceremony, one of my old professors and veteran writers of Orissa, Kunja Bihari Das said: “Manoj has escaped through the world of awards but awards keep on chasing him.” I sometimes really wonder and become full of gratitude to the literary world. Aloof from the society for so many years and without the slightest ever effort I could have made to get an award, they have been always sweet and kind to me. They have given so many awards. Once in a while, an award coming chasing me—at the last moment—is hijacked by somebody else also (laughter). I read in newspapers and sometimes I see actual criticism about these things in so many other reviews. But sometimes there are circumstances also. I don’t know whether I should tell you—let me tell you, it is a small and cosy audience. I think, way back in 2000 or 2001 I was conferred the Padma Shri. Last year, a few days before the Republic Day, some newspapers published an item that this Republic Day Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar—these two yoga gurus—and author-writer Manoj Das will get Padma Bhushan. Now, TV channels started contacting me—interview. Luckily I avoided giving any interview. But my home-state TV channels went on spinning the news that I am going to get… Meanwhile, what happened: Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar publicly announced: “We are ascetics, we are not interested in Padma awards.” I don’t know how Padma awards could interfere with one’s asceticism. I have heard in mythology that tapaswis were often disturbed by dancing paris [fairies] and apsaras [celestial maidens] but Padma award is not even a title! You are not expected to write your name with Padma award, that’s a national honour. And Government got irritated. It is justified. Government got embarrassed and irritated. Overnight they changed the list—I was told by my friends in Delhi—and some names they eliminated. My name was clubbed with these two famous people so I was also eliminated. But all these things—Manoj-da, Dilip-da—I really enjoy. My friends and fans get very disgusted but for me these are something to be enjoyed and nothing more than that.

“But yet, I know, that because when awards are given, behind such awards there is love of thousands of my readers and the critical appreciation of so many scholars. I respect all such honours and awards. Personally sometimes I wonder…you know, the famous novelist James Joyce. Once in a meeting, when he was there in the front-row, a famous lady came to him and said: “May I kiss the hand which has written the great novel, The Ulysses?” And James Joyce said: “Madam, better not because this hand has also done many other things.” (laughter) So, I also sometimes feel—when an honour is given to me—I say, well, in one part of me there is a faculty, there is some kind of a skill or whatever you say which is not of my making. I did not create it. It was there. The answer is given! And for that activity of that small part the whole Manoj Das—why should he be honoured? This Manoj Das has quarreled with people, he has led agitations, he has been jailed also—why should the whole Manoj Das be—I mean—awarded when for a little bit or a part of him has some role to play in a creative wonder. But last fifty-two years when I am in the Ashram, as you know, there are two Pondicherrys. One is the town, like any other town of India, over-populated, polluted, etc. etc. There is an inner Pondicherry—serene, dazzling, the atmosphere continuously swerves with the presence of the Mother and the Master. How many times I have thought: only I could be always in that atmosphere—the second Pondicherry. That is not possible with all my weakness, but the glimpses or the breath of air which comes sometimes from the inner Pondicherry—that is the secret of my writing anything worthwhile. All of the best of my writings have taken place only after I have come to the Ashram. I was a writer before, of course, but I could not have written what I have written here if I were elsewhere.

“The physical plane, tangibly, how much I have worked for the Mother. In late 1960s, when I used to go to Mother for pranam, if a new book of mine has been published, I would carry it to Her. She would feel through the pages, as if a human mother is very proud of her child—a child which has done something worthy. The pinnacle of grace indeed! She had to bring Herself down to that human appearance and warmth so that we could be closer to Her. I remember, once a book of mine was published by—my first collection of stories—Higginbothams and the cover was like a film-poster. It was so indecently covered! But I must first get the first copy touched by the Mother. Amrita-da was there at that time. I put it under a wrapper and told Amrita-da: “Please don’t show it to the Mother. Just ask Her to touch it and bring it back to me. I will preserve the copy.” Amrita-da came in the afternoon and said: “I told Mother, ‘You just touch it. It is his first book.’ The Mother snatched the copy from my hand, opened the wrap.” I don’t know what the Mother said but certainly she was not happy with the cover. Immediately I rushed to the publishers where they changed the cover. When the book with the second cover was sent to the Mother, She was happy. I wrote to the Mother: “I want to dedicate a book to you of my collection of stories.” How graciously She permitted! I cannot tell you how much these things have not only inspired me as a writer but has sustained me in my faith that there is a Mother who is always there for the littlest of little activity of ours and Her Grace is simply infinite.

