It was a beautiful evening in 1987. Sitting in the delightful warmth of Shri Nirodbaran’s room downstairs in the Ashram building in Pondicherry, I had a long talk with him on topics, ranging over many areas. Nirodbaran talked mostly in Bengali, occasionally in English. The interview was pre-arranged with his kind permission and recorded on a tape-recorder. An early version of the interview appeared in Bengali on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday in 1993 in a collection of beautiful essays (in Bengali) offered to Nirodbaran as a small token of gratitude, love and appreciation of his various qualities, by a few of his friends and admirers. This collection entitled ‘Nirodbaran: Sadhak О Kabi’ was edited by Shri Aurobinda Basu and Shri Ramen Sengupta. Grateful acknowledgement is here made to the editors of the volume. Since I came to learn from numerous readers that they had found the interview very interesting and quite useful in many respects, I am naturally convinced that it should be published in English so that it may reach a wider audience. Accordingly, it had been translated into English by me and revised and slightly enlarged to include a few points not covered earlier in the Bengali version. Readers would see how much I had taxed the patience of Nirodbaran and tried to draw him out on a variety of topics — the delicious story of his flowering into a poet in the hands of the Master; the ever-fascinating tale of his role as a scribe; iridescent memories of his intimate link with the Master in connection with the composition of the poetic marvel, Savitri; his crisp observations throwing light on the methods followed by Sri Aurobindo in the composition of the epic; his illuminating comments on Savitri from both the technical and the spiritual standpoint; insightful remarks about some disciples of Sri Aurobindo: Jyotirmoyee, Nishikanta and Nolini and a few celebrated ones whose names we cannot publish; his beautiful experiences proving beyond any shade of doubt the living presence of the spirit of Sri Aurobindo; some pregnant hints on the present difficulties and the prerequisites of Sadhana, giving us an inside-view of Yoga; a few rich clues for us to be able to make progress on the path; and above all, about “so sweet and strange and sublime a miracle” — our dearest Mother!
TEXT OF THE INTERVIEW
(In the body of the text, I have inserted, wherever necessary, useful information, references or observations within brackets.)
Question: I would like to begin by asking you how you started writing poems in English with Sri Aurobindo’s inspiration, how Sri Aurobindo corrected your poems — I would first like to hear about these things.
Answer: I do not know why I felt like writing poems in English. Perhaps it occurred to me that, as I could not write very well in Bengali, I might try my hand at writing poems in English; for, in that case, Sri Aurobindo could give me inspiration more easily, because he himself wrote in English and English was his mother-tongue. My contact with him would be consequently closer and deeper. Thus I started. I began to write; at first, I did not know anything of rhythm or metre — Sri Aurobindo guided me, showing where my rhythm had been wrong, where it had been correct, where the substance had been all right, but the rhythm was faulty, where inspiration had not flowed properly and so on. He made me learn in this way. I did not consult books, nor did I read poems for this purpose.
Q: After you had learnt in this way, you wrote much better poems at a later stage; did you then try to write with a conscious will to compose better poems, or was it the case that you were simply inspired and could write with a natural ease?
A: I too asked Sri Aurobindo about this many times. He used to say: “Before you begin to write, all that you should do is to will and aspire; aspire for what you want, and will that your poems may be better, that you may write with greater perfection.” You will see, whatever I have written, I did not understand many of them; I could understand only those poems of mine which were very simple, but not those which came from deeper levels. As a result, I could not then very well see which ones were better; so I argued with Sri Aurobindo and said to him: “Do you say this is a good poem?” He replied in jest: “Good Lord! you could not see that you have written such a fine poem?” That’s why I did not quite enjoy writing them; I may say that I was a passive instrument — it was as if the Ustad was playing on the Sitar, but the Sitar could not feel anything.
To take an example: once Sri Aurobindo made this comment on a particular line of my poem: “This is a magnificent line!” I argued with him: “Is this a magnificent line? What magnificence do you see in it?” So, this is how I wrote my poems. I kept silent and the lines would come; when no lines came, I again waited in silence, and kept praying — then the lines seemed to flow; this is the technique I followed in my composition, one might say, in my voyage through poetry. Gradually it so happened that the instrument became almost perfect. There were no flaws, each poem was perfect from beginning to end; I did minor corrections. At this stage, I said to Sri Aurobindo: “Then, wherein lies my credit in this composition?” He said: “Your credit is that you have been a perfect instrument!”
