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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1933, April (I)

April 1933?

Tagore’s Man about to leave Heaven for Earth (in Tagore’s “Farewell to Heaven”) said to the former in his valedictory jeremiad: “Now at the term of my stay in your hospitable abode I had hoped that you would shed one tear for me: but alas, you, Celestials, are heartless. You don’t seem to miss me even so much as a dry leaf is missed by the parent branch when the former falls to the ground. So —” (I give you the original below) “I bid you adieu as Heaven wants no one” — etc. Qu’en dites-vous? Re what the Mortal says to the Immortals.

Very good poetry, but very bad psychology and no common sense! In the first place, because sorrow being alien to Heaven by the poets own statement, no one who was still there could talk in this strain: even going out of it he would still carry the atmosphere and would have to wait till he was born on earth to emit his first wail. In the second because, no one who had been strong enough to reach Heaven and be a comrade of the Gods, would separate from them in this lachrymose spirit. What he would be likely to say is this: “I depart earthwards since that is the law. One boon only I ask of you, if I merit it, that something of your Light, Strength, Joy and Peace shall be in touch with my mind and treasure in my heart in the midst of Earth’s sorrows and dangers, so that I may bear myself as one who was the companion of the Immortals and rise again to higher and higher Heavens till I touch the feet of the Divine.” As for the question whether Heaven wants Man, the answer is that if Heaven did not want him, he would not want Heaven. It is from Heaven that the longing and aspiration for Immortality have come, and it is the Godhead within him that carries it as a seed.

*   *   *

April 1, 1933

I have read the two poems — they are both exceedingly beautiful. But I should like to read them again before saying anything more.

As for the controversy about Art — I have been churning off a huge mass of arrears of correspondence, and under that burden to think of anything like Art was impossible. But I hope to be able to take it up now.

*   *   *

April 3, 1933

I am feeling fairly well — though not on the top of the weather. I have just finished a fairly long poem, a little in the sad vein, though not melancholy which I’ll send you.

I am much encouraged by your approval of yesterday’s poem. My gratitude.

In the meanwhile please read the letter enclosed. The context: I had sent to Tagore my translation of one of Mother’s prayers. He praised the translation (he genuinely praised three others too I sent him: “Tears”, “Discipline”, “Chaque fois un cœur tressaille,” suggesting the alteration of just a word or two which I thankfully accepted) but wrote to me that in “tomar puraskar” I have committed chhanda patan [break in metre] as gūrha = gū-ra-ha = three syllables [?] whereas I have given it the value of two beats only. […] However that may be, he could not refrain from praising my translations of Mother’s Prayers and A.E.’s “Krishna” and this poem on Shiva, for which I am rather joyous as these must have moved him a little genuinely — otherwise he would not have gone out of his way to bestow me a compliment which naturally I greatly value if it comes from his real appreciation of my achievement. […] However I am glad Tagore is gradually relenting towards me.

(Sri Aurobindo’s reply)

Tagore’s mistake

It is really astonishing and enough to make one gasp. I suppose he wanted to have three syllables from a sense of the length possibilities of the vowel gūrha and invented this hair-raising theory to justify his preference.

*   *   *

April 5, 1933

There is no doubt about the beauty of the poems you have written. But if sometimes — not by any means always — our sweetest songs sprang from saddest feelings, there is a quite different rule both for life and for Yoga. For the life in its progress, for the soul in its ascendance, grief and suffering should be only an incident on the way and the vision look always and steadily to a joy and a glory beyond it — let the gloom pass and look beyond it towards Light.

*   *   *

April 5, 1933

There is no taboo in the Yoga on any feeling that is true and pure, but all the feelings undergo the stress of a pressure from the spiritual consciousness and whatever there is that is mixed, impure, egoistic or the feeling itself if it is fundamentally self-regarding, either disappears or, if it remains, becomes an obstacle to the progress. In the ascetic Yoga all human feelings are regarded as illusory and have to disappear — “the knots of the heart are cut” — so as to leave only the one supreme aspiration. In this Yoga the emotional being has not to be got rid of, but to undergo a transformation; the shortest way of transformation is to turn all the being to the Divine. But when that is done, then it is found that what is pure and true in any human relation survives, but with a rich and subtle change, or else new relations are established that come straight from the Divine. If, however, something resists the change, then it is quite possible that there may be an oscillation between blank indifference or vairāgya [disgust with the world] and the indulgence of the untransformed feeling — the human vital on one side, the disillusioned Vairāgi [renunciate] on the other side. Some even have to pass through this vairāgya in order to reach the possibility of a divinised emotional nature, but that is not the normal movement of this Yoga.

As for being self-centred, it is obviously not the right thing for Yoga to be centred in the ego and revolving round it; one has to be centred in the Divine with all the movements turning round that centre — until they can all be in the Divine. One has naturally to think much of one’s own nature and its change, but that is inevitable for the sadhana — to prevent its turning into a self-centred condition, the aspiration to the Divine, vision of the Divine everywhere, the surrender to the Divine have to be made the main objective of the sadhana.

*   *   *

April 8, 1933

I must ask you not to act precipitately like this, but to wait for my answer. I have never got tired or given you up and there is no reason why you should think I am doing so now. If I did not answer immediately, it was because I had to consider what was the best to do — it did not mean any acquiescence in your proposal to give up and go away. I have never assented to that and I cannot do so.

You must give me a little time to see how matters can be set right. I don’t think you can really mean to desert us in this precipitate way because of a hard and difficult moment.

*   *   *

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