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Life of Sri Aurobindo



Preface to the First Edition (1958)

"No one can write about my life because it has not been on the surface for man to see," wrote Sri Aurobindo. On another occasion, when requested to give his consent to a disciple for helping a writer of his biography, he wrote in his inimitable way, "I do not want to be murdered by my own disciples in cold print."

How could one probe into such an inner life — infinitely rich not only in its human content of intellectual, emotional and volitional movements, but filled with many varied spiritual experiences which transcend the human consciousness? The movement of ascent of consciousness from Mind to Supermind, from the human to the Divine, is accompanied in his case by a descent with that Light and Power into the human instrumentation,— mind, life and body. A Yogi's real life is his inner life,— in fact, that is his only real life.

Even from the external point of view the writing of Sri Aurobindo's life presents a very great difficulty due to his versatility. He was a professor, a scholar, a poet, a political leader, a journalist, a philosopher, a dramatist, an indologist, a psychologist, a literary critic, a translator, and an original interpreter of the Veda, the Upanishads and the Gita.

But there was a pressing reason which urged me to take up this task. In spite of his aversion to the writing of his biography, people who knew very little about him began to publish unauthorised books on his life and work. Some of them contained altogether fanciful accounts even of the incidents in his life. Among them may be mentioned, Mr. Kulkarni's biography in Marathi, Yogi Aurobindo Ghose, Girija Shankar Roy Chowdhury's so-called life of Sri Aurobindo which appeared serially in the Bengali monthly, Udbodhan, and Hemchandra Das's story of the revolutionary movement in Bengal.

I had occasion to refer to Sri Aurobindo all the doubtful points of these books for correction or corroboration. This gave me the correct ground for his biography. I had been collecting materials myself since 1923.

The Baroda State service records of Sri Aurobindo were secured by me in 1944 through Shri D.B. Shukla's help and submitted to Sri Aurobindo. He corrected these in his own handwriting.

Subsequently, my visit to England in 1955 enabled me to gather materials about his early life there which I have incorporated in this book. (A fuller account is published in the small book Sri Aurobindo in England.)

There is a lot of authentic biographical material in his own letters and other writings which I have tried to put in chronological order. Where his own writing was not available, I have depended on contemporary evidence — mostly of those who were participants in the events or movements of his life.

Certain portions selected from Sri Aurobindo on Himself and arranged in Part Four will give the reader some idea, in Sri Aurobindo's own words, of the work which he did for others and for the world by using his spiritual power under divine guidance. In this age of the atom bomb, which seems to drive humanity to peace through fear, the possibility and assurance of a dynamic use of spiritual power can open out a new and a more lasting way to peace and harmony.

And even with all these materials one can only indicate the landmarks of his inner life:

1. His meeting with Vishnu Bhaskar Leie and the experience of the Silent Brahman Consciousness that never afterwards left him.

2. His vivid experience of the omnipresent Narayana during his confinement in a solitary cell in Alipore jail.

3. His seclusion at Pondicherry and the crucial and significant fact of his meeting with the Mother.

4. The descent of the Higher Power on 24 November 1926.

As to the outer aspect of his life, the output of his literary work alone is staggering in its volume, variety and originality. His contribution to the political freedom of India can be properly felt by those who have lived through the stormy days of the partition of Bengal when the national spirit burst out like a volcano in the placid, flat ground of Indian politics. The voice of awakened India was first heard week by week and day by day in the fiery columns of the Bande Mataram and the Karmayogin. These papers breathed the lofty air of freedom charged with an idealism that raised politics to the heights of religious fervour and spirituality. It converted hundreds to a life of dedication to the cause of freedom of Mother India.

But over and above his solid contribution to literature and the struggle for freedom, he has given a loftier vision to the modem world — the vision of man's destiny of divine life on earth. This vision, accompanied by an active effort in collaboration with the Mother, has created, out of almost nothing, two institutions of international importance — the Ashram and the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, where the pattern of the new life envisaged in his conception of man's destiny on earth is being worked out. These activities, undertaken during his apparent retirement, have awakened, fostered and helped the deepest spiritual aspiration of thousands of men and women of all races and creeds.

It is hoped that this book will inspire the reader to realise the great ideal in his own life.

The form of the book may seem to some rather matter of fact. I believe that the narrative of Sri Aurobindo's life in his own words will be found inspiring. The only claim that the book can make is that it is authentic as far as events, dates, views and opinions are concerned. There are some repetitions in the book, which have been intentionally retained.

The help rendered by my friends Shri Krishnalal Bhatt and Shri Vishnuprasad in preparing the manuscript is gratefully acknowledged.

A.B. Purani

Preface to the Second Edition

This is a revised and enlarged version of the first edition bringing the available information up to date. One more block index and glossary also have been added.

I hope the book will serve the purpose for which it is written.

4 March 1960
The Author

Preface to the Third Edition

There are many ways of presenting a biography. Due to many external and internal causes this form has been chosen. It is gratifying to note that many people have liked the form and the book has served as a source-book. In this edition necessary additions have been made.

7 May 1964
The Author

Preface to the Fourth Edition

This edition has been revised. Several factual corrections, some of them based upon material that has only recently come to light, have been introduced. The contents have been rearranged to follow stricter chronological lines. Because of these and other factors a certain amount of other alteration was necessary. References to the author's sources have been provided and a completely new section dealing with Sri Aurobindo's life from 1927 to 1950 has been added. Nevertheless, the book remains substantially what it was when last seen through the press by the author.

The editors would like to thank Smt. Anu Purani, without whose assistance this edition could not have been prepared.

9 March 1977


No one can write about my life because it has not been on the surface for man to see.

Letter to a disciple


Once when a disciple asked Sri Aurobindo's permission to help a Marathi biographer in his task, Sri Aurobindo wrote:

"I do not want to be murdered by my own disciples in cold print."


The second fact is that I do not care a button about having my name in any blessed place. I was never ardent about fame even in my political days; I preferred to remain behind the curtain, push people without their knowing it and get things done. It was the confounded British Government that spoiled my game by prosecuting me and forcing me to be publicly known as a "leader".

October 1934


Q: What is the truth behind personality?

Sri Aurobindo: There are many personalities in man. But the true person is also there; it is the Eternal thrown out in time as the Cosmic and the individual for a particular purpose, use or work. This true person is all the time conscious of his identity with the Cosmic.

Evening Talks, 1 January 1939


First of all, what matters in a spiritual man's life is not what he did or what he was outside to the view of the men of his time (that is what historicity or biography comes to, does it not?) but what he was and did within; it is only that that gives any value to his outer life at all. It is the inner life that gives to the outer any power it may have and the inner life of a spiritual man is something vast and full and, at least in the great figures, so crowded and teeming with significant things that no biographer or historian could ever hope to seize it all or tell it.

Letters on Yoga


God must be born on earth and be as man

That man being human may grow even as God,

Savitri, Book VII, Canto 6

If far he walks above mortality's head,

How shall the mortal reach that too high path?

Savitri, Book VII, Canto 6

In the unfolding process of the Self

Sometimes the inexpressible Mystery

Elects a human vessel of descent.

Savitri, Book I, Canto 4



August 15 Birth in Calcutta.


At first in Rangpur, East Bengal; later sent to the Loreto Convent School, Darjeeling.


February 21 Birth of the Mother in Paris.


Taken to England.


In Manchester (84, Shakespeare Street) in the charge of the Drewett family. Tutored at home by the Drewetts.


September Admitted to St. Paul's School, London. Takes lodgings at 49, St. Stephen's Avenue, Shepherd's Bush, London.


August Vacation in Keswick.


August Vacation in Hastings.

After returning from Hastings takes lodgings at 128, Cromwell Road, London.


December Passes Matriculation from St. Paul's.


July Admitted as a probationer to the Indian Civil Service.

October 11 Admitted on a scholarship to King's College, Cambridge.

While at Cambridge, joins the Indian Majlis, a student group; makes speeches advocating Indian freedom.


August to April 1892 Works on "The Vigil of Thaliard", a long ballad left unfinished.


May Passes the first part of the Classical Tripos, in the First Class.

August Passes the Indian Civil Service final examination.

October Leaves Cambridge. Takes lodgings at 6, Burlington Road, London.

In London, takes part in the formation of a secret society called the "Lotus and Dagger". Has first "pre-yogic" experience, the mental experience of the Atman.

November Disqualified for the Indian Civil Service due to his failure to take the riding examination.

December Obtains employment in the service of the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda.


January 12 Leaves England by the S.S. Carthage. Travels via Gibraltar, Port Said and Aden.

February 6 Arrives in India, landing at the Apollo Bunder, Bombay. A "vast calm" descends upon him as he sets foot on Indian soil and remains for months afterwards.

February 18 Officially joins the Baroda State Service; his pay is retroactive to February 8, probable date of his arrival in Baroda. His first work is in the Survey Settlement Department.

During the first year of his stay in Baroda, has a vision of the Godhead surging up from within ' him when in danger of a carriage accident.

March–April Works at translations from the Mahabharata.

Juue 26 Contributes an article, "India and the British Parliament", to the Induprakash, Bombay.

August 7 — March 5, 1894 Contributes a series of articles. New Lamps for Old, to the Indu Prakash.


July 16 — August 27 Contributes a series of articles on Bankim Chandra Chatterji to the Indu Prakash.


Publication of Songs to Myrtilla, a collection of poems.


Probable year of publication of Urvasie, a narrative poem.


Begins part-time work in the Baroda College as a lecturer in French.


Appointed acting Professor of English in the College.


Serves as acting Professor of English and lecturer in French.

June–July Writes Love and Death, a narrative poem.

July 22 Lecture at the Baroda College Social Gathering.


Acting Professor of English in the College.

c. 1900 First political move: sends Jatindranath Banerji to Bengal as his lieutenant for the work of revolutionary organisation and propaganda.


Chairman of the College debating society.

April 17 Transferred from the College to the Revenue Department, Baroda State.

April 30 Marriage to Mrinalini Bose, eldest daughter of Bhupal Chandra Bose, in Calcutta. Afterwards goes to Nainital with Mrinalini and his sister Sarojini.


April 28 On privilege leave until May 29. Sri Aurobindo uses his leaves and vacations, especially from 1902 onwards, for the organisation of revolutionary action in Bengal.

December Meeting with Lokmanya Tilak at the Ahmedabad session of the Indian National Congress.


Contacts and joins a secret society in western India.


January Recommences teaching at the Baroda College.

February 22 On leave for one month.

May–August Accompanies the Gaekwar on his tour of Kashmir as his Private Secretary.

In Kashmir on Takht-e-Suleman has an experience of the vacant infinite.


Works as Huzur Kamdar, often doing secretarial work for the Gaekwar.

September 28 Directed to leave the Huzur Kamdar's office and join the College full time.

December At the Bombay session of the Indian National Congress.

Begins the practice of Yoga.


January Assumes the post of Vice-principal, Baroda College.

March 3 Becomes acting Principal of the College.

October 16 The Partition of Bengal becomes an "accomplished fact".

Sri Aurobindo writes the pamphlets "No Compromise" and "Bhawani Mandir" during the agitation that precedes the Partition

December At the Benares session of the Indian National Congress.


February 19 Applies for privilege leave.

March 2 Goes to Bengal.

March 11 Present at the formation of the National Council of Education in Calcutta.

March 12 Declaration of the Yugantar, a Bengali weekly. Sri Aurobindo writes some articles in the early numbers of this revolutionary journal and always exercises general control over it.

April 14 At the Barisal Conference. Afterwards makes a political tour of East Bengal with Bepin Chandra Pal.

June Returns to Baroda.

June 19 Takes one year's leave without pay from Baroda College. Returns to Bengal.

August 6 Declaration of the Bande Mataram. Sri Aurobindo joins the Bande Mataram as an assistant editor.

August 14 Opening of the Bengal National College, Calcutta, with Sri Aurobindo as its principal.

October 13 The Bande Mataram becomes a joint stock company at Sri Aurobindo's suggestion.

October–December 111 in Calcutta.

Around this time Sri Aurobindo assumes control of the policy of the Bande Mataram as well as of the Nationalist Party in Bengal.

December 11–14 In Deoghar for recuperation.

December At the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress.


January–April In Deoghar.

January 28 — February 12 Works on Prince of Edur, a dramatic romance.

April 12–23 The Doctrine of Passive Resistance serialised in the Bande Mataram.

June 2 First issue of the weekly edition of the Bande Mataram.

June 8 A warning is issued to the editor of the Bande Mataram by the British government.

June 14 Leaves Calcutta for Khulna to found a national school.

June 30 — October 13 Publication of Perseus the Deliverer, a drama, in the weekly Bande Mataram.

July 30 Search of the Bande Mataram office. Complaint lodged against Sri Aurobindo.

August 2 Resigns the principalship of the Bengal National College.

August 16 Arrested on the charge of sedition for writings which had appeared in the Bande Mataram; released on bail.

August 23 Speech to the students of the Bengal National College.

After his acquittal in September, he rejoins the College as a professor.

September 23 Acquitted.

After the Bande Mataram sedition case, Sri Aurobindo comes forward as the leader of the Nationalist Party in Bengal.

October Takes a house in Chukoo Khansama's Lane, Calcutta.

October 24 Goes to Deoghar.

December 7–9 At the Bengal Provincial Conference at Midnapore as the leader of the Nationalists.

December 8 Presides over a separate meeting of the Nationalists at Midnapore.

December 14 Meeting in College Square, Calcutta; delivers his first public speech.

December 15 Speech at a public meeting in Beadon Square, Calcutta.

December 21 Leaves Calcutta for Surat, the venue of the 1907 session of the Indian National Congress.

December 22 Addresses a meeting at Nagpur.

December 24 — 25 At Surat, presides over the conferences of Nationalist delegates.

December 26 First day of the Congress session at Surat.

December 27 Second day of the session: Sri Aurobindo gives the order that leads to the breaking of the Congress.

December 28 Presides over a meeting of the Nationalists.

December 31 Leaves Surat for Baroda.


January In Baroda.

Meets Vishnu Bhaskar Leie, a Maharashtrian yogi. Following Leie's instructions, establishes complete silence of the mind attaining to the experience of the Silent Brahman.

Gives three public speeches.

January 12, 13 Speeches at Poona.

January 15 "National Education" speech at Girgaum, Bombay.

January 19 "The Present Situation" speech before the Bombay National Union.

January 24 Speech at Nasik.

January 26 Speech at Dhulia.

January 28, 29 Speeches at Amravati.

January 30, 31 Speeches at Nagpur.

February 1 Speech at Nagpur.

March 10 In Howrah at a public reception of Bepin Chandra Pal upon his release from jail.

April 8 Speaks at a meeting at Chetala.

April 10 "United Congress" Speech at Panti's; Math, Calcutta.

April 12 Speech at Baruipur.

April 18 "Palli Samiti" speech at Kishoregunj.

April 28 Changes his Calcutta lodgings from 23, Scotts Lane to 48. Grey Street (Navashakti Office).

May 2 Arrested as implicated in the terrorist activities of a group led by his brother Barindra.Taken to the lock-up at Lal Bazar, Calcutta.

Proceedings are instituted by the British government to deport Sri Aurobindo, but are later abandoned.

May 5 Taken to Alipore Jail.

May 5, 1908 — May 6, 1909 Undertrial prisoner at Alipore. Spends his time reading the Gita and the Upanishads and in meditation and the practice of Yoga. Has the realisation of the Cosmic Consciousness and of the Divine (Sri Krishna) as all beings and in all that is.

May 19 Preliminary hearing in the Magistrate's Court begins.

August 19 Committed to the Court of Sessions.

October 19 Trial in the Sessions Court begins.


March 4 Evidence concluded.

April 13 Arguments concluded.

April 14 Opinion of the Assessors.

May 6 Acquitted and released.

After his release and until February 1910, Sri Aurobindo stays at 6, College Square, Calcutta.

May 14 Letter to the Bengalee, Calcutta.

May 30 Speech at Uttarpara.

June 13 Speech at Beadon Square, Calcutta.

June 19 First issue of the Karmayogin, a weekly review directed and mostly written by Sri Aurobindo.

June 19 Speech at Jhalakati, Barisal District.

June 23 Speech at Bakergunj, Barisal District.

June 26 Speech at Khulna.

June 27 "The Right of Association" speech at Howrah.

July 11 Speech at Kumartuli.

July 18 Speech at College Square, Calcutta.

July 31 "An Open Letter to My Countrymen" published by Sri Aurobindo in the Karmayogin following resumed efforts of the British government to have him deported.

August 23 First issue of the Dharma, a Bengali weekly directed and mostly written by Sri Aurobindo.

September Leader of the Nationalists at the Bengal Provincial Conference at Hooghly.

September Attends a political conference at Sylhet.

October 9 — November 13 The Brain of India in the Karmayogin.

October 10 Speech at College Square, Calcutta.

October 13 "Swadeshi in Calcutta" speech.

October 18 Durga Stotra published in the Dharma.

November 20 — December 25 The National Value of Art in the Karmayogin.

December 25 "To My Countrymen" in the Karmayogin.


February Leaves Calcutta for Chandernagore in French India.

February 12 — April 2 A System of National Education in the Karmayogin.

February 19 — March 5 Baji Prabhu in the Karmayogin.

March 26 — April 2 "Chitrangada" in the Karmayogin.

March 31 Leaves Chandernagore for Calcutta.

April 1 Embarks for Pondicherry in French India by the S.S. Dupleix.

April 4 Arrival in Pondicherry; stays in the house of Shanker Chetty in Comty Chetty Street. Although Sri Aurobindo changes his residence several times he never leaves Pondicherry.

April 4 A warrant issued charging Sri Aurobindo with sedition for the article "To My Countrymen" published in the Karmayogin on December 25, 1909.

October Moves to the house of Sunder Chetty on Rue de la Pavilion (Rue Suffren).

November 7 "To My Countrymen" found not seditious by the Calcutta High Court; warrant withdrawn.

November 7 Writes a letter to The Hindu, Madras (published in the November 13 issue), announcing his presence in Pondicherry and his retirement from active politics.


April New lodgings taken on Rue St. Louis ("Raghavan House").

July 20 A letter to The Hindu.

August 15 First celebration of Sri Aurobindo's birthday in Pondicherry.


July 3 Letter to Motilal Roy.

Through his correspondence with Motilal and

others Sri Aurobindo keeps in contact with the revolutionary movement in Bengal.


April Change of residence to Rue de Mission Etrangere (Mission Street).

October Change of residence to Rue Francois Martin (the "Guest House")


March 29 First meeting of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

June 1 Decision to publish the Arya.

August 15 First issue of the Arya. First instalments of The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Secret of the Veda, The Isha Upanishad.


Ahana and Other Poems published.

February 21 First celebration of the Mother's birthday at Pondicherry.

February 22 The Mother departs for France.

September 15 First instalment of The Ideal of Human Unity in the Arya.

October Vasavadutta, a dramatic romance, written.


The Mother leaves France for Japan.

August 15 First instalments of Essays on the Gita and The Psychology of Social Development (later called The Human Cycle) in the Arya.


December 15 First instalment of The Future Poetry in the Arya.


January 15 Works at translations from Kalidasa's Kumarasambhavam (The Birth of the War God).

August 10 Letter on the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms published in the New India.

December First instalment of "Is India Civilised?" (first of the series of essays that make up The Foundations of Indian Culture) published in the Arya.

December 17 Death of Mrinalini Ghose in Calcutta.


January 20 Letter to Joseph Baptista.

April 7 Letter to Barindra Kumar Ghose.

April 24 The Mother returns to Pondicherry from Japan.

August 15 First issue of the Standard Bearer, a monthly published from Chandernagore under the inspiration of Sri Aurobindo; his article "Ourselves" appears in this issue.

August 30 Letter to B.S. Munje declining the presidentship of the Nagpur Congress.

November 24 The Mother moves to the house on Rue Francois Martin where Sri Aurobindo is living.


Publication in book form of Isha Upanishad and Kalidasa's "Seasons".

January Love and Death published.

January 15 Last issue of the Arya.


January The Mother takes charge of the management of Sri Aurobindo's household. Regular evening talks and group meditations held from this year.

September–October Sri Aurobindo and the Mother move to 9, Rue de la Marine (south-west section of the present Ashram block).


June 5 Meeting with C. R. Das.


January The Century of Life published. Group meditation discontinued.


Meeting with Lala Lajpat Rai and Purushottam Das Tandon.


November 24 The Day of Siddhi (Victory Day): the descent of Krishna, the Overmind Godhead, into the physical. The evening talks and all other direct contacts with Sri Aurobindo are discontinued. He retires completely into concentrated sadhana, but gives "Darshan" three times a year.


February 8 Sri Aurobindo and the Mother move to the house on Rue Francois Martin (north-east section of the present Ashram block) where they remain for the rest of their lives.


Publication of The Mother.

February 16 Meeting with Rabindranath Tagore.


April Publication of Kalidasa.


The limited correspondence with disciples begun after Sri Aurobindo's retirement in 1926 assumes very large proportions during this period. Much of it has been collected and published as Letters on Yoga, Letters on the Mother, Letters on Poetry, Literature and Art,etc. Throughout these years Sri Aurobindo works on his poetry, especially the epic Savitri.


Publication of The Riddle of this World (extracts from letters).


Publication of Six Poems of Sri Aurobindo.


February Publication of Lights on Yoga (extracts from letters).


April Publication of Bases of Yoga (extracts from letters).


November 24 Accident to Sri Aurobindo's right leg. Regular correspondence with the sadhaks stopped. Personal contact with a few sadhaks, his attendants, begins.


April 24 Gives Darshan for the first time on this day; later it becomes a regular Darshan day.


Revision and publication in book form of The Life Divine. More writing of poetry.


September 19 Joint declaration by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in support of the Allies in World War II. From the time of the evacuation of Dunkirk Sri Aurobindo puts his spiritual force behind the Allied war effort.


Publication of Collected Poems and Plays.

March 31 Sri Aurobindo's support of the Proposals of Sir Stafford Cripps, emissary of the British government, which offered to India selfgovernment after the war and invited her assistance in the war effort.


December 2 The Ashram school started.


February 21 First issue of the Advent, "A Quarterly Dedicated to the Exposition of Sri Aurobindo's Vision of the Future".


Hymns to the Mystic Fire published;


August 15 Liberation of India on Sri Aurobindo's 75th birthday. A message from Sri Aurobindo is broadcast by the All India Radio.


Publication of The Synthesis of Yoga, Part I.


The Human Cycle published.

February 21 First issue of the Bulletin of Physical Education (now called the Bulletin of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education) with Sri Aurobindo's "Message". Seven more articles written by Sri Aurobindo appear in subsequent issues.

First issue of the cultural review Mother India.


Publication in book form of Part One of Savitri.

December 5 Mahasamadhi: Sri Aurobindo withdraws from his body.

December 9 Sri Aurobindo's body is placed in a vault in the courtyard of the Ashram.

Part One.

Chapter I. Family

Dr. Krishna Dhan Ghose took his degree at the Medical College, Calcutta. His marriage took place in 1864, when he was nineteen years old, to Swarnalata, the eldest daughter of Sj. Rajnarayan Bose. Swarnalata's age was twelve. The marriage was performed according to the rites of Adi Brahmo Samaj, towards which Dr. Ghose had leanings. In 1869 Dr. Ghose went to Britain for further medical studies. He had then two sons, Benoybhushan and Manmohan, whom he left with Swarnalata and a nurse, Miss Paget. He returned in 1871 with a further degree and in all outward manner a completely Anglicised man and an atheist.

"Everyone makes the forefathers of a great man very religious-minded, pious, etc. It is not true in my case at any rate. My father was a tremendous {{0}}atheist."[[Cf. A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1959), p. 131. The reports of talks used in this biography were revised by the author and so differ slightly from the reports as published in Evening Talks.]]

There was a vein of lunacy in Rajnarayan's family; one of his sons was mad. Swarnalata and her sister, who was married to Krishna Kumar Mitra, both suffered from hysteria.

When Dr. Ghose returned from Britain he joined the civil medical service, beginning work as a Sub-Assistant Surgeon in Calcutta, but the greater period of his service was spent at Bhagalpur, Rangpur and Khulna. At Rangpur he managed to get a drainage work done, which was called "K. D. Canal" by the people. After 1884 he served at Khulna, remaining there till his death. Wherever he served he was very popular and highly respected by all. He used to take a very prominent part in civic life, and interested himself in schools, hospitals, municipalities and other public bodies. The people of Khulna afterwards started a school in his name and his photograph was placed in the town hall. It is said that he changed the whole face of the town of Khulna. He was always kind to the poor and extremely generous, so much so that he could never save anything from his pay. In the latter part of his life he took to heavy drinking to forget the bitterness and tragedy of his life.

K. D. Ghose and Swarnalata had six children, – five sons and a daughter: Benoybhushan, Manmohan, Aurobindo, a son who died in childhood, Sarojini and Barindra Kumar.

K. D. Ghose had a brother, Bama Charan Ghose, who served at Bhagalpur as a head clerk. The two brothers did not agree with each other.

Part One.

Chapter II. Childhood and Education

Sri Aurobindo was born around 5.00 A.M., that is about twenty-four minutes before sunrise, on 15 August 1872. His birth took place in the house of Barrister Monmohun Ghose, in {{0}}Calcutta.[[See Appendix IV, Data on Birthplace, page 319–20.]] The name of Monmohun Ghose's wife was Swarnalata, just as it was the name of K.D. Ghose's wife. Dr. Ghose and Monmohun Ghose were very great friends and so were the Swarnalatas.

Between 1872 and 1877 Aurobindo apparently stayed at Rangpur, where his father was serving. Occasionally the family used to go to Deoghar to stay with Swarnalata's father, Rajnarayan Bose. Aurobindo did not know Bengali for these first five years. There were a butler and a nurse in the house, and he used to talk with them in broken English and similar Hindusthani. Sj. Rajnarayan Bose was a patriot and a great exponent of Indian culture, but his views had no effect upon his son-in-law, K. D. Ghose, who had decided to give all his children a thoroughly English education. He believed, like many Indians in those days, that the English character was ideal.

An incident in childhood: Jogendra, Sri Aurobindo's eldest maternal uncle, once held up a mirror to Aurobindo and said:

"See, there is a monkey." After some time Aurobindo, the child, took the mirror to Jogendra, held it up to him and said: "Great uncle, great monkey!"

In 1877 Dr. Ghose sent his three sons to Loreto Convent School at Darjeeling, a school intended mainly for children of European officials in India. Aurobindo's age then was five. Thus very early he became accustomed to being away from family and home life. The children used to visit their parents during vacations and also visited their grandfather at Deoghar. Very little information is available about the two years Aurobindo spent at Darjeeling. Years later he remembered the roads with golden ferns, and also one or two minor incidents. One was this. There was a long dormitory where the students used to sleep. Manmohan usually slept near the door. One night someone was late and knocked at the door, requesting him to open it.

Manmohan replied, "I can't, I am sleeping"! Another incident happened at Deoghar, where Aurobindo had gone during a vacation. One night all the children were walking with their grandfather, Rajnarayan Bose. After some time they found that he was not with them. They walked back and saw that he was sleeping in a standing position!

In a talk of 1939 Sri Aurobindo said: "Your question reminds me of a story of my grandmother. She said: 'God has made such a bad world! If I could meet Him I would tell Him what I think of Him.' My grandfather said: 'Yes, it is true; but God has so arranged that you can't get near Him so long as you have any such desire in {{0}}you!"[[Cf. A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), p. 166.]]

Swarnalata's mental condition was not normal during these years. One day she was in a fit of anger and was screaming and beating Manmohan mercilessly. Aurobindo, who was present, became afraid and, making the excuse that he was thirsty, went out of the room.

Sri Aurobindo once described a dream at Darjeeling that he remembered: "I was lying down one day when I saw suddenly a great Tamas rushing into me and enveloping me and the whole ^universe. After that I had a great darkness always hanging on to me all through my stay in England. I believe that darkness had something to do with the Tamas that came upon me. It left me only when I was coming back to {{0}}India."[[Cf. A.B, Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1961), p. 140.]]

In 1879 the family travelled to England: Dr. Ghose, who was then thirty-four, Swarnalata, who was twenty-seven, and the four children, Benoybhushan, Manmohan, Aurobindo and Sarojini.

In 1880 Dr. K.D. Ghose returned alone from England to rejoin his service. He left Swarnalata and the children in England.

On January 5, a son, Barindra Kumar, was born at Croydon, England. His name is listed in the birth register as "Emmanuel Ghose"! Swarnalata later returned to India with Barin and Sarojini. Dr. Ghose stayed alone at Khulna after his return and when Swarnalata came he arranged for her to stay at Rohini, a town two miles from Deoghar, with Barin and Sarojini. He found it impossible to stay with her, as her mental condition had deteriorated and she was fast developing signs of insanity. Dr. Ghose sent regular remittances to his three sons during the first years, but afterwards they became more and more irregular; and when the three brothers went to stay in London they entirely; ceased.

Very little is known about the span of nearly fourteen years (1879–1892) of Aurobindo's early life in England, which seems to have been the most formative in his cultural make-up and intellectual equipment. What little is known has come mostly from him or from what I have been able to gather from talks with others. My visit to England was fruitful in obtaining some authentic information about his life. Yet we do not know, and, I am afraid, we shall never know much about even his outer life. It is practically impossible to know how he lived with the Drewetts in Manchester

All we have are some unimportant details in the life of a versatile student who became a great seer in his later life; but it is better to have something authentic rather than be left with vague conjecture.

Aurobindo's life in England falls into four distinct periods:

Manchester, from 1879 to September 1884.

London, from September 1884 to October 1890.

Cambridge, from October 1890 to October 1892.

London, from October 1892 to January 1893.

During vacations Aurobindo used to go outside London and Cambridge whenever economic conditions permitted.

Dr. K.D. Ghose was very friendly with Mr. Glazier, a magistrate at Rangpur, and when Dr. Ghose decided to send his three sons to England for studies, he arranged to leave them with Rev. William H. Drewett, a cousin of Mr. Glazier, who lived in Manchester. Mr. Drewett was congregational minister of the Stockport Road Church – now known as the Octagonal Church. He lived at 84, Shakespeare Street, near the church. Aurobindo's two elder brothers were of school-going age and joined the Manchester Grammar School, while Aurobindo, who was only seven, and probably considered too young to attend a school, was not sent to school, but was taught at home by the Drewetts. Mr. Drewett, an accomplished Latin scholar, grounded Aurobindo in that language very well, and also taught him English, history, etc. Mrs. Drewett taught him geography, arithmetic and French. As he was studying at home he had plenty of time to read books according to his own taste, including the Bible, Shakespeare, Shelley and Keats. He not only read poetry but wrote verses for Fox's Weekly, even at that early age. It 'seems he did not play any games, except cricket, which he tried once without much success.

During their stay in England the three brothers had practically no contact with other Indians, as Dr. Ghose had given strict instructions to Mr. Drewett not to allow his sons to mix with any Indians or to know anything about the Indian way of life. Among the people they knew at Manchester were the Bentleys; who occasionally used to visit the Drewetts from York, and a sister of Mr. Drewett who used to come to see him. These visits were returned.

Mr. Drewett's mother was a devout Christian and she wished to convert the Ghose children to Christianity, in order to save their souls. But Mr. Drewett never consented to her wish. Once, when he asked Dr. Ghose about the religious life of the children, his reply was to wait till the boys attained the age of discretion, when they could choose their own religion.

A rumour was once current that Aurobindo was converted to Christianity. This was probably due to his name being registered at St. Paul's and even at Cambridge, as "Aravinda Ackroyd Ghose". But the rumour is not true. Once, however, an amusing incident happened which Sri Aurobindo has himself described:

"There was once a meeting of nonconformist ministers at Cumberland when we were in England. The old lady in whose house we dwelt [Mrs. Drewett] took me there. After the prayers were over nearly all dispersed, but devout people remained a little longer and it was at that time that conversions were made. I was feeling completely bored. Then a minister approached me and asked me some questions. I did not give any reply. Then they all shouted, 'He is saved, he is saved', and began to pray for me and offer thanks to God. I did not know what it was all about. Then the minister came to me and asked me to pray. I was not in the habit of praying. But somehow I did it in the manner in which children recite their prayers before going to sleep in order to keep up an appearance. That was the only thing that happened. I did not attend the Church regularly. I was about ten at that {{0}}time."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p. 141.]] He felt infinitely relieved when he got back to Manchester.

The Rev. W. H. Drewett was in pastoral charge in {{0}}1879[[Rev. William H. Drewett was trained at Didsbury College (for ministers). He passed in 1865 and in all probability was ordained as a minister at Manchester in 1871.]] but in 1881 he resigned his living on account of differences with the {{0}}deacons.[["The Rev. W. H. Drewett, after a ministry of nearly ten years, has resigned the pastorate of the Stockport Road Congregational Church, in this city. The cause of this step the Rev. gentleman explained, at the close of the service last evening, was his disagreement with a resolution of the Deacons' Court with regard to the erection of a new infant schoolroom and the beautifying of the present school church. The fulfilment of the original scheme, by which a church was to be built on land secured for the purpose, fronting Stockport Road, will be indefinitely postponed if the Deacons' resolution is carried out." The Manchester Guardian. Monday, March 21, 1881.]] He is mentioned in the Church register in 1882 as staying in Manchester but "without pastoral charge". So he was in Manchester up to 1882, but later on, before 1884, he seems to have immigrated to Australia leaving the three Ghose brothers in the charge of his mother.

The question of why Sri Aurobindo was called Aravinda Ackroyd baffled me for some time, till an indication in M. Monod Herzen's book gave me the clue. It is now established that Miss Annette Akroyd arrived in Calcutta in December 1872, the year in which Aurobindo was born in Monmohun Ghose's house in {{0}}Calcutta.[[Letter from Indian Office Library, 24 October 1956(((1)))"Henry Beveridge, Bengal Civil Service".(((1)))Arrived in India on 20 January 1858. On the 1st of December 1876 he was appointed Officiating District and Sessions Judge at Rangpur and remained there until he was appointed Officiating District and Sessions Judge at Patrea on 22 November 1879. He had previously served as Magistrate and Collector at Backergunge until 2nd October 1874 when he was appointed the District and Sessions Judge, Backergunge. He was granted furlough from 2 January 1875 to 28 October 1876.(((1)))"[Bengal History of Services, 1886]"(((1)))"The following information has been gathered from Lord Beveridge's book about his parents entitled India Called Them(((1)))"Henry Beveridge married Miss Annette Susannah Akroyd on April 6th 1875. Miss Akroyd was a daughter of William Akroyd of Stourbridge, Worcestershire, where she was born On 13th December 1842. She arrived in Calcutta in December 1872 and was 'met by her Indian friends, Mr. and Mrs. Monmohun Ghose and Mr. Gupta, and went to live with the former.' (She had met them in England.)(((1)))"In 1873 Miss Akroyd formed a school for Indian ladies – the Hindu Mahila B'ldyalaya – on November 18th 1873 at 22 Baniapoorkur Lane, with some dozen pupils."]] Miss Akroyd was probably present at the ceremony of naming the child. Dr. Ghose, who was very fond of the English way of life, must have wanted the child to be given an English name and so Miss Akroyd's family name was given to Aurobindo as his middle name.

Dr. Ghose used to send £360 per year for the maintenance of his three sons at Manchester. But even during the first six years of their stay in England, Dr. Ghose was unable to send regular remittances to Mr. Drewett, and so the latter, on his way to Australia, passed through Calcutta and collected his dues from Dr. Ghose. It is not known who took Aurobindo and Manmohan to St. Paul's School in London, but in the register Manmohan, who was admitted in the same month as Aurobindo, September 1884, is listed as a "Ward of W.H. Drewett". The address given is 49, St. Stephen's Avenue, Uxbridge Road, Shepherd's Bush. Sri Aurobindo later said that Mrs. Drewett, the mother of W.H. Drewett, had taken lodgings for them in London.

St. Paul's School, West Kensington, London. 1884 to December 1889.

Aurobindo was admitted to St. Paul's after being examined by Dr. Walker, the headmaster of the school. Dr. Walker was satisfied with Aurobindo's proficiency in Latin and other subjects, but he found him weak in Greek. He took a personal interest in Aurobindo and coached him in classes called "specials" where it was his practice to gather all young and promising students. Dr. Walker did not take any regular classes, but used to coach some students in the subject in which they were weak. He had an eye for a clever student and never lost sight of one once he found him.

Aurobindo's five years at St. Paul's were full of activity during which he mastered the classics and secured the Butterworth Second Prize in Literature and an Honourable Mention in the Bedford History Prize. He was pushed up rapidly to higher forms, for the High Master wanted to put him in the form in which his powers might get full scope for development. This saved some years for Aurobindo. He used to take an active part in the Literary Society at St. Paul's. It is recorded that he spoke on the inconsistency of Swift's political opinions on 5 November 1889 and on Milton on 19 November of the same {{0}}year.[["The Literary Society", The Pauline, Vols. VII & VIII, No. 39 (December 1889), p 52.]]

It appears quite certain that the three brothers were compelled to live in a very embarrassed financial position in London because remittances from their father at first became irregular and ultimately almost stopped. This is borne out by many references in Manmohan's contemporary letters to Laurence Binyon, and also by what Sri Aurobindo stated in his memorial to the Secretary of State for India (about being given another chance to appear in the riding test for the I.C.S.) in 1892. He wrote:

"I was sent over to England, when seven years of age, with my two elder brothers and for the last eight years we have been thrown on our own resources without any English friend to help or advise us. Our father, Dr. K.D. Ghose of Khulna, has been unable to provide the three of us with sufficient for the most necessary wants, and we have long been in an embarrassed {{0}}position."[[Sri Aurobindo to the Earl of Kimberley, 21 November 1892, India Office Library, London.]]

Manmohan's letters to Laurence Binyon support this statement with a wealth of detail. In a letter of July, 1887, from 49, St. Stephen's Avenue, Manmohan wrote:

"My position, by the way, is very hazy just now; I do not know whether after all I shall be able to retain my Scholarship, because my father is in some financial straits, and if he cannot help me, £80 will not be enough to keep me at Oxford.... I am going to Oxford next week to find out if I cannot help myself in any way, or find help.... I shall try and persuade my father to let me stay in England for good – I am sure with the tastes I have I shall be of no use in India."

A letter from Manmohan dated July 28 [probably 1887] from 49, St. Stephen's Avenue recounts a story of Dr. Ghose which is worth quoting. The reference is to a piece of news in the Daily News of London. The letter is addressed to Laurence Binyon:

"As for the piece in the Daily News about me, it was stuck in simply because it is a Radical paper. We have no family relation to Lalmohan Ghose whatever, but his brother who bears the same name as myself is a great friend of my father's. All the Ghoses came originally from the Punjaub on the Afghan border. The word means "fame", and they were a tribe of the proud warrior caste. But our family has sadly come down; the family house or palace, a very noble building, I believe, not far from Calcutta, is quite in ruins. My father, when a boy, was very poor, living almost entirely by the charity of friends; and it is only thro' his almost superhuman perseverance that we have to some degree retrieved ourselves. – You may be sure I shall try all I can to get to Oxford. But I am in a rather strange position. My father wants me to go out to India and slave as a barrister, and become a great man of the world like himself – a thing which is quite distasteful to my nature. He is just now in difficulties and if he finds he cannot help me at the University he may consent to my staying in England, and trying for some Civil Service appointment (like those in the British Museum), just to earn some money.... He is almost sure to want me to try the University."

The difficulty which Manmohan speaks of was common to the three brothers. There was only a slight modification in Aurobindo's case as he received a scholarship from King's College, Cambridge, and also had an allowance for the I.C.S. probationership. Even so, he was always hard up, particularly because he used to help his two brothers whenever he could.

A letter from Manmohan to Laurence Binyon, Hastings, Sussex, 1887:

"I have just had a letter from my father, and I wanted to tell you the joyful news that he has willingly consented to my staying in England, and working at literature since it is so in my line. He also says that he would like me to go to Oxford, but his means are not sufficient to keep me there long. But he may be able (he will write soon and tell me his decision) to keep me there a little while, in order (as he phrases it) 'to have still greater chances of acquiring literary tastes, make friends among those who are aspirants in the same field.' So he is going to try his best to give me a year or two at Oxford. As to the British Museum appointment, he would not mind my taking it at all, tho' he does think there are objections to it.... 'However,' he says, I am ready that you should take your chance and depend on your own enterprise in the literary world.... But you must not give up the Scholarship in the prospect of getting an appointment. You have to pass in Sanskrit and you must learn that. So I will try my best to give you a year or two at the University where you can learn Sanskrit, and improve your classics, get facility in writing and speaking and make interests and form friendships. When you have done that it will be easier for you not only to get an appointment in the Museum but to ensure rapidity to your promotion to a high appointment. So you see I have no objection to this, provided you can be sure of getting speedy promotion. Perhaps if you can do that and have a home for your brother and sister in London they will have excellent facilities for education.' I have given this in my father's own words, as you will be able to understand the position better. Perhaps you did not know I have a little sister (she is about eleven years old now) and a brother eight years old in India at present. My father's character may well be called 'thorough'. He is determined to give them a good education, tho' he is toiling under difficulties. He must be a man of iron nerves. I could not tell you half the things he has suffered, but he is bent to go on. Indeed he says, 'my body is as stern as my mind to have survived all the trouble which I have endured.' I cannot but be proud with admiration at the sight of such dauntless self-sacrifice and heroic perseverance.

"Tell me what you think of these prospects with regard to the satisfaction of my literary tastes? You see my aim is also to gratify my father in one project – try my best to make a home for my sister and brother as he suggests (after I have been to Oxford) – for I know their education is closest to his heart, tho' he does not say much about it. At the same time I want to get myself off his hands, and lessen his burden."

This letter is important because it makes a useful addition to the very scanty material available about the relation between Dr. Ghose and his sons. Even in 1887 the financial condition was strained.

In another letter to Laurence Binyon, Manmohan, when he was pressed for payment by Zacharias & Co., refers to his father:

"I am growing as stern as my father, who is so strangely unsentimental that I am assured he would vivisect me if he thought that my highest good."

Apart from Manmohan's letters there is other evidence to throw light on the strained condition under which the three brothers had to carry on their studies in England. One is a letter written to James Cotton by G. W. Prothero, a tutor and senior Fellow of King's College, on hearing about Aurobindo's rejection from the I.C.S. on the ground of Aurobindo's non-appearance for the riding test. It is a letter worthy of a university man vindicating the values of culture and learning against the lifeless red tape of a government department. We give it in full in Appendix V (Document IX); here we may quote part of it. Prothero says:

"His pecuniary circumstances prevented him from resigning this [his scholarship], when he became a Selected Candidate.. Moreover the man has not only ability but character. He has had a very hard and anxious time of it for the last two years. Supplies from home have almost entirely failed, and he has had to keep his two brothers as well as himself, and yet his courage and perseverance have never failed. I have several times written to his father on his behalf, but for the most part unsuccessfully. It is only lately that I managed to extract from him enough to pay some tradesmen who would otherwise have put his son into the County Court. I am quite sure that these pecuniary difficulties were not due to any extravagance on Ghose's part: his whole way of life, which was simple and penurious in the extreme, is against this.... I can fully believe that his inability to keep his appointment at Woolwich was due to the want of {{0}}cash."[[Prothero to Cotton. 20 November 1892. India Office Library, London.]]

In a letter to Sir Arthur Macpherson, James S. Cotton writes:

"It happens that I have known Mr A. A. Ghose and his two brothers for the past five years, and that I have been a witness of the pitiable straits to which they have all three been reduced through the failure of their father, a Civil Surgeon in Bengal and (I believe) a most respectable man, to supply them with adequate resources. In addition, they have lived an isolated life, without any Englishman to take care of them or advise {{0}}them."[[Cotton to Macpherson. 19 November 1892. India Office Library, London.]]

Though these letters were expressly written to influence the I.C.S. Commissioners, they yet throw sufficient light on the embarrassing economic pressure under which the three brothers lived for almost eight years;

When Aurobindo, Manmohan and Benoybhushan came to stay in London, Mrs. Drewett took lodgings for them at 49, St. Stephen's Avenue, Shepherd's Bush, and stayed with them there. During his six years stay in London, Aurobindo lived at three or four different places. All the brothers stayed at 49, St. Stephen's Avenue from September 1884 to July 1887. Then, after a holiday at Hastings, Aurobindo and Benoybhushan moved, in August or September 1887, to rooms at the top of the building at 128, Cromwell Road where the office of the South Kensington Liberal Club was situated. They seem to have stayed there from September 1887 to April 1889. From there they moved to private lodgings at 28, Kempsford Gardens, Earl's Court. Aurobindo was at King's College, Cambridge from October 1890 to October 1892. After October 1892 he stayed at 6, Burlington Road, Bays-water, London. This place is now known as 68, St. Stephen's {{0}}Gardens.[[See Appendix VI, Houses in England, pp. 348–49.]] Aurobindo left for India in January 1893.

An incident reported by Sri Aurobindo gives us the reason for changing his residence from 49, St. Stephen's Avenue to 128, Cromwell Road. Mrs. Drewett was a pious Christian and every day there used to be family prayers. Passages from the Bible were read; the three brothers had to participate. Sometimes the eldest brother used to conduct the worship. One day at prayer time Manmohan was in an insolent mood and said that old Moses was well served when the people disobeyed him. This enraged the old lady beyond measure and she said she would not live under the same roof with heretics as the house might fall down, and she went to live somewhere else. Sri Aurobindo says: “We felt relieved and I felt infinitely grateful to Dada [Manmohan]. Her son never used to meddle in these affairs because he was a man of strong common sense. But he was away in Australia. In those days I was not particular about telling the truth and I was a great coward. Nobody could have imagined that later on I could face the gallows or carry on a revolutionary movement. In my case it was all human imperfection with which I had to start, feel all the difficulties before embodying the Divine {{0}}Consciousness.”[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, pp. 141–42.]]

The period at 128, Cromwell Road was perhaps the most trying of Aurobindo's stay in England. They were all so hard pressed that Benoybhushan had to agree to be an assistant to James S. Cotton, who was Secretary of the Club, for five shillings a week. Cotton's help to the three brothers in their difficulty is an unforgettable obligation. During this period Aurobindo used to get a slice or two of bread and butter and a cup of tea in the morning and in the evening only a penny saveloy (a kind of sausage). For nearly two years he had to go practically without dinner at that young age. He had no overcoat to protect him from the rigours of the London winter and there was no heating arrangement in the office where he slept, nor had he a proper bedroom.

The description of 128, Cromwell Road from one of Manmohan's letters might be interesting:

"I write to tell you my new address to which we have just moved from St. Stephen's Avenue. I will show it you some day: it is very different from the old place – but I dare say my brothers will get accustomed to it in time. Of course I (probably) will be going to Oxford in a month's time. There is a confounded railway behind – but as the trains go more gently than I have a right to expect, I can put up with that. There is here a reading-room, a library (in embryo), a smoking-room, a club-room where the members meet and lectures are held and I don't know what not.... This place, you must remember, is off the Gloucester Road which is of course opposite the Broad Walk in Kensington Gardens."

Sometime in 1889 (apparently) Aurobindo moved to private lodgings at 28, Kempsford Gardens, Earl's Court, South Kensington, and remained there till he went to Cambridge.

In a letter of 1890, Manmohan describes this house:

"Kempsford Gardens, I must tell you, looks out upon Brompton Cemetery and funerals pass down it every day."


This glimpse of Aurobindo's literary interest at about this time comes from something he said long afterwards:

"The Revolt of Islam was a great favourite with me even when I was quite young and I used to read it again and again, of course, without understanding everything. But evidently it appealed to some part of the being. There was no other effect of reading it except this, that I had a thought that I would dedicate my life to a similar world change and take part in {{0}}it."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p. 142.]]

Both at Manchester and at St. Paul's Aurobindo gave his attention to the study of classics, but even at St. Paul's in the last three years he simply went through his school course without labouring over it and spent most of his time in general reading, especially of English poetry, literature and fiction, French literature and the history of mediaeval and modem Europe. He also spent some time learning Italian, some German and a little Spanish. This he could do as he was at ease in his school studies. Though some of his teachers used to regret his preoccupation with general reading, he was nevertheless able to win many prizes. He had with him for many years an illustrated edition of the Arabian Nights which he had himself selected as a prize. He was also able to secure an open scholarship to King's College.

Aurobindo began writing poetry at a very early age. Even while he was at Manchester he wrote a poem for the Fox's Weekly, "an awful imitation" as he used to call it. At St. Paul's, between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, he began to write more English poetry. This activity continued when he went to Cambridge, and indeed throughout his life. His brother Manmohan was a classmate of Laurence Binyon and a friend of Oscar Wilde. He was also very intimate with Stephen Phillips, and was himself a promising poet, having written verses which were published from Oxford in a collection entitled Primavera. It is likely that, apart from Aurobindo's own classical studies and poetical bent, Manmohan's influence stimulated him to write poetry. At the age of seventeen he translated from the Greek a passage entitled "Hecuba". Laurence Binyon, who happened to read it, asked Aurobindo why he was not writing more poetry. Occasionally Aurobindo used to write Greek and Latin verses.

During those days games did not form an important item of school life as they do today. Football and cricket were just being introduced. It was Shepard, one of the masters, who made the games popular at St. Paul's. Dr. Walker, the High Master, was rather indifferent to sports in the beginning.

As already stated, the three brothers used to go out of London during the vacations whenever they could afford it. In August 1886 they went to Keswick.

There are three letters of Manmohan describing their visit to Keswick, which must have lasted for at least three weeks. The first letter is dated 10 August and the last 23 August. In the last he writes about remaining one week more – which means till the end of August 1886.


c/o Miss Scott
Ambleside Rd.
Aug. 10th, Tuesday [1886]

...And Derbyshire, I can tell you from my own experience, is one of the loveliest counties in England if you only go to the right part. I stayed one whole summer at Matlock Bank, and from there had a splendid walking tour. My brother, I and another gentleman took the train to Monsel Dale and walked from there into Castleton Valley, slept at a very comfortable inn there, and next morning walked over Kinder Scout and into Hayfield and Chapel-on-the-Frith from where we took the train back....


c/o Miss Scott
Ambleside Rd.
Friday Aug. 13th [1886]

...You see we have changed our address, but it is only a few doors off our old place in Eskin Str.: so you can send to whichever address you please. However we are only thinking of staying here till next Tuesday and then going off to the seaside to St. Bees, where we went last year; for we have had great trouble, in getting lodgings in Keswick....

... We have been having very rainy and unsettled weather of late – that is the worst of the Lake District – when the weather once becomes unsettled, there's no telling when it will be fine again. I have seen Borrowdale, the Honister Pass, Buttermere, Newland's Vale, and a little while ago I and my younger brother went together to Thirlmere, with Helvellyn looming up on one side all the way, but we did not see the lake which is a very pretty one – for, being a bleak, misty day, it came on to rain when we were a mile from it and we had to turn back...


Miss Scott's.
Ambleside Rd.
Mon. Aug. 23 [1886]

...All last week was so much taken up with walks, that I really had no time to sit down and write even a few lines to you. On Friday we went all three of us with a gentleman to Thirlmere – up to the middle of it along the western side which is wooded with firs. Thirlmere is a lovely lake, and wonderfully placid and calm, lying between Helvellyn on the east and a high range of fells on the west, and its banks all round the brink are beautifully wooded, the trees going some distance up the hillsides. Helvellyn that day was shrouded in a white mist and could not very well be seen. We crossed the lake in the middle by the Bridges, and came back by the beautiful Vale of St. John and a path round Naddle Fell, getting home at 6 p.m. and eating a tremendous tea (the four of us getting through two considerable loaves).

On Saturday we went to Watendlath which is certainly the loveliest place I have yet seen in the Lake District. It was a very fine day, and the whole party of us started at 9.40. We had two ladies, and of course not much walking could be done. They went with my eldest brother for an escort by coach through Borrowdale to Rosthwaite, and then walked over the fell towards Watendlath. My younger brother, myself, and the same gentleman walked along Lake Derwentwater and then up the Barrow woods, a steep hill-climb into Watendlath. The scenery in these woods is quite Alpine (with only the absence of snow) being a sheer rock at one place, densely wooded from top to bottom rising one thousand feet from the Borrowdale Valley.... In a pool here I had a splendid dip, only the current was very strong, and the water in some parts quite deep enough to drown me. We all met at a hill above Watendlath, had tea at a farm-house, and returned very leisurely by the Barrow woods, reaching home at 10 p.m.

Today has turned out very fine and we intend to have a walk somewhere, though I don't know where as yet.

... We are not going to stay at Keswick much longer, most likely till the end of this week. We shall be all broken up. My eldest brother will to London to coach for an exam, and we two to some place on the coast – most likely not to St. Bees....

In the letter of 10 August 1886 from Keswick, Manmohan writes of Derbyshire, which means he must have visited it before 1886, in all probability with his two brothers.

In the second letter (dated 13 August) he writes: "However we are only thinking of staying here till next Tuesday and then going off to the seaside to St. Bees, where we went last year." So, in 1885 the three brothers had gone to St. Bees. In the same letter he refers to Aurobindo: "... and a little while ago I and my younger brother went together to Thirlmere...."

The third letter (dated 23 August 1886) gives a vivid and detailed description of a two days' programme at Keswick.

He writes: "On Friday we went all three of us" to Thirlmere – evidently a second walk to it. He also hints that "we two", meaning himself and Aurobindo, would be going to some place on the coast.

In the two letters of Manmohan given below, he discusses the prospect of a visit outside London, in 1887.


49 St. Stephen's Avenue
Uxbridge Rd.
July [1887]

...I believe my brother has already written; but we shall not be able to leave London till the end of the next week at the earliest....


49 St. Stephen's Avenue
Uxbridge Rd.
July 28th [1887]

...I am sorry to say that the place you recommended at St. Leonard's was full; we have written to the one at Hastings but we have not yet received a reply....


Almost immediately after this letter they must have received a reply from Hastings as the three brothers went there on 2 August 1887 and stayed for almost a month. There are four letters from Manmohan to Binyon from the new address.

Binyon evidently went to Keswick in July 1887. In Manmohan's letter dated 28 July there is a reference to it.

"Your description of your Grisedale walk I appreciated very much. It is one of the places I did not go to: but my brothers went, and they at once remembered, when I told them, of the wrong way up which you describe, only they came down that way instead of going up."


2 Plynlimmon Terrace
Aug. 8th Monday [1887]

We came here last Tuesday, all right, only by a dreadfully slow train. I like Hastings very much – it is delightful on this cliff especially where we are staying. But I confess the sea is better than the land... I have seen Ecclesbourne and Fairlight which are pretty....


2 Plynlimmon Terrace
Sussex. [1887]

...We are going to stay at Hastings a little more than a week from today. I should like to go home earlier, but money has to come from my father, before we can pay our rent here. So we stay a little longer....


It is in the last two letters that Manmohan writes about Dr. K. D. Ghose's inability to keep him long at Oxford. On their return from Hastings the three brothers changed their lodgings. A letter of Manmohan which has already been quoted from, mentions this fact:


South Kensington Liberal Club.
128 Cromwell Rd.
London. S. W.

I write to tell you my new address to which we have just moved from St. Stephen's Avenue. I will show it you some day: it is wry different from the old place – but I dare say my brothers will get accustomed to it in time. Of course I (probably) will be going to Oxford in a month's {{0}}time...[[They must have moved to this house in September 1887. Manmohan's letter from Oxford proves it(((1)))Ch. Ch. [Christ Church] (((1)))Oxford. (((1)))Sat. night. [Oct. 1887](((1)))...We started from Paddington, my brother and myself, at – I think it was 10 a.m....]]

This place, you must remember, is off the Gloucester Road which is of course opposite the Broad Walk in Kensington Gardens.


It appears from a letter of Manmohan from Christ Church College, dated June 2 [1888], that Aurobindo may have gone to Galway for holidays, "my brother is probably going to Galway for his holidays on the invitation of a friend we have made in the Club."

During his last year of study at St. Paul's, Aurobindo was a member of the "I.C.S. Class". This was a group of senior boys who were working for the Indian Civil Service examination. He passed the I.C.S. test, obtaining eleventh place and securing very high marks in classics. It may be noted that Benoybhushan also took the test but did not pass.

Towards the end of his career at St. Paul's Aurobindo won an open scholarship for classics to King's College, Cambridge. This scholarship carried £80 a year, a sum which was not sufficient to cover the expenses at Cambridge, but which was a great help to Aurobindo. He also received an allowance as an I.C.S. probationer. Even so, he was always hard pressed because he used to help his brothers occasionally. It goes without saying that the double work of keeping up his studies in classics and the I.C.S. preparation must have been a great strain upon him. Mr. G. W. Prothero in a letter to James Cotton, (already quoted from in part and given in full on pages 327–28) writes about Aurobindo's studies:

"He performed his part of the bargain, as regards the College, most honourably, and took a high place in the 1st class of the Classical Tripos at the end of the second year of his residence. He also obtained certain college prizes, showing command of English and literary ability. That a man should have been able to do this (which alone is quite enough for most undergraduates), and at the same time to keep up his I.C.S. work, proves very unusual industry and capacity. Besides his classical scholarship he possessed a knowledge of English literature far beyond the average of undergraduates, and wrote a much better English style than most young {{0}}Englishmen."[[Prothero to Cotton, 20 November 1892, India Office Library, London.]]

Coming from one of the senior tutors of King's this unsolicited testimonial to Aurobindo's literary capacity as a student is a precious document among the very scanty material available about his life in England.

The same letter has been already quoted from to show how Mr. Prothero had written to Dr. Ghose for money, but without much success. It was only when a few tradesmen threatened to take legal action against Aurobindo that Prothero "succeeded in extracting some money out of him". There was however a humorous sequel to this. After sending the money Dr. Ghose wrote an angry letter to Aurobindo chiding him for being extravagant! While relating this Sri Aurobindo laughed and said, "There was no money to be extravagant with."

In spite of what to us appears to be the lack of a sense of parental duty on the part of Dr. Ghose, It is surprising that neither Manmohan nor Aurobindo seems to have had any bitterness towards their father. On the contrary, every time they wrote or spoke of him it was with great admiration and pride. And Dr. Ghose knew very well that Aurobindo was making excellent progress by his own efforts. In a letter (dated 2 December 1891) to Jogendra Bose, his brother-in-law, he writes about his sons:

"The three sons I have produced, I have made giants of them. I may not, but you will live to be proud of three nephews who will adorn your country and shed lustre to your name.... Ara, I hope, will yet glorify his country by a brilliant administration. I shall not live to see it, but remember this letter if you do.... (He is at King's College, Cambridge, now, borne there by his own {{0}}ability.)"[["Father's Prophecy Baffled by the Son", Orient Illustrated Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 21 (27 February 1949), pp. 6–7.]]

The evidence of Mr. Prothero and of K. D. Ghose is supported by a letter to his father from Aurobindo himself in which the remarks of "the great O.B." (Oscar Browning) are quoted.

"Last night I was invited to coffee with one of the Dons and in his rooms I met the great O. B.;" otherwise Oscar Browning, who is the feature par excellence of King's. He was extremely flattering, passing from the subject of cotillions to that of scholarships he said to me, 'I suppose you know you passed an extraordinarily high examination. I have examined papers at thirteen examinations and I have never during that time [seen] such excellent papers as yours (meaning my Classical papers, at the scholarship examination). As for your essay, it was wonderful.' In this essay (a comparison between Shakespeare and Milton), I indulged in my Oriental tastes to the top of their bent; it overflowed with rich and tropical imagery; it abounded in antitheses and epigrams and it expressed my real feelings without restraint or reservation. I thought myself that it was the best thing I have ever done, but at school it would have been condemned as extraordinarily Asiatic and bombastic. The great O.B. afterwards asked me where my rooms were and when I had answered he said, 'That wretched hole!' then turning to Mahaffy, 'How rude, we are to our scholars! We get great minds to come down here and then shut them up in that box! I suppose it is to keep their pride {{0}}down."[["Father's Prophecy Baffled by the Son", Orient Illustrated Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 21 (27 February 1949), also cf. Sri Aurobindo, Supplement (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1973), p. 419.]]

Aurobindo passed the First Part of the Classical Tripos examination in the first class at the end of his second year at Cambridge. It is on passing this First Part that the degree of B.A. is usually conferred. But the degree is only given if the examination is taken in the third year. Aurobindo had only two years at his disposal, and so had to take the examination in his second year. To qualify for the degree he would have had to take the Second Part of the Tripos after completing four years of study; but it was not possible for him to do this. Nevertheless, he might have got the degree if he had applied for. it, but he did not care to do so.

After the Irish leader Pamell died in 1891, Aurobindo wrote a poem on {{0}}him.[[The poem, "Charles Stewart Parnell", is reproduced in Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 15–16.]] He took an intelligent interest in all public questions of those days and formed his own independent judgment and opinion about them.

It was during his stay at Cambridge that the "Indian Majlis", an association of Indian students, was started. It played an important role in the social life of Indian students in England and very often moulded their political outlook. Aurobindo took a leading part in it and was for some time its secretary. He advocated the cause of Indian freedom in the "Majlis" in very strong language, and it is very likely that reports of his revolutionary speeches might have reached the Indian Civil Service Commissioners at Whitehall, and might have had something to do with their final decision to reject him from the I.C.S.

A photograph of the room which Aurobindo occupied as a scholar at King's is reproduced here. It is much changed now, as alterations have been made to it since 1890.

The chief preoccupations of Aurobindo at Cambridge were: (1) studies, for the Tripos and the I. C.S., (2) participation in the Indian Majlis and zeal for Indian independence, (3) writing poetry. A few months after his Tripos success, Aurobindo won a prize for Greek iambics and another for Latin hexameters. He also passed all the I.C.S. examinations, though he does not seem to have cared to keep up his high rank. His low standing may have been due to his inability to engage a tutor as I.C.S. candidates usually did; but more likely it was due to his flagging interest in the I.C.S. career on account of his preoccupation with the idea of Indian independence. In fact, writing poetry and participating in the Indian Majlis were the two activities that interested him. Study and success in examinations were necessities. Most of the poems written at Cambridge by Aurobindo were published at Baroda in 1895 in his book Songs to Myrtilla.

It was Norman Ferrers, who later practised as a barrister in the Straits Settlement, who gave to Aurobindo, while at Cambridge, the clue to the discovery of the true quantitative hexameter in English. He was reading out a very Homeric line from Clough and his recitation of it gave Aurobindo the real swing (or "tilt") of the metre. Norman Ferrers passed through Calcutta on his way to Singapore in 1908 when the political prosecution against Sri Aurobindo (Alipore Bomb Case) was going on. He went to the High Court and was anxious to render help to Sri Aurobindo, but did not know how to do it.

Among Aurobindo's contemporaries at Cambridge may be mentioned Ferrers, Robert Pentland Mahaffy, Felix Xavier De Souza, K. G. Deshpande and Sir Harisingh Gaur. K.G. Deshpande met Sri Aurobindo again in Baroda.

Being brought up in a foreign country without a background of home life in India or, once they had left the Drewetts in Manchester, of family life in England, must have been a great trial for the three brothers.

Benoybhushan who was generous by temperament seems to have felt his responsibility keenly, particularly in the beginning when remittances from India became irregular. It is evident that Aurobindo had the same sense of responsibility. Manmohan, romantic and poetic, enamoured of England and English life, a little prone to luxury, felt very strongly the want of a family and parental love. In his correspondence one can clearly see that he was trying hard to stretch out his hands to someone so as to make good this loss. Aurobindo, shy and reserved temperamentally but firm in his will and hard-working, does not express himself with the same emotional exuberance. It seems to me that the difficult circumstances steeled his will to face life with an inflexible resolution. We have seen before that Manmohan in one of his letters expresses his wish to have a home in England where he could bring his sister and brother for education. This never came to anything. In fact Aurobindo had to support his sister Sarojini at Bankipore after his return to India in 1893, when he joined the Baroda state service. He used to send money regularly from Baroda to' his mother at Rohini. Later on (in 1901) Barin also came and stayed with him.

But what Manmohan describes as his great loss in his own childhood must have been felt as a loss by all the three brothers. This becomes clear in one of Manmohan's letters to Binyon.


Christ Church
Feb. 18th 1888

All childhood and boyhood is expansive. This human ivy stretches passionately forth its young tendrils, and the warm feelings are at the forefront, yearning to bestow and to be reciprocated: it is all heart; its brain lies undeveloped. It is the wise forethought of Nature that this should be so; but, in my case, Fate came between and cancelled her decrees; and, what to others is the bright portion of their life, its heaven and refuge, was for me bitterly and hopelessly blighted. You will not understand me, unless I tell a circumstance of my life which is unhappily both painful for me to reveal, and for you to hear. I had no mother. She is insane. You may judge the horror of this, how I strove to snatch a fearful love, but only succeeded in hating and loathing, and at last becoming cold. Crying for bread I was given a stone. My father was kind but stern, and I never saw much of him. Thus from childhood I was subject to fits of gloom and despondence which grew with my age.... I only relate this because I can't otherwise explain the peculiar melancholy which now partly composes my character. Also, I believe, there is something repulsive about me. Nobody ever took a liking to me. You are the only one who ever appreciated me. As a boy I often perceived with jealousy that my brothers were always preferred to me....


The quotation makes sad reading but it serve relief a part of the psychological background of the three brothers. It also does much to explain Dr. Ghose's life, including his inability to send money to his sons in England. He had to maintain one house where he was serving and another for his insane wife at Rohini. Young Barin and Sarojini had also to be sent to school. Add to this his generous temperament and one can understand why he was unable to meet the financial needs of his children.

Aurobindo left Cambridge in October 1892 and stayed in London up to 12 January 1893, when he embarked for India. He had passed his Tripos (Part I) and also the I.C.S. examination. But he wanted to engineer his rejection from the I.C.S. as he told us afterwards at Pondicherry, and so absented himself from the riding test. He said in one of his communications that he felt no call for the I.C.S. and was seeking some way to get himself disqualified without himself rejecting the service, which his father would not have allowed him to do. The full correspondence relating to Sri Aurobindo's riding examination is published in Appendix V.

Although he was rejected, Sri Aurobindo was ultimately given the I.C.S. stipend of £150. This enabled him to pay off some of his accumulated debts. "Our landlady was an angel”, Sri Aurobindo once said. "She came from Somerset and settled in London, perhaps after she was widowed. She was longsuffering and never asked us for money even if we did not pay for months and months.

I wonder how she managed. We had two such landladies. The other also was nice to us. I paid her from my I.C.S. {{0}}stipend."[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), p. 135–36.]]

It is interesting to know how the brothers took the decision of the I.C.S. Commissioners and the Secretary of State with regard to Sri Aurobindo's memorial which he was urged to write by James S. Cotton and Benoybhushan (see Appendix V, Document X; quoted in part on page 9). Sri Aurobindo later recounted that he was wandering in the streets of London when he knew he should have been at Woolwich. When he came home late in the evening he told Benoy "I am chucked", with an almost derisive smile. Benoy took it rather philosophically and offered to play cards. After some time Manmohan dropped in and on learning about his rejection from the I.C.S. set up a howl as if the heavens had fallen. After that all three sat down to smoke and began to play cards.

Sri Aurobindo's sister Sarojini seems once to have said that Sri Aurobindo was playing cards at the time appointed for the riding test. This is not true. He was not playing cards at the time of the test; he was only wandering in the streets of London to pass the time. When he at last got to Woolwich it was too late; the examiner had come and gone.

"It was partly father's fault that I failed in the riding test," Sri Aurobindo once somewhat jocularly remarked. "He did not send money and riding lessons at Cambridge at that time were rather costly. And the Master was also careless; so long as he got money he simply left me with the horse and I was not particular. I tried again at Baroda with Madhavrao – but was not successful. It was a disappointment to my father because he had arranged everything for me through Sir Henry Cotton. He had arranged to get me placed in the district of Arrah which is regarded as a very fine place and also arranged for Sir Henry Cotton to look after me.

"All that came down like a wall. I wonder what would have happened to me if I had joined the Civil Service. I think they would have chucked me for laziness and arrears of my {{0}}work!"[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), p. 136.]]

The following questions and answers cast further light on Sri Aurobindo's I.C.S. rejection.

Question: "You did not appear in the riding test in your I.C.S.?"

Sri Aurobindo: "No. They gave me another chance, but I again did not appear and finally they rejected me."

Question: "But then why did you appear for the I. C S.? Was it by some intuition that you did not take the riding test?"

Sri Aurobindo: "Not at all. I knew nothing about Yoga at that time. I appeared for the I.C.S. because my father wanted it and I was too young to understand. Later, I found out what sort of work it is and I had disgust for an administrator's life and I had no interest in administrative work. My interest was in poetry and literature and study of languages and patriotic {{0}}action."[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), pp. 35–36.]]

The question of Aurobindo's career had to be solved after his rejection from the I.C.S. In fact, James S. Cotton had already started negotiations with the Maharaja of Baroda, Sir Sayajirao Gaekwar, who was then in London. There is a reference to this in the correspondence with the India Office. (See Appendix V; Document XXIV.)

"It is strange how things arrange themselves at times, for example I failed in the I.C.S. and was looking for a job exactly when the Gaekwar happened to be in London. I don't know whether he called us or we met him but an elderly gentleman whom we consulted was quite willing to propose Rs.200 per month, that is, he thought £10 was a good enough sum, and the Gaekwar went about telling people that he had got a civilian for Rs.200. It is surprising the authority was quite satisfied with Rs. 200 per month. But I left the negotiations to my eldest brother and James Cotton. I knew nothing about life at that {{0}}time."[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), p. 135.]]

So by January 1893 everything seemed to be settled, and Aurobindo sailed on the Carthage to join the Baroda state service. As we learn from the above quotation, the meagre salary on which he was appointed was not proposed to His Highness by Aurobindo. He had no experience of worldly life and so left the negotiations to other people. It was on their advice that he accepted the offer. His Highness was very pleased to have an I.C.S. man for Rs. 200 per month. Aurobindo reached India in February 1893.

There was a sequel which Sri Aurobindo found humorous when he related it many years later. A certain tailor in Cambridge was not to be deprived of what he believed to be his dues, in this case £4, even when Sri Aurobindo had left England and joined the Baroda state service. Sri Aurobindo said he never felt bound to pay the sum, firstly because Manmohan used to buy costly stuff and leave bills unpaid, and secondly because he knew the tailor was always charging double because he sold on credit, as the boys lacked hard cash. He knew that the tailor had more than his due already. The tailor wrote to the Bengal government and even to the Baroda state and when Sri Aurobindo explained the situation His Highness persuaded him to pay and the money was sent.

The incident has been related by Sri Aurobindo himself:

"... Then I went to London. The tailor somehow traced me there and found Manmohan also. Then he canvassed orders from him. Manmohan went in for a velvet suit, not staring red but aesthetic brown. He used to visit Oscar Wilde in that suit. Then he came away to India. But the tailor was not to be deprived of his dues. He wrote to the Government of Bengal and to the Baroda government for recovering the sum from Manmohan and me. I had paid up all my dues and kept £4 or so and I did not think that I was bound to pay it since he always charged me double. But as His Highness said I had better pay it I {{0}}paid."[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), pp. 111–12.]]

The relation between the three brothers during their stay in England is an obscure chapter in their lives. There is no authentic clue about it, except the letters written by Manmohan to Laurence Binyon. It emerges from these letters that Manmohan felt himself a little out of tune with the other two – he went into different lodgings when they went to 128, Cromwell Street, the office of the South Kensington Liberal Club.

In a letter of 20 April 1887 he writes to Binyon about his poetic efforts: "You are the only one who gives me any encouragement to write... My brothers are quite apathetic about them." And yet Manmohan's preoccupation with poetry must have stimulated Aurobindo who had the incipient poet in him already trying to come to his own.

In another letter from Hastings, Manmohan evidently refers to Aurobindo when he writes,

"You have not been the only one to think some to my verses have a similarity to Matthew Arnold's. My brother once remarked to me that he thought I imitated Matthew Arnold in many of my poems. You may believe me when I say, if I have imitated him, it is perfectly unconsciously...."

On 8 January 1890, he gives an account of his illness in a letter and describes his miserable condition. There is a reference to his brother – evidently to Benoybhushan, for Aurobindo must have been at Cambridge at the time – from which it is also certain that Manmohan must have been staying in separate lodgings:

"At last, to my joy, my brother came to see me, who, as you know, is a very matter-of-fact person, with a purely commercial mind, a person who looks at everything from a business point of view. And he began comforting me very cheerfully with the reflection that everybody must die some day, remarking how conveniently near the Cemetery was, (Kempsford Gardens, I must tell you, looks out upon Brompton Cemetery and funerals pass down it every day) and hoping that undertakers did not charge very high, as he had nearly come to the end of his last remittance."

Perhaps Benoy could not, due to the economic stringency in London, be anything else than matter-of-fact, especially when the remittances had come to an end and he had to learn, perforce, to look at everything from "a business point of view".

In a letter of 13 July 1890, he again writes to Binyon: "I intend to do some tutoring work, and writing, in the meantime, which will give me enough to live on, with a little help from my brothers...." So Benoy and Aurobindo were rendering help to Manmohan to the extent possible from the remittances. In this letter Manmohan also asks for a copy of Primavera for his brother from Binyon. This, very likely, was for Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo once said of his brother:

"Manmohan used to play the poet in England. He had poetical illness and used to moan out his verses in deep tones. We were passing through Cumberland. We shouted to him but he paid no heed and came afterwards leisurely at his own pace. His poet-playing dropped after he came to {{0}}India."[[Cf.A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), p. 112.]]

From Manmohan's correspondence it appears clear that he had a romantic temperament and the outer exuberance of a poetic nature, and also that he had great attraction for England and desired not only to make it his adopted country for a time, but would have loved to settle there permanently. On the other hand, Aurobindo had no regrets about leaving England. He had formed few friendships there and none very intimate. He did not find the mental atmosphere congenial. Someone, referring to his poem {{0}}"Envoi",[[Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971), p: 28.]] stated that it showed his attachment to England. Sri Aurobindo replied, writing of himself in the third person:

"There was an attachment to English and European thought and literature, but not to England as a country; he had no ties there and did not make England his adopted country, as Manmohan did for a {{0}}time."[[Sri Aurobindo On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 7.]]

Manmohan's letters breathe high patriotism, but at the end he gives it up and writes:

2 Plynlimmon Terrace

... As for me I am going to throw politics overboard and have nothing more to do with them.... I must leave my unhappy country to her own woes; she will go the way she is destined whatever that be, and indeed I could help her little. I shall bury myself in poetry simply and solely....

He did so. But this is in striking contrast to Aurobindo's powerful advocacy of Indian independence and his revolutionary attitude even when he was at Cambridge. In fact, Sri Aurobindo himself answers the question of how and when he got interested in Indian politics:

"His father began sending the newspaper The Bengalee with passages marked relating cases of maltreatment of Indians by Englishmen and he wrote in his letters denouncing the British Government in India as a heartless Government. At the age of eleven Aurobindo had already received strongly the impression that a period of general upheaval and great revolutionary changes was coming in the world and he himself was destined to play a part in it. His attention was now drawn to India and this feeling was soon canalised into the idea of the liberation of his own country. But the 'firm decision' took full shape only towards the end of another four years. It had already been made when he went to Cambridge and as a member and for some time secretary of the Indian Majlis at Cambridge he delivered many revolutionary speeches which, as he afterwards learnt, had their part in determining the authorities to exclude him from the Indian Civil Service; the failure in the riding test was only the occasion, for in some other cases an opportunity was given for remedying this defect in India {{0}}itself."[[Sri Aurobindo On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 1–4.]]

That the decision to liberate the country was taken by him is shown by his joining the "Lotus and Dagger" society before he left for India. It was a "secret society... in which each member vowed to work for the liberation of India generally and to take some special work in furtherance of that end. Aurobindo did not form the society, but he became a member along with his brothers. But the society was {{0}}still-born."[[Sri Aurobindo On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 4.]] This happened immediately before his return to India and when he had finally left Cambridge – that is, between October 1892 and January 1893. The seven articles he wrote on Indian independence in the Indu-prakash entitled New Lamps for Old immediately on his return to India, articles which advocated a new ideal, a new approach and a new method to be adopted by the Indian National Congress, are a further sign that his interest in India's freedom was not merely academic but dynamic: it was an intense flame that touched many Indian hearts and set them ablaze.

Some people have supposed that Aurobindo studied Greek philosophy while he was in England. This is not true. He read Plato's Republic and Symposium, but he did not study Greek Philosophy. He had heard of Heraclitus while in England, but read his work after coming to India. He did not read the German philosophers. The fact is that his philosophy developed after the practice of Yoga. Thoughts used to come down upon him as a result of Sadhana. If anything can be said to have helped him in that direction it was the reading of the Gita and the Upanishads, and his knowledge of the basic ideas of the Vedanta.

Aurobindo began the study of Bengali while he was at Cambridge. The teacher for Bengali then was a certain Mr. {{0}}Towers.[["Towers, Robert Mason, M. A. 1889, incorporated from Dublin, I. C. S., University Teacher of Bengali 1888–1907. Admitted at Gains 1889. Son of Rev. Robert Towers, deceased, of Affane, Co. Waterford, Born, June 27, 1840 at Grange, Country Tipperary. School, Kilkenny. (M. A. Trinity College, Dublin), died by his own hand April 6th 1907, at Cambridge." (Venn Alumini Cantabrigenses, Part II, Vol. VI, p. 214)]] Sri Aurobindo said that he was called "Pandit Towers". His knowledge of Bengali was limited to the works of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and other early writers of Sanskritised prose. He knew the Bodhodaya and other elementary works. Once Aurobindo took a passage of Bankim Chandra to him. After reading it carefully "Pandit Towers" turned round and said, "But this is not Bengali!"

In the Majlis there was enough room for humour. The question of independence of subjected nations was once being discussed. One undergraduate spoke eloquently and, citing the example of Egypt, repeated two or three times during his speech: "The Egyptians rose up like a man." When he said this for the third time, somebody from the audience demanded, "But how many times did they sit down?"

A funny anecdote was once recalled by Sri Aurobindo about his life at Cambridge: "Well, a Punjabi student at Cambridge once took our breath away by the frankness and comprehensive profundity of his affirmation: 'Liars! But we are all liars!' It appeared that he had intended to say 'lawyers', but his pronunciation gave his remark a deep force of philosophic observation and generalisation which he had not intended! But it seems to me the last word in human {{0}}nature."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 351.]]

In an article entitled "Sri Aurobindo, a Study", Harihar Das refers to Sri Aurobindo's career in England:

"In concluding this short account of Sri Aurobindo some reference must be made to his academic distinctions. He was for some time at St. Paul's School, London, where in 1889, he gained the Butterworth Second Prize. He left school the following year having gained a scholarship at King's College, Cambridge, where he was considered the most distinguished Indian student of his day, showing a marked taste for the European classics. He was also preparing for the Indian Civil Service, and in July, 1890, he secured eleventh place in the competitive examination. In 1892, he obtained First Class (Division III), Classical Tripos, Part I. The same year he was awarded the Rawley Prize for Greek Iambics.

"As a further proof of his scholastic and literary attainments, extracts from two letters addressed to the present writer are inserted here. The first is from an Irishman, Professor R.S. Lepper, M.A., who was an undergraduate with Aurobindo at King's College during 1890–91, and formerly in the service of His Highness the Maharajah of Travancore. He writes:

"I knew him in those days quite well, and have happy recollections of him as a brilliant young classical scholar, an open Entrance Scholar of the College, of marked literary and poetic taste, and as far as I ever saw a young man of high character and modest bearing, who was liked by all who knew him. He was, of course also a student of Sanskrit, and having passed his Entrance Examination for the Indian Civil Service, was reading for the later examination in that course, as well as for Part I of the Classical Tripos.

"In the latter he secured a First Class at the end of his second year, a highly creditable success. Unfortunately for him he was, I understand, a very bad horseman, and proficiency in horse-riding was obligatory for Indian Civil Servants (convenanted). I believe he was given three separate trials, in one of which he fell off the horse (a not unusual end of his practice rides, I underhand) and at the two other trials he failed to appear. Not altogether unnaturally the Examiners, considering him hopeless on horseback, disqualified him.

"This was a serious misfortune for Ghose, as it meant the loss of his anticipated career in the Indian Civil Service; but his misfortune became a disaster through the death of his father about this time, which, I understand, deprived him of the means of continuing his residence at Cambridge for the third {{0}}year,[[Sri Aurobindo voluntarily chose to forgo his third year at Cambridge. Cf, Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 2–3. [Ed.]]] which was, of course, necessary to enable him to obtain his degree. Apparently none of his friends was in a position to maintain him at Cambridge for that third year,

"It was in these circumstances of disappointment that he obtained a post in H. H. the Gaekwar of Baroda's service, from which he was, I believe, transferred to the Baroda Educational service as Professor or Lecturer in English Literature, a post for which, I should think, his natural tastes and disposition, as well as his high literary accomplishments and scholarship, fitted him much better than for the laborious routine and heavy executive responsibilities of the Indian Civil Servant.

"Mr Ghose, I understand, left India when quite a child and knew practically nothing of Indian conditions except by hearsay; so his information and opinions on India were at times grotesquely inaccurate, especially on Europeans living there.

"He was also, I think, suffering from a sort of religious or spiritual nausea, due apparently to long continued overdoses of a narrow type of Christianity inflicted on him, doubtless with excellent intentions, by some probably devout old ladies, into whose care, I believe, he had been committed when a young boy at school in London. The effect of this dosing was naturally to make him a confirmed pantheist, with a quite understandable dislike of Christian Missionaries.'

The second extract is from a letter by an Englishman who was a fellow-scholar of Sri Aurobindo, and reads as follows:

“As to Mr. Aravinda Ackroyd {{0}}Ghose,[[Sri Aurobindo evidently used the personal names when at St. Paul's School and at King's College. [Harihar Das's note.]]] though he was in my year, I saw but little of him, so that I can give no information of interest. At the same time I did occasionally come across him. He was a very able Classical Scholar, easily first in this subject in the Entrance Scholarship Examination, and probably onlv the fact that, to satisfy the regulations of the Indian Civil Service, he had to take the University Tripos after two years (instead of the usual three) prevented him from being in the top division of the First Class in the final test.

“With regard to his life at Cambridge a complete lack of interest in games must have lessened his enjoyment of the life of the place. His interests were in literature: among Greek poets for instance he once waxed enthusiastic over Sappho, and he had a nice feeling of English style. Yet for England itself he seemed to have small affection; it was not only the climate that he found trying: as an example, he became quite indignant when on one occasion I called England the modem Athens. This title, he declared, belonged to France: England much more resembled Corinth, a commercial state, and therefore unattractive to him.

"I only hope that his views of the English race are more charitable now than they were in the 'nineties', for some of his mental and moral virtues may surely be imputed to his English education.”


No more information about Sri Aurobindo's stay in England is available except what is set forth here. One is not likely to unearth more. However, it is satisfactory that the testimony of three different men – Dr. K. D. Ghose, G. W. Prothero and Oscar Browning – is available not only about his brilliant academic career, but about his character even as a student. It is very likely that Dr. F. W. Walker, headmaster of St. Paul's, must have impressed Aurobindo profoundly during his years at the school. Dr. Walker's deeply sympathetic nature could not have escaped Aurobindo even at his young age.

Sri Aurobindo did recollect one or two inner changes that had taken place in him while he was in England. At the age of thirteen he became conscious that he was selfish and he felt from inside that he should give up selfishness. He tried to carry out that idea in his own way in life. Another time, while reading Max Miiller's translations in the Sacred Books of the East series, he came across the idea of self or Atman. This struck him as some reality and he decided in his mind that Vedanta has something that is to be realised in life.

Chapter III. Baroda

Sri Aurobindo returned to India in the beginning of 1893. He joined the Baroda service on 8 February. Unfortunately his father died before his return under tragic circumstances. It is clear from Dr. K. D. Ghose's letter of 2 December 1890 that he had high hopes for his three sons, especially Sri Aurobindo. He wanted him to take up judicial or administrative work in the Indian government, and had used his influence to get him a good appointment. But he was wrongly informed by his bankers, Messrs. Grindlay & Co. about Sri Aurobindo's departure from London. The steamer Roumania, by which Sri Aurobindo was supposed to have left, sank off the coast of Portugal near Lisbon, Dr. K.D. Ghose learned about this accident and concluded that Sri Aurobindo had been drowned. The shock was so great that he had a heart attack and died repeating Sri Aurobindo's name.

An account of Dr. K.D. Ghose's death by Brajendranath De published in 1954 is reproduced here:

"Dr. Ghose believed up to the very end, that his son had been admitted into the Indian Civil Service, and was in fact coming out. He, in fact, took a month's leave to go and meet him in Bombay and bring him back in triumph, but he could not get any definite news as to when he was coming out and returned from Bombay in a very depressed frame of mind. At last one afternoon he got a wire from his agents in Bombay to the effect that his son's name did not appear in the list of the passengers by the steamer in which he had been expecting his son to come out to India.

