(Manager of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Hand Made Paper and Occultist for the New Age)
In the mid morning hours of Sunday December 22, 2002 I hailed a rickshaw and went bouncing along the dusty roads on the Bazaar side of the Pondicherry canal heading towards Sri Aurobindo Ashram Hand Made Paper. The paper factory is north of the main Ashram compound and is situated in the midst of a dense and cool grove of coconut palms forever thick with a battalion of pesky little mosquitoes buzzing around and ready for attack.
Anurakta, whose name was given by the Mother, and means Lovingly Devoted — One Enamoured, is a sensitive man with a round face and fair skin. His eyes are deep blue and though he speaks with a slight stammer he has great inner strength and possesses a highly developed capacity for mental concentration.
We have been friends for many years and when I arrived he was quietly sitting in his small cottage nestled in the grounds of the paper factory. We had known one another since the early 1960s when Narad, Eleanor Montgomery, Sam Spanier and I formed a business in New York for importing the Ashram’s hand made paper. We sat and reminisced about the paper business days also remembering our mutual friend, the late Marilyn Widman, from New York City, who had lived in the Ashram for many years and worked for Sri A.B. Patel in the World Union publication offices. The three of us used to sit in the Government Park and talk about sadhana and people as we watched the myriad forms of life move past us engaged in their repeated daily round of activities. There were small, thin Tamil men in bullock carts, beggars, pigs, goats, hungry, wild-looking dogs with exposed rib bones, motorbikes, mopeds, rickshaws, bicycles, naked babies and dark skinned women and children in brightly colored clothing. Pondicherry was then and still is, an ongoing festival of sights and sounds and smells.
I conducted the interview in Anurakta’s Puja room where all his statues of the Hindu pantheon of Gods and Goddesses sit immobile in their power poses. He dresses them ornately in jewels and rich, silk saris. They stared piercingly into the atmosphere as though they were privy to my innermost thoughts. The room was permeated with their electrical energy, yet there existed, also, a palpable calm. After a moment of quiet reflection I put the following questions to Anurakta:
Where were you born?
I was born Anthony David Rochelle in Bournemouth, England on February 5, 1932.
What is the history and background of your family? What were their religious beliefs?
My mother’s side of the family was rural and they were farmers from the west of England. My father’s people were brewers from the north of England whose ancestors had originally come from France to escape religious persecutions. I did not know my paternal grandfather. My mother’s father was a watch and clock repairman. My religion was Congregational Methodist. It was no more than a formality and tradition. After my grandfather died I went to church mostly alone.
What were your special talents? What were your childhood ambitions?
I had no special talents. My parents split up at the beginning of world war II and after many difficulties my mother remarried in order to give my sister and me a home. I did not like her husband and having developed a stammer I began writing poetry. I knew nothing about other religions but wanted early on to be a hermit in Arabia or a “tramp” (vagabond or gypsy) in England! At one time I entertained the idea of entering the church ministry but the stammer ended that. I also wanted to be a fashion designer.
Were you aware of a spiritual presence in your childhood and when did you first aspire deeply for the spiritual life?
I was slightly aware as I had one or two uplifting experiences in church as a child but I began to aspire for a truly spiritual life in East Africa in my late twenties when I discovered Hinduism.
How do you see your early life as being influential to your coming to the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo?
Non-attachment! I also now realize the Divine hand that was involved in taking a stammering nineteen-year-old to Central Africa who then hitch-hiked through Central East Africa to Kenya and later on to an exploration of India in 1960.
How did you learn of Mother and Sri Aurobindo and when did you come to live in the Ashram?
I was told about Mother and Sri Aurobindo in Nairobi, Kenya. I attended some meetings there and planned a month’s visit to the Ashram in 1960.
Can you describe darshan of the Mother? What experiences did you have with her?
Darshan of the Mother always overwhelmed me. She appeared to be so vast and all-powerful. But I never truly felt a personal intimacy with her.
Why not? What does that mean exactly?
Well, when I heard about people putting their heads on her lap or writing to her and closing with “Your child”, I found this difficult.
I saw her as the Universal Mother rather than the personal Mother. I had more of a psychic relationship with both Mother and Sri Aurobindo. They were both very much in my heart center.
In 1960, when I visited, I had asked her if I could stay on. She did not grant this wish at that time. However, in July 1961, through Ambu, she called me to come.
Straightaway from the day of my arrival, she gave me my work in the paper factory. The next week I went to her salon darshan. I saw that everybody had a rose to give her and I had nothing so I felt inspired to take off my grandfather’s gold wedding ring, which I wore, and gave it to her instead of a rose. She looked most surprised!
