Sri Aurobindo on Ethics: Compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. [Now incorporated in the book Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Vision of Life.]
Sri Aurobindo: His Political Life and Activities: Compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee with a preface by Prof. Kittu Reddy. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 490.
Anurag Banerjee rightly refers to “the ocean of his (Sri Aurobindo’s) writings” when introducing Sri Aurobindo on Ethics. One of the reasons I have found people avoiding Sri Aurobindo’s great works like The Life Divine and Savitri is that they find them too long to be sure of themselves in reading them through! Fortunately, there have been compilers during the last half a century who have given us choice passages with which we feel comfortable. With Sri Aurobindo’s writings, the centre is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. Thus we gain much by reading the excerpts. Quite often we are caught in the net of Sri Aurobindo’s sublime style and proceed to take up whole books for study. Thus a compiler of Anurag Banerjee’s type is most welcome as a help for one’s Aurobindonian shelf.
Sri Aurobindo never called himself a philosopher. Certainly he never thought of himself as a Socrates. Yet Dharma is the base of all his writings. Dharma is a unique word ad ethics is but a part of it. What constitutes morality? What are the ethical imperatives that govern our life? Does dry morality help us make a truly dharmic statement? What place has religion in ethics? Does a fear of God help man keep to the right path? Does the moral order depend upon the nature of the individual man? Has ethics something to do in helping us achieve self-transformation? Sri Aurobindo feels that it does have a part to play, though with limitations.
“The ethical impulse and attitude, so all-important to humanity, is a means by which it struggles out of the lower harmony and universality based upon inconscience and broken up by Life into individual discords towards a higher harmony and universality based upon conscient oneness with all existences. Arriving at that goal, this means will no longer be necessary or even possible, since the qualities and oppositions on which it depends will naturally dissolve and disappear in the final reconciliation.”
Anurag has culled almost all the passages in Sri Aurobindo’s writings that present an explanation of the term. The book gives us a global view of the ethical ideal, since the Mahayogi was also deeply read in western literature on the subject. Like all else in man’s experience the ethical ideal also helps man advance towards the Divine. Truth and Justice are demanded by humanity; but compassion too. Ethics cannot be mechanical.
“An act of justice, truth, love, compassion, purity, sacrifice becomes then the faultless expression, the natural outflowering of our soul of justice, our soul of truth, our soul of love and compassion, our soul of purity or sacrifice. And before the greatness of its imperative mandate to the outer nature the vital being and the practical reason and surface seeking intelligence must and do bow down as before something greater than themselves, something that belongs directly to the divine and the infinite.”
One never tires of reading about the pre-Pondicherry days in Sri Aurobindo’s life. There was the decade of political activism and today the Alipore Bomb Case remains an unparalleled court-fight in which Deshbandhu Chitta Ranjan Das argued on behalf of Sri Aurobindo. The biographers of Sri Aurobindo like A.B. Purani, K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar and Manoj Das have given us important insights into the trial but one is always eager to read how exactly the case had proceeded. It is so with Sri Aurobindo’s closeness to the Bande Mataram Movement itself. A compilation of the literature of those days is most welcome for the common reader, and we have one now in Sri Aurobindo: His Political Life and Activities. It is good to have many of the original documents (with the original spellings too!) in this sumptuous volume.
Sri Aurobindo’s political life may be said to have begun with his return to India in 1893 for he had begun to contribute powerful articles to Indu Prakash even then. But the activist-period may have begun only with the new year. What follows is what watchers of the Aurobindonian skies know. However, there are those small things which one is grateful to have at the arm’s reach. The names of the members of the National Council of Education. Good to know that the list is led by seven Maharajas. There are Nawabs, leading lawyers, educationists and Kavirajs. We have read Sri Aurobindo’s address to the Bengal National College Union. But I did not know he was entertained “to a sumptuous lunch in the Hindu style”!
Plenty of matter about the Barisal Conference including the full text of the address by the President A. Rasul (read out on his behalf as he was unwell). That was our heroic age when the Bengalees refused to recognize the Partition of Bengal and the President gave a clear message, relevant for all time. He wanted his Mohammedan countrymen to join the Hindus and work for the motherland and not fall a prey to the “divide and rule’ tricks of the British, unless they wished to go away from their motherland to Aravia ,Persia or Turkey.
The Bande Mataram days, the Congress Sessions, the Alipore Bomb Trial … each page in this work is inspiring. The precious document of Beachcroft’s judgement, a masterly, almost Sherlock Holmesian analysis. Sri Aurobindo’s speeches after his release, including the famous speech delivered at Uttarpara, official documents where he is discussed, the National Fund, Bepin Chandra Pal’s article on Sri Aurobindo … You keep opening a page and stumbling upon a treasure that immediately opens the floodgates of memory about the heroic age in the twentieth century. Sri Aurobindo: His Political Life and Activities is indeed wonderful gift from a lover of Sri Aurobindo to the lovers of Sri Aurobindo.
Dr. Prema Nandakumar
About the Reviewer: Dr. Prema Nandakumar is a famous independent researcher, translator, critic and authoress who writes in Tamil and English. She was the first to submit the thesis of doctoral degree in Savitri (Sri Aurobindo’e epic poem) in Andhra University. It was published as A Study of Savitri in 1962. Her post-doctoral work has been published as Dante and Sri Aurobindo in 1981. She has authored about twenty-five books in English and Tamil. She is a recipient of several awards which include the ‘Sri Aurobindo Puraskar’ and ‘Panditha Ratna’. She has been a member of the Academic Council, Central Institute of Higha Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, Varanasi (1988-91); Member, Board of Studies in English, Andhra University, Waltair; Manba, National Executive of The Indian P.E.N., Senate member of Bharathidasan University and Visiting Professor, Swami Vivekananda Chair, Mahatma Gandhi University. Her published works include titles like A Study of Savitri, The Glory and the Good, Dante and Sri Aurobindo, Subramania Bharati, Sri Aurobindo: A Critical Introduction and The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram to name a few.
The Mother: The Birth and Growth of a Flame. Author: Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 475.
The briefest and the most comprehensive biography of the Mother is undoubtedly the sixth chapter of Sri Aurobindo’s small booklet, The Mother. He reveals:
‘The One whom we adore as the Mother is the divine Conscious Force that dominates all existence, one and yet so many-sided that to follow her movement is impossible even for the quickest mind and for freest and most vast intelligence. The Mother is the consciousness and force of the Supreme and far above all she creates….
There are three ways of being of the Mother of which you can become aware when you enter into touch of oneness with Conscious Force that upholds us and the universe. Transcendent, the original supreme Shakti, she stands above worlds and links the creation to the ever unmanifest mystery of the Supreme. Universal, the cosmic Mahashakti, she creates all these beings and contains and enters, supports and conducts all these million processes and forces. Individual, she embodies the power of these two vaster ways of her existence, makes them living and near to us and mediates between the human personality and the divine Nature…
All the scenes of the earthplay have been like a drama arranged and planned and staged by her with the cosmic Gods for her assistants and herself as a veiled actor.
