Sir C. R. Reddy’s Tributes to Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy (C. R. Reddy) was born to Subramania Reddy in the village of Cattamanchi in the Chittoor District on 10 December 1880. After a brilliant academic career at the Madras Christian College, he went to England with a Government of India scholarship and joined St. John’s College at Cambridge in 1902. Having secured a First Class in History Tripos, he toured U.S.A. before returning to India where he succeeded Sri Aurobindo as the Vice-Principal of the Baroda College in 1908. In 1913 he joined the Maharaja’s College at Mysore as a professor of History and was promoted as the Principal of the same college in 1916. He was also appointed Inspector-General of Education in the Mysore State. When the Andhra University was established he was selected as its first Vice-Chancellor; under his able leadership and guidance, the university became an extraordinary centre of higher education and research. However in 1930 he resigned from his services as a mark of protest against the repressive policy of the British Government and was succeeded by Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. He rejoined Andhra University as the Vice-Chancellor in 1936 and retained this position till 1949. In 1937 he was nominated to the Upper House along with the Vice-Chancellors of the Madras and Annamalai Universities. In July 1948 he went to England to attend the Conference of Empire Universities. In 1949 he joined the University of Mysore as the Pro-Chancellor. Knighted by the British Government for his services, C. R. Reddy passed away on 24 February 1951 due to uraemia.

On 11 December 1948 the Andhra University awarded the University’s Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize to Sri Aurobindo which was presented to him in his room in the Ashram main building on 20 December by Sir C. R. Reddy.

Soon after his visit to Pondicherry, Sir C. R. Reddy had penned an article on Sri Aurobindo titled The Ashram of Sri Aurobindo: An Impression and Interpretation which had appeared in the Mother India, the monthly review of culture published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, on 3 September 1949. This article along with his tribute to Sri Aurobindo paid during the Convocation at the Andhra University in December 1948 and some correspondence between Sri Aurobindo, Nolini Kanta Gupta, Krishna Kumarsinhji and Sir C. R. Reddy have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


Mr. Chancellor, our object in founding the National Prize was to bring about association between the members of the University and the inspiring personalities of contemporary India—they that make history and will live in history as permanent lights that lead us through the encircling gloom. If that was our object, we have reached the summit of realisation today by the kindly acceptance of this offering of ours by Sri Aurobindo. We are not awarding; we are making an offering. If it is due to the eminent merit in Humanities of Sri Aurobindo that we are paying him this tribute, his acceptance of it is the climax of the good fortune of the Andhra University and its blessing.

Amongst the Saviours of Humanity

In all humility of devotion, I hail Sri Aurobindo as the sole sufficing genius of the age. He is more than the hero of a nation. He is amongst the Saviours of humanity, who belong to all ages and all nations, the Sanatanas, who leaven our existence with their eternal presence, whether we are aware of it or not.

The Rishi tradition is the most glorious and priceless feature of Hindu culture. Its origin is lost in mystic antiquity, but its flow has never ceased. It will continue its sublime course till it mingles itself with eternity. We had Rishis in the Vedic era. And then a succession of Seers, of whom Gautama Siddhartha, the fairest flower and fulfilment of humanity, towers to the highest heaven, and the Sages of the Upanishads, Mahavira, Nanak, Ramdas, the inspirer of Shivaji, and in our own times, Dayananda Saraswati, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharshi, and he to whom we are today presenting our National Prize, Sri Aurobindo.

A great Frenchman has hailed Sri Aurobindo as the last of our Rishis. Really, he is the most recent, for in this world of death and sorrow, Rishis are an undying race of bliss. And they pulsate every now and again with far-flashing revelations like those wonderful stars which astronomers call the Light-houses of the Celestial Regions.

Sri Aurobindo excels in the range and compass of his genius. He is a poet, dramatist, philosopher, critic, interpreter and commentator of the Vedas, the Gita, and all the transcendent lore and legend of India, and he is something higher than these, the Saint who has realised his oneness with the Universal Spirit, and has fathomed the depths and brought up treasures of transcendent value and brilliance. But these many aspects of Sri Aurobindo possess an organic unity of thought, impulse and purpose. They all reflect in their several phases the light of eternity that is in him.

I am not going to narrate the life of Sri Aurobindo, as chronologically lived. Our Professor, Mr. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar’s splendid biography of Sri Aurobindo is there for all to read. A book written in a style of superlative charm and power, and one which could without exaggeration be regarded as a masterpiece in English literature. Perhaps I may recall by way of pardonable vanity and the petty desire to shine in Sri Aurobindo’s reflected light, that we are both Cambridge men, he very much my senior, and that I succeeded him as the Vice-Principal of the Baroda College. I had the honour of knowing him, though scantily, in his Purva-Ashrama. We had a number of friends in common. Mr. A. B. Clark, the Principal of the Baroda College, remarked to me, “So you met Aurobindo Ghose. Did you notice his eyes? There is mystic fire and light in them. They penetrate into the beyond.” And he added, “If Joan of Arc heard heavenly voices, Aurobindo probably sees heavenly visions.” Clark was a materialist of materialists. I have never been able to understand how that worldly but delightful person could have glimpsed the truth, the latent, about Aurobindo. But then does not the lightning’s blinding flash, which lasts but a moment, leap forth from the dark black bosom of the cloud? The Alipore Jail, where he was consigned to solitude and meditation for a year, marks a turning-point in Sri Aurobindo’s career. The British Government had bound his body and liberated his soul. They did not mean it, but the best things that we do are, not infrequently, done unwittingly, spontaneously. Body enslaved, soul set free, that was the paradox of his incarceration. It was there that his first mystic experiences and direct perception of the Eternal Truths, which according to our Sphota theory are ever present, floating as it were in the space that envelops the Universe, occurred. Beginning to realise himself he retired to Pondicherry in 1910. Can a Rishi ever retire? He may retire in body; very often the retirement of the body is the prelude to the soul ascending the heights of heaven and ranging over the entire globe. His physical being is in Pondicherry; but his influence, can we set limits to it in space or in time? His Ashram, one of the beacon-lights of the world, attracts the devout and the serious-minded without distinction of race and country. Judged by temporal standards he is seventy-six years old, but really time cannot touch him, or earth and its impurities. His soul is like a star and dwells apart.