"It so happened that, that very night he and the Superintendent of Police were coming to dine at my house. The dinner was ready, the Superintendent came, but there was no sign of the doctor, although his bungalow was quite close to my house. After waiting for some time I sent an orderly to remind him of the fact that he had agreed to dine at my house that night. The man came back and informed us that the doctor was very ill. I at once went round, heard of the telegram and found the doctor very ill and quite unconscious. The other medical men in the station were assiduous in their attentions. I did all I could. But it was all of no avail. The poor man lingered on for a day or two and then passed away.... I had to take the body to the cremation grounds and to attend the {{0}}cremation."[[Brajendranath De, "Reminiscences of an Indian Member of the Indian Civil Service", The Calcutta Review, Vol. 132, No. 3 (September 1954), p. 181.]]

As a matter of fact, Sri Aurobindo left England not by the Roumania but by the mail steamer Carthage and, though it encountered a violent storm in the Mediterranean, he reached India quite safely on 6 February 1893.

As soon as Sri Aurobindo put his foot on the soil of India, he experienced a tremendous peace. This is one of the experiences that came to him unasked.

Here is what he wrote to a disciple incidentally about this experience:

"... Since I set foot on the Indian soil on the Apollo Bunder in Bombay, I began to have spiritual experiences, but these were not divorced from this world but had an inner and infinite bearing on it, such as a feeling of the Infinite pervading material space and the Immanent inhabiting material objects and bodies. At the same time I found myself entering supraphysical worlds and planes with influences and an effect from them upon the material {{0}}plane...."[[Sri Aurobindo On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), P 98]]

Baroda Service

Sri Aurobindo served in the Baroda state from 8 February 1893 to 18 June 1907. His age was twenty-one when he joined, thirty-five when he left. The period of his service was 13 years 5 months and 17 days.

He first served in the Survey Settlement Department at a pay of Rs.200 per month. He was asked to get acquainted with various departments. In some he had to learn the routine work and observe the procedure of the departmental work. From the Settlement Department he went over to the Revenue Department. He also worked for some in the Vahivatdar's office and in the Secretariat. Permanent work was finally given to him in the Baroda College.

(1) "Aurobindo talked very little, perhaps because he believed it better to speak as little as possible about oneself." (2) "It was as if acquiring knowledge was his sole mission in life." (3) "Aurobindo is not a man of this earth, he is a god come down from heaven by some curse." These three quotations are from Aurobindo Prasanga by Dinendra Kumar {{0}}Roy,[[Chandemagore: Prabartak Publishing House, Magb 1330, pp. 16, 23, 9.]] a Bengali writer who stayed with Sri Aurobindo during 1898–99 in order to familiarise him with the Bengali language. Life at Baroda was full, though the political career that followed was like a tornado. Sri Aurobindo's activity during this period can be divided into five parts: (1) service in various departments of the State; (2) literary activity, reading and study – this part was partly connected with college work; (3) political activity – articles in the Induprakash and beginnings of the revolutionary movement, visits to Bengal during vacations for this purpose; (4) spiritual life; (5) family life.

During this period Sri Aurobindo often stayed with Khaserao Jadhav in his house at Dandia Bazar. In his absence he stayed with Khaserao's brother Madhavrao Jadhav. Several other houses also were occupied at different times in {{0}}Baroda.[[See Appendix VII, Houses in Baroda, p. 350.]]

In the beginning Sri Aurobindo's services were lent to the college from other departments for French lessons for certain periods in the week. So he began his work in the college as lecturer in French. Other work of the college was gradually added. At last the Principal requested the Maharaja to appoint him to the post of Professor of English and from there he rose to be the Vice-Principal of the college. Once he acted for the Principal in his absence.

But before he took up permanent work in the college he used to be called by the Maharaja from his home for his personal work, either for drafting some important letter, or making a digest of some correspondence or documents, or even to draft agreements. One important work which the Maharaja got Sri Aurobindo to do in 1895 was to prepare a precis of the long-drawn-out Bapat case. Sri Aurobindo was called to Ootacamund for this purpose. This was outside his official work. But in spite of this fact, it must be mentioned that Sri Aurobindo only once acted as personal secretary to the Maharaja. This happened in 1903, when the Maharaja took him as secretary on the Kashmir tour; but as the experience was not pleasant, it was not repeated.

The following extract from Sayaji Rao Gaekwar Yancha Sahavasat by Govind Sakharam Sardesai (the famous Marathi historian) referring to Sri Aurobindo, affords contemporary evidence about his Baroda state service and life:

"Sri Aurobindo and myself were together with Sayaji Rao very often.... Sometimes men like Sri Aurobindo would pen out lectures for him.

"Once the Maharaja had to address a social conference. Sri Aurobindo prepared the speech. We three [i.e., the Maharaja, G. S. Sardesai, and Sri Aurobindo] sat together and read it. The Maharaja after hearing it said: 'Can you not, Arabind Babu, tone it down? It is too fine to be mine.'

"Sri Aurobindo replied smiling: 'Why make a change for nothing? Do you think, Maharaja, that if it is toned down a little, people will believe it to be yours? Good or bad, whatever it be, people will always say that the Maharaja always gets his lectures written by others. The main thing is whether the thoughts are yours. That is your chief {{0}}part."[[Govind Sakharam Sardesai, Sayaji Rao Gaekwar Yancha Sahavasat (Poona: S. Jagannath and Co., 1956), pp. 20–21.]]

Sardesai also states that Sri Aurobindo carried on the major part of the correspondence that passed between the Indian government and the Baroda state about the insult which Curzon felt when the Maharaja, who was in Paris, was called by the Indian government (as Curzon was visiting Baroda in 1900), and the Maharaja did not {{0}}come.[[Govind Sakharam Sardesai, Sayaji Rao Gaekwar Yancha Sahavasat (Poona: S. Jagannath and Co., 1956), p. 25.]]

"I used to go out walking with Sri Aurobindo in those days. He usually was reserved and non-communicative. To a question he would reply 'yes' or 'no' and not go beyond. There was something of the mystic in {{0}}him."[[Govind Sakharam Sardesai, Sayaji Rao Gaekwar Yancha Sahavasat (Poona: S. Jagannath and Co., 1956), p. 31.]]

"I wrote many memoranda for the Maharaja", Sri Aurobindo once said. "Generally he used to indicate the lines and I used to follow them. But I myself was not much interested in administration. My interests lay outside in Sanskrit, literature, and in the National movement. When I came to Baroda from England I found out what the Congress was at that time and formed contempt for it. Then I came in touch with Deshpande, Tilak, Madhavrao, and others. Deshpande requested me to write something, in the Induprakash. There I strongly criticised the Congress for its moderate policy. The articles were so slashing that M.G. Ranade, the great Maharashtra leader, asked the proprietor of the paper not to allow such seditious articles to appear in the paper otherwise he might be arrested and imprisoned. Deshpande approached me with the news and requested me to write something less violent. I then began to write about the philosophy of politics leaving aside the practical part. But soon I got disgusted with {{0}}it."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series, pp. 36–37.]]


The series of political articles mentioned above, "New Lamps for Old", which severely criticised the policy of the Indian National Congress, was published in the Induprakash of Bombay from 7 August 1893 to 5 March 1894. Sri Aurobindo was pressed by K.G. Deshpande, his Cambridge friend, to write the series. K.G. Deshpande, after his return from England, settled in Bombay as a barrister and was also editor of the English section of the Induprakash. The paper had a Marathi section also. On Sri Aurobindo's joining the Baroda state, Deshpande requested him – knowing his strong nationalist views at Cambridge – to write articles about the Indian Congress. Deshpande joined the Baroda state service in 1898 – five years after Sri Aurobindo.

Deshpande introduced Sri Aurobindo's series with the following note:

"We promised our readers some time back a series of articles on our present political progress by an extremely able and keen observer of the present times. We are very much pleased to give our readers the first instalment of that series. The title under which these views appear is 'New Lamps for Old' which is very suggestive though a metaphorical one. The preface will take us over to the next issue. The views therein contained are not those that are commonly held by our politicians, and for this reason they are very important. We have been long convinced that our efforts in Political Progress are not sustained, but are lacking in vigour. Hypocrisy has been the besetting sin of our political agitation. Oblique vision is the fashion. True, matter of fact, honest criticism is very badly needed. Our institutions have no strong foundation and are in hourly danger of falling down. Under these circumstances it was idle – nay, criminal, – to remain silent while our whole energy in Political Progress was spent in a wrong direction. The questions at issue are momentous. It is the making or unmaking of a nation. We have therefore secured a gentleman of great literary talents, of liberal culture and of considerable English experience, well-versed in the art of writing and willing, at great personal inconvenience and probable misrepresentation, to give out his views in no uncertain voice, and, we may be allowed to add, in a style and diction peculiarly his own. We bespeak our readers' most careful and constant perusal on his behalf and assure them that they will find in those articles matter that will set them thinking and steel their patriotic {{0}}souls."[[Sri Aurobindo, New Lamps for Old (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1974), P. 6.]]

The publication of the first two articles created a furor in political circles and Mahadev Govind Ranade, the famous Maratha leader, who was connected with the paper, sent a warning to the editor that he might be prosecuted for sedition. Deshpande was in a fix. He requested Sri Aurobindo to tone down his criticism a little. After that Sri Aurobindo lost all enthusiasm for writing the series and even though he somehow finished it he took a long time to do it. He never liked the mendicant policy of the Congress.

A few extracts from that historical series, "New Lamps for Old":

"I say, of the Congress, then, this,– that its aims are mistaken, that the spirit in which it proceeds towards their accomplishment is not a spirit of sincerity and whole-heartedness, and that the methods it has chosen are not the right methods, and the leaders in whom it trusts, not the right sort of men to be leaders; – in brief, that we are at present the blind led, if not by the blind, at any rate by the {{0}}one-eyed."[[Sri Aurobindo, New Lamps for Old (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1974), p. 19.]]

"For by reflection or instinct to get a clear insight into our position and by dexterity to make the most of it, that is the whole secret of politics, and that is just what we have failed to {{0}}do."[[Sri Aurobindo, New Lamps for Old (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1974), p. 59]]

"We lose in sincerity which is another name for {{0}}strength."[[Sri Aurobindo, New Lamps for Old (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1974), p. 59]]

"So long as this temper prevails, we shall never realise how utterly it is beyond the power of even an excellent machine to renovate an effete and impoverished national character and how palpably requisite to commence from within and not depend on any exterior {{0}}agency."[[Sri Aurobindo, New Lamps for Old (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1974), p. 41.]]

"To put it in a concrete form, Paris may be said to revolve around the Theatre, the Municipal Council and the French Academy, London looks rather to the House of Commons and New York to the Stock {{0}}Exchange."[[Sri Aurobindo, New Lamps for Old (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1974),  pp. 40–41.]]

This series brought out many political questions and displayed the powers of Sri Aurobindo for the first time before the public – an all-encompassing grasp, a subtle power of thought, capacity for expression and a mastery over the language, rare courage, utter sincerity, burning patriotism and selfless character. All these can be seen in the Induprakash series even now after so many years.

Sri Aurobindo's circle of friends at Baroda included Madhavrao and Khaserao Jadhav, K.G. Deshpande, Fadke, Mangesh Kolasker, etc. Mr. Fadke took a photograph of Dinendra Kumar Roy and Sri Aurobindo.


Sri Aurobindo once recounted an anecdote of those days:

"I remember that a young Sannyasi with long nails came to Baroda. He used to stay under trees. Deshpande and myself went to see him. Deshpande asked him what is the Dharma – the standard of action?

"He replied: 'There is no fixed standard. It is the Dharma of the thief to steal because that is his Dharma.' Deshpande was very angry to hear that. I said: 'It is only a point of {{0}}view!"[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series, p. 166.]]

The work entrusted to Sri Aurobindo was sometimes very dull, requiring mechanical plodding through reports and the making of abstracts. Sri Aurobindo felt no enthusiasm for that land of work. At one time the work entrusted to him was consulting the time-tables of railways in Europe!

Sri Aurobindo seems to have visited Bengal for the first time after his return from England in 1894. He met all his relations – his mother Swarnalata, Sarojini, Barin, Jogendra, as well as his grandfather Rajnarayan. This is how Sarojini describes his appearance: "a very delicate face, long hair cut in English fashion, Sejda ["older brother", i.e. Sri Aurobindo] was a very shy person."

His mother did not recognise him – it was perhaps natural after so long an interval – when they met. She argued, "My Aurobindo was not so big, he was small." When it was explained to her that he had come back from England after finishing his studies she suddenly had a flash of memory and said, "My Aurobindo had a cut on his finger." In fact, he had the mark of a cut received from a broken glass bottle. The mark was shown to her and she recognised him.

The letters written by Sri Aurobindo to his family were few and are hard to find. The following letter to Sarojini shows him as an affectionate brother. It also shows that Benoybhushan did not return to India till 1894. One sees how scarce the correspondence between the brothers was.


Baroda Camp
25th August, 1894

My dear Saro,

I got your letter the day before yesterday. I have been trying hard to write to you for the last three weeks, but have hitherto failed. Today I am making a huge effort and hope to put the letter in the post before nightfall. As I am now invigorated by three days' leave, I almost think I shall succeed.

It will be, I fear, quite impossible to come to you again so early as the Puja, though if I only could, I should start tomorrow. Neither my affairs, nor my finances will admit of it. Indeed it was a great mistake for me to go at all; for it has made Baroda quite intolerable to me. There is an old story about Judas Iscariot, which suits me down to the ground. Judas, after betraying Christ, hanged himself and went to Hell where he was honoured with the hottest oven in the whole establishment. Here he must bum for ever and ever; but in his life he had done one kind act and for this they permitted him by special mercy of God to cool himself for an hour every Christmas on an iceberg in the North Pole. Now this has always seemed to me not mercy, but a peculiar refinement of cruelty. For how could Hell fail to be ten times more Hell to the poor wretch after the delicious coolness of his iceberg? I do not know for what enormous crime I have been condemned to Baroda, but my case is just parallel. Since my pleasant sojourn with you at Baidyanath, Baroda seems a hundred times more Baroda.

I dare say Beno may write to you three or four days before he leaves England. But you must think yourself lucky if he does as much as that. Most likely the first you hear of him will be a telegram from Calcutta. Certainly he has not written to me. I never expected and should be afraid to get a letter. It would be such a shocking surprise that I should certainly be able to do nothing but roll on the floor and gasp for breath for the next two or three hours. No, the favours of the Gods are too awful to be coveted. I dare say he will have energy enough to hand over your letter to Mano as they must be seeing each other almost daily. You must give Mano a little time before he answers you. He too is Beno's brother. Please let me have Beno's address as I don't know where to send a letter I have ready for him. Will you also let me have the name of Bari's English Composition Book and its compiler? I want such a book badly, as this will be useful for me not only in Bengalee but in Gujerati. There are no convenient books like that here.

You say in your letter "all here are quite well"; yet in the very next sentence I read "Bari has an attack of fever". Do you mean then that Bari is nobody? Poor Bari! That he should be excluded from the list of human beings is only right and proper, but it is a little hard that he should be denied existence altogether. I hope it is only a slight attack. I am quite well. I have brought a fund of health with me from Bengal, which, I hope it will take me some time to exhaust; but I have just passed my twenty-second milestone, August 15 last, since my birthday and am beginning to get dreadfully old.

I infer from your letter that you are making great progress in English. I hope you will learn very quickly; I can then write to you quite what I want to say and just in the way I want to say it. I feel some difficulty in doing that now and I don't know whether you will understand it.

With love,

Your affectionate brother,


P. S. If you want to understand the new orthography of my name, ask {{0}}uncle.[[Sri Aurobindo, Supplement (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), P. 420–21.]]


Sometime in 1894 Sri Aurobindo met M.G. Ranade at Bombay for half an hour. It was Ranade who, having read Sri Aurobindo's Induprakash series, had sent a warning to the editor. He was anxious to meet the intelligent and promising young man! At last when an interview was arranged he found an opportunity to try to persuade Sri Aurobindo not to waste his energies in violently attacking the Congress but turn them to some constructive work like jail reform! When Sri Aurobindo went to prison he remembered Ranade's advice and ironically wrote afterwards that he had begun the prison-reform by going to prison!

From 16 July to 27 August 1894 Sri Aurobindo contributed a series of articles to the Induprakash on Bankim Chandra Chatterji. The articles contained literary criticism and an estimate of Bankim's work. It is evident that Sri Aurobindo knew Bengali well and had familiarised himself with the works of Bankim and Madhusudan Dutt before he called Dinendra Kumar Roy to Baroda in 1898 to acquaint him with the colloquial terms and pronunciation of Bengali.

In the year 1895 the first collection of Sri Aurobindo's poems, Songs to Myrtilla, was published "for private circulation". Sri Aurobindo used to read Homer, Dante, the Mahabharata, Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti, during this period. He instructed the Bombay firms Messrs Radhabai Atmaram Sagun and Messrs Thacker Spink & Co. to send him catalogues of new publications from which he would select books and order them. The books used to come by railway parcels.

The routine of his daily life was as follows: After morning tea Sri Aurobindo used to write poetry. He would continue up to ten o'clock. Bath was between ten and eleven o'clock and lunch was at eleven o'clock – a cigar would be by his side even while he ate. Sri Aurobindo used to read journals while taking his meals. He took less of rice and more of bread. Once a day there was meat or fish.

There were intervals when Sri Aurobindo took to complete vegetarian diet. He was indifferent to taste. He found Marathi food too hot (with its chillies) and Gujarati food too rich in ghee. Later, he once had a dinner at B G. Tilak's, which consisted of rice, puri, legum (dal) and vegetables. He liked it for its "Spartan simplicity". Sri Aurobindo was in the habit of reading far into the night and retiring very late. He was a late riser.

During this period he used to send money regularly for the maintenance of his mother and for Sarojini's education at Banki-pore. The two elder brothers Benoybhushan and Manmohan who had returned from England were earning also but they rendered no help to the family. When asked about this Sri Aurobindo said, "Dada is in Coochbehar state service and so he has to maintain a certain high standard of living. Manmohan is married and marriage is an expensive luxury!"

In the autumn of 1898 Sri Aurobindo managed to get Sj. Dinendra Kumar Roy as his paid tutor in order to familiarise himself with spoken Bengali. Roy came to Baroda after the Puja holidays. As already stated, Sri Aurobindo had commenced learning Bengali while at Cambridge, and he read many authors during his stay at Baroda. He wanted to make himself familiar with the growth of Bengali literature, to understand the idiom of the spoken language and to learn to speak it. Dinendra Roy tried to learn French and German from Sri Aurobindo. The study that Sri Aurobindo did with Roy was not of the nature of regular lessons, but was more of an informal arrangement. It happened at times that he would read and converse for a day and then for days there would be no learning at all.

One day Dinendra Kumar asked Sri Aurobindo why he was not so well known, that is, why he did not come forward in the life of Baroda. Sri Aurobindo replied that there was no happiness or delight in it.

D. K. found books coming by railway parcels. He saw French, German, Latin, Greek, even Russian books on Sri Aurobindo's shelf. He saw all the poets from Chaucer to Swinburne in his brary. But he was immensely surprised to find that in spite of his prolonged residence in England there was no trace of a deep European influence on him.

D. K. writes about the economic condition: 'He was alone, he did not know what it was to run after pleasures, he never spent even a paisa in the wrong way, and yet at the end of the month he did not have a paisa in his {{0}}hand."[[Dinendra Kumar Roy, Aurobindo Prasanga, p. 13. Cf. statement of R. N. Patkar, pp. 61–66.]]

Among the subjects on which Sri Aurobindo wrote poems, D.K. Roy mentions "Savitri" – this may be the first germ of the great poem which ultimately ended as the {{0}}epic.[[Dinendra Kumar Roy, Aurobindo Prasanga, p. 15.]]

A Bengali painter, Shashi Kumar Hesh, came to Baroda during this period. He did a portrait of Sri Aurobindo in oils.

Sri Aurobindo's cousin Basanti, the daughter of Krishna Kumar Mitra, was the first person to receive a letter written by Sri Aurobindo in Bengali. Basanti bitterly regrets the loss of this letter during the Hindu-Muslim riots in Bengal after Pakistan came into being. Afterwards Sri Aurobindo learnt enough Bengali to conduct the weekly Dharma in it. He even wrote some Bengali poetry. His mastery over the Bengali language was not equal to his mastery over the English.

When Professor Littledale went on leave in 1898 Sri Aurobindo was appointed professor of English. In 1899 he spoke on Oxford and Cambridge on the occasion of the Baroda College Social {{0}}Gathering.[[See Appendix III, pp. 315–18, for the speech.]] In the year 1900 Principal Tait asked the Maharaja to appoint Sri Aurobindo as permanent professor of English in the Baroda College. In his proposal the principal spoke highly of his work and ability. The Maharaja granted the request. Sri Aurobindo's pay was raised to Rs.360. Unlike his brother Manmohan (also a professor in English) Sri Aurobindo never prepared himself for the class with elaborate notes.

About his career as a professor Sri Aurobindo said in the course of a talk: "I was not so conscientious a professor as Manmohan. I never used to look at the notes and sometimes my explanations did not agree with them at all. I was professor of English and sometimes of French. What was surprising to me was that students used to take down everything verbatim and mug it up by heart. Such a thing would never have happened in England. There [at Baroda] the students besides taking my notes used to get notes of some professor from Bombay, especially if any of them was to be an examiner.

"Once I was giving a lecture on Southey's Life of Nelson. My lecture was not in agreement with the notes. So the students remarked that it was not at all like what was found in the notes. I replied: I have not read the notes – in any case they are all rubbish! I could never go to the minute details. I read and left my mind to do what it could. That is why I could never become a scholar. Up to the age of fifteen I was known as a very promising scholar in St. Paul's. After fifteen I lost that reputation. The teachers used to say that I had become lazy and was deteriorating – because I was reading novels and poetry only; at examination time I used to prepare a little. But now and then when I wrote Greek and Latin verse my teachers used to lament that I was not utilising my remarkable gifts because of my laziness.

"When I went up for Scholarship at the King's College, Cambridge, Oscar Browning remarked that he had not seen such remarkable papers {{0}}before."[[Cf. A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1959), pp. 245–46.]]

During these years (the years of teaching at Baroda) Sri Aurobindo used to pass his vacations in Bengal, especially the second vacation which generally coincided with the Puja holidays. The two vacations were from 15 April to 9 June and from 30 September to 2 January. His cousin Basanti has given her reminiscences of his visits to Deoghar. She was then a girl learning at school and used to go to Deoghar to visit the family of her grandfather Rajnarayan Bose. There were hills around and everybody enjoyed a life free from the conventions of the city. All the children were fond of uncle Jogendra, Rajnarayan's eldest son, and would sit round him and listen to stories or else make fun. Sri Aurobindo liked Jogendra whom he used to call humorously "the prophet of Isabgul", because he used to prescribe "Isabgul" as a remedy for almost all the troubles of the stomach!

Sri Aurobindo used to join them all during the Puja holidays. He generally stayed at Deoghar but also passed a few days with his aunt at Calcutta. Indeed, whenever Sri Aurobindo passed through Calcutta during this period (before 1906) he used to stay with her and Krishna Kumar Mitra at 6, College Square.

Basanti Devi writes: "Auro Dada used to arrive with two or three trunks. We always thought they would contain costly suits and other luxury items like scents, etc. When he opened them I used to look and wonder. What is this? A few ordinary clothes and all the rest books and nothing but books! Does Auro Dada like to read all these? We all want to chat and enjoy ourselves in vacations. Does he want to spend even this time in reading these books? But because he liked this reading did not mean that he did not join us in our talks and chats and our merrymaking. His talk used to be full of wit and {{0}}humour."[[Basanti Chakravarty, "Amader Aurodada", Galpa Bharati, Vol. VI, No 7 (Paush 1357), pp. 776–77.]]

In September 1899 Rajnarayan Bose, Sri Aurobindo's grandfather, died. Sri Aurobindo wrote a sonnet on him after his death.

In 1899 or possibly 1898 Jatindranath Banerjee (afterwards Niralamb Swamy) came to Baroda for military training in the Baroda army in order to prepare himself for revolutionary work. Sri Aurobindo, with the help of Khaserao and Madhavrao Jadhav, got him admitted to the army for training. Jatin was declared as a U.P. man, not a Bengali. Sri Aurobindo persuaded him to join the revolutionary movement he intended to launch in Bengal. Jatin agreed.

He was sent to Calcutta to get men and materials for the revolutionary work in Bengal in 1900. He met P. Mitra and Bibhuti Bhushan Bhattacharya and introduced them to Sri Aurobindo.

Probably this same year Barin passed his Entrance Examination. He spent six months with Manmohan at Dacca and then tried to learn agriculture but received no monetary support. He tried to run a tea shop in Patna but there also he did not succeed and so he went to Baroda to stay with Sri Aurobindo.

One day even before he had got up from his bed, Sri Aurobindo found Barin with a dirty canvas bag and very dirty clothes. He exclaimed, "How is it that you are here in this state?" He sent him straight to the bathroom! Even before this time, whenever Sri Aurobindo used to go to Deoghar, he used to inculcate the revolutionary spirit in Barin. When Barin came to Baroda it was an opportunity to prepare him for the revolutionary work.

Sri Aurobindo continued to be a member of the College Union. After April 1901 he drew his salary from the Sar Subha's office.

In April 1901 Sri Aurobindo was married to Mrinalini Bose, daughter of Bhupal Chandra Bose. Her age was fourteen years (birthday 6 March 1888). Sri Aurobindo had had many prospective offers from which he selected Mrinalini. Principal Girish Chandra Bose, a friend of Bhupal Chandra Bose, arranged the match. The marriage took place at Baithakkhana Road, Calcutta, in one of the houses belonging to the Hatkhola Dutt family. As Sri Aurobindo had gone to England the question of purificatory rites was raised. Sri Aurobindo flatly refused, even as his father Dr. K.D. Ghose had in his day. At last there was a proposal of shaving the head. When that was turned down "an obliging Brahmin priest satisfied all the requirements of the Shastra for a monetary consideration!"

Byomkesh Chakravarty, Lord Sinha and Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose and his wife attended the marriage. It was performed according to Hindu rites. The bride was given away by Girish Chandra Bose. Sri Aurobindo was twenty-nine.

Sri Aurobindo went to Deoghar after his marriage. From there Mrinalini, Sarojini and himself went to Naini Tal. While there Sri Aurobindo wrote a postcard to Bhuvan Chakravarty:


Dear Bhuvan Babu,

I have been here at Naini Tal with my wife and sister since the 29th of May. The place is a beautiful one, but not half so cold as I expected. In fact, in daytime it is only a shade less hot than Baroda except when it has been raining. The Maharaja will probably be leaving here on the 24th,– if there has been rain at Baroda, but as he will stop at Agra, Mathura and Mhow he will not reach Baroda before the beginning of July. I shall probably be going separately and may also reach on the 1st of July. If you like, you might go there a little before and put up with Deshpande. I have asked Madhavrao to get my new house furnished but I don't know what he is doing in that direction. Banerji is, I believe, in Calcutta. He came up to see me at Deoghar for a day.

Yours sincerely,

Aurobindo Ghose


It was most probably during the year 1901 that Mr. Mandavale, a Marathi gentleman, gave the oath of the revolutionary party to Sri Aurobindo. This ceremony was considered important at that time.

During his stay at Baroda, Barin read a book on spiritualism and began experimenting with the planchette and with table-tapping. Sri Aurobindo also used to join in the evenings. Two or three experiences are remarkable. Once Barin called his father Dr. K.D. Ghose. A reply came that his spirit was there. He was asked to give a sign or proof of his identity. He reminded Barin about a gold watch which he had presented to him. Barin had completely forgotten this fact but said it was true. Then he was asked to give another proof. He mentioned the existence of a certain picture on the wall in the house of Mr. Devdhar, who was an engineer. An enquiry was made but no such picture was found. The matter was reported to the spirit that claimed to be Dr. K.D. Ghose. In reply he said that they should enquire again. Then they made another and more detailed effort, and found that there was a picture which had been covered over by whitewash. At another sιance Tilak was present. The spirit of Dr. K. D. Ghose was called and asked "What kind of man is this?" He answered: "When all your work is ruined and many men bow their heads down, this man will keep his head erect." This proved true.

Once Ramakrishna Paramahansa was called and was asked questions. But he kept silent for a long time. Then while going he said, "Make a temple, make a temple (Mandir karo)."

At that time the idea of independence for India was dominant and so all believed that Ramakrishna had given his consent to the "Bhawani Mandir" scheme. But the true significance of Ramakrishna's statement was interpreted by Sri Aurobindo years later as a command to make in ourselves a temple to the Mother, to effect such a transformation of ourselves that we become the temple of the Mother.

These sιances have not much value from the point of view of Yoga. But they show clearly the limitation of the view that the physical is the only reality. Their importance to Sri Aurobindo lies in the fact that they showed him the existence of supra-physical agencies and planes of consciousness, and the possibility of attaining them.

Sri Aurobindo kept a horse-carriage at Baroda. For a description of it see page 33 of D. K. Roy's book, Aurobindo Prasanga. An incident involving this carriage is important. Once Sri Aurobindo was going from the Camp Road towards the city. Just by the side of the public gardens an accident was narrowly averted. As he saw the possibility of the accident he found that, with the will to prevent it, there appeared a Being of Light in him who was as it were the master of the situation and was able to control the details. This experience, which came before the beginning of Sri Aurobindo's sadhana, may be the seed of the following poem:


I sat behind the dance of Danger's hooves

In the shouting street that seemed a futurist's whim,

And suddenly felt, exceeding Nature's grooves,

In me, enveloping me the body of Him.

Above my head a mighty head was seen,

A face with the calm of immortality

And an omnipotent gaze that held the scene

In the vast circle of its sovereignty.

His hair was mingled with the sun and breeze;

The world was in His heart and He was I:

I housed in me the Everlasting's peace,

The strength of One whose substance cannot die.

The moment passed and all was as before;

Only {{0}}that[[Alternate reading: its.]] deathless memory I {{0}}bore.[[Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 138.]]

In 1902 Sri Aurobindo was occupied in teaching French and English at the college. Southey's Life of Nelson and Burke's reflections on the French Revolution were the text books in the first two classes. Sri Aurobindo presided over Sarat Chandra Mallick's lecture in the college.

This year Sri Aurobindo went to Midnapur for the first time during the vacation. There he met Hemchandra Das. There was Practice of rifle shooting on Das's lands. It was resolved to form six centres of revolutionary work in Bengal. Jatin Banerjee and Barin accompanied Sri Aurobindo to Midnapur. Jatin had already started an organisation of young men at Calcutta in the compound of P. Mitra. When Sri Aurobindo went to Calcutta, Jatin arranged an interview between the two. Sri Aurobindo gave the oath of the revolutionary party to P. Mitra.

Sri Aurobindo later went to Midnapur for a second time and gave the oath to Hemchandra Das who, during the ceremony, held a sword in one hand and the Gita in the other. The content of the oath was to secure the freedom of Mother India at any cost and to declare the secret of the society to no one.

The idea of forming secret revolutionary societies had been in the air in Bengal for a long time. Even Rajnarayan Bose, Sri Aurobindo's grandfather, had started a society which Tagore had joined when young! But these efforts did not result in any achievement. There was a secret society in Maharashtra presided over by Thakur Ramsingh, the Rajput prince. The Bombay branch was managed by a council of five. Sri Aurobindo was able to contact this body and joined it. This was after he had already started his activity in Bengal.

During this year (1902) a society was started at Deoghar under Satyen Bose. The revolutionary spirit was so rampant that even government servants were sympathetic to it and men like Jogendranath Mukherji, a magistrate, actively joined the movement.

From 28 April 1902 to 29 May 1902 Sri Aurobindo was on Privilege leave in Bengal. It was mainly for the revolutionary work that Sri Aurobindo visited Bengal during these years.

Sister Nivedita came to Baroda in October of this year. She had identified herself with the political ideology of Vivekananda. She had an ardent aspiration for India's freedom. She had ultimately to sever her connection with the Ramakrishna Mission on account of her political activity. The relation between Sister Nivedita and Sri Aurobindo is not well known and many conjectures and rumours have appeared in the Indian press. We give here in Sri Aurobindo's own words the truth of the matter.

"Then about my relations with Sister Nivedita – they were purely in the field of politics. Spirituality or spiritual matters did not enter into them and I do not remember anything passing between us on these subjects when I was with her. Once or twice she showed the spiritual side of her but she was then speaking to someone else who had come to see her while I was there...

I met Sister Nivedita first at Baroda when she came to give some lectures there. I went to receive her at the station and to take her to the house assigned to her; I also accompanied her to an interview she had sought with the Maharaja of Baroda. She had heard of me as one who 'believed in strength and was a worshipper of Kali' by which she meant that she had heard of me as a revolutionary. I knew of her already because I had read and admired her book Kali the Mother. It was in these days that we formed our friendship. After I had started my revolutionary work in Bengal through certain emissaries, I went there personally to see and arrange things myself. I found a number of small groups of revolutionaries that had recently sprung into existence but all scattered and acting without reference to each other. I tried to unite them under a single organisation with the barrister P. Mitra as the leader of the revolution in Bengal and a central council of five persons, one of them being Nivedita.... I had no occasion to meet Nivedita after that until I settled in Bengal as Principal of the National College and the chief editorial writer of the Bande Mataram. By that time I had become one of the leaders of the public movement known first as extremism, then as nationalism, but this gave me no occasion to meet her except once or twice at the Congress, as my collaboration with her was solely in the secret revolutionary field. I was busy with my work and she with hers, and no occasion arose for consultations or decisions about the conduct of the revolutionary movement. Later on I began to make time to go and see her occasionally at Bagbazar.

"In one of these visits she informed me that the Government had decided to deport me and she wanted me to go into secrecy or to leave British India and act from outside so as to avoid interruption of my work. There was no question at that time of danger to her; in spite of her political views she had friendly relations with high Government officials and there was no question of her arrest. I told her that I did not think it necessary to accept her suggestion; I would write an open letter in the Karmayogin which, I thought, would prevent this action by the Government. This was done and on my next visit to her she told me that my move had been entirely successful and the idea of deportation had been dropped. The departure to Chandernagore happened later and there was no connection between the two {{0}}incidents...."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 68–70.]]

In her interview Sister Nivedita pressed the Maharaja to join and help the revolutionary movement. The Maharaja did not commit himself. He said merely that he would send his reply through Sri Aurobindo. He gave this answer only to evade the question: he never sent any reply through Sri Aurobindo. He was surprised however to learn that Sri Aurobindo was taking such a keen interest in the movement.

Most probably it was during this year (1902) that Barin was sent to Calcutta to help Jatin Banerjee. Barin had been staying at Baroda since 1900 or 1901. The work at Calcutta was begun at 106, Upper Circular Road. Jatin, Barin and Abinash Bhattacharya were the workers. Jatin used to work among the educated classes – pleaders, doctors, etc. – and Barin and Abinash among college students. Wherever they found an open ground they tried to organise young men there, and to teach them lathi-play, fencing and even riding. Having worked together for six months the three separated. Barin and Abinash shifted to Madan Mitter Lane and Jatin moved to Sitaram Ghose Street.

Sri Aurobindo took one month's leave from 22 February 1903. The reason for the leave was to patch up the differences that had arisen between Jatin Banerjee and Barin at Calcutta. It appears that Jatin, after his military training at Baroda, had become a srrict disciplinarian and insisted on imposing discipline on the young men in the organisation. Barin was not capable of working under anyone except the topmost leaders. Jatin became unpopular because of his strictness. One may say that there was rivalry between him and Barin for leadership. When Sri Aurobindo went to Bengal he stayed with Jogendra Vidya Bhushan, who was a Government servant and a sympathiser of the revolutionary movement. Devavrata and Suresh Samajpati were on Barin's side. Even Hemchandra Das was for Barin. Hemchandra Das writes; He [Jatin] had an intense desire for doing work. He was, besides, a military man. For a Bengali this fact of becoming a military man is such an unimaginable thing that his temper became that of 'general'. Jatin used to exercise his generalship fully upon his young men."

Sri Aurobindo heard both the sides and gave his ruling that Jatin must continue to work. The final authority was not to be vested in either Jatin or Barin but in a committee of five members including P. Mitra and Sister Nivedita. It should be noted here that the differences were not really removed and occasional bickerings continued. Sri Aurobindo took no interest in the affair. He met the members only for work.

One of those he met was Abinash Bhattacharya, a young man who was among the first to join the nationalist movement in Bengal. Abinash got his chance to see Sri Aurobindo when one day Barin took him to Jatin's house, where Sri Aurobindo was talking with Jatin. Sri Aurobindo spoke with Abinash and welcomed him into the {{0}}movement.[[Abinash Bhattacharya, "Aurobindo", Galpa Bharati, Vol. VI, No. 7 (Paush 1357), pp. 832–33.]]

Sri Aurobindo has written: "The work under P. Mitra spread enormously and finally contained tens of thousands of young men and the spirit of revolution spread by Barin's paper Yugantar became general in the young generation; but during my absence at Baroda the council ceased to exist as it was impossible to keep up agreement among the many {{0}}groups."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 69.]]

After returning from leave in March Sri Aurobindo took his classes at his home in the afternoon. Later he went to Kashmir on the order of the Maharaja. On 26 March the Principal made a strong report against Sri Aurobindo's absence to the Dewan, who wrote that Sri Aurobindo should be made to provide an explanation. After two months a note dated 6 June was received, in which the following points were mentioned:

"1. From the 22nd February I was absent on leave for a month. I had written to the Principal reporting my departure, but it appears the letter was not received.

"2. Previous to that for two or three days I was called to the Palace on urgent work.

Sri Aurobindo in Baroda

Khaserao Jadhav's Bungalow, Baroda

"3. Subsequent to my return from leave I was taking the classes in the afternoon at my own house, as three-quarters in the morning were insufficient. I may mention that I was always in the habit of making my own arrangements with the studnts, which was the more necessary as I had several branches of work to attend to..

"4. As I am now attached to the Swari in charge of the secretary's work during the Cashmere trip, I shall not be able to take the French classes this term."

When Sri Aurobindo was on tour in Kashmir he visited Takht-i-Suleman or "hill of Shankaracharya". Tkhere without any effort he experienced the vacant Infinite in a very tangible way. This experience left a deep impression upon his mind.

Poetry is not autobiography except in the sense of being an expression of the experience of the inner being. Sri aurobindo’s visit to Kashmir seems to have given him the inspiration for the poem which is reproduced here:


I walked on the high-wayed Seat of {{0}}Solomon[[Takht-i-Suleman.]]

Where Shankaracharya's tiny templ e stands

Facing Infinity from Time's edge, alone

On the bare ridge ending earth's vain romance.

Around me was a formless solitude:

All had become one strange Unnamable,

An unborn sole Reality world-nude,

Topless and fathomless, for ever still.

A Silence that was Being's only word,

The unknown beginning and the voiceless end

Abolishing all things moment-seen or heard,

On an incommunicable summit reigned,

A lonely Calm and void unchanging Peace

On the dumb crest of Nature's {{0}}mysteries[[Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, p. 153.]]

During the year 1904 Sri Aurobindo began yoga somewhat seriously.

"No, I had no knowledge. I did not know what God was", said Sri Aurobindo later about the beginning of his sadhana. "Deshpande at that time was doing Hatha Yoga, Asanas and other such Kriyas and as he had a great proselytising tendency he wanted to convert me to his view. But I thought that a Yoga which required me to give up the world was not for me. I had to liberate my country. I took to it seriously when I learnt that the same Tapasya which one does to get away from the world can be turned to action. I learnt that Yoga gives power, and I thought why the devil should I not get the power and use it to liberate my country?... It was the time of 'country first, humanity afterwards and the rest nowhere'. It was something from behind which got the idea accepted by the mind; mine was a side-door entry into the Spiritual Life."

Sri Aurobindo consulted engineer Devdhar, who was a disciple of Swami Brahmananda of Chandod, for details about Pranayama. There was an idea current that yoga could not be done without Pranayama. Sri Aurobindo describes the results of his practice as follows:

"My own experience is that the brain becomes Prakashmaya – full of light. When I was practising Pranayama at Baroda, I used to do it for five to six hours in the day, three hours in the morning and two in the evening. The mind worked with great illumination and power. At that time I used to write poetry. Usually I wrote five to eight or ten lines per day, about two hundred lines in a month. After the Pranayama I could write two hundred lines within half an hour. Formerly my memory was dull, but afterwards when the inspiration came, I could remember the lines in their order and write them down conveniently at any time. Along with this enhanced mental activity I could see an electric energy all around the {{0}}brain."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, p. 204.]]

On another occasion he spoke of Pranayama as follows: "The results were remarkable. Many visions of scenes and figures I used to see. I felt an electric power around my head. My powers of writing were nearly dried up; they revived with a great vigour. I could write prose and poetry with a flow. That flow has never ceased since then; if I have not written afterwards it is because I had something else to do. But the moment I want to write it is there. Thirdly great health: I grew stout and strong, the skin became smooth and fair and there was a flow of sweetness in the saliva. I used to feel a certain aura round the head. There were plenty of mosquitoes but they did not come to me....

"When I went to Bengal and took to political work [in 1906] Pranayama became irregular and I had a great illness which nearly carried me {{0}}off."[[Cf, A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram. 1966), pp. 95–96.]]

And in a letter of May 1932 he referred to Pranayama in the following terms: "After four years of prānāyāma and other practices on my own, with no other result than an increased health and outflow of energy, some psycho-physical phenomena, a great outflow of poetic creation, a limited power of subtle sight (luminous patterns and figures, etc.) mostly with the waking eye, I had a complete {{0}}arrest...."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 78–79.]]

During this period of the beginning of sadhana Sri Aurobindo used to see things on the subtle planes, as mentioned in the letter above. He describes in the following letter how he began to see inwardly: "I remember when I first began to see inwardly (and outwardly also with the open eye), a scientific friend of mine began to talk of after-images – 'these are only after-images'! I asked him whether after-images remained before the eye for two minutes at a time – he said, 'no', to his knowledge only for a few seconds; I also asked him whether one could get after-images of things not around one or even not existing upon this earth, since they had other shapes, another character, other hues, countours and a very different dynamism, life-movements and values – he could not reply in the affirmative. That is how these so-called scientific explanations break down as soon as you pull them out of their cloudland of mental theory and face them with the actual phenomena they pretend to {{0}}decipher."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 90.]]

Barin went away into the Vindhya mountains to search for a "place far away from the atmosphere of cities, into solitude, to find a peaceful and ennobling atmosphere" to establish there a temple of Mother India (Bhawani Mandir). He came back with very persistent mountain fever! He was being treated, but not being cured, when a Naga Sannyasi came, from whom Sri Aurobindo had a direct proof of the powers and utility of Yoga. Sri Aurobindo later said about this incident: "I first knew about Yogic cure from a Naga Sadhu or Sannyasi. Barin had mountain fever when he was wandering in the Amarkantak. The sadhu took a cupful of water and cut it crosswise with a knife while repeating a Mantra. He then asked Barin to drink it; saying he wouldn't have fever the next day, and the fever left {{0}}him."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, pp. 132–33.]] It was perhaps the same Sannyasi who gave Sri Aurobindo a Stotra of Kali. "It was a very violent Stotra with 'Jahi, Jahi' in it. I used to repeat it, it did not give any results.... It was at this time that I gave up meat diet and found a great feeling of lightness and purification in the {{0}}system."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series, p. 96.]]

Sometime during his stay at Baroda Sri Aurobindo had another personal experience of the power of occult knowledge when Narayana Jyotishi, without any reference to the horoscope, foretold his three politicial trials and also his release by saying that he would come to trouble while fighting against "white enemies". At that time Sri Aurobindo had not seriously thought of taking up open political activity.

On 28 September 1904 Sri Aurobindo was appointed Vice-Principal of the college; his pay was raised to Rs.550 per month. He was very popular with the students and the principal also liked him very much. The Maharaja kept a provision for his personal work even while making this permanent appointment.

Previous to this time Sri Aurobindo had met Shri Charu Chandra Dutt, I.C.S., who was working at Thana. The Bhawani Mandir scheme was explained to Dutt and he joined the revolutionary party. In September 1904 Sri Aurobindo again passed through Thana, met Charu Chandra Dutt and discussed the Bhawani Mandir scheme with Haribhai Modak, editor of Rastramat, Kaka Saheb Patil, a pleader of Vasai, and one or two other men. Their viewpoint was that the spiritual element should be left out, the political side stressed and, on the material side, that bombs and pistols should be gathered.

During the years 1904 and 1905 Sri Aurobindo stayed in Grey Street when he went to Calcutta during vacations. Barin did the cooking and Devabrata, later Swami Prajnananda, used to come and go. All those who were to be recruited to the revolutionary organisation used to come to this Grey Street house and meet either Barin, Jatin or Devavrata. Sri Aurobindo used to meet only those who were of importance. They used to survey the day's work and exchange ideas at meal time. This recruiting work had begun from 1899–1900. Sri Aurobindo wanted to remain in the background and work. He had an aversion to coming out before the public.

Around this time revolutionary centres, not altogether well organised, were started at Khulna, Rangpur, Midnapur, Dacca etc. Years later, commenting on this work of revolutionary organisation, Sri Aurobindo said:

"Barin does not give the true state of things [in his book]. I was neither the founder nor the leader. It was P. Mitra and Miss Ghosal who started it at the inspiration of Baron Okakura. They had already started and when I visited Bengal I came to know about it. I simply kept myself informed of their work. My idea was an armed revolution in the whole of India. What they did at that time was very childish, killing a Magistrate and so on. Later it turned into terrorism and dacoities which were not at all my idea or intention. Bengal is too emotional, wants quick results and can't prepare through a long course of years. We wanted to give battle by creating a spirit in the race through guerilla warfare. But at the present stage of the science such things are impossible and bound to {{0}}fail."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series, p. 35.]]


Points from a statement of R.N. Patkar, advocate, Baroda, are reproduced here to give an idea of Sri Aurobindo's life at Baroda:

…. When I came to Baroda – I was a school-going lad hardly sixteen in age and as such I cannot be expected to give a detailed account of [Sri Aurobindo's] life during this short period. However

I note down a few points that struck me and made a vivid impression on me....

He was remarkably simple in his mode of living. He was not at all fastidious in his tastes. He did not seem to care much either for his food or dress, because he never attached any importance to either. Any dish served to him at his meal time was welcome to him. Similarly about his dress – I never saw him visiting the cloth market for making selection of cloth for his dress as he had no choice to make. At home he was clad in plain white sadara and dhoti and outside invariably in white drill suits. He never slept on a soft cotton-bed, as most of us do, but on a bed made of coir (coconut fibres) on which was spread a Malbar grass-mat which served as a bed-sheet. Once I asked him why he used such a coarse hard bed and he said with his characteristic laugh, "My boy, don't you know that I am a Brahmachari? Our shastras enjoin that a Brahmachari should not use a soft bed, which may induce him to sleep." I was silenced but I thought to myself that he must be a great man....

Another important thing I observed about him was his total absence of love for money, for which he never seemed to care. We all know that he was working as Professor of English Literature in the Baroda College. He was getting a decent salary of Rs.500 a month. It was his practise to receive his salary once in three months. In those days, payment was made in cash and not in currency notes as now. He used to get the lump sum for the three months in a bag which he emptied in a large tray lying on the table in his room. He never bothered to keep it in a safe box, under lock and key as most of us do, and it lay there open until it was consumed. He never cared to keep an account of what he spent. This struck me and one day I casually asked him why he kept his money like that. He simply laughed and I still remember – though after a lapse of over fifty years – the reply that was given by him. He said, "Well, it is a proof that we are living in the midst of honest and good people." I asked him again, "You never keep any account which may testify to the honesty of the people round about you?" Then with a serene face he said, "It is God who keeps an account for me. He gives me as much as I want and keeps the rest to Himself. At any rate He does not keep me in want; then why should I worry?"...

His passion for reading was very great. He was a huge reader and his reading was not confined to any particular subject but it was diverse and extended to various compartments of human knowledge. He was not a mere reader as a majority of us are, but a great thinker and a writer too. After reading any book he used to brood over what he had read for a time and then commit his views to paper. I had seen volumes of such writings in his room in different languages such as Greek, Latin, French and English.

Being a man of retiring disposition I invariably used to find him confined to his room, fully absorbed in reading. His concentration was so great that he felt himself the least perturbed by any outside disturbance. Once I had to communicate a message to him when he was engrossed in a book. I had to wait for over fifteen minutes just in front of him before he diverted his attention to me. One evening his servant brought his meal dish consisting of rice and curry with some vegetables and addressed to him, "Sab, khana rakha hai." ["Sir, the meal is served."] Aravind Babu simply said "Accha" ["Very well"] without even moving his head. After about an hour or so, the servant came again to remove the dish, but to his surprise he found the dish untouched lying on the table as it was. He dared not disturb his master and he quietly came to me and told me about it. Then I had to go to his room to do the unpleasant task of reminding him of the waiting meal. He then gave a pleasant smile and hurriedly went to the table and within about ten minutes finished his job of feeding his belly and resumed his work. Such was his love for reading. When he was enjoying his intellectual feast, which was certainly more palatable to him than his everyday rice and curry, there was no wonder that he should care more for the former.

….. I had the good fortune to be his student when I was in the Inter Class. His method of teaching was a novel one. In the beginning he used to give a series of introductory lectures for initiating the student into the subject-matter of the text, which gave a fair idea about the author and his views on particular items bearing on the text. After preparing the student to understand the text in this manner, he used to start reading the text in the classroom, stopping wherever necessary to explain the meaning difficult and obscure sentences. Then after finishing the text, he used to dictate general lectures bearing on the various aspects pertaining to the text. These lectures, which were given at the close of the term, were availed of by many students belonging to other colleges.

But more than his college lectures, it was a treat to hear him on the platform. He used to preside occasionally over the meetings of the College Debating Society. When he was to preside, the College Central Hall which is sufficiently large was almost packed to the full with the audience which not only consisted of the College students but many educated persons from the out side public especially when the subject selected for the debate was interesting. Mr. Ghose was never an orator but a speaker of a vary high order, and when he rose to speak, there was a pin-drop silence and the audience used to listen to him with rapt attention. Without any gestures or the movements of the limbs, he stood like a statue – motionless – and the language used to flow like a stream from his lips with a natural ease and melody that kept his audience almost spell-bound. Every sentence that he uttered was full of meaning and set the audience thinking for days together. He was at his best when the subject matter pertained to religion or philosophy. He rarely dabbled in politics but references were made now and then to the down-trodden conditions of India, and illiteracy and ignorance of the masses. Though it is more than five decades now since I heard him on the Baroda College platform, I still remember his figure with the metallic ring of his sweet melodious voice as if I heard him yesterday....

On another occasion I casually said to Aravind Babu that Bengal was far in advance of other provinces in India in Education, that it had produced many great writers and poets. For example, Romeshchandra Dutt had composed Ramayan and Mahabharat in verse and that he was a great poet. Then he said, "Do you call Romesh a poet? No – you can call him a rhymist the most, but not a poet. Poets are born and not made. It is not that all those who write verses are poets – even a prose writer can be a poet if he has a poetic gift in him."...

One day... in the beginning of 1905, Messrs Arvind Babu, Deshpande and Jadhav went to Chandod, a small town on the bank of the Narmada, and a place of pilgrimage. There they passed a day with a Yogi and then proceeded to Ganganath, a place a few miles distant from Chandod. There is a beautiful Ashram there where Swami Brahmanand spent his life. At that place they passed another day, discussed some spiritual problems with the disciple of Brahmanand Swami and then returned to Baroda. After this trip I saw a marked change both in Aravind Babu and Deshpande. Both of them changed their life altogether. They started worshipping the Goddess and taking only one meal – a pure vegetarian meal – a day; both started living a life of austerity. But between the two I saw a greater change in Aravind Babu. He was never as free with me as he used to be before. He looked serene and calm with the gravity of a man of ripe old age. I always found him alone in his own room in a contemplative mood or closeted with his friends Deshpande and Jadhav. One evening I saw Barindra going with the planchette into the room where all the three used to meet. Successively for three days they met in that very room, along with Barindra with the planchette. On the fourth day I met Barindra and asked him what all of them were doing. Without the least hesitation he told me that a message from the Goddess has been received with detailed directions, which after being put in a readable form will be printed and published in the form of a book. The book was out in a few days under the title of "Bhawani Mandir", or The Message of the Goddess. It was for private circulation only....

The day of his departure came at last and it was extremely touching.... In the evening, Aravind Babu, though he had a very busy time, called me in his room and I sat by his side. With a caressing touch of his hand on my shoulder he affectionately said to me, "Well, Rajaram, we part after all. We part in body but not in soul – which is omnipresent. I leave Baroda because Supreme Duty demands my presence elsewhere and I cannot shirk.... You will come out successful and triumphant only if you remain honest and good and obey the dictates of your conscience. If you observe this dictum your path will be smooth and you will be happy." He finished these words and got up. He went straight to his book case, and knowing my love for Sanskrit picked up two books – Kalidas's Shakuntala and Vikramorvashi – and presented them to me as a token of his love for me. He also gave me a few verses composed by himself, one styled Songs to Myrtilla and Other Poems and the other Urvashi – a translation in verse of Poet Kalidas's {{0}}drama.[[This book must have been Urvasie, a poem based on the legend of Urvasie and Pururavus. Sri Aurobindo's translation of Kalidasa's drama was not published until 1911.]] I quietly bowed, touched his feet and left the room with a heavy heart and wet eyes. Though an old man now – with one foot in the grave, – I still remember the parting scene with a heaving heart.


From March 1905 to February 1906, Sri Aurobindo acted for the Principal, who was on leave; his pay was Rs.550 plus an acting allowance of Rs.160, or a total of Rs.710. He was liked very much by the students.

The government announced the partition of Bengal on 20 July 1905. This was the signal for tremendous agitation throughout India and particularly in Bengal. From Baroda Sri Aurobindo wrote to the revolutionary workers in Calcutta, "This is a fine opportunity. Carry on the anti-partition agitation powerfully. We will get many workers for the movement." Later Sri Aurobindo wrote and sent them a pamphlet entitled "No Compromise". No press in Calcutta was willing to print it. Finally Abinash and his friends got it composed at their house by Kulkarni, a Marathi revolutionary who was staying with them. At night they had a few thousand copies of the pamphlet printed and later distributed them {{0}}freely.[[Abinash Bhattacharya, "Aurobindo", pp. 832–33.]]

It was around this same time that Sri Aurobindo wrote the famous revolutionary booklet Bhawani Mandir. We have already mentioned the Bhawani Mandir scheme. The idea for it was mostly Barin's. A temple of Mother India was to be built somewhere in the forest or on some mountain-top. Here workers, who would dedicate themselves, in the spirit of complete renunciation, to India's freedom, would be prepared. Others who could not rise to this pitch of renunciation of everything were to help these political Sannyasins in other ways. It is possible that the basic conception of this scheme was derived from Ananda Math of Bankim Chandra. The booklet, which is mentioned in the Rowlett Committee report (of 1917), is reproduced on the following pages.

Bhawani Mandir

Om Namas Chandikayai

A temple is to be erected and consecrated to Bhawani, the Mother, among the hills. To all the children of the Mother the call is sent forth to help in the sacred work.

Who Is Bhawani?

Who is Bhawani, the Mother, and why should we erect a temple to her?

Bhawani Is the Infinite Energy.

In the unending revolutions of the world, as the wheel of the Eternal turns mightily in its courses, the Infinite Energy, which streams forth from the Eternal and sets the wheel to work, looms up in the vision of man in various aspects and infinite forms. Each aspect creates and marks an age. Sometimes She is Love, sometimes She is Knowledge, sometimes She is Renunciation, sometimes She is Pity. This Infinite Energy is Bhawani, She also is Durga, She is Kali, She is Radha the Beloved, She is Lakshmi, She is our Mother and the Creatress of us all.

Bhawani Is Shakti

In the present age, the Mother is manifested as the mother of Strength. She is pure Shakti.

The Whole World Is Growing Full of the Mother as Shakti

Let us raise our eyes and cast them upon the world around us. Wherever we turn our gaze, huge masses of strength rise before our vision, tremendous, swift and inexorable forces, gigantic figures of energy, terrible sweeping columns of force. All is growing large and strong. The Shakti of war, the Shakti of wealth, the Shakti of Science are tenfold more mighty and colossal, a hundredfold more fierce, rapid and busy in their activity, a thousandfold more prolific in resources, weapons and instruments than ever before in recorded history. Everywhere the Mother is at work; from Her mighty and shaping hands enormous forms of Rakshasas, Asuras, Devas are leaping forth into the arena of the world. We have seen the slow but mighty rise of great empires in the West, we have seen the swift, irresistible and impetuous bounding into life of Japan. Some are Mlechchha Shaktis clouded in their strength, black or blood-crimson with Tamas or Rajas, others are Arya Shaktis, bathed in a pure flame of renunciation and utter self-sacrifice: but all are the Mother in Her new phase, remoulding, creating. She is pouring Her spirit into the old; She is whirling into life the new.

We in India Fail in All Things for Want of Shakti.

But in India the breath moves slowly, the afflatus is long in coming. India, the ancient Mother, is indeed striving to be reborn, striving with agony and tears, but she strives in vain. What ails her, she who is after all so vast and might be so strong? There is surely some enormous defect, something vital is wanting in us, nor is it difficult to lay our finger on the spot. We have all things else, but we are empty of strength, void of energy. We have abandoned Shakti and are therefore abandoned by Shakti. The Mother is not in our hearts, in our brains, in our arms.

The wish to be reborn we have in abundance, there is no deficiency there. How many attempts have been made, how many movements have been begun, in religion, in society, in politics! But the same fate has overtaken or is preparing to overtake them all. They flourish for a moment, then the impulse wanes, the fire dies out, and if they endure, it is only as empty shells, forms from which the Brahma has gone or in which it lies overpowered with Tamas and inert. Our beginnings are mighty, but they have neither sequel nor fruit.

Now we are beginning in another direction; we have started a great industrial movement which is to enrich and regenerate an impoverished land. Untaught by experience, we do not perceive that this movement must go the way of all the others, unless we first seek the one essential thing, unless we acquire strength.

Our Knowledge Is a Dead Thing for Want of Shakti

Is it knowledge that is wanting? We Indians, born and bred in a country where Jnana has been stored and accumulated since the race began, bear about in us the inherited gains of many thousands of years. Great giants of knowledge rise among us even today to add to the store. Our capacity has not shrunk, the edge of our intellect has not been dulled or blunted, its receptivity and flexibility are as varied as of old. But it is a dead knowledge, a burden under which we are bowed, a poison which is corroding us, rather than as it should be a staff to support our feet and a weapon in our hands; for this is the nature of all great things that when they are not used or are ill used, they turn upon the bearer and destroy him.

Our knowledge then, weighed down with a heavy load of Tamas, lies under the curse of impotence and inertia. We choose to fancy indeed, nowadays, that if we acquire Science, all will be well. Let us first ask ourselves what we have done with the knowledge we already possess, or what have those who have already acquired Science been able to do for India. Imitative and incapable of initiative, we have striven to copy the methods of England, and we had not the strength; we would now copy the methods of the Japanese, a still more energetic people; are we likely to succeed any better? The mighty force of knowledge which European Science bestows is a weapon for the hands of a giant, it is the mace of Bheemsen; what can a weakling do with it but crush himself in the attempt to wield it?

Our Bhakti Cannot Live and Work for Want of Shakti

Is it love, enthusiasm, Bhakti that is wanting? These are ingrained in the Indian nature, but in the absence of Shakti we cannot concentrate, we cannot direct, we cannot even preserve it. Bhakti is the leaping flame, Shakti is the fuel. If the fuel is scanty how long can the fire endure?

When the strong nature, enlightened by knowledge, disciplined and given a giant's strength by Karma, lifts itself up in love and adoration to God, that is the Bhakti which endures and keeps the soul for ever united with the Divine. But the weak nature is too feeble to bear the impetus of so mighty a thing as perfect Bhakti; he is lifted up for a moment, then the flame soars up to Heaven, leaving him behind exhausted and even weaker than before. Every movement of any kind of which enthusiasm and adoration are the life must fail and soon bum itself out so long as the human material from which it proceeds is frail and light in substance.

India Therefore Needs Shakti Alone

The deeper we look, the more we shall be convinced that the one thing wanting, which we must strive to acquire before all others, is strength – strength physical, strength mental, strength moral, but above all strength spiritual which is the one inexhaustible and imperishable source of all the others. If we have strength everything else will be added to us easily and naturally. In the absence of strength we are like men in a dream who have hands but cannot seize or strike, who have feet but cannot run.

India, Grown Old and Decrepit in Will, Has to Be Reborn.

Whenever we strive to do anything, after the first rush of enthusiasm is spent a paralysing helplessness seizes upon us. We often see in the cases of old men full of years and experience that the very excess of knowledge seems to have frozen their powers of action and their powers of will. When a great feeling or a great need overtakes them and it is necessary to carry out its promptings in action, they hesitate, ponder, discuss, make tentative efforts and abandon them or wait for the safest and easiest way to suggest itself, instead of taking the most direct; thus the time when it was possible and necessary to act passes away. Our race has grown just such an old man with stores of knowledge, with ability to feel and desire, but paralysed by senile sluggishness, senile timidity, and senile feebleness. If India is to survive, she must be made young again. Rushing and billowing streams of energy must be poured into her; her soul must become, as it was in the old times, like the surges, vast, puissant, calm or turbulent at will, an ocean of action or of force.

India Can Be Reborn

Many of us, utterly overcome by Tamas, the dark and heavy demon of inertia, are saying nowadays that it is impossible, that India is decayed, bloodless and lifeless, too weak ever to recover; that our race is doomed to extinction. It is a foolish and idle saying. No man or nation need be weak unless he chooses, no man or nation need perish unless he deliberately chooses extinction.

What Is a Nation? The Shakti of Its Millions

For what is a nation? What is our mother-country? It is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of speech, nor a fiction of the mind. It is a mighty Shakti, composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation, just as Bhawani Mahisha Mardini sprang into being from the Shaktis of all the millions of gods assembled in one mass of force and welded into unity. The Shakti we call India, Bhawani Bharati, is the living unity of the Shaktis of three hundred million people; but she is inactive, imprisoned in the magic circle of Tamas, the self-indulgent inertia and ignorance of her sons. To get rid of Tamas we have but to wake the Brahma within.

It Is Our Own Choice Whether We Create a Nation or Perish.

What is it that so many thousands of holy men, Sadhus and Sannyasis, have preached to us silently by their lives? What was the message that radiated from the personality of Bhagawan Ramakrishna Paramhansa? What was it that formed the kernel of the eloquence with which the lion-like heart of Vivekananda sought to shake the world? It is this, that in every one of these three hundred millions of men, from the Raja on his throne to the coolie at his labour, from the Brahmin absorbed in his Sandhya to the Pariah walking shunned of men, GOD LIVETH. We are all gods and creators, because the energy of God is within us and all life is creation; not only the making of new forms is creation, but preservation is creation, destruction itself is creation. It rests with us what we shall create; for we are not, unless we choose, puppets dominated by Fate and Maya; we are facets and manifestations of Almighty Power.

India Must Be Reborn, Because Her Rebirth Is Demanded by the Future of the World

India cannot perish, our race cannot become extinct, because among all the divisions of mankind it is to India that is reserved the highest and the most splendid destiny, the most essential to the future of the human race. It is she who must send forth from herself the future religion of the entire world, the Eternal Religion which is to harmonise all religion, science and philosophies and make mankind one soul. In the sphere of morality, likewise, it is her mission to purge barbarism (Miechchhahood) „ out of humanity and to Aryanise the world. In order to do this, she must first re-Aryanise herself.

It was to initiate this great work, the greatest and most wonderful work ever given to a race, that Bhagawan Ramakrishna came and Vivekananda preached. If the work does not progress as it once promised to do it is because we have once again allowed the terrible cloud of Tamas to settle down on our souls – fear, doubt, hesitation, sluggishness. We have taken, some of us, the Bhakti which poured forth from the one and the Jnana given us by the other, but from lack of Shakti, from the lack of Karma, we have not been able to make our Bhakti a living thing. May we yet remember that it was Kali, who is Bhawani, Mother of Strength whom Ramakrishna worshipped and with whom he became one.

But the destiny of India will not wait on the falterings and failings of individuals; the Mother demands that men shall arise to institute Her worship and make it universal.

To Get Strength We Must Adore: the Mother of Strength

Strength then and again strength and yet more strength is the need of our race. But if it is strength we desire, how shall we gain it if we do not adore the Mother of Strength? She demands worship not for Her own sake, but in order that She may help us and give Herself to us. This is no fantastic idea, no superstition but the ordinary law of the universe. The gods cannot, if they would, give themselves unasked. Even the Eternal comes not unawares upon men. Every devotee knows by experience that we must turn to Him and desire and adore Him before the Divine Spirit pours in its ineffable beauty and ecstasy upon the soul. What is true of the Eternal is true also of Her who goes forth from Him.

Religion, the True Path

Those who, possessed with Western ideas, look askance at any return to the old sources of energy, may well consider a few fundamental facts.

The Example of Japan

I. There is no instance in history of a more marvellous and sudden up-surging of strength in a nation than modern Japan. All sorts of theories had been started to account for the uprising, but now intellectual Japanese are telling us what were the fountains of the mighty awakening, the sources of that inexhaustible strength. They were drawn from religion. It was the Vedantic teachings of Oyomei and the recovery of Shintoism with its worship of the national Shakti of Japan in the image and person of the Mikado that enabled the little island empire to wield the stupendous weapons of Western knowledge and science as lightly and invincibly as Arjun wielded the Gandiv.

India's Greater Need of Spiritual Regeneration

II. India's need for drawing from the fountains of religion is far greater than was ever Japan's; for the Japanese had only to revitalise and perfect a strength that already existed. We have to create strength where it did not exist before; we have to change our natures, and become new men with new hearts, to be born again. There is no scientific process, no machinery for that. Strength can only be created by drawing it from the internal and inexhaustible reservoirs of the Spirit, from that Adya-Shakti of the Eternal which is the fountain of all new existence. To be born again means nothing but to revive the Brahma within us, and that is a spiritual process – no effort of the body or the intellect can compass it.

Religion, the Path Natural to the National Mind

III. All great awakenings in India, all her periods of mightiest and most varied vigour have drawn their vitality from the fountain-heads of some deep religious awakening. Wherever the religious awakening has been complete and grand, the national energy it has created has been gigantic and puissant; wherever the religious movement has been narrow or incomplete; the national movement has been broken, imperfect or temporary. The persistence of this phenomenon is proof that it is ingrained in the temperament of the race. If you try other and foreign methods we shall either gain our end with tedious slowness, painfully and imperfectly, or we shall not attain it at all. Why abandon the plain way which God and the Mother have marked out for you, to choose faint and devious paths of your own treading?

The Spirit Within Is the True Source of Strength

IV. The Brahma within, the one and indivisible ocean of spiritual force is that from which all life, material and mental, is drawn. This is beginning to be as much recognised by leading Western thinkers as it was from the old days by the East. If it be so, then spiritual energy is the source of all other strength. There are the fathomless fountain-heads, the deep and inexhaustible sources. The shallow surface springs are easier to reach, but they soon run dry. Why not then go deep instead of scratching the surface? The result will repay the labour.

Three Things Needful.

We need three things answering to three fundamental laws.

I. Bhakti – the Temple of the Mother

We cannot get strength unless we adore the Mother of Strength. We will therefore build a temple to the white Bhawani, the Mother of Strength, the Mother of India; and we will build it in a place far from the contamination of modern cities and as yet little trodden by man, in a high and pure air steeped in calm nd energy. This temple will be the centre from which Her worship is to flow over the whole country; for there, worshipped among the hills, She will pass like fire into the brains and hearts of Her worshippers. This also is what the Mother has commanded.

II. Karma – A New Order of Brahmacharins

Adoration will be dead and ineffective unless it is transmuted into Karma.

We will therefore have a Math with a new Order of Karma Yogins attached to the temple, men who have renounced all in order to work for the Mother. Some may, if they choose, be complete Sannyasis, most will be Brahmacharins who will return to the Grihasthashram when their allotted work is finished, but all must accept renunciation.

Why? For Two Reasons:

1. Because it is only in proportion as we put from us the preoccupation of bodily desires and interests, the sensual gratifications, lusts, longings, indolence of the material world, that we can return to the ocean of spiritual force within us.

2. Because for the development of Shakti, entire concentration is necessary; the mind must be devoted entirely to its aim as a spear is hurled to its mark; if other cares and longings distract the mind, the spear will be carried out from its straight course and miss the target. We need a nucleus of men in whom the Shakti is developed to its uttermost extent, in whom it fills every corner of the personality and overflows to fertilise the earth. These, having the fire of Bhawani in their hearts and brains, will go forth and carry the flame to every nook and or corner of our land.

III. Jnana – the Great Message

Bhakti and Karma cannot be perfect and enduring unless they are based upon Jnana.

The Brahmacharins of the Order will therefore be taught to fill their souls with knowledge and base their work upon it as upon a rock. What shall be the basis of their knowledge? What but the great so-aham, the mighty formula of the Vedanta, the ancient gospel which has yet to reach the heart of the nation, the knowledge which when vivified by Karma and Bhakti delivers man out of all fear and all weakness.

The Message of the Mother

When, therefore, you ask who is Bhawani the Mother, She herself answers you, "I am the Infinite Energy which streams forth from the Eternal in the world and Eternal in yourselves. I am the Mother of the Universe, the Mother of the Worlds, and for you who are children of the Sacred Land, Aryabhumi, made of her clay and reared by her sun and winds, I am Bhawani Bharati, Mother of India."

Then if you ask why we should erect a temple to Bhawani, the Mother, hear Her answer, "Because I have commanded it, and because by making a centre for the future religion you will be furthering the immediate will of the Eternal and storing up merit which will make you strong in this life and great in another. You will be helping to create a nation, to consolidate an age, to Aryanise a world. And that nation is your own, that age is the age of yourselves and your children, that world is no fragment of land bounded by seas and hills, but the whole earth with her teeming millions."

Come then, hearken to the call of the Mother. She is already in our hearts waiting to manifest Herself, waiting to be worshipped, – inactive because the God in us is concealed by Tamas, troubled by Her inactivity, sorrowful because Her children will not call on Her to help them. You who feel Her stirring within you, fling off the black veil of self, break down the imprisoning walls of indolence, help Her each as you feel impelled, with your bodies or with your intellect or with your speech or with your wealth or with your prayers and worship, each man according to his capacity. Draw not back, for against those who were called and heard Her not She may well be wroth in the day of Her coming; but to those who help Her advent even a little, how radiant with beauty and kindness will be the face of their Mother!


The work and rules of the new Order of Sannyasis will be Somewhat as follows:

1. General Rules

1. All who undertake the life of Brahmacharya for the Mother will have to vow themselves to Her service for four years, after which they will be free to continue to work or return to family life.

2. All money received by them in the Mother's name will go to the Mother's Service. For themselves they will be allowed to receive shelter and their meals, when necessary, and nothing more.

3. Whatever they may earn for themselves, e.g., by the publication of books, etc., they must give at least half of it to the service of the Mother.

4. They will observe entire obedience to the Head of the Order and his one or two assistants in all things connected with the work or with their religious life.

5. They will observe strictly the discipline and rules of Achar and purity, bodily and mental, prescribed by the Heads of the Order.

6. They will be given periods for rest or for religious improvement during which they will stop at the Math, but the greater part of the year they will spend in work outside. This rule will apply to all except the few necessary for the service of the Temple and those required for the central direction of the work.

7. There will be no gradations of rank among the workers, and none must seek for distinction or mere personal fame but practise strength and self-effacement.

II. Work for the People

8. Their chief work will be that of mass instruction and help to the poor and ignorant.

9. This they will strive to effect in various ways:

1. Lectures and demonstrations suited to an uneducated intelligence.

2. Classes and nightly schools.

3. Religious teachings.

4. Nursing the sick.

5. Conducting works of charity.

6. Whatever other good work their hands may find to do and the Order approves.

III. Works for the Middle Class

10. They will undertake, according as they may be directed, various works of public utility in the big towns and elsewhere connected especially with the education and religious life and instruction of the middle classes, as well as with other public needs.

IV. Work with the Wealthy Classes

11. They will approach the zamindars, landholders and rich men generally, and endeavour –

1. To promote sympathy between the zamindars and the peasants and heal all discords.

2. To create the link of a single and living religious spirit and a common passion for one great ideal between all classes.

3. To turn the minds of rich men to works of public beneficence and charity to those in their neighbourhood independent of the hope of reward and official distinction.

V. General Work for the Country

12. As soon as funds permit, some will be sent to foreign countries to study lucrative arts and manufactures.

13. They will be as Sannyasis during their period of study, never losing hold of their habits of purity and self-abnegation.

14. On their return they will estabilish with the aid of the Order, factories and workshops, still living the life of Sannyasis and devoting all their profits to the sending of more and more such students to foreign countries.

15. Others will be sent to travel through various countries on foot, inspiring by their lives, behaviour and conversation, sympathy and love for the Indian people in the European nations and preparing the way for their acceptance of Aryan ideals.

After the erection and consecration of the Temple, the development of the work of the Order will be pushed on as rapidly as possible or as the support and sympathy of the public allows. With the blessing of the Mother this will not fail {{0}}us.[[Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), PP. 62–74.]]


On 30 August 1905 Sri Aurobindo wrote a letter to Mrinalini Devi. The letter is one of those which were found and taken away by the police during the search of the Grey Street house in connection with the Alipore bomb trial and afterwards produced in court. It was in this way that these intimate documents unexpectedly saw the light of day and what was intended by Sri Aurobindo to be "secret" has become public property. The letters reveal a side of his nature which had to culminate in his great spiritual work. The letter of 30 August, translated from the Bengali, is reproduced below.


30th Aug. 1905

Dearest Mrinalini

I have received your letter of the 24th August. I am sorry to learn that the same affliction has fallen once more upon your parents. You have not written which of the boys has passed away from here. But then what can be done if the affliction comes? This is a world in which when you seek happiness, you find grief in its heart, sorrow always clinging to joy. That rule touches not only the desire of children, but all worldly desires. To offer, with a quiet heart, all happiness and grief at the feet of God is the only remedy,...

Now I will write the other thing of which I spoke before. I think you have understood by now that the man with whose fate yours has been linked is a man of a very unusual character. Mine is not the same field of action, the same purpose in life, the same mental attitude as that of the people of today in this country. I am in every respect different from them and out of the ordinary. Perhaps you know what ordinary men say of an extraordinary view, an extraordinary endeavour, an extraordinary ambition. To them it is madness; only, if the madman is successful in his work then he is called no longer a madman, but a great genius. But how many are successful in their life's endeavour? Among a thousand men, there are five or six who are out of the ordinary and out of the five or six one perhaps successful. Not to speak of success, I have not yet even entirely entered my field of work. There is nothing then for you but to consider me mad. And it is an evil thing for a woman to fall into the hands of a mad fellow. For woman's expectations are all bound up in worldly happiness and sorrow. A madman will not make his wife happy, he can only make her miserable.

The founders of the Hindu religion understood this very well. They loved extraordinary characters, extraordinary endeavours, extraordinary ambitions. Madman or genius, they respected the extraordinary man. But all this means a terrible plight for the wife, and how could the difficulty be solved? The sages fixed upon this solution; they told the woman, "Know that the only mantra for womankind is this: 'The husband is the supreme {{0}}guru.’[[Up to this point the translation follows an early version by Barindra Kumar Ghose which was seen and revised lightly by Sri Aurobindo. The rest of the translation is new.]] The wife shares the Dharma [law of conduct] of her husband. She must help him, counsel him, encourage him in whatever work he accepts as his Dharma. She should regard him as her god, take joy in his joy, and feel sorrow in his unhappiness. It is for a man to choose his work; the woman's part is to give help and encouragement."

Now, the point is this. Are you going to choose the path of the Hindu religion or follow the ideal of the new culture? Your marriage to a madman is the result of bad karma in your previous lives. It is good to come to terms with one's fate, but what sort of terms will they be? Will you also dismiss your husband as a madman on the strength of what other people think? A madman is bound to run after his mad ways. You cannot hold him back; his nature is stronger than yours. Will you then do nothing but sit in a corner and weep? Or, will you run along with him; try to be the mad wife of this madman, like the queen of the blind king who played the part of a blind woman by putting a bandage across her eyes? For all your education in a Brahmo school, you are still a woman from a Hindu home. The blood of Hindu ancestors flows in your veins. I have no doubt you will choose the latter course.

I have three madnesses. The first one is this. I firmly believe that the accomplishments, genius, higher education and learning and wealth that God has given me are His. I have a right to spend for my own purposes only what is needed for the maintenance of the family and is otherwise absolutely essential. The rest must be returned to God. If I spend everything for myself, for my pleasure and luxury, I am a thief. The Hindu scriptures say that one who receives wealth from God and does not give it back to Him is a thief. So far, I have given two annas to God and used the other fourteen annas for my own pleasure; this is the way I have settled the account, remaining engrossed in worldly pleasures. Half my life has been wasted – even the beast finds fulfilment in stuffing his own belly and his family's and catering to their happiness.

I have realised that I have been acting all this time as an animal and a thief. Now I realise this and am filled with remorse and disgusted with myself. No more of all this. I renounce this sin once and for all. What does giving to God mean? It means to spend on good works. The money I gave to Usha or to Sarojini causes me no regret. To help others is a sacred duty; to give protection to those who seek refuge is a yet greater sacred duty. But the account is not settled by giving only to one's brothers and sisters. In these dark days the whole country is seeking refuge at my door. I have three hundred million brothers and sisters in this country. Many of them are dying of starvation and the majority just manage to live, racked by sorrow and suffering. They too must be helped.

What do you say, will you come along with me and share my ideal in this respect? We will eat and dress like ordinary men, buying only what is truly needed and offering the rest to God: this is what I propose to do. My purpose can be fulfilled, once you give your approval, once you are able to accept the sacrifice. You have been saying, "I have made no progress." Here I have shown you a path towards progress. Will you take this path?

My second madness has only recently seized me. It is this: by whatever means I must have the direct vision of God. Religion these days means repeating the name of God at any odd hour, praying in public, showing off how pious one is. I want nothing of this. If God exists, there must be some way to experience His existence, to meet Him face to face. However arduous this path is, I have made up my mind to follow it. The Hindu religion declares that the way lies in one's own body, in one's own mind. It has laid down the rules for following the way, and I have begun to observe them. Within a month I have realised that what the Hindu religion says is not false. I am experiencing in myself the signs of which it speaks. Now I want to take you along this way. You will not be able to keep step with me, for you do not have the requisite knowledge. But there is nothing to prevent you from following behind me. All can attain perfection on this path, but to enter it depends on one's own will. Nobody can drag you onto it. If you consent to this, I shall write more about it.

My third madness is that while others look upon their country as an inert piece of matter – a few meadows and fields, forests and hills and rivers – I look upon my country as the Mother. I adore Her, I worship Her as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on his mother's breast and started sucking her blood? Would he quietly sit down to his dinner, amuse himself with his wife and children, or would he rush out to deliver his mother? I know I have the strength to deliver this fallen race. If is not physical strength, – I am not going to fight with sword or gun, – but the strength of knowledge. The power of the Kshatriya is not the only one; there is also the power of the Brahmin, the power that is founded on knowledge. This feeling is not new in me, it is not of today. I was born with it, it is in my very marrow. God sent me to earth to accomplish this great mission. The seed began to sprout when I was fourteen; by the time I was eighteen the roots of the resolution had grown firm and unshakable. After listening to what my aunt said, you formed the idea that some wicked people had dragged your simple and innocent husband onto the bad path. But it was this innocent husband of yours who brought those people and hundreds of others onto that path – be it bad or good – and will yet bring thousands and thousands of others onto that same path. I do not say that the work will be accomplished during my lifetime, but it certainly will be done.

Now I ask you, what are you going to do in this connection?

The wife is the shakti, the strength of her husband. Will you be Usha's disciple and go on repeating the mantras of Sahib-worship? Will you diminish the strength of your husband by indifference or redouble it by your sympathy and encouragement? You will say, "What can an ordinary woman like me do in these great matters? I have no strength of mind, no intelligence, I am afraid to think about these things." But there is an easy way out. Take refuge in God. Enter once the path of God-realisation; He will soon make good your deficiencies. Fear gradually leaves one who takes refuge in God. And if you can put your trust in me, if you can listen to me alone and not to all and sundry, I can give you my own strength; that will not diminish my strength but increase it. We say that the wife is the husband's shakti, his strength. This means that the husband's strength is redoubled when he sees his own image in his wife and hears an echo of his own high aspirations in her.

Will you remain like this for ever: "I shall put on fine clothes, have nice things to eat, laugh and dance and enjoy all the pleasures"? Such an attitude cannot be called progress. At the present time the life of women in this country has taken this narrow and contemptible form. Give up all this and follow after me. We have come to this world to do God's work; let us begin it.

You have one defect in your nature. You are much too simple. You listen to anything anyone might say. Thus your mind is for ever restless, your intelligence cannot develop, you cannot concentrate on any work. This has to be corrected. You must acquire knowledge by listening to one person only. You must have a single aim and accomplish your work with a resolute mind. You must ignore the calumny and the ridicule of others and hold fast to your devotion.

There is another defect, not so much of your personal nature, as of the times. The times are such in Bengal that people are incapable of listening to serious things in a serious manner. Religion, philanthropy, noble aspirations, high endeavour, the deliverance of the country, all that is serious, all that is high and noble is turned to ridicule. People want to laugh everything away. At your Brahmo school, you picked up a little of this fault. Bari also had it; all of us are tainted by this defect to some extent. It has grown in surprising measure among the people of Deoghar.

This attitude must be rejected with a firm mind. You will be able to do it easily. And once you get into the habit of thinking, your true nature will blossom forth. You have a natural turn towards doing good for others and towards self-sacrifice. The one thing you lack is strength of mind. You will get that through worship of God.

This is the secret of mine I wanted to tell you. Do not divulge it to anybody. Ponder calmly over these matters. There is nothing to be frightened of, but there is much to think about. To start with, you need do nothing but meditate on the Divine each day for half an hour, expressing to Him an ardent desire in the form of a prayer. The mind will get prepared gradually. This is the prayer you are to make to Him: "May I not be an obstacle in the path of my husband's life, his aim, his endeavour to realise God. May I always be his helper and his instrument", Will you do this?



There was a public meeting at Baroda to protest against the partition of Bengal in the month of September. Sri Aurobindo attended the meeting but did not speak because he was in the Baroda service. In October and November Sri Aurobindo participated in the Swadeshi and other agitations without openly joining any political party.

During this year (1905) Sri Aurobindo met Sj. Charu Chandra Dutt, I. C.S., at Thana once in the beginning of the year and at another time in September or October. It was at Thana that he met Raja Subodh Mullick, C.C. Dutt's brother-in-law. Sri Aurobindo stayed five or six days during which time he and Subodh Mullick became great friends. They found themselves in complete agreement in political ideology and programme. Subodh Mullick rendered very great services to India and gave unstinted support to Sri Aurobindo in his political work.

In a letter to Mrinalini of 21 October 1905 Sri Aurobindo mentions an illness of Barin and closes by stating that "as the time of meditation is nearing" he has to stop writing. This means that his yoga sadhana was going on at the time.

Madhavrao, brother of Khaserao, was sent to Europe to get military training, learn to prepare bombs, get arms, etc. Sri Aurobindo refers to this in a letter of 3 October 1905 to Mrinalini:

"I have to keep money to send to Madhavrao. He is sent to England on a special mission. I have spent a lot in the Swadeshi movement and I have another work yet to be done which requires enormous wealth." By this "work" was meant the revolutionary work. It is clear that since 1902 Sri Aurobindo's interest had moved more and more towards politics and the service at Baroda ceased to interest him.

During the year 1906, even though Sri Aurobindo served in the state, the greater part of his time was spent in Bengal. From February 1906 he applied for privilege leave. The leave was granted from 1 March. Thus it was possible for him to pass the whole of the first term of the college as well as the summer vacation in Bengal.

On 12 March 1906 the declaration of the Yugantar, a Bengali journal, was filed.

On 14 April 1906 the famous Barisal conference was held. Sri Aurobindo attended. The conference was declared illegal by the government and the participants were ordered to disperse. Krishna Kumar Mitra, Sri Aurobindo's uncle, refused to leave the pandal. There was a procession to protest against the government's action. In the first row were Sri Aurobindo, Bepin Chandra Pal, B.C. Chatterji. Behind them were delegates to the conference in rows of four. The procession was charged by the police. They allowed the leaders to pass and stopped the delegates from proceeding further. The delegates stood on the highway and refused to disperse. They were lathi-charged. Many ran away. Chittaranjan, son of Monoranjan Guha, was wounded in the head.

