Sri Aurobindo’s letter to Moraji Desai

Dear Friends,

Not many people are aware of the fact that Moraji Desai, who was the Prime Minister of India from 1977 to 1979 had come to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in August 1935. During his stay he wrote a letter to Sri Aurobindo asking him questions about spiritual matters. Sri Aurobindo had answered his letter on17 August 1935. This letter was published by Moraji Desai in the first volume of his book, ‘The Story of My Life.’

Today we take the opportunity of sharing Sri Aurobindo’s letter to Moraji Desai with you.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee


Overman Foundation.

                             Sri Aurobindo’s letter to Moraji Desai

‘Shri Moraji Desai,

I do not know that it is possible for me to give you any guidance on the path you have chosen — it is at any rate difficult for me to say anything definite without more precise data than those contained in your letter.

There is no need for you to change the line of life and work you have chosen so long as you feel that to be the way of your nature (svabhava) or dictated to you by your inner being, or, for some reason, it is seen to be your proper dharma. These are the three tests and apart from that I do not think there is any fixed line of conduct or way of work or life that can be laid down for the Yoga of the Gita. It is the spirit or consciousness in which the work is done that matters most; the outer form can vary greatly for different natures. Thus, so long as one does not get the settled experience of the Divine Power taking up one’s work and doing it, one acts according to one’s nature; afterwards it is that Power which determines what is to be done or not done.

The overcoming of all attachments must necessarily be difficult and cannot come except as the fruit of a long sadhana, unless there is a rapid general growth in the inner spiritual experience which is the substance of the Gita’s teaching. The cessation of desire of the fruit or attachment to the work itself, the growth of equality to all beings, to all happenings, to good repute or ill repute, the dropping of the ego, which are necessary for the loss of all attachments, can come completely only when all work becomes a spontaneous sacrifice to the Divine, the heart is offered up to Him and one has the settled experience of the Divine in all things and all beings. This consciousness or experience must come in all parts and movements of the being (sarvabhavena), not only in the mind and idea; then the falling away of all attachments becomes easy. I speak of the Gita’s way of Yoga; for in the ascetic life one obtains the same objects differently by cutting away from all the objects of attachment and the consequent atrophy of the attachment itself through rejection and disuse.

                                                                               Sri Aurobindo’

11 Replies to “Sri Aurobindo’s letter to Moraji Desai

  1. But where is Morarji’s letter. That would be even more interesting as to what prompted A.G. to write a letter to an avowed Gandhian. A.G. had refused to meet Gandhi but could afford to reply to his disciple as he also did in the case of Gandhi. Interesting piece of information for the researcher.

    1. That would be even more interesting what prompted A.G. to write a letter to an avowed Gandhian. A.G. had refused to meet Gandhi but could afford to reply to his disciple as he also did in the case of Gandhi.

      We must be careful not to draw hasty and momentous conclusions from a single letter.

      The first paragraph makes it amply clear that Sri Aurobindo was giving general advice to an individual who had come to visit the Ashram. (“difficult for me to say anything definite without more precise data than those contained in your letter.”). Way back in 1935, Morarji Desai was NOT the well-carved-out personality we know him today. He was only a budding politician exploring life, a 39-year old minister serving in the Bombay Presidency.

      Also recall that Sri Aurobindo had given Devdas Gandhi a copy of the “Essays on the Gita” to be delivered to Mahatma Gandhi. [refer to Sankar Ghose’s book on Mahatma Gandhi, 1991, Allied Publishers, page 21], which indicates that Sri Aurobindo was not averse to discussing Yoga with Gandhi himself.

      Lastly, writing a letter on Yoga (to Morarji) is easier than meeting a person like Gandhi to discuss politics because the former doesn’t require disturbing the supramental atmosphere that Sri Aurobindo had manifested in his room.

      All these factors must be considered before reaching any conclusions on Sri Aurobindo’s apparently contradictory conduct.

      1. It is better not to draw conclusions on someone’s behalf especially when the person is dead and gone.Moreover as per available data A.G’s behavior was more of being deliberate and not contradictory. Giving his level of alertness he could never afford to have entered into a controversial position and thus made all his actions purposive. What he wrote to Morarji was nothing but child’s play if one takes into consideration his magnum opus Life Divine and Savitri. As per Ashram records A.G. use to get many letters, small and big, and he never stood away from answering them however puerile the thoughts might be. Let us not wildly imagine that A.G. did not want to disturb the `supramental atmosphere’ by not wanting to meet Gandhi. This is iconoclastic oversimplification, which A.G. abhorred throughout his life and only worshipped free thought, action and will. A.G’s experiments with the `supramental’ were all his own and there was none on earth who could take him away from it. Gandhi was only a fly.Till the last A.G. might have believed in the `Machiavellian’ theorem of `ends justify the means’ and not the Gandhian moral of ` means justify the ends’. His behavior has always been earthly with lesser known beings and `divine’ within himself.

      2. Nirmalya: It is better not to draw conclusions on someone’s behalf especially when the person is dead and gone.

        Yes, but you committed that same error in one of your previous comments when you said “I on my part till this day could never forgive A.G. for leaving a doting wife and then again call her after 8 years saying ‘ amar siddhi labh hoyeche, tumi ebar aste paro’ ( I have achieved Siddhi and now you may come to Pondicherry )….But then why did he leave her without a notice.”

        Nirmalya: Let us not wildly imagine that A.G. did not want to disturb the `supramental atmosphere’ by not wanting to meet Gandhi. This is iconoclastic oversimplification, which A.G. abhorred throughout his life and only worshipped free thought, action and will.

