The Passing of Prof. Arabinda Basu

 

Dear Friends,

On Tuesday, 3 July 2012 at 7.10 p.m., Professor Arabinda Basu—better known as ‘Arindam’ in the Aurobindonian community—has left his physical body in the Ashram Nursing Home nineteen days before his ninety-fourth birthday. He is survived by a son. His only daughter Meera had predeceased him on 15 January 2012.

Born on 22 July 1918 Arabinda Basu’s contact with Sri Aurobindo Ashram began through Dilip Kumar Roy in 1938 when he was appearing for his Bachelor of Arts examination. He was undergoing a period of inner crisis at that time so he had written to Dilip Kumar Roy asking him whether Sri Aurobindo could help him to dispel the darkness around him. Dilip Kumar Roy asked him to write to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and, if possible, send a small photograph of his along with the letter. Accordingly, Arabinda Basu typed a letter to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and sent it to Pondicherry. Some days later, an envelope arrived. When he touched it, he could feel something happening to him. When he opened the envelope he found there was a letter written by Dilip Kumar Roy to the Mother about him and the Mother had written some comments on the margin and sent a Blessings Packet. This was his first contact with Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and the Ashram at Pondicherry. He continued to correspond with Dilip Kumar Roy and on 9 April 1941 he arrived at Pondicherry. Dilip Kumar Roy introduced him to Dr. Nirodbaran who later became the channel of communication between Sri Aurobindo and him. Finally on 15 August 1941 he had his first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo. From 1941 to 1950 he visited Pondicherry for the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo with the exception of 1942. In 1943 he wrote to Sri Aurobindo requesting him to allow him to become an inmate of the Ashram. Sri Aurobindo wrote with a pencil on the margin of the letter: “I’ve shown your letter to the Mother. We both agree that you should see a little more of life before settling here.” These three words “before settling here” convinced him that some day he would indeed become an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Arabinda Basu used to have certain epistolary exchanges with Sri Aurobindo through Nirodbaran. He was the recipient of the following letter of Sri Aurobindo dated 17 August 1941 sent through Nirodbaran in which Sri Aurobindo had declared:

“The Mother is not a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. She has had the same realisation and experience as myself.

“The Mother’s sadhana started when she was very young. When she was twelve or thirteen, every evening many teachers came to her and taught her various spiritual disciplines. Among them was a dark Asiatic figure. When we first met, she immediately recognised me as the dark Asiatic figure whom she used to see a long time age. That she should come here and work with me for a common goal was, as it were, a divine dispensation.

“The Mother was an adept in the Buddhist yoga and the yoga of the Gita even before she came toIndia. Her yoga was moving towards a grand synthesis. After this, it was natural that she should come here. She has helped and is helping to give a concrete form to my yoga. This would not have been possible without her co-operation.” 

After completing his education, Arabinda Basu joined the Benares Hindu University as a professor. In the early 1950s, he joined the Durham University of England as a professor. For the next fifteen years he taught at Durham University. When he returned to India in 1967 and went to meet the Mother, he asked her whether he could now return to India permanently. The Mother expressed her consent. When he asked her when should he return, the Mother replied: “Preferably next year.” Though he had a contract for thirty years with Durham University he requested the authorities to relieve him of his responsibilities. Since his classes had already begun at the University and students were coming in large batches to study under his tutelage, he requested his colleagues to give him their classes so that he may complete his course. He duly completed the course, set the question-papers, appointed the examiner and returned to India. He reached Chennai on 31 December 1967, made an overnight journey and arrived in Pondicherry on 1 January 1968. He became an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and joined Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education as a professor. He served as the Editor of the yearly magazine Gavasena. He was also an eloquent speaker who was invited quite often to speak on the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. In 2011 an anthology of his articles, mostly delivered as lectures, was published under the title of Sri Aurobindo: The Poet, Yogi and Philosopherby the Centre of Sri Aurobindo Studies (Jadavpur University). When the ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ was initiated by Overman Foundation in 2010, Prof. Basu became the first recipient of the said award which was presented to him in August 2010 along with the late K. D. Sethna  alias  Amal Kiran. 

Prof. Arabinda Basu was Knowledge personified. A brief interaction with him enabled the seeker to move from the Darkness of Ignorance to the Light of Wisdom. While his formal talks revealed his profound erudition, the informal chats with him revealed his extraordinary sense of humour. One could never have a dull hour in his company. The memories of the lovely and long evening talks I have had at his residence can never be forgotten. Even when he was past ninety years of age, one could not fail to notice the bright sparkle in his eyes. Age had caused his body to become frail but his brain was as active as ever. He could remember with utmost ease the details of incidents which had occurred several decades ago. And when he spoke about the Mother or his co-inmates of the Ashram, it was a moment to cherish. He had a rich inner life full of profound spiritual experiences but he seldom uttered a word about it.