The Mother not only governs all from above but she descends into this lesser triple universe. Impersonally, all things here, even the movements of the Ignorance, are herself in veiled power and her creations in diminished substance, her Nature-body and Nature-force, and they exist because, moved by the mysterious fiat of the Supreme to work out something that was there in the possibilities of the Infinite, she has consented to the great sacrifice and has put on like a mask the soul and forms of the Ignorance. But personally too she has stooped to descend here into the Darkness that she may lead it to the Light, into the Falsehood and Error that she may convert it to the Truth, into this Death that she may turn it to godlike Life, into this world-pain and its obstinate sorrow and suffering that she may end it in the transforming ecstasy of her sublime Ananda. In her deep and great love for her children she has consented to put on herself the cloak of this obscurity, condescended to bear the attacks and torturing influences of the powers of the Darkness and the Falsehood, borne to pass through the portals of the birth that is a death, taken upon herself the pangs and sorrows and sufferings of the creation, since it seemed that thus alone could it be lifted to the Light and Joy and Truth and eternal Life. This is the great sacrifice called sometimes the sacrifice of the Purusha, but much more deeply the holocaust of Prakriti, the sacrifice of the Divine Mother.’
In other words, for any biography of the Mother to even remotely come close to even a semblance of truth must contain the following:
1. There should be some touch of oneness between the biographer and his Divine subject. Mere respect, admiration or a human appreciation is not enough.
2. Her movements and actions cannot be fathomed by the analytical mind and even the swiftest of intelligence since it has neither the inner data nor is aware of the inmost springs of action that move the heart and mind of the Avatara. Even when something is revealed in their own words still the mind not in resonance with the truth behind the words cannot really grasp it.
3. It should touch upon not only the scenes of her individual and personal life (if there is any such thing in isolation) but see them in the light of the two vaster ways of existence, — her universal and transcendent Self. It is nearly impossible to connect these three unless one is blessed oneself with the seer-vision of a Vyasa or a Valmiki.
4. It should take into full account the challenges, difficulties, resistances and possibilities of the cosmic play that the Avatara comes to deal with.
That it is impossible to fulfil all these conditions is only a truism and hence the general advice about the futility of such an endeavour.
And yet it cannot be denied that a well-written biography of even a Vibhuti or a great man, let alone an Avatara, has a great inspirational value for generations to come. The actions of an Avatara leave upon Earth the touch of Heavens, sets into motions new forces and new yardsticks of conduct, releases forces and energies into the flux and flow of Time for generations to follow. Herein lies perhaps the justification of such an effort.
But how to bridge the vast gap between the human ignorance the Divine Gnosis, between the animal man aspiring towards divinity and the Divine becoming human to lift us up and out of our animality? The answer lies in faith and devotion, in aspiration, prayer and surrender that can open the doors of our soul and for a moment we are able to glimpse a little bit of the Marvel and the Mystery whom we know and adore as the Mother.
It is here that we must give full credit to a biographer like Anurag Banerjee. His sharp intellect is made subservient to the intuitions of his heart; his scholarly mind is made into a living and surrendered tool in the hands of the Master; his writing and his work turns into a prayer and an obeisance. It is not just a book but homage by a scholar-devotee or a historian-disciple.
This is not to say that the book has been written only from a devotee’s point of view. On the contrary, it is a very well-researched work. If anyone has any doubt that a devotee cannot write a good biography without subordinating his devotional element then here is the proof to the contrary. In fact after reading this book written in a scholarly way one can only affirm that it is only a devotee who can write a truly well-researched book. The reason is very simple and obvious. Firstly, being in love with his subject, the author spares no effort to dig out the smallest details that would add to the glory of his Master. There is plenty of new information for those who have not had the fortune to dwell much on the unique life of the embodied Divine and His Shakti. For example he reveals the significance of the name Sri Aurobindo which is albeit not known to many even in the circle of devotees and admirers. Thus, for instance, he writes:
‘Regarding the significance of the word ‘Sri’ in the name of Sri Aurobindo Ghose, Nolini Kanta Gupta wrote in a letter dated 30 November 1961:
Soeurette, [Little Sister]
Mother has shown me the letter you wrote to her about the problem of “Sri” that is troubling you. She wishes me to communicate to you my view of the matter. Well, I shall be frank and forthright. It is an error to think that Sri is only an honorific prefix to Aurobindo which is the real name. It is not so. Sri does not mean Mr. Or Monsieur or Sir, etc. It is part of the name. Sri Aurobindo forms one indivisible word. This is the final form Sri Aurobindo himself gave to his name. And I may tell you that the mantric effect resides in that form.
Sri is no more difficult to pronounce than many other Indian or Euro-American syllables. And I think it is not always healthy either to come down to the level of the average European or American under the plea that that is the best way to approach and convert the many. I am afraid it is a vain illusion; better rather to oblige the average to make an effort to rise up and grapple with the truth as it is.
Mother has seen this admonition of mine to you and fully approves of it.
Begging to be excused for perhaps a highbrow tone in my letter, I remain
Your very sincere and affectionate grand frére, [big brother]
Nolini Kanta Gupta
He further goes on to tell us also how and when perhaps Mira Alfassa became the Mother:
‘Nolini Kanta Gupta recalls in his reminiscences: ‘In the beginning, Sri Aurobindo would refer to the Mother quite distinctly as Mira. For some time afterwards (this may have extended over a period of years) we could notice that he stopped at the sound M and uttered the full name Mira as if after a slight hesitation. To us it looked rather queer at the time, but later we came to know the reason. Sri Aurobindo’s lips were on the verge of saying “Mother”; but we had yet to get ready, so he ended with Mira instead of saying Mother. No one knows for certain on which particular date at what auspicious moment, the word “Mother” was uttered by the lips of Sri Aurobindo.’1 We shall henceforth address Mira Devi as the Mother.
But it was not Sri Aurobindo who had addressed Mira Devi as the Mother for the first time. It was Madame Marie Potel (1874-1962) who had met her in 1911 and 1912 and became the first person to address her as ‘Mother’ for she considered her to be the spiritual guide of her life. She paid a visit to Pondicherry in March 1926 and spent two years in the company of the Mother. Apart from receiving the new name of ‘Ila’ from Sri Aurobindo before her departure in March 1928, she also had the good fortune (because in those days he hardly encouraged correspondence) of receiving three letters from Sri Aurobindo one of which formed the idea of the sixth chapter of the booklet, The Mother. Though Sri Aurobindo had begun to address Mira Devi as the Mother, the followers would begin to do so only towards the end of 1926. We shall discuss it in detail in the following chapter.
A question might arise: when Sri Aurobindo had declared that he and the Mother were the same Power in two forms, what was the cause of addressing Mira Devi as the Mother? In India, one’s parents and guru occupy the most respectful positions in one’s life. By addressing Mira Devi as the Mother, Sri Aurobindo not only gave her the highest position in the household but also tried to inform the inmates about her true self. It would only be in 1928 that Sri Aurobindo would pen his booklet The Mother in which he openly described the features and powers of the Mother.
