Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay
Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay: In Memoriam
The Man and his Work
With the passing of Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay (1918—2009) into the Beyond on 27 March a profound void has been created in the world of scholastic literature of which he was one of the greatest landmarks. His death was not premature; his soul left the body after prolonged illness and hospitalization but what is lamentable is that it is almost impossible to find his replacement to fill up the void. A Sanskrit scholar par excellence, an interpreter of the sacred scriptures of Hinduism, a musicologist and a singer who was trained by none other than Dilip Kumar Roy himself who loved and looked upon the former as a close pal, a biographer, a writer—it is difficult to describe all the aspects of his multi-faceted personality. But what stood out distinctly were his spiritual consciousness and spiritual wisdom and knowledge that compelled the palms to join without any second thought or hesitation to offer obeisance to him. He was not a Guru but a firm believer of Guruvada; he was a direct and probably the last surviving disciple of Swami Balananda Brahmachari of Deoghar (a scholarly biography of whose he wrote later). He was a householder-ascetic; a rare soul who was consecrated to the Divine whole-heartedly and yet fulfilled all the material duties and responsibilities that a householder is supposed to do. Men like him are rare and hence they are so special. Bestowed with a golden voice his rendering of the hymns of the Bhagavata-Gita and Chandi as well as the songs mostly of Dwijendralal and Dilip Kumar Roy escalated the mind of the listeners to the seventh heaven.
Born on 23 May 1918 in Deoghar to Prangopal Mukhopadhay (who was a yogi) and Surobala Devi, Govindo Gopal obtained a first class in the matriculation examination; he obtained his B.A. in philosophy and Sanskrit where he attained a first class and his success was repeated when he earned his M.A. degree in Sanskrit from Calcutta University where he stood first-class-first. After the completion of his higher studies when the possibility of research emerged, his father sent him to Benaras where he spent four years (1944—48) in the company of Satish Chandra Mukherjee (of Dawn Society) and Gopinath Kobiraj. He did his research in Benaras Hindu University under the guidance of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan from whom (as well as from Gopinath Kobiraj) he received lessons in Indian Philosophy, the Vedas and the Vedanta. By the time he had turned thirty he had attained a distinct and assured standing in the cosmos of spiritual seekers and scholars. After obtaining his doctorate he taught for a while at Benaras Hindu University and then he worked as the professor of Sanskrit in Krishnanagar Government College, Presidency College, Sanskrit College and was also the Head of the Sanskrit Department of Burdwan College. He was also the visiting professor at Rabindra Bharati University as well as a researcher-professor at the Ramakrishna Mission. He was also a member of the Central Sanskrit Board and was associated with All India Radio and Doordarshan. He was the recipient of the title of Sankyatirtha and was also conferred the title of Mahamohopadhyay some years ago. Those who have had the opportunity of listening to his lectures (some of which have been published in various magazines) would vouch the fact that he possessed the unique skill of making others think on what he said. He was close to the greatest stalwarts of Indian culture and spirituality like Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Gopinath Kobiraj, Dilip Kumar Roy, Krishnaprem, Anandamoyee Ma, Srimat Anirvan, Swami Pratyagananda Saraswati and Satprem to name a few. In fact it was through the epistolary exchanges between him and Swami Pratyagananda Saraswati that later led to the creation of the latter’s masterpiece Japasutram which throws a new light on the system of japa.
Those who knew this great personality would always remember him for his illuminating discourses on the sacred scriptures of our religion. Govindo Gopal’s entire life was an offering at the altar of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning. The colour of his soul matched with the colour of the robe he wore which was always ochre-coloured. The number of his published works—the most notable of which are Chetonar Arohini, Sursudhakar Dilip Kumar Roy Jibone O Gane, Patra-prasad, Troyeer Tridhara, Sri Aurobindo O Upanishad: Prashange Acharya Shankar—is not numerous but every work of his is stamped with a flawless perfection. It is a pity that the present generation does not know much of him or his works for he had past his prime by the beginning of this century. His books on philosophy are not just mere volumes of dry interpretation, on the contrary, they are priceless gems that reveal the innermost meaning and essence of our scriptures; one marvels at his in-depth study of the scriptures and the light of which he gave to us. He was a sailor in the ocean of knowledge who brought out the precious pearls of wisdom from the lost treasures of the bygone ages. The burning fire of scholarly creativity was always aflame in his heart. He can be rightly hailed as one of the greatest jnana-yogis of the past age. At the same time it can be said that his sadhana was a natural flowering of his soul under the bright sun-rays of his Guru Swami Balananda Brahmachari. His books on topics of spiritual interest are certainly not for the masses or for the common man but they are understandable to those who have the will to understand and realize. The keys of the doors leading to everlasting Light is hidden in his books. Men of the bygone era have benefited from them and so would the posterity if they go through them with proper attitude and interest.
What is sincerely regretted is the fact that with the demise of Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay we have lost the ‘last of the Mohicans’, a true pilgrim of the star, an artist-cum-ascetic who believed in the philosophy of ‘Art for the Divine’s sake’ and showed us the way to maintain a constant equilibrium between our material quest and spiritual aspiration and to make considerable progress in both. His life has been a teaching itself and may we all take lessons from it.
I heard of Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay and saw him as well for the first time in 1997 during the birth centenary celebrations of Dilip Kumar Roy. A documentary on Dilip Kumar Roy was telecast in Doordarshan in which Dr. Mukhopadhyay who was an institution on Dilip Kumar’s music, literature and life spoke about him and also sang a couple of lines from one of the most popular songs of the great maestro. I saw him again in that very year in our school (The Future Foundation School) where he had come as a chief guest during the Founder’s Day celebration. He was dressed in a saffron robe and wore a saffron Gandhi-cap. I saw him from a distance and as a young boy of thirteen I found his personality and whole being to be quite striking. At that age I knew not much about him except the fact that he was the father of one of our teachers.
