Savitri Era Basics

Arjava

                                          Arjava

 

                                              By

 

                                     Anurag Banerjee

 

 

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, in the 1930s, had become a ‘hotbed of poets’ to quote Georges Van Vrekhem. Verse-composition was looked upon not as a mere creative activity but as a part of the sadhana the members of the Ashram were doing. The most illustrious of the Ashram poets, who received direct and constant guidance from Sri Aurobindo who called himself the ‘Head of the Poetry Department’, were Dilip Kumar Roy, K.D.Sethna alias Amal Kiran, Nirodbaran, J.A. Chadwick alias Arjava, Harindranath Chattopadhyay (though he left the Ashram in September 1935), Nishikanto, Pujalal, Jyotirmoyee and a few others. Among the names mentioned above, Chadwick and Nirodbaran deserves special attention because prior to their joining the Ashram and initiation into the Integral Yoga, both of them never dabbled at poetry composition, yet both of them emerged as the brightest stars in the welkin of  Ashram poetry.

     J.A.Chadwick was born in 1899. Nothing much is known about his parentage or early years. He was educated at Cambridge in Mathematical Philosophy where he was a ‘distinguished Don’. As a Professor of Philosophy (Mathematical Logic) and a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, he was looked upon with extreme reverence for his stupendous abilities in Mathematical Philosophy “of the specifically ‘Cambridge’ sort.”[1] While at Cambridge, he had joined a one of the groups of the Rosicrucians and the influence of Rosicrucianism made him face serious difficulties years later when he started practising the Integral Yoga.

     Despite having a brilliant academic career, Chadwick’s heart yearned for something else. A profound spiritual aspiration made him seek the Truth ‘that beyonded all formal and conceptual knowledge’[2] of both Mathematics and Philosophy. He was also sick of the European civilization and felt depressed about the regrettable state the world was in due to the bankruptcy of spiritual wisdom. It was the fire of aspiration for the Truth which compelled him to leave his family, friends and home-country and come to India in the 1920s.

 

                                   New country lies before me,

                                        The old is far away;

                                   New voices whiles implore me

                                        That I turn toward their Day.

 

                                    Toward Day I am turning—

                                         No other goal guide—

                                    To Its faint glimmer yearning

                                         I climb the valley side.[3]

 

    Chadwick joined Lucknow University as a lecturer in Philosophy. There he befriended Ronald Nixon (the Professor of English who later became well-known as Yogi Krishnaprem) and Dhurjati Prasad Mukherji, the Professor of Economy and Social Science. The latter could not have helped Chadwick in his spiritual quest as he himself was a staunch atheist but it was Krishnaprem who introduced him to the writings of Sri Aurobindo. In 1928, Krishnaprem gave up his lectureship at Lucknow University and went first to Benaras with his Guru Yashoda Ma and later to Almora where Yashoda ma had built a ‘temple-retreat’. His penultimate meeting with Chadwick took place at Benares where they sat together on the banks of the Ganges and talked ‘far into the night of dreams that lay close to our hearts, dreams that had brought us together as they had brought us both to India.’[4] They would meet again in a university bunglow at Lucknow—that was the last time they saw each other.

     In the meantime, Chadwick had decided to resign from his job as a Professor in Lucknow University because, in his own words, “I came here to learn—not to teach!”[5] Moreover, he was ‘tired of India’s Groves of Academe.”[6] He had also made up his mind of going back to England when he decided to visit Pondicherry. Dhurjati Prasad gave him a letter of introduction addressed to Dilip Kumar Roy who was his friend since long. In 1930, Chadwick arrived at Pondicherry and met Dilip Kumar, who later wrote about him: “There was something striking in his face which drew me at once to him.”[7] He told Dilip Kumar that though he had purchased some books of Sri Aurobindo but he had not read them. And then he said that it was not books that he was athirst for; he craved something more “concrete and living.” And he added: “I didn’t come here to stay where I am. For I came here to win a passport, if I could, to your time-old wisdom of the spirit—and that as a seeker, not as a critic.”[8]

     Dilip Kumar was deeply impressed by Chadwick’s thirst for Light and ‘the note of transcendent sincerity in his delicately-cadenced voice and strikingly-intellectual physiognomy.’[9] He went to the Mother and sought and received an appointment from her for Chadwick. The following day Chadwick was taken to the Mother by Dilip Kumar. The Mother asked Chadwick why was he seeking spiritual wisdom to which he replied that he sought so as he found life to be ‘void of meaning’ and only ‘spiritual wisdom can fill the void’ so with the purpose of attaining that wisdom he had come to India but in vain.

     The Mother replied: “One receives in the measure of one’s receptivity.”

     Chadwick asked: “How is one to grow in receptivity?”

     The Mother answered: “By sincerity and trust. Sincerity in one’s seeking and trust in the Divine Grace…Sincerity you have. Only you must learn to accept that you can get the response you want in proportion to your trust in Grace.”[10]

     Chadwick left Pondicherry on that very day in the evening. He told Dilip Kumar, who had gone to see him off at the Railway Station, about the Mother that he had ‘never been so overwhelmed by anyone.” Though he left, his mind remained in Pondicherry. He realized that Pondicherry was the place where he would get the Light and Wisdom he aspired for. In his own words:

 

                       This was the country that I did not know,

                                The joy that has no shadow-throw,

                                A lore which worldlings worthless deem,

                        That love our thralled hearts fear to show,

                        That power no helmed hosts bestow

                              —Of freedomed soul the source and stream.

 

                         Here was day’s imprisoned beam,

                         The dying sunset’s fadeless gleam,

                                  And prayer of all green things that grow;

                          This the Spring’s eternal theme—

                           Flowering trees in silver dream

                                  And visioned globes of goldhood glow.[11]

     

 He wrote to Dilip Kumar after a few months and asked whether the Mother would accept him as a disciple. The Mother accepted him and Chadwick came to India leaving England forever and joined the Ashram. He was then thirty-one years of age. A new life began for him who was one of the earliest sadhaks from the West to join the Ashram; he was preceded by Dorothy Hodgson alias Datta, Pavitra, Vaun and Janet McPheeters (from U.S.A.) to name a few. To mark the beginning of his new life, Sri Aurobindo gave him a new name—“Arjavananda”—Arjava in brief, which meant the joy of simplicity and straightforwardness in Sanskrit.

