Sri Aurobindo at Chandernagore

“… We do want to realise Dharma or spirituality in an integral way and to see Indian spiritual discipline founded for ever on renunciation. But we are not prepared to accept the meaning India once attached to the words spirituality and renunciation in a spell of delusion. We want to see India enthroned as the teacher of the art of enjoyment as well as of renunciation to the world. Let us never forget that India will give to the West the lesson of the perfect enjoyment. Why are we anxious to confine Dharma to a narrow groove? Why are we anxious to base spirituality upon the unreality or insignificance of the world? All that exists is sustained and upheld by Dharma. We may be afraid of the external aspect of life and of politics, but Dharma excludes nothing. Dharma is not enclosed and exhausted in the arcane, immutable Self. Self and not-self, all are from the one Existent, and it is only by embracing all this in its entirety that Dharma can be integral, infinite and free. That alone is Dharma which imparts to man this wholeness, infinity and freedom. We do not want the Dharma that teaches us to relinquish or scornfully reject anything. The spirituality of the new age teaches that all things have to be properly dealt with and cultivated together; it does not advise the rejection of anything as trifling. To it there is nothing like Self and not-self, virtue and vice, truth and untruth. Untroubled and unflinching, it is ready to pursue and explore everything. It has harmonised in itself both intense renunciation and intense enjoyment…”

Free rendering from an article
in Sri Aurobindo’s Bengali paper, Dharma.

Motilal Roy conducted Sri Aurobindo from the boat to his own house. Reclining in an easy-chair in Motilal’s drawing room, Sri Aurobindo asked him to lodge him at a secret place, so that the agents of the British Government might not get the scent of his whereabouts.

“I led him across our unused room to a dark apartment on the first floor, set apart as a store-room for chairs. A thick layer of dust lay settled on the first floor. Bats, cockroaches, and spiders reigned undisturbed about the beams…. I swept the dust away from a part of the floor, and laid a carpet which was covered over by a sheet. He sat down noiselessly…”[1]

Sri Aurobindo sat in that dim, dust-laden store-room, silent and meditative, and apparently oblivious of his surroundings. He was living in a world of his own, vaster and more radiant than the world in which his body was temporarily lodged. But, as usual, his eyes were wide open.

When Motilal came again, Sri Aurobindo was sitting in the same posture:

“I stole into the room very cautiously across the verandah, and went to the second-storey room without making any noise. Opening my eyes wide, I observed that Sri Aurobindo was sitting silently with his eyes fixed in an upward stare. What a complacent and divine look! He had come to my house in an ecstatic state. He had utterly resigned himself to God. When he talked, words came out of his mouth as if someone else made him speak. If his hand moved, it was controlled, as it were, by a third agency. I held the refreshment dish before him; he glanced at it innocently. I said, ‘My wife couldn’t be taken into confidence. It is my own refreshment, please accept…. He partook of some food mechanically…”[2]

There was a haunting fear in Motilal’s mind that Sri Aurobindo was not quite safe even in the secrecy of his store-room. Those were days of searches and arrests, and the spies and secret agents had somehow acquired the ubiquity of the Brahman. So, Sri Aurobindo had to move to the house of a friend of Motilal’s; but this house, too, proving unsuitable, he was brought back to Motilal’s.

“He discoursed… about Vasudeva, Sankarshan, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha, and I listened with rapt attention. On the subject of incarnation, he cited instances of the philosophic and practical types of manifestation, explaining in detail that Vyasa was the philosophic type and Sri Krishna the practical. He freely expounded the Upanishadic principles…

“His continued stay at a place might cause the secret to leak out, and we talked about his removal… I was charged to escort him over the town to the southern outskirts in the darkness of night in a carriage. His disappearance had been reported in the two magazines, ‘Dharma’ and ‘Karmayogin’. People knew that he had gone away among the Himalayas for sadhana in response to a call from the Tibetan saint Kuthumi. Nonetheless, the police were more in the know than our countrymen; they were at that time searching for Aurobindo Babu in Calcutta…

“His look never seemed to be that of any human being, as if someone behind his eyes elongated the sight to touch me with it…

“When he was in a communicative mood, I asked, ‘What do you see with your eyes so focussed?’ His reply is still as vividly emblazoned on my heart as ever. He said, ‘A multitude of letters come trooping down in the air; I try to decipher.’ He explained again, ‘Gods of the invisible world become visible. They are as significant as the alphabet, and want to communicate something which I endeavour to discover….”[3]

Sri Aurobindo had to move successively to two or three places again. Instead of deportation he was now having a series of local and temporary transportations.

At about this time, Sri Aurobindo received again “sailing orders” to go to Pondicherry.

Some Aphorisms of Bhartrihari”, translated by Sri Aurobindo, came out in the 19th March issue of the Karmayogin, and the first two instalments of “Chitrangada”, a poem by Sri Aurobindo, were also published in the same paper on the 26th march and 2nd April 1910, respectively. Karmayogin was now being edited by Sister Nivedita.

