Two Talks of Surendra Mohan Ghosh on Sri Aurobindo

Surendra Mohan Ghosh

Dear Friends,

Surendra Mohan Ghosh (22.4.1893—7.9.1976) was an active member of the Jugantar, the noted revolutionary organization from 1907 to 1938. He joined the Indian National Congress in 1920 and also played a pivotal role in the Swaraj Party founded by Chittaranjan Das. As a political worker he had spent a total number of twenty-three years in prison. From 1939 he was president of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee. In 1946 he became a member of the Constituent Assembly which was charged with drafting India’s constitution. In 1952 he was elected to the Lok Sabha. In 1956 and 1962 he was elected as the member of the Raj Sabha. From 1962 to 1967 he was the Deputy Leader of the Congress in the Parliament.

Surendra Mohan Ghosh was also a devoted follower of Sri Aurobindo. During the 1940s, he had a number of private meetings with Sri Aurobindo, during which the two spoke of political and yogic matters.

Two talks of Surendra Mohan Ghosh on Sri Aurobindo which he had given to the students of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation. We are immensely thankful to Shri Narayan Bhatt, archivist at Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Department, Pondicherry, for sharing these two priceless talks with us.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


Friends, children of the Mother and standard-bearers of tomorrow, I have been requested to share with you something of your past—it is not only my past, it is yours as well.

I have known Sri Aurobindo—not from the very beginning, although I came not quite in very close touch but near him as a young boy. Gradually some unfolding began also to go on within me. Then I came to know that it was his hidden hand which really guided my steps, without myself knowing anything about it. That is another aspect of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, which I discovered, and today I can say that I see that hidden hand again.

One thing I remember now is that at the age of 9 or 10 I was reading in school and that during the summer vacation I went to my maternal grandfather’s home where I had been born and brought up. The next day I went to look for boys of my age-group to play with; and I saw a village school and went there. There I saw a friend of mine being mercilessly beaten by the teacher—with a cane. He was rolling on the ground, and the teacher was beating him without mercy. As soon as the teacher had left, I collected the boys and girls together and told them, “From tomorrow don’t come to this school. Come to my house, I shall open a school there!” As my own tutor was with me, I asked him to start teaching all those boys and girls. So that was my first act of revolt!

Another thing which has been brought to our notice by Girijashankar Rai Choudhury in his book on Sri Aurobindo is that in 1893 Sri Aurobindo came to India, Vivekananda left India and Gandhiji went to South Africa. These three events happened in the same year—and sometimes I feel proud that I was born in 1893!

Some years later the partition of Bengal suddenly came and the agitation started. Being young we were drawn into it. With turbans on our heads and sticks in our hands we too became volunteers for the meetings. ‘Samitis’ were formed, and our ‘Samiti’ was called ‘Sadhana Samaj’ led by Hemendra Kishore Acharya Choudhury in Mymensingh. It was an open activity—everybody going there for physical exercises—playing lathi, sword, dagger, etc…. But along with this there was a secret revolutionary party founded by Sri Aurobindo himself. We didn’t know anything about it at that time; and our leader Hemendra Kishore was already a member of this secret party. I first saw Sri Aurobindo in Mymensingh—I forget the year—when Bipin Chandra Pal and, as far as I remember, Subodh Mullik were also with him. Sri Aurobindo never addressed any public meeting, never spoke, but he used to be taken there and made to sit; it was Bipin Pal who used to address meetings in those days. Sometimes people would shout, “We want to hear Aurobindo.” I was quite young, but I still remember—and Bipin Pal would say, “Don’t ask him to speak now, try to assimilate what I am telling you; when he will speak, it will be only fire!”

Then I had an opportunity to know that there were some secret activities going on, and I also became a member of that secret revolutionary party. I have never said all this previously, but now I am saying it, otherwise people will forget Sri Aurobindo the founder of the Indian revolutionary party, Sri Aurobindo the first among the Indian leaders, who proclaimed openly, publicly that complete independence was our goal. Other leaders were saying something else: annulment of Bengal’s partition or, in guarded language, without explaining it swaraj. He was the first leader who said openly, “Complete independence, and nothing short of it will satisfy us!” So our present generation as well as future ones should know what is their past; how they are able to enjoy these fruits of freedom today; from where this freedom has come; who gave the call, who started it. And I am one of those still alive, who joined his party. We had to take an oath and write a pledge with out blood—that we would obey our leader’s command, whatever it might be, and execute it. We had to hold the Gita in one hand and a revolver in the other and take the oath. In my turn, after I had taken the oath, I was suddenly asked, “Now that you’ve pledged your life for this, tell us why you want freedom or independence for India.” I was taken aback. It was so obvious—the young mind’s reaction was: why should these foreign people coming from such a distance rule over us? In what way are they superior to us? They are exploiting us. So there was a feeling of hatred. I was told, “Yes all this is all right, but you have to remember one thing more—after Independence, India will have to work for the whole world, the entire humanity. The misery of humanity will not be removed unless India becomes free, independent, and then works for it. That burden of responsibility is also on your shoulders; you are to remember it. You are not only responsible for your suffering, you are responsible for the suffering of humanity as a whole; you have to remember it.”

The impression these words had on my mind at that time is still vivid. I knew something of the Vedantic mukti; it meant this world is nothing but maya; and there were India’s sadhus, sanyasis who knew the way out of it and become ‘mukta-purusha,’ free beings. So I thought, “It must be this secret which India knows and which we shall have ultimately to deliver to the world.” It had nothing to do with politics, or economics, or other affairs in our material life. That was the impression—something beyond.

