Sri Aurobindo’s First Poem

Dear Friends,

Sri Aurobindo was once asked, in 1939, during the course of a conversation by one of his disciples: “When did you begin to write poetry?” He answered: “When my two brothers and I were staying at Manchester. I wrote for the Fox family magazine. It was an awful imitation of somebody I don’t remember.”

The magazine which Sri Aurobindo had referred to was the Fox’s Weekly which saw the light of the day on 11 January 1883. And the poem of Sri Aurobindo, titled Light, which was deeply inspired by P. B. Shelley’s The Cloud, was published in the very first issue of 11 January 1883. Let’s recall that in 1883 Sri Aurobindo was barely ten years of age.

We take the opportunity of sharing this poem with you all.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Chairman,

Overman Foundation.

                                                     *

 

                                                 Light

 

                 From the quickened womb of the primal gloom,

                       The sun rolled, black and bare,

                 Till I wove him a vest for his Ethiop breast,

                       Of the threads of my golden hair;

                  And when the broad tent of the firmament

                       Arose on its airy spars,

                  I pencilled the hue of its matchless blue,

                       And spangled it around with stars.

 

                  I painted the flowers of the Eden bowers,

                       And their leaves of living green,

                  And mine were the dyes in the sinless eyes

                       Of Eden’s Virgin queen;

                  And when the fiend’s art in the truthful heart

                       Had fastened its mortal spell,

                  In the silvery sphere of the first-born tear

                       To the trembling earth I fell.

 

                  When the waves that burst o’er a world accurst

                        Their work of wrath had sped,

                   And the Ark’s lone few, tried and true,

                        Came forth among the dead.

                   With the wondrous gleams of the bridal beams,

                         I bade their terrors cease,

                    As I wrote on the roll of the storm’s dark scroll

                         God’s covenant of peace.

 

                    Like a pall at rest on the senseless breast,

                          Night’s funeral shadow slept—

                    Where shepherd swains on Bethlehem’s plains,

                           Their lonely vigils kept,

                     When I flashed on their sight, the heralds bright,

                            Of Heaven’s redeeming plan,

                      As they chanted the morn, the Saviour born—

                            Joy, joy, to the outcast man!

 

                      Equal favour I show to the lofty and low,

                            On the just and the unjust I descend:

                      E’en the blind, whose vain spheres, roll in darkness and tears,

                            Feel my smile—the blest smile of a friend.

                      Nay, the flower of the waste by my love is embraced,

                            As the rose in the garden of kings:

                      At the chrysalis bier of the morn I appear,

                            And lo! the gay butterfly wings.

                   The desolate morn, like the mourner forlorn,

                         Conceals all the pride of her charms,

                   Till I bid the bright hours, chase the night from her flowers,

                         And lead the young day to her arms.

                    And when the gay rover seeks Eve for her lover,

                         And sinks to her balmy repose,

                    I wrap the soft rest by the zephyr-fanned west,

                         In curtains of amber and rose.

 

                    From my sentinel steep by the night-brooded deep

                          I gaze with the unslumbering eye,

                    When the cynosure star of the mariner

                          Is blotted out from the sky:

                     And guided by me through the merciless sea,

                          Though sped by the hurricane’s wings,

                     His companionless, dark, lone, weltering bark,

                          To the haven home safely he brings.

 

                     I waken the flowers in the dew-spangled bowers,

                           The birds in their chambers of green,

                     And mountain and plain glow with beauty again,

                           As they bask in their matinal sheen.

                     O, if such the glad worth of my presence on earth,

                           Though fitful and fleeting the while,

                      What glories must rest on the home of the blessed,

                            Ever bright with the Deity’s smile.

 

                                                     *

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Memorial Service on Sujata Nahar

A Memorial Service dedicated to the loving memory of Sujata Nahar (1925-2007), one of the most devoted and faithful disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was held on Sunday, 12 December 2010, at the Head Office of Overman Foundation to commemorate the 85th Birth Anniversary of the great sadhika and former inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram who was also one of the co-founders of Mira Aditi Centre and author of the well-known series on the Mother’s life titled Mother’s Chronicles.

The one-hour-long ceremony, which commenced with the rendition of the Mother’s organ music, was conducted by Shri Anurag Banerjee, Founder-Chairman of Overman Foundation, who narrated a brief life-sketch of Sujata Nahar and spoke at length about her invaluable research on the lives of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

The chief attraction of the ceremony was the playing of an audio cassette which contained a recording of a talk by Sujata Nahar in which she had described one of her spiritual experiences.

