The month of August is a special month for all Aurobindonians as Sri Aurobindo’s birthday falls on the fifteenth of this month. Like all the previous years, this year too—as our humble homage to Sri Aurobindo—a special series on Sri Aurobindo will be serialized in the online forum of Overman Foundation through August.
As the first installment of our special series on Sri Aurobindo, notes from the diaries of Narendra Nath Dasgupta and Haradhan Bakshi, two of the early disciples of Sri Aurobindo (who had the opportunity to converse with Him) have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.
Narendra Nath Dasgupta (11 July 1894—23 May 1961) was a double M.A. from Calcutta University who had won a god medal in Experimental Psychology. He worked as a Professor of Philosophy in Feni College located in the district of Noakhali (now in Bangladesh). He was also an active participant in the freedom struggle of India and was an associate of the illustrious revolutionary Jatindranath Mukherjee better known as ‘Bagha Jatin’. At the same time he was also inclined towards spirituality and had visited Pondicherry in 1925 to meet Sri Aurobindo. Twenty years later he joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram with his entire family. He was made the manager of the Ashram Press and later was Head of the Department of Philosophy when Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education was established. Sri Aurobindo had described him as being “firm as a rock” and the Mother too—in one of her conversations recorded in the Agenda—described him as “a man who lived his whole life with the idea of serving Sri Aurobindo.”
Haradhan Bakshi was a soldier in the First World War. He had stopped a bullet with his belly. Since no anaesthetic was available he laid flat and the bullet was dug out. When he was being shipped to the Prisoner of War camp, he jumped overboard and swam ashore. He had written a book on war strategies in Bengali titled Loraier Natun Kayeda. He met Sri Aurobindo in 1916 and became an inmate of the Ashram on 30 December 1930. His activities included boiling water for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, guiding and regulating the lines of visitors on Darshan days and distributing flowers and incense sticks at the Samadhi. The last of his duties was to accompany the body of deceased Ashramites to the crematorium.
It is interesting to observe that in these diary-notes, Sri Aurobindo’s name was mentioned as ‘A.G.’ (abbreviation of Aurobindo Ghosh) and ‘Shri Aurobindo’ whereas the Mother was addressed as Mirra Devi.
With warm regards,
Conversations with Sri Aurobindo recorded by Narendra Nath Dasgupta
October 28, 1925—First Day at Pondicherry
A.G.: In this yoga what is required first and foremost is calmness. This calmness must be brought down even to the physical.
Do you have any attachments?
I: Attachment? Yes, I have—nothing big—small movements such as the desire to smoke…
A.G.: No harm in that.
I: At times I shed tears due to emotional delight.
A.G.: Is it associated with anything or does it take automatically?
I: At times it is associated with your name while at others it happens automatically.
[A.G. remained silent. Then I asked him]
I: May I join the morning meditation?
I: The evening conversation?
(I touched his feet and took my leave).
I: In the letter to Shreesh-babu you had said: It is not possible to suggest oneself to the supramental—calm will to call down calmness. Is this too ‘suggesting… oneself to the supramental’?
A.G.: No, no—I had said it a propos a new method of cure by suggesting. One can’t become a superman through such a suggestion as “I’ve become superman, I’ve become superman”. The maintaining of calm will can’t be suggested.
I: Isn’t calling down with one’s will against the spirit of true surrender?
A.G.: No. You are talking of absolute passivity. If you merely open yourself passively, the Higher Power may come or it may not. There may also be chaos and confusion within you.
I: What is the difference between mental calmness and mental passivity? Sometimes I see that my mind has become wholly passive, there is no activity, it is calm—again at times I see that there is activity in the mind and simultaneously calmness too.
A.G.: What you say about mental passivity is not correct—then the mind becomes more calm—in this yoga chitta-vritti-nirodha is not necessary. Don’t confuse it with the old practice of yogasadhana. If you remain totally passive many bad things may come from the universal; horizontal forces of Nature may attack which may cause confusion. You have to establish calmness within the mental activity.
I: Meditation by means of Prakriti—
I: I mean if I concentrate above the head and meditate, often the mental consciousness does not remain awake—can it be harmful?
A.G.: Then the Higher Prakriti works, there will be no harm. You were going to say something about meditation by means of Prakriti…
I: It is there in your “Saptachatustaya”.
A.G.: That is only a programme of work—what is there in it?—show it to me some time.
I: In that state I feel as though I am going up—an upward movement—the mental witness is not alert. Is it a movement of the vital force?
A.G.: There is a will in the mind, there is a will also in the vital mind—vital force is a separate thing. You have to watch the play of each one. Often the vital will, rushing upward, attacks the buddhi (intelligence) and tries to make it serve its purpose. First of all it must be controlled by the mental will. Later when the Higher will descends all these are transformed. Until the Higher will descends, the vital being must be kept under control with the help of the mental will.
(Reproduction from memory after five days—so it is doubtful whether everything has been reproduced correctly—Note by the Disciple)
I:… I feel that I have achieved some mastery over the being. It did not happen in the past when I sat passively.
A.G.: It is possible to be a perfect instrument of God after the whole being is purified. Before that passivity can be harmful. The calm is a must.
January 24, 1926
I: I find that when I attempt to reject something it is as though I am pressing it downwards. Nowadays when I try to throw away the weakness that I find in the play, that goes on in my consciousness, I merely press it downwards.
A.G.: There should certainly be the pressure of the will from above, but you have to press it out of the being. Don’t push it into the lower being—throw it out.
I: By ‘throw out’ I understand it is as though driving it out horizontally. But I feel that it is easier to press it down.
A.G.: If only that is done, it will remain. When it rises again, exert pressure and throw it out.
I: The play that goes on in the mental being seems to take place in front. At the back the mental Purusha keeps watch.
