Bokul Sarkar: In Memoriam

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dear Friends,

On Saturday, 9 January 2016, Bokul Sarkar, the youngest daughter of Shanti and Nolini Kanta Sarkar left her physical body at the age of eighty. Nolini Kanta Sarkar (28 September 1889—18 May 1984) was a reputed writer, journalist, singer of humourous songs (including parodies) and editor of noted magazines of the bygone era like Bijoli and Betar Jagat (the fortnightly journal of Indian State Broadcasting Service). A dear friend of Dilip Kumar Roy and Kazi Nazrul Islam and a close associate of Barindra Kumar Ghosh (noted revolutionary and Sri Aurobindo’s youngest brother) he visited Pondicherry to meet Sri Aurobindo in March 1921 and stayed with him in his residence at 41 François Martin Street, better known as the ‘Guest House’. He visited Pondicherry again in February 1930 for the Darshan of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. After his retirement in 1944 he wrote to Nolini Kanta Gupta, the Secretary of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, seeking permission from the Mother to join the Ashram with his family as permanent inmates. When the Mother inquired from Sri Aurobindo about his identity, Sri Aurobindo replied: “He is my old disciple.” The Mother then asked Nolini Kanta Sarkar to wait for four more years.

Nolini Kanta visited Pondicherry a couple of times between November 1944 and August 1947. As a result of Dilip Kumar Roy’s efforts, he along with his wife Shanti and two daughters Gitika and Bokul were accepted by the Mother as permanent inmates of the Ashram. They left Kolkata on 16 February 1948 and arrived at Pondicherry for good on the 19th. He worked in the Bengali section of the Ashram Press and also taught Bengali to the students of the Higher Course of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.

Bokul Sarkar was born on 19 April 1935. The early years of her life were spent in the company of reputed poets and playwrights of Bengal who, being Nolini Kanta’s friends, showered infinite love and affection on her and Gitika, her elder sister. She visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram for the first time with her father and Gitika in April 1946. After completing her education from the Ashram School she worked in the Bengali Section of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Library for several years until ill-health compelled her to retire.

Bokul was a darling of Sahana Devi and Dilip Kumar Roy who were extremely fond of her melodious and soul-capturing voice. She learnt music from both the maestros and was one of those few capable singers who could render Dilip Kumar Roy’s songs keeping his unique style intact. Bestowed with a nature that was as sweet as honey, she had a grandmotherly affection and concern for one and all. She loved to cook and feed people and one could not help but marvel at her culinary skills. She was a hesitant speaker since she was a shy person by nature; but as soon as she overcame the initial inhibitions she would turn out to be a delightful conversationalist who shared with us memories of the bygone eras with so much precision that talking to her was as good as reading a book. Yet she was one of those rare individuals who never criticized anyone. But what stood apart as the most noteworthy trait of her personality was her inner strength with which she dealt with the dreaded disease of throat cancer which compelled her to cease singing. She knew that death was approaching but was never afraid of it. The only thing she was afraid of was the possibility of physical immobility and helplessness. She wanted to leave her body without any pain and suffering. And her wish was fulfilled.

On Saturday, 9 January 2016, Bokul went to the washroom where she puked blood and passed on to the Beyond. The end came at around 7 in the morning. She left quietly just as she had lived.

Yet she continues to live—in the hearts of those who loved her and whom she loved—for it is impossible to eradicate the fragrance of her existence from our inner selves.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

210Nolini Kanta [seated at the back with his youngest daughter Bokul], Kazi Nazrul Islam, Barada Charan Mazumdar, Upendranath Banerjee and Dilip Kumar Roy.

Mother with Bokul Sarkar on 11.10.54The Mother with Bokul Sarkar

62Nolini Kanta with Sahana Devi; seated in front his daughters Gitika and Bokul.

72Nolini Kanta with his daughters Gitika and Bokul.

92Nolini Kanta with his daughters Gitika and Bokul.

*

Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee appointed Chevalier in the Ordre des Palmes Academques

AVT_Prithwindra-Mukherjee_5336

Dear Friends,

In 2009, proposed by the French Minister of Culture, Paris-based famous researcher and author Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee was appointed Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, in the presence of Swami Veetamohananda of the Centre Védantique, of His Excellency Ranjan Mathur, Ambassador India, of the veteran composer Henri Dutilleux, of Professor Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat, of Bikas Sanyal, Director of the Maison de l’Inde. Gérard Pédraglio, represented Jacques Attali, and offered the medal to Dr. Mukherjee.

Proposed by the French Minister of Education, of Higher Studies and Research, by decree of 1st January 2015, the French Prime Minister appointed Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee Chevalier in the Ordre des Palmes Academques.

Madame Alphonsine Poujade, President of the Association of Membres the Ordre des Palmes académiques (14th District) organised a ceremony at the Maison du Canada (Cité Universitaire), on 22 January 2016 and, after a concert of piano, violins and cello, offered the medal to Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee.

unnamed

In a simple and touching speech, Dr. Mukherjee thanked the authorities and presented the highlights of his contribution as a cultural bridge between India and France.

We congratulate Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee for this rare honour. Not only is he the pride of Bengal but of entire India.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Sir C. R. Reddy’s Tributes to Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy (C. R. Reddy) was born to Subramania Reddy in the village of Cattamanchi in the Chittoor District on 10 December 1880. After a brilliant academic career at the Madras Christian College, he went to England with a Government of India scholarship and joined St. John’s College at Cambridge in 1902. Having secured a First Class in History Tripos, he toured U.S.A. before returning to India where he succeeded Sri Aurobindo as the Vice-Principal of the Baroda College in 1908. In 1913 he joined the Maharaja’s College at Mysore as a professor of History and was promoted as the Principal of the same college in 1916. He was also appointed Inspector-General of Education in the Mysore State. When the Andhra University was established he was selected as its first Vice-Chancellor; under his able leadership and guidance, the university became an extraordinary centre of higher education and research. However in 1930 he resigned from his services as a mark of protest against the repressive policy of the British Government and was succeeded by Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. He rejoined Andhra University as the Vice-Chancellor in 1936 and retained this position till 1949. In 1937 he was nominated to the Upper House along with the Vice-Chancellors of the Madras and Annamalai Universities. In July 1948 he went to England to attend the Conference of Empire Universities. In 1949 he joined the University of Mysore as the Pro-Chancellor. Knighted by the British Government for his services, C. R. Reddy passed away on 24 February 1951 due to uraemia.

On 11 December 1948 the Andhra University awarded the University’s Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize to Sri Aurobindo which was presented to him in his room in the Ashram main building on 20 December by Sir C. R. Reddy.

Soon after his visit to Pondicherry, Sir C. R. Reddy had penned an article on Sri Aurobindo titled The Ashram of Sri Aurobindo: An Impression and Interpretation which had appeared in the Mother India, the monthly review of culture published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, on 3 September 1949. This article along with his tribute to Sri Aurobindo paid during the Convocation at the Andhra University in December 1948 and some correspondence between Sri Aurobindo, Nolini Kanta Gupta, Krishna Kumarsinhji and Sir C. R. Reddy have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Mr. Chancellor, our object in founding the National Prize was to bring about association between the members of the University and the inspiring personalities of contemporary India—they that make history and will live in history as permanent lights that lead us through the encircling gloom. If that was our object, we have reached the summit of realisation today by the kindly acceptance of this offering of ours by Sri Aurobindo. We are not awarding; we are making an offering. If it is due to the eminent merit in Humanities of Sri Aurobindo that we are paying him this tribute, his acceptance of it is the climax of the good fortune of the Andhra University and its blessing.

Amongst the Saviours of Humanity

In all humility of devotion, I hail Sri Aurobindo as the sole sufficing genius of the age. He is more than the hero of a nation. He is amongst the Saviours of humanity, who belong to all ages and all nations, the Sanatanas, who leaven our existence with their eternal presence, whether we are aware of it or not.

The Rishi tradition is the most glorious and priceless feature of Hindu culture. Its origin is lost in mystic antiquity, but its flow has never ceased. It will continue its sublime course till it mingles itself with eternity. We had Rishis in the Vedic era. And then a succession of Seers, of whom Gautama Siddhartha, the fairest flower and fulfilment of humanity, towers to the highest heaven, and the Sages of the Upanishads, Mahavira, Nanak, Ramdas, the inspirer of Shivaji, and in our own times, Dayananda Saraswati, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharshi, and he to whom we are today presenting our National Prize, Sri Aurobindo.

A great Frenchman has hailed Sri Aurobindo as the last of our Rishis. Really, he is the most recent, for in this world of death and sorrow, Rishis are an undying race of bliss. And they pulsate every now and again with far-flashing revelations like those wonderful stars which astronomers call the Light-houses of the Celestial Regions.

Sri Aurobindo excels in the range and compass of his genius. He is a poet, dramatist, philosopher, critic, interpreter and commentator of the Vedas, the Gita, and all the transcendent lore and legend of India, and he is something higher than these, the Saint who has realised his oneness with the Universal Spirit, and has fathomed the depths and brought up treasures of transcendent value and brilliance. But these many aspects of Sri Aurobindo possess an organic unity of thought, impulse and purpose. They all reflect in their several phases the light of eternity that is in him.

I am not going to narrate the life of Sri Aurobindo, as chronologically lived. Our Professor, Mr. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar’s splendid biography of Sri Aurobindo is there for all to read. A book written in a style of superlative charm and power, and one which could without exaggeration be regarded as a masterpiece in English literature. Perhaps I may recall by way of pardonable vanity and the petty desire to shine in Sri Aurobindo’s reflected light, that we are both Cambridge men, he very much my senior, and that I succeeded him as the Vice-Principal of the Baroda College. I had the honour of knowing him, though scantily, in his Purva-Ashrama. We had a number of friends in common. Mr. A. B. Clark, the Principal of the Baroda College, remarked to me, “So you met Aurobindo Ghose. Did you notice his eyes? There is mystic fire and light in them. They penetrate into the beyond.” And he added, “If Joan of Arc heard heavenly voices, Aurobindo probably sees heavenly visions.” Clark was a materialist of materialists. I have never been able to understand how that worldly but delightful person could have glimpsed the truth, the latent, about Aurobindo. But then does not the lightning’s blinding flash, which lasts but a moment, leap forth from the dark black bosom of the cloud? The Alipore Jail, where he was consigned to solitude and meditation for a year, marks a turning-point in Sri Aurobindo’s career. The British Government had bound his body and liberated his soul. They did not mean it, but the best things that we do are, not infrequently, done unwittingly, spontaneously. Body enslaved, soul set free, that was the paradox of his incarceration. It was there that his first mystic experiences and direct perception of the Eternal Truths, which according to our Sphota theory are ever present, floating as it were in the space that envelops the Universe, occurred. Beginning to realise himself he retired to Pondicherry in 1910. Can a Rishi ever retire? He may retire in body; very often the retirement of the body is the prelude to the soul ascending the heights of heaven and ranging over the entire globe. His physical being is in Pondicherry; but his influence, can we set limits to it in space or in time? His Ashram, one of the beacon-lights of the world, attracts the devout and the serious-minded without distinction of race and country. Judged by temporal standards he is seventy-six years old, but really time cannot touch him, or earth and its impurities. His soul is like a star and dwells apart.

Unison of Literature, Metaphysics and Sadhana of Realisation

In Sri Aurobindo, literature, metaphysics, and the Sadhana of realisation, are a spiral ascending from Earth to Heaven in mutual support and unison. In the superb summary of Mr. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar, “the Seer has fronted reality; the Poet has hymned his ‘Gloried Fields of trance’, the Philosopher has sought to interpret the vision in terms of reason; the Yogi has formulated a method, a multiform technique, for achieving the desired change in consciousness; the sociologist has thrown out significant hints in regard to the organisation of tomorrow’s world; and the creative critic has sensed the rhythms of the ‘future poetry’ and described how the ‘new’ poet will ride on the wings of an elemental spirituality and articulate the ineluctable rhythms of the Spirit.”

As a poet Sri Aurobindo ranks high. In that most difficult of all forms of prosody, the Blank Verse, which under inartistic hands has a fatal tendency to become prose, he has a place all his own, which is among the highest. “Urvasie”, and “Love and Death”, and “Savitri”, a legend and a symbol, are in charm and beauty without a parallel in English Literature. “Ahana” and “Dawn over Ilion” are masterpieces in Hexameter, a classical metre difficult to transplant in modern soils. “Savitri” is rising and growing, and has not yet reached the full flush of her grace and beauty, and when it does, it will have given a new colouring, a new life and attraction to the immortal legend of the Mahabharata.

In many of his works of criticism, interpretations of the Veda and the Gita, he has combined vast research with the intuition of a poet, the reflection of a philosopher and the vision of a Rishi. He has a sentence that will serve to inspire the United Nations Organisation and give it spiritual ground and hope — “Evolution moves through diversity from a simple to a complex oneness. Unity the race moves towards, and must one day realise.” It is a fine phrase “complex oneness” and a far-reaching ray or hope and comfort though today we are all overwhelmed by the complexity and do not seem to be nearing oneness except under the devastating might of the Atom Bomb.

Sri Aurobindo’s faith in the sure but slow evolution of human unity in harmonious diversity is too robust to be dwarfed or defeated by hard, stubborn facts. Rather it is a faith that is out to conquer fact and remould it nearer to the heart’s desire. He is of the race of prophets who see the present as but a transitory moment that should not be allowed to overcome the optimism of man.

Prophet of the Life Divine

It is not as a man of letters or of philosophy, that Sri Aurobindo reaches his unique eminence; but it is as a Yogi who has caught the light and reflects it in blissful abundance. He is the Prophet of the Life Divine, to him it is an experience and not mere idea. This experience could be shared by others. The nature of his spiritual quest, which led to his great conquest, he thus described in a letter to C. R. Das who defended him in the Alipore trial—“I see more and more manifestly that man cannot get out of the futile cycle the race is always treading, until he has raised himself to a new foundation. How could our present instruments, intellect, life, mind, body, be made true and perfect channels for this great transformation? This was the problem I have been trying to work out in my own experience and I have now a sure basis, a wide knowledge, and some mastery of the secret.”

He presents his gospel in a book that is a landmark in the history of human thought and aspiration, “The Life Divine”, which Sir Francis Younghusband has acclaimed as the “greatest book published in my generation”. Pythagoras spoke of the Music of the Heavens. Here is the Music of Humanity, no longer still sad, ascending to Heaven. Sri Aurobindo believes that we shall evolve into a higher state of being; and this evolution will enable us to overcome the limitations and miseries of our present existence and lead us to a world whose course is equable and pure—a life of harmony and bliss. This process of evolution is actual. It is operating steadily here and now, and will not stop short of fulfilling itself. In due course, Man will attain the New Life, in which pains and sorrows will have no existence and death no sting.

Sri Aurobindo relieves our despair by the certainty of this advent. In the world of death, he, the Immortal, gives us the assurance of Immortality. The world has need of Thee, Sri Aurobindo, and that is why Thou art with us still.

Mr. Chancellor, I now request you, on behalf of the Andhra University, to be so good as to make the offering of this National Prize, with which it is my unmerited good fortune to have my name linked, in absentia to Sri Aurobindo. I doubt, though, if the term, in absentia, is properly applicable. For though Sri Aurobindo leads a life of rigorous seclusion, rarely seeing people or being seen by people, yet thousands of devotees in all parts of the world feel him as a real presence. He is not of the earth and does not mix with the earth, but heaven envelops us all. So, Mr. Chancellor, honour the University, and if you don’t think it impertinent of me to say so, honour yourself by awarding the Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize to Sri Aurobindo.

Source: Mother India, 19 February 1949,

*

The Ashram of Sri Aurobindo: An Impression and Interpretation

C. R. Reddy

Through a series on unpremeditated events, a power beyond me drew me last December to Sri Aurobindo and the Holy Mother at their Pondicherry Ashram. I spent a few days there in an atmosphere of inspired bliss. Probably I was beside myself most of the time. Something higher gripped me. Most reluctantly I left the place. Fondly I dwell in memory on the unmerited but wonderful reception I was accorded through causeless grace of the Master and the ineffable tenderness of the Mother.

I do not wish to dwell on this occasion on matters pertaining to inner life. The theme of this paper is the objective nature and significance of the Ashram and the thoughts it evoked in me. It has a significance not only for the Hindus but for entire humanity. There is nothing specially Hindu in Sri Aurobindo’s teachings and discipline. The soul is not Hindu. God is not Hindu. They are Universals. The origin of a particular creed may be traced to a particular height with localisation in time and in geography, but the Ganges and sister rivers of like power for holiness all flow into the same ocean of eternity.

