Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo
SRI AUROBINDO, THE MOTHER AND PAUL RICHARD 1911-1915
LIFE AT RUE FRANÇOIS MARTIN
Extract from Freedom Movement in India: Some Jottings from Old Memories, by S. Srinivasachari. Unpublished MS. [Hereafter Srinivasachari MS].
A few months later Sri Aurobindo who was living in a tiled house in the Hindu quarters, removed to a decent house in the European quarters not far from our houses. After going over there he spent most of his time in the study of Rg Veda. He took my two volumes of Max Mullers edition and I got him the commentaries of Sayana from my sisters husband. In the evenings we found him poring over these volumes. He used to translate for us portions from the texts with their commentaries and also give us his own version of them. We found that Sayanas comments were concerned more with the rituals whereas his interpretation brought out the underlying yogic ideas. A Maharashtra gentleman, one Kolhatker, also a refugee for publishing a Mahratti translation of an English article by Sri Aurobindo, was used to be present at some of these readings. He used to say that the Vedas were the childish prattle of humanity in its infancy and should not engage the attention of the serious modern thinkers. He said he himself had an idea of publishing a translation in Mahratti of all the four Vedas so that everyone may form his own ideas about them. Sri Aurobindo used to say that it all depended upon the mental attitude of the student. The Vedas are not intended for light reading and passing vague judgments on the matter dealt with there, if approached in that way they might appear childish but for a serious reader they would appear quite the opposite, the more he dives into them the greater will be the truths he will discover.
Extract from K. Amrita, Old Long Since, in Nolini Kanta Gupta and K. Amrita, Reminiscences (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1969): 164-66 [translated from the Tamil].
Now, what accounted for that change of residence to No. 37,1 in the François Martin Street, many thought, was the impending arrival of these two persons from France. So far as I remember it was in the middle of December 1913 that the new house was first occupied.2
The revolutionaries who had settled at Pondicherry whispered to one another that two Europeans had accepted Sri Aurobindo as Guru and would stay here. This news spread abroad and reached my ears also. One day in December, 1913, as was my habit, I went to see Ramaswami Iyengar in the evening. He was downstairs on the verandah in front of his room and said that two persons from the topmost cultural circle of France were coming to Sri Aurobindo for practising yoga. They would be coming very soon. It was a secret till now; I have disclosed it to you today, he concluded.
I felt very happy: European savants! they have approached a countryman of ours with reverence. My heart rejoiced to hear of it.
The upper storey its verandah, to be exact was somewhat beautified. One old cracked table, two arm-chairs, four or five folding armless chairs with back-rest these were borrowed and arranged there, luckily with no binding to return them.
Moreover, four electric lights were put up, one in Sri Aurobindos room, another in the centre of the upper verandah, the third in the verandah downstairs, the fourth I do not remember where. There was no electric metre in the house. For each point the charge was one rupee and four annas per month. Whether the lights were kept burning or not, five rupees had to be paid and the charge would be the same even if they were kept on through all the twenty-four hours. Less than four points were not given as a rule.
The weeds in the courtyard were pulled out. Daily sweeping of the house was now attended to. The house put on almost a gay appearance because of these much-needed changes.
One event. The year 1914 was born. It was towards the end of March. Time: evening, about 6 p.m. Ramaswami Iyengar was sitting all alone in the open court. There was no other soul. The sense of solitariness was somewhat awesome. Not a fly, not a crow near about. I entered the house. He made a sign and calling me near said: The two persons from France have arrived. They will just now come and see Sri Aurobindo. The order is that none other than the inmates should remain in the house.
Extract from Nolini Kanta Gupta, Reminiscences (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1969): 76 [translated from the Bengali].
