Kailas Jhaveri: The Mother’s dear child who knew “how to be generous” by Anurag Banerjee

Dear Friends,

‘Your consciousness has much progressed towards the Truth.’

‘My love is always with you and the Grace will fulfill your prayer.’

The aforesaid letters were written by the Mother to a child of Hers who had left behind a lucrative career in the United States of America and joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram with the sole purpose of having a complete identification with the Mother’s consciousness and to have the Divine as a loving companion at every step of her journey on the sunlit path of the Integral Yoga of Transformation. Even before she had joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, when she was still residing in the United States of America, she had established a personal and intimate relationship with the Mother which continued even after She had left Her physical body. All her life she had worked for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, lived in Them and carried around her the aura of Their presence. Such was Kailas Jhaveri whom we lovingly addressed as Kailasben.

Kailas was born to Chhotalal and Maniben Jhaveri on 11 June 1926 in Surat (Gujarat). She was the youngest child of her parents and had two elder brothers named Kundanlal (married to Taramati) and Pritambhai (married to Vasumati). She would recall that her brothers and she made a good cricket team since she could run very fast to catch a ball and she was a good batsman as well. Though she was born in a conservative Jain family, her parents who were themselves staunch followers of Jainism, gave her the freedom to follow her own lines of growth. Her father was a jeweller and he considered Kailas to be the most precious jewel of all. From Chhotalal Jhaveri Kailas had learnt how to have a one-pointed concentration and the courage to follow the chosen path while from Maniben she had inherited the faculty to love selflessly. As a young girl, she listened to tales of Jain Tirthankaras who possessed the knowledge of past, present and future. Gradually she developed the aspiration to realize divine Knowledge in her own life. But she was least interested to follow the strict rigour of discipline demanded by Jainism. Her father tried to rouse her interest in Jainism but in vain for Kailas neither developed any interest in Jain mantric literature (as such scriptures being in Ardha Magadhi and Prakrit did not make any sense to her) nor any inclination towards the Jain ascetic practices. But to make her father happy, she would go with him to a temple to worship the Tirthankaras on each of her birthdays. Chhotalal Jhaveri would ensure that Kailas would be the first to worship all the gods, goddesses and yantras in the temple. Then she would be taken to the most respected holy man to receive his benedictions for the fulfillment of her aspirations. And on each birthday, she would make it a point to pray for divine Knowledge for which she was athirst so much so that when she was given a mantra with the instruction of repeating it every day for a hundred thousand times, she did what she was asked to do without any hesitation.

Kailas’s early years were spent in Mumbai. Having completed her school education, she joined the Elphinstone College to pursue her Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors in Philosophy. It was when she was in this college that she was introduced to the works of Sri Aurobindo by Dr. J. N. Chubb who was her professor and also the Head of the Department of Philosophy in those days. He had asked Kailas to read Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine and Essays on the Gita as these books would not only help her to answer all the questions she had in her mind but would also help to write critical appreciation of all the philosophies she had to study for her course. While reading The Life Divine, she observed that not only did the book touch upon the questions she had but also led her to new themes which she had not thought of. Gradually, she realized that it was Sri Aurobindo who could lead her to what she was looking for: Truth, unalloyed, unmixed Bliss and Delight of Existence on this earth. In Sri Aurobindo she had found the spiritual guide she was seeking. With the help she had received from Sri Aurobindo’s books, she completed her two years’ course of Bachelor of Arts within a year and obtained her degree. Having enrolled herself for Master of Arts degree in Philosophy in the Elphinstone College, she decided to travel to Pondicherry to meet Sri Aurobindo and study at His feet.

Kailas sought permission to have Sri Aurobindo’s Darshan on 24 November 1950 but was informed that as Sri Aurobindo was unwell, she should wait for the next Darshan which would take place on 21 February 1951. But to her utter disappointment, Sri Aurobindo left His body on 5 December 1950. She read in the newspaper that His physical body would be kept in state as long as the Supramental Light was visible in it. As she wanted to pay her homage to Sri Aurobindo, she flew to Chennai on the night of 8 December and reached Pondicherry by train around 7 p.m. on the 9th. By the time she reached the main building of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, she was informed that Sri Aurobindo had been already interred. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she joined the queue of people who were offering mud to make the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo. She complained inwardly that why did Sri Aurobindo forsake her when she sought only Him, His light and longed to sit at His feet to learn the lessons of life. Pat came the answer from Sri Aurobindo that He would always be by her side, lead her through ‘every ebb and perilous tide’ and that He would answer all her calls. This assurance cooled down her burning heart.

Before coming to Pondicherry, Kailas had not heard of the Mother. She was asked by some of the inmates of the Ashram to stay for a while to have a Darshan of the Mother who had the same consciousness as Sri Aurobindo. Kailas stayed back. On 12 December 1950, she went in a queue to have the Mother’s Darshan not knowing what was waiting for her. When she stood before the Mother, she felt as if her eyes had been captured by the Mother’s unblinking eyes. She stood in front of Her as if transfixed until the Mother nodded with a smile and gave her a card with Sri Aurobindo’s photograph taken after His mahasamadhi. Kailas moved on, still looking at the beautiful eyes of the Mother. For the next three days she felt as if the Mother’s eyes were following her wherever she went. And for these three days she never missed an opportunity to have the Mother’s Darshan — whether at the Balcony of the Ashram main building where She appeared everyday around six in the morning or in the Tennis Ground and the Playground. When the day of her departure from Pondicherry arrived, Kailas went to meet the Mother at the Playground where She was seated on a chair in front of the spiritual map of India frescoed on the wall. On being informed of her imminent departure, the Mother said with a look of surprise: “Oh! You are leaving!” Kailas replied in the affirmative and added that she had to complete her Master of Arts course. The Mother nodded but ‘mysteriously’ and gave a rose to her. Kailas made her obeisance to the Mother and left. But by the time she left Pondicherry for Mumbai, she had realized that the Mother had bound her ‘heart and soul’.