“Next, Nolini-da. One day, I remember, a funny incident. He visited School for Perfect Eyesight. He used to put a cap—a cotton cap. Somehow the cap was misplaced. Somebody said: “Mystery of the Missing Cap!” That was the title of one of my stories at that time very much widely circulated, reproduced in many papers—the Hindu also reproduced it. Everybody laughed there. And one asked Nolini-da: “Nolini-da, have you read the stories?” And his statement was: “I read each and every story written by him.” One day he was reading a tiny book of mine called Legends of India’s Rivers. A gentleman entered his room but he was absorbed in the reading. Then the gentleman asked Nolini-da: “What are you reading with so much of interest?” And his simple answer was: “Every Indian should read this book.” These are awards which cannot be evaluated.

“Well, I must conclude now. Anurag Babu, Partha Babu—Anurag Babu, you are doing splendid research silently. And the works you have brought to light about the early life of the Master, I am one of the beneficiaries. I am using them for my work on Sri Aurobindo—a new biography which is being serialized in Mother India in English and in Oriya—Nava Prakash. And Partha Babu, your dynamic leadership of the youth of Calcutta in many innovative things—Sakti Centre is a base—I congratulate you. Thank you so much.

“But coming to the word “Auro Ratna”. I must confess that I feel that my friends have become very optimistic. Their optimism spreads to what I will do in my next life. You see, in a forest there was a sage. And one day a bandit entered the hut of the sage. He expected something valuable but could not get anything. Disappointed, he uttered some words of disgust and was going back. But the sage told: “Eh, come, come. Look here, yesterday a Raja came to do pranam to me. He gave me something—a stone which he called a ratna and he said it is priced a million gold coins. It is here. Take it if you have something of it.” The bandit took it up and he really recognized being the connoisseur of diamonds. He recognized that it was indeed a ratna— [worth] a million gold coins. “Hurray!” he just jumped and sprinted out. But after two hours gravely he comes back, kneels down before the sage and said: “Tell me, what is that incalculable precious ratna you have purchased because of which you could just throw away this million gold coins worth of ratna? What is that?” The sage says: “My boy, diamonds come. Sit down.” The story ends there. So far as this life is concerned, well, the burning candle of this life is almost touching its base but the foundation—Overman Foundation—believes that in my next life we all will try to discover that incalculable ratna which is there somewhere. I will be able to discover it—in anticipation of that they have given the “Auro Ratna” in this life. Thank you very much once again. I am grateful. And dear friends, thank you very much for this.”

Shri Anurag Banerjee thanked all the guests and audience for gracing the award ceremony with their august presence and ignoring the torrential downpour raging outside the hall.

To view the video of the aforesaid award ceremony, kindly click on the following link:

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

*

A Divine Punishment: Story of a Rare Darshan of Sri Aurobindo by Nirmal Singh Nahar

Dear Friends,

Nirmal Singh Nahar (28 July 1922—3 September 2012) was a journalist and freedom fighter. His father Prithwi Singh Nahar was a noted sadhak, poet, litterateur, disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother while his grandfather Puran Chand Nahar was a noted Indologist and scion of the well-known Zamindar family of Nahars of Azimgunj, Murshidabad, West Bengal. Having received his early education at Santiniketan from 1929 to 1935, Nirmal Singh did his schooling from South Suburban Branch School where he was initiated to the student movement. He raised the national flag in the school building and as a result he was transferred to South Suburban Main School. At the Main School, along with other students, he raised funds for flood relief work and handed over the same to the Congress President, Subhas Chandra Bose, in 1939.

During this period Nirmal Singh was initiated to the freedom movement by Phani Majumdar—a leader of the Forward Bloc (the party founded by Subhash Chandra Bose) and Lieutenant of Subhash Chandra Bose who later became a minister under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh. After the disappearance of Subhas Chandra Bose, Nirmal Singh was directed by Phani Majumdar to go underground to avoid arrest. So he gave up his studies and left for their Zamindari Estate at Dinajpur. There he joined his uncle Bikram Singh Nahar and elder brother Dhir Singh Nahar in starting the Nahar Farm and was entrusted to look after their agricultural farm at Nijpara, Birgunj in Dinajpur district (now in Bangladesh), a remote village 18 miles away from the nearest railway station. He cleared the jungle and bush and started farming after reclaiming 60 acres of land.

In 1943 Nirmal Singh started agricultural farming at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry under the guidance of the Mother. He was the official referee of football and volleyball at Pondicherry, the capital of French India. In 1947, he joined Reuters Associated Press of India and Press Trust of India as their special correspondent. In 1951, he was declared a persona non grata by the French Indian government and a warrant of arrest was issued for exposing French misrule in India as a journalist, but he was smuggled out of Pondicherry by the then Indian Consul General.