Reminiscences and photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s last journey

On 9 December 1950, Sri Aurobindo’s physical sheath was put to rest in the Samadhi vault.

We take this opportunity of sharing with you the reminiscences of Nirodbaran and Udar Pinto and some photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s last journey.

‘When the Mother saw that I was protesting so strongly about placing Sri Aurobindo’s body in the Samadhi, She took me by the hand and led me to His body, then asked me if I could still see the golden light that had been there all these days. I had to admit that it had gone. Then the Mother said that it was because Sri Aurobindo Himself had given the sign to Her that it was now time to bury His body. I had to accept this and the burial was fixed for the evening of the 9th.

‘When the rosewood case was ready, we had the inner sides lined with pure silver sheets and over them a white satin covering was put. Cushions were placed on the bottom of the case.

‘On the morning of the 9th, Mother decided that the body would be put into the Samadhi already prepared. The body was placed in the casket and covered with a bed sheet but the face was uncovered. The Mother stood over it and concentrated for quite some time in order, as She explained to us afterwards, to free the physical body from the subtle body and other conscious parts of the being that normally continue to stay with a body for several days after death.

‘Then Mr. R.K. Tandon, the Indian Consul General at Pondicherry…was called in to witness the closing of the casket with the body of Sri Aurobindo inside.’[1]

                                                      *

‘On 9th December, the Light faded and signs of discoloration here and there were visible. Then, according to the Mother’s direction, the body was put into a specially prepared rosewood casket lined with silver sheet and satin and the bottom made comfortable with cushions. Sri Aurobindo’s body was wrapped in a gold-embroidered cloth. At 5 p.m. the body was carried by the sadhaks to the Ashram courtyard under the Service tree where a cement vault had been under construction from 5th December. Udar climbed down into the vault to receive the casket and put it in its proper position. As the box was lowered a friend of mine said that a prayer sprang spontaneously from his heart: “Now that you have gone physically, assure us that your work will be done.” Something made him look up at the Service tree and suddenly he saw against it Sri Aurobindo; his undraped upper body was of a golden colour. He said firmly with great energy and power in Bengali, “Habe, habe, habe”—“It will be done, it will be done, it will be done.” Then, as wished by the Mother, Champaklal came first to place a potful of earth upon the slate of the vault, followed by Moni, Nolini and other sadhaks. The ceremony was quiet and solemn. The Mother watched it from the terrace above Dyuman’s room. Hundreds of sadhaks stood in the courtyard in silent prayer and consecration.’[2]

                                                           *

7

 8


[1] Udar, One of Mother’s Children, pp. 36-38.

[2] Nirodbaran, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, pp. 282-283.

A Brief Description of 5th—9th December 1950 and some more photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s Mahasamadhi

From 5 December to 9 December 1950, Sri Aurobindo’s physical sheath was kept in state for public darshan.

Nirodbaran and Udar Pinto gives a brief description of the four days that followed Sri Aurobindo’s departure:

‘…the sadhaks came one by one and saw the Marvel and the Mystery, the body of the Golden Purusha in eternal sleep. And with tears of joy and grief they offered their prayer to the One who had sacrificed all for them.

‘I also saw, to my utter wonder and delight, that the entire body was suffused with a golden crimson hue, so fresh, so magnificent. It seemed to have lifted my pall of gloom and I felt light and happy without knowing why. When the Mother came, I asked naïvely, “Mother, won’t he come back?” No!” she replied, “If he wanted to come back, he would not have left the body.” Pointing to the Light she said, “If this Supramental Light remains we shall keep the body in a glass case.”

‘…for four days, the disciples, the people of the town, Ashram employees had the unique Darshan and paid their homage. Bhaktas had come from different parts of India for the benediction of the last Darshan of the Guru. Many of them felt the room surcharged with peace, force, light or bliss. Some saw Sri Aurobindo sitting on the bed and saying, “I am here, I am here!” as if to falsify Nature’s decree…

‘The Mother paid her visits to the room twice or thrice a day, clad in a white robe and with a scarf tied over her hair. Her face calm and grave, yet softened with a material sweetness, she looked like Maheshwari of transcendent glory. She would stand silently before the body, look at it for some time and quietly retire. Sometimes she was accompanied by Nolini, Pavitra, Amrita and others. She did not want the body to be touched and wished that an utter silence should prevail in the room at all times.’[1]

                                                      *

‘The Mother then said Sri Aurobindo had lived so long in the Supramental Consciousness that it had come down into His body and made it shine with a golden light. But She added that one could not be sure how long the light would remain and in case it remained for a long time it was necessary to protect the body against dust and air-borne insects. So She asked me to prepare a large glass covering to go over the whole body in a way which would not disturb it. Immediately a man was sent to Madras to get the necessary large sheets of glass and through Dyuman we arranged for the silver angle strips to join them to form a cover.