It was criminal to shout "Vande Mataram" in the street in those days; so the young men were instructed to shout in the streets in defiance of the order. If they happened to see a policeman they first went over to the verandahs of the houses and shouted "Vande Mataram" from there – the verandah is not the road!

After the conference Sri Aurobindo went round the districts of East Bengal in company with Bepin Chandra Pal and a young man named Sarat. This was done for observation and study of these parts and also to bring political awakening by personal contact.

About this period Sri Aurobindo later said: "There was a sudden transformation during the Swadeshi days. Before that people used to tremble before an Englishman in Bengal. And then the position was reversed. I remember when I wanted to do political work I visited Bengal and toured the districts of Jessore, Khulna, etc. We found the people steeped in pessimism, a black weight of darkness weighing over the whole country. It is difficult nowadays to imagine those times.

"I was travelling with Devavrata Bose. He was living on plantains only and he used to speak to the people. He had a very persuasive way of talking. It was at Khulna that we had a right royal reception, not so much because I was a politician as because I was the son of K. D. Ghose. They served me with seven rows of dishes and I could hardly reach out to all of them and even from the nearer ones I could eat very little. My father was extremely popular at Khulna. Wherever he went he became a power. When he was at Rangpur he was very friendly with the English magistrate. We went and stayed with his cousin in England afterwards, Mr. Drewett. It was always 'doctor' who got things done at Rangpur.

"When the new magistrate came he found that nothing could be done without Dr. K.D. So he asked the Government to remove him and he was transferred to Khulna. It was from that time that he became a politician. That is to say, he did not like English domination. Before that everything Western was good. He wanted, for example, all his sons to be great; at that time to join the I.C.S. was to become great.

"He was extremely generous. Hardly anybody who went to him for something came back {{0}}empty-handed."[[Cf. Puranil Evening Talks, Third Series, pp. 109–110.]]

In June 1906 Sri Aurobindo came to Baroda. He presented himself when the second term opened in the month of June and took one year's leave without pay from 18 June 1906. After passing a total of a week or two at Baroda, he went back to Bengal. During his stay in Gujarat he went to Chandod for the last time. He had been there twice or thrice before, during his stay at Baroda, with K.G. Deshpande and others. On one of these visits, at Karnali, near Chandod, he saw Swami Brahmananda. At the time of leaving the Swami, each one who was present did pranām (bowing). Brahmananda generally kept his eyes closed and those who bowed used to get up and leave. But when Sri Aurobindo did pranām and looked at him, he found Brahmananda with his eyes open looking full at him – as if he saw something extraordinary or as if he recognised somebody. Sri Aurobindo once said that Brahmananda's eyes were very beautiful. It seems that by 1906 Brahmananda had passed away and on his last visit Sri Aurobindo met Brahmananda's successor, Swami Keshavananda.

During one of his visits to Chandod Sri Aurobindo went to one of the temples of Kali on the bank of the Narmada. He went there because of the company. He never had felt attracted to image-worship – if anything at that time he was averse to it. Now when he went to the temple he found a presence in the image. He got a direct proof of the truth that can be behind image-worship.

He once wrote: "Or you stand before a temple of Kali beside a sacred river and see what? – a sculpture, a gracious piece of architecture, but in a moment mysteriously, unexpectedly there is instead a Presence, a Power, a Face that looks into yours, an inner sight in you has regarded the {{0}}World-Mother."[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part One (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo I; Ashram, 1970), p. 199.]] The following poem was written about the same experience.

The Stone Goddess

In a town of gods, housed in a little shrine,

From sculptured limbs the Godhead looked at me, –

A living Presence deathless and divine,

A Form that harboured all infinity.

The great World-Mother and her mighty will

Inhabited the earth's abysmal sleep,

Voiceless, omnipotent, inscrutable,

Mute in the desert and the sky and deep.

Now veiled with mind she dwells and speaks no word,

Voiceless, inscrutable, omniscient,

Hiding until our soul has seen, has heard

The secret of her strange embodiment,

One in the worshipper and the immobile shape,

A beauty and mystery flesh or stone can {{0}}drape.[[Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, p. 139.]]

In July 1906 Sri Aurobindo returned to Bengal. He stayed with Subodh Mullick at 12, Wellington Street, Calcutta. After some months Abinash was asked to look for a separate house. There were many reasons for Sri Aurobindo to change his residence. One was that Sarojini and Mrinalini wanted to stay with him. Another was that there were members of the Mullick family who did not like all kinds of persons, especially revolutionary recruits, coming to their house. Sri Aurobindo himself did not like the idea of putting them to any inconvenience. His own personal requirements, however, were well looked after. A house was taken at Chhuku Khansama Lane where Barin, Abinash, Sarojini and Mrinalini stayed with Sri Aurobindo. After that they shifted to 23, Scott's Lane. Barin went to stay at Murari Pukur Bagan, the rest stayed with Sri Aurobindo.

Chapter IV. In Indian Politics

In August 1906 the National College, at Calcutta was established, Sri Aurobindo joined the institution as its Principal.

On 6 August the declaration of the Bande Mataram was filed. There are many conjectures about how the Bande Mataram was started, what Sri Aurobindo's connection with it was and how it ended. We give here Sri Aurobindo's own explanation, so as to set all doubts to rest.

"Bepin Pal started the Bande Mataram with Rs.500 in his pocket donated by Haridas Halder. He called in my help as assistant editor and I gave it. I called a private meeting of the young Nationalist leaders in Calcutta and they agreed to take up the Bande Mataram as their party paper with Subodh and Nirod Mullick as the principal financial supporters. A company was projected and formed, but the paper was financed and kept up meanwhile by Subodh. Bepin Pal who was strongly supported by C.R. Das and others remained as editor. Hemendra Prasad Ghose and Shyam Sunder joined the editorial staff but they could not get on with Bepin Babu and were supported by the Mullicks. Finally, Bepin Pal had to retire, I don't remember whether in November or December, probably the latter. I was myself very ill, almost to death, in my father-in-law's house in Serpentine Lane and I did not know what was going on. They put my name as editor on the paper without my consent, but I spoke to the secretary pretty harshly and had the insertion discontinued. I also wrote a strong letter on the subject to Subodh. From that time Bepin Pal had no connection with the Bande Mataram. Somebody said that he resumed his editorship after I was arrested in the Alipore Case. I never heard of that. I was told by Bejoy Chatterjee after I came out from jail that he, Shyam Sunder and Hemendra Prasad had carried on somehow with the paper, but the finances became impossible, so he deliberately wrote an article which made the Government come down on the paper and stop its publication, so that the Bande Mataram might end with some ιclat and in all {{0}}honour."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), PP. 59–60.]]

As to what place the Bande Mataram occupied in the country and in the estimation of Englishmen, a letter written by Mr. Ratcliffe, the then editor of the Statesman of Calcutta, to the Manchester Guardian will make it clear:

"We know Aurobindo Ghose only as a revolutionary nationalist and editor of a flaming newspaper which struck a ringing new note in Indian daily journalism.

"It was in 1906, shortly after Curzon's retirement, that Sri Aurobindo and his friends started Bande Mataram (Hail to the Mother). It had a full-size sheet, was clearly printed on green paper, and was full of leading and special articles written in English with brilliance and pungency not hitherto attained in the Indian press. It was the most effective voice of what we then called nationalist {{0}}extremism."[[The Manchester Guardian, Weekly Edition, 26 December 1950.]]

The basic policy of Bande Mataram was: (1) To support Violence against violence. It was shown that it was indispensable to do so. (2) If injustice was not opposed, the enthusiasm, perseverance and unity so necessary to win independence would weaken considerably. (3) To return blow for blow, to stand up against attack, and awaken manhood in the nation. This is very important for an oppressed nation. (4) Treachery and perfidy to the nation do not stop if they are not punished. (5) A nation that wants to be free must be ready to face tyranny and persecution. Oppression is God's method of preparing a nation. As Sri Aurobindo said at Jhalakati in 1909 "We are iron upon his anvil and the blows are showering upon us, not to destroy but to re-create. Without suffering there can be no {{0}}growth."[[Sri Aurobindo, Karmayogin (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 62.]] The Bande Mataram put before the nation the programme of Boycott, Swadeshi, National Education, and Passive Resistance with the ideal of forming parallel government.

On 13 October the Bande Mataram became a joint stock company in accordance with Sri Aurobindo's suggestion. A board of directors was appointed. The real editor was Sri Aurobindo, but the responsibility belonged to the board. The Government could therefore not prosecute one single individual. Whenever something was found objectionable by the Government someone could come forward to accept the responsibility and go to jail if necessary. The brain of the movement could thus escape imprisonment and continue the work. The articles were so cleverly written that they violated the spirit of the law while remaining strictly within its limits.

Sri Aurobindo's practice of Pranayama became very irregular owing to the pressure of political work and at last came to a stop.

From October to December 1906 Sri Aurobindo had a serious illness. He stayed with Bhupal Chandra Bose, his father-in-law, at Serpentine Lane, Calcutta. On 4 November he had very high fever and could not write his editorial for the Bande Mataram. He recovered partially at the end of November, but had a relapse in December. On 11 December Sri Aurobindo went to Deoghar for a change. He returned to Calcutta by 26 December in order to attend the Congress session.

It was at this Congress held at Calcutta under the presidentship of Dadabhai Naoroji that a resolution laying down independence as the goal of the Congress session was passed for the first time. Among the Nationalist leaders who attended were Tilak, Lajpatrai, Khaparde and Khare. It was mainly due to Sri Aurobindo's efforts in the reception committee and the working committee that the resolution was passed. The resolution, once accepted by the Reception Committee, had to get the support of the whole Congress. Private consultations, and meetings were held at the house of Subodh Mullick under Tilak's leadership where this support was secured. Sri Aurobindo's share in securing this support was not insignificant.

To the main resolution demanding Swaraj others were added: viz., Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education. Sir Phirozshah Mehta, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Surendranath Banerjee – the leaders of the Moderate school of politics – were opposed to the resolution. Dadabhai, the president, was undecided in the beginning. But when he found that there was a strong support to the resolution from Bengal and from other parts of India, he accepted it and got it accepted by all. The Congress would have been divided even at Calcutta but for the clever manoeuvring of the Nationalist party and Dadabhai's support. The breach came at Surat in 1907. It is difficult for the reader to imagine today what a great achievement it was to bring in the resolution Swaraj and get it accepted by the Congress. It is after this that independence became the accepted goal of the Congress.

Sri Aurobindo met Tagore once during this year (1906) at Tagore's Jorasanko Street residence, where he went in answer to the poet's invitation for dinner. A Japanese artist, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose and some other prominent people were present. Tagore visited the Sanjivani office now and then where he occasionally met Sri Aurobindo.

Manmohan began his service as Professor of English at Patna and then went over to Dacca where he remained during 1906. He used to come to Calcutta occasionally, and though he used to keep himself away from politics he was proud of Sri Aurobindo's political work. He used to say: "There are only two and a half men in India: one is Aurobindo and the other Barin, and the half is Tilak!"

From 27 January 1907 to early April 1907 Sri Aurobindo was at Deoghar. From 12 to 23 April he published a series of articles on passive resistance in the Bande Mataram. One can see in it clearly the distinction between non-violence and passive resistance.

On 24 July 1907 Bhupendranath Dutt, a brother of Vivekananda, was sentenced for seditious material that appeared in Yugantar. He wanted to offer defence, but Sri Aurobindo said that it was illogical for a revolutionary to recognise a foreign court and its jurisdiction.

On 30 July 1907 there was a search of the Bande Mataram office and on 16 August a prosecution was instigated. Sri Aurobindo was among the accused.

On 23 August 1907 in an address given to the students and teachers of the Bengal National College, Sri Aurobindo said: "In the meeting you held yesterday I see that you expressed sympathy with me in what you call my present troubles. I don't know whether I should call them troubles at all, for the experience that I am going to undergo was long foreseen as inevitable in the discharge of the mission that I have taken up from my childhood, and I am approaching it without {{0}}regret."[[Sri Aurobiado, Bande Mataram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram 1972) p. 515.]]

On 23 September 1907 Apurva Bose was sentenced to three months as the printer of the Bande Mataram. Sri Aurobindo was acquitted. Tagore (and also many other Nationalists) came to see Sri Aurobindo at No. 12 Wellington Street. Tagore had published his "Homage to Aurobindo" while the prosecution was going on, in anticipation of a sentence. But, as Sri Aurobindo was acquitted, when he came to congratulate him, he said ironically in Bengali as he embraced him: "What! You have deceived us!" (by not going to jail). Sri Aurobindo replied in English: "Not for long will you have to wait," implying that he would not be out of prison much longer.

Mrinalini Devi wrote a letter to Sri Aurobindo on 3 December in which she said, "Abinash will not work for you when he gets married." Abinash was the revolutionary worker who looked after Sri Aurobindo's household.

On the sixth Sri Aurobindo replied to Mrinalini.


6th December 1907.

Dear Mrinalini,

I received your letter the day before yesterday. The shawl was sent the very same day. I do not understand why you did not get it....

Here [in Calcutta] I do not have a moment to spare. I am in charge of the writing; I am in charge of the Congress work; I have to settle the Bande Mataram affair. I am finding it difficult to cope with it all. Besides, I have my own work to do; that too cannot be neglected.

Will you listen to one request of mine? This is a time of great anxiety for me. There are pulls from every side that are enough to drive one mad. If at this time you also get restless, it can only increase my worry and anxiety. But if you could write encouraging and comforting letters, that would give me great strength. I should then be able to overcome all fears and dangers with a cheerful heart. I know it is hard for you to live alone at Deoghar. But if you keep your mind firm and have faith, your sorrows will not be able to overwhelm you to such an extent. As you have married me, this kind of sorrow is inevitable for you. Occasional separations cannot be avoided, for, unlike the ordinary Bengali, I cannot make the happiness of family and relatives my primary aim in life. Under these circumstances, there is no way out for you except to consider my ideal as your ideal and find your happiness in the success of my appointed work. One thing more. Many of those with whom you are living at present are our elders. Do not get angry with them even if they say harsh or unfair things. And do not believe everything they say is what they mean or is intended to hurt you. Words often come out in anger, without thought. It is no good holding on to them. If you find it absolutely impossible to stay on, I shall tell Girish Babu; your grandfather can come and stay with you while I am at the Congress.

I am going to Midnapur today. On my return I shall make the necessary arrangements here, and then proceed to Surat. That will probably be on the 15th or 16th. I shall be back on the 2nd of January.



Mrinalini Devi was staying at 29/3, Chhuku Khansama Lane, Calcutta. No definite arrangement was made for her expenses up to 20 December 1907.

On 6 December, twelve miles from Kharagpur, near Narayangarh, an attempt was made on the life of Sir Andrew Frazer, the Governor of Bengal. A bomb was thrown at the train in which he was travelling.

From 7 to 9 December there was a conference at Midnapore. Mr. K. B. Dutt, who was elected President by the Moderates, was not allowed to address the conference on the seventh. The Nationalists convened a separate meeting on the eighth – Sri Aurobindo was their leader. He successfully conducted the conference and arranged to pass resolutions supporting the Nationalist programme. They were forwarded to the ensuing Congress session at Surat. Sri Aurobindo won over many Moderate leaders to the Nationalist side. Sri Aurobindo met Satyendra Bose and Khudiram Bose.

On 15 December 1907 a public meeting was held in Beadon Square. Sri Aurobindo spoke. A resolution supporting the Nationalist programme was passed and was forwarded to the Surat Congress.

On 22 December Sri Aurobindo halted at Nagpur for two days on his way to the Surat Congress. Sir Moropant Joshi was present at the meeting addressed by Sri Aurobindo. He was one of those who had taken the oath of the revolutionary society "Lotus & Dagger" while in England. Joshi was now a leader of the Moderates in C. P.

"On my way to the Surat Congress we stopped at Nagpur," said Sri Aurobindo later. "My lecture was fixed in the theatre. On the front bench was sitting Moropant Joshi. Deshmukh was by his side. Joshi was all along gaping at {{0}}me."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1974), p. 287.]]

Surat Congress, December 1907

A week before the sessions both parties – the Moderates and the Nationalists – began their efforts to secure the majority for their side. The Moderates chose Surat as the venue as they thought it would be easy for them to secure a majority there. Tilak, Khaparde, Khare were already there from the Nationalist side. From among the leaders of Bengal, Sri Aurobindo was chosen to preside over the meetings on Balaji Tekra. In one of the speeches he began, "My pen is mightier than my tongue" – a great sutra that came true in his life! All the Nationalist leaders used to meet privately every day under the leadership of Tilak to decide controversial questions. There were peace-makers going from one camp to the other. The atmosphere was surcharged with great excitement. Members of the revolutionary party who had also come in large numbers were arranging their own rendezvous and discussing their plans. On 27 December Barin wrote a note to Sri Aurobindo asking to arrange for personal interviews with the leaders of the Nationalist Party. Tilak, Lajpatrai and others participated in these discussions either personally or through their representatives. They, like Sri Aurobindo, kept the secret movement separate from the public movement; yet they considered the one complementary to the other.

Before the open session of the Congress, Surendranath Banerji, the Moderate leader of Bengal, tried to convene a meeting of all the Bengal delegates to arrive at a unanimous decision. He prepared a draft on behalf of the Moderates of Bengal containing conditions for an agreement with the Nationalists. This was placed before the meeting. Satyen Bose tore up the paper and the meeting dispersed. Sir Phirozshah Mehta, Gokhale and other Moderate leaders became doubtful about securing a majority for their resolution. They depended thereafter on their majority in the Reception Committee. The dispute centred round the resolution passed at Calcutta by the Congress in 1906. The Nationalists wanted to take that as the basis and proceed further in that direction. The Moderates did not want to accept the resolution of 1906 as binding. The Nationalists, when not allowed to move their independence resolution through the Reception Committee, proposed to bring it before the open session. Both the parties decided to test their strength on the proposal for the Presidentship of the Congress. Surendranath proposed Dr. Rash Behari Ghose and Tilak stood up for Lajpatrai. There was an effort to prevent Tilak from addressing the house. It was a signal for pandemonium. Chairs were hurled all about and the police had to be called in to restore order.

It was not a time for political wisdom or calm calculation. The impulse for freedom had awakened in the nation like an irresistible flood. It was not until 1947 — forty years afterwards – that this impulse was at last satisfied in a very large measure.

Chapter V. Beginning of Yoga

When Sri Aurobindo was at Surat he met Sakhare Baba, a Maharashtrian yogi, who was intensely interested in the question of Indian independence. Sri Aurobindo found his own sadhana becoming very irregular and disorganised on account of the political work. So he told Barin to arrange a meeting with someone who would help him in his sadhana. One of the disciples of Vishnu Bhaskar Lele was at Baroda. Barin had come to know about him and leamt that Lele was at that time in Gwalior. A wire was sent to Lele asking him to come to Baroda. So, when Sri Aurobindo went to Baroda after the breakup of the Congress, Lele had already arrived there. Lele told the author in 1916 that when he received the telegram telling him to go to Baroda he had an intuition that he would have to give initiation to a very great soul. Thus the political activity on one side and sadhana on the other were both being intensely pursued.

Lele met Sri Aurobindo for the first time in Khaserao Jadhav's house at Dandia Bazar. It was probably during the first week of January 1908 that the meeting, which lasted half an hour, took place.

Lele showed his readiness to help Sri Aurobindo in his sadhana. He said he would try to give him some concrete results on condition that he would suspend — for he was not ready to give up entirely – his political activity. Sri Aurobindo was ready to fulfil the conditions. Lele wanted him to separate himself from others and stay with him. Sri Aurobindo agreed. He suddenly disappeared from the tumultuous political scene of which he was an important centre. Friends knew where he was but no one disturbed him. He remained with Lele for three days in the small room on the top floor of Sardar Majumdar's wada in Baroda. Lele asked him to make his mind blank – which he did. Sri Aurobindo has himself described this incident more than once. Below several accounts of his experience in his own words are reproduced.

"I am glad you are getting converted to silence, and even Nirvana is not without its uses – in my case it was the first positive spiritual experience and it made possible all the rest of the sadhana; but as to the positive way to get these things, I don't know if your mind is quite ready to proceed with it. There are in fact serveral ways. My own way was by rejection of thought 'Sit down,' I was told, 'look and you will see that your thoughts come into you from outside. Before they enter, fling them back.’ I sat down and looked and saw to my astonishment that it was so; I saw and felt concretely the thought approaching as if to enter through or above the head and was able to push it back concretely before it came inside.

"In three days – really in one – my mind became full of an eternal silence – it is still there. But that I don't know how many people can do. One (not a disciple – I had no disciples in those days) asked me how to do Yoga. I said: "Make your mind quiet first.' He did and his mind became quite silent and empty. Then he rushed to me saying: 'My brain is empty of thoughts, I cannot think. I am becoming an idiot.' He did not pause to look and see where these thoughts he uttered were coming from! Nor did he realise that one who is already an idiot cannot become one. Anyhow I was not patient in those days and I dropped him and let him lose his miraculously achieved silence.

"The usual way, the easiest if one can manage it at all, is to call down the silence from above you into the brain, mind and {{0}}body."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 82–83.]]

"I think you have made too much play with my phrase 'an accident', ignoring the important qualification, 'it seemed to come by an accident'. After four years of prānāyama and other practices on my own, with no other result than an increased health and outflow of energy, some psycho-physical phenomena, a great outflow of poetic creation, a limited power of subtle sight (luminous patterns and figures, etc.) mostly with the waking eye, I had a complete arrest and was at a loss. At this juncture I was induced to meet a man without fame whom I did not know, a Bhakta with a limited mind but with some experience and evocative power. We sat together and I followed with an absolute fidelity what he instructed me to do, not myself in the least understanding where he was leading me or where I was myself going.

The first result was a series of tremendously powerful experiences and radical changes of consciousness which he had never intended – for they were Adwaitic and Vedantic and he was against Adwaita Vedanta – and which were quite contrary to my own ideas, for they made me see with a stupendous intensity the world as a cinematographic play of vacant forms in the impersonal universality of the Absolute {{0}}Brahman."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 82–83.]]

"As for calm and silence, there is no need of the supramental to get that. One can get it even on the level of Higher Mind which is the next above the human intelligence. I got these things in 1908, 27 years ago, and I can assure you they were solid enough and marvellous enough in all conscience without any need of supramentality to make it more so. Again, 'a calm that looks like action and motion' is a phenomenon of which I know nothing. A calm or silence that is what I have had – the proof is that out of an absolute silence of the mind I edited the Bande Mataram for 4 months and wrote 6 volumes of the Arya, not to speak of all the letters and messages etc. I have written {{0}}since."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 82–83.]]

"I myself had my experience of Nirvana and silence in the Brahman, etc. long before there was any knowledge of the overhead spiritual planes; it came first simply by an absolute stillness and blotting out as it were of all mental, emotional and other inner activities – the body continued indeed to see, walk, speak and do its other business, but as an empty automatic machine and nothing more. I did not become aware of any pure ‘I’ nor even of any self, impersonal or other, – there was only an awareness of That as the sole Reality, all else being quite unsubstantial, void, non-real. As to what realised that Reality, it was a nameless consciousness which was not other than That; one could perhaps say this, though hardly even so much as this, since there was no mental concept of it, but not more. Neither was I aware of any lower soul or outer self called by such and such a Personal name that was performing this feat of arriving at the consciousness of Nirvana....

Mark that I did not think these things, there were no thoughts or concepts nor did they present themselves like that to any Me; it simply just was so or was self-apparently {{0}}so."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 116.]]

"It was my great debt to Lele that he showed me this.; ‘Sit in meditation,’ he said ‘but do not think, look only at your mind; you will see thoughts coming into it; before they can enter throw these away from your mind till your mind is capable of entire silence.' I had never heard before of thoughts coming visibly into the mind from outside, but I did not think either of questioning the truth or the possibility, I simply sat down and did it. In a moment my mind became silent as a windless air on a high mountain summit and then I saw one thought and then another coming in a concrete way from outside; I flung them away before they could enter and take hold of the brain and in three days I was free. From that moment, in principle, the mental being in me became a free Intelligence, a universal Mind, not limited to the narrow circle of personal thought as a labourer in a thought factory, but a receiver of knowledge from all the hundred realms of being and free to choose what it willed in this vast sight-empire and {{0}}tliought-empire."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 83–84.]]

During his stay at Baroda Sri Aurobindo met Chhotalal Purani in a private interview and explained to him a scheme for the revolutionary work by drawing a pencil sketch on a blank piece of paper. He then advised him to meet Barin who met C. B. Purani for three consecutive days, explaining to him the details of the revolutionary organisation. It was thus that the seeds were sown of that movement in Gqarat which became so well known afterwards. The inspiration for it came from Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo also net the Maharaja at the latter's request. When the Maharaja wanted to meet Sri Aurobindo a second time, Lele asked Sri Aurobindo not to meet him and so he did not.

Sri Aurobindo gave three lectures at Baroda on the political situation – two at Bankaner Theatre and one at Manik Rao's gymnasium. Sardar Mazumdar presented Sri Aurobindo with a Pashmina shawl as it was severe winter then and Sri Aurobindo was going about in a shirt with no covering over it. He kept no bedding. While travelling he slept on the Sitting board and used his hand for pillow.

In the second week of January Sri Aurobindo went to Poona from Baroda. Sri Aurobindo asked Lele to come with him and Lele agreed. Sri Aurobindo gave a lecture at the Gaekwad Wada, Poona, on the thirteenth. Then he went to Bombay. At Girgaum (Bombay) he delivered a lecture on the fifteenth.

In Bombay the spiritual experience that had begun at Baroda became more intense. The vacant condition of the mind turned into the experience of the silent Brahman Consciousness. The multifarious activities of the city of Bombay, the rows of tall houses, etc. – all became as if things moving on the surface, mere appearances, things unreal against the background of the silent Infinite which alone seemed real.

"When I was in Bombay, from the balcony of the friend's house I saw the whole busy movement of Bombay as a picture in a cinema show, all unreal and shadowy. Ever since I have maintained that poise of mind – never lost it even in the midst of {{0}}difficulties."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1974), p. 62.]] This sonnet, written in the 1930's, is a poetic expression of the same experience:


All is abolished but the mute Alone.

The mind from thought released, the heart from grief

Grow inexistent now beyond belief;

There is no I, no Nature, known-unknown.

The city, a shadow picture without tone,

Floats, quivers unreal; forms without relief

Flow, a cinema's vacant shapes; like a reef

Foundering in shoreless gulfs the world is done.

Only the illimitable Permanent is here.

A Peace stupendous, featureless, still,

Replaces all, – what once was I, in It

A Silent unnamed emptiness content

Either to fade in the Unknowable

Or thrill with the luminous seas of the {{0}}Infinite.[[Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971), P.161.]]

When Sri Aurobindo got an invitation from the Bombay National Union to address a meeting at the Mahajan Wadi on the nineteenth, he was in a fix. His mind had become calm, blank – how was he to deliver a speech? He could not very well decline the invitation as he was an active political worker and a prominent all-India leader. He asked Lele, who said that it would be all right to accept and that all would be well. Here is a description of what happened in Sri Aurobindo's own words: "In that silent condition – without any thought in the mind – I went to Bombay. There I had to lecture at the National Union and so I asked Lele: 'What should I do?' He asked me to pray. But I was so absorbed in the silent Brahman Consciousness that I could not pray. So I said to him that I was not in a mood to pray. Then he replied that it did not matter. He and some others would pray and I had simply to go to the meeting and make Namaskar to the audience as Narayana and then some voice would speak. I did exactly as he told me. On my way to the meeting somebody gave me a paper to read. When I rose to speak the impression of the headline flashed across my mind and then all of a sudden something spoke out. That was my second experience from {{0}}Lele..."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p. 62.]]

It was thus that Sri Aurobindo got the clue not only to the practicality of the yoga but to its dynamism. To the sadhana leading to passivity or inactivity was added the important element of divine dynamism. Not only did he understand it, but he put it to the test throughout his tour from Bombay to Calcutta. As already mentioned above, all activities initiated afterwards were taken up in the same way. The basis of his ideal of divine life as a result of complete transformation of human nature was derived from solid experience gained in the midst of a stormy political activity.

Thus, Sri Aurobindo's yoga does not rest upon the basis of a miracle, or a blind faith in something occult or some intellectual abstract principle of philosophy. It is based on concrete experience and tested in the struggle of life.

From Bombay Sri Aurobindo began his journey back to Calcutta. He gave speeches in several cities on the way: 24 January 1908 at Nasik, 26 January at Dhulia, 28 and 29 January at Amravati, 30 and 31 January and 1 February at Nagpur (Shyam Sunder Chakravarty was present).

"All the speeches I delivered on my way to Calcutta were of the same nature – with some mixture of mental working m some parts.

"Before parting from Lele I asked for his instructions. He was giving me detailed instructions. In the meantime I told him of a Mantra that had arisen in my heart. Suddenly while giving instructions he stopped and asked me if I could rely absolutely on Him who gave me the Mantra. I replied that I could always do that. Then Lele said that there was no need of further {{0}}instructions."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p. 62.]]

"The final upshot", as Sri Aurobindo wrote to a disciple many years later, "was that he was made by a Voice within him to hand me over to the Divine within me enjoining an absolute surrender to its will – a principle or rather a seed force to which I kept unswervingly and increasingly till it led me through all the mazes of an incalculable Yogic development bound by no single rule or style or dogma or Shastra to where and what I am now and towards what shall be {{0}}hereafter."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 79.]]

In his further development in yoga, Sri Aurobindo saw that all the voices heard in sadhana are not from the Divine. Not only so, but there are voices coming from Ignorance and even Asuric voices, which the sadhak has to be on his guard against. In the light of his later development Sri Aurobindo declared that a direct Divine Guidance was possible after the attainment of the Divine and that then one could dispense with the need of the guidance (or working) of the voice.

In February 1908 Barin wrote a letter to Lele inviting him to Calcutta. It was considered necessary for revolutionary youths to have training in the spiritual life. It was when Lele visited Calcutta that he came to know about the secret political movement of Barin and others. He became very serious and drew their attention to the grave dangers, but nobody listened to his warning. All were full of enthusiasm and unmindful of consequences. Prafulla Chaki was then in Calcutta and Lele wanted to take him to Bombay with him for sadhana. The proposal was referred to Sri Aurobindo who left it to Prafulla's own choice. Prafulla refused to be parted from Sri Aurobindo.

Lele also went to Deoghar, where he stayed at Seal's Lodge. He wrote a letter to Sri Aurobindo on 10 February. When they met, Lele asked him not to follow the path he was pursuing. He warned him that the voice that was guiding him was Asuric. He also said he would not be responsible for the consequences if he continued the same practice. Sri Aurobindo freed him from the responsibility of his sadhana.

"When Lele came to Calcutta in February 1908 he asked me about my yoga. I had stopped the old kind of meditation as it was practically going on all the time. Then he said that the Devil had taken possession of me and wanted to give me instructions. I did not act upon his advice – but I did not want to insult him. I then received the command from within that a human Guru was no longer necessary for me {{0}}now."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, pp. 62–63.]]

He thenceforward relied entirely on the inner guidance. Here in fact ended his relation with Lele as Guru. Sri Aurobindo ever afterwards felt greatly indebted to Lele and acknowledged his debt with deep gratitude. In March (most probably) Lele returned to Bombay.

After returning to Calcutta from western India, Sri Aurobindo took a room at 23, Scotts Lane. It was here that he met Amarendranath Chatterji, afterwards a well-known revolutionary leader. The interview for giving Amar the initiation was arranged by Upendranath Banerjee. Amar wrote in 1950 about this first meeting in the following terms: "I was not merely enchanted by my first meeting with him, – I became powerful. I was given personal proof that Diksha [initiation] can be given merely by Darshan [sight] and does not require either touch or {{0}}Mantra."[[Amarendranath Chatterji, "Sri Aurobinder Sange Sakshatkar", Galpa Bharati, Vol. VI, No. 7 (Paush 1357), p. 816.]]

The two sat alone together. Sri Aurobindo began: "I suppose Upen has talked to you about the work that is to be done for the country. Have you heard everything? I hope there is no doubt or vacillation or fear in your mind about it."

Amar: "Will you not say something yourself? Is what Upen has said the last word?

Smiling, Sri Aurobindo answered, "The last word is fearlessly taking the oath to serve the Motherland. If we want to free the country we have to conquer the fear of death."

Remembering the line where Bankimchandra says that as death is one day inevitable, it need not be feared, Amar continued, "My fear comes from another quarter. I feel at present that I am not worthy of such a great mission. Is there any means of attaining fitness?"

Sri Aurobindo: "Surrender yourself to God and in the name of the Mother go ahead with the service of India. That is my Diksha to {{0}}you."[[Amarendranath Chatterji, "Sri Aurobindo Mahaprayane", Prabartak, Vol. XXXV, No. 9 (Paush 1357), p. 363. See also Amarendranath Chatterji, "Sri Aurobinder Sange Sakshatkar", pp. 818–19]]

According to Amar, Sri Aurobindo's Diksha moulded his life. He was given the work of collecting money for the maintenance of the young men of the party.

On 17th February 1908 Sri Aurobindo wrote a letter to Mrinalini Devi.


23 Scott's Lane,
17th Feb {{0}}1908[[The manuscript of this letter bears the date 17 February 1907. This is evidently a slip. In February 1907 Sri Aurobindo was staying in Deoghar. The house in Scott's Lane does not seem to have been taken till after Sri Aurobindo's return from Surat in February 1908. In 1909 the judge in the Alipore bomb case, evaluating the letter as evidence, said of it, "dated 17th February 1907 – obviously a mistake for 1908". (Bijoy Krishna Bose, Ed. The Alipore Bomb Trial [Calcutta: Butter-worth & Co., 1922] p. 157)]]

Dear Mrinalini,

I have not written to you for a long time. This is my eternal failing; if you do not pardon me out of your own goodness, what shall I do? What is ingrained in one does not go out in a day. Perhaps it will take me the whole of this life to correct this fault. I was to have come on the 8th January, but I could not. This did not happen of my own accord. I had to go where God took me. This time I did not go for my own work; it was on His work that I went. The state of my mind has undergone a change. But of this I shall not speak in this letter. Come here, and I shall tell you what is to be told. But there is only one thing which must be said now, and that is that from now on I no longer am the master of my own will. Like a puppet I must go wherever God takes me; like a puppet I must do whatever He makes me do. It will be difficult for you to grasp the meaning of these words just now. But it is necessary to inform you, otherwise my movements may cause you regret and sorrow. You may think that in my work I am neglecting you, but do not do so. Already, I have done you many wrongs and it is but natural that this should have displeased you. But I am no longer free. From now on you will have to understand that all I do depends not on my will but is done at the command [ādesa] of God. When you come here, you will understand the meaning of my words. I hope that God will show you the Light he has shown me in his infinite Grace. But that depends upon His Will. If you wish to share my life and ideal you must strive to your utmost so that, on the strength of your ardent desire, He may in his Grace reveal the path to you also. Do not let anyone see this letter, for what I have said is extremely secret. I have not spoken about this to anyone but you; I am forbidden to do so. This much for today.

Your husband

P. S. I have written to Sarojini about household matters. When you see the letter you will understand that it is unnecessary to write to you separately about them.


A reminiscence of the Bande Mataram days: Sri Aurobindo is sitting in his house at Scott's Lane. Shyam Sundar Chakra-varty comes and asks for the editorial. Sri Aurobindo draws out a piece of old packing paper from the pile of papers on his table and begins writing on one end of it. He finishes the article in fifteen minutes – not a scratch, not a change, not a moment's pause! Next day that article fans the fire of patriotism in the hearts of Nationalists all over India.

On 4 April 1908 a meeting of the Nationalists in Chandernagore was banned by Tardevell, the mayor of this French colony. On 8 April a meeting at Chitala (near Chandernagore) was addressed by Sri Aurobindo. On 11 April a bomb which did not explode was thrown into Tardevell's house.

On Good Friday (17 April) Sri Aurobindo left Calcutta for Kishoregunj. He reached Kishoregunj on Saturday: there was a meeting and an address.

On 30 April a bomb intended for Mr. Kingsford, the District Magistrate of Muzaffarpur was thrown at Mrs. and Miss Kennedy by mistake. Both the ladies died. On 1 May many revolutionaries were arrested.

Chapter VI. In Alipore Jail and After

On 2 May 1908, Sri Aurobindo's residence, 48, Grey Street, Calcutta, was searched by the police. He himself was arrested.

It has been stated by some magazines that earth from Ramakrishna's hut which was brought by Sri Aurobindo, was with him when he was arrested. Here is what Sri Aurobindo says about it: "The earth was brought to me by a young man connected with the Ramakrishna Mission and I kept it; it was there in my room when the police came to arrest {{0}}me."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself'(Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 59.]]

Many members of the secret society were simultaneously arrested: Barin, Ulaskar Dutt, Indra Bhushan, Upendra Nath Banerjee, were all arrested at Murari Pukur Bagan. This, the property of Sri Aurobindo and his brothers, was a plot of seven bighas [approximately one hectare] having in its centre a building of three rooms with an outside verandah. All around were coconut, mango and betelnut trees.

The same day Prafulla Chaki was arrested at Wanai. He committed suicide by shooting himself so that the secret of the party might not leak out through him. On 8 May the house of Subodh Mullick at Banaras was searched.

On 17 May the case was brought up before Mr. Birley and on 18 May the case was officially begun.

Sarojini issued an appeal for funds for the defence of Sri Aurobindo:

"My countrymen are aware that my brother Aravinda Ghose stands accused of a grave offence. But I believe, and I have reason to think that the vast majority of my countrymen believe, that he is quite innocent. I think if he is defended by an able counsel he is sure to be acquitted. But as he has taken a vow of poverty in the service of the Motherland, he has no means to engage the services of an eminent Barrister-at-law. I am, therefore, under the painful necessity of appealing to the public spirit and generosity of my countrymen on his behalf. I know all my countrymen do not hold the same political opinions as he. But I feel some delicacy in saying that probably there are few Indians who do not appreciate his great attainments, his self-sacrifice, his single-minded devotion to the country's cause and the high spirituality of his character. These embolden me, a woman, to stand before every son and daughter of India for help to defend a brother, – my brother and theirs too.

"Contributions should be sent either to me at 6, College Square, Calcutta or to my Solicitors Messrs. Mamal and Agarwala, No. 3, Hastings Street, Calcutta."

Sarojini Ghose

"Ferrar who had been my classmate could not come to see me in Court when the trial was going on and we were put in a cage lest we should jump out and murder the judge. He was a barrister practising at Sumatra or Singapore. He saw me in the cage and was much concerned and did not know how to get me out. It was he who had given me the clue to the hexameter in English. He read out a line from Homer which he thought was the best line and that gave me the swing of the {{0}}metre."[[Cf. A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1959), p. 280.]]


On 31 August 1908 Narendranath Gossain, who had turned approver, was assassinated in the hospital by Kanailal Dutt. After this incident the prisoners were separated, and on 14 September Kanailal Dutt was hanged in the jail.

On 19 October the Alipore case was committed to sessions. In the case there were two groups of accused: in one there were 33 and in the other 9. Exhibits produced were 4000, and other objects constituting the evidence, 300 to 400. Altogether 222 witnesses were examined; in the sessions court 208 witnesses were called. The case lasted up to 13 April 1909. The jury summed up its opinion on 13 and 14 April, and on 6 May 1909 judgment was delivered.

During the period of the trial Sri Aurobindo resigned his Principalship of the National College in order to save embarrassment to the Council and to enable them to run the institution. There were differences with the National College Committee. The Committee wanted to make the National College a place of learning; Sri Aurobindo wanted to make it a centre of life.

In Alipore Jail: 2 May 1908 to 5 May 1909.

During this period Sri Aurobindo was an undertrial prisoner. Before the assassination of Gossain all the undertrial accused were kept in one hall. Sri Aurobindo passed most of his time in meditation. When the accused were brought to the court for the hearing, he hardly attended to the evidence or the conduct of the case. C. R. Das was engaged to defend Sri Aurobindo and Sri Aurobindo was guided by an inner voice to leave the defence completely in Das's charge. His view of life was thus undergoing a radical change in jail. In the beginning of the sadhana the idea was to take the Divine's help in the mission that he had undertaken, but the nature of his experiences during the jail life completely changed his outlook. He decided to dedicate himself entirely to the spiritual life and his outer life thenceforward became a part of his sadhana and its result. The field of action was enlarged enormously afterwards, – from the service of the country and its freedom it became a world-wide work touching intimately the future of humanity.

There were very few among the accused whom Sri Aurobindo knew personally. All around him in the jail talking and singing were going on; in the midst of it Sri Aurobindo pursued his sadhana unconcerned. Among those around him some knew that Sri Aurobindo was doing yoga but they had no idea of the kind of sadhana. He speaks about this himself as follows:

"I spent the first part of my imprisonment in Alipore jail in a solitary cell and again after the assassination of Noren Gossain to the last days of the trial when all the Alipore case prisoners were similarly lodged each in his own cell. In between for a short period we were all put together. There is no truth behind the statement that while I was meditating they gathered around me, that I recited the Gita to them and they sang the verses, or that they put questions to me on spiritual matters and received instructions from me; the whole description is quite {{0}}fanciful."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 67.]]

"While I was in solitary confinement in the jail, Dr. Daily and the Assistant Superintendent, who was also an Englishman, used to come to my cell practically every day for a little chat. I do not know why I was able to receive their special favour and sympathy from the beginning. I did not speak to them much – only gave answers to what they asked. I would either listen in silence to the topics they raised or stop after just a few words. Yet they would not give up coming to me. Dr. Daily said to me one day, 'I have spoken to the Assistant Superintendent and got the Chief to agree that you will be allowed to take a stroll in front of the "decree" [cell] every day, in the morning and in the afternoon. I do not want you to remain cooped up in a little cell the whole day. It is bad for both mind and body.' From that day onwards, I used to take a stroll every morning and afternoon in the open space in front of the 'decree'. In the afternoon it would be for ten, fifteen or twenty minutes; but in the morning I would stay out in the open for an hour, on some days up to two hours. There were no restrictions as to the time; I enjoyed it very much. On one side was the jail workshop, on the other the cowshed; these were the limits of my free domain. Moving to and fro between the workshop and the cowshed, I would either recite the profoundly evocative and eternally strength-giving words of the Upanishads, or, as I watched the movements and activities of the prisoners, I would try to realise the fundamental truth that the Lord dwells in all. Uttering silently in my mind the words, 'All this is verily the Eternal', sarvam khalu idam brahma, I would project that realisation on everything in existence, – trees and houses and walls, man, beast and bird, metals and clay. As I did this, I would get into a state in which the prison no longer appeared as a prison at {{0}}all."[[Sri Aurobindo, Bangia Rachana (Pondicheny: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), Pp. 280–81 (new translation).]]

Sri Aurobindo spoke about this experience subsequently in his epoch-making Uttarpara speech.

Some other reminiscences of jail life are given here:

"This reminds me of a compliment given to my eyes by Sir Edward Baker, Governor of Bengal. He visited us in Alipore 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 {{0}}Yogi."[[Talk of 3 January 1939, cf. Nirodbaran, Talks with Sri Aurobindo (Calcutta: Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir, 1966), p. 147.]]

"In my own case I once saw anger coming up and possessing me. I was very much surprised as to my own nature. Anger has always been foreign to me. At another time while I was an undertrial prisoner in Alipore, my anger would have led to a terrible catastrophe which luckily was averted. Prisoners there had to wait outside for some time before entering the cells. As we were doing so the Scotch warder came and gave me a push. The young men around me became very excited and I did nothing but gave him such a look that he immediately fled and called the jailor. It was a communicative anger and all the young men rallied round to attack him. When the jailor who was rather a religious man arrived, the warder said I had given him an 'insubordinate look'. The jailor asked me and I told him I had never been used to such treatment. The jailor pacified the whole group and said while going: 'We have each to bear our cross.' But by anger such as I had, I do not mean the Rudrabhava which I have experienced a few {{0}}times."[[Cf. A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), pp. 121–22.]]

"Now what you call pity is something quite different from compassion and both are different from Samata. Pity and human sentimentalism are a result of nervous repulsion – some movement in the vital being. I myself, when I was young, could not read of any act of cruelty without feeling that repulsion and a feeling of hatred for those who did it. I could not kill an insect, say a bug or a mosquito. This was not because I staunchly believed in Ahimsa, but because I had that pity and nervous repulsion. Later on, even when I had no mental objection, I could not harm anything because the body rejected the act. When I was in jail, I was mentally subjected to all sorts of torture for the first fifteen days. I had to look upon scenes of all sorts of suffering before me and then the thing passed {{0}}away."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p. 53.]]

Panchanan Tarkachudamani, a great Sanskrit scholar, was also in jail with some of his disciples. One day Abinash Bhattacharya requested Sri Aurobindo to explain certain passages from the Upanishad, which he did. Abinash recounted the explanation to Panchanan Babu. After hearing it Panchanan said: "Well, Abinash, I would not have been able to explain this portion as simply as Sri Aurobindo has done."

Hem Sen was a co-accused. He used to get biscuits and other eatables from outside. He kept these things under his pillow at night. There were thefts of them by the other accused. Those who were awake at the time of the theft would get a share! Hem Sen generally used to quarrel during the day about these little thefts at night. One day the theft was being committed and the thief saw that Sri Aurobindo was awake. Abinash took a few biscuits and put them in his hand. He smiled and began to eat them lying down.

Upen Banerjee was very much struck by the brilliance of Sri Aurobindo's hair and he thought that it was due to oil. On inquiry he found that there was no oil with Sri Aurobindo. So he asked Sri Aurobindo, who replied that it was due to sadhana.

There were experiences during this period in jail that may be called extraordinary and miraculous. About how the faculty to appreciate painting came to him Sri Aurobindo says: "I... knew something about sculpture, but [was] blind to painting. Suddenly one day in the Alipore jail while meditating I saw some pictures on the walls of the cell and lo and behold! The artistic eye in me opened and I knew all about painting except of course the more material side of the technique. I don't always know how to express though, because I lack the knowledge of the proper expressions, but that does not stand in the way of a keen and understanding appreciation. So, there you are: all things are possible in {{0}}Yoga."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 226–27.]]

Another experience was that of levitation. (It is strange that all over India people used to believe that Sri Aurobindo usually remained above the ground!) When asked about this he said: "That was once in jail. I was then having a very intense Sadhana on the vital plane and I was concentrated. And I had a questioning mind: 'Are such siddhis as utthapana [levitation] possible?' I then suddenly found myself raised up in such a way that I could not have done it myself with muscular exertion. Only one part of the body was slightly in contact with the ground and the rest was raised up against the wall. I could not have held my body like that normally even if I had wanted to and I found that the body remained suspended like that without any exertion on my part. That is the only thing that happened. In the jail there were many such extraordinary and, one may say, abnormal experiences. As I was doing Sadhana intensely on the vital plane I think these might have come from there. All these experiences passed away and did not repeat {{0}}themselves."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p. 140.]]

It was during his jail life that Sri Aurobindo resorted to fasting to see how far spiritual results could be attained by it. In Alipore jail he fasted for eleven days. He lost ten pounds during that period, though he felt no worse for it.

He used to hear the voice of Vivekananda during meditation. Here is what he wrote about this later: "It is a fact that I was hearing constantly the voice of Vivekananda speaking to me for a fortnight in the jail in my solitary meditation and felt his presence, but this had nothing to do with the alleged circumstances narrated in the book, circumstances that never took place, nor had it anything to do with the Gita. The voice spoke only on a special and limited but very important field of spiritual experience and it ceased as soon as it had finished saying all that it had to say on that {{0}}subject."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 68.]]

Regarding this Alipore period he wrote: "I was carrying on my Yoga during these days, learning to do so in the midst of much noise and clamour but apart and in silence and without any participation of the others in it. My Yoga begun in 1904 had always been personal and apart; those around me knew I was a Sadhak but they knew little more as I kept all that went on in me to myself. It was only after my release that for the first time I spoke at Uttarpara publicly about my spiritual {{0}}experiences."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 67–68.]]

Some people have said that Sri Aurobindo received spiritual help from other persons and from religious books. This is not quite true, for as he says in a letter: "I began my Yoga in 1904 without a Guru; in 1908 I received important help from a Mahratta Yogi and discovered the foundations of my Sadhana; but from that time till the Mother came to India I received no spiritual help from any one else. My Sadhana before and afterwards was not founded upon books but upon personal experiences that crowded on me from within. But in the jail I had the Gita and the Upanishads with me, practised the Yoga of the Gita and meditated with the help of the Upanishads; these were the only books from which I found guidance; the Veda which I first began to read long afterwards in Pondicherry rather confirmed what experiences I already had than was any guide to my Sadhana. I sometimes turned to the Gita for light when there was a question or a difficulty and usually received help or an answer from {{0}}it...."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 68.]]

On 6 May 1909 Mr. Beachcroft delivered his judgment. Sri Aurobindo and most of the others were acquitted. After they had been released, according to S. R. Das, cousin of C. R. Das, "Those who were acquitted came straight to my cousin's house.... Sri Aurobindo sat among them – the same wistful, distant look in his eyes – outwardly unconcerned and unperturbed. He had, as it were, drawn his mind into the depth of his {{0}}being."[[S.R. Das, "A Reminiscence of Sri Aurobindo', Mother India, Vol. X, NO. 11 (January 1959), p. 51.]]

On 14 May Sri Aurobindo issued the following letter to the Editor of the Bengalee:



Will you kindly allow me to express through your columns my deep sense of gratitude to all who have helped me in my hour of trial? Of the innumerable friends known and unknown, who have contributed each his mite to swell my defence fund, it is impossible for me now even to learn the names, and I must ask them to accept this public expression of my feeling in place of private gratitude; since my acquittal many telegrams and letters have reached me and they are too numerous to reply to individually. The love which my countrymen have heaped upon me in return for the little I have been able to do for them, amply repays any apparent trouble or misfortune my public activity may have brought upon me. I attribute my escape to no human agency, but first of all to the protection of the Mother of us all who has never been absent from me but always held me in Her arms and shielded me from grief and disaster, and secondarily to the prayers of thousands which have been going up to Her on my behalf ever since I was arrested. If it is the love of my country which led me into danger, it is also the love of my countrymen which has brought me safe through it.

Aurobindo Ghose

6, College Square, May 14, {{0}}1909[[Sri Aurobindo, Karmayogin (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), before text.]]


After his acquittal Sri Aurobindo remained with Krishna Kumar Mitra's family. Mitra himself was in jail in Agra. Sri Aurobindo's aunt had become very weak, so the doctor advised her to bathe in the Ganges. Generally somebody accompanied her to the Ganges. The old lady sometimes went up to Sri Aurobindo when he was writing and said, "Auro, please just come along with me, I am going for my bath in the Ganges." Sri Aurobindo would leave the writing and accompany her.

Basanti Chakravarty (daughter of Krishna Kumar Mitra) writes: "I never saw [Sri Aurobindo] getting angry. Auroda is sitting and writing. His sandals are lying at a little distance. My mother comes, puts on his sandals and goes up to the terrace to take her constitutional walk. After some time people come to see Auro. He gets up, searches all around for his sandals. In the meantime he sees his aunt, smiles and asks her: 'Little aunty! have you put on my sandals? There are visitors who have come to see me.' His aunt gives him his sandals that she took them away – that he had to wait – nothing of this has made him {{0}}angry."[[Basanti Chakravarty, "Amader Aurodada", Galpa Bharati, Vol. VI, No. 7 (Paush 1357), p. 783.]]

On 30 May 1909 Sri Aurobindo delivered the historic Uttarpara speech. It was Amarendranath Chatterji who went to Calcutta from Uttarpara to fetch Sri Aurobindo to speak to the Dharma Rakshini Sabha. He knew Sri Aurobindo through the secret society organisation and because of his previous initiation by him. Amar went to the Sanjivani office to fetch Sri Aurobindo. He found him absolutely quiet, as if in meditation, so he did not speak long with him. They went by train to Uttarpara. Many of the audience also went by the same train. They arrived at Uttarpara at three o'clock. The meeting was to be held at five. The zamindar of Uttarpara, Raja Piyari Mohan, and his son Michhari Babu came to the station to receive Sri Aurobindo. After taking a little rest and tea at the house of Surendranath Chattopadhyaya, a procession was organised. The meeting was held in the open courtyard on the eastern side of the library, on the west bank of the Ganges. Sri Aurobindo was the only speaker. There were about ten thousand people in the audience. Sri Aurobindo's voice was not voluminous and so the audience kept pin-drop silence in order to be able to hear him, for there were no loudspeakers in those {{0}}days.[[Amarendranath Chatterji, "Sri Aurobinder Sange Sakshatkar", Galpa Bharati, Vol. VI, No. 7 (Paush 1357), pp. 820–22.]] He was heard in the pin-drop silence.

The Uttarpara speech is openly a description of Sri Aurobindo's spiritual experience while in jail:

"I remembered then that a month or more before my arrest, a call had come to me to put aside all activity, to go into seclusion and to look into myself, so that I might enter into closer communion with Him. I was weak and could not accept the call. My work was very dear to me and in the pride of my heart I thought that unless I was there, it would suffer or even fail and cease; therefore I would not leave it. It seemed to me that He spoke to me... and said, The bonds you had not the strength to break, I have broken for you, because it is not my will nor was it ever my intention that that should continue. I have had another thing for you to do and it is for that I have brought you here, to teach you what you could not learn for yourself and to train you for my work.' Then He placed the Gita in my hands. His strength entered into me and I was able to do the Sadhana of the Gita. I was not only to understand intellectually but to realise what Sri Krishna demanded of Arjuna and what He demands of those who aspire to do His work, to be free from repulsion and desire, to do work for Him without the demand for fruit, to renounce self-will and become a passive and faithful instrument in His hands, to have an equal heart for high and low, friend and opponent, success and failure, yet not to do His work negligently. I realised what the Hindu religion meant. We speak often of the Hindu religion, of the Sanatan Dharma, but few of us really know what that religion is. Other religions are preponderatingly religions of faith and profession, but the Sanatan Dharma is life itself; it is a thing that has not so much to be believed as lived. This is the Dharma that for the salvation of humanity was cherished in the seclusion of this peninsula from of old. It is to give this religion that India is rising. She does not rise as other countries do, for self or when she is strong, to trample on the weak. She is rising to shed the eternal light entrusted to her over the world. India has always existed for humanity and not for herself and it is for humanity and not for herself that she must be great.

"Therefore this was the next thing He pointed out to me, – He made me realise the central truth of the Hindu religion. He turned the hearts of my jailors to me and they spoke to the Englishman in charge of the jail, ‘He is suffering in his confinement;

let him at least walk outside his cell for half an hour in the morning and in the evening.' So it was arranged, and it was while I was walking that His strength again entered into me. I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high walls that I was imprisoned; no, it was Vasudeva who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell but it was not the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Sri Krishna whom I saw standing there and holding over me his shade. I looked at the bars of my cell, the very grating that did duty for a door and again I saw Vasudeva, It was Narayana who was guarding and standing sentry over me. Or I lay on the coarse blankets that were given me for a couch and felt the arms of Sri Krishna around me, the arms of my Friend and Lover. This was the first use of the deeper vision He gave me. I looked at the prisoners in the jail, the thieves, the murderers, the swindlers, and as I looked at them I saw Vasudeva, it was Narayana whom I found in these darkened souls and misused bodies....

"When the case opened in the lower court and we were brought before the Magistrate I was followed by the same insight. He said to me, 'When you were cast into jail, did not your heart fail and did you not cry out to me, where is Thy protection? Look now at the Magistrate, look now at the Prosecuting Counsel.' I looked and it was not the Magistrate whom I saw, it was Vasudeva, it was Narayana who was sitting there on the bench. I looked at the Prosecuting Counsel and it was not the Counsel for the prosecution that I saw; it was Sri Krishna who sat there, it was my Lover and Friend who sat there and smiled. 'Now do you fear?' He said, 'I am in all men and I overrule their actions and their words. My protection is still with you and you shall not fear. This case which is brought against you, leave it in my hand. It is not for you. It was not for the trial that I brought you here but for something else. The case itself is only a means for my work and nothing more.' Afterwards when the trial opened in the Sessions Court, I began to write many instructions for my Counsel as to what was false in the evidence against me and on what points the witnesses might be cross-examined. Then something happened which I had not expected. The arrangements which had been made for my defence were suddenly changed and another Counsel stood there to defend me. He came unexpectedly, – a friend of mine, but I did not know he was coming. You have all heard the name of the man who put away from him, all other thoughts and abandoned all his practice, who sat up half the night day after day for months and broke his health to save me, – Srijut Chittaranjan Das. When I saw him, I was satisfied, but I still thought it necessary to write instructions. Then all that was put away from me and I had the message from within, 'This is the man who will save you from the snares put around your feet. Put aside those papers. It is not you who will instruct him. I will instruct him.' From that time I did not of myself speak a word to my Counsel about the case or give a single instruction, and if ever I was asked a question, I always found that my answer did not help the case. I had left it to him and he took it entirely into his hands, with what result you know. I knew all along what He meant for me, for I heard it again and again, always I listened to the voice within; 'I am guiding, therefore fear not. Turn to your own work for which I have brought you to jail and when you come out, remember never to fear, never to hesitate. Remember that it is I who am doing this, not you nor any other. Therefore whatever clouds may come, whatever dangers and sufferings, whatever difficulties, whatever impossibilities, there is nothing impossible, nothing difficult. I am in the nation and its uprising and I am Vasudeva, I am Narayana, and what I will, shall be, not what others will. What I choose to bring about, no human power can stay.'

"Meanwhile He had brought me out of solitude and placed me among those who had been accused along with me. You have spoken much today of my self-sacrifice and devotion to my country. I have heard that kind of speech ever since I came out of jail, but I hear it with embarrassment, with something of pain. For I know my weakness, I am a prey to my own faults and backslidings. I was not blind to them before and when they all rose up against me in seclusion, I felt them utterly. I knew then that I the man was a mass of weakness, a faulty and imperfect instrument, strong only when a higher strength entered into me. Then I found myself among these young men and in many of them I discovered a mighty courage, a power of self-effacement in comparison with which I was simply nothing. I saw one or two who were not only superior to me in force and character, – very many were that, – but in the promise of that intellectual ability on which I prided myself. He said to me. ‘This is the young generation, the new and mighty nation that is arising at my command. They are greater than yourself. What have you to fear? If you stood aside or slept, the work would still be done. If you were cast aside tomorrow, here are the young men who will take up your work and do it more mightily than you have ever done. You have only got some strength from me to speak a word to this nation which will help to raise it.' This was the next thing He told me.

"Then a thing happened suddenly and in a moment I was hurried away to the seclusion of a solitary cell. What happened to me during that period I am not impelled to say, but only this that day after day, He showed me His wonders and made me realise the utter truth of the Hindu religion. I had had many doubts before. I was brought up in England amongst foreign ideas and an atmosphere entirely foreign. About many things in Hinduism I had once been inclined to believe that they were imaginations, that there was much of dream in it, much that was delusion and Maya. But now day after day I realised in the mind, I realised in the heart, I realised in the body the truths of the Hindu religion. They became living experiences to me, and things were opened to me which no material science could explain. When I first approached Him, it was not entirely in the spirit of the Bhakta, it was not entirely in the spirit of the Jnani. I came to Him long ago in Baroda some years before the Swadeshi began and I was drawn into the public field.

"When I approached God at that time, I hardly had a living faith in Him. The agnostic was in me, the atheist was in me, the sceptic was in me and I was not absolutely sure that there was a God at all. I did not feel His presence. Yet something drew me to the truth of the Vedas, the truth of the Gita, the truth of the Hindu religion. I felt there must be a mighty truth somewhere in this Yoga, a mighty truth in this religion based on the Vedanta. So when I turned to the Yoga and resolved to practise it and find out if my idea was right, I did it in this spirit and with this prayer to Him, 'If Thou art, then Thou knowest my heart. Thou knowest that I do not ask for Mukti, I do not ask for anything which others ask for. I ask only for strength to uplift this nation, I ask only to be allowed to live and work for this people whom I love and to whom I pray that I may devote my life.' I strove long for the realisation of Yoga and at last to some extent I had it, but in what I most desired I was not satisfied. Then in the seclusion of the jail, of the solitary cell I asked for it again. I said, 'Give me Thy Adesh. I do not know what work to do or how to do it. Give me a message.' In the communion of Yoga two messages came. The first message said, T have given you a work and it is to help to uplift this nation. Before long the time will come when you will have to go out of jail; for it is not my will that this time either you should be convicted or that you should pass the time, as others have to do, in suffering for their country. I have called you to work, and that is the Adesh for which you have asked. I give you the Adesh to go forth and do my work.' The second message came and it said, 'Something has been shown to you in this year of seclusion, something about which you had your doubts and it is the truth of the Hindu religion. It is this religion that I am raising up before the world, it is this that I have perfected and developed through the Rishis, saints and Avatars, and now it is going forth to do my work among the nations. I am raising up this nation to send forth my word. This is the Sanatan Dharma, this is the eternal religion which you did not really know before, but which I have now revealed to you. The agnostic and the sceptic in you have been answered, for I have given you proofs within and without you, physical and subjective, which have satisfied you. When you go forth, speak to your nation always this word, that it is for the Sanatan Dharma that they arise, it is for the world and not for themselves that they arise. I am giving them freedom for the service of the world. When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists. To magnify the religion means to magnify the country. I have shown you that I am everywhere and in all men and in all things, that I am in this movement and I am not only working in those who are striving for the country but I am working also in those who oppose them and stand in their path. I am working in everybody and whatever men may think or do they can do nothing but help in my purpose. They also are doing my work, they are not my enemies but my instruments. In all your actions you are moving forward without knowing which way you move. You mean to do one thing and you do another. You aim at a result and your efforts subserve one that is different or contrary. It is Shakti that has gone forth and entered into the people. Since long ago I have been preparing this uprising and now the time has come and it is I who will lead it to its fulfilment....

"This is the word that has been put into my mouth to speak to you today. What I intended to speak has been put away from me, and beyond what is given to me I have nothing to say. It is only the word that is put into me that I can speak to you. That word is now finished. I spoke once before with this force in me and I said then that this movement is not a political movement and that nationalism is not politics but a religion, a creed, a faith. I say it again today, but I put it in another way. I say no longer that nationalism is a creed, a religion, a faith; I say that it is the Sanatan Dharma which for us is nationalism. This Hindu nation was born with the Sanatan Dharma, with it it moves and with it it grows. When the Sanatan Dharma declines, then the nation declines, and if the Sanatan Dharma were capable of perishing, with the Sanatan Dharma it would perish. The Sanatan Dharma, that is nationalism. This is the message that I have to speak to {{0}}you."[[Sri Aurobindo, Karmayogin, pp. 3–10.]]

The Uttarpara speech is a public document of Sri Aurobindo's spiritual life and contains in seed form some of the basic principles of the yoga he evolved. The human in him yet spoke of the Divine and then the human was completely transformed into the Divine. The Light that he shed was the Light Divine and it is for humanity to follow it and profit by it.

The reception Sri Aurobindo got at Uttarpara was extraordinary. A heap of garlands, most of them of jasmine flowers, was on the table. One of them had been specially prepared by Michhari Babu and reached to the feet. When the lecture was over, Sri Aurobindo, as was usual with him, left the heap of garlands on the table and went away. The long garland prepared by Michhari Babu was taken by somebody – of course not stolen but taken as a token of the occasion. Amar writes: "Who would not desire to have a garland offered to Sri Aurobindo?" Still Nichhari Babu was very angry. Amar explained to him that such greed was natural, therefore he should not be angry.

The next morning Michhari Babu got the garland back. By now he had grown quiet. He only told the man who had taken it, "Go and beg pardon from God, I have pardoned you already." The thief fell at Michhari Babu's feet and begged his forgiveness. Amar commented that if he had been caught the day before, he would have got a big thrashing, but that today the iron hand had turned to gold! Michhari Babu agreed with him, saying "Yes, you are right. Sri Aurobindo's speech has produced an immediate {{0}}result."[[Amarendranath Chatterji, "Sri Aurobinder Sange Sakshatkar", Galpa Bharati, Vol. VI, No. 7 (Paush 1357), pp. 825–26.]]

When Panch Koti Banerji, editor of the Hitavadi, read Sri Aurobindo's speech, he told Amar Chatterji that Sri Aurobindo did wrong to speak about his spiritual experiences. Panch Koti quoted a line of scripture to support his view. Amar replied to him, "My Guru creates Shastra, he does not follow {{0}}it."[[Amarendranath Chatterji, "Sri Aurobindo Mahaprayane", Prabartak, Vol. XXXV, No. 9 (Paush 1357), p. 364. See also Amarendranath Chatterji, "Sri Aurobinder Sange Sakshatkar", pp. 818–19.]]

At that time some young men of the Yugantar party used to come to Sri Aurobindo at 6, College Square for reading the Gita. Sri Aurobindo sat on the verandah with hands crossed, in the freezing cold of the winter, with only a dhoti and a shirt on. One day he got so absorbed while expounding the Gita that he went on until one o'clock. Sarojini came out with the food. Then the young men knew that it was his lunch time and they left him; only then did he eat.

When Sri Aurobindo came out of jail the whole political atmosphere had changed completely. Almost all the leaders of the nationalist party were either in jail or in self-imposed exile. Everywhere there was depression and hopelessness – though the feeling against the foreign rule had not abated. It had, on the contrary, increased by repression. Sri Aurobindo decided to continue the fight single-handed. Every week there used to be a meeting in Calcutta where, in place of thousands that thronged before, there were hardly a few hundred. And even these had no enthusiasm, no spirit, no life. Once while describing his experience of the ebb of political enthusiasm he said humorously: "The experience I had in Bengal gave me a good insight into our people's psychology. Even when all the leaders were jailed and some deported we continued to hold our political meetings in College Square. But in all there used to be about a hundred persons, that too mostly passers-by. And I had the honour to preside over several such {{0}}meetings!"[[Talks of 14 March 1934.]]

It was after his release that Sri Aurobindo started the journals Dharma and Karmayogin, one in Bengali, the other in English. These had a very wide circulation and had no financial difficulties like the Bande Mataram.

Sri Aurobindo addressed the Jhalakati Conference on 19 June 1909. Speaking about the nine deportations, he said:

"What is this storm that is so mighty and sweeps with such fury upon us?... I said in my heart, ‘It is God who rides abroad on the wings of the hurricane, – it is the might and force of the Lord that manifested itself and his almighty hands that seized and shook the roof so violently over our heads today.' A storm like this has swept also our national life. That too was the manifestation of the Almighty. We were building an edifice to be the temple of our Mother's worship – were rearing her a new and a fair mansion, a place fit for her dwelling. It was then that He came down upon us. He flung himself upon the building we had raised. He shook the roof with his mighty hands and part of the building was displaced and ruined. Why has He done this? Repression is nothing but the hammer of God that is beating us into shape so that we may be moulded into a mighty nation and an instrument for his work in the world. We are iron upon his anvil and the blows are showering upon us not to destroy but to recreate. Without suffering there can be no growth....

"The rulers of the country in their scanty wisdom have thought that by lopping off the heads the movement will cease. They do not know that great as he is, Ashwini Kumar Dutt is not the leader of this movement, that Tilak is not the leader, – God is the leader. They do not know the storm that has been sweeping over the country was not sent by them, but by him for his own great purpose....

"We are the descendants of those who performed Tapasya and underwent unheard-of austerites for the sake of spiritual gain and of their own will submitted to all the sufferings of which humanity is capable. We are the children of those mothers who ascended with a smile the funeral pyre that they might follow their husbands to another world. We are a people to whom suffering is welcome and who have a spiritual strength within them, greater than any physical force, we are a people in whom God has chosen to manifest himself more than in any other at many great moments of our history. It is because God has chosen to manifest himself and has entered into the hearts of his people that we are rising again as a nation...."

Swaraj means "the fulfilment of our life as a nation."

He refused to bow down to repression and said: "It is by looking the storm in the face and meeting it with a high courage, fortitude and endurance that the nation can be saved. It is that which the Mother demands from us, – which God demands from us....

"The storm may come down on us again and with greater violence. Then remember this, brave its fury, feel your strength, train your strength in the struggle with the violence of the wind, and by that strength hold down the roof over the temple of the {{0}}Mother."[[Sri Aurobindo, Karmayogin, pp. 61–66.]]

We see already how much spirituality is breathed into this address. To Sri Aurobindo life was already a field of the Divine, God was the leader of the political awakening, and it was He who was working through all contrary external appearances for the fulfilment of His purpose. Man is only an instrument of the Divine.

In September 1909 Sri Aurobindo piloted the Bengal Provincial Conference at Hooghly. The political situation was similar to that at the Surat Congress in 1907. The reception committee was formed of the Moderates who had framed draft-resolutions welcoming the reforms granted by the British government. Sri Aurobindo took up the Nationalist Party's cause single-handedly. He established the Bengal Nationalist association. He removed the age-limit clause from the admission rules and completely changed the form of the certificates given to the delegates. He also changed the draft resolutions and brought in new ones and got a majority to accept them. The Moderates were defeated and thought of leaving the Congress. Sri Aurobindo again used his statesmanship and softened the resolutions a little and ordered his party, which was in the majority, not to oppose those resolutions which the Moderates were persuaded to propose. He took this move to preserve the political unity of Bengal. His own partisans were not quite happy about it, so he asked them to absent themselves from the session. In fact, when the Moderate leaders had risen to speak, they were not heard, the audience became unruly and shouted. It was only when Sri Aurobindo came and asked them either to keep silent or go out that peace was restored. The party that was in the majority left the meeting in obedience to their leader. The bitter complaint of the Moderates was that people were listening to young and inexperienced leaders – like Sri Aurobindo – and turning a deaf ear to the old and tried ones.

Around this time, Surendranath Banerji called a private meeting on behalf of the Moderates of Bengal, to which he invited Sri Aurobindo and other prominent Nationalists of Bengal in order to present a united front at a congress to be held at Benares. Thus the Moderates wanted to remain with the Nationalists in Bengal. This was due to the fact that Surendranath Banerji was very anxious to be the leader of united Bengal in Indian politics. This could only happen if the Moderates voted for the Nationalists and sent them as delegates! But the Nationalists would have been obliged to accept the constitution passed at Surat. Sri Aurobindo refused to accept those terms as it would amount to compromise on essentials. He did not want to maintain unity that way. He proposed a change in the constitution of the Congress and pleaded for the freedom of the new political bodies that had been formed to send in their representatives so that the Nationalists could have their own men in the Congress. The negotiations broke down on these issues.

Sri Aurobindo thought of continuing his own work independently. He saw that a movement like the one for Home Rule was a possibility. Mrs. Besant, in fact, later carried that idea into effect. But Sri Aurobindo felt this would mean the abandonment of the ideal of total independence – free India within the British Empire would be the goal of the Home Rule movement – and therefore he did not execute it. He thought about passive resistance at this time, but he knew that he could not be the leader of such a movement.

The British government had declared some reforms in which he saw some signs of yielding, so he declared his opinion by inaugurating the principle "No cooperation without control." This, he thought, would enable the Nationalists to take hold of those departments wherein the nation was given the control and to introduce their own programme through them.

But in the meantime repression was in full swing. Sri Aurobindo found no scope for carrying out his ideas. He conducted the two papers – Dharma and Karmayogin – and in the latter he published an article entitled "An Open Letter to My Countrymen", in which he enunciated the main lines along which the Nationalists must continue the work in case he was imprisoned. There were many rumours about his impending arrest at this time.

On 25 December another letter, "To My Countrymen", was published in the Karmayogin. There is a small history behind these letters connected with Sri Aurobindo's contact with Sister {{0}}Nivedita.[[See p. 55, The reference here is to the earlier letter; see also p. 260.]]

Chapter VII. Chandernagore

From May 1909 to February 1910 Sri Aurobindo stayed at the house of his uncle Krishna Kumar Mitra at 6, College Square, Calcutta. He used to go to the office of the Karmayogin and the Dharma at 4, Shyam Pukur Lane every day at four o'clock in the afternoon. It was winter and Sri Aurobindo came wrapped in his shawl. There was not much work to do in the office; often four or five people would sit together and try automatic writing. One has, in that experiment, to sit with a blank mind, pen in hand, and allow a free action to some force that may intend to write through one. When Sri Aurobindo went to Pondicherry he spent some time there as well experimenting with automatic writing. He discovered that what one receives in this way is not necessarily always correct; but that the experience is useful for a contact with occult levels and for a knowledge of the working of subtle forces. Sometimes Sri Aurobindo was so late at the automatic writing sittings in Calcutta that the trams stopped plying and a horse carriage had to be hired for him to take him to his uncle's house in College Square.

This is how he describes the circumstance of his going to Chandernagore: "I was in the Karmayogin office [trying some automatic writing] and we knew about the search that was going to be made with the object of arresting me. There were some people there [Ramchandra Mazumdar, Suresh Chakravarty (Moni), Biren Ghose, Bijoy Nag and Nolini Kanta Gupta]. Ramchandra was there preparing to give fight to the police and many other ideas were flying about when suddenly I heard a voice from above saying – No, go to {{0}}Chanderangore.”[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1961), p. 142.]]

After hearing the voice, Sri Aurobindo decided to act immediately. They started from the Karmayogin office at about 8 o'clock at night, Sri Aurobindo and Ramchandra Mazumdar leading. About fifty paces behind them was Biren, and about the same distance behind Biren, Suresh followed. They went zig-zag in order to evade the surveillance of the C.I.D. men who were posted at the Karmayogin office, and reached the Ganges in about ten minutes. That day the C.I.D. men seemed to have been conspicuous in their absence. A boat was called and engaged for Chandernagore. Sri Aurobindo boarded the boat with Biren and Suresh.

There are many stories current about Sri Aurobindo's departure for Chandernagore. Some have been published in magazines by persons who have written on wrong information or accepted rumour as fact and thereby created confusion. In order to set the question to rest once and for all we give here Sri Aurobindo's own description even at the risk of repetition:

"It was not Gonen Maharaj who informed me of the impending search and arrest, but a young man on the staff of the Karmayogin, Ramchandra Majumdar, whose father had been warned that in a day or two the Karmayogin Office would be searched and myself arrested. There have been many legends spread about on this matter and it was even said that I was to be prosecuted for participation in the murder in the High Court of Shamsul Alam, a prominent member of the C.I.D., and that Sister Nivedita sent for me and informed me and we discussed what was to be done and my disappearance was the result. I never heard of any such proposed prosecution and there was no discussion of the kind; the prosecution intended and afterwards started was for sedition only. Sister Nivedita knew nothing of these new happenings till after I reached Chandernagore. I did not go to her house or see her; it is wholly untrue that she and Gonen Maharaj came to see me off at the Ghat. There was no time to inform her; for almost immediately I received a command from above to go to Chandernagore and within ten minutes I was at the Ghat; a boat was hailed and I was on my way with two young men to Chandernagore. It was a common Ganges boat rowed by two boatmen, and all the picturesque details about the French boat and the disappearing lights are pure {{0}}romance."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 70–71.]]

There was no mishap on the way except that the boatmen had to drag the boat in shallow waters once or twice during the night.

The boat anchored at the Strand at Chandernagore. Suresh and Biren got out and informed Charu Chandra Roy of Sri Aurobindo's arrival and asked him if he could make arrangements for his stay. Charu Chandra was afraid and did not know what to do. In the meantime, while Biren and Suresh were thinking of going back to the boat with a disappointing reply, a certain Sishir Ghose took them to Motilal Roy. Motilal on coming to know about Sri Aurobindo's predicament readily agreed to accommodate him. Motilal went to the boat and brought it near the place where he stayed. Sri Aurobindo disembarked and was taken to the house. His request to Motilal to keep his arrival secret was complied with. Motilal made arrangements to keep him underground.

Suresh and Biren returned to Calcutta the next day in order not to arouse any suspicion. Thus nobody, not even his closest co-workers, knew where Sri Aurobindo had gone.

"I sent someone from the office to Nivedita to inform her and to ask her to take up editing of the Karmayogin in my absence. She consented and in fact from this time onward until the suspension of the paper she had the whole conduct of it; I was absorbed in my Sadhana and sent no contributions nor were there any articles over my signature. There was never my signature to any articles in the Karmayogin except twice only, the last being the occasion for the prosecution which failed. There was no arrangement for my staying in Chandernagore at a place selected by Nivedita. I went without previous notice to anybody and was received by Motilal Roy who made secret arrangements for my stay; nobody except himself and a few friends knew where I {{0}}was."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 71.]]

On the first day Motilal Roy made an arrangement in his Baithakkhana (sitting room); from there he took Sri Aurobindo to a godown where he used to keep chairs (from his furniture workshop), which was on the first floor of the house. Motilal went to bring some tiffin for Sri Aurobindo to eat. When he came he saw that Sri Aurobindo was in meditation! He gave him the tiffin; Sri Aurobindo took it mechanically. In the afternoon Motilal took Sri Aurobindo to his parlour and gave him a bath. It was winter; the cold-water bath made Sri Aurobindo shiver. Motilal had to buy food from a shop to avoid suspicion. Sri Aurobindo spoke with Motilal, telling him to surrender everything to God.

That night, for the sake of safety, Sri Aurobindo was taken to a friend's house to sleep. The second day passed. In the evening, when Motilal met him, Sri Aurobindo asked him to make an arrangement somewhere else, so Motilal brought him back to his own house at night. Because Motilal's house still proved unsuitable, several other houses, including one in "Coolie-lines" in the northern part of Chandernagore (Gondalpara) were tried. Finally a house was rented near a Jagannath temple close to the {{0}}Ganges.[[Motilal Roy, "Sri Aurobindo Prasanga", Prabartak, Vol. XXXV, No. 6 (Paushl 357), p.375.]]

Altogether Sri Aurobindo stayed in Chandernagore for a month and a half. Motilal saw Sri Aurobindo regularly and had many talks with him about yoga. Sri Aurobindo gave sadhana to Motilal. Thus were sown the seeds of what afterwards became the Prabartak Samgha. This group separated from Sri Aurobindo after August 1920.

Motilal describes the impression Sri Aurobindo made on him:

"a completely surrendered individual – one felt when he spoke as if somebody else was speaking through him.... I placed the plate of food before him – he simply gazed at me and then ate a little – just mechanically!" Sri Aurobindo appeared to be absorbed even when he was eating. He used to meditate with open eyes, and see subtle forms and spiritual {{0}}visions.[[Motilal Roy, "Sri Aurobindo Prasanga", Nirnay, Paush-Magh 1357, pp. 31–34.]]

Sri Aurobindo's sadhana at Chandernagore went on with intensity. He saw many visions on the subtle planes. He used to see figures of three Goddesses at the time of meditation. They were seen going away at the end. It was later when he went to Pondicherry that he knew them to have been Ila, Mahi (Bharati) and Saraswati, the Vedic goddesses. Sri Aurobindo did not meet anyone at Chandernagore except Motilal and one or two people who attended on him for his needs.

After his departure many anonymous letters were received at Sri Aurobindo's Calcutta address. In one of them he was asked to come out in public. In a challenging note he replied that he had not gone away out of fear and that there was no warrant against him. He said if there was one he would come out. It was then heard that the government had issued a warrant, which only confirmed Sri Aurobindo's suspicion that the letter had been written by an agent of the government. In reality there was no ground for any warrant.

At the end of March (most probably the third week) Sri Aurobindo received an inner indication to go to Pondicherry, which he later called in his letter to Baptista of 1920 "my place of retreat, my cave of tapasya, not of the ascetic kind, but of a brand of my own {{0}}invention."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 430. See below pp. 167–70.]]

About his deciding to go to Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo once said: "While the prosecution was pending I went away secretly to Chandernagore and there some friends were thinking of sending me to France. I was thinking what to do next. There I heard the Adesh [command] to go to {{0}}Pondicherry."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), p. 39.]]

At the end of March Motilal Roy sent word to Sukumar Mitra at Calcutta about Sri Aurobindo's intended departure for Pondicherry. Towards the end of the same month Moni (Suresh Chakravarty) received a note from Chandernagore telling him to go to Pondicherry and arrange for a house. A Tamil weekly called India used to be published from Pondicherry by some Nationalists. One Srinivasachari, who was known to the revolutionary group, was connected with it. Subramania {{0}}Bharati[[The noted Tamil poet and patriot.]] was working with him and Krishnamachari was his partner. The paper supported the Nationalist and revolutionary outlook.

Moni started on the 28th. A letter of introduction addressed to Srinivasachari was given to him. He walked to the Howrah station and took his seat in the second class. He was dressed as an Anglo-Indian. Saurin Bose, Mrinalini Devi's cousin and Sukumar Mitra, Krishna Kumar's son, were on the platform to see him off. They gave him his second class ticket and Rs. 30 in cash. He reached Pondicherry on the 31st.

Some people thought then – and even now there may be some who might think – that Sri Aurobindo left politics because he felt that he could do nothing or that he was afraid. Here is his own explanation: "I may also say that I did not leave politics because I felt I could do nothing more there; such an idea was very far from me. I came away because I did not want anything to interfere with my yoga and because I got a very distinct ādesa in the matter. I have cut connection entirely with politics, but before I did so I knew from within that the work I had begun there was destined to be carried forward, on lines I had foreseen, by others, and that the ultimate triumph of the movement I had initiated was sure without my personal action or presence. There was not the least motive of despair or sense of futility behind my {{0}}withdrawal."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 55.]]

Some people believed that there was a ban imposed on Sri Aurobindo's entry into British India. That this is not correct is clear from his letter to Baptista of January {{0}}1920.[[See pp. 167–70.]] In an evening talk he said: "There never was any ban on my entering British India. On the contrary Lord Carmichael sent me an invitation to return to India and settle down at some place like Darjeeling and discuss philosophy with him. I rejected the offer."

Chapter VIII. Departure for Pondicherry

Disciple: "Why did you choose Pondicheny as the place for your sadhana?"

Sri Aurobindo: "It was by an Adesh [higher command]. I was asked to come {{0}}here."[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), p.]]

Of those persons who took part in arranging Sri Aurobindo's journey from Chandernagore to Pondicherry, three are still {{0}}alive.[[This was written in the early 1950's. [Ed.]]] They have published an account of the incident under the signature of Nagendra Kumar Guha Roy. It has been approved by Sukumar Mitra. The facts are as follows:

Sri Aurobindo asked Motilal Roy to make arrangements for his departure. Motilal wrote a letter to Amar Chatterji at Uttarpara, in which he informed him of Sri Aurobindo's intended departure from Chandernagore in a boat on 31 March and asked him to make arrangements to change the boat at Dumur Tala Ghat and to ferry Sri Aurobindo from there to the steamer Dupleix. Other arrangements would be made, said Motilal, by Sukumar Mitra, who would be waiting at the Calcutta Ghat.

Motilal wrote another letter to Sukumar Mitra at Calcutta informing him of Sri Aurobindo's intention of going to Pondicherry and telling him that Sri Aurobindo wanted him to make the following arrangements privately so as to keep his departure a secret. He was to meet Sri Aurobindo and his companions at the Calcutta Ghat with two tickets for Pondicherry by the steamer Dupleix. One of the tickets was for Sri Aurobindo, the other for the young man who was to accompany him.

It was necessary to take great precautions so that the information about Sri Aurobindo's departure might not leak out. It is difficult for the present generation to form an idea of the tense atmosphere of those days. The house of Sukumar Mitra was under surveillance, especially because of Sri Aurobindo's recent stay there. The work which Sukumar had to do was difficult one.

As soon as he received Motilal's letter, Sukumar called Nagendra Kumar Guha Roy, a nationalist worker of Noakhali, to the Sanjivani office. He gave Nagen two trunks and asked him to take them to the mess where he was living. Nagendra jocularly asked whether the trunks contained bombs. Sukumar told him not to bother about the contents, but to keep the trunks with him. Nagendra took them to his mess, which was located at 44/1, College Square.

The next day Sukumar gave two names to Nagen and asked him to buy two second class tickets for Colombo. This was done to put the police of the scent. Two names had been taken from the Sanjivani subscriber-list so that, even if the police inquired into them, they would be found to correspond to real persons. The tickets were for Colombo so that all inquiries would be directed, if at all, to Colombo instead of Pondicherry. Sukumar instructed Nagen to reserve a double cabin so that the two passengers could travel together. Nagen bought the tickets and brought them to Sukumar, who asked him to keep them with him.

Then on 31 March, 1910, Sukumar called Nagen and told him that he and his mess-mate Surendra Kumar Chakravarty, with whom Sukumar had already spoken, should hire a boat at the Bagbazar Ghat that afternoon. They were to go to the Chand Pal Ghat with the trunks and put them in the cabin on the steamer Dupleix. Sukumar also informed Nagen that the two passengers would arrive by boat.

