5 December 1950 was the 1st Tuesday of that month. It was also the 339th day and 12th month of 1950 in the Gregorian calendar. It will repeat this year, in 2023, 73 years later.
24 November 1950 Friday
This was the last Darshan Sri Aurobindo had given. In another ten days he would withdraw from this thick earthly scene. The message given by him on the occasion was as follows:
‘The Supramental is a truth and its advent is in the very nature of things inevitable.’
This is a part of the letter he had written on 25 December 1934:
‘As to whether the Divine seriously means something to happen, I believe it is intended. I know with absolute certitude that the supramental is a truth and that its advent is in the very nature of things inevitable. The question is as to the when and the how. That also is decided and predestined from somewhere above; but it is here being fought out amid a rather grim clash of conflicting forces.’
But it can go back to what he had drafted in the autumn of 1927 and published a few months later in the book The Mother:
‘The supramental change is a thing decreed and inevitable in the evolution of the earth consciousness …’
This message of 24 November 1950 perhaps meant that the divinely aimed yoga-tapasyā is going to divinely fructify soon.
About this Darshan Nirodbaran writes:
‘The Darshan was on. A vast crowd had gathered. Unaware that it would be the last Darshan, some people were drawn in by an unknown force. It was about 5pm when he came back to his room somewhat tired.
‘He had eaten practically nothing the whole day. The first utterance he made was, “I am very hungry.” We had never heard such a frank personal note from him before. The meal was quickly served by the Mother.
‘In the week, following the Darshan, one day, when he was taking bath, Purani read out to Sri Aurobindo an astrological forecast predicting that Sri Aurobindo would undo himself and that “his manifestation would come about in his 93rd year”. Sri Aurobindo heard it quietly and remarked, “So late as that!” We, of course, took it as one of the Bickerstaff prophecies. But how true was the first part!’
Rhoda P Le Cocq recounts the following. For the first time she had travelled over a long distance to come here from America:
‘It was the morning of November 24th. Although thousands had arrived for this Darshan, it was said that Sri Aurobindo was ill and might find it impossible to appear. Then, at the last minute, we were told he was well enough.
‘A long line led from the main building, around the block. Each of us finally climbed the stairs to the floor. At the end of a long narrow room Sri Aurobindo in white and the Mother in a gold sari, sat side by side upon a slightly raised platform.
‘The procedure was to stand quietly before the two of them for a few silent moments, and then move on at a gesture from Sri Aurobindo.
‘What happened next was completely unexpected. There was the sensation of moving into some kind of a force-field. Intuitively, I knew it was the force of Love. Suddenly, I loved them both, as spiritual “parents”.
‘There was not the least doubt in my mind that I had met two people who had experienced what they claimed. Then all thought ceased. Only many years later did I describe this experience as my having experienced the Timeless in Time.’
A: Sri Aurobindo dies on 5 December 1950 at 1.26am
Concerning the last days of Sri Aurobindo, here is the first-hand account from Nirodbaran in his I am here, I am here! It asserts that the world was eager to know more and more about him but the unexpected occurred by a self-willed choice. Suddenly he disappeared from this visible earthly scene. For inscrutable reasons it must have been to finally emerge victorious. We have also other participants witnessing the divinest event.
Here are the medical details regarding his leaving. The first symptom had appeared two years earlier, a tiny cloud. Later Dr Prabhat Sanyal (FRCS) had recognised it to be a danger-signal that could not be neglected. There was a call for him from Pondicherry, a telegram dated 29th November 1950: “FLY — URGENT — MOTHER”. He came with the tachyonic heart-speed.
After getting apprised of a few details he told the Mother and Sri Aurobindo that it was a case of prostatic enlargement and frequency of micturition, the process of urine excretion from the urinary bladder, was the first symptom. The urine analysis report showed slight albumen and sugar, specific gravity a little above normal. The position was of mild kidney infection — otherwise there was nothing very serious as far as could be judged from the urine report. He writes: “We thought that, Deo volente, continuous drainage would suffice and antibiotics would gradually improve the rest.”
When the suggestion was made to have the blood examined for a detailed bio-chemical examination, Sri Aurobindo smiled and retorted: “You doctors can think only in terms of diseases and medicines but always there is much more effectual knowledge beyond and above it. I do not need anything.”
When told that the gland had enlarged he remarked, he also had been feeling so for some time. A careful watch on the urinary flow was continued; he was passing 50 ozs, in 24 hrs, at specific gravity of 1012-1010.
Nirodbaran writes: ‘We followed the curve of the disease in a silent watchful attitude. Dr Sanyal wondered how that small speck of cloud could enlarge and take possession of the whole physical being. Perhaps he had allowed it to advance for reasons unknown to us. His consciousness slipped inwards and he became more and more absorbed within.’
To the medical experts it was a simple uræmic coma. In Dr Sanyal’s words: “A patient who comes out of that coma every one or two hours, asks for a drink, enquires about time, his must be a very strange type of coma.”
December 4th morning at about 9, the Mother came and helped Sri Aurobindo take a light breakfast. Again, she came at about 1pm. She watched for some time before entering the adjoining room with me. Then She said, “He is withdrawing.”
Udar Pinto narrates: ‘In spite of all medical treatment, there was no improvement in Sri Aurobindo’s physical condition and he came to a state when oxygen had to be administered. I was asked to arrange for it. It was not available in Pondicherry and had to be obtained from Cuddalore. At that time, Pondicherry being still a French colony, there was some tension between the Indian Union and the Pondicherry Government. It was here the Indian Consul General at Pondicherry, Mr R.K. Tandon, helped us much. He sent me to Cuddalore in his own car to get the oxygen equipment. When I brought it, I was also shown how to work it. It was about 10 on the night of 4th December that I got a call to go to Sri Aurobindo’s room to work the oxygen equipment.’
And this is Nirodbaran: ‘By 5pm there was a respite and he called for the commode. There was a thorough purposive clearance of the bowels though he had taken very little food for many days. He then walked to the big cushion chair; again a self of calm repose. It was during this period that he often came out of the trance, and each time leaned forward, hugged and kissed Champaklal who was sitting by the side of his bed. Champaklal also hugged him in return. The climax of the wonder came when I was massaging his right leg, he in his bed. As I bent down, I suddenly felt a quick touch of his palm on my head.
‘That these were indications of his imminent withdrawal became clear only after he had left the body. About ten minutes before the grand end, he called me by my name from his indrawn state, inquired about the time and said, “Nirod, give me a drink.” This was his deliberate last gesture.
Dr Sanyal, prior to that in the evening, gave to the Mother the report and told her that glucose had been given. We wanted to arrange for intravenous infusions. She said quietly and firmly, “I told you this is not necessary. He has no interest in himself, he is withdrawing.”At about 11pm the Mother came into the room and helped Sri Aurobindo to drink half a cup of tomato juice.
This is in Dr Sanyal’s words: “I went to the ante-room to wait for her. She entered and I gave her the report and told her that glucose had been given by Satya and we wanted to arrange for intravenous infusions etc.”
About December 5th Dr Sanyal reports: ‘At 1am she returned and again looked at the Lord and stood at the foot of the bed. There was no sign of agony, fear, or anxiety on her face. With her eyes she asked me to go into the other room and she followed me in. She asked, “What do you think? Can I retire for one hour?” This was a significant hour: the Mother retires — her consciousness leaves her body, none are to call or enter her room then. This is imperative. I murmured, “Mother, this is beyond me.” She said, “Call me when the time comes.”
‘He drew up his arms and put them on his chest, one overlapping the other—then all stopped. I told Nirod to go and fetch the Mother. It was 1.20am.
‘Almost immediately the Mother entered the room. She stood there, near the feet of Sri Aurobindo. Her hair had been undressed and was flowing about her shoulders. Her look was so fierce that I could not face those eyes. With a piercing gaze she stood there. At exactly 1.26am all was over. Softly, she came to me and touched my head, stilled my thoughts, quietened my mind. No trace of agony was left.
‘I asked her, “We have to arrange for the last offices.” She quietly said, “He will be given Samadhi, under the Service tree, in the place where the giant maidenhair plants are arranged.”
‘The Mother also reminded me that formalities had to be observed, a French doctor must certify the death first.
‘The physician of the Government Hospital, Major Barbet, came and saw the Master’s body. We both signed the death certificate, he in French and another I in English.’
After his withdrawal the Mother had stopped all her Ashram activities for twelve day, except for seeing a few heads of the departments.
But here is something significant, divine and human. Dr Sanyal tells: “I took leave of the Mother on 7th evening—taking a last look at the Master’s luminous body,—the Divine in a mortal frame, beautiful, calm, and still without a sign of decomposition. I naively asked the Mother, ‘Why was I not allowed to treat the Lord as I would have done in the routine way, and why was I called?’ Mother consoled me by saying, ‘We wanted you to be here, not so much for treatment.’ The Mother blessed me three times.” But it looks rather mystifying that he should have preferred to go back instead of staying on when the luminous body was still in its glory. But the Grace is always there and the soul has to follow its own curve of development and progress.’
This is Dr Sanyal. When the Mother came, I asked naïvely, “Mother, won’t he come back?” “No!” she replied, “If he wanted to come back, he would not have left the body.” Pointing to the Light she said, “If this Supramental Light remains we shall keep the body in a glass case.” Alas, it did not remain and on the fifth day, on the 9th of December in the evening, the body was laid in a vault.
The Mother, “As long as the supramental light does not pass away, the body will not show any sign of decomposition, and it may be a day or it may take many more days.”
Was it a retreat? Or was it a way, a measure used by him to attain something for the earth? Who can answer?
Nirodbaran told me the event as follows: It was about 1am when the Mother came to Sri Aurobindo’s bed and stood there for a long time. They were looking into each other’s eyes for a long time. Then he signalled her to go away.
