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  Home > Excerpts from Other Books > Pilgrims of the Stars

P i l g r i m s   o f   t h e   S t a r s

Whoever picks up this book is bound for a big surprise. For Dilip does not write his autobiography, he sings it. And that is as it should be. An artist who lives his life as a symphony ought to sing every bit of it as an enchanting melody.

Actually, this is the autobiography of a remarkable couple of artists: Dilip, the musician and philosopher, and Indira, the dancer and visionary poetess. What a combination! One would have to search a long way to find again such an account of a combined life of inspiration.

Dilip is a man of the highest aristocracy who attracts practically all the leading philosophers and statesmen of India as his friends and companions and manages to get in touch with leading spirits of Europe. Few are left out. That alone would make this book valuable as a source of personal information about so many great men. But beyond these exciting contacts there is always the voice of Dilip to be heard in its immense capacity of reverberation.

Naturally in a time like ours, when the so-called mysterious East is investigated and admired by millions of young people eagerly searching for an answer to their never ending quest, the appeal of such a highly personalized account of spiritual adventure by a leading Indian would be great.

But beyond that, it is the altogether human feeling, far beyond any racial or geographical specialty, that sounds through all these chapters. Here a man and a woman are talking to us beyond the difference of centuries or continents.

Whoever has read Dr. C. G. Jung's autobiography will agree that today no one ought to write such a book without having been stimulated by this unusual approach into the depths of the soul. And nobody will be bored by meaningless accounts of outer events, to which very few pages in Dilip's book are devoted. As Sri Aurobindo wrote in one of his personal letters to Dilip (talking about the life of Krishna):

What matters is the spiritual Reality, the Power, the influence that came with him or that he brought down by his action and his existence. First of all, what matters in a spiritual man's life is not what he did or what he was outside to the view of the men of his time (that is what historicity or biography comes to, does it not?) but what he was and did within: it is only that that gives any value to his outer life at all.

Aurobindo is Dilip's guru. I hope he will not consider it too presumptious when accordingly I call myself his gurubhai; i.e., the follower of the same teacher, inwardly and deeply connected by a mysterious bond. Presumption it certainly is, for while Dilip had constant contact with that greatest of Indian minds through several decades, I had but the privilege of facing him eye to eye for five seconds. But quantity vanishes into nothing when quality is so overwhelming. When in 1949 I was in eager search of the message of India, I contacted and even lived with most of the Masters and Yogis in their ashrams. Naturally I was aware of Dilip and his enormous reputation as an artist and made an effort in Calcutta to meet him. He was singing upstairs in a private mansion in a huge old park and my taxi driver had, as often, the hardest time finding that place. When I arrived, the performance was in full swing and I, being too shy to open the door to the room, sat down in the hallway just to be enchanted for a long time by the sounds of Dilip's voice, muffled by thick wooden doors. He never knew I was there.

A month later Dilip, Indira and I met person to person, or rather soul to soul, in Pondicherry. It was the great day of Sri Aurobindo's Darshan, when the great man, living mostly in complete solitude, came out of hiding to thus "become visible" to his many devotees. More than two thousand of them had come to the ashram in Pondicherry. I was appalled at seeing that huge crowd, the way a traveler feels when he reaches his destination only to find that it is overcrowded by swarms of tourists. But I was a spiritual sightseer, eager to have a good long look at what I was after. I indicated this desire to the secretary of the ashram, pointing out that I had come to this place from farther away than anyone else and that I most certainly would take my time. "Oh," he replied, "but you must not do that; how long would Sri Aurobindo have to sit there if everybody would linger longer than five seconds? That will be your appointed time. And, incidentally," he added; "when your doctor in America sends you a bill for ten dollars for X-Ray treatment received, do you then reply to him saying that the treatment lasted only five seconds and you would not pay his bill unless he would give you a much longer one? No, you will not," he said, "for more of this treatment will burn you severely." So I was squatting there in the garden with thousands of others waiting patiently, till the voluntary "policemen" of the ashram directed my group closer and even closer to the entrance of the building, where Sri Aurobindo was sitting upstairs.

Then it was that the thought came to me; here I sit waiting to look at a very old man for a few seconds-this may easily turn out to be the greatest disappointment of my life. Sure, I have read a shelfful of the philosophical books of this genius, but looking at him, what will it amount to?

Finally the great moment came. Events like that can be described only by circumscribing the circumstances under which they occur. The event itself is, as it were, the blind spot around which everything happens and arranges itself, but which remains the invisible focus of all. Thus, I will only tell that, walking downstairs, the thought came to me: gee, that was much more than I had expected! For it dawned upon me that instead of only looking at him, as I had expected, he had looked at me! Oh!

As I left the ashram gate a young devotee sold to me a photograph of Sri Aurobindo and said the unforgettable words: "Sir, you will please remember that this photograph shows you only the body of Sri Aurobindo." Well, that would be true of any photograph, but, I had to admit, it was particularly true of this one.

If the experience of the Darshan could be summed up in a few words, I would have to say it was an amazing and everlasting shock to behold to what extreme height of perfection the human face can be developed. Sri Aurobindo certainly became my guru during these five seconds, though I do not follow the monotheistic rule of India, which allows only one guru to you and one only. I have had other gurus like Rudolf Otto, Paul Tillich, Martin Heidegger, C. G. Jung, and their part is not to be belittled.

These and other things were discussed at breakfast two days later with Dilip and Indira, and again when he was singing at the ashram in his magnificant gown and cap-a most handsome fellow indeed! Dear Dilip, I have gone astray with my tale. It remains for me to wonder, when five seconds could mean so much to your gurubhai, how huge must have been the transforming power of that Spirit to a man who, like you, was privileged to be in such close contact for almost a lifetime! Are you still just yourself or have you become a reflection of something towering over all human possibilities?

Singing and dancing are in many parts of India considered to be the highest forms of Yoga. The Bhagavadgita says that Yoga is skill in action. We know that to be accomplished in one field means often to be able to attain mastery in other fields, too. Thus Dilip and Indira, singing and dancing their way through life, have also been able to project themselves into our hearts by writing a fascinating autobiography. Not they, but we, the readers, ought to be congratulated.

- Frederic Spiegelberg

Stanford University

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