But sometimes it so happened that, in the course of composition, a line had come, but Sri Aurobindo pointed out to me: “This line is faulty.” I asked: “Why is it faulty?” He explained to me saying, “Somewhere in the consciousness your mind had interfered.” I myself did not understand all this — I just wrote on. At a particular time I would sit with pencil and paper; perhaps I kept waiting for an hour — no line came; sometimes it would come; but I had a feeling within that it had not come from true inspiration: I could only feel that this word or that line was not the right one — it was like that. All of you who would like to write will have to follow more or less the same way — ask for inspiration from Sri Aurobindo, pray for his help. This applies to every sphere — writing, teaching, delivering lectures, or for that matter any kind of work. But it is you who have to gradually realize what perfection you have attained and what more you have still to achieve.
Here is an important principle: to write or speak with a silent mind is a help to the Sadhana. Before you begin to write, you think of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo; so, they work in the depths of your being; thus, it is a Yoga; how many times have I wanted to give up writing and told Sri Aurobindo that, since the poems were not quite up to the mark, I had better stop such writing. But Sri Aurobindo persisted and encouraged me saying: “No, it keeps you in contact with the Force.”
Q: I suppose, many in the Ashram had such experience?
A: Of course. Not only in poetry, in any type of work they feel the Force, feel the presence — that’s why I would say that, his presence is now much more living, far more concrete than when he was alive; but you cannot consciously perceive it all the time; you may not be able to realize that he is here; only now and then he makes his presence felt, as if to assure you: “I am here.” When you go on having such experiences, a faith grows in you, you feel strong and develop the trust that he and the Mother are indeed present, and nothing wrong will happen. Sometimes it may go wrong, or it may take time, but ultimately the Mother is there, Sri Aurobindo is there. All our work is going on here on that basis.
Q: Would you please say something about Jyotirmoyee and Nishikanta? You had a very close contact with them and cultivated poetry together.
A: I sent the poems written by Jyotirmoyee to Sri Aurobindo. She wrote poems much the same way I wrote.
Q: Did Jyotirmoyee write poems before she came to the Ashram?
A: Nothing much, but she had a love for literature. Besides, Sri Aurobindo said that she had an idealistic tendency. She was a brilliant student, knew Bengali very well; she had studied Sanskrit — I had not studied it; in this way, she had some preparation. She was not very conversant with rhythm — I knew it better than she. But she had an opening, so that, without consciously understanding it, she had written some wonderful poems.
Q: But, perhaps Nishikanta had some gift for poetry before he came here. Is that so?
A: Yes, Nishikanta was a genius. He was a true poet, persons like me were not poets in that sense. He was at Santiniketan in the Ashram founded by Rabindranath, there he wrote poems; he was indeed a true poet. But his poetry took a deeper turn here.
Q: He was a painter too.
A: Yes, he was a very good painter. He was really an artist even before he came here; he was a pupil of Nandalal Bose. He wrote poems too at Santiniketan, but these were not of a high order; after he came here, he wrote wonderful poems.
Q: I would like to know one thing in this context: Sometimes it was found in the Ashram that some well-known poet or artist was drawn to Sri Aurobindo, spent some time in the Ashram, then all of a sudden got into a huff and left the Ashram. Why did it happen?
A: Such things in fact take place in the course of Sadhana. I once asked Sri Aurobindo about this in a letter: What disciples we are of what Master! I wish you had chosen or called some better stuff…. In reply Sri Aurobindo wrote to me: “As to the disciples, I agree! Yes, but would the better stuff, supposing it to exist, be typical of humanity? To deal with a few exceptional types would hardly solve the problem. And would they consent to follow my path? — that is another question. And if they were put to the test, would not the common humanity suddenly reveal itself? — that is still another question.” (See Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Nirodbaran, First Combined Edition: 1969, p.69.)
That is, Sri Aurobindo means that if the ‘better stuff” (like the famous artists or poets, as you have said) were put to the test, especially if the subconscient part of their being was touched, would they not react like ordinary human beings? The subconscient is indeed the same in everyone — it is full of turbidities and obscurities, it is, in fact, the depot of all the contents of the lower nature like passion, anger etc. Those who are advanced Sadhaks usually suppress these things, or these generally do not well up; but when Sri Aurobindo touches those obscure parts, there is no saying how the Sadhak would react. Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga would not be fulfilled or realised unless the subconscient is totally transformed. Therefore, we have to go through this. (It reminded me of a line of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri, which runs like this: “None can reach heaven, who had not passed through hell.”)