The Mother, on her part too, changed the outlook and attitude of the inmates towards Sri Aurobindo. His young companions looked upon him, not as a spiritual guide, but as a close friend and an elder brother for whom they had left behind everything only to be with him. They freely drank wine and smoked in Sri Aurobindo’s presence. Nolini Kanta writes that though Sri Aurobindo occupied the position of a Guru in the minds and hearts of the inmates but outwardly the behaviour was such that it seemed as if he were just like one of them. Moreover, Sri Aurobindo himself was also reluctant to be addressed as a Guru. Therefore the Mother, through her manners and speech, showed the inmates what the true relationship of a Guru and his disciple was and should be. ‘She showed us,’ Nolini Kanta reminisces, ‘by not taking her seat in front of or on the same level as Sri Aurobindo, but by sitting on the ground, what it meant to be respectful to one’s Master, what was real courtesy.’ At the same time, he adds what Sri Aurobindo had once told them ‘perhaps with a tinge of regret’: “I have tried to stoop as low as I can, and yet you do not reach me.”
Secondly, when presenting outer facts that may not be well understood he takes the pains to provide the missing links to the readers to enrich their understanding. Thus, for example when he talks about the attacks of illnesses that the Mother had to bear, he goes on to explain beautifully taking help of his understanding of Yoga as to the real reasons of her illness. Thirdly, he allows Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to speak for themselves most of the time. This gives a unique flavour to the book making it appear as if the story was being largely narrated in first person by the subject of the biography and the role of the author is largely that of a sutradhara who connects the narrative. Fourthly, given the wealth of information that has gone about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, he displays a rare sensitivity to shift it in a way that the central narrative and goal is not lost from sight. And what is that goal, if one may hazard a reasonable guess after going through the book in entirety? It is to bring us closer to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo through a subtle process of awakening and inspiring us to the Greatness and Glory that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo represented in a human persona.
How does he do so? As we have said, because the author is in love with his subject. Therefore he has access to a kind of understanding that comes as an act of Grace. It is the understanding that his soul brings into the narrative as a subtle fragrance that makes nourishes not just the intellectual parts in us but also fulfils and satisfies the heart. Besides as mentioned above there is plenty of useful and extensive information here that one does not find in other biographies.
Normally biographies are best written by those who have lived and moved closely with a person and have been in some kind of sympathy with the subject. Mr Anurag Banerjee who probably belongs to the third generation of historians as far as the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are concerned compensates for this inevitable limitation by looking at Them with the mystic light of his soul and is thereby able to bridge the gap in time and space. The Mother once asked Rishabchandji to write a biography of Sri Aurobindo up to His coming to Pondicherry, stating further that none can write anything about Him after that period. Our present biographer seems to have taken note of this since his biography stops with the Mother assuming the charge of the Ashram in 1926. What happened after that period is something that no human mind can ever know and no human tongue can ever describe. The period covered by the biographer is precisely that which marks the progressive manifestation of the Divinity of Mirra and its full blossoming into the Divine Mother through an inner identification with That who She really always was and is. And it is done with such finesse that it becomes a richly rewarding experience to the initiate and the seeker alike.
Dr. Alok Pandey
About the Reviewer: A practising psychiatrist in Sri Aurobindo Ashram Dispensary and an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram (Pondicherry), Dr. Alok Pandey, M.B.B.S., M.D. in Psychiatry from AFMC, Pune, is a former Associate Professor in Psychiatry at the Institute of Space and Aviation Medicine, Bangalore. He is the author of the famous book Death, Dying and Beyond and is also a member of Sri Aurobindo International Institute for Integral Health and Research and an Editor of the journal, NAMAH.
Title: Sri Aurobindo As We Saw Him. Author: Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 325.
Sri Aurobindo As We Saw Him presents a series of interviews with 27 disciples about their experiences with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Their names form an impressive list of notable Ashramites, including Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, Prof. Arabinda Basu, Gauri Pinto, Prof. Kittu Reddy, Aster Patel, Jhumur Bhattacharya, Richard Pearson, Vasanti Rao, and Prithwindra Mukherjee. The other participants, some less well-known, are no less interesting. For each interviewee, author Anurag Banerjee first presents a 1-2 page biographical sketch, which is followed by a series of questions that the participants answered. The interviews run about 9 pages on average. At the end there is an Appendix which gives short biosketches of many other disciples who are mentioned in the text. The book is published by the Overman Foundation in a simple A4 size format with a simple white paper cover adorned with Sri Aurobindo’s photo.
The book is a delight to read, especially for those familiar with the Ashram and the contributors. I felt transported back to the early days of the Ashram and got a feel for the atmosphere it had back then. I enjoyed the book as much for the insights it gives into the lives of the interviewees as for the glimpses it provides of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. While some of the author’s questions were individually targeted or probed deeper into particular responses, many were uniformly asked of each respondent. While some of the latter questions provided an open platform for the interviewee to share their recollections, a few seemed too narrowly-focused and yielded few new insights. In general I found the writing and presentation well done, flowing, with very few errors.
Among the book’s interesting perspectives on Sri Aurobindo, some of the interviewees speak of his gaze, his voice, and his smile which were very special in the lives of the devotees. There are a few intimate glimpses of Sri Aurobindo’s meals and diet that provide the kind of personal material that characterizes the book. Many of the participants describe incidents that occurred related to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, of other famous disciples, and of life in the Ashram during the 1940s. Most interviewees tell of their experiences and feelings when standing or doing pranam before Sri Aurobindo and the Mother at the darshans. They were also asked about the final darshan after Sri Aurobindo left his body and lay in state for four days and could be visited repeatedly. Some describe the light they saw that emanated from his body. Some discussed the final laying to rest of the body into the Samadhi in the Ashram courtyard. Most interviewees were asked about the reason and significance of Sri Aurobindo’s passing, and also about his future return in a new supramental body, but I don’t think any new insights were provided here—most had little to say. There are quite a few interesting reminiscences relating to darshans of the Mother after Sri Aurobindo left his body which are also very moving.
There are interesting or enjoyable delights that “come by the way.” For example, some of the disciples mention dreams or visions relating to Sri Aurobindo or the Mother. To one disciple suffering from fever and severe headache, Mother says “One can get well in the blink of an eye,” and so saying, places her hand on the disciple’s head, who then gets cured instantly. We get many examples of the solicitude of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s love for their disciples. We get some sweet tastes of Sri Aurobindo’s humour, like when a disciple wrote about her desire to have rasogollas (a Bengali sweet), and Sri Aurobindo replied “Swallow your desire.” We get some beautiful images of the Mother: “who would comb her tresses with one hand and distribute flowers as blessings with the other hand,” and sometimes would be “very busy discussing a complex problem of mathematics with Manoj and providing the solutions orally.”
Most of these senior disciples have also given in a few sentences their inspiring views of “the message Sri Aurobindo has brought for humanity.” Among these, perhaps the one which struck me the most was that mentioned by Nirodbaran’s niece, Dolly Mutsuddi: “Whatever Sri Aurobindo has given to this earth, whatever sadhana He has done for us—the Mother has inscribed it on the walls of the Samadhi. Tears do come in the eyes of those who understand the significance of those words inscribed on the Samadhi. Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother came to rescue this world. They have done Their sadhana to divinize this earth.”