The first time he [Paul Richard] came here for canvassing, he was alone. The Mother accompanied him the next time. To all outward appearances they arrived here to canvass support for the elections, although M. Richard did not in the end get very many votes. But this provided the occasion for the Mother to meet Sri Aurobindo and gather a few trusted friends and devotees. In this connection the Mother had to pay a visit to Karikal once. This was her first direct experience of the actual India, that is, what it is in its crude outward aspect. She gave us an amusing description of the room where she was put up, an old dilapidated room as dark as it was dirty and a paradise for white ants. Thus it was that the Divine Mother, One who is fairer than the fairest and lovelier than infinite beauty had to come down and enter the darkness and evil of this human life; for how else could these poor mortals have a chance?
When it first came to be bruited about that a Great Lady like this was to come and live close to us, we were faced with a problem: how should we behave? Should there be a change in our manners? For we had been accustomed to a bohemian sort of life, we dressed and talked, slept and ate and moved about in a free unfettered style, in a manner that would not quite pass in civilised society. Nevertheless, it was finally agreed that we should stick as far as possible to our old ways even under the new circumstances, for why should we permit our freedom and ease to be compromised or lost?
THE PONDICHERRY ELECTIONS OF 1914
Letter from Paul Richard papers
The President of the Council
Paris, 13 March 1914
I have the honour to introduce to you Mr. Paul Richard, a barrister at the Court of Appeals in Paris.
Mr. Richard is taking a pleasure-trip, and I would be grateful if you would give him, if it becomes necessary, any help that he may require.
The Governor of the French Settlements in India
Extract from records of Judicial Department (1914), Government of Madras, Ordinary Series, G.O. N° 1266, CONFIDENTIAL, dated 2-6-1914, Police at Pondicherry [Tamil Nadu State Archives].
I have just had a private interview with H.E. the Governor, M. Martineau,3 regarding the approaching elections. In addition to the usual local disturbances, H.E. points out that matters are further complicated this time by the fact that one of the candidates is openly pro-Swadeshi, and there is more than a suspicion that he, and Nandagopal4 also, are in daily communication with the Swadeshi refugees, Arabinda Ghose and others. That faction is, therefore, distinctly anti-European (opposed to the British as well as French Government) and it is from that quarter that the greatest trouble is anticipated. M. Martineau therefore hopes that the Madras Government will support him by directing the C.I.D. British Police here to watch the Swadeshi refugees here very closely, and to keep me well informed of their movements. H.E. Monsieur Martineaus point is that so long as the British Swadeshis here remain quiet, the French Government grants them protection as political refugees, but if they take an active part in the electoral movement and combine with French subjects to break the law and obstruct the police, he will take prompt action against them. The Collector of S. Arcot as political Agent, is I understand the usual channel of communication between the French and the Madras Governments, but M. le Gouverneur points out that in an emergency, like this, he may have to act at a moments notice, and cannot wait for a reference to Cuddalore, whereas I am on the spot and he wants me to be in close touch with him. On the other hand, M. Martineau thinks that it may be advisable, during the actual election, 25th and 26th, to have the C.I.D. temporarily withdrawn, as they can do us [no] good and their presence here might provoke a breach of the peace. It is difficult to explain in writing the present position of affairs in Pondicherry, and if I may express an opinion, I think it is desirable that I should do so personally and at an early date, as I should like to have definite instructions in certain eventualities. If H.E. Lord Pentland5 or a member of the Government will grant me an interview I am ready to come to Madras at a moments notice and will call on you for orders. I may mention that M. Martineau told me that he is quite willing to address the Madras Government about the present situation, but that he preferred to let me explain it semi-officially first. I trust therefore that you will not mind my addressing you this confidential letter.
When M. Paul Bluysen,6 the Deputé for French India, was here he had the honour of being received by H.E. Lord Pentland, and perhaps the enclosed text of his speeches in the Chambre des Deputés regarding Franco-British relations in India may interest His Excellency.
The Honble. W.C. Butterworth, I.C.S.