When you first come on this path and open yourself to Sri Aurobindo, you come with the push from your Psychic Being and your Sadhana is initially to bring the Psychic to the front. But you should not stop short at this; you have got to transform your subconscient. So, whenever the Mother and Sri Aurobindo began to put pressure on the subconscient of those famous artists or poets whom you mention, they could not bear the pressure, and suddenly they left the Ashram.
Q: But, was there contact any more between Sri Aurobindo and those persons?
A: The contact remained in spite of all. About one such poet who left the Ashram, Sri Aurobindo said, “I will not leave him.” I asked Sri Aurobindo “You promised that you would not leave him; well?” Sri Aurobindo replied: “I have not left him.” And this applies not merely to that person, but to all. Those who came here, accepted him even for once, then left him because they could not live the yogic life, — he had not forsaken any of them. A Guru never does that — a Guru remains a Guru for ever.
Question: Let me now come to Sri Aurobindo’s great epic Savitri. You are indissolubly linked with the composition of this epic, for you were the scribe of Sri Aurobindo. I would very much like to hear about your experiences in this respect.
Answer: I do not know whether such a thing happened in the case of other poets. The English poet Milton is known to have dictated his poetry; since he was blind and could not write, he dictated his poem to his two daughters. But it is not known whether he dictated all his poetry — I mean the whole of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. We do not know the process of it either. But in the case of Sri Aurobindo, I saw him dictating to me day after day, during a definite period of time each day; during that time he would go on dictating and I would take down line after line.
Q: But I have read in your book, — if I remember correctly — that towards the end Sri Aurobindo used to pause sometimes while dictating.
A: Oh, it was a very short pause. He went on dictating line after line. His entire temperament was calm and steady. Calmly and steadily he dictated, the way I am now talking to you. He had no dramatic manner; in simple words, in an easygoing way, he dictated, as if he was dictating prose. There was no tendency to recite, nor was there any halting — with a lot of pauses — no, none of that.
Q: Do you mean that the dictation did not flow from the mind- plane, that is, it was not the case that Sri Aurobindo first thought out the lines and then dictated?
A: Yes, what we usually mean by thinking was not involved in the dictation — it came from the higher planes. This kind of dictation and writing usually went on for an hour. Before he started dictating from the point where he had stopped the previous day, he would ask me about the context; I read some lines and he began to dictate. Many poets in the world — take Shelley for instance — composed line after line. But I do not know if they could dictate in this way line after line. But I saw Sri Aurobindo could do that. I do not know whether such dictation that maintained the rhythm, the same height and inspiration had ever been possible in poetic history. To my mind, this is one of the aspects of novelty — from the standpoint of dictation — about the epic Savitri.
Take the eleventh book of Savitri — “The Book of Everlasting Day”. Sri Aurobindo composed this book by simply dictating 400-500 lines of it. This is, I suppose, the longest Canto. Personally I would think this is the most magnificent of all the Cantos. Yet how naturally, spontaneously, he dictated about 500 lines of the canto at a stretch, of course on consecutive days. His mind became absolutely silent — the lines simply descended. But this did not make any difference of levels. At the end of composition, he did make some revision — that too came from the higher inspiration.
And what a great poem it is! If you set apart for the moment the subject matter of the poem, and simply think of its language and rhythm, you will see — as Sri Aurobindo himself pointed out — that different levels of inspiration had been at work here, in the initial phase of composition the Inner Mind, the Psychic, the Poetic Intelligence, the Higher Vital. — and in the later phase it’s Higher Mind, the Illumined Mind, the Intuitive Mind, the Overmind. They are also called Overhead planes. But in an overall sense, — particularly, in respect of rhythm — there is what Sri Aurobindo calls an “Overmind” influence. This means that — in so far as the rhythm is concerned — this poem is something like a ‘Mantra’.
Q: Does that mean that this epic, taken in all overall sense, is charged with what Sri Aurobindo had termed the ‘Overmind’ plane of consciousness?
