This is reprint of an article, originally appeared at Auroville Today No 352-353, Nov. 2018, including photograph of Rajan. Other photographs were taken on March 29, 2019 by Arvind Akki.
In a quiet back street of Edayan-chavadi village there is a neat house. Beside it is a beautiful garden of plants and creepers with a magnificent statue of Ganesh. When you step through the front door you are in a welcoming hallway. Across the hall is a meditation room with pictures of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. The whole house breathes a special peace and care. This is Brahmanaspati Kshetram, a Centre dedicated to The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. It is the loving creation of Rajan, the modest man who shows you around. Here is his story.
Rajan was born in Tindivanam, thirty kilometres from Auroville, in February 1980, but went to live with his grandmother, daughter of a renowned astrologer and an astrologer herself, in Pondicherry. Rajan’s grandmother had attended several darshans of The Mother, but she did not really feel very connected to Her. Whereas when Sri Aurobindo passed away, she was in the queue to see his body as she really wanted to have His final darshan. But when she reached the Ashram gate, she was told he had already been put in the Samadhi. Rajan’s grandmother always had a deep connection with Sri Aurobindo.
When Rajan was four and half years old his mother passed away. His grandmother became mentally disturbed as this had been her only child. Together with Rajan, she ended up living on the streets of Pondicherry.
It was a life full of struggle but also filled with moments of kindness, deep concern and support from people around. Many Ashramites were kind to him and tried to help him. Rajan spent a lot of time in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Library with the gate man whose calendar picture of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo stayed in Rajan’s heart. From his childhood he enjoyed festivals as they often meant gifts, sweets and good food. He particularly remembers Saraswati Puja being celebrated every year in the Ashram Library, when Ganesh’s statue would be placed between photos of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
At one point, a German lady called Ursula Guthoerl, who had lived in Auroville during the 1980s but now lived in Luxembourg, took a keen interest in Rajan’s wellbeing. During her annual visits to Pondicherry, she tried to take care of Rajan’s education but his grandmother would not cooperate.
COMING TO AUROVILLE
Finally, in 1991 Ursula came with two of her Aurovilian friends, Durai and Hans from Agni community, who offered to take Rajan to Auroville in order to look after him. Strangely enough, Rajan’s grandmother readily agreed to part from him, when previously she had refused all proposals by others. In a few weeks Rajan moved to Durai’s parent’s house in Edayanchavady, from where he moved to Agni Community a year later.
To catch up with schooling, Rajan was first taken to Isaiambalam School, from where he moved to Udavi School. Schooling was very difficult. The teachers didn’t know what to do with him as he had to start everything from the scratch.
While in Udavi School, Ursula, who was by now his foster mother, was supporting him financially from abroad. Once Rajan asked Ursula for a big statue of Ganesh. She readily granted this. The following year he celebrated Ganesh’s birthday in a grand manner, spending a lot of money for it, as since his childhood he had felt very close to Ganesh. When Ursula came to know about it, she couldn’t believe that so much money had been used for the celebration. She thought he had misused the money and so he refused to support him anymore, suggesting that he find a job to support himself and his grandmother.
Rajan was deeply shocked by this incident. He was forced to stop his studies after the 9th standard and moved to land in Edayanchavady village which had been bought earlier for his grandmother by Ursula. Thus, from 2001 for some years his grandmother and Rajan stayed together once again, looking after each other.
For a year Rajan did not have a job. That was a difficult period. Rajan cycled down to the Ashram every day to sit by the Samadhi. Finally, after some struggle, he found a good job in the Auroville Town Hall as an office assistant. This allowed him to discover Auroville and to connect with the people there in a fresh manner.
From his childhood, Rajan felt very closely connected to Ganesh. One day, when he was still living in Agni Community, he came across a letter written by The Mother to an early disciple, Madanlal Himatsingka, which made him realize how deeply The Mother and Ganesh were connected. In the letter She says that Ganesh appeared to Her and said: “Each one must invoke Ganesh according to his own feeling – the traditional way is not necessarily the best.”
Though he had read this letter earlier, he understood the full meaning of it only after the unfortunate incident with Ursula. That letter was a big eye-opener that helped him understand the relativity of pujas and religious ceremonies, things he had been so much interested in earlier. He felt that he was introduced to the real Ganesh by The Mother – he received the way to the inner approach – while at the same time he felt that Ganesh was introducing The Mother and Sri Aurobindo to him.
Growing up around the Ashram, Rajan was aware of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. When he moved to Auroville, in the early years he even had some dreams of Them, yet he did not really feel a close connection until 2003, when he had a dream which linked all his earlier dreams together.
In Rajan’s words:
“I was with a lot of luggage on the road right in front of the playground gate. I knew that The Mother was inside the playground. I had three different kinds of flowers (Aspiration, Transformation and Radha’s Consciousness) with me and I wanted to offer them to The Mother. I went to the gate and it was half open; I saw all the Ashramites sitting in front of The Mother. The Mother was meeting everyone individually. I went in and I was the second person in the queue. I offered the flowers at Her feet; as the flowers fell at Her feet they turned into something like puff-rice. With all my devotion I put my head at Her lotus feet, than The Mother removed Her left foot and put it on top of my head. I was crying and crying nonstop. I felt that I had had such a privilege to have such a blessing. The Mother, after blessing me, gave me a Blessing Packet and a small booklet and two blank cheques. She smiled and said “It’s for you”. Receiving all these from The Mother I moved away, weeping in joy. I heard one sadhak saying what a lucky person he is.