Extracts from letters of Sri Aurobindo to Motilal Roy
Undated letter of April 1914
I send you today the electoral declaration of M. Paul Richard, one of the candidates at the approaching election for the French Chamber. This election is of some importance to us; for there are two of the candidates who represent our views to a great extent, Laporte and Richard. Richard is not only a personal friend of mine and a brother in the Yoga, but he wishes like myself, and in his own way works for a general renovation of the world by which the present European civilisation shall be replaced by a spiritual civilisation. In that change the resurrection of the Asiatic races and especially of India is an essential point. He and Madame Richard are rare examples of European Yogins who have not been led away by Theosophical and other aberrations. I have been in material and spiritual correspondence with them for the last four years. Of course, they know nothing of Tantric Yoga.7 It is only in the Vedantic that we meet. If Richard were to become deputy for French India, that would practically mean the same thing as myself being deputy for French India. Laporte8 is a Swadeshi with personal ambitions; his success would not mean the same but at any rate it would mean a strong and, I believe, a faithful ally in power in this country and holding a voice in France.
Of course, there is no chance, humanly speaking, of their being elected this time. Laporte is not strong enough to change the situation single-handed. Richard has come too late; otherwise so great is the disgust of the people with Bluysen and Lemaire,9 Gaebelé10 and Pierre11 that I think we could have managed an electoral revolution. Still, it is necessary, if it can at all be done, to stir things a little at the present moment and form a nucleus of tendency and, if possible, of active result which would be a foundation for the future and enable us at the next election to present one or other of these candidates with a fair chance of success.
I want to know whether it is possible without your exposing yourself to have the idea spread in Chandernagore, especially among the younger men, of the desirability of these candidatures and the abandonment of the old parochial and rotten politics of French India, with its following of interested local Europeans and subservience to their petty ambitions in favour of a politics of principle which will support one of our own men or a European like Richard who is practically an Indian in belief, in personal culture, in sympathies and aspirations, one of the Nivedita type. If also a certain number of votes can be recorded for Richard in Chandernagore so much the better; for that will mean a practical beginning, a tendency from the Sukshma world materialised initially in the Sthula. If you think this can be done, please get it done, always taking care not to expose yourself. For your main work is not political but spiritual. If there can be a Bengali translation of Richards manifesto or much better, a statement of the situation and the desirability of the candidature succeeding, always steering clear of extremism and British Indian politics, it should be done and distributed. I lay stress on these things because it is necessary that the conditions of Chandernagore and Pondicherry should be changed, the repetitions of recent events rendered impossible and the cession of French territory put out of the question.12 There would be other and more positive gains by the change, but these I need not emphasise now.
Letter of 17 April 1914
The political situation here is as follows. In appearance Bluysen and Lemaire face each other on the old lines and the real fight is between them. Bluysen has the support of the whole administration, except a certain number of Lemairistes who are quiescent and in favour of it. The Governor Martineau, Gaebelé, the Police Lieutenant and the Commissaire form his political committee. By threats and bribes the Maires of all the Communes except two have been forced or induced to declare on his side. He has bought or got over most of the Hindu traders in Pondicherry. He has brought over 50,000 rupees for his election and is prepared to purchase the whole populace, if necessary. Is it British rupees, I wonder? The British Government is also said to be interfering in his behalf and it is certain that a Mahomedan Collector of Cuddalore has asked his co-religionists to vote for this master of corruption. A violent administrative pressure is being brought to bear upon both at Pondicherry and Karikal and the Maires being on his side the electoral colleges will be in his hands with all their possibilities of fraud and violence.
Lemaire has for him most of the Christians and Renonçants13 (except the young men who are for Richard) and Pierre. But the Pierre party is entirely divided. Kosia[?] refuses to declare himself, most of the others are Bluysenites, the Comité Radical has thrice met without Pierre being able to overcome the opposition against him. Lemaire had two chances, one that if the people could be got to vote, Pierres influence over the mass might carry the day for him, the other that Nandagopalu might intimidate the enemy and counteract the administration. But Nandagopalu instead of intimidating is himself intimidated; he is hiding in his house and sending obsequious messages to Gaebelé and Martineau. So great at one time was the despair of the Lemairistes, that Pierre offered through Richard to withdraw Lemaire, if Gaebelé withdraws Bluysen, the two enemies then to shake hands and unite in support of Richard or another candidate. Gaebelé would have been glad to accept the offer, but he cannot, he has taken huge sums from Bluysen. The leaders are almost all bought over by Bluysen and those who remain on Lemaires side dare not act. The only weapon now in Lemaires hands is vague threat and rumour, that the Cabinet has fallen, that Martineau is suspended, that the new Police Captain is his man etc. There are also rumours of a sudden coup détat by Lemaire on the election day, of Appaswami being carried off or killed, of the Election Committee being in his hands and it is true that the President is a Lemairiste. But I do not see how these things are going to be done. There may, of course, be a sudden Lemairiste rally, but at present it seems as if Bluysen by the help of the Administration money, the British Government and the devil were likely to win an easy victory.