Kailas returned to Mumbai and finished her Master of Arts course but ‘with no heart in it’. She felt the call from Pondicherry was drawing her to Sri Aurobindo spontaneously and intellectually but something in her resisted to join the Ashram for good. She craved to see the world and to make a name for herself. So she decided to sail for the United States of America. Her decision to travel to U.S.A. and make a career there was not greeted with enthusiasm by her relatives and friends because in those days there were hardly any employment opportunities in the U.S.A. Yet Kailas remained undaunted. Her husband Madhubhai Damania, who had allowed her to pursue higher studies after marriage (something quite unthinkable in the conservative Indian society of those days) supported her decision. Thus, on 18 February 1954, Kailas sailed for the U.S.A. in the British passenger ship, ‘Canton’, and reached New York on 29 March.

Kailas got a job at the United Nations. Though she had enrolled to study Psychology for her doctorate, she changed her course and took up International Relations and International Organizations at the New School for Social Research and Political Science from where she also received a scholarship. In 1955 she went to San Francisco to attend the tenth anniversary celebration of the United Nations which was sponsored by Dr. Graham, the U.N. representative for the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. She was treated like a princess at the ceremony and interviewed by journalists. A photograph of her with Robert Gros, the Governor of California, and his wife was published in an American newspaper. It was also during her stay in the U.S.A. that she became a close friend of Pandit Ravi Shankar, the sitar maestro. She had also arranged a soiree of Ravi Shankar at her residence on the East End Avenue which was graced by Prof. Ahmed Bokhari, the Under Secretary General of United Nations, and Hillary Barrett-Brown of the World Federation of United Nations’ Association. She had also designed brochures for Ravi Shankar to promote his music.

The concept of human unity preached by the United Nations had greatly impressed Kailas. Not only was she deeply in love with her work at the United Nations but she also considered working at the United Nations as ‘working in a temple of human unity.’ However, she received a terrible setback when Egypt and Hungary were invaded by the Anglo-French and Soviet Russian troops respectively in 1956. She realized that the United Nations would not be permitted to reach its goals by ‘self-seeking powers’. At a time when she felt that the very ground on which she stood was giving way, she received an unexpected help from Sri Aurobindo’s The Ideal of Human Unity. It so happened that while attending a class on International Organizations, she saw a copy of this book with a classmate named Marilyn Wiedman. Kailas borrowed the book and began to read it with an avid interest. The Ideal of Human Unity revealed to her that human unity could only be realized if it was based on spiritual foundation. ‘It is the finding of the law of the divine being in each unifying itself with the law of the divine being in all. This spiritual truth alone can provide the truly effective key. The ideal of human unity must take its roots in our soul and become a central force, governing our life and be a necessity of our being and a motive force of all our actions’, observed Kailas in the first volume of her book, I am with You (p. 13).

Although she had almost completed her courses for Ph.D which helped to develop and broaden her faculties of understanding, Kailas realized that such courses would be futile for the purpose of the objective of her life, that is, human unity. She now aspired to embark on the spiritual path. As she had lost all interest in the United Nations, she was not keen to renew her contract with it. She did a secretarial course in speed-writing and typing for four months. And it was also in 1956 that she divorced her husband, Madhubhai Damania.

About her husband, Kailas had told the present author that he was a wonderful and considerate person whom she admired as a friend. It was he who had encouraged her to pursue her higher education although he himself had to discontinue his studies to support his family. But she was not interested to lead a conjugal life with him. Kailas nurtured a different concept of marriage which, to her, meant a companionship of mutual growth and to transform life into a field of education and culture. ‘He was quite interested in sex, while I abhorred it,’ she had once told the present author.

For a brief period, Kailas worked as an assistant to the Foreign Minister of Nepal. Then she got a job with the Indian Delegation to the United Nations during the short period of the General Assembly session. Afterwards she got a secretarial job in the literary section of the American Baptist Convention. In 1960 she joined the Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) as an assistant-cum-secretary to Oliver Daniel, the Director of contemporary classical music. Her work included looking after the correspondence of the Director, fixing his appointments with composers, conductors and publishers and preparing materials to write small brochures on the lives and works of contemporary composers affiliated with Broadcast Music Incorporated to promote their music. Her work at the BMI not only enabled her to attend the best orchestras of the world but also developed her interest in western classical music. She became a member of The Asia Foundation, American Friends’ Service Committee and The Foreign Policy Association. She also attended seminars and spoke in favour of Egypt at one of such seminars on the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt for the Suez Canal.

While her life in New York kept her on her toes, Kailas’s inner life too blossomed. All the time she lived, felt and thought of the Mother who was at the centre of her being. And the Mother too was with her, guiding her, protecting her and making her feel Her love for her. Here is an incident worth quoting:

Once, Kailas was without a job and had only ten dollars in the bank out of which she had sent a cheque of five dollars to the Mother on the occasion of Her birthday. As she had no source of income to maintain herself, she wrote a letter to the Mother in a state of desperation asking for Her assurance that She loved her and would guide and protect her at every step. After writing the letter, Kailas dozed off and saw the Mother in a dream. She saw that she had gone out of her residence and was walking towards the post-box when she saw the street being flooded with an unusual light. When she turned to see where was the light coming from, she saw a luminous light of pinkish gold, brighter than a thousand suns flooding the street while the radiant figure of the Mother made of the same light was walking towards her. A gentleman dressed in white asked the Mother where She was going. The Mother replied with Her fixed gaze pointed towards Kailas: “Someone is calling me.” Seeing the Mother, Kailas ran towards Her, saying: “Mother, I am calling you.” The Mother came to her, smiled at her, took the letter from her, glanced at its contents and placing Her hand on Kailas’s forehead, said: “I am with you. I love you.” Kailas woke up — she realized that it was no ordinary dream and that the Mother had left her with a ‘dazzling Bliss.’ But then she recalled that the Mother had not answered her other questions. When she fell asleep again, she saw the Mother for a second time. Dressed in a beautiful, soft, pearl-white silk sari, the Mother took Kailas’s hands and said with an indescribable smile: “I am guiding you.” Kailas woke up but remembered that the Mother had not said anything about protecting her. When she fell asleep again, the Mother came to her for a third time, clad in a pastel bluish green dress and assured her: “I am protecting you. Give drop by drop.” Thus, the Mother came to Kailas thrice on the same night to assure her of Her constant love, Guidance and Protection. This incident took place in February 1958.

