Sunday, August 2, 2015

Margaret Woodrow Wilson : American President's daughter lived and died in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry

Religion: Dishta of Pondicherry
Monday, Feb. 08, 1943
On southern India's Coromandel Coast New York Times Correspondent Herbert L. Matthews last week stumbled on one of Woodrow Wilson's daughters.* The spirit and image of her father, she lives in the French town of Pondicherry (now occupied by De Gaullists). She told Mr. Matthews that she was very happy after three years as a sadhak (follower) of an Indian religious teacher, Sri Aurobindo. Said she: "In fact, I never felt more at home anywhere."
Margaret Woodrow Wilson, now 56, and a spinster, broke with her family's Scotch-Irish Presbyterian traditions years ago when she stalked from church during Communion service. Flicking through catalogue cards in the New York Public Library four years ago, she came upon Sri Aurobindo's Essays on the Gita. For no special reason she took out this 300-page commentary on India's famous religious and philosophic poem, whose origin is lost in history. She read how "the lower in us must learn to exist for the higher in order that the higher also may in us consciously exist for the lower, to draw it nearer to its own altitudes." Fascinated, she read on until the guards closed the library. Next day she was back again.
Aurobindo's ashram (a retreat for disciples of a religious leader) is only one of many in mystic-minded India. Best known is Mohandas Gandhi's. Much more worldly, and very pro-British is Aurobindo's, which he set up 33 years ago. There Margaret Wilson responds to the name Dishta, meaning in Sanskrit the discovery of the divine self.
Cambridge-educated, 70-year-old Aurobindo keeps to his own room, appears only four times a year to his followers. If they wish advice they write him a letter. He may reply, may not. Active management of the ashram falls on a 66-year-old French woman, Madame Alfassa, known to disciples as Mother of the Universe.
Since the ashram can hold only a handful of followers, many of them, including Margaret Wilson, live in up-to-date houses in the town. Her religion, not concerned with mortifying the flesh, permits her to wear American clothes, read magazines and newspapers, puff an after-dinner cigaret. When she first arrived in India she tried to be a vegetarian, but she lost so much weight that the Mother of the Universe put her back on meat. She spends most of her time trying to acquire "a state of serenity." Each evening she goes to the ashram to spend half an hour in meditation to achieve this purpose. She finds it "extremely hard."
* Woodrow Wilson's other daughters: Jessie, who died in January 1933, was the wife of Francis Bowes Sayre (U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines, 1939-42); Eleanor ("Nellie"), divorced wife of the late Senator William Gibbs McAdoo, now living in Los Angeles, is regional adviser of women's activities for the Defense Savings Staff of the Treasury Department on the West Coast.

Courtesy: “Time” Magazine, Feb. 08, 1943


The strange disappearance of Margaret Woodrow Wilson 

Nishtha, as the Ashramites knew herNishtha is the story of Margaret Woodrow Wilson, daughter of the 28th President of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson, (1913-1921) whose vision and commitment to world unity eventually lead to the formation of the 'League of Nations'.
The play was written by Aurovilian Seyril Schochen, American playwright and actress, and has been performed on various occasions, most recently by the Auroville Theatre Group in Auroville, directed by Jill Navarre, American Aurovilian who has worked in theatre since 1977.

Margaret Woodrow Wilson

Margaret was an intelligent, capable, fiery woman of her times, a suffragette, and a famous concert singer. During the First World War she toured around America singing to raise funds for the Red Cross, and went to sing at the frontiers of war-torn France as a way of giving her support and making a contribution to the cause.

Connection with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Scene from the performance played by the Auroville theatre group, here with Nico and SrimoyiShe was first introduced to eastern mysticism by her friend Eliot, an English army officer and follower of Sri Ramakrishna.
In 1936 she discovered Sri Aurobindo's 'Essays on the Gita' at the New York City Public Library and was so taken by it that the guards had to more or less throw her out at closing time. She returned eagerly the next day and continued to do so until she had read through the book. To her great joy, she realised that at long last she had found her path and her guru.
She took up correspondence with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and was anxious to be near them in order to receive their help and guidance for her inner progress. They advised her to "remain in America due to (her) ill health but to establish an inner contact". Sri Aurobindo also wrote to her that "The silent answer and help can always go to you immediately - for there distance doesn't count".

Arrival in Pondicherry in 1938

Two years later, aged 52, Margaret was finally granted permission by Sri Aurobindo and Mother to come to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. She arrived in Pondicherry in October 1938 against the advice of her doctors, who warned her of the ill effects of the tropical climate on her acute arthritic condition.
Aurovilian Srimoyi as NishthaSoon after her arrival, she was renamed 'Nishtha' by Sri Aurobindo, who wrote to her on 5.11.1938: "The word means one-pointed, fixed and steady concentration, devotion and faith in the single aim, the Divine and the Divine Realisation."

Refusal to return home

In 1940, after the United States joined the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent instructions to evacuate all Americans from India on reports of Japan's threatened invasion of India. But she resisted all pressure from family, friends and the United States government to return to America, and stayed on in the Ashram to fulfill her dream. (It is mainly this period which has been used for the script of the play 'Nishtha'.)
The last six years of her life Nishtha spent in Pondicherry, often ill, but content to be in such close proximity to her beloved gurus.

"Their way is my way…"

Nishtha and her sister, played by Srimoyi and Surbhi PatelOn 21.1.1943 she told The New York Times correspondent Herbert L. Matthews - "I don't want to return to the United State. I am not homesick. In fact I never felt more at home anywhere any time in my life."
To her friend Lois, she wrote in 1939: "Since seeing Sri Aurobindo and the Mother together, I have been surer than ever that their way is my way - that my soul brought me here where it belongs."

Inner experience

The Ashramites remember her as an imperious, fastidious lady of remarkable mind and character. True to her new name, she seems to have had only one intense aspiration, that of realising the Divine.
In her letter to her dear friend Lois, it appears that she was indeed progressing towards her goal, for she writes:
"I think I can say that some kind of 'experience' has begun for me, for Istrike a quiet nearly every day."

Courtesy and Link :

Nishtha's observations (Download .zip file)


pianomonika said...

There is often a turning point in one's life.
This point was for Margaret Woodrow Wilson,when she selected a book entitled Essays on the Gita, written by Sri Aurobindo.In New York's library she read it with passion.
It made such an impression to her , that she joined Sri Aurobindo's Ashram.
She was drawn to mysticism , and an explanation was in her eyes, ,that her father was half Irish and half Scottish.
Her name in the Ashram was Dishta, a Sanskrit name. Margaret Woodrow Wilson was four years a
Sadhak and follower .
The first time she felt it difficult to live as a vegetarian, as the Hindus do; but
''The Mother'' putted her back to meat, because she lost weight.
She was happy in the Ashram ,felt no homesick, and said, that she did not want to return to the United States.
Margaret Woodrow Wilson lived outside the Ashram, because the place was not enough for all
In Sri Aurobindo's Ashram was a community kitchen,he did not permit caste or creed differences ,for this time in India very noteworthy.
Ashrams have been existed in India since many centuries , but with Sri Aurobindo and The Mother
a new time of Consciousness and Yoga started; bringing the spirit into life and transforming it.

pianomonika said...

To ''bring'' Margaret Woodrow Wilson's life in a play was a good idea , to see ,how her life
changed in India,Pondicherry, to Nishtha-how her development was there.The name Nishtha was given to her by Sri Aurobindo; the meaning:pointed, fixed and steady concentration, devotion and faith in the single aim, the Divine and the Divine Realisation."
She felt home in the near of her religious teacher Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, did not went back to USA, she found her fulfillment there.