How could he withdraw when she was standing there? And how could she allow that to happen? It was an occult necessity for her to be physically absent. Later when it happened, she came there. In her physical absence he made his physical entry into the divine state by entering into death and conquering it. That is, he withdrew by his Yoga-Māyā. He had to withdraw and the Mother had not to be there present at that instant. It must have been after she had left him and gone to her room that he withdrew. And of course she had gone to her room not to sleep, but to occult-yogically do what was gloriously necessary to do in that eventuality. He withdrew in her physical absence but the doctors discovered it only at 1.26 am.
There had to be a medical cause for the ‘death’ and that was in uræmia. The due to nature had to be respected.
According to the Mother’s direction, the body was put into a specially prepared rosewood casket lined with silver sheet and satin and the bottom made comfortable with cushions.
Sri Aurobindo’s body was wrapped in a gold-embroidered cloth. At 5pm the body was carried by the sadhaks to the Ashram courtyard under the Service tree where a cement vault had been under construction from 5th December.
Udar climbed down into the vault to receive the casket and put it in its proper position. Then, as wished by the Mother, Champaklal came first to place a potful of earth upon the slate of the vault, followed by Moni, Nolini and other sadhaks. The event was quiet and solemn. The Mother watched it from the terrace above Dyuman’s room.
Champaklalhad covered his beloved Father’s face with a piece of white cloth. The lid carrying Sri Aurobindo’s symbol of the two intersecting triangles with water and lotus at the centre, all in gold, was screwed on the casket.
B: Sri Aurobindo passes away on 5 December 1950 at 1.26am
Like his life Sri Aurobindo’s “dying” cannot but be as inward. This is what Amal Kiran (K.D. Sethna) writes in his The Passing of Sri Aurobindo—Its Inner Significance and Consequence. The piece was read out to the Mother and she ordered 15000 copies to be printed.
No Yogi dies in the usual sense of the word: his consciousness always exceeds the formula of the physical body. All the more inapplicable is the term “death” to the passing of a Master of Yoga like Sri Aurobindo. Our language fails there.
That there should be a clinical picture instead of a miraculous vanishing trick is exactly in keeping with Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga. Even half an hour before the breathing ceased Sri Aurobindo looked out from his calm compassionate eyes, spoke the name of the doctor by his side and drank some water. This was the strangest uraemic coma in medical history.
When there was a consultation of French and Indian doctors, two and a half days after the death-certificate had been signed, Sri Aurobindo’s body was found to have retained the beautiful white-gold colour.
On 5th December the Mother made an announcement: “The funeral of Sri Aurobindo has not taken place today. His body is charged with such a concentration of supramental light that there is no sign of decomposition and the body will be kept lying on his bed so long as it remains intact.”
It is reasonable to see the whole event of his passing as the finale of a momentous deliberate fight whose implications must be read only by understanding a little the supramental light. But did he give any signs of its forthcoming? The answer is: Yes.
In the course of this plunge, as layer after layer of the occult Inconscient is torn open and the supramental light sought to be called down into it, various dreadful possibilities rise up and great inner wounds as well as severe bodily tensions have to be endured. But throughout the fight the master of the Supermind carries the talisman, as it were, that can ward off the fatal blow.
When Amal Kiran read out the draft of his article to the Mother she remarked something significant. It had a phrase, that the “mortal remains” of Sri Aurobindo were put in the Samadhi. She at once said, there is nothing “mortal” in Sri Aurobindo. This should be definitely taken note of.
Finally, says Amal: “We may close our attempt to elucidate a little the mystery of that look of magnificent meditation with which he lay from early morning of December 5 for more than 111 hours. ‘Spiritually imperial’—this is the only description fitting the appearance of his body. Sri Aurobindo who has already a divinised subtle physical sheath may employ the supramental mode of manifestation for the purpose of presiding in the domain of Matter itself over the new humanity which the Mother will initiate.”
It was the only way that the conquest of Death could be made.
One day taking courage in both hands, Dr Satyendra asked, “Why are you so serious, Sir?” Sri Aurobindo answered gravely, “The time is very serious.” The answer left us more mystified. He had taken the decision to leave his body, there were vaster issues connected with the decision and demanded attention.
C: Sri Aurobindo withdraws on 5 December 1950 at 1.26am
This is from the Mother:
‘Lord, this morning Thou hast given me the assurance that Thou wouldst stay with us until Thy work is achieved, not only as a consciousness which guides and illumines but also as a dynamic Presence in action. In unmistakable terms Thou hast promised that all of Thyself would remain here and not leave the earth atmosphere until earth is transformed. Grant that we may be worthy of this marvellous Presence and that henceforth everything in us be concentrated on the one will to be more and more perfectly consecrated to the fulfilment of Thy sublime Work.’
7 December 1950
‘To Thee who hast been the material envelope of our Master, to Thee our infinite gratitude. Before Thee who hast done so much for us, who hast worked, struggled, suffered, hoped, endured so much, before Thee who hast willed all, attempted all, prepared, achieved all for us, before Thee we bow down and implore that we may never forget, even for a moment, all we owe to Thee.’
9 December 1950
‘Sri Aurobindo was not compelled to leave his body, he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality.’
26 December 1950
‘When I asked him (December 8, 1950) to resuscitate his body, he clearly answered: “I have left this body purposely. I will not take it back. I shall manifest again in the first supramental body built in the supramental way.”’
11 April 1952
The Mother remarked, “Each time I enter his room, I see him pulling down the Supramental Light.” Evidently, he had fixed the date of his departure and was pulling down the highest Light.
Sri Aurobindo told me when I asked to leave (we both knew one of us had to go); I immediately said to him, “I will go.” And he said no, he told me, “Your body is much more capable than mine of bearing the work of transformation.” Sri Aurobindo told me that. And so it accepted, but ..’.
18 December 1971
‘It’s only because Sri Aurobindo’s conscious will entered into it — left one body and entered the other… . I was standing facing his body, and I materially felt the friction as his will entered into me (his knowledge and his will): “You will accomplish my Work.” It’s the one thing that kept me alive.’
4 December 1962
‘There was the case of Sri Aurobindo. I cannot say he was dead! He wasn’t at all dead. For the first three days, I remained standing there, near his bed, and in an absolutely … well, to me, it was absolutely visible — all the organised consciousness that was in his body DELIBERATELY came out of it into mine. And I not only saw it but felt the FRICTION of its entry.
All that supramental power he had attracted into and organised in his body little by little came into me METHODICALLY. …’
14 June 1967
‘When Sri Aurobindo left, for hours he passed on to me the whole supramental force and consciousness he had concentrated in his body. It was immediately after he left. I felt he had called me; I stood there, near his bed, looking at him …I saw it: he passed on to me the force, the whole supramental force he had concentrated in his body, and I felt him everywhere enter like that, with a friction. It lasted for hours.’
24 May 1969
‘Sri Aurobindo had accumulated a great deal of supramental force in his body, and as soon as he left he … He was on his bed, you see, and I was standing beside him, and all the supramental force that was in him passed quite concretely from his body into mine – so concretely that I thought it was visible. I could feel the friction of the passage. It was extraordinary — extraordinary! It was an extraordinary experience. It went on for a long, long time. I was standing beside his bed, and it passed into me. It was a physical sensation. It lasted a long time. That’s all I know.
‘There is a difference in the POWER of the action. He himself — he himself has a greater action, a greater power or action now than when he was in his body. Besides, that’s why he left — because it had to be done that way. It’s very tangible, you know. His action has become very tangible. It is from another region.
It isn’t ethereal or — it’s tangible. I could almost say material.’
20 December 1972
D: He withdrew so that the Mother’s work could begin
What he is now striving to give this body is the consciousness of Permanence, of Immortality, of the Certitude of absolute security— in Matter, in Life, in every moment’s action. And that is becoming nearer and nearer, more and more constant. Gradually, the mixture of old impressions is disappearing— that’s the bedrock of the transformation. Sri Aurobindo’s withdrawal was never a question of his passing away, and absolutely never his dying. He withdrew so that the Mother’s work could begin, as things had progressed to that stage. His physical presence would have, so to speak, come in the way of her necessary action and dynamism. And yet from another station he worked through her.This “begin” of the Mother’s work must be understood contextually. It is the work that was given to her by Sri Aurobindo himself, of transformation and supramental manifestation.
I loose myself forth into birth by my Yoga-Māyā, says the Gita. The implication is he also withdraws by his Yoga-Māyā. This is the process in the case of an Avatar.
“Sri Aurobindo is a permanent Avatar of the Lord as Krishna is.” This is what the Mother wrote to Huta [White Roses, February 1963] She explicitly named these two as “permanent” Avatars.
That truly is something significant. In the Gita Krishna avers he himself to be the supreme Godhead, Purushottama. Established in his own higher transcendental Nature he, by his Yoga-Māyā, looses himself into birth. That is a birth which certainly is a permanent birth. About Sri Aurobindo the Mother has in perfect similarity asserted that spiritually his is birth of the Eternal upon earth, that what Sri Aurobindo represents is a mighty action straight from the Supreme. [15 August 1964]
There is therefore absolutely no question, not at all, of his dying. In fact it is occultly-yogically very wrong to say “he died”, “he left”, “he passed away”, “he departed”. None of this is true. The nearest that can be spoken about him is “he withdrew”, the withdrawal itself is to carry out, to promote, to take forward the Divine’s scheme of things in that interminable “mighty action”.
