Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo
MORE ON SRI AUROBINDO'S COMING TO PONDICHERRY
The Meeting with Parthasarathi and the Letter of Introduction
Extract from Diary and Almanac. 1909. MS.SA.NB RI, p. 43. [Printed portions of the diary printed here in bold.]
4 oclock. engagement with Dr K to go to G.D.[?]
2 oclock. 2 young men of P.C.
3 oclock. Engagement with Secretary Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company.
Extract from Freedom Movement in India: Some Jottings From My Old Memories, by S. Srinivasachari. Unpublished MS.
No sooner the deal was finished and the risk taken,1 [than] my younger brother S. Parthasarathi Iyengar offered himself to travel all over North India to canvass for shareholders for the Company. Appadorai, brother in law of Bharati[,] went to work for the sales of shares in Andhra Desa. In spite of good deal [of] work and sacrifice these attempts did not prove very successful. We found ourselves very deeply involved by this attempt, not only the cash we had were all lost, but all our landed properties had to be mortgaged. The wonder of wonders in such a difficult situation is that we brothers, mother and wives kept together without falling out accusing each other. That made one fact clear that our former enthusiasm at the beginning of the loan was quite genuine and not effervescent and it stood us in good stead in our difficulties and helped us to keep our honour in our poverty.
While my younger brother S. Parthasarathi Iyengar was canvassing in Northern India he met Aurobindo Ghosh in one of his rounds in Calcutta. I think at that time some prosecution was going on against Karmayogins printer and publisher Shyamasunder Chakraburti. When speaking about the nationalist movement in South India my brother mentioned to Aurobindo Ghosh that we were conducting the Tamil weekly India in Pondicherry after its prosecution for sedition in Madras. About March 1910 or so, a Bengalee youngman came to me there and gave me a letter addressed to S. Parthasarathi Iyengar India Press. The youngman told me that if I am connected with the Tamil India I might open the letter [and] go through it. So I opened the letter [and] found a letter from Aurobindo Ghosh saying that he was coming to Pondicherry and wanted a quiet place of residence to be engaged for him where he could live incognito without being in any way disturbed. This young man was no other than the present resident of the Sri Aurobindo Asram in Pondicherry under whom I studied Bengalee half a decade later.2 I learnt from him that he [Sri Aurobindo] will be arriving by the Messageries Maritimes Steamer which after leaving Calcutta touches only Pondicherry. I showed the letter to Bharati and we both went to our common friend Sankara Chettyar to ask him whether he could vacate and give us the Calvé Bangalow that he gave us when we first came. The Bangalow we thought was quite suitable as it had a small garden by its side. But when we remembered that at some thirty [yards?] from the Bangalow there were a number of houses where petty officials lived with a small hotel at one of the row which was very frequented by the British police-men in baredress [i.e. mufti] whenever they come to watch the movements of the smugglers who constantly infest the border line between French border lines. We told Chettyar that was a very serious disadvantage and said that was no good for our present purpose. If that be our objection to that then why not, he asked us, lodge him in this his own house in the upstairs which is quite airy and lonely provided cooking is not done there. We went to the upstairs with him and inspected the rooms there and the adjoining open space and found them quite convenient for two or three persons to live in. We approved of the place as it answered admirably well as regards safety and seclusion and requested Chettyar to get the rooms washed and cleaned[,] with a small table and a few chairs put in[,] and I told him that there would be no question of cooking there as prepared food would be sent both morning and evening from my house.