Laporte had some chance of strong backing at the beginning but his own indolence and mistakes have destroyed it. He is now waiting on God and Lemaire into whose shoes he dreams of stepping, for Lemaire has promised him that if he gets no favourable answer from France he will desist in Laportes favour and Laporte being a man of faith is sitting quiet in that glorious expectation.
Then there is Richard. He has neither agent, nor committee, nor the backing of a single influential man. What he has is the sympathy and good wishes of all the Hindus and Mahomedans in Pondicherry and Karikal with the exception of the Vaniyas who are for Bluysen. The people are sick to death of the old candidates, they hate Bluysen, they abhor Lemaire and if only they could be got to vote according to their feelings, Richard would come in by an overwhelming majority. But they are overawed by the Government and wait for some influential man among the Hindus to declare for him. No such man is forthcoming. All are either bought by Bluysen or wish to be on the winning side. Under these circumstances the danger is that the people will not vote at all and the electoral committee will be forced to manufacture in their names bogus votes for Bluysen. On the other hand an impression has been made at Karikal, where the young men are working zealously for Richard; some of its communes are going to support him; some of the leaders who are themselves pledged to Bluysen have promised to tell their followers that they are free to vote for Richard if they wish; the Mahomedan leaders of Karikal are for Bluysen or rather for his money, but the mass have resolved to vote neither for Bluysen nor Lemaire, and either not to vote at all or for Richard. At Pondicherry, Villenour has promised to declare for Richard the day before the election so as to avoid prolonged administrative pressure. Certain sections of the community e.g. the young men among the Christians and a number of the Mahomedans, Richard is to speak at the mosque and a great number may possibly come over and a certain nucleus of the Hindus are certain to vote for him. We count also on the impression that can be given during the next few days. If in addition Chandernagore can give a large vote for Richard, there is a chance not of carrying Richard but of preventing a decisive vote at the first election, so that there may be a second ballot. If that is done, great numbers who hesitate to vote for Richard in the idea that Bluysen must carry all before him, may pick up courage and turn the whole situation, to say nothing of the chances of Lemaire retiring and his whole vote coming over or a great part of it. Therefore, I say, throw aside all other considerations and let the young men of Chandernagore at least put all their strength on Richards side and against the two unspeakable representatives of Evil who dispute the election between them. For if they do not, humanly speaking, Chandernagore seems to be doomed.
Every vote given for Bluysen in Chandernagore is a vote for the cession of Chandernagore to the British.
On the other hand, if you vote for Lemaire, it means the same thing at a later date. For he was the first to broach the question in the public press in France, he has advised the suppression of the vote in French India, he has English connections and is an Anglophil. Not only so, but although asked by the Hindus to recant his former views if he wanted their vote, he has refused to do it, and this refusal has contributed largely to the failure of Pierre to carry the Hindus with him. Let these facts be widely known in Chandernagore both about Bluysen and Lemaire, let it be known that Richard is a Hindu in faith, a Hindu in heart and a man whose whole life is devoted to the ideal of lifting up humanity and specially Asia and India and supporting the oppressed against the strong, the cause of the future which is our cause against all that hampers and resists it. If after that, Chandernagore still votes for Bluysen or Lemaire, it is its own choice and it will have itself to thank for anything that may follow.
