If the face is in general the index of the mind, what then in particular are the eyes? The deepest chambers of one’s heart may be revealed through them. Through the eyes the pages of the dim past and the distant future may be unfolded. Mother used to judge the psychic and the spiritual gift of many sadhaks through the mirror of their eyes, even as seen in their photos. The future of many an aspirant was decided only through the image of their eyes. If such are the properties of a commoner’s eyes what about the eyes of a poet or a yogi? What if the poet and the yogi was Sri Aurobindo?
Does love-at-first-sight not mean the meeting of two pairs of eyes and its long-lasting consequences? How many tender hearts have been united for life only through a simple first-look! What if the meeting of the eyes was with the Mother for the first time? Each such meeting has different stories. But let us turn to our subject.
Before he left Baroda, Sri Aurobindo had made a deep impression on students and colleagues alike. Dr. C. R. Reddy recalled, “I had the honour of knowing him. We had a number of friends in common. Mr. A.B.Clark, the Principal of Baroda College, remarked to me, “So you met Aurobindo Ghose? Did you notice his eyes? There is a mystic fire and light in them. They penetrate into the beyond. If Joan of Arc heard heavenly voices, Aurobindo probably sees heavenly visions.”’
Dr. Reddy wondered how a materialist like Mr. Clark could be so discerning. The second famous Englishman to recognize those eyes was Mr. Edward Baker, the Governor General of Bengal. Let us hear about him from Sri Aurobindo himself.
“He visited us in Alipur Jail and told Charu Chandra Dutt, ‘Have you seen Aurobindo Ghose’s eyes? He has the eyes of a mad man!’ Charu Dutt took great pains to convince him that I was not at all mad but a Karma Yogi.”
British author and M. P. Henri Nevison, while giving an account of the Surat Congress(1907) wrote- “Grave and silent, I think without saying a single word, Mr. Aurobindo Ghose took the chair and sat unmoved, with far-off eyes, as one who gazes at futurity.”
Another inspired expression was by the adventurous French lady, Madame Alexandra Dvid-Neel : “I am truly grateful to the friends who advised me to visit this man. He thinks with such clarity, there is such lucidities in his reasoning, such luster in his eyes that he leaves one with the impression of having contemplated the genius of India such as one dreams it to be after reading the noblest pages of Hindu Philosophy.”
One Balai Dev Sharma, a writer and once a student of Sri Aurobindo at the National College in Calcutta reminisced his experiences in Galpa Bharati, Paus 1357. Among other things he said the following about his eyes, “I seem to recall his eyes, which were withdrawn from the outer world and concentrated on the inner spaces of his consciousness.” (As quoted in Sujata Nahar’s Mother’s Chronicles, Book-five. P.331. Mysore; Mira Aditi)
Now we may go in for a few small anecdotes:
One is from Upendranath Bandopadhyay, as related by Norodbaran. It was during Sri Aurobindo’s Bande Mataram period. He had coined the word Churchianity in an editorial. The proofreader took it to be the result of carelessness and changed it to Christianity. Next day Sri Aurobindo was stunned as he looked at the paper. The learned one was called. He replied, “Sir I am an M. A. from Calcutta University and I have read quite a few books in English. I have also consulted a few dictionaries. But I did not find the word Churchianity anywhere. So I thought that Christianity was the word you had in mind.” He was going to elaborate the point further but looking at the stone-cold unmoving eyes of Sri Aurobindo he suddenly left. (Nirodbaran’s Bengali version of his Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo)
The second anecdote was learnt from late Arun Chandra Dutt in an interview that the present author had with him at Chandannagar. Arun Chandra Dutt was a disciple of Motilal Roy and was then in charge of Prabartak Sangha. He addressed Sri Aurobindo as Maha Guru, as he was the guru of their guru. He recalled that once during the early years of Sri Aurobindo’s stay in Pondicherry, Dutt was sent there by Motilal Roy. One day a small quantity of liquor was served to all the persons present there. It was not a daily affair, of course, but there was not a ban either, if it could be arranged. Sri Aurobindo was seated in a chair. Dutt was a puritan and had never before tasted the thing. He announced that he would not touch it. Needless to add that his ego got some satisfaction in such an announcement. The result was that he received a calm and beneficent look from Sri Aurobindo. He recalled that his entire being, physically from head to toe, got drenched in a cool and resuscitating feeling. His whole being was brimmed with a divine love. Throughout his life he never forgot the touch of those noble eyes.
Motilal Roy and a few others too had such rare opportunities of meeting with the look of the Master.
Henri Cartier Bresson, the famous French photographer, received special permission from the Mother and Sri Aurobindo to photograph the latter on 25 April 1920. He was alone with the yogi for ten minutes. What was his experience? We find it from his notes and replies, as preserved by Sri Aurobindo Archive and Research and published in its December 1990 issue.
“I came in his room with my camera. The room was so neat and tidy and impersonal. Sri Aurobindo did not wink an eye during the entire ten minutes. I was watching him, he did not seem to belong to that impersonal setting.”
When he came out he was asked, “How did it go?”
He replied, “I have never seen a man like this. He was sitting there absolutely immobile.”
Mention may be made of his photos taken with the Mother on April Darshan Day of 1950 by Bresson. In it one of the eyes is looking at you but the other’s gaze is extended towards infinity. We know that his eyes were impersonal, immobile. So impersonal as to ignore or penetrate. One is sure to be nervous before such eyes. By all accounts, Henri Cartier Bresson became very nervous. It is obvious that the proofreader could not remain in his presence, even for a moment after looking at his eyes.
Another painter, Mukul Chandra De, painted a picture of the poet during some sessions, extended to a few days. He also experienced the same immobile sitting with eyes extended to futurity, even for hours.
Shall we compare his look with that of the Mother? It is beyond us. But we may share with many others one occult truth that whenever one concentrates deeply on Mother’s eyes, he feels a pull or push on his psychic center. But while so doing with Sri Aurobindo’s eye he feels a pressure on his head or beyond the head, at the sahasrar chakra. The experience is enough for one to begin his journey. One may have many more experiences through Sri Aurobindo’s eyes.
- Aju Mukhopadhyay