        Nope, it ain’t wild imagination or iconoclastic oversimplification. Please refer to the A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, 10th December, 1938.

        Disciple : Why did you retire? To concentrate more on your work?
        Sri Aurobindo : No, to withdraw from the physical atmosphere. If I had to do the work the Mother is doing, I would have hardly time to do my own work, besides its being a tremendous labour.

  2. This is surely not a personal platform to debate views on. But of course if A.G. is the story teller and the piper then we can always do so. Every time we discuss him we get enriched. That is the transmission he has through us to divinize earth, even if he is not among us physically. For me this transmission could be material for others it could be non physical.

    Anyway,I am indeed happy that my comments have been able to penetrate you. It is very true as to what you say.Even till this day I could not forgive A.G. for abandoning his doting wife. But that was only an action to which I made an observation. There is a vast difference between Observations and Conclusions. One ought to understand the difference between the two unless it might lead to confusion.

    A.G. himself said ` his life was not on the surface for men to see’. So what was beneath? It is an endless debate with personal figments of imagination floating all over the world. Therefore, I only go by as to what A.G. said and not by what others say. Hence it is better not to come to conclusions. We should try to respect the privacy of a man who really did not want that his life should be known to all. He had his reasons. Then why do we gather evidence floating around him in bits and pieces and then try to construct a holistic frame?.

    As of now, A.G. has 4 biographies and numerous insignificant others as small pieces of observation. None knows, which is the ` Authorized Biography’. The dominant school believes only K R Srinivasa Iyengar is the most authentic as A.G. himself might have approved of it. But then again there are also very many counter points holding some issues `apocryphal’.

    So, we should try to reason ourselves. Purani’s evening talks are of course a major contribution, if not a jewel towards knowing some thoughts of A.G. But could it be that easy to understand a person who rewrites Savitri 52 times from `different levels’ and deals on Life Divine again and again on which he worked on for over 5 years in different occasions?

    Please do not forget evening discussions were only a part of A.G’s leisure hours in his daily schedules that began from 4 `o’ clock in the evening and ended at 5 `o’ clock in the morning. At that level he might only be dealing issues from a different level of consciousness.

    It is better not to relate ourselves to A.G. Moreover does withdrawing from the physical atmosphere so simplistically mean that he wanted to enter into a world of ` supramental atmosphere’ ? We could be again oversimplifying issues. It is better to stay away cautiously or else we might destroy this Great Human Soul to which I am only a part.

    1. I think I did not communicate my observation regarding the “withdrawal from the physical atmosphere” properly which caused some confusion. Lets put that and its relevance aside.

      Regarding A.G. leaving behind his wife, the way I understand it is that, once consciousness changes, Karma also changes, and the old life falls away. It is Dwijanma (second birth) where one lives and acts according to Divine Will, which is not revealed fully but only gradually. As a result, A.G. kept thinking he would return to India or reunite with his wife but neither of those things came to pass. See Mother’s Agenda October 20 1971 (“They have found some letters — some old letters — from Sri Aurobindo to Barin and the lawyer…).

      Anyway, I think we will close the discussion, unless you want to talk offline 🙂

      1. That’s OK we can always stop at this point.

        However, for information A.G. had answered the question on abandoning Mrinalini to a disciple. Please look up Nirodeda’s writings and you will find it. It might not be the way you think. After all we cannot think on his behalf. He is much `above’ and `more clear’.

        Disciple: Why do people like you and Confucius first marry and then leave their wives?
        Sri Aurobindo: ( Smiles ). The marriage comes when it is required and when it finally comes it goes into another ` Self’… and then it is no longer required.

        A.G was also a firm believer in the philosophy of the Greek mystic philosopher ` Epictetus’. Epictetus believed that consummation with a minor was evil. AG was 29 and Mrinalini 14.

        You are of course free to draw your conclusions from the above developments. I will not dare anything.Please feel free to talk off line but I am afraid I wouldn’t have much to offer as I might have already said more than what I should have come out with.

  3. first, we do not like abbriviation ” AG” for Sri Aurobindo. one may refer as “He” – if he thinks that writting “Sri Aurobindo” is consuming more space.
    Gandhi and his followers or disciples – are not the same. As told by an ashramite of early days , He refused to meet Gandhi, since in one birth, Gandhi was an asura, named Mur – and Lord annihilated him for which he got the title “Murari”. There was nothing personal – but speritial – the reason of His sadhana. He allowed Gandhi after India won freedom to come to ashram to get His darshan , but Gandhi could not make it. We must take it in that spirit.

  4. I also do not prefer calling some one Sri Aurobindo especially when the word Sri was only added sometime after 1926 and remained with him for the next 24 years. it was genuinely insignificant for him. Moreover the addition of `Sri’ does not connote anything special for him as he had gone without it from 1872 – 1926 i.e. almost 54 years. As he dropped his `Acroyd’ middle name when he boarded the ship to India, so also I favor dropping the word `Sri’ . He was a teacher and a guide and we are all his students in the classroom of this world.He was referred to as A.G. in Baroda College and also National Council of Education Bengal ( Ref. Aurobindo Ghosh : B Debsharma). Balai Debsharma was one of the first 19 students of AG at the National Council of Education Bengal. As I understand he also did not like that he should have devotees and even went to the extent of prohibiting prostration in front of his picture inside the Ashram. But unfortunately things did change. Please appreciate that we are dealing with a person who was beyond us and of course beyond his time. So it is better to try in finding him in us and not just show obeisance a thing which A.G. never liked given his brilliant education and the reading of all things around.

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