Now instead of going into detail into this direction, I come to another aspect.

We joined the movement in 1908 and then this Alipore Bomb Case took place—in which Nolini was arrested. And Sudhir, from the same revolutionary group, went to Jamalpur where there was some communal upsurge—Goddess Basanti’s idol had been broken by the Muslims and some atrocities also committed; so Sudhir went there—I don’t know if it’s known to all of you, but he actually opened fire with a revolver on a crowd and then escaped and the police couldn’t trace him. And he came to Mymensingh and stayed in the house of my immediate leader Hemendra Kishore Choudhury. Afterwards other people were arrested but he could not be found. Then the Bomb Case began. Before it was concluded I myself had been arrested and jailed for a year—because they had found in my possession an unlicensed revolver. When I came out of jail Sri Aurobindo had already left for Pondicherry.

As regards the secret party, it was so very secret that only a few people knew each other and acted as connecting links. Both my father and I were members of this party, and yet we did not know about each other!

Suddenly some of the key people disappeared from the field and the entire organisation was dislocated, we couldn’t find the links. Outside Calcutta we knew one of our men—in Rangpur—Nolini’s native place—he was the father of Suresh Chakravarty who used to be a member of this Ashram: Ishan Chakravarty. Another of his sons was Prafulla Chakravarty who went with Nolini to experiment with a bomb—the first one they prepared and unfortunately the bomb exploded and he was killed. So we started by establishing contact with him, and then in 1912 I was sent to Calcutta to find out other links and reorganise the party. From that time onwards I took a leading role in the party, along with some other friends, in order to carry on the work not only in Bengal but in other parts of India also. Immediately after that the First World War broke out. Most of you must have read or heard that we made an attempt at a general rising and it failed; we were again arrested and kept at state prisoners. One curious thing was about Sri Aurobindo’s writings—I found something inspiring in them. In those days The Ideal of Karmayogin and The Indian Renaissance were the two books we used to read. I liked them very much; from every sentence, every word of them one could draw inspiration. And on the last page of The Ideal of the Karmayogin, Sister Nivedita’s ‘A Daily Aspiration for the Nationalist’ is given. We felt wonderful reading it in those days. She wrote: “I believe that India is one, indissoluble, indivisible. National unity is built on the common home, the common interest and the common love…” I still remember a little of it here and there—“I believe that the strength which spoke in the Vedas and Upanishads, in the making of religions and empires, in the learning of scholars, and in meditations of saints is born once more amongest us, and its name today is Nationalism…”

After the First World War, inside the jail, we were thinking of what we should do after our release. There I was helped very much by Abinash Chakravarty who was also imprisoned with me—from 1916 onwards.

Abinash was Sri Aurobindo’s most devoted, and loyal worker in the revolutionary movement. I didn’t know much, but from whatever I could get from his talks, I gathered that he was also touched by Sri Aurobindo’s spirituality and yoga. But he was mainly helping Sri Aurobindo in the revolutionary field. After Noren Goswamie’s confession to the Government, Abinash was not exactly dismissed but his service was dispensed with by the Government, and later he was arrested. That’s how we came to be together. It was a great advantage for me—again I point out to you how the Secret Hand was working—the hidden hand of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Abinash was much older than myself, I couldn’t have approached people like him in those days.

In those days our literature was confined to Garibaldi’s life, the history of the French Revolution, Bankim’s novels, Romesh Dutta’s novels, and a few other things; the rest were all Ramayana and Mahabharata stories to draw inspiration from.

Under his guidance I read many books—all the ‘darshanas’, etc.—and finally he told me about Sri Aurobindo. So before we were released Abinash drew my attention first to Sri Aurobindo’s last letter to his countrymen—pointing out that a new movement was coming and that it would be such as shown in the letter—and he told me, “Now Gandhi is coming up and now we shall have to go and work among the masses through this Congress organisation. You had better take a decision on these lines.” We came out… It’ll be very difficult to reach Pondicherry soon! I came here only in 1938—I’m still in 1920…

I had the unique privilege to see Sri Aurobindo whenever I was here, and to discuss politics which was my only interest and for which I had to pledge everything. This was also his command, so he had also some responsibility for me. I could go and tell Gandhiji that if he wanted he could come and see him and discuss politics also with him. Once Gandhi had wanted to see him, but Sri Aurobindo had avoided the meeting—but in 1939 he said, “He can come now; whatever political difference there was is no more. He can see me. You may convey this to him.” I conveyed it. But that’s another unfortunate thing. When I came here in 1939 I had already given, as President of Bengal Congress in those days, notice to the District Magistrate that on such and such a date I would offer Satyagraha in such and such a place; after giving one month’s notice, I came here. And here the command was that I should convey Sri Aurobindo’s words to Gandhi. So I went from here to Sevagram and told Gandhi and he jumped at the idea. He also wanted to convince me that there was no difference. For three days I stayed with him. He used to have meals with me. But I told him that it must be kept a secret: “Whether you avail yourself of this opportunity or not, the matter must be kept a secret.” He said, “Yes. I want to go, you make some arrangement.” I said, “I cannot do that because from here I shall have to go straight to my place of Satyagraha, I can’t go to Pondicherry now. But I shall write.” I sent a message here but the interview didn’t take place. I don’t know the reason; I was in jail.

I shall not be able to narrate to you everything in sequence. But I can tell you something—Sri Aurobindo’s advice, directions, instructions; as they come to my mind, I shall disclose them to you.