A: Yes, that is true, especially for the rhythm and the atmosphere. When Sri Aurobindo revised later, as I told you, he did not do it by thinking it out. I saw that he waited in silence and called for inspiration — then words and lines descended. I do not know whether this type of composition from an entirely silent mind was ever achieved by any other poet. Perhaps it was possible in the case of Shakespeare; but, I am afraid, it was not such a conscious process for him, as it was for Sri Aurobindo. There are overhead lines in other poets like Milton and Wordsworth but not in a mass.
One more point: Sri Aurobindo did not take poetry as mere poetry — he took it as a part of his Sadhana. He constantly endeavoured to raise poetry to a higher plane, a higher consciousness. In a letter Sri Aurobindo once wrote to me: “… I used ‘Savitri’ as a means of ascension. I began with it on a certain mental level, each time I could reach a higher level I rewrote from that level. Moreover, I was particular — if part seemed to come from any lower levels I was not satisfied to leave it because it was good poetry. All had to be as far as possible of the same mint. In fact ‘Savitri’ has not been regarded by me as a poem to be written and finished, but as a field of experimentation to see how far poetry could be written from one’s own yogic consciousness and how that could be made creative…”
Besides that, I asked him, in a rather lighter vein, why, himself being the master of inspiration and having all higher planes at his command and able to send inspiration to others, he should still have to work so hard; to which he answered: “The highest planes are not so accommodating as all that. If they were so, why should it be so difficult to bring down and organise the supermind in the physical consciousness? What happy-go-lucky fancy-web-spinning ignoramuses you all are! You speak of silence, consciousness, overmental, supramental, etc., as if they were so many electric buttons you have only to press and there you are. It may be so one day, but meanwhile I have to discover everything about the working of all possible modes of electricity, all the laws, possibilities, perils etc., construct modes of connection and communication, make the whole far-wiring system, try to find out how it can be made fool-proof and all that in the course of a life-time.”
So, these are some aspects of the technique of composition of the poem. As for the poem itself, well, it is not merely poetry, it is Mantra — the lines are prophecies, the poet is a seer and a prophet.
Q: I am told the Mother had said somewhere that the reading of Savitri can be a great help to Sadhana. Is that so?
A: Yes, certainly; but you have to read with that attitude; you have to remember that every line of this poem is a Mantra, it is the creation of a Yogi; keep it in mind that every word of a Yogi is charged with power, and then read.
Q: Does that mean that this poem too is charged with a high vibration, as it is the case with the Upanishads?
A: Exactly so. Sri Aurobindo is a great Rishi. As the Mantras of the Rishis descended from higher planes, so it is in the case of Savitri. The quintessence of Mantric Poetry is its rhythm, its rhythm is its very soul. Maybe it was Pythagoras who said somewhere: “The whole world was created with twelve rhythms.” That’s why I would advise you to read this poem in a meditative spirit, not in an intellectual way. If you read intellectually, you may see only the literary value and enjoy its flavour merely from a literary standpoint.
Q: Were all the images that Sri Aurobindo used in Savitri born of direct experiences?
A: Certainly. He himself said: “It is all written from experience.” Take, for instance the Canto “The World Stair”. Whatever he wrote there about the different planes was seen and experienced by him. He went to those planes; when he wrote, he wrote from those planes. If that were not so, would it be possible to write all that stuff even for a highly fertile imagination?
You should note another thing: at the initial stage of composition, this poem was merely ‘A Legend and a Tale’. Many of the lines in it were from the vital mental levels. Then the whole thing was transformed into ‘A Legend and a Symbol’. Most of the composition had gradually come from higher spiritual planes since 1930 or thereabouts. You will find some more hints in Sri Aurobindo’s letters written to Amal Kiran (K.D.Sethna).
Q: Apropos of Savitri, could you kindly say a few words about the response and evaluation by the poets and critics from abroad?
A: There had been some response. You may find it in some issues of Mother India. The appreciative comments of Sir Herbert Read, H. O. White of Trinity College, Dublin, and Professor Raymond Piper of Syracuse University deserve special mention. Professor Piper’s observations are recorded in my Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo. White calls Savitri “truly a remarkable poem”. Sir Herbert Read thinks that Savitri is a strange creation; but he is loth to make any ‘public utterance’. You may find some of his observations on Savitri in a fine book containing the correspondence between K. D. Sethna and the English poet Kathleen Raine. [Taking the cue from Shri Nirodbaran, I have found the book to which he refers here; it is entitled The English Language and the Indian Spirit: Correspondence between Kathleen Raine and K. D. Sethna (1986), edited by K. D. Sethna; in this book Shri Sethna in a brilliant letter to Raine quotes excerpts from a letter written by Sir Herbert Read to A. B. Purani. Sir Herbert wrote: “It is undoubtedly difficult to find readers for poems of the length and sustained creative power of Savitri and the fault must be in the nature of our present western civilisation” (June 5, 1958). The observations of H. O. White whom Shri Nirodbaran quotes are also recorded in this book.]
