KAPALI SASTRI (from a biographical note by M.P. Pandit)
“T.V. Kapali Sastry was a Vedic scholar who had his early training under the renowned Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni. His scholarship and spiritual sadhana endeared him to Ramana Maharshi. From 1916 onwards he was drawn to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga and settled down in the Sir Aurobindo Ashram. Interpreting the philosophy of Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo became a lifelong vocation for him. Teacher, translator, exegetist, essayist and poet, Kapali Sastry was a philosopher attuned to Tantra. Sri Kapali Sastriar has come to be known more and more after his passing in 1953 than before. For he was an example of perfect self-effacemant in the best traditions of the Aryan who represents the noblest and the highest aspirations of humanity.”
My First Meeting with Sri Aurobindo
I decided to take the trip with this main object of visiting Sri Aurobindo. On arrival in Pondicherry, I called at Poet Bharati’s. He was then living in Iswaran Dharmaraja Kovil Street and when I was announced, his little daughter led me up to the first floor where I found him singing
‘Victory in this life is certain
O Mind, fear there is none.’
Then after a pause he made enquires of one or two friends in Madras. I had met Bharati in Mylapore, the last I saw him was a little before 1907. But what a change! Circumstances had conspired to wreck the physique and handsome and spirited face of the inspired poet, the national poet of Tamilnad; he was shrunken, pale and setting. Suddenly he burst out:
‘In the secret cave, O growing Flame,
Son of the Supreme’
I knew Bharati had some knowledge of Sanskrit which he had studied at Kashi but not that he had acquaintance with the Vedas deep enough to give expression to such an essentially Vedic conception or as the growing Flame in the heart of man. Besides the poet identifies Agni as Guha, Kumara, son of the Supreme. When I asked him how he caught the idea, he gave an interesting explanation in the course of which he said:
“Yes, I have studied 200 hymns (I do not quite recollect whether he said hymns or Riks) under Aurobindo Ghose.”
It was from Bharati himself that I learnt he got the inspiration and general knowledge of the Vedic gods and hymns from Sri Aurobindo. Later he translated into Tamil, some of the Vedic hymns to Agni. So the talk switched on to A. G. (as he used to be known in those days).
“Where is he living?” I asked.
“There,” he pointed out in the direction of the European quarters.
“I want to see him.”
“But now-a-days he is very much disinclined to see people. I myself do not meet him often as I used to do before. Anyway I shall ascertain.”
“Please mention that I have come on a pilgrimage to him.” I pressed, as if on impulse. Indeed the pilgrimage had commenced somewhere long ago.
Bharati wrote out a short note in Tamil – a characteristically humourous one – to Nagaswami who was attending on Sri Aurobindo at that time, and signed himself as Shakti–Kumar, and he sent me with an escort to the house where Sri Aurobindo lived.
It was 3 p.m. when we arrived there. Nagaswami was obliging. He took the note, went up to A.G. and was back within a couple of minutes. “He will see you at 6 p.m. today”, he said. Dilemma of dilemmas! The hour for which I had looked forward with so much eagerness had arrived. But the timing was embarrassing. For precisely at 6 the meeting was also scheduled to commence at which the lecture was to be delivered. Neither of these could be missed. And yet both could not be fulfilled at the same time. “Was it the proverbial sattva-pariksha?” I wondered. I thought for a while and sent word to the organizers of the function that the meeting could commence a little later than the fixed hour.
At six, I was escorted up the stairs of the house of Sri Aurobindo. It is now known as the Guest House-, which name it acquired after Sri Aurobindo shifted to another building now in the main Ashram block. As I went up the stairs and reached the threshold, there stretched in front of me a long hall with a simple table and two chairs at the center. At the farther end was a room on the threshold of which stood Sri Aurobindo. Like a moving statue – such was his impersonal bearing – he advanced towards the table as I proceeded from my end and we both met at the center. Like Rama, the Aryan model of courtesy and nobility held up by Valmiki, Sri Aurobindo spoke first, purva-bhashi. I carried with me a lemon fruit as a humble expression of my esteem for him and after he sat down, I placed it on the table in his front and said: sudinam asid adya (a happy day today).
Sri Aurobindo leaned over to the youngster who was still there and seemed to ask him if I knew English. He was assured I knew and with what smattering of the language I had, we commenced the conversation. It would be an omission if I fail to tell here what happened the moment I stood face to face with Sri Aurobindo at the table.
The age is past when matters of this kind had to be kept to oneself and concealed from others for fear of scoffings from rationalists and skeptics. Man has come to realize that there are more things on earth and in heaven than are written in books and discovered in laboratories. Well, as soon I saw him, even from a distance, there was set in motion, all of a sudden, a rapid vibratory movement in my body from head to foot. There was a continuous thrill and throb. I seemed to stand on the top of a dynamo working at top speed and it was as powerful as it was new. It lasted for nearly four to five minutes. It did not really stop at all. In fact it continued ever since for long and every time I went to see him later, or for his Darshan after his retirement, the phenomenon tended to repeat itself.
A spiritual personality continually pours out spiritual emanations from within and it would seem that when any one with some secret affinity or even a point of contact somewhere in the being comes within the ambience of these vibrations, there is an attempt by something subtle in us to imbibe as much of these sustaining and strength-giving radiations as possible. But the physique not being so supple cannot support this occult commerce for long; it lacks the necessary nerve-force to keep up the flow and the physical palpitating movement is the result. Of course, I find this explanation now. All that I knew at that time and could not help knowing was that I was in the presence of an unusually mighty personality. Was it the sun-flower turned to the sun, or was it the filings in a tremulous dance before a block of magnet or was he the mystic spider, ever watchful, taking his prey alive to preserve it within his web biding his hour?
Something had been set going which carried me on its wings – this is more than a figure of speech – shuttling me from and back to him with an irresistible intensity till at last I came back to him six years later (1923) in a different role. This time, as a seeker seeking the feet of the Teacher, and exclaimed marveling at the change of his appearance:
“What other proof is required, Sire! Then your complexion was dark-brown, now it is fair; today the hue is a golden hue. Here is the concrete proof of the Yoga that is yours.”
This article was published in “Collected Works of T.V. Kapali Sastry, vol. 2”, and is re-posted here from the website of Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore