Chitra Bose: In Memoriam by Anurag Banerjee

Dear Friends,

On Saturday, 13 August 2016, the firmament of the Aurobindonian Community of West Bengal lost one of its brightest stars with the passing away of Chitra Bose, founder of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir, one of the eminent pre-primary schools of Calcutta, and Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre.

Born on 17 March 1933 to Harendranath Majumdar and Shanti Devi, Chitra Bose grew up in an atmosphere where politics and spirituality existed simultaneously for Harendranath, who hailed from an illustrious zamindar family of Basirhat (situated in North 24 Parganas) was a nephew of Swami Brahmananda (1863-1922), one of the foremost disciples of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the first President of Ramakrishna Mission, and a noted leader of the Indian National Congress who actively participated in the freedom struggle of India. He went on to become a minister in the cabinet of Dr. Prafulla Ghosh, the erstwhile Chief Minister of West Bengal, in 1967. He served Sri Aurobindo Society of West Bengal as its Chairman for several years. As a result of her father’s political activities, young Chitra Bose came in touch with legendary politicians like Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Dr. Prafulla Ghosh (both were former Chief Ministers of West Bengal) and Atulya Ghosh, erstwhile Secretary and President of West Bengal State Congress Committee, Treasurer of All India Congress Committee and two-time Member of Parliament.

Chitra Bose received her early education from Brahmo Girls School and later graduated from the famous Presidency College of Calcutta with honours in Economics. During her years at the Presidency College, she got Prof. Amartya Sen and Prof. Sukhomoy Chakravarty as her batchmates and Prof. Bhavatosh Dutta as her professor. She married Khagesh Chandra Bose, the later Additional General Manager of Eastern Railways in the Indian Railway Service. She spent a considerable period of time at Mumbai and Secunderabad where her husband was posted.

Meeting the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry cast a lifelong influence on Chitra Bose. She strived to become an able instrument of Her work and dedicated her entire life to translate Her teachings into reality. In the early 1970s, a plot of land with a dilapidated building at New Alipore (South Calcutta) was offered to the Mother by Shri Deviprasad Bhaduri for the purpose of establishing a meditation centre where spiritual seekers and followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would meet to study and discuss Their lives and teachings. The Mother duly sent Her blessings for the Centre. Accordingly ‘Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre’ was established on 10 May 1972. But with the demise of Deviprasad on the very next day, the work of setting up the meditation centre was suspended temporarily. But Harendranath Majumdar came forward and under his leadership and guidance, ‘Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre’ evolved into a vibrant centre. Following her father’s advice, Chitra Bose established a kindergarten school at the premises of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre named ‘Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir’ on 2 January 1977 with five students and an equal number of mattresses. Thus started the journey of the one who went on to become not only the pole-star of all those who were associated with Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir but also for those innumerable ones who looked upon her as their beloved ‘Bordi’ (meaning elder sister). Under her stewardship, the dilapidated building of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir got transformed into a two-storied structure which presently houses an art section for young pupils, a spectacular meditation hall (inaugurated by Swami Lokeshwarananda, the then Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture) and the ‘Shri Ma Library’, a fully-computerized library with a vast collection of books, named after the Mother. And in her work as a service to the Divine, she was ably helped and guided by her husband. History can never forget the invaluable contribution of Khagesh Chandra Bose who, with his rich experience of administration in the Indian Railways, put Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre on a firm foothold. It was due to his initiative that Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre was converted into a trust in 1999 and Chitra Bose became its Managing Trustee in 2000.

Chitra Bose was a rare soul who shunned publicity and preferred to work silently. Despite being a pioneer in child-education, she chose to stay away from limelight. A charming personality with an ever-smiling face, she radiated love and affection. Easily approachable to one and all, she was the personification of compassion and grace. Her entire life was an offering at the feet of the Mother. Service was her motto and mission in life. She not only had imbibed the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and his consort Saradamani, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother but also synthesized and applied them in her day-to-day life and activities.

Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir—which began with only five students—now provides education to over three hundred students every year. The aim of the school is not just to strengthen the foundations of brilliant students but to create ‘living souls’. The educational ideologies of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are practised here in the best possible way.

As a humble recognition for her invaluable contribution in the field of education, Overman Foundation had presented her with the inaugural ‘Bulbul Mukherjee Smriti Puraskar’ and ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ in November 2014 and July 2016 respectively.

Unlike many, Chitra Bose was well aware of the merits of succession planning. When her health started to deteriorate towards the end of 2015, she felt that the responsibility of running the day-to-day operations of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir should be delegated to a young and capable individual. She voluntarily resigned from the post of Principal of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir in February 2016. She was also keen to give up the post of Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre but as a mark of respect for her untiring efforts in giving the institution its present shape, the Trust Board refused to accept her resignation.

From July 2016 Chitra Bose’s health began to deteriorate rapidly. On being hospitalized, it was discovered that she was suffering from ovarian cancer. Even when she was suffering due to the dreaded disease, she was concerned only about the institution she had created. ‘The Mother’s work must not suffer’, was her constant insistence. When the month of August approached, she informed her son and staffs that in case something happened to her, the birthday celebrations of Sri Aurobindo on 15 August must not be cancelled.

On 13 August, 2016, at 11.55 p.m. Chitra Bose breathed her last. She is survived by her two sons (Dr. Pinaki Shankar Bose and Partha Sarathi Bose), daughters-in-law (Supriya Bose and Sanchita Bose) and grandson Saptarshi. As per wish, the birthday celebrations of Sri Aurobindo on 15 August were not cancelled and carried on with usual devotion. As a mark of respect for Chitra Bose, the staffs of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir reported to work on Sunday, 11 September 2016.