Old age had compelled Prof. Basu to restrict his movements. In the past few months he had become physically quite weak. His eyesight had dimmed and so had his faculty to hear. Some time in June 2012 he was shifted to the Ashram Nursing Home. He returned to his residence after some days but was soon readmitted to the Ashram Nursing Home from where he was destined never to return. Following a brief spell of illness he passed away in the evening of 3 July 2012.

We are told not to mourn the demise of a practitioner of Integral Yoga. But it would be indeed very difficult for those who knew him and were recipient of his affection not to miss his presence. The emptiness created by his physical withdrawal can never be conquered. 

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

 

[From left to right: Shrimati Suprabha Nahar, Shrimati Dolly Mutsuddi, Prof. Arabinda Basu, Shri Anurag Banerjee and Shrimati Ratna Chakrabarti at the ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ ceremony.]

 

Shrimati Ratna Chakrabarti and Shrimati Suprabha Nahar with Prof. Arabinda Basu at the “Auro-Ratna Award” ceremony.

 [From left to right: Shrimati Krishna Chakrabarti, Shrimati Suprabha Nahar, Shrimati Dolly Mutsuddi and Prof. Arabinda Basu at the “Auro-Ratna Award” ceremony.]

 

Prof. Kittu Reddy presenting the “Auro-Ratna Award” certificate to Prof. Arabinda Basu.

 

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12 Comments

  1. Sandeep said,

    July 5, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Accordingly, Arabinda Basu typed a letter to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and sent it to Pondicherry. Some days later, an envelope arrived. When he touched it, he could feel something happening to him. When he opened the envelope he found there was a letter written by Dilip Kumar Roy to the Mother about him and the Mother had written some comments on the margin and sent a Blessings Packet. This was his first contact with Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and the Ashram at Pondicherry.

    The advice that he gave to Jyotipriya (seen below) was no doubt based on his personal experience.

    ….Then, after two days, a strange thing happened — Jyotipriya began to smell jasmine flowers everywhere she went, though there were none anywhere to be seen. And even more curious, the fragrance would grow more intense whenever Arabinda Basu would speak about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. With her logic at a fail, Jyoti at last cycled over to ask Basu if there could be some possible explanation for such a curious phenomenon. His reply: “You’ve contacted Sri Aurobindo, haven’t you? Well, now he has contacted you. Soon you’ll be receiving a letter.” And in the correspondence that did soon follow, Jyotipriya was informed that she was welcome to visit the Ashram at any time.

    From http://sriaurobindocenterla.wordpress.com/jyoti/

  2. July 6, 2012 at 6:20 am

    Reblogged this on The Mother's Lasso.

  3. Tulsi Bhandari said,

    July 6, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Thanks for the information, the sad news needs to be coveyed too. The departure of these senior Sadhaks–Nirod, Amal and now Arabinda–leaves gaps in the chain of time which stretches from the fount of Integral Yoga; the priceless links will never be replaced. It saddens you and an emptiness prevails. Faith and Aspiration may never shake; surrender at Thy Feet may continue to become deeper, more enlightening and joyful, O Mother Divine!

  4. Nilanjan Chatterjee said,

    July 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I visited him at his residence in Ashram
    in year 1985 – we talked about -various
    Indian Philosophers and Indian Philosophies..
    – he showed me a copy of *Gaveshana*, the journal.
    He has had most eloquent way of speaking…& humour.
    Now that he passed away on Guru-Purnima Day[July 3],
    his memories shall always remain with me.

  5. Nileen Putatunda said,

    July 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I had the pleasure of hearing him lecture once at the Calcutta University possibly 2-3 years ago. super speaker! what a mind!

    I will pray for him.

    Nileen Putatunda.

  6. Debashri Banerjee said,

    July 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Dear Sir,

    Its a permanent blow on the Aurobindian society that Prof. Arabinda Basu is no more with us. Wish I could meet him again before his death. However he will remain immortal in our memory through his enormous number of books on Sri Aurobindo. He will always remain as an example to everyone who wish to know about Sri Aurobindo. May his soul rest in peace.