The teachings and discipline of the Ashram have had their source in the mystic heights of Vedic culture, but God is one; man is one. The truths of the soul transcend limitations of body, race, time and space. They have universal, eternal application.

In the Ashram there are pious men and pious women, who by birth belong to various faiths; naturally Hindus mostly, because of the attraction of neighbourhood and of inherited culture. There are Christians, Zoroastrians, Muslims and members of other creeds. But in conviction and in life, these many have been fused into one. Therefore, the faith acquired in the Ashram—a faith which does not negative reason—is a common possession of all. In the discipline they have adopted for the growth and fruition of their lives, they are one. It is the unity of harmony, not of mechanical uniformity and monotony, that makes for the orchestral swell of a heavenly music.

Misguided Questions About Sri Aurobindo

It is a pity that the nature of Sri Aurobindo Ashram is not universally understood. Where it is not understood, it cannot be appreciated. We have had a few critics, who, in my opinion, have not understood and therefore could not appreciate.

One of them wondered how Sri Aurobindo, a Yogi and a Sanyasi, (apparently synonymous terms to him), could have sent his famous message to the Andhra University, when at the recent Convocation, it did itself the honour of conferring its National Prize on him for Eminent Merit in Humanities. The “eminent” should have been “supreme”. He argued: “Aurobindo has renounced the world. Why then does he want to sponsor the idea of linguistic provinces and other affairs? Is this all C.R. Reddy’s forgery?” Apparently his idea is that Sri Aurobindo should have nothing to do with the world, as according to him, he had renounced it. After divorce one should not visit his wife!

Another critic, writing more recently, could not understand why Sri Aurobindo, the mystic, leads a mysterious life at Pondicherry, giving darshan to people only on a few selected occasions, and refusing to undergo publicity. He is a Star, no doubt; but should he not be a Cinema-star? He even insinuates that the Mother is everything there and the Master almost nothing.

I do not wish to answer point by point. In his preface to his Pro Vita Sua, Cardinal Newman ably exposed the inadequacy of point by point replies in dealing with controversies relating to the field of the Soul and Spirit. What is required is explaining, so far as this could be done by language and by human thought which have their limitations, the nature of the life lived and involved. If that cannot explain and convince, nothing else would. Where that fails, logic cannot succeed.

This is not the first time that Sri Aurobindo delivered messages of secular import. He gave a prescient reading of the future when he declared that the liberation of India and of a good bit of the world were contingent on the Allies triumphing over Hitler and his Asuric hordes. He always has been on the side of Suras, the powers of Light, in their battle with Asuras, the powers of darkness. The light he gives is a steady one and permanent. He does not create confusion by hasty opportunism and momentary tactics of a spectacular kind.

The Confusion Between Sanyasi and Rishi

At the root of the misconception that I am trying to dispel is the fallacy that he is a Sanyasi, who has given up the world and therefore, has no right to re-enter it. There is a confusion here between Sanyasi and Rishi. What the critic has said may or may not be true of a Sanyasi but it is not true of a Rishi. Sri Aurobindo is a Rishi.

Renunciation, final, absolute, is not possible for the compassionate. They may renounce this or that which is not compatible with perfect illumination or power, but they cannot give up struggling, sorrow-ridden world without stretching a helping healing hand. The tenderhearted with pity in their souls and power in their hands, cannot be indifferent to the fate of human beings. The Sanyasi may feel that, to be care-free, one has to give up all care for others. That is not the way of the Rishi; nor of a Bodhisatwa, nor of the Master and the Mother at Pondicherry Ashram. If Nirvana is to be entered, it must be after the Mission of Compassion has been fulfilled and not before. And so it is that our saviours possess this trinity of grace—Wisdom, Power and Compassion. They are with us and for us. They look upon this hard earth as the stepping stone to Heaven, and not as its summary, irreconcilable contradiction which must be denounced and renounced.

The Sanyasi that discards clothes and the world is foreign to the Vedic spirit. Renunciation of the world is a creed of later growth and perhaps belong to times when our race had become less virile and had to undergo defeat, despair and despondency. The Rishis were not Sanyasis. Anything but that. They were seers who saw, felt and transmitted the truths they came into contact with—truths eternal, ever-existent, neither made nor unmade by gods. By their spiritual discipline, a natural process and no magic, they sought for and acquired illumination and with it power. Knowledge is power; spiritual knowledge no less than scientific. They lived in the world, and for the world, they retreated to woods and lonely places. Retreat is not renunciation. Though they retired to forests, they had colonies there, peopled not only with men but with women. They grew the most beautiful flowers and the most charming Sakuntalas. They took part in the politics of the day and not infrequently played leading roles. Vashistha guided the Solar dynasties. Vishwamitra was a disturbing factor in his time. If they sought after spiritual illumination and power, it was not to enjoy solitary bliss on the top of inaccessible heights. It was not for attaining Kaivalya or Nirvana; but to be here with us and for us, to help us to improve, and to inflict punishment in case we proved too foolish or too obstinate. Their ideal was more the Bodhisatwa than the Buddha. The ancient Ashrams of the Vashisthas and Vishwamitras, of the Bhrigus and the Angirasas, were brimful of a life of the world which, however, was not worldly; a life on earth that was not earthy, but directed to the good of humanity and its uplift to the stature and status of the bright gods. They welcomed disciples and they received all persons that deserved to be received by their merit. Jabali was of low illegitimate birth but he was a Satya Kama, a lover of truth and was therefore reckoned a Vipra.

Nor were the studies in Ashrams confined to spiritual lore and sacred mysteries. The disciples had to fetch wood not only to feed the sacred fires but the kitchen fires also for feeding the inmates. They brought flowers for worship. Archery and the art of war were fostered. Vishwamitra taught Sri Rama and Lakshmana the use of potent weapons. Agnivasa was the guru of Drona, the Brahmin, who taught the Kauravas and Pandavas without forfeiting his Brahminhood. They trained Kshatriyas in war and weapons so that they might protect our dharma from the aggression of Asuric hordes. Fighting for a righteous cause was not considered to be a degradation of our moral or spiritual nature. The very avatars of gods during their sojourn on earth made blood flow in rivers and swam through them to the eternal gratitude of our race and its devotion.

There was nothing anaemic about the Aryan culture at its best and purest. It is to the immortal credit of Sri Aurobindo that he has tried to re-establish on earth after the lapse of many decadent centuries the true creed and the genuine discipline of the Vedas.

How Sri Aurobindo Unlocked the Secret of the Vedas

In the education of Sri Aurobindo western classics played a leading part. He was a first rate scholar in Greek. Greek and the civilisation of Greece, are twin sisters of Bhasha and ancient Aryanism. Greek seems to have given Sri Aurobindo the key that unlocked the Veda to our generation.

Sri Aurobindo confesses that he does not know why there has been a mystery at the core of every religion; but it is a fact. We may not be able to explain the why and wherefore thereof, but in all religions there seems to be in the depths at the very centre a mystery. In the religion of the Greeks, there was the Eleusinian mystery, to quote but one instance. It is this idea that seems to have led Sri Aurobindo to search for and discover the key to the Vedas.

He had noticed, as all had done, the very close resemblance between the religions of Hesiod, Homer and our Vedas. There was nothing gloomy in either religion. The religion of Hellas teemed with strong Gods and lovely Goddesses who mingled freely with men and women and even entered into matrimonial relationship with them, begetting heroes and heroines, just as they did in Aryavarta in the twilight dawn of history. Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Athene and Aphrodite—are not all these the doubles of the Devas of the Vedic Pantheon? Gods could be defeated by men. The innate spiritual omnipotence of man was thus recognised and symbolised. There was not the same sharp and hopeless separation between heaven and earth as there has been since. Men and women having the blood of Gods and Goddesses in their veins were radiant, powerful and full of hope and joy. Wherever they trod flowers bloomed. They enjoyed life whether in earth or in heaven without fear of thereby forfeiting their right to the highest Swarga or the place to which good beings ascend.

And yet at the core of this bright and breezy religion of the Greeks, there was something deeper, a mystery hidden from the human eye but made clear to the initiates. This mystery was not celebrated as a joyous popular festival but as something solemn, awesome, to be held in secret and far from the madding crowd.

And a further correspondence between Vedic and Hellenic metaphysics: the gods of Greece were subject to an impersonal law and destiny more potent than themselves. Great as they were, there was something greater, more potent. Similarly with us, there was a law of destiny and of Karma supreme over all beings—including the gods. “Even Shiva cannot escape the consequences of his karma.”

Sri Aurobindo, an accomplished scholar in Greek and one who has steeped in the lore of our ancient Vedic culture, struck on the idea that in our case also there must have been a mystery embodied in the Vedas. There was. He discovered it and revealed it to the world.

Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is in a sense factual. Even in its sublimest flights, it is based on fact, experience and personal realisation, and on seeing like a seer or Rishi. It rises like a pillar of cloud to heaven but it rises from the earth wafted on wings of Sadhana.

Broadly speaking there have been two types of Vedic interpretation, ritualistic and naturalistic. According to the former, by performing the Yagnas and other rites with the appropriate hymns or Mantras, we compel the Gods to give us cattle, horses, and material and other boons that we desire. Even Brahma is obliged, if the Tapas is properly performed, to grant boons, however formidable or even dangerous.

The Naturalistic school, of which Yaska may be regarded as the founder, sees in the Vedic Usha, Vritra, Indra, Agni, Aswins and the other Gods and Goddesses, phenomena of nature personified.

There is a third school, the school of Sri Aurobindo which sees in the Vedic Hymns very real and sublime spiritual truths. When the Rishis performed Yagnas and prayed to Indra for “Go” or “Aswa”, it was not for the paltry purpose of getting a few cows and a few horses. The Vedic mountain did not labour to produce such silly mice. So Go and Aswa must refer to something greater and of far greater significance to man’s life and his progress. Sri Aurobindo proves with wonderful clarity and logic—his spirituality is so inseparably united with reason—that Govu means illumination such as comes from the rays of the sun and Aswa meant not horse but Power. And what for did our Rishis desire acquisition of Illumination and of Power? Not for looking at themselves in a mirror and sitting and brooding over their own beauty like a silly girl; and not to let power remain a bare possession without fruitful application. It was for helping the world and for using them as stages in their yet further progress to the rank and region of the Devas, that they sought Light and they sought Power, sought Omniscience and Omnipotence.

And now we can in some small measure understand the nature of this extraordinary Ashram in which life and the joy of life are mingled in the happy union with spirituality and spiritual progress. It is dug out of the Vedas and planted in Pondicherry.

The Wonderful Mother and the Harmonious Regime

And the wonderful Mother, the presiding genius, and the great Master, the inspiring soul: here we have in perceptible symbol Purusha and Prakriti, giving life, light and joy around.

Early morning the Ashramites assemble in the street overlooked by the balcony from which the gracious Mother gives Darshan; remaining for a while moving about, smiling, looking bright, radiant, a ray of divinity like Usha. If anybody thought that a Holy Mother should cultivate ascetic frigidity and a perpetual scowl as evidence of her spirituality, he would be mistaken. She is not an ascetic. She plays tennis! The Devas are always bright. At this assembly there is a large concourse of men, women and children with bhakti in their hearts and love, light and joy in their looks and talk and behaviour. Nothing gloomy. It is the dawn that dispels the darkness.

At a later hour, the Mother presides like Flora, the Goddess of Flowers, with huge baskets laden with colour and perfume placed before her. Men, women and children, bathed in happy reverence and joyous veneration advance to salute her and receive from her benedictions and flowers. Then the different people foregather in their different circles to talk over the great truths that count; or each retires to his place to meditate and to cultivate psychical discipline and practise sadhana. Sadhana is the way to realise and experience, to perceive, to see and become a seer. This Ashram is no ‘dry as dust’ world. It is a world apart from the world, but existing in it and for it like the Ashrams of our Vedic Rishis. The men and women of the colony have their meals mostly in common. Starvation is not regarded as an essential process for developing spirituality. The food is simple. It is cooked by the women Ashramites. There is enough nourishment and perfect hygiene. And the women find in this service an aid to their Soul’s progress.

There is a dairy where I saw some fine cattle. That is the source of their milk supply.

There is a garden, and the vegetable garden there is one of the best I have seen; and I am not quite a bad judge of gardens and vegetable gardens.

There is a bakery and wholesome bread is assured. Also a laundry and a small soap factory.

Intellectual nourishment is not neglected either. There is a first class printing press equipped with the latest monotype and other machines. And books to read in plenty and a very fine library and a variety of periodicals.

Shabbiness in dress and manners and crude, vulgar conduct are not cultivated as arts leading to the soul’s perfection. Said the great Kalidas: “Shareeram Khalu Dharma Sadhanam” and so the disciples go about dressed in decent clothes, clean, simple and becoming. A guest house is maintained where European conveniences could be had. I hope this will not be regarded as a double transgression of holiness and nationalism.

But in many respects what impressed me most were the educational institutions maintained by the Ashram and the ancient spirit of strength and joy that pervades them. The Mother, the embodiment of grace, light and tenderness, ordered an exhibition of games and physical exercises by the boys and girls of the Ashram Schools. I said to myself, “If all the schools were like this, won’t India be unassailable by internal foes or external?” The parades were excellent. The exercises were gone through not merely efficiently but cheerfully. The girls were dressed in pants and tight-fittings jackets. They performed hazardous exercises like vaulting. Though there was risk of accident to limb, if not to life, they advanced cool, calm, and resolute with bright looks and confident smiles, and went through the exercises without a single hitch or a single failure. Our Sanyasi critics may be aghast that the Mother, who is all grace and tenderness, should have organised our girls, as it were, into a corps of yogic Amazons. But the girls don’t lack the charm and grace of their sex. She told me that it was the Calcutta killings and the bestial abominations perpetrated on our helpless women and children that made her think of organising the students in her schools, boys and girls, into a corps capable of self-defence. At the root is the great Vedic idea that, without a strong body, you cannot have a strong soul, undaunted in danger and ready to perform the great task, the root principle of all Dharma, of defending the weak and helpless.

The Nation’s Need and the Master’s Work

The second criticism is: Why then does Sri Aurobindo shun the world? Why does he not come out and go about? Could we get a more prescient leader or a more powerful? I reply: What is wrong in Sri Aurobindo remaining in seclusion at Pondicherry? Retreat into the “tapovanam” was a frequent way of seeking the right atmosphere for spiritual exercises, concentration and penance. Religious leaders have found in seclusion a potent help for mental and spiritual efficiency and advancement. If the Rishi is spending his time and energy for helping the progress of the world and for equipping himself with the means of achieving that object, what business is it of ours to find fault? For such presumption involves the idea that we are better fitted to tell the Seer what means he should adopt that the Seer himself. I suppose this presumption is due to ignorance more than impertinence. Could not Sri Aurobindo be trusted to know how and by what methods he could carry out his great mission and acquire the needed illumination and power? I for one do not feel myself confident to tell the Master what school he should attend and what lessons he should learn.

Personally, and without meaning to lay down the law for one whose rule I feel I have to accept with implicit obedience, I see no reason why Sri Aurobindo should not, now that India is no longer a dependency, tread our soil once again with his hallowed feet and inspire the millions with his radiant personality. I see no reason. This does not mean that there is no reason. That is for the Master to decide. But Madras and all the cities in India and more specially the stricken provinces of Bengal and the Punjab would like to have his healing touch and his invigorating presence. But it is not for me to prescribe the ways and means. I know that the Master is promoting these and other humanitarian causes not merely in India but all over the globe in his own way and through agencies he deems the best and methods he deems most potent. So I leave it at that, believing where I cannot see.

After four days spent at this contemporary reproduction of the ancient Vedic Ashram, I left Pondicherry to return to Madras. But did I leave? Or was it only my body that left?

Mother India, 3 September 1949.