‘In the meantime we thought it would be good if we could keep the room temperature low by arranging large blocks of ice round about with fans to blow over them. We did this without consulting the Mother. As soon as She saw it, She asked us to remove everything at once: She did not want any artificial measure to be taken at all. If the body was to remain without perishing, it would be by His will alone…

‘Mother gave me instructions for the casket which was made of solid wood and lined with silk. Sri Aurobindo was still lying on his bed and there was the most marvellous golden light emanating from his body, and a scent like a celestial perfume. The Mother told me how deep to go into the Samadhi and how to design it.

‘We built the Samadhi not as a hole in the ground but as a vault with thick concrete walls nine inches thick with cement floors and a cement roof. We went down eight feet and built a four-foot room with cement slabs. Over that the Mother instructed me to build another room also with walls, a floor and a roof. She told me to fill it with clean river sand and to put a large slab on the top. Thus was the Samadhi built.

‘Mother wanted Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Samadhi’ to be under the Service Tree in the Ashram courtyard. She gave detailed instructions, saying how deep we should go and that we should construct a waterproof chamber down below with a waterproof cement slab cover and then an air-space with another waterproof cement slab cover. Then earth was to be filled over this till it came above the surface of the ground, and around it the walls of the Samadhi were to be built.

‘The Mother also told us to prepare a fine case for His body. I got the Harpagon Workshop to start making one in solid thick rosewood with brass straps and brass rings on the side to take the ropes.

‘We started working from the morning of the 5th. We decided to build the Samadhi ourselves without paid labour. The ground was hard—very hard—and breaking it was quite a job. It was decided that the burial would take place on the evening of the 5th. Discoloration of the body generally sets in within 24 hours, 35 hours is the outside limit. But when it was about time for the burial there was no sign of decomposition at all. In fact, even though life had left the body, it was suffused with a golden light and Sri Aurobindo’s face shone with it.’[2]

*

1

6

3

4

5


[1] Nirodbaran, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, pp. 280-282

[2] Udar, One of Mother’s Children, pp. 35-37.

Reminiscences and Photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s Mahasamadhi

Sixty years ago on 5 December 1950 at 1.26 a.m., Sri Aurobindo had left His physical body.

We take this opportunity of sharing with you the reminiscences of Dr. Nirodbaran, Udar Pinto and Dr. Prabhat Sanyal about the last day and hours of Sri Aurobindo’s earthly life as well as some photographs of the His Mahasamadhi.

‘On the next day [4th December 1950], he [Sri Aurobindo] emerged from the depth and wanted to sit up. In spite of our objection, he strongly insisted. We noticed after a while that all the distressing breathing symptoms had magically vanished and he looked his normal self…Then he moved to the chair. We boldly asked him now, “Are you not using your force to cure yourself?” “No!” came the stunning reply. We could not believe our ears; to be quite sure, we repeated the question. No mistake! Then we asked, “Why not? How is the disease going to be cured otherwise?” “Can’t explain; you won’t understand,” was the curt reply. We were dumfounded…Since the midday the symptoms were on the increase, particularly the breathing difficulty; urine output definitely diminished. That was an alarming signal. We decided to make a thorough blood analysis. Sri Aurobindo consented after a great deal of reluctance…It was a Sunday; the General Hospital was closed. Dr. Nripendra and I hunted out the laboratory assistant; he took some blood from Sri Aurobindo imperceptible vein. The punctures were painful to the sensitive body which was getting transformed. The result of the examination staggered us. All the signs of imminent kidney failure and nothing to be done! As a last resort we had to give some drugs. He was now always indrawn, and only woke up whenever he was called for a drink. That confirmed the Mother’s observation that he was fully conscious within and disproved the idea that he was in uraemic coma. Throughout the entire course of the illness he was never unconscious.