The smile that shone at the premises of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre is no longer present but atmosphere of love and affection which Chitra Bose has left behind will continue to vibrate till eternity.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee


Overman Foundation.


At the shrine of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre

At the shrine of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre

At her office in Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre

With the staffs of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir

Celebrating the Mother’s Birth Anniversary

With her youngest son Shri Partha Sarathi Bose

With Shri Partha Sarathi Bose, Smt. Dhanavanti Nagda and Shri Anurag Banerjee

With Pravrajika Divyaprana Mataji, Shri Subrata Sen and Shri Anurag Banerjee

With Shri Biswajit Gangopadhyay

With Pravrajika Divyaprana Mataji on 21 February 2016


Happy Birthday to Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee


Dear Friends and Well-wishers,

20 October 2016 marks the eightieth birthday of Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee. Born on 20 October 1936 to Tejendranath and Usha Rani, he the grandson of the famous revolutionary Jatindranath Mukherjee alias Bagha Jatin. He came to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1948, studied and taught at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. He was mentioned by the Sahitya Akademi manuals and anthologies as a poet before he attained the age of twenty. He has translated the works of French authors like Albert Camus, Saint-John Perse and René Char for Bengali readers, and eminent Bengali authors into French. He shifted to Paris with a French Government Scholarship in 1966. He defended a thesis on Sri Aurobindo at Sorbonne. He served as a lecturer in two Paris faculties, a producer on Indian culture and music for Radio France and was also a freelance journalist for the Indian and French press. His thesis for PhD which studied the pre-Gandhian phase of India’s struggle for freedom was supervised by Raymond Aron in Paris University. In 1977 he was invited by the National Archives of India as a guest of the Historical Records Commission. He presented a paper on ‘Jatindranath Mukherjee and the Indo-German Conspiracy’ and his contribution on this area has been recognized by eminent educationists. A number of his papers on this subject have been translated into major Indian languages. He went to the United States of America as a Fulbright scholar and discovered scores of files covering the Indian revolutionaries in the Wilson Papers. In 1981 he joined the French National Centre of Scientific Research. He was also a founder-member of the French Literary Translators’ Association. In 2003 he retired as a researcher in Human and Social Sciences Department of French National Centre of Scientific Research in Paris. A recipient of ‘Sri Aurobindo Puraskar’, in the same year he was invited by Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for the world premiere of Correspondances, opus for voice and orchestra where the veteran composer Henri Dutilleux had set to music Prithwindra’s French poem on Shiva Nataraja, followed by texts by Solzhenitsyn, Rilke and Van Gogh. In 2009 he was appointed to the rank of chevalier (Knight) of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Minister of Culture of France. He has penned books in English, Bengali and French and some of his published works include Samasamayiker Chokhe Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherryer Dinguli, Bagha Jatin, Sadhak-Biplobi Jatindranath, Undying Courage, Vishwer Chokhe Rabindranath, Thât/Mélakartâ : The Fundamental Scales in Indian Music of the North and the South (foreword by Pandit Ravi Shankar), Poèmes du Bangladesh, Serpent de flammes, Le sâmkhya, Les écrits bengalis de Sri Aurobindo, Chants bâuls, les Fous de l’Absolu, Anthologie de la poésie bengalie, In Quest of the Cosmic Soul and Les racines intellectuelles du movement d’independence de l’Inde (1893-1918) ending up with Sri Aurobindo, “the last of the Prophets”.

On the occasion of Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee’s eightieth birthday, an interview of his conducted by Sunayana Panda has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation along with some of Dr. Mukherjee’s photographs with the Mother and some tributes paid to him by luminaries of the East and West.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


Photographs of Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee with the Mother

Meeting Prithwindra Mukherjee

Sunayana Panda

Prithwin-da’s story is remarkable not because of what he has achieved but the odds against which he has achieved it. He was a victim of the polio virus and from his early childhood had to walk with the help of crutches. He has faced outer as well as inner difficulties and has achieved some-thing that people even in normal circumstances would find hard to attain. True, he has lived in an advanced country like France and worked in an environment that encourages intellectual growth but let us not forget that moving to France forty years ago could not have been the smooth ride it is today for students and research scholars. But we are running away with our story. The right place to start from would be the beginning.

Prithwin-da’s connection with the Ashram is directly linked to the fact that he is the grand-son of the heroic Bagha Jatin, who at the height of the revolutionary movement in Bengal was closely associated with Sri Aurobindo. Prithwin-da’s parents had visited the Ashram earlier, as Sri Aurobindo’s guests. Then, in 1948, along with his mother and two brothers, Prithwin-da came to Pondicherry. His father, known to us as Tejen-da or Bod-da, continued to go back and forth be-tween Kolkata and Pondicherry until the Mother hinted that it was time he too settled down to the regular life of the Ashram. This was the Mother’s way of showing her love and concern. Prithwin-da reminds us that the Mother was particularly generous in her hospitality to the members of the families of those who had been a part of the political life of Sri Aurobindo and had participated in his work. This is the way she had opened her arms to Sahana-di and her sisters because they were the nieces of Chittaranjan Das, who had so ably defended Sri Aurobindo in the Alipore Bomb Case. This is the way the Mother had also been full of solicitude for Sudhir Sarkar and his family.

