Sunday, March 20, 2011

Who is Sri Aurobindo ?


Once in the early years of my life in the Ashram I wrote to Sri Aurobindo, "How people calling to Shiva or Krishna or their Ishta Devata get responses from you I don’t understand," he replied, "Who is Shiva? and who is Krishna? and what is an Ishta Devata? There is only one Divine, not a thousand Divines." Myself: "It would mean that wherever a sincere heart is aspiring for the Divine, his aspiration reaches your ears." Sri Aurobindo: "Why my ears? Ears are not necessary for the purpose. You might as well say, reaches me by the post." I then protested, "No, Sir, I am satisfied with you as Sri Aurobindo pure and simple. I don’t need anybody else." He wrote back, "No objection. I only suggested that I don’t know who this Sri Aurobindo pure and simple is. If you do, I congratulate you." Since then, my relation with him had become very intimate. I gradually came to know many aspects of his personality, but never who he really was. My correspondence with him has shown that I dared to take liberties with him (which was considered unthinkable by other sadhaks). Once I wrote to him, "Cut me or beat me, Sir, but don’t forsake me." And the answer he wrote back startled me and filled me with a sudden delight and assurance beyond measure. He wrote. "Never. But beat you, a lot." This assurance has sustained and will sustain me even in my future life, if I may say so. Once I dared to ask him, "Where do you get so much sense of humour?" His cryptic reply: "raso vai sah" (verily He is Delight.) Then one day when I asked him "Why are you so soft and free as if I’m your comrade?" he gave an enigmatic answer: "Find out for yourself." When I failed to find out, he wrote, "It is not by the mind that you can find out." Till now I have failed to discover why. The enigma remains unsolved and I live with the hope that perhaps he will divulge the secret as he had divulged to Dilip the cause of his intimacy with him. But he has made me stick to him till now and perhaps forever.

But my knowledge of him has grown as far as my small human understanding can allow. And I have come to this conclusion that what he has written about Sri Krishna in fact applies to him too. In his estimation Sri Krishna had an unfathomable mind of knowledge. However, Sri Aurobindo remains an enigma to the world. 
The Mother herself has admitted that she had failed to know him though she had lived with him for more than 30 years. 
To a disciple who wished to write his biography, he remarked that his life has not been on the surface for people to see.

The vast world of knowledge he had possessed remains unparalleled. He has himself admitted to us that what he knows will remain untold even if he goes on writing for twelve years. We asked him, "Will all that knowledge remain unknown to us and posterity?" "Learn first of all what I have written," he replied with a sweet smile, and added. "I am afraid I have come perhaps before my time." Comes to mind a mighty line from one of his poems: "I have drunk the Infinite like a giant’s wine."
Only with the help of such a Wine could he have given to India and the world his four major contributions: a national awakening and fiery thirst for total independence, a new and deeper interpretation of the Vedas, the rediscovery of the Supermind, and a life-embracing system of Integral Yoga.

The question that makes us marvel with wonder is how within a short span of years he could gather so vast a knowledge, and even record it, which would need at least a hundred years. The Mother holds an answer to that enigma. She said that he had only to sit before the typewriter and knowledge would pour down like a stream from above.

And is it only knowledge? What about the beauty of expression, perfection of style and masterly composition? We remember that when his immortal book ‘The Life Divine’ had been published, the Times Literary Supplement’s front page article described Sri Aurobindo as "an author who writes with the sky for page and the constellations as his company," and as "a new kind of thinker who combines the serenity of the East and the alacrity of the West."
Romain Rolland, a great French savant, said about Sri Aurobindo, "The old leader of the Bengal revolt, who is now one of the greatest thinkers of modern India, has realized the most complete synthesis achieved up to the present between the genius of the West and of the East." He also said that Sri Aurobindo is the last of the great Rishis who holds the creative bow in his hand.

If this is about the Man of Knowledge, what about the human being he was? What has he not done for the human race? We know he sacrificed his inestimable life for the incalculable benefit of man. 
In the Mother’s revelation to Dr. Sanyal, a famous surgeon who was called to treat Sri Aurobindo, "People do not know what a tremendous sacrifice he has made for the world. About a year ago, while I was discussing things I remarked that I felt like leaving the body. He spoke out in a firm tone, ‘No, this can never be. If necessary for the transformation I might go, you will have to fulfil our yoga of supramental descent and transformation’." 
She also said, "As soon as Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body, what he called the Mind of Light got realised in me." And his human body turned a golden colour for five days to the surprise of the public. But his immortal consciousness is ever with us guiding the destiny of the world, remaining with us in all our trials and tribulations and leading this woe-begotten race to its divine destiny for which he came to the world - a colonist from Immortality!

What shall we then think of him? That he is as God himself is? Have we got the answer to his Question "Who is Sri Aurobindo?" Or will he remain a marvellous enigma forever? 

- Nirodbaran

(Formerly published in "Jyoti" Nr. 3 (1999) - the online journal of the Sri Aurobindo Center EWCC - Los Angeles)

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