‘By 5 p.m. there was a respite and he called for the commode. In view of the distress, we requested him not to move out of the bed, but he firmly insisted. He knew evidently what he was doing while we always looked through our medical glasses. There was a thorough purposive clearance of the bowels though he had taken very little food for many days. He then walked to the big cushion chair; again a self of calm repose. Alas, but for a brief instant. The respiratory distress returned with redoubled force. He went to his bed and plunged deep within himself. It was during this period that he often came out of the trance, and each time leaned forward, hugged and kissed Champaklal who was sitting by the side of his bed. Champaklal also hugged him in return…We knew that Champaklal particularly longed for some tender outward expression. But Sri Aurobindo’s impersonal nature kept at bay all personal touched except during our birthday or Darshan pranams when he would pat and caress our heads. Now Champaklal had his heart’s yearning gratified to the full extent.

‘…the Mother returned from the Playground after her usual attendance in the evening…On returning to Sri Aurobindo she laid her garland at his feet and stood and watched him. She again remarked, “He is withdrawing himself.” At 11 p.m. she helped him take a drink. At midnight she came again. This time he opened his eyes and the two looked at each other in a steady gaze. We were the silent spectators of that crucial scene. What passed between them was beyond our mortal ken, but Sri Aurobindo’s look seemed to bear a touch of unusual softness. At 1 a.m. she came back, her face was calm, there was no trace of emotion. Sri Aurobindo was indrawn. The Mother asked Sanyal in a quiet tone, “What do you think? May I retire for an hour?…Call me when the time comes.”…

‘About ten minutes before the grand end, he [Sri Aurobindo] called me by my name from his indrawn state, inquired about the time and said, “Nirod, give me a drink.” This was his deliberate last gesture. The quantity he drank was very small and there was no apparent need of calling me by name…After this utterance, followed the final plunge. At 1.26 a.m., leaving his physical sheath, “the Colonist from Immortality” departed from the earthly habitation, in the presence of the Mother who stood near his feet with an intense penetrating gaze, an incarnation of divine strength, poise and calm.’[1]

                                                          *

‘In spite of all medical treatment, there was no improvement in Sri Aurobindo’s physical condition and it became worse from day to day till He came to a state when oxygen had to be administered. I was asked to arrange for it.

‘It was not available in Pondicherry and had to be obtained from Cuddalore…Mr. R.K. Tandon…the Indian Consul General at Pondicherry…sent me to Cuddalore in his own car to get the oxygen equipment. When I brought it, I was shown how to work it also. Hence, when I took it to Sri Aurobindo’s room it was understood that I would be sent for if and when the equipment was needed.

‘It was about 10:00 on the night of 4th December 1950 that I got a call to go to Sri Aurobindo’s room to work the oxygen equipment. I went at once and so I was present throughout the night, that fateful night when Sri Aurobindo left His physical body, and I was a witness to His last moments on earth.

‘Mother said that She would retire for the short rest of two hours or so that She used to take each night. She said to Dyuman that She should be called if there was any sudden deterioration in His condition. He continued to be in a comatose state from which, I understand, one does not come out as it precedes the final moment of death.

‘But at about 1 a.m. Sri Aurobindo suddenly came out of this condition and asked Nirod the time. Nirod told Him the time and gave Him a drink, then He went back into His previous condition, which I then understood to be that of a deep meditation and not a coma which, I think, is a state of unconsciousness.

‘Then Dr. Sanyal said that it was better to call the Mother. Dyuman went to Her room and called Her. She came in a few moments and stood again by the side of Sri Aurobindo’s bed. After a while Sri Aurobindo woke up once more and asked Nirod to give him something to drink. Then He sank back. At 1:26 a.m. His breathing ceased. Everyone and everything was completely still and silent. The Mother was like a rock of strength.’[2]

                                                         *

‘December 4th—at dawn His temperature had dropped to 99 degrees. The respiratory distress was negligible and He seemed bright and responsive.

‘The morning duties were over and we settled Him in His usual sitting position. There He sat majestic and serene. At about 9 a.m., The Mother came and helped Him to take a light breakfast. As She walked into the ante-room, the room used for our consultations, I smiled to Her and said; “The Master seems cheerful again and taking interest.” The only answer She made was “Mmm” and then went out of the room.

‘I settled by the side of the bed and gently massaged the Master’s body while Nirod and Champaklal were attending to their duties. After a little while He opened His eyes and asked the time. I told Him 10 o’clock, I saw He was in a mood to talk so I ventured: “How do you feel?” He replied, “I am comfortable.” There was a pause; He looked at the clock and then asked how Bengal was faring, especially the refugees. I narrated to Him their pitiable plight and implored: “Surely the Divine can help them?” My Lord answered, “Yes, if Bengal seeks the Divine.” He closed His eyes and went into silence (samadhi).