Letter of 5 May 1914
The election is over, or what they call an election, with the result that the man who had the fewer real votes has got the majority. As for M. Richards votes, they got rid of them in Pondicherry and Karikal by the simple process of reading Paul Bluysen wherever Paul Richard was printed. Even where he brought his voters in Karikal to the poll himself, the results were published Richard 0. At Villenour people were simply prevented from voting for him or any one else. As for the results they had been arranged on the evening before the election by M. Gaebelé and were made to fit in with his figures. The extent to which this was done you can imagine from the fact that at Nandagopalus village where there is no single Bluysenite, there were only 13 votes for Lemaire and all the rest for Bluysen. The same result in Madanapalli which is strong for Pierre, except in one college14 where Sada (President of the Cercle Sportif) was interpreter and did not allow any humbug; knowing whom they had to deal with, they did not dare to falsify the results. There Bluysen got only 33 votes against 200 and more for Lemaire. In most places, this would have been the normal result, if there had been any election at all. As for Richard, he would probably have got a thousand votes besides the Chandernagore total; as in some five colleges of Pondicherry alone he had about 300 which were transmuted into zero and we know of one village in which he had 91 who were prevented forcibly from voting. Bluysen normally would hardly have got 5000 in the whole of French India. Of course protests are being prepared from every side and if Bluysen is not supported by the Cabinet which is likely to come in after the election in France, the election may be invalidated. Otherwise for some time he may reign in spite of the hatred and contempt of the whole population by the terror of the administration and the police. This Madrasi population is so deficient in even the rudiments of moral courage that one cannot hope very much from it.
Meanwhile Richard intends to remain in India for 2 years and work for the people. He is trying to start an Association of the young men of Pondicherry and Karikal as a sort of training ground from which men can be chosen for the Vedantic Yoga. Everything is a little nebulous as yet. I shall write to you about it when things are more definite.
Next as to money matters. My present position is that I have exhausted all my money along with Rs. 60 Richard forced on me and am still in debt for the Rs. 130 due for the old rent. I do not like to take more money from Richard, for he has sold one fourth of his wifes fortune (a very small one) in order to be able to come and work for India, and the money he has can only carry him through the 2 years he thinks of staying here. I should therefore be impoverishing them by taking anything from them.
You must realise that my work is a very vast one and that I must in doing it, come in close contact with all sorts of people including Europeans, perhaps even officials, perhaps even spies and officials. For instance, there is Biren. There is a French man, named Stair Siddhar now in Chandernagore,15 who came to me and whom I had to see and sound. He is a queer sort of fool with something of the knave, but he had possibilities which I had to sound. There is Richard who is to know nothing about Tantricism. There are a host of possible young men whom I must meet and handle, but who may not turn out well. It is obviously impossible for me to do this work, if the close connection with Tantrics remains and everyone whom I meet and receive is supposed by people there to be a mighty and venerable person who is to be taken at once into perfect confidence by reason of having been for a time in my august shadow. It wont do at all. The whole thing must be rearranged on a reasonable basis.
Unfortunately the manner in which the Tantric Yoga has been carried on is so full of the old faults of the former Tantric Sadhana that a catastrophe was inevitable. The new Yoga cannot be used as a sort of sauce for old dishes, it must occupy the whole place, on peril of serious difficulties in the Siddhi and even disasters. I shall write to you about what I propose to do about Vedantic Yoga and publication, as yet it has not been sufficiently formulated to write. At present we have only started a new society here called LIdée Nouvelle (the New Idea) and are trying to get an authorisation.
From Journal Officiel des Etablissements Français dans lInde, 2e Partie, 55e Année, N° 17 (28 avril 1914): 628-29.
ETABLISSEMENTS FRANÇAIS DANS LINDE.
Elections législatives du 26 avril 1914.
Extract from records of Judicial Department (1914), Government of Madras, Ordinary Series, G.O. N° 1266, CONFIDENTIAL, dated 2-6-1914, Police at Pondicherry [Tamil Nadu State Archives].
