Ma Indira Devi (26 March 1920—31 December 1997) was born as Janak Kumari to Captain Kriparam (a rich hotelier) and Sakuntala Devi. Born and brought up amid riches, she groomed herself into an accomplished dancer. But since her early days she longed for the Divine. She was associated with various kinds of social work, ran orphanages and refugee camps. In October 1946 she met Dilip Kumar Roy when the latter had visited Jubbulpore to sing and speak of Sri Aurobindo. Although she had instantly accepted Dilip Kumar Roy as her Guru, she had to wait till 1949 when Dilip Kumar Roy, after obtaining Sri Aurobindo’s consent, accepted her as his disciple. She also received the new name of ‘Indira’ from Dilip Kumar Roy. Soon after, she began to see visions of gods and goddesses and also developed several faculties like extra-sensory perceptions, thought-reading, etc. When in a state of ‘samadhi’, she would hear bhajans or devotional songs sung by Mirabai who manifested herself to Indira Devi. These songs, around one thousand in number, were set to tune by Dilip Kumar Roy who also sang them every evening at the Hari Krishna Mandir — the Ashram which he and Ma Indira Devi had established in Pune.
After the demise of Dilip Kumar Roy in January 1980, Ma Indira Devi continued to help and guide seekers on the path of spirituality till her demise on 31 December 1997.
Prof. Supriyo Bhattacharya and his wife Dr. Aditi Bhattacharya had met Ma Indira Devi at the Hari Krishna Mandir which led him to write an article titled Two Evenings with Ma Indira Devi. This article which also consists of the talks Prof. Bhattacharya had with Ma Indira Devi has been published in the website of Overman Foundation.
With warm regards,
Two Evenings With Ma Indira Devi by Prof. Supriyo Bhattacharya
I must begin with a few words on my engagement with Dadaji Dilip Kumar Roy before I bring in Ma Indira Devi. No story on Ma is complete without Dadaji, as the light of the moon cannot be detached from the sky in which it shines.
I did not meet Dadaji Dilip Kumar Roy. But by sheer Grace, I stumbled upon his wonderful writings. I was moved beyond words and a secret bond was forged between him and me. those beautiful writings finally led me to Sri Aurobindo, and helped me glimpse a little of his unfathomable greatness and the depth and vastness of his vision. So, in a way, Dadaji (besides him, his friend Nirodbaran in Pondicherry Ashram) was instrumental in my acceptance of Sri Aurobindo as the Guru of my life and the supreme meaning of my quest, no matter how unfit I am. No formal initiation or any personal contact, for Sri Aurobindo had passed away long ago. Yet the description of Dadaji’s own quest for truth and Nirodbaran’s portrayal of Sri Aurobindo quickened my own quest, stirred an echo deep in my heart and finally opened a pathway by which I reached my destiny in Sri Aurobindo.
When in my student-days I came upon Dadaji’s writings and was reading his books with great joy and ardour, he was physically in this world. But to my great misfortune, I could not meet him in person. So many problems in my family stood in the way. But I could feel him in the heart of my hearts; my sheet anchor had been his incomparable writings, so fresh, full of vigour and a passionate search for truth and a refreshing candour. Above all, his soul-stirring songs offered to the Lord. The deep yearning and the devotion which those songs express have been a light on my way.
While I was musing upon my misfortune of not having seen Dadaji when he was alive, I one day came upon the story of a great lady, named Indira Devi, in his writings. I was thrilled to the marrow of my bones. Instantly I yearned to see her. But again, financial and other difficulties stood in my way. But this time I was determined. I prayed to the Lord and finally my troubles were over. With my wife Aditi, who also loved Dadaji and Ma Indira Devi very much, I finally started.
We reached Pune and called at Hari Krishna Mandir. Sri Sankar Banerjee was kind enough to meet us and gave word that he would communicate our arrival to Ma. He also told us to rest in hotel ‘Chetak’ nearby and to come and see Ma in the afternoon.
I was naturally a bit restless the whole day. However, we started for the Mandir in the afternoon. Both of us were filled with the thought that we could see her at long last; she herself was a God-realised soul over and above being Dadaji’s most blessed disciple and an inalienable part of his being. So we thought. Our joy was all the greater because we would not only see her, but also feel through her, the fragrance of Dadaji’s being. As we neared the temple, however, Aditi’s mind was dismayed at the thought of her own limitations; how could she, full of frailities and human weaknesses, stand before Ma, she wondered. But something within me stirred and gave me a childlike confidence. I heard myself saying to her, “Why do you worry? It is precisely because we are so frail, weak and limited that we feel the urge to approach her and seek her help. Come, let’s hurry up.”
I could say this spontaneously because I had read Dadaji and felt instinctively the love that he personified. I had seen the harsh ways of the world. There hardly anybody bears with your grievous limitations, much less forgive your sin. Nobody is there to care for the unworthy. Above all, you can find hardly anyone whom you can trust, before whom you can stand naked, warts and all, and open your heart. But here, I felt, there is Dadaji and her greatest child, Ma, before whom you can bare your heart. Even if you cannot speak out, they will read your pain, fathom your secret urges, be strict with you, if necessary, to correct you, but never falter in their love.
It turned out to be so indeed. When we reached the Hari Krishna Mandir, the sun had just set. In the afterglow the sky had a purity and sweetness that beckoned. In the fading light we stood before Dadaji’s Samadhi. It seemed we stood before a benign presence, a force-field of peace. Aditi was bowing down; suddenly I saw her weeping like a child! It was a heart-warming scene! I was wondering: if the Samadhi of a person can quicken the love and reverence so much, what wonders the person himself would have worked in ordinary mortals like us!