From New York, Kailas would send gifts to the Mother either by post or through someone travelling to Pondicherry. She would also send cheques of various amounts to Her as offering. The Mother too would personally answer her letters and write ‘blessings’ on Darshan cards which were sent to her in the United States. On one occasion, the Mother had sent a crown used by Her as a gift to Kailas who had passed days and nights meditating with it and was blessed with several experiences. ‘It not only gave me confidence in my spiritual destiny, but mystic wings to fly with too,’ Kailas would later admit. (I am with You, Volume I, p. 57). Along with several spiritual experiences, she also acquired some powers like thought-reading and granting wishes to people. This crown, however, was thrown into fire and destroyed by miscreants on 11 February 1965 during the anti-Hindi riot.

In 1962 when A.B. Purani visited New York, Kailas had arranged for two talks for him at the Indian Consulate and in a Unitarian Church. When Maggie arrived at New York as a representative of World Union, she asked Kailas to be a representative of the said organization at the United Nations and to write articles on the events at the United Nations in the light of Sri Aurobindo. Thus, Kailas penned her first article on the acquisition of Goa by the Government of India.

As the years progressed, Kailas’s inner relationship with the Mother grew closer. Along with it her aspiration to meet Her face-to-face also grew stronger. She wanted to be with the Mother and in the Ashram at Pondicherry. But whenever she would write to the Mother asking Her when could she come to the Ashram, She would reply: ‘Not yet.’ The following remark of the Mother would explain why She would ask Kailas not to come to Pondicherry: ‘Kailas has one foot in America and the other in the Ashram. How can I call her here?’ K. Amrita, the Manager of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, too had written to Kailas as a mark of solace on 23 March 1963: ‘Perhaps your appointed work has not yet completed in America.’

Kailas’s longing to visit the Ashram became desperate. Inwardly she was waging a war. A few days before her thirty-eighth birthday, she wrote to the Mother asking Her impatiently: ‘What is the duration of this ‘Not Yet’?’ The Mother wrote to her on 10 May 1964: ‘Let us, however, wait sometime more. And if no clear road opens before you, I may ask you to come here, although the life is somewhat hard and dry for those who have had the habit of American comforts.’

Now, it so happened that Kailas’s boss had hired an elderly American lady as his secretary for office work so that Kailas could devote more time to write brochures. This lady could not tolerate Kailas’s presence as the latter was from Asia. She would blame Kailas whenever she had troubles with her files. Things took such an ugly turn that it was time for one of the ladies to leave the office. Kailas’s boss chose her American secretary over her but asked her to be compassionate towards the old lady as she was an Indian and had a wider spiritual outlook.

Kailas left the office of Broadcast Music Incorporated where she was loved and respected on a friendly note. This setback did not disturb her as she knew quite well that everything that happened in her life was divinely willed. One day, she came across an advertisement in the newspaper that an Indian cargo named ‘Jal Jawahar’ was leaving for India and that it had a few vacant seats. Kailas, who was on a social security, thought that this was an opportunity for her to visit India for a few months. She wrote to the Mother explaining the situation and sought Her permission to visit the Ashram. Kailas wrote that if the Mother’s answer was ‘No’ then She should send a telegram and if Her reply was in the affirmative She need not answer. As no response came from the Mother, Kailas packed her luggage and sailed for India. When the Mother received Kailas’s letter, she was already on her way to India. It was reported later that the Mother had laughed and said: “Kailas did not wait for my reply.”

Kailas arrived at Mumbai on the night of 13 August 1964 and was received by her uncle, brother, nephew and niece. She took a flight to Chennai on 14 August and travelled to Pondicherry in a car. She reached Pondicherry at 7 p.m. She had brought a garland of jasmine and some alphonso mangoes which she sent to the Mother through Vasudha Shah, Her attendant. After making her obeisance at the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo, she was taken to Dr. Prabhat Sanyal’s Nursing Home which became her home for some time. Later she was introduced to many of the Ashramites by her friend Usha who was living in the Ashram. In the evening of 15 August, she had the Darshan of the Mother when She appeared at the terrace to give Her benedictions to all assembled beneath.

Now that she had left the United States of America, Kailas was like a new-born baby in the Ashram atmosphere, eager to learn whatever the Mother had to teach her. An inner guidance would always help every movement of her being at every moment so that the ‘true Individual’ in her could be moulded for good. This was the ‘secret purpose’ of her arrival in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for she knew for sure that it was the Mother only who could lead her to such a discovery. She wanted to attain integral perfection through love, devotion and work for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother by consecrating herself wholly to Them.

The Mother granted her an interview on 17 August at 10 a.m. Kailas went to the Mother’s apartments situated on the second floor of the Ashram main building with all her jewellery, money collected from different countries and flowers which the Mother had named The Supramental Sun, Surrender and Friendship with the Divine. The Mother welcomed her and said: “You are welcome here. But there is a work waiting for you there” (meaning in America). Kailas replied: “But Mother, that must be Your work and to do it perfectly, I must know myself, and prepare myself fully so that I can do it as Your instrument. And so I have come to You to learn it from You. One day, I will go when I am ready and if You want me to.” The Mother nodded Her approval and then said after concentrating for a while: “Shall we now meditate?” “Yes, Mother,” Kailas responded enthusiastically, “Go through all the parts of my being and remould me in Your consciousness.” After her meeting with the Mother ended, She had remarked to Dr. Prabhat Sanyal, Her doctor: “She is very chic and smart.”