 

     At first, Arjava stayed with Dilip Kumar in the latter’s house but as he craved for more solitude, the Mother gave him a flat where he lived in an ‘almost cloistered seclusion, day after lonely day.’[12] Dilip Kumar, however, did not appreciate Arjava’s shifting to a separate flat as he had become quite fond of him. He thought that Arjava shifted probably due to some friction with him and expressed his apprehension to Sri Aurobindo. He was assured by Sri Aurobindo who wrote to him on 7 March 1931:

    “I do not think you are right in attributing Chadwick’s migration to any friction with you. His main inconvenience was the clash between the often animated conversation of those who gathered there (some of them have, as we know, very hearty voices) and his hours of sleep. He said that he had no right to object to people with a strong vitality from giving it vent in spirited conversation, but he was feeling more and more an inner need for quiet and solitude, and he thought it would be better for him to have other arrangements made for him than to act as a stopper upon others. His letter to the Mother asking for the change was in a very good tone and quite free from ill-will or personal feeling. So you need not be troubled in mind about it.”[13]

 

    In the initial stages of his sadhana, Arjava faced considerable difficulties due to his earlier initiation into Rosicrucianism but he overcame all the obstacles. K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar writes about him: “He made quick progress in the sadhana under the aegis of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and became one of the brightest stars in the Ashram firmament.”[14] He also adds: “In Sri Aurobindo he found the destined Guru, and in the Ashram his haven of peace. For about ten years he was in the Ashram breathing the free air of the Spirit and pursuing his sadhana unremittingly.”[15]

    The sadhana stands on the principles of aspiration, rejection and surrender. Arjava aspired with his heart and soul for Light and Truth; he rejected everything that was tempting from the material point of view and he surrendered himself completely at the Feet of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Surrender is the key word in the Integral Yoga. And as a result of his surrender, he was able to open himself up completely to the Light and Force his Gurus were pouring on him due to which, there occurred a psychic opening in him. This opening gave rise to an ability and a power—the power to write poetry. K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar writes about it:

     “One astonishing outcome of Arjava’s exposure to the Ashram atmosphere was the opening up of the hardly suspected springs of his poetic inspiration, and in less than ten years he composed—for as he lisped in numbers, they came as if effortlessly and unceasingly—a mass of lyric verse to make up a volume of nearly 400 pages…what is even more to the point is their [the lyrics] capacity to act ‘open sesame’ to the symbol-worlds of the Spirit.”[16]

    “This sadhana”, writes K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar elsewhere, “of coming to grips with the ego and gaining the right vision into the innermost truth of things turned Arjava—as if by accident, or as though a spring had been released—into a poet of distinction and originality.”[17]

    It is essential to note that Arjava was not a born-poet but he was capable of receiving the inspiration that came from the higher realms of the consciousness. What is this inspiration? “The word ‘inspiration’ itself means,” explains Nolini Kanta Gupta, “a breath, an influence from elsewhere, from another sphere. It means that which is not confined to the known and the present but something new, something unfamiliar, from somewhere else touches our old life’s sphere. Sri Aurobindo has given some instances how, here, people who were very commonplace and ordinary in their intelligence and capacity developed in a strange uncanny way other qualities and accomplishments they could not think of or dream of. This was possible only because of this help, this inspiration or prompting from elsewhere.”[18]

    Thus Arjava “flowered into a very fine poet. He wrote poetry of an extreme sensitiveness, exquisite in form and feeling…A really fine poet he became, no trace of mathematics at all was there—unless it is the magic of the mathematics of the Infinity, of the Unknowable.”[19]

    Though Arjava blossomed into a fine poet, he had to undergo severe physical sufferings. Since his childhood he had not enjoyed good health. Dilip Kumar Roy, who often found his face ‘emaciated and pale’, writes about his state of health: “…his health had been undermined by shell-shock and he had always been exceedingly nervous by temperament.”[20] When Nirodbaran joined the Ashram in 1933, he began to treat Arjava. Though he found Arjava to be ‘stiff but polite’(even Nolini Kanta Gupta has described Arjava as ‘dry as dust’) yet he too wondered how Arjava managed to do Yoga despite such a poor health. He gives a list of illnesses which Arjava suffered from and writes:

     “I had been treating him for chronic liver trouble, indigestion, etc. for some years…Either because of this, or by nature, he was none too optimistic. Besides, he had suffered from rheumatism and infantile paralysis too. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo knew his temperament very well and instructed me to look after him with a large consideration as they themselves had always done.”[21]

    As he was mentally shaken, whenever any sort of friction occurred between him and his other co-disciples, Arjava suffered to a great extent and whenever such frictions took place, he used to retire into deep seclusion, so much so that towards the end, he had become a recluse. Dilip Kumar writes about him: “I met him indeed in the Ashram where we went daily to have the Mother’s blessings. But though he always greeted me cordially, he looked more and more distant. I used to feel a little pain at his deepening retirement…”[22]   

    However, once Dilip Kumar had accused Sri Aurobindo of being responsible for Dilip Kumar’s becoming ‘a stranger’ to Arjava, Suresh Chakraborty (better known as Moni) and Khirode[23]; in a letter dated April 1933, Sri Aurobindo answered back:

     “…you make us responsible for your becoming a stranger to Arjava, Moni and Khirode…First of all, I am utterly at a loss to imagine how I can be responsible for your becoming a stranger to Arjava, Moni and Khirode. I never asked you or them to break or get remote from each other, I never put any pressure for that or desired it—on the contrary I greatly regretted your getting estranged with Arjava, for Arjava’s sake as well as for your own…Nobody would be more glad than myself and the Mother if there is a rapprochement between them and you.”[24]

     So deep was Arjava’s love for seclusion that once Sri Aurobindo had to request Dilip Kumar for a favour; the following letter (dated 7 September 1936) from the Guru addressed to the latter would explain it:

    “A little confidential request. Arjava has staked out a claim for a particular place at evening meditation, a kind of niche, I believe. Nobody is supposed to do that, as there are no fixed places at this meditation. But he pleads that it is the only place in which he can sometimes get a good meditation—all others are a howling wilderness of restlessness and non-meditation. He seems to have made his claim good, only sometimes when he is not there and in occupation, you occupy the place. He is as nervous as Hell and the loss of his niche even for a day throws him into despair. We told him that there was no fixed places for anyone and each must take his chance. But he laments, especially today after returning from his illness, he is in the abyss. De profundis clamavit [Out of the depths he cried out]. So I take refuge from his [crises] with you. I suppose you are not particular about this place, and don’t mind leaving the niche to the monk? It will be a great relief for me. Only keep it dark—mum’s the word.”[25]

 

     Let’s quote some of the poems composed by Arjava with Sri Aurobindo’s comments along with some extracts of the correspondence between the Guru and his disciple to illustrate their relationship as well as the flowering of Arjava’s poetic ability and consciousness:

 

      Regarding Arjava’s To a German Soldier Left Behind in Retreat, Sri Aurobindo remarked:

     “Your poem is forcible enough, but the quality is rather rhetorical then poetic. Yet at the end there are two lines that are very fine poetry

                              Gay singing birds caught in a ring of fire

and

                              A silent scorn that sears Eternity.