Slowly we gathered ourselves and took our seats in the room where Ma was to sing. The room was filled with many devotees eagerly waiting for her. Ma came down from upstairs and slowly entered. There was such a grace in her movement! She looked at us and flashed a beautiful smile. How did she tell us apart from others? We wondered. And wonder of wonders—she asked us in Bengali, like one very familiar, “Are you alright?” We were moved. Then she began her songs and reading from the Ramayana. The strangest part of it was that she picked up that very portion of the Ramayana which put at rest Aditi’s nagging doubts about her worthiness. Hanuman was telling Ravana, Ma explained, — “For once, you take the name of Rama; take refuge in him and all your sins will be washed away. None is free from defects or weaknesses in this world, but in spite of all, if anyone takes God’s name in earnestness, remembers Him, surrenders to Him, all the weaknesses are wiped out by the Lord.”
It was a marvellous reading accompanied by beautiful songs. Sometimes she spoke in Hindi, sometimes in English. Such an exquisite voice, sweet Hindi and a robust, fluent English! And what grip over the subject and easy felicity of rendering! I was simply charmed.
I could feel that the sweetness of the voice and the love that she poured into the words, were as if welling up from some deep fount of Ananda within her heart. It seemed as if the whole timber of her voice had been dipped in the divine ambrosia. Kahlil Gibran’s immortal words came alive to me: “Work is love made visible.”
And add to this her delicious humour! She spoke so wittily that the chorus of laughter rang out. The whole atmosphere was so light and pure. We could breathe freely after such a long time! The confines of space and time were broken; our souls, set free, glided on to the beyond.
We came to our senses when the reading ended. We were speechless with joy when we saw ourselves finally face to face with Ma. She came up to us and we made pronam to her. She kept on looking at both of us for a while. Her entire face was suffused with the sunshine of an unforgettable smile. She seemed to be looking at her two dear ones! Suddenly, all our sense of unworthiness dissolved; we stepped out of our small world and stole into her boundless heart. We never felt ourselves to be so large, free and pure as then. It seemed we were looking at her like a child, and she was spreading her soothing look like a mother! If only we could treasure that deathless smile and spread its glow on our humdrum days and the crookedness of this mortal heart!
We woke up as if from a dream when Ma asked us to come upstairs. We followed her and came upstairs. There we took our seats in the room adjoining the room where Dadaji lived. Ma asked us to make our pronam to Dadaji in his room. We obeyed and then came back to our seats. Our thoughts flew back to the past. This is the room where he lived, this is the soil where he trod; and we were breathing the air of that same room! That God-gifted beauty, robust frame, many-splendoured personality, compassionate eyes and above all, that far-away, God-centred look—everything of Dadaji seemed to come alive once again.
We took our seats at the feet of Ma. Slowly she broke the silence and began to talk. She spoke mostly in English, but sometimes surprised us with her fluent Bengali with an accent all her own. What was most amazing was that she could read my thoughts and answer my unuttered doubts or questions. That was the first time I saw that Yogis could indeed read the thoughts of others and penetrate beneath the surface. Whenever I had nursed a secret doubt or questions that I feared to ask, or adverse and hostile thoughts crowded in on my mind regarding Dadaji’s life (acquired as a result of the venomous influence of the rational fools, I mean, his detractors), she could draw it out, as if, like a skeleton out of a cupboard and answer it sharply in her bold, clear tone with a devastating firmness. She would never bear with a falsehood uttered or nurtured by anyone about Dadaji and answer it with solid arguments, but without any rancor. But in my case, the visible firmness soon gave way to a mellowed look helping me see where I had gone wrong. And how her face often beamed and broke into a smile, as she startled me by saying with a child-like frankness: “You take me for a very wise person! But I do not know much!” I was overwhelmed at the simplicity and humility. Eliot’s words came to mind: “The only wisdom that we hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility/Humility is endless.” At the end of our talk, I said to her, “Could you give me an appointment tomorrow so that I may discuss a few important things with you alone?” She very graciously agreed, saying, “Why don’t you come tomorrow morning, say around 10 A.M?” But I was a fool not to have taken this rare opportunity; I had already booked two tickets for a bus that would show us around the Poona city. Such is human stupidity! I still regret what I had lost by throwing away such an opportunity. On the second day, we had again a long talk in the evening. Unfortunately she was unwell that evening; she was almost constantly coughing and her throat was irritating. Still she took sips from time to time from a soothing drink and went on talking with us, beating the evident discomfort. It was the same kind of a talk as on the first day, with her usual kindness, strength and flashes of humour. We felt very uneasy at the thought that we were really adding to her discomfort. But she did not mind. It now appears to me quite amazing how she disregarded her acute discomfort for hours because she felt someone aspiring for light had turned to her. Anyway, whatever we got, we gathered up every bit. Most of the talks was recorded on a tape. I am publishing a part of it here verbatim, keeping back those portions which are entirely personal. There were so many things in her talks that either could not be recorded or even if recorded, could not be transcribed because of faulty recording. Thus, something of the rich fare was lost, to say nothing of the immeasurable wonder of the way she spoke and the love that she expressed or radiated while talking about Dadaji—her very heart, soul and life.
Dadaji Dilip Kumar Roy with Ma Indira Devi.