*

ADDENDUM

Sri Aurobindo’s letter to Sir C. R. Reddy

SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM.
PONDICHERRY.
July 15, 1948

To
Sir C. R. Reddy
Vice-Chancellor
Andhra University—Waltair

I have been unable to give an early answer to your letter of the 28th June, 1948 which reached me rather late owing to accidental causes. This was due to some hesitation arising from my position as head of the Ashram at Pondicherry. I am not a Sannyasi and my Yoga does not turn away from life; but still I have always followed the rule of not accepting titles, honours or distinctions from any Government or public institution and have rejected or stood back from even the highest when offered to me. But after long consideration I have felt that the distinction which the Andhra University proposes to confer upon me is not of the same character and need not fall within this rule. In any case I do not feel that I can disregard the choice made by the Andhra University in selecting my name for this distinction, and even if things were otherwise, I would have felt that I must accept this as an exceptional case and I could not disregard the choice by an institution like yours of my name for this prize. I authorise you therefore to consider my name for this award and if the University confirms its choice of me, my acceptance of your National Prize. One difficulty remains; you know perhaps that I have been living in entire retirement, appearing in public only on the occasion of the four Darshans on which I receive the inmates of my Ashram and visitors from all parts of India. Otherwise I do not go out of the rooms in which I live and still less ever leave the Ashram or Pondicherry. This makes it impossible for me to go to Waltair to receive the distinction conferred upon me. I would have therefore to ask for an exception to be made in this matter in my case.

Sri Aurobindo

*

Krishna Kumarsinhji (Governor of Madras)’s letter to Sri Aurobindo dated 30 October 1948.

Dear Shri Aurobindo Ghosh

As Chancellor of the Andhra University I have great pleasure in informing you that the Syndicate of the University has resolved to present to you the ‘Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize’ for this year and I would like now to offer the same to you. I sincerely trust that you will be prepared to accept this offer.

With kind regards, I am looking forward to your darshan.

Yours sincerely
Krishna Kumarsinhji

Shri Aurobindo Ghosh
Aurobindo Ashram
Pondicherry

*

Sri Aurobindo’s letter to the Governor of Madras, Chancellor of the Andhra University dated 6 November 1948

Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Pondicherry

To
H. E. The Governor of Madras
Chancellor of the Andhra University

I am in receipt of your letter of 30th October informing me that the Syndicate of the Andhra University has resolved to present to me the “Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize” for this year. I have received with much gratification your offer of this distinction bestowed on me by your University and I am glad to intimate to you my acceptance. I understand from what you say about Darshan that you will personally come to Pondicherry for this purpose and I look forward with much pleasure to seeing and meeting you.

*

C. R. Reddy’s letter to Nolini Kanta Gupta dated 6 November 1948

C. R. Reddy
VICE-CHANCELLOR

ANDHRA UNIVERSITY
Maharanipeta P.O.,
Vizag Dist.
Dated 6th November 48

My dear Sri Nalini Kanta Gupta,

I hope that by now the Master has signified his kindly assent to the offer of award made by His Excellency the Governor-Chancellor. All that I can say is the University has received the crown of honour from sacred hands.

I have already written to you about the date by which, if at all possible, the gracious and inspiring message should reach me.

The actual conferment will be at the Convocation which is to be held on 11th December. I shall deliver the citation of presentation myself.

The Syndicate has resolved that I should go in deputation to Pondicherry and personally present to the Master the Bronze Medallion and the cheque of Rs. 1,116. I beg to know of the date and time that would suit the Master.

I shall be held up for a week after the Convocation, dealing with consequential business. So, any time from the 20th December onwards to the 25th would suit my small convenience. But in this matter the Master’s pleasure is our law.

Please let me have a very early reply.

Yours sincerely
C. R. Reddy

P.S. Though it is only the Vice-Chancellor that is deputed to make this offering, a number of Syndicate members and others connected with the University have expressed their desire to accompany me and pay their deep respects to the Master on the occasion. Naturally I cannot give my consent until permission is received. You may kindly let me know His pleasure on this point also.

*

Governor of Madras’s Letter to Sri Aurobindo dated 8 November 1948

GOVERNMENT HOUSE
Guindy,
8th November 1948

Dr. C. R. Reddy National Prize—Andhra University

Dear Shri Aurobindo Ghosh,

Thank you very much indeed for your letter dated November 6th accepting the Dr. C. R. Reddy National Prize. It is a source of great gratification both to myself and to the Andhra University that you have agreed to accept the prize.

To my very great regret I find myself unable to go to Pondicherry in the near future and since the prize has to be awarded by the time of the University Convocation early next month, the Vice-Chancellor Dr. C. R. Reddy will be proceeding to Pondicherry to present the prize to you.

I hope to be able to come to Pondicherry and have your Darshan some time as early as possible.

With kind regards

Yours sincerely
Krishna Kumarsinhji

*

Sri Aurobindo’s letter to C. R. Reddy dated 5 December 1948

To
Shree C. R. Reddy
Vice-Chancellor, Andhra University

I am sending herewith the message. But it has developed to an excessive length nearer to half-an-hour’s reading than to the minimum five minutes. I hope that the theme which, I am told, is still somewhat controversial, will not be thought for that reason ill-suited to the occasion and that the length of time required will not be found unmanageable. I have felt some scruples on these two points and would be glad to be reassured that it is otherwise.

Sri Aurobindo

*

C. R. Reddy’s letter to the Mother dated 22 December 1948

C. R. Reddy

No. 2, Taylor’s Road,
Kilpauk P.O.
Madras—10
22nd December 1948

Esteemed and Holy Mother,

I reached home this morning at 6.30 A.M. and immediately telegraphed my safe arrival and deep obligation to you, Sri Aurobindo, and all, for your infinite kindness to me during my recent visit.

The ‘Hindu’ and the ‘Mail’ and the ‘Indian Express’ have all published my Press Communique on the tender of the National Prize to the Master and his gracious acceptance thereof.

I am very, very sorry to have to report to you that my dear daughter’s pains and sufferings have been worse during the last two and a half days, and are exceedingly, tragically trying to my feelings. May we all beseech your Grace, to improve her condition and render her free from these agonising pains and sufferings. Pray excuse the liberty of this request, made by an afflicted heart to the Great Mother.

With my pranams to yourself and Sri Aurobindo.

Ever yours devotedly
(C. R. REDDY)

*

C. R. Reddy’s letter to the Mother dated 9 September 1949

C. RAMALINGA REDDY
VICE-CHANCELLOR, ANDHRA UNIVERSITY,
WALTAIR

9.9.49

My dear Mother,

Herewith a small coin of my life, minted in Your Ashram, for the gracious acceptance of Yourself and the master as a token and tribute of my devotion.

Ever Thine
C. R. Reddy

*

C. R. Reddy’s Telegram to the Mother

EXPRESS

MOTHER
ASHRAM
PONDICHERRY

DEEPLY GRIEVED BY THE PASSING AWAY OF SRI AUROBINDO. ONE OF THE GREATEST LIGHTS OF THE WORLD HAS BEEN EXTINGUISHED BUT IT WILL CONTINUE TO SHINE BY REFLECTION FROM YOU AND THE DISCIPLES
C. R. REDDY

*

C. R. Reddy’s letter to the Mother dated 5 December 1950

University of Mysore

Pro-Chancellor C. R. Reddy

West Lake
Yelwal Road
Mysore

Tel. No. 885
Tel. Add.: Pro-Chancellor

5th December, 1950

Dear Revered Mother,

I was stunned to hear this morning the radio announcement of the setting of the Sri Aurobindo Sun—stunned and staggered. There is a gloom in my soul and also on the world. Persons of Sri Aurobindo type appear but rarely in our midst. They come with a mission and they depart when they feel that their mission has been fulfilled or that they had arranged for the mission to continue through their disciples.

Agaram Rangiah, a Mysorean, who paid his respects to the master and you during the recent Darshan, told me that Sri Aurobindo was not looking quite well and that in consequence, the auspicious function had to be hurried through. But there was no anxiety on the score of Sri Aurobindo’s health.

Well, one of the great lights of the modern world has suffered extinction or is it only obscuration? But won’t the light continue to be reflected under your direction by the many mirrors moulded and polished by the Master’s hand? I am confident that his teachings and the lesson of his life will continue to be spread by you and the disciples. Truth is eternal. It is caught and transmitted by the Rishis of whom Sri Aurobindo is one and as illustrious as any figuring in our ancient myth or legend. He is an immortal. His body has gone, but his soul remains.

How sad, and yet in a way how consoling and inspiring, to think that you sent me through Agaram Rangiah, some flowers, symbols of your blessings and benedictional.

Believe me Mother,

Your sincere devotee.
C. R. Reddy

*

Nolini Kanta Gupta’s letter to C. R. Reddy dated 8 December 1950

Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Telegram
Aurobindo—Pondicherry

Pondicherry
8-12-1950

To
Shree C. R. Reddy

Dear friend,

Mother has received your telegram and your kind letter. She says Sri Aurobindo is alive as before although not in material body—the body is being kept as long as it lasts. Mother continues Sri Aurobindo’s work. She sends you her blessings.

We would have liked Sri Aurobindo to be in our midst in his material body, but if he chose otherwise, let his will be done.

Nolini Kanta Gupta

*

C. R. Reddy’s letter to Nolini Kanta Gupta dated 12 December 1950

C. RAMALINGA REDDY
PRO-CHANCELLOR,
MYSORE UNIVERSITY

My dear Gupta,

Very many thanks for your wonderfully spiritual and inspiring letter written under the direction of the Mother.

I enclose a copy of the letter which I addressed to a gentleman in Mysore.

Please remember me to Amruth, Satya Karma, Narayana Reddy and others. How is H. V. Krishna?

With all kind regards,

Yours very sincerely,
C. R. Reddy

*

C. R. Reddy’s letter to K. S. Narayanaswamy dated 12 December 1950

C. RAMALINGA REDDY
PRO-CHANCELLOR,
MYSORE UNIVERSITY

WEST LAKE
YELWAL ROAD
MYSORE
December 12, 1950

Dear Sir,

Very many thanks for your kind letter of 10 December asking me to speak at a meeting to be held as a mark of respect and honour to Shri Aurobindo.

I am sorry it is not possible for me to accept your invitation.

I have just heard from the Ashram. The Ashram people feel that Shri Aurobindo is not really dead but is still with them, though in another form. The Sanathanas never die. It is we that sometimes become dead to them. They are immortal; and we are the mortals.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,
(Signature) C. R. Reddy

To,
Sri K. S. Narayanaswamy,
Secretary, The Mysore Institute of Public Affairs,
“Chethana”
Laxmivilas Agrahar,
Mysore.

*

R.Y. Deshpande’s Four Powers in the Social Dynamics, At the Motrano Retreat—The Book of the Divine Mother and Savitri: The Poetry of Immortality, Goutam Ghosal’s The Rainbow Bridge and Badal Chakraborty’s Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual Laboratory

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

Wish you a Merry Christmas!

We are happy to announce that three new books authored by Shri R. Y. Deshpande on Sri Aurobindo’s masterpiece Savitri are now available at Overman Foundation along with Dr. Goutam Ghosal’s The Rainbow Bridge and Shri Badal Chakraborty’s Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual Laboratory.

Four powers in the Social Dynamics

Four great Aspects of the Mother, four of her leading Powers and Personalities have stood in front in her guidance of this Universe and in her dealings with the terrestrial play. One is her personality of calm wideness and comprehending wisdom and tranquil benignity, inexhaustible compassion and sovereign and surpassing majesty and all ruling greatness. Another embodies her power of splendid strength and irresistible passion, her warrior mood, her overwhelming will, her impetuous swiftness and world-shaking force. A third is vivid and sweet and wonderful with her deep secret of beauty and harmony and fine rhythm, her intricate and subtle opulence, her compelling attraction and her captivating grace. The fourth is equipped with her close and profound capacity of intimate knowledge and careful flawless work and quiet and exact perfection in all things. Wisdom, Strength, Harmony, Perfection are the several attributes and it is these powers that they bring with them to the world, manifest in a human disguise in their Vibhutis and shall found in the divine degree of their ascension in those who can open their earthly nature to the direct and living influence of the Mother. To the four we give the four great names, Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati.

Consisting of 142 pages, Four Powers in the Social Dynamics is available at a price of Rs. 250 (Two Hundred and Fifty) only.

At the Motrano Retreat

At the Motrano Retreat—The Book of the Divine Mother includes the revised transcriptions of the talks the author gave at Motrano in Italy in 2015 on The Book of the Divine Mother, one of the most illuminating cantos of Savitri.

Consisting of 416 pages, At the Motrano Retreat—The Book of the Divine Mother is available at a price of Rs. 525 (Five Hundred and Twenty-five) only.

Savitri The Poetry of Immortality

There are silences so deep one can hear the journeys of the soul, and it is that which gives meaning and substance to idealism, to nobility, grandeur, eloquence, to skylarks and to green cottages and to flower beds. There may not be overtones and undertones to set the absolute tempo of a masterpiece. But if that journey has to be a soaring ascension to snow-white peaks of silence in the ardour of climbing, in the warmth and intimacy of a vibrant experience, then it has yet to grow in the abundance of subtleties and suggestions that constitute multi-tonal harmonies of silence. Given to blue-bright omniscient hush inspiration streams forth unceasingly, and music transcends mortal speech. Then from the all-seeing heights there is the descent of poetry with the rhythmic sense of the creative Word. Then the five suns of poetry shine in their blaze in our skies,—the Suns of Truth, Beauty, Delight, Life and the Spirit. That is what we have in the epic Savitri.

Consisting of 486 pages, Savitri: The Poetry of Immortality is available at a price of Rs. 575 (Five Hundred and Seventy-five) only.

The Rainbow Bridge

Dr. Goutam Ghosal’s The Rainbow Bridge is a detailed comparative study of Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo. The link between Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo has been too insufficiently explored. There is no book as yet in English, which has attempted to integrate the two makers of the modern Indian tradition. Through this book the author tells the story of two of the greatest luminaries of Bengal who wished to catch the Divine in the net of their poetry and love and bring Him down on this polluted and plundered globe; being the dreamers of a new creation on earth, they wished to form a rainbow bridge marrying the soil to the sky. He seeks for an integral view of the two masters, which comes out through his observations on their poetry and fiction, drama and criticism, letters and casual notes. A new approach to Tagore’s music and painting is an added charm of the book.

Consisting of 235 pages, The Rainbow Bridge is available at a price of Rs. 420 (Four Hundred and Twenty) only.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Badal Chakraborty’s Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual Laboratory chronicles life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram during the 1940s and 1950s as experienced by the author and also discusses the nature of the work Sri Aurobindo and the Mother did to transform mankind to a higher level of consciousness. The details of the various Darshans the Mother gave at different times of the day and how should each individual proceed in life to make possible the dream of Sri Aurobindo to transform Falsehood and Ignorance to Truth and Consciousness respectively are among the themes discussed in this book which also includes some of the author’s personal memoirs of the Mother.

Consisting of 64 pages, Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual Laboratory is available at a price of Rs. 100 (One Hundred) only.

To place an order for the aforesaid titles, kindly write to overmanfoundation@gmail.com or call at (0) 98302 44192. Payment can be made through NEFT as well as through money-orders, cheques and demand-drafts.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Pujalal-ji by Krishna Chakravarty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dear Friends,

Pujalal Ranchhoddas Dalvadi (17.6.1901—27.12.1985) was an associate of Ambalal Balkrishna Purani. He trained the youth of Gujarat in different forms of physical exercises in the gymnasium at Bharuch started by Purani. He visited Pondicherry for the first time on either 23rd or 24th October 1923 and had the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo. After a couple of visits he settled in Pondicherry as a permanent member of Sri Aurobindo’s household in 1926. He worked in the first floor of the Ashram main building which housed the apartments of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. His activities included cleaning the Mother’s room and bathroom and dusting the carpet and furniture. A born poet, he has written many poems and invocations in Sanskrit, English and Gujarati addressed to Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Sri Krishna. The Mother used to call him, “My Poet.” He taught Sanskrit hymns and verses to many young pupils of the Ashram School. He has also translated Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri into Gujarati. He also wrote a book on the different forms of poetry titled Chchandapravesh. Though he had studied till the twelfth class some of his writings are now prescribed texts in various schools, colleges and universities of Gujarat.

An article on Pujalal written by Smt. Krishna Chakravarty and translated into English by Shri Maurice Shukla (one of Pujalal’s students) has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

Krishna Chakravarty, wife of Adinath Chakravarty, visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram for the first time in August 1965 and stayed for two and a half months. After her return to Calcutta, she wrote to the Mother expressing her wish to become an inmate of the Ashram. The Mother accepted her request and she joined the Ashram as an inmate in February 1968.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

When God descends upon this earth, he brings along with him into the lila his playmates, who assemble around him one by one. Among the extraordinary companions of Sri Aurobindo was Pujalal.

Pujalal-ji took birth on 17th June 1901 in Godhra, a village in the Panchmahal district of Gujarat. His father was Sri Ranchhoddasji Dalvadi and his mother, Dhulibai. Pujalal-ji’s father was courageous, strong and radiant. His mother was an embodiment of love, gentleness and compassion.

Pujalal’s ancestors were from Napa, a village in the Khera district. When the Muslim Nawab attacked, they moved from Napa to Godhra.

Before Pujalal’s birth, many children were born in his family, but they all died young. That’s why Puja was the apple of everyone’s eye. Prayers were offered to God beseeching a long life for Puja and he was named Punjalal.

His days of happy childhood were spent in Godhra. The families of Pujalal-ji, his grandfather and his elder uncle lived in three adjoining houses. There was a rather large pond in front, surrounded by several banana trees.

Puja’s grandfather loved him very much. From time to time he would go to Puja’s school and, with great warmth and tenderness, hand him one paisa as pocket money. (One paisa was worth a lot at that time. You could buy many things with it.) Quite often Puja’s grandfather would lovingly feed him with hot millet bread soaked in ghee and gur (molasses), a favourite Gujarati snack. At other times he would offer him a sweet made with ripe banana.

Puja-ji’s father was in the brick-business and owned about thirty-five bighas of land. He was as strong as he was short-tempered. Puja-ji remembered an incident: From time to time Muslim goondas in their neighbourhood used to make a lot of commotion. Once one of these goondas entered his house to cause trouble. Puja-ji’s father gave him such a thrashing that he dropped his weapon and fled. He did not trigger any disturbance after that.

When Puja was a child, his father once took him to a distant village, carrying him on his shoulders. The little boy astride his shoulders sat happily playing the table on his father’s head. The father said nothing, but upon returning home he gave him such a spanking that the neighbours came rushing to save the boy. The beating was so harsh that Puja developed fever. Everyone rebuked the father severely.

I asked Puja-ji: “How strong was your mother’s love for you?” He laughed and said: “Who else can love if not a mother? My dear mother loved me very much. Her love was immeasurable. An incident comes to mind.

“My younger sister’s name was Chanchal. My mother laid little Chanchal on the dolna (a rocking cradle) and went for a bath. She asked me to swing the cradle. Hardly had she left when my little sister started crying. I tried to quiet her sweetly but despite my efforts she did not stop crying. Then I thought of frightening her and so I went into the kitchen and came back with a burning piece of wood picked up from the wood-stove with a pair of tongs. I stood in front of Chanchal and imagined that on seeing this burning piece of wood she would get scared and shut up. Unfortunately the piece slipped from the tongs and landed on my little sister’s hand! Her tender hand got burnt at once. I too began screaming while my little sister was howling away. Mother rushed out on hearing the cries of her children and saw that my sister’s hand had got badly burnt with the burning piece of wood. But my mother said nothing to me. It took quite some time for the wound to heal, but my sister carried the scar all her life.”

Little Puja was admitted to the village school. After finishing there he joined an English school in Godhra.

Pujalal-ji mentioned in one of our conversations that he was extremely fond of swimming. There was a huge pond or a sort of lake behind their house. It may also have been a marsh. This pond or lake later got divided. A railway bridge was constructed over one part of the lake, a road to the royal palace went through another and an access road was laid through the third to reach the village. Next to this water-body was a huge tamarind tree. There was also a banyan on the embankment. By the pond near their house there was a small kutcha ghat and on the other side quite a large pucca one. Puja-ji used to enjoy bathing in this large pond. He would swim from one end of the pond to the other. But sometimes his friends would splash water on his face and eyes and disturb little Puja whenever he went to swim there. So then he would go to another pond to swim. By the pond there was a rather huge mango tree. One day he climbed onto this mango tree and jumped off into the pond. As he did not know anything about diving, he hurt his chest very badly. Then there was a pond with innumerable white lotuses. Puja-ji would swim to the centre and pluck the lotuses. From their seeds a delicious sweet was prepared. Once he swam for a long time with one of his relatives, shuttling from one end to the other, but later, when he was in the middle, he suddenly became breathless. By holding on to his relative he managed to reach the shore with great difficulty. On another occasion, while he was swimming in the pond he saw a Muslim man washing clothes. When he swam to his side the man gave him a huge slap. Little Puja could do nothing but turn back heavy-hearted.

As mentioned already, Puja was born in 1901. Swami Vivekananda was still alive. (He left his body in 1902.) From his childhood Puja was drawn to Swamiji. One of his friends who was a few years older used to tell him about Swamiji. From him he heard about Swami Vivekananda’s return to India after making his famous speech in America. When he came back, school and college students removed the horses from his carriage and started pulling it themselves. The young brides of the houses, who usually stayed indoors, came out of their houses to shower flowers on Swamiji’s carriage and performed arati before him. The entire route was lined with people. Everyone was eager to have at least a glimpse of this man. Puja loved remembering these incidents of Swamiji’s life.

When Puja finished class V in the English school of Godhra, he left Godhra to join the Parsi English school in Nadiad. There he stayed at his elder sister-in-law’s place. And thus his happy childhood days rolled on. Then it was time for a new chapter in his life.

In Nadiad a new chapter unfolded in Puja-ji’s life. After joining the Parsi English High School, he met Ambubhai Purani. Purani-ji had opened an akhara (gymnasium) in Nadiad where wrestling, lathi, knife play and other martial arts were taught. Puja-ji joined this akhara in order to practise and develop these skills.

Now, the principal of the Parsi school was lame. He did not appreciate sports or games or physical exercise. Besides, he feared that the presence of his schoolboys in these nationalist akharas could also attract the wrathful eye of the British Government. Therefore he tried to dissuade Puja several times from participating in the akhara. Puja repeatedly disobeyed him so he was dismissed and sent away without a certificate. Ambubhai took Puja to Ahmedabad, got an order from an official of the Education department and thus succeeded in getting Puja a certificate from the principal of the Parsi school. After this Puja enrolled in an English-medium high school.

Puja was an extremely energetic young boy. His brother-in-law once jokingly called him a monkey. Being called a monkey hurt him so deeply that he moved out of his sister’s house. His father was seriously ill at that time and the family’s financial situation was also rather tight. Puja rented a room and began living alone. He often ate just one meal a day in an inexpensive local restaurant while continuing with his studies. Later he moved in with Purani-ji.

At exam time Puja left with Purani-ji for Ahmedabad to sit for the matriculation examination there. A doctor they knew put them up in his bungalow. Ambubhai had another reason to go there and that was to start another gymnasium. At that time the Indian people were up in arms against the Rowlatt Act, which had just been passed. Some of them killed a British surgeon. The British Government reacted to this with very repressive laws. In retaliation, some people in Ahmedabad set fire to the examination hall and the matriculation test papers were torn up and destroyed. As a result Puja could not take the exam and returned to Nadiad. He took the exam a few days later somewhere else and passed successfully.

But Puja-ji was more interested in sports than in studies. He was good at different sorts of exercises, as well as wrestling, lathi, knife play and gymnastics. As for studies, though he was fond of history and geography, he could not come to terms with maths.

Puja-ji then enrolled in a college in Ahmedabad. Along with several other boys he rented a room above a temple. Purani-ji had opened a canteen for needy students, but this canteen was almost three miles from the place where they stayed. As a result, Puja-ji usually had just one meal a day, even as he carried on with his studies and his various physical activities at the gymnasium.

Once in the college sports meet, Puja came first in the quarter-mile run, beating a Parsi boy who was known to be the best in this event. (This boy went on to become a police inspector who harassed Indians considerably.) Hardly was the quarter-mile run over that the one-mile race was flagged off. Here Puja-ji came second. The governor distributed the prizes on this occasion.

Even though he was battling against poverty, Puja-ji stopped neither his studies nor his physical training at the gymnasium. He possessed very few clothes and had to go barefooted to college. The British principal objected to his coming to college barefooted. “What connection is there between education and wearing shoes?” Puja-ji asked. At night he slept on a bedsheet spread over a cold stone floor. Even in winter he had no other bedding and would cover himself with a part of his dhoti. In that biting cold, his body would just shiver and curl up. After a cold-water bath in the morning, he would walk three miles to the akhara and help Purani-ji with the gymnasium work. He never felt any physical discomfort at that time and was always happy. Purani-ji’s father, Ambalal Balkrishna Purani, had a sweet shop. Sometimes Puja-ji would go to his shop and eat sweets. At times he would walk three miles to a gymnasium in Sharangpur, munching almonds all the way. In those days in Gujarat, you could get a seer (about two pounds) of almonds for ten annas (a rupee was equivalent to sixteen annas).

While studying for his Intermediate degree, Puja chose science because he felt that it was necessary to master the sciences to take India forward. But since he was weak in maths he did not go very far and failed in his exams. Once again he paid his college fees in order to continue his studies. But even after paying his fees, he did not sit for the exam. Thus college education came to an end.

As mentioned earlier, Puja was drawn to sports, physical training and work for the country. The youth were intent on battling for the liberation of their Motherland and they realized that the Motherland would never achieve freedom unless her children became strong and fearless. Puja-ji therefore directed all his energies towards this service of the country. He accompanied Purani-ji to Bharuch to take up the training of boys in the gymnasium there. One more chapter now unfolded in his life.

Pujalal-ji went to Bharuch with Purani-ji and began training the boys in the gymnasium in the different skills of lathi, knife play and physical exercises.

The town of Bharuch is set on the Narmada, not very far from the sea. The river there is almost half a mile wide. On full moon or new moon nights when the sea is at low tide, big wall-like waves would rise in the Narmada.

Pujalal harboured a sort of fear of this river. Yet he knew that the presence of any sort of fear in the being was an obstacle to progress. Somehow he had to conquer this fear. How did he finally overcome it? Let us hear the story.

It was the dead of night and dense darkness reigned all around. The whole town was silent, not a sound or stir anywhere except the swelling waters of the Narmada. The river was flowing past at tremendous speed on the surge of its huge waves. The waves crashed on the banks relentlessly. A railway bridge stood across the river.

The time was after two, half past two at night. Puja-ji advanced towards the Narmada. He stopped for a moment and looked up at the sky. In the deep night even the sky appeared inky black, as if a huge eerie being pervaded space. Pujalal-ji lowered his gaze and in the thick of night behold Mother Narmada’s indescribable image before him. In a flash he jumped into the Mother’s waiting whirling arms. Overcoming the waves, frolicking through the waters, he swam on and on until he reached the other bank of this half-mile-wide river. Then he walked back across the rail bridge to the other side. He had overcome his dread of the river.

There were a few old forts in Bharuch. When the waters of the Narmada swelled up because of the tide they would enter these forts. Flooding was common. Once there was a very bad flood and the waters entered one of the old forts. People in the area went from house to house by boat. Even then, Purani-ji and Puja-ji used to bathe in the river every day.

One day, while going to the river, Purani-ji said, “We bathe in the river every day. Now, if one could swim in the Narmada, that would be an act of courage!” Puja-ji took up Purani-ji’s challenge and both of them jumped into the river. The river was very wide at that time—wherever you looked you saw only water. They aimed to reach a certain ghat, the ferryboat point. Both of them swam furiously as they were carried along by the surging waters. The current was strong and the two swimmers pushed against it to advance. Purani-ji managed to reach the ferry-ghat, but Puja-ji was caught by the current in the middle. It was difficult to escape the billowing waters and strong current in the middle. Puja-ji could neither advance nor retreat. Though stuck in the middle, he did not panic. At last he managed to get out of this current and after swimming a good distance reached the ferry-ghat.

The ferrymen and those at the ghat had been observing Puja-ji’s struggle with dismay. Seeing him reach the ghat, they all heaved a sigh of relief.

At times Puja-ji took some boys of the akhara for a walk along the Narmada. The famous Shulpanishwar temple of Shiva was almost sixty miles away on the bank of the Narmada, but still they would walk there. The Narmada is known as the Ganga of Gujarat. Everyone in Gujarat worships Mother Narmada uttering, “Narmada kankar, hey Shankar!” or “Vasey Shankar!” (In every pebble of the Narmada dwells Shankar.) Along the banks of the Narmada are several places of spiritual retreat for rishis and munis. Innumerable yogis, sadhus and sadhaks sit there, absorbed in their spiritual endeavour. In addition to these spiritual seekers the common people too converge on the Narmada with devout fervour. Hundreds of beautiful temples dot its banks.

On the Narmada’s banks, in a small hut near a village called Malsa, lived one Swami Madhodas. He was a spiritual seeker from Bengal who pursued a life of sadhana there. Puja-ji was very fond of this place. But by the time he went to Malsa, Swami Madhodas was no longer alive.

Puja-ji’s favourite saint was Shankarananda Giri Maharaj, a seeker of a very high calibre. He was the spiritual brother of Swami Brahmananda, the great yogi whom Sri Aurobindo had met on the banks of the Narmada. Like Brahmananda, he was said to be 250 or 300 years old, and both suffered from toothache! Shankarananda Giri Maharaj had a strong, compact physique. He reminded Puja-ji of the German chancellor Hindenberg during the First World War. Shankarananda had participated in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 which was the first clear battle-cry for India’s independence.

Having a darshan of Shankarananda Maharaj filled one with a feeling of great purity and the heart was suffused with faith and devotion. He had his ashram by the Narmada where a few of his disciples lived. There were also some fields attached to it. Once on his way back to Ahmedabad, Pujalal-ji stopped there for the night with his boys. Deeply touched by the purity of the ashram atmosphere, he decided to return there one day without the boys. And his resolve was sincere, for he did go back to the ashram all alone after accompanying the boys back home. He spent a few days there in extreme happiness. Shankarananda was very fond of him and welcomed him with a lot of affection. The swami did not allow everyone into the ashram. Maharaja Gaekwad of Baroda, for example, went to see him there, but Shankarananda Giri Maharaj did not meet him.

Once Pujalal sat in a quiet corner of the ashram reading the Gita by himself. Suddenly Shankarananda appeared before him and asked, “What are you up to young man?” “I’m reading the Gita,” Pujalal replied. “You can do that later. Serve Shankar first,” Shankarananda retorted. “Of course, I will serve Shankar. But now I need to get some knowledge; that’s why I am reading the Gita,” Pujalal answered quietly.

Purani-ji also went to see Shankarananda and stayed in his ashram for a few days. Ambubhai even worked on the fields. He was as robust as he was hard-working, and Shankarananda was extremely pleased with him.

At that time, Pujalal-ji had long hair and a bushy beard that covered his face. Shankarananda’s disciples used to address him as ‘Rishi-ji’. Of all the spiritual seekers and yogis Puja-ji had met, it was Shankarananda that Puja-ji was most fond of— after Sri Aurobindo. And this fondness was mutual.

Puja-ji also met Vishnu Bhaskar Lele who came to Ahmedabad once. Lele spoke for a long time with Purani-ji, but he did not inspire in him great faith. Pujalal-ji also went to visit Gandhi-ji’s Sabarmati ashram, but he did not enjoy it very much. Like Purani-ji, Puja-ji believed in the revolutionary path to gain freedom. His battle was to win freedom for his Motherland. They knew that unless her children were fearless, winning freedom for their Mother was impossible. That is why Purani-ji had set up clubs and gymnasiums everywhere in Gujarat to train the youth in martial arts and other physical exercises. They had sworn their lives for Mother India’s liberation.

Pujalal-ji’s ideal and inspiration was Swami Vivekananda. He never stopped reading his writings. To him they were a fountain of strength. Bhagwan Sri Ramakrishna’s words led him to the quest of the Ultimate.

After Bharuch, Pujalal-ji left for Kushindra to take charge of exercise-training in a gymnasium established by Purani-ji. While he was working at Kushindra, he received the grace of visiting Pondicherry for the first time. Two amusing incidents took place on his journey to Pondicherry.

Pujalal-ji got into a small train in order to proceed to Pondicherry. A muslim goonda along with his gang of hoodlums was sowing terror in this train by insulting and assaulting the passengers. He moved towards Puja-ji and twisted his leg. Pujalal-ji gave him a resounding slap in return. The fellow-passengers were delighted. The goonda’s gang pounced on Puja-ji and began pulling his hair and beard. At this point the fellow-passengers came to his rescue. What did he himself do in that situation? Pujalal-ji doesn’t remember. As soon as the train pulled into the next station, the goonda, fearing the police, took to his heels with his gang.

