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  Home > Excerpts from Other Books > Sri Aurobindo Came to Me

S r i   A u r o b i n d o    C a m e    t o    M e
PREFACE


SOMEBODY said that what is presented here is an autobiography. I hasten to contradict the statement at the very outset. I have only reminisced about my Gurudev, Sri Aurobindo, as I hope I have made clear enough in what is going to follow. An autobiography has a purpose which goes beyond the orbit of reminiscences. Besides, I have, as far as possible, confined my reactions and reflections to the great personality who induced them so as to bring out his greatness as I glimpsed it through my protracted spiritual struggles and aspirations. I have tried to give a sketch neither of his life nor of my own. It is only my interactions with him, developed in the context of an Ashram life, that I have taken up as my theme. But interactions are born of a contact of two persons. So I had to bring myself in because otherwise I could not possibly write anything worth while. I believe that what I have written is worth while not because of the part I have played in what I cannot help but call a drama, but because through my conflicts and aspirations an aspect of his incredible self comes to the fore, a self whose flowering neither our age nor circumstances could explain. That is why I have sometimes felt inclined to look upon his efflorescence as an inexplicable freak of Nature, not freak in the sense a genius often is, but in the sense of an Avatar, a Man of Destiny. For I fully agree with a modern appraiser who writes, after referring to prophets "from Kierkegard down to Buber", that while men of their "caliber" may be expected "in every century", "Sri Aurobindo is an event over which Divine Providence is a thousand times more tardy".

But even the warmest of tributes cause me, personally, a pang along with a thrill. For I know that the world cannot possibly have any full vision of the almost unbelievable greatness of one who came to us incognito and departed unrecognized by all except a handful. But then why regret? One might as well regret the impotence of the senses to conceive of interstellar space or - in the words of Sri Ramakrishna - of the "doll of salt" to plumb the ocean. The hiatus between an Avatar and the mediocre is even greater. That is why we, in India, have so grievously failed to "wake up when he came and sat close to us" - to quote an image from a poem of Tagore. Besides, as the Mother said once, in a sense everything that has been had to be and yet might have been otherwise. Sri Aurobindo has tried to explain this paradox in his various writings looking upon life as a "play of possibilities" which is, withal, essentially predetermined. So what might have happened had we recognised him did not happen. This though a sad reflection in itself, carries a meaning perhaps too deep for thought. At all events, Sri Aurobindo has elected to withdraw for the time being from this our world of senses. But as the Mother has assured us that his spirit cannot leave us till his work is finally accomplished, we need not grieve too much "the lack of receptivity of earth and men" which (as she puts it) is responsible for the decision Sri Aurobindo has taken regarding the body. Also, has he not said himself: "I know with absolute certitude that the Supramental is a truth and its advent is, in the very nature of things inevitable ?" We, his disciples, must believe this: whether others will follow suit - time and circumstances alone can tell. I only know that if and when they do, they will be, in part, co-operating with him and that whosoever co-operates thus must be regarded as blessed in the measure of his co-operation.

I may say a few words about our Ashram to help outsiders understand a little better what I have tried to portray.

The Ashram, as we know it, was born on a definite date: the 24th of November 1926. Before that date - since 1910, when Sri Aurobindo first came to Pondicherry - only a handful of disciples had stayed as his guests and looked up to him alone, as the Mother was, all this time, practically invisible immersed in her sadhana. In those pre-Ashram days Sri Aurobindo used to talk freely with his disciples and was, besides, available to some visitors, if not all. That is why I could have long talks with him in 1924 - published subsequently in my Among the Great. Since 1926, however, the landscape changed completely: he went into complete seclusion while she came out of hers to take personal charge of the Ashram which she has been building and organising ever since without sparing herself. All these years none but she had had free access to him. Only since 1938, when Sri Aurobindo consented to accept a few personal attendants, about half-a-dozen of his disciples were allowed to serve him. These could talk to him now and then and convey to him messages from outside. In recent years, a few visitors were, indeed, permitted to talk to him, but interviews in the ordinary acceptation of the term have been rarely allowed. But I must now come back to the Mother to complete my description of the Ashram.


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