Ma began her talk:
There is only one direction in which one can get help, and that is the Divine help. Except the Divine there is no security. You, myself, she—none of us are completely sincere; sincerity, love, Sadhana, surrender are progressive things; I am sincere today, but I may not be sincere tomorrow—there is no end to it, it’s not that you get the whole of it. When I went to Dadaji, I sat before him and said: “I don’t know you, but you know me; I don’t know how to approach you; you can see me; I don’t love you enough, but the tragedy is that I don’t want to love you; I want to love so many other things.” The moment that I saw him, I knew that it’s not the outer form that I had to be attached with, however resplendent that might be; but there was that spark in him, the rest is all ornament. But I said: “I don’t love you, pray to you, I am not sincere enough, I have a million faults”. But I have seen as soon as the light comes, we say, ‘No, no, not as yet!’ So there are difficulties that every Sadhak must face. But I ask you not to give up. For example, as I say sometimes, it is as if I am travelling in a local train — it happens in a crowded train in Bombay that people with one hand hold on to some support in the compartment, and with another hand, take care of their luggage so that nothing gets lost and pickpocketed, so with one hand keep holding on, and with the other hand, with a part of your mind, do other things; so I tell you not to give up. You would say, I have so many difficulties; but who is free from difficulties? Some little fault — it may be very minor — may be present even in the greatest men, though I do not know enough of them. As Girish Ghosh said — “If you want to know Sri Ramakrishna, don’t look at Vivekananda, but look at me; Vivekananda perhaps would still be Vivekananda even if he had not met Sri Ramakrishna; but there is no sin in the world that I have not committed.” So I say, don’t judge by outward things. If you go to a Sadhu and only think: “Why does he do that, why does he wear that, why does he sit like that”, then you lose everything; I do not say that you do it, but it is very common; that is, things which are most unimportant, become very important.
I put one question to Ma: “Ma, how to deal with the ego? Besides that, the mind too gets very restless — in that case, is it good to pray?”
Ma answered: “Yes, you should pray. Along with that, don’t identify yourself with external things. The mind would like to run this way, that way; I dealt with it, saying: “Go wherever you would like to, have a good time. Wherever you want to go, go; but I am sitting here at the seat of my Lord, say for ten minutes; I will not get up even if the three worlds catch fire.” Suppose the body is suffering from something and at once we start fussing about it; even at the smallest inconvenience, we become restless. Tell your body: “I have pampered you for long.” Ma kept silent for a while, then with a smile she said, “I do not know much — the little that I know and talk about is from experience.”
A question regarding the body occurred to my mind. I said to her, “One thing, Ma; I would like to know something about physical suffering. The body suffers from so many things — say, for example, the physical lusts and cravings; it becomes unbearable at times. And it has such a strong hold on us. What should we do in such a case?”
Ma listened to every word with great compassion. Then she said, “Pray at such moments. Say to the Lord: “Please help me, save me from these passions, all lower things. Anything that comes in between you and me, is wrong.” When Miraji was going away to Vrindavan, all the family was against that; her husband had died; she wrote to Tulsidas: “What should I do?” He said in reply — “Brother, sister, father, mother, children — your dearest ones — if they come between you and Sri Ram, stick to Sri Ram.” Well, that is for some people like Mirabai. But anything that comes between you and your Sadhana, be careful about that. Of course your dear one may not be necessarily a problem, he or she may be of help to you; but be careful.”
Another question arose in my mind. I ventured to ask her, “Well, Ma, when I face myself to deal with my inner problems or disorders, then it becomes difficult to face people around us; they say or think, ‘You are too much preoccupied with your own problem, but you do not bother your head about sorrows and sufferings around you.’ To be frank about it, sometimes, looking at the world, I too catch myself doubting in the existence of a merciful Lord of the Universe when there is so much pain, falsehood and injustice around—”
Ma listened patiently. She remained silent for a space; then said, “Many people think like that. For example, someone wrote to me, saying—“There is so much suffering and pain everywhere; so don’t you think that God has failed us?” I told him—“God has not failed us, human beings have failed God.” Look, whatever your trouble or suffering may be, or whatever endeavour you are making to deal with that, don’t speak about that to anyone—in particular to those who lead a bad life or are not believers. No problem is a public problem. Besides that, you know, so many mishaps or accidents happen in the world in so many places, like murder, cruelty. Then what will you do—go and fight with them? Then, take another case: in so many places in the world so many people, so many children go to bed on an empty stomach, this is not fair, but do we go hungry for them?”
I raised another question: “Well, Ma, take the case of natural calamity. Many people raise this question: if everyone is the child of God, then why should some people fall victims of these natural calamities? This is a problem that beats me. I wonder what may be the way out of this—”
I could not finish my question; for Ma put a counter-question to me, “I ask you one simple question: do we know how to run the world? The Lord has created this Universe—why, I don’t know; if you ask me, I do not know. Why there is so much suffering in this world, I don’t know. But the only thing I know is that He knows. And things that can be avoided, we must try to avoid them. Take the case of Dadaji’s departure in 1980. Can I understand why such a thing happened? But this much I know for certain that Thakur knows.” Ma stopped for a while. Then, after reminiscing about Dadaji’s departure in a few words, she began in a very warm, intimate tone: “I am not saying that the personal loss is not there or that it does not matter to me; of course, it matters a great deal; of course, there is a terrible loneliness in the heart about which I cannot talk to anybody. As far as I am concerned, there was an earthquake; I built my house on a rock, all sorts of storms came, typhoons came again and again; everything was shattered, over which I had no control; but then, do I know why it happened? And I truthfully say that I am very happy that it happened; I accept it gratefully that for so many years I had the opportunity to be with him, with Dadaji, to serve him, learn from him, to look at him, to love him, and to be loved by him. Who am I to demand that things do not happen as I will? The Lord knows, I do not know. There are others who are above sorrow or pain—well, I am not; the pain is there—the pain, the like of which I have not felt for anybody, even my father or mother or any one else; but so much joy I have received, so much of bliss, so much of peace, that I can bear the little bit of pain… So, I say to the Lord—“All errors and mistakes are mine, You know that; give me the strength to bear it and keep that one little lamp burning as long as I am here;” you people will come—five, ten—children like you and get a little peace, something of that I have got… I do not understand, I understand very little; the only thing that I am certain about is that I don’t know much. But if that one little lamp is enough to show me the way on the path, I do not need bright lights.”