Kailas was put up in the Nursing Home of Dr. Sanyal soon after her arrival in Pondicherry. But having spent a decade in the United States of America, she found it difficult to cope up with the living conditions in Pondicherry. The Mother had forewarned her in a letter that life in Pondicherry was hard, dry and difficult for those who were accustomed to American comforts. But Kailas was determined not to accept defeat and go back. She knew that if the Mother Herself, who had lived in greater comfort than her, could bear the inconveniences, she — being Her child — would surely be able to endure them. And she did! As Kailas found the food served in the Ashram Dining Room unpalatable except for the bread, the Mother began to send her Rs. 30 per month (quite a significant sum in those days) so that she could have food which suited her taste. Kailas was also allowed to take fruits distributed by the Fruit Room in the Ashram and boiled vegetables and soup prepared in the kitchen of Mona Pinto for a few Europeans and inmates of Golconde, the oldest dormitory of the Ashram. The Mother also had sent mattresses and other things needed by Kailas including Her lipstick, cream, manicure set and perfumes for She did not want Kailas to live like an ascetic. In 1966 Kailas was given a suite in Selvanathan House. In 1975 she was given an apartment at the Exhibition House where she stayed till the end of her life. 

Soon after settling down in the Ashram, Kailas began to send flowers to the Mother. Flowers were her means of communion with the Mother. ‘The flowers sent by Her’, she would later observe in her book, I am with You, ‘always printed an indelible mark on my consciousness and brought about a decisive change in my perception, attitude and action.’ (Volume II, p. 17) Every day she would send a dishful of jasmine with a country rose in the centre placed in a beautiful, small white lotus-shaped Japanese vase (It is important to note that the Mother had given jasmine and country rose the special names of Purity and Surrender). The Mother knew that Kailas aspired for unconditional, integral and absolute surrender so She Herself would fill up her dish with Hibiscus mutabilis (renamed The Divine Grace by the Mother) as long as it was in season. Thus for several months such a communion went on between Kailas and the Mother — while Kailas’s flowers represented her aspiration for purity and surrender, the Mother’s flowers denoted the Divine Grace to achieve them.

After being accepted as an Ashramite, Kailas had asked the Mother whether she should do some work in any Ashram department. The Mother had replied that it was not necessary.

Kailas was asked by Udar Pinto to do secretarial work for him at Harpagon. But as Kailas found the work of typing letters dictated by Udar Pinto and filing them to be too mechanical for her frame of mind, she gave it up with the Mother’s approval. But she voluntarily took up the work of painting handkerchiefs for the Mother’s Embroidery Department. Embroidery became a training for her to discover her own self and to ascertain what was right or wrong for her. The Mother allowed her to find out by herself the truth of her being. In the following years, she would make gowns, scarfs, covers for Her footstool, chair, table and bed as well as differently-coloured cards and blessings packets for the Mother’s use.  

When, in 1965, the project of Auroville as initiated by Sri Aurobindo Society, Navajata, the first General Secretary of the organization, asked Kailas to work with him. She was made the Secretary in charge of the UNESCO Section of Sri Aurobindo Society. But as she had no office, nor any table, chair, almirah, typewrite and secretary, she had to use any means that was available for her work. She would carry out her correspondence using the typewriter of Sri Aurobindo Society after office hours; at times she worked till midnight and filed her papers at her own home. She also had to arrange for funds to travel to Mumbai, Chennai, New Delhi or to Paris for the UNESCO conference. Years later she would recall: ‘… the Divine provided me with whatever was needed from unexpected sources. Thus, I learned to depend on nothing and nobody except the Divine. This taught me never to worry or agitate but to keep my cool under all circumstances, with complete trust in the Divine Grace, knowing that the Divine is aware of every aspect of my needs, of what is to be done and how it is to be done.’ (I am with You, Vol. II, p. 85)

At the same time, Kailas did several compilations the most notable of which were The Reshaping of Humanity, The Aim and Action of a True Spiritual Culture and Culture and International Co-operation and Peace. Some other noteworthy compilations made by her on Auroville were: Religion and Spirituality, Auroville and the Ideal of Human Unity, The Aim of Auroville, Matrimandir: The Sanctuary of Truth, Auroville and Education, Cultural Pavilions and Sri Aurobindo and the Future.

Kailas shared a special bond of friendship with Dr. Adiseshiah, the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO. On the basis of the conversation she had with him, she had told the Mother that since Auroville was to be an international township, it was necessary to work for this project through UNESCO and that Sri Aurobindo Society should be affiliated with UNESCO as a non-governmental organization. The Mother’s appreciated Kailas’s idea. On Kailas’s request, Navajata went to New Delhi to meet the President of the Indian National Council for UNESCO for the affiliation but he was told that it would not be possible as UNESCO did not accept affiliation with religious organizations. Kailas then prepared a paper on Religion and Spirituality pointing out the differences between the two in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s vision and also emphasized how Auroville, whose objective was to realize human unity, covered life in entirety as well as its activities and relationships on the basis of spirituality. Thus, Sri Aurobindo Society was admitted to the ‘C’ category of relationship of UNESCO, meaning an exchange of information of their mutual activities, in 1966. Kailas also went to New Delhi and contacted a few important embassies representing all the six continents. She met Dr. Prem Kirpal, President of the Indian National Commission for UNESCO and also worked with Salah-El-Din Tewfik, UNESCO’s representative in New Delhi. Mr. Tewfik and Kailas worked out a resolution for Auroville to be proposed by the Indian Government for UNESCO’s General Conference in Paris. This resolution was unanimously passed in November 1966 by the General Conference of UNESCO.

Now that the resolution was passed, preparations started for the foundation of Auroville. Kailas requested the Mother to write a charter for Auroville mentioning its status, aims and objectives. She also went to New Delhi and invited Mr. Tewfik to grace the foundation ceremony of Auroville as a guest. In March 1968 she again went to New Delhi and discussed with Dr. Prem Kirpal the possibility of promoting Sri Aurobindo Society to the ‘B’ category of affiliation giving it a consultative status with UNESCO. She also worked with Mr. Tewfik for a second resolution on Auroville.

During her work for Auroville, Kailas had to wage many a war for her initiatives and courses of action. She was often described as ‘impractical’ and ‘dreamer’ but she always received the Mother’s whole-hearted support. On one occasion when she was pained for the criticisms she had to face, the Mother wrote to her the following letter: ‘Your only preoccupation must be to be and to do only what the Divine wants you to be and to do. What the others think of you has absolutely no importance. With love and blessings.’

