Sri Aurobindo As We Saw Him: A Review by Dr. Larry Seidlitz

cover of sri aurobindo as we saw him

Title: Sri Aurobindo As We Saw Him. Author: Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Number of pages: 242. Price: Rs. 325.

Sri Aurobindo As We Saw Him presents a series of interviews with 27 disciples about their experiences with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Their names form an impressive list of notable Ashramites, including Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, Prof. Arabinda Basu, Gauri Pinto, Prof. Kittu Reddy, Aster Patel, Jhumur Bhattacharya, Richard Pearson, Vasanti Rao, and Prithwindra Mukherjee. The other participants, some less well-known, are no less interesting. For each interviewee, author Anurag Banerjee first presents a 1-2 page biographical sketch, which is followed by a series of questions that the participants answered. The interviews run about 9 pages on average. At the end there is an Appendix which gives short biosketches of many other disciples who are mentioned in the text. The book is published by the Overman Foundation in a simple A4 size format with a simple white paper cover adorned with Sri Aurobindo’s photo.

The book is a delight to read, especially for those familiar with the Ashram and the contributors. I felt transported back to the early days of the Ashram and got a feel for the atmosphere it had back then. I enjoyed the book as much for the insights it gives into the lives of the interviewees as for the glimpses it provides of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. While some of the author’s questions were individually targeted or probed deeper into particular responses, many were uniformly asked of each respondent. While some of the latter questions provided an open platform for the interviewee to share their recollections, a few seemed too narrowly-focused and yielded few new insights. In general I found the writing and presentation well done, flowing, with very few errors.

Among the book’s interesting perspectives on Sri Aurobindo, some of the interviewees speak of his gaze, his voice, and his smile which were very special in the lives of the devotees. There are a few intimate glimpses of Sri Aurobindo’s meals and diet that provide the kind of personal material that characterizes the book. Many of the participants describe incidents that occurred related to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, of other famous disciples, and of life in the Ashram during the 1940s. Most interviewees tell of their experiences and feelings when standing or doing pranam before Sri Aurobindo and the Mother at the darshans. They were also asked about the final darshan after Sri Aurobindo left his body and lay in state for four days and could be visited repeatedly. Some describe the light they saw that emanated from his body. Some discussed the final laying to rest of the body into the Samadhi in the Ashram courtyard. Most interviewees were asked about the reason and significance of Sri Aurobindo’s passing, and also about his future return in a new supramental body, but I don’t think any new insights were provided here—most had little to say. There are quite a few interesting reminiscences relating to darshans of the Mother after Sri Aurobindo left his body which are also very moving.

There are interesting or enjoyable delights that “come by the way.” For example, some of the disciples mention dreams or visions relating to Sri Aurobindo or the Mother. To one disciple suffering from fever and severe headache, Mother says “One can get well in the blink of an eye,” and so saying, places her hand on the disciple’s head, who then gets cured instantly. We get many examples of the solicitude of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s love for their disciples. We get some sweet tastes of Sri Aurobindo’s humour, like when a disciple wrote about her desire to have rasogollas (a Bengali sweet), and Sri Aurobindo replied “Swallow your desire.” We get some beautiful images of the Mother: “who would comb her tresses with one hand and distribute flowers as blessings with the other hand,” and sometimes would be “very busy discussing a complex problem of mathematics with Manoj and providing the solutions orally.”

Most of these senior disciples have also given in a few sentences their inspiring views of “the message Sri Aurobindo has brought for humanity.” Among these, perhaps the one which struck me the most was that mentioned by Nirodbaran’s niece, Dolly Mutsuddi: “Whatever Sri Aurobindo has given to this earth, whatever sadhana He has done for us—the Mother has inscribed it on the walls of the Samadhi. Tears do come in the eyes of those who understand the significance of those words inscribed on the Samadhi. Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother came to rescue this world. They have done Their sadhana to divinize this earth.”