For those who are interested in stories of the former Ashram days when Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were here and interacting with the disciples, this book is a treasure trove. Anurag has brought together many beautiful gems in this delightful work which remind us of the true spirit of the Ashram and its life in its earlier years.
Sri Aurobindo: His Political Life and Activities: compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee with a preface by Prof. Kittu Reddy. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 490.
In this 453 page book, Banerjee reveals many interesting details of Sri Aurobindo’s political life through a variety of government documents, press reports, letters and essays, some of which are being published for the first time. It includes some material published in the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo that help provide an overall completeness and perspective, but it also includes less known material that has been published in various books and journals by disciples, and still rarer material from newspapers and documents of the period investigated. It is well-organized and presented.
With few exceptions, this book focuses on the period between 1905 when Sri Aurobindo took up the post of principal at the National College in Calcutta, and 1910 when he withdrew from active political work to focus on his spiritual work in Pondicherry. This was a pivotal period in which the populace of the country was transformed from being passively accepting of British rule to seeking full political independence. Though it did not achieve its aim until 37 years later, the character and methods of the movement were largely established during this period. The book is organized into 14 sections, among them including: “Bengal National College, the Barisal Conference and the Bande Mataram;” “The Surat Congress: December 1907;” “Sri Aurobindo in the Deccan;” “The Alipore Bomb Trial;” “The Poet of Patriotism;” and “Sri Aurobindo and the British Government.”
The book takes the reader back in time to this momentous period. We can read Sri Aurobindo’s speech to the students at the newly formed Bengal National College which he was selected to head, and we find reminiscences of Sri Aurobindo by his fellow lecturers. The Barisal Provincial Conference in April 1906 was convened by some of the Nationalist leaders shortly after the partition of Bengal, at the end it was broken up by the police. We can read the fiery speeches of some of the members. We learn about the government prosecution of the Bande Mataram paper in 1907. We can read Sri Aurobindo’s written statement to the court and the judge’s eight page ruling on the case, summarizing all the evidence and concluding that Sri Aurobindo was not proved to be the editor of the seditious article in question.
We also learn about the Indian National Congress in Surat, in which the National Congress, consisting of Moderates and Nationalists, was finally split along ideological lines, dramatically enacted when a brawl broke out on the speaker’s platform. Days earlier, the Nationalists had just formed their own party and had had their first conference with Sri Aurobindo presiding. There Sri Aurobindo laid out in a speech the programme of the Nationalists, and its position vis á vis the Moderates. From then on the Nationalists became an independent and powerful voice in the nation’s politics, and the Bande Mataram became its primary voice, awakening India to the ideals of political independence. After the Surat conference, Sri Aurobindo traveled in theDeccan giving speeches on the Nationalist ideals and program to hundreds and sometimes to thousands of people. We can read some of these speeches, and accounts of some of those who attended.
In the early morning of 2 May 1908, Sri Aurobindo was arrested in his home in Calcutta for his alleged conspiracy in a bombing in which two ladies were mistakenly killed in an attempt on the life of Mr. Kingsford, a judge who had formerly imprisoned various revolutionaries. This was the beginning of what would become known as the Alipore Bomb Trial, in which Sri Aurobindo would spend a year as an undertrial prisoner, only to be finally acquitted. This section, which takes up a quarter of the book, gives many details of the case and its background from various perspectives.
After his acquittal in the Alipore Bomb Trial, Sri Aurobindo continued the Nationalist movement almost single-handedly giving speeches and publishing two political weekly papers, the Karmayogin and the Dharma, the first in English and the second in Bengali. In the section “The Poet of Patriotism,” we can read a number of these fiery speeches, as well as some important articles published in the Karmayogin. We also get other perspectives of this period from the accounts of others.
In “Sri Aurobindo and the British Government,” we can read documents and letters of British government officials showing the danger that Sri Aurobindo represented to them. Some of these pertain to the case of sedition brought against him for the article which appeared in the Karmayogin on the 25th December 1909, titled “To My Countrymen,” a kind of last will and testament in which he championed the cause of the Nationalist party, severely criticized the government, and announced its intentions to deport him. Before the warrant against him was issued, he had already left for Chandernagore and Pondicherry. Some of these letters show disagreement within the government concerning the merits of the case and the possibility of conviction. Subsequently the publisher of the paper was convicted, and then after an appeal, was acquitted. We can read the verdicts in both cases which review the evidence, as well as other’s views. The case against Sri Aurobindo was subsequently dropped.
There are other interesting topics covered in this informative and well-researched work. Banerjee has done a good job to bring together a collection of new and interesting material which sheds light on Sri Aurobindo’s life during this important period.
The Alipore Bomb Trial Judgment: Compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 190.
This book presents the full verdict in the Alipore Bomb case that was delivered on 6 May 1909 by C. P. Beachcroft. It runs 137 pages in length, but this was no ordinary trial. It was exceedingly complex, and it was the first State trial of such a magnitude in British India involving a conspiracy to wage war against the British Crown. Verdicts were delivered for 36 persons in this document. During the course of the proceedings which started 19 October 1908, 206 witnesses were called, about 4000 documents were filed, and about 5000 exhibits were produced. According to Banerjee in his preface, Barindra Kumar Ghose (Sri Aurobindo’s brother) and Ullaskar Dutt were sentenced to be hanged, ten others were sentenced to prison for 10 years, three of the accused were sentenced to prison for seven years, and one boy of 16 was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for one year due to his age. The other accused, including Sri Aurobindo, were acquitted. Beachcroft’s verdict is interesting in that it weighs all the evidence concerning all the various accused. As such, the reader learns quite a bit about the actual details of the activities of these revolutionaries who were led by Sri Aurobindo’s brother Barindra. I was struck by what appeared to be a reasonable and dispassionate assessment of the evidence. In Sri Aurobindo’s case, the judge ruled that there was only weak and insufficient evidence linking him to the conspiracy, including some brief notes which may have planted by government spies. The judge also notes that Sri Aurobindo’s writings did not advocate violence, sometimes repudiated violent revolution, and typically advocated nonviolent means. He indicated that if Sri Aurobindo were involved in the conspiracy, it would be a contradiction of his own writings on political action. The book presents a document of significant historical interest.
Sri Aurobindo on Ethics: Compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. [Now incorporated in the book Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Vision of Life.]
This book is a fine compilation of Sri Aurobindo’s writings on ethics. The contents are rich and nicely organized into 3 sections and 18 subsections. The first section examines Sri Aurobindo’s philosophical perspectives on ethics. The second section deals with ethics in different societies and cultures. The third section considers ethics in relation to reason, morality, dharma, and the gnostic life. In this book we find a deep and well-balanced explanation of Sri Aurobindo’s views of ethics, its importance and place in human life, and its deeper meaning and transformation in the spiritual life. The issue and place of ethics in the spiritual life are complex issues, particularly as the individual is in transition from a mental control over the life to a higher spiritual and psychic control. It is common to throw away the former before the latter is well-developed or operational, leading to complications. It is also common to hold too tightly to the former, thereby blocking the opening to a more flexible psychic and spiritual impetus to action. This book helps to untangle these complex issues and to guide us towards a smoother transition to the life divine.