On returning to Kolkata he joined a Bengali daily, Jana Sevak, as its chief reporter. Author of Sri Aurobindo His Birth Place, he had also contributed articles in English and Bengali on spirituality and economics. After leaving journalism he became a promoter of the Haldia Scooter Project in collaboration with an Italian firm, Armachie Harley-Davidson SPA, in 1964. He was a member of the Governing Council of All India Sri Swetambar Murtipujak Jain Tirth Raksha Trust and Trustee of Murshidabad Sangh Nahar Family Trust. He was one of the founder members of Sri Aurobindo Samiti of West Bengal at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan in Kolkata, nominated by the State Government in 1972. He was also a member of West Bengal State Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Celebration Committee set up by West Bengal State Government in 1971. When Overman Foundation was established in March 2010, he graced the organization as one of the Board Members.

An unpublished article penned by Nirmal Singh Nahar about his unique Darshan of Sri Aurobindo has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation along with excerpts of an interview (conducted in August 2001) where he had spoken about the said Darshan to Shri Raman Reddy of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

A Divine Punishment: Story of a Rare Darshan of Sri Aurobindo

Nirmal Singh Nahar

After I sat for Matriculation Examination in 1940, I had to go out of Calcutta on the advice of Phani Majumdar to avoid being arrested. So I left for Dinajpur, to our Zamindari Estate.

I was then engaged in Agricultural Farming in a large fallow land of more than 200 bighas [1 bigha = 1/3 acre (200 bighas = 60 acres.)], with ponds and semi-forest area in our Zamindari Estate at Nijpara, under Birganj Police Station, in the district of Dinajpur, now in Bangladesh (North).

In 1943, the Mother called me to Pondicherry and asked me to take up agricultural farming at the newly acquired “Cazanove” garden, in the suburbs of Pondicherry. The garden was purchased by Ramesh Chakravarty, owner of tea estates in Sylhet and Chittagong (now both in Bangladesh), who donated it to Sri Aurobindo. Ramesh Chakravarty was suffering from a deadly illness—throat cancer—and he knew it.

After a few months, the Mother assigned Sudhir Mandal, a sadhak, to assist me. With the help of labourers, we cleared the jungle of the entire 23 acres farm. We were forced to kill many poisonous snakes, which came out while clearing the bushes and we burnt them as per the Mother’s instructions. We started farming: we grew paddy, pulses, vegetables and built a very small dairy—all under the direct guidance of the Mother. After we cleared the garden, the Mother once visited it. She was accompanied by Pavitrada, Nolinida, Amritada and Dyumanbhai.

The Mother provided us with a pair of Ongole bulls for tilling the land by plough. The garden had very well laid-out plots and irrigation facilities. It was surrounded by brick walls, and had two porticos over the boundary walls for relaxation. The entire garden was divided into several plots. In a corner there was the coconut grove of around 50/60 coconut trees of Ceylonese dwarf varieties. On both sides of the passage-ways, ran a canal for water irrigation along rows of coconut trees. There was a pond and a deep well with an adjoining Pump House for irrigation and a small bungalow where Sudhirda lived. By the entrance were the quarters of our care-taker-cum-gardener-cum-all-purpose man Murgesh, where he lived with his family. A driveway from the entrance led to the main bungalow where I was staying with two dogs given by the Mother, with instructions to keep them chained during the day and unchained at night. I was further instructed by the Mother to feed them personally after cooking goat-liver meat with turmeric powder. It was not exactly cooking but only boiling. I am a Jain and was a strict vegetarian since I was born and till then I had not even tasted onion or garlic. I told the Mother so, but she insisted that I personally boil the meat, so this became a routine work for me.

On both sides of the entrance pathway were rose gardens. On the opposite side of the bungalow was a mango grove of about 10 to 15 trees. At the back of the bungalow were fruit trees—bananas, papayas, jack fruits, guavas, etc. At the extreme end near the compound wall was the cow-cum-bullock shed. We also had a small dairy with about 3 or 4 cows.

As our vegetable production increased—we used to grow tomatoes, cauliflowers, cabbages, beets, carrots, cucumbers (for the first time in Pondicherry), varieties of gourds, Lau (bottle gourd), Kumro (pumpkin), Chal Kumro (Lucknow melon), Jhinga (ribbed gourd), snake-gourds, etc., also ladies’ fingers, spinach, coriander leaves, salad and other leafy vegetables—we were able to meet, to some extent, the requirement of the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s kitchen; the balance went to the Dining Room.

We used to carry vegetables and fruits to the Mother in a single-bullock cart (vandi) every morning while I cycled along—Cazanove was 10 km away from Pondicherry. The vegetables were kept at the Mother’s stairs and were distributed by Dyumanbhai after She had seen them, according to Her instructions.

After a year, in January 1945, Manoranjan Ganguly was deputed by the Mother to assist me. He stayed at the main bungalow during the day and went back to the Ashram in the evening to join his family.