Unison of Literature, Metaphysics and Sadhana of Realisation

In Sri Aurobindo, literature, metaphysics, and the Sadhana of realisation, are a spiral ascending from Earth to Heaven in mutual support and unison. In the superb summary of Mr. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar, “the Seer has fronted reality; the Poet has hymned his ‘Gloried Fields of trance’, the Philosopher has sought to interpret the vision in terms of reason; the Yogi has formulated a method, a multiform technique, for achieving the desired change in consciousness; the sociologist has thrown out significant hints in regard to the organisation of tomorrow’s world; and the creative critic has sensed the rhythms of the ‘future poetry’ and described how the ‘new’ poet will ride on the wings of an elemental spirituality and articulate the ineluctable rhythms of the Spirit.”

As a poet Sri Aurobindo ranks high. In that most difficult of all forms of prosody, the Blank Verse, which under inartistic hands has a fatal tendency to become prose, he has a place all his own, which is among the highest. “Urvasie”, and “Love and Death”, and “Savitri”, a legend and a symbol, are in charm and beauty without a parallel in English Literature. “Ahana” and “Dawn over Ilion” are masterpieces in Hexameter, a classical metre difficult to transplant in modern soils. “Savitri” is rising and growing, and has not yet reached the full flush of her grace and beauty, and when it does, it will have given a new colouring, a new life and attraction to the immortal legend of the Mahabharata.

In many of his works of criticism, interpretations of the Veda and the Gita, he has combined vast research with the intuition of a poet, the reflection of a philosopher and the vision of a Rishi. He has a sentence that will serve to inspire the United Nations Organisation and give it spiritual ground and hope — “Evolution moves through diversity from a simple to a complex oneness. Unity the race moves towards, and must one day realise.” It is a fine phrase “complex oneness” and a far-reaching ray or hope and comfort though today we are all overwhelmed by the complexity and do not seem to be nearing oneness except under the devastating might of the Atom Bomb.

Sri Aurobindo’s faith in the sure but slow evolution of human unity in harmonious diversity is too robust to be dwarfed or defeated by hard, stubborn facts. Rather it is a faith that is out to conquer fact and remould it nearer to the heart’s desire. He is of the race of prophets who see the present as but a transitory moment that should not be allowed to overcome the optimism of man.

Prophet of the Life Divine

It is not as a man of letters or of philosophy, that Sri Aurobindo reaches his unique eminence; but it is as a Yogi who has caught the light and reflects it in blissful abundance. He is the Prophet of the Life Divine, to him it is an experience and not mere idea. This experience could be shared by others. The nature of his spiritual quest, which led to his great conquest, he thus described in a letter to C. R. Das who defended him in the Alipore trial—“I see more and more manifestly that man cannot get out of the futile cycle the race is always treading, until he has raised himself to a new foundation. How could our present instruments, intellect, life, mind, body, be made true and perfect channels for this great transformation? This was the problem I have been trying to work out in my own experience and I have now a sure basis, a wide knowledge, and some mastery of the secret.”

He presents his gospel in a book that is a landmark in the history of human thought and aspiration, “The Life Divine”, which Sir Francis Younghusband has acclaimed as the “greatest book published in my generation”. Pythagoras spoke of the Music of the Heavens. Here is the Music of Humanity, no longer still sad, ascending to Heaven. Sri Aurobindo believes that we shall evolve into a higher state of being; and this evolution will enable us to overcome the limitations and miseries of our present existence and lead us to a world whose course is equable and pure—a life of harmony and bliss. This process of evolution is actual. It is operating steadily here and now, and will not stop short of fulfilling itself. In due course, Man will attain the New Life, in which pains and sorrows will have no existence and death no sting.

Sri Aurobindo relieves our despair by the certainty of this advent. In the world of death, he, the Immortal, gives us the assurance of Immortality. The world has need of Thee, Sri Aurobindo, and that is why Thou art with us still.

Mr. Chancellor, I now request you, on behalf of the Andhra University, to be so good as to make the offering of this National Prize, with which it is my unmerited good fortune to have my name linked, in absentia to Sri Aurobindo. I doubt, though, if the term, in absentia, is properly applicable. For though Sri Aurobindo leads a life of rigorous seclusion, rarely seeing people or being seen by people, yet thousands of devotees in all parts of the world feel him as a real presence. He is not of the earth and does not mix with the earth, but heaven envelops us all. So, Mr. Chancellor, honour the University, and if you don’t think it impertinent of me to say so, honour yourself by awarding the Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize to Sri Aurobindo.

Source: Mother India, 19 February 1949,


The Ashram of Sri Aurobindo: An Impression and Interpretation

C. R. Reddy

Through a series on unpremeditated events, a power beyond me drew me last December to Sri Aurobindo and the Holy Mother at their Pondicherry Ashram. I spent a few days there in an atmosphere of inspired bliss. Probably I was beside myself most of the time. Something higher gripped me. Most reluctantly I left the place. Fondly I dwell in memory on the unmerited but wonderful reception I was accorded through causeless grace of the Master and the ineffable tenderness of the Mother.

I do not wish to dwell on this occasion on matters pertaining to inner life. The theme of this paper is the objective nature and significance of the Ashram and the thoughts it evoked in me. It has a significance not only for the Hindus but for entire humanity. There is nothing specially Hindu in Sri Aurobindo’s teachings and discipline. The soul is not Hindu. God is not Hindu. They are Universals. The origin of a particular creed may be traced to a particular height with localisation in time and in geography, but the Ganges and sister rivers of like power for holiness all flow into the same ocean of eternity.

The teachings and discipline of the Ashram have had their source in the mystic heights of Vedic culture, but God is one; man is one. The truths of the soul transcend limitations of body, race, time and space. They have universal, eternal application.