About the Author: Born on 17 April 1931 RY Deshpande is a professor, philosopher, author, poet and inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. After graduating from Osmania University, Hyderabad, he joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai as a research physicist in 1955 and worked in this organization till 1957. In 1957 he joined the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai where he worked till 1981 and headed several Atomic Energy and Space Projects in Advance Technology with Dr. Raja Ramanna. Having received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1964, he worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California USA from 1964 to 1965. He has some fifty research papers published in national and international scientific journals. He was also an examiner for a number of Ph.D. theses in the field of Solid State Physics. In 1981 Deshpande joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry. For thirty years, he taught physics and a few other subjects such as Astrophysics, Savitri, The Future Poetry, Science and Society at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. For eight years he was the associate Editor of Mother India, a Monthly Review of Culture, published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. During 2007-2008 Deshpande was the editor of a web-magazine titled Science-Culture-Integral Yoga founded in Los Angeles. His published works in prose and poetry include titles like Sri Aurobindo and the New Millennium, Vyasa’s Savitri, The Ancient Tale of Savitri, “Satyavan Must Die”, All Life is Yoga, Nagin-bhai Tells Me, The Rhododendron Valley, All is Dream-Blaze, Under the Raintree, Paging the Unknown, The Wager of Ambrosia, Savitri: Notes and Comments, Elements and Evolution, Sri Aurobindo’s Narad, The Birth of the Sun-God, Hymns to Becoming, These Mountains, The Secret Knowledge, Savitri Talks: The Symbol Dawn, Islam’s Contribution to Science, Big Science and India, Running Through Savitri, A Look at the Symbol Dawn: Observations-Comments-Discussions, Savitri: The Poetry of Immortality, and Sanatana Dharma: An Aurobindonian Perspective to name a few. He has also edited the following books: Nirodbaran: Poet and Sadhak, Amal Kiran: Poet and Critic and Perspectives of Savitri.
36 Replies to “Sri Aurobindo’s Withdrawal— 5 December 1950 by R. Y. Deshpande”
A comment apropos of the following is desirable. Dr Sanyal tells us:
She said quietly and firmly, “I told you this is not necessary. He has no interest in himself, he is withdrawing.”
It is to be understood that “he has no interest in himself” is specifically meant for Dr Sanyal as a professional and is not to be carried elsewhere in any way. He never had interest in anything in the usual sense. He had arrived at the conclusion that his withdrawal was “necessary” and he took all the steps in that necessity, something totally beyond our comprehension.
These are deeply touching and highly moving articles.
My husband received Mother’s blessing a handful of times.
Thank you heartfelt.
The Divine-ward gaze of RYD looking for significance everywhere reminds me of the sonnet by Baudelaire, “La nature est un temple”. He finds what he is searching for. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks indeed. In Baudelaire’s sonnet I find something magical in the following two lines:
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.
The first is as if from the Rig Veda. That is Ratri Sukta.
Deeply moving accounts. Thank you!
The process and the picture of the withdrawal has been very lucidly depicted. The various versions authoritative as they are, makes the details compelling and living.
AVM SS Lahiri
The Mother recalls the physical departure of Sri Aurobindo in a conversation with Satprem on 9 January 1962:
‘The life I led with Sri Aurobindo … Psychologically, there was no struggle, no tension, no effort—not ONCE; I was living in total and confident serenity. On the material plane there were attacks, but even these he took upon himself. Well, I saw it all, all those thirty years of life; not for a SECOND did I have any sense of responsibility, in spite of all the work I was doing, all the organizing and everything. He had supposedly passed on the responsibility to me, you see, but he was standing behind—HE was actually doing everything! I was active, but with absolutely no responsibility. I never felt responsible for a single minute—he took the full responsibility. …
‘And the feeling was so strong that even during his illness (which lasted for months, you know), I had a sense of perfect security; so much so that the idea of his life being really affected in the least by this illness couldn’t even occur to me! I didn’t want to believe it when the doctor said, “It’s over.” I didn’t want to believe it. And as long as I stayed in the room… with me in the room he couldn’t leave his body. And so there was a terrible tension in him—on the one hand the inner will to depart, and then this thing holding him there in his body: the fact that I knew he was alive and could only be alive. He had to signal me to go to my room, supposedly to rest (I didn’t rest); and no sooner had I left his room than he was gone…
‘They immediately called me back…. That’s how it was. Then when he came to me, when I really saw what had happened, when he went out of his body and entered into mine (the most material part of him, the part involved with external things) and I understood that I had the entire responsibility for all the work AND for the sadhana7—well, then I locked a part of me away, a deep psychic part that was living, beyond all responsibility, in the ECSTASY of the realization: the Supreme. I took it and locked it away, I sealed it off and said, “You’re not moving until… until all the rest is ready.”
‘That in itself was a miracle. If I hadn’t done it I would have followed him—and there would have been no one to do the Work. I would have followed him automatically, without even thinking about it. But when he entered into me, he said, “You will do the work; one of us had to go, and I am going, but you will do the work.”
‘And that door was opened again only ten years later, in 1960. Even then, it was done with great care—it was one of last year’s major difficulties.’
… he said, “You will do the work; one of us had to go, and I am going, but you will do the work.”
And she did it, what she was told to do, 29 Feb 1956, and many things in its sequel, during those 23 years after 1950, she did it with the total sense of “irresponsible sovereignty”, sovereignty that is not answerable to anyone except her supreme Lord, receiving messages of “bodiless Light”. To quote “Savitri”:
Something unknown, unreached, inscrutable
Sent down the messages of its bodiless Light,
Cast lightning flashes of a thought not ours,
Crossing the immobile silence of her mind:
In its might of irresponsible sovereignty
It seized on speech to give those flamings shape,
Made beat the heart of wisdom in a word
And spoke immortal things through mortal lips. ||131.16||
The Mother wrote to a disciple soon after Sri Aurobindo’s Mahasamadhi:
‘I was painfully shocked when I heard the translation of the leaflet you are distributing here in the Ashram. I never imagined you could have such a complete lack of understanding, respect and devotion for our Lord who has sacrificed himself totally for us. Sri Aurobindo was not crippled; a few hours before he left his body he rose from his bed and sat for a long time in his armchair, speaking freely to all those around him. Sri Aurobindo was not compelled to leave his body, he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality.
‘And when one cannot understand, the only thing to do is to keep a respectful silence.’ (26 December 1950)
“Sri Aurobindo was not compelled to leave his body, he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality.” — The Mother
That says everything. His chosen withdrawal was a part of his continuing glorious and triumphant Avatarhood. The two are inseparable, making possible for the yogically willed work to go on. And it is that which is going on.
Here is an interesting passage from Amal Kiran’s booklet entitled ‘The Passing of Sri Aurobindo: Its Inner Significance and Consequence’:
‘Everything goes to prove that what happened in the small hours of that December day [5 December 1950] was no purely physical casualty, no fell accident to the seeker of the life divine on earth, but a dreadful gamble freely accepted, an awesome trial undergone for a set purpose, a battle faced in every wounding detail with open eyes and joined with the explicit possibility threatening him of losing in it the most gifted and glorious bodily instrument forged by the manifesting Spirit that is for ever. But the question still stands to be answered: What could be the reason of the perilous experiment? It is doubtful whether any answer expressible by this mere mind can be entirely satisfying. Perhaps none ought to be attempted and we might rest with the conviction that Sri Aurobindo of his own will did what he deemed most necessary for the advancement of his work and we might leave it to the Mother — Sri Aurobindo’s partner in that work — to unroll the supreme rationale of the Master’s will in the actual developments of the Integral Yoga in the future. However, the Master himself never completely discouraged the effort of the mind to comprehend the Spirit’s manifold action. Intellectual formulation of direct inner knowledge or else of intuitive seizures of the Unknown was a thing he fostered, and if by some rapport with his own luminous philosophy we could arrive at a mental glimmer of the Aurobindonian Supermind’s intention we should be doing what he himself from beyond our gross senses would perhaps not refuse to sanction.’
In the same article, Amal Kiran makes the following observation:
‘Sri Aurobindo, in his published pronouncements, appears to have envisaged the need and therefore the prospect of himself constituting together with the Mother the starting-point of supramental humanity. But in the same pronouncements he leaves also a small margin for a different dénouement. A letter of 1934 speaks in general about the ways of a vessel of God: “The Divinity acts according to the consciousness of the Truth above and the Lila below and It acts according to the need of the Lila, not according to men’s ideas of what It should do or should not do.” A clearer hint of unexpected turns in the Divine’s dealings is contained in a letter of 1935: “Why should the Divine be tied down to succeed in all his operations? What if failure suits him better and serves better the ultimate purpose? What rigid primitive notions are these about the Divine!” This suggests that apparent defeat of the Divine’s grandest goal could even be a concealed victory, a way precisely to reach that goal with greater swiftness by means of a paradoxical strategy. And, all conditions considered, it is truly such a strategy that seems to have been employed by Sri Aurobindo when to the superficial gaze he succumbed to a renal disorder.
‘The whole supramental Yoga was indeed like a great general’s campaign against forces that had never been combatted before by any spiritual figure. In the teeth of every common experience, every posture of human living down the ages, even every articulate spiritual tradition, this Yoga hoped to change the very foundations of Matter and proceeded into an embattled darkness: only a fearless fighter like Sri Aurobindo, only a genius like him of the Spirit militant could have intuited the mighty secret of the epiphany in evolution and planned the transformative onslaught on established nature and moved ahead in the frame of mind that is disclosed in yet another letter of 1935: “It is not for personal greatness that I am seeking to bring down the Supermind. I care nothing for greatness or littleness in the human sense…. If human reason regards me as a fool for trying to do what Krishna did not try, I do not in the least care. There is no question of X or Y or anybody else in that. It is a question between the Divine and myself — whether it is the Divine Will or not, whether I am sent to bring that down or open the way to its descent or at least make it more possible or not. Let all men jeer at me if they will or all Hell fall upon me if it will for my presumption — I go on till I conquer or perish. This is the spirit in which I seek the Supermind, no hunting for greatness for myself or others.” A splendid heroism of selflessness is here, the vividest picture of a warrior Yogi who would take any risk, if thereby he could press closer to his objective — and though the formula is “I conquer or perish” the frame of mind is one that might easily avail itself of a yet more audacious formula: “I perish to conquer.” To embrace this formula what would be required is simply the sense that, by sacrificing in a final grapple with the black powers of the Inconscient a wonderful body tinged with supramental light, those powers would be terribly exhausted and the golden godhead above tremendously pulled towards earth and into this body’s partner in the Yoga of the Supermind. As soon as the momentous sense would dawn, Sri Aurobindo would be ready — supreme general that he was — to alter his entire scheme of battle, relinquish his whole line of previously prepared forts, abandon the old method of advance, change suddenly his well-plotted direction and, instead of attempting to supramentalise his physical existence in every detail, move imperturbably towards some titanic ambush, cast away the very guard given him by the Supermind and go down fighting to win all in secret, while losing all on the surface.