On 11 June 1968, on the occasion of Kailas’s forty-second birthday, the Mother had told her: “You know that one life is not enough for realizing the integral love for the Divine, nor for making an integral offering of oneself to the Divine. But I have granted you my blessings for this.” As a result of the Mother’s blessings, Kailas had numerous spiritual experiences which indicated the rapid progress she had made in the path of Integral Yoga. In November 1964, during her meditation with the Mother in Her room, Kailas had seen a perfectly round red moon rising from the sea. As the moon was rising up, she saw the most glorious figure of Mahalakshmi emerging with the reddish golden moon in the background with an indescribable smile adorning Her face. When she was absorbed in this vision, the Mother suddenly pressed Her hand on Kailas’s head and said: “Très, très bien!” (Very, very good!) When Kailas opened her eyes and looked at the Mother, she saw that the Mother was Mahalakshmi Herself with the same smile on Her face. On her birthday in 1967, when she was meditating with the Mother, she saw Her sitting beneath a Kadamba tree the flowers of which were given the name of Supramental Sun by Her. In this vision she saw herself approaching the Mother enthusiastically. With a smile on Her face, She stretched out Her hand with a bunch of flowers which She had renamed Realization. While she was engrossed in this vision, the Mother had put Her hand gently on her cheek and she emerged from the state of trance. The Mother remarked “Very good” and gave Kailas a birthday card in which She wrote: ‘Bonne Fête! To Kailas with love and blessings for the fulfilment of her aspiration.’ On her birthday in 1972, when she had gone to the Mother and placed her head on Her lap, She had pressed it with both Her hands. At that moment, Kailas saw Sri Aurobindo sitting on His chair in a majestic posture with His penetrating eyes piercing the Beyond. Suddenly, Kailas saw, a smile appearing on Sri Aurobindo’s lips and He was looking at her with a compassionate gaze. She fell at His feet and could feel the touch. This, of course, is a brief overview of Kailas’s inner life.

Apart from her work with Sri Aurobindo Society, Kailas also worked on the project Flowers and Their Messages which was compiled by Richard Pearson, her closest collaborator whom she loved like a younger brother. As the Mother had given spiritual significances to more than eight hundred flowers from India and a few from abroad, Richard was keen to bring out a book with all these significances. Kailas felt that as the Mother’s significances of flowers had a deeper value in terms of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, pertinent texts from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would enable the reader to understand the psychological help that the flowers were capable of rendering. Thus she chose relevant passages from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for each flower. The book Flowers and Their Messages was eventually published in 1973.

In 1969 UNESCO was asked by the United Nations to establish a world university for the purpose of realizing human unity. Accordingly, a circular was sent to all their member-states and affiliated non-government organizations with consultative statuses with the instruction of sending a project report for the proposed university. A fortnight before the deadline of submission, Navajata approached Kailas with the request of preparing a project report on the world university. As there was insufficient time, Kailas was reluctant to accept this task. But Navajata insisted that all she had to do was to prepare the report based on ideas presented before the Mother and duly approved by Her. Due to Navajata’s insistence, Kailas consented and prepared a report which she sent to the Mother for Her comments. When the report was read out to the Mother, She threw the papers on the ground in a state of fury and exclaimed: “Who has asked her to prepare such a report?” When Kailas was informed of the Mother’s reaction, she was shaken to her very depths. For the next two days, she could hardly eat or sleep. But then she realized that the Mother wanted her to work exclusively under Her and Sri Aurobindo’s guidance. She also realized that this experience was indeed a grace for not only did it terminate her ego-consciousness of being the doer of the Divine’s work but it also made her realize that punishments were, in fact, the Divine’s attempts to rouse the secret strength within and lead the aspirant to a higher course of life. Eventually, she found appropriate passages in the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. She visioned what was to be written and prepared the paper entitled Auroville and Education in which she concretely felt Sri Aurobindo’s guidance and sent it to the Mother through Pournaprema, the Mother’s grand-daughter. When the paper was read out to the Mother, she had remarked that it was very, very good.

In 1970 we find Kailas working to get Sri Aurobindo Society an ‘A’ category affiliation at the UNESCO. She was also approached by Anjani Dayanand to prepare the draft of the resolution on Auroville for the UNESCO Conference so that Auroville could be accepted as a major project. When she informed the Mother about this work to be undertaken, She replied: ‘Yes, do the work. It is all right. Do it with care and confidence, it will be what it has to be. Love and blessings.’ In November 1970 she went to Paris to attend the General Conference of UNESCO and also to establish contacts with foreign delegations. Following the request of Dr. Adiseshiah who wanted to know about Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga and His unique contribution to humanity, she penned a paper which helped him to answer many of the questions which were asked to him on Auroville for the French television. She also tried, through Dr. Prem Kirpal, to arrange for the laying of the foundation stone for the Cultural Pavilions through the International Council for the Future of Cultural Relations as well as through UNESCO so that it could commemorate the Birth Centenary of Sri Aurobindo in 1972 as well as the twenty-fifth anniversary of India’s independence.

When the Madras Institute for Development Studies was established by Dr. Adiseshiah in 1970, Kailas was invited along with Dr. Kireet Joshi to be members of the monthly seminars held under its auspices. She attended these monthly seminars for six years and would comment on all the research papers presented in the light of Sri Aurobindo.

Kailas revisited Paris in November 1974 to present and explain at the UNESCO the project of Auroville’s Cultural Pavilion. Due to her efforts, two of the Executive Board Members for U.S.A. and U.K. realized that the concept of Auroville was unique and with the establishment of the suggested Cultural Pavilions, it would achieve a stupendous significance and thus, they extended support to it. She also tried hard so that the laying of the foundation stone of some of the cultural pavilions — which was not materialized in 1972 — could be made possible in 1978 on the occasion of the Mother’s Birth Centenary. Following an invitation by Auroville International, she gave a talk on ‘Love: human and divine’ in Paris. On her return to India, she went to Sri Aurobindo Centre in Surat where she was invited to inaugurate the installation of life-size photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and to address the devotees on the said occasion.

When she was still in Paris in 1974, Kailas had come to know of the rift between Auroville and Sri Aurobindo Society. When she returned to India and learnt the details of the conflict from Navajata, she volunteered to help in resolving it. Though she tried her best, she failed to persuade both the parties to arrive at a position of reconciliation. When the matter went to court, she left her work for Auroville as she felt that such an action was against the declared objective of Auroville which was to realize unity through progressive universal harmony.