Q: I would now like to pass on to a different topic. Please say a few words about the nature of the Sadhana that you are at present carrying on in the Ashram. Do you still receive guidance from your Guru?
A: We do receive guidance whenever needed. Besides that, as far as I am concerned, an inner perception has grown — I can see what I should do or what I ought not to do. In a way, now we are passing through a most difficult phase of Yoga — very difficult indeed. Initially when we started Yoga, we had a lot of spiritual experiences — now we have them rarely, one might say these are temporarily suspended (at any rate, this is my experience). Now the Sadhana is going on — how should I put it? — well, it’s going on in the physical consciousness and in the subconscient. The consciousness of these planes is now in process of being gradually transformed. So, this is a very difficult phase — not so much for you who are young and full of energy, as for us. Therefore, one has to go on working now with the right attitude. If we probe deeper, we would see — to give you a bare outline — the subconscient and the Inconscient are the last hurdle on the way to transformation — this hurdle had to be removed. The supramental, or the Truth-Consciousness, is working there; as a positive outcome of the Sadhana of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother the supramental consciousness had already descended and its manifestation too had got under way. Now, it remains to awaken or manifest the supramental that is involved in the subconscient and the Inconscient, or, to put it differently, the supramental consciousness which had descended had to be linked to the supramental consciousness covertly acting in the subconscient and the Inconscient, so that a total change of consciousness in all the parts of the being may become possible. This is, to be very brief, how our Sadhana is now going on here. So, we have to be prepared for this; this is the secret of their work. All the disorder and crisis that you see the world over is, in a way, the outcome of their work. The Truth-Consciousness is churning out all the falsehoods and impurities deep down in the earth-consciousness and purifying it.
Q: Would you, now, say something about the Mother?
A: The Mother! What could I say of her? Frankly, I cannot find words if I try to speak of her. One just cannot imagine who the Mother was! Unimaginable! The Mother had said, “I am not the Guru, Sri Aurobindo is the Guru. I am only the Mother — the Universal Mother. To me there is no great or small. Whoever calls me, I accept him.” Another thing which is remarkable is the Mother’s command over occultism. A great occultist once said that there was no Occultist like the Mother in the past, nor will there be one in the future. To understand the Mother is very difficult!
Q: If one opens oneself to the Mother in a simple, sincere way, does her Force really work? Would you kindly explain exactly how you receive her help?
A: The Mother and Sri Aurobindo are living presences to us. Whatever is happening here, in each person, — well, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo know everything. People do not realise that, but the Mother and Sri Aurobindo know everything. People do not realise that, but the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are so united with everyone, that they know each movement — I can assure you of that. They know in the sense that their consciousness is indissolubly linked with us. Therefore, here we do not venture to take any step on our own — we leave it to the Mother; it is she who will decide.
Q: Do you then mean that even after the Mother or Sri Aurobindo have left their bodies, it is still possible for them to guide you from the subtle planes?
A: Certainly; if it is not so, what is spirituality? Spirit is always present; the Mother is not in her body, but her spirit is here — this is what you do not seem to understand. Spirit is immortal. Look at the matter from a different angle: many ashrams or organizations have grown after their spiritual leader passed away — take for instance, the Sri Ramkrishna Mission, the Christian Mission, etc.; the Buddhist Monasteries, however, started while Buddha was still present; but the Buddhist order flourished after he was gone.
Q: I could not come into contact with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in their life-time, still I have turned to them; would people like me too get help from them like you?
A: Surely you would get their help. If you turn to the Mother, depend on her, have faith in her, she is always with you and you will come to know that during the times of crisis; have trust and rely on her — you should have an unwavering trust and surrender. Even if it is not possible to have it always, but, if for once you have opened yourself to her, accepted her you may rest assured she is with you.
Q: But is that really possible when we have so many limitations?