‘Nothing except a colossal strategic sacrifice of this kind in order that the physical transformation of the Mother may be immeasurably hastened and rendered absolutely secure and, through it, a divine life on earth for humanity may get rooted and be set aflower — nothing less can explain the passing of Sri Aurobindo. There would also be implied in the holocaust a world-saving action by the sweet power of which Sri Aurobindo speaks in a letter as far back as 1934: “It is only divine Love which can bear the burden I have to bear, that all have to bear who have sacrificed everything else to the one aim of uplifting earth out of its darkness to the Divine.” We may say that some undreamt-of catastrophe would have overwhelmed the world if the vast poison had not been drawn away into the body of this one man whose spiritual consciousness, armed with divine Love, had made him a universalised individual incarnating the Transcendent’s Will. And here we may refer again to the fact that the obstacles confronting Sri Aurobindo in his Yoga were not really personal. They were representative of the race and he gladly accepted their retarding perilous load in spite of or perhaps because of his own exceptional gifts and abilities. Apropos a query about some temporary complaint in the Mother’s body many years ago, he wrote: “We have not sought perfection for our own separate sake, but as part of a general change — creating a possibility of perfection for others. That could not have been done without our accepting and facing the difficulties of the realisation and the transformation and overcoming them for ourselves. It has been done to a sufficient degree on the other planes — but not yet on the most material part of the physical plane. Till it is done, the fight there continues…. The Mother’s difficulties are not her own; she bears the difficulties of others and those that are inherent in the general action and work for the transformation. If it had been otherwise, it would be a very different matter.” Obviously, then, whatever sacrifice is made by Sri Aurobindo or the Mother cannot be one imposed on them by personal defects. Theirs the unique adhars or vehicles of Yoga which could, if left to themselves, surmount every obstacle. This, in the present context of Sri Aurobindo’s departure, means that death is not anything he was obliged to undergo on account of some lack in himself. It is some stupendous crisis of the evolving earth-consciousness — some rebellious clouding upsurge of the divinely attacked Inconscient — that has been diverted to his own life, concentrated in the mortal risk of the uraemic coma and utilised by the master strategist for an occult advantage to the work he had assumed — the work which was always more important than direct personal consummation. But it would be of the essence of the sacrifice and the strategy, as well as typically Aurobindonian, that a keenly struggling resistance should be there together with the large and tranquil acceptance. That is why we have said that Sri Aurobindo has gone down fighting. Never to acquiesce in any shortcoming of earth-nature was his motto, for he saw the very secret of evolution to be the manifestation in earth-nature of what superficially looks impossible — the quivering forth of vitality and sensation in seemingly lifeless Matter, the glimmering out of mind and reason in apparently instinctive animality, the all-perfecting revelation of Supermind in ostensibly groping intelligence, stumbling life-force and mortal body. So there never could be for Sri Aurobindo either a surrender to ordinary world-conditions or a flight into peace away from the world. An inviolable timeless peace he had always known ever since those three grand days in Baroda in 1908 when through a complete silencing of the mind the absolute experience of Nirvana, which has been the terminus of so many other Yogas, became his — not as a terminus but only as a base for further conquests. As for surrender, he could surrender to nothing except the Divine. Consequently, he battled for the Supermind’s descent till his last breath — calling the immortal Sun of the Spirit down, passionately packing his earthly envelope with the supramental light so much so indeed that he could keep for several days that envelope free from the taint of discolouration and decay. To battle thus in the very moments of the sacrifice was in tune with his whole life-endeavour. Has he not himself expounded in a letter the technique of triumph in the midst of seeming downfall? “Even if I foresee an adverse result I must work for the one that I consider should be; for it keeps alive the force, the principle of Truth which I serve and gives it a possibility to triumph hereafter so that it becomes part of the working of the future favourable fate even if the fate of the hour is adverse.”
And he concludes:
‘With these far-seeing phrases of the Master we may close our attempt to elucidate a little the mystery of that look of magnificent meditation with which he lay from early morning of December 5 for more than 111 hours in his simple bed in the room where he had spent over two decades of intense world-work. “Spiritually imperial”—this is the only description fitting the appearance of his body: the heroic countenance with its white beard and its flowing white hair above the massive forehead, its closed quiet eyes and its wide-nostrilled aquiline nose and its firm lips whose corners were touched with beatitude, the broad and smooth shoulders, the arms flexed to place on the indomitable chest, hand over gentle, artistic yet capable hand, the strong manly waist covered by an ample cloth of gold-bordered silk, even the legs stretched out with an innate kingship reminiscent of their having trod through seventy-eight years with holy feet at once blessing and possessing earth. The atmosphere of the room was vibrant with a sacred power to cleanse and illumine, a power which appeared to emanate from the Master’s poise of conquering rest and to invade the bodies of all the watchers with almost a hammering intensity from over their heads as if, in redoubled force because of Sri Aurobindo’s selfless physical withdrawal, there came pouring down to humanity the life-transfiguring grace of the Supermind.
‘And we may add that somehow the personal presence itself of Sri Aurobindo grew intenser. He who had so long kept to a room for the sake of concentratedly hastening the Yogic process of transformation — the wonderful bliss and dynamis which the Mother had been canalising by her physical nearness to the disciples — he by setting aside his most exterior sheath broke out into a new intimacy with his followers and took them even more directly into his immense being. But it would hardly do justice to that being if we thought of it as merely a pervading greatness. Behind the material envelope are other organised vehicles — subtle and causal — Sri Aurobindo had brought the remote causal effectively into the proximate subtle and was pressing it into the outer sheath at the time of his strategic sacrifice. To quote again his words, “The transformation has been done to a sufficient degree on the other planes.” This means that he held the Supermind embodied in his subtle sharira and that he was under no occult necessity, no law of subtle Nature, to give up the latter for the purpose of returning to some place of the soul’s rest before being reborn with a new subtle body as well as a new gross one. Sri Aurobindo, at the hour of his physical withdrawal, was in a position to do much more than be the cosmic and transcendent Purusha that his supramental Yoga had made his incarnate personality. He could actually be that Purusha active in an indissoluble subtle body at once divine and human, in a far more direct constant touch with the material world than could the forms which mystics have visioned of past Rishis and Prophets and Avatars. In a most special sense, therefore, Sri Aurobindo the marvellously gifted and gracious person who was our Guru and whom we loved is still at work and a concrete truth is expressed by the Mother when she says: “To grieve is an insult to Sri Aurobindo, who is here with us conscious and alive.” The same concrete truth is in-gemmed in the beautiful message of December 7, which she delivered out of her depths where she and Sri Aurobindo are one: “Lord, this morning Thou hast given me the assurance that Thou wouldst stay with us until Thy work is achieved, not only as a consciousness which guides and illumines but also as a dynamic Presence in action. In unmistakable terms Thou hast promised that all of Thyself would remain here and not leave the earth-atmosphere until earth is transformed. Grant that we may be worthy of this marvellous Presence and that henceforth everything in us be concentrated on the one Will to be more and more perfectly consecrated to the fulfilment of Thy Sublime Work.”
‘So the work goes on, the Mother fronting the future, with the Master by her side in subtle embodiment. And for those who have faith in the work’s fulfilment and who understand what that would be, there is a hope that sees the future pregnant with a particular most heart-soothing possibility. Sri Aurobindo has written in connection with the time when the Supermind’s descent into flesh and blood will be complete: “In the theory of the occultists and in the gradation of the ranges and planes of our being which Yoga-knowledge outlines for us there is not only a subtle physical force but a subtle physical Matter intervening between life and gross Matter and to create in this subtle physical substance and precipitate the forms thus made into our grosser materiality is feasible. It should be possible and it is believed to be possible for an object formed in this subtle physical substance to make a transit from its subtlety into the state of gross Matter directly by the intervention of an occult force and process whether with or even without the assistance or intervention of some gross material procedure. A soul wishing to enter into a body or form for itself a body and take part in a divine life upon earth might be assisted to do so or even provided with such a form by this method of direct transmutation without passing through birth by the sex process or undergoing any degradation or any of the heavy limitations in the growth and development of its mind and material body inevitable to our present way of existence. It might then assume at once the structure and greater powers and functionings of the truly divine material body which must one day emerge in a progressive evolution to a totally transformed existence both of life and form in a divinised earth-nature.”
‘These words hold out the prospect that Sri Aurobindo who has already a divinised subtle physical sheath may employ the supramental mode of manifestation for the purpose of presiding in the domain of Matter itself over the new humanity which the Mother will initiate. In that dawn of God’s gold the Mother will be the first being to achieve the divine body by a progression through a body born in the natural manner, while through the support of her achievement Sri Aurobindo may be the first being to put on the physical vesture of transformation by a projection of substance and shape from supernature. Nothing, of course, is certain about what Sri Aurobindo may will to do, but the possibility we have figured is not out of accord with all that we have glimpsed of a quenchless and victorious light beyond the human in the very event which strikes the surface eye of the aspiring world as a universal sunset — the passing of Sri Aurobindo.’