For those who are interested in stories of the former Ashram days when Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were here and interacting with the disciples, this book is a treasure trove. Anurag has brought together many beautiful gems in this delightful work which remind us of the true spirit of the Ashram and its life in its earlier years.

Dr. Larry Seidlitz

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About the Reviewer: Dr. Larry Seidlitz received his doctoral degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. He was an Assistant Professor and researcher in psychiatry and psychology at The University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, U.S.A. He is currently a faculty member of Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (Pondicherry). He is also the editor of the journal ‘Collaboration’ published by Sri Aurobindo Association of California and author of many articles on Integral Yoga.

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“Introduction to Sri Aurobindo Studies”

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

It gives me immense pleasure to inform you that Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre, New Alipore, Kolkata, in collaboration with Overman Foundation, is organizing a Certificate Programme titled “Introduction to Sri Aurobindo Studies” to be conducted through a series of lectures and interactive sessions spreading over around 4 months from September to December 2014.

The said Programme is intended to be an introduction to Sri Aurobindo and his thoughts and work for individuals interested in having an easy first glimpse.

The Programme faculty consists of eminent Aurobindonians like Prof. (Dr.) Indrani Sanyal (Department of Philosophy—Jadavpur University), Sri Subrata Sen (Secretary, Sri Aurobindo’s Action West Bengal), Sri Gautam Banerjee and Sri Anurag Banerjee (Founder and Chairman, Overman Foundation) along with eminent Guest Faculties to be invited.

Since seats are limited, registration shall be done on first-come-first-served basis. The total Programme Fees shall be Rs.700/- per participant payable at the time of registration. The last date for registration is 23rd August, 2014.

Classes shall be held on Thursdays from 6.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. and Saturdays from 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m. at Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre, 532 Block—M, New Alipore, Kolkata 700053.

Each participant shall be given a Certificate of Participation at the end of the Programme.

Interested persons may kindly contact the Programme Director—Sri Anurag Banerjee @ Mobile: +91 9830244192 for matters concerning the programme content and Sri Partha Sarathi Bose (Programme Co-ordinator and Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre Trust) @ Mobile : +91 9831040853 for matters concerning registration, organization and conducting of the Programme. They may also visit the relevant link in the website http://www.sriaurobindocentre.org for information or email at: admin@ sriaurobindocentre.org

We take the opportunity to request you to ask interested persons to get in touch accordingly.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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The Mother’s Photographs with Indian Political Leaders

Dear Friends,

The Mother had proclaimed on 15 August 1954: “From the first time I came to India—in 1914—I felt that India is my true country, the country of my soul and spirit… I am French by birth and early education, I am Indian by choice and predilection. In my consciousness there is no antagonism between the two, on the contrary, they combine very well and complete one another.”

After India achieved her independence in August 1947, several prominent political leaders of the nation had visited Pondicherry to pay their respects to the Mother.

Some photographs of the Mother with Indian political leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Kumarasami Kamaraj, Indira Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Uchharangrai Navalshankar Dhebar, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Varahagiri Venkata Giri, Surendra Mohan Ghosh and Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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1The Mother with Surendra Mohan Ghosh and Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

2The Mother with Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

3The Mother with Uchharangrai Navalshankar Dhebar, former President of Indian National Congress.

4The Mother with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Kumarasami Kamaraj, Indira Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri.

5The Mother with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

6The Mother with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

7The Mother with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his associates.

Rajendra prasadrajendra prasad 1The Mother with Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. Also is seen the message in the Mother’s own handwriting which she had given to Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

mother with nandini satpathy

The Mother with Indira Gandhi and Nandini Satpathy, former Chief Minister of Orissa.

14The Mother with Indira Gandhi.

15The Mother with Varahagiri Venkata Giri, former President of India.

16The Mother with Varahagiri Venkata Giri. Also seen in this photograph: Nolini Kanta Gupta, Champaklal and Tara Jauhar.

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(Photographs courtesy: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)

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