It was not until 2001 that I was formally introduced to Dr. Mukhopadhyay. By that time I had read some of his books and had become a silent admirer of the vast knowledge he possessed. I was asked to pen a brief life-sketch of Dilip Kumar Roy for Akashvani Calcutta and so I rang him up one day and after introducing myself I sought his help for the life-sketch. At that time there was no biography of Dilip Kumar available anywhere. Dr. Mukhopadhyay agreed to help me but since he was scheduled to leave Calcutta shortly he gave me the address of Hari Krishna Mandir (Dilip Kumar’s Ashram in Pune) so that I could contact Shri Shankar Bandopadhyay, the closest disciple of Dilip Kumar and the Managing Trustee of the Hari Krishna Mandir Trust and receive more help from him. A few days later I also received a postcard from him (dated 29.4.2001) in which he informed me of two books which contained valuable information about the life of Dilip Kumar; one of the books had a wonderful article on Dilip Kumar written by Dr. Mukhopadhyay and the second book was the posthumous publication of Dilip Kumar’s last work in Bengali. After I had completed writing the life-sketch of Dilip Kumar, I sent a copy of it to Dr. Mukhopadhyay inviting his comments. He wrote to me the following letter on (19.7.2001) after receiving it:
“I was pleased to receive your article on Dilip Kumar which you have sent to me with utmost care. I’ve finished reading it in one breath. Within such a brief span you have been able to bring out the main aspects of his life—this happens to be your special achievement…
…I am planning to portray how the seeds of devotion were generated in his family from the paternal side. But I doubt whether I would be able to pen his biography at such an advanced age. You can also try to write something in detail if you get the inspiration and have the love to do so.”
Dr. Mukhopadhyay did write a spectacular biography of Dilip Kumar in Bengali titled Sursudhakar Dilip Kumar Roy Jibone O Gane some years later. In fact I received a lot of help from his book when I started penning my biography of Dilip Kumar. Though I stayed at a stone-throw distance from Dr. Mukhopadhyay’s apartment I never got the opportunity to visit him till 28 May 2008. However I had the good fortune of attending a musical soiree at Lakshmi’s House, Calcutta on 19 July 2005 which was organized to celebrate the birth anniversary of Dwijendralal Roy, the noted composer of Bengal and Dilip Kumar’s father where he had sung a comic song of Dwijendralal Vikramadityer sabhaye chilo navaratna nabhai (there were nine jewels in the court of King Vikramaditya) and a few lines from Giri-govardhan-gokul-chari (also composed by Dwijendralal) with his daughter Swastika. I was accompanied by a very close friend of mine and both of us were spellbound to listen to his rendering of the song. He was then eighty-seven years of age yet he sang with effortless ease.
As I’ve already mentioned before, I was extremely keen to meet Dr. Mukhopadhyay and have a talk with him. After the publication of my biography of Dilip Kumar Roy I was desirous to gift a copy of the book to him personally. At that time I was requested by Shri Nirmal Nahar (the founder-trustee of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Calcutta) to give him a copy of the anthology of tributes in the memory of Satprem and Sujata Nahar. So I made an appointment with him over the phone and visited his apartment on 28 May in the evening. He received me very cordially. After I gifted him the books he asked me about my literary activities. When I informed him that I was the biographer of several disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the translator of his poems as well, he was overjoyed and said: “Aha! So you belong to our group.” As we talked I observed that he was addressing me as apni (The word ‘you’ is used differently in Bengali and Hindi; when we address an elderly person he is addressed as apni [in Bengali] or aap [in Hindi]; similarly a person younger in age or close to one’s heart is addressed as tumi [in Bengali] or tum [in Hindi].)
So when I requested him to address me as tumi instead of apni, he replied: “Aponjon bolei to apni bolchi.” [Since you are my endeared one that is why I am calling you apni.] I was so touched!
I had a long conversation with Dr. Mukhopadhyay that day (some excerpts of it I would include in this article) a part of which I recorded while we spoke and it has now become one of my most cherished treasures. He told me that nowadays no one is interested to study the works of Gopinath Kobiraj and added that proper research must be made on what he had left behind. He gave me the names of all those persons who could help me in the said project and also assured to help me. During the course of our conversation I asked him: “Have you seen Sri Aurobindo?” “No,” he replied, “I didn’t have that privilege but I had the darshan of the Mother twice. I had kept my head on her lap and she had blessed me. The Darshan days fell within the working days of my college so I couldn’t have his darshan but I was very close, most close I would say, to Dilip Kumar Roy. I’ve learnt music from him—that wonderful, divine music…” Then he narrated to me two stories:
“Dilip Kumar was very close to Sri Aurobindo as you know; he [Sri Aurobindo] looked upon him as his own child. During one of the Darshans, Krishnaprem had gone to Pondicherry to have the darshan of Sri Aurobindo. As you know, Dilip-da was so thick-and-thin with Sri Aurobindo; in the night he sent a note to Sri Aurobindo—that was just like Dilip-da—he said: ‘On the occasion of your Darshan tomorrow Krishnaprem has come. The man next to me will be Krishnaprem. If possible give him a smile. And he obliged! After Dilip Kumar made his pranam [next day during the Darshan], Sri Aurobindo saw a European gentleman following Dilip Kumar and he gave him a smile. Dilip Kumar was very pleased. Sri Aurobindo was happy.”