In the issue of 26th March 1910, Karmayogin published the following:

“We are greatly astonished to learn from the local Press that Sj. Aurobindo Ghose has disappeared from Calcutta and is now interviewing the Mahatmas in Tibet. We are ourselves unaware of this mysterious disappearance. As a matter of fact, Sri Aurobindo is in our midst and, if he is doing any astral business with Kuthumi or any other of the great Rishis, the fact is unknown to his other koshas (sheaths). Only as he requires perfect solitude and freedom from disturbance for his sadhana for sometime, his address is being kept a strict secret. This is the only foundation for the remarkable rumour which the vigorous imagination of a local contemporary has set floating. For similar reasons he is unable to engage in journalistic works, and Dharma has been entrusted to other hands.”

The Bengali paper Dharma published the following notice on the 21st March:

“It is rumoured that Sri Aurobindo Ghose has gone away somewhere, nobody knows where. So far as we know, he is engaged in the practice of yoga and will not take up any political or other work. Because he is not willing to see anybody for the moment, the place of his sadhana has been kept a secret.”

Suresh Chakravarty (alias Moni) received a very small note from Sri Aurobindo probably in the last week of February, asking him to go to Pondicherry and arrange for Sri Aurobindo’s stay there. The preparation for Suresh’s departure was made by Sukumar Mitra, Krishna Kumar Mitra’s son and Sri Aurobindo’s cousin. Suresh started by train from Calcutta on the 28th and reached Pondicherry on the 31st March. We quote below a few lines from A.B. Purani’s Life of Sri Aurobindo, which throw some light on Sri Aurobindo’s departure from Calcutta and his arrival at Pondicherry:

“Sri Aurobindo asked Motilal to make arrangements for his departure. Motilal wrote a letter to Amar Chatterji at Uttarpara in which he informed him of Sri Aurobindo’s intended departure from Chandernagore in a boat on the 31st March and asked him to make an arrangement to change the boat at Dumurtala Ghat and to ferry him from there to the steamer Dupleix. Other arrangements would be made, said Motilal, by Sukumar Mitra. He also said that Sukumar would be present at the Calcutta ghat.

“Motilal wrote another letter to Sukumar Mitra at Calcutta informing him of Sri Aurobindo’s intention of going to Pondicherry and also telling him that Sri Aurobindo wanted him to make the necessary arrangements privately so as to keep his departure secret. He was asked to meet them at the Calcutta ghat with two tickets for Pondicherry by the steamer ‘Dupleix’, one for himself and the other for the young man who was to accompany him…

“As soon as he got Motilal’s letter, Sukumar called Nagendra Kumar Guha Roy, a nationalist worker of Noakhali, to the Sanjivani office and gave him two (steel) trunks and asked him to take them to the mess where he was living. Nagendra jocularly asked whether they contained bombs. Sukumar asked him not to bother about the contents, but keep the trunks with him. Nagendra took them to No. 44/1, College Street.

“The next day Sukumar gave two names[4] to Nagen and asked him to buy two second class tickets for Colombo. This was done to put the police off the scent…. The tickets for Colombo were bought so that all inquiries would be directed, if at all, to Colombo instead of Pondicherry. Sukumar also instructed Nagen to reserve a double cabin so that the two (Sri Aurobindo and Bejoy) could travel together.”

In spite of the utmost care bestowed on the arrangement for Sri Aurobindo’s departure, the plan went slightly awry and Sri Aurobindo had to go to Calcutta in order to pick up his luggage and look for Bejoy who was to accompany him to Pondicherry. When they came back to the Calcutta port, they were asked to get medical certificates from the British Medical Officer. But as it was late and the Medical Officer had finished his work on the steamer and returned home, they had to go back to the city, see the doctor and get the required certificates from him. Then at about 11 at night, they came and boarded the steamer and occupied the double cabin reserved for them. The steamer left Calcutta early morning on the 1st. April, 1910.

Asked about the reasons for his giving up politics, Sri Aurobindo once said,

“I did not leave politics because I felt I could do nothing more there; such an idea was very far from me. I came away because I did not want anything to interfere with my Yoga and because I got a very distinct Adesh (divine command) in the matter. I have cut connection entirely with politics, but before I did so I knew from within that the work I had begun there was destined to be carried forward, on lines I had foreseen, by others, and that the ultimate triumph of the movement I had initiated was sure without my personal action or presence. There was not the least motive of despair or sense of futility behind my withdrawal.”


[1] My life’s Partner by Motilal Roy.
[2] My life’s Partner by Motilal Roy.
[3] My Life’s partner by Motilal Roy.
[4] The names were Jatindra Nath Mitra, assumed by Sri Aurobindo, and Bankim Chandra Basak, assumed by Bejoy.

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