On the second day, Ma started:
“You see, a man, even a very great man like Dadaji grows before your eyes: I was with him for so many years and I watched him so carefully, critically sometimes, with the eyes of a outsider sometimes, sometimes as a daughter looks at a father; or even as a daughter looks at a mother for I had a beautiful experience with him in 1949; the experience was this: I was seriously ill and suddenly I vomitted blood near him; I was so upset, I thought he is my Guru—oh, it was so unbearable, I cannot express it to you! But Dadaji put his hand on my head and said: “Indira, you are a mother, you have two sons; many times they must have soiled your clothes, must have sat on your lap with dirty hands, you did not mind it; I have also given you birth—a Guru is first a mother and then a teacher; because I have also given you a spiritual birth, so I am a mother; do not mind, I will take over all your difficulties if I can and help you. You should not mind like that.” I have observed different sides of him—as a musician, as a conversationalist, as a great man, as a truthful man, as a great personality, writer, poet; how he used to translate! I heard the Hindi songs (from Mirabai)—nine hundred of them; when I dictated, he wrote down; and then I said, “Dadaji, let’s go down, it’s time for Bhajan”; he said, “Give me five minutes.” I said, “No, come, you are always late.” In five minutes he translated the song into Bengali! Five minutes literally! The translation was done keeping the same metre and sometimes the translation was better than the original. He translated the songs into English so quickly that Sri Aurobindo wrote: “Dilip, you are a unique translator.” Dadaji once said, “I am an artist, I am a lover of beauty, I admire beauty, I don’t want to possess it.” I would tell you another incident. We were in Delhi, staying with our uncle and some lady had come. She was singing. In fact, she came to sing to him. After the singing Dadaji said, “Very good, very good.” Then he disappeared. After 15 or 20 minutes, I was wondering: Where has Dadaji gone? Sometimes he would start meditating, he never cared for society as such; I found him at a particular spot and saw that he was sobbing like a child. I said, “Dadaji, what has happened?” He said, “Indira, I am not my father’s son. My father used to say, if there is any God, my son, it is Truth. But I am not his son. For I have uttered a falsehood to that girl by saying that her song was very good.”
First time I met him in 1946 in a function where he was to sing and I was to preside over that function. I invited him at home. When he came he asked, “What do you want?” I said to him, “I am in darkness, I need light.” He made fun of me, saying, “What light do you want—moonlight, candle-light, electric light or street-light?” I said, “No, I want inner light.” So he said, “Then you come to our Ashram. Have you heard of Sri Aurobindo Ashram?” I said, “I am very ignorant. I have not heard of any Ashram. I do not know what an Ashram is.” So Dadaji replied, “I am afraid you are very ignorant. Don’t mind my saying so, but I always believe in sacrificing tact as the altar of Truth. You are a very ignorant person.”
And after that another lady came to sing in Delhi. After she had finished, he said: “What a sweet face she has got, Indira, hasn’t she?” (With Ma, we all burst out laughing.) He was particular about not even saying that it was very good, when you think that it was good. And the utter sincerity of the man! Utter sincerity in whatever he did! One day at 2 o’clock at night, he got up from his bed and went upstairs. Turning on the light, I woke up and said, “Where are you going, Dadaji?” He said, “You know the poem I read out to you? There is something I want to change there.” I said, “No, Dadaji, do it in the morning, please. If you go now, then I too will have to go with you, open the door and windows and then close them.” He said, “That is your eternal postponement. That is your main thing!” He went up and I followed him. He made a comma into a semicolon. Then he came back satisfied. I said, “For the sake of changing a comma, you got up in the middle of the night to go upstairs?” He said, “Whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well. For me, my Sadhana is work; I must work well, whether I sing, or compose or write.” Such perfection in details, in such small things! I watched him. And one great grace that was on me—which is here still today: he was sometimes short tempered, sometimes he scolded me very, very strongly, he never spared me and he used very sharp language, but everytime he did that, a great gratitude welled up in my heart. He who was such a great man, and he who was so dedicated to the Lord and his Guru, he took time over such little things to care for me, to tell me what is right; I thought, he may scold me, but I can’t go wrong if I cling to him. A man who has so much to do cared for me; I didn’t think why he was scolding me over a little thing, like people do today; not even once! Always some gratitude that came from the heart—a feeling that I can’t go wrong, if I cling to him. That is, cling to the innermost being in him, the divine in him; but for us, things which are not important become important for us—how did he walk, how did he dress, what did he say, why did he do this, why did he wear glasses, why did he keep beard—but these have nothing to do with the person; why should you look at the envelope—what will you do with a mere envelope? Whether the envelope is nice outside, whether this part of it is good or that is bad—what will you do with mere external things? What is inside is important… So, all these I have learnt at least; again and again he said, “If you are sincere, you can never go wrong—no matter even if the whole world misunderstands you. But if you are not sincere, your life will also be like the lives of millions of people, so what?”
