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
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.”
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
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
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.”
Wecclebrated 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
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
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)
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
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
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