Later my colleague, Reba, and I went to have her darshan on the last day of every month in her top floor room. I was trying to develop our stationery section and each month I would take Mother a new design of stationery. She always displayed the greatest delight and pleasure over it. At that time we had a very good gardener at the paper factory and on my birthdays he would always prepare a huge bouquet of flowers, leaves and ferns for me to take with me for Mother. One year I decided the customary single red rose would be more appropriate as my huge bouquet seemed to drop leaves all over me and appeared so untidy. But a friend who worked with Mother reported that when my name was read out from the birthday list for the coming week she said, “He always brings me such a lovely bouquet.” So it continued in this way.
One year when my birthday was on a Monday I went with a friend on the Sunday before and gathered white lotus flowers from a village pond. I looked after them as best I could. When I finally got into her room for her blessings the lotuses looked to me to be very bedraggled and pathetic. But Mother received them with enormous pleasure, which of course lifted me up and up.
When I first had a balcony darshan of the Mother it seems that she said to Sri Madhav Pandit, “Does that man know about occultism?” Madhav said, “I don’t think so.” Mother said, “Behind him there stands a tall, dark figure.” Was it Kali?
In the late 1960s I had begun to work with self-hypnosis. I experimented with past life regression and as far back as I could remember. Suddenly I saw that I had been a herdsman in Central Asia (Afghanistan or Mongolia) north of the Himalayas. I had been grazing cattle for the summer and had come back to my village. I had been experimenting with black magic and upon return to my village my young wife intuited changes in me and knew of the black magic practices. She would have nothing to do with me and I was an outcast in the community. I then went higher into the foothills and lived as a sadhu, as a hermit growing my own food, and found an ancient goddess figure statue. An arm fell from the statue onto my body and killed me. In my subsequent life my being was searching for the “goddess”. When I found Mother I realized her to be the goddess figure I was worshipping and to whom I wished to be totally surrendered. Later on the Mother confirmed this. After this surrender Mother and Sri Aurobindo put another being into my body for my spiritual growth and I became more Hindu-oriented. This was all realized towards the end of the 1960s.
Could you describe the atmosphere of the Ashram when Mother was still in her physical body and the difference since that time?
I feel the main differences are 1) daily life from the balcony darshan onwards focussed on and around Mother’s physical presence. We also had to ask permission for everything i.e. to go to Madras, etc. Everything for our sadhana and work was decided by the Mother. 2) Now the Ashram is larger, the work is perhaps more demanding and complex and there are many more visitors. The samadhi was always peaceful and with relatively few people praying and meditating there. Now it is always crowded. Pondicherry itself is much noisier and larger which affects our daily life. We are therefore drawn inwards much more with a deeper compulsion to realize Mother and Sri Aurobindo on an inner level within ourselves. If one is sincere one is compelled to find her inside. When she was here there was much more concern with her outwardly. It was said that when Mother left her body it was easier for those ashramites to adjust who had little daily contact with her physically, and who had already strongly established the inner contact, as opposed to those who dealt with her on a daily basis for business and the like.
What has life been like for you since Mother left her body? In what way has your sadhana changed?
My inner life, devotion and aspiration are now more concentrated. Naturally, with age, one develops more deeply the spiritual sense.
What changes do you see taking place in the Ashram in the future? In the same manner what do you see in Auroville’s future? Will the two creations of the Mother work more closely together?
For the Ashram outwardly, perhaps, there will be no great changes from now on but certainly a deeper yogic intensity and integral progress will manifest in more and more disciples. Mother’s living presence and continual guidance is always there — strong and positive.
For Auroville at some time in the future I see a vaster occult splendor and a deeper inner sense of union with the Ashram.
What do you see specifically?
It will become necessary for some people to do a deeper tapasya. The raw physical-vital forces present in the very land of Auroville must be dealt with. This has not been dealt with sufficiently. The Matrimandir will have a tremendous effect on this. Auroville land is of the raw earth. In the surrounding villages the deities are simple, rural and primitive. The concerns are for crops, food, rainfall and so forth. The spirits are very elemental. These reigning deities resent a push towards transformation and change. These old occult powers see people moving away from ancient practices, devotion to old deities and going towards the future and the new creation. Some intense tapasya is needed by residents of Auroville in order to correct this and to help Auroville become more grounded in the Presence of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Occultism has not been a part of Ashram life. Mother felt it would be misused. One must have little or no ego to practice occultism. Ancient occultism has become dark. Occultism for the New Age needs new light, force and a higher vibration.