The order in which I used to see him was: on the first day Nolini used to take me at 11 o’clock, without anybody knowing it, quietly, to Sri Aurobindo’s room. At times I found my friend Nirod moving here and there in the room, and Champaklal was also there. The room was the same—the big chair in a corner where he used to sit, and I would sit at his feet. I would tell him about the international situation in the light of The Ideal of Human Unity, what was going on in the world and what we expected of it. And he would ask me questions now and then. If I knew the answer I told it to him, otherwise I said I didn’t know. Daily two hours, from 11 to 1, I was with him. And at the end, every day, on every occasion, his reply was: “I shall give you an answer tomorrow, after consulting the Mother.” Then I would come away. The next day he would give me the reply of the questions I had raised, and then our all-India or internal politics were discussed. Sometimes he used to ask about one or other of the leaders he had known—what was he doing? What was his activity? etc. Then again he would give me the same reply to my questions—“I shall reply to you after consulting the Mother.”

On the third day after getting the reply I would talk of Bengal affairs—I was President of Bengal Congress—Bengal which was undivided then and afterwards partitioned. And on the fourth day Yoga, sadhana and philosophy were the themes, and I put questions. On the fifth day after receiving his blessing I used to leave Pondicherry. That was the order of my meetings—our programme. And he told me, “Don’t come during Darshan time, avoid it.” Apart from this routine, once I had to suddenly come to the question of Partition. I could not adjust myself when this Partition was decided upon—I was Bengal Congress President—agitations were carried on by others, specially Atulya Ghose, Prafulla Sen and others. People asked: ‘Why is the President silent? why isn’t he saying anything about the Partition? why isn’t he calling a meeting of B.P.C.C.?’

I went to North and East Bengal and you’ll be surprised to hear that the advocates and others surrounded me and started shouting, “Why aren’t you accepting this Partition?” They were all against me because I was silent. Even then I could not make up my mind. I came here and asked Sri Aurobindo, “What am I to do?” He said, “You cannot resist it. It has come, but don’t adopt any resolution supporting this Partition of India on a communal basis. If India is partitioned, then in Bengal the people who would like to remain in India have a right to remain here: on that basis you may go and adopt a resolution.” And we adopted a resolution on those lines.

After that I received a telegram—Nolini told me it was the first and the last telegram in Sri Aurobindo’s name—saying, “Come at once—Sri Aurobindo.” I came here immediately and met him. I don’t know if I am divulging a secret—I suddenly realise that this is not a closed secret meeting where one may divulge all these things. Very big personalities not only of India but of other countries also are involved. I can only tell you this much that all of us had to suffer for not having listened to Sri Aurobindo’s direction or advice. He sent me back, saying, “Go and tell Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana, Sardar and Rajendraprasad, that it is for the good of India, and ultimately for the good of the world, that they should act on these lines; and here is an opportunity I am giving them, let them accept and work on it.” I went to Delhi—there was a meeting of the Working Committee of the Congress, everybody said, “A very good thing, very good”—but it was never implemented, and no step was taken to see that it would be. How it got stuck is a mystery. One thing I should mention here that in the first open session of the Congress at Jaipur the foreign-policy resolution which was adopted was practically the same draft as sent by Sri Aurobindo. I can’t say that it was the very draft but it was a nearly word-for-word version that Nehru adopted. It was Sri Aurobindo’s draft, but it was to be kept a secret in those days. So Nehru adopted, word for word, the whole thing, adding a little more to it to suit India’s foreign policy.

The draft which Sri Aurobindo had made about the integration of the French possessions with India was on this basis that all the French possessions should immediately merge with India, with a right for Pondicherry to maintain its cultural contact with France. Because we did not implement Sri Aurobindo’s resolution a serious problem arose afterwards. To solve it I was asked to go to Pondicherry again by our leaders after 1950 when Sri Aurobindo had passed away.

I told them nothing could be done, still they said, “No, no, you go and see what can be done.” I came here and stayed here for two or three days. Then when I was returning, Rajagopalacharya who was Chief Minister of Madras sent word to my host, “As soon as he returns, ask him to see me.” I went to him. He asked, “What could you do?” I said, “Nothing could be done.” He too had received a message from Delhi to see what I had done. But when I told nothing could be done, he said, “Then go and tell the Mother.” I said, “The Mother doesn’t take interest in politics.” “No, no, you go—take my car and go.” This time I had to tell the Mother and she replied, “You know I don’t take interest in politics.” I said, “That is true; but now it is not my politics or the Government of India’s politics: it is Sri Aurobindo’s! He wanted this to be done and in our stupidity we didn’t understand then. Now these people want to do something on those lines, for which I can expect your blessings.” The Mother kept quiet for some time and told me, “All right, go back. If you receive a telegram from me, come again.” I went back, told Rajagopalacharya what she had told me. “Yes, yes, yes…,” he said. After about a month I received a telegram. I came, saw her here. Then she asked me, “Between certain dates—when will you be able to come to Pondicherry? Somebody will come from France; he wants to have a talk with you.” Then I told Rajagopalacharya that I wanted for some delicate matter a responsible man for consultation and I asked him to tell me when he’d be available and fix up a date and note it down in his diary too; so that I could come on that day. I informed the Mother of this and went back and soon afterwards came again. And the whole integration of the French possessions with India was finalised here.

