Relics are an important aspect of the tradition of Buddhism, of some denominations of Christianity, and of many other personal belief systems. In Hinduism the veneration of relics as found in Christianity and Buddhism is largely absent. Islam has had a cult of relics associated with its founder and with saints, but the use of relics has had no official sanction in this religion. Neither Sri Aurobindo nor the Mother have spoken or written anything about relics, except what we gather from Champaklal in the Gujerati version of his personal memoirs entitled Champaklalna Sansmarano, (1987). That brief passage, on page 189, translated into English, reads as follows:
“Mother never approved the worship of anyone’s picture or photograph. In childhood I was attracted by the Arya Samaj. Seeing the Arya Samajists worship Dayanand I used to wonder what was the difference in their opposing the worship of idols but themselves worshipping a photograph! The same question used to arise in me regarding the photos of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. But later, the Mother explained to me that this too does have a place and necessity. I was also against the opening of centres and the installing of relics but the Mother explained to me their necessity. Of course, nothing is done in the right perspective; but what can be done about that?”1
All shrines and spiritual places have an impact…. In that regard, what would be the special impact or effect of Sri Aurobindo’s relics on the collective atmosphere and life of the surrounding area, for example, in Gurgaon, which is next to the Gnostic Centre area?
The relics contain the supramental consciousness of Sri Aurobindo. How does one explain their importance and influence in the subtle and gross atmosphere to the lay person, who does not understand what the supramental consciousness is?
Now first of all, I thank you for not asking me whether the relics have any effect on human affairs. If we are believers, they do have an effect but we can never prove this to the satisfaction of non-believers. Both of us believe that they have an impact on the humans and their surroundings.
If the relics will have a “special impact or effect” it has to be attributed to what distinguishes Sri Aurobindo from all other saints and men of God – namely, that he realised in his own body the supramental consciousness. But the difficulty arises precisely here. For it is difficult for the mind to understand, leave alone to foresee what the supramental consciousness will do. Let me quote what Sri Aurobindo himself has said about this:
…what we propose just now is not to make the earth a supramental world but to bring down the supramental as a power and established consciousness in the midst of the rest – to let it work there and fulfil itself as Mind descended into Life and Matter has worked as a Power there to fulfil itself in the midst of the rest. This will be enough to change the world and to change Nature by breaking down her present limits. But what, how, by what degrees it will do it, is a thing that ought not to be said now – when the Light is there, the Light will itself do its work – when the supramental Will stands on earth, that will decide, It will establish a perfection, a harmony, a Truth-creation – for the rest, well, it will be the rest – that is all. 2
In this passage Sri Aurobindo states clearly that when the Supramental Will is here on earth, it will decide how to act. But even if we have hints of what impact the supramental may have, how does one explain it to a lay person? How does one make such a person understand what benefits may accrue from the presence of the supramental consciousness enshrined in his township? I will try to find an answer to your questions but I caution you that my attempt is going to involve tight-rope walking all the way and it may also prove to be a case of the blind leading the blind. But I must do what I can.
Most religions and races make a great effort to preserve with the utmost care the bodies of their holy men, to give them a burial consistent with the greatness and sanctity of the person and make it accessible to coming generations. In all countries where such practices obtain, there is a consensus of opinion that unusual and scientifically unexplainable things happen at or near these tombs, samadhis, graves, mausoleums, and stupas.
While it is possible to dismiss these occurrences as imaginary or as the results of chance, the weight of evidence over several centuries suggests that in these places some force or forces are at work, though science has yet to identify them. If science prefers to stop at this barrier because of its belief system, let it, but we have a different belief system and have no qualms about crossing it. Let me begin by quoting a few lines from Nirodbaran’s article “Relics”:
She (the Mother) has said that each and every molecule of Sri Aurobindo’s body was filled with Supramental Consciousness. We know that his body was glowing with Supramental Light as soon as he left it. That consciousness is not a mortal thing which ceases with the death of the physical body. If that is to be, then we wouldn’t feel such extraordinary power and strength when we touch the Samadhi [Sri Aurobindo’s Samadhi at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry].