In the Ashram there are pious men and pious women, who by birth belong to various faiths; naturally Hindus mostly, because of the attraction of neighbourhood and of inherited culture. There are Christians, Zoroastrians, Muslims and members of other creeds. But in conviction and in life, these many have been fused into one. Therefore, the faith acquired in the Ashram—a faith which does not negative reason—is a common possession of all. In the discipline they have adopted for the growth and fruition of their lives, they are one. It is the unity of harmony, not of mechanical uniformity and monotony, that makes for the orchestral swell of a heavenly music.

Misguided Questions About Sri Aurobindo

It is a pity that the nature of Sri Aurobindo Ashram is not universally understood. Where it is not understood, it cannot be appreciated. We have had a few critics, who, in my opinion, have not understood and therefore could not appreciate.

One of them wondered how Sri Aurobindo, a Yogi and a Sanyasi, (apparently synonymous terms to him), could have sent his famous message to the Andhra University, when at the recent Convocation, it did itself the honour of conferring its National Prize on him for Eminent Merit in Humanities. The “eminent” should have been “supreme”. He argued: “Aurobindo has renounced the world. Why then does he want to sponsor the idea of linguistic provinces and other affairs? Is this all C.R. Reddy’s forgery?” Apparently his idea is that Sri Aurobindo should have nothing to do with the world, as according to him, he had renounced it. After divorce one should not visit his wife!

Another critic, writing more recently, could not understand why Sri Aurobindo, the mystic, leads a mysterious life at Pondicherry, giving darshan to people only on a few selected occasions, and refusing to undergo publicity. He is a Star, no doubt; but should he not be a Cinema-star? He even insinuates that the Mother is everything there and the Master almost nothing.

I do not wish to answer point by point. In his preface to his Pro Vita Sua, Cardinal Newman ably exposed the inadequacy of point by point replies in dealing with controversies relating to the field of the Soul and Spirit. What is required is explaining, so far as this could be done by language and by human thought which have their limitations, the nature of the life lived and involved. If that cannot explain and convince, nothing else would. Where that fails, logic cannot succeed.

This is not the first time that Sri Aurobindo delivered messages of secular import. He gave a prescient reading of the future when he declared that the liberation of India and of a good bit of the world were contingent on the Allies triumphing over Hitler and his Asuric hordes. He always has been on the side of Suras, the powers of Light, in their battle with Asuras, the powers of darkness. The light he gives is a steady one and permanent. He does not create confusion by hasty opportunism and momentary tactics of a spectacular kind.

The Confusion Between Sanyasi and Rishi

At the root of the misconception that I am trying to dispel is the fallacy that he is a Sanyasi, who has given up the world and therefore, has no right to re-enter it. There is a confusion here between Sanyasi and Rishi. What the critic has said may or may not be true of a Sanyasi but it is not true of a Rishi. Sri Aurobindo is a Rishi.

Renunciation, final, absolute, is not possible for the compassionate. They may renounce this or that which is not compatible with perfect illumination or power, but they cannot give up struggling, sorrow-ridden world without stretching a helping healing hand. The tenderhearted with pity in their souls and power in their hands, cannot be indifferent to the fate of human beings. The Sanyasi may feel that, to be care-free, one has to give up all care for others. That is not the way of the Rishi; nor of a Bodhisatwa, nor of the Master and the Mother at Pondicherry Ashram. If Nirvana is to be entered, it must be after the Mission of Compassion has been fulfilled and not before. And so it is that our saviours possess this trinity of grace—Wisdom, Power and Compassion. They are with us and for us. They look upon this hard earth as the stepping stone to Heaven, and not as its summary, irreconcilable contradiction which must be denounced and renounced.

The Sanyasi that discards clothes and the world is foreign to the Vedic spirit. Renunciation of the world is a creed of later growth and perhaps belong to times when our race had become less virile and had to undergo defeat, despair and despondency. The Rishis were not Sanyasis. Anything but that. They were seers who saw, felt and transmitted the truths they came into contact with—truths eternal, ever-existent, neither made nor unmade by gods. By their spiritual discipline, a natural process and no magic, they sought for and acquired illumination and with it power. Knowledge is power; spiritual knowledge no less than scientific. They lived in the world, and for the world, they retreated to woods and lonely places. Retreat is not renunciation. Though they retired to forests, they had colonies there, peopled not only with men but with women. They grew the most beautiful flowers and the most charming Sakuntalas. They took part in the politics of the day and not infrequently played leading roles. Vashistha guided the Solar dynasties. Vishwamitra was a disturbing factor in his time. If they sought after spiritual illumination and power, it was not to enjoy solitary bliss on the top of inaccessible heights. It was not for attaining Kaivalya or Nirvana; but to be here with us and for us, to help us to improve, and to inflict punishment in case we proved too foolish or too obstinate. Their ideal was more the Bodhisatwa than the Buddha. The ancient Ashrams of the Vashisthas and Vishwamitras, of the Bhrigus and the Angirasas, were brimful of a life of the world which, however, was not worldly; a life on earth that was not earthy, but directed to the good of humanity and its uplift to the stature and status of the bright gods. They welcomed disciples and they received all persons that deserved to be received by their merit. Jabali was of low illegitimate birth but he was a Satya Kama, a lover of truth and was therefore reckoned a Vipra.

Nor were the studies in Ashrams confined to spiritual lore and sacred mysteries. The disciples had to fetch wood not only to feed the sacred fires but the kitchen fires also for feeding the inmates. They brought flowers for worship. Archery and the art of war were fostered. Vishwamitra taught Sri Rama and Lakshmana the use of potent weapons. Agnivasa was the guru of Drona, the Brahmin, who taught the Kauravas and Pandavas without forfeiting his Brahminhood. They trained Kshatriyas in war and weapons so that they might protect our dharma from the aggression of Asuric hordes. Fighting for a righteous cause was not considered to be a degradation of our moral or spiritual nature. The very avatars of gods during their sojourn on earth made blood flow in rivers and swam through them to the eternal gratitude of our race and its devotion.

There was nothing anaemic about the Aryan culture at its best and purest. It is to the immortal credit of Sri Aurobindo that he has tried to re-establish on earth after the lapse of many decadent centuries the true creed and the genuine discipline of the Vedas.