One important thing, lest I forget. Sri Aurobindo could see my limitations and my ignorance; to deal with me was also difficult for him—I am not so learned a scholar that by his throwing a few hints I would understand things. One day he spoke to me in connection with the international situation; after consulting the Mother he was giving me the reply; he told me, “Look here; before the Second World War the stability, the sense of security all over the world depended on the British Empire. It was the force around which world security moved. As a result of this Second World War, the Empire is in process of liquidation and it is fast getting liquidated. The whole world will be free—a vacuum in the international leadership will be created. That makes all the difference in studying the international situation with old ideas—because the latter are no longer there. We are not yet aware that the Empire is gone and nothing else has come up to replace it; everybody is free.” He reminded me of this position in 1950, October—my last darshan. This really helped me a great deal to understand the situation then and even today. I feel that it puts to a great extent the international situation in the proper perspective. In The Ideal of Human Unity he said, during the First World War, that the total outcome of events was a movement towards a World Government. “It is not only a probability but a certainty,” he said. Today there is no choice before the nations except to come together and set up something stable; otherwise the entire human civilisation, even this planet earth, is threatened in its existence. Therefore the more the nations realise this situation the more their attention is drawn towards the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and towards Pondicherry and Auroville and towards you all.

Thank you very much!


Friends, I shall first read a quotation of the Rig Veda, from The Life Divine, the opening quotation for the first chapter:

“She follows to the goal of those that are passing on beyond, she is the first in the eternal succession of the dawns that are coming,— Usha widens bringing out that which lives, awakening someone who was dead… What is her scope when she harmonises with the dawns that shone out before and those that now must shine? She desires the ancient mornings and fulfils their light; projecting forwards her illumination she enters into communion with the rest that are to come.”

Why I have read this out from The Life Divine has a history behind it. As I told you last time, I came to Pondicherry long after Sri Aurobindo left Bengal. I came in 1938 but I couldn’t discuss anything of importance. Next I came in 1939. I discussed with Nolini a question that was uppermost in my mind. The Ideal of Human Unity had come out only in the Arya monthly; somebody had published it in book-form without the knowledge of Sri Aurobindo or the Ashram. So I requested Nolini that it should be printed here in book-form for my use in the political field, as one of Sri Aurobindo’s workers. Next day Nolini told me that Sri Aurobindo had said The Ideal of Human Unity was being typed out by Miss Margaret Wilson, the daughter of President Wilson whose private secretary also she had been during the first World War. After reading that book she was amazed that those who like her had been the main actors in that period could not see things so clearly as Sri Aurobindo did from one corner of India, as if they had been happening right before his eyes. She would type it and give it to Sri Aurobindo for correction. But he said that first The Life Divine would be brought out in book-form and then The Ideal of Human Unity. I felt a little disappointed: what was the use of The Life Divine? The Ideal of Human Unity was the book which people like myself needed. But, well, there was no other way. Then I realised why The Life Divine had to come first, because without it his whole Ideal of Human Unity would not be understood in its proper perspective.

I have to express my gratitude to Nolini. It was from an article written by him that I came to realise the importance of The Life Divine. It was an article in Bengali based on the story of Urvasie and Pururavas in the Rig Veda. He started with the cry of Pururavas, addressing Urvasie, “O my dear one, do not forsake me! It is not for my fault that you have to leave me!”

Most of you know the story, I suppose, but I shall give you the gist. Urvasie, due to some curse, came to live on earth; but she wanted to go back to heaven. She came to Pururavas on certain conditions, one of them being that he would never appear naked before Urvasie. So the ‘devas’ and ‘gandharvas’ conspired to give her the chance. One night thieves stole Pururavas’s two lambs and Urvasie suddenly cried out, “There is no man in this house, otherwise they would not have dared to steal.” And Pururavas jumped out of his bed with a spear in his hand; he couldn’t think of his clothes; suddenly there was lightning, and he was shown naked before Urvasie and she began receding. Then Pururavas realised what had happened and cried out to her, “It is not my fault, do not forsake me!” And Sri Aurobindo raised the question: if Veda is eternal universal Truth, what is there in this story? There is apparently no eternality or universality in it! But everything in the Veda is symbolic. And Nolini has written in that article the meaning Sri Aurobindo had given to this story—Pururavas is the eternal man, and Urvasie is the Divine Grace which comes to every man everywhere throughout the ages; but on a certain condition—that man should not take life as it is, as it appears to be. There is something beyond and, to remind man of it, the Divine Grace comes and tries to help him, to go towards that Beyond. But, instead, if man utilises that Presence with his human knowledge and experience, then the Grace recedes, and then this eternal question: “Why have you forsaken me? Life is barren, everything is meaningless. Why shouldn’t I get back all that I have enjoyed?”

Similarly, in politics—now I come back to my subject—what we see on the surface is one thing; but the eternal man is everyone of us and the Divine Grace that comes down to help are constantly working. That is the basis on which the whole of The Ideal of Human Unity is written. It is the secret hand of the Divine working through us, without letting us feel that we are being interfered with in our activities by somebody outside ourselves. In our ignorance that secret hand works on. That is how Sri Aurobindo saw the working of it, trying to shape the destiny of mankind towards a certain inevitable goal—which is the ultimate realisation of our inherent unity. It is to be discovered. Today the urge is there, but in our mind, in the intellect the resistance is also there, so the secret hand works in such a manner that we feel that whatever we wanted is being done. I shall give you an example from The Ideal of Human Unity.

After the Versailles Treaty, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “You have concluded this Treaty to curb Prussian militarism. But instead what will happen?” He could see how that secret hand was working from behind—he could see all the trends and he interpreted them in terms of political forces, social forces, economic, psychological forces, and then he drew the irresistible conclusion from all those forces that instead of the Treaty curbing Prussian militarism the whole of Europe would come under the heels of Prussian militarism—and how right he was, you have seen. And he developed this point further. In those perilous days, he said, the British people, who were resisting India’s freedom and Independence, would realise that the granting of autonomy, Independence, to India, instead of weakening their imperial power, would be a pillar of strength to save Democracy in this world.