“Lord, this morning Thou hast given me the assurance that Thou wouldst stay with us until Thy work is achieved, not only as a consciousness which guides and illumines but also as a dynamic Presence in action. In unmistakable terms Thou hast promised that all of Thyself would remain here and not leave the earth-atmosphere until earth is transformed. …”
That dismisses any notion of what might strike “the surface eye of the aspiring world as a universal sunset — the passing of Sri Aurobindo.”
It is not sunset, it is the beginning of the “noons of the future”. After the noon of the Gita has come the noon of Savitri, followed in quick succession by the noon of the glorious Agenda, unfolding the Spirit’s noons and noons of the future.
Udar Pinto on Sri Aurobindo’s Mahasamadhi:
‘Regarding Sri Aurobindo’s passing we know now that He had decided to leave this physical world because, as Mother explained to us later, it was the only way that the final conquest of Death could be made; Mother said that Sri Aurobindo had told Her that one of them would have to cross the barrier and work from the other side — so that death, the greatest obstacle to the physical transformation, could be finally overcome. Mother offered to be the one to cross over but Sri Aurobindo said to Her that She had the more difficult task to perform and must continue to remain, while He would go across and work from the other side. That is why His presence is constantly felt by all of us.’ (Udar, one of Mother’s Children, Sri Aurobindo Udyog Trust, Pondicherry, p. 34)
In a letter written to his father on 14 December 1950, Pavitra writes about Sri Aurobindo’s Mahasamadhi:
‘The true reasons for his withdrawal from the body are no doubt profound and will be known only later. For the moment I can only have a glimpse of them.
‘We could have thought that Sri Aurobindo has withdrawn into the Absolute or that he has entered Nirvana. Mother has told us and many of us also think that it is not that and that he remains and will remain with us, not only as a source of inspiration but as a living and active presence, radiating Light and Force until his work is accomplished, that is to say, until the Supramental has descended and is fully manifested on earth. How many years or centuries that will take, she does not say, and no doubt, it is not important when one sees things on the scale of the cosmos or of humanity!
‘The true reasons for his withdrawal from the body are no doubt profound and will be known only later. For the moment I can only have a glimpse of them.
‘We could have thought that Sri Aurobindo has withdrawn into the Absolute or that he has entered Nirvana. Mother has told us and many of us also think that it is not that and that he remains and will remain with us, not only as a source of inspiration but as a living and active presence, radiating Light and Force until his work is accomplished, that is to say, until the Supramental has descended and is fully manifested on earth. How many years or centuries that will take, she does not say, and no doubt, it is not important when one sees things on the scale of the cosmos or of humanity!
‘So Mother has decided that the Ashram should continue, and, with an increased force, she continues to guide it, as she has been doing since its foundation in 1926 when Sri Aurobindo himself gave her the charge. For us, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are, now more than ever, one and the same Person. We have lost the great sweetness of the personal relation with Sri Aurobindo, but not his guidance, his knowledge and his power, and he has left to us the great sweetness of the relation with the Mother.
‘Certainly, some changes are going to be made in the Ashram. Some will probably be imposed on us by the circumstances themselves; others will result from the shock which this painful event has given us: a greater concentration in the aspiration, a clearer vision of the essential.’ (Itinerary of a Child of the Century, serialised in Mother India, September 2011.)
“We have lost the great sweetness of the personal relation with Sri Aurobindo, but not his guidance, his knowledge and his power, and he has left to us the great sweetness of the relation with the Mother.”
We may quote from “Savitri”:
He who has found his identity with God
Pays with the body’s death his soul’s vast light. ||108.40||
His knowledge immortal triumphs by his death. ||108.41||
This was absolutely one of the last three passages Sri Aurobindo had dictated in the Book of Fate, just three weeks before his withdrawal, around 15 November 1950. It is entirely autobiographical, that, it is his knowledge immortal that is going to triumph by his death.
Here is an interesting experience that a senior inmate of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram had four months before the physical departure of Sri Aurobindo.
‘On 15 August 1950, an old sadhak with a capacity for vision saw Sri Aurobindo drawing into himself fumes that were rising from the subconscious parts of the people as they were coming to him for darshan in a procession. He was gathering up the lower elements of earth-nature within the area of representative humanity and then drawing them into himself.’
K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar writes about Sri Aurobindo’s physical withdrawal in his extraordinary biography of Sri Aurobindo entitled ‘Sri Aurobindo: A Biography and a History’:
‘“Withdrawal, the great withdrawal”, they said — but hadn’t Sri Aurobindo’s life been a whole series of withdrawals? While yet young in years, he was withdrawn from his home to the residential school in Darjeeling, and then from India to England. Having qualified for the I.C.S. (the “heaven-born” Service), he manoeuvred to withdraw from it; having risen high in the Baroda Service and become Acting Principal of the Baroda College, he withdrew from that prison of affluent security and plunged into the maelstrom of politics and revolution; at the height of his influence after Surat, he withdrew to a quietude of Nirvanic calm in a small room in Baroda — then Narayana withdrew him to the Alipore jail so that he could continue his sādhanā — and still later Sri Aurobindo withdrew from politics altogether and proceeded from Calcutta to Chandernagore, and from Chandernagore to Pondicherry; and there, having won height after height of realisation and accomplished the God’s Labour of the Arya, he withdrew to complete silence on 24 November 1926; and now, in December 1950, this climactic withdrawal from the body itself. Weren’t the several withdrawals so many strategic retreats that were really purposive forced marches, each “withdrawal” merely signifying that one more phase of his campaign of conquest was over and another, in another but related field, had begun? Why, then, regret the “great withdrawal” of 5 December 1950?
‘Or one reviewed Sri Aurobindo’s diverse roles on the terrestrial stage: a Kacha mastering an alien lore in England but rejecting the blandishments of Devayani; a young Augustus at Baroda, imposing his empire on the “realms of gold”; a Perseus or Prometheus of “Bhavani Mandir”; an Arjuna surrendered to Krishna at Alipore; a Vyasa doing a neo-Mahabharata in the Arya; a neo-Vishvamitra giving us a new Gayatri in The Mother, a Yogishwara Krishna doubled with a Yogishwara Shiva playing an invisible hand in world happenings; and on 5 December 1950, “The Last Great Act of drawing off the ‘halahala’ that his own Mahakala action had precipitated out of the cosmic ferment”. [K.D. Sethna, The Passing of Sri Aurobindo, p. 5 ]
‘Or one tried to find solace in the classical symbol of the seed dying to give life to plant or tree. The whole rhythm of existence upon earth — life and birth and growth and death was a mystery. And the greatest mystery at the heart of phenomenal life was the miracle of resurrection following the shock of the crucifixion. Nolini Kanta Gupta said some time after the event:
‘He has done it: he has made Nature take the final leap. The mental being with its triple nodi is at last bundled up and cast into the Supramental status. As he saw and assured us,
‘A seed shall be sown in Death’s tremendous hour…
Nature shall overleap her mortal step —
The formed seed is now in the womb developing fast and sure, it awaits the moment to break out into the light of material and universal day. [‘Mother India’, February 1951]
‘There was a “death” certainly, and there was a phenomenon surpassing our notions of “death”. The death was unnecessary because, had Sri Aurobindo been willing to use his Yogic force as he had done on former occasions, the “disease” couldn’t have made headway and proved mortal. Not age, not disease, not just these; death was suffered, it was almost invited. But why? There must have been a capital reason; not a personal reason, but a cosmic reason — what was it? What was it Sri Aurobindo hoped to achieve — or avert — by making his tremendous assignation with the Night?
Since coming to Pondicherry, the whole aim of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga was to bring the Supermind here into our world, and make it a part of the earth-consciousness, as ‘Life’ and ‘Mind’ already are. When, during his interview on 4 February 1943, Dilip asked Sri Aurobindo, “Is your real work this invocation of the Supramental?” The Master answered very simply, “Yes, I have come for that” [Dilip Kumar Roy, ‘Among the Great’, p. 359]. If that was the cardinal purpose of Sri Aurobindo’s avatarhood and ministry on earth, anything he did — including his “self-immolation” — must have had a close connection with that fundamental objective. Even in 1938, the Mother used to see the Supermind descending into Sri Aurobindo, but it couldn’t be settled for good in the earth-consciousness, especially in the physical or the physical mind. In the series of articles included in The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth, Sri Aurobindo introduced the “realm between” — the Mind of Light — a limited or delegated power of the Supermind; and we have the Mother’s word — reinforced by the experience of the Supramental radiance from his body from 5th to 8th December — that “as soon as Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body, what he called the Mind of Light got realised here”. Was it, perhaps, necessary for Sri Aurobindo to receive the full force of the Supermind in the physical, retain it for a few days, so that the way might be cleared for the ultimate Supramentalisation of the earth and man?
‘It is the mark of the ‘gentleman’ that he would suffer himself, rather than inflict pain on others or even see them suffer. According to Nirod, Sri Aurobindo was a “Supramental perfect gentleman”, and had a magnanimity of the kind described in the lines —
A magnanimity as of sea or sky
Enveloped with its greatness all that came.
‘And it is of Shiva most that Sri Aurobindo reminded Nirod! [“Talk on ‘Sri Aurobindo — Perfect Gentleman’ on 12 June 1970”, Mother India, August 1970, p. 413.] And Yogiswara Shiva, what was his role in world-existence:
A dreadful cord of sympathy can tie
All suffering into his single grief and make
All agony in all the worlds his own….
The poison of the world has stained his throat. [SABCL, Vol. 29, p. 446]
‘If he could himself invite and absorb — even at the cost of surrendering the material envelope that was his body — the first full impact of the Supramental descent (as Shiva received the impact of Ganga cascading in a downpour on the earth), both to make sure of the descent and to contain and consolidate the gains for the world, why, certainly he would do it — as Shiva drank the poison and yet contained it in his throat! If the victory could be won somewhere sometime by somebody, it would become possible ultimately for anybody to win it anywhere. To open the Possibility was the main thing. And the sacrifice of his body, as the first physical base for the demonstration of the Supramental possibility — if that could advance the date of the total descent of the Supramental light, or ensure the near descent — well, the sacrifice was worth making. Since, after all, even without his physical presence, he would be here, one with the Mother’s consciousness and power, he could also accelerate, witness and participate in the decreed Divine manifestation upon earth.’