As per the Mother’s instructions, I used to give away the insect-eaten or defective vegetables and fruits to the workers, mainly to Murgesh. Paddy, mangoes and coconuts were sent to the Ashram separately in bulk.

Some complaints were lodged against me saying that I was giving away good vegetables to the workers. As the complaint persisted, one day the Mother enquired about it and I told Her that as She had told me to, I gave away those insect-eaten, or half-spoilt vegetables and fruits to the workers. The Mother was satisfied, but again and again the same complaints were made so the Mother instructed me to bring those rejected vegetables and fruits along with the other garden produce. After She had seen them and according to Her instruction they were disposed of.

Now, the place for seeing the Cazanove garden produce had been shifted by Mother from the staircase to the Darshan Room. I used to have darshan and pranam and go back to the garden, but because of the repeated complaints, Mother asked me to stay till She had seen the produce. The fruit and vegetable trays filled half the room, and She inspected them only after She had completed the staircase Darshan which took long hours, as at that time several department-in-charge used to go for pranam and also to unburden their problems and take Her instructions. Other inmates—sadhaks and sadhikas—as well as students of the newly started Ashram school and visitors were also allowed to the staircase interviews. During all that time Mother stood at the head of the stairs.

Therefore, naturally I was privileged to sit in the darshan/meditation room for 3 to 4 hours daily because of the time gap between Her staircase darshan/pranam/interviews and Her coming to the room to see the vegetables and fruits. It also gave me a unique privilege to sit and meditate for such long hours. I was in my early twenties in those days, so I could not meditate all the time. I also had to be alert to see whether the Mother was coming.

Now, it so happened that my stay in the room coincided with the time when Sri Aurobindo would sit on his sofa facing the southern sky. So, the door of His room as well as that of the passage were kept open, as also the window of the Darshan/Meditation room. Sri Aurobindo would go on gazing at the sky for hours every morning. I was quite young and my impulse led me to take the rare opportunity to have the darshan of Sri Aurobindo every day. He would see me and with his smile and eyes indicate to me to move away and only then would I move away from his sight. It seemed to me as if He were telling me that it was better for me to move as the Mother might come at any moment.

I was drenched with the Darshan of my Lord Sri Aurobindo day after day and His beatific smile, blessings, grace and love. It was a thrilling experience for me and a very rare privilege too. It was during these periods that occasionally I heard His soft sweet voice calling Champaklal.

I was always very, very careful not to disclose this incident to anyone, either to my sadhak friends, father, brothers, sisters and other family members. I was also very careful not to catch the eye of any of the sadhaks or sadhikas coming for the staircase darshan/pranam or the sadhaks and sadhikas attending on the Mother at the top of the staircase.

That is how I went on enjoying this rare privilege as long as I was in charge of the Cazanove garden, because in 1946, after the garden was fully developed and the work became routine, I sought the Mother’s permission to be relieved of the responsibility. The Mother granted my prayer and assigned me to the Book Sales Department under my father.

It was long after 1978 that I finally disclosed this “Punishment which turned into a blessing.”

It was Mother’s own sweet way to “punish” Her children.

ADDENDUM

Raman Reddy: So you started working …

Nirmal Nahar: Working in the Cazanove.

Raman Reddy: In the Cazanove garden which was the first garden.

Nirmal Nahar: Yes. Big agricultural farm. Farm started in Pondicherry Ashram.

Raman Reddy: So Riziere was not there?

Nirmal Nahar: No, no. In those days nothing was there except Cazanove and Ambabhikshu’s garden where he used to grow some vegetables and papaya. Otherwise there were no … rice cultivation in Cazanove.

Raman Reddy: Oh! Cazanove you started rice cultivation.

Nirmal Nahar: Yes. There is an irrigation system there; canal was there. We used to run pumps and irrigate rice cakes but after reclaiming, there was a big coconut garden also. That is a very big area.

Raman Reddy: About 8 acres.

Nirmal Nahar: Maybe, I don’t know. Quite big and surrounded by all those walls with boundaries and all that going up; you can see the Railway line joining from there. And there we had cowsheds also, we had some 500 bullocks we used to keep and some cows were also there but when Ashram Dairy started that I don’t know. We had a rose garden also just in fiont of the gate and the bunglow. That was the flower garden. And while reclaiming, Mother had told me that you have to send report of every day’s working. And whatever expenses were to be borne I had to ask for it and Mother would sanction and Satyakarma would give it to me in the morning when I came and go to the bank and collect it from Satyakarma. That was the system. Even 2 anna or 4 anna expenses Mother used to sanction. Vegetables I used to bring to the Ashram, Mother used to see it on the staircase.

Raman Reddy: Which staircase?

Nirmal Nahar: Meditation Room staircase. That was the …

Raman Reddy: Where you were putting the vegetables.