Dr. Larry Seidlitz
About the Reviewer: Dr. Larry Seidlitz received his doctoral degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. He was an Assistant Professor and researcher in psychiatry and psychology at The University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, U.S.A. He is currently a faculty member of Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (Pondicherry). He is also the editor of the journal ‘Collaboration’ published by Sri Aurobindo Association of California and author of many articles on Integral Yoga.
Sri Aurobindo on Ethics: Compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. [Now incorporated in the book Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Vision of Life.]
True spirituality envisions that life is meant to be a manifestation of the Divine and that all life has that as its ultimate aim, the manifestation of the Divine in each and every aspect of life. The vision and teachings of Sri Aurobindo show us how to reach and fulfil this high goal, the spiritualisation of all life. This movement of spiritualisation is a gradual process and goes through three stages: the infrarational, the rational and finally the suprarational. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:
“These stages or periods are much more inevitable in the psychological evolution of mankind than the Stone and other Ages marked out by Science in his instrumental culture, for they depend not on outward means or accidents, but on the very nature of his being. But we must not suppose that they are naturally exclusive and absolute in their nature, or complete in their tendency or fulfillment when they come, or rigidly marked off from each other in their action or their time. For they not only arise out of each other, but may be partially developed in each other and they may come to coexist in different parts of the earth at the same time.”
We thus see that all the different parts of man with their seeking and aspiration, aspire towards this denouement; these parts are the intellectual being, the aesthetic being, the ethical being, the religious being and the life force in man. Thus the intellectual man seeks and arrives ultimately at the Divine through knowledge. In the same way the artist, the saint or seeker of Truth in action, the religious aspirant and the dynamic man absorbed in life all seek ultimately for the Divine.
This applies also for the ethical man who seeks for the Truth in action and in his relations with others. The ethical man goes through these three stages but his fulfillment comes only when he has passed beyond the rational into the light of the suprarational.
In this compilation on ethics this aspect is clearly brought out and is visible to the reader when he goes through it carefully. In our human evolution, it is very important to be aware of the different levels from which our ethical being is working; this is indispensable for a conscious evolution of man to his highest potential and possibilities.
In the modern world where humanity and more particularly India is rocked with problems of ethics in the collective life, this compilation has come as a god send, for it throws light on many of the contemporary problems of modern society whether in the field of art, culture, politics, economics, social problems and even the Armed Forces. As a matter of fact, this compilation has reached some important people who are grappling with this problem of ethics in their respective professions and the response has been very heart warming.
I am sure that this compilation will help the whole society to move towards a nobler and better life.
I would also suggest that similar compilations are brought out in the field of aesthetics, knowledge, religion and life. They will be eminently useful for the future development of human society.
Prof. Kittu Reddy
About the Reviewer: Kittu Reddy was born on 2 July 1936 in the district of Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. His father Narayan Reddy was one of the members of the Swaraj Party founded by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and his uncle Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was the sixth President of India. At the age of five he was brought to Sri Aurobindo Ashram by his parents. After graduating from Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in 1957, he joined the very Centre as a teacher in 1958. After teaching the students at the school level for a decade he began to take classes at the Higher Course (college level) of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education from 1968. His areas of specialization are History, Political Science, Social Science and The Foundations of Indian Culture. He was also involved in the administration of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education from 1958 to 1976. In 1987 he came in contact with the Indian Army and has been giving talks and conducting workshops on Motivation, Leadership and the Mission of India for the armed forces at various training centres in India. At the request of General B.C. Joshi (the then Chief of Indian Army), he shifted to New Delhi in 1994 for two years to help the former in his work. He was appointed Advisor to the organization named Army Welfare Education Society which looks after the Army Schools. He was also entrusted with the task of penning capsules for the training institutions of the Indian Army right from the stage of induction to the rank of senior officers with the purpose of introducing spirituality as a factor of motivation. At present he is a Founder-Member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Army Welfare Education Society. He has also worked with General Shankar Roy Chowdhury after the demise of General B.C. Joshi. In 1995 he visited the United States of America and England. In England he addressed the Royal College of Defence Studies. In November 2006 he was invited by the Indian Army to its Headquarters at New Delhi for a discussion on stress management and tackling problems of suicide and fratricide. In 2006 he visited Sweden and gave a few talks at the Indo-Swedish Association and the National Defence College in Stockholm. He has also delivered several lectures at Jadavpur University and Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture on Social Science and World Unity, Education in India and various allied topics. He has also organized workshops for NIIT on stress management. Presently he is working with the Indian Army on Morals and Ethics. He has contributed a number of articles to prestigious French journals on the problems of World Unity and psychological development on spiritual lines. He has authored the following books: Bravest of the Brave, Kargil: The Manifestation of a Deeper Problem, Secularism, Religion and Spirituality, History of India—A New Approach and A Vision of United India—Problems and Solutions.
Sri Aurobindo: His Political Life and Activities: compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee with a preface by Prof. Kittu Reddy. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 490).
Sri Aurobindo: His Political Life and Activities by Anurag Banerjee presents to the reader a well researcher account of Sri Aurobindo’s life as a nationalist, a political revolutionary, an educationist in the truest sense, and an inspirer of the youth and countrymen to awaken to the call of the motherland. The compilation provides an insight into the brilliance and determined effort of the son of India to free his country from the clutches of foreign domination as a true patriot. The many events and happenings in pursuance of the goal of complete freedom for India have been carefully detailed by Anurag Banerjee in this book. The freedom of the nation was of utmost priority to Sri Aurobindo but it was not his only aim. Sri Aurobindo has brought to us the supreme idea of a liberated humanity. He has shown to us through his writings that liberation is a continuous process in itself. We need to work towards attaining liberation from self interest, fear, ego and separativity at the social, religious, cultural, national or international level. This is why he had deep concerns about the educational system in India of which we find a meticulously detailed description in this compilation by Anurag Banerjee. Of notable concern is Sri Aurobindo’s speech to the students of Bengal National College on August 23, 1907. We find that Sri Aurobindo’s advice to the new generation is not limited by any timeframe, context or institutional boundary but is of immemorial significance to all. The character sketches and reminiscences of Sri Aurobindo by some of his contemporaries which have been included as Appendices in the book are particularly interesting and provide insight into the magnanimous and elegant personality of Sri Aurobindo. I would like to quote a few lines from the character sketch of Sri Aurobindo by Bepin Chandra Pal, p. 418 of the book. “He knew that the foundations of national independence and national greatness must be laid in a strong and advanced system of National Education. He had a political ideal, no doubt: but politics meant to him much more than is ordinarily understood by the term. It was not a game of expediency but a school of human character, and, in its turn, reacting upon it, develop and strengthen the manhood and womanhood of the nation. Education could be no more divorced from politics than it could be divorced from religion or morals.” These lines lead us to relook at the prevalent educational system in the country to assess if it is capable enough to bring out individuals strong in character and values to liberate the nation from the grip of corruption in values and practices. Are we not missing out on passing on the wealth of words spelling wisdom, idealism and strength by the great men of India like Sri Aurobindo to the young learners? This dedicated work by Anurag Banerjee which enlightens its readers on the exemplary life and work of Sri Aurobindo, does lead us to think.
