On Tuesday, 3 July 2012 at 7.10 p.m., Professor Arabinda Basu—better known as ‘Arindam’ in the Aurobindonian community—has left his physical body in the Ashram Nursing Home nineteen days before his ninety-fourth birthday. He is survived by a son. His only daughter Meera had predeceased him on 15 January 2012.
Born on 22 July 1918 Arabinda Basu’s contact with Sri Aurobindo Ashram began through Dilip Kumar Roy in 1938 when he was appearing for his Bachelor of Arts examination. He was undergoing a period of inner crisis at that time so he had written to Dilip Kumar Roy asking him whether Sri Aurobindo could help him to dispel the darkness around him. Dilip Kumar Roy asked him to write to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and, if possible, send a small photograph of his along with the letter. Accordingly, Arabinda Basu typed a letter to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and sent it to Pondicherry. Some days later, an envelope arrived. When he touched it, he could feel something happening to him. When he opened the envelope he found there was a letter written by Dilip Kumar Roy to the Mother about him and the Mother had written some comments on the margin and sent a Blessings Packet. This was his first contact with Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and the Ashram at Pondicherry. He continued to correspond with Dilip Kumar Roy and on 9 April 1941 he arrived at Pondicherry. Dilip Kumar Roy introduced him to Dr. Nirodbaran who later became the channel of communication between Sri Aurobindo and him. Finally on 15 August 1941 he had his first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo. From 1941 to 1950 he visited Pondicherry for the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo with the exception of 1942. In 1943 he wrote to Sri Aurobindo requesting him to allow him to become an inmate of the Ashram. Sri Aurobindo wrote with a pencil on the margin of the letter: “I’ve shown your letter to the Mother. We both agree that you should see a little more of life before settling here.” These three words “before settling here” convinced him that some day he would indeed become an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Arabinda Basu used to have certain epistolary exchanges with Sri Aurobindo through Nirodbaran. He was the recipient of the following letter of Sri Aurobindo dated 17 August 1941 sent through Nirodbaran in which Sri Aurobindo had declared:
“The Mother is not a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. She has had the same realisation and experience as myself.
“The Mother’s sadhana started when she was very young. When she was twelve or thirteen, every evening many teachers came to her and taught her various spiritual disciplines. Among them was a dark Asiatic figure. When we first met, she immediately recognised me as the dark Asiatic figure whom she used to see a long time age. That she should come here and work with me for a common goal was, as it were, a divine dispensation.
“The Mother was an adept in the Buddhist yoga and the yoga of the Gita even before she came toIndia. Her yoga was moving towards a grand synthesis. After this, it was natural that she should come here. She has helped and is helping to give a concrete form to my yoga. This would not have been possible without her co-operation.”
After completing his education, Arabinda Basu joined the Benares Hindu University as a professor. In the early 1950s, he joined the Durham University of England as a professor. For the next fifteen years he taught at Durham University. When he returned to India in 1967 and went to meet the Mother, he asked her whether he could now return to India permanently. The Mother expressed her consent. When he asked her when should he return, the Mother replied: “Preferably next year.” Though he had a contract for thirty years with Durham University he requested the authorities to relieve him of his responsibilities. Since his classes had already begun at the University and students were coming in large batches to study under his tutelage, he requested his colleagues to give him their classes so that he may complete his course. He duly completed the course, set the question-papers, appointed the examiner and returned to India. He reached Chennai on 31 December 1967, made an overnight journey and arrived in Pondicherry on 1 January 1968. He became an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and joined Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education as a professor. He served as the Editor of the yearly magazine Gavasena. He was also an eloquent speaker who was invited quite often to speak on the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. In 2011 an anthology of his articles, mostly delivered as lectures, was published under the title of Sri Aurobindo: The Poet, Yogi and Philosopherby the Centre of Sri Aurobindo Studies (Jadavpur University). When the ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ was initiated by Overman Foundation in 2010, Prof. Basu became the first recipient of the said award which was presented to him in August 2010 along with the late K. D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran.
Prof. Arabinda Basu was Knowledge personified. A brief interaction with him enabled the seeker to move from the Darkness of Ignorance to the Light of Wisdom. While his formal talks revealed his profound erudition, the informal chats with him revealed his extraordinary sense of humour. One could never have a dull hour in his company. The memories of the lovely and long evening talks I have had at his residence can never be forgotten. Even when he was past ninety years of age, one could not fail to notice the bright sparkle in his eyes. Age had caused his body to become frail but his brain was as active as ever. He could remember with utmost ease the details of incidents which had occurred several decades ago. And when he spoke about the Mother or his co-inmates of the Ashram, it was a moment to cherish. He had a rich inner life full of profound spiritual experiences but he seldom uttered a word about it.
Old age had compelled Prof. Basu to restrict his movements. In the past few months he had become physically quite weak. His eyesight had dimmed and so had his faculty to hear. Some time in June 2012 he was shifted to the Ashram Nursing Home. He returned to his residence after some days but was soon readmitted to the Ashram Nursing Home from where he was destined never to return. Following a brief spell of illness he passed away in the evening of 3 July 2012.
We are told not to mourn the demise of a practitioner of Integral Yoga. But it would be indeed very difficult for those who knew him and were recipient of his affection not to miss his presence. The emptiness created by his physical withdrawal can never be conquered.
With warm regards,
[From left to right: Shrimati Suprabha Nahar, Shrimati Dolly Mutsuddi, Prof. Arabinda Basu, Shri Anurag Banerjee and Shrimati Ratna Chakrabarti at the ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ ceremony.]
Shrimati Ratna Chakrabarti and Shrimati Suprabha Nahar with Prof. Arabinda Basu at the “Auro-Ratna Award” ceremony.
[From left to right: Shrimati Krishna Chakrabarti, Shrimati Suprabha Nahar, Shrimati Dolly Mutsuddi and Prof. Arabinda Basu at the “Auro-Ratna Award” ceremony.]
Prof. Kittu Reddy presenting the “Auro-Ratna Award” certificate to Prof. Arabinda Basu.