From: the Criminal Investigation Department
2nd May 1914
In continuation of my note N° 245/c, dated 14th April 1914, enclosing a letter from the Governor of Pondicherry to the British Consul asking for the withdrawal of a portion of the Police Party in Pondicherry during the Elections I went into Pondicherry on the 23rd April and had an interview with the Governor in company with Mr. Deane. The Governor did not press for a withdrawal of any of the party and his previous request was, as I ventured to suggest in my former note, the thin edge of the wedge, and was inspired more by a desire to re-open the question of the existence of the Police Party in Pondicherry than of any fear that its presence would lead to a disturbance during the election. He spoke very frankly, after stipulating that the interview was a purely private one, and made it clear that he does not object to the presence of the party in Pondicherry, provided that it is understood that it is only kept there as a temporary measure and that its presence is not officially recognised. He thinks that the party is disproportionately large for the purpose for which it is intended and that its size contrasts too strongly with that of his own small police force. He has probably been twitted with this by electioneering agents and others, and made no secret of the fact that he is in some degree irritated by it.
He drew attention to the fact that the party was originally placed in Pondicherry at the time of the Delhi Durbar with the object of preventing anarchist plots against the safety of His Majesty the King, but he recognises that subsequent outrages and the presence of declared anarchists in Pondicherry make the presence of the party there still necessary.
He also hinted that he was willing to consider the question of the expulsion of the anarchists from Pondicherry; but in the light of previous events it is improbable that he will be able to do anything in that direction. He is not likely, at present, to make any official objection, through the Political Agent, to the presence of the party, and does not wish to recognise it officially at all.
I think that it would be a good thing to meet his wishes and make a reduction in the number of the Party. It is not possible to make any serious reduction but it can be cut down by the withdrawal of 5 or 6 men.
I stayed 3 days in Pondicherry at the Governors suggestion, and was able to assist the French Police who asked me on the 24th to send out directions to stop the arrival of certain gangs of rowdies of whose entry from British Territory they had information. The Elections passed off quietly for the first time in many years, the present Governor being the first to enforce order. The successful Candidate M. Bluyson [sic] who was returned by an overwhelming majority, was the candidate supported by the Europeans in Pondicherry and the party of law and order in general. His success is a severe blow to the power of the chief rowdy of Pondicherry (Nandagopal Chetti) and his followers. Of [the] remaining three candidates one, Paul Richard, a rabid socialist, who came out from France to contest the election, but who only secured 231 votes out of some 39,000, has been continually in the company of some of the most dangerous extremists, including Arabindo Ghose and the other Bengalis, and C. Subrahmanya Bharati. He is likely to give trouble in future if he stays in Pondicherry. He is said to be in touch with Madame Cama and Krishna Varma in Paris, but this is doubtful.
The Police party were kept to quarters during the two days of the Elections but they have not been interfered with in any way either in quarters or in the streets. I am keeping the Deputy Superintendent there for a few more days, but there is now no further fear of any unusual excitement.
Extract from Government of India, Home Political-B Proceedings, June 1914, 142-45 [National Archives of India].
10. Pondicherry. The election of a representative to the Chamber of Deputies. The election passed off more quietly than usual and good order was maintained in the streets. The successful candidate, M. Bluysen, is regarded as the representative of law and order and was supported by most Europeans. His only serious rival, M. Lemaire, a former Governor of French India, is also a man of standing and respectability.
There were two other candidates, one of whom, a Hindu, got no votes at all.16 The other, a M. Paul Richard, who came out to India shortly before the election, is a rabid socialist. He associated freely with extremists like Arabindo Ghosh and C. Subrahmanya Bharati and is said to have been the bearer of communications from Krishnavarma. It is reported that the [sic] he intends to stay some time in Pondicherry and talks of establishing a socialist institute. The French authorities, who are fully aware of the dangerous nature of the anarchist party in Pondicherry, look on M. Richard with disfavour.