Nagen was a little puzzled. He asked Sukumar how he would recognise the two men. Sukumar replied that he had given all the information to Suren. Suddenly it dawned upon Nagen that it was Sri Aurobindo who was to be the passenger. He asked Sukumar: "Is it not your Auroda [Sri Aurobindo] who is going?" Sukumar was surprised. He smiled and said: "You have hit the mark; but how did you know?" Nagen said: “Somehow I felt it." "It is true," said Sukumar, "but take care no one else should find out."

As previously arranged Amar Chatterji, along with his co-worker Manmatha Biswas hired a boat at Uttarpara on the thirty-first of March and met Sri Aurobindo at the Dumur Tala Ghat. They ferried him to the Calcutta-side of the river. To their disappointment they found that neither Sukumar nor Bijoy Nag had come to meet them as previously arranged. So, Amar hired a coach and he, Manmatha and Sri Aurobindo were driven to Sukumar's house in College Square. They stopped at a distance and Manmatha Biswas was sent to inquire if Sukumar was at home. No one was there. They concluded that Sukumar, must have gone to the ghat to meet them, and turned back.

The fact was that Nagen and Surendra, who had been sent by Sukumar to meet Sri Aurobindo and conduct him to the “Dupleix”, were delayed in crossing the river and missed the boat carrying Sri Aurobindo, Amar and Manmatha. Failing to meet them, Nagen and Surendra returned to Sukumar and told him of the mishap. Sukumar then told them to go immediately to Chand Pal Ghat and remove the trunks from the cabin. Surendra left the work at this stage. It was now six o'clock in the evening. Nagen found out that the doctor who issued the health-certificates had already examined the passengers and gone home. He met the Captain, took the address of the doctor and hired a coolie to take back the trunks. The coolie told Nagen that he knew the doctor's place and also the doctor's servant and would arrange everything for him. He asked the coolie to wait at the ghat and drove to Sukumar's place in a carriage. He found Sukumar waiting for him. Nagen told him that he had removed the trunks. Sukumar asked him to hurry to the ghat where Sri Aurobindo and Amar were waiting in a carriage. He was to give them the tickets and arrange to get the medical certificate. Sukumar gave money for the doctor's fees to Nagen.

Nagen, taking the trunks, drove back to Chand Pal Ghat. He found Sri Aurobindo's carriage waiting on the wayside. The coolie came to Nagen's carriage and informed him that the passengers for whom he was waiting had already arrived and that he had informed the waiting Babus that Nagen had the trunks.

Nagen put the trunks in the waiting carriage and got into it. He sat by the side of Amar; Sri Aurobindo and Bijoy Nag were on the opposite seat. The coolie sat with the coachman.

The doctor lived in Chowringhee. When they reached there, he was called by the coolie. In the meantime Nagen gave the tickets, the names and addresses of the two passengers to Sri Aurobindo. The assumed names of Sri Aurobindo and Bijoy were to be Jyotindranath Mitra and Bankimchandra Basak respectively. He gave the money to Sri Aurobindo to pay the Doctor his fees which was Rs.32.

They had to wait for half an hour before the doctor called them in for the examination. The young men talked among themselves in a low tone. Sri Aurobindo was silent. The porter got the impression that Sri Aurobindo was having some misgivings. He told his impression to Nagen, who replied: "No, the Babu has no such fear; only he had malarial fever and his body is weak, so you think he is afraid." But the porter did not seem to be convinced by Nagen's explanation. He ran to Sri Aurobindo and, standing in front of him, said: "Babuji, why are you afraid? The doctor is a very good man. There is no reason for fear." He shook Sri Aurobindo's arms. The three looked at one another and smiled at his strange behaviour. Sri Aurobindo also smiled.

After a short time the doctor's servant came and took Sri Aurobindo and Bijoy inside. About fifteen minutes later they came out with their medical certificates. In that short interval the European doctor had remarked that Sri Aurobindo spoke chaste English. Sri Aurobindo replied that he had received his education in England.

They all went back in the same carriage to Chand Pal Ghat. There was no trace of anxiety and restlessness on Sri Aurobindo's face. The other people were a little upset and anxious as the arrangements had not gone off as expected. But Sri Aurobindo for whom they were all so anxious was unmoved, quiet, without the least anxiety. He sat like a statue – as if in meditation. This was the first time Nagen had seen Sri Aurobindo in that fearless state.

When they reached Chand Pal Ghat it was nearly 11 p.m. They all went up to the reserved cabin with the trunks. Bijoy began to prepare the bedding for Sri Aurobindo. Amar and Nagen stood before Sri Aurobindo with joined hands and did namaskār. Amar gave Sri Aurobindo money given by Zamindar Rajendra Mukherji of Uttarpara. Then he and Nagen took their leave. Nagen bowed and both went down the gangway.

The only people who knew about Sri Aurobindo's departure were: Motilal Roy, Suresh Chakravarty or Moni, who was already at Pondicherry, Amar Chatterji, Manmathanath Biswas, Surendra Kumar Chakravarty, Sukumar Mitra, Nagendra Kumar Guha Roy, Bijoy Kumar Nag, who accompanied Sri Aurobindo, and Rajendranath Mukherji, Zamindar of Uttarpara.

The steamer left Calcutta in the early hours of the morning of 1 April 1910.

Part Two. Chapter IX. Pondicherry: 1910–1926

Moni, as we have said, arrived in Pondicherry on 31 March. He met Srinivasachari and informed him that Sri Aurobindo was expected to arrive on 4 April. But Srinivasachari and others did not trust him. They thought it most improbable that Sri Aurobindo, should select to come to a place as far south as Pondicherry, instead of to another place nearer to Bengal. Moni pressed upon them the need of a house, but they were not keen on it. At last, on the day of arrival, Moni asked them to arrange for a house in advance. They said they would manage to put Sri Aurobindo up – when he came. All along they suspected that Moni was a spy. But, in case Sri Aurobindo actually did come, they said they would give him a public reception. Moni argued with them and, in the end, prevailed upon them to drop such an idea as Sri Aurubindo was coining secretly and wanted to remain in seclusion. Moni, Srinivasachari and Bharati went to the port to receive Sri Aurobindo. The steamer arrived at Pondicherry at four o'clock on 4 April 1910. After tea Sri Aurobindo was taken to the house of Shanker Chelty in Comty Chetly Street. Sri Aurobindo remained there till October as the guest of Shanker Chetty.

Sri Aurobindo's aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Krishna Kumar Mitra, and also his grandmother, Mrs. Rajnaniyan Bose, were very anxious about him and wanted to have authentic news of his safe arrival at Pondichcrry. A week after Sri Aurobindo left Calcutta, a man came to see Krishna Kumar Mitra to inform him that Sir Charles Cleaveland, Director General of Criminal Investigation, who was slaying at the Great Eastern Hotel, had received the news in code that Sri Aurobindo was in Pondicherry. The gentleman had come to give this information assuming that Mitra must be very anxious about his safety. This shows how well the secret was kept: Sukumar Mitra, who had taken a leading part in arranging Sri Aurobindo's departure, had evidently not told his own father about it. In May 1910, Motilal Roy sent a man, Sudarshan, to inquire about Sri Aurobindo's safe arrival at Pondicherry.

Balai Devsharma has written: "After knowing that Sri Aurobindo had gone to Pondicherry, Mono Ranjan Guhathakurta and Shyam Sundar Chakravarty wrote a letter requesting him to guide them (and the party) in politics. The letter was answered: its purport was that Sri Krishna had taken the responsibility of freeing India. And so all of us must act from a firm status in yoga. This letter was read at the house of Shyam Sundar Babu, in Vidyasagar Street, Calcutta."

This year Paul Richard came to Pondicherry on behalf of M. Paul Bluyson for election to the French Chamber. Bluyson was elected. Richard came to know that Sri Aurobindo had come to Pondicherry and was doing yoga. An interview was arranged, most probably by Zir Naidu, a friend of Richard's, between Sri Aurobindo and Richard. It was in Shanker Chetty's house that they met two days for two or three hours each day. Richard asked Sri Aurobindo many questions, one of which related to the symbolic character of the lotus. Sri Aurobindo explained that the lotus stands for the opening of the consciousness to the Divine. It can be seen on any of the subtle planes of consciousness. Some years later (probably 1918) Richard gave a speech, published in his book, The Dawn over Asia, in which he spoke of Sri Aurobindo as the future leader of Asia.

At Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo did not want to meet anyone without a special purpose. He gave instructions to Moni and Bijoy to discourage casual visitors. He was thus living in practical solitude though in the middle of the town. He stayed in a room on the top floor of Shanker Chetty's house, corning downstairs only for his bath.

It was here that Sri Aurobindo fasted for twenty-three days. Moni and Bijoy were the only persons who knew about it. During the fast Sri Aurobindo did all his usual work regularly – i.e. walking, meditation, writing, etc. When he broke the fast he took the same quantity of food that he used to take before; he did not begin to take food gradually as people who fast generally do. He suffered no diminution of mental or vital energy, but found that a certain diminution of material substance was taking place. He concluded that physical life would be impossible without food.

Two talks of Sri Aurobindo on the subject of fasting are reproduced below:

Disciple: "Is it possible to do without food?"

Sri Aurobindo: "Yes, it is. When I did my fast of about twenty-three days in Chetty's house, I very nearly solved the problem. I could walk eight hours a day as usual. I continued my mental work and Sadhana as usual and I found that I was not in the least weak at the end of the twenty-three days. But the flesh began to grow less and I did not find a clue to replacing the very matter reduced in the body. Also, when I broke the fast, I did not observe the rule of people who undergo long fasts – beginning with a little food and so on. I began with the same quantity as I used to take before.... I tried fasting once in jail but that was for ten days when I used to sleep once in three nights. I lost ten pounds in weight but I felt stronger at the end of the ten days than I had been before I began the fast. I could lift up a weight after the fast, which I could not {{0}}before."[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1961), pp. 232–33.]]

Sri Aurobindo: "I fasted twice: once in Alipore for ten days and another time in Pondicherry for twenty-three days. At Alipore I was full of Yogic activities, I was not taking my food and was throwing it away in the bucket. Of course, the Superintendent did not know of it; only two warders knew about it and they informed others saying: The gentleman must be ill; he will not live long!' Though my physical strength was diminishing I was able to raise a pail of water above my head which I could not do ordinarily.

"At Pondicherry while fasting I was in full mental and vital vigour. I was even walking eight hours a day and not feeling tired at all. And when I broke the fast I did not begin slowly but with the usual normal amount of food."

Disciple: "How is such fasting possible?"

Sri Aurobindo: "One draws the energy from the vital plane instead of depending upon physical substance. Once in Calcutta I lived for a long time on rice and banana. These make a very good {{0}}food."[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram,. 1966), pp. 88–89.]]

During the first three months of the stay at Pondicherry there used to be sιances in the evening in which automatic writing was done. The book Yogic Sadhan was written in this way. At the rate of one chapter per day, the book was finished in a week or eight days. On the last day it seemed to Sri Aurobindo that a figure that looked like Rammohan Roy disappeared into the subtle world near the comer of the ceiling of the room. It was inferred that Rammohan Roy had dictated the book. The Editor's Epilogue added after the last chapter was written by Sri Aurobindo himself. The editor's name is given as "the Uttar Yogi".

K.V. Rangaswamy Iyengar, the zamindar of Kodailam met Sri Aurobindo for the first time in Shanker Chetty's house. Up to 1906 this man represented the landlords in the Legislative Assembly of Delhi. He had come looking for Sri Aurobindo for the following reason. He had known a Yogi named Nagai Japata, who had been the guru of his family. When the time of his death was near this Yogi called his devotees to him. K. V. R. Iyengar asked him about the spiritual guide he must take for his future progress. The Yogi remained quiet for a time and then said that a great Yogi would come from the North whose help he could take. Iyengar then asked him how he would recognise that particular great Yogi, as so many yogis came to the South from the North. Japata replied that the great Yogi would come seeking refuge in the South, and he would make a declaration of three things before his arrival.

When K. V. R. Iyengar came to know that Sri Aurobindo had come to Pondicherry and retired from politics, he had one clue for identifying him as the "Yogi from the North" – Uttar Yogi – about whom Nagai Japata had spoken. Moreover, one of the letters of Sri Aurobindo to Mrinalini Devi that were produced in the Alipore court, contained a statement of "three madnesses" that were a part of Sri Aurobindo's personality. This was understood to be the declaration of the "three things" that had been predicted by the Yogi.

What transpired between the two at the interview is not known. It is known that K. V. R. Iyengar gave Sri Aurobindo a promise of economic help and besides this actually gave some money. Those were days of great danger to anyone who dared to render any kind of help to a revolutionary political leader. That is why nothing was spoken about the details of the interview or about the exact extent of the help rendered. K. V. R. Iyengar came twice again to Pondicherry to see Sri Aurobindo. It was he who had the small book Yogic Sadhan printed at the Vani Vilas Press for Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo once spoke of Iyengar in an evening talk: "There was a famous Yogi in the South who while dying said to his disciples that a Puma Yogi from the North would come down to the South and he would be known by three sayings. Those three sayings were the three things I wrote in a letter to my wife. The zamindar disciple of that Yogi found me out and bore the cost of the book {{0}}Yogic Sadhan."[[Undated evening talk.]]

V. Ramaswamy Iyengar, later known as "Va-Ra" in the Tamil literary world, had come to Pondicherry with K. V. R. Iyengar. He afterwards came and stayed with Sri Aurobindo for some time. A remarkable thing about this was that Sri Aurobindo had seen V. Ramaswamy in the subtle vision before he actually met him. He once mentioned this and another prophetic vision in a letter: "I myself have these visions, only I don't usually try to remember or verify them. But there were two curious instances which were among the first of this kind and which therefore I remember. Once I was trying to see a recently elected deputy here and saw someone quite different from him, someone who afterwards came here as Governor. I ought never to have met him in the ordinary course, but a curious mistake happened and as a result I went and saw him in his bureau and at once recognised him. The other was a certain V. Ramaswamy whom I had to meet, but I saw him not as he was when he actually came, but as he became after a year's residence in my house. He became the very image of that vision, a face close-cropped, rough, rude, energetic, the very opposite of the dreamy smooth-faced enthusiastic Vaishnava who came to me. So that was the vision of a man I had never seen, but as he was to be in the future – a prophetic {{0}}vision"[[Sri Aurobindo On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p.360.]]

Life at Pondicherry was hard while Sri Aurobindo and his young companions lived in Comty Chetty Street. Moni or Bijoy, or both, used to make tea for Sri Aurobindo in the morning. The food for the afternoon meal was cooked in the house: usually there was rice, vegetables, rasam and sambar. At night Sri Aurobindo took a cup of payas (sweet milk and rice). They all used to sleep on the ground. For Sri Aurobindo there was a thin mattress; Moni and Bijoy used to lie on straw mats. In the later days at Comty Chetty Street, Moni and Bijoy bought eggs and prepared them for Sri Aurobindo.

In October there was a change of lodgings from Shanker Chetty's house; Sri Aurobindo moved to a house on Rue Suffren, in the southern part of the town. This house belonged to one Sunder Chetty. He remained here until April 1911. In late September, just before the removal, Saurin Bose, a cousin of Mrinalini Devi, came to Pondicherry. In November Nolini Kanta Gupta came. There were now four young men in all: Moni, Bijoy, Saurin and Nolini.

On 7 November 1910 Sri Aurobindo wrote to The Hindu, a Madras paper, about his retirement from politics:

"I shall be obliged if you will allow me to inform every one interested in my whereabouts through your journal that I am and will remain in Pondicherry. I left British India over a month before proceedings were taken against me and, as I had purposely retired here in order to pursue my Yogic sadhana undisturbed by political action or pursuit and had already severed connection with my political work, I did not feel called upon to surrender on the warrant for sedition, as might have been incumbent on me if I had remained in the political field. I have since lived here as a religious recluse, visited only by a few friends, French and Indian, but my whereabouts have been an open secret, long known to the agents of the Government and widely rumoured in Madras as well as perfectly well-known to every one in Pondicherry. I find myself now compelled somewhat against my will, to give my presence here a wider publicity. It has suited certain people for an ulterior object to construct a theory that I am not in Pondicherry, but in British India, and I wish to state emphatically that I have not been in British India since March last and shall not set foot on British territory even for a single moment in the future until I can return publicly. Any statement by any person to the contrary made now or in the future, will be false. I wish, at the same time, to make it perfectly clear that I have retired for the time from political activity of any kind and that I will see and correspond with no one in connection with political subjects. I defer all explanation or justification of my action in leaving British India until the High Court in Calcutta shall have pronounced on the culpability or innocence of the writing in the Karmayogin on which I am {{0}}indicted."[[The Hindu, 13 November 1910.]]

On 7 November judgment was delivered at the Calcutta High Court on the Karmayogin and Manmohan Ghose, the printer of the journal, was acquitted. (He had been convicted by the Chief Presidency Magistrate.) The article in question, "To My Countrymen", was considered not seditious.

After the removal to the hired house in Rue Suffren, each of the four members of the household had to cook by turns. In the morning tea, milk, sugar and bread (loaf) were given to all. Lunch, consisting of three pounds of meat divided between the five persons, or else curry, along with some other food, was served between 11.30 and 12.30. Between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, a cup of tea was given to Sri Aurobindo. At night, fish, rice and one vegetable or curry dish were prepared. The only furniture was a camp cot for Sri Aurobindo, one table and two chairs. There was no servant.

Sri Aurobindo remained in Sunder Chetty's rented house up to April 1911. From April 1911 to April 1913 he stayed in the house of Raghav Chetty in Rue St. Louis.

During the year 1911 Motilal Roy came to Pondicherry. He stayed for a month and a half. It was arranged that he should meet Sri Aurobindo twice a week. Sri Aurobindo asked Motilal about his sadhana. He had given Motilal a mantra which Motilal was repeating. Motilal asked Sri Aurobindo whether he should continue the Japa. Sri Aurobindo told him to stop it. In order to maintain secrecy Motilal used to come by the back door of the house.

Motilal has described his visit of 1911 in one of his books. The details given there are highly coloured by his imagination. One thing he speaks of is true: the great economic hardship during this period.

In this year (1911) cooking was done by turns. All other members of the household used to finish their baths and wait for lunch in the kitchen, which was also the dining room. Sri Aurobindo used to take his bath last and come directly to the dining room. There were only two lamps in the house – a candle lamp in Sri Aurobindo's room and a small kerosene lamp in the kitchen. When dinner was ready at night the candle lamp was taken to the kitchen.

During the year Sri Aurobindo gave Latin, Greek and French lessons to Moni and Nolini. Books worth ten rupees were ordered every month. Sri Aurobindo went to Srinivasachari's house on the occasion of his daughter's marriage.

It was Sri Aurobindo's intention to return to the field of work after a certain poise of the sadhana was established. In an entry of a sadhak's diary dated 30 March 1924, it is noted: "When Sri Aurobindo came to Pondicherry the idea was that the sadhana might take about six months after which time all those who were here would go back and restart the work. Then one year passed and yet Sri Aurobindo did not go back. Then a period of four years was put down as the limit. In the meantime, the first world war intervened."

K. V. R. Iyengar met Sri Aurobindo in the Rue St. Louis house. He seems to have promised financial help but evidently it was irregular and inadequate. V. Ramaswamy (Va-Ra), who had come from Tanjore to stay with Sri Aurobindo, used to meet Sri Aurobindo daily in the evening. K. Amrita used to visit V. Ramaswamy.

An incident which threatened to happen but did not come about deserves to be mentioned in order to give an idea of the atmosphere and the difficulties of those days. There was one Nand Gopal Chetty whose family, which provided stevedore service to steamers touching not only Pondicherry but also Madras, Nagapattam, etc., was rich and influential. Nand Gopal was taking a prominent part in the politics of French India. He seems to have agreed to participate in a plan of the British government agents to carry Sri Aurobindo out of the limits of French India with the help of goondas, so that Sri Aurobindo might be arrested by the British authorities and held up on some fabricated charge. The information of this intended plan reached Sri Aurobindo through Moni, Bijoy and others. To foil the plan the young men armed themselves with acid bottles to prevent any forcible entry into the house. Fortunately no one turned up. It was known afterwards that a warrant of arrest was issued against Nand Gopal on the same day as the projected abduction by the leaders of the opposite political party (in a matter connected with local elections) and he had to flee from Pondicherry to Madras to evade arrest. The plan thus completely miscarried.

When Sri Aurobindo was in the St. Louis house the French police came and searched it. The circumstances were as follows. Many political refugees and revolutionaries from British India had crossed over as refugees to Pondicherry because it was a French territory. Before the First World War, the French generally looked upon the English as rivals and they jealously asserted the right of giving asylum to political workers who were against the British rule in India. V. V. S. Aiyar, the revolutionary, Subramanya Bharati, the patriot-poet, and Srinivasachari were already there in 1910. Then Nagaswamy Aiyar came, and from Bengal Sri Aurobindo and four other persons. V. V. S. Aiyar being implicated in revolutionary activity came in the year 1912. The British government, in consequence, increased the number of its secret agents, C. I. D. men, in Pondicherry.

In July 1912 some secret service men threw a tin containing seditious literature into the well of V. V. S. Aiyar's house. As the British agents could not openly act in French territory, they employed Mayuresan, a French Indian, to complain against Bharati and other patriots, alleging that they were engaged in dangerous activities and that, if a search of their house was made, proof of the complaint would be found. He had not mentioned Sri Aurobindo by name but as Bharati, V. V. S. Aiyar and Srinivasachari were friends of Sri Aurobindo, the French government included his name on a list of those whose houses were to be searched.

But the scheme of the secret agents fell through, because the tin came up from the well when V. V. S. Aiyar's maid-servant drew water. Bharati went to Sri Aurobindo immediately and asked his advice. Sri Aurobindo told him to inform the French police and to ask them to come and see the tin to find what it contained. The French government took charge of the tin and found that it contained seditious pamphlets and journals. On some there was the image of Kali and some writing in Bengali. The suspicion was supposed to be created that all these refugees were carrying on correspondence with Shyamji Krishna Varma, Madame Cama and other leaders of the revolutionary movement in Europe and were trying to hatch an Indian conspiracy with their help.

The investigating magistrate who came to search Sri Aurobindo's house was one M. Nandot, who arrived with the chief of police and the public prosecutor. He found practically no furniture in the house, only a few trunks, a table and a chair. On opening the drawers of the table he found only books and papers. On some of the papers Greek was written. He was very much surprised and asked if Sri Aurobindo knew Greek. When he came to know that he knew Latin, Greek and other European languages, his suspicion waned, yielding place to a great respect for Sri Aurobindo. He invited Sri Aurobindo to meet him in his chambers later and Sri Aurobindo complied with his request.

Mayuresan, threatened with a charge of making a false complaint, disappeared from Pondicherry and took refuge in British India.

The financial condition was very hard during this year – sometimes for three or four days in the week all the members of the household had to go without fish or meat. A letter written to Motilal Roy on 3 July 1912 gives an idea of the stringent economic situation:


Dear M.

Your money (by letter and wire) and clothes reached safely. The French Post Office here has got into the habit (not yet explained) of not delivering your letters till Friday; that was the reason why we wired to you thinking you had not sent the money that week. I do not know whether this means anything, – formerly we used to get your letters on Tuesday, afterwards it came to Wednesday, then Thursday and finally Friday. It may be a natural evolution of French Republicanism. Or it may be. Something else. I see no signs of the seals having been tampered with, but that is not an absolutely sure indication of security. The postman may be paid by the police. Personally, however, I am inclined to believe in the Republican administration theory, – the Republic always likes to have time on its hands. Still, if you like, you can send Important communications to any other address here you may know of, for the present (of course, by French post and a Madrasi address). All others should come by the old address, – you may be sure, I think, no letter will be actually intercepted, on this side. By the way, please let us know whether Mr. Banomali Pal received a letter by French post from Achari enclosing another to Parthasarathi.

I have not written all this time because I was not allowed to put pen to paper for some time, – that is all. I send enclosed a letter to our Marathi friend. If he can give you anything for me, please send it without the least delay. If not, I must ask you to procure for me by will-power or any other power in heaven or on earth Rs.50 at least as a loan. If you cannot get it elsewhere, why not apply to Barid Babu? Also, if Nagen is in Calcutta, ask him whether the Noakhali gentleman can let me have anything. I was told he had Rs.300 put aside for me if I wanted it; but I did not wish to apply to him except in case of necessity. The situation just now is that we have Rs. 1 ½ or so in hand. Srinivasa is also without money. As to Bharati living on nothing means an uncertain quantity. The only other man in Pondicherry whom I could at present ask for help is absent sine die and my messenger to the South not returned. The last time he came, he brought a promise of Rs.1000 in a month and some permanent provision afterwards, but the promise like certain predecessors has not yet been fulfilled and we sent him for cash. But though he should have been here three days ago, he has not returned, and even when he returns, I am not quite sure about the cash and still less sure about the sufficiency of the amount. No doubt, God will provide, but He has contracted a bad habit of waiting till the last moment. I only hope He does not wish us to learn how to live on a minus quantity like Bharati.

Other difficulties are disappearing. The case brought against the Swadeshis (no one in this household was included in it although we had a very charmingly polite visit from the Parquet and Juge d'Instruction) has collapsed into the nether regions and the complainant and his son have fled from Pondicherry and become, like ourselves "political refugees" in Cuddalore. I hear he has been sentenced by default to five years imprisonment on false accusation, but I don't know yet whether the report is true. The police were to have left at the end of {{0}}Pondicherry[[The beginning of this sentence, reproduced here as it appears in Sri Aurobindo's manuscript, should probably read: "The police were to have left Pondicherry at the end of the month."]] but a young lunatic (one of Bharati's old disciples in patriotism and atheism) got involved in a sedition-search (for the Indian Sociologist of all rubbish in the world!) and came running here in the nick of time for the police to claim another two months' holiday in Pondi-cherry. However, I think their fangs have been drawn. I may possibly send you the facts of the case for publication in the Nayak or any other paper, but I am not yet certain.

I shall write to you about Sadhana etc. another time.

{{0}}Kali[[Sri Aurobindo, Supplement, (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 426–27.]]


It can be seen from the above letter that there had been a search in the Rue St. Louis house. Sri Aurobindo also refers in it to the escape of Mayuresan to Cuddalore.

On 15 August Sri Aurobindo's birthday was celebrated. Some local people – Sada, Pitrus, David and four others – besides the members of the household, took part in the celebration. Sri Aurobindo sat in a chair in the outer verandah of the new house and all those who had come passed one by one in front of him. Some sweets were distributed.

Once it seemed likely that the French government might yield to the pressure of the British government in the matter of handing over the political refugees. This was a very crucial time for all of them. Subramanya Bharati got very excited and disturbed over the news as was usual with him. One day he came all excited and agitated and asked Sri Aurobindo what he proposed to do in case the French government would not shield them. Bharati asked, "Do you not prefer to go out of India in that case? What is your view?" Sri Aurobindo turned his back to him and sat quietly for a few minutes. He then turned to Bharati and said, "Mr. Bharati! I am not going to budge an inch from Pondicherry. I know nothing will happen to me. As for yourself you can do what you like." After that he sat silent in his chair. Bharati and others dropped the idea of going either to Djibuti, or Indochina or Tripoli, which was in their minds.

In April 1913 Sri Aurobindo changed his residence from St. Louis Street to Mission Street. The rent of the house was Rs.15 per month. The reason of the change was economic stress.

15 August was celebrated in the Mission Street house. Sri Aurobindo was not well on that day, he had fever. But he came out and sat in the verandah and all those who had come passed before him. Moni had composed a Bengali poem which he read. Sri Aurobindo liked it and gave him a garland.

During this year, apparently, Sri Aurobindo translated C. R. Das's Sagar Sangit into English verse. For this the latter sent Rs.1000. V. Ramaswamy (Va-Ra) went back to Tanjore during the year.

In October 1913 Sri Aurobindo moved to 41 (afterwards 10), Rue Francois Martin. This house was better lighted and ventilated. Up till this point there had been no furniture worth the name: no bedding, only mats with pillows; only two chairs one of which Sri Aurobindo used while writing and another outside which he used while receiving someone or giving an interview. Only one writing table and one camp-cot were there. The canvas of the camp-cot had been torn on one side, so Sri Aurobindo used to lie down carefully on the untom side and sleep! In 1914 this house became the office of the Arya. Sri Aurobindo remained here up to 1922.

An incident which took place in the new house during November-December is worth noting. A cousin of Bijoy Kumar Nag named Nagen Nag, who was suffering from tuberculosis, came to Pondicherry sometime in the month of July. The doctors had advised him to try a change of climate at the seaside as a stay in the hills had done him no good. Bijoy persuaded him to come to Pondicherry so that he might be near the sea and also profit by Sri Aurobindo's spiritual help. Nagen's coming partly eased the economic strain: they left the old house and hired the one at 41, Rue Francois Martin.

With Nagen Nag had come a servant called Birendranath Roy, who was employed as Nagen's cook. After coming to Pondicherry, Biren became the general manager, cook etc., of Sri Aurobindo's house. Being a Bengali, he became, like the others, a member of the household. One day, after they had been living in 41, Rue Francois Martin for some time, Biren had his head shaved completely. Suresh Chakravarty – alias Moni – took a fancy to give himself a similar complete shave. Generally, Moni was known to be very keen on dressing well and keeping up a good apprearance. Biren tried to dissuade him from shaving himself, but Moni was insistent and carried out his resolve.

This was, or looked, accidental. But its result was very strange. Biren was in fact a secret agent of the Bengal government. As he had joined Nagen Nag at Khulna there was no chance of any suspicion being aroused against him. Biren wanted to return to Bengal as he had passed six to eight months at Pondicherry. He asked the police department to send a substitute and the new man was expected shortly. The arrangement was that the new man should come to the Magry Hotel to meet Biren. As there were four or five Bengalis living with Sri Aurobindo, Biren had identified himself in a letter as the man with the shaven head. If the new man inquired about Biren, the fact of their being secret agents would perhaps become known!

When Moni got his head shaved, Biren felt sure that all the inmates staying with Sri Aurobindo knew him to be a secret agent, because otherwise Moni would not have shaved his head in spite of his attempt to dissuade him. From that day he became frightened and depressed. He sometimes went for a walk along the seaside with Moni and used to ask his advice as to what he should do, as he did not want to continue staying in Pondicherry. Moni used to tell him to return to Bengal and not be anxious about Nagen. Biren used to conclude from this that Moni was pulling his leg and pretending he did not know him to be a secret agent.

In these early years at Pondicherry there used to be wine-sittings when some friend was generous or when finances permitted. One night there was such a party. All were talking and enjoying themselves at about ten or eleven at night when Biren did something extraordinary. He declared that he wanted to say something quite startling to the company. The atmosphere was rather light. Everyone believed that it would be some joke, and asked him to come out with it. Biren said: I am a C.I.D. man"! No one believed him in the whole company; everyone began to laugh. Biren thought that as they knew the facts already they were only fooling him. So he said, "You do not seem to believe, but I am just going to bring the money I have received." He went down and brought Rs.50. He embraced every one who was present and at last sat down at the feet of Sri Aurobindo and offered him the money. He assured Sri Aurobindo that he had not sent any report against him or anyone else. He was much moved and began to weep. The whole atmosphere changed. Everyone became serious. Sri Aurobindo did not say anything.

This shows how the atmosphere in those days was full of suspicion and also how great was the number of secret agents in Pondicherry. The way in which Biren's confession came out was a miracle. He remained for some time after this, but he was afraid and used to close the doors of his room while he slept. He went to Bengal after about a month. He went to Mesopotamia during the First World War so that the revolutionaries might not take their revenge on him! He finally left the police department in 1921 or 1922. From 1924 even the occasional taking of wine was given up.

Also in November or December Motilal Roy came to Pondicherry incognito. He remained a month and a half at 10, Rue Francois Martin. He went back by steamer as there was some apprehension that he might be arrested at Madras.

Motilal was sending money to Sri Aurobindo from Chandernagore. It was easy for him to do this from there since both Chandernagore and Pondicherry were French possessions. Durgadas Seth, a moneyed man of Chandernagore, is reported to have given large sums of money to Motilal Roy to send to Sri Aurobindo. Motilal was also publishing all Bengali as well as some English books of Sri Aurobindo.

K. Amrita used to stay in Pondicherry during his school vacations. At one point he got into economic difficulties and had to stop his studies. Sri Aurobindo, in spite of his own difficulties, helped him with money and also used his influence with some well-known people in Madras on Amrita's behalf. Amrita was able to take his matriculation. Sri Aurobindo sometimes used to read to him from Browning, Kalidasa, Shakespeare and the Mahabharata. At times he read his own poem Savitri and his drama Eric.

Moni, Nolini and Saurin went to Bengal in February 1914. They returned in September.

On 29 March 1914 at 3.30 p.m., the Mother met Sri Aurobindo at 10, Rue Francois Martin. Her age at that time was 37. She and Paul Richard, her husband, remained in Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo was persuaded to start a philosophical magazine in order to give to the world his grand synthesis of knowledge and yogic experience in terms of a rational exposition. It was decided to start the review, which was called the Arya, on the fifteenth of August, Sri Aurobindo's birthday.

In order to spread the idea in France, a French edition of Arya, subtitled Revue de la Grande Synthθse, was published simultaneously. But the First World War intervened and after seven issues the French magazine was discontinued.

Once Sri Aurobindo wrote to a disciple about the Arya: "It will be the intellectual side of my work for the {{0}}world.”[[Sri Aurobindo, Supplement, p. 456.]] In another letter to Dilip Kumar Roy he said: "And philosophy! Let me tell you in confidence that I never, never, never was a philosopher – although I have written philosophy which is another story altogether. I knew precious little about philosophy before I did the Yoga and came to Pondicherry – I was a poet and a politician, not a philosopher. How I managed to do it and why? First, because Richard proposed to me to co-operate in a philosophical review – and as my theory was that a Yogi ought to be able to turn his hand to anything, I could not very well refuse; and then he had to go to the war and left me in the lurch with sixty-four pages a month of philosophy all to write by my lonely self. Secondly, because I had only to write down in the terms of the intellect all that I had observed and come to know in practising Yoga daily and the philosophy was there automatically. But that is not being a {{0}}philosopher!"[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 374.]]

It is clear from his letter quoted above that the Arya was not written from the intellect though it was written for it. The aim of the Arya as declared by Sri Aurobindo was: "... to feel out for the thought of the future, to help in shaping its foundations and to link it to the best and most vital thought of the past....

"The earth is a world of Life and Matter, but man is not a vegetable nor an animal; he is a spiritual and a thinking being who is set here to shape and use the animal mould for higher purposes, by higher motives, with a more divine instrumentation..

"The problem of thought therefore is to find out the right idea and the right way of harmony; to restate the ancient and eternal spiritual truth of the Self so that it shall reembrace, permeate and dominate the mental and physical life; to develop the most profound and vital methods of psychological self-discipline and self-development so that the mental and psychical life of man may express the spiritual life through the utmost possible expansion of its own richness, power and complexity; and to seek for the means and motives by which his external life, his society and his institutions may remould themselves progressively in the truth of the spirit and develop towards the utmost possible harmony of individual freedom and social unity.

"This is our ideal and our search in the Arya....

"Philosophy is the intellectual search for the fundamental truth of things; religion is the attempt to make the truth dynamic in the soul of man. They are essential to each other....

"Our first preoccupation in the Arya has therefore been with the deepest thought that we could command on the philosophical foundations of the problem; and we have been so profoundly convinced that without this basis nothing we could say would have any real, solid and permanent value that we have perhaps given too great a space to difficult and abstruse thought whether in the shaping of our own ideas or in the study and restatement of the ancient Eastern {{0}}knowledge."[[Sri Aurobindo, "Our Ideal", Arya , Vol. II, No. 1 (15 August 19.1S), pp. 1–9. (Of the portions given here, all except the first and last are published, in a slightly revised form, in Sri Aurobindo, The Supramental Manifestation and Other Writings [Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971], p. 308 and pp. 313–14.)]]

Sri Aurobindo used to correct the proofs of the Arya and see that they were dispatched regularly on the fifteenth of every month. The review was printed at the Modem Press, Pondicherry. He used to write out the matter himself, at times composing it straight on the typewriter. Sometimes even at night he would go on typing the articles for the press. '

After August Bijoy Nag started from Pondicherry for Calcutta. At Villupuram he was taken in custody under the Defence of India Act. He was taken to Calcutta and kept in "A" class confinement till the end of the war.

As mentioned previously Moni, Nolini, and Saurin returned in September from Bengal. Saurin was given charge of the Arya office; Moni was managing the house and the kitchen. The Arya office was in the house where the Mother was staying. In the beginning Arya had two hundred subscribers.

During this year the Mother used to come to Sri Aurobindo's house every day between 4 and 4.30 p.m. She brought sweets prepared from coconut. Moni and Nolini and others used to go to play football at five o'clock. The Mother used to prepare cocoa for Sri Aurobindo. Paul Richard used to come up and join them.

Every Sunday there was a standing invitation to Sri Aurobindo and all the members of the house to have dinner at the Mother's house. Sri Aurobindo used to go to the Mother's house (which was very near) at about 4.30 in the afternoon. The other members of the household joined after coming from the football ground. The talk used to be prolonged up to nine or ten at night.

Money from the sale of Murari Pukur Bagan seems to have reached Sri Aurobindo during this year (1914). A letter was written to Motilal Roy asking him to stop all political activities.

Sri Aurobindo's daily routine during this year was: reading The Hindu at nine o'clock and meeting persons who may have come to see him. Meeting outsiders was the only change from the programme of previous years. Lunch was between 12 and 12.30. In the evening at four o'clock, Bharati came, and at five V. V. S. Aiyar and Srinivasachari came and remained till eight o'clock, by which time Nolini would return from the football ground. The evening meal was taken at nine.

Events from 1913 to 1920 are not available in a very connected form. Whatever has been found is presented here. After 1913, Sri Aurobindo very rarely went out to see people or attend functions. The occasions on which he went out between 1913 and 1920 are as follows: (1) to the house of Joseph David (afterwards Mayor of Pondicherry) on the occasion of his marriage (1914?); (2) to David's place on the occasion of his daughter's baptism; (3) on the occasion of the marriage of Sada Oudiyar, a Tamil Christian, who was a supervisor of the jail; (4) to meet one Mr. Shastri, a man of letters, two or three times; (5) to attend the opening ceremony of the "Aryan Stores", 1916; (6) to the house at 2, Line Beach, where Motilal Roy stayed (1920?). After 1920, Sri Aurobindo paid no visits to anyone. In fact, he went out of the house only when he changed his residence.

From 1913 to 1920, Sri Aurobindo was staying in 41, Rue Francois Martin, with four or five young men. In those days, there was no separate bathroom. There was one tap in the open courtyard. The inmates took their bath under the tap. Sri Aurobindo used to take his bath last, a few minutes before lunch.

The one towel used by the inmates of the house served him also!

During these years, it seems, Sri Aurobindo used to lead his daily life according to some ideal. He used to carry out the dominating ideal in every detail of his life. At one time it was freedom of the individual and democracy. At this time he considered everyone else his equal and acted accordingly. Once his foot touched Amrita's inadvertently. Sri Aurobindo sat up in the chair and said, "I beg your pardon."

Sometimes the proofs of the Arya were delayed because the compositor used to drink. When the proofs arrived late Amrita used to scold him for drinking. Once Sri Aurobindo came out of his room on hearing the talk and said: "You have no right to interfere in his personal life. It is meaningless to advise him. He has perfect freedom to drink. What you should tell him is to observe the terms of the contract and give the proofs regularly." At this time democracy was dominant in his mind. In 1915 the Arya was brought out regularly. On 21 February of this year, the Mother's birthday was celebrated for the first time in Pondicherry. On 22 February, the Mother had to go to France on account of the war.

On 1 September 1915, Prabartak began publication with a view to put Sri Aurobindo's ideals before Bengal. After 1920, when Motilal Roy separated from Sri Aurobindo, it became the mouthpiece of the Samgha at Chandernagore of which Motilal was the leader.

In September 1916 the "Aryan Stores" was opened on Rue Dupliex. The shop was in the Bazar. The capital for it was given by the Mother. Saurin Bose looked after the management. Haradhan Baxi of Chandernagore was now in Pondicherry undergoing military training to join the force in France in the First World War. He used to visit the house and meet Sri Aurobindo. Khaserao Jadhav came to Pondicherry and met Sri Aurobindo. He was put up at the Magry Hotel.


The following seven letters written in 1915 and 1916 clearly express the mission that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had in common, the trials they had in their work for humanity, and their unshakeable faith in the ultimate victory.

Chapter IX. Pondicherry: 1910–1926. Letters of Sri Aurobindo to the Mother

All is always for the best, but it is sometimes from the external point of view an awkward best....

The whole earth is now under one law and answers to the same vibrations and I am sceptical of finding any place where the clash of the struggle will not pursue us. In any case, an effective retirement does not seem to be my destiny. I must remain in touch with the world until I have either mastered adverse circumstances or succumbed or carried on the struggle between the spiritual and physical so far as I am destined to carry it on. This is how I have always seen things and still see them. As for failure, difficulty and apparent impossibility I am too much habituated to them to be much impressed by their constant self-presentation except for passing moments....

One needs to have a calm heart, a settled will, entire self-abnegation and the eyes constantly fixed on the beyond to live undiscouraged in times like these which are truly a period of universal decomposition. For myself, I follow the Voice and look neither to right nor to left of me. The result is not mine and hardly at all now even the {{0}}labour.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself , p. 424.]]

6 May 1915


Heaven we have possessed, but not the earth; but the fullness of the Yoga is to make, in the formula of the Veda, "Heaven and Earth equal and {{0}}one".[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 424–25.]]

20 May 1915


Everything internal is ripe or ripening, but there is a sort of locked struggle in which neither side can make a very appreciable advance (somewhat like the trench warfare in Europe), the spiritual force insisting against the resistance of the physical world, that resistance disputing every inch and making more or less effective counter-attacks.... And if there were not the strength and Ananda within, it would be harassing and disgusting work; but the eye of knowledge looks beyond and sees that it is only a protracted {{0}}episode.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 425.]]

28 July 1915


Nothing seems able to disturb the immobility of things and all that is active outside our own selves is a sort of welter of dark and sombre confusion from which nothing formed or luminous can emerge. It is a singular condition of the world, the very definition of chaos with the superficial form of the old world resting apparently intact on the surface. But a chaos of long disintegration or of some early new birth? It is the thing that is being fought out from day to day, but as yet without any approach to a {{0}}decision.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 425.]]

16 September 1915


Letter of the Mother to Sri Aurobindo

The entire consciousness immersed in divine contemplation, the whole being enjoyed a supreme and vast felicity.

Then was the physical body seized, first in its lower members and next the whole of it, by a sacred trembling which made all personal limits fall away little by little even in the most material sensation. The being grew in greatness progressively, methodically, breaking down every barrier, shattering every obstacle that, it might contain and manifest a force and a power which increased ceaselessly in immensity and intensity. It was as a progressive dilatation of the cells until there was a complete identification with the earth: the body of the awakened consciousness was the terrestrial globe moving harmoniously in etheral space. And the consciousness knew that its global body was thus moving in the arms of the universal Being, and it gave itself, it abandoned itself to It in an ecstasy of peaceful bliss. Then it felt that its body was absorbed in the body of the universe and one with it; the consciousness became the consciousness of the universe, immobile in its totality, moving infinitely in its internal complexity. The consciousness of the universe sprang towards the Divine in an ardent aspiration, a perfect surrender, and it saw in the splendour of the immaculate Light the radiant Being standing on a many-headed serpent whose body coiled infinitely around the universe. The Being in an eternal gesture of triumph mastered and created at one and the same time the serpent and the universe that issued from him; erect on the serpent he dominated it with all his victorious might, and the same gesture that crushed the hydra enveloping the universe gave it eternal birth. Then the consciousness became this Being and perceived that its form was changing once more; it was absorbed into something which was no longer a form and yet contained all forms, something which, immutable, sees, – the Eye, the Witness. And what It sees, is. Then this last vestige of form disappeared and the consciousness itself was absorbed into the Unutterable, the Ineffable.

The return towards the consciousness of the individual body took place very slowly in a constant and invariable splendour of Light and Power and Felicity and Adoration, by successive gradations, but directly, without passing again through the universal and terrestrial forms. And it was as if the modest corporeal form had become the direct and immediate vesture, without any intermediary, of the supreme and eternal {{0}}Witness.[[Sri Aurobindo, The Mother (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 471–72.]]

26 November 1915


Letter of Sri Aurobindo to the Mother

The experience you have described is Vedic in the real sense, though not one which would easily be recognised by the modem systems of Yoga which call themselves Yogic. It is the union of the "Earth" of the Veda and Purana with the divine Principle, an earth which is said to be above our earth, that is to say, the physical being and consciousness of which the world and the body are only images. But the modern Yogas hardly recognise the possibility of a material union with the {{0}}Divine.[[Sri Aurobindo, The Mother (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972). 384.]]

31 December 1915


This letter of 1916 also demonstrates the invincible will which enabled Sri Aurobindo to pursue his yogic sadhana:


The difficulties you find in the spiritual progress are common to us all. In this Yoga the progress is always attended with these relapses into the ordinary mentality until the whole being is so remoulded that it can no longer be affected either by any downward tendency in our own nature or by the impressions from the discordant world outside or even by the mental state of those associated with us most closely in the Yoga. The ordinary Yoga is usually concentrated on a single aim and therefore less exposed to such recoils; ours is so complex and many-sided and embraces such large aims that we cannot expect any smooth progress until we near the completion of an effort, – especially as all the hostile forces in the spiritual world are in a constant state of opposition and beseige our gains; for the complete victory of a single one of us would mean a general downfall among them. In fact by our own unaided effort we could not hope to succeed. It is only in proportion as we come into a more and more universal communion with the Highest that we can hope to overcome with any finality. For myself I have had to come back so often from things that seemed to have been securely gained that it is only relatively that I can say of any part of my Yoga, "It is done." Still I have always found that when I recover from one of these recoils, it is always with a new spiritual gain which might have been neglected or missed if I had remained securely in my former state of partial satisfaction. Especially, as I have long had the map of my advance sketched out before me, I am able to measure my progress at each step and the particular losses are compensated for by the clear consciousness of the general advance that has been made. The final goal is far but the progress made in the face of so constant and massive an opposition is the guarantee of its being gained in the end. But the time is in other hands than ours. Therefore I have put impatience and dissatisfaction far away from me.

An absolute equality of the mind and heart and a clear purity and calm strength in all the members of the being have long been the primary condition on which the power working in me has insisted with an inexhaustible patience and an undeviating constancy of will which rejects all the efforts of other powers to hasten forward to the neglect of these first requisites. Wherever they are impaired it returns upon them and works over and again over the weak points like a workman patiently mending the defects of his work. These seem to me to be the foundation and condition of all the rest. As they become firmer and more complete the system is more able to hold consistently and vividly the settled perception of the One in all things and beings, in all qualities, forces, happenings, in all this world-consciousness and the play of its workings. That founds the Unity and upon it the deep satisfaction and growing rapture of the Unity. It is this to which our nature is most recalcitrant. It persists in the division, in the dualities, in the sorrow and unsatisfied passion and labour, it finds it difficult to accustom itself to the divine largeness, joy and equipoise – especially the vital and material parts of our nature; it is they that pull down the mind which has accepted and even when it has long lived in the joy and peace and oneness. That, I suppose, is why the religions and philosophies have had so strong a leaning to the condemnation of Life and Matter and aimed at an escape instead of a victory. But the victory has to be won; the rebellious elements have to be redeemed and transformed, not rejected or excised.

When the Unity has been well founded, the static half of our work is done but the active half remains. It is then that in the One we must see the Master and His Power, – Krishna and Kali as I name them using the terms of our Indian religions; the Power occupying the whole of myself and my nature which becomes Kali and ceases to be anything else, the Master using, directing, enjoying the Power to his ends, not mine, with that which I call myself only as a centre of his universal existence and responding to its workings as a soul to the Soul, taking upon itself his image until there is nothing left but Krishna and Kali. This is the stage I have reached in spite of all set-backs and recoils, imperfectly indeed in the secureness and intensity of the state, but well enough in the general type. When that has been done, then we may hope to found securely the play in us of his divine Knowledge governing the action of his divine Power. The rest is the full opening up of the different planes of his world-play and the subjection of Matter and the body and the material world to the law of the higher heavens of the Truth. To these things towards which in my earlier ignorance I used to press forward impatiently before satisfying the first conditions – the effort, however, was necessary and made the necessary preparation of the material instruments – I can now only look forward as a subsequent eventuality in a yet distant vista of things.

To possess securely the Light and the Force of the supramental being, this is the main object to which the power is now turning. But the remnant of the old habits of intellectual thought and mental will come so obstinate in their determination to remain that the progress is hampered, uncertain and always falls back from the little achievement already effected. They are no longer within me, they are blind, stupid, mechanical, incorrigible even when they perceive their incompetence, but they crowd round the mind and pour in their suggestions whenever it tries to remain open only to the supramental Light and the higher Command, so that the Knowledge and the Will reach the mind in a confused, distorted and often misleading form. It is, however, only a question of time: the siege will diminish in force and be finally {{0}}dispelled.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 425–28.]]

26 June 1916


During 1917 the Arya continued its publication regularly. The only other information available regarding this year is this account of an interview with B. Shiva Rao:

"The Home-Rule movement was at that time quickly gathering support and vitality mainly as a result of the internments. Some of us who were on the staff of 'New-India' went out on trips to build up a campaign of organisation. One of these trips took me to Pondicherry where Sri Aurobindo had made his home after leaving Bengal in 1910. Even in those early days there was an atmosphere of great peace and serenity about him which left on me a deep, enduring impression. He spoke softly, almost in whispers. He thought Mrs. Besant was absolutely right in preaching home rule for India, as well as in her unqualified support of the Allies in the First World War against Germany. It was a brief meeting of some minutes' duration. I believe I saw him again some months later. For twenty-five years I had no sort of contact with him but he was gracious enough to remember me, during Sir Stafford Cripps, wartime mission to India in 1942. I was surprised one morning when the negotiations were threatening to reach a deadlock (on the transitional arrangements in regard to defence) to receive a message from him for Gandhiji and Sri Nehru: the Cripps' offer, it was his deliberate view, should be accepted unconditionally by the Congress leaders. It is futile to speculate now what India's subsequent fate might have been, if the advice of the sage at Pondicherry had been {{0}}accepted."[[B. Shiva Rao, "Early Days of Journalism", The Hindu, 10 May 1959.]]

The Arya was published regularly during the year 1918. Chandra Shekhar Ayya, an Andhra intellectual, was staying in Pondicherry and meeting the inmates of the house and Sri Aurobindo.

In 1918 the British government declared the Montague Chelmsford Reforms. Mrs. Besant wrote pressing letters to Sri Aurobindo to give out his opinion about the reforms. He sent an article, but as he had retired outwardly from political activity and did not want his name to be published, the article was signed: "An Indian Nationalist". In the article he described the reforms as "a Chinese puzzle" and "a bulky and imposing {{0}}shadow".[[Sri Aurobindo, Karmayogin (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), P. 433.]]

On 17 December 1918 Mrinalini Devi died of influenza.

The author met Sri Aurobindo at the end of December. He had been corresponding with Sri Aurobindo since 1914. Amrita and Moni – Suresh Chakravatry – were in the house during the interview, which covered (1) need of monetary help; (2) the question of Indian independence and permission to start revolutionary action (for Sri Aurobindo's advice see Appendix I); (3) spiritual sadhana.

In 1919 Amrita came to Pondicherry to stay with Sri Aurobindo. When Amrita had come during his vacations from Madras, he and Bijoy Nag, who was staying with Sri Aurobindo, usually spent long hours talking to him. But this did not disturb Sri Aurobindo's sadhana. When he was asked about this he said that outer conditions had ceased to have any influence on his sadhana. His sadhana was not interrupted even when he was writing the Arya; in fact, the writing was a part of his yoga.

Saurin Bose who had gone to Bengal did not return – he as well as Nolini Kanta Gupta got married in 1919. The "Aryan Stores", of which Saurin had been in charge, was sold to Partha Sarathy Chetty. (He wound up the business in 1932.)

Sometimes during 1919 and 1920 Sri Aurobindo used to get an irritation in the right eye, which became red. Those who stayed with him attributed this trouble to the cigars which he smoked in those days. One day at eight o'clock in the evening the eye was swollen. Sri Aurobindo told the inmates of the house that the swelling would go down after two hours. Then, as was usual with him, he began walking to and fro and meditating. After two hours the eye was normal. He always believed that the swelling had nothing to do with smoking – at least in his case.

Once, some years later, the person who was managing one of the two houses then occupied included cigars on the list of necessary articles. This was brought to Sri Aurobindo's notice. He said that oil, soap and similar articles (besides food) might be considered necessities, but that a cigar was not a necessity. Cigars were taken off the list. In 1926 Sri Aurobindo gave up at one effortless stroke his habit of smoking.

In 1919 Mukul Chandra De, who afterwards became Principal of the Calcutta School of Art, came to Pondicherry and met Sri Aurobindo. He took sittings for four days in order to draw a portrait. The result was not very successful.

On 5 January 1920 Sri Aurobindo replied to a letter of Joseph Baptista. Baptista was a well-known barrister of Bombay and one of the leaders of Tilak's nationalist party. After 1907 the nationalist party had been growing stronger every year and at the end of 1919 it was decided to bring out a paper from Bombay. Following Tilak's advice, the Socialist Democratic Party of Bombay invited Sri Aurobindo, through Baptista, to accept the editorship of the paper. The idea was that this position would afford Sri Aurobindo an opportunity to return to politics, and thus the nationalist party would get his valuable support. It was well known in nationalist circles that Tilak and Sri Aurobindo had the same political ideology so far as the question of Indian freedom was concerned. The reply of Sri Aurobindo is reproduced here in full.


Jan. 5, 1920

Dear Baptista,

Your offer is a tempting one, but I regret that I cannot answer it in the affirmative. It is due to you that I should state explicitly my reasons. In the first place I am not prepared at present to return to British India. This is quite apart from any political obstacle. I understand that up to last September the Government of Bengal (and probably the government of Madras also) were opposed to my return to British India and that practically this opposition meant that if I went back I should be interned or imprisoned under one or other of the beneficent Acts which are apparently still to subsist as helps in ushering in the new era of trust and cooperation. I do not suppose other Governments would be any more delighted by my appearance in their respective provinces. Perhaps the King's Proclamation may make a difference but that is not certain since, as I read it, it does not mean an amnesty but an act of gracious concession and benevolence limited by the discretion of the Viceroy. Now I have too much work on my hands to waste my time in the leisured ease of an in; voluntary Government guest. But even if I were assured of an entirely free action and movement, I should yet not go just now. I came to Pondicherry in order to have freedom and tranquillity for a fixed object having nothing to do with present politics – in which I have taken no direct part since my coming here, though what I could do for the country in my own way I have constantly done, – and until it is accomplished, it is not possible for me to resume any kind of public activity. But if I were in British India, I should be obliged to plunge at once into action of different kinds. Pondicherry is my place of retreat, my cave of tapasya, not of the ascetic kind, but of a brand of my own invention. I must finish that, I must be internally armed and equipped for my work before I leave it.

Next in the matter of the work itself, I do not at all look down on politics or political action or consider I have got above them. I have always laid a dominant stress and I now lay an entire stress on the spiritual life, but my idea of spirituality has nothing to do with ascetic withdrawal or contempt or disgust of secular things. There is to me nothing secular, all human activity is for me a thing to be included in a complete spiritual life, and the importance of politics at the present time is very great. But my line and intention of political activity would differ considerably from anything now current in the field. I entered into political action and continued it from 1903 to 1910 with one aim and one alone, to get into the mind of the people a settled will for freedom and the necessity of a struggle to achieve it in place of the futile ambling Congress methods till then in vogue. That is now done and the Amritsar Congress is the seal upon it. The will is not as practical and compact nor by any means as organised and sustained in action as it should be, but there is the will and plenty of strong and able leaders to guide it. I consider that in spite of the inadequacy of the Reforms, the will to self-determination, if the country keeps its present temper, as I have no doubt it will, is bound to prevail before long. What preoccupies me now is the question what it is going to do with its self-determination, how will it use its freedom, on what lines is it going to determine its future?

You may ask why not come out and help, myself, so far as I can, in giving a lead? But my mind has a habit of running inconveniently ahead of the times, – some might say, out of time altogether into the world of the ideal. Your party, you say, is going to be a social democratic party. Now I believe in something which might be called social democracy, but not in any of the forms now current, and I am not altogether in love with the European kind, however great an improvement it may be on the past. I hold that India having a spirit of her own and a governing temperament proper to her own civilisation, should in politics as in everything else strike out her own original path and not stumble in the wake of Europe. But this is precisely what she will be obliged to do, if she has to start on the road in her present chaotic and unprepared condition of mind. No doubt people talk of India developing on her own lines, but nobody seems to have very clear or sufficient ideas as to what those lines are to be. In this matter I have formed ideals and certain definite ideas of my own, in which at present very few are likely to follow me, – since they are governed by an uncompromising Spiritual idealism of an unconventional kind and would be unintelligible to many and an offence and stumbling-block to a great number. But I have not as yet any clear and full idea of the practical lines: I have no formed programme. In a word, I am feeling my way in my mind and am not ready for either propaganda or action. Even if I were, it would mean for some time ploughing my lonely furrow or at least freedom to take my own way. As the editor of your paper, I should be bound to voice the opinion of others and reserve my own, and while I have full sympathy with the general ideas of the advanced parties so far as concerns the action of the present moment and, if I were in the field, would do all I could to help them, I am almost incapable by nature of limiting myself in that way, at least to the extent that would be requisite.

Excuse the length of this script. I thought it necessary to explain fully so as to avoid giving you the impression that I declined your request from any affectation or reality of spiritual aloofness or wish to shirk the call of the country or want of sympathy with the work you and others are so admirably doing. I repeat my regret that I am compelled to disappoint you.

Yours sincerely,

Aurobindo {{0}}Ghose[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 429–31.]]


On 7 April Sri Aurobindo wrote, in Bengali, the letter known as Pondicherir Patra to his brother Barin. Barin had been released from the Andamans in 1919, after the armistice, and had written to Sri Aurobindo, asking several questions and stating some of his own views. The reply clarifies many points. Relevant passages from the letter are given in translation below.


April 7, 1920.

Dear Barin,

First, about your yoga. You wish to give me the charge of your yoga and I am willing to take it, but that means to give its charge to Him who is moving by His divine Shakti, whether secretly or openly, both you and me. But you must know that the necessary result of this will be that you will have to walk in the special way which He has given to me, the way which I call the path of the Integral Yoga. What I began with, what Lele gave me, was a seeking for the path, a circling in many directions, a touching, taking up, handling, scrutiny of this or that in all the old partial yogas....

Afterwards, when I came to Pondicherry, this unsteady condition came to an end. The Guru of the world who is within us then gave me the complete directions of my path – its complete theory, the ten limbs of the body of this Yoga. These ten years He has been making me develop it in experience, and this is not yet finished....

The Brahman, the Self, God are always there. What God wants in man is to embody Himself here in the individual and in the community, to realise God in life....

If we cannot rise above, that is, to the supramental level, it is hardly possible to know the last secret of the world and the problem it raises remains unsolved.... The physical body, the life, the mind and understanding, the supermind and the Ananda – these are the spirit's five levels. The higher we rise on this ascent the nearer to man comes the state of that highest perfection open to his spiritual evolution. Rising to the Supermind, it becomes easy to rise to the Ananda. One attains a firm foundation in the condition of the indivisible and infinite Ananda, not only in the timeless Parabrahman but in the body, in life, in the world. The integral being, the integral consciousness, the integral Ananda blossoms out and takes form in life. This is the central clue of my yoga, its fundamental principle.

This is no easy change to make. After these fifteen years I am only now rising into the lowest of the three levels of the Supermind and trying to draw up into it all the lower activities. But when this Siddhi is complete, then I am absolutely certain that God will through me give to others the Siddhi of the Supermind with less effort. Then my real work will begin. I am not impatient for success in the work. What is to happen will happen in God's appointed time. I have no impulse to make any unbalanced haste and rush into the field of work in the strength of the little ego. Even if I did not succeed in my work I would not be shaken. This work is not mine but God's. I will listen to no other call; when God moves me, then I will move.

I know very well that Bengal is not really ready. The spiritual flood which has come is for the most part a new form of the old. It is not the real transformation. Still this too was needed. Bengal has been awakening in itself the old yogas and exhausting their samskaras, extracting their essence and fertilising with it the soil. At first it was the turn of Vedanta – Adwaita, Sannyasa, Shankara's Maya and the rest. What is now in process is the turn of the Vaishnava Dharma – the Lila, love, the intoxication of emotional experience. All this is very old, unfitted for the new age and will not endure – for such excitement has no capacity to last. But the merit of the Vaishnava Bhava is that it keeps a connexion between God and the world and gives a meaning to life; but since it is a partial Bhava the whole connexion, the full meaning is not there. The tendency to create sects which you have noticed was inevitable. It is the nature of the mind to take the part and call it the whole and to exclude all the other parts. The Siddha who brings the Bhava, although he leans on its partial aspect, yet keeps some knowledge of the integral, even though he may not be able to give it form. But his disciples do not get that knowledge precisely because it is not in a form. They are tying their bundles; let them. The bundles will open of themselves when God manifests himself fully. These things are the signs of incompleteness and immaturity. I am not disturbed by them. Let the force of spirituality play in the country in whatever way and in as many sects as there may be. Afterwards we shall see. This is the infancy or the embryonic condition of the new age. It is a first hint, not even the beginning....

What I am aiming at is not a society like the present rooted in division. What I have in view is a Sangha, founded in the spirit and an image of its oneness....

You may say, what need is there of a sangha? Let me be free and live in every vessel; let all become one without form and let whatever must be take place in the midst of that vast formlessness. There is a truth here, but only one side of the truth. Our business is not with the formless Spirit only; we have to direct also the motion of life. And there can be no effective movement of life without form. It is the Formless that has taken form and that assumption of name and form is not a caprice of Maya. Form is there because it is indispensable. We do not want to rule out any activity of the world as beyond our province. Politics, industry, society, poetry, literature, art will all remain, but we must give them a new soul and a new form....

People now talk of spiritualising politics. The result of this will be, if there be any permanent result, some kind of Indianised Bolshevism. Even to that kind of work I have no objection. Let each man do according to his inspiration. But that is not the real thing. If one pours the spiritual power into all these impure forms – the water of the causal ocean into raw vessels – either that raw thing will break and the water will be spilt and lost or the spiritual power will evaporate and only the impure form remain. In all fields it is the same. I can give the spiritual power but that power will be expended in making the image of an ape and setting it up in the temple of Shiva. If the ape is endowed with life and made powerful, he may play the part of the devotee Hanuman and do much work for Rama – so long as that life and that power remains. But what we want in the Temple of India is not Hanuman, but the god, the Avatar Rama himself.

We can mix with all, but in order to draw all into the true path, keeping intact the spirit and form of our ideal. If we do not do that we shall lose our direction and the real work will not be done. If we remain everywhere individually, something will be done indeed; but if we remain everywhere as parts of a Sangha, a hundred times more will be done. As yet that time has not come. If we try to give a form hastily, it may not be the exact thing we want. The Sangha will be at first in unconcentrated form. Those who have the ideal will be united but work in different places. Afterwards, they will form something like a spiritual commune and make a compact Sangha. They will then give all their work a shape according to the demand of the spirit and the need of the age – not a bound and rigid form, not an {{0}}acalāvatana,[[“The Fossilised House" or "The Home of Conservatism" — name of a play by Rabindranath Tagore.]] but a free form which will spread out like the sea, mould itself into many waves and surround a thing here, overflood a thing there and finally take all into itself. As we go on doing this there will be established a spiritual community. This is my present idea. As yet it has not been fully developed. All is in God's hands; whatever He makes us do, that we shall do....

You write about the Deva Sangha and say, "I am not a God, am only a piece of much hammered and tempered iron."... No one is a God but in each man there is a God and to make Him manifest is the aim of divine life. That we can all do....

I do not want hundreds of thousands of disciples. It will be enough if I can get a hundred complete men, purified of petty egoism, who will be the instruments of God....

I am not going back to Bengal now, not because Bengal is not ready, but because I am not ready. If the unripe goes amid the unripe what can he {{0}}do?[[A Letter of Sri Aurobindo, Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Vol. XIV, No. 3 (August 1962), pp. ii-xxii (slightly edited).]]

Your {{0}}Sejdada[[Elder brother]]


These two letters written early in 1920 – one to Baptista and one to Barin – serve to clarify Sri Aurobindo's life-mission as it was then taking shape in his consciousness.

During the year 1920 it became customary for the inmates of the house and also a few outsiders to come and sit with Sri Aurobindo between 4.00 and 4.30 in the evening. He used to come out at his convenience. During the sitting general talk took place without any formality, on some public event, an article in the paper or a point concerning sadhana. At times humorous and light topics also came up. Some evenings were full of a natural silence verging on meditation.

On 24 April 1920 the Mother returned to Pondicherry. She stayed at first in the Magry Hotel, then moved to Subbu's hotel on Rue St. Louis near Rue St. Martin, and later to a house at 1, Rue St. Martin.

On 15 August the Standard Bearer, a weekly journal, was started by the Prabartak Samgha of Chandernagore. It was discontinued after a few years of somewhat irregular publication.

Sometime after September Nolini and Moni went to Bengal. Sri Aurobindo went to see them off at the station. There had been an inner upheaval in the house after the Mother's arrival.

On 24 November there was a great tempest with heavy rainfall. Water began to leak through the roof of the house on Rue St. Martin where the Mother was living. The rains did not abate. In the early part of the evening the roof of a godown on Rue d'Orleans collapsed due to heavy percolation of water into the roof. Sri Aurobindo, who had heard about the leakage at the Mother's house, said that she should remove to 41, Rue Francois Martin – the house where he was staying – as a precautionary measure. The removal began at eight in the evening and went on until midnight. A few articles which remained in the old house were taken the next morning. From that time the Mother always stayed in the same house as Sri Aurobindo. It was on the same day – 24 November – six years later that Sri Aurobindo attained siddhi in his sadhana. The day seems to be as significant as his own birthday, the fifteenth of August.

Towards the end of 1920, in response to the request of a Chandernagore journal, the Mother wrote these lines under the title "How I Became Conscious of My Mission":

"When and how did I become conscious of a mission which I was to fulfil on earth? And when and how I met Sri Aurobindo?

"These two questions you have asked me and I promised a short reply.

"For the knowledge of the mission, it is difficult to say when it came to me. It is as though I were born with it, and following the growth of the mind and brain, the precision and completeness of this consciousness grew also.

"Between 11 and 13 a series of psychic and spiritual experiences revealed to me not only the existence of God but man's possibility of uniting with Him, of realising Him integrally in consciousness and action, of manifesting Him upon earth in a life divine. This, along with a practical discipline for its fulfilment, was given to me during my body's sleep by several teachers some of whom I met afterwards on the physical plane.

"Later on, as the interior and exterior development proceeded, the spiritual and psychic relation with one of these beings became more and more clear and frequent; and although I knew little of the Indian philosophies and religions at that time I was led to call him Krishna, and henceforth I was aware that it was with him (whom I knew I should meet on earth one day) that the divine work was to be done.

"In the year 1910 my husband came alone to Pondicherry where, under very interesting and peculiar circumstances he made the acquaintance of Sri Aurobindo. Since then we both strongly wished to return to India – the country which I had always cherished as my true mother-country. And in 1914 this joy was granted to us.

"As soon as 'I saw Sri Aurobindo I recognised in him the well-known being whom I used to call Krishna.... And this is enough to explain why I am fully convinced that my place and my work are near him, in {{0}}India."[[The Mother, "How I Became Conscious of My Mission", Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre a/Education, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1 (February 1976), p. 14.]]

There were a number of notable visitors during 1920 and thereabouts. S. Duraiswami lyer, J. Nambiar and Mrinalini Chattopadhyaya came in 1919 or 1920. Mrinalini introduced the Mother to the sari. From that time the Mother began to wear it regularly. Towards the end of 1920 W. W. Pearson came from Shantiniketan and met the Mother; at about the same time James B. Cousins came and met the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. In 1920 Dr. Munje, the Congress leader, came to Pondicherry and stayed as Sri Aurobindo's guest. He had long talks with Sri Aurobindo on current Indian politics. Barin Ghose came in 1920 and Ullaskar Dutt, who had, like Barin, been sentenced to death by the sessions judge at Alipore, but later given life imprisonment and ultimately released, came in 1920 or 1921. Abinash Bhattacharya, Sri Aurobindo's co-worker during the Bande Mataram days, who also had been convicted at Alipore, came and stayed for a month or more. Finally, Amarendranath Chatterji of Uttarpara, who had been initiated into the revolutionary organisation by Sri Aurobindo, came in the summer of 1920 or 1921.

Amar was now a wanted man. For some time he had been travelling incognito all over India as the leader of a group of sannyasis. His assumed name was Swami Kevalananda. When he came to 41, Rue Francois Martin, Hrishikesh (later known as Vishuddhananda Giri), Motilal Roy, Rameshwar De, Natwardas, Amrita, Barin, Datta (Miss Hodgson) and the Mother, whom Amar did not meet, were staying in the house. Amar had long matted hair and carried iron tongs and a staff. He was unrecognisable. After some time he took Natwardas aside and revealed his identity to him in a low tone. When Motilal learned that it was Amar he rushed up to him, embraced him and took him upstairs where Sri Aurobindo was staying. Precautions had to be taken so that the other sadhus would not find out what was going on.

In the revolutionary days Sri Aurobindo had given Amar the name "Gabriel". Motilal told Sri Aurobindo that Gabriel had come. "Good Heavens!" was Sri Aurobindo's response. All of them sat down to talk. For some time Sri Aurobindo had been receiving reports from Tanjore, Tiruchirapalli and other places that some Panjabi sadhus had been preaching his ideas and philosophy. He had been at a loss to know who these Panjabi sadhus could be. Now the question was solved. The sadhus were put up in a Dharamsala and that night Amar dined in Sri Aurobindo's house. Sri Aurobindo told Amar not to resume his revolutionary activities. He and his companions departed the next morning.

In January 1921 the Arya ceased publication. Only five issues of the seventh volume (including one for both November and December 1920) came out.

During the winter of 1921 Vattel, a cook who had been dismissed from service in Sri Aurobindo's house, decided to make the place too hot for Sri Aurobindo to stay in. He enlisted the help of a Mahomedan fakir who, using some process of black magic, caused stones to fall inside the house. The incident is described by Sri Aurobindo himself:

"The stone-throwing began unobtrusively with a few stones thrown at the guest-house kitchen – apparently from the terrace opposite, but there was no one there. The phenomenon began at the fall of dusk and continued at first for half an hour, but daily it increased in frequency, violence and the size of the stones, and the duration of the attack increased also, sometimes lasting for several hours until, towards the end, in the hour or half hour before midnight, it became a regular bombardment; and now it was no longer at the kitchen only but thrown in other places as well: for example, the outer verandah. At first we took it for a human-made affair and sent for the police, but the investigation lasted only for a short time and when one of the constables in the verandah got a stone whizzing unaccountably between his two legs, the police abandoned the case in a panic. We made our own investigations, but the places whence the stones seemed to be or might be coming were void of human stone-throwers, Finally, as if to put us kindly out of doubt, the stones began falling inside closed rooms; one of these – it was a huge one and I saw it immediately after it fell – reposed flat and comfortable on a cane table as if that was its proper resting place. And so it went on till the missiles became murderous. Hitherto the stones had been harmless except for a daily battering of Bijoy's door – during the last days – which I watched the night before the end. They appeared in mid-air, a few feet above the ground, not coming from a distance but suddenly manifesting and, from the direction from which they flew, should have been thrown close in from the compound of the guest-house or the verandah itself, but the whole place was in clear light and I saw that there was no human being there nor could have been. At last the semi-idiot boy servant who was the centre of the attack and was sheltered in Bijoy's room under his protection, began to be severely hit and was bleeding from a wound by stones materialising inside the closed room. I went in at Bijoy's call and saw the last stone fall on the boy: Bijoy and he were sitting side by side and the stone was thrown at them in front but there was no one visible to throw it – the two were alone in the room. So unless it was Well's Invisible Man!

"So far we had only been watching or scouting around, but this was a little too much, it was becoming dangerous and something had to be done about it. The Mother, from her knowledge of the process of these things, decided that the process here must depend on a nexus between the boy servant and the house, so if the nexus were broken and the servant separated from the house, the stone-throwing would cease. We sent him away to Hrishikesh's place and immediately the whole phenomenon ceased; not a single stone was thrown after that and peace {{0}}reigned."[[Dilip Kumar Roy, Among the Great (Bombay: Jaico Publishing House, 1950), pp. 337–39: See Appendix II, pp. 306–08.]]

The phenomenon was witnessed by Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, Bijoy, Amrita, Satyen, Hrishikesh Kanjilal and Upendranath Bannerji. Upen, who did not believe in the existence of occult forces or in the possibility of materialisation, went out on the terrace with a lantern and a lathi looking for the persons responsible for the stone-throwing. He found no one and the stones went on falling without interruption.

In the year 1921 collective meditation was begun. At four in the evening the inmates of the house sat with Sri Aurobindo on the verandah of 41, Rue Francois Martin.

Motilal Roy came to Pondicherry in 1921. He had remained in Chandernagore after taking his spiritual initiation from Sri Aurobindo there in 1910. Between 1910 and 1916 he rendered financial assistance to Sri Aurobindo. People from Calcutta, Uttarpara, Falta and East Bengal who were sympathetic to revolutionary nationalism or who had a regard for Sri Aurobindo found it easy to render economic help through Motilal. They contacted him and he remitted the sums to Sri Aurobindo. After 1914 a centre of collective life under the inspiration of Sri Aurobindo, called the Prabartak Samgha, had taken form around Motilal. All Bengali books and many English books connected with Sri Aurobindo as well as the two journals Prabartak and The Standard Bearer were being published by the Prabartak Samgha.

Motilal and others had been expecting that when Sri Aurobindo returned to British India to start his work in the external field he would make Bengal his centre of operations. It seemed natural that he would begin his work from the centre at Chandernagore. Sri Aurobindo would be the knowledge-aspect and Motilal the practical or Karma-aspect.

Sri Aurobindo called Motilal to Pondicherry for intense spiritual sadhana in order to bring about the transformation of his nature. Motilal seems to have stayed at 2, Line Beach; Sri Aurobindo made one of his rare visits outside his house to visit Motilal at this place. During his stay in Pondicherry Motilal was apprehensive that the Samgha which he had started would not be able to carry on in his absence. Motilal, it may be said, had great attraction for and attachment to his work. While he was in Pondicherry he received letters from Chandernagore, especially from his disciple Arun Chandra Dutt, urging him to return. The question of whether he should return became acute as 15 August, the birthday of Sri Aurobindo, approached. Where should he celebrate the fifteenth, in Pondicherry or in Chandernagore? Motilal asked Sri Aurobindo what he should do. Sri Aurobindo told him to look within himself and get the inner guidance. After a few days Motilal had an experience in which he saw a black form of himself attacking him. When he met Sri Aurobindo he asked him the significance of the experience. Sri Aurobindo told him that the significance was clear.

Motilal and his wife, who had come to Pondicherry with him, were in a fix. They could not decide whether they should go to Chandernagore or not. Then a telegram from Arun Chandra arrived: "Come immediately otherwise eternal separation." Motilal was very disturbed. It was the night of 10 August. There was no possibility of seeing Sri Aurobindo. Motilal wrote a letter to him and left by the night train to Chandernagore.

The author came to Pondicherry in March 1921. At that time he asked Sri Aurobindo about the outer form that his work would take. He told the author, "I have not yet arrived at the final aspect of the external work. But if you want to have some idea, you may see the work that is being done in Chandernagore by some people under my inspiration. I send my help to the leaders from here." Following Sri Aurobindo's suggestion the author visited Chandernagore on 15 August 1921 and met Moti Babu. Sri Aurobindo, in response to a request from Motilal, had sent his blessings in the form of a telegram: "Wishing you descent of Truth and Light." During his interview with Moti Babu the author mentioned that he had been asked by Sri Aurobindo to get an idea of the form of his work from the Samgha at Chandernagore. Motilal told the author, "Whenever I concentrate I see three lights like electric bulbs. I work with the help of the inspiration of this Light." He told him also that there had been a spiritual difference between himself and Sri Aurobindo.

Motilal's departure from Pondicherry was not the only cause of difficulties. He was one of those who did not like the changeover of the Mother, a foreigner, to the house at 41, Rue Francois Martin, although it may be that he was not conscious of his dislike at that time. Those were days of great spiritual upheavals.

The inner spiritual connection between the Chandernagore centre and Sri Aurobindo was gradually cut off. In later years Motilal tried three or four times to obtain an interview with him, but Sri Aurobindo, not seeing any real change in Motilal, never granted his request. "Commune, Culture and Commerce" became the motto of the Prabartak Samgha. Whatever spirituality there may be in the organisation owes its origin to Sri Aurobindo, but the present Prabartak Samgha is the creation of Motilal Roy and his associates. This explanation is considered necessary because the Prabartak Samgha is a well-known organisation in Bengal.

In 1926 a sadhak asked Sri Aurobindo apropos of the Sangha, "When you spoke of vital forces coming in the way of the Supramental work, I suppose you had in mind the work at Chandernagore?' Is that true?" Sri Aurobindo replied to him:

"At that time I had some construction in my mind. Of course there was something behind it which I knew to be true. Even then I was not sure that it would work out successfully. Anyway, I wanted to give it a trial and so I gave it to Motilal. He took up the idea and, as you know, he took it up with all his vital being and in an egoistic way and so the vital forces found their chance. They tried to take possession of the work. As I told you it is only after several such lessons that I had to give up the idea of rushing into work. This yoga is not a cut-out system. It is a growth by experience and one has to grow by {{0}}experience."[[Cf. A. B. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1959), p. 186.]]

In 1921 Arun Chandra Dutt of Chandernagore came to Pondicherry. He stayed for some months at 41, Rue Francois Martin. Sri Aurobindo's sister Sarojini came with Sudhamayi Sen and Pratap Sen the same year. Sri Aurobindo went to the station to receive them. He gave Sarojini publication rights to his book War and Self-Determination in order to help her financially. Another visitor this year was Kumud Bandhu Bagchi of Calcutta. He was a sadhak who later became an advocate. A photograph of Sri Aurobindo, Bagchi and Amrita was taken. Two other sadhaks, Kodanda Ram Aiyya from Andhra and Ramchandran, a Tamilian, came and stayed in Pondicherry at their own expense, keeping in touch with Sri Aurobindo. Other visitors were Mrinalini Chattopadhyaya, Kamala Devi Chatto-padhyaya and Rameshwar De. Sarala Devi Chowdhurani and Colonel Joshua Wedgewood, a member of Parliament, came to Pondicherry and met Sri Aurobindo sometime between 1921 and 1926.

There was once some complaint about the food – especially about its taste. When the matter was taken to Sri Aurobindo he said to the sadhak: "You should have no preference for food of a particular taste. There is no truth in such preferences and demands. You have a body, and you have to keep it in good condition. Lower quality or kind of food would be harmful to the health of the body, therefore you should take good food. But good food means food necessary for the body – not what the tongue likes." Sri Aurobindo himself took whatever food was given to him. He never said anything about its taste. The cooking, in those days, was done by Paria cooks and the food often used to taste terrible. Sometimes one of the inmates would remark after a meal, "Today there was no salt in the curry." Sri Aurobindo would answer, "Yes, today there was no salt." It is not that he was not aware of the taste, but that he had by sadhana cultivated perfect samata, equality, even in his sense ot taste. He used to say that it was possible, to experience equal delight – sama ananda – from all kinds of tastes.

During 1921 the daily routine was as follows: a breakfast of tea, three slices of toast and butter at 7.00; before 11.30 everyone to take his bath, Sri Aurobindo taking his after all the others; lunch between 11.30 and 12.30; afternoon tea, prepared by the inmates of the house in turn, at 3.30; dinner, generally consisting of fish curry, rice, curd and bread, at 9.30. On 1 January 1922 the Mother took entire charge of the management of Sri Aurobindo's house, including the kitchen. There was a complete change in the routine. Arrangements were made upstairs for Sri Aurobindo's bath.

During 1922 a visitor from Bhavnagar named Narandas Sangani came to Pondicherry and asked for an appointment to meet Sri Aurobindo. He had brought some fruits as an offering. Sri Aurobindo could not find time to see him. The visitor became very angry. He began mixing with the secret police agents and tried to spread false rumours about Sri Aurobindo and the inmates of the house. He even tried threats, but ultimately departed. He went to Raman Maharshi at Tiruvanamalai and asked him about meat-eating, with particular reference to Sri Aurobindo. The Maharshi rarely replied to questions put to him by casual visitors, but to Narandas he said, "It is only a question of habit and custom."

In July 1922, in a letter sent through Amrita, Sri Aurobindo stated that he would not remain in Pondicherry for more than two years. The idea that he would be going back to British India was still current in the house.

In September or October Sri Aurobindo changed his residence from 41, Rue Francois Martin to 9, Rue de la Marine. After this time 41, Rue Francois Martin was called the "Guest House" On 18 November a letter was written to C. R. Das.

During 1922 the fissure between the Prabartak Samgha and Sri Aurobindo had grown wider. In 1923 there were further differences over the question whether Supennind can be attained by following the movement of Nature. Motilal Roy sent a letter with Arun Chandra Dutt asking for an interview.' There was no tangible result of this.

Sri Aurobindo told the author in 1923: "I myself got the idea of the Supramental after ten years of sadhana. The Supramental does not come in the beginning but at the end of sadhana. It is a progressive Truth."

In April a letter was sent to Barin at the sadhana-centre which he had set up in Bhawanipore. The letter dealt with management of the centre and the sadhana of its members. There were some suggestions for collecting funds. The same month a letter was sent to Rajani Kanta Palit about the illness of his child Rothin and about Palit's own sadhana.

Chapter IX. Pondicherry: 1910–1926

The informal talks in the evening with Sri Aurobindo, which had begun in the house at 41, Rue Francois Martin, continued in the new house.

"When Sri Aurobindo and the Mother moved to 9, Rue de la Marine in 1922 the same routine of informal evening sittings after meditation continued. The author came to Pondicherry for Sadhana in the beginning of 1923. He kept notes on the important talks he had with the four or five disciples who were already there. Besides, the author used to take detailed notes of the evening talks which we all had with the Master. They were not intended by him to be noted down. The author took them down because of the importance he felt about everything connected with him, no matter how insignificant to the outer view. The author also felt that everything he did would acquire for those who would come to know his mission a very great significance.

"As years passed the evening sittings went on changing their time and often those disciples who came from outside for a temporary stay for sadhana were allowed to join them. And, as the number of sadhaks practising the yoga increased, the evening sittings also became more full, the small verandah upstairs in the main building was found insufficient. Members of the household would gather every day at the fixed time with some sense of expectancy and start chatting in low tones. Sri Aurobindo used to come last and it was after his coming that the session would really commence.

"He came dressed as usual in dhoti, part of which was used by him to cover the upper part of his body. Very rarely he came out with chaddar or shawl and then it was 'in deference to the climate', as he sometimes put it. At times for minutes he would be gazing at the sky from a small opening at the top of the grass-curtains that covered the verandah of the upstairs in 9, Rue de la Marine. How much these sittings were dependent on him may be gathered from the fact that there were days when more than three-fourths of the time passed in complete silence without any outer suggestion from him, or there was only an abrupt Yes or No to all attempts at drawing him out in conversation. And even when he participated in the talk one always felt that his voice was that of one who does not let his whole being flow into his words; there was a reserve and what was left unsaid was perhaps more than what was spoken. What was spoken was what he felt necessary to speak:

"Very often some news-item in the daily newspaper, town gossip, or some interesting letter received either by him or by a disciple, or a question from one of the group, occasionally some remark or query from himself would set the ball rolling for the talk. The whole thing was so informal that one could never predict the turn the conversation would take. The whole house therefore was in a mood to enjoy the freshness and the delight of meeting the unexpected. There were peals of laughter and light talk, jokes and criticism which might be called personal – there was seriousness and earnestness in abundance.