After dissociating herself from Sri Aurobindo Society, Kailas devoted her time to translating Sri Aurobindo’s epic-poem Savitri into French. She devoted three years to this translation-work and completed four cantos of Book I.

In 1983, Kailas and Richard visited Spain following an invitation of Richard’s mother. After spending a month in Spain, they visited Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland and England where they were received warmly by the former students of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and friends of Auroville. Sometime in mid-1980s, Kailas received an invitation from Jyotipriya to take charge of the East West Cultural Center in Los Angeles which she politely declined. Following the request of Vijay Poddar, she had prepared the texts of some of the talks which were delivered by Dr. P. P. Narayanan, the Chairman of Sri Aurobindo Society. The themes of two of the talks she had prepared for Dr. Narayanan were Woman’s Role in Spiritual India and India’s Need of the Hour: Unity and Integration.

In 1991, Kailas and Richard were invited by Paula Murphy, one of the sponsors of the AUM Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, to speak at the Conference. Thus Kailas revisited the United States of America after a gap of twenty-seven years with Richard to fulfil her appointed but unfinished work. At New York, Kailas delivered a talk on ‘The Divine Plan and the Aim of Existence’. At South Carolina, she spoke on Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Their Yoga of Transformation while Richard Pearson spoke on Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and the system of Integral Education. They also gave a talk on the Integral Yoga of Transformation at Florida. At Chicago, Kailas spoke at the Chinmayananda Centre on the theory of the world being illusory and that of the world being a place of the Divine’s manifestation. At Colorado, Kailas and Richard made two presentations: the first was a slide-show on flowers while the other was on cultural pavilions in Auroville and the work to be done to discover America’s genius. Richard also spoke on the educational system of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. Back in New York, Kailas gave a talk on 27 September 1991 at the Indian Consulate on ‘The Relevance of Sri Aurobindo to the Modern World’. This talk was jointly organized by the Indian Consulate and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Later, Kailas came to know that it was the first time that the Indian Consulate had arranged something on Sri Aurobindo.

In 1992, Kailas and Richard received another invitation from the United States of America and Germany to give a series of talks. At Berlin, Kailas delivered a talk giving an introduction to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo. At Ashville in North Carolina where the AUM Conference was held in that year, Kailas and Richard made a presentation of flowers through slides on ‘The Matrimandir and Twelve Gardens’ according to the Mother’s vision. Kailas also gave a talk on Savitri at this conference. At the Vedic Center, she gave a talk on Sri Aurobindo and the Integral Yoga. She revisited the United States of America with Richard in 1994 and 1995. During their trip in 1994, they had stopped at Bulgaria where Kailas was invited to give a talk on Sri Aurobindo at the Association of Friends of India which was attended by the erstwhile Ambassador of Bulgaria to India. At the Auroville International Conference, Kailas and Richard gave a talk on Savitri, presented a slide-show on flowers and also spoke about Auroville’s project of Cultural Pavilions. Later they travelled to the United States of America where at the Consulate of India in San Francisco, she gave a talk on ‘Man: Slave or Free?’At the Indian Consulate in New York on 17 September 1994, she spoke on ‘The Resurgence of Indian Culture in the Light of Sri Aurobindo’ which was presided by Dr. Karan Singh. In 1995, Kailas and Richard were back at the United States of America. She gave a slide-show of flowers for the Matrimandir Gardens according to the Mother at City Island. Richard and Kailas were also invited to attend the AUM Conference at the Pathworks in Phoenicia, New York in July of 1995 in which she gave a talk on Sri Aurobindo. Then they went to San Francisco where Kailas spoke on Transformation and presented the slides of flowers at the Sri Aurobindo Centre. At the Open Centre in New York, she delivered a talk on Sri Aurobindo. On 24 October 1995 she gave a talk on ‘The Yoga of Love’ also at New York.

Now that her work in the United States of America to spread the message of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was over, Kailas was back in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry where she devoted her time to paint blessings packets with flowers of her choice. She continued to conduct informal classes on Savitri, The Life Divine and Mother’s Agenda for the next few years.

The present author had met Kailas at her apartment in the Exhibition House for the first time in August 2009. At that time, he was working on a book on Sri Aurobindo for which he wanted to interview Richard Pearson. But as Richard was pressed for time, he had requested the present author to give his questions in writing so that he could go through them in his leisure hours and that he would send his answers by post. As promised, Richard’s answers arrived which were dictated by him to Kailas who wrote them in a meticulously prepared question-answer format. To express his gratitude to these two divine workers for the trouble they had taken to answer his queries, the author visited their apartment at Exhibition House in August 2009. The sun had set half an hour ago and Kailas and Richard were in the company of some foreigners who took leave of them shortly. The author was made to sit in the room of Kailas which served as her bedroom-cum-drawing room for visitors. She slowly came to this room, took her seat on her rocking chair and after making herself comfortable, asked: “So, what can I do for you?” The author replied: “You have already done a lot for me.” And he went on to explain how benefitted he was at the way the questions and the answers were arranged and sent to him by her. “Oh! It was nothing”, she replied, “Richard needed a couple of reminders but when we did sit with the questions, it was done in one go.” And then she smiled. This lovely smile became even more warm when he took leave of them after an hour or so because by that time he had been accepted as a part of Richard and Kailas’s extended spiritual family. This marked the beginning of a very loving and intimate relationship which blossomed over the years.

Kailas would look upon the present author as a dear friend but gradually she began to call him her son. He was free to visit her apartment whenever he wanted; no prior appointment was necessary. And when they sat together, she would recall stories of her association with the Mother and how Her Grace had helped her at every step. Once he had asked Kailas whether she had any regrets in life. She had replied in the negative and said: “Mother has always taken good care of me. Even now she does. I don’t have to worry about anything. She arranges everything for me. I am happy and satisfied with my life.” At times when the present author would remark that she and Richard were the Mother’s greatest boons to him, she would reply with a broad smile: “So are you to us.”