A seed shall be sown in Death’s tremendous hour,
A branch of heaven transplant to human soil;
Nature shall overleap her mortal step;
Fate shall be changed by an unchanging will. ||91.9||
If this is the Boon from the Divine Mother herself, there has to arrive the Death’s tremendous hour. That moment was 1.25am 5 December 1950, Tuesday. And the seed that was sown was the Mind of Light which he had accumulated in his physical and passed on to the Mother in that hour. She describes it a number of times, for instance,
20 December 1972
Sri Aurobindo had accumulated a great deal of supramental force in his body, and as soon as he left he … He was on his bed, you see, and I was standing beside him, and all the
supramental force that was in him passed quite concretely from his body into mine — so concretely that I thought it was visible. I could feel the friction of the passage. It was extraordinary — extraordinary! It was an extraordinary experience. It went on for a long, long time. I was standing beside his bed, and it passed into me.
An Interview of Amal Kiran with the Mother about the Return of Sri Aurobindo:
‘At the beginning of May 1952, during one of my visits to the Ashram from Bombay, I met the Mother in her room at the Playground. It was on the eve of my departure. What she had said at the end of 1950 about Sri Aurobindo coming back in a supramental body had been in my mind pretty often in the period after it, acutely missing him as I had done—missing him not only as a most compassionate and illuminating Guru but also as a most delightfully enlightening critic of literature and a correspondent most patient, understanding, intimate and voluminous. So, just before taking my leave, I expressed my hope to have Sri Aurobindo back with us in the near future. I spoke too of my concern over world-factors threatening the Divine’s work. The Mother, with great sympathy and kindness in her eyes but with a quiet steady voice, replied:
“The return of Sri Aurobindo very soon is not likely. His going was connected with world-conditions. If world-conditions had been such as could so soon change and be suitable for his presence amongst us, his going itself would have been unnecessary.
“Also, the return cannot be in a startling miraculous manner. That would not be consistent with Sri Aurobindo’s method and our work. A more probable way of return would be: the present occasional visions of Sri Aurobindo which some people see—the almost material appearance he makes now to some people at certain times—may increase; the manifestation may be more frequent and more general, until one day a permanent reappearance takes place.
“One can’t fix the precise time of his return. It may even be five hundred years later. I can’t say anything, since the knowledge has not come to me. I only say things when I get them. This much I have said: Sri Aurobindo will be the first to have the supramental body.
“People keep asking me: ‘When Sri Aurobindo comes back in a supramental body, will he need to eat or drink or do other usual things?’ All these questions are silly.
“Sri Aurobindo’s leaving the body makes no essential difference. Sri Aurobindo is after all a certain consciousness, the divine consciousness, and this consciousness was there even before the earth came. The question of his ‘absence’ has little meaning.
“A world war may destroy civilisation, but it won’t destroy the Divine’s work. Sri Aurobindo once told me that he had so arranged things that nothing would interfere with his work.” [‘Mother India’, December 1974]
“The return of Sri Aurobindo very soon is not likely. His going was connected with world-conditions. If world-conditions had been such as could so soon change and be suitable for his presence amongst us, his going itself would have been unnecessary.”
She is explaining something to Amal and therefore she is talking about “world-conditions”. In a similar way she had told to Dr Sanyal: “I told you this is not necessary. He has no interest in himself, he is withdrawing.” That “no interest in himself” was for the doctor, for the human mind.
Not the “world conditions” but the deepest occult factors were in full play, factors that were standing “across the path of the divine Event, the huge foreboding mind of Night”, with which “Savitri” begins. This mind of Night had to be transformed into the mind of Light, the physical’s mind receiving the supramental Light and Force. In it is the appearance of the surhomme. And that has been set into motion.
16 September 1967, the Mother tells:
“And when he left, there was a whole part—the most material part of the descent of the supramental body down to the mind—that visibly came out of his body like that and entered mine, and it was so concrete that I felt the FRICTION of forces passing through the pores of the skin…. ”
It does not mean that his body, “the material envelope of our Master”, became empty of it. Occult-yogically he made it dynamically operative in the Mother.
Sri Aurobindo had embraced death voluntarily. This is evident from the following statement of the Mother which She gave soon after Sri Aurobindo’s descent into death: ‘He was not compelled to leave his body, he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality.’ Elsewhere She has remarked that ‘There was nothing “mortal” about Sri Aurobindo,’ and also: ‘Sri Aurobindo did not die of physical causes. He had complete control over his body’ [see K. D. Sethna’s ‘The Mother: Past, Present, Future’, pp. 13-14]. She has also remarked elsewhere: ‘’He was not forced to leave his body, he has chosen to do so.’
When Satprem was working on his book, ‘Sri Aurobindo or The Adventure of Consciousness’, he would read twice or thrice a week the last pages authored by him to the Mother. While describing Sri Aurobindo’s passing away, Satprem had used the term ‘succumbed’ using the French word succombé. The Mother corrected him and said: ‘He has not “succumbed’’. It is not so that he was not able of doing otherwise. It is not the difficulty of his work which has made him depart. It is something else … You must use another word than “succumb.” Really, it was his decision that things would be done in another way, because he was of the opinion that the result in this way would come about much faster … But this is a complex explanation which for the time being regards nobody. But one cannot say that he has “succumbed”. “Succumbed” evokes the thought that he did not want to [die], that it happened all by itself, that it was an accident. It cannot be “succumbed.” (The Mother’s Agenda, Volume III).
But here a question arises. Did the Mother know for sure that Sri Aurobindo would depart? In his book, ‘Memorable Contacts with the Mother’, Nirodbaran recalls a talk he had with the Mother on his birthday in 1953. The Mother tells him: ‘At any rate, I did not believe till the last moment that Sri Aurobindo was going to leave his body.’ Similarly, K.D. Sethna writes in one of his articles that on 3rd December 1950 [please mark the date], the Mother had told him that Sri Aurobindo would soon read his articles. Afterwards, when Sethna asked the Mother why She had allowed him to go to Bombay [presently Mumbai, where Sethna was staying] on 3rd December, the Mother said that Sri Aurobindo’s going had not yet been decided. It is evident that the Mother, despite several statements issued by Her explaining the significance of Sri Aurobindo’s physical departure and the great sacrifice made by Him, was somewhat puzzled by the event. In one of Her talks recorded in the ‘Agenda’, if I recall correctly, She had said: ‘Why? Why? How often have I not asked that question!’
“Sri Aurobindo had embraced death voluntarily.”
It was not embracing “death”; it was conquering death, conquering Death. And certainly it was not “succumbing” to death, as the Mother emphatically speaks. He wanted to “die” and he yogically “died”. There was nothing “voluntarily” in it. It was by his Yoga-Maya, to use the phrase of the Gita, that he acted that way, he acted that way. We cannot even say that it was a great “sacrifice” made by him. “Sacrifice” to whom, when it was a divinely willed action? In the operative dynamics of the Divine it was one functional step which he had taken. Which means that his work is going on in its fullest blaze and intensity.
Here are some interesting and noteworthy extracts from Georges Van Vrekhem’s book, ‘Beyond Man’:
‘The Mother had said several times that Sri Aurobindo had confided to her at one time: ‘We cannot both remain on earth, one of us must go.’ To which she had replied: ‘I am ready, I’ll go.’ But Sri Aurobindo had forbidden that. ‘No, you can’t go, your body is better than mine, you can undergo the transformation better than I can do.’… She will refer to this vital conversation later: ‘He told me that his body was not capable of enduring the transformation, that mine was more suitable — and he repeated this.’ When did that vital conversation take place? One time the Mother says that it was something ‘that he said in 1949,’ another time that it was ‘before he broke his leg,’ which means in 1938, that early. …
‘From what precedes we can conclude, firstly, that Sri Aurobindo was fully knowledgeable of the ordeal the supramental physical transformation would mean for a body and that he had unmistakably seen that the Mother’s body was better able than his to undergo that transformation — ‘unmistakably’ because otherwise he surely would have taken on the ordeal himself. In later years the Mother would wholeheartedly agree with the correctness of his decision.
‘Secondly, he must have seen that, for practical reasons connected with the Work, it was required that a manifested half of the double Avatar, of the Two-in-One, had to go and work ‘behind the veil’ — probably to hasten the result of the Work, certainly because Death and everything related to it could only be transformed by confronting it with the full avataric consciousness, in other words: by consciously experiencing and transforming death. The Mother too must have seen this necessity, which was the reason why she spontaneously declared herself prepared for the occult master act.
‘Thirdly — and there is no circumventing this — Sri Aurobindo had worked out the preparation of his voluntary passage through death in such a way that it remained veiled for part of the active consciousness of the Mother and that his intention remained hidden from her — she who could read the worlds and all they contain like an open book. He did this for the reason the Mother herself told us, namely that otherwise she could not have let him go without leaving together with him.’
Let me reproduce what exactly the Mother had said:
“We had some conversations on precisely this subject, because we saw that … the prevailing conditions were such that I told him I would leave this body and melt into him with no regret or difficulty; I told him this in words, not just in thought. And he also replied to me in words: ‘Your body is indispensable for the Work. Without your body the Work cannot be done.’ After that, I said no more. It was no longer my concern, and that was the end of it. This was said in … 1949, just a little more than a year before he left. And that’s really how it is.” [15 July 1961]
It means, it was a well-intended well-calculated deliberate act, it was an operational necessity. It was in the divine pragmatics that it had to be done.