"These sittings, in fact, furnished Sri Aurobindo with an occasion to admit and feel the outer atmosphere and that of the group living with him. It brought to him the much-needed direct contact of the mental and vital make-up of the disciples, enabling him to act on the atmosphere in general and on the individual in particular. He could thus help to remould their mental makeup by removing the limitations of their minds and opinions, and correct temperamental tendencies and formations. Thus, these sittings contributed at least partly to the creation of an atmosphere amenable to the working of the Higher Consciousness. Far more important than the actual talk and its content was the personal contact, the influence of the Master, and the divine atmosphere he emanated; for through his outer personality it was the Divine Consciousness that he allowed to act. All along behind the outer manifestation that appeared human, there was the influence and presence of the {{0}}Divine."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, pp. 9–11. [Added to this edition of The Life of Sri Aurobindo by the editors]]]



9 April. Talk about the political situation and village reconstruction.

11 April. Talk with K. Rajangam about sadhana.

13 April. Talk about Vishnu Bhaskar Lele, about Lele's gurubhai (co-disciple) Narayan Swami and about the Duttatraya Yoga. Sri Aurobindo described his own experience at Baroda with Lele.

14 April. Suggestions about sadhana; a letter from Natwarlal Bharatia of Surat; conversation about suggestion, intuition and inspiration: the difference of the three functions. A letter to Barin.

17 April. W. W. Pearson came from Shantiniketan. Talk about Shantiniketan.

19 April. Talk on non-violence and Hindu-Muslim unity.

20 April. Talk with the agents of the Prabartak Publishing House, Chandernagore, and the Arya Publishing House, Calcutta. These two firms were handling the publication of Sri Aurobindo's books.

22 April. Suggestions about sadhana. Talk on the Prabartak Samgha and Motilal Roy.

26 April. A letter from Bepin Chandra Pal to Sri Aurobindo about poetry.

27 April. Remarks on a letter of Lele to Natwarlal Bharatia.

28 April. Talk about the Ramakrishna Mission in America and about spirituality and the external world; suggestions about sadhana.

30 April. A letter from the Arunchala Mission of Bengal.

2 May. Talk on the Prabartak Samgha.

8 May. Talk on the Bardoli programme.

13 May. A letter to Motilal Roy; talk on the letter; a letter from Barin; an article by Upen Bannerji in the Bijoli.

15 May. Talk on communism in Russia.

16 May. Talk about Nevinson's impression of Sri Aurobindo; letter from Robert Bridges to Sri Aurobindo, asking him to recommend the Reforms for acceptance. Talk on K. G. Deshpande's Sadhakashram at Andheri.

18 May. An article by G. V. Subha Rao in the Swaraj of Madras comparing Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo.

20 May. Talk on Theosophy; a letter from Barin: meeting of Barin and Motilal.

26 May. Suggestions about sadhana; reading of the photographs of prospective sadhaks; talk on the conditions for the descent of the supermind; samatā and hold on life; relation between guru and disciple; the grace of the guru:

Question: "Is there anything like grace – what is called ahaitukī krpā? Can the personal side of the guru dispense Divine Grace?"

Sri Aurobindo: "It depends upon who is the guru. You don't mean to say that the personal side of the guru decides what is to be given to the disciple voluntarily and independently of the Divine? Even when it appears to take that form it is something else that decides the thing.... All your idea of patita-pāvana and adhama uddhāra means only this: however bad or seemingly wicked the external life may be, yet the man can be saved if he has something in him which can receive the {{0}}Truth."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, pp. 94–96.]]

30 May. A dream experience of Sri Aurobindo:

"Some dreams have got meaning down to their very details.... "There was a scientist and a magician and they both wanted to rescue a girl from alien enemies. The magician was the psychic and mental man who knows the truth but does not know the concretisation of the same. He has the grasp of the spirit but not the process and details.

"First the magician tried to save the girl. He failed. Then the scientist tried. He found himself baffled by the opponents as they (the Dasyus – powers of the vital plane) were not struck down by the blows of the sword or anything else. They were all going to some King's capital. Then they fled and the girl disappeared. The scientist was a geologist who had made the discovery that the strata of the earth must be measured from the top and not from the bottom.

"When the enemies fled they left their things behind and did not like to go to the capital wounded.

"The scientist then found, among things left, a big book on geology – half as big as the room! – and he found the girl just behind the cover and the pages!

"Thus the secret of earth, the physical nature, was symbolically {{0}}given.”[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, pp. 208–09.]]

1 June. Talk about being on the vital plane and about the visit of the Prince of Wales to India. Sri Aurobindo's remarks on Britain's offer to the Congress.

5 June. Visit of C. R. Das. Das had an interview with Sri Aurobindo at 3.30; the Prabartak Samgha, Motilal Roy, the present political situation and Das's own spiritual life were the main topics of conversation. There was also some talk about the Swarajya Party: Sri Aurobindo gave his support to the formation of the party. Sri Aurobindo was ready to help Das in his spiritual life, if Das was willing to leave politics and devote himself exclusively to sadhana. As Das was not able to take up that course, Sri Aurobindo advised him to continue his political work and attend at the same time to his spiritual life as much as he could.

10 June. Translation of Vedic riks. In the evening talk on the Veda, Sri Aurobindo said: "I wrote The Secret of the Veda in a great hurry and it requires a revision. If I had not written it under the pressure of the Arya I would not have written it at all. I had to work much through my intuition and it was not easy to make it work."

12 June. Talk on the Maruts, the storm-gods of the Veda, and on Agni, the divine Flame. Sri Aurobindo read some riks.

13 June. Talk on the Duttatreya Yoga, a system current in Maharashtra, and on Mahatma Gandhi.

18 and 19 June. Talks on Jain philosophy and the physical sciences.

20 June. Sri Aurobindo spoke about some of his own spiritual experiences and about some of the Mother's experiences.

23 June. Talk on non-violence and on self-purification.

26 June. Talk on Hindu-Muslim unity; non-violence; vegetarian and meat diets.

1 August. Meeting with Arun Chandra Dutt.

2 August. A letter from Motilal Roy was read out. There was talk about it.

5 August. Talk on samatā.

6 August. When asked about celebrating the fifteenth August Sri Aurobindo said: "What is the significance of the fifteenth? I want to make it as ordinary as any other day. What has it to do with the stomach? It has an inner significance, and if there is a way of celebrating it in a fitting manner I have no objection. I do not want any sort of vital manifestation on that day, especially after I have taken a new turn in yoga."

7 August. Ramji Hansraj of Amreli came and met Sri Aurobindo. Talk on true and false intuition.

8 August. Velji Thakersi Shah of Bidada, Cutch, met Sri Aurobindo. Talk on non-violence and Ireland.

9 August. Gokuldas of Cutch met Sri Aurobindo. Talk on personal aim in works and spiritual action; comment about celebrating the fifteenth August: "It is by living the Truth that we can celebrate it."

14 August. Motilal Mehta of Bombay met Sri Aurobindo.

15 August. Barada Charan, a yogi of Bengal, had an experience involving Sri Aurobindo. Talk about celebrating the fifteenth August. The food was as usual. Remarks on the difficulty of the supramental descent into the physical. Evening talk on the Supermind.

20 August. Barin arrived from Calcutta. Talk about the Bhawanipore centre, the Bijoli newspaper and collecting money.

12 September. Talk on Islamic culture.

25 September. A telegram from C. R. Das asking for a message for the Forward; a letter from Sri Aurobindo giving three reasons why he would not give the message: (1) he had to keep silent over public questions and did not want to make an exception as it would begin a new line, (2) other papers might make similar requests and (3) there would be a disturbance to the silent help he was giving to the Swarajya Party.

28 September. Talk on true attitude in sadhana.

October. An interview with G. V. Subbarao:

"It was in October, 1923, that I first saw Sri Aurobindo in his Ashram, at Pondicherry. He was seated on a small cushioned chair, in a rather narrow verandah on the first floor of his house in which he lived for over forty years. There were about a dozen chairs in the room and a small table in front, with papers, flowers and a few books on it. There was a small time-piece to indicate the progress of time, because everything here must be done according to precision and order. Sri Aurobindo was dazzling bright in colour – it was said that, in his earlier years, he was more dark than brown and had a long, rather thin beard which was well-dressed with streaks of white strewn here and there. The figure was slender and not much taller than Gandhiji's but a bit more fleshy. The eyes were big and elongated to a point and their looks were keen and piercing like shells. He was dressed in fine cotton – not khaddar evidently. He had only two clothes on, one a dhoti and the other an upper cloth worn in the traditional fashion'of an upaveetam, i.e., right arm and shoulder exposed. The lower part of the legs was slender, feminine and the feet were hidden in two small slippers.

"His voice low, but quite audible, quick and musical. He was fast in his flow of speech, clear like a crystal and analytical to a degree. In a fifteen-minute talk, he gave me his philosophy in a nutshell. He was simple and courteous, outspoken and free in his interrogations. It seemed as though he could know a man by a sweep of his eyes, and read men's minds from a survey of their photographs. He appeared as one highly cognizant of the value of time; and at the end of the appointed fifteen minutes, he stood up looking at the clock, as if intimating that I should retire. He was kind throughout, as to a child, but I could discern enough in his demeanour to conclude that he could be stem and imperious when required. To his disciples, he was loving like a Guru, but demanded absolute spiritual surrender before one can be admitted to his heart's domain.

"Sri Aurobindo had long been absorbed in a Sādhanā for Yoga Siddhi, which, he believed, was destined to form a new order of life in the world. He had always seen it, though less clearly and dynamically at first, that a higher spiritual power was necessary to solve the moral, material, social and even political problems of the world. Just as Gandhiji believed in an inner, moral power or soul-force as essential for the redemption of the world, similarly Sri Aurobindo believed that a higher spiritual power was absolutely necessary and must be brought down on earth to help the regeneration of this world.

"This position Sri Aurobindo realised as early as 1907–1908; but necessarily, his realisation was yet vague and incomplete; the nature, conditions and circumstances of that higher power had to be explored; and the basis, knowledge, and methods to bring it down on to this earth had to be determined. For this purpose, a complete withdrawal from all external activity was necessary, at least for a time.

"Sri Aurobindo's letters dealing with Yoga – especially his instructions to his disciples at this early period – reveal him as the master-doctor, diagnosing in an instant, the spiritual nature and conditions of the spiritual disease in men and things even through photographs. This man, he says of one, is a born Yogi. In another case, he says: This man possesses a too keen psychic sensitiveness; as such, he ought not to go on with psychic experiments at once. In a case of psychic disorder, he wrote to his brother, Barindra: 'You are inexperienced. You do not know how to deal with him. He needs an absolutely quiet and careful treatment. I am too far off here; but be writing to me often.' When once there was a delay in communication, he fell upon his brother like an avalanche and wrote: 'This sort of evading instructions won't do with me. In my supramental state, everything must be done in order and with precision.' The great care with which he was attending to the distant invalid was quite remarkable. On one occasion, he was recommending an ordinary medical treatment, on another a change of place or cessation of psychic exercises etc. Now he was writing letters, now sending telegrams, now angry with his brother, now suggesting a change of treatment – but ever anxious about the distant invalid, as if he were a very near relative. He sent a telegram to one place; but not being sure that it would reach the addressee properly, he was not satisfied till he sent another to a second address, to make sure of its reaching. Speaking about some visions, he says that these things are of common occurrence. 'Mira had them a hundred times.' This Mira seems to be an extraordinary lady; and even in 1923, she was said to be the best of his disciples and was consulted by Sri Aurobindo on many affairs, including Yoga. No wonder, therefore, that she has been for a long time the acknowledged Mother of the {{0}}Ashram."[[G. V Subbarao, from a lecture delivered at the Eswara Library, Kakinada, and published in The Sunday Times (Madras), 6 May 1951.]]

19 October. Manilal, a young man from a place near Patna, came without permission; long talk about Sri Aurobindo's refusal to see him.

6 November. Letter to Ramlal Surati of Bombay.

8 November. Meditation stopped on account of an inflammation of the Mother's knee.

22 November. Jivanlal, an aluminium merchant, came to see Sri Aurobindo.

23 November. Hints about sadhana to a disciple. Talk about the mental, vital and physical consciousness.

20 December. Reply to a letter of Ketkar.

23 December. Interview with R. B. Athavale; suggestions about sadhana; remarks on humanity, Mayavada and the conditions for Sri Aurobindo's Yoga.

26 December. A letter from Natwarlal Bharatia about Lele, giving facts about an incident in Bombay.

27 December. Suggestions to Athavale about sadhana: how to take spiritual help.

The number of disciples this year varied between eleven and fifteen.


1 January. Raghunath P. Thaker of Virpur near Rajkot saw Sri Aurobindo. He stayed for a few days.

3 January. Amritlal Seth, the editor of Saurashtra, met Sri Aurobindo. He asked Sri Aurobindo about his personal difficulties. The remedy suggested was mental self-control and the strengthening of the will-power.

5 January. Apropos of Raghunath Thaker's idea that siddhi can be attained by trātaka (gazing fixedly at a point without winking), Sri Aurobindo said, "It can give you clarity of vision and help you to open your consciousness to the sight of subtle levels of consciousness. I think there is no more utility to trātaka than that."

6 January. Some men who had attended the Kakinada session of the Congress came to Pondicherry. They had a row with the French police while registering their names. Some members of the group were known to inmates of Sri Aurobindo's house and there was a chance that Sri Aurobindo might become involved in the trouble. He said, "This is an effort of the outside forces to disturb the atmosphere which I have established here with great difficulty,"

22 January. The group meditation and evening sitting were discontinued. When asked about the group meditation, Sri Aurobindo said, "It always requires an individual who can create the necessary spiritual atmosphere. That atmosphere is due to his presence; it cannot be created by effort." One of the reasons for stopping the collective meditation was that "it obliges Sri Aurobindo to descend lower in the consciousness." It was considered better that Sri Aurobindo be allowed to complete the perfection of his physical consciousness; from this all the sadhaks would stand to gain. Many sadhaks were disturbed because both the collective activities – the meditation and the evening talks – were discontinued. Tuesdays and Saturdays were set apart for some of them for help with meditation. Others were assigned mornings for personal interviews; either Thursdays and Saturdays or Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

24 January. Interview of Dilip Kumar Roy with Sri Aurobindo.

30 January. The evening sitting was resumed.

31 January. A letter from Kirparam of Agra: reference to the Radhaswami Sampradaya, description of his experiences, request for guidance. A letter to Veiji Thakersi Shah of Bidada, Cutch.

February (beginning). Surajmal Lallubhai Zaveri and Dhurandhar, a sadhaka from Bombay, met Sri Aurobindo and spoke about their spiritual efforts.

Mahatma Gandhi was released from jail. He made a public statement which Sri Aurobindo called "a historic statement".

8 February. A letter to Kesarlal Dixit granting permission to come.

9 February. Talk on non-violence.

15 February. Haribhai Zhaverbhai Amin of Broach came to Pondicherry. He met Sri Aurobindo on the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth. Evening talk on Jacob Boehme's Suprasensual Life.

22 February. Discussion about the reforms granted to India by the Ramsay Macdonald cabinet. 26 February. Talk about the supramental perfection. Hints to a sadhak about taste and about reading. Sri Aurobindo said that if he wanted to read a book he certainly could do so, but not because he could not control his mind. "That is real freedom in action. Yoga means mastery over the lower nature and establishing the action of the Higher Nature in its place. One has to offer his free self to the Divine; afterwards the Divine will chose the action in you."

7 March. Talk on Hindu-Muslim unity and Khilafat. Discussion about the poetry of Tagore and of Harin Chattopadhyaya and about a letter of Mahatma Gandhi to Mahomed Ali.

8 March. A letter from Kesarlal Dixit about coming to the Ashram; another from Rajani Kanta Palit about the illness of his wife.

9 March, Talk on Mahatma Gandhi's ideas on art.

12 March. In the Delhi Assembly Sir Harisingh Gaur gave his vote against the Nationalist Party! In the evening talk Sri Aurobindo gave this reminiscence about Gaur: "He was one of the students with me in England. I heard him in the Indian Majlis and in the College Union. I wonder if he had anything serious in him? But he was clever and spoke well. Once during a speech he said, 'The Egyptians rose up like a man', refering to their national spirit. This was repeated two or three times, so someone from the audience asked, 'But how many times did they sit down? "

26 March. Talk on the aim and method of the supramental yoga and on the Avatar (incarnation). These talks throw light on the aim current and the state of sadhana of the Supramental Yoga. "This Yoga was not practised before", he said, "all the efforts were like preparatory movements. Besides, if someone ever attempted it, the continuity was not maintained. It has been lost in the lapse of Time."

Question: "Could it be that the Supermind descended in the past at some time and again retired to its own higher plane afterwards?"

Sri Aurobindo: "If an Avatar (incarnation) came, it was a promise. The Truth was not made a fact in Matter. I can say this that it may have been tried but it was never made a dynamic factor in the world. The difficulty in bringing down the Truth is not so much in the upper physical layers as in gross Matter – the most material plane. The Earth-law has to be changed and a new atmosphere has to be created. The question is not merely to have knowledge, power, etc. but to bring them down.

"People have very simple ideas about these things – but it is not so simple as it is thought. It is a very complex movement. There is the Truth above, when you go on increasing in knowledge and power etc., you go on getting above, higher and higher but the thing does not come down at once. It comes down when the whole is ready. If once it could be made the law of the Earth-plane, then it would endure. It is difficult to make it flow down so long as there is a mixed movement."

Question: "Do you believe that this work will be done this time?"

Sri Aurobindo: "I know that it can be done; but I don't want to prophesy. I cannot say 'it will be done'. But I can say that something will be done this time. The doubt is there somewhere in the mental – some uncertainty. The whole thing is ready behind. If it were a certainty on the mental plane then the thing would have been achieved. When there is the certainty there is no room for struggle. Till now it was not done, probably because the hostile forces were very {{0}}strong."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, pp. 126–28.]]

4 April. Talk on the supramental yoga.

5 April. Talk on Bahaism; descent of the Supermind into the physical; powers of disembodied spirits.

9 April. Talk on Mahatma Gandhi and non-violence.

14 April. Haribhai Amin of Broach, accompanied by an Englishman, Mr. Wainscott, came and met Sri Aurobindo.

20 April. Talk on the senses. A certain M. Valiant, an Indian French citizen working at Karikal, met Sri Aurobindo.

24 April. Talk on the book Eyeless Sight by Joules Remain.

8 May. Talk on Gandhism and on Deva and Asura.

20 May. M. Valiant met Sri Aurobindo and asked his guidance in connection with the French elections, which were approaching. Talk on non-violence and on "Sapta-chatushtaya".

7 June. Talk on the resolution of the Congress about compulsory spinning.

12 June. Talk about publishing The Future Poetry. Mr. Thakur Dutt, an Indian settled in America, sent Rs.1000 as a token of his regard. His wife Maud Sharma sent her poems for Sri Aurobindo to see. Talk on Harin Chattopadhyaya's poetry. A letter of G. V. Subbarao to Sri Aurobindo about the visit of Devdas-Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's son, to Pondicherry.

17 June. Talk on passive resistance. Letter from Suren, a sadhaka from Chittagong, asking permission to come to Pondicherry after selling all his lands.

19 June. Talk on the difference between Satyagraha and passive resistance.

22 June. Talk on the success of khadi and on art.

2 July. Talk on Daridra-Narayan and on charkha.

4 July. Talk on a public letter of Mahatma Gandhi, "Defeated and Humbled".

From 6 July the evening sittings began to get late.

8 July. Talk, on the question: Is poetry an ideal of Indian culture?

10 July. Discussion of some philosophical points. Talk on Nirvikalpa Samadhi. A letter from Tarak Nath Das; a reply sent explaining his experiences.

A reminiscence of Sri Aurobindo's jail life: "I wanted to get rid of cruelty, violence, etc. following the conventional method of Yoga.... For eight or ten days all kinds of cruel and violent things went on happening outside and rising from within. When the mind stopped reacting to them they all {{0}}ceased."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, p. 148.]]

28 July. Kapali Shastri met Sri Aurobindo. Kapali noticed, as the author had previously, the remarkable change in the colour of Sri Aurobindo's skin. Talk about the transformation of Nature and the necessity of bringing down the divine consciousness into the physical. Sri Aurobindo said that only two powers can give the Supermind: Sri Aurobindo or the Higher Power herself.

2 August. A letter from Motilal Nehru asking Sri Aurobindo to contribute an article to his paper published from Allahabad.

3 August. A telegram from Natwarlal Bharatia of Surat. A letter sent in reply.

15 August. Celebration of Sri Aurobindo's birthday. The verandah where he sat was decorated with jasmine garlands and with lotuses which had been brought from a long distance. He came out at 9.15 in the morning and again at four o'clock in the afternoon. In the afternoon he remained silent for ten or fifteen minutes and then spoke for thirty or thirtyfive minutes. At 6.30 the evening sitting was held as usual. Questions about his life-work were asked. The number of disciples present was between twenty and twenty-two.

The following impressions of the day are reproduced from the records of a disciple.

"Who can describe this day? Nothing can be added by the colours of imagination, poetic similes, and loaded epithets. It is enough to say ‘It was the 15th August.' No other day can come up to it in the depth and intensity of spiritual action, the ascending movement of the flood of emotions, and the way in which each individual here was bathing in the luminous atmosphere.

"It is the supreme sign of the Master to assume all possible relations with his disciples, make them real and concrete. Each disciple knows him as his own, and each the Master accepts as his. Each believes the Master loves him most and it is true that he loves each the most. This feeling is not an illusion or delusive self-hypnotism, but quite real. The spontaneous dynamic law of the Supreme Truth which he embodies, is love – divine Love.

"In all the inmates, the delight of Surrender is overflowing – the bliss of surrender, its sparkle pervades all. All is given up, everything is surrendered. How free you feel! How light and unburdened you feel! There is someone to take up the whole of your burden – there is a power of Supreme Love. Him you can trust implicitly. You need only to give up your little self, the rest is his work, you have no worry, no anxiety! No effort – only, the way of loving surrender! How easy!

"Every face is beaming with the joy of surrender, everyone is happy and overflowing with joy. And yet there is no external reason, no outer materials for this intense joy. From where flows this unlimited Delight! They say the Master was not in such a happy mood these two or three years.

"From early morning the Ashram is humming with various activities: decorations, flowers, garlands, food, bath, etc. All are eager to go to the Master, for his Darshan. As the time passes there is a tide in the sea of rising emotion. It is 'Darshan' – we see him everyday, but to-day it is 'Darshan'! To-day each sees him individually, one after another. In the midst of these multiple activities the consciousness gets concentrated. To-day is 'Darshan' – not of a human being but of some Supreme Divinity. To-day is the rare chance of seeing the Divine.

"There he sits – in the royal chair in the verandah – royal and majestic. In the very posture there is divine self-confidence. In the heart of the Supreme Master, the great Yogin – a sea of emotion is heaving – is it a flood that mounts or a flood that is coming down on humanity? Those alone who have experienced it can know something of its divinity. Those who have bathed in it once can never come out of that ocean. He sits there – with pink and white lotus garlands. It is the small flower-token of the offering by the disciples. Hearts throb, prayers, requests, emotions pour forth – and a flood of blessings pours down carrying all of them away in their speed. Lack of faith, all doubts get assurance. All human needs the Divine fulfils and, after fulfilling, his grace overflows. Love and grace flow on undiminished. The look! enrapturing and captivating eyes! Who can ever forget Pouring love and grace and ineffable divinity? If the transcendent Divinity is not here, where else can it be?

"He is usually an embodiment of knowledge. But to-day he is different. He is all love. Here is the Great Poet and the Supreme Lover incarnate! It is inquiring, loving and blessing in a glance! Man does wonders with his eyes and looks, but to do so much, divinity is needed.

"The question is what to ask, love or blessings! Or should one pray for love and blessings both and in addition for the acceptance of unworthy ones like us. Standing on the brink of Eternity the soul saw his dreamy and loving eyes, then was it captured for ever. The inexplicable mystery of divine love was here a tangible experience! Who can explain a fact? A fact is a fact and an experience an experience. There is no explanation possible.

"'What should I give him?' is the question of the mind. ‘What should I ask?' is the question of the heart. Both refuse to answer and both are unanswered. The mind feels the insignificance of its offering, and remains mute. The heart is ashamed of its beggar's attitude, or even feels its pride wounded. How to solve this pleasant embarrassment? The beggar heart carries the day. There is even a kind of curiosity to find out how one is accepted, what happens to oneself.

"But all this was before Darshan. As one actually stands in front all curiosity, all pride, all thoughts, all questions, all resolutions are swept away in some terrific divine Niagara. Thou embodiment of Love Supreme! What transparency! In the heart of the Supreme Master also an ocean of emotion is heaving. The heart melts and falls at his feet without knowing, it surrenders itself! Where is here a place for speech! There is only one speech – the language of the body and its flexion, that of the prostration of the body in the act of surrender, the throbbing of the heart and the flow of tears from the eyes! What a peace, pregnant with divinity! What beauty, this experience!

"Everyone is trying to maintain Samata – equality. Everyone is quiet and is trying hard to remain calm. But to-day all the barriers of humanity are swept away by the flood of Divine Love.

The soul has its Samata – its equality – but the whole nature is in agitation as unknown waters have rushed into it. Knowledge is laid on the shelf – it is all a flood of love. To-day the soul has received the certitude of the Divine's victory as it had never done before.

"In the dining room all are gathered, bathing and bathed in delight. Everyone is happy – supremely happy – in perfect ecstasy. To-day there is an empire of Delight! 0 Artist! what a marvellous art! So much of delight – for everyone! – delight that fills each one and overflows.

"At 4 p.m. all gather at the usual place – the verandah. All sit there full of hope in silence; one or two whisper to each other. The mind of the company is silently repeating: 'When will he come? May he come.' It is 4.15; the old familiar and yet new 'tick' behind the door! Slowly the door opens: The Master steps out first, behind him the Mother in a white creamy sari with a broad red border. He sat in his usual wide Japanese chair. The Mother sat on the right side on a small stool. For a short time, about five minutes, there was complete silence!

"Then he glanced at each one separately. The minutes were melting into the silence. There is again a wave of emotion in all, all bathe again in an ocean of some divine emotion. How wonderful if the whole of Eternity would flow in this experience! Time, poor Time and its flow are blamed by men. But where is the fault in the flow of time? If so much Love and such Divine Delight can have its play, let poor Time flow and have its Eternity! And let the world become divine! Another powerful aspiration that came to the surface was:

'Expression is not needed – let the whole of eternity flow away in this silence!'

"When the Master came for the evening sitting emanating joy he asked with a smile, 'What do you want to-day? – Silence or speech?' As if he had come to confer whatever boon we asked. For a time it was silence that reigned. Then from that silence a flow appeared to start. The hearts of the disciples were tip-toe with expectation, for to-day they were hearing not human speech but words from the Divine. To hear with human ears the Lord speak! What a fulfilment!"

The substance of what Sri Aurobindo spoke on 15 August 1924:

"It has become customary to expect some speech from me on this day. I prefer to communicate through the silent consciousness, because speech addresses itself to the mind while through the silent consciousness one can reach something deeper. We are practising together a yoga which is quite different in certain essentials from other methods which go by the same name. According to the old method you have to select the intellect, the emotional being or the will as the starting point or to differentiate between Purusha and Prakriti, the conscious soul and nature. By that we arrive at an Infinite of knowledge, an all-loving and all-beautiful Supreme or an Infinite Impersonal Will, or the Silent Brahman beyond our mind – intellect, emotional being, or will or our individual Purusha.

"Our yoga does not aim at an Impersonal Infinite of Knowledge, Will or Ananda but at the realization of a Supreme Being, an Infinite Knowledge which is beyond the limited infinity of human knowledge, an Infinite Power which is the source of our personal will and an Ananda which cannot be seized by the surface movement of emotions.

"I have said that the Supreme Being that we want to realize is not an impersonal Infinite but a Divine Personality; and in order to realize Him we have to grow conscious of our own true personality. You must know your own inner being. This Personality is not the inner mental, the inner vital and the inner physical being and its consciousness as is many times wrongly described, but it is your true Being which is in direct communication with the Highest. Man grows by gradual growth in nature and each has to realize his own Divine Person which is in the Supermind. Each is one with the Divine in essence but in nature each is a partial manifestation of the Supreme Being.

"This being the aim of our yoga we want to return upon life and transform it. The old yogas failed to transform life because they did not go beyond mind. They used to catch at spiritual experiences with the mind but when they came to apply them to life they reduced them to a mental formula. For

example, the mental experience of the Infinite or the application of the principle of universal Love.

"We have, therefore, to grow conscious on all the planes of our being, and to bring down the higher light, power and ananda to govern even the most external details of life. We must detach ourselves and observe all that is going on in the nature; not even the smallest movement, the most external act must remain unnoticed. This process is comparatively easy in the mental and vital planes. But in the physico-vital and the physical the powers of ignorance hold their sway and reign in full force, persisting in what they believe to be eternal laws. They obstruct the passage of the higher light and hold up their flag. It is there that the powers of darkness again and again cover up the being and even when the physico-vital is opened the elements of ignorance come up from the lower levels of the physical being. This is a work of great patience. The physico-vital and the physical being do not accept the higher Law and persist. They justify their persistence and their play by intellectual and other justifications and thus try to deceive the sadhaka under various guises.

"Generally, the vital being is very impatient and wants to get things done quickly, on the physico-vital and physical planes. But this has very violent reactions and therefore the mental and the vital being, instead of seizing upon the higher light and power, should surrender themselves to the higher Power. We have not to rest satisfied with partial transformation. We have to bring down the higher Power to the physical plane and govern the most external details of life by it. This cannot be done by mental power. We have to call down the Higher Light, Power and Ananda to transform our present nature. This requires an essential utter sincerity in every part of the being, which wants only the Truth and nothing but the Truth and can see clearly all that is going on in the being.

"The second condition of the Light coming down and governing even the smallest detail of life is that one must grow conscious of his Divine Personality which is in the Supermind.

"There is sometimes a tendency in the sadhaks to be satisfied with experiences. One should not rest content with mere experiences.

"Another thing is that, here, as we are all of us given to the pursuit of the same truth the whole time we have arrived at some kind of solidarity so that we can mutually help or retard our progress.

"The conditions of transformation of the being are: opening ourselves to the higher Light, the absolute surrender. If there is the entire essential sincerity, opening to the Light and surrender and a gradual growth of consciousness on all the planes you can become an ideal sadhaka of this {{0}}yoga."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talk, First Series, pp. 260–62.]]


On another occasion Sri Aurobindo referred to his sadhana as follows: "When I was doing sadhana on the mental plane things came so easily. It was child's play. With the vital being, though it was not easy, yet it was interesting. But this physical is absolutely hard. It has been left untried by the ancient Yogis, it has been neglected. Of course, it is not that no effort was made, – but the physical and the physico-vital were neglected. All the accumulated difficulty is lying there. Any attempt made to conquer them is full of drudgery and labour. It is like the trench-war and no truce. You must either fight and win or collapse."

Question: "But only the body would collapse?"

Sri Aurobindo: "In such a case as ours, if the body collapses, the whole thing collapses. You have to do the whole thing over again. If you have other kinds of collapses, for example, the vital or the mental collapse, it is not so dangerous. But the physical collapse means complete collapse.

"If you don't care for the body then of course it is a different matter. To keep the inner poise in the midst of physical disturbance is quite easy. It is nothing. I am not disturbed by disease or death. They are quite natural to man's present condition. But I care because their acceptance means defeat of the whole effort of Yoga. These lower forces used to thwart and have always been trying to thwart all efforts at spiritual transformation of the physical {{0}}being."[[Talk of June 1926.]]

He spoke again about the same problem in December 1938: "It is when the sadhana came down into the physical and the subconscient that things became very difficult. I myself had to struggle for two years, for the subconscient is absolutely inert, like stone. Though my mind was quite awake above, it could not exert any influence down below. It is a Herculean labour, for when one enters there, it is a sort of unexplored continent. Previous Yogis came down to the vital. If I had been made to see the difficulty before, probably, I would have been less enthusiastic about the work. There is the instance of blind faith and they were quite right in doing {{0}}so,[[This means that by blind faith difficulties of the physical have been removed; but what is needed is to make this a conscious conquest and transformation of the physical nature by the power of the Spirit.]] but if I left it at that, the real work would have remained undone. And once the physical is conquered, things become easy for people who come after me, which is what is meant by realisation of one in {{0}}all."[[Cf. A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series, (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1966), p. 4]]

October. Hirosawa, a Japanese gentleman known to the Mother, came to Pondicherry.

14 November. A letter from Dilip Kumar Roy to Moni enclosing a letter from Remain Rolland asking for the file of the French edition of the Arya. Dilip asked for advice about marriage.


3 January. Punamchand Shah, a sadhak from Patan, developed nacrosis of a bone which he had injured when young. He had to go to Madras where he was operated on successfully by Dr. Rangachari. The cure took three months.

4 January. One of the Mother's knee joints become inflamed. There was pain. A telegram was sent to Dr. Kanuga at Ahmedabad.

5 January. Interview of Lala Lajpatrai with Sri Aurobindo. Afterwards Sri Aurobindo spoke also with Dr. Nihalchand, Krishnadas and Purushottamdas Tandon, who had accompanied Lajpatrai. There was a free exchange of ideas on current politics for forty-five minutes.

6 January. Sri Aurobindo did not come out for the evening sitting because of the Mother's indisposition. A reply came from Dr. Kanuga.

7 January. Improvement of the Mother's condition. Sri Aurobindo came out for a short time.

8 January. Continued gradual improvement of the Mother's condition.

16 January. Dr. Bannerjee arrived from Mirjapur. He saw the Mother for diagnosis. Sri Aurobindo was greatly relieved by his report. Improvement maintained.

17 January. Dr. Bannerjee saw the Mother again.

18 January. Talk with Ratikanta Nag about the Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, and about conditions for the printing of books.

21 January. A letter from Anilbaran Roy in jail.

26 January. Sri Aurobindo resumed the evening sittings.

28 January. Reply to Anilbaran Roy.

5 and 23 March. Letters from Anilbaran Roy.

9 May. A letter from Rajani Kanta Palit about the illness of his wife.

11 May. A letter from Moni Lahiri. Reference to Lele in the evening talk: "I got three things from Lele: the silent Brahman consciousness with its infinite wideness – an experience which was concrete; the power to speak and write without using the mind; and the habit of putting myself under the guidance of a Power higher than the mind."

13 May. A telegram from Motilal Roy asking for an interview.

Reply: "Time not propitious; interview not possible; why not write?" A telegram from Birendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury of Gauripur about the illness of his wife.

17 May. A letter from Anilbaran Roy.

20 May. A letter from Motilal Roy.

21 May. A letter from Birendra Kishore of Calcutta.

25 May. A reference in a letter to the atmosphere in Pondicherry:

"The condition here is not very good. I am at present fighting the difficulties on the physical plane," in other words, the forces of disease etc.

20 June. At the request of the Bombay Chronicle, Sri Aurobindo sent a message on the death of C. R. Das, which was published in their issue of 22 June: "Chittaranjan's death is a supreme loss. Consummately endowed with political intelligence, constructive imagination, magnetism, a driving force combining a strong will and an uncommon plasticity of mind for vision and tact of the hour, he was the one man after Tilak who could have led India to {{0}}Swaraj."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 390.]]

1 July. A letter from Swarnaprabha, a sadhika, about her sadhana. A letter to Barin advising him to close the Bhawanipore centre at Calcutta.

Chapter IX. Pondicherry: 1910–1926

11 July. Veiji Thakersi Shah came from Cutch.

12 July. Talk on Theon, who knew the Mother before she came to India. During the evening talk Sri Aurobindo said:

"What I find is that it is not necessary to have a full and rich development of the mental and vital being for the descent of the Supermind. It is enough if there is sufficient basis to start the higher working. If you have to wait for the full development of the mental and the vital being then it would require centuries. I do not think it necessary. Rather, too much development is an obstacle sometimes. I find that what the mind attains with great effort is easily attained in the supermind with simplicity and directness. Whatever is necessary is brought down with the Supermind in its descent because the Supermind carries with it its own fullness. In my own case, I found the mental effort a great obstacle. But I had to do it, in order to get the necessary knowledge. Mind is like an infinite snake coiling round and round."

15 August. Sri Aurobindo came out at ten o'clock. The verandah was decorated with jasmine flowers. Twenty-seven people were present including S. Duriaswami, Kapali Shastri, Kesarlal Dixit, Chandrasekar Aiya and Nagaratnam.

23 August. Talk on Shaw's Saint Joan.

31 August. A letter from P. M. Patel.

19 September. A letter from Dhiren. A reply dictated.

21 September. Narmada Shanker Bhatt of Lunawada met Sri Aurobindo; suggestion on the japa of gayatri. A letter from Rajani Kanta Palit.

24 September. A letter from Haradhan Baxi of Chandemagore. A reply dictated. The Bhawanipore centre was closed; Kumudbandhu Bagchi very much annoyed.

29 September. A letter from Bhupal Chandra Bose, Sri Aurobindo's father-in-law, about another son-in-law's illness. A letter from Swarnaprabha.

30 September. A letter from Nolineshwar Bhattacharya of Calcutta.

3 October. Haradhan Baxi and Charurai Dev Sarkar came to Pondicherry bringing a letter from Motilal Roy and a donation of Rs.1000 from Durgadas Seth of Chandemagore.

4 October. A letter from Swarnaprabha's husband. A reply with remarks on the relation of husband and wife from the spiritual point of view.

7 October. Letters from Nolineshwar and Mano Mohan Dhar, both of whom later joined the Ashram.

13 October. A letter from Rati Palit, brother of Rajani Palit.

14 October. Letter from Pandit Nirmalchand about the illness of Jagat Singh. Talk on Grace.

2 November. Talk on yoga and humanity.

11 November. Talk on the need of samata: equality and common sense in yogic sadhana. Sri Aurobindo said about himself: "A perfect yoga requires perfect balance; that was the thing that saved me – the perfect balance. First of all I believed that nothing was impossible and at the same time I could question everything. If I had believed in everything that came I would have been like Bijoy {{0}}Goswami."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, p. 198]]

19 November. Sri Aurobindo was asked to revise his speeches. His answer was: "No. I have nothing to do with the Speeches. They belong to the past democratic Aurobindo. They are only useful for Naren's sale." Then about his biography he said: "To write my biography is impossible. The idea is quite wrong. Who could write it? Not only in my case but in that of poets, philosophers and yogis it is no use attempting a biography, because they do not live in their external life. Their real life is inner and how can anyone else know that life? It is different with men of action like Napoleon or Julius Caesar, men who develop themselves through action, but even in their cases it would be best if they wrote their biographies themselves."

22 November. In the evening Sri Aurobindo said: "I would have to correct The Synthesis of Yoga. A magazine is not the proper form for such works. The yoga of knowledge is too long and needs to be shortened and the yoga of bhakti is too short and summary and needs to be added to." He said in a talk that the Synthesis might be published in the form of small booklets. A reply to a letter of Anilbaran Roy dictated.

26 November. A letter from Kanailal Hazara. A reply.

30 November. A letter from Sri Aurobindo's sister-in-law (Mrinalini Devi's sister), written after her bereavement.

Krishnashashi, a sadhaka from Chittagong who had become unbalanced, suddenly made his appearance in Pondicherry. For three days he created a great disturbance. He tried to force his entry into the houses. At last it was arranged for him to be sent back.

1 December. Letters from Swamaprabha, her mother and Mohini.

4 December. Talk on Gandhism.

5 December. Talk on Vaishnavism.

9 December. Talk on the Samgha at Chandernagore.

14 December. Manindra Naik, a representative from Chandernagore in the Legislature in Pondicherry, met Sri Aurobindo.

26 December. Phillippe Barbier Saint-Hilaire (later known as Pavitra) arrived from Japan. A letter from Swamaprabha.


1 and 25 January. Talks on Theosophy.

26 January. Talk on art and Vaishnavism.

28 January. Talk on art. Sri Aurobindo said: "Really speaking I got my true taste [for painting] in Alipore Jail. I used to meditate and I saw various pictures with colours and then I found that the critical faculty also arose in me. I did not know the thing intellectually, but I caught the real spirit. But my natural preference is for architecture and {{0}}sculpture."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, p. 261]]

29 January. Talk on yoga and morality.

30 January. During the talk in the evening Sri Aurobindo said:

"I used to get fever and sometimes something would come down and reject it successfully, while at other times I had to go on working at the thing again and again. I have seen that, at times, the strongest faith does not succeed. Again, you may have the strongest will and yet the thing does not get done. Not that faith is not necessary or the will not useful. But they both require something – a third element – which when it comes down brings success. Even if there is opposition yet the success {{0}}comes."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, p. 229]]

4 February. Talk about quinine. Sri Aurobindo said: "The last time I took quinine was in Alipore Jail in 1909. It had no effect. The fever was very high and in that state I somehow staggered to the door of the cell and told the watchman to bring some water. He brought very cold – almost ice cold-water. I drank the whole quantity he had brought. Then feeling very weak I lay down in bed. In ten minutes the fever left me. After that I did not get that kind of fever."

24 February. Tirupati, a sadhaka from Andhra, lost his mental balance and was sent to Vizianagaram. He came from there to Pondicherry without permission. He had been informed by wire not to come: "Inform Tirupati my anger. Prevent coming to Pondicherry. I refuse to receive him." We see here that Sri Aurobindo could become hard when necessary. But whether his "anger" was the ordinary emotion or a yogic reaction is another matter. Once speaking about anger Sri Aurobindo said: "In my case I once felt anger coming up and possessing me. It was absolutely uncontrollable when it came. I was very much surprised to see it in my nature. Anger has always been foreign to me.... But by anger I do not mean the Rudra Bhava which I have had a few {{0}}times."[[Cf: Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series, p. 121]]

When asked: "Is Rudra Bhava something like the story of the snake related by Ramakrishna where the snake was asked to raise its hood – an appearance of anger – to keep off harmful people?", Sri Aurobindo replied: "Not at all. It is something genuine – a violent severity against something very wrong, that is, the Rudra Bhava of Shiva. Anger one knows by its feelings and sensations; it rises from below. While Rudra Bhava – the divine manyu – rises from the heart. I will give an instance. Once X became very violent against the Mother and was shouting and showing his fists. As I heard the shouting, a violent severity came down that was absolutely uncontrollable. I went out and said: 'Who is shouting at the Mother? Who is shouting here?' The moment he heard it X became {{0}}quiet."[[Cf: Purani, Evening Talks, Third Series, p. 122]]

2 March. Talk on personal effort and the divine working.

6 March. Talk on the marriage of a sadhaka at Chandernagore.

12 March. Talk on the place of personal effort in sadhana. Speaking about subtle sight Sri Aurobindo said: "I was at Baroda... and my psychic sight was not yet developed. I was trying to develop it by dwelling upon the after-image and also by attending to it in the interval between wakefulness and sleep. Then I saw a circle of light and when I began prānāyāma it became very much more {{0}}intensified."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p. 217]]

13 March. Talk on the psychic being.

31 March. Reminiscences of earlier life: "When I joined the Baroda state service as I was not accustomed to getting money I had the tendency of gathering and saving my money. I saved some and then suddenly spent away the whole sum at one {{0}}time.[[Dinendra Kumar Roy speaks of this in his Aurobindo Prasanga; a similar attitude towards money can be seen in Mr. Patkar's statement (p. 62).]]

"In 1909 I got a yogic fancy for taking only rice, ghee and plantains which I carried out though desire for meat was there in the vital being."

Talk about the paintings of Abanindranath and Rabindranath Tagore.

7 April. Talk on Indian political constitutions and institutions.

14 April. Sri Aurobindo spoke about one of his own experiences: "When I got first the Cosmic Consciousness – I call it the passive Brahman – I did not fall into unconsciousness; I was fully conscious on the physical plane. It also did not go away or last only for a few moments.... It lasted for months. It came upon me as soon as I could quiet the mind completely. I saw it above the mind and it was that which was reflected in the {{0}}mind."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, First Series, p. 81]]

6 May. Tirupati came again to Pondicherry. A stiff letter telling him to go back was sent by Sri Aurobindo.

12 May. Talk on Gustav Gillet's book Ectoplasme et Clairvoyance.

18 May. Talk on yoga and shakti.

20 May. Talk on Ouspensky and Dr. Bucke and their books.

1 June. Talk on the vital plane and the asuras.

10 June. Talk on the form of working of the Higher Power and on Sri Aurobindo's own sadhana. The talk turned to vegetarianism. Sri Aurobindo said: "I was once as violent a non-vegetarian as C is now a vegetarian. Then I found out it was my own vital being that was demanding meat. Well, I gave it up and for years together I went on taking whatever came. Then I discovered that what people call tasteless and bad food has got its own taste." During this period (1924–1926) Sri Aurobindo used to prepare cooked fish for the cats.

11 June. Talk on the different parts of the being and their relation to each other.

15 June. Talk on immortality and the victory of the Supermind on the physical plane.

18 June. Talk on astrology and prophecy.

25 June. Talk on suffering and spirituality.

26 June. Talk on the Gods.

29 June. Talk on the difference between European and Indian politics.

July (for a few days in the beginning of the month) Talks on Tirupati, the deranged sadhaka.

10 July. Remark in a talk: "Vivekananda came and gave me the knowledge of the intuitive mentality. I had not the least idea about it at that time. He too did not have it when he was in the body. He gave me detailed knowledge illustrating each point. The contact lasted about three weeks and then he withdrew."

11 July. Talk on Kaya Kalpa methods of rejuvenation current in India.

6 August. Talk on the relation between feelings and emotions.

13 August. Talk on psychology.

14 August. Talk on the aesthetic being and the psychic being and their relation.

16 August. There was a report of a memory of a past birth by someone in the Bareilly district; talk in the evening on the subject.

18 August. Explanation of "Opening" in yoga. Talk on the Arya.

22 August. Talk on the form of the Gods.

24 August. Talk on the plane of the Gods.

26 August. Talk on education.

27 August. Talk on art and beauty.

31 August. Talk on science and time and space.

2 September. Three or four sadhikas (lady disciples) began to go to the Mother for meditation. After a few days sadhaks as well were allowed to go to her for meditation.

3 September. Dolatram, a pleader from the Panjab, came for sadhana. He stayed for some time.

4 September. Sri Aurobindo said: "If I had stuck to my job I would have been a principal, perhaps, written some poetry and lived in comfort like a bourgeois. All the energy I have I owe to yoga. Even the energy I put forth in politics came from {{0}}yoga."[[Cf. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p. 98]]

7 September. Talk on the characteristics of the different national mentalities.

19 September. A letter from Dhiren. A reply sent explaining dreams.

20 September. Talk on fitness for yoga.

25 September. An amusing reminiscence of Baroda life: "When Mr. Eliot, the Maharaja's tutor, came to Baroda from England, Mr. Parvi, a Parsi officer, could not understand anything he said because of the strangeness of his pronunciation, so Mr. Parvi went on saying Yes to everything. Then Mr. Eliot put him a question to which he should have said No but he said as usual Yes. Eliot got annoyed and said, 'Shall I take you for an ass?' Parvi replied Yes."

12 October. Talk on poetry.

October (third week). Rajani Palit came. He obtained permission to meditate with the Mother.

5 November. Talk: the Gods and the Asuras; the Gods on the different planes and on the supramental plane. The talk had a bearing on the current state of sadhana.

24 November 1926 – the Day of Siddhi

In order to understand the importance of this day it is necessary to go back to Sri Aurobindo's experiences in jail in 1908–1909 and link them up with his experience of 24 November 1926. We must also take into consideration what Sri Aurobindo wrote about his own sadhana to Barin in 1920.

In the letter to Barin of April 1920 Sri Aurobindo described the stage of his yoga before he came to Pondicherry in 1910 as "preliminary or preparatory". That is to say it was a preliminary stage of the supramental yoga. "The Guru of the world who is within us then gave me the complete directions of my path – its complete theory, the ten limbs of the body of this Yoga. These ten years [1910–1920] He has been making me develop it in experience, and it is not yet finished....

"If we cannot rise above, that is, to the supramental level, it is hardly possible to know the last secret of the world and the problem it raises remains unsolved.

"This is no easy change to make. After these fifteen years I am only now rising into the lowest of the three levels of the Supermind and trying to draw up into it all the lower activities. But when this Siddhi will be complete, then I am absolutely certain that God will through me give to others the Siddhi of the Supermind with less effort. Then my real work will begin. I am not impatient for success in the work. What is to happen will happen in God's appointed time. I have no impulse to make any unbalanced haste and rush into the field of work in the strength of the little ego. Even if I did not succeed in my work I would not be shaken. This work is not mine but God's. I will listen to no other call; when God moves me then I will move.

"I do not want hundreds of thousands of disciples. It will be enough if I can get a hundred complete men, purified of petty egoism, who will be the instruments of God.

"If the unripe goes amid the unripe what can he do?"

These quotations clearly demonstrate that when Sri Aurobindo came to Pondicherry he was not groping for his path; his path was clear before him. After 1910 the charge of his yoga was taken over by the Divine and the path was revealed to him in ten limbs of the sadhana. He was all along conscious of the existence of the Supramental plane above the mind, and by 1920 he had succeeded in ascending to the lowest stratum of that consciousness and also in drawing up all the movements of his nature into it.

He was, besides, not impatient for action. He did not want to act from ignorant human instruments but from a Higher Consciousness. He had the confidence that if the Supramental descent could be established in its perfection, then other people would be able to profit by it with much less effort.

It was when the Tapasya for the Siddhi of the Supramental was going on that, fortunately, as if by a Divine dispensation, the Mother joined Sri Aurobindo intimately in the great spiritual work. From the beginning of 1926 the work of guiding the disciples already began to move towards the Mother. There were women disciples – three or four in number – staying in the Ashram who used to go to the Mother for meditation. From August 1926 the number of disciples going to the Mother increased. It was as if Sri Aurobindo was slowly withdrawing himself and the Mother was spontaneously coming out and taking up the great work of direction of the sadhaks' inner sadhana and of the organisation of the outer life of the Ashram. The meditations became more and more concentrated and intense. Sri Aurobindo's coming out for the evening sitting began getting later and later. The wonder of it was that no one felt anything unnatural in all these changes. The part of the disciples in the tremendous task of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was insignificant, still they were the witnesses of the changes in the inner and outer atmosphere of the Ashram.

From the trend of the evening talks just before and after 15 August 1926 it was becoming clear that the importance of a link between the highest Supermind and mind was being emphasized. Sri Aurobindo called this link the Overmind. During the six years since the letter to Barin of 1920 it is evident that he had gone much further not only in the ascent towards and into the Higher Consciousness but also in bringing about its descent into Nature. Several times in the beginning of November 1926, the evening talks turned to the possibility of the descent of the Divine Consciousness and its process. From these evening conversations, therefore, the idea came to several disciples that such a descent might be near. There was the possibility of the descent of the Gods. In The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo has given a clear exposition of the overmind plane, overmind consciousness and overmind Gods. I give here some quotations from this chapter which might be of help in the understanding of the descent that took place on 24 November 1926.

"If we regard the Powers of the Reality as so many Godheads, we can say that the Overmind releases a million Godheads into action, each empowered to create its own world, each world capable of relation, communication and interplay with the others. There are in the Veda different formulations of the nature of the Gods: it is said they are all one Existence to which the sages give different names; yet each God is worshipped as if he by himself is that Existence, one who is all the other Gods together or contains them in his being; and yet again each is a separate Deity acting sometimes in unison with companion deities, sometimes separately, sometimes even in apparent opposition to other Godheads of the same Existence. In the Supermind all this would be held together as a harmonised play of the one Existence; in the Overmind each of these three conditions could be a separate action or basis of action and have its own principle of development and consequences and yet each keep the power to combine with the others in a more composite harmony. As with the One Existence, so with its Consciousness and Force. The One Consciousness is separated into many independent forms of consciousness and knowledge; each follows out its own line of truth which it has to realise. The one total and many-sided Real-Idea is split up into its many sides; each becomes an independent Idea-Force with the power to realise itself. The one Consciousness-Force is liberated into its million forces, and each of these forces has the right to fulfil itself or to assume, if needed, a hegemony and take up for its own utility the other forces. So too the Delight of Existence is loosed out into all manner of delights and each can carry in itself its independent fullness or sovereign extreme. Overmind thus gives to the One Existence-Consciousness-Bliss the character of a teeming of infinite possibilities which can be developed into a multitude of worlds or thrown together into one world in which the endlessly variable outcome of their play is the determinant of the creation, of its process, its course and its {{0}}consequence."[[Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book One (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), pp. 280–81]]

"[In the Overmind] each God knows all the Gods and their place in existence; each Idea admits all other ideas and their right to be; each Force concedes a place to all other forces and their truth and consequences; no delight of separate fulfilled existence or separate experience denies or condemns the delight of other existence or other experience. The Overmind is a principle of cosmic Truth and a vast and endless catholicity is its very spirit; its energy is an all-dynamism as well as a principle of separate {{0}}dynamisms...."[[Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book One (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), p. 283]]

A feeling that the descent of the Higher Consciousness was about to take place grew in the minds of the many disciples either as a result of some indicative personal experience or owing to the general atmosphere. Many felt that great changes in the outer structure of the Ashram were about to occur. Instead of coming to the evening sitting at half-past four, the usual time, Sri Aurobindo came at six or seven, or eight o'clock. One day the record was two o'clock in the morning! It was evident that all his great energies were entirely taken up by the mighty task of bringing about the descent of the Higher Consciousness and that he did not want to lose or divert even a second of his time to anything else. Even though the work of maintaining an outer contact with the disciples was found useful it was becoming more and more difficult in view of the growing demand upon his time for the inner work. Those who do not know anything about his great mission can hardly understand how concentrated and sincere was his application for attaining perfection in his Divine task. In fact, people outside had already begun to be sceptical about any "practical" result of his vast efforts. Even those who had built high hopes upon his spiritual effort and were his genuine admirers began to be disappointed. Some even cherished, in their ignorance, the foolish belief that Sri Aurobindo had lost his way in the barren regions of the Absolute, the Para Brahman, or that he was entangled somewhere in the inscrutable coils of the Infinite! They believed that Sri Aurobindo had lost his hold on the earth, and that he had become either indifferent or deaf to the pressing and burning problems of suffering humanity. If it was not so, why did he not rush to the help of humanity that was suffering so much with the saving balm of his Divine help? When was such Divine help more needed than now?

But, in spite of the apparent contradictions, those who were fortunate enough to live in his vicinity knew very well that the Higher Power that he was bringing down was not only capable of but was actually producing practical results. His contact and identification with the Higher Power were so complete that he was able to put other people, whether near to him or far, in contact with it. There were almost daily instances of people being cured of physical illness by his help. Far from losing his way in the Absolute he was seeing his way more and more clearly every day and was feeling more and more the inevitability of the descent as a natural crown of the movement of evolution on earth. His disciples knew that there was no one on earth who had a deeper sympathy and feeling for humanity than the Master. The silent and solid help that was going out from him to humanity was glimpsed by them at times. They felt later, reading the line he wrote in Savitri about Aswapathy, "His spirit's stillness helped the toiling world", that it was so true of his own life. What after all is that "practicality" of which people speak so much? Claiming to solve problems, does it not really leave them either unsolved or half-solved while giving to the doer a false sense of satisfaction and self-complacence? In fact, the Supreme Master had such a firm grip over the earth that such illusionary satisfaction could never deceive him. For him karmasu kausalam (skill in action) consisted in acting from a higher Truth-Consciousness. He did not want to begin outer action so long as the Higher Consciousness did not descend into the physical and even into the gross material consciousness. Only so could a new life, a life that manifests integrally the Divine, be embodied. In the fulfillment of the spiritual work that he had begun lies the ultimate solution of all human problems.

Days, months and years passed; but Sri Aurobindo did not seem at all in a hurry to begin his work. He was all along preparing the possibility of the descent of the Higher Power. The resistance of the powers of Ignorance against any such attempt is naturally immense. In one evening talk he said that he was engaged in the tremendous task of opening up the physical cells to the Divine Light and the resistance of the Inconscient was formidable. When one knows that all this Herculean labour was undertaken not for himself but for humanity, for making a new departure for man in the course of his evolution then one feels that the words he later used of Savitri, "The world unknowing, for the world she stood", are so very apposite in his own case. It was therefore natural that when, by the grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the disciples also felt the nearness of the descent, their hearts should be full of expectant and concentrated enthusiasm.

From the beginning of November 1926 the pressure of the Higher Power began to be unbearable. Then at last the great day, the day for which the Mother had been waiting for so many long years, arrived on 24 November. The sun had almost set, and everyone was occupied with his own activity – some had gone out to the seaside for a walk – when the Mother sent round word to all the disciples to assemble as soon as possible in the verandah where the usual meditation was held. It did not take long for the message to go round to all. By six o'clock most of the disciples had gathered. It was becoming dark. In the verandah on the wall near Sri Aurobindo's door, just behind his chair, a; black silk curtain with gold lace work representing three Chinese dragons was hung. The three dragons were so represented that the tail of one reached up to the mouth of the other and the three of them covered the curtain from end to end. We came to know afterwards that there is a prophecy in China that the Truth will manifest itself on earth when the three dragons (the dragons of the earth, of the mind region and of the sky) meet. Today on 24 November the Truth was descending and the hanging of the curtain was significant.

There was a deep silence in the atmosphere after the disciples had gathered there. Many saw an oceanic flood of Light rushing down from above. Everyone present felt a kind of pressure above his head. The whole atmosphere was surcharged with some electrical energy. In that silence, in that atmosphere full of concentrated expectation and aspiration, in the electrically charged atmosphere, the usual, yet on this day quite unusual, tick was heard behind the door of the entrance. Expectation rose in a flood. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother could be seen through the half-opened door. The Mother with a gesture of her eyes requested Sri Aurobindo to step out first. Sri Aurobindo with a similar gesture suggested to her to do the same. With a slow dignified step the Mother came out first, followed by Sri Aurobindo with his majestic gait. The small table that used to be in front of Sri Aurobindo's chair was removed this day. The Mother sat on a small stool to his right.

Silence absolute, living silence – not merely living but overflowing with divinity. The meditation lasted about forty-five minutes. After that one by one the disciples bowed to the Mother.

She and Sri Aurobindo gave blessings to them. Whenever a disciple bowed to the Mother, Sri Aurobindo's right hand came forward behind the Mother's as if blessing him through the Mother. After the blessings, in the same silence there was a short meditation.

In the interval of silent meditation and blessings many had distinct experiences. When all was over they felt as if they had awakened from a divine dream. Then they felt the grandeur, the poetry and the absolute beauty of the occasion. It was not as if a handful of disciples were receiving blessings from their Supreme Master and the Mother in one little comer of the earth; the significance of the occasion was far greater than that. It was certain that a Higher Consciousness had descended on earth. In that deep silence had burgeoned forth, like the sprout of a banyan tree, the beginning of a mighty spiritual work. This momentous occasion carried its significance to all in the divine dynamism of the silence, in its unearthly dignity and grandeur and in the utter beauty of its every little act. The deep impress of divinity which everyone got was for him a priceless treasure.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother went inside. Immediately Datta was inspired. In that silence she spoke: "The Lord has descended into the physical today."

That 24 November should be given an importance equal to that of the birthdays of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is quite proper because on that day the descent of the Higher Power symbolic of the victory of their mission took place. The Delight consciousness in the Overmind which Sri Krishna incarnated – as Avatar – descended on this day into the physical rendering possible the descent of the Supermind in Matter.

Of this descent Sri Aurobindo wrote on several occasions afterwards. In October 1935 he wrote as follows:

"It [the 24th November 1926] was the descent of Krishna into the physical.

"Krishna is not the supramental Light. The descent of Krishna would mean the descent of the Overmind Godhead preparing, though not itself actually bringing, the descent of Supermind and Ananda. Krishna is the Anandamaya; he supports the evolution through the Overmind leading it towards his {{0}}Ananda."[[Cf. Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 136.]]

The names of those disciples who were present on 24 November 1926:

(1) Bijoy Kumar Nag, (2) Nolini Kanta Gupta, (3) K. Amrita, (4) Moni (Suresh Chakravarty), (5) Pavitra (Phillippe Barbier Saint-Hilaire), (6) Barindra Kumar Ghose, (7) Datta (Miss Hodgson), (8) K. Rajangam, (9) Satyen, (10) Purani, (11) Lilavati (Purani's wife), (12) Punamchand, (13) Champa Ben (Punamchand's wife), (14) Rajani Kanta Palit, (15) Dr. Upendra Nath Banerjee, (16) Champaklal, (17) Kanailal Gangulee, (18) Khitish Chandra Dutt, (19) V. Chandra Sekharam, (20) Pujalal, (21) Purushottam Patel, (22) Rati Palit, (23) Rambhai Patel, (24) Nani Bala.

Part Three. Chapter X. Pondicherry: 1927 – 1950


A. B. Purani's Life of Sri Aurobindo ends with his account of the descent of 24 November 1926 and, in fact the external life of Sri Aurobindo, of which his book is a record, can be said to have ended at this point. As Purani has written in the introduction to his Evening Talks, "After November 24, 1926 the [evening] sitting began to get later and later, till the limit of one o’clock at night was reached. Then the curtain fell. Sri Aurobindo retired completely after December {{0}}1926...."[[A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series (Pondicherry) Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1961) , p. 12.]]

On 8 February 1927 Sri Aurobindo and the Mother moved from 9, Rue de la Marine to 28, Rue Franηois Martin, a house on the north-east corner of the same block as the Rue de la Marine house. Sri Aurobindo never went out of this new residence. For twenty-four years he lived in almost complete seclusion, wholly concentrated on his sadhana – a sadhana done not for himself but "for the earth-consciousness”.

What could be written about this period of Sri Aurobindo’s life? If even before the day of siddhi his life was not on the surface for men to see', what could one hope to say about these years when his concentration on the inner life was much more complete? But to say nothing about this span of twenty-four years would be to leave a considerable gap. We will therefore give here a summary account of the life of Sri Aurobindo from 1927 to 1950, taking note in passing of the Ashram which grew up around him during this period.


An ashram is the dwelling place of a spiritual master where he receives and gives shelter to those who come to him to obtain his teaching and guidance. Sri Aurobindo’s house in Pondicherry was certainly this, for, if the first batch of young men who came to live with him had met him in the political field, spriritual relations were gradually developed: they who had looked on Sri Aurobindo as a friend and companion began to regard him as their guru and master. Nevertheless, in those early years and even after 1923 Sri Aurobindo "did not like his house to be called an 'Ashram', as the word had acquired the sense of a public institution to the modern {{0}}mind."[[A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series (Pondicherry) Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1961) , p. 8]]

After the Mother returned to India in 1920 "the number of disciples... showed a tendency to increase rather {{0}}rapidly.”[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 479.]] More and more aspirants seeing that "the flower of Divinity had blossomed in him" came to Sri Aurobindo "like bees seeking {{0}}honey."[[Purani, Evening talks. Second Series, p. 8.]] Some of those who came were allowed by Sri Aurobindo to live in his house (or in one of the other houses that were bought or rented as the numbers began to increase) to do sadhana under his direct guidance. As the Ashram thus slowly took shape "it fell to the Mother to organise {{0}}it."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 479.]] We have seen how, as Sri Aurobindo began gradually to withdraw,the Mother spontaneously began to come forward to take up the work of guidance of the sadhaks as she had, even in the semi-retirement she observed during her first years in Pondicherry, taken upon herself the material charge of the household. WhenSriAurobindo retired completely after 24 November 1926, "the whole material and spiritual charge" of the Ashram devolved on the {{0}}Mother.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 479.]] It is for this reason that 24 November is regarded not only as the day of Sri Aurobindo's siddhi but also as the birthday of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Sri Aurobindo had retired from the physical atmosphere in order to bring about the descent of what he called the Supermind.

"By the supermind is meant the full Truth-Consciousness of the Divine Nature in which there can be no place for the principle of division and ignorance; it is always a full light and knowledge superior to all mental substance or mental movement. Between the supermind and the human mind are a number of ranges, planes or layers of consciousness – one can regard it in various ways – in which the element or substance of mind and consequently its movements also become more and more illumined and powerful and wide. The overmind is the highest of these ranges; it is full of lights and powers; but from the point of view of what is above it, it is the line of the soul's turning away from the complete and indivisible knowledge and its descent towards the Ignorance. For although it draws from the Truth, it is here that begins the separation of aspects of the Truth, the forces and their working out as if they were independent truths and this is a process that ends, as one descends to ordinary Mind, Life and Matter, in a complete division, fragmentation, separation from the indivisible Truth above. There is no longer the essential, total, perfectly harmonising and unifying knowledge, or rather knowledge for ever harmonious because for ever one, which is the character of supermind. In the supermind, mental divisions and oppositions cease, the problems created by our dividing and fragmenting mind disappear and Truth is seen as a luminous {{0}}whole."[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part One (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), p. 257.]]

This Supermind, "the truth of that which we call {{0}}God",[[Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book One Part One & Book Two Part One (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), p. 132.]] exists in its perfection above our lower nature of mind, life and body and is also involved, latent, within it. Sri Aurobindo's task was, by bringing about the descent of this Truth-Consciousness of the supreme divine Nature into one individual, himself, to prepare for its general manifestation in this apparently undivine lower nature. The ultimate result of this manifestation would be the transformation and divinisation of mind, life and matter. It would mean for man his transfiguration into Superman.

But this supramentalisation was not sought by Sri Aurobindo in any egoistic spirit of self-aggrandisement or even with the larger but still egoistic aim of aggrandising or colossalising all humanity. "It is a higher Truth I seek," wrote Sri Aurobindo once to one of his disciples, "whether it makes men greater or not is not the question, but whether it will give them truth and peace and light to live in and make life something better than a struggle with ignorance and falsehood and pain and strife. Then, even if they are less great than the men of the past, my object will have been achieved. For me mental conceptions cannot be the end of all things. I know that the Supermind is a truth.

"It is not for personal greatness that I am seeking to bring down the Supermind. I care nothing for greatness or littleness in the human sense. I am seeking to bring some principle of inner Truth, Light, Harmony, Peace into the earth-consciousness; I see it above and know what it is – I feel it ever gleaming down on my consciousness from above and I am seeking to make it possible for it to take up the whole being into its own native power, instead of the nature of man continuing to remain in half-light, half-darkness. I believe the descent of this Truth opening the way to a development of divine consciousness here to be the final sense of the earth evolution. If greater men than myself have not had this vision and this ideal before them, that is no reason why I should not follow my Truth-sense and Truth-vision. If human reason regards me as a fool for trying to do what Krishna did not try, I do not in the least care. There is no question of X or Y or anybody else in that. It is a question between the Divine and myself –whether it is the Divine Will or not, whether I am sent to bring that down or open the way for its descent or at least make it more possible or not. Let all men jeer at me if they will or all Hell fall upon me if it will for my presumption, – I go on till I conquer or perish. This is the spirit in which I seek the Supermind, no hunting for greatness for myself or {{0}}others."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 143–44.]]

It is clear that although Sri Aurobindo had retired from the outward life he had not retired into an inert and ineffective state of personal beatitude.

"No, it is not with the Empyrean that I am busy: I wish it were. It is rather with the opposite end of things; it is in the Abyss that I have to plunge to build a bridge between the two. But that too is necessary for my work and one has to face {{0}}it."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 153.]]

The work went on through the thirties. In 1933 Sri Aurobindo wrote: "No, the supramental has not descended into the body or into-Matter – it is only at the point where such a descent has become not only possible but inevitable; I am speaking, of course, of my {{0}}experience."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 147.]] And again in 1934: "The supramental Force is descending, but it has not yet taken possession of the body or of matter – there is still much resistance to that. It is supramentalised Overmind Force that has already touched, and this may at any time change into or give place to the supramental in its own native {{0}}power."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 470.]]

Meanwhile the external life of the Ashram was undergoing great changes. Between 1927 and 1933 the number of sadhaks increased from 24 to 150 and continued to grow. Nearly all newcomers were assigned some work in one or another of the services that were developing: the dining room, the atelier (workshop), the building service, the furniture service, the godowns etc. Sadhana through this work as well as through meditation and bhakti was intensely pursued under the direct supervision of the Mother, who had behind her the silent support of Sri Aurobindo.

More direct help from Sri Aurobindo was received in two ways: though darshan and through correspondence. On the three occasions of darshan: 21 February, the birthday of the Mother; 15 August, the birthday of Sri Aurobindo; and 24 November, the day of siddhi; Sri Aurobindo allowed himself to be seen by his disciples and selected outsiders. On these days he and the Mother sat together in a small room near his, while their devotees, one by one, approached, offered flowers and prostrated themselves at their feet. At darshan Sri Aurobindo had the opportunity of observing firsthand the inner state of his disciples, and of acting upon their inner and outer beings with his spiritual force. They, on their side, had the opportunity, to them most joyful, of seeing the embodied perfection towards which they aspired.

Sri Aurobindo wrote a few letters to some of his disciples in the late twenties, but correspondence with him did not become a regular part of the sadhana of the Ashram until around 1930. By 1933 "piles and piles of note-books and letters used to be written, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo poring over them the whole night month after month, answering all sorts of questions, sublime and ridiculous, put by the sadhaks and sadhikas....

On some the writing was obligatory, for others voluntary; but nobody wanted to miss such an {{0}}opportunity."[[Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), p. 1.]]

In the letters and notebooks the disciples related the course of their sadhana and reported on the progress of their work in the services. It took Sri Aurobindo "all the night and a good part of the {{0}}day"[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 489.]] to reply. He wrote in 1933 to a sadhak who was upset about not getting an immediate answer: "You do not realise that I have to spend 12 hours over the ordinary correspondence, numerous reports, etc. I work 3 hours in the afternoon and the whole night up to 6 in the morning over this. So if I get a long letter with many questions I may not be able to answer it all at once. To get into such a disturbance over it and want to throw off the Yoga is quite {{0}}unreasonable."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 186.]]

Sri Aurobindo considered this correspondence an important part of his work with the sadhaks. "If I have given importance to the correspondence, it is because it was an effective instrument towards my central purpose.... No doubt also it was not the correspondence in itself but the Force that was increasing in its pressure on the physical nature which was able to do all this, but a canalisation was needed, and this served the {{0}}purpose."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 180.]]

In the published portion of Sri Aurobindo's correspondence, which runs to over 2000 printed pages, are found many letters written in an elevated style which touch upon the deepest concerns of humanity. In the unpublished portion, which is also very large, we find many notes like the following: "All the houses have been damaged [by a cyclone] and are being repaired one after the other. The house is someone else's and we can't deal drastically with the tin shields (they must have been put from necessity, for when Mother was living there, the rooms used to become lakes when there was rain), but you can show to C. He may get some happy idea." Even the most mundane details of the Ashram's day to day life were referred to Sri Aurobindo.

Another major feature of the sadhana in those days was pranam. Each morning the sadhaks assembled in the Pranam Hall (now called the Meditation Hall) and, after the Mother had seated herself, approached one by one and made obeisance (pranāma, literally "bowing"). The Mother looked deeply at each sadhak before and after he made pranam and gave him her blessings, sometimes by placing both of her hands on his head. Before the sadhak left the Mother gave him a specially chosen flower. To the Mother each flower had a particular significance or power and could be used by her as a vehicle of her force. The whole purpose of pranam was to give the Mother an occasion to infuse her force into the sadhaks. At the same time it gave them a chance to open themselves to her influence and to offer themselves to the Divine through her. This twofold action took place more collectively at "balcony darshan". Every morning from the early 1930's until 1962, the Mother came out onto her first-floor balcony while many sadhaks, anxious to begin the day with her blessings, stood below in respectful silence. The life of the Ashram provided many such opportunities for the sadhaks to approach the Mother. Even the most everyday activities – receiving the necessities of the month from "Prosperity", the Ashram's stores, for instance, or the daily taking of food – were made means of spiritual communion.

The life of the Ashram – the sadhana and the work of the sadhaks, and the greater, unseen sadhana of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother – went on rhythmically until the eve of the darshan of 24 November 1938. Then, in the words of A. B. Purani, in the early morning of the twenty-fourth, "between 2.20 and 2.30 the Mother rang the bell. I ran up the staircase to be told suddenly that an accident had happened to Sri Aurobindo's leg and that I should fetch the doctor. This accident brought about a change in his complete retirement, and rendered him available to those who had to attend on him. This opened out a long period of 12 years during which his retirement was modified owing to circumstances, inner and outer, that made it possible for him to have direct physical contacts with the world {{0}}outside."[[Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, pp. 12–13.]]

Because of the accident, the darshan of 24 November and also that of 21 February 1939 were not held. In response to the desire of his disciples Sri Aurobindo gave a special darshan on 24 April 1939, the anniversary of the Mother's second and final arrival in Pondicherry, which had taken place in 1920. This day henceforward became a regular darshan day. But the routine of the darshan was changed: devotees could now only file past Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in silence. Also as a result of the accident Sri Aurobindo's correspondence with the sadhaks, one or two of them excepted, was discontinued. But a new form of contact with him, more limited but also more intimate, was begun. Six or seven disciples, most of them doctors, were chosen to attend on Sri Aurobindo while he was recovering from his accident. With them Sri Aurobindo had conversations on a wide variety of subjects.

Many of the talks dealt with the current world situation. Through newspapers and other periodicals and later by radio Sri Aurobindo kept himself informed about the events which in 1939 led to the declaration of war in Europe.

At first Sri Aurobindo "did not actively concern himself” with the war "but when it appeared as if Hitler would crush all the forces opposed to him and Nazism dominate the world, he began to intervene. He declared himself publicly on the side of the Allies, made some financial contributions in answer to the appeal for funds and encouraged those who sought his advice to enter the army or share in the war {{0}}effort."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 38.]]

One of his contributions was to the Governor of the Madras Presidency. It was accompanied by the following letter:

"We are placing herewith at the disposal of H. E. the Governor of Madras a sum of Rs.500 as our joint contribution to the Madras War Fund. This donation which is in continuation of previous sums given by us for the cause of the Allies (10,000 francs to the French Caisse de Defense Nationale before the unhappy collapse of France and Rs.1000 to the Viceroy's War Fund immediately after the Armistice) is sent as an expression of our entire support for the British people and the Empire in their struggle against the aggressions of the Nazi Reich and our complete sympathy with the cause for which they are fighting.

"We feel that not only is this battle waged in just self-defence and in defence of nations threatened with the world domination of Germany and the Nazi system of life, but that it is a defence of the civilisation and its highest attained social, cultural and spiritual values and of the whole future of humanity. To this cause our support and sympathy will be unswerving whatever may happen; we look forward to the victory of Britain and as the eventual result, an era of peace and union among the nations and a better and more secure world-{{0}}order."[[Sri Aurobindo, "Sri Aurobindo and The Mother on The Second World War", Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1 (February 1976), pp. 24–26.]]

It is important to note that at the time of this declaration practically the whole of India was strongly in support of the Axis powers. "The Indian national feeling against the British was so bitter that every victory of Hitler was acclaimed as {{0}}ours.”[[Narayan Prasad, Life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1968), p. 288.]]

Sri Aurobindo's will was as much for the liberation of India in 1942 as it had been in the days of the Bande Mataram; but this did not blind him to the true nature of the Nazi aggression.

"He saw that behind Hitler and Nazism were dark Asuric forces and that their success would mean the enslavement of mankind to the tyranny of evil, and a set-back to the course of evolution and especially to the spiritual evolution of mankind: it would lead also to the enslavement not only of Europe but of Asia, and in it of India, an enslavement far more terrible than any this country had ever endured, and the undoing of all the work that had been done for her {{0}}liberation."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 39.]]

A. B. Purani, who was one of Sri Aurobindo's attendants, writes: "It was a priceless experience to see how he devoted his energies to the task of saving humanity from the threatened reign of Nazism. It was a practical lesson of solid work done for humanity without any thought of return or reward, without even letting humanity know what he was doing for it! Thus he lived the Divine and showed us how the Divine cares for the world, how he comes down and works for man. I shall never forget how he who was at one time – in his own words – 'not merely a non-co-operator but an enemy of British Imperialism' bestowed such anxious care on the health of Churchill, listening carefully to the health-bulletins! It was the work of the Divine, it was the Divine's work for the {{0}}world."[[Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p. 13.]]

But Sri Aurobindo's participation was not confined to following the war news or to making contributions and public statements:" Inwardly, he put his spiritual force behind the Allies from the moment of Dunkirk [May 1940] when everybody was expecting the immediate fall of England and the definite triumph of Hitler, and he had the satisfaction of seeing the rush of German victory almost immediately arrested and the tide of war begin to turn in the opposite {{0}}direction."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 38–39.]]

We cannot hope to treat here adequately of Sri Aurobindo's spiritual force. Suffice it to say that as a result of his sadhana Sri Aurobindo had attained not only the Peace, Light and Bliss of the Divine, but also mastery of the Divine's dynamic Energy. With this Energy Sri Aurobindo was able to bring about concrete results on the material plane; indeed, "the invisible Force producing tangible results both inward and outward is the whole meaning of the Yogic {{0}}consciousness."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 197]] We have seen that Sri Aurobindo had long been using his force on his sadhaks, to cure them of illness, for example, or to help them progress in their sadhana. But the range of a spiritual force cannot be determined by material distance. "Certainly, my force is not limited to the Ashram and its conditions," he once wrote. "As you know it is being largely used for helping the right development of the war and of change in the human world. It is also used for individual purposes outside the scope of the Ashram and the practice of Yoga; but that, of course, is silently done and mainly by a spiritual {{0}}action."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 196.]]

Sri Aurobindo "had not, for various reasons, intervened with his spiritual force against the Japanese aggression until it became evident that Japan intended to attack and even invade and conquer {{0}}India."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p, 39]] "Impregnable" Singapore fell on 15 February 1942 and the Japanese quickly overran Malaya and Burma. On 11 March, three days after the fall of Rangoon, the British government announced that they were sending Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the War Cabinet, to India. In a Draft Declaration, issued shortly after Cripps' arrival in Delhi on 27 March 1943, the government offered to take steps "for the earliest possible realisation of self-government in India" through "the creation of a new Indian Union which shall constitute a Dominion associated with the United Kingdom and other Dominions by a common allegiance to the Crown but equal to them in every respect, in no way subordinate in any respect of its domestic and external affairs." A body to frame the constitution of this new union was to be set up as soon as the war was over. Besides this, certain guarantees were given to the provinces and to racial and religious groups. Finally, the British invited Indian cooperation in the war {{0}}effort.[[Draft Declaration of the Cripps' Mission, summarised in R. C. Majumdar, History of the Freedom Movement in India, Vol. Ill (Calcutta: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1963), p. 622.]]

Sri Aurobindo "supported the Cripps' offer because by its acceptance India and Britain could stand united against the Asuric forces and the solution of Cripps could be used as a step towards {{0}}independence."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 39.]] On 31 March 1942 he sent the British diplomat the following message:

"I have heard your broadcast. As one who has been a nationalist leader and worker for India's independence, though now my activity is no longer in the political but in the spiritual field, I wish to express my appreciation of all you have done to bring about this offer. I welcome it as an opportunity given to India to determine for herself, and organise in all liberty of choice, her freedom and unity, and take an effective place among the world's free nations. I hope that it will be accepted, and right use made of it, putting aside all discords and divisions. I hope too that friendly relations between Britain and India replacing the past struggles, will be a step towards a greater world union in which, as a free nation, her spiritual force will contribute to build for mankind a better and happier life. In this light, I offer my public adhesion, in case it can be of any help in your {{0}}work."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 399.]]

Sri Aurobindo also, by telegram and by personal {{0}}envoy[[Sri Aurobindo's envoy was his longtime disciple Duraiswami lyer, a highly respected member of the Madras Bar. For details about Sri Aurobindo's intervention see "Sri Aurobindo and the Cripps Proposals", Mother India, Vol. XXVII, No. 4 (April 1975), pp. 287–90.]] pressed the leaders of the Congress to accept Cripps'offer. His efforts, however, were in vain. The offer was rejected and Sri Aurobindo having done his "bit of niskama karma" [desireles {{0}}work][[Nirodbaran, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo (Pondicherry: Sri Aurol Ashram, 1973), p. 159.]] returned to his reliance on the use of spiritual force alone against the aggressor and had the satisfaction of seeing the tide of Japanese victory, which had till then swept everything before it, change immediately into a tide of rapid, crushing and finally and overwhelming {{0}}defeat."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 39.]]

In 1942, as the war approached nearer and nearer to India, many disciples who were living away from the Ashram desired to come to Pondicherry to put themselves under the direct protection of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. About this Sri Aurobindo, conceding the possibility of bombing by the Japanese wrote: "Calcutta is now in the danger zone. But the Mother does not wish that anyone should leave his post because of the danger. Those who are very eager to remove their children can do {{0}}so...."[[Sri Aurobindo "Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the Second World War”, Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Vol. XXVIII, No. (April 1976), p. 58.]] In fact many disciples were granted admittance. Some brought their entire families with them when they came. There had been before this time only a small number of children, none of whom were very young, at the Ashram; now there was a significant and growing number. After some time it became evident that some provision had to be made for their education. Accordingly on 2 December 1943 the Mother opened a school for some twenty students.

In May 1945 the Germans surrendered to the Allied forces and on 14 August of the same year the Japanese capitulated. The Second World War, "the Mother's {{0}}war",[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 394.]] as Sri Aurobindo called it, was over. On 16 August 1945 The Mother issued the following declaration:

"The Victory has come. Thy Victory, O Lord, for which we render to Thee infinite thanksgiving.

"But now our ardent prayer rises towards Thee. It is with Thy force and by Thy force that the victors have conquered. Grant that they do not forget it in their success and that they keep the promises which they have made to thee in hours of danger and anguish. They have taken Thy name to make war, may they not forget Thy grace when they have to make the {{0}}peace."[["Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the Second World War” p. 76]]

The progress of the war had been followed closely by the sadhaks of the Ashram and when news of the final victory was received they came together to celebrate.

In India, the struggle for freedom continued. In February 1946 in response to increasing Indian demands for independence complicated by serious Hindu-Muslim disturbances in Bengal and other places, the British government announced it intention to leave the country by June 1948. ON 1 July 1947 The Indian Independence Bill was passed by Parliament; the date fixed by it for the transfer of authority into Indian hands was 15 august 1947.

For that day, his seventy-fifth birthday Sri Auroindo issued the following statement:

"August 15th, 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity

August 15th is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of its full fruition Indeed, on this day I can watch almost all the world-movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, though then they looked like impracticable dreams, arriving at fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements free India may well play a large part and take a leading position.

"The first of these dreams was a revolutionary movement which would create a free and united India. India today is free but she has not achieved unity. At one moment it almost seemed as if in the very act of liberation she would fall back into the chaos of separate States which preceded the British conquest. But fortunately it now seems probable that this danger will be averted and a large and powerful, though not yet a complete union will be established. Also, the wisely drastic policy of the Constituent Assembly has made it probable that the problem of the depressed classes will be solved without schism or fissure. But the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that this settled fact will not be accepted as settled for ever or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. India's internal development and prosperity may be impeded, her position among the nations weakened, her destiny impaired or even frustrated. This must not be; the partition must go. Let us hope that that may come about naturally, by an increasing recognition of the necessity not only of peace and concord but of common action, by the practice of common action and the creation of means for that purpose. In this way unity may finally come about under whatever form – the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India's future.

"Another dream was for the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and her return to her great role in the progress of human civilisation. Asia has arisen; large parts are now quite free or are at this moment being liberated: its other still subject or partly subject parts are moving through whatever struggles towards freedom. Only a little has to be done and that will be done today or tomorrow. There India has her part to play and has begun to play it with an energy and ability which already indicate the measure of her possibilities and the place she can take in the council of the nations.

"The third dream was a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind. That unification of the human world is under way; there is an imperfect initiation organised but struggling against tremendous difficulties. But the momentum is there and it must inevitably increase and conquer. Here too India has begun to play a prominent part and, if she can develop that larger statesmanship which is not limited by the present facts and immediate possibilities but looks into the future and brings it nearer, her presence may make all the difference between a slow and timid and a bold and swift development. A catastrophe may intervene and interrupt or destroy what is being done, but even then the final result is sure. For unification is a necessity of Nature, an inevitable movement. Its necessity for the nations is also clear, for without it the freedom of the small nations may be at any moment in peril and the life even of the large and powerful nations insecure. The unification is therefore to the interests of all, and only human imbecility and stupid selfishness can prevent it; but these cannot stand for ever against the necessity of Nature and the Divine Will. But an outward basis is not enough; there must grow up an international spirit and outlook, international forms and institutions must appear, perhaps such developments as dual or multilateral citizenship, willed interchange or voluntary fusion of cultures. Nationalism will have fulfilled itself and lost its militancy and would no longer find these things incompatible with self-preservation and the integrality of its outlook. A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race.

"Another dream, the spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India's spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of the time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice.

"The final dream was a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society. This is still a personal hope and an idea, an ideal which has begun to take hold both in India and in the West on forward-looking minds. The difficulties in the way are more formidable than in any other field of endeavour, but difficulties were made to be overcome and if the Supreme Will is there, they will be overcome. Here too, if this evolution is to take place, since it must proceed through a growth of the spirit and the inner consciousness, the initiative can come from India and, although the scope must be universal, the central movement may be hers;

"Such is the content which I put into this date of India's liberation; whether or how far this hope will be justified depends upon the new and free {{0}}India."[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 404–06.]]