There was the same sincerity in his music. Sri Aurobindo wrote to him, “What should I talk about your music? Are there any words to express what one feels when you sing? One feels the Divine presence.”
I said to Ma, “The great Yogi Krishnaprem, Dadaji’s friend, too said this.”
Ma said: “Everyone said this. For example, Mahatma Gandhi said—“I make bold to say very few people in India—why India? I should say in the whole world—have a voice so sweet and pure and intense.” Somerset Maughm, Romain Rolland, Bertand Russell too said the same thing of Dadaji. Vishnu Digambar used to say he (Dadaji) is the Nightingale of India. Bhatkhande too said that. Those who understood, say for instance, Abdul Karim Khan, loved him so much! But he (Dadaji) went with humility to learn. You must have this belief that I have still a lot to learn, do you understand? Even if you are a great writer, you must have this humility that there are writers much greater than you, do you understand? If you are writing something, write as if you are doing him (Dadaji) a service, not as if you are doing him a favour. He can do without you. Many people come to me, saying “We want to write about him etc.” I say to them he can do without you. If there is truth in him, if there is any sincerity in all that he did, then his message will spread—you see, it is in the Lord’s Hands. My duty is to change myself. If I can become what my Dadaji wanted me to become, then a few children like you will come. He never had any message to change the world. What can I do to change the world? I can change myself. You can also note Dadaji’s truthfulness: so many times this quality in him was mistaken as ego; he said, “Yes, I know that I am a good singer, but I have worked very hard for it.” He used to tell me, “Indira, the difference between you and me is this: Whatever I’ve achieved, I’ve had to work very hard for it, whether it was poetry or music or writing or whether it was Sadhana, but to you, the Lord has given you unasked, it has just fallen in your lap.” So I said, “I have you for my Guru.” He said, “No, no, I have a great Guru.” I said, “I too have a great Guru.” He said, “Your Guru is no good. Now say that to my Guru!” With Ma, all of us burst into laughter at such beautiful humour of Dadaji.
All of us remained silent for a while. Then Ma began to speak, as if, to herself, in a very calm tone—“Don’t worry too much about forms and things … As for me, I don’t know anything. Everybody believes that I am very wise; but I don’t know anything. I have not read, I don’t know Sanskrit; but the little that I have got—that is from experience; it may be right, it may be wrong. I cannot say that this is the last word. But this is what I have experienced; if it helps you, take it. If it doesn’t, forget about it.”
The technique of meditation always eluded me. Now I asked her about meditation. She remained silent at my question. Then, she gave me a piercing look and asked, “Are you really interested or not?” I said eagerly, “Well, certainly.” It seemed that Ma was sounding me—whether I was merely curious or in deadly earnest about such a deep subject. Slowly, she began to speak. What I heard was incomparable. Unfortunately though I could record the whole thing, much of it cannot be transcribed because of poor recording. Still whatever part of it survives is worth presenting. So, let us listen to Ma:
“Meditation cannot be maneuvered. We look for manipulation, inspiration etc. Meditation is not done, it happens. Sit comfortably. And when you sit down, say, for ten minutes, you should not worry about anything, like thinking ‘Where have I left my keys’ etc; even if the three worlds are set on fire, say to yourself: “I am not going to get up for these ten minutes.”
The problem with us is that we don’t relax and the end-result is that we end up with a very negative meditation. Just relax; first relax physically; for everything has its own consciousness—the body, the hands, the legs, the feet, everything. Relax completely—just let go; relax mentally; don’t worry, don’t try to silence your mind—you will then end up concentrating only on the mind; tell the mind, “Go and have a good time.” If you watch the traffic from balcony, say in Calcutta or Bombay, and see the hundreds of cars going up and down, up and down, suddenly there is the red signal and all the cars stop and there is so much noise … Imagine your mind is a high road. Don’t play with the thoughts. The trouble with us is that we play with the thoughts. What we think is not necessarily bad — we are normal people, why should we think bad thoughts? Most of us are neither good nor bad, but are grey. But it is the small things that actually disturb us — how did this happen, where had that gone, why did that happen, where have I kept that — like that.
…So just let go. Don’t worry about “I will do this, I will do that, I will silence my mind etc.” Of course, all great teachers tell you to silence your mind. But, … just let go, don’t even think of God if you don’t like at that moment. If it helps you to look at a picture and then keep the image of the picture in your mind when you close your eyes, it’s all right; there are very few people who are relaxed, especially in the West — there is so much to do. Here also, we do one thing and are thinking of the other thing. So, start sitting down and relaxing say, for ten minutes. Some day one particular thought will keep knocking, knocking, knocking and you can not get rid of it. Well, let it knock. But the most important thing is relaxation. Don’t worry about what others are doing or even if there is any noise; I always say: when we pray, it is we who speak and He listens. The difference in meditation is that when we meditate, it is He who speaks and we listen. He speaks to us in the silence of our heart — He does, I can assure you. And when that happens a harmony will come into you. How will you know that your meditation is good? The cadence of the peace will remain with you; the cadence of the harmony will remain with you; …”
Resting for a few minutes, Ma began:
“Anandamoyee Ma used to tell him, ‘Baba, wherever you go, there is an ocean of Ananda.’ Dadaji once said laughingly to her, “Ma, I will come again. Will you let me come, will your people let me come and see you?” Anandamoyee Ma said, “Have you been ever refused by anyone?” Krishnaprem’s Guru Yasoda Ma used to say, “I have two sons — Gopal (Krishnaprem) and Dilip. My Gopal used to go begging and many people refused him. But if Dilip goes, no one would be ever able to do it!”