 

If you could not write the whole in that strain, which would have made it epic almost in pitch, it is, I think, because your indignation was largely mental and moral, the emotion though very strong being too much intellectualised in expression to give the poetic intensity of speech and movement. Indignation, the saeva indignation of Juvenal, can produce poetry, but it must be either vividly a vital revolt which stirs the whole feeling into a white heat of self-expression…or a high spiritual or deep psychic rejection of the undivine. Besides, it is well known that the emotion of the external being, in the raw as it were, does not make good material for poetry; it has to be transmuted into something deeper, less externally personal, more permanent before it can be turned into good poetry. There are always two parts of oneself which collaborate in poetry—the instrumental which lives and feels what is written, makes a sort of projective identification with it, and the Seer-Creator within who is not involved, but sees the inner significance of it and listens for the word that shall entirely express their significance. It is in some meeting-place of these two that what is felt or lived is transmuted into true stuff of poetry. Probably you are not sufficiently detached from this life-experience and the reactions it created to go back deeper into yourself and transmute it in this way. And yet you have done in the two magnificent lines I have noted, which have the virtue of seizing the inner significance behind the thing experienced in the poetic or interpretative and not in the outward mental way. The first of these two lines conveys the pathos and tragedy of the thing and also the stupidity of the waste much more effectively than pages of denunciation or comment and the other stresses with an extraordinary power in a few words the problem as flung by the revolting human mind and life against the Cosmic Impersonal.”(17.7.1931)[26]

                                           *                 *                  *              

 

Arjava asked: “Is there some way of keeping the loose swinging gait of anapaests within bounds? If one has used them freely in one or more lines, does it sound too abrupt to close with a strict iambic line—as in the final Alexandrine of:

                  

             The wind hush comes, the varied colours westward stream:

             Were they joy-tinted coral, or song-light seen-heard in a shell fitfully,

             Drifted ashore by the hours as a waif from the day-wide sea

             Of Loveliness that smites awake our sorrow-dream?

 

It is perhaps a pity that the rhythm of the first three lines runs in such well well-worn familiar channels. Is this intensified by the sing-song of the second line, which slipped into Saturnian metre lengthened out by anapaests? The third line might possibly be taken as four dactyls followed by the spondee “day-wide” and the monosyllabic foot “sea”. What do you think? And would the four dactyls make the earlier part of a passable hexameter, or would at least one spondee be needed to break up the monotony and too-obvious lilt?”

    Sri Aurobindo replied: “These are things decided by the habit or training of the ear. The intervention of a dactylic (or, if you like, an anapaestic) line followed by an Alexandrine would to the ear of a former generation have sounded abrupt and inadmissible. But, I suppose, it would not to the ear accustomed to the greater liberty—or even license—of latter-day movements.

     I do not find that the rhythm of the first three lines is well-worn, though that of the first and third are familiar in type. The second seems to me not only familiar, but unusual and very effective.

    The canter of anapaests can, I suppose, be only relieved by variation or alteration with another metre, as you have done here—or by a very powerful music which would turn the canter into a torrent rush or an oceanic sweep or surge. But the proper medium for the up till now has been a large dactylic movement like the Greek or Latin hexameter…But this third line seems to be naturally dactylic and not anapaestic. Can one speak of catalectic and acatalectic hexameters? If so, this is a very beautiful catalectic hexameter.

    I may say that the four lines seem to be in their variation very remarkably appropriate and effective, each exactly expressing by the rhythm the spirit and movement of the thing inwardly seen. I am speaking of each line by itself; the only objection that could be made is to the coming together of so many variations in so brief a whole (if it had been longer, I imagine it would not have mattered) as disturbing to the habit of the ear; but I am inclined to think that this objection would rest less on a reality than a prejudice. The habit of the ear is not fundamental, it can change. What is fundamental in the inner hearing is not, I think, disturbed by the swiftness of the change from the controlled flow of the first line to the wave dance and shimmer of the second, the rapid drift of the third and then the deliberate subtlety of the last line.”[27]

 

                                              *                   *                    *      

 

                                                        An Afternoon

 

                             Earth-fashioned hush, dream-woken trees becalmed

                             On fields entranced, on sea of frozen sound

                             Rimmed by faint watchers billowing haze-embalmed,

                             Whose legions vast our dream-like raft surround.

                             Nature looks strange, strange that, e’en so, she’s found

                             Closer to man. The dumb do voiceless meet,

                             Babel avoiding. See,—the very ground

                             Is silence-drenched —untrodden by earth’s feet.

                             On such a stillness might leap forth the Word,

                             On such sink down to rest Creative Power:

                             All those six days through which the Work occurred

                             Revolved round Rest, enshrined a silent bower.

                             Earth’s many melodies all are on Silence weaved.

                             Sleep foretells dawn’s fanfare. And peace is toiled achieved.

 

Sri Aurobindo remarked: “You have a beginning of power of poetic speed, but it is quite unfinished and the technique is not there.

       There are three defects in your verses—

       (1) Failure of rhythm. In this poem the rhythm is laboured and heavy; there are often too many ponderous syllables pecked together—especially the last line, first half—it is so heavy with packed long syllables that it can hardly move. What rhythm there is is too staccato, not varied enough or varied in the wrong way, sometimes a conventional ineffective way, sometimes by adopting an impossible metrical movement (this last more in the other poem than here).

       (2) The style in this poem is too laboured, as if you had tried to pack the expression overmuch, and gives a slow heavy movement to the sense as well as to the verse. There is an occasional tendency to obscurity of expression (more in the other poem than here) due probably to the same reason or sometimes to a rather recondite allusiveness as if you had expected the reader to understand the thoughts passing in you —without you expressly stating them or else suggesting them by some perfectly significant word or sound.

      (3) A certain habit of prose structure in the form given to the thought comes up from time to time, e.g. in the fifth and eleventh lines of this poem, and sometimes in the choice of words e.g. “occurred” in the latter line.

       At the same time there is not only the potency of speech at least in promise, but some promise also of the rhythmical faculty struggling to be born.” (April 1931)[28]

 

                                           *                      *                         *

                                                 Lift the Stone

 

                                   Before the chronicles of time began

                                   Or sundering space her canopy unfurled,

                                   The uncreated Over-Thought had plan

                                   Itself to lose—self-offered, form a world.

                                   Smooth as untrodden snow the gleaming Host,

                                   Fraught with all history, ringed by opal pyx,

                                   Shone through eternity rays innermost

                                   On all symbolic forms that intermix

                                   Silence of Heaven with lisping speech. God takes

                                   His very substance that from Beauty came;

                                   Then with world-surging power He freely breaks

                                   The bread that builds the fabric of His Name.

                                           Seven great realms the fragments make: and we

                                           In meanest dust may touch Divinity.

 

Sri Aurobindo remarked: “You seem to me to have acquired already the three most important elememts of poetic excellence.

     (1) Mastery of the rhythmic form—at any rate of the right rhythm and building of the sonnet form you are using.

     (2) A just felicity and firm construction of the architecture proper to the sonnet.

     (3) A very considerable power of harmonious and effective poetic diction and suggestive image.