The period of Sri Aurobindo's retirement was a time of intense literary activity. The magnitude of his correspondence with his disciples during the 1930's did not prevent him from producing at the same time a large body of poetry and prose. During these years many short poems, especially sonnets, were written, and the epic Savitri, upon which Sri Aurobindo had been working since the early years of his stay in Pondicherry, began to assume its massive proportions.

About this poem Sri Aurobindo wrote in 1934: "I made some eight or ten recasts of it originally under the old insufficient inspiration. Afterwards I am altogether rewriting it, concentrating on the first book and working on it over and over again with the hope that every line may be of a perfect perfection – but I have hardly any time now for such {{0}}work."[[Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Parts Two and Three (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), p. 728.]

Sri Aurobindo used Savitri "as a means of ascension": "I began with it on a certain mental level, each time I could reach a higher level I rewrote from that level.... In fact Savitri has not been regarded by me as a poem to be written and finished, but as a field of experimentation to see how far poetry could be written from one's own yogic consciousness and how that could be made {{0}}creative."[[Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Parts Two and Three (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), pp.727–28.]] With each revision Sri Aurobindo tried to lift the level of the poem higher and higher towards what he called "Over-mind poetry", the mantric, revelatory utterance of that highest of the spiritual mind ranges.

Before 1938 many of Sri Aurobindo's writings from the Arya and the Karmayogin had been brought out in book-form, some after being revised to a greater or lesser degree. But the book-publication of his philosophical magnum opus, The Life Divine, which had first appeared in the Arya between 1914 and 1919, and of several other works was not undertaken due to want of time for the thorough recasting which Sri Aurobindo desired to give them.

During the period of his recovery from the accident of November 1938, Sri Aurobindo had the opportunity to work on The Life Divine. The first edition, in two parts, was published in 1939 and 1940. In the years that followed other books were brought out. In 1942 all of Sri Aurobindo's published poetical writings were issued as Collected Poems and Plays and in 1946 a selection of Vedic hymns to Agni, translated in their esoteric, psychological sense, was published as Hymns to the Mystic Fire. In 1949 and 1950 revised editions of Sri Aurobindo's major social and political works, The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity were brought out after revision. Sri Aurobindo's letters on yoga, some of which had first been printed in the thirties in small guidebooks such as Lights on Yoga and Bases of Yoga, were collected and published as Letters of Sri Aurobindo (in three series) in 1947, 1949 and 1951. A separate collection, Letters on Poetry and Literature, was issued in 1949. But the focal point of Sri Aurobindo's literary endeavour between 1940 and 1950 was Savitri. The earlier versions of the poem were revised and considerable portions were added to it until, when finally published, it had developed from a short narrative based directly on an episode of the Mahabharata into an epic of cosmic dimensions running to almost 24,000 lines of blank verse.

Savitri appeared in book-form in two parts in 1950 and 1951. Before this it had been brought out canto by canto in small fascicles and in periodicals published by the Ashram or groups connected with it. The first of these publications to appear was the Sri Aurobindo Mandir Annual, whose first number was published from Calcutta in 1942. In 1944 The Advent, a quarterly "devoted to the exposition of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the future", was begun. This journal was followed two years later by the Sri Aurobindo Circle, an {{0}}annual.[[The Advent was first brought out from Madras and Sri Aurobindo Circle from Bombay. At present both are being published from Pondicherry.]] These journals contained, besides instalments of Savitri and other writings of Sri Aurobindo, essays and poems written by his disciples and devotees and by students of his thought.

In February 1949 two other journals were begun: the quarterly Bulletin of Physical Education and the fortnightly Mother India. The first of these was the organ of the Jeunesse Sportive de l'Ashram de Sri Aurobindo, the Ashram's sports programme, in which not only school children but also the younger and even many of the older sadhaks took part. This association had been formed by the Mother, who took great interest in its activities, spending much time during the late forties and the fifties at the Ashram's playground and tennis ground. In 1949 and 1950 Sri Aurobindo contributed eight articles – his last prose writings – to the Bulletin. Sri Aurobindo did not write in Mother India, but his continuing interest in the vital issues of the day was reflected in the writings of his disciple K. D. Sethna, the editor of the journal, who submitted all his editorials to Sri Aurobindo for approval.

A few times between 1927 and 1950 Sri Aurobindo granted interviews to certain eminent men of the times. The poet Rabindranath Tagore came to Pondicherry on 29 May 1928. After meeting Sri Aurobindo he wrote:

"At the very first sight I could realise that he had been seeking for the soul and had gained it, and through this long process of realisation had accumulated within him a silent power of inspiration. His face was radiant with an inner light and his serene presence made it evident to me that his soul was not crippled and cramped to the measure of some tyrannical doctrine, which takes delight in inflicting wounds upon life....

"I felt that the utterance of the ancient Hindu Rishi spoke from him of that equanimity which gives the human soul its freedom of entrance into the All. I said to him, 'You have the Word and we are waiting to accept it from you. India will speak through your voice to the world, "Hearken to me"....

"Years ago I saw Aurobindo in the atmosphere of his earlier heroic youth and I sang to him, ‘Aurobindo, accept the salutation from {{0}}Rabindranath.’[[A line from "Homage to Aurobindo", a poem published in 1907 (see p. 93).]]

"Today I saw him in a deeper atmosphere of a reticent richness of wisdom and again sang to him in silence,

'Aurobindo, accept the salutation from {{0}}Rabindranath.’ ”[[Rabindranath Tagore, "Aurobindo Ghosh", Modem Review, Vol. XLIV, No. 1 (July 1928), p. 60.]]

In 1929 Sylvain Levy, the French indologist, met Sri Aurobindo and in September 1947 Maurice Schumann, a representative of the French government, and Monsieur Baron, the Governor of French India, spoke with Sri Aurobindo about a proposed Franco-Indian cultural institution they hoped to set up under the directorship of Sri Aurobindo.

On 20 December 1948 Dr. C. R. Reddy of the Andhra University presented the University's National Prize to Sri {{0}}Aurobindo[[The prize had been awarded to Sri Aurobino on 11 December. His message to the university is published in On Himself, pp. 407–13.]] and spoke with him for half an hour. Interviews were granted to K. M. Munshi, the Congress leader, in July 1950, and to the Maharaja of Bhavanagar, then the Governor of Madras, in November of the same year.

The first photographs to be taken of Sri Aurobindo since the early 1920's were made by Henri Cartier-Bresson, the famous French photographer, in April 1950. Among the Cartier-Bresson photographs is one taken on the occasion of the darshan of 24 April 1950. This photograph is reproduced as the frontispiece of this book.

Sometime in 1948 or 1949 Sri Aurobindo developed symptoms suggestive of prostatic enlargement. The symptoms disappeared but in the middle of 1950 recurred. By November it was clear that Sri Aurobindo had developed a kidney infection and was suffering from uraemia. Doctors were in consultation but no major treatment was accepted and at 1.26 a.m. on 5 December 1950 Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body.

Arrangements were made for the burial, but on the evening of the sixth the following message was issued by the Mother:

"The funeral of Sri Aurobindo has not taken place today. His body is charged with such a concentration of supramental light that there is no sign of decomposition and the body will be kept lying on his bed so long as it remains {{0}}intact."[[K. D. Sethna, The Passing of Sri Aurobindo (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashrams 1951), p. 5.]]

Many thousands came to have darshan of Sri Aurobindo's body. On 7 and 8 December the Mother issued the following two statements:

"Lord, this morning Thou hast given me the assurance that Thou wouldst stay with us until Thy work is achieved, not only as a consciousness which guides and illumines but also as a dynamic Presence in action. In unmistakable terms Thou hast promised that all of Thyself would remain here and not leave the earth atmosphere until earth is transformed. Grant that we may be worthy of this marvellous Presence and that henceforth everything in us be concentrated on the one will to be more and more perfectly consecrated to the fulfilment of Thy sublime {{0}}Work."[[Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), p. 74.]]

"The lack of receptivity of the earth and men is mostly responsible for the decision Sri Aurobindo has taken regarding his body. But one thing is certain: what has happened on the physical plane affects in no way the truth of his teaching. All that he has said is perfectly true and remains so. Time and the course of events will prove it {{0}}abundantly."[[Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), p. 75.]]

On 9 December Sri Aurobindo's body was placed in a vault in the courtyard of the Ashram. That day the following message, which was later engraved on a marble slab and affixed to the samādhi, as the vault is known, was issued by the Mother:

"To THEE who hast been the material envelope of our Master, to THEE our infinite gratitude. Before THEE who hast done so much for us, who hast worked, struggled, suffered, hoped, endured so much, before THEE who hast willed all, attempted all, prepared, achieved all for us, before THEE we bow down and implore that we may never forget, even for a moment, all we owe to {{0}}THEE."[[Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), p. 75.]]

Several other messages were given by the Mother on subsequent days:

"To grieve is an insult to Sri Aurobindo who is here with us, conscious and {{0}}alive."[[Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), p. 75.]]

14 December 1950

"We must not be bewildered by appearances. Sri Aurobindo has not left us. Sri Aurobindo is here, as living and as present as ever and it is left to us to realise his work with all the sincerity, eagerness and concentration {{0}}necessary."[[Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), pp. 75–76.]]

15 December 1950

"Our Lord has sacrificed himself totally for us.... He was not compelled to leave his body; he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality.... And when one cannot understand, the only thing to do is to keep a respectful {{0}}silence."[[Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), p. 76.]]

26 December 1950

"Lord, we are upon earth to accomplish Thy work of transformation. It is our sole will, our sole preoccupation. Grant that it may be also our sole occupation and that all our actions may help us towards this single {{0}}goal."[[Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), p. 76.]]

1 January 1951

"We stand in the Presence of Him who has sacrificed his physical life in order to help more fully his work of transformation.

"He is always with us, aware of what we are doing, of all our thoughts, of all our feelings and all our {{0}}actions."[[Sri Aurobindo and His Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), p. 76.]]

18 January 1951

Part Four. Chapter XI. Sri Aurobindo on Himself

This section contains portions selected from On Himself and other books of Sri Aurobindo. The political portion is reproduced in full in order to give the reader his ideal, purpose and method and also the appraisal of the work from his own point of view.

The other, non-political portions are, really speaking, more important because the reader will find the affirmation of his identity with Krishna, the reason why he carried on an enormous correspondence for nearly eight years with his disciples, how he helped them and how he acted on the world situation. There are some other important things the discriminating reader will find in this small but important section.

A General Note on Sri Aurobindo's Political Life

There were three sides to Sri Aurobindo's political ideas and activities. First, there was the action with which he started, a secret revolutionary propaganda and organization of which the central object was the preparation of an armed insurrection. Secondly, there was a public propaganda intended to convert the whole nation to the ideal of independence which was regarded, when he entered in to politics, by the vast majority of Indians as unpractical and impossible, an almost insane chimera. It was thought that British Empire was too powerful and India too weak, effectively disarmed and impotent even to dream of the success of such an endeavour. Thirdly, there was the organization of the people to carry on a public and united opposition and undermining of the foreign rule trough an increasing non-cooperation and passive resistance.

At that time the military organisation of the great empires and their means of military action were not so overwhelming and apparently irresistible as they now are: the rifle was still the decisive weapon, air power had not yet been developed and the force of artillery was not so devastating as it afterwards became. India was disarmed, but Sri Aurobindo thought that with proper organisation and help from outside this difficulty might be overcome and in so vast a country as India and with the smallness of the regular British armies, even a guerrilla warfare accompanied by general resistance and revolt might be effective. There was also the possibility of a general revolt in the Indian army. At the same time he had studied the temperament and characteristics of the British people and the turn of their political instincts, and he believed that although they would resist any attempt at self-liberation by the Indian people and would at the most only concede very slowly such reforms as would not weaken their imperial control, still they were not of the kind which would be ruthlessly adamantine to the end: if they found resistance and revolt becoming general and persistent they would in the end try to arrive at an accommodation to save what they could of their empire or in an extremity prefer to grant independence rather than have it forcefully wrested from their hands.

In some quarters there is the idea that Sri Aurobindo’s political standpoint was entirely pacifist that he was opposed in principle and in practice to all violence and that he denounced terrorism, insurrection, etc., as entirely forbidden by the spirit and letter of the Hindu religion. It is even suggested that he was a forerunner of the gospel of Ahimsa. This is quite incorrect. Sri Aurobindo is neither an impotent moralist nor a weak pacifist.

The rule of confining political action to passive resistance was adopted as the best policy for the National Movement at that stage and not as a part of a gospel of Non-violence or pacific idealism. Peace is a part of the highest ideal, but it must be spiritual or at the very least psychological in its basis; without a change in human nature it cannot come with any finality. If it is attempted on any other basis (moral principle or gospel of Ahimsa or any other), it will fail and even may leave things worse than before. He is in favour of an attempt to put down war by international agreement and international force, what is now contemplated in the "New Order", if that proves possible, but that would not be Ahimsa, it would be a putting down of anarchic force by legal force and even then one cannot be sure that it would be permanent. Within nations this sort of peace has been secured, but it does not prevent occasional civil wars and revolutions and political outbreaks and repressions, sometimes of a sanguinary character. The same might happen to a similar world-peace. Sri Aurobindo has never concealed his opinion that a nation is entitled to attain its freedom by violence, if it can do so or if there is no other way; whether it should do so or not, depen

ds on what is the best policy, not on ethical considerations. Sri Aurobindo’s position and practice in this matter was the same as Tilak's and that of other Nationalist leaders who were by no means Pacifists or worshippers of Ahimsa.

For the first few years in India, Sri Aurobindo abstained from any political activity (except the writing of the articles in the Indu Prakash) and studied the conditions in the country so that he might be able to judge more maturely what could be done. Then he made his first move when he sent a young Bengali soldier of the Baroda army, Jatin Banerji, as his lieutenant to Bengal with a programme of preparation and action which he thought might occupy a period of 30 years before fruition could become possible. As a matter of fact it has taken 50 years for the movement of liberation to arrive at fruition and the beginning of complete success. The idea was to establish secretly or, as far as visible action could be taken, under various pretexts and covers, revolutionary propaganda and recruiting throughout Bengal. This was to be done among the youth of the country while sympathy and support and financial and other assistance were to be obtained from the older men who had advanced views or could be won over to them. Centres were to be established in every town and eventually in every village. Societies of young men were to be established with various ostensible objects, cultural, intellectual or moral and those already existing were to be won over for revolutionary use. Young men were to be trained in activities which might be helpful for ultimate military action, such as riding, physical training, athletics of various kinds, drill and organised movement. As soon as the idea was sown it attained a rapid prosperity; already existing small groups and associations of young men who had not yet the clear idea or any settled programme of revolution began to turn in this direction and a few who had already the revolutionary aim were contacted and soon developed activity on organised lines; the few rapidly became many. Meanwhile Sri Aurobindo had met a member of the Secret Society in Western India, and taken the oath of the Society and had been introduced to the Council in Bombay. His future action was not pursued under any directions by this Council, but he took up on his own responsibility the task of generalising support for its objects in Bengal where as yet it had no membership or following. He spoke of the Society and its aim to P. Mitter and other leading men of the revolutionary group in Bengal and they took the oath of the Society and agreed to carry out its objects on the lines suggested by Sri Aurobindo. The special cover used by Mitter's group was association for lathi play which had already been popularised to some extent by Sarala Ghosal in Bengal among the young men; but other groups used other ostensible covers. Sri Aurobindo’s attempt at a close organisation of the whole movement did not succeed, but the movement itself did not suffer by that, for the general idea was taken up and activity of many separate groups led to a greater and more widespread diffusion of the revolutionary drive and its action. Afterwards there came the partition of Bengal and a general outburst of revolt which favoured the rise of the extremist party and the great Nationalist movement. Sri Aurobindo’s activities were then turned more and more in this direction and the secret action became a secondary and subordinate element. He took advantage, however, of the Swadeshi movement to popularise the idea of violent revolt in the future. At Barin's suggestion he agreed to the starting of a paper, Yugantar, which was to preach open revolt and the absolute denial of the British rule and include such items as a series of articles containing instructions for guerrilla warfare. Sri Aurobindo himself wrote some of the opening articles in the early numbers and he always exercised a general control; when a member of the sub-editorial staff, Swami Vivekananda's brother, presented himself on his own motion to the police in a search as the editor of the paper and was prosecuted, the Yugantar under Sri Aurobindo’s orders adopted the policy of refusing to defend itself in a British Court on the ground that it did not recognise the foreign Government and this immensely increased the prestige and influence of the paper. It had as its chief writers and directors three of the ablest younger writers in Bengal, and it at once acquired an immense influence throughout Bengal. It may be noted that the Secret Society did not include terrorism in its programme, but this element grew up in Bengal as a result of the strong repression and the reaction to it in that Province.

The public activity of Sri Aurobindo began with the writing of the articles in the Indu Prakash. These nine articles written at the instance of K. G. Deshpande, editor of the paper and Sri Aurobindo’s Cambridge friend, under the caption "New Lamps for Old" vehemently denounced the then Congress policy of pray, petition and protest and called for a dynamic leadership based upon self-help and fearlessness. But this outspoken and irrefutable criticism was checked by the action of a Moderate leader who frightened the editor and thus prevented any full development of his ideas in the paper; he had to turn aside to generalities such as the necessity of extending the activities of the Congress beyond the circle of the bourgeois or middle class and calling into it the masses. Finally, Sri Aurobindo suspended all public activity of this kind and worked only in secret till 1905, but he contacted Tilak whom he regarded as the one possible leader for a revolutionary party and met him at the Ahmedabad Congress; there Tilak took him out of the pandal and talked to him for an hour in the grounds expressing his contempt for the Reformist movement and explaining his own line of action in Maharashtra.

Sri Aurobindo included in the scope of his revolutionary work one kind of activity which afterwards became an important item in the public programme of the Nationalist party. He encouraged the young men in the centres of work to propagate the Swadeshi idea which at that time was only in its infancy and hardly more than a fad of the few. One of the ablest men in these revolutionary groups was a Mahratta named Sakharam Ganesh Deuskar who was an able writer in Bengali (his family had been long domiciled in Bengal) and who had written a popular life of Shivaji in Bengali in which he first brought in the name of Swaraj, afterwards adopted by the Nationalists as their word for independence, – Swaraj became one item of the fourfold Nationalist programme. He published a book entitled Desher Katha describing in exhaustive detail the British commercial and industrial exploitation of India. This book had an immense repercussion in Bengal, captured the mind of young Bengal and assisted more than anything else in the preparation of the Swadeshi movement. Sri Aurobindo himself had always considered the shaking off of this economic yoke and the development of Indian trade and industry as a necessary concomitant of the revolutionary endeavour..

As long as he was in the Baroda Service, Sri Aurobindo could not take part publicly in politics. Apart from that, he preferred to remain and act and even to lead from behind the scenes without his name being known in public; it was the Government's action in prosecuting him as editor of the Bande Mataram that forced him into public view. And from that time forward he became openly, what he had been for sometime already, a prominent leader of the Nationalist party, its principal leader in action in Bengal and the organiser there of its policy and strategy. He had decided in his mind the lines on which he wanted the country's action to run: what he planned was very much the same as was developed afterwards in Ireland as the Sinn Fein movement; but Sri Aurobindo did not derive his ideas, as some have represented, from Ireland, for the Irish movement became prominent later and he knew nothing of it till after he had withdrawn to Pondicherry. There was, moreover, a capital difference between India and Ireland which made his work much more difficult; for all its past history had accustomed the Irish people to rebellion against British rule and this history might be even described as a constant struggle for independence intermittent in its action but permanently there in principle; there was nothing of this kind in India. Sri Aurobindo had to establish and generalise the idea of independence in the mind of the Indian people and at the same time to push first a party and then the whole nation into an intense and organised political activity which would lead to the accomplishment of that ideal. His idea was to capture the Congress and to make it an instrument for revolutionary action instead of a centre of a timid constitutional agitation which would only talk and pass resolutions and recommendations to the foreign Government; if the Congress could not be captured, then a central revolutionary body would have to be created which could do this work. It was to be a sort of State within the State giving its directions to the people and creating organised bodies and institutions which would be its means of action; there must be an increasing non-cooperation and passive resistance which would render the administration of the country by a foreign Government difficult or finally impossible, a universal unrest which would wear down repression and finally, if need be, an open revolt all over the country. This plan included a boycott of British trade, the substitution of national schools for the Government institutions, the creation of arbitration courts to which the people could resort instead of depending on the ordinary courts of law, the creation of volunteer forces which would be the nucleus of an army of open revolt, and all other action that could make the programme complete. The part Sri Aurobindo took publicly in Indian politics was of brief duration, for he turned aside from it in 1910 and withdrew to Pondicherry; much of his programme lapsed in his absence, but enough had been done to change the whole face of Indian politics and the whole spirit of the Indian people to make independence its aim and non-cooperation and resistance its method, and even an imperfect application of this policy heightening into sporadic periods of revolt has been sufficient to bring about the victory. The course of subsequent events followed largely the line of Sri Aurobindo’s idea. The Congress was finally captured by the Nationalist party, declared independence its aim, organised itself for action, took almost the whole nation minus a majority of the Mohammedans and a minority of the depressed classes into acceptance of its leadership and eventually formed the first national, though not as yet an independent, Government in India and secured from Britain acceptance of independence for India.

At first Sri Aurobindo took part in Congress politics only from behind the scenes, as he had not yet decided to leave the Baroda Service; but he took long leave without pay in which, besides carrying on personally the secret revolutionary work, he attended the Barisal Conference broken up by the police and toured East Bengal along with Bepin Pal and associated himself closely with the forward group in the Congress. It was during this period that he joined Bepin Pal in the editing of the Bande Mataram, founded the new political party in Bengal and attended the Congress session at Calcutta at which the Extremists, though still a minority, succeeded under the leadership of Tilak in imposing part of their political programme on the Congress. The founding of the Bengal National College gave him the opportunity he needed and enabled him to resign his position in the Baroda Service and join the College as its Principal. Subodh Mullick, one of Sri Aurobindo’s collaborators in his secret action and afterwards also in Congress politics, in whose house he usually lived when he was in Calcutta, had given a lakh of rupees for this foundation and had stipulated that Sri Aurobindo should be given a post of professor in the College with a salary of Rs. 150; so he was now free to give his whole time to the service of the country. Bepin Pal, who had been long expounding a policy of self-help and non-cooperation in his weekly journal, now started a daily with the name of Bande Mataram, but it was likely to be a brief adventure since he began with only Rs. 500 in his pocket and no firm assurance of financial assistance in the future. He asked Sri Aurobindo to join him in this venture to which a ready consent was given, for now Sri Aurobindo saw his opportunity for starting the public propaganda necessary for his revolutionary purpose. He called a meeting of the forward group of young men in the Congress and they decided then to organise themselves openly as a new political party joining hands with the corresponding group in Maharashtra under the proclaimed leadership of Tilak and to join battle with the Moderate party which was done at the Calcutta session. He also persuaded them to take up the Bande Mataram daily as their party organ and a Bande Mataram Company was started to finance the paper, whose direction Sri Aurobindo undertook during the absence of Bepin Pal who was sent on a tour in the districts to proclaim the purpose and programme of the new party. The new party was at once successful and the Bande Mataram paper began to circulate throughout India. On its staff were not only Bepin Pal and Sri Aurobindo but some other very able writers, Shyam Sundar Chakravarty, Hemendra Prasad Ghose and Bejoy Chatterjee. Shyam Sundar and Bejoy were masters of the English language, each with a style of his own; Shyam Sundar caught up something like Sri Aurobindo’s way of writing and later on many took his articles for Sri Aurobindo’s. But after a time dissensions arose between Bepin Pal on one side and the other contributors and the directors of the Company because of temperamental incompatibility and differences of political views especially with regard to the secret revolutionary action with which others sympathised but to which Bepin Pal was opposed. This ended soon in Bepin Pal's separation from the journal. Sri Aurobindo would not have consented to this departure, for he regarded the qualities of Pal as a great asset to the Bande Mataram, since Pal, though not a man of action or capable of political leadership, was perhaps the best and most original political thinker in the country, an excellent writer and a magnificent orator: but the separation was effected behind Sri Aurobindo’s back when he was convalescing from a dangerous attack of fever. His name was even announced without his consent in the Bande Mataram as editor but for one day only, as he immediately put a stop to it since he was still formally in the Baroda Service and in no way eager to have his name brought forward in public. Henceforward, however, he controlled the policy of the Bande Mataram along with that of the party in Bengal. Bepin Pal had stated the aim of the new party as complete self-government free from British control; but this could have meant or at least included the Moderate aim of colonial self-government and Dadabhai Naoroji as President of the Calcutta session of the Congress had actually tried to capture the name of Swaraj, the Extremists' term for independence, for this colonial self-government. Sri Aurobindo’s first preoccupation was to declare openly for complete and absolute independence as the aim of political action in India and to insist on this persistently in the pages of the journal; he was the first politician in India who had the courage to do this in public and he was immediately successful. The party took up the word-Swaraj to express its own ideal of independence and it soon spread everywhere; but it was taken up as the ideal of the Congress much later on at the Karachi session of that body when it had been reconstituted and renovated under Nationalist leadership. The journal declared and developed a new political programme for the country as the programme of the Nationalist party, non-cooperation, passive resistance, Swadeshi, Boycott, national education, settlement of disputes in law by popular arbitration and other items of Sri Aurobindo’s plan. Sri Aurobindo published in the paper a series of articles on passive resistance, another developing a political philosophy of revolution and wrote many leaders aimed at destroying the shibboleths and superstitions of the Moderate party, such as the belief in British justice and benefits bestowed by foreign government in India, faith in British law courts and in the adequacy of the education given in schools and universities in India and stressed more strongly and persistently than had been done the emasculation, stagnation or slow progress, poverty, economic dependence, absence of a rich industrial activity and all other evil results of a foreign government; he insisted especially that even if an alien rule were benevolent and beneficent, that could not be a substitute for a free and healthy national life. Assisted by this publicity the ideas of the Nationalists gained ground everywhere, especially in the Punjab which had before been predominantly Moderate. The Bande Mataram was almost unique in journalistic history in the influence it exercised in converting the mind of a people and preparing it for revolution. But its weakness was on the financial side; for the Extremists were still a poor man's party. So long as Sri Aurobindo was there in active control, he managed with great difficulty to secure sufficient public support for running the paper, but not for expanding it as he wanted, and when he was arrested and held in jail for a year, the economic situation of the Bande Mataram became desperate: finally, it was decided that the journal should die a glorious death rather than perish by starvation and Bejoy Chatterji was commissioned to write an article for which the Government would certainly stop the publication of the paper. Sri Aurobindo had always taken care to give no handle in the editorial articles of the Bande Mataram either for a prosecution for sedition or any other drastic action fatal to its existence; an editor of The Statesman complained that the paper reeked with sedition patently visible between every line, but it was so skilfully written that no legal action could be taken. The manoeuvre succeeded and the life of the Bande Mataram came to an end in Sri Aurobindo’s absence.

The Nationalist programme could only achieve a partial beginning before it was temporarily broken by severe government repression. Its most important practical item was Swadeshi plus Boycott; for Swadeshi much was done to make the idea general and a few beginnings were made, but the greater results showed themselves only afterwards in the course of time. Sri Aurobindo was anxious that this part of the movement should be not only propagated in idea but given a practical organisation and an effective force. He wrote from Baroda asking whether it would not be possible to bring in the industrialists and manufacturers and gain the financial support of landed magnates and create an organisation in which men of industrial and commercial ability and experience and not politicians alone could direct operations and devise means of carrying out the policy; but he was told that it was impossible, the industrialists and the landed magnates were too timid to join in the movement, and the big commercial men were all interested in the import of British goods and therefore on the side of the status quo: so he had to abandon his idea of the organisation of Swadeshi and Boycott. Both Tilak and Sri Aurobindo were in favor of an effective boycott of British goods – but of British goods only; for there was little in the country to replace foreign articles: so they recommended the substitution for the British of foreign goods from Germany and Austria and America so that the fullest pressure might be brought upon England. They wanted the Boycott to be a political weapon and not merely an aid to Swadeshi; the total boycott of all foreign goods was an impracticable idea and the very limited application of it recommended in Congress resolutions was too small to be politically effective. They were for national self-sufficiency in key industries, the production of necessities and of all manufactures of which India had the natural means, but complete self-sufficiency or autarchy did not seem practicable or even desirable since a free India would need to export goods as well as supply them for internal consumption and for that she must import as well and maintain an international exchange. But the sudden enthusiasm for the boycott of all foreign goods was wide and sweeping and the leaders had to conform to this popular cry and be content with the impulse it gave to the Swadeshi idea. National education was another item to which Sri Aurobindo attached much importance. He had been disgusted with the education given by the British system in the schools and colleges and universities, a system of which as a professor in the Baroda College he had full experience. He felt that it tended to dull and impoverish and tie up the naturally quick and brilliant and supple Indian intelligence, to teach it bad intellectual habits and spoil by narrow information and mechanical instruction its originality and productivity. The movement began well and many national schools were established in Bengal and many able men became teachers, but still the development was insufficient and the economical position of the schools precarious. Sri Aurobindo had decided to take up the movement personally and see whether it could not be given a greater expansion and a stronger foundation, but his departure from Bengal cut short this plan. In the repression and the general depression caused by it, most of the schools failed to survive. The idea lived on and it may be hoped that it will one day find an adequate form and body. The idea of people's courts was taken up, and worked in some districts, not without success, but this too perished in the storm.

The idea of volunteer groupings had a stronger vitality; it lived on, took shape, multiplied its formations and its workers were the spearhead of the movement of direct action which broke out from time to time in the struggle for freedom. The purely political elements of the Nationalist programme and activities were those which lasted and after each wave of repression and depression renewed the thread of the life of the movement for liberation and kept it recognisably one throughout nearly fifty years of its struggle. But the greatest thing done in those years was the creation of a new spirit in the country. In the enthusiasm that swept surging everywhere with the cry of Bande Mataram ringing on all sides men felt it glorious to be alive and dare and act together and hope; the old apathy and timidity was broken and a force created which nothing could destroy and which rose again and again in wave after wave till it carried India to the beginning of a complete victory.

After the Bande Mataram case, Sri Aurobindo became the recognised leader of Nationalism in Bengal. He led the party at the session of the Bengal Provincial Conference at Midnapore where there was a vehement clash between the two parties. He now for the first time became a speaker on the public platform, addressed large meetings at Surat and presided over the Nationalist conference there. He stopped at several places on his way back to Calcutta and was the speaker at large meetings called to hear him. He led the party again at the session of the Provincial Conference at {{0}}Hooghly.[[The Bengal Provincial Conference at Hooghly was held in September 1909, i.e. after Sri Aurobindo had been released from the Alipore Jail. (See p. 126 and also note p. 258.) [Ed.]]] There it became evident for the first time that Nationalism was gaining the ascendant, for it commanded a majority among the delegates and in the Subjects Committee Sri Aurobindo was able to defeat the Moderates’ resolution welcoming the Reforms and pass his own resolution stigmatising them as utterly inadequate and unreal and rejecting them. But the Moderate leaders threatened to secede if this was maintained and to avoid a scission he consented to allow the Moderate resolution to pass, but spoke at the public session explaining his decision and asking the Nationalists to acquiesce in it in spite of their victory so as to keep some unity in the political forces of Bengal. The Nationalist delegates, at first triumphant and clamorous, accepted the decision and left the hall quietly at Sri Aurobindo’s order so that they might not have to vote either for or against the Moderate resolution. This caused much amazement and discomfiture in the minds of the Moderate leaders who complained that the people had refused to listen to their old and tried leaders and clamoured against them, but at the bidding of a young man new to politics they had obeyed in disciplined silence as if a single body.

About this period Sri Aurobindo had decided to take up charge of a Bengali daily, Nava Shakti, and had moved from his rented house in Scotts Lane, where he had been living with his wife and sister, to rooms in the office of this newspaper, and there, before he could begin this new venture, early one morning while he was still sleeping, the police charged up the stairs, revolver in hand, and arrested him. He was taken to the police station and thence to Alipore Jail where he remained for a year during the magistrate's investigation and the trial in the Sessions Court at Alipore. At first he was lodged for some time in a solitary cell, but afterwards transferred to a large section of the jail where he lived in one huge room with the other prisoners in the case; subsequently, after the assassination of the approver in the jail, all the prisoners were confined in contiguous but separate cells and met only in the court or in the daily exercise where they could not speak to each other. It was in the second period that Sri Aurobindo made the acquaintance of most of his fellow accused. In the jail he spent almost all his time in reading the Gita and the Upanishads and in intensive meditation and the practice of Yoga. This he pursued even in the second interval when he had no opportunity of being alone and had to accustom himself to meditation amid general talk and laughter, the playing of games and much noise and disturbance; in the first and third periods he had full opportunity and used it to the full. In the Sessions Court the accused were confined in a large prisoner's cage and here during the whole day he remained absorbed in his meditation, attending little to the trial and hardly listening to the evidence. C. R. Das, one of his Nationalist collaborators and a famous lawyer, had put aside his large practice and devoted himself for months to the defence of Sri Aurobindo, who left the case entirely to him and troubled no more about it; for he had been assured from within and knew that he would be acquitted. During this period his view of life was radically changed; he had taken up Yoga with the original idea of acquiring spiritual force and energy and divine guidance for his work in life. But now the inner spiritual life and realisation which had continually been increasing in magnitude and universality and assuming a larger place took him up entirely and his work became a part and result of it and besides far exceeded the service and liberation of the country and fixed itself in an aim, previously only glimpsed, which was world-wide in its bearing and concerned with the whole future of humanity.

When he came out from jail Sri Aurobindo found the whole political aspect of the country altered; most of the Nationalist leaders were in jail or in self-imposed exile and there was a general discouragement and depression, though the feeling in the country had not ceased but was only suppressed and was growing by its suppression. He determined to continue the struggle; he held weekly meetings in Calcutta, but the attendance which had numbered formerly thousands full of enthusiasm, was now only of hundreds and had no longer the same force and life. He also went to places in the districts to speak and at one of these delivered his speech at Uttarpara in which for the first time he spoke publicly of his Yoga and his spiritual experiences. He started also two weeklies, one in English and one in Bengali, the Karmayogin and Dharma which had a fairly large circulation and were, unlike the Bande Mataram, easily self-supporting. He attended and spoke at the Provincial Conference at Barisal in {{0}}1909:[[The Bakergang District Conference was held at Jhalkati (a town near Barisal) on 19 June 1909. Sri Aurobindo addressed this conference (see p. 124). For the Bengal Provincial Conference of 1909 see note p. 256. [Ed.]]] for in Bengal owing to the compromise at Hooghly the two parties had not split altogether apart and both joined in the Conference though there could be no representative of the Nationalist Party at the meeting of the Central Moderate Body which had taken the place of the Congress. Surendra Nath Banerji had indeed called a private conference attended by Sri Aurobindo and one or two other leaders of the Nationalists to discuss a project of uniting the two parties at the session in Benares and giving a joint fight to the dominant right wing of the Moderates; for he had always dreamt of becoming again the leader of a united Bengal with the Extremist Party as his strong right arm: but that would have necessitated the Nationalists being appointed as delegates by the Bengal Moderates and accepting the constitution imposed at Surat. This Sri Aurobindo refused to do; he demanded a change in that constitution enabling newly formed associations to elect delegates so that the Nationalists might independently send their representatives to the All-India session and on this point the negotiations broke down. Sri Aurobindo began, however, to consider how to revive the national movement under the changed circumstances. He glanced at the possibility of falling back on a Home Rule movement which the Government could not repress, but this, which was actually realised by Mrs. Besant later on, would have meant a postponement and a falling back from the ideal of independence. He looked also at the possibility of an intense and organised passive resistance movement in the manner afterwards adopted by Gandhi. He saw, however, that he himself could not be the leader of such a movement.

At no time did he consent to have anything to do with the sham Reforms which were all the Government at that period cared to offer. He held up always the slogan of ‘no compromise’ or, as he now put it in his Open Letter to his countrymen published in the Karmayogin, 'no co-operation without control'. It was only if real political, administrative and financial control were given to popular ministers in an elected Assembly that he would have anything to do with offers from the British Government. Of this he saw no sign until the proposal of the Montagu Reforms in which first something of the kind seemed to appear. He foresaw that the British Government would have to begin trying to meet the national aspiration half-way, but he would not anticipate that moment before it actually came. The Montagu Reforms came nine years after Sri Aurobindo had retired to Pondicherry and by that time he had abandoned all outward and public political activity in order to devote himself to his spiritual work, acting only by his spiritual force on the movement in India, until his prevision of real negotiations between the British Government and the Indian leaders was fulfilled by the Cripps' proposal and the events that came after.

Meanwhile the Government was determined to get rid of Sri Aurobindo as the only considerable obstacle left to the success of their repressive policy. As they could not send him to the Andamans they decided to deport him. This came to the knowledge of Sister Nivedita and she informed Sri Aurobindo and asked him to leave British India and work from outside so that his work would not be stopped or totally interrupted. Sri Aurobindo contented himself with publishing in the Karmayogin a signed article in which he spoke of the project of deportation and left the country what he called his last will and testament; he felt sure that this would kill the idea of deportation and in fact it so turned out. Deportation left aside, the Government could only wait for some opportunity for prosecution for sedition and this chance came to them when Sri Aurobindo published in the same paper another signed article reviewing the political situation. The article was sufficiently moderate in its tone and later on the High Court refused to regard it as seditious and acquitted the printer. Sri Aurobindo one night at the Karmayogin office received information of the Government's intention to search the office and arrest him. While considering what should be his attitude, he received a sudden command from above to go to Chandemagore in French India. He obeyed the command at once, for it was now his rule to move only as he was moved by the divine guidance and never to resist and depart from it; he did not stay to consult with anyone, but in ten minutes was at the river ghat and in a boat plying on the Ganges; in a few hours he was at Chandernagore where he went into secret residence. He sent a message to Sister Nivedita asking her to take up the editing of the Karmayogin in his absence. This was the end of his active connection with his two journals. At Chandemagore he plunged entirely into solitary meditation and ceased all other activity. Then there came to him a call to proceed to Pondicherry. A boat manned by some young revolutionaries of Uttarpara took him to Calcutta; there he boarded the Dupleix and reached Pondicherry on April 4, 1910.

At Pondicherry, from this time onwards Sri Aurobindo’s practice of Yoga became more and more absorbing. He dropped all participation in any public political activity, refused more than one request to preside at sessions of the restored Indian National Congress and made a rule of abstention from any public utterance of any kind not connected with his spiritual activities or any contribution of writings or articles except what he wrote afterwards in the Arya. For some years he kept up some private communication with the revolutionary forces he had led, through one or two individuals, but this also he dropped after a time and his abstention from any kind of participation in politics became complete. As his vision of the future grew clearer, he saw that the eventual independence of India was assured by the march of forces of which he became aware, that Britain would be compelled by the pressure of Indian resistance and by the pressure of international events to concede independence and that she was already moving towards that eventuality with whatever opposition and reluctance. He felt that there would be no need of armed insurrection and, that the secret preparation for it could be dropped without injury to the Nationalist cause, although the revolutionary spirit had to be maintained and would be maintained intact. His own personal intervention in politics would therefore be no longer indispensable. Apart from all this, the magnitude of the spiritual work set before him became more and more clear to him, and he saw that the concentration of all his energies on it was necessary. Accordingly, when the Ashram came into existence, he kept it free from all political connections or action; even when he intervened in politics twice afterwards on special occasions, this intervention was purely personal and the Ashram was not concerned in it. The British Government and numbers of people besides could not believe that Sri Aurobindo had ceased from all political action and it was supposed by them that he was secretly participating in revolutionary activities and even creating a secret organisation in the security of French India. But all this was pure imagination and rumour and there was nothing of the kind. His retirement from political activity was complete, just as was his personal retirement into solitude in 1910.

But this did not mean, as most people supposed, that he had retired into some height of spiritual experience devoid of any further interest in the world or in the fate of India. It could not mean that, for the very principle of his Yoga was not only to realise the Divine and attain to a complete spiritual consciousness, but also to take all life and all world activity into the scope of this spiritual consciousness and action and to base life on the Spirit and give it a spiritual meaning. In his retirement Sri Aurobindo kept a close watch on all that was happening in the world and in India and actively intervened whenever necessary, but solely with a spiritual force and silent spiritual action; for it is part of the experience of those who have advanced far in Yoga that besides the ordinary forces and activities of the mind and life and body in Matter, there are other forces and powers that can act and do act from behind and from above; there is also a spiritual dynamic power which can be possessed by those who are advanced in the spiritual consciousness, though all do not care to possess or, possessing, to use it, and this power is greater than any other and more effective. It was this force which, as soon as he had attained to it, he used, at first only in a limited field of personal work, but afterwards in a constant action upon the world forces. He had no reason to be dissatisfied with the results or to feel the necessity of any other kind of action. Twice, however, he found it advisable to take in addition other action of a public kind. The first was in relation to the Second World War. At the beginning he did not actively concern himself with it, but when it appeared as if Hitler would crush all the forces opposed to him and Nazism dominate the world, he began to intervene. He declared himself publicly on the side of the Allies, made some financial contributions in answer to the appeal for funds and encouraged those who sought his advice to enter the army or share in the war effort. Inwardly, he put his spiritual force behind the Allies from the moment of Dunkirk when everybody was expecting the immediate fall of England and the definite triumph of Hitler, and he had the satisfaction of seeing the rush of German victory almost immediately arrested and the tide of war begin to turn in the opposite direction. This he did; because he saw that behind Hitler and Nazism were dark Asuric forces and that their success would mean the enslavement of mankind to the tyranny of evil, and a set-back to the course of evolution and especially to the spiritual evolution of mankind: it would lead also to the enslavement not only of Europe but of Asia, and in it of India, an enslavement far more terrible than any this country had ever endured, and the undoing of all the work that had been done for her liberation. It was this reason also that induced him to support publicly the Cripps' offer and to press the Congress leaders to accept it. He had not, for various reasons, intervened with his spiritual force against the Japanese aggression until it became evident that Japan intended to attack and even invade and conquer India. He allowed certain letters he had written in support of the war affirming his views of the Asuric nature and inevitable outcome of Hitlerism to become public. He supported the Cripps' offer because by its acceptance India and Britain could stand united against the Asuric forces and the solution of Cripps could be used as a step towards independence. When negotiations failed, Sri Aurobindo returned to his reliance on the use of spiritual force alone against the aggressor and had the satisfaction of seeing the tide of Japanese victory, which had till then swept everything before it, change immediately into a tide of rapid, crushing and finally immense and overwhelming defeat. He had also after a time the satisfaction of seeing his previsions about the future of India justify themselves so that she stands independent with whatever internal {{0}}difficulties.[[Sri Aurobindo,,On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 21–39.]]


I suppose I have had myself an even more completely European education than you, and I have had too my period of agnostic denial, but from the moment I looked at these things I could never take the attitude of doubt and disbelief which was for so long fashionable in {{0}}Europe.[[Sri Aurobindo,,On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 90.]]

I myself have never been a sportsman or – apart from a spectator's interest in cricket in England or a non-player member of the Baroda cricket club – taken up any physical games or athletics except some exercises leamt from Madrasi wrestlers in Baroda such as dand and baithak, and those I took up only to put some strength and vigour into a frail and weak though not unhealthy {{0}}body....[[Sri Aurobindo,,On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p. 506.]]

I hope your dinner at Dewas did not turn out like my first taste of Mahratta cookery – when for some reason my dinner was non est and somebody went to my neighbour, a Mahratta Professor, for food. I took one mouthful and only one. 0 God! Sudden fire in the mouth could not have been more surprising.Enough to bring down the whole of London in one wild agonising swoop of {{0}}flame![[Sri Aurobindo,,On Himself (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 351–52.]]

The poems come as a stream beginning at the first line and ending at the last – only some remain with one or two changes, others have to be recast if the first inspiration was an inferior one. Savitri is a work by itself unlike all the others. I made some eight or ten recasts of it originally under the old insufficient inspiration. Afterwards I am altogether rewriting it, concentrating on the first book and working on it over and over again with the hope that every line may be of a perfect perfection – but I have hardly any time now for such {{0}}work.[[Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Parts Two & Three (Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), p. 728.]]

This last line ["The high boughs prayed in a revealing sky." (Savitri I, Canto I)] is an expression of an experience which I often had whether in the mountains or on the plains of Gujarat or looking from my window in Pondicherry not only in the dawn but at other {{0}}times....[[Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Parts Two & Three (Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), p, 790.]]

... I do not work at the poem once a week; I have other things to do. Once a month perhaps, I look at the new form of the first book and make such changes as inspiration points out to {{0}}me....[[Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Parts Two & Three (Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), p. 727.]]

I do not know what to say on the subject you propose to me – the superiority of music to poetry – for my appreciation of music is bodiless and inexpressible, while about poetry I can write at ease with an expert knowledge. But is it necessary to fix a scale of greatness between two fine arts when each has its own greatness and can touch in its own way the extremes of aesthetic Ananda? Music, no doubt, goes nearest to the infinite and to the essence of things because it relies wholly on the ethereal vehicle, śabda, (architecture by the by can do something of the same kind at the other extreme even in its imprisonment in mass); but painting and sculpture have their revenge by liberating visible form into ecstasy, while poetry though it cannot do with sound what music does, yet can make a many-stringed harmony, a sound revelation winging the creation by the word and setting afloat vivid suggestions of form and colour, – that gives it in a very subtle kind the power of all the arts. Who shall decide between such claims or be a judge between these {{0}}godheads?[[Sri Aurobindo, The Future Poetry (Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971), p. 481.]]

To the mystic there is no such thing as an abstraction. Everything which to the intellectual mind is abstract has a concreteness, substantiality which is more real than the sensible form of an object or of a physical event. To me, for instance, consciousness is the very stuff of existence and I can feel it everywhere enveloping and penetrating the stone as much as man or the animal. A movement, a flow of consciousness is not to me an image but a fact. If I wrote "His anger climbed against me in a stream", it would be to the general reader a mere image, not something that was felt by me in a sensible experience; yet I would only be describing in exact terms what actually happened once, a stream of anger, a sensible and violent current of it rising up from downstairs and rushing upon me as I sat in the veranda of the Guest-House, the truth of it being confirmed afterwards by the confession of the person who had the movement. This is only one instance, but all that is spiritual or psychological in Savitri is of that {{0}}character.[[Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Parts Two & Three, p. 736.]]

Materialism has now become a philosophical speculation just like any other theory; it cannot claim to found itself on a sort of infallible Biblical authority, based on the facts and conclusions of Science. This change can be felt by one like myself who grew up in the heyday of absolute rule of scientific materialism in the 19th {{0}}century.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part One (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), pp. 206–07.]]

There are different statuses (avasthā) of the Divine Consciousness. There are also different statues of transformation. First is the psychic transformation, in which all is in contact with the Divine through the individual psychic consciousness. Next is the spiritual transformation in which all is merged in the Divine in the cosmic consciousness. Third is the supramental transformation in which all becomes supramentalised in the divine gnostic consciousness. It is only with the latter that there can begin the complete transformation of mind, life and body – in my sense of completeness.

You are mistaken in two respects. First, the endeavour towards this achievement is not new and some Yogis have achieved it, I believe – but not in the way I want it. They achieved it as a personal Siddhi maintained by Yoga-Siddhi – not a Dharma of the nature (physical transformation). Secondly, the supramental transformation is not the same as the spiritual-mental. It is a change of mind, life and body which the mental or over-mental-spiritual cannot achieve. All whom you mention were spirituals, but in different ways. Krishna's mind, for instance, was overmentalised, Ramakrishna's intuitive, Chaitanya's spiritual-psychic, Buddha's illumined higher mental. I don't know about Bijoy Goswami – he seems to have been brilliant but rather chaotic. All that is different from the supramental. Then about the vital of the Paramahansas. It is said that their vital behaves either like a child (Ramakrishna) or like a madman or like a demon or like something inert (of. Jadabharata). Well, there is nothing supramental in all that.

One can be an instrument of the Divine in any of the transformations. The question is, an instrument for {{0}}what?[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. US. Page – 266]]

April 1935

Everything depends on the inner condition, and the outward action is only useful as a means and a help for expressing or confirming the inner condition and making it dynamic and effective. If you do or say a thing with the psychic uppermost or with the right inner touch, it will be effective; if you do or say the same thing out of the mind or the vital or with a wrong or mixed atmosphere, it may be quite ineffective. To do the right thing in the right way in each case and at each moment one must be in the right consciousness – it can't be done by following a fixed mental rule which under some circumstances might fit in and under others might not fit in at all. A general principle can be laid down if it is in consonance with the Truth, but its application must be determined by the inner consciousness seeing at each step what is to be done or not done. If the psychic is uppermost, if the being is entirely turned towards the Mother and follows the psychic, this can be increasingly done.

All depends therefore not on a mental rule to follow in practice, but in getting the psychic consciousness back and putting its light into this vital part and making that part turn wholly to the {{0}}Mother.[[Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, With Letters on The Mother and Translations of Prayers and Meditations (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), pp. 272–73.]]


It is only divine Love which can bear the burden I have to bear, that all have to bear who have sacrificed everything else to the one aim of uplifting earth out of its darkness towards the {{0}}Divine.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 152.]]

I have never disputed the truth of the old yogas – I have myself had the experience of Vaishnava Bhakti and of Nirvana in the Brahman; I recognise their truth in their own field and for their own purpose – the truth of their experience so far as it goes – though I am in no way bound to accept the truth of the mental philosophies founded on the experience. I similarly find that my yoga is true in its own field – a larger field, as I think – and for its own purpose. The purpose of the old is to get away from life to the Divine – so, obviously, let us drop Karma. The purpose of the new is to reach the Divine and bring the fullness of what is gained into life – for that, yoga by works is {{0}}indispensable.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Parts Two and Three, p. 526.]]

Q: In what sense is the Mother everywhere? Does she know all happenings in the physical plane?

A: Including what Lloyd George had for breakfast today or what Roosevelt said to his wife about the servants? Why should the Mother "know" in the human way all happenings in the physical plane? Her business in her embodiment is to know the workings of the universal forces and use them for her works; for the rest she knows what she needs to know, sometimes with her inner self, sometimes with her physical mind. All knowledge is available in her universal self, but she brings forward only what is needed to be brought forward so that the working is {{0}}done.[[Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, p. 106.]]


The Mother's consciousness and mine are the same, the one Divine Consciousness in two, because that is necessary for the play. Nothing can be done without her knowledge and force, without her consciousness – if anybody really feels her consciousness, he should know that I am there behind it and if he feels me it is the same with {{0}}hers.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 455.]]


I cannot very well answer the strictures of Russell, for the conception of the Divine as an external omnipotent Power who has "created" the world and governs it like an absolute and arbitrary monarch – the Christian or Semitic conception – has never been mine; it contradicts too much my seeing and experience during thirty years of {{0}}sadhana.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part One, p. 174.]]

As for the question about the illness, perfection in the physical plane is indeed part of the ideal of the Yoga, but it is the last item and, so long as the fundamental change has not been made in the material consciousness to which the body belongs, one may have a certain perfection on other planes without having immunity in the body. We have not sought perfection for our own separate sake, but as part of a general change – creating a possibility of perfection for {{0}}others.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 476.]]

August 1936

Chapter XI. Sri Aurobindo on Himself

If you give the money to the Mother, that can't be commercial; commerce implies personal profit, and here your profit is only {{0}}spiritual.[[Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, p. 361.]]


The Mother and myself deal with all according to the law of the Divine. We receive alike rich and poor, those who are high-born or low-born according to human standards, and extend to them an equal love and protection. Their progress in Sadhana is our main concern – for they have come here for that, not to satisfy their palates or their bellies, not to make ordinary vital demands or to quarrel about position or place or {{0}}comforts.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 484.]]


You have no experience of major realisations through works, and you conclude that such realisations are impossible. But what of the many who have had them – elsewhere and here too in the Ashram? That has no value? You hint to me that I have failed to get anything by works? How do you know? I have not written the history of my Sadhana – if I had, you would have seen that if I had not made action and work one of my chief means of realisation – well, there would have been no sadhana and no realisation except that, perhaps, of {{0}}Nirvana.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 132.]]


My remarks simply meant that I regard the spiritual history of mankind and especially of India as a constant development of a divine purpose, not a book that is closed, the lines of which have to be constantly repeated. Even the Upanishads and the Gita were not final though everything may be there in seed.... I may say that it is far from my purpose to propagate any religion, new or old, for humanity in the future. A way to be opened that is still blocked, not a religion to be founded, is my conception of the {{0}}matter.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 125.]]


The traditions of the past are very great in their own place, in the past, but I do not see why we should merely repeat them and not go farther. In the spiritual development of the consciousness upon earth the great past ought to be followed by a greater {{0}}future.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 122.]]


You appeal to the Vaishnava-Tantric traditions; to Chaitanya, Ramprasad, Ramakrishna. I know something about them and, if I did not try to repeat them, it is because I do not find in them the solution, the reconciliation I am {{0}}seeking.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 119.]]


In the beginning, before I discovered the secret of the Supermind, I myself tried to seek the reconciliation through an association of the spiritual consciousness with the vital, but my experience and all experience show that this leads to nothing definite and final, – it ends where it began, midway between the two poles of human nature. An association is not enough, a transformation is {{0}}indispensable.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 120.]]


In any case, my object is a realisation on the physical plane and I cannot consent merely to repeat {{0}}Ramakrishna.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 121.]]


The Supramental is not grand, aloof, cold and austere; it is not something opposed to or inconsistent with a full vital and physical manifestation; on the contrary, it carries in it the only possibility of the full fullness of the vital force and the physical life on earth. It is because it is so, because it was so revealed to me and for no other reason that I have followed after it and persevered till I came into contact with it and was able to draw down some power of it and its influence. I am concerned with the earth, not with worlds beyond for their own sake; it is a terrestrial realisation that I seek and not a flight to distant {{0}}summits.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 124.]]


I have no intention of achieving the Supermind for myself only – I am not doing anything for myself, as I have no personal need of anything, neither of salvation (Moksha) nor supramentalisation. If I am seeking after supramentalisation, it is because it is a thing that has to be done for the earth-consciousness and if it is not done in myself, it cannot be done in others. My supramentalisation is only a key for opening the gates of the supramental to the earth-consciousness; done for its own sake, it would be perfectly {{0}}futile.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 144–45]]

April 1935

These egoistic terms are not those in which my vital moves. It is a higher Truth I seek, whether it makes men greater or not is not the question, but whether it will give them truth and peace and light to live in and make life something better than a struggle with ignorance and falsehood and pain and strife. Then, even if they are less great than the men of the past, my object will have been achieved. For me mental conceptions cannot be the end of all things. I know that the Supermind is a truth.

It is not for personal greatness that I am seeking to bring down the Supermind. I care nothing for greatness or littleness in the human sense. I am seeking to bring some principle of inner Truth, Light, Harmony, Peace into the earth-consciousness; I see it above and know what it is – I feel it ever gleaming down on my consciousness from above and I am seeking to make it possible for it to take up the whole being into its own native power, instead of the nature of man continuing to remain in half-light, half-darkness. I believe the descent of this Truth opening the way to a development of divine consciousness here to be the final sense of the earth evolution. If greater men than myself have not had this vision and this ideal before them, that is no reason why I should not follow my Truth-sense and Truth-vision. If human reason regards me as a fool for trying to do what Krishna did not try, I do not in the least care. There is no question of X or Y or anybody else in that. It is a question between the Divine and myself – whether it is the Divine Will or not, whether I am sent to bring that down or open the way for its descent or at least make it more possible or not. Let all men jeer at me if they will or all Hell fall upon me if it will for my presumption, – I go on till I conquer or perish. This is the spirit in which I seek the Supermind, no hunting for greatness for myself or {{0}}others.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 143–44.]]


The supramental Force is descending, but it has not yet taken possession of the body or of matter – there is still much resistance to that. It is supramentalised Overmind Force that has already touched, and this may at any time change into or give place to the supramental in its own native {{0}}power.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 470.]]


I must remind you that I have been an intellectual myself and no stranger to doubts – both the Mother and myself have had one side of the mind as positive and as insistent on practical results and more so than any Russell can be. We could never have been contented with the shining ideas and phrases which a Rolland or another takes for gold coin of Truth. We know well what is the difference between a subjective experience and a dynamic outward-going and realising Force. So although we have faith, (and who ever did anything great in the world without having faith in his mission or the Truth at work behind him?) we do not found ourselves on faith alone, but on a great ground of knowledge which we have been developing and testing all our lives. I think I can say that I have been testing day and night for years upon years more scrupulously than any scientist his theory or his method on the physical {{0}}plane.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 468–69.]]


If absolute surrender, faith, etc. from the beginning were essential for Yoga, then nobody could do it. I myself could not have done it if such a condition had been demanded of {{0}}me.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 76.]]


It took me four years of inner striving to find a real Way, even though the divine help was with me all the time, and even then, it seemed to come by an accident; and it took me ten more years of intense yoga under a supreme inner guidance to trace it out and that was because I had my past and the world's past to assimilate and overpass before I could find and found the {{0}}future.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part Four (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970), p. 1363.]]

Zeal and enthusiasm are all right and very necessary but the spiritual condition combines calm with intensity. Psychic fire is different – what you are speaking of here is the rajasic vital fire of self-exertion, aggressive self-defence, exerting lawful rights, etc.

I speak from my own experience. I have solid strength, but I have not much of the fire that blazes out against anybody who does not give me lawful rights. Yet I do not find myself weak or a dead man. I have always made it a rule not to be restless in any way, to throw away restlessness – yet I have been able to use my solid strength whenever necessary. You speak as if rajasic force and vehemence were the only strength and all else is deadness and weakness. It is not so – the calm spiritual strength is a hundred times stronger; it does not blaze up and sink again – but is steady and unshakable and perpetually {{0}}dynamic.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 197.]]


I may also say that I did not leave politics because I felt I could do nothing more there; such an idea was very far from me. I came away because I did not want anything to interfere with my Yoga and because I got a very distinct ādeśa in the matter. I have cut connection entirely with politics, but before I did so I knew from within that the work I had begun there was destined to be carried forward, on lines I had foreseen, by others, and that the ultimate triumph of the movement I had initiated was sure without my personal action or presence. There was not the least motive of despair or sense of futility behind my {{0}}withdrawal.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 55.]]

October 1932

... The supramental is simply the direct self-existent Truth-Consciousness and the direct self-effective Truth-Power. There can therefore be no question of jugglery about it. What is not true is not supramental. As for calm and silence, there is no need of the supramental to get that. One can get it even on the level of Higher Mind which is the next above the human intelligence. I got these things in 1908, 27 years ago, and I can assure you they were solid enough and marvellous enough in all conscience without any need of supramentality to make it more so. Again, "a calm that looks like action and motion" is a phenomenon of which I know nothing. A calm or silence that is what I have had – the proof is that out of an absolute silence of the mind I edited the Bande Mataram for 4 months and wrote 6 volumes of the Arya, not to speak of all the letters and messages etc. I have written since. If you say that writing is not an action or motion but only something that seems like it, a jugglery of the consciousness, – well, still out of that calm and silence I conducted a pretty strenuous political activity and have also taken my share in keeping up an Ashram which has at least an appearance to the physical senses of being solid and material! If you deny that these things are material or solid (which, of course, metaphysically you can), then you land yourself plump into Shankara's Illusionism, and there I will leave {{0}}you.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 162–63.]]


The Mother and myself went for years through the-utmost self-imposed bareness of {{0}}life.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 467.]]


It is not clear what your guru meant by my sitting on the path; that could have been true of the period between 1915 and 1920 when I was writing the Arya, but the Sadhana and the work were waiting for the Mother's coming. In 1923 or 1924, I could not be described as sitting on the path, so far as the Sadhana was {{0}}concerned....[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 459.]]


I know all about them [fits of depression and darkness and despair] myself – but my experience has led me to the prerception that they are an unnecessary tradition and could be dispensed with if one {{0}}chose.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Parts Two and Three, p. 576.]]

It began by the way as far back as in Alipore Jail when I got bitten in my cell by some very red and ferocious-looking warrior ants and found to my surprise that pain and pleasure are conventions of our {{0}}senses.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 355.]]


Yes, of course, I have been helping X. When somebody wants, really, to develop the literary power, I put some force to help him or {{0}}her.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 281.]]


Narayan Jyotishi, a Calcutta astrologer, who predicted, not knowing then who I was, in the days before my name was politically known, my struggle with Miechchha enemies and afterwards the three cases against me and my three acquittals, predicted also that though death was prefixed for me in my horoscope at the age of 63, I would prolong my life by Yogic power for a very long period and arrive at a full old age. In fact, I have got rid by Yogic pressure of a number of chronic maladies that had got settled in my {{0}}body.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 209.]]


I can say little about the method X speaks of for getting rid of dead concepts. Each mind has its own way of moving. My own has been a sort of readjustment or rectification of positions and I should rather call it discrimination accompanied by a rearrangement of intuitions. At one time I had given much too big a place to "humanity" in my scheme of things with a number of ideas attached to that exaggeration which needed to be put right. But the change did not come by doubt about what I had conceived before, but by a new light on things in which "humanity" automatically stepped down and got into its right place and all the rest rearranged itself in {{0}}consequence.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 152.]]


I see that you have persisted in giving a biography – is it really necessary or useful? The attempt is bound to be a failure, because neither you nor anyone else knows anything at all of my life; it has not been on the surface for men to see. You have given a sort of account of my political action, but the impression it makes on me and would make, I believe, on your public is that of a fiery idealist rushing furiously at an impossible aim (knocking his head against a stone wall, which is not a very sensible proceeding) without any grasp of realities and without any intelligible political method or plan of action. The practical people of the West would hardly be well impressed by such a picture and it would make them suspect that, probably, my Yoga was a thing of the same {{0}}type![[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 378.]]

But why write my biography at all? Is it really necessary? In my view, a man's value does not depend on what he learns, or his position or fame, or what he does, but on what he is and inwardly {{0}}becomes.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, before text.]]

You have to develop the power and the habit of taking refuge in the protection of the Mother and myself. It is for this reason that the habit of criticising and judging by the outer mind or cherishing its preconceived ideas and formations must disappear. You should repeat always to yourself when it tries to rise, "Sri Aurobindo and the Mother know better than myself – they have the experience and knowledge which I have not – they must surely be acting for the best and in a greater light than that of ordinary human {{0}}knowledge.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 494.]]

The Mother's sleep is not sleep but an inner consciousness in which she is in connection with people or working {{0}}everywhere.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 497.]]


I had the same kind of violent objection to Gurugiri, but you see I was obliged by the irony of things or rather by the inexorable truth behind them to become a Guru and preach the Guruvada. Such is {{0}}Fate.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 356.]]


After travelling long in a boat I had once or twice the swaying sense of it after coming off it, as if the land about me was tossing like the boat – of course a subtle physical impression, but vivid {{0}}enough.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 360–61.]]


Dreams of this kind can last for years and years after the waking consciousness has ceased to interest itself in things of that kind. The subconscient is exceedingly obstinate in the keeping of its old impressions. I find myself even recently having a dream of revolutionary activities or another in which the Maharaja of Baroda butted in, people and things I have not even thought of passingly for the last twenty years almost. I suppose it is because the very business of the subconscient in the human psychology is to keep all the past inside it and, being without conscious mentality, it clings to its office until the light has fully come down into it, illumining even its corners and {{0}}crevices.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 362.]]


This is a lesson I have learnt from the experience both of my own mind and of the minds of others; the only way to get rid of doubt is to take discrimination as one's detector of truth and falsehood and under its guard to open the door freely and courageously to {{0}}experience.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part One, p. 168.]]

The object of such special issues is not to exhibit me to the public and show them all ends of me, i.e., to make me go through all my possible performances on a public stage. The object is to make the reading public better acquainted with the nature of this Yoga and the principle of what is being done in the Ashram. The private matters of the Ashram itself are not for

the public – at most only so much as the public can see. A fortiori anything personal and private about me is also taboo. I come in only so far as it is necessary for the public to know my thought and what I stand for. You will notice that my life itself is so written as to give only the grey precise surface facts, nothing more. All propensity to make me figure in the big Barnum circus of journalistic "features" along with or in competition with Joe Zones, the prize-fighter, Douglas Fairbanks, H. G. Wells, King George and Queen Mary, Haile Selassie, Hobbs, Hitler, Jack the Ripper (or any modern substitute of his) and Mussolini should be strictly banished from the mentality for evermore and the day {{0}}after.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 377–78.]]


If I tolerate a little writing about myself, it is only to have a sufficient counter-weight in that amorphous chaos, the public mind, to balance the hostility that is always aroused by the presence of a new dynamic Truth in this world of ignorance. But the utility ends there and too much advertisement would defeat that object. I am perfectly "rational", I assure you, in my methods and I do not proceed merely on any personal dislike of fame. If and so far as publicity serves the Truth, I am quite ready to tolerate it; but I do not find publicity for its own sake {{0}}desirable.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 376.]]


I have always had realisation by meditation first and the purification started afterwards as a {{0}}result.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Parts Two and Three, pp,.904–05.]]

... In my case I walked into Nirvana without intending it or rather Nirvana walked casually into me not so far from the beginning of my yogic career without asking my {{0}}leave.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part Four, p. 1633.]]

I have had myself the experience of this rising to a height during a certain stage of the spiritual development, of things that before hardly existed and seemed quite absent in the pure Yogic {{0}}life.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 157.]]


You can't expect me to argue about my own spiritual greatness in comparison with Krishna's. The question itself would be relevant only if there were two sectarian religions in opposition, Aurobindoism and Vaishnavism, each insisting on its own God's greatness. That is not the case. And then what Krishna must I challenge, – the Krishna of the Gita who is the transcendent Godhead, Paramatma, Parabrahma, Purushottama, the cosmic Deity, Master of the universe, Vasudeva who is all, the Immanent in the heart of all creatures, or the Godhead who was incarnate at Brindavan and Dwarka and Kurukshetra and who was the guide of my Yoga and with whom I realised {{0}}identity?[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 136–37.]]


But what strange ideas again! – that I was born with a supramental temperament and that I know nothing of hard realities!

Good God! My whole life has been a struggle with hard realities, from hardships, starvation in England and constant dangers and fierce difficulties to the far greater difficulties continually cropping up here in Pondicherry, external and internal. My life has been a battle from its early years and is still a battle: the fact that I wage it now from a room upstairs and by spiritual means as well as others that are external makes no difference to its character. But, of course, as we have not been shouting about these things, it is natural, I suppose, for others to think that I am living in an august, glamorous, lotus-eating dreamland where no hard

facts of life or Nature present themselves. But what an illusion all the {{0}}same![[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 153–54.]]

My awn Sadhana when it was far more advanced than yours used to stop for half a year together. I did not make a fuss about it, but remained quiet till the empty or dull period was {{0}}over.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 158.]]


I thought I had already told you that your turn towards Krishna was not an obstacle.... If we consider the large and indeed

predominant part he played in my own Sadhana, it would be strange if the part he has in your Sadhana could be considered

objectionable.... If you reach Krishna you reach the Divine; if you can give yourself to him, you give yourself to {{0}}me.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 137.]]


As to whether the Divine seriously means something to happen, I believe it is intended. I know with absolute certitude that the supramental is a truth and that its advent is in the very nature of things inevitable. The question is as to the when and the how. That also is decided and predestined from somewhere above; but it is here being fought out amid a rather grim clash of conflicting forces. For in the terrestrial world the predetermined result is hidden and what we see is a whirl of possibilities and

forces attempting to achieve something with the destiny of it all concealed from human eyes.... My faith and will are for the {{0}}now.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 167.]]


It is not because I have myself trod the sunlit way or flinched from difficulty and suffering and danger. I have had my full

share of these things and the Mother has had ten times her full share. But that was because the finders of the Way had to face

(these things in order to conquer. No difficulty that can come on the Sadhak but has faced us on the path; against many we

have had to struggle hundreds of times.... It is, in fact, to ensure an easier path to others hereafter that we have borne that bur-

den.... The sunlit path is not altogether a fable.

But, you will ask, what of those who cannot? Well, it is for them I am putting forth all my efforts to bring down the supramental Force within a measurable {{0}}time.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 465.]]

I don't know that I have called myself a Superman. But certainly I have risen above the ordinary human mind, otherwise

I would not think of trying to bring down the Supermind into the {{0}}physical.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 143.]]


Q: ...I sometimes fear that eventually you and the Mother will retire into an extra-cosmic Samadhi leaving the wicked world to sink or swim as best it can. Perhaps that would be the wisest course – who knows?

A: I have no intention of doing so – even if all smashed, I would look beyond the smash to the new creation. As for what

is happening in the world, it does not upset me because I knew all along that things would happen in that fashion, and as for

the hopes of the intellectual idealists I have not shared them, so I am not {{0}}disappointed.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 165.]]


What I said was that behind visible events in the world there is always a mass of invisible forces at work unknown to the outward minds of men, and by yoga, (by going inward and establishing a conscious connection with the Cosmic Self and Force and forces,) one can become conscious of these forces, intervene consciously in the play, and to some extent/at least determine

things in the result of the {{0}}play.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters oh Yoga, Part One, p. 470.]]

I can agree only that we have had a heavy time of it recently and that there has been a strong attack on the plane of the physical and material – but that (heavy attacks) is a thing we have been accustomed to for the last 30 years and it has never prevented us from making any necessary advance. I have never had any illusions about the path being comfortable and easy; I knew all along that the work could only be done if all the essential difficulties rose and were faced; so their rising cannot tire or dishearten me, whatever obstinacy there may be in the difficul'ties, whether our own or in the Sadhaks or in Nature. No, I am not tired or on the point of giving up. I have made inwardly steps in front in the last two or three months which had seemed impossible because of the obstinate resistance for years together, and it is not an experience which pushes me to despair and to give up. If there is much resistance on one side,there have been large gains on the other – all has not been a picture of sterile {{0}}darkness.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 469–70.]]


Even if I foresee an adverse result, I must work for the one that I consider should be; for it keeps alive the force, the principle of Truth which I serve and gives it a possibility to triumph hereafter so that it becomes part of the working of the future favourable Fate, even if the fate of the hour is adverse. Men do not abandon a cause because they have seen it fail or foresee its failure; and they are spiritually right in their stubborn perseverance. Moreover, we do not live for outward result alone; far more the object of life is the growth of the soul, – not outward success of the hour or even of the near {{0}}future.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part One, p. 469.]]


In the world outside there are much worse symptoms such as the general increase of cynicism, a refusal to believe in any-

thing at all, a decrease of honesty, an immense corruption, a preoccupation with food, money, comfort, pleasure, to the exclusion of higher things, and a general expectation of worse and worse things awaiting the world. All that, however acute,is a temporary phenomenon for which those who know anything about the workings of the world-energy and the workings of the Spirit were prepared. I myself foresaw that this worst would come, the darkness of night before the dawn; therefore I am not discouraged. I know what is preparing behind the darkness and can see and feel the first signs of its coming. Those who seek for the Divine have to stand firm and persist in their seeking; after a time, the darkness will fade and begin to disappear and the Light will {{0}}come.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 169–70.]]


Now in these times of world-crisis when I have to be on guard and concentrated all the time to prevent irremediable catastrophes and have still to be so, and when, besides, the major movement of the inner spiritual work needs an equal concentration and persistence, it is not possible for me to abandon my rule. (Moreover, even for the individual Sadhak it is in his interest that this major spiritual work should be done, for its success would create conditions under which his difficulties could be much more easily overcome.) All the same I have broken my rule, and broken it for you alone: I do not see how that can be interpreted as a want of love and a hard granite {{0}}indifference.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 188.]]


What is happening did not come to me as a surprise. I foresaw it when I was in Bengal and warned people that it was probable and almost inevitable and that they should be prepared for it. At that time no one attached any value to what I said, although some afterwards remembered and admitted, when the trouble first began, that I have been right; only C. R. Das had grave apprehensions and he even told me when he came to Pondicherry that he would not like the British to go out until this dangerous problem had been settled. But I have not been discouraged by what is happening, because I know and have experienced hundreds of times that beyond the blackest darkness there lies for one who is a divine instrument the light of God's victory. I have never had a strong and persistent will for anything to happen in the world – I am, not speaking of personal things – which did not eventually happen even after delay, defeat or even disaster. There was a time when Hitler was victorious everywhere and it seemed certain that a black yoke of the Asura would be imposed on the whole world; but where is Hitler now and where is his {{0}}rule?[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 168–69.]]


Finally, about financial arrangements. It has been an arduous and trying work for the Mother and myself to keep up this

Ashram, with its ever-increasing numbers, to make both ends meet and at times to prevent deficit budgets and their results; specially in this war time, when the expenses have climbed to a dizzy and fantastic height, only one accustomed to these things or who had similar responsibilities can understand what we have gone through. Carrying on anything of this magnitude without any settled income could not have been done if there had not been the working of a divine Force. Works of charity are not part of our work, there are other people who can see to that. We have to spend all on the work we have taken in hand and what we get is nothing compared to what is needed....

... I am writing only on the surface and I do not speak of what is behind or from the Yogic standpoint, the standpoint of the Yogic consciousness from which we act; that would be more difficult to express. This is merely for intellectual satisfaction and there is always room for {{0}}dispute.[[Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, p. 231–32.]]


The volume of the correspondence is becoming enormous and it takes me all the night and a good part of the day – apart from the work done separately by the Mother who has also to work the greater part of the night in addition to her day's {{0}}work.[[Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, p. 489.]]


My concentration is for a particular work – it is not for meditation divorced from life. When I concentrate, I work upon others, upon the world, upon the play of forces. What I say is that to spend all the time reading and writing letters is notsufficient for the purpose. I am not asking to become a meditative {{0}}Sannyasi.[[Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, pp. 179–80.]]


If we had lived physically in the Supermind from the beginning nobody could have been able to approach us nor could any Sadhana have been done. There could have been no hope of contact between ourselves and the earth and men. Even as it is, Mother has to come down towards the lower consciousness of the Sadhaks instead of keeping always in her own, otherwise they begin to say, "How far away, how severe you were; you do not love me, I get no help from you, etc., etc." The Divine has to veil himself in order to meet the {{0}}human.[[Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, p. 450.]]

I do not understand your point about raising up a new race by my going on writing "trivial" letters ten hours a day. Of course not – nor by writing important letters either; even if I were to spend my time writing fine poems it would not build up a new race. Each activity is important in its own place – an electron or a molecule or a grain may be small things in themselves, but in their place they are indispensable to the building up of a {{0}}world....[[Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, pp. 180–81.]]

December 1933

But I do not understand how all that can prevent me from answering mental questions. On my own showing, if it is necesary for the Divine purpose, it has to be done. Sri Ramakrishna himself answered thousands of questions, I believe. But the answers must be such as he gave and such as I try to give answers from higher spiritual experience, from a deeper source of knowledge and not lucubrations of the logical intellect trying to co-ordinate its {{0}}ignorance.[[Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, p, 181.]]

What I write usually helps only the mind and that too very little, for people do not really understand what I write – they put their own constructions on it. The inner help is quite different and there can be no confusion with it, for it reaches the

substance of the consciousness, not the mind {{0}}only.[[Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, p. 184.]]

I never point out to anybody his defects unless he gives me the occasion. A Sadhak must become conscious and lay himself before the light, see and reject and change. It is not the right method for us to interfere and lecture and point out this and point out that. That is the school-master method – it does not work in the spiritual {{0}}change.[[Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, p. 185.]]


Q: Is it not true that the letters we receive from you are full of power?

A: Yes, power is put into {{0}}them.[[Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, p. 182.]]


It is an undoubted fact proved by hundreds of instances that for many the exact statement of their difficulties to us is the best and often, though not always, an immediate, even an instantaneous means of release. This has often been seen by Sadhaks not only here, but far away, and not only for inner difficulties, but for illness and outer pressure of unfavourable {{0}}circumstances.[[Sri Aurobindo. On Himself, p. 490.]]


My help and the Mother's will be there working behind even in the moments when you cannot feel {{0}}it.[[Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part Four, p. 1425.]]

As for the Force, I shall write some other time. I have told you that it is not always efficacious, but works under conditions

like all forces; it is only the supramental Force that works absolutely, because it creates its own conditions. But the Force I am using is a Force that has to work under the present world conditions. It is not the less a Force for that. I have cured my self of all illnesses except three by it and those too when they come I have kept in check; the fact that I have not succeeded yet in eliminating the fact or probability of those three does not cancel the fact of my success with the {{0}}others.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 499–500.]]


I have always said that the spiritual force I have been putting on human affairs such as the War is not the supramental but the Overmind force, and that when it acts in the material world

is so inextricably mixed up in the tangle of the lower world forces that its results, however strong or however adequate to the immediate object, must necessarily be partial. That is why I am getting a birthday present of a free India on August 15, but complicated by its being presented in two packets as two free Indias: this is a generosity I could have done without, one free India would have been enough for me if offered as an unbroken {{0}}whole.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 170–71.]]


... Mother knows all these things by other means and any information given to her only adds certain physical precisions to what she knows already....

The Mother besides sees things in vision and receives the thoughts of the Sadhaks at Pranam and other times.... Only the Mother never acts on these supraphysical intimations unless there is physical confirmation like the letter itself in this case. For nobody would understand her action – the Sadhaks living in the physical mind would state her action unfounded, and those affected would deny loudly – as many have done in the past – their secret thoughts, feelings and actions. I tell you all this in confidence so that you may understand what is the real basis of Mother's letters to {{0}}X.[[Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, pp. 108–09.]]


I have not yet written about the Force because it is too complex to be adequately stated in a short space and I had no time these days for anything long. Anyhow, the clue is that the Force does not act in a void and in an absolute way, like writing on a blank paper or on the air the: "Let there be Light and there was Light" formula. It comes as a Force intervening and acting on a very complex nexus of Forces that were in action and displacing their disposition and interrelated movement and natural result by a new disposition, movement and result.

It meets in so doing a certain opposition, very often a strong opposition from many of the forces already in possession and operation. To overcome it three factors are needed: (1) the power of the Force itself, i.e., its own sheer pressure and direct action on the field of action (here the man, his condition, his body); (2) the instrument (yourself); and (3) the instrumentation (treatment, medicine).

I have often used the Force alone, without any human instrument or outer means, but here all depends upon the recipient and his receptivity – unless, as in the case of healers, there are unseen beings or powers that {{0}}assist.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp. 209–10.]]


If I have to help somebody to repel an attack, I can't do it by only writing a note. I have to send him some Force Or else concentrate and do the work for {{0}}him.[[Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p. 131.]]


Appendix I. That Pondicherry ─ {{0}}Again![[By the author]]

I went out from Pondicherry in 1947 when India was on the eve of securing her partitioned freedom. On my return journey in the month of July 1947, I became conscious of the fact that it was my return to a place where I had passed nearly twenty-five years at a stretch. The memory of my first visit in 1918 awoke in me all the old impressions vividly. I saw then that even at that early period Sri Aurobindo was for me the embodiment of the Supreme Consciousness. I mentally began to search for the exact time-moment when I had come to know him. Travelling far into the past I found it was in 1914 when I read a notice in the Bombay Chronicle about the publication of a monthly magazine – the Arya – from Pondicherry by Sri Aurobindo. I hastened to register my name in advance. In those days of political storms, to avoid the suspicion of the college authorities and the police, I had ordered the magazine to be delivered to an address outside the college. Sri Aurobindo then appeared to me to be the personification of the ideal of the life divine which he so ably put before humanity in the Arya.

But the question “why did I order the Arya?” remained. On trying to find an answer I found that I had known him before the appearance of the Arya.

The Congress broke up at Surat in 1907. Sri Aurobindo had played a prominent part in that historical session. From Surat he came to Baroda, and at Vankaner Theatre and at Prof, Manik Rao's old gymnasium in Dandia Bazar he delivered several speeches which not only took the audience by storm but changed entirely the course of many lives. I also had heard him without understanding everything that was spoken. But ever since I had seen him I had the constant feeling that he was one known to me, and so my mind could not fix the exact moment of time when I knew him. It is certain that the connection seemed to begin with the great tidal wave of the national movement in the political life of India; but I think it was only the apparent beginning. The years between 1903 and 1910 were those of unprecedented awakening and revolution. The generations that followed also witnessed two or three powerful floods of the national movement. But the very first onrush of the newly awakened national consciousness of India was unique. That tidal wave in its initial onrush defined the goal of India's political ideal – an independent republic. Alternating movement of ebb and flow in the national movement followed till in 1947 the goal was reached. The lives of leaders and workers, who rode, willingly and with delight on the dangerous crest of the tidal wave, underwent great transformations. Our small group in Gujarat got its goal fixed – the winning of undiluted freedom for India.

All the energies of the leaders were taken up by the freedom movement. Only a few among them attempted to see beyond the horizon of political freedom – some ideal of human perfection; for, after all, freedom is not the ultimate goal but a condition for the expression of the cultural Spirit of India. In Swami Shraddhananda, Pandit Madanmohan Malavia, Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi – to name some leaders – we see the double aspect of the inspiration. Among all the visions of perfection of the human Spirit on earth, I found the synthetic and integral vision of Sri Aurobindo the most rational and the most satisfying. It meets the need of the individual and collective life of man today. It is the international form of the fundamental elements of Indian culture. It is, as Dr. S. K. Maitra says, the message which holds out hope in a world of despair.

This aspect of Sri Aurobindo vision attracted me as much as the natural affinity which I had felt on seeing him. I found on making a serious study of the Arya that it led me to very rational conclusions with regard to the solutions of the deepest problems of life. I opened correspondence with him and in 1916, with his permission, began to translate the Arya into Gujarati.

But, though I had seen him from a distance and felt an unaccountable familiarity with him, still I had not yet met him personally. When the question arose of putting into execution the revolutionary plan, which Sri Aurobindo had given to my brother – C. B. Purani – at Baroda in 1907, I thought it better to obtain Sri Aurobindo's consent. Barin, his brother, had given the formula for preparing bombs to my brother, and I was also very impatient to begin the work. But still we thought it necessary to consult the great leader who had given us the inspiration, as the lives of many young men were involved in the plan.

I had an introduction to Sj. V. V. S. Aiyar who was then staying at Pondicherry. It was in December 1918 that I reached Pondicherry. I did not stay long with Mr. Aiyar. I took up my bundle of books – mainly the Arya – and went to No. 41 Rue Francois Martin, the Arya office, which was also Sri Aurobindo residence. The house looked a little queer, – on the right side, as one entered, were a few plantain trees and by their side a heap of broken tiles. On the left, at the edge of the open courtyard, four doors giving entrance to four rooms were seen. The verandah outside was wide. It was about 8 in the morning. The time for meeting Sri Aurobindo was fixed at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I waited all the time in the house, occasionally chatting with the two inmates who were there.

When I went up to meet him, Sri Aurobindo was sitting in a wooden chair behind a small table covered with an indigo-blue cloth in the verandah upstairs when I went up to meet him. I felt a spiritual light surrounding his face. His look was penetrating. He had known me by my correspondence. I reminded him about my brother having met him at Baroda; he had not forgotten him. Then I informed him that our group was now ready to start revolutionary activity. It had taken us about eleven years to get organised.

Sri Aurobindo remained silent for some time. Then he put me questions about my sadhana – spiritual practice. I described my efforts and added: "Sadhana is all right, but it is difficult to concentrate on it so long as India is not free."

"Perhaps it may not be necessary to resort to revolutionary activity to free India," he said.

"But without that how is the British Government to go from India?" I asked him.

"That is another question; but if India can be free without revolutionary activity, why should you execute the plan? It is better to concentrate on yoga – the spiritual practice, he replied.

"But India is a land that has sadhana in its blood. When India is free, I believe, thousands will devote themselves to yoga. But in the world of today who will listen to the truth from, or spirituality of, slaves?" I asked him.

He replied: India has already decided to win freedom and so there will certainly be found leaders and men to work for that goal. But all are not called to yoga. So when you have the call, is it not better to concentrate upon it? If you want to carry out the revolutionary programme you are free to do it, but I cannot give my consent to it."

"But it was you who gave us the inspiration and the start for revolutionary activity. Why do you now refuse to give your consent to its execution?" I asked.

"Because I have done the work and I know its difficulties. Young men come forward to join the movement, driven by idealism and enthusiasm. But these elements do not last long. It becomes very difficult to observe and extract discipline. Small groups begin to form within the organisation, rivalries grow between groups and even between individuals. There is competition for leadership. The agents of the Government generally manage to join these organisations from the very beginning. And so the organisations are unable to act effectively. Sometimes they sink so low as to quarrel even for money," he said calmly.

But even supposing that I grant sadhana to be of greater importance, and even intellectually understand that I should concentrate upon it, – my difficulty is that I feel intensely that I must do something for the freedom of India. I have been unable to sleep soundly for the last two years and a half. I can remain quiet if I make a very strong effort. But the concentration of my whole being turns towards India's freedom. It is difficult for me to sleep till that is secured".