A.G.: You see the mental Purusha at the back? Not in front? The real Purusha will watch from above and, in calmness with the help of light and will, press on the impurities and throw them out.
I: Sometimes I experience that state. A positive calm descends from above and fills the mind and everything becomes luminous—these are rare experiences. On a few occasions just before I fell asleep, a current of force had come down from above, and then I was afraid that perhaps the system would break down. The next moment when I awakened the ‘I am Brahman’ consciousness, the fear went away. And that force kept coming down. There was a stream of bright light in that column of force.
A.G.: (He smiled on hearing that I was afraid.) It happened in your sleep because your mind is still active. I don’t say it to hurry you up. I’m not saying that it is bad. This kind of experience comes from time to time only in order to get the mind accustomed. If it comes down from above before the mind is thoroughly accustomed, then it results in the mind forming various wrong ideas.
I: The mind is not as active as it used to be earlier…
A.G.: Remain in the calmness above and pacify the mind with the will. Individual will is necessary to purify the chitta and the prana. Absolute passivity is a must for bringing down light, calmness and will in the physical being. Until that is attained individual will is necessary.
Excerpts from Haradhan Bakshi’s diary
“On the 15th of August when I came out of your room after bowing down to Mirra Devi, I became aware that there was something psychic working in and through my mind. From that time forward the psychic element in the mind is gradually developing.”
“Consciousness and power descended and penetrated the whole Adhara. For some time the mind is aware of some new thing coming down. The preparation was going on in a concentrated process from the day of the 15th of August 1926. These few days one has the feeling that it is on the point of having come. The mind has not sufficient light about what it is and what it means. So there was a tremendous resistance from the mind to the descent. I pray for more light and knowledge on the subject.”
Haradhan: Is it not yet time for me to get Mirra Devi’s direct help?
Shri Aurobindo: Before you get that direct help you will have to fulfil certain conditions. Her help is for transformation. It may be that there are people around her who are allowed for other purposes—they may feel something great and some great joy—but [it is] only when you are open and ready that she can help you. And again, you will have to establish a personal relation with her (smiles). All right, I will tell her about it. Not that she has not an eye on you…
Haradhan: On the contrary, I am aware that she is aware of my existence and I am also open to her. But I am not the proper judge about time and things.
Shri Aurobindo: Yes, when the time comes she will call you. All the same I will refer the matter to her, for in these things she knows more than me, having the immediate hold over the thing. But, before that, that vital personality you refer to must consent to go.
Haradhan: It has begun to open; it is no more my central existence; it is completely exteriorised. Only I was thinking whether I should go to her after it is cleared up or now.
Shri Aurobindo: I will tell her and she will decide.
Haradhan: Kindly tell her about this and let me know when my time is come.
Shri Aurobindo: Mirra asked me to tell you that she will first see you on Thursday. After her meditation with the ladies, that day is fixed for Barin; he goes after them. And when Barin comes down, you will go. There you will have to meditate for 10 or 15 minutes—not a mental meditation—but remain calm and passive, so that she may see what is there and what help she has to give you. It is one thing seeing from a distance and another from near at hand. Afterwards she will tell you what you are to do etc.
Diary entry dated 19.11.1926 referring to 18.11.1926:
Shri Aurobindo: What did you feel when you were meditating near her?
Haradhan: I felt that she was looking into my mental and vital consciousness.
Shri Aurobindo: Nothing more?
Haradhan: No, nothing more.
Shri Aurobindo: But it was much more than looking into the mental and the vital. The first time as she looked at you there was a strong rush of forces. Then there was an opening into the past, where she saw that in one of your past lives you had been an occultist, somewhere in Europe probably,—not that such a thing may not happen here—but it is probably in Europe. You had vital powers—there you might have misused them and got that obstacle in the vital, that has given you so much trouble in past life and also in this life. Then she wanted to see what it was. It was behind the heart so she could not see it properly or catch hold of it. Then she went into the psychic being and followed the obstacle down to its roots—and its roots were stuck fast in the physical. She wanted to uproot it, but it was too strong for her. She called the power of Shiva, but it could not be uprooted. She called the power of Vishnu and then only she could uproot it and destroy it, in the essence, in the psychic being. A scar was seen at the place from [where] it was uprooted. Then she looked into your mind, she found that there was no obstacle and that it was an ordered mind and she felt the wideness that is necessary for receiving the knowledge. In the heart also there was no difficulty. In the lower vital where consciousness has only begun to infiltrate, it was hard, so she did not go in. Next you will have to open the lower vital and the physical and get rid of the impressions that might be left by the being in any part of your life.”
Haradhan: You [addressing Sri Aurobindo] told me lately that I have to find out my personal relation with the Mother. As I have not any knowledge of the planes above where only the true relations manifest, I waited for some indication. As it comes to me now I think that as You are my Father and Truth, so She is my Mother, and for me She is the manifestation of Love, Knowledge, Power and Mastery. So far as I can see and understand, I think that Mahalakhsmi and Krishna, the One Lord in all His Aiswaryam, are likely to manifest here. And Their seat, in me particularly, is in the centre of light on the head.
What did my Mother tell you about me?
When may I see Her again?
Can I come to bow down to Her every morning?
2 to 2.30 p.m. I meditated at the feet of Shri Mirra Devi.
After the meditation, she said, “We are going to have meditation in the evening. If you like you can join.”
Haradhan: I shall be very glad to join if you permit me.
Devi: Yes you may come at 7.30.
Haradhan: Can I come to bow down to you in the morning?
Devi: Yes but the time is short. If you come only to see and then go.
Haradhan: That’s all I want. Simply bow down and go away with your blessings. Can I join the afternoon meditation?
Devi: I shall let you know tomorrow morning. Come this evening and also tomorrow morning.