    Thanking You,

    Debashri Banerjee

  7. Prasenjit Sen said,

    July 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    That Arindam da is no more is very sad for us, also to all who knew him even for once. I remember how affectionate he was to our family members. His association was with my father when not many knew or dared to know Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and Integral Yoga .I learnt from my eldest sister Mira (Banerjee) that he used to come from Benares, where he was the Professor, to Allahabad to meet my father (Promode Kumar Sen).I was quite small to remember, that would be in the 1940s.

    However, in the later years when he became an Ashramite he would spot me on my occasional visits and speak a few affectionate words. On one occasion he held my arm near the reception while I was looking the other way and said humourously (with Rahasya), “you are Prasenjit Sen,is it not that? “, Then he laughed. He had invited me and my wife for Tea when we visited Ashram after our marriage in 1976 .He remembered this event of Paula then making perfect tea in our last visit in 2010. My eldest brother (Pranab Kumar Sen) visited Ashram after his retirement from the service(1983.). Arindam da was spontaneous in viting him to this house( Rue Suffren) then newly constructed. My sister Mira kept more close touch with him, though. His affection and Love towards us was seen when he readily agreed to join us for dinner at the Restaurant as recent as two years back.- Mousumi taking the charge of bring him and taking him back home.

    Now that the Translation of Jeebon O Jog is completed – all this could be done due to Arindam da’s great interest and inspiring me constantly. I was not sure that I would be capable of undertaking this difficult work. Finding my hesitation he introduced Amanath Dutta to this task. I am fortunate that the first draft of the translation could be shown to him. But my wish to get a foreword for this translated edition from him remains unfulfilled. I am sure to meet him in the great world of The Mother and apologise for being slow in the revision of the translation, lest I could have got it included as his blessings.

    So much the old indelible memories.
    I am sure his blessings are with us always.

    Best wishes
    Prasenjit Sen

  8. Madhu Nandini said,

    July 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Dear Anurag,

    I have sat around a large table in the school first floor verandah listening to arindam da read The Synthesis of Yoga with very few explanations and a lot of sanskrit quotations. He spoke very softly and very fast. one had to be very alert.

    While he was still eating in the dining hall he used to sit on the parapet for 15-20 minutes after his lunch as the doctor had asked him not to walk home straight after his meal. He was easily approachable and witty with all he spoke to in the dining hall.

    The last time i saw him was after february Darshan when he came to SACAR.

    I am fortunate and blessed to have met him.

    Thanks for the tribute to him.

    In Their love,

    Madhu

  9. Rudrashis Datta said,

    July 8, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Dear Sri Anurag Banerjee,

    I am writing to you to convey my appreciation and thanks for the informative writing on Prof. Arabinda Basu on his passing. I am sure many of the readers would be illuminated and inspired by the spiritual and intellectual biography of Prof. Basu. As one of his admirers, I cannot forget the hours I passed with him almost on a daily basis during my stay in Pondicherry during summer, Puja and winter recess since 2004 while I was working on my PhD thesis in the Dept. of English, Calcutta University. My work was on Sri Aurobindo’s poetry and I remember him commenting on Sri Aurobindo’s poetry and relating them to his philosophy in a manner that left me wondering about the range and depth of his erudition. I am sure many have similar experiences to share on Prof. Basu.

    I conclude by expressing my admiration for the work of the Overman Foundation and pray that They bless you in all the work that you are doing.

    With warm regards,

    Yours sincerely

    Rudrashis Datta

  10. Jayanti Banerjee said,

    July 9, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I am a niece of Prof Basu and am happy to read the correspondance regarding him on your site. I just wanted to mention that his daughter Meera predeceased him on January 15th, 2012. You may like to correct that in your account. I also think there is an error in the year of birth- as per family records.Thanks.

    • Anurag Banerjee said,

      July 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Dear Madam,
      Thank you for informing us about the demise of Arindam Babu’s daughter. We were not aware of this fact. We have incorporated the change in the tribute. We shall be much obliged if you could provide to us the year of his birth as per family records and the names of his parents.

      With warm regards,
      Anurag Banerjee

  11. Dayanand Jamalabad. said,

    July 16, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I have lived practically next door to Prof Basu’s house for nearly 40 years. We almost used to meet daily as he came out for a walk. He was a perfect gentleman and during a moment of crisis which I shared with him he ordered me to go and sit in Sri Aurobindo’s room and all would be well and so was it. As I passed the house this morning I remembered him again and felt like sharing my sentiment…

    Dayanand Jamalabad.


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