The next story which he narrated was related to Krishnaprem and Madhav Ashish (who succeeded the former as the head of the Ashram at Mirtola): “Two friends were sitting. Two friends meaning Krishnaprem and Madhav Ashish. I called Krishnaprem ‘Gopal-da’, I never called him ‘Krishnaprem.’ We were very close to each other. I was so fortunate! He poured out everything from his own experiences…He took me inside the temple, showed me how he did the puja. He threw a book at Madhav Ashish and asked: ‘Is it there?’ Madhav Ashish shot back: ‘What is where?’ It meant: I’m asking you whether do you find anything original in the book or have you written what you have learnt from people. So that was the way of conveying and I still remember how he used to speak.”
I asked him: “Have you attained the state of Samadhi?” “No”, he answered, “but I have had the darshan of my Guru [Swami Balananda Brahmachari].” Coming to the Mother’s topic, he asked me: “Can you tell me who said this to whom: ‘You take charge of the whole Ashram, I shall shut myself up?’ Who said this?” “Sri Aurobindo to the Mother,” was my reply. He was pleased to know the precise answer and he said: “So thereafter he put the Mother in the forefront and took himself to the background and all the time he used to remain absorbed in the search of the Supramental.” Then he cautioned me: “These talks are only for you and not for anyone else.”
I asked him: “Sri Aurobindo’s body showed no sign of decomposition even after four days of his passing. Paramahamsa Yogananda’s body also did not show any sign of decomposition even after twenty days of his demise. I would like to know from you: how have our scriptures explained such phenomena?” He replied: “At many places the reference is given.” But he did not quite explain it.
As our talks progressed I could feel that he had developed a liking towards me. Our conversations became even more informal. When I had seen him at a younger age I found him to be the possessor of an overwhelming personality. But that day he was exceedingly affectionate and amiable. I felt so at ease as if I were talking to my own grandfather! So I decided to ask him a question which had haunted me for quite sometime. “I’ve read in Dilip Kumar’s reminiscences that he was informed by Baroda Charan Mazumdar of Lalgola that Sri Aurobindo would not be able to attain the siddhi of the supramental yoga due to a particular reason. Dilip Kumar never revealed it. Do you know what the reason was?” He smiled and said: “I’ll tell you some other day.” But he himself gave me the clue to another mystery: “I should give you something which is very secret. It has not gone to other people. I gave one the other day to our H.E. the Governor; what I have got will amaze you and you will be completely stunned. I also haven’t dreamt of getting it…Please keep it only to yourself.”
I became even more curious to know what the secret was. He went on speaking and I could feel that he had lost the sense of time and space; he spoke but I could not grasp what he was trying to convey (I’ve listened to the recording of the conversation I had with him many a time but still couldn’t make out anything); the only clues that I got were that the secret was related directly to Raman Maharshi and a photograph existed to prove the authenticity of the ‘secret’ and there was a set of correspondence of Dilip Kumar (with whom that remained unknown) while he stayed in the Ashram of Raman Maharshi which he wanted to gift to me. He even said: “In that picture you will find how…” and then he digressed. Then he said something which I found to be extremely mysterious: “Raman Maharshi came to know about it and he conveyed it to the other person. At that time he was not in this world; he was far, far away—the unborn.” I suspected who the ‘unborn’ was and so I asked him: “Was it you?” He smiled and he went on: “But he conveyed all this to me. Everything related to and concerned with Sri Aurobindo was conveyed through Raman Maharshi. Raman Maharshi was the only one—don’t tell this to anyone…” and then he digressed once again and began to speak about the photograph which he had mentioned some time ago. “That photograph which I had given, in it Raman Maharshi was looking at…it was a living photograph. From this photograph only Sri Aurobindo actually came to know about him whose name you just now mentioned. And the only other man who knew was Raman Maharshi. And Raman Maharshi conveyed it to Dilip Kumar and he in turn gave it to Sri Aurobindo. Thus it happened.”
As I was listening my mind was agog with thoughts. I could see that he was lost in a different world and I understood that he was trying to reveal something profound to me. But what was it? Then suddenly a thought occurred to me: “Was he revealing himself? His inner true self?” As soon as this thought came to my mind, he said to me: “Gradually I will reveal everything to you. You will be extremely benefited then. All the stories cannot be narrated in a day…I’ll tell you all one-by-one and when you go to Raman Ashram, stay there for a few days and you will get everything. That will be a great possession for you. But don’t tell this to Dilip Kumar’s people and other people. Keep it only to yourself…These talks are only for you and not for anyone else. I shall give you the secrets one-by-one.”
Gradually the time came for me to depart. As I was about to leave a gentleman and his wife came to meet Dr. Mukhopadhyay. They used to recite the Bhagavat-Gita together in his presence. I was asked to stay back for a while and join them. I was sharing the copy of the Gita with the gentleman. After he and his wife recited some hymns from the chapter where the Lord reveals Himself—the Vishwarupa Darshan—to my horror, Dr. Mukhopadhyay asked me to recite. I was stupefied! Sanskrit, to me, was not an alien language (courtesy my mother who did her M.A. in Sanskrit Literature and the shlokas and stotras I learnt during my sacred thread ceremony) but reciting the significant portions of the Vishwarupa Darshan and that too in front of Dr. Mukhopadhyay who knew it by heart and was very particular about the precise pronunciation made me nervous. However I recited the portion he asked me to do and I have no hesitation to admit that my recitation was far from perfect. The gentleman and his wife encouraged me but I gave up after making another attempt to make it flawless. I told Dr. Mukhopadhyay that I’ve been told that if the holy chants are not recited properly and precisely it brings an ill effect so I requested him to excuse me and give me some time to learn the language well so that I can recite it flawlessly in future.
When I got up to leave Dr. Mukhopadhay escorted me to the door and asked me to come again. However that meeting turned out to be the first and the last one. After some weeks when I rang him up I was informed that he had gone to Haridwar. A few months later, I was informed that he was very ill following a fracture in his leg and was hospitalized. News about his health came to me at regular intervals and then on 28 March 2009 in the morning, Shri Nirmal Nahar rang me up and gave me the news that Dr. Mukhopadhyay had left his body the previous day.