When Puja-ji reached the terminus, he got off to catch the big train. Since the train was scheduled to arrive only later, he lay down on a bench to rest and soon fell asleep; indeed, he slept for a very long time. Both the trains he could have taken had left by then. Where could he spend the night now? The railway police had been observing him and wondered, “He has been sleeping for so long on the platform. Two trains have come and gone and he still has not woken up. Who could he be? He must be a goonda.” They approached Puja-ji and ordered, “Let’s go.” “Where?” Puja-ji enquired. “To the police station,” they replied. With great difficulty, Pujalal-ji managed to convince the police that he was no goonda and that he had simply overslept in the station.

Pujalal-ji first came to Pondicherry either on the 23rd or 24th of October in 1923. Purani-ji had preceded him. In those days Sri Aurobindo used to come and sit on a chair in the verandah at eight o’clock in the morning. He would read the newspapers and meet any visitors who wished to see him. As soon as Puja-ji saw Sri Aurobindo, he felt that if there was God in the world, then this was verily he, that Purnabrahma Narayana. Puja-ji told Sri Aurobindo, “I want to take up yoga-sadhana.” “Why?” Sri Aurobindo asked. “For God,” Puja-ji replied. Sri Aurobindo then looked at him intently for a long time. After observing him thoroughly both within and without, he finally gave his consent for him to take up yoga. With his customary humility, Pujalal-ji told us, “I wasn’t, after all, a very good-natured chap.” Sri Aurobindo continued, “Keep aspiring to the Divine above.” Sri Aurobindo then moved his left hand above his head. “Aspire to him up there. The Divine will descend.”

Every day Pujalal-ji would make a flower-garland and put it around Sri Aurobindo’s neck. Then he would sit near him and meditate for a while. Even though he did not know the spiritual significance of the flower, the shefali or Aspiration flower was his favourite. After that, he would weave a garland for the Mother and offer it to her.

In those days, besides Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, there were very few people living in the Ashram. Nolini-da, Amrita-da, Moni, Bejoy Nag and a very small number of others lived with them. Puja-ji returned to Gujarat after his first visit to Pondicherry.

Once he came with Purani-ji’s wife Lilavati and her year-and-a-half-old daughter Anu. Pujalal-ji always loved children and little Anu used to adore him. After a couple of visits between Pondicherry and Gujarat in 1926, he came back to Pondicherry.

Every evening Puja-ji used to go for a walk along the sea-front. One evening, while taking his walk someone came running to call him. He was taken to the Ashram. The day was the 24th of November, 1926.

Puja-ji said, “Returning to the Ashram that day, I felt as if I were battling against a huge storm and massive winds in order to move forward. The closer I came to the Ashram, the more difficult it became to walk. Once I reached the Ashram I saw Nolini-da, Amrita-da and many others sitting quietly. I sat down in their midst. A little later Sri Aurobindo came out and behind him the Mother as well. It was the day when Sri Krishna’s consciousness descended. Sri Krishna’s consciousness came down into Sri Aurobindo that day.

“Sri Aurobindo’s complexion was like that of the golden champak flower. His cheeks were aglow with a roseate golden light. The Mother was wearing a saree and her head was covered. I could not see her face very well.

“Sri Aurobindo looked at everyone. We all went and bowed before him and the Mother. Sri Aurobindo held his left hand a few inches above the Mother’s head and blessed everybody with the right hand. He gave hints that henceforth he would carry out his work through the Mother. By accepting the Mother we would be led to Sri Aurobindo. The air was still. A profound silence pervaded the atmosphere, a sublime peace and ananda reigned all around. After everyone had finished their pranam, Sri Aurobindo sat for a while longer, waiting perhaps for anyone who had not yet come for the pranam. Then both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother slowly got up and went inside. The door closed behind them. At this point Datta, rapt in a divine trance, exclaimed: ‘The Lord has descended, He has conquered death and sorrow, He has brought down immortality.’”

*

After the 24th of November, 1926, Pujalal-ji remained in Pondicherry for good. The river had finally found the ocean. He surrendered himself at the Feet of the Mother.

Following the descent of Krishna’s consciousness, Sri Aurobindo withdrew into seclusion. From then, the Mother would sit daily for meditation with everyone at night, instead of in the evening. Very often she would go into a trance. At times she would remain in trance for two to three hours! What could the sadhaks do in such a situation? How long could they go on meditating? Many would fall asleep! And you could hear their loud snoring!

Upstairs, Sri Aurobindo used to pace up and down like a lion. During the meditation downstairs one could hear those solemn footfalls in the thick of night. Nothing escaped Sri Aurobindo’s consciousness. When he heard this snoring during the meditation almost every night, he asked the Mother to discontinue it. It was difficult for many to maintain a meditative consciousness at night. They quickly fell into the snoring consciousness!

Pujalal-ji told me that the Mother herself used to distribute soup to everyone in the room where the Reception room stands today, and while distributing soup she would sometimes go into a trance.

Sarala-di was a worthy daughter and caretaker of Pujalal-ji. She served him with great dedication and he showered a lot of affection on her. Everyone in the Ashram calls her Sarala-ben. She told me quite a few things about Puja-ji and I will tell them to you as we go along.

There’s a beautiful, blue statue of Krishna in Pujalal-ji’s room, a standing, smiling Sri Krishna with his flute. Beside him stands his beloved cow; even she is gazing lovingly at Sri Krishna. Sarala-di told me that it was Mrityunjoy’s mother who gave this statue to Pujalal-ji. It was white in the beginning. Brinda’s mother, Kalin-di, coloured it blue. Whenever this statue of Krishna faded, some artist or the other from the Ashram would repaint it.

An Ashram artist named Sarala Rastogi once took Krishna’s statue to her house because it needed repainting. But she took quite some time to do it. After a few days Puja-ji called Tara and told her, “Go and get Krishna back.” When Tara returned with Krishna, Puja-ji said, “This Sri Krishna is no ordinary statue made of clay. The Lord himself has infused life into it and dwells within.”

Puja-ji continued, “I have loved Lord Krishna from my very childhood. I would keep repeating Om namo bhagvate Sri Vasudevaya namah almost always, especially when I was out on a journey. This is a mahamantra. The Mother’s mantra for us is Om namo bhagvate. She has left a blank in place of Sri Vasudevaya namah. That blank can be filled with Sri Aravindaya namah and so you have Om namo bhagvate Sri Aravindaya namah.”

In his childhood Pujalal-ji once experienced the presence of Balkrishna, who was seated above his head. From there he began progressively descending into his throat, chest and abdomen. Wherever he descended, there followed a stream of ananda.

Another time Purani-ji’s wife, Lilavati-ben, cooked something for Sri Aurobindo and sent it to him with Pujalal-ji. In those days the Dining Room used to be situated where the present Fruit Room is. Puja-ji handed the cooked dish to Amrita-da or somebody else and then went and stood near the Reception Room. Suddenly he saw Sri Aurobindo coming down the staircase. Sri Aurobindo looked at Puja. “Ah, what a look that was!” exclaimed Puja-ji. “If there was God on earth, it was him.” Sarala-di, who told me the story, added, “That day Puja-ji had the darshan of the Supreme Absolute. It is impossible to describe that extraordinary form in words.”

When Puja-ji first came to the Ashram, Sarala-di observed, he had splendid long hair and his face was covered with an impressive beard. The Mother used to admire his hair, saying, “Such long hair!” or “Such curly hair!”

And thus many years passed and the young boy became a middle-aged man. His beard and hair started turning grey!

The first Group for physical activity started in the Ashram in 1945 on Dada’s (Pranab-da’s) initiative. Before the advent of these sporting activities in the Ashram, most sadhaks sported long hair and luxurious beards. As soon as sporting activities began, many of them chopped off their long hair and beard on the Mother’s advice. But Puja-ji did not give his up. There probably was some talk among the sadhaks about this. So Puja-ji told the Mother, “It is because you like my hair that I haven’t touched it.” The Mother answered, “You were young then. Now you have grown up. Grey hair and a grey beard don’t look good on you now.”

Puja-ji went that very day to get his hair and beard cut. When the hairless, beardless Pujalal went to work upstairs, nobody recognised him! It was only Mother who recognised him, seeing his eyes. She took him by the hand and led him to Sri Aurobindo, “Look! Here is your new Puja!” Puja-ji bowed to Sri Aurobindo and Sri Aurobindo blessed him by placing both his hands on Puja-ji’s head.

“By cutting off my hair and beard,” Puja-ji confessed, “I gained immensely. I received my Guru’s blessings! In those days nobody was allowed to go and see him. By cutting off my beard and hair, I had his darshan, his touch and his blessings!”

The Mother told Dada that two photographs of Puja-ji were sent to her, one in which he had a beard and long hair and the other in which he was without them. The Mother laughed a lot seeing the two pictures. “Ancient yogi” she said on seeing the first photograph. The second one for her was “Modern yogi”.

Dada mentioned two other incidents from Pujalal-ji’s life. One day Pujalal-ji was giving a demonstration of lakdi patta (movements with a wooden stick and shield) at the Playground before the Mother. He had a wooden stick in one hand and a shield in the other and simulated sword-play. This was a very popular form of sport in Gujarat. Pujalal-ji most probably gave this demonstration with Vishnu-bhai. When the demonstration was over, the Mother turned to Dada and said, “Did you notice the fire in Puja’s eyes?”

On another occasion Pujalal-ji organised a Garba dance programme. All the children, especially the Gujarati ones, from the various groups took part in it. The Mother was present for this programme too.

After settling down in the Ashram for good, Pujalal-ji began working upstairs in the Mother’s room, cleaning the carpet, painting the rooms and furniture, etc. After some time he felt that he was not fit for Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. So one day, while working upstairs, he told the Mother, “Mother, I am not fit for yoga and sadhana. I have too many shortcomings. I am far too weak. That’s why I don’t wish to remain here.”

The Mother replied, “The Divine does not descend all the time. It happens very rarely, after a long, long time. It is not right, therefore, to leave Him and go away. You just go on doing your work.”

Puja-ji felt that the Mother was telling him to simply go on serving. This service itself was his yoga and his sadhana.

Everyday Puja-ji would begin his work in the Mother’s room before daybreak. The Mother would herself open the door. At that auspicious moment, before the arrival of the goddess of dawn, he would have the vision of the Mother of the universe!

Once Puja-ji went to work upstairs as usual at that auspicious time. The Mother opened the door and said, “There is a bird sitting at the door. Sri Aurobindo has asked that the bird should not be disturbed.” Sri Aurobindo had told this to the Mother even before Puja arrived!

He began working very silently so that the bird was not disturbed in any way. Then at daybreak the bird flew away. “Just see, how much love and compassion there was in Sri Aurobindo’s heart for all life,” Pujalal-ji remarked.

Some time after this, Puja-ji had jaundice, but he did not know it. It was the Mother who saw his yellowish eyes and sent him to the doctor. After this, she reduced his work by half. Lalu-bhai came in, in order to relieve Puja-ji.

When Puja was staying at Kushindra, Lalu was only four or five. When Lalu came to Pondicherry he spoke only a smattering of English. But after coming here, he learned both English and French. He was able to read Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s works in the original. He would sometimes even catch misprints or overlooked errors in their books. He also learnt to speak Bengali, Oriya and Tamil. Puja-ji told me, “When Lalu used to stand before Sri Aurobindo, his palms were always joined in salutation.”

A pigeon used to come and perch atop one of Sri Aurobindo’s cupboards. Naturally it would foul the cupboard with its droppings, but Sri Aurobindo never shooed it away. Such was his love and gentleness toward living creatures.

One day an own flew into Puja-ji’s room. Seeing Puja-ji, it suddenly dropped dead! But Puja-ji knew that owls often faked death. After coming back from his bath, he noted that the owl was sitting merrily on its perch once again. The owl’s ability to act amused him immensely. Later he went to the Mother and told her about it. The Mother said, “It might be sick. Take him very gently and leave him in the garden.” So he put him gently on a tree in the garden.

After the descent of Krishna’s consciousness in 1926, Sri Aurobindo went into seclusion. At that time, nobody except the Mother could see him. This seclusion continued until the accident in 1938. But in the early 1930’s, everyone began writing to him. He would answer their letters day after day, often late into the night. In those days there were many women in the Ashram who had not had much education. Many of them did not speak English, so they would write to Sri Aurobindo in their mother-tongue. The Gujarati women wrote to him in Gujarati. Sri Aurobindo knew some Gujarati. And he kept a Gujarati-English dictionary, which he would consult whenever the need arose.

Once someone offered two coconuts to the Mother. These nuts had begun to germinate. The Mother asked Puja to plant them in the soil and let them grow. First Puja planted the coconuts in a tub filled with earth which he kept on the terrace where Navajata’s room stands today. When the trees started growing, they were transplanted into the ground, one inside the Ashram and the other in Golconde. The tree in the Ashram never grew very high. A Service tree was planted near it, so the coconut tree could not grow very tall, though it had been planted earlier. Once during a storm, the Service tree got almost uprooted. Puja-ji and some others tied some ropes in order to prop it up. But today the roots of this tree have spread all around and some have even reached the surrounding streets outside. At several places, under the pressure of these roots, the cemented floor has been affected.

Pujalal-ji used to live at the Guest House in the beginning. He would work at the Ashram from four in the morning until eleven at night. He had his meals in Dyuman-bhai’s room and would also rest there. Later, the Mother wanted him to move to the Ashram main-building and showed him two places there: the Fruit-room area and the room on the southern side of the Samadhi which was then made of mud (from there butter-distribution would take place), and asked him to choose where he wanted to shift. Pujalal-ji selected the mud-house. The Mother got the mud-house pulled down and had the present room constructed. When it was ready Pujalal-ji was asked to shift. He requested the Mother to grace the space by walking into the room before him. “A palace!” the Mother exclaimed as she entered the room.

When Pujalal-ji moved from the Guest House to the Ashram, he brought with him a Champa tree (Psychological perfection) and transplanted it in front of the Fruit-room window on the north. It still stands there today, laden with flowers spreading its fragrance all year long.

Asked by Sarala-di about Sri Aurobindo’s shifting from his room above the Reception to his final residence above the Meditation Hall, Pujalal recalled: “Sri Aurobindo was living in seclusion after the descent of the Overmind, so when the time came for him to move to his new residence, a passage was especially prepared for this occasion. Saris were hung on either side of this passage right from the room above the Reception up to the new residence. Then Sri Aurobindo walked through this passage leading to his room, without being seen by anybody.”

Sri Aurobindo lived in a room above the present Reception and Reading rooms until 1926. Meanwhile the Mother had bought the house where Sri Aurobindo’s room is at present. In those days there was just a mud-house there with a big mango tree in front. After this house was bought, a cat came and took refuge with the Mother. This cat was named Bushy. Bushy offered herself at the Feet of the Mother. Bushy was provided with fish every day. Once when she was served an unusually big fish, she gripped it between her teeth, climbed all the way upstairs and showed it to the Mother. On another occasion she saw a mouse and started playing hide-and-seek with it. The poor mouse died of fright! Instead of gobbling it up, Bushy brought the mouse to show to the Mother. Placing the dead mouse in front of the Mother, she began playing with it, showing off all sorts of acrobatic tricks, as if she were performing some very heroic acts. Often Bushy would follow the Mother up to Sri Aurobindo’s door. She wanted to see Sri Aurobindo very much but at that time no one was allowed to enter his room. Often she would jump up and try to enter his room, but she never succeeded. Later Bushy gave birth to two kittens. One was named Castor; I don’t remember the second kitten’s name. One of the kittens got his neck caught in an iron hook once, and nobody could manage to get him off the hook. Finally Puja-ji held the kitten by the neck and managed to free it from the hook.

The Mother had another favourite cat. Puja-ji did not remember its name. It would sleep in the Mother’s bed.

Sri Aurobindo had a large he-cat named Big Boy. Big Boy had a little brother named Kiki. Kiki was a very quiet cat and used to be scared of Big Boy. Sri Aurobindo would feed Big Boy with his hand. If Sri Aurobindo showed any affection to another cat such as Kiki, Big Boy would get upset and angry.

Often, one cat or another would comfortably settle down in Sri Aurobindo’s chair. Sri Aurobindo would never drive them away. He would just make a little space for himself in such a way that the cat was not disturbed. That is the kind of love he harboured for all beings.