Growing up in the Ashram of the post-War years was an experience that clearly marked and moulded Prithwin-da. Already he had had an inner contact with the Mother before coming to Pondicherry. One day, when he was still a child, he had fallen down and broken his arm in several places and was in excruciating pain. While his mother had gone to fetch him a glass of water, he was looking at a picture of the Mother when he saw her coming down a stair of light and coming towards him. When his mother came back she found him fast asleep. Once they settled down in Pondicherry the Mother took a special interest in him. The ­Mother had often said that many human difficulties were present in the Ashram in a symbolic way and by working on them here she could transform them on a larger scale. Prithwin-da’s physical infirmity was also, in her eyes, one of those difficulties and by healing him she would win a battle against the force of inertia in the material physical and would be able to extend the limits of conscious-ness. With this work in mind she asked Pranab-da to help Prithwin-da. So Pranab-da set aside two hours three times a week to massage Prithwin-da’s leg and to make him do exercises. A chart was made and a programme strictly adhered to. The Mother followed very keenly even his smallest progress. To extend her help on a subtle level she gave him flowers with special significances such as “Perseverance” and “Concentration”. When he was leaving for Paris, many years later, the Mother reminded him that there were excellent surgeons in France.

Prithwin-da’s life had many restrictions because of his physical handicap but the life of the Ashram gave him the opportunity to interact with many extraordinary people. The Ashram was in full phase of growth and in this creative and warm atmosphere he could cultivate two interests which have finally become his field of expression and research. One was literature and the other was music. Because of his contact with Pranab-da he started working in the library that the Physical Education department was starting. Pranab-da took out subscriptions for four magazines from Kolkata for young readers. Prithwin-da’s first attempt at writing for publication was made when, at the age of thirteen, he sent a story to one of them. It was accepted and appeared in one of the issues. Prithwin-da recounts how he took the five rupees he was paid for this to the Mother as if it had been five lakhs and how the Mother accepted it with great joy.

Even before he finished his studies he taught English, French and Bengali at the School. Encouraged by Bharati-di (Suzanne Karpeles), he started translating original works of well-known writers from Bengali into French. He also wrote his own prose and poetical creations at the same time. He participated in the Ashram band and wrote musical notations of Indian pieces as well as original compositions for them.

Around the time he turned thirty, he felt that literary success had come quite easily to him, and now he wanted to make an attempt to test his boundaries. As he was equally interested in music and literature, he could have gone into either field. The first possibility which opened itself was at the Juilliard School in the United States. He was accepted. However, the Mother cautioned him against this choice, saying that she could see a dark cloud over that course of action. She also assured him that a better opportunity would come his way. Soon after that, he received a scholarship from the French Government to write a thesis at the Sorbonne University. Arriving in France in the mid-1960s he was helped by friends to make the transition. It was a transition which must have been difficult though, considering that neither communication nor travel were as easy then as they are now, and the gap between the life of the East and the life of the West was a wide one then. However, he continued to keep in touch with the Mother and kept his goal very clearly in front of him. Among others there was André Morisset who looked after him. He came back regularly to India and kept in touch with his roots.

Prithwin-da started writing from a very early age and was published in reviews and magazines, not only of the Ashram but also those which had a national circulation. He wrote poetry in both English and Bengali and was even included in anthologies of Indian poets. In France his first years were consecrated to his thesis on Sri Aurobindo after which he taught Indian Civilisation at University level. He was granted a Fulbright Scholarship which enabled him to do further research in the United States. Then he took up his thesis on the Pre-Gandhian Freedom Movement, for which he was conferred a PhD (Docteur d’Etat) by the French Government. After this he worked as a researcher in the CNRS which is France’s national centre for scientific research. Although he has now retired he continues his literary career.

What makes Prithwin-da such an exceptional writer is that he writes in three different languages. There are many in the world who can speak several languages and quite a few who read more than one language, but rare are those who can express their abstract thoughts in more than one language in writing. Even in India, where there are so many official languages, urban Indians have great difficulty in writing even one Indian language correctly. In such a context Prithwin-da’s language skills are remarkable. He can not only read several regional Indian languages but knows Sanskrit too.

One of the first translations he did for the UNESCO series was of a collection of three short stories by Sharat Chandra into French. He is one of those very rare translators who go directly from Bengali to French. He also translates in the other direction, that is, from French into Bengali. He has translated authors like Albert Camus, Saint-John Perse and Rene Char into Bengali. He has created links between the two languages, which is invaluable to both cultures. He points out that curiously enough the Bengalis are more eager about knowing French writers than the French are about Bengali ones. When he had first arrived in France the main focus of attention was Rabindranath Tagore since he was the only Indian writer who was known in the West. Now people prefer to read the new writers who write directly in English and who are instantly translated from the English original into French. His original creations cover a wide range. He has written poetry and prose, fiction as well as non-fiction. He has written on philosophy, musicology, history and Indian culture. His most noteworthy contribution to the world of literature is his biography of Sri Aurobindo written in French and published in 2000. This French biography has very clearly his own reflections in his characteristic sensitive style. He has himself translated Sri Aurobindo’s original Bengali texts directly into French. He has also produced programmes for Radio France and made a couple of documentary films. His poem “Danse Cosmique” on Shiva Nataraja has been set to music by Henry Dutilleux, senior composer, and included in performances all over the world.

The French national award of “Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres” is not his first. He has received several awards and honours in India and in France before this. He has also been honoured with the Sri Aurobindo Award in Kolkata in the year 2003. This recent award has been given to him by the French Minister of Culture for his contribution to the cultural life of France, for the whole body of his work and for bringing a knowledge of India to France and vie-versa. Usually this award is given to French citizens only after the age of thirty but it has been given to many non-Francophone writers, artists and actors as well.

Prithwin-da has answered our questions and shared his experiences as well as his views on life.

How was the passage from the Ashram to life in Paris?

First of all, the geographical contrast comes to my mind. My father used to name the three seasons prevailing in Pondicherry as: (a) hot; (b) hotter; (c) hottest. I reached Paris on 9th November 1966, when autumn was turning into rainy winter.