Has your guidance from Mother and Sri Aurobindo revealed anything to you about the Western world and its spiritual progress?
The Western world is burdened by its subconscious memories and its past. It is all sadly complex.
What do you mean by this? What are those subconscious memories?
For instance there is great agony in the German people as they sit on the subconscious memories of their terrible history of warfare and conflict. Other Europeans feel similarly with regard to their histories.
America is truly an escape route to freer understanding of life. It is a place of refuge. It has a good future and a very important role to play. America has more physical space than Europe and this is useful and helpful to the human spirit. An expansion of physical space is more helpful for the inner life.
Also the Western world is burdened by an over-emphasis on mental constructions. It seems that Science drags its mental feet with no sense, yet, of exploration of the higher regions of the mind as outlined by Sri Aurobindo. Also the Western world seems to need a stronger sense of Bhakti [devotion], a deeper spiritual adoration of the Divine. This will come about through Indian leadership.
Through a process of contact with the Eastern thought by reading Sri Aurobindo. In Russia now Satprem’s Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness has had tremendous outreach and George Van Vrekhem’s Beyond the Human Species is also widely read in the West. The teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Aurobindo and other influences from the East have been enormously beneficial for the West. They are breaking down the great divisions and narrowness that existed between the two cultures.
Would you give advice to new spiritual aspirants that would help in their development and help them to integrate their lives in the world with its focus on materialism and the vital life, or is each better off seeking their own way?
My main advice is:
1) Silence the mind by concentrating on Sri Aurobindo’s name and allow the breathing to become slower and deeper.
2) Imagine, discover and realize the presence of the Mother in the heart center. When one can surrender to her in the heart, she takes up the Yoga of Transformation from that level in the way she knows to be the best.
3) Try to surrender one’s past — all of it, as the Mother surrendered to Sri Aurobindo. This also helps in purifying the subconscious.
4) Read from the beginning. Don’t begin, as many do, with the Agenda. When I asked Mother in 1961 what I should read first, she said Essays on the Gita.
Is there a disadvantage in never having seen Mother in her physical body?
Surely there must be. She could look at you deeply and know who you were and choose the right work for you. I would not have chosen the paper factory for myself. I would have said “Put me in the library”, or something like that. But to have been given your special work by the Mother was very important and helpful. In around 1971 I wrote to the Mother asking her about my work in the Paper Department. She said “It is a time of good work and sincerity. Continue.” I have gained so much by simply doing that and not listening to other people’s advice and guidance. The Handmade Paper Department has developed enormously. In the beginning I did the posting, banking, typing, attendance record, accounting, designing and all. Now we have a huge export market and staff, but it is she who is behind it all. This is always absolutely very obvious and clear to me.
How did you come to be directed to practice occultism and healing?
In December of 1979 I went to a book fair and found a book on the I CHING. I was most interested in how, by dividing up the sticks, one could get answers. Was it coming from the subconscious or was it the higher consciousness? I asked this question. Also in 1979, after many years, I visited England again. Returning to India I purchased a book in the airport on occultism in England. There was a section on divining (water divining). In Ambu’s room I took cotton and hung it over an apple and with a ring I made a pendulum. To my astonishment it moved largely. This had a strong impact on me. I went into this study more deeply. When I developed this I did not settle with “Yes” and “No” and “I don’t know” answers. I hung the pendulum over objects and wrote words and watched its movements. I analyzed this and discovered there were twelve specific movements of the pendulum that mean inner harmony, outer harmony, outer actions, inner actions, etc. You have to get the exact meaning and you have to count the number of times it gives the same action. If there are fifteen movements up and down it is a “hill” and if there are fifty movements it is “the Himalayas”!! I kept a notebook of all these analyses. With the help of the pendulum I could look at handwriting and photographs and know what kind of person it was. If someone wanted to see me and there was a very negative force, sometimes I would have to reject seeing them and discourage a meeting, but not often. I felt I had a duty to the Mother to see and help everyone who came to me.
Mother approved this work fairly early on and guided me in it. One could be connecting with the pendulum to lower powers, but early on I started my sessions with mantras given by the Mother. I always refer to Mother and Sri Aurobindo in this work. It is necessary to be careful to maintain a silent mind. Any mental agitation must be stopped. If there is a mental formation it can influence the movement of the pendulum. I began by using the circle of ABC’s from the middle of the circle. I silence the mind, then I can hear Mother softly speaking. I use the pendulum for signature readings and to check for right answers. I only do this in my office or room, not in people’s homes. The pendulum is the key for me to the silencing of the mind and then to the receptivity to the Mother’s guidance. More and more she helps and guides people from many parts of India — mostly family problems. I place a lot of importance on Sri Aurobindo’s name as a mantra.