‘But alas, it was only a brief lull—a belied hope. From midday the respi­ratory difficulty reappeared with greater amplitude and the temperature went up to 102 degrees. This time signs of distress could be seen in the face but there was not a word, not a protest.

‘The Mother came about 1 p.m. She watched for some time before entering the adjoining room with me. Then She said, “He is withdrawing.”

‘Though He looked apparently unconscious, whenever He was offered drinks, He would wake up and take a few sips and wipe His mouth himself with His handkerchief. To all of us it seemed apparent that a consciousness came from outside when He was almost normal, and then withdrew when the body quivered and sank down in distress. He was no longer there!

‘By 5 O’clock again He showed signs of improvement. He was quite res­ponsive. We helped Him out of His bed. After which He walked to the armchair to rest. For the moment He seemed a different personality. He sat there with His eyes closed—calm and composed with a radiating consciousness. We remarked on the majestic beauty of His form as He sat there; such calm and beatitude brought to my mind the Vedic Rishis. But this did not last long. After three quarters of an hour He became restless and wanted to be back in bed. Respiratory distress appeared with redoubled momentum. From midday onwards the urine output which had been good all these days definitely diminished and the distress was very prominent. Though He seemed to be unconscious He was not, which was evident by the fact that He drew Champaklal several times to His breast and kissed him lovingly and this Divine compassionate embrace was extended to Nirod and myself. It may be mentioned that this emotional behaviour was evident here for the first time; but He had taken nothing to drink the whole day.

‘The Mother came back after Her usual attendance at the playground. She laid her garland at the foot of the bed, a thing which She does daily, and stood watching Sri Aurobindo. She looked so grave and quiet that it almost distressed me. I went to the ante-room to wait for Her. She entered and I gave Her the report and told Her that Glucose had been given by Satya and we wanted to arrange for intravenous infusions etc. She said quietly and firmly, “I told you this is not necessary, He has no interest in Himself, He is withdrawing.”

‘We sat round His bed, wondering why He was losing interest in Himself; He, if He so desired, could certainly cure Himself as He had done on so many other occasions,—Nirod has seen Him curing the illnesses of others. But now at this crucial hour He had no interest in Himself! Was He going to sacrifice Himself?

‘At about 11 p.m. the Mother came into the room and helped Sri Aurobindo to drink half a cup of tomato juice. A strange phenomenon—a body which for the moment is in agony, unresponsive, labouring hard for breath, suddenly becomes quiet; a consciousness enters the body, He is awake and normal He finishes the drink, then, as the consciousness withdraws, the body lapses back into the grip of agony.

‘At midnight the Mother came again into the room, looked intently for some time as if there was a silent exchange of thought between them; then She left.

‘At 1 a.m. (5th) She returned and again looked at the Lord and stood at the foot of the bed. There was no sign of agony, fear, or anxiety on Her face. Not a thought, not a feeling could I fathom in Her expression. With Her eyes She asked me to go into the other room and She followed me in. She asked, “What do; you think? Can I retire for one hour?” This is a significant hour: The Mother retires—Her consciousness leaves Her body, none are to call or enter Her room then. This is imperative.—I murmured, “Mother, this is beyond me.” She said, “Call me when the time comes.”

‘I stood behind the Master and started stroking His hair which He always liked. Nirod and Champaklal sat by the side of the bed and were caressing His feet. We were all quietly watching Him. We now, knew that anything might happen, any time, only a miracle could save us and the world. I perceived a slight quiver in His body, almost imperceptible. He drew up His arms and put them on His chest, one overlapping the other—then all stopped. Death, the cruel death that was waiting so long—we had been keeping vigil for it—had descended on our Lord. I told Nirod to go and fetch the Mother.

‘It was 1-20 a.m.

‘Almost immediately the Mother entered the room. She stood there, near the feet of Sri Aurobindo: Her hair had been undressed and was flowing about Her shoulders. Her look: was so fierce that I could not face those eyes. With a piercing gaze She stood there. Champaklal could not bear it and sobbingly he implored, “Mother, tell me Dr. Sanyal is not right, He is alive.” The Mother looked at him and he became quiet and composed as if touched by a magic wand. She stood there for more than half an hour. My hands were still on His forehead.’[3]

 A

B

C
D
E

[1] Nirodbaran, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, pp. 273-279.

[2] Udar, One of Mother’s Children, pp. 34-35.

[3] Dr. Prabhat Sanyal, A Call from Pondicherry.