      The last seven lines are truly very fine poetry—but the whole sonnet is remarkable in form and power.” (6 May 1931)[29]

 

                                               *                     *                    *  

 

 Following is an excerpt from a letter to Arjava in which Sri Aurobindo explains how one can develop his poetic power and control over rhythm:

      “As for acquiring the sense and the power of rhythm, reading poets may do something, but not all. There are two factors in poetic rhythm,—the technique (the variation of movement without spoiling the fundamental structure, right management of vowel and consonantal assonances and dissonances, the masterful combination of the musical element of stress with the less obvious element of quantity) and the secret soul of rhythm which uses but exceeds these things. The first you can learn, if you read with your ear always in a tapasya of vigilant attention to these constituents; but without the second what you achieve may be technically faultless and even skilful but poetically a dead letter. This soul of rhythm can only be found by listening in to what is behind the music of words and sound of things. You can get something of it by listening for that subtler element in great poetry, but mostly it must either grow or suddenly open in yourself. This sudden opening is what can come in Yoga if the power wishes to express itself in that way. I have seen both in myself and others a sudden flowering of capacities in every kind of activity come by the opening of consciousness,—so that one who laboured long without the least success to express himself in rhythm becomes a master of poetic language and cadences in a day. It is a question of the right silence in the mind and the right openness to Word that is trying to express itself—for the Word is there ready formed in those inner planes where all artistic forms take birth, but it is the transmitting mind that must change and become a perfect channel and not an obstacle.” [30]

 

                                             *                     *                   *

 

                                             The Valley of the Fleece

 

                                   A windless eve in a quiet coomb;

                                   Rock-rose yellow and golden broom.

                                   Sandmartins wheel aloft

                                   Watching day’s goblet quaffed

                             By the priestess, Venus-adorned, rising from eastern tomb.

 

                                   A dream-laden wind from the sky escorts

                                   The starry ships of the Argonauts.

                                   Sandmartin stirs in the hole;

                                   Peeps out one guardian troll—

                            “Will they carry our golden fleece back to the day-break ports?”

 

Sri Aurobindo commented: “It is a very beautiful and exquisite lyric; I would not dream of spoiling it by suggesting any change.”[31]

 

                                           *                       *                       *

 

                                              New-Risen Moon’s Eclipse

 

                     Harsh like the shorn head high of a gaunt grey-hooded friar

                                  Who fears the beauty and use of sculptured limbs

                                   (Branding the sculptor-archetype a liar)

                      O moon but lately risen from the foam where the seamew skims—

                      Form that a wan light cassocks, grace that a tonsure dims.

 

                      Joy that the leader curse is rolled away to leave the golden

                                   Tresses of earth-transforming gramarye

                                   Whereby our wildered flesh-fret is enfolden—

                     O fair as the foam-fashioned goddess that awoke from the wandering sea,

                     Love with the earth-shroud lifted, star from the shade set free!

 

Sri Aurobindo remarked: “The poem, is, on the contrary, a very good one. The one thing that can be said against it is that you need to go through it twice or thrice before the full beauty of the thought, rhythm and imagery comes to the surface,—but is that a demerit? Poems that are too easily read, as a French critic puts it, are not always the best. I myself doubted a little at first reading about the rhythm of the first three lines of the second verse, but that was because I was listening with the outer ear, my attention having been dulled by much dealing with miscellaneous correspondence before I turned to the poem; but as soon as I got inside to the inner ear, I felt the subtlety and rareness of the movement. There is a great beauty and significant force in the imagery and a remarkably successful fusion of the supporting object (physical symbol) into the revealing or transmuting image and the image into the object, which is part of the highest art of symbolic or mystic poetry. Heard before? If you refer to the elements of the rhythm, words or phrases here and there, or images used before though not in the same way, where is the poetry in so old and rich a literature as the English that altogether escapes their suspicion of “heard before”? Absolute originality in that sense is rare, almost non-existent; we are all those who went before us with something new added that is ourselves, and it is this something new added that transfigures and is the real originality. In this sense there is impression of original power in the beauty of the first verse and hardly less in the second. It seems to me very successful, and “triviality” in the description that can be least applied to it while it could lack interest only to those who have no mind for poetry of this character.”(March 1932)[32]

 

                                              *                          *                         *

 

                                                       Twilight Hush

 

                                        A forest of shadows gliding fast,

                                                Magnetwise as drawn on by the seer

                                        For westerly converging sunset-goal—

                                                Zenith past, how eerily they run!

 

                                        On paths that meander ’cross the sky,

                                                 Cloudy-maned the centaurs bend afar

                                        Moon-bow that is aiming, sliver-taunt,

                                                  Arrows made of silence at a star.

 

Sri Aurobindo commented: “This seems to me successful. The last stanza especially is very beautiful in idea and experience and rhythm.” (19 October 1933)[33]

 

                                             *                      *                      *

 

                                          Across Triumphant Acres of the Night

 

                                          Across triumphant acres of the night

                                          Slow-swung pinions of the unborn dream

                                          To the hidden day-break pursue primeval flight

                                          Chartless unfrontiered aeons of the dark,

                                          On their lonely silence breaks no morning theme—

                                          Our dreams have held the Promethean spark.

                                

                                          But half descried, the dawn-lit peaks of joy,—

                                          There, living hues shall blend in a rainbow stream,

                                          And there no sundering thought can enter or destroy.

 

Arjava asked: “I feel rather oppressed by the contrast between the genuineness and depth and strength of the feeling in my experience, and the surely very inadequate means of conveying any of it to the reader. Words like “triumphant…night”, “hidden day-break”, “lonely silence”, “sundering thought” are surely being entrusted with a task which can never be carried out with a reader who does not go out far more than half way to meet the emotional significance?”

    Sri Aurobindo replied: “It is always the difficulty of expression that words can only suggest than deeper things though they can suggest them with a certain force—even a creative force—but there must be the receptivity in the reader also. Your phrases “triumphant acres of the night” etc. have a considerable power in them; all the lines indeed are such that the significance (the suggestion not merely of the idea, but of the experience behind it) can only be got if the reader listens not only with the mind, but with the inner sense and feeling.” (8 January 1935)[34]

 

                                             *                         *                       *

 

                                                   The Flower of Light

 

                             This whiteness has no withering;

                                                  When petals fall,

                             Miraculous swan’s –dawn through the air,

                                      A hundred petals build the crowning flower

                                                   Still, nor all

                             Dissevering gusts can make that stateliness less fair.

                                      The bee can settle in its heart of light—

 

                                                   O winged soul;

                             But we with fettered feet and soiled with clay

                                       Gaze through bewildered tears

                                                   At that quintessenced goal,

                             Craving one prized petal-touch may light on our dismay.

 

Arjava asked: “I have been long an admirer of Nolini’s poems in free verse. Does this experiment of mine fall between two stools, creating expectation of regularity which it then disappoints—and sounding more like a metrical medley or “salad” than one piece of rhythmic movement?”

    Sri Aurobindo answered: “Well, it is not free verse as people understand it. But it is verse which the usual thing is not and at the same time it is free. I find it fascinating—the rhythm is subtle, delicate and faultless. I don’t know enough of modern (contemporary) poetry to be sure that it is a new form you have found, but at any rate it is one well worth following out. It enables one to vary the length and movement, form and distribution of rhymes as the thought and feeling need without falling into the formlessness of a prose movement—it has, that is to say, the quality of metrical poetry without its fetters. As for the poem itself, it is magnificently beautiful; it has that psychic quality—here the expression of a psychic sorrow—which is so rare and the language is luminous and felicitous all through.”(1 November 1936)[35]

 

                                                  *                     *                    *

 

                                 The High-flashing Fountains of Song

 

                                 Subdued the light at the gray evenhush,

                                 As the shadowy helmets of night’s vague host

                                 Make dim the East and the North and the South.

