Second “Shrimat Anirvan Memorial Oration”: A Report

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

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

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

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

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Sri Aurobindo and the Mystery of Death by Shrimat Anirvan

Srimat Anirvan

Dear Friends,

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation

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Sri Aurobindo and the Mystery of Death

Shrimat Anirvan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cartoon illustrating Sri Aurobindo’s Acquital in the Alipore Bomb Trial

Dear Friends,

C. Subramania Bharati, the renowned Tamil poet, was an admirer of Sri Aurobindo even before he became personally acquainted with him. The Tamil weekly, India, edited by Bharati from Pondicherry, carried in its issue of 15th July 1909, a cartoon illustrating the acquittal of Sri Aurobindo with “NOT GUILTY” in the Alipore Bomb Trial.

Bharati explained the cartoon: “Sri Aurobindo, the flame of wisdom, Sri Aurobindo, the Dharma Surya was eclipsed by Rahu, who unjustly accused him. The police—the serpent—thought of swallowing him. Is it possible for a serpent to swallow the Sun? So for a while it eclipsed him, then of its own accord it moved away.”

The cartoon illustrating Sri Aurobindo’s acquital in the Alipore Bomb Trial has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Cartoon of Sri Aurobindo

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Summer Retreat at Van Niwas, Nainital: A Report

Dear Friends and Well-wishers,

A Summer Retreat was organized jointly by Overman Foundation and Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre Trust, Kolkata, from 8th to 14th June 2016 at Van Niwas, a property of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Delhi Branch, perched on a hilltop at Nainital, Uttarakhand.

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Such a retreat was organized for the very first time from West Bengal at Van Niwas. The participants of the Summer Retreat escaped the scorching heat of the plains and arrived at Van Niwas by the forenoon of 8th June. After lunch, the study camp commenced with an introductory note by Mr. S. Sankaran, the Coordinator of summer camps, stationed at Van Niwas, followed by inaugural addresses by Mr. Anurag Banerjee of Overman Foundation (Chief Organizer) and Mr. Partha Sarathi Bose of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre Trust (Co-organizer). In the evening of 8th June, Mahabiplobi Sri Aurobindo, the only biopic of Sri Aurobindo made in Bengali in the early 1970s was screened. The workshops began from 9th June. The workshops on Stress Management and Anger Management were conducted by Mr. Goutam Banerjee while those on Leadership and Motivation and Relationships: Its Complications and Solutions were conducted by Mr. Partha Sarathi Bose and Mrs. Soma Roy Chaudhuri respectively on 11th and 12th June.

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Mr. Goutam Banerjee conducting the workshops on Stress Management and Anger Management.

Mr. Partha Sarathi Bose conducting the workshop on Leadership and Motivation.

Mrs. Soma Roy Chaudhuri conducting the workshop on Relationships: Its Complications and Solutions.

Interactive sessions followed the workshops to invite deliberations from the participants.

On 10th June, the participants were taken to Mukteshwar, Madhuvan (another property of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Delhi Branch at Talla Ramgarh) and Tapogiri (the very first Centre of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, in the foothold of the Himalayas).

Every morning yoga sessions were held under the able guidance of Mr. S. Sankaran.

After the workshops, the participants went on short treks to nearby trekking spots.

Every evening after dinner, various documentaries on the lives and works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were screened.

On the penultimate day of the camp, a cultural programme was arranged after dinner.

On the concluding day, the participants visited the temple of Naina Devi and the Nainital Lake. The Summer Retreat was declared closed on 14th June post lunch and the participants dispersed with heavy hearts and lingering memories of the seven days spent in the lap of the Himalayas.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Reminiscences of Sri Aurobindo by Professor Gabriel Monod-Herzen

Dear Friends,

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Dear Friends,

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

To begin with, how did I meet Sri Aurobindo?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eric Hughes: In Memoriam

Eric Hughes1931-2016

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Hughes: A Tribute by Julian and Wendy Lines

Dear Friend of Matagiri,

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

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

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

With love and prayers for his soul’s journey,

Julian and Wendy Lines

The Details:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Courtesy: http://www.matagiri.org

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

Dear Friends,

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Salute to Sri Aurobindo by Rash Behari Bose

rash-behari-bose

Dear Friends,

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Salute to Sri Aurobindo.

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

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

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

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

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

I salute you, Sri Aurobindo. Bande Mataram.

Rash Behari Bose

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

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Dear Friends and Well-wishers,

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

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation

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Sri Aurobindo and Mrinalini Devi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ila Sen

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