“He dies that the world may be new-born and live.” ||108.52||
He “dies” because
An adversary Force was born of old:
Invader of the life of mortal man,
It hides from him the straight immortal path. ||108.57||
A power came in to veil the eternal Light,
A power opposed to the eternal will
Diverts the messages of the infallible Word,
Contorts the contours of the cosmic plan:
A whisper lures to evil the human heart,
It seals up wisdom’s eyes, the soul’s regard,
It is the origin of our suffering here,
It binds earth to calamity and pain. ||108.58||
This all must conquer who would bring down God’s peace. ||108.59||
What happened at 1.25am of 5 December 1950, Tuesday, was in that act of “conquering”. On it the glowing seal was put by the Mother with the supramental manifestation in the subtle-physical of the earth, in the evening of 29 February 1956, Wednesday.
Georges Van Vrekhem continues in his book, ‘Beyond Man’:
‘It was a technical, practical, occult exigency to hasten the manifestation of the Supermind and the supramental transformation on Earth. It might not be unreasonable to postulate that this acceleration was seen as imperative by Sri Aurobindo to make it possible that the foundations of the divine future of humankind — the task for which the double Avatar had incarnated — might be built while the Avatar, now physically embodied only in the Mother, would still be on Earth. Otherwise, a new incarnation would have been required somewhere in the future, which means that the manifestation of the Supermind would have been postponed.
‘Sri Aurobindo, totally free of ego, had no personal desires, pride or purposes; the success of the work of the Avatar was to him the only object of importance. His ‘strategic withdrawal’ was possible because the Mother remained behind. Had this not been so, their avataric embodiment and effort would indeed have been a fiasco as far as their main objective, the establishment of the Supermind in the Earth-atmosphere, was concerned. The physical half of the body of the Avatar that was better constituted to undergo the transformation remained upon Earth. As the Consciousness was one but the division of tasks different, Sri Aurobindo had to transmit his yogic acquirements to the Mother to allow her to continue the Work at once and in its total extent. This amazing transmission has taken place immediately after Sri Aurobindo was declared ‘dead’ by Dr. Sanyal. ‘When [Sri Aurobindo] had left, there was an entire part — the most material part of the descent into the material body down to the mental — which visibly left his body and entered into mine,’ said the Mother, ‘and that was so concrete that I felt the friction of the forces going through the pores of my skin … It was as concrete as if it had been material.’ [The Mother’s Agenda, Volume 8, p. 311]
In the eleventh volume of the ‘Agenda’, the Mother says: ‘‘And I see now, I see how much his departure and his work — so … so enormous, you know, and persistent in the subtle physical — how much, how much it has helped! How much he has helped to prepare everything, to change the structure of the physical.’ In Her ‘Notes on the Way’, the Mother said in 1972: ‘There is a difference in the power of action. He himself — he himself! — has more action, more power of action now than in his body. Besides, it was therefore that he left, because it was necessary to do so.’ And when Satprem once asked her: ‘But why that standstill?’ (caused by Sri Aurobindo’s passing, he meant), the Mother exclaimed: ‘But nothing has come to a standstill! … He had come for that, and he had arranged everything to … to secure a maximum of chances … “chances” by way of speaking: possibilities — to put all the trumps in our hand.’ [The Mother’s Agenda, Volume II] And she also said: ‘Sri Aurobindo once told me that he had arranged everything in a way that nothing would be able to disrupt the continuation of his work.’
All perceptions and descriptions and theories about Sri Aurobindo’s ‘departure’ get most gloriously resolved in the Mother’s these two sentences:
“He himself — he himself! — has more action, more power of action now than in his body. Besides, it was therefore that he left, because it was necessary to do so.”
What a powerful that “therefore”. It means, he knew about it when he was in his physical body here.
A humble query: Sri Aurobindo’s descend into death was termed as a ‘sacrifice’. When Shyam Sundar Jhunjhunwala wrote to the Mother in 1969, ‘May I not be unfaithful to the sacrifice Sri Aurobindo has made for the earth!’ the Mother had replied: ‘For his consciousness it was not a sacrifice.’ Could you please explain this contradiction?
Please see my comment above:
We cannot even say that it was a great “sacrifice” made by him. “Sacrifice” to whom, when it was a divinely willed action? In the operative dynamics of the Divine it was one functional step which he had taken. Which means that his work is going on in its fullest blaze and intensity.
The following lines of ‘Savitri’ explain the nature of the work Sri Aurobindo had accomplished. The ‘Traveller of the Worlds’, that is, Sri Aurobindo Himself, descends into the night of the Subconscient and Inconscient. ‘The ordeal he suffered of evil’s absolute reign’ in ‘the black inertia of our base’.
‘Into the abysmal secrecy he came
Where darkness peers from her mattress, grey and nude,
And stood on the last locked subconscient’s floor
Where Being slept unconscious of its thoughts
And built the world not knowing what it built.
There waiting its hour the future lay unknown,
There is the record of the vanished stars.
There in the slumber of the cosmic
Will He saw the secret key of Nature’s change …
He saw in Night the Eternal’s shadowy veil,
Knew death for a cellar in the house of life,
In destruction felt creation’s hasty pace
Knew loss as the price of a celestial gain
And hell as a short cut to heaven’s gates.
Then in Illusion’s occult factory
And in the Inconscient’s magic printing house
Torn were the formats of the primal Night
And shattered the stereotypes of Ignorance.
Alive, breathing a deep spiritual breath,
Nature expunged her stiff mechanical code
And the articles of the bound soul’s contract,
Falsehood gave back to Truth her tortured shape.
Annulled were the tables of the law of pain …
He imposed upon dark atom and dumb mass
The diamond script of the Imperishable
Inscribed on the dim heart of fallen things
A paean-song of the free Infinite
And the Name, foundation of eternity,
And traced on the awake exultant cells
In the ideographs of the Ineffable
The lyric of the love that waits through Time
And the mystic volume of the Book of Bliss
And the message of the superconscient Fire …
Hell split across its huge abrupt facade
As if a magic building were undone,
Night opened and vanished like a gulf of dream …
Healed were all things that Time’s torn heart had made
And sorrow could live no more in Nature’s breast:
Division ceased to be, for God was there.
The soul lit the conscious body with its ray.
Matter and spirit mingled and were one.’ (Savitri, pp. 231-232)
To conclude in the words of Georges Van Vrekhem: Sri Aurobindo ‘has descended into the lower reaches of existence — ‘delve deeper, deeper still’ — and there has changed the programme which produces life as we still know it at present. At the roots of life, he has made possible the supramental transformation; its realization is on the way and will manifest materially in the future. Since December 1950 he has kept working behind the veil of gross matter ‘to change the structure of matter’ in order that his reprogramming of the foundations of existence should be worked out more rapidly. He has ‘given all trumps’ in the Mother’s hand to bring the Work for which both of them had come to a successful end.’ (‘Beyond Man’)
“At the roots of life, he has made possible the supramental transformation; its realization is on the way and will manifest materially in the future.” That is very correct.
He gave all the “trumps” to the Mother, because she could play the game better than him, her body being very special for the purpose. And the Mother accepted the proposal, in 1949 itself.
The Mother had told Dr. Prabhat Sanyal on the very morning of Sri Aurobindo’s Mahasamadhi [5th December 1950:
‘“About a year ago, while I was discussing things, I remarked that I felt like leaving this body of mine. He spoke out in a very firm tone: “No, this can never be. If necessary for this transformation, I might go, you will have to fulfil our Yoga of supramental descent and transformation.”
While recalling this conversation on another occasion, the Mother has said:
‘‘I told him [Sri Aurobindo]: “If one of us must go, I want that it should be me.” — “It can’t be you,” he replied, “because you alone can do the material thing.” And that was all. He said nothing more. He forbade me to leave my body… After that — this took place early in 1950 — he gradually let himself fall ill. For he knew quite well that should he say “I must go,” I would not have obeyed him and I would have gone. For according to the way I felt, he was much more indispensable than I. But he saw the matter from the other side. And he knew that I had the power to leave my body at will. So he didn’t say a thing — he didn’t say a thing right to the very last minute.’ [Kireet Joshi, ‘Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’, p. 103]
Sri Aurobindo’s statement ‘you alone can do the material fact,’ is a testament of the Work that the Mother was destined to do—the extremely difficult work of physical transformation.
Here are certain notable excerpts from Georges Van Vrekhem’s book ‘The Mother: The Story of Her Life’ about the physical departure of Sri Aurobindo (pp. 367-369, 2004 edition:
‘…why did he leave his body? We have seen that Sri Aurobindo said, with ever greater urgency, that the times were serious and that he wanted to finish his main work. Serious the times certainly were, even after the elimination of Adolf Hitler, instrument of the Lord of Falsehood. But the Asura had other instruments on Earth. In the first place there was Stalin, considered by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to be an even greater evil than the Führer. The Cold War was at a high pitch, with the production of weapons capable of destroying not only all civilization but all life on Earth. Mao Tse-tung had become the ruler of China. The Korean War had erupted. Sri Aurobindo’s significant comment on this war to K.D. Sethna was as follows: ‘The whole affair is as plain as a pike-staff. It is the first move in the Communist plan of campaign to dominate and take possession first of these northern parts and then of Southeast Asia as a preliminary to their manoeuvres with regard to the rest of the continent — in passing, Tibet as a gate opening to India. If they succeed, there is no reason why domination of the whole world should not follow by steps until they are ready to deal with America.’
‘These outer circumstances, however, must have developed simultaneously with a profound inner reason, which nobody knows, for confronting death. What we do know is that the Supramental was on the verge of manifesting in 1938. We know also that, as Sri Aurobindo had written in his poem A God’s Labour, something impossible had to be made possible, something unconquerable had to be conquered:
‘A voice cried, ‘Go where none have gone!