Ma said: Anandamoyee Ma further said: “Look at this glass almirah—Baba’s (i.e. Dadaji’s) mind is transparent like this — whatever is inside is outside. He cannot hide anything.” Dadaji used to tell me, “I don’t like secrecy. Don’t tell me anything which you want me not to tell anybody. I tell my Guru every thought that I have.” Ma said, “You must tell your Guru all your inner difficulties. Unless you tell the doctor all your symptoms, how will he cure you? You must open yourself.”
Dilip Kumar Roy with Ma Anandamoyee.
Ma remained silent for a few seconds. Then, with a far-away look in her eyes, she said, “Today when I look back I feel how much I could have got from him (Dadaji), but I couldn’t because I took him for granted! He loved me, he cared for me, he blessed me, he had compassion for me; he knew that I was weak, he knew that I knew nothing; he often said to me, “It is impossible to keep down sincerity in this world; if you are sincere, nobody will be able to hold you down; if the whole world turns away from you, it will all come back provided you are sincere, I promise you. But if you come to me not for really seeking the Truth, the Divine, but for other reasons — for example, for some troubles at home or because you are frustrated, then millions of people are leading their lives like that and your life will also be like one of them. Don’t play with fire!”
Once I asked someone from Pondicherry Ashram — “Is there in Pondicherry no photograph other than that of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo? There is no picture of the Lord?” He said, ‘No, for us Mother and Sri Aurobindo are enough; we don’t need anybody else.’ Dadaji was working there, writing there — I remember it as if it happened yesterday. I said, “Yes, for me Dadaji is enough. I don’t need anybody else.” Dadaji got up from there, and asked me what I was saying. I told him — No, no, I didn’t say anything. Dadaji interjected, “No, no, you were surely saying something.” So I said, “I was telling Kalyanda that for me my Guru is enough, Dadaji is enough for me — I don’t need anybody else.” Dadaji said, “If your Guru is enough for you, and if you don’t want the Divine, knowing that your Guru is still a Sadhak, pack up your luggage and go back to your father’s palace. This is not the place for you. I have travelled light all my life.” And he wrote to Sri Aurobindo immediately, “Today this young woman says, ‘Dadaji is enough for me’; O Guru, whom have you brought to me! God knows what she will want after two years!” Dadaji said, “I want the Divine and nothing but the Divine, and if you live for the Divine and nothing but the Divine, then you are welcome.” So, I said to him, “You will live for the Divine and I will also live for the Divine alone.” So, you see, that is sincerity! I have seen him for so many years — I have never heard him talk — be it poetry, literature or music — about anything mundane or personal. All his life was centred around the Divine or his Guru.
“Whenever Dadaji went to Calcutta, he became very happy and exclaimed, “Oh! I have reached at last.” He loved the language, the culture, the atmosphere there so much! And he said, “For me the greatest place of pilgrimage is Dakshineswar — the room of Sri Ramakrishna!” Indeed, Bengal — Calcutta — is so great — that land, that atmosphere! So many great men were born there — a galaxy of great men in the last two hundred years! Every province has its time. You should judge a place by its greatest men, not by any Tom, Dick and Harry!”
We looked at Ma, we had strained her a lot. Now, we felt that we must call it a day. We did not feel like leaving her magnetic presence, but then we had taken much of her time and the night was advanced. So we must part. Ma said to Aditi in a very soft voice: “Now, Ma, say something.” Aditi asked her: “If I write to you about our problems, would you kindly reply?” Ma said with a sweet smile, “Oh, certainly! But I do not write in Bengali. Though I can read Bengali; I have read all the books of Dadaji; and also Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita and a few other books in Bengali. Rabindranath Tagore’s book “Shantiniketan”— Oh! wonderful inspiration! But even if you don’t get replies from me sometimes, still keep writing to me, for that will create an opening in you.”
I said: “Ma, I don’t know when I would be able to come again to see you. This time we had a very short time. Anyway, I know that I have many problems within me and I am trying to correct them. I am trying to know Dadaji better and to prepare myself with his help. Dadaji’s books really changed my life” — I could not finish my words. Ma spoke with great verve, “Yes, hundreds of people have told me that! Some have said that after hearing Dadaji’s Bhajans, their lives changed! There is a stamp of sincerity in all that he did.”
Aditi said, “We did not have the good fortune to see him and hear him singing before us…”
Ma looked at her with very soft eyes. What I saw in that look is beyond words. A few seconds passed. Then she turned to her and said, “I will give you a set of twelve cassettes of Dadaji’s Bhajans.” After some time she presented the set to us. We could not say to her how grateful we felt at that moment.
I told Ma — “I feel like doing some solid writing about Dadaji. I would love to begin to write about him after I sit at your feet many times and hear about him in detail from you. I would like to make some preliminary drafts and show them to you for your comments and corrections—”
Ma was pleased to hear this. She said, “Very good! come again. Do come again. Come at such a time when there are not too many guests. When you come next time, stay in the Ashram. It takes long to prepare oneself to write about Dadaji.”