So you see in the passage on Usha I read out, how, one after another, things that were happening were revealed to the Rishi’s vision. Similarly everything can be seen in the right perspective.

I’ll give you a very recent experience of mine. Maharaj Trailokya Chakravarty, popularly known as Maharaj, was the leader of a rival revolutionary group in Bengal—he was the leader of one group and I of another. I invited him to Delhi, and it was a most successful visit from my point of view. Then suddenly he died at night. I thought his dead body should be sent to Bengal and I made the necessary arrangements. There the whole route was lined by not less than 20 lakhs of people, from Dumdum to Shyam Bazaar, and then from there to Calcutta another 15 lakhs of people. I was reminded of this Usha passage. Nobody anywhere remembers Maharaj now—his name is not very prominent today. But he was really a great man. I spent only 23 years in jail, and he had to spend, including the Andamans, 32 years. He was dynamically active, and today’s people are very very busy with this ’ism and that ’ism and who would now recognise a man who was in those a very respectable leader? But you see how everybody suddenly felt. I interpreted it to many of my friends as the working of the Dawn.

Another example—Orissa receiving the relics of Sri Aurobindo—a real eye-opener! Nandini Satpathy, after her return to Delhi, told me that she had never seen such a crowd in her life. Dr. Mahtab came afterwards and he too told me the same thing. What is that Force secretly working?

Similarly in 1962, when China attacked India, I was talking to our Prime Minister Nehru after he had returned from Ceylon. I said, “Have you seen the people of India rising up and standing like a rock? And under your leadership they are prepared to go to any length?” “Yes,” he replied. I asked, “Did you have any hand in creating this situation? Did anyone of us work for it?” “No.” “Keep this in mind,” I told him. I need not go into further detail, some political complication might come up.

So this secret hand is working, in me, in you, in everyone, to lead us, to guide us to the destined goal…

In 1938 I came here without informing anybody in the political field. But at Madras station I found quite a big crowd. I told them, “Don’t disclose it to anybody, but I am going to the Ashram. I haven’t come here for any politics.” I came to the Ashram, but the Darshan was cancelled because of the accident to Sri Aurobindo. I stayed on. One night a person I had known in Ramnad District came to me and said, “Subbiah has come to see you, he is waiting outside in the street.” Subbiah and I had known each other only by name, not personally. He had already been implicated in the murder case of that mayor whose statue you see now in the park on the beach road—Selvaraju Park. Now he is one of your ministers; a communist leader. My friend said, “He cannot enter the Ashram fearing that the Ashram might get implicated in that murder case.” I came into the street and Subbiah said, “I have already informed all the people that you will come to my house and have dinner with me; please come, they will be also coming.” I said, “How can I, now I am in the Ashram? I can’t do any political work from here!” He said, “No, but these people will come. What shall I tell them?” Then I hesitated and wondered and told him, “You may go now, I shall see what arrangements can be made.” Next morning I sent word to Sri Aurobindo, through Nolini: “This is my trouble, you see; these people have come to know of my arrival and this is what they suggest. What am I to do?” Sri Aurobndo replied: “Take leave of the Ashram, go away and finish your political activity, then come back.” So the next morning I took my leave of the Ashram, saying, “I am now going away!” And then I went to Subbiah’s house; many workers had come, we had dinner and discussions that finished at 1 a.m. After this, another party came by car and said, “You must come with us now. Sri Aurobindo has said you must finish your work and then go back to the Ashram.” I said, “All right” and got into the car. Then continuously for three days and three nights I toured all these districts, without a single minute’s rest—taking my bath here, breakfast there, dinner at a third place, passing, from village to village. On the third day in the evening I again entered the Ashram as an Ashramite!

Now the next point in the Russia-China rift. It related to my last interview with Sri Aurobindo, in October 1950. I met him, as usual, and on the last day he said to me, “You didn’t ask me anything about China”—and really I hadn’t mentioned anything about China. It had been in turmoil, the communists had come to power under Mao Tse-tung, and Chiang Kai-shek had been drive out. I could not make up my mind about the importance of what had happened there. So I told him, “Sir, I cannot make up my mind about it.” He said, “Keep a very keen, careful eye on China. There are certain forces which might divide China and Russia. Keep a keen eye. There are forces at work, still very subtle, and if they come to the surface, China will be disintegrated one day.” I listened. Then he asked me, “Have you read the articles on Tibet, that have come out in Mother India?” “No, Sir.” “Read them, they are not written by me but they were written on my instruction and I have corrected them.”

The next point is Bhrigu’s reading on Sri Aurobindo. I believed in astrology, Sri Aurobindo also believed, but I never felt the urge to go and consult an astrologer. There is a part in me that dislikes it. From what I have seen in my life I am telling you the plain truth without exaggerating anything—nothing is ‘adrishta’—‘unseen’—everything is ‘drishta’, ‘seen’. I need not go to an astrologer to find out what will be my future. My future is in my hands. If I want to do something, and I know how it can be done, no force on earth or heaven can stand in the way. That is what I used to believe. The only thing is, you must know your mind—what you want. If you want to live an honest life in business, yes, you can shape it. And if you want to be a master black-marketeer, that line is also open to you. So, you see, I had no inclination to go to an astrologer; but I had a friend in Delhi who would go to any astrologer who came and he would try to drag me along, saying, “Oh such a great man has come, let’s go to him.” I never went; but one day I couldn’t resist him any more. It was Bhrigu’s reading that had been brought. I suddenly decided to take Sri Aurobindo’s horoscope and see what Bhrigu had to say. We went. The astrologer brought out the book of horoscopes and read one. It didn’t tally; the second one tallied a little, and the third I found tallying exactly with Sri Aurobindo’s life. He went on and on and on. Everything was there, the Mother’s coming, even my connection! Finally he said, “After 78 years, when Sri Aurobindo will complete 78 years, he will develop a ‘ghrina’ towards his body and then he may leave his body; otherwise death is in his control, he is such a great Yogi.” And this was there is Bhrigu’s book. Then I became serious. It was also mentioned there, that the Mother or I could perform a certain ‘yagna’, sacrificial ceremony, with certain mantras; an elaborate process was given.