How Sri Aurobindo Unlocked the Secret of the Vedas

In the education of Sri Aurobindo western classics played a leading part. He was a first rate scholar in Greek. Greek and the civilisation of Greece, are twin sisters of Bhasha and ancient Aryanism. Greek seems to have given Sri Aurobindo the key that unlocked the Veda to our generation.

Sri Aurobindo confesses that he does not know why there has been a mystery at the core of every religion; but it is a fact. We may not be able to explain the why and wherefore thereof, but in all religions there seems to be in the depths at the very centre a mystery. In the religion of the Greeks, there was the Eleusinian mystery, to quote but one instance. It is this idea that seems to have led Sri Aurobindo to search for and discover the key to the Vedas.

He had noticed, as all had done, the very close resemblance between the religions of Hesiod, Homer and our Vedas. There was nothing gloomy in either religion. The religion of Hellas teemed with strong Gods and lovely Goddesses who mingled freely with men and women and even entered into matrimonial relationship with them, begetting heroes and heroines, just as they did in Aryavarta in the twilight dawn of history. Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Athene and Aphrodite—are not all these the doubles of the Devas of the Vedic Pantheon? Gods could be defeated by men. The innate spiritual omnipotence of man was thus recognised and symbolised. There was not the same sharp and hopeless separation between heaven and earth as there has been since. Men and women having the blood of Gods and Goddesses in their veins were radiant, powerful and full of hope and joy. Wherever they trod flowers bloomed. They enjoyed life whether in earth or in heaven without fear of thereby forfeiting their right to the highest Swarga or the place to which good beings ascend.

And yet at the core of this bright and breezy religion of the Greeks, there was something deeper, a mystery hidden from the human eye but made clear to the initiates. This mystery was not celebrated as a joyous popular festival but as something solemn, awesome, to be held in secret and far from the madding crowd.

And a further correspondence between Vedic and Hellenic metaphysics: the gods of Greece were subject to an impersonal law and destiny more potent than themselves. Great as they were, there was something greater, more potent. Similarly with us, there was a law of destiny and of Karma supreme over all beings—including the gods. “Even Shiva cannot escape the consequences of his karma.”

Sri Aurobindo, an accomplished scholar in Greek and one who has steeped in the lore of our ancient Vedic culture, struck on the idea that in our case also there must have been a mystery embodied in the Vedas. There was. He discovered it and revealed it to the world.

Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is in a sense factual. Even in its sublimest flights, it is based on fact, experience and personal realisation, and on seeing like a seer or Rishi. It rises like a pillar of cloud to heaven but it rises from the earth wafted on wings of Sadhana.

Broadly speaking there have been two types of Vedic interpretation, ritualistic and naturalistic. According to the former, by performing the Yagnas and other rites with the appropriate hymns or Mantras, we compel the Gods to give us cattle, horses, and material and other boons that we desire. Even Brahma is obliged, if the Tapas is properly performed, to grant boons, however formidable or even dangerous.

The Naturalistic school, of which Yaska may be regarded as the founder, sees in the Vedic Usha, Vritra, Indra, Agni, Aswins and the other Gods and Goddesses, phenomena of nature personified.

There is a third school, the school of Sri Aurobindo which sees in the Vedic Hymns very real and sublime spiritual truths. When the Rishis performed Yagnas and prayed to Indra for “Go” or “Aswa”, it was not for the paltry purpose of getting a few cows and a few horses. The Vedic mountain did not labour to produce such silly mice. So Go and Aswa must refer to something greater and of far greater significance to man’s life and his progress. Sri Aurobindo proves with wonderful clarity and logic—his spirituality is so inseparably united with reason—that Govu means illumination such as comes from the rays of the sun and Aswa meant not horse but Power. And what for did our Rishis desire acquisition of Illumination and of Power? Not for looking at themselves in a mirror and sitting and brooding over their own beauty like a silly girl; and not to let power remain a bare possession without fruitful application. It was for helping the world and for using them as stages in their yet further progress to the rank and region of the Devas, that they sought Light and they sought Power, sought Omniscience and Omnipotence.

And now we can in some small measure understand the nature of this extraordinary Ashram in which life and the joy of life are mingled in the happy union with spirituality and spiritual progress. It is dug out of the Vedas and planted in Pondicherry.

The Wonderful Mother and the Harmonious Regime

And the wonderful Mother, the presiding genius, and the great Master, the inspiring soul: here we have in perceptible symbol Purusha and Prakriti, giving life, light and joy around.

Early morning the Ashramites assemble in the street overlooked by the balcony from which the gracious Mother gives Darshan; remaining for a while moving about, smiling, looking bright, radiant, a ray of divinity like Usha. If anybody thought that a Holy Mother should cultivate ascetic frigidity and a perpetual scowl as evidence of her spirituality, he would be mistaken. She is not an ascetic. She plays tennis! The Devas are always bright. At this assembly there is a large concourse of men, women and children with bhakti in their hearts and love, light and joy in their looks and talk and behaviour. Nothing gloomy. It is the dawn that dispels the darkness.

At a later hour, the Mother presides like Flora, the Goddess of Flowers, with huge baskets laden with colour and perfume placed before her. Men, women and children, bathed in happy reverence and joyous veneration advance to salute her and receive from her benedictions and flowers. Then the different people foregather in their different circles to talk over the great truths that count; or each retires to his place to meditate and to cultivate psychical discipline and practise sadhana. Sadhana is the way to realise and experience, to perceive, to see and become a seer. This Ashram is no ‘dry as dust’ world. It is a world apart from the world, but existing in it and for it like the Ashrams of our Vedic Rishis. The men and women of the colony have their meals mostly in common. Starvation is not regarded as an essential process for developing spirituality. The food is simple. It is cooked by the women Ashramites. There is enough nourishment and perfect hygiene. And the women find in this service an aid to their Soul’s progress.

There is a dairy where I saw some fine cattle. That is the source of their milk supply.

There is a garden, and the vegetable garden there is one of the best I have seen; and I am not quite a bad judge of gardens and vegetable gardens.