Invited by a friend to my first dinner in Paris, I chose for dessert an ice-cream! A cheerful inner attitude helped me enjoy with precaution every bit of legitimate experience that life here had to offer. Vegetarian on the whole, I discovered that the main courses at the university canteen mostly consisted of meat: I started selecting before tasting anything out of curiosity. In Pondicherry I did not know the market. With eyes wide open like those of Prince Siddhartha, while crossing streets in Paris, the sight of an entire cow neatly peeled and hanging in front of the butchers’ shops left me giddy. For weeks together I could not eat. Worried, I went to consult Dr Deniau, a homoeopath near our hostel. He advised me: “Young man, you are running a low pressure; eat as the Romans do as long as you are in Rome. Or go back to the place you have come from.” On entering his chamber, I had noticed behind the doctor’s seat a shelf packed with Sri Aurobindo’s books. I told him where I came from. Just upstairs lived Samuel Beckett. One day, leaving Jean-Louis Barrault at Théâtre Récamier, Beckett was driving me to a friend’s house, where we were invited to lunch. On the way he stopped to pick up a packet, with the comment: “I live here.” I told him that I often went there to see Deniau. Glad to hear that, Beckett replied, “I too am Deniau’s patient.”

The second point was handling of money. In the Ashram I had no contact whatsoever with money. The French Government scholarship allotted me 480 Francs per month. I rented my room at the hostel for 125 per month. The ticket at the canteen was 1.20 per meal, as far as I remember. We paid 5 francs for a simple cut at the barber’s shop, or a film in a normal cinema. In certain theatres we had concessional cinema tickets for 1.50. It was the glorious epoch of the New Wave French films, along with the experimental Italian and Swedish masters: each film brought me a new impetus. The evening paper Le Monde was sold for 30 cents. For a local telephone call we had to introduce two coins of 20 cents into the slot. Some friends even found out how to recover the coins after the conversation was over. The transport — metro and bus — was pretty cheap. As suggested by the Mother, André Morisset had appointed François Chan and Georges Gambelon to look after me. Grandson of a great literary figure, François helped me as a secretary. Gambelon had had correspondence with Sri Aurobindo. A bachelor, proprietor of real estate, he used to let out flats and consecrated all his income to the service of the Mother. As such, he took me out every Saturday afternoon shopping at the departmental store Belle Jardinière to purchase whatever I needed: toothpaste, stockings, shirts, underwear, for everyday use. At five o’clock, on the river side, we took our wafers with hot chocolate. A fine connoisseur of art, Gambelon made me discover the major museums. A Picasso exhibition simultaneously at the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais struck me with the tremendous creative vital and the masterly craft that animated this artist’s vision. Gambelon paid my railway trip back from St Paul de Vence when friends drove me to the Riviera to meet Picasso. Himself a musician, Gambelon offered me a sophisticated transistor to listen to good music. In addition to a costly overcoat, Paolo brought me elegant suits, neckties, pullovers regularly from Rome. His friend, the fabulous tailor Roberto Capucci was to take us around Rome (in his Rolls Royce) and even to visit Assisi, haloed by the presence of Saint Francis. The Mother had promised me to be constantly present: I never suffered from the lack of a single franc; nor did I save a single franc throughout my life in Paris.

The third point was politics: though we had faint ideas about the leading figures of India and of the world, as Ashramites we had other topics of interest than politics. In Paris, everything seemed to depend on the political options each individual had. We were not far from the Students’ agitation of May 1968, when politics stormed through the university gates.

What were your plans at that time and did you fulfil them?

My main objective was to write a thesis on the transition between Sri Aurobindo, the radical nationalist leader, and the dreamer of World Union. In 1970, I successfully defended it at the Old Sorbonne. The president of the Jury, Jean Filliozat (holding the Chair of Indian studies at the Collège de France), suggested that if I stayed on, it would be useful for studies on India, and it would do me good too. In 1955, I had started my research on the pre-Gandhian freedom fight launched by Sri Aurobindo and pursued by my grandfather; in 1965, over several months, I had serialised my findings in a Calcutta weekly. I waited for an opportunity to start my second thesis — for the coveted Doctorat d’Etat — on the intellectual roots of India’s freedom movement (1893-1918).

At last in 1974, on examining my documents, the renowned historian Raymond Aron declared my choice of these twenty-five years to be the missing link in contemporary history. He gladly accepted to supervise my thesis: he had never believed that it could be possible for a man coming from South Africa in 1915 to ask a people — under bondage for centuries — to stand up and join a non-violent mass movement. For Aron, my grandfather (Jatin Mukherjee) was the thinker in Action. In 1981, Aron obtained for me a Fulbright scholarship to explore American archives from coast to coast. When I came back with more than 8000 pages of notes, Aron thanked me: “What a gift for French re-searchers!” By the time I completed the thesis and Aron started constituting the jury, in 1983, he passed away accidentally. After more than two years of desperate attempts to defend it, at last I met Le Roy Ladurie (Professor at the Collège de France, a disciple of Aron and Fernand Braudel, and Father of the New School of History in France): he remembered that Aron had wished him to participate in my jury; so did Jean Naudou, specialist on India, François Bourricaud and Annie Kriegel, two eminent professors. I defended the thesis, and it was welcomed unanimously by the jury as “most honourable”.

