Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Spirit of Storm


Courtesy : "The Heritage", June 1985, pp. 80-81

Friday, April 24, 2020

“Nourish the Mind & Soul for the Centenary of the Mother’s Permanent Return to Pondicherry” by Aryadeep

Earlier, Francis gave a call that 24th April being the Mother’s final and permanent return to Pondicherry, people mediate and express their silent gratitude to her during the early morning, no matter where they are. That’s beautiful.  
I believe that the human mind needs nourishment even to feel better, to think better, to understand better.
Yesterday evening, an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and a donor to A4A sent me an audio file via WhatsApp in connection with the Mother’s final return to Pondicherry exactly 100 years ago on 24th April 1920. The clear and distinct and disciplined voice in the audio imbued with devotion read selected passages from the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s writings, questions and answers, conversations etc.  The selection was revelatory and inspiring – narrating beautiful experiences right from Mother’s teenage to the final push in Japan – an experience of the supreme more marvellous than described in the book Bhagwat Gita turning her to the West, to India, to a horizon at the end of which was Sri Aurobindo. It also speaks of her first and second meeting with Sri Aurobindo, besides many other significant insights and revelations. Total duration of the audio is 25 minutes and 25 seconds!
You will be able to celebrate your 24th April – the centenary of the Mother’s permanent return - in a much better way by listening to this audio. The breath of a purer and truer consciousness will enter in your atmosphere. This is what I call the worthwhile nourishment to the mind & soul.
Click here to listen to the audio.  (You will need to click on the white > button to start the audio. It will not start automatically.)
A request - Having derived the benefit, forward the link to your friends and fellow disciples and post it on your social media.
PS: Also the website of the Overman Foundation has today published “almost all the available photographs of the Mother taken on 24th April from 1951 to 1973.”

Monday, April 13, 2020

“Corona Is Here, But Where Is Karuna?” by Karan Singh

The grave crisis that has developed worldwide due to the spread of a tiny, invisible virus, reminds me of the samudra manthan story, the mythological churning of the milky ocean.  Continuous churning went on for centuries, in which devas and asuras, both participated in the hope that great gifts would emerge.  Instead, suddenly, a dark and deadly poison, the garala, emerged and spread worldwide.  Devas and asuras fled in terror, and it was only when Shiva, Karunavataram, the incarnation of compassion, collected the poison in his hands and swallowed it, thus containing it in his own throat which turned blue (hence his name  Neelkanth) that the churning continued and great gifts began to appear.

If we consider the violent churning that the human race has indulged in over the last few centuries – the ruthless exploitation of nature, the cruel destruction of millions of plant, insect and animal species, pollution of air, earth and oceans, the unsustainable high protein diets and consumption of strange animals and reptiles has, at last, thrown up a new garala that threatens the very existence of the human race.

Perhaps this is nature’s way of telling us to slowdown worldwide for a while so as to enable her to regenerate, which she seems to be doing rapidly, during the human lockdown period.

To expect Shiva to appear once again and contain this poison is, to say the least,  unrealistic; nonetheless, we urgently need the compassion he embodied so that together, we can meet this challenge. This must extend not only to victims of the virus but to those millions whose lives have been uprooted in the process.  The sight of lakhs of migrant workers desperately trying to walk hundreds of kilometers to get back to their villages was heartrending.  Have we seen a countervailing upsurge of compassion? Shakespeare’s immortal words in the Merchant of Venice are apt:  “The quality of mercy is not strained/ It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest / It blesses him that gives and him that takes.”

That is the karuna we need. The present crisis has taught us that firstly, despite attempts by several world leaders, notably President Trump, to trash globalization, the fact remains that in any major worldwide crisis we will all sink or swim together.  The ancient Indic ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam remains valid.

Secondly, it shows that our basic health infrastructure remains woefully inadequate. ‘Sharir madhyam khalu dharma sadhanam’ --  the body alone is the foundation for all dharmas.  Unless we triple the percentage of GDP that is at present allotted to health and education, we will never be able to safeguard the welfare of the weaker and most vulnerable sections of society. A restructuring of our national priorities is long overdue.