A: Limitations? It is because you have limitations that you want the Mother. Sri Aurobindo once told us “It is the weak who want the Divine, not the strong”! I wish to transcend my limitations and aspire for perfection, but I cannot do so with my own limited power, hence I ask for the Mother’s help. This much I can tell you, that those who have accepted the Mother have got something in their life. If you accept her and surrender yourself to her all the time, then you are saved. You just cannot imagine what a great refuge it is! Sri Krishna says in the Gita: “Abandon all dharmas (i.e. standards) and take refuge in me alone” — this is the truth and it is constantly borne out here by our concrete experience. I would, therefore, repeat that if you have really taken refuge in the Mother, you need not worry any more.
Q: Excuse me, still the question haunts me: is it really possible to realize concretely that the Guru is guiding the disciple even after he had left his body?
A: Quite possible — and I have already told you that.
Q: I mean I can see your point theoretically, but what I would like to know is how this contact really takes place after the passing away of the Guru — would you kindly explain that through some examples?
A: That they are really guiding you, you will get to realize, if you steadily go on with your Sadhana and keep your mind calm. You have to keep quiet under all circumstances, and have the faith that the Mother will arrange everything. Let me explain, with two or three examples, what a great refuge they are and how they continue to be in contact with us. Let me relate to you first a small incident. Once it so happened that, for certain reasons. I had some fear. I did not tell it to anybody, but kept it to myself. The fear kept on haunting me from time to time, and I tried to shake it off. This went on for a few days; then, one day a friend of mine asked me: “Are you afraid of anything?” I said to him, “Why?” My friend said, “Sri Aurobindo told me: ‘Tell Nirod not to have any fear.’ This incident took place after Sri Aurobindo had passed away. Do you now understand how even with a small vibration in me, their help comes? — what a great burden of ours they have taken upon themselves!
To give you another instance to show how they continue to guide the Sadhana of their disciples. This incident took place within a few years after Sri Aurobindo had passed away. You know, I sleep in his room on the carpet. Suddenly it happened that in the silence of the night around 2-2.30 a.m. I was startled out of my sleep by a thundering voice calling out my name: “Nirod!” I understood that this was the voice of Sri Aurobindo. Only a call — I could not see at first what it meant. Then gradually I understood — from that time on, I meditate at night around 2-30 a.m. You can now surely understand how he guides the Sadhana of a disciple even when he is not physically present.
To give you still another instance to show how they protect us. This is not my own experience, but of someone well-known to me. He was away from home. One day he saw in a dream that the place surrounding his house was on fire and his house too was about to catch fire. Suddenly he saw that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were standing on the roof of his house, and the fire could not ultimately reach his house. He thought perhaps it was merely a dream! Then, one day someone from his family wrote to him saying that there had been indeed an outbreak of fire around his house, but his house had not caught fire and was intact! So, you see, how Sri Aurobindo and the Mother protect those who have really accepted them — again it brings to mind the supreme word of the Gita: “My devotee does not come to grief” — it’s true to the letter! Once you have taken refuge in them, once they have accepted you, rest assured that you need not worry. But, if you are to realize that they are really guiding you, you have to keep your mind calm, have faith in them, surrender yourself completely to them and purify your movements. Then, one day everything will become clear to you.
Q: Then, those of us who have not been able to come into contact while the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were physically present need not be discouraged at all?
A: No, not at all. What do you mean by ‘physically present’? They are here. He is now here — and he knows that I’m talking about all these things to you. So, all of you who have made your surrender to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, need not worry. You have a very bright future. Do your work for them and you will see what happens! But remember one thing: the Adhar must be purified — you will see that much disorder will surge up, but be quiet and have faith in the Mother’s Force and go on.
Q: Let me now pass on to another topic: what attitude should one adopt when one is ill?
A: Usually, what one should do is to have faith in the Mother that she will set one right; pray to her so that you may be all right. Besides that, you should remain calm, take whatever precautions are necessary; you may also do without medicines, if you have so much devotion for the Mother that you do not feel like taking drugs; but not all can have their physical consciousness at that level. Therefore, drugs are needed sometimes. But, above all, have this faith — the Mother is there, and she will protect you.
Q: This brings to my mind an incident you recorded in your book The Mother: Sweetness and Light (1978) [Revised Edition: Memorable Contacts with the Mother]: When the great poet and sadhak Nishikanta was seriously ill in 1956 and it was touch and go, he was taken to the Mother, Nishikanta wanted the Mother to place her foot on his chest and fervently appealed to her that he wished to live; the Mother quietly placed her right foot upon his chest and Nishikanta lived on for seventeen years more!