At last I pointed out to Ma something most deplorable. After some hesitation, I ventured: “In Bengal, Dadaji’s intellectual brilliance and musical genius were highly appreciated, but generally speaking, people in Bengal turned a blind eye to his spiritual quest and the contributions that he made as a result of his spiritual flowering had not been recognized. People have loved his songs, but have not taken the trouble to delve into the immense spiritual riches that he possessed and poured into all his creations.”
Ma replied, “The reason why it so happened may be clear to you if I tell you that story. There was a man; when he was young, he got a beautiful ringlet. That ring he loved very much, admired very much. He was very fond of it. But though he grew older, the ring couldn’t grow. So that ring started hurting him; it came to a point when either he would have to cut his finger or cut the ring; so the ring had to be cut. Similarly when Dadaji was young, when he was adolescent, when he was growing, his spiritual seeking was an inner thing. People outside, even his grandfather did not know that. Only people who knew were the Ramakrishna Mission Sadhus. But apart from that, people outside knew only his music; they could see the wonderful voice, the wonderful music, they could see his intellectual brilliance. They could see him as a great man, as a multi-mooded, many-splendoured personality. They called him and Subhas “Two Stars of Bengal”! They often said lovingly “Our Mantuda.” All that they could see, but they could not see that the spiritual spark was growing in him. But outside Bengal, there were thousands of people — not hundreds — who were so devoted to him for his spiritual genius!”
It was now time to depart. We made our pronam to Ma. She blessed Aditi by placing her hand, with great affection, on her head. Before we parted, I fell at her feet and poured out to her privately all my weaknesses. I felt like touching her inmost heart with all my love and yearning. I do not know as yet whether I could at all reach out to her. I cannot say I knew myself enough or that I was as much sincere as Dadaji wanted me to be. However, Ma came forward and took my hand and said reassuringly, “Go on making a sincere effort and you will arrive, I can assure you.”
Those words remain etched on my mind for ever. Lord Maynard Keynes once said, “I do not hope to be correct, but I hope to make progress.” I do not know what progress I have made so far or hope to make in the future; but I must be, above all, sincere, must never give up, I must go on aspiring for Light even if the going is tough — this is what I learnt from Ma.
About the Author: Born on 24 November 1955, Prof. Supriyo Bhattacharya was an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Kalyani and had also served the department as its Head. He was on its teaching faculty since 1984. He was a former Guest-Lecturer in the Department of Post Graduation Business Studies in the Department of Commerce of the University of Calcutta for over two decades since 1981. He also served as a Lecturer in the Department of Economics at Belur Vidyamandir, Howrah. He was engaged in studies on Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore and Shrimat Anirvan and had been connected with research work in various projects associated with Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy in Kolkata and at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, gives talks and writes on different aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s vision. A recipient of the prestigious “Sri Aurobindo Puraskar” from Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland in June 2007. He was the Editor of Srinvantu (a Bengali and English magazine devoted to the cause of propagation of the ideas of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother) and has a number of critically acclaimed publications to his credit. He passed away on Wednesday, 28 April 2021. He was a Board-Member of Overman Foundation from 2017 to 2021.
13 Replies to “Two Evenings With Ma Indira Devi by Prof. Supriyo Bhattacharya”
Absolutely precious and memorable reminiscences of a very great personality, 🙏🙏🙏🌹🌹🌹
Read line by line to realize the inner meaning of their discussions on various issues that we also face on our journey towards light.
I also visited Hari Krishna Mandir and found Her presence there. I attended Bhajans and tasted the essence of Dadaji’s influence on the Devotees present.
We missed Supriya Bhattacharya who was supposed to inaugurate the Anirvan Kendra at Jatiya Shakteepeeth,Michael Nagar Kolkata.His this reminiscences will be remembered by all of us.
Dr. Karan Singh on Ma Indira Devi: ‘I met her along with Dilipda four decades ago, and was in touch with her from time to time until soon before she passed away. She was a remarkable human being, almost a contemporary Meerabai, whose inspired poetry combined with Dilipda’s marvellous music to make a truly unique spiritual partnership.
‘Whenever I met her she would be particularly happy, and would ask me to sing some of her favourite songs including Sanskrit Stotras and Dogri Bhajans. Herself a God-intoxicated soul, she carried with her an aura of intense spiritual craving which deeply influenced all those who came in touch with her.
‘Despite her failing health, Didi continued to tend the Hari Krishna Mandir in Pune and to inspire the many devotees and friends of Dilipda… It was through Dilipda that I first came to hear about Sri Aurobindo and Sri Krishnaprem, both of whom became crucial elements in my own spiritual adventure. For this I will remain indebted to them for ever.’ (5.4.2000)
Nani A. Palkhivala on Ma Indira Devi: ‘Dadaji [Dilip Kumar Roy] and Indira Devi started and maintained the Hari Krishna Mandir in Poona to the great benefit and rejoicing of that intellectual capital of Maharashtra. The people of Maharashtra esteemed Dadaji’s Sunday ‘bhajans’ which were imbued at once with the sweetness of his soul and his honeyed voice and Divine love. Those bhajans tended perceptibly to soothe and elevate their hearts. Dadaji’s calm, cheerful countenance and kindly eyes, coupled with the silent, unobtrusive background influence of his daughter-disciple, Indira Devi, created a unique holy atmosphere…
‘Indira Devi had a consciousness raised to a higher plane which was in the realm of clairvoyance. She could see events before they manifested themselves and see things at a distance which the physical eye could not reach. On a number of occasions she heard music and songs of Mirabai which she was able to reproduce later after she came out of the trance. Sometimes the songs came to her one at a time; sometimes they came in a torrent. Undoubtedly, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the rationalist’s philosophy.