THE LAUNCHING OF ARYA
Extract from a letter of 4 September 1934 from Sri Aurobindo to Dilip Kumar Roy; cf. transcripts published in Roys Sri Aurobindo Came to Me (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1952): 49, and On Himself (1972): 374.
I knew precious little about philosophy before I did the Yoga and came to Pondicherry I was a poet and a politician, not a philosopher! How I managed to do it? First, because Richard proposed to me to co-operate in a philosophical review and as my theory was that a Yogi ought to be able to turn his hand to anything, I could not very well refuse; and then he had to go to the war and left me in the lurch with 64 pages a month of philosophy all to write by my lonely self.
Extract from Nolini Kanta Gupta, Reminiscences (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1969): 76-77 [translated from the Bengali].
The Mother arrived. She would meet Sri Aurobindo in company with the rest of us at our afternoon sessions. She spoke very little. We were out most of the time, but also dropped in occasionally. When it was proposed to bring out the Arya she took charge of the necessary arrangements. She wrote out in her own hand the list of subscribers, maintained the accounts herself: perhaps those papers might be still available. And afterwards, it was she herself who helped M. Richard in his translation of the writings of Sri Aurobindo into French for the French edition of the Arya. The ground floor of Dupleix House was used as the stack room and the office was on the ground floor of the Guest House. The Mother was the chief executive in sole charge. Once every week all of us used to call at her residence accompanied by Sri Aurobindo and had our dinner together. On those occasions the Mother used to cook one or two dishes with her own hands.
Extracts from letters of Sri Aurobindo to Motilal Roy
Undated letter (early June 1914)
That attempt takes the form of a new philosophical Review with Richard and myself as Editors the Arya, which is to be brought out in French and English, two separate editions, one for France, one for India, England and America. In this Review my new theory of the Veda will appear as also translation and explanation of the Upanishads, a series of essays giving my system of Yoga and a book of Vedantic philosophy (not Shankaras but Vedic Vedanta) giving the Upanishadic foundations of my theory of the ideal life towards which humanity must move. You will see so far as my share is concerned, it will be the intellectual side of my work for the world. The Review will be of 64 pages to start with and the subscription Rs. 6 annually. Of the French edition 600 copies will be issued, and it will cost about Rs. 750 a year minus postage. Richard reckoned 200 subscribers in France at the start, i.e. Rs. 1200 in the year. For the English edition we are thinking of an issue of 1000 copies, at the cost of about Rs. 1200 annually. We shall need therefore at least 200 subscribers to meet this expense and some more so that the English edition may pay all its own expenses. Let us try 250 subscribers to start with, with the ideal of having 800 to 1000 in the first year. If these subscribers can be got before the Review starts, we shall have a sound financial foundation to start with. The question is, can they be got. We are printing a prospectus with specimens of the writings from my translation and commentary on a Vedic hymn, and an extract from Richards collections of the central sayings of great sages of all times called the Eternal Wisdom to show the nature of the Review. This is supposed to come out in the middle of this month, and the Review on the 15th August, so there will be nearly two months for collecting subscribers. How far can you help us in this work? There is always one thing about which great care has to be taken, that is, there should be no entanglement of this Review in Indian politics or a false association created by the police finding it in the house of some political suspects they search for; in that case people will be afraid to subscribe. My idea is that young men should be got as agents who would canvass for the Review all over Bengal, but there so many young men are now political suspects that it may not be easy to find any who will be free and active and yet above suspicion. In that case some other method must be tried. I should like to know from you as soon as possible how far you can help us and how many copies of the prospectus we should send to you. If the Review succeeds, if, that is to say, we get in India 850 regular subscribers, and 250 in France etc. we shall be able to meet the expense of the establishment, translation-staff etc. and yet have enough for each of the editors to live on with their various kinds of families, say Rs. 100 a month for each. In that case the money-question will practically be solved. There will of course be other expenses besides mere living and there may be from time to time exceptional expenses, such as publication of books etc., but these may be met otherwise or as the Review increases its subscribers. Therefore use your best endeavour towards this end.