Sri Aurobindo remained silent for two or three minutes. It was a long pause. Then he said: "Suppose an assurance is given to you that India will be free?”

"Who can give such an assurance?" I could feel the echo of doubt and challenge in my own question.

Again he remained silent for three or four minutes then he looked at me and added "Suppose I give you the assurance?’

I paused for a moment, considered the question with myself and said: "If you give the assurance. I can accept it."

"Then I give you the assurance that India will be free, he said in a serious tone.

My work was over – the purpose of my visit to Pondicherry was served. My personal question and the problem of our group was solved! I then conveyed to him the message of Sj. K. G. Deshpande from Baroda. I told him that financial help could be arranged from Baroda, if necessary, to which he replied, "At present what is required comes from Bengal, especially from Chandernagore. So there is no need."

When the talk turned to Prof. D. L. Purohit of Baroda Sri Aurobindo recounted the incident of his visit to Pondicherry where he had come to inquire into the relation between the Church and the State. He had paid a courtesy call on Sri Aurobindo as he had known him at Baroda. This had resulted in his resignation from Baroda State service on account of the pressure of the British Residency. I conveyed to Sri Aurobindo the good news that after his resignation Mr. Purohit had started practice as a lawyer and had been quite successful, earning more than the pay he had been getting as a professor.It was time for me to leave. The question of Indian freedom again arose in my mind, and at the time of taking leave, after I had got up to depart, I could not repress the question – it was a question of very life for me: "Are you quite sure that India will be free?"

I did not, at that time, realise the full import of my query. I wanted a guarantee, and though the assurance had been given my doubts had not completely disappeared.

Sri Aurobindo became very serious. The yogi in him came forward; his gaze was fixed at the sky that could be seen beyond the window. Then he looked at me and putting his fist on the table he said:

"You can take it from me, it is as certain as the rising of the sun tomorrow. The decree has already gone forth; it may not be long in coming.

I bowed down to him. That day I was able to sleep soundly in the train after more than two years. And in my mind was fixed for ever the picture of that scene: two of us standing near the small table, my earnest question, that upward gaze, and that quiet and firm voice with power in it to shake the world, that firm fist planted on the table, – the symbol of self-confidence of the divine Truth. There may be rank Kaliyuga, the Iron Age, in the whole world but it is the great good fortune of India that she has sons who know the Truth and have the unshakable faith in it, and can risk their lives for its sake. In this significant fact is contained the divine destiny of India and of the world.

After meeting Sri Aurobindo I was quite relieved of the great strain that was upon me. I felt that Indian freedom was a certainty, I could participate in public movements with equanimity and with a truer spiritual attitude. I got some experiences also which confirmed my faith in Sri Aurobindo's path. I got the confident faith in a divine Power that is beyond time and space and that can and does work in the world. I came to know that any man with a sincere aspiration for it can come in contact with that Power.

There were people who thought that Sri Aurobindo had retired from life, that he did not take any interest in the world and its affairs. These ideas never troubled me. On the contrary, I felt that his work was of tremendous significance for humanity and its future. In fact, the dynamic aspect of his spirituality, his insistence on life as a field for the manifestation of the Spirit, and his great synthesis added to the attraction I had already felt. To me he appeared as the spiritual Sun in modern times shedding his light on mankind from the height of his consciousness, and Pondicherry where he lived was a place of pilgrimage.

The second time I met Sri Aurobindo was in 1921, when there was a greater familiarity. Having, come for a short stay, I remained eleven days on Sri Aurobindo's asking me to prolong my stay. During my journey from Madras to Pondicherry I was enchanted by the natural scenery – the vast stretches of green paddy fields. But Pondicherry as a city was lethargic, with a colonial atmosphere – an exhibition of the worst elements of European and Indian culture. The market was dirty and stinking and the people had no idea of sanitation. The sea-beach was made filthy by them. Smuggling was the main business.

But the greatest surprise of my visit in 1921 was the "darshan" of Sri Aurobindo. During the interval of two years his body had undergone a transformation which could only be described as miraculous. In 1918 the colour of the body was like that of an ordinary Bengali – rather dark — though there was lustre on the face and the gaze was penetrating. On going upstairs to see him (in the same house) I found his cheeks wore an apple pink colour and the whole body glowed with a soft creamy white light. So great and unexpected was the change that I could not help exclaiming:

"What has happened to you?"

Instead of giving a direct reply he parried the question, as I had grown a beard: "And what has happened to you?”

But afterwards in the course of talk he explained to me that when the Higher Consciousness, descends from the mental level to the vital and even below the vital, then a transformation takes place in the nervous and even in the physical being. He asked me to join the meditation in the afternoon and also the evening sittings.

This time I saw the Mother for the first time. She was standing near the staircase when Sri Aurobindo was going upstairs after lunch. Such unearthly beauty I had never seen – she appeared to be about twenty years of age whereas she was more than forty.

I found the atmosphere of the Ashram tense. The Mother and Datta, ( Miss Hodgson), had come to stay in No. 40 Rue Francois Martin. The house had undergone a great change. There was a clean garden in the open courtyard; every room had simple and decent furniture, – a mat, a chair and a small table. There was an air of tidiness and order. This was, no doubt, the effect of Mother's presence. But yet the atmosphere was tense because Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were engaged in fighting with forces of the vital plane.

Only a few days before my arrival a dismissed cook had managed to get stones hurled into Sri Aurobindo’s house through the agency of a Mohammedan occultist. This was the topic of excited talk when I was at Pondicherry. Upendranath Banerjee, who hardly believed in the possibility of such occult phenomena, had gone to the terrace with a lantern and a lathi to find the culprit. I heard the whole story from Upen himself. The stone-falling ended when the Mother took the matter in hand and removed the servant-boy, who was the medium, to another house. (The account of this is given on pages 177–78 and in Appendix II)

The Prabartak Sangh was started at Chandernagore by Motilal Roy and others under the inspiration of Sri Aurobindo. In the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo life is accepted as the field for the manifestation of the Divine. Its main aim is not liberation merely but the manifestation of divine perfection. In his vision not only the individual but the collectivity also is a term of the Divine. Acceptance of life includes the collective life.

There is a deeper reason for accepting life. In his vision of the Reality Sri Aurobindo shows the rationality and the inevitability of an ascent by man to a higher consciousness than Mind. This ascent to the Higher Consciousness must lead to its descent in man. If the new element, the Supermind, is to become a permanent part of the earth-consciousness, then not only should it descend into the lowest plane of physical consciousness – the subconscient – but also must become a part of the collective consciousness on earth.

I asked him many questions about the organisation of a collective life based on spiritual aspiration.

On the last day of my stay of eleven days I met Sri Aurobindo between three and four in the afternoon. The main topic was sadhana.

When I got up to take leave of him I asked him:

"What are you waiting for?" I put the question because it was clear to me that he had been constantly living in the Higher Consciousness. "It is true," he said, "that the Divine Consciousness has descended but it has not yet descended into the physical being. So long as that is not done the work cannot be said to be accomplished."

I bowed down to him. When I got up to look at his face, I found he had already gone to the entrance of his room and, through the one door, I saw him turning his face towards me with a smile. I felt a great elation when I boarded the train: for, here was a guide who had already attained the Divine Consciousness, was conscious about it and yet whose detachment and discrimination were so perfect, whose sincerity so profound, that he knew what had still to be attained and could go on unobtrusively doing his hard work for mankind. External forms had a secondary place in his scale of values. In an effort so great is embodied some divine inspiration; to be called to such an ideal was itself the greatest good fortune.

The freedom of India, about which he had assured me, came, and I was fortunate to live to see it arrive on his own auspicious birthday, the 15th of August 1947.

It was to this Pondicherry that I was returning. I have lived there for nearly a generation but had never felt the Pondicherry Ashram as something fixed and unchanging. I realised this most strongly on the day I was returning to it. Pondicherry has always been to me the symbol of a great experiment, of a divine ideal. It is marching every hour towards the ultimate goal of man's upward ascent to the Divine. Not a city but a spiritual laboratory, a collective being with a daily changing horizon yet pursuing a fixed distant objective, a place fixed to the outer view but constantly moving – Pondicherry to me is always like the Arab's tent.

Appendix II. Dilip Kumar Roy's {{0}}Interview[[Condensed from Dilip Kumar Roy, Among the Great (Bombay: Jaico Publishing House, 1950), pp. 320–59.]]

May I be permitted to begin with what Sri Aurobindo has since explained to me in a letter? The context is this: a friend of mine was visited in an omnibus (where she had no friend to help) with a terrible heart-attack of thrombosis and felt she was dying. She prayed to Sri Aurobindo and Mother and lo, she was cured "miraculously" and that in five minutes with not a trace of weakness left! She was impressed because thrombosis attacks leave their victims weak as waifs. I wrote to Sri Aurobindo whether she was imagining things or whether the Mother had actually been aware of her appeal for help. To this Sri Aurobindo wrote back in a letter dated 24th March 1949:

"As to her experience, certainly her call for help did reach Mother even though all the details she relates in her letter might not have been present to the Mother's physical mind. Always calls of this kind are coming to the Mother, sometimes a hundred close upon each other and always the answer is given. The occasions are of all kinds, but whatever the need that occasions the call, the Force is there to answer it. That is the principle of this action on the occult plane. It is not of the same kind as an ordinary human action and does not need a written or oral communication from the one who calls: an interchange of psychic communication is quite sufficient to set the Force at work. At the same time it is not an impersonal Force and the suggestion of a divine energy that is there ready to answer and satisfy anybody who calls it is not at all relevant here. It is something personal to the Mother and if she had not this power and this kind of action she would not be able to do her work; but this is quite different from the outside practical working on the material plane where the methods must, necessarily, be different, although the occult working and the material working can and do join and the occult power gives to the material working its utmost efficacy...."

Now for the personal experience:

I returned to Calcutta from Pondicherry in 1924 in a state of mind where the last traces of optimism, not to mention self-confidence, had been expunged now that there was no prospect of initiation in the near future. Do what I would, I could not keep my mind from brooding on his last words tantamount to a rebuff: "Yours is still a mental seeking: for my Yoga something more is needed."...

... At this juncture I heard a lecture of Swami Abhedananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. He spoke among other things of vairdgya mevabhayam and explained forcefully why turning away from life must mean deliverance from fear and bondage. I approached him and he kindly agreed to give me diksa – that is, initiation. But a friend of mine, a quondam disciple of Sri Aurobindo, intervened at the psychological moment and took me to consult a friend of his, a Yogi with remarkable occult powers. It was in a far-off village where we had to be his guests for the night. I told him how desperate was my need of a Guru and sought his advice. "Sit down and close your eyes," was all the answer he made. A little nettled, I obeyed all the same.

I don't know how long we sat there with closed eyes for a deepening peace had made me lose count of the passage of time; it filled every crevice of my thirsty soul. My friend gave me a nudge. I opened my eyes to meet my host's scrutinizing me. He smiled.

"But why are you hunting for a guru," he asked me abruptly, "now that Sri Aurobindo himself has accepted you?"

"But how can that be?" I asked sceptically. "I told you he hasn't."

"But I tell you he has."

My heart skipped a beat. "I don't understand," I faltered out. "Will you have the goodness to be a little more explicit?"

"But it is simplicity itself," he returned bluntly with a half smile; then, appraising me for a second or two, added almost casually: "He just appeared there – yes, just behind you – and told me to advise you to wait. He asked me to tell you that he would draw you to him as soon as you were ready. Is that explicit enough?"

His eyes twinkled in irony. I was puzzled: was he laughing at me – but then –

"Look here," he chimed in his downright way, "shall I tell you something more convincing still?"

I held his eyes.... My heart beat faster.

He seemed to deliberate for a moment before he added: "Tell me: do you happen to have some ailment in your left abdomen?"

I stared at him in blank surprise. "But how did you know?"

"I didn't – that is, not before he told me."

"T – told you?" I stammered. "B – but who?"

He smiled in evident amusement. "Who else but your Guru – who came to tell me that you had already been advised by

him to wait till the ailment was cured before you practised Yoga." He paused for a moment and then added: "But what is it?" "It – it's hernia. A tug-of-war caused the rupture."

He beamed, a picture of complacency. "That explains it. For Yoga will mean pressure on these parts, the vitals. Maybe that's why he asked you to wait till it healed up."

"There you are wrong." I demurred. "For he told me that my seeking was still a mental one." Then I related to him the

gist of our conversation in Pondicherry.

He listened very attentively and when I had come to the end of my story looked very kindly at me and said: "It's quite clear

now. He wanted you to wait till you recognised in him your Guru. You don't today, evidently; for otherwise you wouldn't have

dreamed even of going to another for guidance." He then went on to tell me many things about the forces that acted in and through Yoga, about Guruvada, about the hindrance of mental preconceptions and above all about the greatness of Sri Aurobindo and his, endeavour to invoke a Force – the Supramental descent for which our minds and the earth-consciousness were still far from ready. He told me also how he had visioned in his meditations "the greatest Yogi of this age" (Yugavatar was the word he used) and how he had seen also "the Mother" who was at once his disciple and collaborator of identical status. Lastly, he gave me some excellent practical directions as to how I might best profit by Sri Aurobindo's help during my novitiate. I do not remember all that he told me but I will never forget his final warning.

"You have been called," he said. "But remember it is even more difficult to be chosen. For that you will have to surrender your will utterly to your Guru so that he may mould you as he will but not as you will, mind you. For this you must have faith – a complete faith in his superior wisdom, not only because he is your Guru but also because he has attained the peak of occult powers."

Yoga-bibhuti was the word he used.

I was thrilled. For I had never yet come face to face with "occult powers" and such verifiable powers at that. I was especially impressed by the fact that he had told me the precise advice Sri Aurobindo had given me – a disciple of his, Moni, had communicated this to me in 1924 – though I still wondered whether the assurance about Sri Aurobindo's waiting till I was ready for surrender might not, after all, be too good to be true! And last, though by no means least, I was now delivered once and for all from my sense of responsibility which, like a cruel horseman, kept goading me all the time to be more alert in my aspiration....

And I went to Pondicherry for the second time in August, 1928. But I was not a little crestfallen to learn that Sri Aurobindo had in the meanwhile gone into seclusion and made it a rule to see none except on three days in the year and even then he would not speak with them, they could only see him, make him their obeisance and then pass on in a file. But, I heard, the presiding deity of the Ashram – "the Mother", as they called her – had accepted to guide, in consultation with Sri Aurobindo, all who came and I was told that she was a radiant personality adored of all the inmates of the Ashram and looked upon by the disciples as the equal of the great Yogi. So I sought an interview with her after the darshan day as it was called. She was exceedingly kind to me and listened to me with great sympathy. I was charmed by her personality at once effulgent and soothing....

...I felt overjoyed but told her, somewhat ruefully, that I had never yet had what is popularly termed "an experience" and that this made me doubt whether Yoga could be utterly convincing to a sceptic like myself. She only smiled and said she would try and told me to meditate in my room at nine in the evening when she would do the same in hers.

...One thing I was determined to be: watchful; in other words, not to accept any experience that might come. I had little use for the credulity of the devout and had a rooted aversion to accept as authentic any experience which might be explained away as auto-suggestion. The thing must be as concrete and indubitable as sense-experience before I could possibly admit it as valid.... I am at pains to stress this because what did come was so utterly unexpected as to rule out all auto-suggestion or wishful thinking. At all events, I was convinced that a Force was acting like a ferment within me which was too concrete to be dismissed.

The next day I surrendered to the Mother my will to be moulded by her and Sri Aurobindo. I was accepted and came finally to follow their lead three months later, on the 22nd November, to be more precise, dedicating all I had to what I have learned to love more and more as the holiest cause to which I could possibly consecrate my life....

On February 4, 1943

I entered his room, the sanctum from which he had never once stirred out since 1926, and made my obeisance. He blessed me.

"Feeling better?" he asked, his eyes soft with kindness.

"Yes," I answered with some difficulty. I was moved. He bent his starry eyes on me expectantly. But not a word came to my lips. This was unusual with me for I had come equipped with a quiverful of questions. He came to my help and broke the silence, to put me at my ease..

"You sent me some questions in writing this morning," he said. "Suppose we start with the first?"

I nodded and hung on his every word....

"As to your first question," he said, "there are, broadly, two ways. One is that of Buddha who held, as you know, that although you may get some help or guidance from others, Guru or not, you will have to tread the Path alone, that is, hewing your way out of the wood with your own effort: in other words, the time-old path of tapasya. The other way is to take the Guru as a Representative of the Divine who knows the Way and therefore is in a position, obviously, to help others in finding it. That is the path followed by the aspirants here, in the Ashram – the path of Guruvad."

I nodded and said: "I know that. But I asked you in one of my questions: what should be one's attitude when one feels oneself held up by certain human limitations of the Guru?"...

... "But I think I have gone into the question before and said that though something is determined by the power of the channel – that is to say, the Guru – much more is determined by that of the recipient, the disciple." He paused and gave me a half smile as he went on: "You see, the modem mind often makes a mental muddle in such questions for the simple reason that in the way of the Spirit the Force that works things out does not achieve its results on the lines laid down by mental reason. That is why it fails to appreciate this simple fact that once the disciple accepts the Guru as a Representative of the Divine, the Divine too accepts him through the Guru: put differently, when he opens to the Guru he opens to the Divine so that the Guru can, in spite of his 'human limitations' help him by the simple process of invoking a Force that acts through the Guru's personality – a Force which is not dwarfed by his human limitations. I wrote to you also once, I think, that the Guru's imperfections need be no stumbling block to a disciple who may contact the Divine through the Guru even before the Guru himself; so what matters, in the last analysis, is the Guru's spiritual capacity to get him the desired contact and not his human limitations – because these don't block the way. Do you follow?"

The next question was about certain occult phenomena like materialisation or levitation. I had had a discussion with a friend to whom he had said, when told of my scepticism, that these were by no means all trickery and humbug as contended by many dogmatic scientists....

"But you needn't be alarmed," he put in placidly. "For Yoga has for its ultimate object the realisation of the Divine and achieving the Divine life. These are side-issues and as such need not be looked upon as germane to spiritual experience. So belief in them is not necessary, far less indispensable for realisation. You have the right of private judgment in matters such as these."

My heart-beat abated, and I said: "I am very much relieved. For I feared lest the inability to accept the Guru's view in every instance be looked upon by the Guru as a sure sign of one's unfitness to profit by the master's guidance."

"You may be reassured once more," he said kindly. "For you can take it from me that when I say or write anything it's only to state my findings or else explain my point of view. I don't insist on it as a law for others. And can you imagine, knowing me as you do all these years, that I should impose my outlook on others? I have never cared to be a dictator; neither do I insist that everybody's views must be molded by mine, any more than I insist that everybody must follow me or my Yoga." He paused and pointed at a bronze image in front. "For instance," he added, "I find that image very beautiful. But if you disagree why should I mind?"...

"... But," I hastened to add: "I revere you so much that even to have to differ from you on a small matter causes me a pang.... I want my mind to abdicate. But where is the new ruler whom I am to put on its throne...?"

He gave me a long look, then said: "It would be easier for the mind to get the new light if it didn't insist as it does that its old Ruler, Reason, was fully capable of coping with the situation. For, boiled down, it comes to an insistence, really, that the mind was the ultimate judge of all experience. But spiritual experience has it that you can never hope to understand – get to the root of – anything by your mind alone. The mind by its very constitution is unable to apprehend more than a very small fraction of the Divine reality and its action. Of this action occult phenomena is an instance in point. You cannot understand the true nature of such phenomena with your mental probings and since this is a fact, it would be better if instead of dismissing them as fraud you could suspend your judgment till you became competent to judge. For this deeper judgment only comes through the dawn of a greater consciousness by whose light alone can you hope to understand Divine action behind its terrestrial or occult disguises."

"But – I mean – it's all right in theory," I still demurred, "but when one is actually confronted – for instance, take the case of Sri Bijoy Goswami who said that his Guru had spirited away his wife to a far off place across the sky. Do you mean to say that it can be authentic or possible?"

"Whether what he claimed did happen in his wife's case is more than I can tell you," he answered. "But since levitation has been seen to be possible and can be verified by the Yogis and has been, I don't see how it can be dismissed out of hand as impossible. Thousands of experiences testify to phenomena which utterly baffle the mind. For when all is said and done, experience is and must be the last touchstone of reality and experience has it that levitation or materialisation is possible–"

"There," I interjected, "You have just anticipated me. For, I was going to ask you precisely about materialisation. One hears of such occurrences but I have so far met none who has seen these with his own eyes. One must have reliable evidence you know – not merely hearsay –"

He smiled and said: "Let me tell you then what I have seen with my own eyes if only to obviate your objection about the

hearsay evidence. And it was an occurrence witnessed to by at least half-a-dozen people besides, who were with me."...;

"The stone-throwing began unobtrusively with a few stones thrown at the guest-house kitchen – apparently from the terrace opposite, but there was no one there. The phenomenon began at the fall of dusk and continued at first for half-an-hour, but daily it increased in frequency, violence and size of the stones, and the duration of the attack increased also, sometimes lasting for several hours until, towards the end, in the hour or half hour before midnight, it became a regular bombardment; and now it was no longer at the kitchen only but thrown in other places as well: for example, the outer verandah. At first we took it for a human-made affair and sent for the police, but the investigation lasted only for a short time and when one of the constables in the verandah got a stone whizzing unaccountably between his two legs, the police abandoned the case in a panic. We made our own investigations, but the places whence the stones seemed to be or might be coming were void of human stone-throwers. Finally, as if to put us kindly out of doubt, the stones began falling inside closed rooms; one of these – it was a huge one and I saw it immediately after it fell – reposed flat and comfortable on a cane table as if that was its proper resting place. And so it went on till the missiles became murderous. Hitherto the stones had been harmless except for a daily battering of Bijoy's door – during the last days – which I watched the night before the end. They appeared in mid-air, a few feet above the ground, not coming from a distance but suddenly manifesting and, from the direction from which they flew, should have been thrown close in from the compound of the guest-house or the verandah itself, but the whole place was in clear light and I saw that there was no human being there nor could have been. At last the semi-idiot boy servant who was the centre of the attack and was sheltered in Bijoy's room under his protection, began to be severely hit and was bleeding from a wound by stones materialising inside the closed room. I went in at Bijoy's call and saw the last stone fall on the boy: Bijoy and he were sitting side by side and the stone was thrown at them in front but there was no one visible to throw it – the two were alone in the room. So unless it was Wells' Invisible Man –!

"So far we had only been watching or scouting around, but this was a little too much, it was becoming dangerous and something had to be done about it. The Mother, from her knowledge of the process of these things, decided that the process here must depend on a nexus between the boy servant and the house, so if the nexus were broken and the servant separated from the house, the stone-throwing would cease. We sent him away to Hrishikesh's place and immediately the whole phenomenon ceased; not a single stone was thrown after that and peace reigned.

"That showed... that these occult phenomena are real, have a law or process as definite as that of any scientific operation

and that the knowledge of the processes can not only bring them about but put an end to or annul them."

(I must pause here to be able to explain the episode for the general reader. I was told afterwards by Amrita, who had been an eye-witness of the whole drama that all this had happened in mid-winter in 1921 day after day. And fortunately, he had kept a record of the whole incident which he showed me. From this I gathered that a cook called Vattal was the author of the mischief. Infuriated for having been dismissed, the fellow had threatened that he would make the place too hot for those who remained. And he went for help to a Mussalman Faqir who was versed in black magic, and then it all began. I asked Amrita whether the stones could have been illusory. He smiled and said he had had them collected and kept as exhibits for months and that they had a very curious feature in that they were all covered with moss. I was also told that among those who were then on the spot there was the rationalist stalwart Upendra Nath Banerji who had at first pooh-poohed the black-magic story and girded up his loins to unearth the miscreants who were responsible for it all. But even he had to confess himself beaten in the end as he could not make any sense out of the strange episode. But it all transpired when Vattal's wife came in an extremity of despair and threw herself at the mercy of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Her husband had realised that nemesis had overtaken him for he knew occultism enough to realise that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had hurled the force back. When such occult forces are aroused against one who can repel them they inevitably recoil back upon the head of its original author. So her husband had fallen desperately sick. Sri Aurobindo in his generosity forgave the fellow and said in Amrita's presence: "For this he need not die." The black magician recovered after that.)

"So you see," he said, at the end of his narration, "the Mother who had studied occultism in North Africa could understand it all because of her deep occult knowledge."

"And you?"

He smiled but deliberated for a split second before he answered: "I too have had hundreds of personal experiences about

occult forces."

"What about the question of levitation?"

"I take levitation as an acceptable idea, because I have had experience of the natural energies which, if developed, would

bring it about and also physical experiences which would not have been possible if the principle of levitation were untrue."

"But why is it then," I asked after a slight pause, "that the modern mind is so definitely against accepting such experiences

as valid?"

"I have answered that question in my various writings," he answered, "and have said there that the mind is an instrument

of Ignorance growing towards knowledge. This does not mean that mind has no place at all in the spiritual life; but it does mean

that it cannot be even the main instrument much less the authority to whose judgment all must submit themselves including the Divine. Mind must learn from the greater consciousness it is approaching and not impose its own standards on it.... The popular notion that you can judge what is beyond the ordinary consciousness when you are still in the ordinary consciousness is untenable. So the best way is to make your mind as passive as you can and open to the Truth delivered from these preconceptions. The thing is to grow in consciousness as to be able to realise the higher truths. If you can do that and let your psychic being take the lead, it will, in due time, lead you to the opening you seek where the mind with its half-lit consciousness will no longer circumscribe your vision because a higher Light, descending from above," he pointed at a region above his head, "will then take its place and knowledge will pour in from the higher reaches of the mind up to Overmind and Supermind. That is my Yoga, as you know."

I nodded without enthusiasm. "I know," I answered, "and I see, too, that 'mental passivity' is likely to be helpful if one can

but achieve it. But my difficulty is that my mind is too refractory to abdicate obligingly. And then," I hesitated for a split second

and added: "the difficulty is by no means lessened when I catch myself wondering... whether mental questioning too may not

have some use... serving some purpose! At such moments I would ask myself if... if even our doubts too might not be helpful through the very suffering they entailed...."

The next day I wrote to him confessing my inability to recapture what he had answered apropos and went on to explain what had been at the back of my mind. In conclusion I asked him if he would be so kind as to write from memory what he had said hereanent reminding him about what he had written in his Life Divine with regard to "grief, pain, suffering, error" etc....

... [Sri Aurobindo replied:] "As for doubts, I don't think mere doubts can bring any gain; mental questioning can bring gains if it is in pursuit of truth, but questioning just for the sake of sceptical questioning or in a pure spirit of contradiction can only bring, when it is directed against the truths of the spirit, either error or a lasting incertitude. If I am always questioning the Light when it comes and refusing its offer of truth, the Light cannot stay in me, cannot settle; eventually finding no welcome and no foundation in the mind, it will retire. One must push forward into the Light and not be always falling back into the darkness and hugging the darkness in the delusion that it is the real light. Whatever fulfilment one may feel in pain and misery and doubt belongs to Ignorance: the real fulfilment is in the Divine joy and the Divine truth and its certitude and it is that for which the Yogin strives. In the struggle he may have to pass through doubt, not by his own choice or will but because there is still imperfection in his knowledge."

The next question I asked was whether mental evolution might not on occasion hinder the psychic evolution.

"It may and very often does," he answered, "especially if the attitude is wrong; that is, if the mind presumes that it is the last

term of our personality. The reason I have told you before. It is that the higher Light which comes to expedite the evolution invites our co-operation. Consequently if the pride of the mind and vital in the surface mental ideas declines to make room for it it cannot effect an entry. That is why I have told you more than once, I think, that in the realm of the Spirit it is only when one knows that one is ignorant that one really begins to know. For so long as one is unwilling to go beyond the mind one is unlikely to have any but the vaguest ideas of the higher functions of the consciousness. For instance, men who live and are content to live in the mental, regard themselves generally as physical beings or beings of life or mental beings without feeling any urge to posit a soul. For, they don't feel it except perhaps in the hope that it is something which survives the dissolution of the body. But beyond this they are not prepared to go for the simple reason that they have not experienced the soul as distinct from the mind. So these," he added, "identify themselves with their mental beings and assert that the soul is a fiction because they don't feel they have any souls. And this happens so long as the psychic being remains still veiled – behind."...

I nodded somewhat sadly and answered: "But it is one thing to understand but quite another to do the bidding of the understanding. What I mean is that though I see the wisdom of getting the mind to help, yet I find it enormously difficult to achieve the plasticity you advocate. So why not give me some practical hints as to how I am to set about it?"

"... Didn't I advise you in so many of my letters to get into contact with your inner being, to try to live within, to take the

help of your poetry and music, for instance, because these promote your devotion – bhakti – and help you take up the right attitude? I have told you – and you have known this too – how much easier it becomes to tread the psychic path, the sunlit path, when one's attitude is right, since it becomes then ever so much easier for the psychic being to come to the front. And I have told you also, so many times, that the more your psychic being comes to the fore, the less difficult will become the task of transformation of the human nature into its divine absolute. That is why I have always enjoined on you to follow this path – the path of devotion, service and work – since it is easier for your nature to follow this path than any other."

"I follow all that intellectually, you may be sure," I answered ruefully. "Only – well, I find this path anything but easy, as I too have told you again and again. My mental and vital self-will

simply keeps butting in and spoiling all and there I find myself in a quandary taking always the wrong view of things....

"... The thing is – I mean I simply can't retain the – the psychic attitude. Why can't I?"

"I can answer that. It's because your vital gets restless through impatience and then your mental starts fidgeting and questioning – didn't I tell you all that before?"...

"But what about the way of knowledge to quieten the mind?"

"Well, there are several approved techniques – for those, I mean who are called to tread the path. The one Vivekananda followed, for instance. You know that process, don't you?"

"I have read about it in his Rajayoga."

(Here is what the great Vedantin wrote: "The first lesson, then, is to sit for some time and let the mind run on. The mind is bubbling up all the time. It is like a monkey jumping about. Let the monkey jump as much as he can; you simply wait and watch.... Until you know what the mind is doing you can't control it. Give it rein.... You will find that each day it is becoming calmer... until at last the mind will be under perfect control....")

"Well, that is one way of achieving mastery over your thoughts," Sri Aurobindo said after explaining the process. "There are others. Lele, for instance, showed me one. 'Make your mind quiet,' he told me, 'don't think actively. Then you will see that the thoughts you believe to be yours come from outside; throw them away as they come and your mind will fall silent.' I had never heard of such a thing before. But I did not question the possibility nor doubt the truth of it. I accepted what he told me and made my mind inactive, only watching what thoughts were coming and whence. Then I saw a wonderful thing: the mind as a whole silent and single thoughts coming, indeed, from outside! And I threw these away before they could enter the aura of my mind. Thus in three days I was free from all thoughts and my mental became universal and liberated, and I became the master of the incoming thoughts and no longer their puppet, since I could choose the ones I would and reject the rest....

"But in your case... you would be better advised to follow the psychic way, as I told you before."

"But I do try," I returned, "through my music and poetry as you put it specifically, and you know very well too how hard I have worked on those lines. But the difficulty is – and. it is a growing one, I fear – that these activities satisfy me no longer, as I wrote to you so many times in the past. For do what I will, I simply can't get rid of a feeling that such activities are – how shall I put it – well, pointless, in the last analysis, like games you don't enjoy and yet you have to pretend you do."

"I know," he answered after a thoughtful pause, "it is the old trend of vairagya which has taken root somewhere in your nature." He paused and looked at me fixedly as he added: "Personally, I do not care for vairagya as you know. I have always preferred the way of samata – equality – of the Gita, in which one is not attached to or bound by anything."...

"... And yet," I added, "the curious and somewhat embarrassing part of it is that others seem to feel that I am a radiant

crystal of joy and faith and strength even when I am, in dull earnest, just sad and weak and lonely. How is that?"

"That's simple enough," he said, "they only come in contact with your inner being in which these are sparkling all right...."

(When he said this I was reminded of a curious experience in 1936....)

He seemed to read my thoughts. For he said: "Such things do happen in the spiritual field – things which the mind finds

difficult to conceive. I will give you an instance. It is a fact of spiritual experience that the Guru may even be less than the disciple and yet able to help; he may even be instrumental in imparting to his disciple what he never himself realised."....

"Well," I apologised a little abashed, "I didn't exactly doubt your word, only I wondered – how shall I put it – I mean I

asked myself whether it was a concrete Force you had meant when you speak about it."

"Concrete? What do you mean by 'concrete'? Spiritual Force has its own concreteness. It can take a form – like a stream for instance – of which one is aware and can send it quite concretely on whatever object one chooses. This is a statement of fact about the power inherent in spiritual consciousness. But there is also such a thing as a willed use of any subtle force – it may be spiritual, mental or vital – to secure a particular result at some point in the world. Just as there are waves of unseen physical forces (cosmic waves etc.) or currents of electricity, so there are mind-waves, thought-currents, waves of emotion – for example, anger, sorrow etc. – which go out and affect others without their knowing whence they come or that they come at all, they only feel the result. One who has the occult or the inner senses awake can feel them coming and invading him. Influences good or bad may propagate themselves in that way; that can happen without intention and naturally, but also a deliberate use can be made of them. There can also be a purposeful generation of force, spiritual or other. There can be too the use of the effective will or idea acting directly without the aid of any outward action, speech or other instrumentation which is not concrete in that sense, but is all the same effective. These things are not imaginations or delusions or humbug, but true phenomena."

As he warmed up his face looked more radiant than ever and I felt a thrill coursing through my spine. And, in a moment, I caught the contagion of his power and felt as though I had been transformed into a being of certitude! The darkness of doubt now seemed, suddenly, so alien! But above all that wonder and exaltation, above the incredible intoxication of drinking in his words face to face there was a feeling of awe that such an incarnation of power and wisdom should be talking to me face to face as a friend! But I felt no pride, only a deep humility, which is shy to the point of declining an invitation, that such a being made of the stuff of Light and Love should have given me the right to laugh with him, to exchange views – even to break a lance with him as a comrade might!... A lull intervened and I wondered what was coming next. But he said nothing. I met his eyes and then looked away. Still he did not speak. I then made a strange move which I can't explain. I blurted out a pointblank question apropos of nothing at all. I darted a glance, at him and said: "When are you going to come out?"

He smiled and answered: "I don't know."

"How do you mean? Surely you must be knowing?"

He laughed. "Not in the way you know," he said looking intently at me. He paused for a split second, then added, tantalisingly: "For I stand no longer on the mental plane. I do not decide from the mind."

"But still," I insisted, "You can't really mean to say that a radiant personality like you will be cooped up in this small room

till the – the end of time?"

"But I told you things are not predetermined with me," he said in an unruffled voice. "Suffice it to say for the present that I

can't do what I have to do if I go on seeing people etc."...

"I have explained to you partly, in my recent letters, what I am busy with," he added after a slight pause. "But you can well imagine there are many other kinds of resistance I have to overcome."...

In another letter – 20–10–46 – he wrote to me: "... I know and I have experienced hundreds of times that beyond the blackest darkness there lies for one who is a divine instrument the light of God's victory."

... "Have you any direct evidence in favour of such a prognosis?" I asked again.

A half smile edged his lips. He held my eyes for a few seconds without replying, then said: "I have."

"Do I understand that your Supramental means business after all – I mean, by coming down at long last for us humans?"

His smile now broadened into laughter. "Yes," he parried, "only tell them when you meet them that the business is not theirs."...

"Do I understand," I pursued again after the laughter had subsided, "that the conquest of the Asuric forces will usher in the Supramental Descent?"

"Not in itself," he said with a far-away look, "but it will create conditions for the Descent to become a possibility."

There was something in his tone and look which stirred a chord deep down in me. I hesitated for a little and then hazarded the question, just to have the answer from his lips, was it? I do not know. All I know is that something irresistible impelled me to it.

"Is your real work this invocation of the Supramental?"

"Yes," he replied, very simply. "I have come for that,"

And I was laughing with him, arguing with him, examining his point of view... because he had given me the right by calling

me "a friend and a son," in his infinite compassion! The remorse of Arjuna in the Gita recurred to me, inevitably:

Oft I addressed thee as a human mate

And laughed with thee – failing to apprehend

Thine infinite greatness, sharing with thee my seat

Or couch – by right of love for thee as a friend:

For all such errors of irreverence

Thy forgiveness I implore in penitence....

Appendix III. The Address Delivered by Professor Ghoseat the College Social {{0}}Gathering[[Baroda College Miscellany, Vol. V, No. 11 (September 1899), pp. 28–33. The address was given on 22 July 1899.]]

In addressing you on an occasion like the present, it is inevitable that the mind should dwell on one feature of this gathering above all others. Held as it is towards the close of the year, I am inevitably reminded that many of its prominent members are with us for the last time in their college life, and I am led to speculate with both hope and anxiety on their future careers, and this not only because several familiar faces are to disappear from us and scatter into different parts of the country and various walks of life, but also because they go out from us as our finished work, and it is by their character and life that our efforts will be judged. When I say, our efforts, I allude not merely to the professorial work of teaching, not to book-learning only, but to the entire activity of the college as a great and complex educational force, which is not solely meant to impart information, but to bring out or give opportunities for bringing out all the various intellectual and other energies which go to make up a man. And here is the side of collegiate institutions of which this Social Gathering especially reminds us, the force of the social life it provides in moulding the character and the mind. I think it will not be out of place, if in dwelling on this I revert to the great Universities of Oxford and Cambridge which are our famous exemplars, and point out a few differences between those Universities and our own and the thoughts those differences may well suggest.

I think there is no student of Oxford or Cambridge who does not look back in after days on the few years of his under-graduate life as, of all the scenes he has moved in, that which calls up the happiest memories, and it is not surprising that this should be so, when we remember what that life must have meant to him. He goes up from the restricted life of his home and school and finds himself in surroundings which with astonishing rapidity expand his intellect, strengthen his character, develop his social faculties, force out all his abilities and turn him in three years from a boy into a man. His mind ripens in the contact with minds which meet from all parts of the country and have been brought up in many various kinds of trainings, his unwholesome eccentricities wear away and the unsocial, egoistic elements of character are to a large extent discouraged. He moves among ancient and venerable buildings, the mere age and beauty of which are in themselves an education. He has the Union which has trained so many great orators and debaters, has been the first trial ground of so many renowned intellects. He has, too, the athletics clubs organized with a perfection unparalleled elsewhere, in which, if he has the physique and the desire for them he may find pursuits which are also in themselves an education. The result is that he who entered the university a raw student, comes out of it a man and a gentleman, accustomed to think of great affairs and fit to move in cultivated society, and he remembers his College and University with affection, and in after days if he meets with those who have studied with him he feels attracted towards them as to men with whom he has a natural brotherhood. This is the social effect 'I should like the Colleges and Universities of India also to exercise, to educate by social influences as well as those which are merely academicals and to create the feeling among their pupils that they belong to the community, that they are children of one mother. There are many obstacles to this result in the circumstance of Indian Universities. The Colleges are not collected in one town but are scattered among many and cannot assemble within themselves so large and various a life. They are new also, the creation of not more than fifty years – and fifty years is a short period in the life of a University. But so far as circumstances allow, there is an attempt to fill up the deficiency, in your Union, your Debating Club and Reading Room, your athletic sports and Social Gathering. For the success of this attempt time is needed, but your efforts are also needed: and I ask you who are soon to go out into the world, not to forget your College or regard it as a mere episode in your life, but rather as one to whose care you must look back and recompense it by your future life and work, and if you meet fellow-students, alumni of the same College, to meet them as friends, as brothers.

There is another point in which a wide difference exists. What makes Oxford and Cambridge not local institutions but great and historic Universities? It is the number of great and famous men, of brilliant intellects in every department which have issued from them. I should like you to think seriously of this aspect of the question also. In England the student feels a pride in his own University and College, wishes to see their traditions maintained, and tries to justify them to the world by his own success. This feeling has yet to grow up among us. And I would appeal to you – who are leaving us – to help to create it, to cherish it yourselves, to try and justify the College of its pupils. Of course, there is one preliminary method by which the students can add fame to their College. Success in examinations, though preliminary merely, and not an end in itself, is nevertheless of no small effect or importance. You all know how the recent success of an Indian student has filled the whole country with joy and enthusiasm. That success reflects fame not only on India but on his University and College, and when the name of the first Indian Senior Wrangler is mentioned, it will also be remembered that he belonged to Cambridge and to St. Johns. But examinations, however important, are only a preliminary. I lay stress upon this because there is too much of a tendency in this country to regard education as a mere episode, finished when once the degree is obtained. But the University cannot and does not pretend to complete a man's education; it merely gives some materials to his hand or points out certain paths he may tread, and it says to him, – "Here are the materials I have given into your hands, it is for you to make of them what you can"; or– "These are the paths I have equipped you to travel; it is yours to tread them to the end, and by your success in them justify me before the world."

I would ask you therefore to remember these things in your future life, not to drop the effects of your College training as no longer necessary, but, to strive for eminence and greatness in your own lines, and by the brilliance of your names add lustre to the first nursing home of your capacities, to cherish its memory with affection as that which equipped your intellects, trained you into men, and strove to give you such social life as might fit you for the world. And finally I would ask you not to sever yourselves in after days from it, but if you are far, to welcome its alumni when you meet them with brotherly feelings and if you are near to keep up connection with it, not to regard the difference of age between yourselves and its future students but associate with them, be present at such occasions as this social gathering and evince by your acts your gratitude for all that it did for you in the past.

Appendix IV. Data on Birthplace

It is well known that it was in the house of Monmohun Ghose that Sri Aurobindo was born on 15 August 1872. Some say that the house was on Lower Circular Road; others say that it was on Theatre Road. It is understood that Sri Aurobindo used to refer to a house on Theatre Road. On making enquiries, we find that in the old directories there is no mention of Barrister Monmohan Ghose as a resident of any house on Theatre Road between 1871 and 1878, but rather that he is mentioned as a resident of 12, Lower Circular Road. At that time. Circular Road was not only divided into "Upper" and "Lower", but its numbers were grouped also under the series, "Town Side" and "24 Parganas Side". That is to say, the side adjoining the city of Calcutta was the "Town Side", and the south and the east were called the "24 Parganas Side", each bearing the same numbers in a consecutive series. Barrister Monmohan lived in number 12 on the "24 Parganas Side". We gather from hearsay that this particular house was later purchased by Barrister Byomkesh Chakraborti, and afterwards it became the "Ranjani" of Naliniranjan Sircar. (Translated from the {{0}}Bengali)[[Sanibarer Chitti, Sajanikanta Das, Ed., Magh 1361 (January-February 1955), pp. 440–41.]]


11 June 1956

Sree Aurobindo Ghose was born in my father's house at 237, Lower Circular Road.

In or about 1879 my father moved to 4, Theatre Road. Subsequently Mr. Byomkesh Chakraborti, Bar-at-Law occupied 237, Lower Circular Road and I believe it was purchased by him. Later on late Mr. Nalini Ranjan Sircar purchased the property and put up the new structure after demolishing the old. It is now occupied by the Chinese Consul General.

Showlota Das
(Mrs. Banbihari Das)
Youngest daughter of the
Late Mr. Manomohan Ghose,


No record could be traced for 1872. First available records date from 1881 and we find that No.12, Lower Circular Road was changed into 237, Lower Circular Road in 1885. That the then 237, Lower Circular Road corresponds with the present 237, Lower Circular Road, is corroborated by the following change of ownership:

1881–1885 Coomar Kali Kristo Roy (owner)

1900–1905 Coomar Kali Kristo Roy (owner)

1906–1909 Coomar Kali Kristo Roy (owner)

1927–1934 B. Chakraborti, the official receiver of the High Court

1934–1940 The official receiver of the High Court, Hindusthan Cooperative Insurance Society, Ltd.

(With thanks to Mihir Mukherji, Calcutta)

Appendix V. Correspondence Relating to Sri Aurobindo's I.C.S. Examination

24 August 1892


I am directed by the Civil Service Commissioners to transmit herewith, for the information of the Secretary of State for India in Council, a list containing the names of the candidates selected for the Civil Service of India in 1890, who have shown a competent knowledge of the subjects prescribed for the Final Examination, together with a statement of the Prizes awarded upon the results of that examination.

Of these candidates, Messrs Maclver and A. A. Ghose have still to satisfy the Commissioners of their eligibility in respect of health and the latter gentleman has still to pass in Riding. The remaining candidates, Messrs Thomas and Laurie, have failed to pass the Final Examination.

I am at the same time to forward the University certificates which have been sent in by these candidates, with the exception of Messrs A. A. Ghose and M. Ghose.

I have the honour to be,


Your obedient Servant,
B. Lockhart
The Under Secretary of State
India Office


4 Nov. 1892

My dear Trevor

I think Mr Ghose's case will be settled very shortly. He has passed his medical Examination and we expect to hear the result of his riding Examination soon.

All the other points seem to be disposed of.

I am

Very truly yours

E. A. Collier

P. S. You have doubtless seen in the papers that a vacancy has arisen among the 90 men by the drowning of poor young little-wood in the Roumania disaster.


14 Nov. 1892

My dear Trevor

Mr. Ghose has given us a good deal of trouble and there are some points in his case as to which I must ask my colleague Howlett who is away now, but will be here tomorrow.

Meanwhile I may mention that the Riding Examination is fixed for tomorrow I will write again as soon as I can add anything to the foregoing.

Very truly yours

E. A. Collier


Case of Mr Arvinda A. Ghose
Memorandum by the Senior Examiner, Civil Service

Commission respecting the Examination in Riding.

Ordered to be examined with the other probationers on August 9th. Did not attend. Sent medical certificate on August 11th to explain why. Was asked on 15th August to say when he would be ready to be examined. Question repeated on 30th August, as no answer had been received. Question repeated a third time on 17th October, answer requested by return of post. Answer received dated 18th October saying he would prefer the following Tuesday or Wednesday. Colonel Brough fixed the Wednesday (October 26th) at 12.30 at Woolwich. Ghose was ordered by letter on 22nd to attend at that time: the letter was sent to same address as that of 17th October. On 26th October, Colonel Brough wrote to say the candidate had not appeared. A messenger was sent to Ghose (same address) and asked to bring back an answer: the answer was that Ghose had not received the letter making the appointment. Ghose was directed to attend here in person on Monday 31st October at 12 noon. He came at 12.40 and repeated his statement that the letter above-mentioned had never reached him. I gave him a letter to Colonel Brough asking the latter to arrange with Ghose a date for his Examination and told Ghose to lose no time in going down to Woolwich and presenting the letter in person: to go down that afternoon if he had no other engagement. I also wrote a line to Colonel Brough teling him of this. Colonel Brough wrote on 5th November saying Ghose had never appeared, and returning the Marking Form supplied for this report. Colonel Brough added that he would prefer not to examine Ghose. After a note from me, he agreed however, to do so, if some one from this Office were present (Nov. 9th). Ghose ordered to call here at noon on the 10th. He came at ten minutes to one. He explained (as also in his letter of the 9th instant received on 10th) that he had twice been to see Colonel Brough but had not found him. I asked him whether he went to the Office of the Riding Establishment. He said "No – to Colonel's house" (this is close by). He posted the letter I gave him, to Colonel Brough, instead of leaving it for him. Colonel Brough has returned this letter to me, together with Ghose's undated letter accompanying it. I then showed Ghose Colonel Brough's latest letter fixing the 15th November for the Examination, and naming the train 2.22 from Charing Cross. I also copied this on a slip of paper, which I gave into Ghose's hand, and told him to meet me, without fail, at 2.15 on the platform at Charing Cross Station. I explained to him that if he again failed us, the Commissioners would not be able to give another chance, as this state of things could not be allowed to continue. He took away the memorandum and also promised verbally to meet me on the following Tuesday the 15th November. I went there yesterday and kept a look-out, but no Ghose appeared. I went on to Woolwich by the 2.22 train, in case Ghose should be going from any other station or by a different train. But he was not at the Riding Establishment. Colonel Brough and I waited from 20 minutes to half an hour, and then I returned. While waiting at Charing Cross station, I had sent a message to Mr Bonar, saying the candidate had not yet appeared and asking him to send a messenger round to his house to enquire. Mr Bonar did this, sending also a note to ask Ghose to go down to Woolwich and be examined. The messenger brought word that Ghose was out and was not expected till 6 p.m.

Colonel Brough's servant says no one called as Ghose had asserted: he would have noticed an Indian gentleman – none such had appeared at Colonel Brough's house on any of the days named.

16th November, 1892


17th Nov. 92

My dear Trevor

Mr Ghose will be rejected. The official letter may reach you tomorrow, but as Friday is mail day you may like to act on this information.

I am very truly yours

E. A. Collier
F. Trevor Esq.


17th November 1892


With reference to Mr Lockhart's letter of the 24th August last,

I am directed by the Civil Service Commissioners to acquaint you for the information of the Secretary of State for India in Council, that although several opportunities have been offered to Mr A. A. Ghose of attending for examination in Riding, with a view to proving himself qualified in that respect, he has repeatedly failed to attend at the time appointed, and that the Commissioners are consequently unable to certify that he is qualified to be appointed to the Civil Service of India.

I have the honour to be,

Your obedient servant,

John Hennell
The Under Secretary of State,
India Office


Minute Paper. J & P Public Department.

Letter from C. S. Commissioners Dated 17 Nov.


Received 18 Nov.

  Date Initials SUBJECT
Under Secretary 18th Nov. F.T.  
Secretary of State 18 A.G. Civil Service of
Committee 19 K India: rejection of
Under Secretary Mr A. A. Ghose
Secretary of State   Selected in 1890


In August last the C. S. Commissioners reported that Mr Ghose, a native of India and allotted to the Lower Provinces of Bengal and Assam, who had passed his Final Examination, had still to satisfy the Commission in respect of Health and Riding. He has passed the medical examination (see note of 4th Nov.) and the Commission now report that they are unable to certify that he is qualified to be appointed to the Civil Service of India because he has repeatedly failed to attend several opportunities offered to him of attending the Riding Examination. In all probability Mr Ghose will address the Secretary of State. His case can then be considered if necessary. He did not furnish any University Certificate on the last occasion and consequently has not received the allowance of £150 payable after the Final Examination. He was an undergraduate of King's College, Cambridge and that College, if applied to, might state why the certificate was not granted. Mr Ghose obtained the 11th place at the Open Competition of 1890 – was No. 23 in the First Periodical Examination – No.19 in the Second Periodical and No. 37 in the Final last August.

Circulated for information.


Nov. 19/92

107 Abingdon Road

Kensington. W.

Dear Sir Arthur

Though I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance, I venture to think that my name may be known to you through Mr Whitley Stokes, or through my brother in the Bengal Secretariat.

My present object in addressing you is to endeavour to arouse your good will on behalf of Mr A. A. Ghose, who has been rejected by the Civil Service Commissioners as a probationary candidate for the Indian Civil Service. I went this morning to the office of the Commission, where I was confidentially informed of the circumstances of the case (which did not materially differ from the story he had already told me), and was also informed that his only possible hope lay in an appeal to the Secretary of State.

I have therefore instructed him to present a petition without delay to Lord Kimberley, setting out all the circumstances, acknowledging the justice of his rejection, and begging that, if possible, he may be allowed yet one more chance.

As you may know, Mr Ghose was disqualified for failing to pass his examination in riding, or perhaps I should say, for failing to keep the appointment made for him by the examiner, after he had previously shown similar want of punctuality and disregard for the requirements of the examiner.

His excuse (such as it is) is that want of money prevented him from taking the needful lessons in riding, and that, at the last, anxiety and moral cowardice made him lose his head. He tells me that he did turn up at Woolwich for the examination, half an hour late. It happens that I have known Mr A. A. Ghose and his two brothers for the past five years, and that I have been a witness of the pitiable straits to which they have all three been reduced through the failure of their father, a Civil Surgeon in Bengal and (I believe) a most respectable man, to supply them with adequate resources. In addition, they have lived an isolated life, without any Englishman to take care of them or advise them.

I could tell you a great deal more if you would care to give me a personal interview – I must content myself now with stating that, should the Secretary of State feel himself able to give Mr Ghose one more chance, I undertake to provide the necessary expenses of riding lessons, journeys to Woolwich etc., and further to do my best to see that his conduct to the Commissioners is regular and becoming.

I am

Yours faithfully

Jas. S. Cotton.

Sir A.G. Macpherson K.C.I. E.




20 Nov. 1892

Dear Sir,

I am very sorry to hear what you tell me about Ghose, that he has been rejected in his final I.C.S. Examination for failure in riding. His conduct throughout his two years here was most exemplary. He held a foundation scholarship, which he obtained (before passing his first I.C.S. Examination) by open competition, in classics. His pecuniary circumstances prevented him from resigning this, when he became a Selected Candidate, and the regulations of the scholarship obliged him to devote a great part of his time to classics, of course to some extent to the disadvantage of his I.C.S. studies. He performed his part of the bargain, as regards the College, most honourably, and took a high place in the 1st class of the Classical Tripos at the end of the second year of his residence. He also obtained certain college prizes, showing command of English and literary ability. That a man should have been able to do this (which alone is quite enough for most undergraduates), and at the same time to keep up his I.C.S. work, proves very unusual industry and capacity. Besides his classical scholarship he possessed a knowledge of English Literature far beyond the average of undergraduates, and wrote a much better English style than most young Englishmen. That a man of this calibre should be lost to the Indian Government merely because he failed in sitting on a horse or did not keep an appointment appears to me, I confess, a piece of official short-sightedness which it would be hard to beat.

Moreover the man has not only ability but character. He has had a very hard and anxious time of it for the last two years. Supplies from home have almost entirely failed, and he has had to keep his two brothers as well as himself, and yet his courage and perseverance have never failed. I have several times written to his father on his behalf, but for the most part unsuccessfully. It is only lately that I managed to extract from him enough to pay some tradesmen who would otherwise have put his son into the County Court. I am quite sure that these pecuniary difficulties were not due to any extravagance on Ghose's part: his whole way of life, which was simple and penurious in the extreme, is against this: they were due entirely to circumstances beyond his control. But they must have hampered him in many ways, and probably prevented him from spending enough on horses to enable him to learn to ride. I can fully believe that his inability to keep his appointment at Woolwich was due to the want of cash.

In conclusion, I hope sincerely that your efforts to re-instate him as a Selected Candidate will prove successful, for I think, if he is finally turned out, it will be, however legally justifiable, a moral injustice to him, and a very real loss to the Indian Government. It may also perhaps be suggested that to reject so able a Hindoo because he cannot ride is likely to give rise to serious misunderstanding in India, and to open the door to a charge of partiality, which is of course absolutely untenable, but which might be put forward by natives with some plausibility.

Yours truly,



To the Right. Hon. the Earl of Kimberley,

Secretary of State for India.

6 Burlington Rd.

Bayswater W.

Monday. Nov. 21.1892

May it please your Lordship

I was selected as a probationer for the Indian Civil Service in 1890, and after the two years probation required, have been rejected on the ground that I failed to attend the Examination in Riding.

I humbly petition your Lordship that a further consideration may, if possible, be given to my case.

I admit that the Commissioners have been very indulgent to me in the matter, and that my conduct has been as would naturally lead them to suppose me negligent of their instructions; but I hope your Lordship will allow me to lay before you certain circumstances that may tend to extenuate it.

I was sent over to England, when seven years of age, with my two elder brothers and for the last eight years we have been thrown on our own resources without any English friend to help or advise us. Our father, Dr K. D. Ghose of Khulna, has been unable to provide the three of us with sufficient for the most necessary wants, and we have long been in an embarrassed position.

It was owing to want of money that I was unable always to report cases in London at the times required by the Commissioners, and to supply myself with sufficiently constant practice in Riding. At the last I was thrown wholly on borrowed resources and even these were exhausted.

It was owing to difficulty in procuring the necessary money, that I was late at my appointment on Tuesday Nov.15. I admit that I did not observe the exact terms of the appointment; however I went on to Woolwich by the next train, but found that the Examiner had gone back to London.

If your Lordship should grant me another chance, an English gentleman, Mr Cotton, (editor of the Academy) of 107 Abingdon Road, Kensington W. has undertaken that want of money shall not prevent me from fulfilling the exact instructions of the Commissioners.

If your Lordship should obtain this for me, it will be the object of my life to remember it in the faithful performance of my duties in the Civil Service of India.

I am

Your Lordship's obedient servant

Aravinda. Acroyd. Ghose


Minute Paper J & P. 1926 / 1892 Public Department.

Letter from Mr A. A. Ghose Dated 21. Nov,


Received 23.Nov,

Date Initials SUBJECT

Under Secretary..... 24 Nov F. T. Civil Service of India:

Secretary of State.....

Committee............... Case of Mr A. A. Ghose

Under Secretary........

Secretary of State.....



Mr Ghose has now appealed to the Secretary of State to give him another chance for passing his Riding Examination and Mr James Sutherland Cotton, to whom Mr Ghose refers, has written the annexed letter to Sir Arthur Macpherson. Poverty apparently has been a great misfortune to Mr Ghose. Unless the C. S. Commissioners certificate Mr Ghose as qualified for the I.C.S. the Secretary of State cannot appoint him to the Service. But in the circumstances it is submitted that a copy of Mr Ghose's memorial should be sent for the consideration of the Commissioners. It should not be forgotten that Mr Ghose has passed all his examinations and that no selected candidate has yet been rejected on account of the Riding Examination. It may be well to enquire of Mr William Chawner, Emmanuel College, Cambridge, (who in June last succeeded Sir Roland Wilson as Secretary to the Board of Indian Civil Service Studies at Cambridge) how Mr Ghose conducted himself at the University previous to his Final Examination. This suggestion is made because Mr Ghose has not produced the necessary University Certificate and consequently has not received the allowance of £150.


I. 0.
25 Nov. 1892


With reference to Mr. Hennell's letter of the 17th instant, I am directed etc. to transmit for the consideration of the C. S. Commissioners a Memorial from Mr A. A. Ghose which should have been addressed to the Commissioners, inasmuch as the decision of the matter to which it refers rests with them.

Horace Walpole
The Secretary
Civil Service Commission.


Mr. Godley,

Mr. J. S. Cotton called on me this morning and left the enclosed letter to him from Mr Ghose's Tutor at King's College Cambridge. He asked me to give it to you. Mr Cotton says that Ghose will be ready (if the C. S. Commission will consent) to attend the Riding Examination in a very short time.

F. Trevor


Mr. Trevor

Please send this letter privately to the C. S. Commission.

An official letter should go to Mr Ghose telling him that the decision rests with the C. S. Commission to whom his memorial has accordingly been forwarded.

25 Nov. 92


I. 0.
26 Nov. 1892


I am directed by the Earl of Kimberley to acknowledge the receipt of your Memorial of the 21st inst. and, in reply, to inform you that it has been transmitted to the Civil Service Commissioners whose duty it is to decide upon the matter to which it relates.

Horace Walpole
A. A. Ghose Esq.
6, Burlington Road,
Bayswater. W.


Minute Paper. J & P 1966 / 1892 Public Department.

Letter from C. S. Commissioner Dated 29 Nov.


Received 30 Nov.

Date. Initials. SUBJECT.

Under Secretary....... 30 Nov. F. T.

Secretary of State..... 30 A. G.

Committee............... Civil Service of India:

Under Secretary.......

Secretary of State....

Council.................... Case of Mr A. A. Ghose


For the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum the Civil Service Commissioners are not disposed to afford Mr. Ghose further facilities for undergoing the Examination in Riding. This is very unfortunate considering Mr Ghose's career at Cambridge where he secured a first class in the classical tripos. See Mr Prothero's letter to Mr Cotton which was sent to the C. S.Commissioners for information. As the Commissioners have returned to this office Mr Ghose's memorial, it is presumed that the Secretary of State will now inform that gentleman that, in the absence of the Statutory Certificate, he cannot interfere – unless he is disposed to ask the Commissioners as a matter of grace to give Mr Ghose a further chance.

Orders are solicited.

Lord Kimberley,

I do not think that it would be at all advisable to attempt to interfere with the discretion of the Civil Service Commission in the matter of this certificate. It is for them to award it or refuse it, and I am unable to see why the Secretary of State should assume any responsibility. The impression which Mr Ghose has made on the minds of the Commission is by no means a favourable one, and I think that a perusal of the memorandum by the Senior Examiner tends to confirm their view of his character. I would inform Mr Ghose that his memorial has been forwarded to the C. S. Commission: that they decline to comply with his request: and that in the absence of the statutory certificate from them the S. of S. is unable to appoint him to the Service.

A. G.
30 Nov. 92

I agree

proceed accordingly

K Dec. 5

Appendix V. Correspondence Relating to Sri Aurobindo's I.C.S. Examination



29th November 1892


I am directed by the Civil Service Commissioners to acknowledge the receipt of your letter (J & P 1926) of the 25th instant, transmitting for their consideration a Memorial from Mr A. A. Ghose, and in reply, I am to acquaint you, for the Information of the Secretary of State for India in Council, that in view of the circumstances stated in the accompanying Memorandum, which was submitted to them by their Senior Examiner before they arrived at the decision communicated to you by Mr Hennell's letter of the 17th November, they are not themselves disposed to afford Mr Ghose further facilities for undergoing the Examination in Riding.

Mr. Ghose's Memorial is herewith returned.

I have the honour to be,


Your obedient servant,
John faennell
The Under Secretary of State
India Office


30 Nov.' 92

Dear Trevor

I return Mr. Prothero's letter.

We are going to notify to Mr. Ghose that no further facilities will be afforded to him unless indeed further communications should pass between your Board and ours tending to a different result. I am rather in the dark on the point. If I can write more definitely in the course of the day I will do so.

Very truly yours

E. A. Collier


Lord Kimberley,

You know that I fully share your views as to the importance of Riding. In this case, I should give the candidate another chance of qualifying. The Commissioners are not very emphatic against it. They only say that "they are not themselves disposed" to grant it.

They might be perfectly willing to grant it on a hint from you. The candidate seems to me a remarkably deserving man, and I can quite believe that poverty was the cause of his failures to appear.

I know Mr Cotton to whom he refers, and could, if you approved, tell him that his friend was allowed another chance on the score of poverty but that he must make no more excuses.

[George W. E. Russell]
Dec. 1


I am sorry that I cannot take a compassionate view as Mr Russell suggests of this case. I agree entirely with Mr Godley that the responsibility of refusing or granting a certificate rests with the Commissioners, and not with the Secretary of State. If the Secretary of State sets a precedent of interfering with the Commissioners' discretion nothing but confusion can result. I rest my decision solely on this ground.

I must add however as an 'obiter dictum' that I should much doubt whether Mr Ghose would be a desirable addition to the Service – and if Mr Prothero or any one else is under the impression that a Hindoo ought to have a special exemption from the the requirement of being able to ride, the sooner he is disabused of such an absurd notion the better.

K [Kimberley]
Dec. 2/92


I. 0.
7 Dec. 1892


With reference to Sir Horace Walpole's letter of the 26th ultimo, I am directed to inform you that the Civil Service Commissioners decline to afford you further facilities for undergoing the examination in Riding and that, in the absence of the Statutory Certificate from the Commissioners stating that you are qualified to be appointed to the Civil Service of India, the Earl of Kimberley is unable to appoint you to that Service.

George W. E. Russell

A. A. Ghose Esq.
6 Burlington Road
Bayswater W.


I. 0. 7 December 1892


I am directed by the Earl of Kimberley to acknowledge the receipt of Mr Hennell's letter of the 29th ultimo respecting Mr A. A. Ghose and, in reply, to transmit for the information of the Civil Service Commissioners copy of the reply sent to that gentleman in answer to his Memorial –

George W. E. Russell

The Secretary
Civil Service Commission.


6 Burlington Rd
Bayswater W
Monday Dec. 12 1892

May it please your Lordship

As the Civil Service Commissioners have decided that they cannot give me a Certificate of qualification for an appointment to the Civil Service of India, I beg to apply to your Lordship for the remainder of the allowance that would have been due to me as a Probationer.

I am fully aware that I have really forfeited this sum by my failure in the Final Examination but in consideration of my bad pecuniary circumstances, I hope your Lordship will kindly listen to my petition.

I enclose the required Certificate as to residence and character at the University.

I am

Your Lordship's obedient servant

A. A. Ghose


Minute Paper. J. & P. 2035 / 1892

Public Department.

Letter from Mr A. A. Ghose Dated 12 Dec


Received 13 Dec

Date Initials. SUBJECT

Unmder Secretary..... 13 Dec. F.T. Civil service of India

Secretary; ofstate..... 14 Dec. G.W.E.R. Candidate selected in

Com;mi;ttee......... 16 K 1890

Under secretary...... 19 F.T.

Secretary of state....... Mr. A.A. Ghose's allowance.

Council............ 19 H.W


Mr Ghose now sends his University Certificate and prays for the payment of the allowance of £150, although he has lost his appointment owing to not passing his Riding Examination. [N. B. Mr J. S. Cotton informs me that he has grounds for hoping that Mr G. will obtain at once an appointment in the service of the Gaekwar of Baroda.]

As this is the first case of a candidate rejected after passing his Periodical and Final examinations on account of failing to pass his Riding Examination it is submitted that the allowance of £150 be paid to Mr A. A. Ghose, on the ground that candidates, who in past years (see list annexed) have lost their appointments through not qualifying in passing the Medical examination, have been allowed to receive the sums due on passing the Final Examination.

There is, in my opinion, no doubt whatever as to the propriety of paying this sum to Mr Ghose. He went to Cambridge in the faith that he would receive his allowance, provided he behaved well, to defray the expenses of his residence in the University, and the fact that he has failed to pass in riding does not affect the obligation of the Secretary of State.


14 Dec. 92


I. 0. London.
20 Dec. 1892


I am directed, etc., to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 12th instant and, in reply, to inform you that the Earl of Kimberley authorizes the payment to you of the sum of £150.

Horace Walpole
A. A. Ghose Esq.
6, Burlington Road
Bayswater W.


Reference Paper J. & P. 2035 Public Department.


Letter to Mr A. A. Ghose Dated 20 Dec.



Referred to the Accountant General 21 Dec. 1892.

With a request that he will Passed for payment less

remit to Mr A. A, Ghose Income Tax. University

the sum of £150. Certificate retained

F. Trevor Thos.W.Keith

22 Dec. 92

Notes on the Correspondence

I. Letter dated 24 August 1892 (From Mr. Lackhart, Secretary to the Civil Service Commissioners to the Under Secretary of State, India Office.)

Reports that "Messrs. Maclver and A. A. Ghose have still to satisfy the Commissioners of their eligibility in respect of health and the latter gentleman has still to pass in Riding."

II. Letter dated 4 November 1892 (From Mr. E. A. Collier, Senior Officer of the C. S.Commission to Mr. Trevor, Asst. Secretary, Judicial and Public Dept., India Office.)

A private note stating that Aurobindo "has passed his medical Examination and we expect to hear the result of his riding Examination soon."

So, until 4 November, there is no sign that Aurobindo would be rejected.

III. Letter dated 14 November 1892 (From Mr. E. A. Collier to Mr. Trevor)

"Mr. Ghose has given us a good deal of trouble and there are some points in his case as to which I must ask my colleague Hewlett who is away now, but will be here tomorrow."

So, between 4 November and 14 November, something happened which made Mr. Collier change his mind. It is evident that Mr. Trevor was trying to get Aurobindo selected.

IV. Memorandum dated 16 November 1892 (From the Senior Examiner, Civil Service Commission, regarding. the case of Mr. Aravinda A. Ghose.)

(a) Ordered to be examined on 9 August.

Did not attend. Sent medical certificate on August 11.

(b) On 15 August was asked when he would be ready to be examined.

No reply.

Question repeated on 30 August.

Question repeated a third time on 17 October.

(c) Answer dated 18 October–stating he would prefer 25 or 26 October. "Colonel Brough fixed the Wednesday (October 26) at 12.30 at Woolwich. Ghose was ordered by letter on 22nd to attend at that time."

(d) "On 26th October, Colonel Brough wrote to say the candidate had not appeared. A messenger was sent to Ghose (same address) and asked to bring back an answer: the answer was that Ghose had not received the letter making the appointment."

(e) "Directed to attend here in person on Monday 31st October....

"I gave him a letter to Colonel Brough asking the latter to arrange with Ghose a date for his Examination and told Ghose to lose no time in going down to Woolwich and presenting the letter in person: to go down that afternoon if he had no other engagement.... Colonel Brough wrote on 5th November saying Ghose had never appeared.... Colonel Brough added that he would prefer not to examine Ghose."

(f) Colonel Brough, however, agreed to examine him "if some one from this Office were present". (9 Nov.)

"Ghose ordered to call here at noon on the 10th. He came at ten minutes to one.... I then showed Ghose Colonel Brough's latest letter fixing the 15th November for the Examination, and naming the train 2.22 from Charing Cross. I... told him to meet me, without fail, at 2.15 on the platform at Charing Cross Station.... I went there yesterday [15 Nov.] and kept a look-out, but no Ghose appeared. I went on to Woolwich by the 2.22 train, in case Ghose should be going from any other station or by a different train. But he was not at the Riding Establishment.... While waiting at Charing Cross Station, I had sent a message to Mr. Bonar... asking him to send a messenger round to his house to enquire.... The messenger brought word that Ghose was out and was not expected till 6 p.m."


It is clear that Sri Aurobindo could have appeared on (1) 9 August, (2) 26 October, (3) 5 November, (4) 15 November. That he did not do so is a fact, and it conclusively proves that he did not want to appear for the Riding Test.

The question may be asked: "Why did he not want to appear, specially when he had passed the Examination in writing?" There are several possible answers. He told us in his evening talks during his early years at Pondicherry that he did not want to join the I.C.S. and yet he did not want to tell his father about it. So he managed to get {{0}}rejected.)[[Sri Aurobindo has himself very explicitly stated the reason for his not appearing for the riding test in the following note given by him while reading the manuscript of one of his biographers submitted to him for verification and approval a few years before his passing away in 1950: "Nothing detained him in his room. He felt no call for the l.C.S. and was seeking some way to escape from that bondage. By certain manoeuvres he managed to get himself disqualified for riding without himself rejecting the Service, which his family would not have allowed him to do." (Sri Aurobindo, On Himself [Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972], p,3.)]]

Of course, he also was hard up for money and had to prepare for the I.C.S. examination without a tutor. He could not afford the expenses of frequent riding lessons.

That the final rejection of Mr. Cotton's offer (see VIII) and his own memorial (see X) was influenced by Lord Kimberley's "obiter dictum" (see XX) which might have been influenced by reports from the Cambridge Majlis in which a future civil servant was represented as ventilating revolutionary views about Indian freedom, seems quite evident.

Sri Aurobindo's advocacy of Indian political freedom in the Majlis at Cambridge was not the unripe eloquence of a raw undergraduate. It was something that came from a deep conviction of his soul. That this was so is amply borne out by the fact of his plunging into Indian politics immediately on his return to India. He wrote the famous series of articles "New Lamps for Old" in the Indu Prakash in 1893.

VI. Letter dated 17 November 1892 (From the Civil Service Commission to the Under Secretary of State, India Office)

This conveys to the Secretary of State the C. S. Commissioners' rejection of Sri Aurobindo. It says: "although several opportunities have been offered to Mr. A. A. Ghose of attending for examination in Riding... he has repeatedly failed to attend at the time appointed, and that the Commissioners are consequently unable to certify that he is qualified to be appointed to the Civil Service of India."

VII. Minute dated 17 November '1892 (This is a minute on the C. S. Commissioners' letter prepared-in the office of the Secretary of State for circulation "for information" to the Under Secretary, the Secretary of State and to the Committee.)

From it we get the following: "Mr. Ghose obtained the llth place at the Open Competition of 1890 — was No. 23 in the First Periodical Examination — No. 19 in the Second Periodical and No. 37 in the Final last August."

VIII and IX. Letter dated 19 November 1892 (From Mr. James S. Cotton to Sir Arthur Macpherson. Secretary, Judicial and Public Dept. India Office.)

Letter dated 20 November 1892 (From Mr. G. W. Prothero to Mr. J. S. Cotton; sent by Cotton to the C. S. Commissioners)

When the rejection seemed final two Englishmen – Mr. Cotton and Mr. Prothero – took up Aurobindo's cause. The reader will find the implacability of red-tape relieved by the gust of sympathy and warm-hearted support of these two gentlemen who represented the real culture of England.

Mr. James S. Cotton of the South Kensington Liberal Club was one of the editors of the Academy. He was born in India, at Coonoor, and was a brother of Sir Henry Cotton, I.C.S.,' who took a prominent part in starting the Indian National Congress.

Mr. G. M. Prothero was a senior tutor at Cambridge. He became a prominent historian and was knighted. This testimony coming as it does unsolicited from a University man throws a unique light on Sri Aurobindo as a student at Cambridge. The tribute paid by Mr. Prothero to Sri Aurobindo, not only as an intellectual, but as a man of character, is highly significant. These letters require no comment as they speak for themselves.

X. Letter dated 2–1 November 1892 (A Memorial from Sri Aurobindo to the Earl of Kimberley, the Secretary of State for India.)

It is evident that Sri Aurobindo wrote this unwillingly because of his elder brother Benoybhushan's persuasion and the moral pressure of Mr. James S. Cotton. Mr. Cotton writes in his letter: "I have therefore instructed him to present a petition without delay to Lord Kimberley...."

In this memorial is found the autobiographical note relating to Sri Aurobindo's financial condition during those years, which has been quoted by us above. This note of deep pathos is proof that Sri Aurobindo had drunk deep of the bitter cup of poverty from his childhood.

XI-XII-XV. Minute dated 21 November 1892 (A Minute from the office of the Secretary of, State relating to Mr. A. A. Ghose's letter.)

Based on this Minute (XI), a note to the Civil Service Commissioners (XII) was drafted on 25 November 1892 transmitting Sri Aurobindo's memorial to the C.S. Commissioners. It shifts the responsibility from the Secretary of State for India to the Indian Civil Service Commissioner.

A draft of the reply sent to Sri Aurobindo on 26 November (XV) accompanies this Minute.

XVI. Minute dated 29 November 1892 (A Minute on the Civil Service Commissioners'letter prepared in the office of the Secretary of State for India.)

This contains the views of the members of the Committee of the Secretary of State for India.

XVII. Letter dated 29 November 1892 (From the Civil Service Commission to the Under Secretary of State, India Office.)

This conveys to the Secretary of State the final rejection by the Civil Service Commission of the memorial sent by Sri

Aurobindo on 21 November and returns the memorial to the Secretary of State.

XIX-XX. Minutes dated 1 and 2 December 1892 (Notes of Mr. G. W. Russell, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for India and of Lord Kimberley)

The Secretary of State throws the responsibility of deciding Aurobindo's case on the Civil Service Commission. The note by Mr. Russell dated 1 December 1892, recommends Aurobindo's case for reconsideration. He says: "In this case, I should give the candidate another chance of qualifying. The Commissioners are not very emphatic against it. They only say that 'they are not themselves disposed' to grant it. They might be perfectly willing to grant it on a hint from you." Mr. Russell could not have pressed Aurobindo's case to Lord Kimberley in a more emphatic way. He says: "The candidate seems to me a remarkably deserving man, and I can quite believe that poverty was the cause of his failures to appear."

But Lord Kimberley's mind was already made up. He says:

"I am sorry that I cannot take a compassionate view as Mr. Russell suggests of this case." And he even goes out of his way to add an "obiter dictum": "I must add however as an 'obiter dictum' that I should much doubt whether Mr. Ghose would be a desirable addition to the Service...."

Lord Kimberley seems to have been particularly piqued by Mr. Prothero's strongly-worded letter.

It is also evident that Mr. Russell's pleading must have been the result of Mr. James Cotton's strong influence.

XXI. Letter dated 7 December 1892 (From the Secretary of State's Office to Mr. A. A. Ghose)

This is the final rejection by the Secretary of State for India.

It may be added that there were cases in which candidates who had not passed the Riding Test were still appointed to the I.C.S. and passed their Riding Examination while serving in India. That course was open to the C. S. Commissioners and to the Secretary of State for India.

XXIII. Letter dated 12 December 1892 (A second memorial from Sri Aurobindo to the Secretary of State.)

It asks for the payment of £150 due to be paid to him as a probationer for the I.C.S.

Evidently, James S. Cotton and Benoybhushan had pressed him to make this request. Though, in fact, it was a legitimate claim, he himself was not inclined to make it.

XXIV. Minute dated 12 December 1892 (A Minute on Mr. A. A. Ghose's letter prepared in the office of the Secretary of State)

The memorial was circulated and the opinion was in favour of giving the £150.

Here is the first mention of the Service at Baroda: "N. B. Mr. J. S. Cotton informs me that he has grounds for hoping that Mr. Ghose will obtain at once an appointment in the service of the Gaekwar of Baroda."

The Minute states: "As this is the first case of a candidate rejected after passing his Periodical and Final examinations on account of failing to pass his Riding Examination, it is submitted that the allowance of £150 be paid to Mr. A. A. Ghose, on the ground that candidates, who in past years... have lost their appointments through not qualifying in passing the Medical examination, have been allowed to receive the sums due on passing the Final Examination."

The payment was authorised and paid on 22 December 1892.

Appendix VI. Houses in England

A period of nearly eighty years having intervened, it was thought proper to get assurance about the identity of the houses Sri Aurobindo occupied in England. Here are reproduced the replies of the various County Councils:

1. Townhall,
49, Stephens Avenue,
Hammersmith, W. 6.
30th December, 1955.

To the best of my belief this is the same house that stood there in 1884. I have confirmed that a certain amount of renumbering took place in this road late in the 19th Century, but this house was definitely not affected.

Yours faithfully,

sd. V. H. Honeyhall,


Community Recreation and
Information Office
2. London Country Council,
Westminster Bridge,
London S. E.
17th January, 1956.

The only change to have taken place since 1879 is that No. 6, Burlington Road became No. 68, St. Stephen's Garden, W.2, with effect from 1.1.1938.

The four areas you mention were extensively developed in the latter half of Queen Victoria's reign. It appears from maps and Post Office Directories that the house in Cromwell Road was built in 1877. Much of Kempsford Gardens was built during the 1860's although No. 28 appears to have been built between 1875 and 1880. Burlington Road appears for the first time in Post Office Directory for 1865. St. Stephen's Avenue seems to have been built after 1866.

yours faithfully,

sd.T Darlington,


Archivist and Librarian.
3. H. J. W. Wilson, A. L. A.
Metropolitan Borough of Paddington,
Central Public Library,
Porchester Road, W. 2
29th December, 1955.

In reply to your letter to the Town Clerk, of 19th December 1955, 6, Burlington Road became 68, St. Stephen's Garden with effect from 1st January, 1938. The proprietor of the house in 1892, when Sri Aurobindo was living there, was Mrs. Lloyd Ellis, but we have no further information about it. Buses 7, 7A, 28, 31 and 46 pass along Chepstow Road, W. 2, which is crossed by St. Stephen's Gardens.

Yours sincerely,

sd. H.J.W. Wilson,


4. The Royal Borough of Kensington,
Public Libraries and Leighton House,
Chief Librarian H. G. Massey, A.L.A,,
17th January, 1956.

Cromwell Road was constructed after the International Exhibition of 1862. Prior to this date, it was nothing more than a muddy lane. Hogarth Road was named in 1873, and Kempsford Gardens about the same period. Our records do not show that any re-numbering of the premises mentioned in your letter has taken place since 1880.

Yours faithfully,

sd. H. G. Massey,
Chief Librarian.

Appendix VII. Houses in Baroda

1. Khaserao Jadhav's house. Bungalow 15, Dandia Bazar.

2. In the camp near the Bazar.

3. Kiledar's wadi, on the way to Makarpura Palace. (Sri Aurobindo seems to have lived here during the first outbreak of plague in Baroda [1896–97?].)

4. Mir Bakarali's wada, near Shiapura.

5. Behind the college on the way to Camp (Government quarters).

Appendix VIII. Houses Sri Aurobindo Lived in and Offices He Was Connected with in Calcutta

1. Subodh Mullick's house, 12, Wellington Street.

2. Bhupal Chandra Bose's house in Serpentine Lane.

3. 23, Scott's Lane.

4. 48, Grey Street (1st floor).

5. Alipore jail.

6. 6, College Square (Krishna K-umar Mitra's house and office of the Sanjivani).

7. 4, Shyam Pukur Lane (Karmayogin office).

Appendix IX. Biography of Sri Aurobindo by Kulkarni – A Criticism

P. B. Kulkami, Yogi Aurobindo Ghose, with a preface by K. G. Deshpande (Bombay: Kashinath Mahadev Jamhankar, Prakishya Kacheri, 1935), 225 pages.

This is a biography of Sri Aurobindo, the only one of its kind, I believe, in the Marathi language. Mr. Kulkarni has done his work very conscientiously. He has tried to give as many details as he could get from various sources. He has not been content to give Sri Aurobindo's biography only up to his political career but has led it up to his residence at Pondicherry and has even taken pains to give an idea of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga and the Ashram. Like some biographers he has not lamented the retirement of Sri Aurobindo from the field of politics, but has tried to understand and appreciate his spiritual urge and the importance of his work in that field. In this respect Mr. Kulkarni's effort is superior to some others by persons incapable of understanding spirituality. If spiritual life, if Yoga and the realisation of God have to be left out from or minimised in the life of Sri Aurobindo, then the effort of writing the biography may as well be given up. But Mr. Kulkarni's book suffers from many factual inaccuracies and at places one finds in it an effort to represent Sri Aurobindo as the author would like to see a budding Yogi. Even the preface written by Shri K. G. Deshpande is not free from these errors. Some of these inaccuracies may be pointed out here.

1. Mr. Kulkarni says that Sri Aurobindo's father was a religious-minded man which is not quite true. It is certain that Dr. K. D. Ghose was a very generous man and that he had rare capacities of head and qualities of heart. Also he ruled like an uncrowned king both at Rangpur and Khulna, where he served as the District Medical Officer. Dr. K. D. Ghose had leanings towards the Brahmo Samaj before he went to Europe, but after his return he was an atheist and an agnostic.

2. Mr. Kulkami speaks of Sri Aurobindo's residence in England as if it was a period of very serious life befitting the preparation of a future Yogi. This part of the biography is more conjectural than real. Sri Aurobindo was very busy with himself, perhaps, and took a lot of interest in many things. But the fact is that Sri Aurobindo had no active spiritual tendency during his stay in England.

3. Mr. Kulkami attributes Sri Aurobindo's political views to his connection with the Fabian Society. But it is definite that Sri Aurobindo had no connection with the Fabian Society and that it played no part whatever in the formation of his political views, which he had arrived at independently. Not that he did not know about the existence of the Fabian Society or about the Irish movement, but he did not owe his inspiration for Indian political freedom to either of these things.

4. Mr. Kulkami says that Sri Aurobindo was introduced to the Gaekwar by Mr. Henry Cotton. In fact, it was Henry Cotton's brother, James Cotton, who knew Sri Aurobindo's eldest brother, Binoy Bhushan Ghose, who introduced Sri Aurobindo to the Gaekwar.

5. Mr. Kulkami says that it was one Swami Hamsa that gave Sri Aurobindo the first introduction to the practice of Yoga especially that of Pranayama. It is true that one Swami Hamsa came to Baroda and was giving lectures on Dharma. But Sri Aurobindo heard his lectures in the Baroda Palace where he went on invitation. He never went to the Swami's place to consult him, nor did he take any information or instruction from him about Pranayama. Sri Aurobindo at that time was not interested in Yoga. Also he was not impressed by the Swami.

6. Mr. Kulkami seems to suggest that Sri Aurobindo was seeking Satsang [good and holy company] at Baroda and that on his return from England he was buried in religious books like the Veda, the Upanishads and the Shastras in general. This is not true. He was reading all kinds of books at Baroda, among them books on ancient Indian culture. He was not specially seeking out good company. His circle of friends at Baroda was rather limited. He was not a man of society.

I believe some of these errors of Mr. Kulkami are due to his placing an unquestioning reliance on Mr. K. G. Deshpande's information. It is true that Sri Aurobindo knew Mr. Deshpande in England as a student, though he was not intimate with him. He subsequently met him at Baroda where both were servingv But in the details concerning Sri Aurobindo's life Mr. Deshpande has been unconsciously inaccurate at several places.

I shall point out here some inaccuracies from the Preface of Mr. Deshpande:

1. He says that Sri Aurobindo attended a grammar school at Manchester. He never went to any such school.

2. He says that Sri Aurobindo learnt Sanskrit from one Bhasker Shashtri Joshi. In fact Sri Aurobindo began Sanskrit in England and continued his studies at Baroda where he read the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, works of Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti by himself. If he talked with anyone on the subject it was to get information and compare notes – not to learn the language.