                                 Spendthrift day keeps but a dwindling heap of gold

                                 Low on the westward margins of the sky.

                                 Spirit with wings of light and darkness

                                 Sail through the fast-closing gates of the West

                                 And bear me out of the world;

                                 The world that is frozen music (but the performers were faulty).

                                 Haply the high-flashing fountains of song

                                 Play still in Supernal Eden

                                 And the air is a diamond undimmed by Time’s misadventures.

                                 The unchanging light of the One, enmeshed in the murmuring spray,

                                 Builds all the colours of the soul.

                                 And the speechless telling of mysteries

                                 Leaves them in the song-hidden heart of Light.

 

Sri Aurobindo remarked: “I find this superb—in every line. The thought and language and imagery are very beautiful, but most I find that its rhythmic achievement solves entirely for the first time (it was partly done in some former poems) the problem of free verse. The object of free verse is to find a rhythm in which one can dispense with rhyme and the limitations of a fixed metre and yet have a poetic rhythm, not either a flat or an elevated prose rhythm cut up into lengths. I think this poem shows how it can be done. There is a true poetic rhythm, even a metrical beat, but without any fixity, pleasant and verging with the curve or sweep of the thought and carrying admirably its perfect poetic expression. It may not be the only way in which the problem can be solved, but it is one and a very beautiful way.” (27 February 1937)[36]

 

                                            *                   *                      *

 

                                        The Foam-bright Silence of that Land

 

                                        White as moon upon the desert sand,

                                         Petal-pure from taint of finitude,

                                         On sward untrod by Time strange lilies stand,

                                         Lift gars of limpid bloom with galaxies bedewed.

 

                                         Those plains of wideness nor dream nor thought have spanned;

                                         Nor breaks one whisper of mortality

                                         Upon the foam-bright silence of that land,—

                                         That moment’s rapture held from what joy-frenzied sea?

                                                                                                                (17 August 1936)

 

Arjava asked: “In the last line but one, is it a defect to have the immediate succession of similar large and stressed sounds—bright silence?”

       Sri Aurobindo replied: “I do not think so. A succession like that has only to be avoided if it creates a heaviness or an insignificant monotony of sound; in other circumstances it may be rhythmically right or even just the thing needed there. In each case it is the ear only that can judge.

       Again, a fine, a very fine poem, admirably expressive of the spiritual state behind the symbol.”[37] 

 

                                                    *                  *                   *

 

                                                                 Soulstead

 

                                                  In the core of this shadowy world

                                                           A shadowless place

                                                  Where Sorrow’s dark wings are enfurled,

                                                           Banished Death’s trace.

 

                                                  Pinions of sheer delight

                                                            Conquer pain;

                                                  Self-subsistent Light

                                                            Comes again.

 

                                                  Shifting and sunderhood

                                                            This cannot mar;

                                                   Quenchless, unriven stood

                                                               Love’s single star.

            

                                                   How manifold disguises

                                                               Teemed from the One;

                                                   Loaned iterance suffices—

                                                                Till the play is done.

                                                                                                  (22 February 1934)

 

Sri Aurobindo remarked: “I find this poem very successful. There is much beauty in it and at the same time the form and thought-sequence are well-built—there is much skill of variation in the detail of the metre.”[38]

 

                                                  *                      *                      *

 

                                               “Crumbled to Shaft and Leaves”

 

                                    Luminous is the void where nothing feels

                                    The anti-self pushed back by frowth within,

                                    The blade of Light unsheated from scabbard-skin

                                    While thunder’s answer from the Noon-Height peals.

 

                                    Starved of a birthright, hell-creation heaves

                                    In utmost closeness, lowest depth of fall:

                                    Of trillioned atoms, each forgets the All

                                    (Fair fronded bough crumbled to shaft and leaves).

 

                                    How gain the puissant rhythm that would not bind

                                    These drooping shreds back to the unpierced Whole,

                                    Quicken the dying sparks with the Flame Soul—

                                    Make one on the sterile void, nor Light-Source blind?

                                                                                                                    (3 October 1936)

 

Sri Aurobindo commented: “A very fine and powerful poetic expression of the Self and disintegration of it into ego and the aspiration to the integration in the Whole. The expressions have much revealing force in them and the image in the third line is admirable.”[39]

     What follows next is a letter Sri Aurobindo had written to Arjava; the subject-matter being ‘Hinduism versus Christianity’(Arjava had a ‘somewhat hot debate’ on the said subject with Dilip Kumar Roy a couple of days earlier):

       “It is especially difficult for the Christian to be of a piece, because the teachings of Christ are on quite another plane from the consciousness of the intellectual and vital man trained by the education and society of Europe—the latter, even as a minister or priest, has never been called upon to practise what he preached in entire earnest. But it is difficult for human nature anywhere to think, feel and act from one centre of true faith, belief or vision. The average Hindu considers the spiritual life the highest, reveres the sannyasi, is moved by the bhakta; but if one of the family circle leaves the world for spiritual life, what tears, remonstrances, lamentations! It is almost worse than if he had died a natural death. It is not conscious mental insincerity—they will argue like Pundits and quote shastra to prove you in the wrong; it is unconsciousness, a vital insincerity which they are not aware of and which uses the reasoning mind as an accomplice.

       That is why we insist so much on sincerity in the Yoga—and that means to have all the being consciously turned towards the one Truth—the one Divine. But that is, for human nature one of the most difficult of tasks, much more difficult than a rigid asceticism or a fervent piety. Religion itself does not give this complete harmonised sincerity—it is only the psychic being and the one-souled spiritual aspiration that can give it.”[40]

      Arjava wrote poems of the ‘inner vision and feeling’ which he did as a result of the development and blossoming of his mystic mind and vision. When Sri Aurobindo was asked by a disciple from what plane did Arjava have his source of inspiration, he replied (on 2 December 1933):

      “All I can say is that Arjava writes often from the plane of inner thought and occult vision (the plane indicated in Yoga by the forehead centre).”[41]

     When Amal Kiran asked Sri Aurobindo the origin of the following lines of Arjava “This patter of Time’s marring steps across the solitude/ Of Truth’s abidingness, Self-blissful and alone”, the Guru replied: “Illumined mind with an intuitive element and strong overmind touch.” Sri Aurobindo too, on his part, allowed Arjava certain poetic liberty; the following letter would be a good example: “I am aware of Arjava’s rhyming of “bare” and “law” etc.,— but that is quite new as a permissible imperfect rhyme.”[42] The Guru shared some of his poetic experiments with Arjava as well; for instance when he wrote Ilion, some passages of it were seen by Arjava and Amal Kiran privately. And he also acknowledged a ‘help’ which he had received from Arjava about which he wrote in a letter to a disciple in 1947: “I heard it (‘global’) first from Arjava who described the language of Arya as expressing a global thinking, and I at once caught it up as the right and only word for certain things, for instance, the thinking in masses which is a frequent characteristic of the Overmind.”[43]