We waited for the day of the arrival of the steamer. In the meanwhile people close to us began to guess that we were expecting some distinguished guest to receive whom arrangements were being made. The day on which the steamer was expected in Pondicherry Bharati and myself went to the beach at about 4 p.m. and engaged a boat to take us to the steamer as it stops at that shore at some distance from the pier which projects about a furlong into the sea. We went into the steamer and met there Sri Aurobindo who was accompanied by a Bengalee youngman Bijoy. On our way back some of the friends that were awaiting the guest met us on the way and followed us to welcome the guests. While driving to the house of Sankara Chettyar I explained to him the arrangements that were made for his residence and requested him to try the lodging in the house first as it offered greater security and if the arrangement there did not suit him, we might shift to the garden or any other that he might prefer. At first he objected to the idea of living in another mans house and said that he would rather prefer to have a separate accommodation. We told him that the garden is also at his disposal but it is better to try the house first to-night as it is much safer than the other place. He consented and on arrival we went upstairs and he inspected the room and the open space, and found that by closing the doors of the stairs the whole upstairs became a separate block. The next day when we went to him and enquired about the place, he said it was allright[,] quite safe and secluded and [there was no] need to change for the present.
[The following extract is not from a document properly speaking, but from a secondary source. It is included here because it is discussed in Archival Notes.]
Extract from Foreword by M.A. Narayana Iyengar to The Bhagavad Gita: A Simple Paraphrase in English, by S. Parthasarathi Iyengar, pp. 3-4.
While this revolutionary journal [India] was spreading its fiery message from Pondicherry, Sri S. Parthasarathy Iyengar had occasion to go to Calcutta. There he met Sri Aurobindo, then known as Babu Aurobindo Ghose, the chief contributor to the journal, Karmayogin. He was already famous as a fervent nationalist and a devoted exponent of Indias spiritual culture. Sri Aurobindo appears to have then spoken about the difficulties he experienced from the police even in carrying out spiritual sādhanas and in working for a revival of Hindu culture. His nationalism had made him suspect, and the C.I.D. spared him no worry or vexation. It was then that Sri Parthasarathy, who had similar interests, pointed out the advantages of Pondicherry. A number of patriots, passionately devoted to the twin causes of Indias political emancipation and spiritual regeneration, had already gathered there: and they were carrying on their work with reasonable freedom. Sri Parthasarathy suggested that Sri Aurobindo might find Pondicherry congenial for his mission.
Some weeks later, Sri Suresh Chandra Chakrabarty, more familiarly known as Moni, came to Pondicherry with a letter from Sri Aurobindo addressed to Sri S. Parthasarathy Iyengar, c/o India, Pondicherry. The latter was then away at Madras, and Sri S. Srinivasacharya received Sri Chakrabarty. When the absence of Sri S. Parthasarathy Iyengar from the city was mentioned. Sri Chakrabarty said that the letter should be regarded as being addressed to whoever was in charge of India at Pondicherry. So Sri S. Srinivasacharya opened the letter and learnt that Sri Aurobindo proposed to come to Pondicherry with a view to settle down there. He, along with Bharati, gladly made the necessary arrangements to receive and accommodate Sri Aurobindo. The Bengali yogin and patriot arrived at Pondicherry in due course, and some years later founded there his āśrama, now famous throughout the world. It may thus be seen that a suggestion from Sri S. Parthasarathy Iyengar lay behind Sri Aurobindos visit to Pondicherry, which led in turn to the establishment of the Aurobindo Ashram.
Sri Aurobindos Adesh
Extract from A.B. Puranis transcript of a talk of 28 June 1926 (PTMS 12, pp. 215-16).
Haradhana - Is it a fact that you came away straight to Chandranagore from the Dharma office & the CIDs by Gods grace were not there?
Shri A - I was at the Karma Yogin Office & we knew about the search that was going to be made evidently with the object of arresting me. There were some people there & Ramchandra was there proposing to give a fight to the Police & so many other ideas were flying about when suddenly I heard a voice from above saying No. Go to Chandranagore .
After coming from the jail I used to hear voices & in those days I used to obey them without questioning. & I told them that I would go to French India & then arrangements were made & the CIDs I dont know whether by Gods Grace or the prostitutes grace but they were not there.
Haradhana - And about coming to Pondicherry also you heard a voice[?]
Shri A - Yes that is quite true.
Extract from a letter of 5 January 1936 (published in Letters on Yoga (1972), p. 40).