Dig deeper, deeper yet
Till thou reach the grim foundation stone
And knock at the keyless gate.’
‘Now he had gone to ‘the very root of things / Where the grey Sphinx guards God’s riddle sleep / On the Dragon’s outspread wings’ — not only in yogic concentration, but with his whole avataric personality, to make the impossible possible. The result of his action and the confirmation of our supposition will be the manifestation of the Supramental only six years later, in 1956. Undoubtedly this manifestation was finally made possible by Sri Aurobindo’s unprecedented yogic master act.
‘In 1924 Sri Aurobindo said that there were three causes that could still bring about his death: (i) violent surprise and accident; (ii) the action of old age; (iii) his own choice, when finding it not possible to accomplish his endeavour this time, i.e. establishing the supramental Consciousness on Earth, or if something would prove to him that it was not possible. What happened in 1950 was a fourth possibility not foreseeable in 1924: that he would have to descend into death voluntarily, having in the meantime acquired the powers to do so, in order to make his endeavour possible. This ‘tactical’ move was possible (the words of our ignorance are so inadequate) only because the Avatar was present on Earth in his/her physical completeness, i.e. in two bodies. If the Avatar had been present in only one body, the death of this body would have cancelled any possibility of executing the present mission. This shows that the planning and the completion of the mission of an Avatar is decided upon and pre-exists outside the scope of the material world.’
In Kireet Joshi’s book entitled ‘Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’ (p. 113), one comes across an interesting statement of the Mother about Sri Aurobindo’s descent into death. She says:
‘You see, he had decided to go. But he didn’t want me to know that he was doing it deliberately. He knew that if for a single moment I knew he was doing it deliberately, I would have reacted with such violence that he would not have been able to leave. And he did this: he bore it all as if it were some unconsciousness, an ordinary illness, simply to keep me from knowing — and he left at the very moment he had to leave.’
This reminds of another statement made by Georges Van Vrekhem in his book, ‘The Mother: The Story of Her Life’ (p. 370):
‘Sri Aurobindo had created a blind spot, as it were, in the perception of her who was the Mother of the worlds and had access to all knowledge everywhere if she so desired! We are reminded of her saying that he ‘is losing interest in himself’ before anyone else present even sensed what was happening. Yet, in his love and because of practical necessity Sri Aurobindo prevented her from knowing, for she would have gone in his stead, or she would have followed him.’
I am taking the liberty of sharing with you all a letter written by Dr. Immanuel Olsvanger of Israel to K.D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran on 7 February 1952 raising some queries regarding the physical withdrawal of Sri Aurobindo. In his letter to Sethna, Dr. Immaneul writes:
‘You repeat the well-known Upanishadic “psychotomy” of the soul, with its Sthula, Sukshma and Karana Shariras. An arbitrary assumption, transmitted from ancient times, poetic, but based on nothing but fancy. “A permanent leaving of the physical sheath so that, unconnected with the subtle sheaths, the physical loses its support and vitality”, is, when translated into common language, a euphemistic expression for death. But you say about the yogi that “the terms ‘death’ and ‘suicide’ cannot have for him the meaning ordinarily attached to them”, and yet some thirty lines later you say that “Sri Aurobindo decided upon death in the fullest meaning” of that word. He decided, consequently, and he died in the fullest meaning of that word, like all men from Adam down to our days. “He decided”, i.e. he did consciously commit suicide, whether by means of poison or by an act of will (if this is possible) makes no difference.
‘I do believe that a man, not a-superman or a Yogi, can, unfortunately for him, succumb to a disease, if his will to fight it is not strong enough, or if he consciously refuses to use his will-power. This is true for some diseases, not for all. It is most decidedly not true in the case of uraemia, which was the cause of Sri Aurobindo’s death.
‘If, as you maintain, Sri Aurobindo consciously decided to die (or, in your euphemistic language, to leave his body), why were there Indian and French doctors about him (who, as you write, testified to the miracle of his body remaining intact for several days, in spite of the tropical climate and in spite of uraemia!)? Did he need their help to die? Some doctors do render such help, indeed!
‘These doctors testified to what, if true, was an obvious miracle. If they were to publish an article about it in some serious medical magazine, such as The Lancet, it would create a tremendous sensation!
‘The Mother’s announcement (only 41 hours after death, which word you preface with an apologetic “clinical”), giving an explanation for that miracle, “that his body is charged with such a concentration of supramental light”, makes no sense. A body can be charged with anything but light. Evidently, the Mother wanted to say something else. But how can one guess what she wanted to say?
‘If, however, that “concentration of supramental light” (whatever it may mean) was the reason of the miracle, how is this reconcilable with your statement that it was due to Sri Aurobindo’s “last act of Grace”? Was it his act of Grace that before death he still managed to charge his body with a concentration of supramental light? If not, how could he, after his death, have exercised any influence upon his body? Did his soul remain hovering in the room, still clad in the Sukshma Sharira, and keep watch over the body?
‘Lastly, regarding the same consciousness divided in two!
‘Your reply does not satisfy me. I believe in God, in His Consciousness, in His Power. But He, His Consciousness, His Power, and any other attribute which we may try to ascribe to Him, is One and the same That, Ekamevadvitiyam! I do believe that my consciousness is a reflection of that One. The degree of perfection of my consciousness is, I believe, dependent on how well the lens of my soul is polished. But the reflexion focussed in my soul cannot be ‘same’ divided into two, the second twin-reflexion being focussed in someone else’s soul, — I still maintain, that such a statement has no meaning and no sense, unless taken as a figurative expression, as when we speak of two “kindred” souls.
‘Any attempt to hypostatise the Consciousness of God, as apart from Him, or some special reflexion of that Consciousness, leads to idolatry in the very worst sense. Bad service is done to Sri Aurobindo’s memory by referring to him as to one endowed with “superhuman” power. That is deification. It must lead to a final degeneration of the circle of his readers and students to a new religious sect with new arbitrary dogmas and a new form of worship. A repetition of the fate of Sri Ramakrishna and “the Holy Mother”!
‘Good service to his memory would be a shortened edition of his books, freed from unnecessary repetitions, provided with annotations for the benefit of readers not familiar with Sanskrit words and Vedantic ideas.’
K.D. Sethna’s reply is quoted beneath:
…‘Apart from what seems to me a quibble about the word “death” and your insistence on “suicide” as a general term which, in spite of all subtle shades of difference, should cover the phenomenon of voluntary departure from the physical body, I think your statements rest on lack of proper information or of relevant experience. The sthula, suksma and karana sariras are not an arbitrary assumption. The Upanishads speak of them because the Seers of the Upanishads experienced them and their experience can be repeated and verified. Of course, the real karana Sarira is a rare experience, but some approach can be made to it. The suksma sarira is one of the commonest experiences in Yoga. I myself have moved in it out of my sthula sarira scores of times, in as concretely conscious a manner as getting up from my bed and moving in my physical body! So, when you say that the well-known Upanishadic “psychotomy” is based on nothing but fancy, I can only smile and ask you to do a bit of Yoga.
‘When you make sweeping assertions about what is true and what is “most decidedly not true” about uraemia, you are only talking of ordinary cases. Of course I am not asking you to believe all that I say, but the capital defect is that you have not made an attempt to understand Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga or even the philosophical structure of his system of thought and of his spiritual work. Without such an attempt it is difficult to get certain things in the right perspective or focus.
‘The presence of the doctors was part of the same process which included Sri Aurobindo’s “accepting” many other ordinary-looking physical arrangements. But I may tell you that the doctors were allowed to do a few things at their own request and as a concession to their solicitude. And their chief ministrations were permitted after the withdrawal from the body had decisively begun. Sri Aurobindo never took any medicines or injections in any of the physical crises through which he passed in the course of his Yoga.
‘I have in my hands, as I write this, the actual notes of Dr. P. C. Sanyal, an eminent Calcutta physician and surgeon. He writes: “The Mother said that Sri Aurobindo’s body would be kept till it began to show signs of decomposition. I told her that 48 hours was the maximum time for which a body could be kept. After 48 hours there were no signs of decomposition. But the French law does not permit a period longer than that, unless the French Civil Surgeon certifies. The Civil Surgeon came and we both examined the body: there was not a trace of decomposition. For more than 100 hours the body was intact. People wondered whether Sri Aurobindo was in samadhi or dead.”
‘I was myself an eye-witness, together with hundreds of others. Whether the case will be reported to The Lancet in order to create a tremendous sensation — this lies with the doctors. But there is no getting past the fact that the “miracle” was “obvious” to even scientific eyes and was genuine according to scientific tests.
‘However, we don’t basically build on this miracle. Sri Aurobindo’s mission is independent of it and even if this miracle had not happened, the truth of his teachings could stand.
‘When you comment on the Mother’s announcement I again can’t help being amused. “Light” is a very common experience in the Yogic life. One sees and feels light breaking out from several occult centres in one’s body or descending from above the head and touching or pervading or settling in one part of the body or another or in even the whole body. Light is also of various kinds and colours. This is testified by thousands of practitioners of Yoga, past and present. Light in the spiritual sense is not a mere metaphor, any more than spiritual consciousness or bliss is metaphorical. And if a human body is completely transformed, as wanted in Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, one of the constant attributes of the transformed body will be a subtle luminousness visible even to the sceptic, the agnostic and the atheist. Spiritual phenomena are concrete things and compared to their concreteness the phenomena of material reality are insubstantial. It is because of this comparative insubstantiality that the theory of Maya or World-illusion acquires its real strength — until a wider experience than that of the silent and featureless infinite Brahman, or Atman, restores the balance and makes the world a spiritually real manifestation of the Divine.
‘On the point about the same Consciousness divided into two or into many, I cannot do anything further than ask you to read The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo’s philosophical statement of his Yogic realisations. It is evident that you have not studied this book at all: even your turn of argument against what I have said would be different and more subtle and more cognisant of crucial issues.’