Nirmal Nahar: On the staircase, upstairs. Because …

Raman Reddy: It was on the mid-landing?

Nirmal Nahar: On the top second on the up-turning right. Then sometimes Chandulal’s which is now Nirod’s room, on that corridor also I used to show. Then afterwards it was the Darshan Room.

Raman Reddy: Darshan Room?

Nirmal Nahar: Darshan Room, that area. That Darshan Room where we go and come out nowadays. Previously we used to go out of the door on the right to Darshan Room, Sri Aurobindo and Mother used to sit there. We had Darshan and then we used to come out from the passage in front of Sri Aurobindo’s house to the Mother’s Staircase Darshan to downstairs. But originally the route was this way. Now it has reversed. So in that room I used to … .

Raman Reddy: That is called the Meditation Hall.

Nirmal Nahar: Meditation Hall upstairs. There I used to keep all the vegetables and I had to wait till the Darshan of Balcony—Staircase Darshan was over in the morning. She used to come and see and that was the rarest of all … and that also came about in a very funny way. After I year I suppose I was in-charge with Sudhir Mondol or Sudhir-da.

Raman Reddy: Sudhir-da had come?

Nirmal Nahar: By that time. No, he came in the beginning. As I started he was given as my assistant at that time.

Raman Reddy: There was one Sudhir-da, not Sudhir Sarkar.

Nirmal Nahar: No, no. Sudhir-da another, who had an accident. He was in the outer house near the pump house; there was a small cottage, he used to stay there. I used to stay in the main cottage. And he was there almost from the beginning as my assistant. And after my coming away, after a year and half, Manoranjan came to Pondicherry. Manoranjan Ganguly, eldest brother of Robi Ganguly, he came. He was also put there along with me. So Manoranjan somehow complained that I was giving away all’ the moth-eaten or insect-eaten food, he did not say that; he said I was giving away good vegetables to the servants. was the main servant to be distributed among them. Mother asked me; I told her ‘No, I’m giving only those which are spoilt.’ Since then Mother said to me, ‘No, you don’t give it.’ To satisfy him and to satisfy me also, Mother was a very diplomat, she will not antagonize any of the sadhaks. So I used to bring all those rotten vegetables in a basket and other vegetables. I used to tell that these are the vegetables I kept apart for the servants and those … as the time progressed, Mother’s time on the Staircase Darshan increased. Sometimes I had to wait for even 2-3 hours in the Hall and naturally I was a young man at that time and Sri Aurobindo used to sit there on that … in his room following the passage that I cannot but he was very near and the balcony and the windows were always kept open at that time and the door also used to be open, the first floor door as we enter the Meditation Hall on the left side, that use to be open. He used to go on looking at the sky-sight meditating on something.

Raman Reddy: You could see Sri Aurobindo?

Nirmal Nahar: And that was the period I was able to have Sri Aurobindo’s Darshan and I was unable to say to Father or any of the inmates for I knew that the moment I uttered that word I’ll be debarred and Sri Aurobindo used to enjoy it, my seeing him. Sometimes he used to indicate by his eye that Mother is coming. So, that indication …

Raman Reddy: Wait a minute. Did he see you? Did he see you seeing him?

Nirmal Nahar: Seeing him, yes. Each other. Yes. I had a regular Darshan.

Raman Reddy: And where was he sitting?

Nirmal Nahar: He was sitting on the couch, as you have seen him in the photo.

Raman Reddy: No, but at that time there was no sofa.

Nirmal Nahar: There was some sort of sofa.

Raman Reddy: Because the sofa came in 1946.

Nirmal Nahar: Yes. It was before that.

Raman Reddy: 1946 November so by 1947, some chair there must have been.

Nirmal Nahar: There was some chair or something on which Sri Aurobindo used to sit, I can only…

Raman Reddy: Around the same place?

Nirmal Nahar: Around the same place. And that was the time I was told by Puraniji and others that he used to look at the sky direct and there was a Japanese creeper just below the Balcony that … what is the name of the creeper … Jhau gach we say, Japanese style, that was there. Now it is not there. It fell down so that was the time. But after some time Sri Aurobindo used to indicate that Mother has come or asked me to, so I used to …

Raman Reddy: Indicate by his eye.

Nirmal Nahar: By his eye. And so I used to come back to the Meditation place at that side because door was closed. That door was not opened.

Raman Reddy: You must have been at the place where now the Mother’s chair is.

Nirmal Nahar: No, I had to sit on the back side where the Darshan used to take place.

Raman Reddy: Oh that side!

Nirmal Nahar: Because that side I was not allowed to sit. I was allowed only to sit that side as that side was closed. And this side, the door of Sri Aurobindo’s room was open, so if I sit there, Mother was allowing me to see Sri Aurobindo. That cannot be.