After this I wanted to test the astrologer further. My own horoscope was in my pocket. I said, “You find out this one from your book.” He said, “No, not today.” I said I wanted it there and then: I feared he might later collect information and then say things. I didn’t want to allow him that time. Then he said, “All right”, brought out his things and started reading. Amazing! There are certain incidents in my life, which today nobody living knows. My mother died at a very early age, I cannot even remember her face. My maternal grandfather had no other children except my mother, and I was the only grandchild, I was never allowed to go to my ancestral home. I was born in Mymensingh and brought up there. I was the only interest in his life. I would join the revolutionary party at a very early age, I would take a vow not to marry—the country would be free when I would be at a certain age at which I would not have time to marry. All these things were there! And also that I had persuaded my grandmother to adopt somebody—it is a fact. Because we had big estates and I left everything behind, so to manage them all I persuaded her to adopt another boy. They would thus be looked after and I would be free for my work. Then in jail there was a hunger strike of 64 days; I gave up even drinking water; and then my connection with Sri Aurobindo. More and more I was puzzled at the reading. That was the year precisely when we formed a committee to celebrate Sri Aurobindo’s coming 80th Birthday in Delhi—I was Secretary, K. M. Munshi was Chairman and S. N. Jauhar was Secretary too. We had already started working on the scheme.

After hearing Bhrigu’s prediction I came almost immediately to Pondicherry. What to do? I didn’t want to mention it to Sri Aurobindo, I was afraid it might work as a suggestion in his mind. I was really afraid, but at the same time I couldn’t keep it to myself. So I went to Nolini and told him everything. He asked me to tell the Mother. I did so and then I met Sri Aurobindo; before I could say anything he said, “What have you told the Mother?” I was taken aback. I didn’t know I would have to face such a situation. Then I had to tell him. He asked me, “Why didn’t you mention it to me?” I told him that I had been really nervous and afraid that it might act like a suggestion, therefore I had consulted Nolini, and he had asked me to tell the Mother. “No, don’t worry,” he said. I told him, “I worry because you too believe in astrology.” “No, don’t worry,” he repeated. Now what happened? Here comes in destiny, although I have said I didn’t believe in destiny. You see, the Mother asked me, “Can you get a copy of the whole thing and send it to me?” I said, “Yes, I can do that.” I went back to that man again, and he saw I was interested in the affair. He used to charge Rs. 10 or 15, but now things had to be copied out and given, so he said he would take Rs. 300. I agreed even though I was in difficulty. Money matters—there I am always in difficulty! He gave me a copy, I put it in an envelope to be sent by registered post. Just then somebody came to me from the Ashram. I asked him how long he’d be in Delhi; he said he would soon go back to the Ashram. So I handed over the thing to him to give it to Nolini. This was all between October and December. On December 5, in the early morning I went out to collect funds for the celebration of Sri Aurobindo’s 80th birthday. Every day I used to go early in the morning. That day as usual I went out and at about 7, when I returned, I heard the news that he had passed away—Munshi telephoned it to me. Afterwards I came to know that the gentleman who had taken that paper from me arrived in Pondicherry only after the Master had left his body. So this ends the story about Bhrigu.

As I told you, Sri Aurobindo had asked me to read the articles on Tibet. When I came here in October or November, 1949, he put me another question, “Why have you not asked me anything about the communal situation in Bengal?” I said, “There is nothing to report, it’s all very quiet.” “No, no, be careful; something may happen.” And exactly that year, when I was in Delhi and held the post of President of West Bengal Congress… Oh, one thing I forgot to tell you, you will find it interesting. Although I worked for Congress, I never took any important office of Congress. It is also a fact that I controlled Bengal Congress, but not as an office-bearer. However, when Subhash Bose revolted against Congress, that was my point of difference with him. The manner in which he was working, I warned him, would ultimately lead him to an organisational revolt. He said, “No.” I said, “I’m dead sure; you won’t be able to check your steps.” He denied the danger. I said, “I can’t go with you any longer. I shall not be a party to the organisational revolt with Congress.” And when he revolted nobody was found in Bengal to take charge of its Congress. All the big leaders refused. Then I was approached. I took a little time; meanwhile I wrote a letter to Sri Aurobindo, saying, “This is the situation. I believe in Congress but nobody is coming forward to take this responsibility because of Subhash’s revolt. What am I to do?” I received the instruction that in that case I would have to take the responsibility. Then I made a condition with the Congress people, who had approached me, that I was prepared to take the responsibility but I must write a letter to Gandhiji, so that I might not be accused afterwards that I had exploited my position as Congress President for my party. I wanted to make everything clear. So I wrote to Gandhiji: “I am prepared to take charge, but you say that Non-violence is the only means by which our freedom can be achieved; I don’t believe in it. You say Charkha is indispensable for our fight for freedom; I don’t believe in it. You say that in order to be a Congress member one must spin regularly; I don’t believe in it. But I believe in Congress and I have signed the pledge and I shall work to maintain the organisational integrity of Congress. So I have made my position clear.” Gandhiji showed this letter to the Working Committee. He said, “This man doesn’t believe in a single item of my programme and you say he is to be the Congress President?” Maulana took that letter from Gandhiji and said he would tackle me. He came to me in Calcutta and said, “What have you written here? Aré bhai, yé kya likhdiya [“O brother, what have you written?”]—“Méré méra dil ka bat likhdiya [“I’ve written what’s in my heart”]—“Aré, you could have said you believe 25% and don’t believe 75% or 50% and 50%, but you have bluntly said you don’t believe anything.” I said, “Méra dil ka bat ohi hé” [“This is what my heart says.”]—“No, you will have to take office.”—“All right, but I’ve made my point clear, so that I don’t have to hear later on that I have taken undue advantage of my position.”