Pujalal-ji was a poet-devotee. He has written many poems and invocations in Sanskrit, English and Gujarati to the Mother, to Sri Aurobindo and to Sri Krishna. No other sadhak in the Ashram has written as much on the Mother. That’s why she aptly nicknamed him “My Poet”.

Pujalal-ji used to sit daily for meditation in his room facing the Samadhi. One day while he was sitting in this way, he received a ‘command’ from Sri Aurobindo that Savitri needed to be translated into Gujarati. Puja-ji wrote to the Mother about this. The Mother read his letter and blessed him to start the work. Only after getting the Mother’s blessing did Puja-ji undertake the Gujarati translation of this great epic by the Master.

Sarala-di mentioned in one of our conversations that Pujalal-ji was one of Mahasaraswati’s sons and so was blessed by her. She constantly showered her Grace and Compassion on him. While translating Savitri he did not need to think at all; the Gujarati translation came down to him canto after canto all in one block, carrying with it the right words and the right meaning, couched in flawless beauty.

Pujalal-ji also translated the totality of the poems written by Sri Aurobindo except for Ilion and Songs to Myrtilla, as well as The Supreme Discovery and numerous other writings of the Mother. Pujalal-ji wrote a book on the different forms of poetry entitled Chchandapravesh.

Pujalal-ji studied only till the 12th class but some of his writings are now prescribed texts in the schools, colleges and universities of Gujarat. A number of doctoral theses have also been written on his writings.

Puja-ji was much loved by the children of the Ashram and you could see children crowding around him in his room. He would teach them Sanskrit shlokas or verses. In the beginning this happened near the staircase leading up to Kamala-ben’s room and the Ashram would then be filled with the sweet voices of children reciting Sanskrit verses.

A boy called Partho came to the Ashram when he was two. He met Pujalal-ji and became friends with him. If anyone talked about him, Pujalal-ji would always say, “my Partho”. From time to time he would recite to Partho in Bengali Tagore’s poem, ‘Puraton Bhrityo’.

As a little boy, Partho used to enjoy listening to stories. He knew the stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata by heart. He especially loved hearing tales of devotion and heroism. He had a special affection for the life of Maharana Pratap. He would run around the house wielding a stick and shield and shouting some strange things. Partho’s mother told Pujalal-ji about this. After listening to her, he observed, “There’s obviously some connection with a past life.” Pujalal-ji had a profound respect and admiration for the Maharana of Mewar. “Rana Pratap ka nam lenese mera khoon ublata hai.” (My blood rages at the mere name of Rana Pratap!)

Puja-ji once told me that in one of his previous lives he had been a friend and court-poet of Prithviraj Chauhan, the king of Delhi and Ajmer. His name was Chandrabardai and he was known as Chand-kavi. One day Puja-ji told me about Prithviraj’s heroism and he extolled his warrior qualities, his skill at wielding different weapons and his expertise in archery. Prithviraj could shoot an arrow on target just by listening to the sound. His greatness and generosity are unrivalled. “During the reign of Prithviraj, Mohammad Ghori attacked his kingdom. After a fierce battle Prithviraj defeated him. But just see his greatness and generosity. He did not harm the vanquished enemy but forgave him and sent him back to his kingdom. But then Mohammad Ghori returned to attack Prithviraj with more troops. A tremendous battle ensued. Through crookedness, force and craft he managed to defeat Prithviraj. He blinded him after the battle. In Chandrabardai’s account, the blind Prithviraj is said to have killed Mohammad Ghori with an arrow, although historically it is believed that Mohammad Ghori defeated and killed Prithviraj in the second big battle. Prithviraj was too good a human being. Though he was peerless in bravery he was unfamiliar with deceit and duplicity. He could never imagine that someone he had forgiven after defeating him in battle could return to destroy him.

Once little Partho went with his parents for a holiday to Delhi, Hardwar etc. Puja-ji told him before leaving “Write to me from there.” Partho wrote to him when he reached Delhi and in reply Puja-ji sent him a beautiful one-page letter. In that letter he wrote a shloka from the Gita Mahatmyam:

Sarvopanishado gavo dogdha gopalnandanah
Partho vatsah sudhirbhokta dugdham gitamritam mahat.

Maurice, a former student on our Ashram School, fondly remembers: “As a little boy, I used to go to Pujalal-ji every morning around 6 to learn Sanskrit shlokas from him. Pujalal-ji would write each shloka in his extraordinarily neat hand in the notebook and then ask me to recopy it. This may have helped in memorising the shloka. I was always amazed at how quickly I would be able to commit the shloka to memory. It obviously had to do with the climate of gentle heart-warming love and affection that Pujalal-ji created between the teacher and the student. I cannot forget that atmosphere in the room with Pujalal-ji sitting serene, and relaxed (as if time didn’t exist!), totally composed, with this soft, gentle affection streaming all around him, as he repeated a shloka: it was like a Vedic ashram, with children sitting around a rishi and breathing in purity and warmth and knowledge all at the same time from the environing air itself! That formidable mix of the morning breeze, the presence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother inside the Ashram, the fragrance of the flowers and incense from the Samadhi a few metres away, the sound of those pristine Sanskrit syllables uttered in an unhurried steady voice by this unbelievably gentle loving teacher blending with the sweet birdsong and squirrel-chirping from the Service tree—it was all quite overwhelming, really, even for a child like me!”

There is another incident that Maurice recounted which merits retelling: “Once I was with Pujalal-ji in his room. We had finished our shloka-session. He affectionately put a toffee into my hand, I remember, which I unwrapped and popped into my mouth. To us children, getting a toffee in those days was a source of tremendous joy. Mother used to give us toffees, Dada used to give us toffees, our captains used to give us toffees. In that joy of getting a toffee, I carelessly forgot about the wrapper and left it on the floor. As I got up to go, I looked up at Pujalal-ji to take my leave and then froze. His calm, collected look had such an intensity that I knew something was not quite right. He was angry, but in an incredibly controlled way. It felt as if a mountain were piercing my soul with its lofty impassivity, sending out a flame of fire to purge the air of some wrong movement of consciousness. It was the toffee wrapper! Quickly I bent down, picked it up and dropped it in the bin in a corner of the room. One more lesson had been learnt by default: the slightest negligence of any sort was the reflection of a shabby consciousness that was not worthy of the Mother’s children. This vigilance in regard to neatness and beauty was a part of Pujalal-ji.”

Partho once went to see Puja-ji with his mother after quite a long time. Sarala-di said “What happened? Why haven’t you come for all these days?” Partho’s mother answered, “So many people have come from far away and they have all come here to meet you. That’s why we didn’t disturb you.” Puja-ji gently smiled and remarked, “So what if many people have come? You should still come and meet me.” Such was his love and affection for one and all.

And then the 27th of December 1985 arrived. It was the birthday of Sri Adinath Chakravarty, a disciple of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. We went with him to meet Puja-ji a little before half past seven in the evening. He was lying in bed as for quite some time he had been ailing. All the physical suffering and pain he bore with an ever-present smile. He looked at us tenderly and offered us toffees as usual. To Adinath Chakravarty he gave a beautiful handkerchief. He also gave him some sweets and held his hand for a long time. Then he looked at me with a gaze brimming with tenderness. I felt at that moment that he would not remain long on this earth. But who could have foreseen that only a little while later he would return to the Mother’s arms.

Dr. Dilip Datta came at eight. He examined him and said, “You are all right, now.” Puja-ji replied that he was feeling fine. After the doctor left, two boys who were in Pondicherry for a youth camp told Puja-ji “Since you are fine, can we have dinner at the Dining Room and come back?” “I am very well,” Puja-ji replied, “I have laid myself at the Feet of the Mother, so you have nothing to worry about. It is all in her hands now. I am free. You, too, offer yourselves at the Feet of the Mother and live in ananda.” These were his last words.

After this Lalu-bhai arrived. Sarala-di said, “You’ve come early today.” Lalu-bhai gave Puja-ji his medicine but as he was pouring water into Puja-ji’s mouth, the water trickled out. Sarala-di asked him to sit up and take the medicine. But by then Puja-ji had already gone.

It was Uttarayan, the full moon of the month of Maghi. He had chosen this auspicious day himself to return to the Mother. The jivatman merged with the Paramatman.

Puja-ji used to say, “Pray to the Mother that she hold you by both your arms and never leave you.” He would say, “I feel that service to the Divine is everything. I have never done any yoga. I don’t even know what yoga is. You can get everything through service. Always, in every activity, we must remember Him. Being human we tend to forget Him and get engrossed in something else. It is the Divine who does the sadhana for us. What can we do so that He does the yoga and sadhana for us? Look at His Grace and compassion: if we take one small step towards Him, He moves ten strides forward to embrace us.”

*

Mother with Pujalal on 25.10.1954The Mother with Pujalal on 25 October 1954

*

The Rainbow Bridge: A Comparative Study of Tagore and Sri Aurobindo—A Review

The Rainbow Bridge

Title: The Rainbow Bridge: A Comparative Study of Tagore and Sri Aurobindo. Author: Goutam Ghosal. Publisher: D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd. Price: Rs. 420 (Hard-cover). Number of pages: 235. ISBN: 81-246-0418-5.

The nineteenth century witnessed the birth of two of the greatest sons of Bengal between 1861 and 1872. They hailed from different backgrounds, received different education and shone brightly in their respective fields of work. One attained international fame as a poet, author and thinker while the other was a successful politician who went on to become one of the greatest seer-philosopher-yogis of all time. Destiny made both of them come in close contact with each other and thus took birth a deep bond of mutual adoration and reverence the splendour of which never faded away. When their motherland was going through a turbulent phase, the poet bowed down before the politician for the invaluable sacrifice he had made for the sake of his country and offered his salutations through his verses. The politician who relinquished his political career and became one of the greatest yogis of the bygone century proclaimed very distinctly that the poet had been a wayfarer towards the same goal as his. The poet was Rabindranath Tagore while the politician-turned-yogi was Sri Aurobindo.

Rabindranath and Sri Aurobindo were formally introduced to each other in 1906 at Calcutta. Soon they became colleagues at the newly formed National College (under the National Council of Education) at Calcutta; while Sri Aurobindo was associated with it as its first Principal and professor of history, Rabindranath served the college as the professor of Bengali. When Sri Aurobindo was arrested for the first time in 1907 for publishing seditious articles against the British Government in the Bande Mataram journal, Rabindranath wrote his famous poem Namaskar (Salutations) acknowledging the former’s profound sacrifice and expressing his own reverence for Sri Aurobindo. After Sri Aurobindo was released from imprisonment due to lack of evidence, Rabindranath paid him a visit at the residence of Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick in Wellington Square. As per reports available, he had embraced Sri Aurobindo and told him with a tender smile: “You have deceived me, Aurobindo Babu.” Sri Aurobindo answered: “Not for long, I assure you.” (Charu Chandra Dutta, My Friend and My Master, Sri Aurobindo Circle, Eight Number, p. 137, 1952)

Sri Aurobindo retired from active politics in 1910 and made Pondicherry the cave of his tapasya where he devoted his time to intense sadhana. There was no direct contact between Rabindranath and him till 1928 when Rabindranath—on his way to Colombo—sent a telegram to Sri Aurobindo and expressed his eagerness to meet the secluded yogi at Pondicherry. It is noteworthy that Sri Aurobindo had withdrawn into complete seclusion after November 1926 and neither did he grant private interviews to individuals nor did he appear before the public except on Darshan days. But he made an exception when he received Rabindranath’s telegram and agreed to meet him. Rabindranath arrived at Pondicherry on 29 May 1928 and was ushered to Sri Aurobindo’s apartments by Nolini Kanta Gupta, the Secretary of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Though Rabindranath spent half an hour in the company of Sri Aurobindo, nothing is known about the talks they had. However, Rabindranath penned his experiences of meeting Sri Aurobindo in two articles in English and Bengali which were published in The Modern Review and Probasi respectively both edited by Ramanananda Chatterjee. Rabindranath wrote:

‘At the very first sight I could realise that he had been seeking for the soul and had gained it, and, through this long process of realisation, had accumulated within him a silent power of inspiration. His face was radiant with an inner light and his serene presence made it evident to me that his soul was not crippled or cramped to the measure of some tyrannical doctrine which takes delight in inflicting wounds upon life.

‘I felt the utterance of the ancient Hindu Rishi spoke from him of that equanimity which gives the human soul its freedom of entrance into the All. I said to him: “You have the Word and we are waiting to accept it from you. India will speak through your voice to the world: Hearken to me…”

‘Years ago I saw Aurobindo in the atmosphere of his earlier heroic youth and I sang to him: “Aurobindo, accept the salutation of Rabindranath.” Today I saw him in a deeper atmosphere of reticent richness of wisdom and again sang to him in silence: “Aurobindo, accept the salutation of Rabindranath.”’

Rabindranath and Sri Aurobindo never met after 1928 but an indirect contact continued between them thanks to the efforts of Dilip Kumar Roy who wrote to Rabindranath about Sri Aurobindo and to Sri Aurobindo about Rabindranath, thus, acted as a liaison between both of them.

Innumerable articles have been written in English and Bengali in the past several decades drawing comparative evaluations between Sri Aurobindo, the Seer-Sage, and Rabindranath Tagore, the World-Poet and many more would see the light of day in the near and distant future. But here comes The Rainbow Bridge, an offering from the pen of Dr. Goutam Ghosal, which has not only surpassed all the prior comparative studies on these two great contemporaries but posterity would also refer to it as one of the greatest resource books of all time on the said theme.

There are thought-provoking and well-researched chapters which are devoted to the poetry, songs and paintings of Rabindranath, Sri Aurobindo’s dramas and other themes but what shines radiantly like bright jewels are brilliantly written chapters like “Nationalism and Postnationalism”, “Education: An Integral Approach”, “Towards a New Aesthetics”, “Man and the New Species” and “Tagore and Sri Aurobindo on Modern Poetry”. The author has shown how the thoughts and works of Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath are complementary and how both have lighted up the status of one another.

Some noteworthy similarities between Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath have also been appropriately discussed by the author. For instance, he has illustrated how they saw life as a whole and how Beauty acted as a guiding force in their lives and works; both were in love with the world and as they were interested to experience life, they strived to express life’s integral vision as well as its totality. They were ‘Nature-mystics’ even from their days of apprenticeship (p. 24), promoted India’s glorious past and were defenders of Indian culture and heritage; they recognized the value of Eastern spirituality and Western materialism and believed that education should be integral and complete, hence, stressed on national education. They emphasized on the ‘role of the individual in building a sound collective life’ since life was a perpetual creation to both of them. They knew that love and joy were the two ways which led to the Supreme. And finally, both aimed to create an ideal society. Through The Rainbow Bridge, the author has shown how Rabindranath echoed Sri Aurobindo’s perceptions and formed a bridge to move across to the higher worlds of Sri Aurobindo’s vision.

At the same time the author has also discussed some of the dissimilarities which existed between the views of Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath. For instance, according to him, Sri Aurobindo explored the mysteries of Nature whereas Rabindranath tried to feel them. He has also pointed out how Sri Aurobindo’s poetry lacked the sweetness which crowned Rabindranath’s poetic and lyrical creations for, according to him, Sri Aurobindo had ‘sacrificed sweetness in favour of great realizations and discoveries’ (p. 227).

The Rainbow Bridge is not just a gift from an accomplished writer to his readers but it is also a treasure to cherish for this book stands as a class apart in the world of non-fiction classics.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Auro-Ratna Award 2014: A Report

SM

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

The fifth “Auro-Ratna Award” ceremony was held on Sunday, 28 December 2014 at the ‘Hall of Harmony’ in the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry. As already mentioned, the recipient of the “Auro-Ratna Award” for 2014 was Smt. Shobha Mitra for her contribution in the field of music. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, had hosted the said award ceremony.

Shri Manoj Dasgupta (Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and Registrar of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education), Shri Debranjan Chatterjee (Librarian, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Library), Shri Swadesh Chatterjee, senior professor at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Shri Swadhin Chatterjee, in-charge of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Smt. Krishna Chakravarti (senior member of Central Office of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Board Member of Overman Foundation), Smt. Ratna Chakravarti (teacher of music at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education), Shri Maurice Shukla (noted translator), Smt. Sumitra Cazade (daughter of the late Prithwi Singh Nahar and younger sister of Sujata Nahar), her husband Monsieur Bernard Cazade and Smt. Deepshikha Reddy (Trustee, Sri Aurobindo Centre of Advanced Research) were among the innumerable guests who were present at the ‘Hall of Harmony’.

