Savitri Era Basics

Suresh Chandra Chakravorty (Moni)

   Regarding Peter Heehs’s Proclamation of Suresh Chakraborty Not Being a Yogi   

                                                           By  

                                               Anurag Banerjee  

Many an Aurobindonian has reacted sharply to the controversial biography of Sri Aurobindo titled The Lives of Sri Aurobindo penned by Peter Heehs where he has denounced the fact that Sri Aurobindo was an Avatar. His own beliefs has led him to this conclusion and therefore he has completely ignored what the Mother has said about Sri Aurobindo in her numerous messages. It is true that Sri Aurobindo never declared himself as an Avatar but if one goes through the features of an Avatar, he would easily recognize Sri Aurobindo as the Avatar who had come to carry forward the process of evolution. But Peter Heehs chose to follow his own instincts, convictions and intuition; he preferred to give his own explanation for, after all, he is the self-proclaimed authority on Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Integral Yoga. His own words ‘…because I…know a lot more about him [Sri Aurobindo]…’reflect his true self.

   Through his book, Peter Heehs has tried to nullify the greatness of Sri Aurobindo but in vain. But should we be surprised? No—because years ago, he had done the same in the case of Suresh Chandra Chakravorty alias Moni in another book of his titled Sri Aurobindo: A Brief Biography. In that book on page 132, he writes: “Moni, for instance, evinced no interest in yoga at all, and Sri Aurobindo (in the words of a contemporary diarist) ‘never even once’ told him anything about it.’ However he did not disclose the identity of the diarist. He has said that personal reminiscences don’t count in a scholarly biography (I have no hesitation to admit that I have never come across such a strange and weird assumption), so if we go by his own declaration, then this particular comment of the diarist should not be taken into consideration at all. But since every person is entitled to express his own views, we can say that it was the diarist’s notion that Suresh Chakravorty was told nothing about yoga by Sri Aurobindo. But it is the duty of the biographer to evaluate properly all the facts available from other sources as well. Did Peter Heehs do so? No, he didn’t.

    In this context, a few words about Suresh Chakravorty would not be irrelevant as he is not quite well-known since he had left his body fifty-seven years ago. Born on 12 December 1891; he was a revolutionary who, at the tender age of sixteen, came in contact with Sri Aurobindo with whom he was destined to stay for the rest of his life. His elder brother Prafulla Chakravorty was killed while experimenting with a bomb at Deogarh. When Moni, as Suresh Chakravorty was lovingly called, came to Calcutta, Sri Aurobindo took him under his wings. Sri Aurobindo trusted him immensely and looked upon him as his son. Because of the unshakeable and impregnable trust he had in Moni, Sri Aurobindo had sent him to Pondicherry in March 1910 to arrange his accommodation. Sri Aurobindo reached Pondicherry on 4 April 1910 and from then, Moni stayed with him. After the arrival of the Mother in 1920 and her taking charge of the newly-formed Ashram in 1926 (after Sri Aurobindo’s retirement), many of the old followers of Sri Aurobindo left Pondicherry because they were unable to accept the Mother. Bejoy Nag left; so did Barindra Kumar Ghose (Sri Aurobindo’s younger brother; however, he did not leave because he was unable to accept the Mother, he left because he was unwilling to accept the discipline imposed by her in the Ashram; prior to her arrival, the followers led a camp-life.) and Saurin Bose (Sri Aurobindo’s brother-in-law) to name a few. But Moni did not leave Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Some of the inmates had the impression that Moni was against the Mother but those who knew him closely vouch the fact that never did they hear a single word against the Mother from him. He was a poet and the author of more than a dozen books who was taught several foreign languages by Sri Aurobindo. When some people started writing imaginary and distorted facts about Sri Aurobindo’s journey from Calcutta to Chandernagore and then to Pondicherry, Moni took up his pen and wrote a series of articles on what had actually happened (since he was present there and therefore was an eye-witness); thus he silenced the mouths and pens of the numerous so-called researchers and authors like Girijashankar Roychowdhury, who based his book on Sri Aurobindo on unreliable and untrue facts. Later, those articles were included in his most notable book Smritikatha (Reminiscences).

  Some historians like Peter Heehs might argue that since Moni did not do any work in the Ashram, hence, he cannot be termed as a Yogi and that he did not evince any interest in Yoga. But they forget that even Dilip Kumar Roy was not associated with any departments of the Ashram; he always remained busy with his literary and musical activities. Does it mean that Dilip Kumar was not a Yogi? He was called a ‘born yogi’ by Sri Aurobindo himself! Moreover, has Sri Aurobindo not written: “The Mother has not created any work for those who have the capacity for meditation”? This particular statement explains everything! Moni never spoke about his inner life and his aspiration; in the garb of external ordinariness he kept himself hidden. The Mother too had a soft corner for him. But his life was shattered when Sri Aurobindo left his body on 5 December 1950. Chimanbhai Patel recalls (on 9 December, during the entombment ceremony of Sri Aurobindo) Moni “coming out of the crowd and gaping at the casket while it was being carried by the pall-bearers…He bent forward and was looking up at the casket as it passed in front of him. There was an expression of disbelief over his face, as if he could not fully understand what was happening.” Indeed, because Moni was an inseparable part of Sri Aurobindo whose world revolved around his Guru.

    Nirmal Nahar, the founder-trustee of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan (Calcutta), had told the author that one day, he had gone to Moni for some work. Moni told him: “I won’t be able to do it as I am not going to stay here.” And often he used to tell Nirmal Nahar that ever since Sri Aurobindo had left, he was disinterested about the Ashram. His statements of not going to stay in the Ashram was interpreted in a different sense—it was thought that he would probably leave the Ashram and go elsewhere.

