In order to understand the importance of this day it is necessary to go back to Sri Aurobindo’s experiences in jail in 1908-1909 and link them up with his experiences of 24 November 1926. We must also take into consideration what Sri Aurobindo wrote about his own sadhana to Barin in 1920.
In the letter to Barin of April 1920 Sri Aurobindo described the stage of his yoga before he came to Pondicherry in 1910 as “preliminary or preparatory”. That is to say it was a preliminary stage of the supramental yoga.
The Guru of the world who is within us then gave me complete directions for my path – its complete theory, the ten limbs of the body of this Yoga. These past ten years [1910-1920] He has been making me develop it in experience, and this is not yet finished…..
If we cannot rise above, to the supramental level, that is, it is hardly possible to know the world’s final secret and the problem it raises remains unsolved…..
This is no easy change to make. After these fifteen years I am only now rising into the lowest of the three levels of the Supermind and trying to draw up into it all the lower activities. But when this siddhi will be complete, then I am absolutely certain that through me God will give to others the siddhi of the Supermind with less effort. Then my real work will begin. I am not impatient for success in the work. What is to happen will happen in God’s appointed time. I have no hasty or disorderly impulse to rush into the field of work in the strength of the little ego. Even if I did not succeed in my work I would not be shaken. This work is not mine but God’s. I will listen to no other call; when God moves me then I will move…..
I do not want hundreds of thousands of disciples. It will be enough if I can get a hundred complete men, purified of petty egoism, who will be the instruments of God…..
If the unripe goes amidst the unripe what work can he do ?
[Sri Aurobindo: “A letter to Barin”, April 1920]
These quotations clearly demonstrate that when Sri Aurobindo came to Pondicherry he was not groping for his path; his path was clear before him. After 1910 the charge of his yoga was taken over by the Divine and the path was revealed to him in ten limbs of the sadhana. He was all along conscious of the existence of the Supramental plane above the mind, and by 1920 he had succeeded in ascending to the lowest stratum of that consciousness and also in drawing up all the movements of his nature into it.
He was, besides, not impatient for action. He did not want to act from ignorant human instruments but from a Higher Consciousness. He had the confidence that if the Supramental descent could be established in its perfection, then other people would be able to profit by it with much less effort.
It was when the Tapasya for the Siddhi of the Supramental was going on that, fortunately, as if by a Divine dispensation, the Mother joined Sri Aurobindo intimately in the great spiritual work. From the beginning of 1926 the work of guiding the disciples already began to move towards the Mother. There were women disciples – three or four in number – staying in the Ashram who used to go to the Mother for meditation. From August 1926 the number of disciples going to the Mother increased. It was as if Sri Aurobindo was slowly withdrawing himself and the Mother was spontaneously coming out and taking up the great work of direction of the sadhaks’ inner sadhana and of the organisation of the outer life of the Ashram. The meditations became more and more concentrated and intense. Sri Aurobindo’s coming out for the evening sitting began getting later and later. The wonder of it was that no one felt anything unnatural in all these changes. The part of the disciples in the tremendous task of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was insignificant, still they were the witnesses of the changes in the inner and outer atmosphere of the Ashram.
From the trend of the evening talks just before and after 15 August 1926 it was becoming clear that the importance of a link between the highest Supermind and mind was being emphasised. Sri Aurobindo called this link the Overmind. During the six years since the letter to Barin of 1920 it is evident that he had gone much further not only in the ascent towards and into the Higher Consciousness but also in bringing about its descent into Nature. Several times in the beginning of November 1926, the evening talks turned to the possibility of the descent of the Divine Consciousness and its process. From these evening conversations, therefore, the idea came to several disciples that such a descent might be near. There was the possibility of the descent of the Gods. In “The Life Divine” Sri Aurobindo has given a clear exposition of the overmind plane, overmind consciousness and overmind Gods.
If we regard the Powers of the Reality as so many Godheads, we can say that the Overmind releases a million Godheads into action, each empowered to create its own world, each world capable of relation, communication and interplay with the others. There are in the Veda different formulations of the nature of the Gods: it is said they are all one Existence to which the sages give different names; yet each God is worshipped as if he by himself is that Existence, one who is all the other Gods together or contains them in his being; and yet again each is a separate Deity acting sometimes in unison with companion deities, sometimes separately, sometimes even in apparent opposition to other Godheads of the same Existence. In the Supermind all this would be held together as a harmonised play of the one Existence; in the Overmind each of these three conditions could be a separate action or basis of action and have its own principle of development and consequences and yet each keep the power to combine with the others in a more composite harmony. As with the One Existence, so with its Consciousness and Force. The One Consciousness is separated into many independent forms of consciousness and knowledge; each follows out its own line of truth which it has to realise. The one total and many-sided Real-Idea is split up into its many sides; each becomes an independent Idea-Force with the power to realise itself. The one Consciousness-Force is liberated into its million forces, and each of these forces has the right to fulfil itself or to assume, if needed, a hegemony and take up for its own utility the other forces. So too the Delight of Existence is loosed out into all manner of delights and each can carry in itself its independent fullness or sovereign extreme. Overmind thus gives to the One Existence-Consciousness-Bliss the character of a teeming of infinite possibilities which can be developed into a multitude of worlds or thrown together into one world in which the endlessly variable outcome of their play is the determinant of the creation, of its process, its course and its consequence.
[Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, pp 280-281]
[In the Overmind] each God knows all the Gods and their place in existence; each Idea admits all other ideas and their right to be; each Force concedes a place to all other forces and their truth and consequences; no delight of separate fulfilled existence or separate experience denies or condemns the delight of other existence or other experience. The Overmind is a principle of cosmic Truth and a vast and endless catholicity is its very spirit; its energy is an all-dynamism as well as a principle of separate dynamisms…
[Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, p 283]
A feeling that the descent of the Higher Consciousness was about to take place grew in the minds of the many disciples either as a result of some indicative personal experience or owing to the general atmosphere. Many felt that great changes in the outer structure of the Ashram were about to occur. Instead of coming to the evening sitting at half past four, the usual time, Sri Aurobindo came at six or seven, or eight o’clock. One day the record was two o’clock in the morning! It was evident that all his great energies were entirely taken up by the mighty task of bringing about the descent of the Higher Consciousness and that he did not want to lose or divert even a second of his time to anything else. Even though the work of maintaining an outer contact with the disciples was found useful it was becoming more and more difficult in view of the growing demand upon his time for the inner work. Those who do not know anything about his great mission can hardly understand how concentrated and sincere was his application for attaining perfection in his Divine task. In fact, people outside had already begun to be skeptical about any “practical” result of his vast efforts. Even those who had built high hopes upon his spiritual effort and were his genuine admirers began to be disappointed. Some even cherished, in their ignorance, the foolish belief that Sri Aurobindo had lost his way in the barren regions of the Absolute, the Para Brahman, or that he was entangled somewhere in the inscrutable coils of the Infinite ! They believed that Sri Aurobindo had lost his hold on the earth, and that he had become either indifferent or deaf to the pressing and burning problems of suffering humanity. If it was not so, why did he not rush to the help of humanity that was suffering so much with the saving balm of his Divine help? When was such Divine help more needed than now?
But, in spite of the apparent contradictions, those who were fortunate enough to live in his vicinity knew very well that the Higher Power that he was bringing down was not only capable of but was actually producing practical results. His contact and identification with the Higher Power were so complete that he was able to put other people, whether near to him or far, in contact with it. There were almost daily instances of people being cured of physical illness by his help. Far from losing his way in the Absolute he was seeing his way more and more clearly every day and was feeling more and more the inevitability of the descent as a natural crown of the movement of evolution on earth. His disciples knew that there was no one on earth who had a deeper sympathy and feeling for humanity than the Master. The silent and solid help that was going out from him to humanity was glimpsed by them at times. They felt later, reading the line he wrote in “Savitri” about Aswapathy, “His spirit’s stillness helped the toiling world”, that it was so true of his own life. What after all is that “practicality” of which people speak so much? Claiming to solve problems, does it not really leave them either unsolved or half-solved while giving to the doer a false sense of satisfaction and self-complacence? In fact, the Supreme Master had such a firm grip over the earth that such illusionary satisfaction could never deceive him. For him karmasa kaushalam (skill in action) consisted in acting from a higher Truth-Consciousness. He did not want to begin outer action so long as the Higher Consciousness did not descend into the physical and even into the gross material consciousness. Only so could a new life, a life that manifest integrally the Divine, be embodied. In the fulfilment of the spiritual work that he had begun, lies the ultimate solution of all human problems.
Days, months and years passed; but Sri Aurobindo did not seem at all in a hurry to begin his work. He was all along preparing the possibility of the descent of the Higher Power. The resistance of the powers of Ignorance against any such attempt is naturally immense. In one evening talk he said that he was engaged in the tremendous task of opening up the physical cells to the Divine Light and the resistance of the Inconscient was formidable. When one knows that all this Herculean labour was undertaken not for himself but for humanity, for making a new departure for man in the course of his evolution then one feels that the words he later used of Savitri, “The world unknowing, for the world she stood”, are so very apposite in his own case. It was therefore natural when, by the grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the disciples also felt the nearness of the descent, their hearts should be full of expectant and concentrated enthusiasm.