With my knowledge of French and Bengali, I had wished, however, to be of use in teaching Bengali which, normally — like many modern Indian languages — should enjoy the status of a major world language. Appointed for several years as a lecturer by University Paris III-Inalco (Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales), I was proposed as candidate for the Chair of Bengali which was going to be created with a special fund. On enquiring with competent authorities — viz. the then Ambassador of India (a relative of Rabindranath Tagore), Collège de France (Filliozat), Sorbonne (Etiemble, Father of Comparative Literature in France) and UNESCO (Roger Caillois) — the President of the Institut, René Sieffert, was convinced about my profile as the ideal candidate. The National Professor Sunitikumar Chatterjee, on hearing about this proposal, committed himself to back my candidature. Unfortunately, local politics did not permit the Chair to exist. Fed up, I joined University Paris XII where a special course on Indian Philosophy was created to welcome me. Then, in 1981, I joined the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (Department of Ethnomusicology) till I retired in 2003.

How did you keep your contact with the Mother in the beginning?

I wrote regularly to the Mother as well as to Dada (Pranab), Pavitra-da, Nolini-da, Amrita-da and my parents. Punctually the Mother herself replied to all my letters and Pavitra-da sent them with a covering personal word, by registered air-mail. Gambelon grumbled at times: “It seems the Mother does not write herself any more!” Once the Mother was not pleased with the construc-tion of one of my sentences and did not hide it when she wrote me back; it amused me because that sort of construction had become quite in vogue, whereas in the Mother’s time it was not.

With reliable friends, I used to send small jars of rose-petal jam made in Greece: it was very close to the Indian gulkand that the Mother seemed to like. In 1972, as a guest of the Hebrew University for lecturing on Savitri, I made the acquaintance of Yehuda Hanegby, editor of the monthly Ariel. As if he had been waiting for my visit, all of a sudden, Yehuda decided to leave for Pondicherry, to meet the Mother. What could he take as offering? I suggested honey, made in the kibbutzim. Madame Themanlys, commissioned to interview me for Kol Israel, the official radio, revealed her identity as the daughter-in-law of a personal friend that the Mother had in Paris, belonging to Max Théon’s group.

What were the lessons learnt in the Ashram that helped you most in your work and in your life in Paris?

The greatest and the most concrete lesson learnt in the Ashram is the alert attitude towards the body: however limited be its capacity, the body has always agreed to collaborate in the teeth of hard circumstances. It allowed me to spin through four continents. Next comes obviously the use of languages. Quite a few items from

What a Sadhak should always remember kept on prompting my decisions. An endless optimism and cool thinking has been of a great help in the midst of crucial tests. I often remembered an incident: one day, an infuriated man at the Ashram gate had taken to insulting Nolini-da vehemently; instead of commanding one of the young men to drive the fellow out, Nolini-da stood there for a few seconds, still like a steadfast flame, before stepping back and going his way silently, without a single reaction on his face.

In the core of my being I bear what the Mother told us: “The best gift that you can make to the Divine is gratitude!” A Bengali song has for refrain, tumi dhanya, dhanya hé!

You have written so much. Which particular writing gave you the most happiness?

I had long been waiting to write Sri Aurobindo’s biography for French readers. Since the limited edition of Monod-Herzen’s book published in the ’40s, people had been looking for a complete biography. When the Director of the series ‘Biographies’ published by the prestigious French firm Desclée de Brouwer invited me to write a volume on Sri Aurobindo, I felt really grateful to the Mother for having given me this chance. Every page I wrote was for me a communion with what the Mother called the psychic being. When the Ambassador of India released it officially, it was for me a fulfilment.

There were other occasions. For instance, in the United States, I used to hear about Eleanor Rosch and the theory of categories in cognitive studies. While working on the scales of Hindustani and Carnatic Music at the C.N.R.S., suddenly I made a rapprochement between those categories and our age-old system of seventy-two mélakartâs. Very happy to declare this identity, I was greeted with a cold shower accompanied by an increasing animosity from the guardians of the temple called cognitive research, for mixing up [human and social] science with fiction; my career came to a standstill for seven years; while I felt more and more convinced, my promotion remained desperately immobile. Making use of an international congress of linguists at Paris, I presented a paper on my topic: as it was appreciated by a few specialists, favourable echoes came from professors working on Indian music in European and American universities. I went a step forward by conceiving two electronic gadgets: one, for singling out the successive degrees of any of the mélakartâs; the other one, for situating the height of the twenty-two microtones (shrutis) used in Indian music. Once they materialise, these two diapasons may bring about a very modest revolution in the world of composition, as I have hinted in my book published by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, with a foreword by Pandit Ravi Shankar. The CNRS authorities chose to recognise my discovery with a bronze medal. My happiness welled from the fact that the Mother had led me to detect some truth and, with perseverance, I saw it conquer all hostility.

How did you feel when you came to know that you were being given this award?

Excepting the Sri Aurobindo­ Award that came to me from India and the medal from the Society of Encouragement to Progress at UNESCO, I have had two CNRS medals in my professional life. Busy executing plan after plan, I have had little leisure to stop and stare at awards. Recently, on his receiving the Légion d’Honneur, a friend of mine told me that he had been wondering why, in spite of all I have published and accomplished, there has been no official recognition. The way he posed the problem betrayed his intention to enquire further into the matter. When I received the letter of appointment from the Minister, I thanked the Mother who has been guiding me since I left Pondicherry physically. On seeing the joy it has caused around me, I try to convince myself about its importance.

How do you see the future of the world?

The Vision that Sri Aurobindo has revealed concerning the future of the world and of mankind is infallible, however long it may take to be realised. A few pioneering personalities I have occasion to meet here are aware of Sri Aurobindo’s prediction: some of them have already started thinking in terms of a World Government. In spite of a shy way of acknowledging man’s debt to Sri Aurobindo, in spite of our worshipping spurious idols, the Truth shall prevail. Our conviction is our strength.

What are your most cherished memories?