There is a bakery and wholesome bread is assured. Also a laundry and a small soap factory.

Intellectual nourishment is not neglected either. There is a first class printing press equipped with the latest monotype and other machines. And books to read in plenty and a very fine library and a variety of periodicals.

Shabbiness in dress and manners and crude, vulgar conduct are not cultivated as arts leading to the soul’s perfection. Said the great Kalidas: “Shareeram Khalu Dharma Sadhanam” and so the disciples go about dressed in decent clothes, clean, simple and becoming. A guest house is maintained where European conveniences could be had. I hope this will not be regarded as a double transgression of holiness and nationalism.

But in many respects what impressed me most were the educational institutions maintained by the Ashram and the ancient spirit of strength and joy that pervades them. The Mother, the embodiment of grace, light and tenderness, ordered an exhibition of games and physical exercises by the boys and girls of the Ashram Schools. I said to myself, “If all the schools were like this, won’t India be unassailable by internal foes or external?” The parades were excellent. The exercises were gone through not merely efficiently but cheerfully. The girls were dressed in pants and tight-fittings jackets. They performed hazardous exercises like vaulting. Though there was risk of accident to limb, if not to life, they advanced cool, calm, and resolute with bright looks and confident smiles, and went through the exercises without a single hitch or a single failure. Our Sanyasi critics may be aghast that the Mother, who is all grace and tenderness, should have organised our girls, as it were, into a corps of yogic Amazons. But the girls don’t lack the charm and grace of their sex. She told me that it was the Calcutta killings and the bestial abominations perpetrated on our helpless women and children that made her think of organising the students in her schools, boys and girls, into a corps capable of self-defence. At the root is the great Vedic idea that, without a strong body, you cannot have a strong soul, undaunted in danger and ready to perform the great task, the root principle of all Dharma, of defending the weak and helpless.

The Nation’s Need and the Master’s Work

The second criticism is: Why then does Sri Aurobindo shun the world? Why does he not come out and go about? Could we get a more prescient leader or a more powerful? I reply: What is wrong in Sri Aurobindo remaining in seclusion at Pondicherry? Retreat into the “tapovanam” was a frequent way of seeking the right atmosphere for spiritual exercises, concentration and penance. Religious leaders have found in seclusion a potent help for mental and spiritual efficiency and advancement. If the Rishi is spending his time and energy for helping the progress of the world and for equipping himself with the means of achieving that object, what business is it of ours to find fault? For such presumption involves the idea that we are better fitted to tell the Seer what means he should adopt that the Seer himself. I suppose this presumption is due to ignorance more than impertinence. Could not Sri Aurobindo be trusted to know how and by what methods he could carry out his great mission and acquire the needed illumination and power? I for one do not feel myself confident to tell the Master what school he should attend and what lessons he should learn.

Personally, and without meaning to lay down the law for one whose rule I feel I have to accept with implicit obedience, I see no reason why Sri Aurobindo should not, now that India is no longer a dependency, tread our soil once again with his hallowed feet and inspire the millions with his radiant personality. I see no reason. This does not mean that there is no reason. That is for the Master to decide. But Madras and all the cities in India and more specially the stricken provinces of Bengal and the Punjab would like to have his healing touch and his invigorating presence. But it is not for me to prescribe the ways and means. I know that the Master is promoting these and other humanitarian causes not merely in India but all over the globe in his own way and through agencies he deems the best and methods he deems most potent. So I leave it at that, believing where I cannot see.

After four days spent at this contemporary reproduction of the ancient Vedic Ashram, I left Pondicherry to return to Madras. But did I leave? Or was it only my body that left?

Mother India, 3 September 1949.



Sri Aurobindo’s letter to Sir C. R. Reddy

July 15, 1948

Sir C. R. Reddy
Andhra University—Waltair

I have been unable to give an early answer to your letter of the 28th June, 1948 which reached me rather late owing to accidental causes. This was due to some hesitation arising from my position as head of the Ashram at Pondicherry. I am not a Sannyasi and my Yoga does not turn away from life; but still I have always followed the rule of not accepting titles, honours or distinctions from any Government or public institution and have rejected or stood back from even the highest when offered to me. But after long consideration I have felt that the distinction which the Andhra University proposes to confer upon me is not of the same character and need not fall within this rule. In any case I do not feel that I can disregard the choice made by the Andhra University in selecting my name for this distinction, and even if things were otherwise, I would have felt that I must accept this as an exceptional case and I could not disregard the choice by an institution like yours of my name for this prize. I authorise you therefore to consider my name for this award and if the University confirms its choice of me, my acceptance of your National Prize. One difficulty remains; you know perhaps that I have been living in entire retirement, appearing in public only on the occasion of the four Darshans on which I receive the inmates of my Ashram and visitors from all parts of India. Otherwise I do not go out of the rooms in which I live and still less ever leave the Ashram or Pondicherry. This makes it impossible for me to go to Waltair to receive the distinction conferred upon me. I would have therefore to ask for an exception to be made in this matter in my case.

Sri Aurobindo


Krishna Kumarsinhji (Governor of Madras)’s letter to Sri Aurobindo dated 30 October 1948.

Dear Shri Aurobindo Ghosh

As Chancellor of the Andhra University I have great pleasure in informing you that the Syndicate of the University has resolved to present to you the ‘Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize’ for this year and I would like now to offer the same to you. I sincerely trust that you will be prepared to accept this offer.

With kind regards, I am looking forward to your darshan.

Yours sincerely
Krishna Kumarsinhji

Shri Aurobindo Ghosh
Aurobindo Ashram


Sri Aurobindo’s letter to the Governor of Madras, Chancellor of the Andhra University dated 6 November 1948

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

H. E. The Governor of Madras
Chancellor of the Andhra University

I am in receipt of your letter of 30th October informing me that the Syndicate of the Andhra University has resolved to present to me the “Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize” for this year. I have received with much gratification your offer of this distinction bestowed on me by your University and I am glad to intimate to you my acceptance. I understand from what you say about Darshan that you will personally come to Pondicherry for this purpose and I look forward with much pleasure to seeing and meeting you.