This point is very important now. I feel sometimes a little ashamed and embarrassed also, but at the same time there is something in me which prompts me to be very outspoken and frank, always, everywhere, and I am known to be of that temperament.

In 1938 I could not see Sri Aurobindo, as I have said; but I received a message from him saying, “You will be shown the Ashram activities, the Mother will send someone to guide you.” I was taken round all the different activities in the Ashram. I saw them all; and the day I was finally to leave the Ashram, a message came, “Write your impression of what you have seen.” I took a paper and wrote down, “I have never seen in my life, anywhere, such a colossal waste!” I put the note in an envelope and sent it. But there was no reference to it when I met Sri Aurobindo.

After my return I asked the people weaving here from where they got the yarn; they said they had purchased it. At that time everybody was wearing dhotis and sarees—they said they had purchased them. Then going back to Calcutta I asked the Mohini Mills proprietor—a great friend of mine—to send some bales of sarees and dhotis to the Ashram. Immediately he sent them. Then to the proprietor of Basanti Mills I suggested to send some bales of yarn. When I came here Sri Aurobindo asked me, “How did you manage to send all this?” I said, “That’s nothing. It was very easy.” He told me, “Don’t approach anybody in my name or in the Ashram’s name for money or things. If anyone wants to give, let him give; don’t go and ask.” Another thing he said was: “The people outside think that the Mother selects very spiritually advanced people for the Ashram. Nothing of the kind. She selects different types. The worst scoundrel also may be selected. She wants to observe how the Divine works in different types.” I don’t know whether I am right in disclosing all these things… All these years I’ve kept these things a secret.

What Sri Aurobindo next told me was also about the Ashram. “The Mother is trying to develop this Ashram into a university; but not according to the common conception of a university. It will be a place where every branch of knowledge in which a man may be interested will be taught; there will be no profit motive. Everybody will be taught to work, not with any profit motive but with a spirit of service.” Thus in this connection I was awakening to the meaning of the ‘colossal waste’ which I had mentioned! Because I had seen everything from the profit motive, I saw so much waste, nothing but waste. I was gradually waking up. Sri Aurobindo was giving a reply to that statement! He added one thing more: “You know we wanted to teach every sadhak here how to spend money. They must learn the use of money. The Mother used to give them Rs. 2 in cash, apart from all the Prosperity things. And you know what they did? They returned the money to the Mother! It was given to them to learn the use of it.”

I shall end with these words. Thank you all very much.


9 Replies to “Two Talks of Surendra Mohan Ghosh on Sri Aurobindo

  1. The following letter to Surendra Mohan Ghosh was written by Sri Aurobindo on 6 June 1948 after Surendra Mohan informed Sri Aurobindo that he wished to resign from the position of President of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee:

    “I have strong objections to your giving up your position as President of the B.P.C.C. But I recognise that there are good reasons for your not wishing to disappoint Jawaharlal, also the great importance of this other work at Dacca. If you finally decide after seeing the full development of the new situation in Bengal that your relinquishing the presidentship will not frustrate or injure the work in West Bengal, then I am ready to withdraw my objection.”

  2. Nirodbaran writes about Surendra Mohan Ghosh in his book “Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo”:

    ‘Then there were the long series of regular interviews with Surendra Mohan Ghose extending over some years up to even a few months before Sri Aurobindo’s withdrawal. I should not call them interviews, for he was Sri Aurobindo’s political follower in the early days, and later his disciple, and a prominent political leader of Bengal. Whenever he visited the Ashram, he had meetings with the Master to get guidance in his political work which he had accepted as his work. Sri Aurobindo used him as his instrument and said to us, “He is my man.”… I often used to see Surendra Mohan in advance to get current news and Sri Aurobindo would ask, “What does Surendra Mohan say?”’ (pp. 254-255, 1995 edition)

  3. Here are three more letters written by Sri Aurobindo to Surendra Mohan Ghosh:


    ‘I had wired that I would write a letter of explanation, but I have been unable to do so because we could get no definite information on the points I have mentioned, not even the question of the alleged refusal to send the money order. It is now suggested that it may have been only a doubt due possibly to a mistaken impression that French territory in India was like France and other French territories a hard currency area subject to restrictions in this matter because of the difficulties created by the dollar exchange. But French India has been declared a soft currency area where the exchange is in rupees and in pounds; so this difficulty cannot arise. Up to now money orders are still coming in.

    As to the food question, it is now stated that vegetables and fruit from Bangalore will be allowed to come in without hindrance and other food commodities which come under the mischief of the Customs will also be allowed subject to the taking out of a permit by the merchants. The rumour of prohibition was due to a panic among the merchants both of the Union and Pondicherry caused by the creation of the Customs line which comes into operation from today and the additional rumour of drastic measures to be taken to bring pressure on French India to join the Union. If things go well, there may be a difficulty of high prices but nothing worse.