Today when I sit back and recall those few hours that I had spent in his company, I cannot help but call myself fortunate. It is lamentable that some very profound secrets followed him to the Beyond but I feel proud and happy for not only having spent a few but memorable hours with him but also for knowing a genius like him. He had told me that he was desirous to spend the last years of his life in the Himalayas; in reply to that I had told him that we needed him amid us. And how lovingly he had smiled! He was a silent sadhak and he left silently, almost unnoticed.
But is he really dead and gone? Apparently ‘yes’ but in reality: NO. He lives in his work. His spiritual odyssey has not come to an end; it is just that he has discarded the garment, that is, the material body and his spiritual personality has become even more effective. And this is the truth.
Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhay had a voluminous correspondence with a number of celebrities of the spiritual world. What follows are some of the letters he had received from the stalwarts of the bygone age; the reader especially the seeker would definitely find the answers to certain important questions in the letters:
(i) From Yogi Krishnaprem
July 6, 1941.
Dear Govinda Gopal,
How does a suduracar [scoundrel] become ananyabhak? Well, the only words that come to my mind at the moment are those of the Buddha: “Think not lightly of the good saying: It will not come to me.” Even as the water-pot is filled by the falling of drops, so a wise man becomes full of good even if he gathers it little by little. Why should he gather good? Because he wants it. But if he doesn’t want it? Then I don’t know. If he doesn’t want it, better leave the whole subject alone. There is no such thing as unearned income in the spiritual world.
If people go on with japa throughout their lives and gain nothing by it, it only shows they aren’t going on the right road. Japa may or may not be the best way, and that is a subject on which I have my own opinion, but there are ways and ways of doing japa and what I have seen of most people’s japa is not fit for much more than earning a few pice a day in a Marwari’s bhajanshala and quite useless as an attempt at the most difficult achievement in the world.
Individual effort always bear the fruit if it is intelligently and rightly directed, but you may spend a hundred years in trying to jump at one bound up on the roof of a house and nothing whatever will come of such misdirected effort.
Indications of progress? Yes, ask yourself the question whether the compulsion of raga and dvesha in you is increasing or decreasing, whether your temper is in better control, whether things irritate you as much as they used to. In other words, is the power of Desire getting greater or less in you, for where there is Kama there is no Rama and vice versa. This is the best indicator of progress or the reverse.
Anyhow I tell you one thing with entire certainty: namely, every step you take uphill is one step nearer to the summit which is our Goal. But the steps have to be taken in the right direction. As an old Chinese writer put it: “Anyone can talk about meditation, but he cannot master it if he does not know what the word means. If people sit and meditate one or two hours looking at their own egos and call it contemplation, how can anything come of it?”
You ask about Vishvarupa. I can only refer you to my book, The Yoga of the Bhagavadgita, in which I have explained it in far more detail than I could possibly do in a letter. Why did it terrify Arjuna? Because the Vishvarupa is death to the ego and all fear death. The ego is false and all that is false must die in the fire of Truth. But we identify ourselves with the ego and therefore we fear.
Vanshi-vibhushitakarannava-niradabhat…? As you please. But it is certain that the vision of the True and Real is not soothing or pleasing to the ego, for it is the Flame that will consume that ego utterly. Remember what the Katha-Upanishad says about the shreya and the preya. This path is the path to the shreya and if you are concerned with the soothing and the pleasant—the preya, in other words—it is better to keep off it altogether, for on it (as the same Upanishad states) one must meet and face the Mighty Fear, the Upraised Thunderbolt (Mahadbhayam vajram udyatam)—though, as it adds, they who know that become immortal (ya etad-vidur-amritas-te-bhavanti.)
November 13, 1941
Dear Govinda Gopal,
You ask about the ‘best way’. I don’t think there is any one ‘best way’ if you come down to the details, for they will differ in each case. Everyone is apt to speak of the way they themselves have gone as the ‘best’—hence all the conflicting statements in different books. There is a statement in a little book termed ‘Light on the Path’ which says: “Seek it (the path) not by any one road. To each temperament there is one road which seems the most desirable. But the Way is not found by devotion alone, by religious contemplation (dhyana) alone, by ardent progress, by self-sacrificing labour, by studious observation of life. None alone can take the disciple more than one step onwards. All steps are necessary to make up the ladder.”
With the above statement I entirely agree. Hence, my unwillingness to say any one way is ‘the best.’ The one essential thing is the dissolution of the so-called personal ego which must die before the true Self can be born. (Even this is only words for that Self is never born!) The dissolution or death of the false ego can be brought about by the self-abandonment of love and devotion, by the insight of Advaitic knowledge and by the technical processes of Rajayoga as well as by other means but somehow or other it has to be done and the ‘best way’ for a given individual at a given moment or in a given life (for it is not a matter of one life alone) will depend on where that individual is standing at the moment.
Japa is a most profound subject and I cannot possibly set forth its essential nature in a letter. In the first place we must distinguish between what is called nama-japa and mantra-japa. The latter requires a guru to give you the mantra and to direct your use of it (which again will vary according to temperament). You have no doubt been initiated into Gayatri and there is certainly no better mantra but you must try to understand its real meaning.
Nama-japa can be done by anyone but it is only very effective in practice (whatever books may say) when the name is one which is so loved that its repetition calls up the image of its Bearer. Mere mechanical or loveless repetition is—I won’t say useless—but of very limited use.
Remember that nothing mechanical is of any use since that which is mechanical is dead and this path is the path of life.
It is a difficult, a heart-breaking path. None can tread it to the end who does not want it more than he wants any other thing. Be sure that you really do want it before you try to go further. Current sentimentalism about God and so forth is about as much use as a hedge of flowers when the sea wall is broken and the tide rushes in. Fortunately for most men, that wall is strong and few are able to break it.