C. R. Reddy’s letter to Nolini Kanta Gupta dated 6 November 1948

C. R. Reddy

Maharanipeta P.O.,
Vizag Dist.
Dated 6th November 48

My dear Sri Nalini Kanta Gupta,

I hope that by now the Master has signified his kindly assent to the offer of award made by His Excellency the Governor-Chancellor. All that I can say is the University has received the crown of honour from sacred hands.

I have already written to you about the date by which, if at all possible, the gracious and inspiring message should reach me.

The actual conferment will be at the Convocation which is to be held on 11th December. I shall deliver the citation of presentation myself.

The Syndicate has resolved that I should go in deputation to Pondicherry and personally present to the Master the Bronze Medallion and the cheque of Rs. 1,116. I beg to know of the date and time that would suit the Master.

I shall be held up for a week after the Convocation, dealing with consequential business. So, any time from the 20th December onwards to the 25th would suit my small convenience. But in this matter the Master’s pleasure is our law.

Please let me have a very early reply.

Yours sincerely
C. R. Reddy

P.S. Though it is only the Vice-Chancellor that is deputed to make this offering, a number of Syndicate members and others connected with the University have expressed their desire to accompany me and pay their deep respects to the Master on the occasion. Naturally I cannot give my consent until permission is received. You may kindly let me know His pleasure on this point also.


Governor of Madras’s Letter to Sri Aurobindo dated 8 November 1948

8th November 1948

Dr. C. R. Reddy National Prize—Andhra University

Dear Shri Aurobindo Ghosh,

Thank you very much indeed for your letter dated November 6th accepting the Dr. C. R. Reddy National Prize. It is a source of great gratification both to myself and to the Andhra University that you have agreed to accept the prize.

To my very great regret I find myself unable to go to Pondicherry in the near future and since the prize has to be awarded by the time of the University Convocation early next month, the Vice-Chancellor Dr. C. R. Reddy will be proceeding to Pondicherry to present the prize to you.

I hope to be able to come to Pondicherry and have your Darshan some time as early as possible.

With kind regards

Yours sincerely
Krishna Kumarsinhji


Sri Aurobindo’s letter to C. R. Reddy dated 5 December 1948

Shree C. R. Reddy
Vice-Chancellor, Andhra University

I am sending herewith the message. But it has developed to an excessive length nearer to half-an-hour’s reading than to the minimum five minutes. I hope that the theme which, I am told, is still somewhat controversial, will not be thought for that reason ill-suited to the occasion and that the length of time required will not be found unmanageable. I have felt some scruples on these two points and would be glad to be reassured that it is otherwise.

Sri Aurobindo


C. R. Reddy’s letter to the Mother dated 22 December 1948

C. R. Reddy

No. 2, Taylor’s Road,
Kilpauk P.O.
22nd December 1948

Esteemed and Holy Mother,

I reached home this morning at 6.30 A.M. and immediately telegraphed my safe arrival and deep obligation to you, Sri Aurobindo, and all, for your infinite kindness to me during my recent visit.

The ‘Hindu’ and the ‘Mail’ and the ‘Indian Express’ have all published my Press Communique on the tender of the National Prize to the Master and his gracious acceptance thereof.

I am very, very sorry to have to report to you that my dear daughter’s pains and sufferings have been worse during the last two and a half days, and are exceedingly, tragically trying to my feelings. May we all beseech your Grace, to improve her condition and render her free from these agonising pains and sufferings. Pray excuse the liberty of this request, made by an afflicted heart to the Great Mother.

With my pranams to yourself and Sri Aurobindo.

Ever yours devotedly


C. R. Reddy’s letter to the Mother dated 9 September 1949



My dear Mother,

Herewith a small coin of my life, minted in Your Ashram, for the gracious acceptance of Yourself and the master as a token and tribute of my devotion.

Ever Thine
C. R. Reddy


C. R. Reddy’s Telegram to the Mother





C. R. Reddy’s letter to the Mother dated 5 December 1950

University of Mysore

Pro-Chancellor C. R. Reddy

West Lake
Yelwal Road

Tel. No. 885
Tel. Add.: Pro-Chancellor

5th December, 1950

Dear Revered Mother,

I was stunned to hear this morning the radio announcement of the setting of the Sri Aurobindo Sun—stunned and staggered. There is a gloom in my soul and also on the world. Persons of Sri Aurobindo type appear but rarely in our midst. They come with a mission and they depart when they feel that their mission has been fulfilled or that they had arranged for the mission to continue through their disciples.

Agaram Rangiah, a Mysorean, who paid his respects to the master and you during the recent Darshan, told me that Sri Aurobindo was not looking quite well and that in consequence, the auspicious function had to be hurried through. But there was no anxiety on the score of Sri Aurobindo’s health.

Well, one of the great lights of the modern world has suffered extinction or is it only obscuration? But won’t the light continue to be reflected under your direction by the many mirrors moulded and polished by the Master’s hand? I am confident that his teachings and the lesson of his life will continue to be spread by you and the disciples. Truth is eternal. It is caught and transmitted by the Rishis of whom Sri Aurobindo is one and as illustrious as any figuring in our ancient myth or legend. He is an immortal. His body has gone, but his soul remains.

How sad, and yet in a way how consoling and inspiring, to think that you sent me through Agaram Rangiah, some flowers, symbols of your blessings and benedictional.

Believe me Mother,

Your sincere devotee.
C. R. Reddy


Nolini Kanta Gupta’s letter to C. R. Reddy dated 8 December 1950

Sri Aurobindo Ashram


Shree C. R. Reddy

Dear friend,

Mother has received your telegram and your kind letter. She says Sri Aurobindo is alive as before although not in material body—the body is being kept as long as it lasts. Mother continues Sri Aurobindo’s work. She sends you her blessings.

We would have liked Sri Aurobindo to be in our midst in his material body, but if he chose otherwise, let his will be done.

