Sri Aurobindo’s Withdrawal— 5 December 1950 by R. Y. Deshpande

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”.

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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

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6 Replies to “Sri Aurobindo’s Withdrawal— 5 December 1950 by R. Y. Deshpande

  1. 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.

  2. These are deeply touching and highly moving articles.
    My husband received Mother’s blessing a handful of times.
    Thank you heartfelt.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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.
    Thank you

    AVM SS Lahiri

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