“The outward work can never be small if the inward one is great, and the outward work can never be great or good if the inward is small or of little worth.”—Meister Eckhart.
The above quote wonderfully weaves the ideas of Karma and Dharma to give us a right view of what we know as life. The conventional education system has focused merely on the aspect of action through disciplines of specialized learning but more recently, Ethics and Human Values have come to be regarded as indispensable subjects for education in various fields of study including management and engineering. But “What does one stand to gain by being ethical?” is a question that occupies the students’ mind before starting to absorb the first bit of the prescribed lessons on ethics. It is here that I feel, this well designed compendium of Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts on ethics by Anurag Banerjee fulfills its purpose beautifully by answering many questions on why ethics should be an inherent way of life and a guiding principle for action. By a simple glance over the chapters of this book one would feel like taking a break from the accustomed way of looking at development and progress only in the outward sense. On further reading, one comes to regard ethics as essential for one’s inner development and for ably contributing towards building a truly cultured society. Anurag Banerjee, by focusing his endeavors in compiling this book has come to prove as an inspiration to the young generation to explore the arena of an inner self development while pursuing ethics in outward action. Sri Aurobindo’s writings on ethics go a step ahead where much of the study material on ethics stops short. He warns people with ethical motives against the invasion of egoism which can prove to be a deterrent in the pursuit of self development. I would highly recommend this book to all educational institutions desirous of developing their students not only in specialized traits but as a well rounded human being. It will be a value supplement to the prescribed books on ‘Human Values and Professional Ethics’ because human values need to be inculcated and not just to be informed about. To be able to inculcate, the subject matter should be able to touch one to the core by being able to answer all the questions springing from the mind of an inquisitive learner, an instinctive being, the future professional and finally as member of society where ethical conduct is not the usual norm. Needless to say, Sri Aurobindo’s writings being inter-disciplinary do it all by cutting across the boundaries of specialized disciplines of thought and learning. After reading this book, I can well say that through this work, Anurag Banerjee has made a definitive contribution towards an enlightened self-regulation to the society craving for peace, happiness, progress, harmony and sustainability of development.
About the Reviewer: Ms. Deepali Gupta is a Faculty Member at Disha Bharti College of Management and Education, Saharanpur. She teaches courses on ‘Human Values and Professional Ethics’, ‘Business Ethics’ and ‘Information Technology.’ She has been working in the field of education and training for over eighteen years now. She is pursuing a doctoral programme in Sri Aurobindo Studies from SACAR (Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research, Pondicherry). The subject of her research pertains to integrating Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts with contemporary Management Education. Her papers have been published in New Race, a journal of Integral Studies, published by SACAR and in the proceedings of an International Conference. The published works are titled as “Knowledge Societies and Sri Aurobindo’s Vision for the Future”, “The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo describes the ultimate unifying principle of life”, “Individual and Corporate Well-being”, and “Organizations in the New Millennium—Challenges and Opportunities.”
The Alipore Bomb Trial Judgment: Compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 190.
Sri Aurobindo: His Political Life and Activities: Compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee with a preface by Prof. Kittu Reddy. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 490.
An unexamined life is not worth living—Socrates.
When first man’s heart dared death and suffered life, the seed of luminous conscience—the savior Grace—was sown for ever in heart of the struggling humanity at this defining moment. It was rightly so—as it was—primarily instrumental in pushing up the humanity from the primordial struggle of barbarism to the present refining poise of decent instincts. Our unstinted bouquet of appreciation are due to the compiler and editor Anurag Banerjee for offering us the rare treasure about Sri Aurobindo’s views on Ethics. Unearthing the vast trove from the works of Sri Aurobindo’s writings on Ethics was no easy task. But, a judicious and thoughtful selection by the compiler has made this work under review an eminently readable one.
Ethics is the mother of all holistic sciences as it lays the foundation of the culture and character. Only we, the homo sapiens, are given the privilege to be able to distinguish between Right and Wrong. Western views on Ethics are undoubtedly an admirable mix of moral rectitude fortified by rational cover but not adequate and strong enough to bring about much needed qualitative transformation of human Nature. The spiritual ambience is still missing there in the ethical thoughts and mooring of the western thinkers. It needed the Seer Vision of Sri Aurobindo to express and resolve the complex issues of Ethics in the proper perspectives. We see in this wonderful series of compilation the sublime touch and the power of the Master which place Ethics on a deserving high pedestal. Innumerable episodes in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the teachings of the Gita along with the Upanishads bear testimony to the inestimable value of the ethical principles—the art and craft of shaping human Nature to become the fit vehicle for spiritual change.
The dimensions of aphoristic ethical thoughts of Sri Aurobindo are path breaking and alters radically our narrow vision/views and understanding of the ethical principles as we have known and read so far.
Words are inadequate to compliment the compiler and the astute editor Anurag Banerjee for stringing together with meticulous precision the invaluable perceptions of Sri Aurobindo in a format and with judicious division of the contents which make for the readers an easy access.
Our editor—so it seems—is gifted with Seeing Intelligence—which reaches with felicity to the core of wisdom and offers us the privilege to savor the rich treasure.
This admirable and significant effort has fulfilled a long felt lacunae. Thankfully, now, we may not have to cry and aspire at the same time like St. Augustine “ O Lord make me pure, but not yet , not yet…” the acme of the ethical dilemma.
The Alipore Bomb Case—A symbol for the struggle for Freedom
The trial of the Century has at last seen the light of the day. What an achievement on the part of its editor Anurag Banerjee as it required a very high sense of critical perceptive editorial skills invested with an ability to present endless web of historical investigations and conclusions in acceptable format. It is a unique compilation as it unfolds step by step the secret mystique and the mystery of the day to day activities of the freedom fighters and the firebrand revolutionaries.
Anurag Banerjee blessed with incredible patience and research skills/strategies has come up successfully with another gem of work which would prove an invaluable source of research for the posterity. The entire drama and the trial of the case presided over by the Judge is a glowing page of the Indian struggle for Freedom revolving and evolving around the fiery Sun/son of Mother India, Sri Aurobindo. The rays emanating from Him echoed and reechoed from the white radiance of the Himvant to all the corners of Mother India the chant ‘Bande Mataram, Bande Mataram’. The Alipore Bomb Case is a saga of the heroic struggle of the children of Mother India who were prepared to lay their lives at the altar of Freedom cheerfully. The trial was a symbol and it awakened the sleeping masses to a new vision and a call and an invitation to join the freedom struggle .
The editor has accomplished an astonishing task by unraveling the plethora of historical documents and arranging/ordering them in proper structure. The final result is an excellently well structured record of the memorable Trial where the Sage—so to speak—was born and baptized with fire and the Zeal for GOD where inside the jail Sri Aurobindo was granted the universal vision of the all -pervading Divinity.