Nolini Kanta Gupta


C. R. Reddy’s letter to Nolini Kanta Gupta dated 12 December 1950


My dear Gupta,

Very many thanks for your wonderfully spiritual and inspiring letter written under the direction of the Mother.

I enclose a copy of the letter which I addressed to a gentleman in Mysore.

Please remember me to Amruth, Satya Karma, Narayana Reddy and others. How is H. V. Krishna?

With all kind regards,

Yours very sincerely,
C. R. Reddy


C. R. Reddy’s letter to K. S. Narayanaswamy dated 12 December 1950


December 12, 1950

Dear Sir,

Very many thanks for your kind letter of 10 December asking me to speak at a meeting to be held as a mark of respect and honour to Shri Aurobindo.

I am sorry it is not possible for me to accept your invitation.

I have just heard from the Ashram. The Ashram people feel that Shri Aurobindo is not really dead but is still with them, though in another form. The Sanathanas never die. It is we that sometimes become dead to them. They are immortal; and we are the mortals.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,
(Signature) C. R. Reddy

Sri K. S. Narayanaswamy,
Secretary, The Mysore Institute of Public Affairs,
Laxmivilas Agrahar,


7 Replies to “Sir C. R. Reddy’s Tributes to Sri Aurobindo

  1. Many thanks Anurag for your painstaking research in stringing together beautifully all the fascinating letters and pronouncements regarding our Master ..These communications are of immense historical value and preeminent in its appeal ..
    Surendra schouhan – saice ’69

  2. Sri Aurobindo’s Message to the Andhra University

    ‘You have asked me for a message and anything I write, since it is to the Andhra University that I am addressing my message, if it can be called by that name, should be pertinent to your University, its function, its character and the work it has to do. But it is difficult for me at this juncture when momentous decisions are being taken which are likely to determine not only the form and pattern of this country’s Government and administration but the pattern of its destiny, the build and make-up of the nation’s character, its position in the world with regard to other nations, its choice of what itself shall be, not to turn my eyes in that direction. There is one problem facing the country which concerns us nearly and to this I shall now turn and deal with it, however inadequately,– the demand for the reconstruction of the artificial British-made Presidencies and Provinces into natural divisions forming a new system, new and yet founded on the principle of diversity in unity attempted by ancient India. India, shut into a separate existence by the Himalayas and the ocean, has always been the home of a peculiar people with characteristics of its own recognisably distinct from all others, with its own distinct civilisation, way of life, way of the spirit, a separate culture, arts, building of society. It has absorbed all that has entered into it, put upon all the Indian stamp, welded the most diverse elements into its fundamental unity. But it has also been throughout a congeries of diverse peoples, lands, kingdoms and, in earlier times, republics also, diverse races, sub-nations with a marked character of their own, developing different brands or forms of civilisation and culture, many schools of art and architecture which yet succeeded in fitting into the general Indian type of civilisation and culture. India’s history throughout has been marked by a tendency, a constant effort to unite all this diversity of elements into a single political whole under a central imperial rule so that India might be politically as well as culturally one. Even after a rift had been created by the irruption of the Mohammedan peoples with their very different religion and social structure, there continued a constant effort of political unification and there was a tendency towards a mingling of cultures and their mutual influence on each other; even some heroic attempts were made to discover or create a common religion built out of these two apparently irreconcilable faiths and here too there were mutual influences. But throughout India’s history the political unity was never entirely attained and for this there were several causes,– first, vastness of space and insufficiency of communications preventing the drawing close of all these different peoples; secondly, the method used which was the military domination by one people or one imperial dynasty over the rest of the country which led to a succession of empires, none of them permanent; lastly, the absence of any will to crush out of existence all these different kingdoms and fuse together these different peoples and force them into a single substance and a single shape. Then came the British Empire in India which recast the whole country into artificial provinces made for its own convenience, disregarding the principle of division into regional peoples but not abolishing that division. For there had grown up out of the original elements a natural system of sub-nations with different languages, literatures and other traditions of their own, the four Dravidian peoples, Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Sind, Assam, Orissa, Nepal, the Hindi-speaking peoples of the North, Rajputana and Bihar. British rule with its provincial administration did not unite these peoples but it did impose upon them the habit of a common type of administration, a closer intercommunication through the English language and by the education it gave there was created a more diffused and more militant form of patriotism, the desire for liberation and the need of unity in the struggle to achieve that liberation. A sufficient fighting unity was brought about to win freedom, but freedom obtained did not carry with it a complete union of the country. On the contrary, India was deliberately split on the basis of the two-nation theory into Pakistan and Hindustan with the deadly consequences which we know.

    ‘In taking over the administration from Britain we had inevitably to follow the line of least resistance and proceed on the basis of the artificial British-made provinces, at least for the time; this provisional arrangement now threatens to become permanent, at least in the main and some see an advantage in this permanence. For they think it will help the unification of the country and save us from the necessity of preserving regional sub-nations which in the past kept a country from an entire and thorough-going unification and uniformity. In a rigorous unification they see the only true union, a single nation with a standardised and uniform administration, language, literature, culture, art, education,– all carried on through the agency of one national tongue. How far such a conception can be carried out in the future one cannot forecast, but at present it is obviously impracticable, and it is doubtful if it is for India truly desirable. The ancient diversities of the country carried in them great advantages as well as drawbacks. By these differences the country was made the home of many living and pulsating centres of life, art, culture, a richly and brilliantly coloured diversity in unity; all was not drawn up into a few provincial capitals or an imperial metropolis, other towns and regions remaining subordinated and indistinctive or even culturally asleep; the whole nation lived with a full life in its many parts and this increased enormously the creative energy of the whole. There is no possibility any longer that this diversity will endanger or diminish the unity of India. Those vast spaces which kept her people from closeness and a full interplay have been abolished in their separating effect by the march of Science and the swiftness of the means of communication. The idea of federation and a complete machinery for its perfect working have been discovered and will be at full work. Above all, the spirit of patriotic unity has been too firmly established in the people to be easily effaced or diminished, and it would be more endangered by refusing to allow the natural play of life of the sub-nations than by satisfying their legitimate aspirations. The Congress itself in the days before liberation came had pledged itself to the formation of linguistic provinces, and to follow it out, if not immediately, yet as early as may conveniently be, might well be considered the wisest course. India’s national life will then be founded on her natural strengths and the principle of unity in diversity which has always been normal to her and its fulfilment the fundamental course of her being and its very nature, the Many in the One, would place her on the sure foundation of her ‘Swabhava and Swadharma’.