3. He mentions Mohanpuri Goswami as one who gave Sri Aurobindo the Devi Upasana. This Devi Upasana was not taken for a spiritual purpose by Sri Aurobindo. It was with a political purpose that he took the Shakti Mantra from Mohanpuri – not for his own Yoga.

4. He says that Sri Aurobindo resigned from the National College because he had differences with the National Council of Education. This is not quite true. There was a difference of viewpoint but no clash of policy with regard to the National College. When the first Bande Mataram trial began, Sri Aurobindo himself sent in his resignation in order not to embarrass the Council of Education. They re-appointed him on his acquittal. It was when the Alipore trial began that they were obliged to ask for his resignation.

These are some of the important corrections. It is a matter of great regret that Mr. Deshpande has since died. Had he been alive I am sure I would have found it very easy to get these corrections accepted by him.

I do hope that Mr. Kulkami will make these corrections in the next edition of biography.

Appendix X. Biography of Sri Aurobindo by Girija Shankar Roy Chowdhury – A Criticism

Girija Shankar Roy Chowdhury, "Sri Aurobindo", Udbodhan, Vol.42, No. 4 to Vol. 48, No. 6 (Vaisak 1347-Ashadh 1352).

The sources Girija draws upon are not accurate and therefore his conclusions, opinions and judgments are naturally falsified. For example:

1. He draws upon Hem Chandra Kanungo's book, Banglay Biplava Pracheshta, and takes it for granted that Hem Chandra's versions, information, etc. are accurate. But they are not. One instance will suffice, – Hem actually believes that the Bhawani Mandir pamphlet was written by Devavrat! Everyone knows it was written by Sri Aurobindo.

More staggering is the principle which Girija enunciates, "The account given by Hem being not contradicted has now become history." This would mean that if anyone circulates or prints a number of lies, or inaccuracies either about a great person, or a movement, or a cause and if no one cares to contradict them in writing, all that stuff attains the dignity of history! The first task of one who claims to write objectively should be to sift and critically examine his data, his sources. Girija does not do this and therefore his account is neither accurate nor dependable.

2. Girija relies, in the second instance, on personal talks, reports and impressions of certain relatives of Sri Aurobindo;

for example, he often quotes Barindra and Sarojini. Here also he is relying on slender evidence, because Barin in his autobiography actually admits that his "memory is unreliable" and the remarkable thing about his autobiography is that at no place does he give any dates or even the year!

3. The greatest drawback of the book is that Girija does not seem to be an impersonal seeker of the truth of Sri Aurobindo's life. He is already a partisan even when he begins his so-called biography.

He admits that "events and facts are not explicable" and yet claims to explain genius and personality.

From the very beginning he seems to be a pleader trying to use and search for materials to support his opinions and conclusions.

One such illustration is furnished by Girija's speech at Tangail (Udbodhan). He has tried to show that Sri Aurobindo was not only influenced in his mind by Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Vivekananda – in fact most educated Indians have been for the last forty years, – but that he owes his Yoga and spirituality to them, which is not true at all.

In his enthusiasm to prove the prabhava [influence] of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Girija forgets that one of the quotations he gives from Dharma actually refers to a celebration at Belur in March 1910 – when Sri Aurobindo was at Chandernagore! How could he have come to Calcutta without being recognised? And how could he have written the article before the actual celebration took place?

Girija has been led into this error by his hasty and unwarranted assumption that "all that has appeared in the Dharma was written by Sri Aurobindo." The fact is that all that he quotes from Dharma in his speech as having been written by Sri Aurobindo is not his. I have ascertained the authorship of the articles quoted by Girija and I can state on definite authority that these are not Sri Aurobindo's articles. It is known beyond doubt that they were written by one Ramchandra.

I have already indicated that Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda influenced, and are influencing, the intellectual outlook of a very great section of educated Indians and we can go further and gladly admit that the inquiring mind of seeking humanity today has not remained untouched by their influence.

But if Girija wants to prove that the life and method of Sadhana – not the mental outlook – of Sri Aurobindo were influenced by Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, I think this is not a tenable proposition. If Sri Aurobindo was so influenced and owed his spirituality entirely to Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, the most natural thing for him would have been to join the Ramakrishna Mission. Besides, one cannot always make much even of spiritual help and influence which, after all, is bound to take place in life based on interchange and mutual exchange of influences. The only living person from whom Sri Aurobindo received direct spiritual help and guidance was the late Vishnu Bhaskar Lele. Their connection as Guru and disciple seems to have lasted three months and it terminated with a clear understanding on both sides. The fact that Ramakrishna was under the guidance of Bharati for eleven years doing Tantric Sadhana under her and under that of Totapuri for one year for Vedantic Sadhana need not detract in the least from his own greatness. A great personality, even when it accepts an alien influence, succeeds in creating out of it something unique. Here the articles supposed to be written by Sri Aurobindo are all topical and refer to occasions like birthday celebrations at some of which their author is supposed to have been present. It is very well known that Sri Aurobindo at this time was at Chandernagore and could not have been present at the festivals. The line of argument which Mr. Roy Chowdhury adopts can be turned to absurdity if one argues for instance that because Sri Aurobindo wrote Gitar Bhumika in the Dharma, it shows that he was under the influence of the Gita. Equally it can be even maintained that since he spoke about Sri Krishna in the Uttarpara Speech he was very much influenced by Sri Krishna. He translated the Kena and the Katha Upanishads at this time, therefore he was greatly influenced by these Upanishads. Well, this is a wrong way of explaining or understanding, or rather misunderstanding a great personality. With all his anxiety "to prove"–pramān karivār – he writer has not been able to convince us in what exact way was Sri Aurobindo influenced by Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda except that he had great admiration for them. The fact is that a genius assimilates all influences and stimulating forces and creates out of himself the miracle of his personality which has not yet been explained by known processes of psychology.

Points of criticism:

1. Too much extraneous material introduced, very little material dealing with Sri Aurobindo's life.

2. Girija claims to reproduce the environment and atmosphere of Sri Aurobindo's life. But this is not possible, because the writer is bound to reproduce his own selection from the milieu and not emphasise those elements which may have played a part in Sri Aurobindo's life. Therefore the picture of the environment and the atmosphere tends to become out of focus and unconvincing. It appears more or less the guesswork of the writer. It is the individual concerned who can say what part the known and the unknown elements of his surroundings played in the formation of his personality. An outsider, or an observer, cannot know this.

3. Girija claims to explain Sri Aurobindo's genius and personality, but all his explanations are inferences and guesses.

One illustration can be given. If heredity and environment are sufficient to explain personality and genius how does Girija explain the difference in the growth and life of the three brothers who had the same parents, went through the same environment and were educated in England together? And why is it that Tagore's son has not become a world-famous poet? So, there are factual errors, inferential errors and errors based on wrong sources.

4. In the last issue of the Udbodhan, recently printed, Girija has committed a great error when he states that the series of articles on passive resistance in the Bande Mataram were written by Bepin Pal! We know on unimpeachable authority that it was written entirely by Sri Aurobindo.

Detailed examination of Udbodhan:

1. In the issue of Vaishakh 1347, Girija says that Sri Aurobindo attended a grammar school in Manchester between 1880–1884.

This is not true. He never attended any school at Manchester.

2. K. D. Ghose sent his sons to England. That, according to to Girija, is responsible for Sri Aurobindo's greatness. He forgets that many fathers sent their sons to England, but did not succeed by this in making them great. Girija holds heredity responsible for Sri Aurobindo's greatness. This also is wrong and unconvincing. In this case genius seems to be drawn from the skies, otherwise how would Girija explain Ramakrishna Paramahansa or Shelley or Keats whose greatness could not be attributed to heredity.

3. His explanation of Sri Aurobindo's failure in the riding test is probably based on Sarojini's memory. But this is not a reliable source. Sri Aurobindo was not playing cards at that time.

4. The speeches of the Congress presidents are reproduced unnecessarily in this so-called biography, because Sri Aurobindo never took any notice of these speeches.

5. It is misleading to use poems as materials for biography, unless the poem is expressly known to be autobiographical.

6. Girija's inference based on Brajendranath Seal's supposed criticism that Sri Aurobindo's politics was influenced by Greek culture, is not true.

7. Girija's statement that Sri Aurobindo has not written a drama is not true. He has written many dramas.

8. Girija's inference that Nivedita was responsible for Sri Aurobindo's decision to go to Chandernagore is not true. Again, they did not exchange ideas on spirituality. They only met in the political arena because they held identical views and were both revolutionaries. It is true that Nivedita told Sri Aurobindo about the futility of giving himself up to the government for arrest at any time. Sri Aurobindo felt at that time that he would be able to prevent his arrest. He wrote thereafter an open letter to his countrymen and the government did not accept his challenge. It is not true that Nivedita came to see him off on board the boat.

9. Girija infers that Sri Aurobindo must have read the works of Ram Mohan Roy. But the fact is that he did not read his works. For a young man in England at that time to have sympathy for Ireland, it was not necessary to read Ram Mohan Roy. Many people hold high ideals of humanity, brotherhood, etc. It does not follow that they derive these ideas from one another. The fact only shows that there is a permanent pull towards idealism in human nature.

10. Girija calls Sri Aurobindo the "private secretary" of H. H. the Gaekwar. He was never a private secretary except for a few months during the Kashmir tour in 1903.

11. Girija speaks of Sri Aurobindo's studies in Baroda as if Sri Aurobindo was a follower of orthodox Hinduism. This is not a fact. He was not interested in the Shastras in the way in which orthodox Hindus are. It was Yoga, the practical side of Hindu religion, which attracted him.

12. In the issue of Chaitra 1348, with reference to the year 1895, Girija writes: "Many causes combine to produce an event. We cannot know all the causes, hence we resort to false imagination of various kinds about the causes." As this is the confession of Girija himself I do not see why he insists on explaining the inexplicable.

13. It is not true that Sri Aurobindo was an opponent of Mayavada from the beginning, i.e. from 1896.

14. In the issue of Vaisakh 1348, Girija refers to the murder of Rand and Ayerst. It must be stated that this had nothing to do with Sri Aurobindo. It is wrong to proceed on the assumption that because an event occurred in his lifetime it is bound to have exercised a tremendous influence on him.

15. In the issue of Vaisakh 1348, he writes: "To young Sri Aurobindo, Congress was not a great thing even from its fifth year." If this is so,according to Girija himself, why does he go on describing at length the substance of the presidential addresses and the speeches of the chairmen of the reception committees?

16. Another instance of Girija's wrong inference is his conclusion based on the meeting of Vivekananda and Rajnarayan Bose on 3 January 1898. He infers from this fact that Rajnarayan must have talked about it to Sri Aurobindo. This is wrong. They had no talk about Vivekananda at all. Sri Aurobindo never read Ram Mohan's Vedanta and according to him Vivekananda is not a Mayavadin. What Vivekananda preached according to him is the universality of the Brahman. With this idea of Vivekananda Sri Aurobindo is in full agreement.

As for Sitanath Tatvabhushan, Devendra Nath Tagore and Rajnarayan Bose, Sri Aurobindo never thought that they had any Vedanta worth noticing.

17. Girija says that Sri Aurobindo must have participated in Dadabhai Naoroji's election to the British Parliament. He did not.

18. Girija says that C. R. Das met Sri Aurobindo at Cambridge. He did not.

19. Girija infers that Sri Aurobindo must have read the speeches of Phirozshah Mehta and Surendranath Banerjee at Cambridge. He did not get Indian papers in England and these speeches never attracted his attention. His patriotism was quite independent of these speakers.

20. In the issue of Ashadh 1348, Girija tries to conclude that Sri Aurobindo's idea of the need of the amelioration of the proletariat must have been derived from Marx. This is not correct and not inevitable. Would he explain how Vivekananda got the idea of Daridranarayan? Was it from Marx? Such ideas come to great leaders by intuition. Girija's explanation is not only false but his method, in most cases, is bound to lead to false conclusions.

21. In the issue of Agrahayan 1348, Girija's idea about Vivekananda changing from Vedanta to Kali worship and Sri Aurobindo from Shakti worship to Vedanta is fantastic. Vivekananda's instruction to Sister Nivedita does not constitute a proof that he had converted from Vedanta to Tantra. One cannot lose sight of the fact that Vivekananda was the chief disciple of one who was a lifelong devotee of Kali. Besides, Vedanta does not bar Kali worship.

22. Girija surmises that Sri Aurobindo must have met Devendra Nath Tagore. There is no proof that he met him – as a matter of fact he did not see Devendra Nath Tagore.

23. Girija says that before marriage Sri Aurobindo went through śuddhi by taking cowdung etc. The fact seems to be that there was no shaving of the head, nor taking of the cowdung, nor anything of the sort, because Sri Aurobindo refused to go through śuddhi. The accommodating Brahmin was perhaps satisfied with a certain sum of money paid as Dakshina and must have been pleased to make the concession.

24. In the issue dealing with the year 1900, Girija alleges that there was a revolutionary samiti in Gujarat. From inquiries it can be definitely stated that there was no such samiti at the time. Barin's memory in this respect is absolutely mistaken.

25. In the issue dealing with the year 1902, Girija says that Sarala Devi had gone to Baroda and therefore must have met Sri Aurobindo. This is not a way to arrive at correct facts, because persons who happen to be in the same city do not always meet. He met Sarala Devi long after in Bengal.

26. The quotation from Barin's autobiography in the Jyaistha 1349 issue is not authentic.

27. Girija quotes Surendranath Halder's opinion about Sister Nivedita's being a nihilist. But Halder can hardly be taken as an authority on Sister Nivedita.

28. In an issue dealing with 1906, Girija tries to show that Sri Aurobindo's nationalism might have been derived from Bankim, and that even the idea of a secret society was taken from him. This is not true, because it is very well known that Sri Aurobindo's father had strictly forbidden his children to mix with Indians while they were in England. So there is no question of Dr. K.D. Ghose writing to England about Bankim's death. Thus it is proved that Sri Aurobindo got the idea of a secret society before reading Bankim. One can be a patriot without reading Bankim. Sri Aurobindo's political ideas were formed even when he was in England.

29. In the issue dealing with 1906, Girija says that Sri Aurobindo performed the Bagala Devi Puja by standing on one foot and repeating the mantra. Sri Aurobindo never did the Bagala Sadhana and it is a lie to go on constantly representing him as an orthodox Hindu which he never was.

30. Girija has introduced Girish Chandra Ghose in Sri Aurobindo's biography. What Girish Chandra Ghose had to do with Sri Aurobindo's biography is known only to Girija!

31. Girija quotes the confession before the Magistrate of some of the revolutionaries in support of certain inferences and of some facts. This is not a reliable process, because confessions of such people have value for the defence, as mostly they are prepared by pleaders with a view to extricate the accused. They are hardly written to tell the truth or represent a fact. It is a wonder that Girija, being a pleader, fails to know this!

32. Girija says that a place on the Shone River was selected by Sri Aurobindo as a centre for the Bhawani Mandir scheme. The fact is, it was Barin who went to select the place and not Sri Aurobindo. Barin had also gone to the Vindhya mountains to select a centre for the Bhawani Mandir, but he returned to Baroda with hill-fever. It must be remembered that Sri Aurobindo gave Diksha for the revolutionary work not only to Barin but to Hemchandra Kanungo, Priya Mitra and others.

33. In the issue of Asvin 1350, Girija says, "Getting rid of infatuation of Western education, his mind was attracted towards Swadeshi things from the beginning." This is not true because there was no infatuation for Western education according to Girija's own statement in the previous issue. In the same issue he says, "It was seen that the two brothers' ways of looking at things was different from the very beginning." But the question is, why? Why is it that two brothers of the same parentage, of equal upbringing, in the same environment, should be or become so different. If heredity and circumstances, as Girija puts in the beginning, can explain personality, then these two at least should have been very similar.

34. In the issue of Asvin 1350, Girija quotes a talk or a letter from Barin dated 16.7.1943. This shows that Barin and Priya

Mitra were together till 1905. Therefore Girija's contention in the previous issues that Priya Mitra drifted away from Sri Aurobindo on account of Sri Aurobindo's partiality towards Barin in the quarrel between Jatin Banerji and Barin is not borne out by facts.

35. Another instance of wrong inference based on false evidence is furnished by several people ascribing the authorship of the Bhawani Mandir scheme to different persons. Some have ascribed the authorship to Devavrata and some to Barin.

If a wrong statement like this remains uncontradicted, is it to be accepted as true? If this is the case, as Girija says, it is a very strange doctrine.

36. In the Jyaistha 1351 issue, Girija contends that there was a difference in the standard adopted in the Bande Mataram and the Yugantar cases. He suggests, without affirming, that Sri Aurobindo advised Bhupen Dutt to suffer imprisonment while he offered defence in the Bande Mataram prosecution. Hence Sri Aurobindo was not consistent. This is not true. First of all, Bande Mataram was not a mouthpiece of the revolutionary party. It was a political paper with a programme of national reconstruction, passive resistance and self-reliance. It could not be expected to act like a revolutionary paper. For a paper like

the Yugantar, avowedly revolutionary, it would have been most inconsistent to offer defence. For Bande Mataram it was natural that it should take all the advantage that law could give to defend its liberty.

37. It is not certain whether, as Girija alleges, Barin gave his confession on Sri Aurobindo's advice. The fact is that Barin gave his confession almost immediately on his arrest at Maniktola; so Girija's representation here is quite wrong.

38. One cannot understand why Girija quotes Moriey's and Balfour's speeches in Sri Aurobindo's biography and also one cannot understand why he brings in the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha.

39. Girija argues that independence is a mundane affair and spiritual and religious considerations are irrelevant to it. This view is debatable. What does he mean by "mundane considerations"? Do not psychological factors count? And among the psychological factors do not spiritual and religious factors act the most potently? Was not the rise of the Maratha empire and of the Sikhs in the Punjab primarily due to factors which might be called religious? Is no change of psychology necessary before an enslaved people can attain freedom?

40. It is wrong on the part of Girija to say that Sri Aurobindo preached the doctrine of Deva-Devi grace in politics. He invokes the inherent spiritual reservoir of energy in each individual. He says, in fact, what was said long ago by the Upanishads and the Gita. It is not a cult of worship of little gods and goddesses but the general dependence on the inner spirit, on the Divine Shakti, Bhawani, that is in the race.

41. Girija says also that in modern times people do not believe in religion and in the miracles of spirituality. He forgets that the 20th century is not devoid of its own way of belief in the miraculous. It is in the Duces and Fuehrers that the most enlightened nations seems to put what Girija might call blind faith. And Girija cannot say that this blind faith of the modern does not lead to power.

42. Repression would crush the nation, thought Bepin Pal Ram Mohan also thought the same way. Sri Aurobindo thought differently. He thought that repression would awaken the nation. This is a matter of opinion.

Appendix XI. Hemchandra Kanungo's Work — A Criticism

Hemchandra Kanungo, Banglay Biplav Prachesta (Calcutta: Manabbandhu Kanungo, 1928).

1. In this book Hemchandra Kanungo certainly has repeated himself endlessly on orthodoxy, religion, spirituality and caste.

2. As a document it is unreliable; there is neither exactness in dating, nor impartiality, nor an impersonal approach. It is based on a partial view of the movement and is therefore not a true picture because it is not the whole picture.

3. In his blind anger against Barin and his prejudice against Sri Aurobindo he forgets that there were other organisations parallel to those run by these leaders and they did not fare better,— they did not succeed, i.e., they could not bring about the intended revolution and Hemchandra must know they had no ' spirituality to hamper their work or success.

It was reserved for Mr. Hemchandra Kanungo to announce that the revolution could not succeed, that India could not progress because of the caste system. We know very well the evils of the caste system and its responsibility for many social and economic ills of India. But it was for Mr. Hemchandra to tell us that a revolutionary secret society in Bengal failed because of the caste system, religion and spirituality.

Evidently Mr. Hemchandra holds India's religion and spirituality in contempt. He even complains of Swami Vivekananda's inspiring the Indian youths with pride in their past glory and achievements. He is welcome to his own opinion but I am afraid his generalisations are too sweeping to need any detailed refutation. He does not seem to grant any practical ground for religious experience and spiritual discipline. To him Chaitanya and Ramakrishna seem to have not only lived in vain but harmed India by inculcating the truth of religions and spiritual experience. Mr. Hemchandra does not know any difference between orthodoxy and spirituality. To him even Sri Aurobindo is orthodox; and. Sanatan Dharma to Hemchandra means only injunctions of Brahminical Smritis which outrage his sense of social justice. He conveniently forgets, first, that the Smritis are not being followed today in practice, secondly, that Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, and the Congress and many other all-India organisations have been trying to carry into practice many social reforms, and thirdly, that Mahatma Gandhi has done more as a single leader than many organisations for the uplift of the untouchables. But there is a saying, "none so blind as those that will not see." To call Sri Ramakrishna orthodox is also more than an innovation for he practised not only Hinduism but tried Islam and Christianity too. He came to the conclusion that all religions, if followed sincerely as paths for the realisation of God, lead ultimately to the same experience. This is not "Hindu Godami", by any stretch of imagination. Nor can the definition of Eternal Dharma' – sanatoria dharma – given by Sri Aurobindo in his Uttarpara speech be dubbed orthodox by anyone except the purblind.

The author holds religion responsible for the failure of the revolutionary movement! He even asserts that religion is of no help in the regeneration of India. If he wants to maintain thereby that politics should be secular to suit modern conditions of humanity we should all agree. But it is not true as an axiom of political science which Mr. Hemchandra seems to proclaim. The Maratha Empire which was brought into existence by Shivaji owed its origin to religious inspiration. So was Sikhism responsible for the power of the Khalsa in the Punjab. All students of world history will certainly remember how the Islamic political power that spread over Asia, Africa and Europe owed its inspiration to religion.

Mr. Hemchandra is very discursive; instead of giving us a matter-of-fact narration of the secret society organisation, he breaks off into sermons on how the work should have been done, how the leaders should have led and the followers followed! It is a pity Mr. Hemchandra is not being listened to by those to whom he addressed his sermons. Thus the narrative suffers from the same defects from which all the other accounts of the revolutionary workers suffer, by concentrating on a very narrow portion of a vast background, the whole of which was not known to any of them. Thus when each describes, discusses and generalises on the basis of his own experience about the whole movement, naturally most of the labour seems wasted. We have to remember that the organisation was a secret one and it is not correct to expect that each one would be and must be told everything. This is not only not possible but absolutely undesirable if a secret movement is justified and necessary. To say naively, as Mr. Hemchandra does, that the whole country should have been given a clear conception of the shape of things that would follow a successful revolution, is, in my opinion, only too childish, and would be putting the cart before the horse. Let Mr. Hemchandra remember that the French Revolution did not give the French people the ghost of an idea as to what exactly was to follow the revolution, and that the Italian Revolution was no more clear about its shape before it succeeded. These things a living nation goes on learning and achieving at the same time. What did the Americans know about the Federal Court when they declared war against England?

I will show where and how Mr. Hemchandra is incorrect and unreliable and where he contradicts himself.

1. He attributes the Bhawani Mandir scheme to Barin.

2. He asserts that spiritual discipline was imposed on members of the revolutionary party, which obviously is not true. It is also surprising to find that Barin was anxious to have him in the organisation after his return from Europe. Why should he be anxious if spirituality was the necessary qualification?

Where is the proof that people who wanted to join the secret society were compelled to practise meditation? That he was admitted shows there was no compulsion.

3. If some of the members of the secret society like Devavrata, Barin etc. had a spiritual tendency and if they practised meditation, how could any objection be taken to it? Men like Barin, Devarata and Ullas were free to follow their own bent.

4. Hemchandra is not correct in reporting his meeting with "C" Babu, i.e., Charu Chandra Dutt, after his return from Europe. I had occasion to meet Mr. Dutt on this point and I can say on his authority that Hemchandra Kanungo's report is far from accurate.

5. His account of the differences between Barin and Jatin Banerji is not reliable. Firstly, he could not have known everything because he had been only recently recruited at Midnapore and the whole incident took place at Calcutta. The work was in a very early stage, and Hemchandra could only have heard reports in circulation afterwards. He did not have the impartial attitude necessary to come to a correct decision.

6. Hemchandra's explanation about the working of plague regulations at Poona is very poor. It shows he does not know the real reasons behind the action of the Chapekar brothers.

(Mr. Girijashanker while writing Sri Aurobindo's biography has relied on these very undependable sources and he has not only erred in regard to facts, but has even accepted the personal opinions of others as impartial judgments on mere events and has, in my opinion, very often gone off the track.)

7. It was up to Hemchandra to give the lead if he found the other leaders were not up to the mark. What about those leaders he does not speak about? No one put up the worship of P. Mitra and other leaders of the Anushilan Samity? The story of their work does not figure at all in Hemchandra's work. Why did that branch with its thousands of members not succeed? Whereas this one lead by Barin and Sri Aurobindo was small in size; it had only fifty members. Hemchandra is not right in saying that the work of Barin constituted the whole of the revolutionary movement.

In any great national movement there is certainly a chance that the leaders may so act that the movement, although having all the chances of success, might come to nothing. But there is another alternative also which Hemchandra has not even noticed – that the nation may not be capable of more than it achieves at a certain stage of its development. Let Hemchandra imagine or consider Bengal as she was before 1900 and let him then measure the change that has been brought about by political events and by leadership.

One would not think of taking Mr. Hemchandra's book seriously and criticising it. But we find that Mr. Girijashanker in his so-called biography of Sri Aurobindo states Hemchandra's uncontradicted conclusions as authentic.

8. It is strange that Mr. Hemchandra, who writes so much against religion in the book, was not averse to using religious symbols while he was actually in the revolutionary movement.

{{0}}The Alipore Bomb Trial[[Bijoy Krishna Bose, Ed., The Alipore Bomb Trial (Calcutta: Butterworth & Co., 1922). p. 81.]] says that witness No. 82, Debdas Karan, deposed that Medini Bandhava, a Midnapore paper, had the crest of the lion and the unicorn. This crest was "changed to the Jagaddhatri Goddess. Change was due to Hemchandra Das"! Note also that Alipore Exhibit No. 876 is a letter from Hemchandra to Debdas. So, it was not only Sri Aurobindo and other leaders who introduced Hindu symbols, it was also Mr.Hemchandra Kanungo!

Appendix XII. Biography of Sri Aurobindo by Jyotish Chandra Ghosh

Jotish Chandra Ghosh, Life-Work of Sri Aurobindo (Calcutta: Atma-Shakti Library, 1929), 186 pages.

In refreshing contrast to the biographers that have not been able to grasp the significance of Sri Aurobindo's spiritual endeavour, Sj. Jotish Chandra Ghosh shows a remarkable understanding even in the year 1927 or 1928.

He writes in the Introduction: "The old Aurobindo in the new namesake of him is dead and to-day we sing not a song of brotherly congratulations simply because he has been permitted to add another year of successes and failures to his pile of years but an epiphany glorifying the life-passage of the Divine Purusha in his body." (p. vi)

"... When a personality retires for yoga his career automatically comes to an end.... For, even if he comes back he would essentially be a different man from what he was formerly.... The man that will come out of his seclusion someday will not be our man in the narrow sense of the term, devoting his life to the fulfilment of our immediate needs of life, the petty gains of a circumscribed outlook, but a man whose only claim on life would be the fulfilment of his God-ordained mission on Earth – to bring down a pure atmosphere of Truth on Earth from which all irrespective of caste, colour and creed who may be spiritually fit to receive the new Light will 'derive the supreme benefit."

(pp. v-vi)


Most of Sri Aurobindo's writings first appeared in the periodicals listed in Part I. His writings later were brought out in the books described in Part II finally collected in thirty volumes of Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, the contents of which are given in Part III.

I. Periodicals with which Sri Aurobindo was associated (arranged chronologically)

Indu Prakash

English-Marathi: Weekly.- Bombay

Sri Aurobindo contributed two series of articles to this newspaper, which was edited by his Cambridge friend K. G. Deshpande. New Lamps for Old appeared in nine instalments from August 7, 1893 to March 5, 1894. This series was preceded by another political article, "India and the British Parliament" (June 26, 1893). The second series, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, written after the passing of the Bengali writer, appeared in seven instalments from July 16 to August 27, 1894.

Yugantar: Weekly.- Bengali.- Calcutta

A revolutionary journal started by Sri Aurobindo's brother Barindra and others in March 1906. Sri Aurobindo wrote articles for some of the earlier issues of the paper, and always exercised general control over it. It ceased publication in May 1908.

Bande Mataram: Daily/Weekly.- English.- Calcutta

A newspaper started on August 6, 1906 under the editorship of Bipin Chandra Pal. Sri Aurobindo became joint editor of the paper and before the end of 1906 assumed full control of its policy. He wrote many of its editorials and leading articles, and also some planned series including The Doctrine of Passive Resistance. It ceased publication in October 1908, six months after Sri Aurobindo was imprisoned in the Alipore Bomb Case. A weekly edition of Bande Mataram was published from June 1907 to September 1908, in which editorials and articles from the daily edition were reprinted. The play Perseus the Deliverer and the translation Vidula first appeared in this weekly edition

Karmayogin: Weekly.- English.- Calcutta

"A Weekly Review of National Religion, Literature, Science, Philosophy, etc." Started on June 15, 1909 by Sri Aurobindo, who wrote practically all of its articles and editorial comments, and published in it a number of his poems and translations. When he left for Chandernagore in February 1910, he put the journal into the hands of Sister Nivedita. Writings by him continued to appear in it until it ceased publication on March 26, 1910.

Dharma: Weekly.- Bengali.- Calcutta

Started on August 23, 1909 under the editorship of Sri Aurobindo, who wrote most of its articles and editorial comments himself. His connection with the journal ended when he left for Chandernagore in February 1910. Its last issue came out on March 28, 1910.

Arya: Monthly.- English.- Pondicherry

A philosophical review started by Sri Aurobindo on August 15, 1914 and continued without interruption until January 1921. The following declaration appeared on the inside cover page of each issue:

The Arya is a Review of pure philosophy.

The object which it has set before itself is twofold:–

1. A systematic study of the highest problems of existence;

2. The formation of a vast Synthesis of knowledge, harmonising the diverse religious traditions of humanity occidental as well as oriental. Its method will be that of a realism, at once rational and transcendental, – a realism consisting in the unification of intellectual and scientific disciplines with those of intuitive experience. This Review will also serve as an organ for the various groups and societies founded on its inspiration.

The Review will publish:–

Synthetic studies in speculative Philosophy.

Translations and commentaries of ancient texts. Studies in Comparative Religion.

Practical methods of inner culture and self development.

In the Arya appeared serially most of Sri Aurobindo's important prose writings: The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Secret of the Veda, Essays on the Gita, The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, The Future Poetry (all of which were later published in book form, many in revised editions), as well as other series and separate essays.

The Standard Bearer: Weekly.- English.- Chandemagore

Published by the Prabartak Samgha,,a group working under the inspiration of Sri Aurobindo. Its first issue came out on August 15, 1920 with a contribution "Ourselves" by Sri Aurobindo. In later issues it published several articles, poems etc. by Sri Aurobindo, many of which had been written in 1909 or 1910 and intended for publication in the Karmayogin. Since 1915 the Prabartak Samgha has brought out a Bengali monthly, Prabartak. Sri Aurobindo's "Jagannather Rath" first appeared in this journal in 1918 Sri Aurobindo occasionally contributed essays, poems etc. to periodicals other than those listed above including The Modern Review (Calcutta), The Calcutta Review, The Vedic Magazine (Lahore), Shama'a (Madras) and the Bengali reviews Suprabhat and Bharati.

The following is a list of journals published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram or groups connected with it in which many unpublished letters, articles, poems etc. of Sri Aurobindo first appeared.

Sri Aurobindo Mandir Annual, Calcutta since 1942

Bartika (Bengali) Quarterly, Calcutta, since 1942

The Advent Quarterly, Pondicherry (originally Madras), since 1944

Sri Aurobindo Circle Annual, Pondicherry (originally Bombay), since 1945

Bulletin of Physical Education (presently the Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education) Quarterly, Pondicherry, since 1949, English-French

The eight articles which make up The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth were written by Sri Aurobindo for the Bulletin and published in it between February 21, 1949 and November 24, 1950.

Mother India Monthly, Pondicherry (originally a Bombay fortnightly), since 1949 Srinvantu Quarterly, Calcutta, since 1956

II. Books by Sri Aurobindo (arranged alphabetically)

This part lists all of Sri Aurobindo's writings in English which have appeared in book form. It includes not only works that came out prior to the passing of Sri Aurobindo in December 1950, but also those reproduced from manuscripts after that date. Books compiled from already published works have been omitted.

Although most of these titles have run into numerous editions, for the most part information is given about the first edition only; subsequent editions are mentioned if they included new material or were revised by the author.

Where necessary, cross-references are given; for example, in title entry number 1. AFTER THE WAR, the cross-reference (See 28, 100) refers to title-entry numbers 28 and 100 in this bibliography.

At the end of each entry is given the number of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (SABCL) volume in which the work can now be found.

1. After the War

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1949

First published as an article in the Arya, August 1920. Issued as a pamphlet in 1949. Included in War and Self-Determination since 1957 (See 28, 100).

SABCL: Social and Political Thought, Vol. 15

2. The Age of Kalidasa

Tagore & Co., Madras, 1921

Written during the Baroda period (1893–1906). First appeared in the Calcutta Review. Published in book form with Kalidasa's. "Seasons" since 1929 under the title Kalidasa (See 35).

SABCL: The Harmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

3. Ahana and Other Poems

Printed at The Modern Press, Pondicherry, 1915

Includes 25 poems: Ahana, Invitation, Who, Miracles, Reminiscence, A Vision of Science, Immortal Love, A Tree, To the Sea, Revelation, Karma, Appeal, A Child's Imagination, The Sea at Night, The Vedantin's Prayer, Rebirth, The Triumph-Song of Trishuncou, Life and Death, Evening, Parabrahman, God, The Fear of Death, Seasons, The Rishi, In the Moonlight.

"Ahana", a poem of 172 lines, is a revised and enlarged version of the last 160 lines of "The Descent of Ahana", an earlier draft found among Sri Aurobindo's manuscripts. This version of 172 lines, further revised and enlarged to 520 lines, was published in Collected Poems and Plays, 1942 (See 13). SABCL Volume 5 includes two versions: the first draft "The Descent of Ahana" (p. 537) and the revised and enlarged "Ahana" of 520 lines (p. 523).

"Invitation" was composed in the Alipore Jail in 1908 or 1909 and first published in the weekly Karmayogin, November 6, 1909.

"Who" was first published ih Karmayogin, November 13, 1909.

In SABCL "Karma" and "Appeal" appear in Volume 8.

SABCL; Collected Poems, Vol. 5 Translations, Vol. 8

4. Anandamath

Basumati Sahitya Mandir, Calcutta (no date)

A translation of Bankim Chandra Chatterji's Bengali novel. The prologue and the first thirteen chapters of Part I were translated by Sri Aurobindo, the rest by his brother Barindra. The parts translated by Sri Aurobindo first appeared in the Karmayogin, intermittently between August 7, 1909 and February 12, 1910. In SABCL only the prologue and the chapters translated by Sri Aurobindo are given in Volume 8.

SABCL: Translations, Vol. 8

5. Baji Prabhu

Arya Office, Pondicherry, 1922

First appeared in the Karmayogin between February 19 and March 5, 1910 (See 13).

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

6. Bankim Chandra Chatterji

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1954

First appeared in the Indu Prakash, Bombay between July 16 and August 27,1894, in seven instalments.

SABCL: The Harmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

7. Bankim — Tilak — Dayananda

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1940


1. "Bande Mataram", a translation of the national song (in verse and prose), first appeared as part of the translation of Chapter IX of Anandamath in the Karmayogin,November 20, 1909.

2. "Rishi Bankim Chandra", an essay, first appeared in the Bande Mataram, April 16, 1907 and was later reprinted in Rishi Bankim Chandra (See 74).

3. "Bal Gangadhar Tilak", an essay, first appeared as an introduction to Bal Gangadhar Tilak: His Writings and Speeches (Ganesh & Co., Madras, 1918).

4. "Dayananda: The Man and His Work" and "'Dayananda and the Veda", essays, first appeared in The Vedic Magazine, Lahore, in 1915 and 1916 respectively (See 16).

5. "The Men that Pass", an essay on R. C. Dutt from the Karmayogin, December 4, ,1909.

In SABCL "Bande Mataram" appears in Volume 8 and the rest appear in Volume 17.

SABCL: Translations, Vol. 8

The Hour of God, Vol. 17

8. Bases of Yoga

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1936

Extracts from letters to disciples arranged under various headings. '

In SABCL mostly incorporated into Volumes 22, 23 and 24.

SABCL: Letters on Yoga, Vols. 22, 23, 24

9. The Birth of the War God

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1952

Booklet. Reprinted from the Sri Aurobindo Circle, 1952. Three translations of the first canto of Kalidasa's epic Kumarasambhavam

The manuscript bears the date January ,15, 1918.

SABCL includes an incomplete translation of Canto Two.

SABCL: Translations, Vol. 8

10. The Brain of India

Prabatak Publishing House, Calcutta, 1921

First published in four instalments in the Karmayogin,October 9 to November 13, 1909.

SABCL: The Harmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

11. The Century of Life

The Shama'a Publishing House, Madras, 1924

The Nitishataka of Bhartrihari freely rendered into English verse.

The translation was completed by Sri Aurobindo during the early years of his stay in Pondicherry, although most of it was done earlier, a few pieces having been published in a magazine of the Baroda College in the 1890's.

Some of the epigrams appeared in the Karmayogin, March 19, 1910 and in the Arya, December 1917 and November


SABCL: Translations, Vol. 8

12. Chitrangada

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1949

Booklet. Reprinted from Sri Aurobindo Circle, 1949. Fragment of a poem which had been completed by Sri Aurobindo, but of which the original manuscript was lost. Only the opening passages, which had been published in the Karmayogin, March 26 and April 2, 1910, were preserved. These passages were. reprinted in the Sri Aurobindo Circle, 1949, with minor revisions by the author.

SABCL: Collected Poems. Vol. 5

13. Collected Poems and Plays

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1942

Published in two volumes and arranged according to the date of composition.

Volume I, Contents:

1890–1902: Songs to Myrtilla (See S\), Urvasie (See 93),

Love and Death (See 51).

1895–1908: Poems: Ahana and Other Poems, excluding "Ahana" (See 3), Perseus the Deliverer (See 65). Volume II, Contents:

1895–1908: Translation: Vikramorvasie (See 97).

1902–1915: Baji Prabhou (See 5); Nine Poems: "The Mother of Dreams", composed in Alipore Jail in 1908 or 1909 and first published in the Modem Review,July 1909; "An Image", "The Birth of Sin","Epiphany", first published in the Karmayogin, November 20, December 11 and 18, 1909 respectively; "To R", first published in the Modern Review, April 1910; "The Rakshasas", "Kama", "The Mahatmas", first published in the Standard Bearer, November 14 and 28 and December 12, 1920; "Ahana" (revised and enlarged version of 520 lines; See 3). Translations: The Century of Life (See 11), "Hymn to the Mother" ("Bande Mataram"; See 7); "Vidula", originally appeared under the title "The Mother to Her Son" in the weekly Bande Mataram, June 9, 1907; Songs of the Sea (See 79).

1930: Six Poems (See 78); "Transformation" and other poems, first published in 1941 under the title Poems (See 67).

Translations: "Mother India", "Mahalakshmi".

Appendix I: Essay: "On Quantitative Metre"; Poems: "Ocean Oneness", "Trance of Waiting", "Flame-Wind", "The

River", "Journey's End", "The Dream Boat", "Soul in the Ignorance", "The Witness and the Wheel", "Descent", "The Lost Boat", "Renewal", "Soul's Scene", "Ascent", "The Tiger and the Deer", "Ilion" (the opening passages of the epic; See 33).

Appendix II: Bibliography:

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

Collected Plays, Vols. 6, 7

Translations, Vol. 8

14. Conversations of the Dead

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1951

Originally written in 1909 or 1910 for the Karmayogin; only two of the pieces were published in the journal: "Dinshah — Perizade" and "Turiu — Uriu", February 12 and 19, 1910 respectively. The others were first published by the Standard Bearer: "Mazzini — Cavour — Garibaldi", November 7, 1920, "Shivaji—Jai Singh", December 26, 1920, "Littleton — Percival", May 29 and June 5, 1923.

SABCL: TheHarmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

15. Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, Series I in 1954,

Series II in 1959

Combined edition in 1969

Sri Aurobindo's replies to a disciple's questions on matters relating to Yoga, poetry, medicine etc. The disciple's questions are given.

In SABCL some of Sri Aurobindo's replies appear in Volumes 9, 22, 23,24 and 26.

SABCL: The Future Poetry, Vol. 9

Letters on Yoga, Vols. 22,23,24

On Himself, Vol. 26

16. Dayananda: The Man and His Work

Gurukula Vishvavidyalaya, Kangri, 1920

A reprint of two articles which first appeared in The Vedic Magazine, Lahore, in 1915 and 1916.

The second article, "Dayananda and the Veda", was reprinted in 1920 by the Tract Publishing Society (Arya Kumar Sabha, Calcutta).

The two were reissued together in 1939 as Swami Dayanand Saraswati (See 87) and later included in Bankim — Tilak — Dayananda (See 7).

SABCL: The Hour of God, Vol. 17

17. The Doctrine of Passive Resistance

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1948

A series of articles from the daily Bande Mataram, April 11 to 23, 1907, and an article "The Morality of Boycott" written for the Bande Mataram but not published in that journal; it was produced as an exhibit in the Alipore Bomb Case (May 1908).

SABCL: Bande Mataram, Vol. 1

18. Eight Upanishads

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1953

Translations of the Isha, Kena, Katha, Mundaka, Mandukya, Prashna, Taittiriya and Aitareya Upanishads, with texts, and an essay "On Translating the Upanishads" as an introduction.

Isha: A translation was published in the Karmayogin, June 19, 1909; another translation with notes appeared in the

Arya, August 15, 1914, followed by an analysis in subsequent issues. This later translation and analysis was published separately as Isha Upanishad in 1921, a Second Edition, revised and enlarged, appeared in 1924 (See 34).

Kena: A translation was published in the Karmayogin, June 26, 1909; another translation with notes in the Arya, June

1916, followed by a commentary in subsequent issues. This later translation and commentary were published as Kena Upanishad in 1952 (See 39).

A revised version was issued in 1970.

Katha: Translation in the Karmayogin, July 3, 1909 and July 31 to August 28, 1909. Later came out as Katha Upanishad (See 38). Subsequently received partial revision.

Mundaka: Translation in the Karmayogin, February 5, 12 and 26, 1910. A revised translation appeared in the Arya, November-December 1920.

Mandukya and Prashna: from manuscripts.

Taittiriya and Aitareya: from early Baroda manuscripts. On Translating the Upanishads: from a Baroda manuscript.

The Karmayogin translations of the Isha, Kena and Mundaka were reprinted in Seven Upanishads by Ashtekar & Co., Poona in 1920.

SABCL: The Upanishads, Vol. 12

19. Elements of Yoga

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1953

Brief answers to elementary questions about Yoga, written between 1933 and 1936.

In SABCL only some of these answers have been included.

SABCL: Letters on Yoga, Vols.22, 23, 24

The Mother, Vol 25

20. Eric: A Dramatic Romance

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1960

Written in Pondieherry in 1912 or 1913.

SABCL: Collected Plays, Vol.6

21. Essays on the Gita

V. Ramaswamy Sastrulu & Sons, Madras, First Series, 1922

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, First Series in 1926, Second Series in 1928

Combined Edition:

Sri Aurobindo Library, New York, 1950

Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry, 1959 '

First published in the Arya in two series: First Series from August 1916 to July 1918, and Second Series from August 1918 to July 1920.

SABCL: Essays on the Gita, Vol. 13

22. Evolution

Barindra Kumar Ghose, Calcutta, 1921

Three essays from the Arya: "Evolution", August 1915;

"The Inconscient", September 1915; "Materialism'", October 1918.

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

23. The Foundations of Indian Culture

Sri Aurobindo Library, New York, 1953

First appeared serially in the Arya under the titles: "Is India Civilised?", December 1918 to February 1919, "A Rationalistic Critic on Indian Culture", February 1919 to July 1919 and "A Defence of Indian Culture", which was left incomplete, August 1919 to January 1921. The Appendix, "Indian Culture and External Influence", is an essay from the Arya, March 1919. The original text was revised slightly by the author. The sections on Indian art and Indian polity were published separately as The Significance of Indian Art (See 77) and The Spirit and Form of Indian Polity (See 83).

SABCL: The Foundations of Indian Culture, Vol. 14

24. The Future Poetry

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1953

First appeared serially in the Arya between December 1917 and July 1920. Practically a reprint of the text of the Arya, although a few new paragraphs were added by the author.

SABCL: The Future Poetry, Vol. 9

25. Heraclitus

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1941

First published serially in the Arya, December 1916 to June 1917.

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

26. The Hour of God

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1959

Essays and notes from Sri Aurobindo's manuscripts. SABCL Volume 17 includes only the first three sections of this book.

SABCL: The Hour of God, Vol. 17

27. The Human Cycle

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1949

Sri Aurobindo Library, New York, 1950

First appeared serially in the Arya under the title The Psychology of Social Development from August 1916 to July 1918. These articles were revised by the author for their publication in book form under the title The Human Cycle. Subsequently published together with The Ideal of Human Unity and War and Self-Determination (See 28).

SABCL: Social and Political Thought, Vol. 15

28. The Human Cycle — The Ideal of Human Unity — War and Self-Determination

Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry, 1962, Combined Edition (See 27, 30, 100)

SABCL: Social and Political Thought, Vol. 15

29. Hymns to the Mystic Fire

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1946 Second Edition, Enlarged, 1952

Most of the hymns to Agni from the Rig-veda, translated in their esoteric sense.

First Edition, Contents:

A foreword especially written for the book, and an excerpt from "The Doctrine of the Mystics", an essay which had first appeared in the Arya, September 1915, as the introduction to "The Hymns of the Atris". Hymns of Gritsamada, II. 1–10; Hymns of Bharadwaja, VI. 1–16; Hymns of Parasara, I. 65–73: a revised version of "Parasara's Hymns to the Lord of Flame" first published in the Arya, February, June arid July, 1920; Hymn of Paruchchhepa, I. 127.

Second Edition, Contents:

The foreword, all the hymns included in the First Edition, and the following additional material: Hymns to Agni, V. 1–28, taken from 'The Hymns of the Atris" (Arya, October 1915 to July 1916) but with the translations revised; translations of some more hymns of Mandalas I and IV, and some hymns of Mandalas III, VII, VIII and X, which were found among Sri; Aurobindo's earlier and later manuscripts.

In SABCL Volume 11, besides the hymns contained in the earlier editions, Suktas 59, 94 and 97 of the First Mandala (from the Arya, September 1917 and January 1920) and two more hitherto unpublished hymns, I. 14 and IV. 40, are given. "The Doctrine of the Mystics" has been given in its complete form. Some other studies found among Sri Aurobindo's manuscripts have been 'included as a supplement. After the publication of Volume 11, some additional material (on two hymns, I.. 74 and IV. 6) was discovered which is reprpduced in Volume 27.

SABCL: Hymns to the Mystic Fire, Vol. 11

30. The Ideal of Human Unity

Sons of India Ltd., Madras, 1919

Second Edition, Revised:

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1950

Sri Aurobindo Library, Inc., New York, 1950

The First Edition was a reprint of the series of essays with the same title first published in the Arya, September 1915 to July 1918. It included a preface by Sri Aurobindo, a detailed synopsis of the chapters, and three appendices consisting of articles from the Arya.

The Second Edition was revised by the author before the Second World War, and a Postscript Chapter dealing with contemporary world conditions was added later in order to bring it up to date.

In the American Edition, the Postscript Chapter appears as the introduction. Subsequently published together with The Human Cycle and War and Self-Determination (See 28).

In SABCL the preface to the First Edition is given in Volume 27.

SABCL: Social and Political Thought, Vol. 15

31. The Ideal of the Karmayogin

Sadhana Press, Chandemagore, 1918

Second Edition, 1919

Revised Edition, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry,


Articles from the Karmayogin.

The First Edition contained only "The Ideal of the Karmayogin" and "Karmayoga", both from the Karmayogin of June 19, 1909.

The Second Edition was enlarged to include the following Karmayogin articles: "In Either Case" (March 26, 1910),

"The Awakening Soul of India" (June 26, 1909), "The Doctrine of Sacrifice" (July 24, 1909), "The Process of Evolution" (September 18, 1909); "The Strength of Stillness" (February 19, 1910), "The Three Purushas" (February 12, 1910), "The Stress of the Hidden Spirit" (February 26, 1910) and "The Greatness of the Individual" (July 24, 1909). The Second Edition also included two articles by Sister Nivedita taken from the Karmayogin of March 12, 1910.

In SABCL some of the articles are given in Volume 2 and some in Volume 3.

SABCL: Karmayogin, Vol. 2

The Harmony of Virtue Vol. 3

32. Ideals and Progress

Barindra Kumar Ghose, Calcutta, 1920

Revised Edition, Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1922

Five essays from the Arya: "On Ideals" (June 1916), "Yoga and Skill in Works" (July 1916), "Conservation and Progress" (May 1916), "The Conservative Mind and Eastern Progress" (July 1916) and "Our Ideal" (August 1915);

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

33. Ilion

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1957

An epic in quantitative hexameters, left incomplete. The poem was begun in Alipore jail in 1909, recommenced in Pondicherry and worked on until 1915 or so. The five opening passages (lines 1–371) were recast for inclusion as an appendix in Collected Poems and Plays, 1942. The rest of Book One, Books Two to Eight, and fragments of Book Nine were found in various stages of revision among Sri Aurobindo's papers and are published as they were found. An essay "On Quantitative Metre" (See 60) and a letter "An Answer to a Criticism" are included as appendices.

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol.5

34. Isha Upanishad

Arya Publishing House,' Calcutta, 1921

Revised and Enlarged Edition, 1924

Translation'and analysis. First appeared in the Arya, August 1914 to May 1915. An earlier translation had appeared in the Karmayogin, June 19, 1909.

SABCL: The Upanishads, Vol. 12

35 Kalidasa

Arya Sahitya Bhawan, Calcutta, 1929

A combined edition, revised, of The Age of Kalidasa (See l) and Kalidasa's "Seasons" (See 37).

SABCL: The Harmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

36. Kalidasa (Second Series)

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1954

Second Edition, 1964

From Sri Aurobindo's Baroda manuscripts: "Hindu Drama", "The Historical Method", "On Translating Kalidasa" and the four studies making up "Kalidasa's Characters".

"On Translating Kalidasa" and "Pururavas" (published as "The Character of the Hero") appeared as Introduction and Appendix to Vikramorvasie (See 97).

The First Edition included a fragmentary translation of Malavica and the King, dating from the Baroda period. The Second Edition, however, omitted this and substituted the translation of the first canto of Kumarasambhavam, The Birth of the War God (See 9).

In SABCL "On Translating Kalidasa" has been given in Volume 3 and, in a more complete form, in Volume 27.

SABCL: The Harmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

Translations, Vol. 8

37. Kalidasa's "Seasons"

Tagore & Co.. Madras, 1921

First appeared in three issues of the Karmayogin, July 31to August 14, 1909. Parts of an early draft of the essay have been found among Sri Aurobindo's Baroda papers.A revised version was included in Kalidasa, 1929 Edition (See 35).

SABCL: The Harmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

38. Katha Upanishad

Ashtekar & Co., Popna, 1919

Revised Edition, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1952

The First Edition was a reprint of the translation from the Karmayogin, July 3 and July 31 to August 28, 1909. A revised version was included in Eight Upanishads (See 18).

The Upanishads, Vol. 12

39. Kena Upanishad

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1952

Revised Edition, 1970

A translation of the Kena Upanishad first appeared in the Karmayogin, June 26, 1909. A new translation with a commentary appeared in the Arya, June 1915 to July 1916. This was published in book form in 1952 and later included in the Eight Upanishads (See 18). A revised translation was found after 1952 and was issued as the Revised Edition in 1970.

SABCL: The Upanishads, Vol. 12

40. Last Poems

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1952

Forty-eight poems, mostly sonnets;; composed between 1937 and 1944. A facsimile of each poem is given on the facing page. A few of these poems first appeared in The Advent, an Ashram quarterly.

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

41. Letters of Sri Aurobindo (First Series)

Sri Aurobindo Circle, Bombay, 1947

Extracts from letters to disciples. These letters as well as those of the other three series listed below were written mostly in the 1930's. The dates of most letters are given. Subsequently incorporated in On Yoga II (See 63).

SABCL: Letters on Yoga, Vols. 22, 23, 24

42. Letters of Sri Aurobindo (Second Series)

Sri Aurobindo Circle, Bombay, 1949

Subsequently incorporated in On Yoga II ( See 63).

SABCL: Letters on Yoga, Vols. 22, 23, 24

43. Letters of Sri Aurobindo (Third Series, On Poetry and Literature) Sri Aurobindo Circle, Bombay, 1949

SABCL: The Future Poetry, Vol. 9

44. Letters of Sri Aurobindo (Fourth Series)

Sri Aurobindo Circle, Bombay, 1951

Subsequently incorporated in On Yoga II (See 63).

SABCL: Letters on Yoga, Vols. 22, 23, 24

45. Letters of Sri Aurobindo on the Mother

Sri Aurobindo Circle, Bombay, 1951

Extracts from letters written mostly during the 1930's. The dates of most of the letters are given. Published in 1953 with additional matter and in a slightly different form as Part III of Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on The Mother (See 84).

SABCL: The Mother, Vol. 25

46. Letters on "Savitri"

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1951

Letters to a disciple. Reprinted from Mother India.

Included in the 1954 Edition of Savitri (See 76).

SABCL: Savitri, Vol. 29

47. The Life Divine

Book One: Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1939

Book Two (in two parts): 1940

Second Edition, Revised: Book One, 1943; Book Two, 1944

Complete in one volume:

Sri Aurobindo Library, New York, 1949

Sri Aurobindo International ('University Centre, Pondicherry, 1955

India Library Society, New York, 1965

First published serially in the Arya from August 1914 to January 1919. The fifty-three chapters from the Arya, "thoroughly revised and enlarged" by the author, were subsequently issued in book form: Book One in 1939 and Book Two, in two parts, in 1940. In some later editions, Book One and Book Two were called Volume I and Volume II. Book One consists of twenty-eight chapters, twenty-seven in the order in which they appeared in the Arya and an additional new chapter,"Supermind, Mind and the Overmind Maya".

Book Two includes most of the remaining chapters from the Arya, completely recast and extensively enlarged: the titles of some chapters were changed, the order of many chapters rearranged, and many new chapters were added. The Second Edition underwent further revision of a comparatively minor nature.

SABCL: The Life Divine, Vols. 18, 19

48. Life — Literature — Yoga

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1952

Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 1967

Letters written during the 1930's and 1940's. Reprinted from Mother India. In SABCL most letters on poetry, literature, etc. are included in Section VI of Volume 26.

SABCL: On Himself, Vol. 26

49 Lights on Yoga

Sri Aurobindo Library, Howrah, 1935

Extracts from letters to disciples. The later printings included an appendix containing explanations by the author of some passages in the book.

SABCL: Letters on Yoga, Vols. 22, 23, 24

50. Light to Superlight

Prabartak Publishers, Calcutta, 1972

Twenty-six letters from Sri Aurobindo, one to Anandarao and the rest to Motilal Roy, and, as an appendix, Sapta-Chatushtaya (incomplete).

In SABCL Volume 27, the letters, with editorial revisions, appear in the supplement to Volume 26 and SaptaChatushtaya (complete) in the supplement to Volume 17.

SABCL: Supplement, Vol. 27

51. Love and Death

The Shama'a Publishing House, Aghora Mandir, Madras, 1921

A narrative poem written at Baroda, in June and July 1899..

Reprinted from the review Shama 'a,: January 1921.

Later included in Collected Poems and Plays (See l3).

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

52. Man — Slave or Free?

First Edition [for private circulation]:

Prabartak Publishing House, Chandernagore, 1922

First [Trade] Edition:

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1966

The 1922 Edition contained five essays from the

Karmayogin: "Man—Slave or Free?" (June 26, 1909), "Yoga and Human Evolution" (July 3, 1909), "Yoga and Hypnotism" (July 17, 1909), "Fate and Free-Will" (January 29, 1910) and "The Principle of Evil" (February 26, 1910).

The 1966 Edition contained, in addition, "The Need in Nationalism" (published as "Ourselves" in the Karmayogin, June 1909, "The Power that Uplifts" (Karmayogin, August 21, 1909), and three "Historical Impressions" which had been written for the Karmayogin but were first published in the Standard Bearer: "Napoleon" (November 20, 1920) and "The French Revolution" (November 28 and December 5, 1920).

In SABCL the first five of the above essays are included in Section Seven of Volume 3; "The Need in Nationalism"

appears under its original title "Ourselves" on page 11 and "The Power that Uplifts" on page 162 of Volume 2, "Historical Impressions" comes under Section X of Volume 17.

SABCL: Karmayogin, Vol. 2

The Harmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

The Hour of God, Vol. 17

53. The Mind of Light

E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1953

American Edition of The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth (See 86), published under this new title.

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

54. More Lights on Yoga

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Poitdichierry, 1–948

Extracts from letters.

In SABCL incorporated into Volumes 22, 23, 24.

SABCL: Letters on Yoga, Vols. 22, 23, 24

55. More Poems

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1957

Poems from manuscripts, in three sections with an appendix. Section I: early poems including three sonnets from Sri Aurobindo's Baroda period; Section II: seventeen poems, eight being fragmentary or incomplete, from Sri Aurobindo's later writings, and one translation; Section III: seventeen sonnets; Appendix: metrical experiments, some dated 1934 to 1938.

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

Translations, Vol. 8

56. The Mother

Arya Sahitya Bhawan, Calcutta, 1928

Parts of this book were written originally as letters to disciples.

SABCL: The Mother, Vol. 25

57. The National Value of Art

Prabartak Publishing House, Chandemagore, 1922

First appeared in the Karmayogin, November 20 to December 25, 1909,

SABCL: The Hour of God, Vol. 17

58. The Need in Nationalism and Other Essays

S. Ganesan, Triplicane, Madras, 1923

Five essays from the Karmayogin: "The Need in Nationalism" (published in the Karmayogin as "Ourselves"), "The Power that Uplifts", "The Principle of Evil", "Man—Slave or Free?" and "Fate and FreeWill".

Of these, the last three had appeared in the 1922 Edition of , Man — Slave.: or Free? ; the remaining two were included in the 1966 Edition of that book (See 52). In SABCL "The Need in Nationalism" appears under its original title "Ourselves" in Volume 2. The other essays are included in Volume 3.

SABCL: Karmayogin, Vol. 2

The Harmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

59. On Nationalism (First Series)

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1965

Thirty-four editorial articles from the Bande Mataram, July 1907 to May 1908.

In SABCL only twenty-eight of these have been included in Volume 1; the rest are of doubtful authorship.

SABCL: Bande Mataram, Vol. 1

60. On Quantitative Metre

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1942

Reprinted from Collected Poems and Plays (See 13).

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

61. On the Veda

Sri Aurobindo International University Centre, Pondicherry, 1956

Writings from the Arya: "The Secret of the Veda" (August 1914 to July 1916), "Selected Hymns" (August 1914 to July 1915), "Hymns of the Atris" (August 1915 to December 1917), "Other Hymns" (published intermittently between August 1915 and January 1920).

An incomplete essay from manuscripts, "The Origins of Aryan Speech", is added as an appendix.

In SABCL On the Veda is published under the title The Secret of the Veda, Volume 10, with the following additions and alterations: in Part Three, translations of a number of hymns to Indra, found among Sri. Aurobindo's manuscripts and later published in The Advent, have been included. A letter, "Interpretation of the Veda" has been appended. The hymns to Agni from "Other Hymns" and "The Doctrine of the Mystics" from "The Hymns of the Atris" have been shifted to Volume 11.

SABCL: The Secret of the Veda, Vol. 10

Hymns to the Mystic Fire, Vol. 11

62. On Yoga I: The Synthesis of Yoga

Sri Aurobindo International University Centre, Pondicherry, 1955 (See 88).

SABCL: The Synthesis of Yoga, Vols. 20, 21

63. On Yoga II (in two tomes)

Sri Aurobindo International University Centre, Pondicherry, 1958

Letters on Yoga brought together under one title. Tome One was reprinted in an enlarged edition in August 1969,with the subtitle Letters on Yoga.

The SABCL Edition of these letters is considerably enlarged and covers three volumes: 22, 23 and 24 (See 41, 42, 44).

SABCL: Letters on Yoga, Vols. 22,'23, 24

64. An Open Letter to His Countrymen

Manmohan Ghose, Calcutta, 1909

First appeared as "An Open Letter to My Countrymen" in the Karmayogin, July 31, 1909. Subsequently included in Speeches (See 82).

SABCL: Karmayogin, Vol. 2

65. Perseus the Deliverer

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1955

A drama. Written in Calcutta or Deoghar between 1906 and 1907. First appeared in the weekly Bande Mataram, June 30, to October 13, 1907.

Reproduced with the author's revisions and some additional passages in Collected Poems and Plays (See 13).

In the 1955 edition two more scenes have been included which were not available for the earlier printings.

SABCL: Collected Plays, Vol. 6

66. The Phantom Hour

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1951

One of the short stories written under the general title "Idylls of the Occult", during the early years of Sri Aurobindo's stay at Pondicherry, probably between 1910 and 1912.

SABCL: Collected Plays, Vol. 7

67. Poems

Government Central Press, Hyderabad, 1941

Contents: "Transformation", "Nirvana", "The Other Earths" (these three first appeared in the Calcutta Review of October 1934), "Thought the Paraclete", "Moon of Two Hemispheres" and "Rose of God". Included in Collected Poems and Plays (See 13) as "Transformation and Other Poems".

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

68. Poems from Bengali

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1956

Translations from Nidhu Babu, Horn Thakur, Jnanadas and Chandidas, done in the early years of the author's stay at Baroda.

The first of the translations from Chandidas first appeared in Ahana and Other Poems (See 3), the second and third in Songs to Myrtilla (See 81). All were included in Collected Poems and Plays (See 13).

SABCL: Translations, Vol. 8

69. Poems—Past and Present

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1946

Contents: "Musa Spiritus", "Bride of the Fire", "The Blue Bird", "A God's Labour", "Hell and Heaven", "Kamadeva", "Life", "One Day—The Little More".The first four and the last of these poems were written in the late 1930's.

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

70. Prayers and Meditations of the Mother

Sri Aurobindo Library, Madras, 1941

Selections from the Mother's Prieres et Meditations, translated by Sri Aurobindo.

SABCL: The Mother, Vol. 25

71. The Problem of Rebirth

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1952

Essays from the Arya, reprinted with minor revisions by the author. Section I: "Rebirth" (November 1915),"The

eincarnating Soul" (December 1915), "Rebirth, Evolution, Heredity" (March 1919), "Rebirth and Soul Evolution" (April 1919), "The Significance of Rebirth" (May 1919), "The Ascending Unity" (June 1919), "Involution and Evolution" (July 1919), "Karma" (August 1919), "Karma and Freedom" (September 1919), "Karma, Will and Consequence" (October 1919), "Rebirth and Karma" (November 1919), "Karma and Justice" (December 1919). Section II: "The Foundation" (August 1920), "The Terrestrial Law" (September 1920), Mind Nature and the Law of Karma" (October and November-December 1920). Section III: "The Higher Lines of Karma"(November-December 1920), "The Lines of Truth" (January 1921).

The Second Printing contained, as an appendix, a letter by the author in reply to a question about this series of articles.

In SABCL "The Ascending Unity" and "Involution and Evolution" are given in Section III, the rest in Section II of Volume 16.

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

72. The Renaissance in India

Prabartak Publishing House, Chandemagore, 1920

Four essays from the Arya, August to November 1918.

SABCL: The Foundations of Indian Culture, Vol. 14

73. The Riddle of This World

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1933

Extracts from letters.

In SABCL, incorporated into Volumes 22, 23,-and 24.

SABCL: Letters on Yoga, Vols. 22, 23, 24

74. Rishi Bunkim Chandra

Prabartak Publishing House, Chandernagore, 1923

Translations in prose and verse of "Bande Mataram" from the Karmayogin, November 20, 1909; an essay, "Rishi Bunkim Chandra", from the Bande Mataram, April 16, 1907; a poem, "Bunkim Chandra Chatterjee", from Songs to Myrtilla (See 81). The translations and the essay were subsequently included in Bankim—Tilak — Dayananda (See 7).

In SABCL the translations appear in Section It of Volume 8, the essay in Section IX of Volume 17 and the poem in Section I of Volume 5.

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

Translations, Vol. 8

The Hour of God, Vol. 17

75. Rodogune

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1958

A tragedy. From Sri Aurobindo's Baroda period.

SABCL: Collected Plays, Vol. 6

76. Savitri — A Legend and a Symbol

Part I, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1950

Parts II and III (in one volume), 1951

Complete in one volume, 1954

An epic poem. Sri Aurobindo worked on a poem entitled "Savitri" while at Baroda. The epic as it now stands took shape over the several decades of the author's stay in Pondicherry. The cantos of Part One (Books One to Three) were issued separately in fascicule and as instalments in various Ashram journals between 1946 and 1948. In 1950 "The Book of Fate" was issued in fascicule. The 1954 Edition includes the author's Letters on "Savitri" (See 46).

SABCL: Savitri, Vols. 28, 29

77. The Significance of Indian Art

Sri Aurobindo Circle, Bombay, 1947

Reproduction of Chapters XII to XV of the series entitled "A Defence of Indian Culture" (See 23) first appeared in the Arya, January to April 1920.

In SABCL these chapters appear in Section III of Volume 14, under the title "Indian Art".

SABCL: The Foundations of Indian Culture, Vol. 14

78. Six Poems of Sri Aurobindo

Rameshwar & Co., Chandernagore, 1934

Contents: "The Bird of Fire", "Trance", "Shiva", "The Life Heavens", "Jivanmukta", "In Horis Aetemum", with notes from the author's correspondence and parallel translations in Bengali by different disciples of Sri Aurobindo.

Included in Collected Poems and Plays (See 13).

In SABCL the poems and the notes are included in Section VI of Volume 5.

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

79. Songs of the Sea

Ganesh & Co., Madras, 1923

A translation ofC. R. Das's Bengali poems, Sugar Sangit, done by Sri Aurobindo at Pondicherry around 1912. Included in Collected Poems and Plays (See 13).

SABCL: Translations, Vol. 8

80. Songs of Vidyapati

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1956

Translations from the Maithili poet, written in Baroda.

SABCL: Translations, Vol. 8

81. Songs to Myrtilla

First Edition [for private circulation only]:

Lakshmi Vilas Printing Press, Baroda, 1895

Authorised [Trade] Edition: ,

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1923

The 1923 edition contains twenty-one poems, all except five written between 1890 and 1892 while Sri Aurobindo was a student at Cambridge: "Songs to Myrtilla", ''0 Coil, Coil", "Goethe", "The Lost Deliverer", "Charles Stewart Pamell", "Hie Jacet", "Lines on Ireland", "On a Satyr and Sleeping Love" (translation), "A Rose of Women"

(translation), "Saraswati with the Lotus", "Night by the Sea", "The Lover's Complaint", "Love in Sorrow","The Island Grave", "Estelle", "Radha's Complaint in Absence" (translation), "Radha's Appeal" (translation),"Bunkim Chandra Chatterji", "Madhusudan Dutt", "To the Cuckoo", "Envoi".

Included in Collected Poems and Plays (See 13).

In SABCL the four translations noted above are included in Volume 8: the first two appear without title as numbers

I and II of the "Selected Poems of Chandidas" on pages 302 to 304; the last two, translations from Plato and Meleager respectively, appear on page 411.

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

Translations, Vol. 8

82. Speeches

Prabartak Publishing House, Calcutta, 1922

Contents of the First Edition:

Parti: "Advice to National College Students" (See 92) from Dawn, September 1907, "The Present Situation" (See 92), "Bande Mataram", "United Congress", "Baruipur Speech", "Palli Samiti"; the first, third and fifth of these had been published in the Bande Mataram during 1908.

Part II: "Uttarpara Speech", first published in the Karmayogin, June 19 and 26, 1909, issued separately in brochure form since 1919 (See 94); "Beadon Square Speech", "Jhalakati-Speech", "The Right of Association", "College Square Speech", "Kumartuli Speech", all published in the Karmayogin in 1909.

Appendix: "An Open Letter to My Countrymen" (See 64). The 1969 Edition included as an appendix a second open letter "To My Countrymen" from the Karmayogin, December 25, 1909.

In SABCL all of these, and some additional speeches, are arranged chronologically in Volumes 1 and 2. The two open letters are included in Volume 2.

SABCL: Bande Mataram, Vol. 1

Karmayogin, Vol. 2

83. The Spirit and Form of Indian Polity

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1942

Reprint, with minor revisions by the author, of Chapters XX to XXIII of "A Defence of Indian Culture", from the Arya, October 1920 to January 1921.

In SABCL these chapters are included in Section III of Volume 14, under the title "Indian Polity".

SABCL: The Foundations of Indian Culture, Vol. 14

84. Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on the Mother

Sri Aurobindo International University Centre, Pondicherry, 1953

Compiled from notes and letters, mostly published in this book for the first time. Contents in three parts:

Part I: Sri Aurobindo on Himself. Part II: Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on the Mother. Part III: Sri Aurobindo on the Mother. Most letters of Part III were first published separately in 1951 under the title Letters of Sri Aurobindo on the Mother, (See 45); in addition some early lettersof Sri Aurobindo, most of them to the Mother, are included in Part III.

In SABCL, Parts I and II,. revised and considerably enlarged, comprise Volume 26; Part III has been enlarged and rearranged to form Part Two of Volume 25


SABCL: The Mother, Vol. 25

On Himself, Vol. 26

85. The Superman

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1920

Three essays from the Arya: "The Superman" (April 1915), "All-Will and Free-Will" (March 1915) and "The Delight of Works" (August 1915). "The Superman" had earlier appeared in the Arya under the title "The Type of the Superman".

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

86. The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1952

The last of Sri Aurobindo's prose writings, reproduced from the quarterly Bulletin of Physical Education (presently called the Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education), February 1949 to November 1950.

Reprinted in New York in 1953 as The Mind of Light (See 53).

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

87. Swami Dayanand Saraswati

N. K. Kapadia, Bombay, 1939

Reprint of Dayananda: The Man and His Work (See 16), comprised of two articles which were subsequently included in Bankim — Tilak — Dayananda (See 7).

SABCL: The Hour of God, Vol. 17

88. The Synthesis of Yoga

Part I — The Yoga of Divine Works:

Sri Aurobindo Library, Madras, 1948

Sri Aurobindo Library, New York, 1950

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1953

Complete in one volume as On Yoga I — The Synthesis of Yoga: Sri Aurobindo International University Centre, Pondicherry, 1955

The Synthesis of Yoga first appeared in the Arya serially, in seventy-two chapters together with five introductory chapters, from August 1914 to January 1921. The first eleven chapters were revised and enlarged and published as twelve chapters in book form in 1948 as The Synthesis of Yoga (Part I: The Yoga of Divine Works). Chapters — VI to XII in their revised form first appeared serially in the quarterly Advent from August 1946 to April 1948. In 1950 The Yoga of Divine Works was published in an American edition with a glossary and an index.

In 1955, under the imprint of the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre Collection, the complete Synthesis of Yoga was published as On Yoga 1: The Synthesis of Yoga. This edition contained the introduction, the twelve revised chapters of Part I and an unfinished thirteenth chapter found among Sri Aurobindo's manuscripts. Of the remaining three parts, Part II had undergone some revision before publication in book form, but , Part III and Part IV were printed largely as they appeared in the Arya.

The SABCL edition is a reproduction, in two volumes, of the University Edition, On Yoga I: The Synthesis of Yoga.

SABCL: The Synthesis of Yoga, Vols. 20, 21

89. A System of National Education

Tagore & Co., Madras, 1921

An incomplete series of articles from the Karmayogin, February 12 to April 2, 1910. The first edition was unauthorised. In 1924 an authorised edition was issued with a note by the author.

SABCL: The Hour of God, Vol. 17

90. Thoughts and Aphorisms

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1958

From unrevised manuscripts. A portion of the original work was revised and published as Thoughts and Glimpses (See 91).

SABCL: The Hour of God, Vol. 17

91. Thoughts and Glimpses

Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1920

First published in the Arya as "Aphorisms" and "Thoughts and Glimpses", between March 1915 and August 1917.

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

92. Two Lectures of Sriyut Aravinda Ghosh

G. P. Mundeshwar, Bombay, 1908

Includes "Advice to National College Students" from the Dawn, September 1907, and "The Present Situation" from the weekly Bande Mataram, February 23, 1908. Both were subsequently included in Speeches (See 82).

SABCL: Bande Mataram, Vol. 1

93. Urvasie: A Poem

First Edition [for private circulation]:

Lakshmi Vilas Press Co., Ltd., Baroda, no date (c. 1896)

Included, with some revisions, in Collected Poems and Plays (See 13).

SABCL: Collected Poems, Vol. 5

94. Uttarpara Speech

Prabartak Publishing House, Chandemagore, 1919

Speech delivered at Uttarpara on May 30, 1909. Published in the Karmayogin, June 19 and 26, 1909. Included in Speeches (See 82).

SABCL: Karmayogin, Vol. 2

95. Vasavadutta

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1957

A dramatic romance. Written between October 18 and 30, 1915; revised in April 1916.

SABCL: Collected Plays, Vol. 6

96. Views and Reviews

Sri Aurobindo Library, Madras, 1941

Reprinted from the Arya. Part One ("The Question of the Month"): "The Needed Synthesis" (August 1914), "The Significance of 'Arya'" (September 1914), "On Meditation" (October 1914), "On Universal Consciousness" (January 1915). Part Two (Reviews): "Hymns to the Goddess" (May 1915), "South Indian Bronzes" (October 1915)-, "God the Invisible King" (July 1917), "Rupam" (April 1920), "About Astrology" (November 1917).

In SABCL all the articles of Part One are included in Section VII of Volume 16, except "The Significance of 'Arya'" which appears in Section XI of Volume 17.

The reviews which make up Part Two are included in Section VIII of Volume 17.

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

The Hour of God, Vol. 17

97. Vikramorvasie (The Hero and the Nymph)

R. Chatterjee, Calcutta, 1911

A translation done by Sri Aurobindo at Baroda, of Kalidasa's Sanskrit drama. The 1952 edition included "On Translating Kalidasa" and "The Character of the

Hero" (Pururavas) as Introduction and Appendix (See 36).

SABCL: Collected Plays, Vol. 7

98. The Viziers of Bassora

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1959

A dramatic romance written by Sri Aurobindo at Baroda and seized along with other manuscripts by the British police in May 1908 when he was arrested in the Alipore Bomb Case. The manuscripts were not recovered until 1951. The history of their loss and recovery is detailed in an appendix to the 1959 edition.

SABCL: Collected Plays, Vol. 7

99. Vyasa and Valmiki

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1956

Essays, notes and translations from the author's Baroda period. Vyasa: "Notes on the Mahabharata", "The Problem of the Mahabharata" and translations (done in 1893) from the Sabha Parva and Udyoga Parva of the Mahabharata. Valmiki: "The Genius of Valmiki" and translations from the Bala Kanda, Ayodhya Kanda and Aranya Kanda of the Ramayana.

SABCL: The Harmony of Virtue, Vol. 3

Translations, Vol. 8

100. War and Self-Determination

S.R.Murthy & Co., Madras, 3920

Third Edition, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1957

The First Edition contained three essays from the Arya: "The Passing of War" (April 1916), "The Unseen Power"(December 1918), "Self-Determination "(September 1918); and a fourth, "A League of Nations", written especially for the volume, with a foreword. In the Third Edition another Arya essay, "After the War" (August 1920), which had been issued in pamphlet form in 1949 (See 1), was included.

In 1962 War and Self-Determination was published along with The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity

(See 28); in this edition yet another unpublished Arya article, "1919" (July 1919), was included.

SABCL: Social and Political Thought, Vol. 15

101. The Yoga and its Objects

Sadhana Press, Chandernagore, 1921

Sri Aurobindo worked on an early version of this work sometime before 1913.

The 1968 edition included a note by Sri Aurobindo and an appendix containing explanations given by Sri Aurobindo apropos of some passages in the book.

SABCL: The Supramental Manifestation, Vol. 16

III. Contents of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library

Volume 1

Bande Mataram, EARLY POLITICAL WRITINGS — I (1893–1908): New Lamps for Old; Bhawani Mandir; The Doctrine of Passive Resistance; editorials and comments from the Bande Mataram; Speeches.

Volume 2

Karmayogin, EARLY POLITICAL WRITINGS — II (1909–1910): Uttarpara Speech; The Ideal of the Karmayogin; An Open Letter to My Countrymen; other essays, notes and comments from the Karmayogin; Speeches.

Volume 3

The Harmony of Virtue, EARLY CULTURAL WRITINGS: The Harmony of Virtue; Bankim Chandra Chatter jee; The Sources of Poetry and Other Essays; Valmiki and Vyasa; Kalidasa; The Brainof India; Essays from the Karmayogin; Art and Literature; Passing Thoughts; Conversations of the Dead.

Volume 4

Writings in Bengali: Hymn to Durga; Poems; Stories; The Veda; The Upanishads; The Puranas; The Gita; Dharma; Nationalism; Editorials from Dharma; Stories' of Jail Life; Letters.

Volume 5


Short Poems; Sonnets; Longer Poems; On Quantitative Metre; Ilion; Poems in New Metres; Metrical Experiments

Volume 6

Collected Plays AND SHORT STORIES, Part One:

Perseus the Deliverer; Vasavadutta; Rodogune; Eric.

Volume 7

Collected Plays AND SHORT STORIES, Part Two:

The Viziers of Bassora; Prince of Edur; The Maid in the Mill; The House of Brut; The Prince of Mathura; The Birth of Sin; Vikramorvasie (The Hero and the Nymph): Short Stories: Idylls of the Occult: The Phantom Hour; The Door at Abelard; The Devil's Mastiff; The Golden Bird. Juvenilia.

Volume 8

Translations, FROM SANSKRIT AND OTHER LANGUAGES: From Sanskrit: passages from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita, Kalidasa; The Century of Life (the Nitishataka of Bhartrihari); etc. From Bengali: Songs of Bidyapati; Bande Mataram (Hymn to the Mother); thirteen chapters from Anandamath (Bankim Chandra Chatterji's novel); etc. From Tamil: 'opening of The Kural, etc. From Greek and Latin: opening of the Odyssey, etc.

Volume 9


Volume 10

The Secret of the Veda: The Secret of the Veda; Selected Hymns; Hymns of the Atris; Other Hymns; Interpretation of the Veda; The Origins of Aryan Speech.

Volume 11

Hymns to the Mystic Fire: Foreword; The Doctrine of the Mystics; Translations (Hymns to Agni from the Rig-veda translated in their esoteric sense); Supplement.

Volume 12

The Upanishads, TEXTS, TRANSLATIONS AND COMMENTARIES: Philosophy of the Upanishads; On Translating the Upanishads; The Upanishads; Early translations of some Vedantic texts; Supplement.

Volume 13

Essays on the Gita: First Series. Second Series, '' Part One: The Synthesis of Works, Love and Knowledge; Part Two: The Supreme Secret.

Volume 14

The Foundations of Indian Culture AND THE RENAISSANCE IN INDIA: Is India Civilised?; A Rationalistic Critic on Indian Culture; A Defence of Indian Culture (Religion and Spirituality, Indian Art, Indian Literature, Indian Polity); Indian Culture and External Influence; The Renaissance in India.

Volume 15

Social and Political Thought: The Human Cycle; The Ideal of Human Unity; War and Self-Determination

Volume 16

The Supramental Manifestation AND OTHER WRITINGS: The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth; The Problem of Rebirth; Evolution; The Superman; Ideals and Progress; Heraclitus; Thoughts nand Glimpses; Question of the Month from the Arya; The Yoga and Its Objects.

Volume 17

The Hour of God AND OTHER WRITINGS: The Hour of God; Evolution — Psychology — The Supermind; On Yoga; Thoughts and Aphorisms; Essays Divine and Human; Education and Art; Premises of Astrology; Reviews; Dayananda —Bankim — Tilak — Andal — Nammalwar; Historical Impressions; Notes from the Arya.

Volume 18

The Life Divine, BOOK ONE AND BOOK Two, PART ONE. Book One: Omnipresent Reality and the Universe; Book Two: The Knowledge and the Ignorance — The Spiritual Evolution; Part I: The Infinite Consciousness and the Ignorance.

Volume 19

The Life Divine, BOOK Two, PART Two: The Knowledge and the Spiritual Evolution.

Volume 20

The Synthesis of Yoga, PARTS ONE AND Two: Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis; Part I: The Yoga of Divine Works; Part II: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge.

Volume 21

The Synthesis of Yoga, PARTS THREE AND FOUR. Part III: The Yoga of Divine Love; Part IV: The Yoga of Self-Perfection.

Volume 22

Letters on Yoga, Part One: The Supramental Evolution; Integral Yoga and Other Paths; Religion, Morality, Idealism and Yoga; Reason, Science and Yoga; Planes and Parts of the Being; The Divine and the Hostile Powers; The Purpose of Avatarhood; Rebirth; Fate and Free-Will, Karma and Heredity, etc.

Volume 23

Letters on Yoga, PARTS Two AND THREE. Part Two: The Object of Integral Yoga; Synthetic Method and the Integral Yoga; Basic Requisites of the Path; The Foundation of Sadhana; Sadhana through Work; Sadhana through Meditation; Sadhana through Love and Devotion; Human Relationships in Yoga; Sadhana in the Ashram and Outside; Part Three: Experiences and Realisations; Visions and Symbols; Experiences of the Inner and the Cosmic Consciousness.

Volume 24

Letters on Yoga, PART FOUR: The Triple Transformation — Psychic, Spiritual, Supramental; Transformation of the Mind; Transformation of the Vital; Transformation of the Physical; Transformation of the Subconscient and the Inconscient; Difficulties of the Path; Opposition of the Hostile Forces.

Volume 25

The Mother: WITH LETTERS ON THE MOTHER AND PRAYERS AND MEDITATIONS (translations from Prieres et Meditations de la Mere).

Volume 26

On Himself, COMPILED FROM NOTES AND LETTERS: Part One: Sri Aurobindo on Himself: Life Before Pondicherry; Beginnings of Yoga; His Path and Other Paths; Sadhana for the Earth-Consciousness; The Master and the Guide; The Poet and the Critic; Reminiscences and Observations; Messages; Some Early Letters; Part Two: Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on the Mother: Leaders of Evolution; Identity of Their consciousness; Difficulties of the Path-Finders; Helpers on the Way.

Volume 27

Supplement: Supplementary material arranged by volume.

Volume 28

Savitri—A LEGEND AND A SYMBOL, PART ONE: The Book of Beginnings; The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds; The Book of the Divine Mother.

Volume 29

Savitri — A LEGEND AND A SYMBOL, PARTS Two AND THREE: Part Two: The Book of Birth and Quest; The Book of Love; The Book of Fate; The Book of Yoga; The Book of Death; Part Three: The Book of Eternal Night; The Book of the Double Twilight; The Book of Everlasting Day; Epilogue: The Return to Earth; Sri Aurobindo's Letters on Savitri.

Volume 30

Index and Glossary: Sri Aurobindo, a Life Sketch; Chronology; Contents of the Centenary Library, Bibliography; List of Essays, Speeches and Shorter Works; Title Index of Poems; Index; Glossary of Sanskrit Terms; etc.


Part One
I. Family
II. Childhood and Education
III. Baroda
IV. In Indian Politics
V. Beginning of Yoga
VI. In Alipore jail and After
VII. Chandernagore
VIII. Departure for Pondicherry
Part Two
IX. Pondicherry: 1910-1926
Part Three
X. Pondicherry : 1927-1950
Part Four
XI. Sri Aurobindo on Himself
I. That Pondicherry - Again !
II. Dilip Kumar Roy's Interview
III. The Address Delivered by Professor Ghose at the College Social Gathering
IV. Data on Birthplace
V. Correspondence Relating to Sri Aurobindo's I.C.S. Examination
VI. Houses in England
VII. Houses in Baroda
VIII. Houses Sri Aurobindo Lived in and Offices He Was Connected with in Calcutta
IX. Biography of Sri Aurobindo by Kulkarni - A Criticism.
X. Biography of Sri Aurobindo by Girija Shankar Roy Chowdhury - A Criticism
XI. Hemchandra Kanungo's Work - A Criticism
XII. Biography of Sri Aurobindo by Jyotish Chandra Ghosh
I. Periodicals with Which Sri Aurobindo Was Associated.
II.Books by Sri Aurobindo
III. Contents of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library