Raman Reddy: But you could see Sri Aurobindo from here.

Nirmal Nahar: No, I used to move. In my younger days, it was difficult to check the temptation of seeing Sri Aurobindo.

Raman Reddy: So you would gradually come here …

Nirmal Nahar: Gradually come there and you can say but I did it. I’ve no hesitation in admitting now but in those days I could not have the courage to admit it.

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Second “Shrimat Anirvan Memorial Oration”: A Report

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

The second “Shrimat Anirvan Memorial Oration” organized by Overman Foundation was held on Friday, 8 July 2016, at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan (8 Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata 700071).

The programme was chaired by Professor Supriyo Bhattacharya, former Head of the Department of Economics, Kalyani University.

The speaker was Shri Biswajit Ganguly, noted researcher and Managing Member of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, who delivered a most interesting and highly illuminating lecture on the theme: “Shrimat Anirvan and Dilip Kumar Roy”.

The programme—which witnessed a full-house—was attended by Professor Biswanath Roy (President, Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir), Shri Partha Sarathi Bose (Principal, Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir and Executive Trustee, Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre) and Shri Sanjay Kumar Bhattacharya, (Trustee, Chandernagore Barasat Gate Cultural Association), Professor Amartya Kumar Dutta and other stalwarts of the Aurobindonian community of West Bengal and a large number of admirers of the teachings of Shrimat Anirvan.

An interesting part of the programme was exhibiting—through power-point presentation—a collection of extremely rare photographs of Dilip Kumar Roy and Shrimat Anirvan, especially those of the latter’s last journey. The said presentation—which made the Memorial Oration even more special and memorable—was conceptualized and presented by Shri Biswajit Ganguly for which we are thankful and grateful to him.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Sri Aurobindo and the Mystery of Death by Shrimat Anirvan

Srimat Anirvan

Dear Friends,

Shrimat Anirvan (8 July 1896—31 May 1978) had mastered the Astādhyayi of Pānini at a very early age. After completing his formal education he renounced the world and became Nirvanananda Saraswati. But after a few years he dropped the ochre robes and changed his name to Anirvan by which name he became known to the world at large. He spent a number of years in Lohaghat (Almora) where Madame Lizelle Reymond, a Swiss spiritual seeker, joined him and literally took him to the West through her books. He later shifted to Shillong in Assam and finally to Kolkata where he spent his last years. His first book was a Bengali translation of Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine which was described as a “living translation” by Sri Aurobindo himself and was published in two volumes between 1948 and 1951. Another sister-publication, Yoga-Samanvaya-Prasanga, based on Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, was published in 1961. According to Ram Swarup: “In translating Sri Aurobindo’s works, he was paying his debt to an elder brother and old friend from another life, as Shri Anirvan once said.” But the centre of his studies was the Vedas on which he acquired a rare mastery over the years. His other published works include his magnum opus, Veda Mimāmsā, (published in three volumes), Upanisad-Prasanga (three volumes on Īsa, Aitareya and the Kena), Gitānuvacana (three volumes), Vedānta Jijñāsā, Pravacana (four volumes) and several others.

On the occasion of Shrimat Anirvan’s 120th Birth Anniversary, an article penned by him on Sri Aurobindo titled Sri Aurobindo and the Mystery of Death has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation

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Sri Aurobindo and the Mystery of Death

Shrimat Anirvan

The news of the passing away of Sri Aurobindo had put at first many of his disciples in an embarrassing position before the problem of death.

But his death can also be looked upon as the first sacrifice for a noble cause. Sri Aurobindo in one of his letters speaks of the conquest of death as a problem which can be solved by the Supermind alone, but in which way he does not say. His own death, which cannot be characterized as a normal phenomenon, will appear to many as a masterpiece of supreme art.

Death is natural; and so the grief for the departed. For one who has been born death is the inevitable end, points out the Gītā with philosophical unconcern. If birth and death are the two visible ends of the life-processes, the position of the Gītā is unassailable. If the body has been born, it must die.

And yet man has always hankered after immortality. The explicit ideal of the vedic spiritual realization has been the conquest of decay and death. The theme has recurred again and again throughout the whole of India’s spiritual history and ways and means have been sought to give it a practical shape.

The mind naturally asks: What lies at the root of this persistent idea? An animal has no prevision and hence no thought of death; it is simply overtaken by it and quietly submits. A man can feel death before it actually comes, and so tries to avoid it. This instinctive avoidance of death in its crudest form has been described by the Yogin as abhiniveśa which he explains as soul’s inertia, its fervent clinging to the status quo. It is the worst form of delusion, he says. And yet, it is this avoidance of death, pictured as its conquest by the spirit that has been the age-long quest of human spirituality. Does it not sound like a paradox?