   One day, Ravindra Khanna who used to carry Moni’s food to his place, found the door of the latter’s house closed. He kept the tiffin-carrier in front of the door and left. When he returned the next day, he found the tiffin-carrier lying untouched. He had some doubts and when the door was opened, it was found that Moni had left his body peacefully in his sleep. It happened on 28 April 1951, just four months after the mahasamadhi of Sri Aurobindo. He had followed his Guru in life and in death.

    Should anyone raise a question or doubt about such a person? But Peter Heehs would do so! He preferred to base his conclusion on the observation of the diarist. If he had researched a bit more then he would have come across the tribute paid to Moni by Nolini Kanta Gupta. What follows is a roughly translated version of the tribute:

    “Suresh Chakravorty sometimes used to say that he was only a litterateur and not a yogi, sadhak or a spiritual person. But when he was questioned that how and why then was he in the Ashram for such a long period, he smiled and said with some hesitation—it was difficult for one who had come closer to Sri Aurobindo to stay away from him. What else could be the identity of a yogi or a sadhak apart from this is not known to me. Suresh Chandra abhorred pretensions and superstitions. His was a straight, one-pointed, clear vision. Many people identify yogis with frauds—sadhana means to the masses certain artificial ways or practise of austerities and penances. But if being spiritual means the highest manifestation of the consciousness and immense development of the self—which is nothing but Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana—then Suresh Chandra was undoubtedly a follower of the Path. His devotion to literature was a part of the sadhana of his soul.

    When Suresh Chandra had come to Sri Aurobindo, he was a young boy of sixteen—from sixteen to sixty. Suresh Chandra was nothing but a product created by Sri Aurobindo. After Sri Aurobindo had left his body, he was heard saying—now it was their turn. The Body to which his body was so close, it was expected that with the absence of the Body, his body would too feel displaced and this explains why he left so suddenly and quietly.

    But as Sri Aurobindo has not gone away—he is doing his work from a different plane, similarly his closest companions too are with him—they are associated with him as the workers of his Work even after death just as they had been when they were alive.”

   Should any word be uttered after this statement? No—only the sound of silence should be made—the silence conveying profound regards for Suresh Chandra Chakravorty alias Moni. 

                                                ****  

  • Amal Kiran on the Mind of Light
  • Pournaprema, the Mother’s Granddaughter
  • Moni’s elder brother Prafulla Chakravorty
  • Nirmal Nahar has refuted the preposterous claim
  • If one Peter Heehs is pardoned today, a thousand
  • ***                          

          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).

    3 Responses to "Suresh Chandra Chakravorty (Moni)"

    I whole heartedly agree with the observations of Anurag Banerjee. I am quite familiar with the writings of Peter Heehs, which follows the dry letter of scholarship, not its rich spirit.

    I wonder why he tends to dismiss works of other authors and biographers of Sri Aurobindo as hagiography, unscholarly and superficial, while claiming to be objective, scrupulous and factual himself.

    Nobody can dispute the fact that whatever little we know of the Guru as a human being is because of people like Nirodbaran, one of Sri Auronindo’s closest disciples, whom he served for 12 years as physician, personal attendant and literary secretary. Surely their contribution cannot be dismissed or belittled so easily.

    Writers like the late Satprem, Roy Posner and Georges Van Vrekhem have a far deeper and more comprehensive grasp of a complex subject like Sri Auronindo. In fact, a single para of Posner conveys more about the Guru than an entire chapter written by Heehs.

    A quote that once appeared in the Reader’s Digest said there are two kinds of great men—-one who feels great by devaluing others and another who feels uplifted by doing the reverse. Perhaps Heehs belongs to the first categorty

    Many scholars also dispute the avatarhood of Krishna and Christ by the same logic that Heehs applies to Sri Aurobindo. So why does he leave out the first two and target the subject of his ‘biography,’ describing him as an ordinary being..

    What Heehs has been doing is to divest the Master of his greatness and make him seem rather common place. While his scholarship might pass muster, his intentions are suspect. Heehs is utilising it as a tool to villify the greatest spiritual giant of our age. I would advise him go through a serious introspection

    M O N I
    I was going to complete twelve when the Mother blessed me on my first birthday in October 1948. The Ashram was full of beaming faces, revolving around the Mother, as Nishikanta rightly described:
    “mâ’r mukh jhalamal chând’ér mato,
    târ pâshé târâdal shishurâ jato”.
    An enigmatic face – though radiant like an ambulant flame, with a child’s eyes, wide open, full of wonder – remained aloof from that astral procession. He was always alone, except on occasions when he went to take tea with Râni Nâg, wife of his close friend Bijoy.
    In those days there was a special cart that delivered “tiffin carriers” to inmates who did not have their meals at the Dining Room : Ravindra-ji (not Professor Ravindra Khanna), in charge of the Mother’s cold store – famous for his boisterous laughter – used to manage it. Every evening Moni was seen standing on the corner of the footpath of his house, perpendicular to the Bakery, apparently waiting for his supper brought by Ravindra-ji. But it seemed to be an obvious pretext for him to stop and stare at the sun setting : seen from the Ashram main gate, it was a glowing profile plunged in deep meditation.
    Whereas I was ignorant about his loving attachment to the memory of my grandfather (who was intimately known to Moni’s father, as I will learn later from Nolini-dâ and other sources), knowing who I was, he had an affectionate expression of familiarity whenever we met… in silence.
    In the Ashram people were told that his consciousness was constantly identified with Sri Aurobindo’s.

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    Tusar N. Mohapatra

    Director, Savitri Era Learning Forum
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    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.
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    Om Sri Aurobindo & The Mother.

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