 

      However, Sri Aurobindo’s appreciation for the poetic endeavours and creations of his disciples was not unanimously accepted by all. Sri Aurobindo considered Dilip Kumar Roy, Amal Kiran, Arjava and Harin Chattopadhyay to be the ones whose work seemed to him to “contain already on a fairly ample way the ripe possibility of the thing” he wanted. In a letter to Dilip Kumar dated December 1934, Sri Aurobindo writes:

    “These four then I have encouraged and tried to push on towards a greater and richer expression. I have praised but there was nothing insincere in my praise. For some time however I have received intimations from many quarters that my judgement was mistaken, ignorant, partial and perhaps not wholly sincere…There has been much inability to appreciate Arjava’s poetry, Yeats observing that he had evidently something to say but struggled to say it with too much obscurity and roughness.”[44]

    This was indeed unfortunate, as Arjava (and also Amal Kiran) was ‘indebted to Yeats”. (Nirodbaran)[45]

 

      As mentioned earlier, both Nirodbaran and Nolini Kanta Gupta had described Arjava as ‘stiff but polite’ and ‘dry as dust’ respectively. They were under the impression that Arjava was bereft of any emotion. And they thought so due to his extremely introvert nature. But it was untrue! He had once told Dilip Kumar: “Do not think that the English as a race baulk at emotion…Quite the contrary. We are a race with a rich background of profound emotion, the stuff poets are made of. But we are shy. What I mean is that while you, Bengalis, sail exultantly on the crest of your emotion—we, English, don’t like to be caught expressing our feelings too vividly. If you do not understand that, you miss something very important about our inner make-up.”[46]

 

     Towards the end of the decade of 1930 when Arjava entered into his tenth year in the Ashram, his health began to deteriorate. However, the actual cause of the illnesses which were “mysterious in origin” and “very concrete in their ravaging effects” (Georges Van Vrekhem) could not be diagnosed. Nirodbaran, who was treating him, recollects:

    “Failing to diagnose his illness, I called in other doctors, and as is often the case, opinions differed. Neither were there proper facilities for making specific tests in the hospital. He began to suffer from fever, jaundice, abscesses, joint pains, and a host of diverse complaints which made him extremely irritable. He pestered me like Socrates with all sorts of questions, the why and the how of his ailments, their remedy, and the last question, when would he be all right? I reported faithfully all this to the Mother and to Sri Aurobindo who would often side with him, appreciating his inquisitiveness and his refusal to gulp down docilely all that was given to him. When I told Sri Aurobindo that he would not allow his old dusty heaps of the journal, Manchester Guardian to be removed, Sri Aurobindo approved of his feelings. One day the Mother said, “Once when you were fanning Sri Aurobindo, I had a vision of the patient crying to you, ‘Why don’t you cure me?’”[47]

   Dilip Kumar too was quite anxious about Arjava’s health; more because Arjava had once told him that he won’t live long. One day, Arjava went to Trésor House (where Dilip Kumar stayed) at the latter’s request to read out to him some of Arjava’s recent poems. Seeing Arjava ‘pale and emaciated’, Dilip Kumar advised him to return to England for a change. Arjava refused and said: “No. Whatever is to happen must happen here. I will not go back to my people though they are writing letter after letter.” On Dilip Kumar’s request, Arjava recited the following poems:

 

                                           Alien Star-Fraught Shape

                   

                                Write for the bill of lading

                                       “Square root of minus one”,

                                 Dream to a shore whose shading

                                       Is brighter than our sun,

                                 Die beyond all aiding

                                       From syringe or gland of ape,

                               —And fare far off from fading

                                       In some alien star-fraught shape.

 

                                 What was the earth but ashes

                                       Dropped from the furnace bars,

                                 From the flame-like Song which lashes

                                       Tops that are gyring stars?

 

                                 O hearts that are empty of giving,

                                       Lips that lie famished for song,

                                 How you hiddenly hunger for living

                                      And dream to the star-born throng.

 

And

                                            White Bird

 

                Whither, O bird all white, with ever increasing speed 

                Do you skim like an arrow of morning the Burdenless Archer has decreed

                On its track to the infinite target as a Thought ever fain of the Deed?

 

                Bright though the track of the morning, huge though the target loom,

                Perfect the Thought of the Thinker, yet may prevail the gloom?

                Dark be the quenching of daytide? Arrow-tips rush in the tomb.

 

                         O running of Light in the Silence

                              O silvery morning star,

                         May the Dawn be the wordless answer

                              Of beauty no loss can mar.

 

“Beautiful,” remarked Dilip Kumar, “though a trifle sad.”

 Arjava said: “But life is not very jolly, Dilip—it has never been.”

 “But it shall be,” Dilip Kumar assured.

 “I’d like to believe that,” replied Arjava, “and only because…I came to know them—him and the Mother.”[48]

     Though Arjava lived as a recluse, yet, sometimes he used to go to meet Dilip Kumar or to see the paintings of Krishnalal Bhatt[49], the painter. A.B. Purani recollected Arjava’s visits to Krishnalal during a course of conversation in Sri Aurobindo’s room on 6 October 1940: “I remember Arjava used to see Krishnalal’s pictures like that—the scheme, line, composition—the geometry of art, so to say. Poor Krishnalal couldn’t make head or tail of his criticism.”[50]

    An aspirant recollects: “During my visits [to the Ashram] I used to meet very interesting personalities. There was…the shy Arjava, an English poet with whom I visited some of the surrounding tanks (village water reservoirs). We went round in Udar’s[51]1929 Ford and used to throw lotus plants into the bare banks. Often the villagers would remove the plants as soon as we went away. They probably felt that we were polluting their tanks. But a few plants did survive and if you see some tanks around Pondicherry with lotus blooms in them, you have Arjava to thank for this.”[52]

 

    Dilip Kumar Roy writes about Arjava: “Chadwick combined in him the rich, aristocratic refinement of the British at its loftiest with a rich responsiveness to an Indian outlook on life and on the Guru which his love of individuality must have found not a little difficult to undersign.”[53] In one of his poems titled Totalitarian, Arjava has expressed how profound and deep-rooted his love of individuality was. The poem made Dilip Kumar ‘fully alive, for the first time, to the infernal horror it symbolized.’ The poem is as follows:

                             

                              Night was closing on the traveler

                                         When he came

                              To the empty eerie courtyard

                                          With no name.

                              Loud he called; no echo answered;

                                          Nothing stirred:

                              But a crescent moon swung wanly,

                                          White as curd.