“I felt the cheques didn’t mean money or any material thing. It meant that She had taken me fully; that She would look after me and I would receive the necessary guidance from Her. It was clearly an initiation.”
Before that dream Rajan had a strong feeling that there was something he had to do, but he did not know exactly what. After that dream it became clear to him that he had to start a centre. He asked Nishtha to give it a name. As Nishtha knew Rajan was very fond of Ganesh and that he wanted a Vedic name, he suggested ‘Brahmanaspati’. But Rajan didn’t want just plain Brahmanaspati, so Nishtha added ‘Kshetram” which means field. Thus Brahmanaspati Kshetram would mean ‘field of action for the power and expression of divine soul’ which he liked very much because it also links it to the work of Mother and Sri Aurobindo. In fact, he added ‘The Mother and Sri Aurobindo Centre’ to the title to make the connection with Them explicit.
His grandmother passed away in 2009 and in 2010 Rajan married Kasthuri, an Aurovilian. Meanwhile, he got in touch with his foster mother once more.
THE CENTRE SEEMS FAR AWAY
In 2011 Kasthuri gave all her money for completing the house and his foster mother gave him some money too. Because Rajan had told Kasthuri before the marriage that he wished to have a centre, Kasthuri built a room upstairs for that.
Although the house was completed in 2011, the Centre did not materialize right away. After their marriage, they felt that they were too young to start a centre, that they should have a family first. Their daughter was born in 2012. The manifestation of the Centre seemed far away, but he started making cards with the name of the Centre and with quotations from The Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
One day, Saravanan from Palani came to attend a seminar in Auroville and picked up one of these cards. He phoned Rajan and said, “Your card is very beautiful. Tell me about this Centre.”
When Rajan told him his ideas, Saravanan became very interested. After that, whenever he came to Pondicherry Ashram for Darshans, he would come and stay with Rajan, and they would talk until late at night.
Rajan had made a compilation of all that The Mother and Sri Aurobindo had said on Ganesh for which he wanted a facsimile of The Mother’s original writing. He was also creating a ‘fairy garden’. He had heard that Sunanda-ben, a senior sadhak from Sri Aurobindo Ashram, was connected to fairies and she could also help him to get a copy of the document he wanted. So Rajan contacted her for both these reasons. She said she would call him when she had time…but she didn’t call.
Later, by chance he met her at Unity Pavilion in December 2013 when she was visiting with two of her friends. Rajan talked to them about the fairy garden. The two friends were very keen on visiting the garden, so the three of them came to the house. When Sunanda-ben saw the garden, she was very much touched. She said that there are beautiful beings there and that Rajan should take good care of the place.
THE SEED IS SOWN
Then he invited them to the meditation room. Sunanda-ben sat there for some time. Rajan placed the board bearing the name of the Centre on Sunanda-ben’s lap. It was then that Rajan told them about the project for the Centre. They were very touched. Rajan felt it was a very significant moment. Through the presence of Sunanda-ben, a senior sadhak,The Mother had sown a seed.
From that moment, everything seemed to happen by itself. The 29th March 2014, the centenary of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s first meeting, was a special Darshan day.
Rajan, Kasthuri, Rajan’s daughter and Saravanan went for Darshan in Pondicherry. Later, at the same time that The Mother and Sri Aurobindo had originally met, at 3 pm, the four of them inaugurated the Centre. They held a silent meditation. Everything was simple and extremely beautiful.
The aim and aspiration of the Centre was put together through a few quotations from the book White Roses, which was compiled and published by Huta. On that day these quotations were framed and installed permanently at the Centre as the guiding spirit. The words are:
To my dear little child
Aspire only to the Divine
Love only the Divine
Work only for the Divine
Serve only the Divine
Be attached only to the Divine
Want only the Divine
Seek only the Divine
Only adore the Divine
At first, the Centre was just the meditation room upstairs. Rajan and Kasthuri would clean it every day, but they only opened it to the public at Darshan times and on Ganesh’s birthday. In September, 2016, Rajan moved with his family to the Courage Community. Then Ayyanar K and Helena B joined the project as trustees, and in December, 2016 Brahmanaspati Kshetram was registered as an Auroville Activity under Village Action Trust.
Slowly, activities began. Today the Centre has a library with books of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo and their disciples, in both English and Tamil. There are also six panels depicting six scenes from Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri created by Sunanda-ben.
Presently they hold weekly meditations on Thursdays, and seven reading circles every month in Tamil and English, led by Buvana Sundari, Dhanalakshmi and Rama Narayana. Every full moon there is the chanting of Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri mantra and regular exhibitions related to The Mother and Sri Aurobindo are held. The last exhibition was held for Auroville’s 50th birthday on The Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s Blessing Packets. It was a great honour for Auroville because it is the first time that such a selection of historic Blessing Packets have been exhibited anywhere.
Rajan would like to open the Centre full-time to the public and hold more events to bring people together in a common aspiration to serve The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, but at present this is difficult as additional manpower and financial support are required. The Project Coordination Group has graciously supported the purchase of some equipment. In fact, the Centre has only been improving since its inception, and Rajan would like at least to be able to sustain all that has been achieved by Her Grace, leaving the future at Her Feet.
Today, when Rajan looks back he realizes how all his life has been woven together around this Centre and every woman who came into his life has been a support for the work. Rajan’s grandmother, who looked after him and for some reason wished to live near Auroville in Edayanchavady, Ursula, who opened up new possibilities for him and supported his grandmother’s wish by buying her the land where the Centre is established today, and Kasthuri, his wife, who with her selfless dedication is ready to journey with Rajan all the way along this path. He feels deep gratitude to them all.
As told to Alan. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org