This basic knowledge and ability led me to the consciousness of stones — especially granite, as a result of which I have acquired statues and small stones for “research”. Also I work with the healing power of numbers in the form of mantras and yantras.
If I pick up a stone, I put the pendulum over the stone. If it is an ordinary stone it gives off ten to fifteen movements. I put the pendulum over the stone, then I keep the stone touching the photo of Mother for several hours after which the pendulum begins to register up to three hundred movements. At the Ramana Maharshi Ashram in the Arunachala mountains, sacred to Lord Shiva, every stone picked up there is blazing with light and energy. The Samadhi also radiates these kinds of power waves to transform the earth.
An Ashram woman has been helping me with this research. We kept stones in different colored boxes, each stone vibrated differently. We came to realize that the surface of the stone changes but its core remains the same.
Someone came to a shop with a sapphire and wanted to sell it. The sapphire belonged to a family who had nothing left and needed the money. It had been in the forehead of a goddess in a temple and some ancestor had stolen it. It wasn’t sold because people in India don’t wear sapphires. It ended up in Pondicherry and they put it in a bank vault. The elder daughter, who was friendly with me, said there was something wrong in their lives, no one was getting married. She told me the story of the sapphire. She showed it to me and I measured it — it was positively evil, with a terrible vibration! I asked her to leave it with me overnight to be placed by Mother’s photo. The next day it was normal. The Mother had absorbed the violence from it. I advised the girl not to keep it but to place it in the Smithsonian Museum. This was not done. They kept the stone and it absorbed the bad vibration again. The family continues to experience bad luck to this day.
There are thousands of souls in need of help; health, marriage, education, finances. In Orissa there are more people concerned with their inner lives. By and large it is mostly Indians who come to me.
How do you protect yourself?
I receive an average of five letters per day, as well as phone calls and e-mails seeking guidance and personal consultations. This can be very tiring.
I use the Mother’s mantra. I surrender to her. She answers the letters. Two hours is the absolute maximum I can work. While working this way I am okay. If I need to make any changes I seek help from the Mother.
I will tell you a story:
A man came from Orissa; a tall, handsome man who had an Ashram there.
He had linked up with a tantric guru in New Delhi who had disciples in New Delhi. This guru gave him a tantric mantra and the man went home and for two to three months for eight hours a day he repeated the mantra! After some time he began shouting and screaming and had completely lost control. He kept ranting and screaming. He checked with his guru in New Delhi and found that one syllable in the mantra was mispronounced. From this mistake had come a violent reaction in him.
Afterwards he went to Ramakrishna Mission and ultimately to Mother and Sri Aurobindo. When he next came to see me he said, “What is the best thing for me?” I told him to repeat Sri Aurobindo’s name and then all would be okay. This is the sort of work that I do.
I am also working more with numbers now for access to occult powers. The Mother had told me, “Don’t do what has been done before.” There are new ways of becoming more aware of the occult worlds. The protection is needed when one is doing the Integral Yoga in particular. Extra power, force and protection are needed and numbers are one way of achieving this. I am not a visionary person. One cannot have all the powers to be had, but my vital being can detach itself and travel off to other levels. Some years ago I flew over the Himalayas. I went to a spot in Central Asia. When I entered a doorway there was a long hall full of men from around the world; bankers, politicians. In an alcove was the leader whom I initially did not see. I came through the door and sat down. They spoke of attacking and destroying the world, commerce, etc. One man started to verbally attack Sri Aurobindo. I stood up and retaliated. Everyone looked and said, “Who is he?” Then the being in the alcove said, “Catch him.” I flew out of the door, chased by all these people. I flew over China and crossed the Himalayas and they could not follow. India has a special protection and they fell back, exhausted. Is this something to be feared? This evil can be conquered with enough spiritual knowledge. We may condemn Western commerce and industry for expanding globally, but it will have a very beneficial effect. There is at present so much darkness in the world.
Now that you are in your seventies, what has yoga done for you at this stage in your life? Can you give me an assessment of your forty-plus years in the Ashram?
I feel that I have grown tremendously within. I often use the pendulum on my own signature. When I came here I was just a simple but sincere young seeker. Now I have more ability, knowledge and have learned how to develop a silent mind. I repeat Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s names as a mantra and feel their presence always.
Mother said, “Never stop striving for perfection.” This is a strong motto for my life and one that motivates my life and work and sadhana.
Anurakta with Dieties in his puja room, Aug. 1995
Kali deity and other statues, Aug. 1995