April 16, 1942
My dear Govinda,
If I have not and do not answer your question about the particular path along which I myself travelled, it is because such description could only be of externals, as it were of the particular clothes I have worn (and there have been many) and would miss the essentials which cannot be described, least of all in a letter.
For over twenty years I have desired nothing but that One thing and have taken up anything that came to hand that seemed a possible help towards it. If I found it of no help I flung it aside and tried another. But I can recollect nothing that was of ‘no help’ altogether. All have been useful in some degree or other and I regret none of my past attempts and experiences. However, if there is one thing which seems to me central and all important: it is faith in the Guru. For the rest, there is a mystery at the heart of all life and it is in that mystery that all true causes lie. We can say nothing more.
To your question about him who is ‘natisakta na nirvinna’ the Srimad Bhagavita answers, ‘bhaktiyogo asya siddhida’ (I quote from memory only). But what is bhakti-yoga? Bhakti is self-giving. What if I am unable to give myself? I do not know if I can do more than suggest a few answers:
(1) Contact with those who do give themselves (but we must be sure that they do really do so and not merely appear to. That is the reason why so much so-called satsang is useless for it stimulates inner doubts which may be suppressed but remain all the same. Our soul can never be deceived however much the mind can). Such contact is difficult to find.
(2) Acting always for Krishna’s sake in everything. Gradually this will increase the realisation of Him and with that increasing vividness will come more ability to give one’s self to Him.
(3) Careful and dispassionate self-examination. “I do not give myself, why? What is it that prevents me from so doing?” The answer will come of itself if you meditate, so I will say nothing. Meditate on the question at all times of the day, sitting down, walking about etc. If you really want the answer you will certainly get it. That much I can promise you.
Having found the answer set to work to remove the causes that hinder.
You ask when you will get the love which you want. I can only give you a paradox by way of answer:
Until you see you cannot love:
Until you love you cannot see.
Crack your teeth on that. There is an answer. Find it.
Again, whatever one says about the Brahman is part of the pairs of opposites. For instance, Infinite-finite, unity-diversity etc. etc. It is useless saying this Infinite is never against the finite for the two concepts are essentially linked together. Yato vaco nivartante. One can say nothing which is true but must grasp both of the opposites and leap boldly. The very earth we tread on is illusory but it seems to tread on for a moment. So with words and other symbols, abstract or concrete. They can serve as momentary bridges for the feet of experience to tread but if we stop to examine them they dissolve into impalpable mist. Such is the world. Philosophy is no exception. We must go on boldly and in the end make the leap.
Almora, May 1944
My dear Govindagopal,
At one time everything seemed to get clearer day by day and I felt I understood things I had not understood before but now there seems to be a change. In that light there appears a darkness which gets blacker and blacker as the light gets brighter so that the more I see the less I understand. Men have described a hundred paths but none of them seems to be the true path. The true path is through the sky and so has no landmarks and no descriptions. All described paths are but the tracings on the earth of the shadow of one who has gone in the sky. No one can follow him by following them. But how to grow wings and fly? It is perhaps that wings begin to sprout when all else is despaired of? Krishna Kripa hi kevalam. The Sun shines but in its heart is darkness and similarly there is a light shinning in the centre of night. They pass into each other and we are dazzled. Sometimes one begins to see that all knowledge is ignorance but with that must go its opposite pole—all ignorance is knowledge. If we can trust that and cease to hanker after the knowledge, we shall find Krishna; but it is so difficult to trust oneself in ignorance. Will not its water swallow us up? Supposing after all that Krishna is not Krishna? There is something in us that says “trust and leap.” I think we shall not regret it if we follow. I have seen it a hundred times but yet I think I fear. A curse on all our knowledge—it makes it so much harder to unknown.
* * *
My own? May 10th. Yes, one can find out some things (through astrology) but what will you seek to know? They are all illusory. What we seek is not within the Kalachakra.
I wish I had the gifts of Dilip. I would use them to lose myself. But then perhaps I should not. He seems to envy those of others. We are all fools.
19th November, 1944
My dear Govindagopal,
No, but I will say this: In the first place I have not had a ‘fling’ at Vedanta but only at one particular school of it. The Purnaprajna darsana also claims the title of Vedanta. Secondly, even the Shankara school of Vedanta is very satisfactory—until you meet Krishna.
If there were no Krishna I, personally, should be happy enough with Advaita Vedanta but, and there is the rub, there is Krishna and if you see Him all previous values go into the reverse as it were. Moksha, which was the highest purushārtha suddenly finds itself reduced to the status of being one member of the dwandwa—bhukti-mukti. The Shānta bhāva achieved with so much effort and pain suddenly finds itself the lowest of the series (shānta, dāsya etc.). Swami Prabuddhanandaji once asked me, as a matter of fact, that of all the five bhāvas how is it that the one which is nearest to our (i.e. his) bhāva, the shānta bhāva, is the one which you (Vaishnavas) reckon as lowest? And then kāma, the great enemy of the ascetic Vedantin and his patron the ascetic Mahādeva, suddenly becomes the friend of the worshipper of Krishna, who worships with Kāma-bīja, Kāma-Gāyatri and Kāma-Yantra.
So what can I do? If it was not for Krishna all could be plain sailing. Only a fool would fear to abandon the ridiculous for the sublime. But there is Krishna and there’s the difficulty. Just imagine that Krishna stands before you offering you either advaita moksha or Himself, which in fact would you choose? You may say the choice is not a real one, that Krishna is Himself moksha. Very likely, but the converse is not so true—dīyamānam na grihnanti.