                              When he flashed his single sword-blade

                                          Through the gloom,

                               None resisted—till he frantic,

                                          Filled with doom,

                               Hurled his weapon through the gloaming,

                                         Took no aim;

                               Saw his likeness around him

                                         Do the same:

                               Viewed a thousand swordless figures

                                         Like his own—

                                Then first knew in that cold starlight

                                         Hell, alone.[54]

   

  When Sri Aurobindo read this poem, he wrote it was “exceedingly original and vivid—the description with its economy and felicity of phrase is very telling.” When Amal Kiran wrote to Sri Aurobindo inviting his Guru’s comments on the fact that Totalitarian had some resemblances with Walter de la Mare’s poem The Listeners, Sri Aurobindo answered: “…his [Arjava] poem is an extraordinarily energetic and powerful vision of an occult world and every phrase is intimately evocative of the beyond as a thing vividly seen and strongly lived—it is not on earth, this courtyard and this crescent moon, we are at once in an unearthly world and in a place somewhere in the soul of man and all the details, sparing, with a powerful economy of phrase and image and brevity of movement but revelatory in touch…make us entirely feel ourselves there…It is not an echo, it is an independent creation.”[55]

     Regarding Totalitarian, Dilip Kumar writes: “That what he [Arjava] had seen in 1936 (when it was composed) proved to be literally true subsequently, during the dark days of the Hitlerian hell-regime, must testify to the authentic power of vision that had lain latent in his nature, a power which opened in him under the aegis of Sri Aurobindo.”[56]  

                   

     The Mother too looked upon Arjava with a special eye of concern and care. He was one of the privileged sadhaks who accompanied her in her evening drives—the others included Nolini Kanta Gupta, Duraiswamy, Dilip Kumar, Sahana Devi and Pavitra being the driver. And Arjava’s devotion towards the Mother was evident from the poems he had composed on her; every line in his poems reflected the deep reverence he had for her. For instance:

 

                      O to besom a path for the Mother

                           To a welcoming-place apart,—

                       Road running, meant for no other,

                            Straight to the heart.

 

                      Be Her light football a token

                            Of a Stillness fraught with Grace;

                      Keep the truthward prayer unspoken

                            Her sandals trace.

 

                      Not only Heaven descended

                             But earth upflowers to God

                       Eachwhere Her heaven-attended

                             Silence trod.

                                                         (The Feet of the Divine Mother)[57]

 

Or

 

                      Come on the wings of sleep

                              Grave or with a smile,

                      Come ere the hushed tide neap

                               Or tangling thoughts beguile.

 

                       On this dark spirit-main

                                Rise as a full-orbed moon,

                        Transform the murk of pain

                                To a fleckless silver boon.

 

                        Or through dream-heavy air

                                On sandals of sound draw nigh

                         Till echoes waking there

                                Spring forth in thrilled reply.

 

                        Out from a planet’s gloom

                                All aspects call to Thee,—

                         Life in our stirless tomb,

                                Light on our darkened sea.

                                                                       (To Mother)[58]

 

And

 

                         For Her emerald of LIFE

                                Shakti of God that moves upon the waters,

                                Greatness and wideness of Spirit everlasting,

                                From senses, mind and heart, from a myriad moods and quarters

                                Enter with Thy puissances, transmuting and recasting.

 

                         For Her topaz of TRUTH-EXISTENCE

                               Wisdom of God, silent above Time-sources,

                                Transcendent peak all creature-ken outvasting,

                                Bring to heaven’s roadsteads earth by devious courses,

                                Calm, ordinant as lodestone though all ways are overcastting.

                      

                         For Her amethyst of the POWER of BEAUTY

                                Beauty, star-enrobing, a strangeling here

                                From eldest aeons fraught with overthrow

                                Of shadowhood, because Thy worshippers draw near,

                                Once gaze—and then forswear all ease until they know.

 

                        For Her ruby of REALISATION

                               Joyhood, earth-englobing, God-victory,

                               In the east Thy dawn-rose banners faintly show;

                               Aidant to Love, the spear-hosts sweep from Eternity,

                               Till Time is heaven-conquered and the dateless bugles blow.

                                                                                   (Invocation to the Divine Mother)[59]

 

    

The more his health began to fail, the more Arjava became listless. He used to limp but gradually he had to walk by using a walking stick. One day, Sri Aurobindo told Nirodbaran, who had become his attendant after Sri Aurobindo’s accident in November 1938, that Arjava had become disgusted with his ailing body and “would like to leave it.” Nirodbaran writes:

     “…the case was not showing any improvement; one after another complications began to develop. Above all, his outer consciousness failed to respond actively to the Force.”[60]                      

    The Mother understood that to save Arjava, it was essential to send him to Bangalore where he would be treated by Dr. Brunitzer, an efficient doctor who was known to the Ashramites. Nirodbaran continues:

     “Sri Aurobindo asked me to prepare a clear and complete history of the patient’s malady, let the Mother hear it and then send it to the doctor. When it was ready, I read it out to both of them. Sri Aurobindo commented, “Excellent!” I felt gratified. On receiving the report the doctor came down to take the patient. He concurred with our view that it must be a case of septicaemia. When the patient was being sent off, the Mother came and stood on her terrace waiting a long time for him. At last the car came before her and she and the patient looked at each other for quite a while. He had a premonition that he would not come back.”[61]

       Arjava boarded the train to Bangalore but before he could reach his destination, he collapsed all of a sudden and breathed his last in the train. It was on 5 May 1939. When the post-mortem examination was conducted, it revealed pericardiatis, six ounces of water from the right side of the heart. “And yet,” writes Nirodbaran, “clinically there was no sign of it.”[62]

     “It was a flaming spirit, Arjava’s;” writes K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar, “and a ‘burning blade’ still, he died at the age of forty, but he had certainly “arrived” where he had intended to go, and his own words in the poem ‘Red Lotus’ might serve for his requiem.”[63]

                                                         Red Lotus

                                        (Sri Aurobindo’s Consciousness)

 

                             That living Lotus, petal by petal unfolding,

                                    Which through the mists of this avidya looms,

                              Vicegerent of the Sun, nowise withholding

                                     The light we lack in Maya’s nether glooms.

 

                              When spirit-sense to the last high peak gyring

                                      Finds all Thy mountain-bud aflame with rose—

                               Touched by the eager hues of Dawn’s aspiring—

                                      What raptured Silence watches Thee unclose!

 

                               Then the vast span of those Truth-petals reaching

                                       To the utmost arc of Being’s finitude

                               With vibrant answer to dark’s wan beseeching

                                       Transforms a world, from Thy grave beauty hued.

 

                               O puissant heart amidst whose raptured shrining

                                        A nameless Love is garbed in Name’s disguise,

                                Last metronome to mortal things assigning

                                         A fadeless rhythm wrung from Dawn’s echoing skies.[64]

 

And K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar concludes: “Having early won his way to what he had sought…having basked in the Red Lotus of Sri Aurobindo’s consciousness and having received the four-fold Grace of emerald, topaz, amethyst and ruby from the Shakti of God, Arjava reached his journey’s end at the age of forty, a ‘burning blade’ for ever.”[65]

       The story of the lives of the poets cannot be merely found in their biographies; they are reflected in their own poetic creations. Arjava, throughout his life, aspired for the Truth, the Light which he got in Pondicherry but he also attained something else as well when he began to tread on the path of Yoga—the door leading to Bliss, perpetual Bliss. He knew:

                                            O I would find the truthway

                                                  That leads to Thee

                                             From the outward shores of silver

                                                   To the Ultimate Sea.