At the end of The Wizard of Oz, after a series of wonderful adventures, Dorothy disappointed the Mother by proclaiming, “There is no place like home!” Then the Mother gave a meaning to “home”: it was this physical world, the field of all realisations. In the Bâul tradition, they believe that even the gods wait for their turn to receive the boon of an earthly life, in order to progress in their spiritual quest. The medieval Bengali poet sang: janama abadhi ham rûpa néhârinu/ nayana nâ tirapita bhéla (“Since my birth I have contemplated Beauty, and mine eyes are not yet satiated”): quite a crowd of cherished memories run rioting in a flash.

In 1950, the Mother reserved the Mani House, 3 Easwaran Koil Street, for us (my parents and three brothers). She insisted on the fact that the house belonged to her and she knew perfectly all its nooks. We had no more to budge an inch. At times, in my adolescent years, desiring to live on my own, whenever I approached the Mother, she reminded me: “Do you forget who Tejen is? Who Usha is? Are there many children as fortunate as you are, to have them as parents? You have so much to learn from them! And that house is your field of realisations!” Indeed it was. The entrance was made of traditionally carved solid wooden doors. There were two small rooms leading to a large hall. From the walls, Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s portraits seemed to hold us in their arms. A store-room opened on a kitchen, followed by the dining space with one of the first specimens of a large mosaic table made in the Ashram.

My mother wrought her everyday miracles in the kitchen: like my grandfather, my father had been used to sharing his meals with friends; and my mother served us all varieties of tasty dishes and sweets. Usually the Mother and Sri Aurobindo did not partake of milk or its derivatives. Sri Aurobindo, however, was glad to make exceptions with pântuâ, and the Mother seemed to be fond of chhânâr pâyés prepared by my mother.

Upstairs was an open terrace on the South, full of rose plants. As Sunil-da’s student, I had spent nights together there, observing the positions of the constellations season after season. There was a covered L-shaped verandah where, on a cot, slept my elder brother Rothin and, perpendicularly, my mother’s cot. Then there was a large hall with three beds. I slept on the left, my father in the middle, and Togo, by the side of two windows receiving the sea-breeze. This was the haven where the Mother accommodated our souls. Wherever I go, down the years, this is the nest I long for.

Who influenced you most during your growing up years in the Ashram?

The Ashram in our childhood was a rendezvous of great minds. Philosophers, musicians, poets, painters were ready to be of help to us, as a service to the Mother. Precocious and curious, by the age of fourteen I enjoyed the “friendship” of veterans like Pavitra-da, Nolini-da, Sahana-di, Dilipkumar Roy, Nishikanta, Amal Kiran (K.D. Sethna). But, for a very special reason, it was Dada (Pranabkumar) whose overall influence enriched me the most.

The Mother seemed to gather around her at the Ashram representatives of particular problems that required her force to be rectified, transformed from the spiritual point of view. The virus of polio had caused the loss of my lower limbs at the age of five. Busy extending the territory of Consciousness by conquering inertia, the Mother had proposed me her help, provided I collaborated willingly. In the process of that unwritten pact, Dada had stepped forward to execute her will. Muscle by muscle, in the Mother’s presence, he defined the nature of his intervention. He typed out two big charts and pasted them on cardboard: one, for active home exercises that I followed every day; the Mother had asked Rishabhchand to devise a solid bench specially for the purpose. The other chart was for passive exercises that Dada gave me along with an oil massage during two hours, three mornings every week, at the tennis ground, on the verandah separating the two apartments that housed Wilfy and Raju Garu; it was followed by bathing in the sea. Whenever there loomed a new response from a muscle, Dada invited the Mother to appraise it.

Enjoying Dada’s company, I asked the Mother whether I could assist him — by the side of Tara — in cataloguing valuable books and magazines on physical culture that his library contained. It was at the tail end of 1949, as far as I remember. Rajen-da’s nephew Hiren Ganguli used to come regularly for Darshan and, as an active business-man, he had a portable typewriter with him. On Dada’s request, Hiru-Kaku agreed to teach Tara and myself efficient typewriting. Very soon I was to learn from Sanat-da shorthand, too. On retro reflection, I discovered that my grandfather had been a professional stenotypist. Dada since his school days had been in contact with revolutionaries directly brought up by my grandfather and, as such, held my grandfather in high esteem. As a student of history, he encouraged me in my re-search on our freedom movement.

During the gymnastic marching at the Play Ground, at times Dada improvised melodies by whistling on the microphone: they seemed to rush down from another world. On noticing my interest in music, Dada offered me the first bamboo flute of my life. He had received a clarinet as a gift from the Mother, to learn both European and Indian music. He noted down in a fat register whatever ragas he learnt from Ardhendu-da and made it accessible to me; soon I started taking lessons of Esraj with Ardhendu-da. When the Ash-ram brass band reached its final shape with brand new instruments from Paris, I picked the piccolo for my instrument. In addition to whatever the bandmaster taught, Dada offered me a book with solo notations for piccolo. While I practised, amused by the tunes, he started supplying words — often humorous verses in Bengali — and sang heartily. I still remember his parody of Auprès de ma blonde, London Bridge and a more serious poem on the melody of The Bluebell of Scotland. He was sincerely pleased with my compositions for the band and ordered me to write the Mass Drill music for the annual function of 2 December 1957 and 1958.

Dada got me subscribed to four juvenile Bengali magazines. On noticing my intention to write for them, he mentioned it to the Mother; she liked the idea and, out of the four, she chose Shishu-sâthi — the most rigorous one — to begin with. Once a week, the Mother used to tell stories to the children. I started rewriting them for my Bengali readers. Ignorant of my age, the editor went on publishing me religiously every alternate month and also invited my contribution for the special Pûja annual: impressed by its attractive layout, Dada called it “ice-cream sandesh”, a Bengali­ delicacy.