You may argue as much as you please to avoid being confronted with the choice. Deny its existence, explain that both mean the same, demonstrate that I neither understand Krishna nor moksha or I should never have put the alternatives. Nevertheless all your shouting will only serve to drown a voice in your heart which says that even the possibility of finding Krishna is better than the certainty of moksha.
What more? As Goethe said: “Choose, for your choice is brief and yet endless.”
Your opinion of my buddhi and general reasonableness must be going downhill fast. But what can I do? I will be reasonable about everything else but I can’t be reasonable about Krishna. Krishna is Krishna and there is an end of it.
15th October, 1951
I was very glad indeed to know from you that Baba (father) was able to leave in such complete peace. Yes, I know well enough how dark it all seems but that darkness is only of the senses and the sense-mind which persuade us that all is dark because they cannot see. We must not listen to their voices or we become sunk in depression and sadness from which the only issue is into a forgetfulness (Time’s healing!) which is tamasik. “Natmanam avasadayet”—it is Thakur’s healing, not Time’s that we want. They are not gone: Mirtola is not empty (as Moti had passed away) nor is Deoghar. But we have to open the eye that can see and not sink down in the blindness of the pain that cannot. Do not ever listen to the voices which say ‘he is not’ but only to the one which says ‘he is’ for that is the truth and I tell it to you from my own heart. For the rest, changes are bound to come and do come. Life cannot go on forever in one mood and our outer life has to be adjusted accordingly; but this is the truth that nowhere is there emptiness.
Lucknow, 22nd November, 1951
Painful memories? Yes, that is inevitable but, as you know, there are only two paths. One is to cut loose from everything, pleasure as well as pain and go ‘alone to the Alone.’ That is not for either you or me. The other is to accept both pain and pleasure as equally His gift. With Radharani’s grace all can be borne. But do not hug the memories and dwell in them. When they come and are painful—accept them but remember always that he is not gone—merely invisible to the senses.
19th August, 1952
Don’t you go getting depressed or embittered or even excessively worried. I am not going to put up with it from you anyhow. Just trust Radharani—I am sure she won’t let you down. Whatever happens let it happen as and how it will; it cannot be other than His will and that is best of all for those who love Him.
Much more important is that you should not yield to this ‘feeling of desolation.’ It is the voice of tamas telling you that Baba (father) is ‘gone,’ that you don’t know where he is or if he is, that the sky is clouded and the future unattractive. All this is pure tamas. As opposed to that there is the voice of sattva which equally tells you that all that can go must go, that you do know that he is and in a general sense where he is—at least that he is in your heart, which is a more real place than in your senses and that the true sky is never clouded—the Aditya standing in the Zenith as Chandogya puts it. All this, too, you hear in your heart and you can’t deny it. Choose then which you will listen to—and fight the other. ‘Mān anusmara yudddhya ca’. Above all, do not listen to one insidious voice which suggests that to cease to grieve would be disloyal; your father is ānanda by nature and he wishes that you should be in ānanda and not darken your soul by dwelling in constant grief for that which is not and never was him.
I am so glad you are feeling less depressed. As for the (external) emptiness in the Ashram—we have got to face and conquer that emptiness sometime, and the sooner the better. After all if Thakur or Guru said to us, “I am now going to put you through the experience of the emptiness of the external world if you think you are able to stand it” would we not willingly and even eagerly assent? And yet that is exactly what He has done (and so only in part, for he has left much behind) and we are supposed to be intelligent enough to recognise His hand. For the rest, just resolutely say ‘no’ and refuse to follow right at the start when that alluring voice tempts down the path of sad reminiscence. I know how alluring it can be in its sadness and also how weak and depressed it leaves one in the end.
(ii) From Yasoda Ma
Jan. and April, 1944 (OM) Mirtola, Almora
My dear Govinda,
I was very happy to receive your letter after an age…To serve others is to serve Krishna. We get enmeshed in the toils of maya only because we constantly forget that He presides in every single body. That is why we lose sight of Him and live under the yoke of maya to be born again and again and stay engrossed in what we call our world peopled by our “dear ones”. If we could only learn to see all this as His lila (play) and envision and serve the one Krishna who ensouls all His creatures, then He would not be able to stay away, veiled from us, because then the Veil (of illusion) would be abolished for ever and the whole world would be viewed, pervaded by Him. So far as I am concerned it is unthinkable for me to let Him stay away beyond my horizon. Whatever I see or hear or feel in this world of ours lives by His breath—He, my Gopal, is the life of all that is: it is that one Krishna who plays at hide and seek with us in countless forms and fathomless lilts. It is only because we equate our bodies with the Last Reality that we grow to dote on our private worlds of illusion, to go through no end of pain and frustration—because we hug the blindness of moha, make-believe. Your mother is right: we are all one, sparks of the same Vast Fire.
I send you my deep love and blessings…
I am so glad to learn that Dilip visited your Ashram at Deoghar (Vaidyanath). Wherever he goes he floods the place as it were with ananda (bliss).
(translated from the original Bengali)
(iii) Mahatma Gandhi
A few words regarding the correspondence between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay: Dr. Mukhopadhay had little interest in Gandhi’s political life but what attracted him was the latter’s deep theism and he wanted to know whether the occurrence of any experience made his faith in God so concrete. This curiosity made him write the following letter to the Father of the Nation and his letter along with Gandhi’s answer was published in the newspaper Harijan on 13.6.1936. Gandhi’s reply has been italicized:
The following is taken from a letter from Bengal:
‘I had the privilege to go through your article on birth-control with the heading: “A Youth’s Difficulty.”
With the original theme of your article, I am in full agreement. But in that article, you have expressed in a line your sentiment on God. You have said that it is the fashion nowadays for young men to discard the idea of God and they have no living faith in a living God. [“It is the fashion nowadays to dismiss God from life altogether and insist on the possibility of reaching the highest kind of life without the necessity of living faith in God.”]