    ‘This development might well be regarded as the inevitable trend of her future. For the Dravidian regional peoples are demanding their separate right to a self-governing existence; Maharashtra expects a similar concession and this would mean a similar development in Gujarat and then the British-made Presidencies of Madras and Bombay would have disappeared. The old Bengal Presidency had already been split up and Orissa, Bihar and Assam are now self-governing regional peoples. A merger of the Hindi-speaking part of the Central Provinces and the U.P. would complete the process. An annulment of the partition of India might modify but would not materially alter this result of the general tendency. A union of States and regional peoples would again be the form of a united India.

    ‘In this new regime your University will find its function and fulfilment. Its origin has been different from that of other Indian Universities; they were established by the initiative of a foreign Government as a means of introducing their own civilisation into India, situated in the capital towns of the Presidencies and formed as teaching and examining bodies with purely academic aims: Benares and Aligarh had a different origin but were all-India institutions serving the two chief religious communities of the country. Andhra University has been created by a patriotic Andhra initiative, situated not in a Presidency capital but in an Andhra town and serving consciously the life of a regional people. The home of a robust and virile and energetic race, great by the part it had played in the past in the political life of India, great by its achievements in art, architecture, sculpture, music, Andhra looks back upon imperial memories, a place in the succession of empires and imperial dynasties which reigned over a large part of the country; it looks back on the more recent memory of the glories of the last Hindu Empire of Vijayanagar,– a magnificent record for any people. Your University can take its high position as a centre of light and learning, knowledge and culture which can train the youth of Andhra to be worthy of their forefathers: the great past should lead to a future as great or even greater. Not only Science but Art, not only book-knowledge and information but growth in culture and character are parts of a true education; to help the individual to develop his capacities, to help in the forming of thinkers and creators and men of vision and action of the future, this is a part of its work. Moreover, the life of the regional people must not be shut up in itself; its youths have also to contact the life of the other similar peoples of India interacting with them in industry and commerce and the other practical fields of life but also in the things of the mind and spirit. Also, they have to learn not only to be citizens of Andhra but to be citizens of India; the life of the nation is their life. An elite has to be formed which has an adequate understanding of all great national affairs or problems and be able to represent Andhra in the councils of the nation and in every activity and undertaking of national interest calling for the support and participation of her peoples. There is still a wider field in which India will need the services of men of ability and character from all parts of the country, the international field. For she stands already as a considerable international figure and this will grow as time goes on into vast proportions; she is likely in time to take her place as one of the preponderant States whose voices will be strongest and their lead and their action determinative of the world’s future. For all this she needs men whose training as well as their talent, genius and force of character is of the first order. In all these fields your University can be of supreme service and do a work of immeasurable importance.

    ‘In this hour, in the second year of its liberation the nation has to awaken to many more very considerable problems, to vast possibilities opening before her but also to dangers and difficulties that may, if not wisely dealt with, become formidable. There is a disordered world-situation left by the war, full of risks and sufferings and shortages and threatening another catastrophe which can only be solved by the united effort of the peoples and can only be truly met by an effort at world-union such as was conceived at San Francisco but has not till now been very successful in the practice; still the effort has to be continued and new devices found which will make easier the difficult transition from the perilous divisions of the past and present to a harmonious world-order; for otherwise there can be no escape from continuous calamity and collapse. There are deeper issues for India herself, since by following certain tempting directions she may conceivably become a nation like many others evolving an opulent industry and commerce, a powerful organisation of social and political life, an immense military strength, practising power-politics with a high degree of success, guarding and extending zealously her gains and her interests, dominating even a large part of the world, but in this apparently magnificent progression forfeiting its Swadharma, losing its soul. Then ancient India and her spirit might disappear altogether and we would have only one more nation like the others and that would be a real gain neither to the world nor to us. There is a question whether she may prosper more harmlessly in the outward life yet lose altogether her richly massed and firmly held spiritual experience and knowledge. It would be a tragic irony of fate if India were to throw away her spiritual heritage at the very moment when in the rest of the world there is more and more a turning towards her for spiritual help and a saving Light. This must not and will surely not happen; but it cannot be said that the danger is not there. There are indeed other numerous and difficult problems that face this country or will very soon face it. No doubt we will win through, but we must not disguise from ourselves the fact that after these long years of subjection and its cramping and impairing effects a great inner as well as outer liberation and change, a vast inner and outer progress is needed if we are to fulfil India’s true destiny.’

  3. Champaklal’s Diary-note on Sir C. R. Reddy’s meeting with Sri Aurobindo

    ‘C. R. Reddy saw Sri Aurobindo on the 20th of December, 1948, to present the award of Andhra University. That day Mother came at 8.30 a.m. and told me that she was going to come to Sri Aurobindo’s room at 9.45 to prepare things. C. R. Reddy came in at 10:58 a.m. and was there for half an hour.

    ‘Afterwards Mother said of him: “He is a nice man. He understands things.” She has said the same thing the previous evening, when she first met him.

    ‘He gave to Sri Aurobindo a gold medal and a sum of Rs. 1,116. Mother gave the medal to me for safe-keeping and sent the cash to be put in the box in which only money offered to Sri Aurobindo was kept.’

    Source: Champaklal Speaks, p. 145, edited by M. P. Pandit, revised by Roshan, 2002 edition.

  4. Thank you, Anurag, for bringing out this info from “your” archive.
    It also gives glimpses of how dynamic Sri Aurobindo’s style was. One can sense a power in it.

  5. Dear Anurag,

    No thanking word in any language of the world, not even all of these pronounced together would suffice to say how I felt.
    Congratulations to the founder of the Foundation. Carry on Child, carry on.

    All my love.

  6. It’s actually a nice and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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