Every time on the eve of the present author’s departure from Pondicherry, when he would pay a visit to Kailas to inform her that he would be leaving for Kolkata on the following day, she would exclaim: “What! You are leaving so soon! I thought you are going to stay here for a while.” When the author would tell her that he had already spent about a fortnight in Pondicherry and that now it was time for him to return to Kolkata, she would say: “This is your place. You belong here.” And she would allow him to take leave of her only if he promised to meet her next morning before leaving for Chennai Airport. A few hours before his departure from Pondicherry, the author would visit Kailas to seek her permission to return to Kolkata. She would first frown and say: “So, you are leaving!” But when he would take her hands in his and assure her that he would return very soon, her eyes would be full of light and joy. She would give a most beatific smile which was capable of dispersing all clouds of despondency from one’s heart. When she would hug the author, the latter would feel that her arms were the safest place on earth — as safe as a mother’s lap. At times Richard had to remind her that the author had a flight to catch and she would say: “I know. But I don’t want him to go.” Only when she would be assured that the present author would return soon that Kailas would bid him a farewell with a smiling face.

Every year on 11th June, on the occasion of her birthday, when the present author would call Kailas up to convey his greetings, she would first thank him and then ask: “When are you coming to Pondicherry?” When she would be informed that the present author would reach Pondicherry during the next Darshan, she would exclaim: “Oh! So late! I want you here before the Darshan.”

There were two sides of Kailas’s personality. On one hand, she had a very strong will — if she had made up her mind to do something she would not rest until the work was done. But on the other hand, she was just like a sensitive child who loved to be pampered and who would listen to all suggestions provided they were conveyed with love and sympathy. Seeing the childlikeness in Kailas, one felt that she was indeed a child in the lap of the Divine Mother. The present author would like to narrate an incident to illustrate her childlike sweet nature. In the evening of 29 February 2020, when the author visited the apartments of Richard and Kailas, Richard told him that Kailas was in a bad mood. On that day both of them were taken to the Ashram main building from their residence. They had sat at the Samadhi for some time. Kailas was keen to spend some more time at the Samadhi but was brought back to her residence much against her wishes. She was so upset that she had skipped her lunch. Since she was diabetic, she had to be fed at specific hours. Richard’s earnest persuasion to take her meal went in vain. The present author went to her room and found her watching the television. He could feel that she was terribly upset. After much cajoling, her mood improved. Then he asked her that since it was a special day (the 29th of February — the anniversary of the Supramental manifestation upon earth), would she like to have anything special? He asked her whether she liked strawberries. When she replied in the affirmative, the present author went to Nilgiris, a supermarket of Pondicherry, bought strawberries and honey and came back to Kailas’s apartment. She was visibly happy to see the box of strawberries. When Richard started to slice the strawberries, Kailas said that she would like to have them with cream. Richard replied that there was no cream in the refrigerator. Once again Kailas’s mood turned sour and she refused to eat. Richard — who is an embodiment of patience and endurance — tried to make her understand but she would not touch the fruit. The present author requested Kailas to give him ten minutes’ time so that he could go and purchase the cream she wanted. He rushed to Nilgiris, bought a tetra-pack of Amul cream and returned to Kailas’s residence. Richard sliced the strawberries and served them with honey and cream to Kailas. After she started to have the fruits, her mood began to improve. After she had finished her meal, the author wiped her lips and hands with a towel. Suddenly, she looked up at him and said in a voice almost choked with emotion: “No one has ever loved me like you. No body has taken care of me like you.” Both of them held each other’s palms and sat silently for a while. Her eyes were full of happiness and she had a broad smile adorning her face. The present author said: “I can do anything for my lady love!” And how she laughed!

In 2004, the first part of Kailas’s book I am with You was published. The second and third part of the book was published in a single volume in 2008. In March 2019 Kailas had permitted Overman Foundation to reprint the first part of I am with You which had been out of print for several years. This reprint saw the light of day in August 2019. In December 2019 when the present author was in Pondicherry, Kailas asked him whether Overman Foundation would be willing to publish a revised edition of I am with You with all the three parts incorporated in a single volume. This proposal was happily accepted and from 2020 Kailas and Richard began to work on the revised edition of the said book.

The present author had visited Pondicherry in February 2020. During the three weeks that he had spent in Pondicherry, he would visit Kailas at her residence quite often. On evening, during the course of a conversation, Kailas told him that she would like to meet his wife. The author assured him that he would certainly bring his wife during his next visit to Pondicherry. Kailas said: “Yes, please don’t forget because I will be here for one more year only.” “We are not going to let you go anywhere before 2026 when we would celebrate your 100th birthday with pomp and splendour”, the present author had answered. Kailas laughed; it seemed she had found this proposal enjoyable. But this particular utterance became a matter of concern for the present author. Did she have a premonition about her departure? The answer was revealed exactly a year later.

In March 2020, Kailas gifted to Overman Foundation a gown and a scarf used by the Mother which was in her possession. On 3 March 2020, before leaving for Chennai Airport, the present author went to meet Kailas and Richard and to bid them a good-bye. That was his last meeting with Kailas. For the next few months, he was in regular touch with Kailas through telephone calls and also with Richard through emails and whatsapp messages.

On 27 November 2020, in the early hours of the day, Kailas slipped and suffered a slight fracture on her right leg. She had to spend a few days at the Ashram Nursing Home after her surgery which took place at the Sai Hospital. From the Ashram Nursing Home she was shifted to Care — the senior citizen’s home run by Sri Aurobindo Ashram — to convalesce. When the present author had a talk with her over the phone on 12 December, she said that she would like to return home and asked him to convey this message to Richard. Also on 4th and 6th January 2021, she rang him up and told him that her end was near as she was already ninety-four so she would like to die in her own apartment. She asked him to come to Pondicherry at the earliest. The author tried to persuade her that under the prevalent circumstances, she should take rest at Care for the sake of her health and whenever the doctors would declare that she was perfectly fit, he would fly to Pondicherry to personally escort her back to her home. Due to her constant insistence, the doctors attending upon her at Care allowed her to go back home.