The Alipore Bomb case is not a story of the trials of a few freedom fighters but stories with in story like a galaxy where million stars twinkle as the reverberations of the trial crossed beyond the boundaries of Bengal and impacted million lives by its Message—Arise, Awake and stop not till the Goal is achieved.
Each page of the book—so painstakingly produced and collated—shines by its authenticity and immense historical significance and relevance. The characters become vibrantly alive by the gripping narrative and the responses of the involved personages keep the readers attention completely focused.
Sri Aurobindo like a luminous star remains aloof and watches the entire drama unfolding. He is a guide, friend and philosopher to all the imprisoned hero-warriors. He is also an advocate fighting for the Divine cause where none other than the great C. R. Das does not hesitate to take His counsel at the critical moments of the Trial.
The Alipore Bomb Case is at once a glowing chronicle and a faithful record just not of a legal wrangling but of the of tale of the supreme sacrifice of the countless martyrs. This work should be read in the light of the earliest dawn of freedom struggle and its crucial historicity in inspiring the ongoing freedom struggle in the first decade of the last century.
The editor Anurag Banerjee deserves our generous appreciations for producing this work of sublime excellence infused with the touch of immaculate research and eye for perfection in all the minutest details.
Sri Aurobindo—His Political Life and Activities
‘He drew energies which transmute an Age’—Savitri
This work of pristine beauty and perfection describing Sri Aurobindo’s political life and activities is filled with incomparable series of hitherto unknown facts and figures which are wondrous by the range of vast sweep and grandeur. The editor has not left anything to chance and by the dint of unsparing efforts has been able to choreograph the astonishing story of Sri Aurobindo’s life and activities in a masterly fashion. Life of a Grand figure is not to be measured by the number of breaths that he takes but by the intensity of breath which takes our breath away. This is precisely what happened in the crucial years, however small span of time, during the period of Sri Aurobindo’s political life during those fateful years. It was breathtaking in its sweep and the revolutionary changes it wrought in the national psyche. Like a mighty passive Brahman, Sri Aurobindo guided the destiny of the Nation and moulded the sleeping multitude into an inspirational and aspirational entity. But He was a Leader with a difference. He did not believe in short measures but kept the Vision of the Vast behind and every stroke coming from Him was a stroke of a Divine Genius and had the maximum impact on the masses in galvanizing them into a new Force.
Prof. Kittu Reddy, in his brilliantly carved preface, has neatly summed up the many splendoured political activities of Sri Aurobindo which were in every sense—so to speak—apolitical. For Him the art of politics was a means to an end which would usher in the spirit of true Nationalism and free Mother India from an alien rule. There are interesting similarities between the efforts of Lord Sri Krishna and Sri Aurobindo when we draw parallel between their political activities. Both engaged themselves in bringing the rule of justice among the national groups based on the principles of Dharma and discharging Kartavya Karma in the highest sense without attachment and personal motives. Sri Aurobindo’s political life and activities were entirely in consonance with the highest ideals as enshrined in the highest gospel of Dharma – the Gita.
The sense and essence of this marvellous compilation is bound to touch the hearts and minds of the countless fortunate readers in a luminous manner and we are sure it will work as a transforming force in their lives.
Anurag Banerjee has once again proved that what a wonderful editor he is and does full justice to the greatness of the theme—for he himself—is for ever in search of Greatness and ready always to share its fragrance with us all. It has whetted our appetite million fold, indeed.
Sujata Nahar: Loving Homage. Compiled and Edited by Nirmal Nahar and Anurag Banerjee with a foreword by Samir Kanta Gupta. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 235.
– ‘It is the Truth alone which triumphs, not the Falsehood’ – Mundak Upanishad
Anurag Banerjee—the editor courageous has done it again. His perseverance has paid off handsomely as the effort is larger in its scope and amplitude than what one could have imagined. This publication provides immediately an ideal platform and an opportunity to take us off deeper in unraveling the mystery shrouded around the life and the sadhana of Sujata and Satprem during their long years of exile from the Ashram and the great departure from this earthly scene to their true home in the bosom of the Divine Mother .
Anurag Banerjee has a knack of springing surprises – but this publication titled simply as Sujata Nahar – Loving Homage surpasses all the previous ones and fulfils our expectations in ample measure and sets right several events in true perspective as we glean through the letters, tributes and the interview with Nirmal Nahar.
This slim and trim booklet with memorable photographs is a collection of garland of letters and tributes poured in from numerous admirers spread all over the world , reviving the fragrant memories of the twin souls – Sujata and Satprem who walked hand in hand to hew the pathways of the supramental world. These wonderful lines from Savitri perfectly express the formidable task which they undertook to carry out:
“As a star uncompanioned moves in heaven
Unastonished by the immensities of space
Measuring infinity by its own light
The great are strongest when they stand alone.”
This book depicts the heroic saga of the twin souls who stood firmly against all odds on the bedrock of their inner convictions and certitudes that the mission and challenge of the supramental transformation would go on until the end as the Divine Mother had wished and ordained them to accomplish. Satprem finally confirmed this to his dear confidant ‘Le travaille est fait’ in glowing written note announcing that the Work Is Done!
The unflinching quest of Sujata and Satprem for the supramental fulfilment can not be written about singly focusing only on one personality. They were inseparable in life and more so Beyond life. Therefore, these loving homages reveal to us much more than what simple tributes would have done. These revelations altogether shed a new light and discoveries of their supramental sadhana and the unspeakable struggles. Satprem the one who loves the TRUTH as the name suggests, was very dear to Douce Mere. She chose Satprem and Sujata as the trusted instruments to record for posterity Her experiences of the different stages of the Supramental transformation down to the very cells of the body. Year after year Satprem and Sujata were the sole recipients of the supernal mysteries of the arduous supramental transformation as SPOKEN to them by the Divine Mother. One has only to read the Agenda to know the flaming intensity with which each experience in minutest detail was conveyed by Douce Mere to Satprem and Sujata. These were the dialogues of the pathways to Supramental infinities and epiphanies—the UTTAMAM RAHASYA—the supreme secret when the time stood still.
The Divine Mother had implanted and ignited the Supramental AGNI in the heart and Mind of Satprem which did not allow him to rest until the WORK was accomplished – and Satprem along with Sujata worked tirelessly to realize and manifest the Supramental Truth NOW and not some time later. Their souls were oceaned by super life aspiring beyond heaven to touch, to clasp and be the image of the Supramental Godhead. Slowly and slowly they dug deeper and deeper into the very heart of the Supramental mystery and, finally, the Son of Earth emerged with resplendent glory and a cry of victory as the worthy inheritor of the Supramental Legacy: Le travaille est fait—The work is done— rapturously exclaiming to Sujata that it was the victory of our Mother – Our Mother – Notre Mere ! One has only to imagine the depth of Satprem’s feeling and the boundless love for the Divine Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Loving Homage is, in a sense, a veiled biography of Sujata and Satprem expertly produced and edited through a collage of letters and reminiscences by distinguished luminaries and friends who loved Sujata and Satprem.
This publication has also introduced a new and fresh genre of work in and through which we get the glimpses of the hitherto unknown facts of the life and the supramental sadhana of the twin souls in exile.