We have learnt that wherever the Relics are enshrined, there dwell such peace and tranquillity. Therefore, the Relics are not a mere memento. Relics are the living presence of Sri Aurobindo and imbued with the light and force of his lifelong sadhana, just as an atom contains an infinite power in itself – this is the truth behind the Relics. To always keep alive that truth and give due respect to it is what the Relics demand of us. 3
Although I don’t discount the possibility of material benefits accruing from the enshrinement of Sri Aurobindo’s relics …. to the people living in the surrounding areas, I am inclined to believe that the greatest benefit to them would be spiritual. The fullest perfection of human life here on earth being the goal of Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual mission, this spiritual benefit would not exclude any of the other benefits, material, emotional, mental or psychic.
For one thing, wherever Sri Aurobindo’s relics are enshrined and cherished, peace and tranquillity begin to dwell in the surrounding areas. It is believed by some people that the political tension and the pall of fear palpably felt in Punjab began to lift soon after the relics of Sri Aurobindo were installed in Patiala on 4 April, 1992. Most political observers would vouch for the waning of the fear-complex in Punjab from that time.
A second spiritual benefit of the enshrinement of the relics would be that people living in that area would find it more easy to evolve from the Ignorance towards the Light, and to organise their existence according to it. Whether this statement would be greeted by the people concerned with great jubilation or with uncomprehending bafflement is difficult for me to judge. That is the state of humanity today, which regards spirituality as little more than an investment in God as security against bad times.
As we all know, Sri Aurobindo has charted the grades of consciousness between the mind and the supermind. Until there is support from the presence of the supramental power, these intermediary grades of consciousness, realised by some of our enlightened and spiritually advanced people, can act only as influences (the highest of them as very indirect influences) on the human mind and consciousness and cannot do more. That is why the war between the good and the bad that is raging in the theatre of the human heart seems to be unending and the final outcome so uncertain. This will change as the supramental consciousness begins to act. . Let me put this in Sri Aurobindo’s own words:
An organised higher human consciousness could appear or several degrees of it, with the supermind-organised consciousness as the leader at the top influencing the others and drawing them towards itself. It is likely that as the supramental principle evolved itself the evolution would more and more take on another aspect – the Daivic nature would predominate, the Asuro-rakshaso-Pishachic which now holds so large a place would more and more recede and lose its power. A principle of greater unity, harmony and light would emerge everywhere. It is not that the creation in the Ignorance would be altogether abolished, but it would begin to lose much of its elements of pain and falsehood and would be more a progression from lesser to higher Truth, from a lesser to a higher harmony, from a lesser to a higher Light, than the reign of chaos and struggle, of darkness and error that we now perceive. 4
Sri Aurobindo is saying that with the advent of the supermind, the world will gradually grow more Sattwic. There will be more unity, harmony and light. There will be less pain and suffering, confusion and strife. […] We have already two other centres in Delhi which have enshrinements of Sri Aurobindo’s relics – one is Sri Aurobindo Ashram, New Delhi, near Hauz Khas, and other is at the Sri Aurobindo Society centre at Adhchini. Delhi has been known as the seat of Mogul, then of British and now of Indian rule. Therefore Delhi has always been seen as a hub of Indian politics and administration, and also of intellectual and artistic life. The three enshrinements of Sri Aurobindo’s Relics in Delhi provide it what it needs most without realising it – the spiritual presence of Sri Aurobindo.
Before I close, I would like to add one more word. The relics when enshrined may act by themselves and bring about the greatest of changes in the life of the people if that is the Divine will; Divine Grace needs no human direction to act. But more often than not, the Divine Grace acts in a different way. Relics more often than not act like a spark of the Divine energy and will, which can lessen and fade if not fanned properly by the breath of human aspiration. The relics of Sri Aurobindo have gone to many places in India and even abroad, and not in all places have their effects been evident.
The relics are often like a flame that is looking for a human wick which can bear it and spread the light around. If such a support is not forthcoming, then the relics are not guaranteed to give us the results we anticipate. God is much more than a mere magician, his greatest concern is the growth of the human consciousness. God has to manifest here in each individual being his plenary consciousness and its glories and perfections. Therefore man has to be prepared to do his bit; otherwise as Sri Aurobindo puts it while describing the dawn in the opening canto of Savitri,
Then the divine afflatus, spent, withdrew,
Unwanted, fading from the mortal range. 5
With best wishes, Mangesh Nadkarni
Puducherry, May 31, 2007
1 I am grateful to Bob Zwicker of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Archives and Library for this reference
2 Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, SABCL vol.23, p.13, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
3 Nirodbaran: Divinity’s Comrade, edited by Hemant Kapoor, pp.216-17
4 The Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, compiled by Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1993. pp.73-74
5 Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, 1993 ed., p.5