The function 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 achievements of Smt. Shobha Mitra in the field of music. He further added: “Art is generally created keeping in mind the philosophy of ‘art’s for art’s sake’. But Shobha-di belongs to that rare class of composers who create not merely for the sake of art but for the sake of the Divine. Music is her medium of doing the sadhana and that’s why her compositions are so unique. They not only touch the heart but the soul as well. So it is our privilege that we have got the opportunity to felicitate Shobha-di — whom the late M. P. Pandit had called a ‘worthy child of the Mother’ with the ‘Auro-Ratna Award’— named after Sri Aurobindo.”

1

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I don’t think Anurag has left anything for me to say because he has said everything. For me it is a little awkward and embarrassing to speak of someone who is practically a family member. Shobha — I say Shobha, not Shobha-di — well, we have grown up together. I remember we used to have the same music class with Dilip-da—Dilip Kumar Roy—and Sahana-di but what is amazing—while I was hearing Anurag, really we don’t take into account all the things that has been going on in the Ashram quietly in one corner. But you see, the achievement of Shobha is something outstanding and what I practically appreciate and am thankful to Shobha that—you see, after Dilip-da and Sahana-di, there were various music teachers what comes to my mind like Tinkori-da and many individuals, Romen-da in the music. Sunil-da, of course, was a thing apart. Sunil-da is Sunil-da—his is the music of the future as the Mother has said. What I found and appreciate in Shobha: not only has she a good grounding in Indian Classical Music but the way she has trained practically any student you name in the Centre of Education who has learnt music, singing—they have been a student of Shobha. And she has done her work very quietly; not with any fanfare. So that is what is appreciative. But what I personally like of Shobha’s compositions: I seem to have a glimpse of the influence of Sunil-da’s music, that there is an opening to the New Music which Mother has been speaking of; that is certainly the influence of Mother’s music. In many of her music, if you listen carefully you will find many of the chords are reminiscent of Mother’s music. And that is the main thing for me. One must have a good grounding in the Classical Music is true but in our Centre of Education we are looking forward to something new. And Shobha has done her job and is doing her job. Thank you.”

After Shri Manoj Dasgupta, Smt. Krishna Chakravarti was requested to speak about Smt. Shobha Mitra. Her brief speech is as follows:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Dear Shobha-di, no words can express what alchemy/ you music does to me. I can only say what I feel. It stirs the heart, the soul and the thirst for the light and love of the Mother because your music carries with it your love and dedication to the service of the Mother and that is what I feel whenever I listen to your music — the stirring of the soul for some more light and love for the Mother.”

Shri Anurag Banerjee then requested Smt. Deepshikha Reddy to say a few words about Smt. Shobha Mitra. The text of Smt. Deepshikha Reddy’s speech is as follows:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I really feel so nervous because first of all let me acknowledge that I feel great among the greats, sitting beside Manoj-da, I couldn’t imagine…”

Shri Manoj Dasgupta: “She is the greatest among the greats.” (Laughter)

Smt. Deepshika Reddy: “Occasion is Shobha-di. Oh my God! It really unnerves you. Our dear Anurag—you have told me to speak something on this occasion. Since I am not a speaker like Manoj-da who gets up and the flow just comes like that. I jotted down certain points, certain things, it will be a little boring for me to read those but don’t worry, just concentrate on the content. They are my feeling and my experiences of Shobha-di.

“As Manoj-da said, I also wrote right in the beginning it is very difficult to say something about somebody you have been close to for the last more than four decades amongst us and I have been so close to her like many, many of us that… like in the Ashram you feel since we all are living close together, that we know each other, we know about each other but when it comes to Shobha-di I always felt that a part of her — somehow or the other — she didn’t let me know. Or maybe she didn’t let anyone know. Somewhere you knew her but still there was a bit that was veiled from us. Very sweet and tender, extremely friendly as she has always been, but several times, I and some other friends also felt that she was a little too strict or too rigid—if I can use the word—about certain things. ‘Perhaps it was not necessary’, we used to feel—you know—we have known her since we were in our early years. But then, as Anurag said, her book when in 2012 Mayer Divya Sannidhye and I was so fortunate she gave me the book and when you go through the book, it was only then that the secret—as I said her personality was a bit shrouded in mystery for me—a part of her personality—that kind of got revealed after you read the book.

“Everybody always obeyed her, we all did; all her instructions and advice with deep respect and love. Such has been her a kind of awe-inspiring personality—very firm and steady from within even though she has been so petite and delicate in frame. But questions were still there. In her life, after reading that book we understood—I understood for myself—perhaps she never ever did anything without the permission or the guidance of the Mother. It had been a lifelong guidance for each and every small and big, serious or non-serious, spiritual or mundane, intense or ordinary, every thought and feeling, every emotional sentiment was put before the Mother. It was then that I understood why she did not like or encourage certain kind of music because Mother did not like those. How to conduct the little nitty-gritties, how to conduct rehearsals, programmes, strict discipline with intense aspiration, day after day, how she tuned herself to the Mother’s guidance is most fascinating to read the account, almost a daily or weekly written record so authentic and original that it really touches us most profoundly. How the Mother taught her to expand her consciousness, to become more receptive, to exercise her will and inner determination including how to bear physical suffering and illness etc. We learn Mother’s ways of dealing with us. You know that Bengali song—amar hath dhore tumi niye cholo sokha, ami je path janina. This was Shobha-di’s intimacy with the Mother who indeed led by her finger.

“She was chosen or just now as Anurag mentioned—as an instrument to set up the Music Section in the Ashram and her journey of yoga was to be through music only. This was not easy to say the least. It was an arduous task that needed a deep surrender. How she was given the necessary strength and how the Mother prepared her—I would rather say chiseled her inch-by-inch with Her grace is an incredible story of high sincerity and surrender. These accounts are our invaluable treasures. Before Shobha-di, Manoj-da’s didi Priti-di’s book totally inundated us. I am sure all of us have read it. With the Mother’s grace and Her immeasurable love for her children, these books do not speak of any philosophy or psychology; they project our individual sweet Mother of Love as She was one among us—the mortal ones. These books make us feel Her tangible presence when we read them. Many have told me after reading Priti-di’s book and two persons have also told me recently after reading Shobha-di’s book that their very relationship with the Mother had changed. Mother became so much more intimate to them only after reading Priti-di’s book and later Shobha-di’s. How many times we have cried and wondered and closed the book and felt Her presence so close to us. What else we are here for? Only to experience this, isn’t it? Shobha-di, my deep gratitude to you for your precious contribution to posterity.

“Among the many ways that Shobha-di was graced as we know from her multi-faceted experiences—little bit our Anurag has already traced out—what not she did? She was a painter, she was a wonderful calligrapher, she was, of course, as a musician—we know—a wonderful composer from dance-drama to orchestration—what not she has done! When you read the book then you get to know all of it. I don’t need to say, those of you who haven’t must read. Perhaps the first prints are over, I think, the second prints are yet to come but I think it is absolutely a must.

“One of the abilities that was opened in her or revealed to her was the ability to compose or write perhaps the original scores in Hindustani ragas. She did not know anything about it. In fact when she was teaching music, when she was given the Music Section, when all her songs were finished, whatever she knew, her stock of music was finished, one day she went and told the Mother that what am I to do now? Then the Mother said: “Well, you create your own music.” She said: “I don’t know much. I have never done that. So?” And well, we don’t know what Mother gives to whom at what time but the midas touch was put in to her or given to her. And that particular fine day, after the Mother told her she was put in contact with the world of Sur or Shruti. Waves after waves of Sur started invading her being, bursting forth from her, as if she did not know how to contain them. Such was the grace of the Mother!

“We all know — I don’t need to say nor do I have time — about the hundreds and hundreds of songs that she has written or even many, many more that she has composed. I shall close my appreciation — if you may say so — with singing two lines from Shobha-di’s composition which I absolutely love. I mean, we love so many of them as Krishna-di was saying, that it really touches you so deep, so very deep, but one of them. I know this is not a musical forum. It is a song in Bengali and it’s basically in Rag Basant—basically because there is a little bit of tori notes in the antara. I’ll sing the first two lines only. The words are: Alokito jhankrito hridi-momo majhe—it is on the Mother—Tomar madhur dhwani baaje/ Mago mamtamoyee, dharani sajilo aj tomar agomoni saaje. Alokito jhankrito—a very rough translation—radiant, filled with sounding splendour; hridi-momo majhe—in my heart; tomar madhur dhwani baaje—or rather my heart rings with your honey-sweet vibrations. Mago mamtamoyee—O my sweetest compassionate Mother; dharani sajilo aj tomar agomoni saaje—the whole universe has decked up or decked itself up to celebrate your advent. This is the rough translation of these two lines.”

After the rendition of Smt. Deepshikha Reddy’s song, Smt. Shilpa Desai—Shobha Mitra’s student—was requested to say a few words about her. The following is the text of Smt. Desai’s speech:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“‘Music is the language of the soul’, says the Mother. Every year Shobha-di made us students of vocal music, write this quotation on the 1st page of our note book. These were not mere words but living seeds planted by Shobha-di in us at the tender age of 12, by the example she is, by the loving guidance she gave and continues to give—stressing always to go beyond skill and talent to express that something from deep within and offer it to the Divine.

“As teenagers we had the privilege of having Shobha-di as our teacher for vocal music for 10 years. Though she tried to appoint other teachers for us, we insisted on learning from her alone, and we managed to do so.

“As young adults we were fortunate to participate in most of her musical compositions which express her ardent aspiration to the Lord and the Mother. And even today our musical journey continues under her guidance. For Shobha-di, at no point of time has it been music for music sake alone. It has always, at every step been music—as an offering of oneself to the Divine. Music—as an expression of the divinity within.

“How blessed we feel to have been nurtured under such an inspiring example. It has been an influence not only in the field of music but in life itself.

“Today we feel honoured and grateful that our dear teacher, friend and guide Shobha-di is given this award for her unique and dedicated contribution to music.”

After Smt. Shilpa Desai, Shri Gouri Shankar Patnaik—better known as Munna in the Ashram community—was requested to speak about Smt. Shobha Mitra. His speech is as follows:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Namaskar. First of all I congratulate both Mr. Anurag as well as Shobha-di for this wonderful occasion which has been created because of dedicated work of decades. It does not happen in a day. When I was asked to speak here, to say a few words, I knew that there will be smarter people before me and am not smart enough. A few points that I had noted have been already talked about rather extensively even before I came here. So I’m really scratching my head what to say. So what I decided at the last moment as I was listening to Shilpa and Deepshikha-di—particularly Deepshikha-di who gave me some time to think—is that I would rather share a few personal contracts with Shobha-di.

“First of all, I never thought that I would have to come to the stage one day for a programme related to Shobha-di where I would neither be playing the table nor singing. But I am extremely happy that this is happening.

“I started playing the tabla for Shobha-di’s programmes since I was rather young and I had this bad habit of always coming on time for rehearsals and then get extremely irritated when others came late. So Shobha-di was so well-organized; she never really forgot the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses either. So at the end of a day’s practice, she would announce that tomorrow’s practice at such and such place at 7.30, “Munna, tumi 7.45 e esho [Munna, you come at 7.45].” (laughter) I will never forget that because it just not showed what I was; it showed more of what she was. You know, she took care of these little things, strengths and weaknesses as I put it which finally helped the organization which avoided the irritation in the tabla player, etc.

“The second thing which I remember about Shobha-di is that her openness to all kinds of music. When Anurag said that she did a programme which had twenty-five languages, that did not surprise me at the least. When I came to the Ashram I was already 12; because of some amount of music in my family, I was already exposed to quite a bit of music but it was mainly Oriya music. And there were not many people at that time probably who really did music in Oriya. And she would always encourage me to sing Oriya songs in programmes or to prepare Oriya chorus in which the others would join in just to show another facet that she was always open for newer — both vertically and horizontally — as far as music and songs were concerned.

“And one last point which fortunately has not yet been dealt by anybody which probably everyone knows because Ashram is a small, close-knit family and there is really no secrets here. But this is an occasion where I would like to convey my gratefulness to Shobha-di for the wonderful work she practically has been doing and particularly which she has initiated. It’s been more than fifteen years now—that’s the adult education in the Ashram in the evening which has nothing to do with music. Music could be a part of it. But any number of adults associated or who belong to the greater Ashram family—they come and study various subjects and that really adds to the quality of life of the people and to their direct understanding of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. One gentleman who from Jamsedhpur but used to live here—at the age of 92 he joined the adult education classes. I will never forget him in my life. He is no more; probably 4-5 years back he passed away but then at the age of 92—such was the magic of this adult education and so much it had to offer to all of us that people tried always to get into this and compliment whatever they already knew so that this life becomes fuller. Thank you so much, Shobha-di.”

After Shri Gouri Shankar Pandya, noted author and translator Shri Maurice Shukla was requested to say a few words about Smt. Shobha Mitra. Shri Maurice Shukla’s speech is as follows:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Just as I was coming in, somebody told me that in order to make a speech immortal, one had to make it everlasting. So last night I had already noted something because I stand here as a stop-gap. I am replacing somebody who was supposed to come but who could not or who probably played a bad prank on me.

“I am here this morning before you neither as a musician nor as a singer, not even as a writer. I am here as a grateful witness. A witness of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s Grace over an event that is directly linked with Shobha-di. And I think the setting too is appropriate to share this event with you today.

“The event I am referring to was the installation of Sri Aurobindo’s statue at the Unesco headquarters in Paris on 16th September 2009. Quite naturally I was deeply moved to be among the four privileged persons selected by Shobha-di to take her composition to Unesco for this occasion. The Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Government of India, had approached Manoj-da for something with which to mark this extraordinarily symbolic event. And The Ashram requested Shobha-di to come up with something appropriate.

“So we got down in earnest to help Shobha-di in whichever way we could. She began with the selection of Sanskrit hymns and mantras that were to accompany her musical composition. Shobha-di’s musical composition began emerging gently as she wove around it Vedic hymns, shlokas from the Gita and the Upanishads along with some significant extracts in both English and French from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. She had accepted the challenge first with a lot of trepidation but always with such grace and humility that the composition began taking wing. This was the first time that Shobha-di was composing for such a diverse international audience. Towards a Luminous Future was her name for this offering and it emerged as a 30 ­minute composition in her distinctively experimental style of music that sought to transcend the traditional Eastern and Western modes of expression in order to touch a space that was universal and common to all of us and which lovers of music from anywhere could resonate to.

“Our rehearsals became moments of intense joy outer dedication in Shobha-di’s wonderful presence and the four of us, Anurupa, Harinarayan, Joy (from Auroville) and myself, endeavoured to find that inner space of ‘oneness’ and truth in order to communicate what we had to convey for this exceptional occasion with a happy and effective inner conviction.

“As a biographical note on Sri Aurobindo was also to be distributed to this diverse audience at Unesco in Paris, Cristof and myself decided to put our hearts and heads together to prepare it. The novelty of the task lay in presenting Sri Aurobindo to people who were not disciples or devotees and we were more than happy to take up the challenge. Right from the word ‘go’ there was that enthusing feeling of joyful service and flawless harmony between all of us and I personally felt inwardly uplifted as we worked on this very special ‘mission’ that had been assigned to us in total trust. And at every step Their Grace shone through: the way things organised themselves, the way all kinds of difficulties were overcome with help and understanding from Manoj-da, from the Trustees, from everyone around.

Towards a Luminous Future was a unique achievement because Shobha-di had managed to get Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s Vision and Consciousness across so powerfully without ever mentioning Them by name, and thus this whole ‘religious propaganda’ quicksand was marvelously side-stepped. I’m sure this was something that the Master would have heartily approved specially considering the kind of audience this offering was addressed to.

“Our rehearsals happened both in the Ashram and Auroville at the Bharat Niwas which again for me personally was quite symbolic. Jean, the Auroville sound and light in-charge and one of our former teachers at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, helped us with these technical arrangements. And then as we were nearing D-day, another miracle occurred. Just as we finished burning the master CD of Shobha-di’s music on the evening of 9th September, the entire power system burnt out in the recording studio! Everything disappeared from the computer but Shobha-di’s musical score had successfully slipped out onto the master CD!

“The biographical note on Sri Aurobindo and the accompanying text of the musical composition were printed at our Press and these too turned out beautifully in their conciseness and simple elegance.