From the beginning of November 1926 the pressure of the Higher Power began to be unbearable. Then at last the great day, the day for which the Mother had been waiting for so many long years, arrived on 24 November. The sun had almost set, and everyone was occupied with his own activity – some had gone out to the seaside for a walk – when the Mother sent round word to all the disciples to assemble as soon as possible in the verandah where the usual meditation was held. It did not take long for the message to go round to all. By six o’clock most of the disciples had gathered. It was becoming dark. In the verandah on the wall near Sri Aurobindo’s door, just behind his chair, a black silk curtain with gold lace work representing three Chinese dragons was hung. The three dragons were so represented that the tail of one reached up to the mouth of the other and the three of them covered the curtain from end to end. We came to know afterwards that there is a prophecy in China that the Truth will manifest itself on earth when the three dragons (the dragons of the earth, of the mind region and of the sky) meet. Today on 24 November the Truth was descending and the hanging of the curtain was significant.
There was a deep silence in the atmosphere after the disciples had gathered there. Many saw an oceanic flood of Light rushing down from above. Everyone present felt a kind of pressure above his head. The whole atmosphere was surcharged with some electrical energy. In that silence, in that atmosphere full of concentrated expectation and aspiration, in the electrically charged atmosphere, the usual, yet on this day quite unusual, tick was heard behind the door of the entrance. Expectation rose in a flood. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother could be seen through the half-opened door. The Mother with a gesture of her eyes requested Sri Aurobindo to step out first. Sri Aurobindo with a similar gesture suggested to her to do the same. With a slow dignified step the Mother came out first, followed by Sri Aurobindo with his majestic gait. The small table that used to be in front of Sri Aurobindo’s chair was removed this day. The Mother sat on a small stool to his right.
Silence absolute, living silence – not merely living but overflowing with divinity. The meditation lasted about forty-five minutes. After that one by one the disciples bowed to the Mother.
She and Sri Aurobindo gave blessings to them. Whenever a disciple bowed to the Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s right hand came forward behind the Mother’s as if blessing him through the Mother. After the blessings, in the same silence there was a short meditation.
In the interval of silent meditation and blessings many had distinct experiences. When all was over they felt as if they had awakened from a divine dream. Then they felt the grandeur, the poetry and the absolute beauty of the occasion. It was not as if a handful of disciples were receiving blessings from their Supreme Master and the Mother in one little corner of the earth. The significance of the occasion was far greater than that. It was certain that a Higher Consciousness had descended on earth. In that deep silence had burgeoned forth, like the sprout of a banyan tree, the beginning of a mighty spiritual work. This momentous occasion carried its significance to all in the divine dynamism of the silence, in its unearthly dignity and grandeur and in the utter beauty of its every little act. The deep impress of divinity which everyone got was for him a priceless treasure.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother went inside. Immediately Datta was inspired. In that silence she spoke: “The Lord has descended into the physical today.”
The names of those disciples who were present on 24 November 1926:
01 – Bijoy Kumar Nag; 02 – Nolini Kanta Gupta; 03 – K. Amrita; 04 – Moni (= Suresh Chakravarty); 05 – Pavitra (= Philippe Barbier Saint-Hilaire); 06 – Barindra Kumar Ghose, Sri Aurobindo’s younger brother; 07 – Datta (= Miss Dorothy Hodgson); 08 – K. Rajangam; 09 – Satyen; 10 – A.B. Purani (author of this text); 11 – Lilavati (= Purani’s wife); 12 – Punamchand; 13 – Champa Ben (= Punamchand’s wife); 14 – Rajani Kanta Palit; 15 – Dr. Upendra Nath Banerjee; 16 – Champaklal; 17 – Kanailal Gangulee; 18 – Khitish Chandra Dutt; 19 – V. Chandra Sekharam; 20 – Pujalal; 21 – Purushottam Patel; 22 – Rati Palit; 23 – Rambhai Patel; 24 – Nani Bala
Of this descent Sri Aurobindo wrote on several occasions afterwards. In October 1935 he wrote as follows:
It [the 24th November 1926] was the descent of Krishna into the physical…..
Krishna is not the supramental Light. The descent of Krishna would mean the descent of the Overmind Godhead preparing, though not itself actually bringing, the descent of Supermind and Ananda. Krishna is the Anandamaya; he supports the evolution through the Overmind leading it towards his Ananda.
[Sri Aurobindo: On Himself, p 136]
That 24 November should be given an importance equal to that of the birthdays of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is quite proper because on that day the descent of the Higher Power symbolic of the victory of their mission took place. The Delight consciousness in the Overmind which Sri Krishna incarnated – as Avatar – descended on this day into the physical rendering possible the descent of the Supermind in Matter.
[The above selections are taken from: A.B. Purani “The Life of Sri Aurobindo”, pages 210-217.
Original text sequence is re-arranged for the post, with no other changes]