As for Adesh, people speak of Adesh without making the necessary distinctions, but these distinctions have to be made. The Divine speaks to us in many ways and it is not always the imperative Adesh that comes. When it does, it is clear and irresistible, the mind has to obey and there is no question possible, even if what comes is contrary to the preconceived ideas of the mental intelligence. It was such an Adesh that I had when I came away to Pondicherry.
Extract from Nirodbarans transcript of a talk of 10 December 1938 (NTMS 9, p. 1).
Q - Why did you choose Pondicherry as the place for your sadhana?
A - Because it was by an adesh I was asked to come here. When I was leaving Bombay for Calcutta I asked Lele what I should do re my sadhana. He kept silent for some time (probably waiting to hear a voice from the heart) and replied, meditate at fixed time and hear the voice in the heart.
I didnt hear any voice from the heart but a different voice.
Extract from Nirodbarans transcript of a talk of 18 December 1938 (NTMS 9, pp. 128-29).
After another arrest, I published the Karmayogin. There I wrote an article open letter to my countrymen for which the Govt wanted to prosecute me. While the prosecution was pending I went away secretly to Chandernagore. And there,3 as I was thinking what to do next, I heard the adesh Go to Pondicherry.
Q - Why to Pondicherry?
A - I could not question. It was Sri Krishnas adesh. I had to obey. Later on I found it was for my yogic work that I was asked to come here.4
Extract from Nirodbarans transcript of a talk of 21 January 1939 (NTMS 10, pp. 267-68).
Q - Do they [the Quakers] see the Light?
A - I dont know; but someone said see that your light is not darkness.
The strange thing is that this inner voice doesnt give any reason; only says do this do that if you dont do that[,] bad results will follow and strangely enough, it is when you dont listen to them that bad results follow. Lele said that whenever he didnt follow the inner voice, he had pain and suffering[.]
P - But there are many kinds of voices due to the forces on different planes,5 and it is extremely difficult to distinguish which is right and which is the true inner voice. There may be voices from mental, vital & physical planes. Moreover in the same man the voices may differ.
A - Quite true. Hitlers friend said about him that what Hitler said today, he contradicted tomorrow. I heard also the voice which asked me to come to Pondicherry. Of course it was not the inner voice.
S - Can not one be mistaken?
A - No, it was impossible to make a mistake or to disobey that voice. There are some voices about which there can be no possibility of any doubt or mistake.
Extract from an undated note of the 1940s. Published in On Himself (1972), p. 37.
At Chandernagore he [Sri Aurobindo] plunged entirely into solitary meditation and ceased all other activity. Then there came to him a call to proceed to Pondicherry. A boat manned by some young revolutionaries of Uttarpara took him to Calcutta; there he boarded the Dupleix and reached Pondicherry on April 4, 1910.
Extract from a letter of 15 December 1944. Published in On Himself (1972), pp. 57-58. The text given here has been transcribed from Sri Aurobindos final typed manuscript of this letter.
While I was listening to animated comments from those around on the approaching event, I suddenly received a command from above in a Voice well known to me, in the three words; Go to Chandernagore. In ten minutes or so I was in the boat for Chandernagore. Ramchandra Majumdar guided me to the Ghat and hailed a boat and I entered into it at once along with my relative Biren Ghosh and Moni (Suresh Chandra Chakrabarti) who accompanied me to Chandernagore, not turning aside to Bagbazar or anywhere else. We reached our destination while it was still dark and they returned in the morning to Calcutta. I remained in secret entirely engaged in Sadhana and my active connection with the two newspapers ceased from that time. Afterwards, under the same sailing orders, I left Chandernagore and reached Pondicherry on April 4th 1910.
1 Srinivasachari is referring to the decision of his family to finance the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company.
2 l.e. Sureshchandra Chakravarty (Moni). In his book Smritikatha (p. 125) Moni wrote of collaborating with Srinivasachari on a translation of a Bengali book into Tamil.
3 Addition by A.B. Purani to Nirodbarans transcript: some friends were thinking of sending me to France.
4 Altered by Purani to read: I found it was for the Ashram & for the work.
5 The preceding seven words were added to Nirodbarans transcript by A.B. Purani.