After composing the Mass Drill music for the annual function of 2 December 1957 and 1958, my score for 1959 was ready; now let me tell you why it was not played. We were no angels and we did not necessarily live on honey-dew. The Mother warned us against the churning of the inner ocean under the action of her Light. Even Dada for a time became subject to bouts of an opaque depression; it could be accompanied by a slap or a blow meant for activating recalcitrant elements. Though we were not indifferent to his suffering, some of us humorously called it the “Mahakali Spark”… One day the Mother declared that she had conquered the Asura of Despondency. Dada was no more gloomy. Soon the Mother stopped coming to the Play Ground. During the rehearsal of the 1959 Mass Drill music, some members of our JSASA brass band — out of quite a comprehensible human reaction— refused to play my composition. It was rather an unexpected blow as much for me as for Dada. When I turned towards him, with a broken voice he advised me to withdraw my score. It was not an easy matter. Forty double sheets of staff notation, some representing individually the Eb instruments; others transposed to Bb; a group playing the melodic parts; another — complex — with the counterpoints : months of labour for me and for the Band Master who had copied out my notation in his professional calligraphy !

At this juncture, my publisher Prafulla Chandra Das of Cuttack — as one of the organisers of the All India Writers’ Conference — sent me an invitation with a first class train ticket, hotel reservation and participation to read my poems; Jawaharlal Nehru was to preside over this session. Prafulla Babu brought out even a bunch of my selected poems on this occasion to be annexed to the Souvenir. Finding it to be a delicate matter to disturb the Mother for her permission during her illness, I decided not to attend the Conference. Nolinida’s messenger asked me to go and see him. Nolinida was waiting for me with two messages. First of all, he told me that the Mother was pleased to hear about my discreet decision. Secondly, his personal counsel: the less I frequent such gatherings, the deeper will grow people’s esteem for me.

Tributes to Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee

• “His [Prithwindra Mukherjee] mastery of Bengali, English and French makes of him one of the persons who contribute the most to the cultural bringing together of India and Europe.” (Jean Filliozat, Professor and Member of the French Academy).

• “I know him [Prithwindra Mukherjee] since many years and I have always very much appreciated his personal dignity, his affability, his care in accomplishing perfectly all his duties. These moral qualities honour him as much as his intellectual qualities.” (Olivier Lacombe, Professor and Member of the French Academy)

• “I have very great pleasure in testifying to my high opinion of the character, personality and linguistic and literary attainments of my friend Sri Prithwindra Mukherjee. He belongs to one of the most distinguished families in Bengal and India… Prithwindra had his education in one of our most advanced Institutions in India… associated with the hallowed name of the great national leader and thinker and saint, Sri Aurobindo. Here he got a thorough training in his mother-tongue Bengali (in which he is a very prominent writer in both verse and prose) as well as English and French…” (Suniti Kumar Chatterji, National Professor of India in Humanities)

• “Ardent in his research, very well placed in receiving and utilizing apt documents, Prithwindra Mukherjee has been tenaciously carrying on his work since many years. Combined with his human qualities of rectitude and affability, these characteristics draw towards P. Mukherjee the sympathy and esteem of my colleagues and myself.” (Jacques Maitre, Director of Research and President at the Section of Sociology, C. N. R. S.)

• “I have the pleasure of certifying that Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee, now teaching at the University of Paris, has been for several years my pupil at our International Centre of Education in Pondicherry. He was always a diligent student and had an inner urge for knowledge and progress which made him take interest in many subjects such as languages, music, poetry and translations… In Bengali he is already one of the leading modern writers… He has been an able exponent of Sri Aurobindo’s vision and of Indian culture over the French Radio. An original musicologist, scholar and linguist, poet and writer, he is serving as a precious bridge between India and the Continent and helping to bring them closer to each other.” (Dr. Nirodbaran Talukdar, author and Sri Aurobindo’s scribe)

• “I have been delighted in noticing in these poems [Alo’r Chakor] the blossoming of a keen-eyed genuine poet: a poet indeed, established in the conviction of his own dharma (God-given Duty)… Therefore I congratulate Prithwindra with affection… Wherever he has been capable of responding to the higher Consciousness, he has composed successful poetry. So beautiful, simple, sincere a style and aspiration and vocabulary—at liberty conveyed through a flowing rhythm. We shall expect in his poetry an increasingly confirmed expression of this Aspiration. May Prithwindra continue to follow the loftiest inspiration which is his own, may he sing on—ever-awake in his radiant dream of a luminous ideal and of beautiful diction. It is certainly these which have found utterance in a cluster of poetic resonances through the poet-voice of Prithwindra…” (Dilip Kumar Roy, author, singer and composer)

• “The major components of the personality of Prithwindra Mukherjee are quite singular: the erudition of a university professor welded to the intensity of an inner concentration and to the elevation of a mystic. Added to this after all the freshness of soul of a stripling…To us Europeans, the musician who reminds the most of Mukherjee is Schubert:… I could as well cite the names of Saadi and Hafiz, the first Persians to speak of love with a human accent leading to God. But in the East, as soon as one goes upward, the various metaphysical trends converge towards the same Absolute. Mukherjee renders this Absolute accessible to our senses, just as the petal of a lily gives us the racy transcription of the delicacy and of the bursting force hidden in purity. He is, in Paris, a living example of the mystical radiation of India throughout the world.” (Gerard Mourgue, Poet, Novelist and Director of France-Culture—Radio France)

• “You have a mastery over the language, you have caught the melody…” (Syed Mujtaba Ali, renowned author)