Thirdly, this crisis has given us the opportunity to stay home, look within and develop our intellectual and spiritual capacities, regardless of which religion we may belong to.  We have to find within ourselves, springs of compassion –karuna – that alone will be able to confront this deadly corona challenge.  We do not need large congregations; just quiet prayer and meditation are much more effective.  As the Upanishad says, “Within the furthest golden sheath resides the immortal Brahmn.  That, effulgent, light of lights, that is what the knowers of the 
Atman know.”
                                                                               -      Karan Singh

Courtesy and Link :

Thursday, April 9, 2020

“Sri Aurobindo came to Pondicherry: A Look Back” by Aju Mukhopadhyay

    We  cclebrated the centenary of Sri Aurobindo’s coming to Pondicherry with much fanfare but it was entirely different at that trying time of secrecy and escape when he arrived on the shore of the ancient town, under French occupation as a colony, at four (post meridiem) on the fourth day of the fourth month of 1910. Four is the symbol of square, completeness and supramental consciousness. Sri Aurobindo’s arrival signified all this.
      He and his follower Bijoy Kumar Nag disembarked at the shore of Pondicherry incognito from S. S. Dupleix with tickets for Colombo as passengers named Jyotindranath Mitra and Bankim Chandra Basak. This was one of the first such escapes by any politician of great importance before the watchful and wakeful eyes of the British. They were received with dignity by editor Srinivasachariar, poet Subramania Bharati and revolutionary Suresh Chandra Chakraborty (Moni). They were taken to the house of Shanker Chetty at Comoutty Chetty Street. Moni did not know the house till their arrival for the revolutionaries who received him did not believe that such an important leader would come to Pondicherry. But they gave up the idea of giving him a grand reception as advised by Moni in keeping with the prevailing situation. Everything was done in secrecy.
        Nolini Kanta Gupta wrote in his memoire, “Sri Aurobindo took shelter in Pondicherry. Otherwise we may say that he sheltered Pondicherry in his consciousness.” 1
          The French Scholar Jouveau Dubreuil after due research found that Pondicherry was once called Vedapuri with a temple of Vedapurishwara, a seat of Vedic learning, founded by the ancient Rishi Agastya. His ashram was exactly at the place where now stands the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.     
     K. V. Rangaswami, a member of Madras Imperial Assembly, whose Guru at his death bed 30 years prior to Sri Aurobindo’s coming predicted that 30 years hence a Purna Yogi from the north would arrive who would be known by his three specialties: the three famous madness, as Sri Aurobindo confided to his wife; that he would see the God, that whatever the God has given him was to be returned keeping the minimum for him and his family and that he regarded his Country as his Mother.
     The next year on 12.7.1911 Sri Aurobindo wrote in a letter that he needed some place of refuge in which he could complete his Yoga unassailed and build up other souls around him. It seemed to him that Pondicherry was the place appointed by those who are Beyond.  
     How was Pondicherry at that time? Nolini Kanta described it as a ‘dead city’ and David Neel said that it looked like a funeral garden of the defunct city. But why of all places Sri Aurobindo who was at the acme of his political life then decided to come and settle here? The story follows.
     Born in Calcutta on 15 August 1872, he was brought up mostly in England. He was a scholar and poet. He passed Tripos and ICS at the same time with record marks in some subjects. Though secluded from Indians and Indian society during his studies in England he developed patriotism from an early age and avoided joining the Civil Service by not appearing for the riding test even after repeated calls. Back to Baroda, India, in 1893, a young man of 21 years, he joined the Princely State mainly as professor. Something happened in India’s destiny in that year: Swami Vivekananda left for Chicago, M.K. Gandhi left for Africa, Sri Aurobindo and Annie Besant came to India.