We find a solution if we state the problem in other terms. Death is a form of quiescence. There is a striking parallelism between the three forms of natural quiescence: dreamless sleep (susuptī), death (mrtyu), and dissolution (pralaya). The first is an actual experience, and the other two conceptual, but nevertheless real. We are not afraid of the quiescence of sleep, because we believe it to be a rhythm in an incessant activity. Sleep might very well turn into death, but we feel it will not. There is a hope of resurrection. The experience of life which can be the only meaning of sentient existence, overflows the blank of the daily death.

Consciousness persists in life both through its periodical activity and quiescence. The process is physical; but it can be easily extended into a metaphysical concept by introversive thought. To the three forms of natural quiescence, can be added a fourth, the quiescence of samādhi. An indrawing and consequent intensification of consciousness which characterizes all forms of samādhi, can release its power of transcending all changes. The transcendence might become a living experience which would induce an indelible feeling of timelessness. In this feeling all experiences become homogenous and hence colourless. But this homogeneity can very well become the background of a manifold of heterogeneous experiences. All stimuli from the external world will then draw out from the depth of the being the mono-chromatic reaction of a pure Conscious-Existence—the sole manifestation of the Purusa absorbing and transmuting the shocks of Prakriti into his self-light. And the basis of the idea of the immortality of the Spirit will be in the experience of an abstract and colourless void. The realization of a living death will then be the guarantee for the deathlessness of the spirit. A paradox again!

But ‘the essential immortality of the Spirit’ is confronted by the phenomenon of the eternal change in Nature. The metaphysical idea underlying this is very simple. Viewed conceptually, there is the eternal void of ākāśa with the eternal play of prāna on its bosom. The two ideas do not clash, because it is the basic structure of our consciousness also: we can calmly look at the dance of our own thoughts. The vedic seer has added a rider to the formula: the Void transcends (atitisthati) life. In other words, to be eternally in death will mean giving a free scope to the eternal play of life.

The idea in its setting of universal timelessness is no doubt true. But a problem and a travail of the Spirit ensue when we connect it with the process of time. The universal Spirit endures with universal Nature, let us concede, as a realizable idea. But the realization comes at one pole,— the pole of Spirit, and not at the pole of Nature. Of the three quiescences of Nature, individual consciousness can overflow the first—the quiescence of sleep. But can it overflow the other two? Can eternality be a real experience in time? Rationality based on normal consciousness will very naturally doubt it. Consciousness appears to it to be a by-product of material processes. The living body emits consciousness; when the body disintegrates, consciousness is extinguished. The survival of the soul cannot be scientifically proved. The concept of immortality is an unjustifiable hypothesis born of our power of projecting the consciousness into the future. So argues the materialist.

But the validity of this argument is not absolute. Consciousness does not simply flow out; it can gather itself in, withdraw from its phenomenal play and yet retain a sense of value in intensity. The intensity reveals another form of time—a concentration of duration without losing the potentiality of projection. A moment may contain eternity not in an infinitely drawn out chain of process, but in an extreme consolidation of an ultimate and homogenous meaning. The Upanishads admirably describe this by the term vijñāna-ghana. There the two concepts apparently involve a contradiction. Universality inheres in idea, and consolidation in sensation; there is a juxtaposition between the two, but no fusion. But in yogic consciousness the formless universality of the Real Idea can absolutely contain the whole gamut of consolidation in a uniquely realizable potentiality. In simple words, the One, the Many and the Power (śakti) vibrating between them may form a unitary and comprehensive experience. The concept nearest to this in normal life is that of personality, which when intensified and universalized becomes the metaphysical concept of Ātman.

The Ātman like a spider spins out the web of experience and gathers it in. The first drawing-in we see in sleep, where the mental function is withdrawn, but not the vital or the material. The experience is of a quiescence—a kind of normal seed-consciousness as the Upanishads describe it so often. A deeper quiescence would come when both the mental and the vital functions are withdrawn. This will be what is known as death. But to the normal consciousness, death is not the same kind of experience as sleep; it is rather the end of all experience. This might be true if we associate experience always with activity and heterogeneity, but not with passivity and homogeneity. If, however, quiescence becomes a habitual mode of experience, or in other words, if consciousness becomes a yogic consciousness of natural samādhi (sahaj-samādhi of Kabir), the negative value that we attach to sleep and death might turn into some supernormally experienced positive value. Nidrā samādhi-sthitih—sleep as a poise of samādhi is not a very uncommon experience with the Yogin.