But may I ask what proof (which must be positive and undisputed) can you put forth regarding the existence of a God? Hindu philosophers or ancient Rishis, it seems to me, in their attempt to describe the svarupa or reality of Ishwara have at last come to the conclusion that He is indescribable and veiled in Maya and so on. In short, they have enveloped God in an impenetrable mist of obscurity and have further complicated, instead of simplifying the complicated question of God. I do not dare deny that a true Mahatma like you or Sri Aurobindo or the Buddha and Sankaracharyas of the past may well conceive and realize the existence of such a God, who is far beyond the reach of ordinary human intellect.
But what have we (the general mass), whose coarse intellect can never penetrate into the unfathomable deep, to do with such a God if we do not feel His presence in our midst? If He is the Creator and Father of us all, why do we not feel His presence or existence in every beat of our heart? If He cannot make His presence felt, He is no God to me. Further, I have the question—if He is the Father of this universe, does He feel the sorrows of His children? If He feels so then why did He work havoc and inflict so much misery on His children by the devastating ’quakes of Bihar and Quetta? Why did He humiliate an innocent nation—the Abyssinians? Are the Abyssinians not His sons? Is He not Almighty? Then why could He not prevent these calamities? You carried on a non-violent truthful campaign for the independence of my poor Mother India and you implored the help of God. But, I think, that help has been denied to you and the strong force of materialism, which never depends on the help of God, got the better of you and you were humiliated and you have sunk into the background by forced retirement. Had there been a God, He would certainly have helped you, for your cause was indeed a deserving one! I need not multiply such instances.
So it is not at all surprising that young men of the present day do not believe in a God, because they do not want to make a supposition of God—they want a real living God. You have mentioned in your article of a living faith in a living God. I shall feel highly gratified and I think you will be rendering a great benefit to the young world, if you put forth some positive, undeniable proofs of the existence of God. I have the confidence that you will not more mystify the already mystified problem and will throw some definite light on the matter.’
I very much fear that what I am about to write will not remove the mist to which the correspondent alludes.
The writer supposes that I might have realized the existence of a living God. I can lay no such claim. But I do have a living faith in a living God even as I have a living faith in many things that scientists tell me. It may be retorted that what the scientists say can be verified if one followed the prescription given for realizing the facts which are taken for granted. Precisely in that manner speak the Rishis and Prophets. They say anybody following the path they have trodden can realize God. The fact is we do not want to follow the path leading to realization and we won’t take the testimony of eye-witnesses about the one thing that really matters. Not all the achievements of physical sciences put together can compare with that which gives us a living faith in God. Those who do not want to believe in the existence of God do not believe in the existence anything apart from the body. Such a belief is held to be unnecessary for the progress of humanity. For such persons the weightiest argument in proof of the existence of soul or God is of no avail. You can not make a person who has stuffed his ears, listen to, much less appreciate, the finest music. Even so can you not convince those about the existence of a living God who do not want the conviction.
Fortunately the vast majority of the people do have a living faith in a living God. They can not, will not, argue about it. For them, “It is.” Are all the scriptures of the world old women’s tales of superstition? Is the testimony of Chaitanya, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Tukram, Dhyanadeva, Ramdas, Nanak, Kabir, Tulsidas of no value? What about Ramamohan Roy, Devendranath Tagore, Vivekanand—all modern men as well educated as the tallest among the living ones? I omit the living witnesses whose evidences would be considered unimpeachable. This belief in God has to be based on faith which transcends reason. Indeed even the so-called realization has at bottom an element of faith without which it can not be sustained. In the very nature of things it must be so. Who can transgress the limitations of his being? I hold that complete realization is impossible in this embodied life. Nor is it necessary. A living immovable faith is all that is required for reaching the full spiritual height attainable by human beings. God is not outside this earthly case of ours. Therefore exterior proof is not of much avail, if any at all. We must ever fail to perceive Him through the senses, because He is beyond them. We can feel Him if we will but withdraw ourselves from the senses. The divine music is incessantly going on within ourselves, but the loud senses drown the delicate music which is unlike and infinitely superior to anything we can perceive or hear through our senses.
The writer wants to know why, if God is a God of mercy and justice, He allows all the miseries and sorrows we see around us. I can give no satisfactory explanation. He imputes to me a sense of defeat and humiliation or despair. My retirement, such as it is, has nothing to do with any defeat. It is no more and no less than a course of self-purification and self-preparation. I state this to show that things are often not what they seem. It may be that what we mistake as sorrows, injustices and the like are not such in truth. If we could solve all the mysteries of the universe, we would be co-equals with God. Every drop of the ocean shares its glory but it is not the ocean. Realizing our littleness during this tiny span of life, we close every morning prayer with the recitation of a verse which means: “Misery so-called is no misery nor riches so-called riches. Forgetting (or denying) God is the true misery, remembering (or faith in) God is the true riches.
In 1939 Dr. Mukhopadhyay wrote to Mahatma Gandhi that instead of trying to establish and promote the doctrine non-violence in the contaminated environment of politics, it would be much better if he, like a dharma-guru, preached it among his devoted followers only who would faithfully practice the doctrine. Gandhi answered him:
You have done well in writing to me as you have.
For me, if ahimsa is not applicable to all walks of life, it is of no use. My experiments therefore must have that end in view. I may correct myself a thousand times but I am not likely to give up an experiment in which visible results have been attained. This earthly life is a blend of the soul and the body, spirit and matter. We know the soul only through the body and so shall we know the true ahimsa only through its action in the daily life.