     Back to India Sri Aurobindo studied Indian scriptures, languages and literatures after he had studied European languages, history and literature while in England. He was a polyglot. But the scholar and poet also organized secret revolutionary groups. He was active during the Partition of Bengal in 1905 and came to Bengal from June 1906 permanently. He became the first principle of the first National College in India and continued his work as revolutionary. He became de facto editor of Bande Mataram daily in English. Later he published Dharma in Bangla and Karmayogin in English. He wrote in some other papers. His journalism opened a new vista of freedom movement.
     Sri Aurobindo was prosecuted for his seditious writing in 1907 when Tagore wrote his oft repeated poem, “Homage to Aurobindo” but he was acquitted without any charge against him proved. In 1908 he was prosecuted for revolt against the king and was lodged in solitary confinement for some time and in general ward for the remaining time of the one year in Alipore Jail; from 5 May 1908 to 5 May 1909. He was acquitted as no charge could be proved.
      Lord Edward Baker, Lt. Governor of Bengal wrote to Lord Minto, the Viceroy of India, that he attributed the spread of seditious doctrines to him personally in Bengal or possibly in India. He wrote, “Although he escaped conviction in the Alipore case, yet it is beyond doubt that his influence has been pernicious in the extreme.” (Iyengar 351)
     And Minto himself wrote to Lord Morley at the India Office, “As to the celebrated Arabinda . . . he is the most dangerous man we now have to reckon with, he was one of the instigators in the Manicktolla murders and has an unfortunate influence on the student class . . . . Surely you cannot hope that such a man should remain at large.” (Iyengar 352)
     The Government had controversy brewed in its own administration. On 11 January 1911 Lord Hardinge, the new Viceroy of India, wrote to Lord Crewe, the Secretary of State, that prosecution for sedition, especially in a case against Sri Aurobindo should have been “taken up in a more venturesome spirit than the gravity of the step warranted.” (Iyengar 353)
     Lord Crewe wrote to Lord Hardinge on 13 January 1911 that Aurobindo, though dangerous might be, he was “well known here (England), and looked on as a high souled enthusiast, averse to crime, and a man who ought not to have been attacked without the clearest proof.” (Iyengar 353)
     Sir Ramsay Macdonald, the next Prime Minister of England, himself fought for Aurobindo Ghose in British Parliament. The Government was trying to deport him. He avoided arrest by issuing ‘Open Letter’ in the Press on 31 July and 25 December 1909. While he was absconding he wrote letter in Karmayogin, then edited by Sister Nivedita. The last warrant on charge of sedition was issued to him on 4 April 1910 when he had reached Pondicherry but ironically, the Government failed in this last case also. He was judged innocent.       
     It is seen that he was least afraid of the Government and of punishment. Dedicated to the God, he was determined to free Mother India. But with poetry and politics he was doing Yoga also from 1904 and God was leading him always, finally through prosecution in jail to his destined path of Yoga. In Alipore jail he saw God and told of his conviction, of the possibility of his leaving earthly work for yogic life. He said this to Sir Ramsay McDonald when the latter met him in January 1910.
     At last when about to be arrested, he remained as calm as before and heard a Vani, an inner voice, “Go to Chandernagore.” Living in different houses there, living underground, he heard another divine command, “Go to Pondicherry”. Thus beginning his journey on 31 March 1910, facing many hazards, he reached Pondicherry on 4 April 1910.
       But even here he was not left alone. He was persecuted and spied by the British police for long 35 years. Threat, invitation, allurement, effort to kidnap by thugs- all he brushed aside, telling Subramania Bharati at one point, “I don’t budge from here”, and remained there up to his last day on 5 December 1950.
     He was most creative here, wrote most of his magnum opus while editing Arya for about seven years. Here he became a world renowned philosopher of ‘The Life Divine’, proclaimed the Ideal of Human Unity as his goal and here he attained the utmost height in his spiritual flight: The Supramental light and consciousness entered into him in his earthly body.

Notes and References :
 1. Rachanavali-Collected Works.  Nolini Kanta Gupta. Kolkata: Srinvantu. 1979. V.5. p.378
 Work Cited :
Iyengar K R Srivivasan. Sri Aurobindo a biography and a history. Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. 1985. Fourth Edition. 

                                                                         © Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2020