‘Dadaji had a soul saturated and dripping with music, and the devotion of Indira Devi to music was no less intense. Truly, both were music incarnate.’ (Excerpts from a lecture delivered on 22 January 1996, in Kolkata)
‘…Ma has left a permanent impact on us, by her simple and dedicated life to his fellow beings. I was very much impressed by her teachings and self sacrifices which we should try and emulate.’ (From a letter written to Mihir Kumar Roy)
M. S. Subbulakshmi on Ma Indira Devi: ‘Poojya Sri Ma Indira Devi of Hari Krishna Mandir, Pune, is a rare soul. My husband Late Sri T. Sadasivamji and myself came to know of her through Poojya Sri Dilip Dadaji (Sri Dilip Kumar Roy) years ago. We had the privilege of playing host to these two noble souls in our home for a few days, we also had the privilege of enjoying their lavish hospitality and affection at Sri Hari Krishna Mandir quite a few times. She was a complete personification of pure love and Bhakti.
‘All members of my family… remember and shall remember always with reverence her pure love for us all. Her absence from our midst is a great loss to all devotees of Lord Krishna.’
Innumerable thanks for this article on Indira devi/Janak kumari….
ॐ आनन्दमयि, चैतन्यमयि, सत्यमयि, परमें !!
It was also my privilege to have met Maa Indira Devi at the abode of Lord Sri Krishna that is ” Hari Krishna Mandir ” She was very sweet and always appeared to me a reincarnation of Mira Bai – Her soulful songs saturated with ” Krishna Bhakti ” would always evoke feeling of love and adoration unspeakable for Lord Sri Krishna – She was very kind with an aura of child -like simplicity – I had received from her the complete set of audio cassettes of Hers and ” Dilip da’s ” soul stirring Bhajans –
“Hari Krishna Mandi ” continues to inspire the people of Pune towards ” Godward Journey ” – the path of ” Krishna Bhakti ” –
Surendra S Chouhan ‘ SAICE ’69
Radhe … Radhe !!
This record of ‘Talks’ is truly invaluable and priceless. Ma Indira Devi’s devotion and dedication had no bounds. Baby Sri Krishna’s footprints were even seen on the prasad prepared by her in the Ashram at Pune.
Wonder if a book on Dadaji has been finally authored and published by Prof Bhattacharya.
Our thanks to Overman Foundation for such articles.
A very insightful article Anurag ji. I knew Supriya-da very well, and it was nice to read his experience.
Bapi Sharma, of the archives actually deciphered letters of the Lord written to Dilipda, when they were photographed and recorded in film, in the 70’s , and he in spite of his poor vision, +14, with soda bottle glasses, worked hours together, after his daily work at Nandanam, ashram farm 4kms away, from where he walked down to the ashram dining room, and after his dinner, worked on the Microfiche machine, scrolling through the negative, pale pencil writing of the Lords on brown yellowed paper in black and white film, rerunning back and forth, to get a better view of the 4″X 4″ screen, saw one evening, trying to recap from memory, a glimpse of the letter, a very difficult job, which Jayantilalda had entrusted him with, paid off rich dividends, from a sincere diligent worker, who completed the Bengali translation of the synthesis, against previous edition and original text, days before he left us in 2020.
In her spiritual trance, Indira Devi used to get thousands of songs from the sixteenth century wonder saint-devotee Mirabai. She would dictate the songs to Dilip Kumar Roy, who would set them to music.
I met Indira Devi in July 1995, just the day before the Guru Purnima. I had been staying at the GMRT Guest House inside Pune University. My host was Prof Rameswar Sinha, a friend of my teacher Prof Amit Roy and a wonderful person himself. I asked Prof Sinha if he could guide me to Hari Krishna Mandir. Prof Sinha knew the location but had confused it with ISKCON (their temples are named Hare Krishna Mandir) and never took interest in it. He was shocked to know that the Hari Krishna Mandir was not an ISKCON temple but the Ashram of Dilip Kumar Roy and Indira Devi. He felt ashamed. Because several years ago one of his friends had expressed his longing to meet Indira Devi and had asked Prof Sinha if he knew where she stays. Prof Sinha was clueless, had no idea that she stayed so close, and assumed that such a saint must be in the Himalayas.
I met Shankar Bandyopadhyay who basically managed the Ashram and introduced myself. He met Indira Devi and she called me upstairs. Prof Sinha was also invited by Shri Bandyopadhyay to accompany us. What happened upstairs was a feeling of inexplicable and inexpressible bliss. The memory still brings a thrill. Indira Devi was full of a beatific smile throughout our stay.
One anecdote. I was narrating that I had seen Dilip Kumar Roy and Indira Ma on stage at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture in 1976. I started saying, “When I was young…” She interrupted, “You are still young.”
I somehow felt that, along with the words, something else, invisible, emanated from her and entered my system.
On Guru Purnima day, I again went to Hari Krishna Mandir and visited Dilip Kumar Roy’s room which is opened for visitors only on that day.
By the way, I did not meet Dilip Kumar Roy. I merely attended the three-day programmes by him at Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, rather accompanied my parents. I remember we used to go two hours before the scheduled start of the programme. Otherwise we would not get seat inside the auditorium. The crowds were huge and seating arrangements were made outside the auditorium.