• “I thank you quite cordially for your collection of poems, where I have the delight of rediscovering a mystical atmosphere so dear and familiar to me, a breath of vastitude, the metaphysics of Sri Aurobindo, and the simplicity of heart, probably the most difficult thing in the world… You are helping us to rediscover our soul, by this ‘icy night’ which you transcend audaciously…” (Jean Bies, Author and Professor)

• “Your words ring with a strange freshness in this West so often a desert, but at the same time how can we not see—and the thing is of a dazzling evidence—that all mystique is one?” (Gerard Engelbach, Poet)

• “How far is it possible to convey in Bengali the lukewarm sweetness or headiness present in the language and the atmosphere of Spain? Our translator is young and, probably owing to his age, even in his verbal constructions he has been able to recreate some sort of a taste of these qualities. Thanks to an identity of temperament, he has been able to capture at least something—a good deal, I was going to say—of the original savour, simple yet intense.” (Nolini Kanta Gupta, Philosopher and Author)


Rare Photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Dear Friends,

Ever since the inception of Overman Foundation, we have strived to collect rare photographs and documents on Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry and present them before the members of Aurobindonian community. During the course of our search for new or unearthed materials on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, we have come across several rare photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Today we take the opportunity of sharing some of the rare photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother from our Archives in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


The Mother at the age of twelve (circa: 1890).

The Mother in Venice (circa: 1901)

The Mother in Venice (circa: 1901)

The Mother in Japan with Paul Richard and Datta on Her either sides.

The Mother with Amiyo Ranjan Ganguli

Photographs courtesy: Ms. Tara Jauhar.


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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.

Babaji Maharaj

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manoj Das


Ramakrishna Das

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunananda Das
(translated by Gourmohan Mohanta)


Two Rare Press Reports on Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


Swami Pratyagatmananda Saraswati’s tribute to Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


Sri Aurobindo, Namaste

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

As the Power radiant that burns and bores,

As the Light supernal that leads and lays, the Way

To the deepest-laid treasure-bed of abiding Value

Thou art that Fire incarnate, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

The Fire leaps with its threefold Flame—

As Inspiration high and sublime,

As Aspiration that conquers and consorts all,

As Attainment that completes and consummates all:

Not Fire alone that burns in the suns and atoms,

Nor Fire alone that shines in gods and godlike beings,

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

Enlightens its Soul, illumines its Spirit:

Thou art that Fire incarnate, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

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

The positions and postures of existence here below,

But exceeds, in three other unrestricted, measureless measures;

Of whose deathless glory (Mahima) Vedic hymns sing;

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

Mind that doubts

And Intellect that debates and dogmatises

Thou art that Fire Supramental, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

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

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

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

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

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


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

Fire as the highest Illumination sought;

The Fire, Agni and Yama, lights and leads;

The Fire as Seeker, Seeking and Sought combined,

As also Guide, Seer and Teacher,

Thou art that Revealing Fire, Sri Aurobindo, namaste!

Seers know of padas (dimensions) numberless of Fire;

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

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

But it is the unfathomed Immensity of Significance,

Where both star and dust, soul arid sense,

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

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

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

Thy Life an eternal Code (sutram),

Thy Sadhana an eternally lucid Commentary (bhashyam),

Thy creation in Thought and Harmony, in Whole Yoga and

Divine Communion,

Is an Epic incomparable,

Unique and profound, surpassing and sublime;

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

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

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

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

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

Mother Bengal wakes with the mahamantra, Bande Mataram:

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

To thee is committed the Charge Divine,

Of keeping alive and carrying to its culmination

The Fire—with “threefold flame:

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

The last, specially, as the End—

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

The curtain riseth again, the scene changeth:

In the solitude of Asrama,

Broadened and deepened, embalmed and inspired,

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

Ramesvaram—and Kanya Kumarika,

Thy asana is unshakeably laid in glory of Purna Yoga,

Invoking and realising,

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

Perfect Vidya (Knowledge), and Perfect Godhead:

Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati, Maheshwari.

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

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

Thy immortal Epic Voice in Savitri assures and cheers—

The colossal unrest and abysmal fear of the age,

Is mighty travail of re-birth,

Of Man, Divine in spirit and expression,

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

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

Devoutly aspires a lagging wayfarer on thy Way,

As the shades are fast falling and gathering,

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

The Shore kneeling and accosting (greeting) the Sea,

Sri Aurobindo, namo namaste!



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

Dear Friends,

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.



James H. Cousins’ Reminiscence of Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


James H. Cousins’ Reminiscence of Sri Aurobindo

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

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


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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


Conversations with Sri Aurobindo recorded by Narendra Nath Dasgupta

October 28, 1925—First Day at Pondicherry

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

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

A.G.: No harm in that.


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

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

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

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

I: May I join the morning meditation?

A.G.: Yes.

I: The evening conversation?

A.G.: Yes.

(I touched his feet and took my leave).


November 6

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

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

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

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


November 17

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

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


November 17

I: Meditation by means of Prakriti

A.G.: What?

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

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

I: It is there in your “Saptachatustaya”.

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

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

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

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


December 8

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

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


January 24, 1926

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Mother with Haradhan Bakshi on 25 October 1954

Excerpts from Haradhan Bakshi’s diary


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Diary entry dated 19.11.1926 referring to 18.11.1926:

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

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

Shri Aurobindo: Nothing more?

Haradhan: No, nothing more.

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


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

What did my Mother tell you about me?

When may I see Her again?

Can I come to bow down to Her every morning?


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

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

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

Devi: Yes you may come at 7.30.

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

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

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

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


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

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Respected Elders and Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sri Manoj Das, the divine litterateur par excellence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee


Overman Foundation.


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