May I ask you: does the Mother’s grace really work like this with a mere touch of her foot?
A: Why did I write this if it was not really so? I gave a vivid description of all that I had seen with my own eyes. We had occasion to see lots of such incidents.
Q: Nishikanta fell ill thereafter from time to time; even so, he remained cheerful always, is not that so?
A: It is; he had Vairagya — a true spirit of renunciation. In that respect, he was really a wonderful man — he had no attachment to his body.
Q: Don’t you think his poems were of a very high order?
A: Yes, indeed. I should think the poems which he wrote towards the end are not all of that quality, but on the whole he had left behind a superb creation.
Q: Does that mean that he could have filled the void in Bengali poetry by creating an epic?
A: Yes, if he had lived on a few more years, he could have created an epic. But one has to bear in mind that poetry is not the main thing for us — what is important for us is Sadhana; if poetry is an aid to Sadhana, well, it’s all right. You may see this in another way; we could write before Sri Aurobindo met with the accident to his right leg in November, 1938, because he gave us inspiration; after the accident, his sadhana took a different turn and our writing slowed down: for he had then to concentrate on himself, he had to concentrate on world affairs (because of the war). So, how could he concentrate on giving inspiration to us as he had done before?
Q: I think it is certainly true — as you describe in a brilliant chapter “War and Politics” in your book Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo (1973) — that Sri Aurobindo played a major role in the Second World War.
A: Role? — Well, it’s far greater than that. Many European journalists have later admitted that, had Sri Aurobindo not been there, England would have been crushed into oblivion! And who knows what might have happened to India!
Q: What was Sri Aurobindo’s attitude towards Japan? Did he say anything about the bombing of Japan?
A: He did not say anything specific about the bombing, but it is true that he turned the growing tide of Japanese force with his yogic power. We understood Sri Aurobindo’s strategy: When Japan had established its supremacy in the East, Sri Aurobindo had not taken it very seriously; for he thought that if Hitler turned his forces towards the East, Japan might be useful in checking the advance of Hitler. But when Japan’s imperialist design on India became clear to him, he said: “Then I used my Force against Japan.” He also said that he “had the satisfaction of seeing the tide of Japanese victory, which had till then swept everything before it, change immediately into a tide of rapid, crushing and finally immense and overwhelming defeat”.
Q: I would now like to know about meditation. Is there any hard and fast method of meditation? Is meditation possible with the help of poetry, songs and music?
A: We have no fixed method. You may follow whatever method suits you — you may take the help of poetry, songs, music and so on. Whatever helps you to become concentrated and to go within — you follow that. The name of the Mother or Sri Aurobindo can also be helpful. Any work done as an offering to them is another way. Someone once told Sri Aurobindo: “While I meditate, I feel that my head is in the lap of the Mother.” To that, Sri Aurobindo said that this is the right meditation. Whatever helps you to make progress — progress in terms of consciousness-follow that way, there should be no problem.
Q: Thank you. I would now call it a day; but, before we close, please tell me something about our most respected Nolinida. Though you have paid your tribute to him in a fine article in the book Atimanasjatri Nolinikanta (1985), edited by you, I would still like to hear something from you here and now.
A: Nolinida was indeed a great Sadhak who attained the ‘Overmind’ level; initially he was somewhat aloof and brusque, but that did not matter much — he had a very soft heart.
Q: I should think that his writings, especially Purnayoga, Sahityika, Shilpakatha, Banglar Pran, Smritir Pata — all these are unparalleled creations. What do you think?
A: Surely these are wonderful creations. Sri Aurobindo used to say of Nolinida that he had “A remarkable mind”. He was, truly speaking, Sri Aurobindo’s ‘manasputra’. In fact, there was such a flowering of literary and many other gifts in him, because he had that rare gift: Sincerity. You may remember that I wrote in my article “Nolinida” that he too had his shortcomings. But he said that he had to work very hard indeed to overcome them and ultimately what saved him was his completely frank confession of them to the Mother. (See my article Atimanasjatri Nolinida, 1985) — So, you see, it is not impossible for even lesser mortals like us to try to attain perfection! We too can become like Nolinida, if we want to.
Courtesy: Mother India, October & December 1995