It is to be noted that Kailas detested the very idea of staying in a nursing home. In December 2019, when both Kailas and Richard were staying at Care and the present author had gone to meet them, she had told the latter while expressing her wish to return home at the earliest: “A home is a home and a nursing home is a nursing home.” She wanted to be in her own apartment, in the atmosphere she had become accustomed to. Fortunately this wish of her was soon materialized with the help of two of her friends.

In February 2021 Kailas had to be shifted to Care again when Richard had hurt his back and was sent to the Ashram Nursing Home. On 5 February Kailas called up the present author to inform him about Richard’s health. On Saturday, 20 March 2021, Richard was shifted to Care where he and Kailas continued to work on the revised edition of I am with You.

On 3 May 2021, Kailas suddenly developed fever which made her very weak. She was taken to New Medical Centre and was admitted there. But before leaving for the New Medical Centre, she had sent through a friend a treasure which she never parted with — the Mother’s watch which always adorned her wrist — for preservation at Sri Smriti, the museum where numerous objects used by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are meticulously preserved. 

When the present author learnt about her illness, he rang up the Tamil attendant who was with Kailas so that he could have a talk with her. Kailas told the author very clearly that she was going — going to be with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. But she was in Ananda — absolute bliss. She also gave certain instructions to him about her book and belongings and repeated that she was going. When the author tried to assure her that nothing would happen to her and that the prayers of her beloved ones would cure her soon, she chuckled. It seemed that she knew that all prayers, irrespective of their sincerity, would not come true this time. This was the last conversation of the present author with Kailas which took place in the evening of 5 May 2021.

Gradually Kailas’s health deteriorated. She could converse only in monosyllables like ‘Yes, of course’ and ‘I understand’ when something was communicated to her. On 10 May 2021, at 10.15 p.m. Kailas left her ailing body to unite with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. She was just a month away from her ninety-fifth birthday.

Thus ended the journey of Kailas Jhaveri, the Mother dear child who knew ‘how to be generous’ (to quote from a letter written to her by the Mother). Till her very last breath she has shown us how to live in bliss and peace with an unshakeable faith in the Grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Even when she knew that she would not survive for long, she was in a state of bliss. For she knew that soon she would be in the world of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with her head on the Mother’s lap and Her fingers caressing her. She was loved by many and criticized by a few but everyone who knew her well would certainly agree that she was a perfect example of how to lead one’s life according to one’s own terms and conditions yet with an absolute consecration to the Divine.

The best way to summarize the spirit of Kailas Jhaveri would be to quote the following lines from Walt Whitman’s Passage to India:

Sail forth — steer for the deep waters only,

Reckless O soul exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,

For, we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,

And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O, my brave soul!

O farther, farther sail!

O daring joy, but safe! are they all not seas of God?

O, farther, farther, farther sail!

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation

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Kailas Jhaveri with Stanislaus Skrowaczewski (conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra) and Gunther Schuller (composer) on 6 January 1961.

Kailas Jhaveri with Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Dahlberg of BMI and Wallingford Riegger (composer).
At the office of Broadcast Music Incorporated.
Kailas Jhaveri with A.B. Purani, Anie Nunnally, Richard Eggenberger alias Narad in New York.

Kailas Jhaveri with Sam Spanier, Shri Chinmoy, Eric Hughes, Narad, Dr. Carey, Anie Nunnally and John Kelly.

Kailas Jhaveri with Anie Nunnally, Sam Spanier, Eric Hughes and Ann Harrison at Matagiri.
Richard Pearson, Kailas Jhaveri and Sumitra Cazade at the latter’s residence in France.
Delivering a talk at New York on ‘The Yoga of Love’ on 24 October 1995
With Dr. Kireet Joshi on 24 April 2011

Photographs courtesy: The group photograph of the Jhaveri family has been sent to Anurag Banerjee by Shri Daval Jhaveri, Kailasben’s nephew. The rest of the photographs are from Kailasben’s own album which she had gifted to Anurag Banerjee.

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15 Replies to “Kailas Jhaveri: The Mother’s dear child who knew “how to be generous” by Anurag Banerjee

  1. I pray Mother for peace to this great Soul..
    My pranaams to the Soul of Kailas Jhaveri…

    ॐ आनन्दमयि, चैतन्यमयि, सत्यमयि, परमें !!

  2. While revealing these personalities, Anurag reveals the superior way of his receiving the Grace to speak of the Divine acting through its instruments.

  3. A willing servitor indeed.Will be remembered for her contribution to get the first UNESCO resolution on Auroville.

  4. Went through brief biography of Kailas Jhaveri — the great, beloved Soul of our Sweet Mother…

    I personally thank you sincerely for the article, which helped me having a Darshan of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo through the Spiritual-Sleep-Dreams of Kailas Jhaveri….

    May the Mother’s special Blessings beauty you at each moment….

  5. Dear Anurag – Many thanks for your wonderful portrait of ” Dear Kailash Ben – ” dear and true child of the Divine Mother and the Lord Sri Aurobindo – she lived her life fully at several levels connecting and interconnecting children of ” Sweet Mother ” -She was truly an international minded personality with very strong devotional fervor and ardent aspiration to realize the vision of our “Masters” – the path of the divine life – Her has been ” A flight of Alone to the Alone – Plotinus –
    now and resting in the bosom of the Divine Mother –

  6. I knew Kailas and Richard here in America, and was always struck by her energy for the Work, her decisiveness and her originality. Treasured forever, she is with us.

  7. Such beautiful description of a beautiful soul indeed! I met Kailas ben only once with Anurag in 2019 at her residence and found her full of inner beauty. May her next abode be full of Ananda!!

  8. Thanking you for writing this wonderful piece on Kailas Ben.
    Such an inspiring and beautiful life lived in love and service to Them 🙏🏽

  9. How beautifully was fulfilled Mother’s promise to Her daughter Kailas Ben to love, guide and protect her!
    Dear Anurag, through all your text, written as an homage to a person you cherish so much, we can feel the fulfillment of these three (especially Divine Love) and of so many other Divine gifts.

  10. Became enriched going through the detailed biography of Sm. Kailas Jhaveri. Really, astounding personality and intellectual capacity. Such a dedicated and blessed soul.

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