M. K. Gandhi
(iv) Satish Mukherjee
My dear and esteemed friend,
I have already sent you a letter of acknowledgement and have just received your reply. You do me the honour of asking me to send you a further letter. I gladly respond. But I must ask you to tell your revered father my offer to him of my homage has nothing superficial about it and can not therefore be withdrawn. Whenever I meet with a case of sincere allegiance to one’s Gurudeva, I cannot withhold my homage. And this has happened in the case of my relationship with your revered father. And you yourself being his worthy son, you also share in part my feelings of respect and regard to him.
Today I cannot write to you a fuller letter but I would just ask you to remain satisfied with a partial letter like this, in reference to what Mahatmaji has written to you in reply to your very searching queries about Godhead some years ago.
I would therefore today merely touch on a very important point raised by you, I refer to the factor of Faith in God, on which Mahatmaji’s whole article in the Harijan is based. Personally I have no particular or definite faith in a Living God; for when in 1897 Shri Satguru Deva asked me to give up all money-earning occupations and to depend upon God alone for my living, I answered Him as follows: “I have not seen God, nor do I actually know Him. I have only read about Him and heard about Him. In the circumstance, I could not truly depend upon Him for obtaining my livelihood. I must seek to earn my own livelihood.” To this Shri Satguru Deva replied as follows: “I am here before you; you see Me and know Me. Supposing I asked you not to earn your bread, but depend wholly upon Me for all you want; could you do it?” I answered: “Yes, if you say so, if you give me the said assurance, I could depend upon you and would not seek to earn my livelihood.” Then He said: “In that case, I ask you not to earn your livelihood but depend upon Me for all you may stand in need of.” That is the story of the Akash Vritti vow which Shri Shri Guruji gave me in 1897.
My reply to Guruji showed that I had no real faith in God, but that my faith in Shri Satguru Deva was firmer; and since the time I am speaking of, that is to say since the nineties of the last century, He has been my Divine Protector and has pulled me out of monetary difficulties all along. My Guruji, in fact, has been my sheet anchor in life. And, yet I must tell you that I lose my balance in the face monetary difficulties, which I would not if I had a genuine faith in Shri Guruji. I must ask you to believe in my statement that, although Shri Guruji has been keeping me in the straight path all along, preventing me from falling into the mire of worldliness, He has not yet blessed me with that Living Faith in Him which would prevent me from losing faith in Him at times of distress and difficulty. Perhaps this is so because otherwise I would get inflated with a self-righteous pride.
So the first word in spiritual life is Faith, or to use the Scriptural language, Shraddha, which means a deep-rated conviction in Shri Guru and Scriptures. Therefore a beginner like you and me, the basis of all progress Godward is Faith or Shraddha, which Mahatmaji emphasises in his reply to your letter.
So I agree with Mahatmaji that the foundation of all progress Godward is laid in Faith or Shraddha, in the sense of a deep-seated faith in the word of the Scriptures and the word of the Guru. This Shraddha in its course of development passes through various grades—Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasik (Vide Gita XVII 3 and 5). At long last, however, there comes a type of Faith or Shraddha which transcends them all, transcends the Guna-born aspects of Faith. And then such Shraddha reaches the Chit-plane and becomes Chinmaya, i.e. truly spiritual. And it is then that this Transcendent form of Faith or Shraddha automatically lands the developed Sadhaka or spiritual aspirant in the Living Presence of the Lord. Till then there is no God-Vision or Bhagavat-Darshan. Till then the only thing that is at all possible for the developing sadhaka is to put faith in the spiritual discoveries or revelations of the greater saints and sages who are able, from personal experience, to testify to the absolute Verity of Godhead.
Such is the raison d’etre of the type of faith which Mahatmaji has asked you to cherish, namely, Faith in the Teachings of the greater saints and sages who have been able to come face to face with God. Therefore I whole-heartedly support Mahatmaji in his request to you that, before rejecting or neglecting the testimony of Prophets and Sages, you should pause thrice before coming to a hasty, however plausible, conclusion, born of what is called one’s reasoning powers. I grant that Reasoning has its value and place but it can not usurp the place of Faith in the Teachings of those who have had first-hand experience of verities.
Here I may well stop but I should like nevertheless to put forward a commonsense argument in favour of Faith. In matters of worldly import, we ordinarily exalt the factor of Reason as against Faith. But if we but examine our position carefully, we cannot but accede to the fact that not reason but the spirit of faith is the basic factor of even our worldly lives. Just consider that no person can, by any amount of reasoning, help himself to conclude that he or she is the son or daughter of his or her father. He or she would be throughout life pursuing the belief in question, not as a reasoned act, but only as an act of faith.
My last word to you is that although the Bhagavat-Darshan or God-Vision is testified to by Saints and Sages, for many like you and me, the first thing is to turn our faces Godward. As it is, our faces are turned not inward, not Chit-ward, not Godward, but away from Him in our pursuit of unspiritual life i.e. achit, material objects of enjoyment. The Realisation of God i.e. God-vision follows as night the day in the case of those whose interests in achit i.e. material, worldly things have grown weaker and weaker and are about to fade away and disappear. When that happens, the developed spiritual aspirant gets fastened on to Soul-life or to God-life and has either Atma-Sakshatkara or Bhagavat-Sakshatkara or both at the same time. Then, if not even earlier the Atmavan purusa or the realised soul can safely handle achit entities, i.e. without falling into the mire of worldly attachment i.e. of Samsara. He has become Dvanda-Atita, he has gone beyond the jurisdiction of loves and hates, victory and defeat etc. (Vide Gita V. 11 and VII. 28)
If what I have said fails to evoke a response in your heart, please say so and write. I will then try to clarify my position.
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).
- Amal Kiran on the Mind of Light
- Aspects of Amal Kiran
- Attaining immortality
- Dilip Kumar Roy
- Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay
- Krishna Chakravarti
- Prithwi Singh Nahar
- Sri Aurobindo’s Birth Place
- Suresh Chandra Chakravorty (Moni)