 

                                             O I would hear the fire-speech

                                                    That echoes Thee

                                              And pens in flaming ramparts

                                                      Each galaxy.[66]

 

But for that he was aware

 

                                        I would tread on the aether’s truthway

                                                With a footsole empty of weight,

                                       And soundlessly fare through that starworld

                                                 To the living Solar Gate.[67]

 

Therefore

 

                                       The raft of hope will cross the lonely day,

                                              No ship, no shore in view.

                                        But sails of dream shall thrust me far away

                                              Till I have come to you.

                                        Trance, and a whispered wandering of waves

                                               Over the level sand;

                                        Most quite tones my own deep hunger craves

                                               Are spoken near at hand.

                                        What if the light be shadowy and dim?

                                             —I see your face once more;

                                        Set free of sorrow, endure the dissolving rim

                                                 Of the imperishable shore.[68]  

 

   

       Arjava’s life, though brief, was significant as it showed what Yoga was capable of doing and so was his demise. Many disciples and followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had expected to see their Gurus in a divinized and immortal body and had also expected themselves to become immortal as well. Even senior sadhaks like K. Amrita too were under such an impression. Amal Kiran writes about this notion of attaining immortality:

     “He [Amrita] used to be often in my room. Once when he was there we heard the sound of a funeral passing in the street. In a whisper as if conveying a secret, he said: “I have the feeling that this will not happen to me.” I did not raise my eyebrows in the least, for most of us who understood the originality of Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual vision and his reading of the Supermind’s implications could not help the expectation of a radical body change.[69]

      Though death did visit the Ashram in 1936 when Dahi Lakshmi, the wife of a Gujarati sadhak named Tulsi passed away which shook a lot of sadhaks, yet the general perception remained the same. On 18 December 1938, Sri Aurobindo was informed by a disciple: “There are people who think that as soon as they have entered the Ashram they have become immortal!” Sri Aurobindo replied: “People think so, because for a long time no death took place in the Ashram. Those who died were either visitors or who had gone back from here.”

     But Arjava’s demise freed the Ashramites from the spell of the myth of becoming immortal to a great extent; great extent but not completely because Arjava had died outside the Ashram. It was only when Chandulal, the Ashram engineer left his body in November 1945 in the Ashram that the futility of the myth was totally revealed. But that is a different story.

 

                                                      

 

                                                                     

                                                Reference and Notes 

 

[1] Dilip Kumar Roy, Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p.132

[2] K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar, On the Mother, p. 259 (1978 edition)

[3] Arjava, Poems, p. 191

[4] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p.132

[5] Ibid., p. 121

[6] On the Mother, p. 259

[7] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p.120

[8] Ibid., p. 125

[9] Ibid.,

[10] Ibid., p. 126

[11] Poems, p.45

[12] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p.126

[13] Sri Aurobindo to Dilip, Volume I, p. 60

[14] On the Mother, p. 259

[15] K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar, Sri Aurobindo: A Biography and a History, p. 1039-1040 (1972 edition)

[16] On the Mother, p. 259

[17] Sri Aurobindo: A Biography and a History, p. 1040

[18] Nolini Kanta Gupta, Collected Works, Volume 7, p.5

[19] Ibid., pp.5-6

[20] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p.124

[21] Nirodbaran, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, p.91

[22] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p.130

[23] Khirode was a sadhak who was in-charge of the Building Department of the Ashram.

[24] Sri Aurobindo to Dilip, Volume I, pp.319-320

[25] Sri Aurobindo to Dilip, Volume III, p. 161

[26] Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Poetry and Art, pp.107-109

[27] Ibid., pp.231-232

[28] Ibid., pp.476-478

[29] Ibid., p. 478

[30] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, pp.127-128

[31] Letters on Poetry and Art, p. 479

[32] Ibid., pp.482-483

[33] Ibid., pp.483-484

[34] Ibid., pp. 485-486

[35] Ibid., pp.488-489

[36] Ibid., pp. 489-490

[37] www.sciy.org/ 29.4.2008

[38] Ibid./ 19.4.2008

[39] Ibid./ 3.5.2008

[40] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p.129

[41] Letters on Poetry and Art, p. 476

[42] Ibid., p.156

[43] Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, pp.333-334

[44] Sri Aurobindo to Dilip, Volume II, p. 195

[45] Nirodbaran, Talks With Sri Aurobindo, p.373

[46] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p. 109

[47] Twelve Years With Sri Aurobindo, pp.  91-92

[48] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me., p.132

[49] Krishnalal Bhatt (1.7.1905-5.1.1990) was one of the foremost of the Ashram artists. He joined the Ashram in 1933 and looked after the Art Gallery till his demise.

[50] Nirodbaran, Talks With Sri Aurobindo, Volume II, p. 908

[51] Born in April 1907 as Lawrence Marshall Pinto, he was an engineer from the Royal Institute of Science, Bombay after which he went to England and earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from London University. He settled in Pondicherry in 1935 and came in touch with the Ashram in 1937 of which he became a permanent member after a couple of years and was renamed ‘Udar’ by Sri Aurobindo. He was in-charge of Harpagon Atelier that made furniture and stainless steel products. His wife Mona was the manager extraordinaire of Golconde, the oldest guest house of the Ashram. He died in December 2001. 

[52] Shyam Kumari, How They Came to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Volume II, p. 126

[53] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p.117

[54] Arjava, Poems, p. 215

[55] Letters on Poetry and Art, pp. 487-488

[56] Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, p.117

[57] Poems, p. 82

[58] Ibid., p.149

[59] Ibid., p.335

[60] Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, p.92

[61] Ibid., pp. 92-93

[62] Ibid., p. 93

[63] On the Mother, p. 260

[64] Poems, p. 177

[65] Sri Aurobindo: A Biography and a History, pp. 1041-1042

[66] Poems, p. 77

[67] Ibid., p. 332

[68] Ibid., p. 305

[69] Georges Van Vrekhem, The Mother: The Story of Her Life, p. 600

 

***                          

      Born on 13 October 1984, Anurag Banerjee is an essayist, biographer, poet and researcher. His first book Nirodbaran: The Surrealist’s Journey was published in December 2006. He wrote the biography of Dilip Kumar Roy at the age of twenty in 2005 and translated 100 poems of Sri Aurobindo into Bengali at the age of twenty-one in 2006. His published works include Nirodbaran: The Surrealist’s Journey (2006), Achinpather Dibyapathik (2008), and Debotar Shrom (2008).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Tusar N. Mohapatra

Director, Savitri Era Learning Forum
SRA-102-C, Shipra Riviera, Indirapuram, Ghaziabad - 201014 (UP) India + 91 96500-65636
tusarnmohapatra@gmail.com
Aadhaar No. 3628 2075 7337
SELF posits a model of counselling and communicative action as an instrument in order to stimulate the public sphere. The model aims at supplementing the individual’s struggle for a successful social adjustment with more aspirational inputs so as to help one take an informed and balanced attitude towards life as well as society.
Savitri Era of those who adore,
Om Sri Aurobindo & The Mother.

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