A plunge into the inner depths in a wakeful sleep may open a vista of eternality which can be projected both backwards and forwards. The experience will apparently belong to a measurable duration of normal time, but its meaning will be immeasurable in extension and infinite in formulation. A single experience of this kind will convince the mind of the immortality of the soul. Normally such an experience will come at the point of liberation from the terrestrial chain of existence. If the witnessing Self looks backwards, the theory of rebirth as taught by Indian spiritual science will be the logical outcome. If it is a vision of the future, it will correspond to the idea of eternal life in Heaven. A confusion has been created in some religious beliefs by an attempt to make a universal application of this vision to the after-death existence of souls of different grades of maturity. The Indian idea of rebirth explaining the backward projection, and the idea of liberation by stages (Krama-mukti) describing the forward projection, give a complete logical picture of the whole movement of spiritual evolution.

This vision of eternality when translated in terms of temporal movement, gives the idea of ‘the psychic survival of death’ which is the second of the triple immortality envisaged by Sri Aurobindo. To the unillumined it is a dogma, which up to a certain stage has not much influence on a man’s spiritual evolution. But if spiritual consciousness is essentially an indrawing of the conscious force liberating an awareness of growing intensity whose impact unfolds new worlds of experience, the vision of eternality becomes a power and an instrument in the hands of the Yogin. At the initial stage, the awareness of immortality which sunders ‘the veil of temporal ignorance’ makes death a conscious event in life. At a higher level, it becomes a willed event; and the phenomenon is not wholly rare in spiritual history. A more complete mastery over Nature will be a conscious and willed birth—the idea underlying the theory of incarnation. All this will mean an effective realization of immortality in a process of time, which in a liberated soul will give, at any given point, a total vision of Reality, not necessarily in an omniscience of events, but of truths.

The third form of quiescence, the quiescence of dissolution, need not be considered here, because in Sri Aurobindo’s vision the emphasis has always been on life and creation, though an integral vision cannot draw an artificial line of separation between being and non-being.

The crux of the problem of immortality lies in the third type of immortality which rose in the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo and which has been called physical immortality—‘the conquest of the material Inconscience and Ignorance even in the very foundation of the reign of Matter’. This idea supported by the very clear and logical thinking of Sri Aurobindo centres round the idea of transformation.

Human mind has divided the unity of Existence into a duality of Spirit and Matter. The relation between the two can be most clearly and directly seen in one’s own being where a lump of matter has become endowed with life and consciousness. Consciousness as simple awareness and even as active but unmentalized consciousness does not reach a crucial point until it has become the witness consciousness. In this form, an ideal division is made in the body of consciousness itself and the possibility of a consciousness independently centred within its own being is created. Just as a multiplication of impacts from without clarifies and consolidates an objective idea, so inward impacts can build a solid structure of soul-consciousness, which might appear to transcend and remain aloof from its peripheral phenomena. This detachment of the Spirit in its self-formative period is reflected in the mind as duality of Spirit and Matter. But in reality, it is one Substance which can be interpreted in various terms in accordance with the graded experiences of different densities. Viewed from the bottom, consciousness has emerged from evolving Matter. If we maintain the notion of duality, we may say there is an interaction between the two. A better way of putting things would be to advance the Upanishadic theory of the transparency of the substratum (dhātu-prasāda) leading to the luminous expansiveness of the soul-structure. The Upanishadic seer will say, ‘The elements composing the material structure of the body have a gradation of densities, and each has an absolute property which can be released by yogic consciousness. If these yogic properties emerge, the physical body becomes permeated with yogic fire and no longer knows disease, decay or death.’

From the sensuous view of things, in which the Idea appears as a half-real appendage, this might seem improbable. But if the view-point is reversed, if the Idea that is evoked by the sense-contact is looked upon as real reality and if the Will seeks to manipulate these realities on this new basis, a novel order of things might be born. Disease, decay and death might be attacked, as perhaps had been done by the Buddha, with the spiritual forces. One cures the diseased mind and thus cures the diseased body: modern therapeutics knows something of the trick. The conquest of decay and death on the same lines might be looked upon as a case of extension of what has already been achieved. At least the adventure is worthwhile.

But the conquest of death is a problem that can be solved on a cosmic level alone. There must be a complete reversal of the present plan of live-evolution on earth before this can be achieved. Sri Aurobindo saw this and launched into the bold adventure of tackling the cosmic forces. He has been ridiculed and abused for this and often branded as a heretic. ‘It is against God’s plan’ they said. ‘No it is just making way for the inevitable and fulfilling His plan’, was his reply to the charge.

There is no denying the fact that Sri Aurobindo is the first sacrifice in a noble cause. His death very forcefully reminds one of the saying of the rishi of the Purusasūktam: ‘The gods, as they spread the web of sacrifice, tied the Purusa Himself to the post as the victim.’ And if death, as the Upanishadic seer speaks of it, is the concentration of a final illumination of the Heart, Sri Aurobindo’s death has been like an explosion illuminating the horizon of the distant future and its impact on the living has been and will be far-reaching in its results.

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