    At the same time there are signs of tension and we do not know what may develop from these. For instance, it is said that booking of goods of Pondicherry has been stopped on the Railway except for newspaper packages and perishable goods; equally it has been stated that the French authorities are forbidden a transit of local goods out of French India into the Union and have created a post to prevent their passage. That is all for the present. I suppose we shall get some clearer indications once the Customs are in vigour.

    I shall write afterwards about our own threatened difficulties in French India itself, if they develop. But we badly need some reliable information as to what is likely to be the fate of French India. On the one side of the French India municipalities have fixed December for the proposed referendum. If there is a referendum, the voting will go by the usual methods and the result will be whatever the local Government here dictates and not a genuine plebiscite; there would be no chance of an accession to the Indian Union or a merger unless Goubert and Co would make, as they once tried, a bargain with the Government in Madras or in Delhi. On the other hand, it has been broadly hinted that there will be no plebiscite and the fate of French India will be determined by direct negotiations between the Governments in Paris and in Delhi. But when? We were once informed that that it would be in April or June after the return of Baron as High Commissioner but the politicians here are resolute not to allow the return of Baron because he will [be] under the influence of the Ashram—just as Saravane, Counouma, André etc. are to be kept out of all positions of authority for the same reason and because they are supposed to be in favour of accession to the Indian Union.’ (1 April 1949)


    ‘I am sending you a statement made regarding our food situation and prospects by Dyuman who is in charge of that department. This is a new situation; formerly, the fruit was stopped, vegetables were passing through the Customs and the Customs officers were very favourable to the Ashram and made no difficulties. All that is now finished; it appears that very strict orders have been given and nothing can pass. Personal supplies in small quantities sent as offerings from Madras no longer arrive. Even the Calcutta merchants who supplied us with food and other goods say that they cannot get permits any longer. We are told that the Railway is no longer booking goods to Pondicherry. A certain number of vegetables of a very high quality are grown in our vegetable gardens; it is not quite certain that the supply of seeds which necessarily comes from outside will not fail us and in that case that resource will go. There are other statements that have been made by responsible people in Madras which indicate a sort of blockade of goods against the French Settlements. The one good thing is that the Railway people here have withdrawn their statement that our books were prohibited and have begun to send by Railway large parcels of our magazines (Advent, Bombay Annual, Path Mandir Annual, Aditi etc.), so that there is no fear of loss or stoppage there. I may add that we can no longer get our full supply of milk here as the milkmen have no sufficient supply of fodder and Nestlé which helped us is cut off with the rest.

    At present we have no final or definite news about the things for which we were to rely on Kamraj Nadar. He has only recently returned from Ceylon after which he was to deal with our affairs. Our representatives in Madras were told by him, we hear, that some of these affairs were the province of Madras Government and some could only [be decided] at Delhi; he would find out exactly which was which and do what he could [for] us; each case will have to be dealt with on its merits. It is now the 6th May and as yet we have heard nothing. So for the moment that is all.’ (6 May 1949)


    ‘I do not know that it is necessary for me to say much about the details of this project, except that it seems to me to need to be elaborated and elucidated so as to give a more complete and exact idea of the constitution meant for the new territory, the powers reserved for it and those reserved for the central authority and the scope and limits of the rights to be conceded by the India Government to France and French nationals under the agreement.

    Incidentally, what exactly is meant by the “droits de douanes” to be exercised by the local Government? I presume that the old Customs will be reestablished at the Port and there will be none between the Territory and the rest of India: only, certain limited rights will be given for the introduction of goods from France to be carefully restricted to the amount necessary for local use; if so, there can be no scope for any levy of Customs by the local authority. As to the U.N.O., I presume that as between the India Government and the Government of people of a Territory subordinate to it there could not be, as things now stand, any intervention on any matter between them but only as between the India Government and the Government of France.

    There is one point on which I would like to make an observation which I consider of primary importance. The French Government would naturally want the democratic rights it has conceded to the local Assembly and local bodies to continue in full and the India Government would also, no doubt, like this new Territory of its own to have a constitution as democratic as that of the parts of India. But if nothing is changed in local conditions and freedom is left for a certain type of politicians and party leaders to make use of their opportunities to pervert everything to their own profit, how are they to be prevented from prolonging the old state of things, in which case the Territory would easily be turned into a sink of misgovernment and corruption and things will become worse even than in the past. Only a strong control, a thorough purification of the administration and a period of political discipline in which the population could develop public spirit, the use and the right use of the powers and the democratic institutions placed at their disposal, could ensure a change for the better and even that only after a long lapse of time. It cannot be ensured by a paper constitution; the right type of men in the right place could alone ensure it.

    I would myself have thought it safer if the principle of the agreement between the two Governments and its main features [had] at first been agreed upon and the rest worked out afterwards by careful consideration and discussion. Otherwise there is a risk of disagreements and disaccord in the points of view arising and holding up or even endangering the successful working out of the agreement. But I understand that their position in this matter has obliged the Government in Paris to prefer the method actually taken. I hope that the advice you will give will help the India Government to make the best of things as they are.’ (12.2.1950)

  4. Dear Anurag,

    Many many thanks for the talks of Surendra Mohan Ghosh with valuable information. It is to be learnt that there is always secret hand acting behind what happen to our life at the surface. Our life is not an accident, but has definite purpose. We aught to know the purpose of our life and move in the direction under the divine guidance of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.


  5. always too late , am discovering the incredible documents at your disposal which we never knew being here in Pondy so long…thanks a million, koti koti would be too little…

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