“As the day of departure for Paris neared, we felt more and more conscious that the Mother had deputed us as Her little ambassadors to Unesco. We were taking Sri Aurobindo to the Mother’s city of birth! What an enormous privilege and responsibility this was at the same time!

“Everything kept unfolding in such amazing fluency and naturalness that Their Presence became more and more palpable and our gratitude for that Presence more and more intense!

“In Paris, we were received by our friends with such warmth and hospitality and the home we stayed in was big and beautiful and large enough for us to remain in that state of inward receptivity. We were able to practice our ‘offering’ every day in this house in the most wonderful of mood and atmosphere. When we were not rehearsing or sharing with our friends eager to know about our life at the Ashram under the loving care of the Mother, we went to visit places that were connected with the Mother’s life in Paris and around. And on the eve of the programme, I took my team to the basilica (or church) of Sacré-Cœur (which means sacred heart) on top of a little hill called Montmartre. Here, I need to tell you a little story.

“One of the Mother’s young boys had left the Ashram in 1961 to go to Germany to study sports medicine. After spending some time there, this person was so overcome by a bout of home-sickness and an irresistible longing for the Mother that he sent an SOS to The Mother asking desperately for permission to return to the Ashram. The Mother replied at once, and advised him to go to Sacré-Cœur in Paris. Quite significantly this basilica had opened in 1914, the very year that the Mother left France to come to see Sri Aurobindo for the first time. On receiving the Mother’s letter, this gentleman boarded a train for Paris and reached the mount overlooking the city. As he entered the vicinity of the Sacré-Cœur , he suddenly felt as if he was enveloped in the Mother’s warm physical embrace. That sense of home-sickness that had been eating into his heart magically faded away and in her comforting Presence he regained his old enthusiasm and inner joy. Now this very same gentleman came all the way from Italy to Paris to witness the event of the installation of the statue of Sri Aurobindo. And it was after listening to his story over lunch one day that I decided we should all go to the Sacré-Cœur on the eve of the event. And quietly we arrived there, sat there for some time and tried to bring Her into our being in that light happy air almost as if we were paying homage to Her Presence there.

“Then 16th September dawned. I woke up feeling exactly as I used to on the day when I would go to see the Mother on my birthday. There was a kind of feeling of a ‘Darshan’. Trying to remain in that state of concentration, unfortunately we skipped the installation ceremony of Sri Aurobindo’s statue and went straight to the auditorium where the musical offering was to take place.

“A very large crowd had gathered in the vast auditorium: Unesco dignitaries, diplomats, intellectuals who did not know much about Sri Aurobindo, writers, artists, simple French friends and admirers of India and a good number of disciples and former students. The lights in the audience faded and the spots on the large stage came on. We felt as if our prayerful hearts and bodies were being uplifted in Their Presence as the deeply moving organ-chords of Shobha-di’s music filled the hall and the powerful words of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo reverberated in the air. And then as the last notes of Sunil-da’s 1972 music faded into a palpable soul-stirred silence, the air felt charged with that fragrance of the New Consciousness that Sri Aurobindo had striven all his life to bring down. For a few minutes at least, we the participants and the audience were granted the priceless joy of getting a whiff of that “luminous future”.

“Infinite gratitude filled our unbelieving hearts.

“Thank you Shobha-di for giving me this most beautiful Darshan in 2009.”

After Shri Maurice Shukla’s speech, Shri Anurag Banerjee invited Shri Manoj Dasgupta and Smt. Krishna Chakravarti to felicitate Smt. Shobha Mitra. Smt. Krishna Chakravarti presented Smt. Shobha Mitra with the angavasram while the certificate and the trophy of the “Auro-Ratna Award” were presented to her by Shri Manoj Dasgupta.

8

9

10

In her acceptance speech, Smt. Shobha Mitra said:

“I have no words to say anything. My deep gratitude and pranam to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for the blessings I have received today. Also my love and good wishes to Anurag and to all those who have participated in today’s programme in any form. The talks were extremely inspiring for me. I would like to conclude the programme with a short recorded music from ‘Salutations’ as my offering to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.”

11

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The ceremony was concluded with the aforementioned recorded music in the voices of Smt. Ratna Chakravarti and Shri Uttam Ganguly.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder-Chairman
Overman Foundation.

*

Yogi Baroda Charan Majumdar: A Pictorial Homage

IMG10556

Dear Friends,

Born to Dakshina Charan Majumdar and Matangini Devi, Baroda Charan Majumdar (16 Sravan 1293 B.S.—1 Agrayan 1347 B.S.) was a householder Yogi who never wanted to come to the limelight as a spiritual master. Having worked at Goursundar High School at Nimtita for five years, he joined Lalgola Maheshnarayan Academy School as the Headmaster in 1921. During his lifetime, few people could know him closely. Kazi Nazrul Islam, the “rebel poet of Bengal”, who was initiated into Yoga by him, tried to introduce him to the public. Sri Aurobindo called Baroda Charan, “the greatest Yogi of Modern Bengal”. Two booklets authored by him in Bengali titled Path Harar Path and Dwadosh Bani were published posthumously.

Dilip Kumar Roy writes about Baroda Charan in his book Pilgrims of the Stars: ‘When I told him [Baroda Charan] about my groping in darkness for a clue to light he asked me to sit down and meditate with him. “I will find out all about it,” he said somewhat cryptically.

‘I was not a little intrigued and tried in vain to meditate with him. What is he going to find out, I kept asking myself as he went off into a samadhi.

‘After about a half-hour he came to and said without ado that I must on no account accept anybody other than Sri Aurobindo as my guru. On my telling him that Sri Aurobindo had turned me away he shook his head categorically and said: “No, he hasn’t.”

‘“How do you mean?” I said, utterly at a loss.

‘“I mean what I say.”

‘“But Sri Aurobindo told me himself—”

‘“No, Dilip Kumar,” he cut in, “he has accepted you already—he told me this himself just now.”

‘I was nonplussed and started wondering whether it was all a hoax or I was daydreaming.

‘He looked kindly at me.

‘“As you disbelieve my assurance,” he smiled, “I will give you a proof. Have you got a chronic pain in your right abdomen?”

‘“I have,” I said, startled. “It’s hernia.”

‘“I know. Now tell me: didn’t Sri Aurobindo tell you to undergo an operation before you entered the path of yoga?”

‘I was dumbfounded, for Sri Aurobindo had written to me in 1924 those identical words.

‘Then Baroda Babu gave me a long discourse on yoga and yogic powers and enjoined me not to be skeptical. He even told me about a few miracles he himself had performed, mostly to heal people.

‘His personality was impressive and his exposition all that could be desired—sober, to the point and unmarred by braggadocio. So I came back a wiser, though a trifle sadder, man, turning over in my mind his categoric reassurance: “Sri Aurobindo told me that he would call you to Pondicherry, in due time. So don’t you look this way and that nor dream of accepting anybody else as your guru since Sri Aurobindo is your guru and no other.”…

‘I met Baroda Babu by accident twelve years later, in 1937, when I had returned from Pondicherry to Calcutta for a few months after a stay at Sri Aurobindo Ashram for nine years. I thanked him from my heart for his helpful advice and told him how happy and blessed I felt at the guru’s feet. He gave me a kind smile but said pointblank: “That’s all as it should be, my friend. Only I want to tell you one thing: that you won’t realize Krishna in Pondicherry. For that you will have to wait till the advent for a highly evolved lady. When she will come to cooperate with you as your disciple, then only will you get your heart’s desire.”’ (pp. 327—329, 1985 edition)

As our humble homage to Baroda Charan Majumdar, some of his photographs have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation. We are extremely thankful and grateful to Smt. Basabi Majumdar (Baroda Charan’s grand-daughter) and Smt. Bokul Sarkar (youngest daughter of Nolini Kanto Sarkar)—both inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, for sharing with us these priceless photographs.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

IMG10557

210Nolini Kanto Sarkar seated at the back with his youngest daughter Bokul, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Baroda Charan Majumdar, Upendranath Banerjee and Dilip Kumar Roy.

IMG10558Baroda Charan with his son-in-law Nishesh Bhushan Sanyal and Kazi Nazrul Islam.

IMG10559Baroda Charan with Gitika Sarkar, the eldest daughter of Nolini Kanto Sarkar.

*

Workshop on Relationships—Its Complications and Solutions: A Report

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

A day-long workshop on “Relationships: Its Complications and Solutions” was arranged on Saturday, 10th October 2015 from 11 a.m. onwards at the premises of 532, Block “M”, New Alipore, Kolkata 700053 by Overman Foundation in collaboration with Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre Trust. The workshop—which witnessed the participation of 65 delegates—was conducted by Shri Subrata Sen (Secretary, Sri Aurobindo’s Action West Bengal Trust), Shri Goutam Banerjee (noted Aurobindonian scholar and speaker), Smt. Srabasti Majumdar (social worker) and Shri Partha Sarathi Bose (Trustee, Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre Trust).

Shri Subrata Sen spoke about relationships in the light of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. According to him, man loses his natural instincts with the development of his mental faculties and personality; as a result complications in relationship emerge. Such complications arise primarily due to alienation and emergence of ego. He also discussed how the vital being in man gives rise to problems of harmony, integrity and lack of homogeneity. He quoted from and discussed elaborately selected passages from Sri Aurobindo’s letters which threw sufficient light on how problems in relationships could be solved successfully.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shri Goutam Banerjee spoke about relationships in the light of Shrimat Anirvan. He briefly narrated the life-sketch of the saint and spoke at length about the practical spirituality preached by the latter. He spoke about the importance of undivided families as preached by Shrimat Anirvan and also discussed how the saint had emphasized on the role of women in creating a perfect society. According to him, a given relationship has three major aspects: (1) attraction (2) mutual influence (3) the combination of attraction and mutual influence which expands one’s consciousness which, in turn, establishes the foundation of a perfect society. He explained how Shrimat Anirvan considered man to be a part of the gradually manifesting Truth whose prime field of development was man himself with values playing a pivotal role. He also discussed how disharmonies in relationships could be successfully avoided if Shrimat Anirvan’s advice of focusing on the fields of dislikes is followed instead of rejecting individuals whom we dislike due to some or many reasons. He also added that difference of opinion should be looked upon as an opportunity of progress because without complications no real progress can be materialized. He concluded that it was essential to have faith within as a result of which Truth will duly manifest itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Smt. Srabasti Majumdar—a social reformist and Ph.D scholar associated with the Department of Women Studies at Jadavpur University—spoke on the structure of families as a system operating within specific social contexts. Through an informative power-point presentation, she explained how the structures of family operates as an open, socio-cultural system having a dynamic entity and adapts to changed circumstances to maintain continuity and enhances the psycho-social growth of each member. She also discussed the various sub-systems which form a part of the whole or Holon—that is, a structured family therapy that implies the part and whole connected. The various subsystems of family as discussed by her are as follows: (1) Spousal subsystems where the couple must give away part of the separateness to gain belongingness. (2) Parental subsystems where parents nurture, guide and controls the children. (3) Sibling subsystems which include certain boundaries which are (i) clear-firm and yet flexible allowing a degree of autonomy. (ii) rigid implying disengagement within and between systems, that is, family members are isolated from one another. (iii) diffused which is characterized by enmeshed relationships. She also spoke of conflicts which occur in families due to (i) stressful contact of one member with extra familial forces. (ii) stressful contact of the whole family with familial forces. (iii) stress at transitional points in the family and (iv) stress around idiosyncratic problems. These problems can be solved, according to her, by empathy, regular/repeated communication, assertive communication, supportive communication, counseling and family therapy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The most thought-provoking workshop was on “Relationships at Workplace” conducted by Shri Partha Sarathi Bose. Through a power-point presentation, he divided the various levels of relationships into three categories (co-workers, boss-subordinate relationship and stakeholders), pointed out the types and reasons of conflicts that arise at each level and explained how the conflicts can be solved by considering some basic practical points. For instance, conflicts among co-workers can be solved by keeping in mind that:
• Each one of us is different from other.
• There is no ONE correct approach.
• Give importance to the opinion of others.
• Do not take things personally.
• Avoid gossip.
• Do not expect.

He also discussed the various ways by which possible solutions can be obtained like (i) clear communication (ii) avoidance of misunderstanding (iii) ask whenever in doubt (iv) talk in case of misunderstanding and (v) avoid assumption.

Shri Partha Sarathi Bose also quoted relevant passages from Sri Aurobindo’s Letters on Yoga to show how Sri Aurobindo too has given significant guidelines to solve problems arising at workplace. He also narrated a number of real-life incidents to illustrate the various points he discussed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The workshop ended at 4 p.m. and was followed by an interactive session between the speakers and delegates.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

A Divinely Memorable Offering: Reviews of Manoj Dasgupta’s talks Centenary of Mother’s Arrival at Pondicherry and Centenary of the Launching of Arya by Surendra Singh Chouhan

cover of mother's arrivalTitle: Centenary of Mother’s Arrival at Pondicherry
Description: Audio CD of Shri Manoj Dasgupta’s (Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and Registrar of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education) talk in English on the said theme.
Price: Rs. 100 (One Hundred) only.

cover of aryaTitle: Centenary of the Launching of Arya
Description: Audio CD of Shri Manoj Dasgupta’s (Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and Registrar of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education) talk in English on the said theme.
Price: Rs. 120 (One Hundred and Twenty) only.

We receive with warm gratitude the very welcome production of two audio CDs recreating the saga of two very significant events taking place in the very second decade of 20th century. These inspired and aspirational narratives are finely tuned and exquisitely produced with the assistance of the devoted children of the Divine Mother under the expert guidance of none other than “Manoj-da”. His is the master voice at once fluid and crystal clear and the listeners are drenched with devotional fervour listening to the captivating narrative of the Divine Mother’s arrival in Pondicherry and incredible rendering in Her own words the very first meeting with Sri Aurobindo. This is all done very judiciously by reading out very relevant and the apt contextual passages and fascinating incidents, anecdotes down memory lane. In this sense, the offering becomes truly a historic document luminously recorded for the posterity. History becomes alive through these recorded notes on the Way. Manoj-da’s versatility and magical rendering stand out superbly, it is almost lyrical. He has a very special voice which is honed to tonal perfection through the years of singing and chanting Sanskrit verses from the Scriptures. It is not just an audio CD but a divine celebration of the meeting of Divine Mother with Sri Aurobindo. A CD for all time meditation recalling again and again the setting of the Event for the Supramental manifestation to unfold in the years ahead. This is a very vibrant recreation of the divine event expertly done. Let us salute the collaborators of this project.

The second CD is an astonishing chronicle of the launching of Arya, surely a decisive action from the Supreme. It was a God’s labour by Sri Aurobindo who year after year tirelessly and ceaselessly poured in words the Divine plan of the Divine life for the human kind for eternity. Knowledge flowed in Him like the descent of Ganga on the earth. Sri Aurobindo had only to arrange exquisitely in words this mighty inflow of Knowledge in the journal Arya. “He had reached the top of all that can be known”— this verse from Savitri only confirms the high amplitude of Sri Aurobindo’s vast Vision, from the highest supernal regions forming the body of Arya— the journal of divine symphony. Incredibly, Sri Aurobindo was writing on diverse subjects in different books covering the high vision of Yogic philosophy, vision of the future encompassing the broadest spectrum of all that was eminently desirable to know. Sri Aurobindo did not have good fortune of having the presence of Lord Ganesh by his side to be his scribe. There was only a good old faithful typewriter to absorb the weight of the decent of the knowledge from the greater kingdoms of Knowledge, but, it was the arrival of the Divine Mother just a few months earlier than the launching of Arya which gave the divine impetus to the auspicious beginning of the journal which offered a dynamic renascent push to the intellectual life of the world at large in the purest form envisaging the divine future for all humanity. Meeting of the Divine Mother with Sri Aurobindo was already previsioned, as it were, in the onward march of History and a predestined Event repeating itself through the ages to hew the new paths of Immortality. It was the meeting of Parmeshwari with Her Parmashwar.

Words, and that too, mortal words are insufficient to describe the profound inner significance and impact of this event, a precursor of all the wonderful things to unfold. Again, a high professional skill has gone into the making of this CD—all musical in tone and tune and doing full justice to the rendering of the matter in hand. All thoughtfully planned and executed for all of us, the grateful children of the Divine Mother and Lord Sri Aurobindo. Salutations, Salutations!!!

Surendra Singh Chouhan

*

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

*

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 120 other followers