“Homage to Sujata Nahar” has also put to rest once for all the unsavoury controversies surrounding the intentions and motives of Sujata and Satprem and their whereabouts. As a detached observer we see that Sujata and Satprem emerge unscathed in all this as they were carrying out only the will of the Divine Mother.
We read with delight the insightful letters and tributes which are heart warming and intimate in their adoration and bring out the innate gracious sweetness of Sujata-di—a soul of Light and Delight. We also note the amazing versatility of Sujata-di as a luminous writer, an astute compiler and a sharp communicator par excellence at once fearlessly frank .
Satprem wrote ceaselessly as well and his writings are marked with the powerful Upanishadic seer-vision and prophetic touch. His celebrated book Sri Aurobindo or The Adventure of Consciousness has already become a classic.
Editorial is a ‘tour de force’ what Anurag Banerjee set out to do—and has done in meticulous detail through dazzling array of letters and tributes—was to authenticate the vision and mission of Satprem and Sujata-di which he regarded as TRUE. It is almost a biographical note of the twin souls covering the wide spectrum of their supernal lives.
A gracious foreword by Ronju-da [Samir Kanta Gupta] gives a perfect start of the book.
Appreciations are also due to Nirmal Nahar and Suprabha Nahar for their fruitful assistance in making this publication an immensely fruitful and joyful venture—an adventure of consciousness and Joy.
Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath Tagore: Compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation. Price: Rs. 160.
Anurag Banerjee has offered another precious gift to his discerning audience worldwide in the form of a luminous compilation about the radiantly fragrant flowers of Indian Renaissance—Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath Tagore. This is an excellent compilation done by stinging together judiciously the articles written by the leading luminaries and scholars exceeding all our expectations. However, it should be quickly added that no human language and the highest flight of words and phrases will never be able to assess and evaluate even remotely the magnitude and magnificence of the supernal and divine Influence cast by these two majestic personalities.
The book contains all the possible discoveries and informations of the life and times of these two Giants among the giants. Each article has unique insights to offer special revelations to excite and enrich our aesthetic feelings. The grace and grandeur of the creative spiritual , literary and artistic energies of the two pilgrims have not only lighted the Indian sky but has also illuminated the entire Universe.
The birth and growth of these two mighty Souls also coincided with the birth and growth of Indian psyche to a very, very large extent. Greatness recognises greatness. Gurudev’s celebratory song of the emerging greatness of the role of Sri Aurobindo and other tributes are just wondrous in the tone and manner of speaking.
And so also Sri Aurobindo’s very high regards and perception about Gurudev’s many sided greatness and achievements are visible in full glory in the book.
The book is, indeed, a very useful and timely work sheds light on many interesting hitherto unknown facts.
Anurag Banerjee has produced skillfully a first rate work of finesse and veritably of high reading value. This book satiates the reader’s curiosity and inquisitiveness in ample measure to know more of Sri Aurobindo and Gurudev’s Messages under one roof, so to speak.
The Mother: The Birth and Growth of a Flame: Author: Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation, Kolkata. Price: Rs. 475.
“I am, I love, I see, I act, I will.”
Savitri, Canto Two, Book Nine, p. 594.
The Mother: The Birth and Growth of a Flame is a work of labour of love, incisive scholarship and conscientious research by Anurag Banerjee.
It is, indeed, a fascinating work of many sided views and perspectives. It is a tale of tales anchored around the earthly manifestation of the Supreme Divine Consciousness-Force in the form whom we adore as “Sweet Divine Mother”. It is revelatory in content and masterly in narrative. An episodical “Sri Mad Matri Bhagwatam”, the Book of the Divine Mother, so to speak.
Anurag Banerjee has attempted something impossible and seemingly unattainable task to script in mere mortal words the embodiment of the Divine Mother here in the conditions of manifold Ignorance on the whirling planet earth against the vast cosmic backdrop of the mighty galaxies and ever expanding Universe.
Has he succeeded or has he met with a brilliant failure? As a reviewer of the book, my quick word is both “Yes and No”. A climber was queried why do you climb the mountain? He simply answered because it is there. So, Anurag Banerjee has dared to ascend the summit and measure the immeasurable! In this sense, he has succeeded in chronicling expertly the Divine Life but could not fathom the fathomless as it should have been in spite of all the sincere dedicated efforts.
However, we have to admit that the author has become adept by now in accomplishing incredible feats with prayers on lips and surrendered heart come what may. The result is truly an exhaustive work in the form of the creation “The Birth and Growth of a Flame”. But shall we call it a book or a biography? It will be a big NO! It is neither of these. It is—yes it is—as it were, akin to a volcanic eruption emerging from the deepest depth of ocean with fire and brimstone; such has been the energising focus of the author that one can not help marvelling at his clarity of the project in hand and linking thousand details in completing the living painting of “Mona Lisa” through selective details and the characters and the protagonists of diverse colours and hues. It contains a series of truly strange and fascinating revelations as yet hitherto unknown. The Lila of the Divine Mother—the Empress of the Universe—cannot be described in words. However, what emerges from the prolific detail, is a satisfying creation in all the contexts.
We see here several confluences and influences in the book as if the Mother Ganga was taking all the tributaries in its compassionate bosom. It is a well researched multi-dimensional history—an exercise in historiography of what transpired in the long decades of the Divine Mother’s life. It is an engaging and inspiring narrative of diverse cultural settings and the Odyssey of the Divine Mother in exploring every form of occult Vidya measuring the limit and extent of the mystical practitioners which are all faithfully recorded here so much so that The Mother: The Birth and Growth of a Flame has become literally a book of reference for the generations to come . One could question the inclusion of the avoidable details but then it was a compulsion to refer to all the incidents to complete the flowing narrative.
Savitri is for sure an unparalleled and most comprehensive inner as well outer supramental biography of the Divine Mother. However, in this context, the author has also tried bravely to cover a wide spectrum of experience/experiences, encounters and crucial and critical turning point during the course of the Growth of the Flame. The style is earthy, direct and interactions and events are simply told without taking recourse to any embellishment. Apt and contextual lines from Savtiri only help the readers to appreciate and drink deep of the the grace and grandeur of the object of our adoration.
Having penned all this appreciative remarks, one has to admit and point out the presence of a just few flaws in the book. We feel as if we are reading just a recorded history—the evocative fire of aspirational afflatus is missing at some points. The author seems to get lost in the quagmire of facts and figures in his enthusiasm to offer information and more informations. However, dedication and devotion of the author overrule all these minor errors and we have the privilege and joy to read through the book—The Book of The Divine Mother.
Incisive foreword with in depth analysis by Dr. Ananda Reddy has not only added further lustre to the value of the book but has vastly enhanced the overall appreciation and understanding of the content of book.
Surendra Singh Chouhan
About the Reviewer: Shri Surendra Singh Chouhan is an ex-student of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE); after finishing his Higher Course he taught for a year in SAICE. He is an international educator and presently teaching Philosophy to the Chinese students in Shanghai under the auspices of Shanghai Normal University.