The second part of my work is the practical, consisting in the practice of Yoga, by an ever increasing number of young men all over the country. We have started here a society called the New Idea with that object, and a good many young men are taking up Vedantic Yoga and some progressing much.
Undated letter of July 1914
I write today only about two business matters. As to the Review, I do not think we can dispense with the 200 subscribers whom you promise. The only difficulty is that, if there are political suspects among them, it will give the police a handle for connecting politics and the Review and thus frightening the public. But this is not a sufficient reason for the Review refusing so many subscribers or for so large a number being deprived of the enlightenment it may bring them. Therefore, some arrangement should be made. I should suggest that you should make those subscribers who are mainly interested in Yoga, and as for those who decline to give up political opinions of a vehement nature or to conceal them so as not to fall into police snares, they may without becoming subscribers on our list receive the Review from trustworthy agents appointed by you as our representatives. The agent must let us or you know the number of copies wanted, send in the money and receive the Review from us or you in a packet as a declared agent commissioned to sell a certain number of copies, receiving (nominally) a discount on each copy sold. I suggest this arrangement but if another would be more convenient, please let us know. You must organise the subscription matter before starting for your pilgrimage so that we may have a fair start in August. I shall write a longer letter to you about Yoga and other matters as soon as I have a little time.
Undated letter of July or August 1914
Again a business letter. Enclosed you will find two samples of paper, taken from a sample book of the Titaghur Mills which we want made to order, of a certain size, for our Review. Will you please see at once the agent in Calcutta, whose address is given, and ask him for all the particulars, the price, whether the paper of that sample, of the size required, is available or can be made to order by them, in what minimum amount, within what time etc. and let the Manager know immediately by the British post.
What about the commercial transaction and my last letter? The Psalmodists brother is asking for reply.17
P.S. Received your letter. Please let us know how many copies of the Arya you want sent to you for sale, since you cannot get subscribers. I shall write later. The divorce from Tantrism is necessary if you are to do the work of the Review or the other work I wish you to undertake. You must surely see that. Neither will work if there are any occurrences of the old kind mixing them up together.
[Note added to the letter by one of the young men living in Sri Aurobindos house]
If it is possible please make some subscribers. Subscribers book is nearly as blank as it was at the time of our purchasing it.
Extract from Government of India, Home Political-B Proceedings, December 1914, 227-29 [National Archives of India].
11. Arabindo Ghoshs New Magazine. The Amrita Bazar Patrika of 1st July 1914 publishes the following announcement:
It is perhaps known to everybody that a new philosophical monthly, the Arya, will be published from Pondicherry from the 15th of August under the editorship of Srijut Arabindo Ghosh and Paul and Mrs. Richard. The writing will be the outcome of five years of study and meditation of Srijut Ghosh in Pondicherry.
The Secretary of the Arya has sent to me some copies of prospectus of the Review.19 Those interested in the studies of Hindu theism and philosophy may have the specimen copy from the following address on application.
MOTI LAL ROY,
Paul Richard was the unsuccessful Socialist candidate at the recent elections to the Chamber of Deputies. Moti Lal Roy is a well-known Chandernagore suspect who has paid at least one visit to Pondicherry.
The Prospectus of the Arya (French edition). [Please note that except where indicated the English translation is by the editors of Sri Aurobindo: Archives and Research. No copy of the English prospectus of Arya has survived.]
From Srinivasachari MS.
Just at that time Paul Richard came back to Pondicherry and started the publication of the monthly Arya which Sri Aurobindo edited and through which he expounded his new Yoga based on his interpretation of the Védas. He published in it his translation of the Íśavasya Upanishad and his translations of portions from the Rg Véda. Richard brought out in it his Wherefore of the Worlds as a continuous series. Bharati also contributed to it his English translation of some verses from Sri Andals Tiruppávai. It has thus a good start and continued for more than half a dozen years.
Extract from K. Amrita, Old Long Since, in Nolini Kanta Gupta and K. Amrita, Reminiscences, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1969): 182-83 [translated from the Tamil].
One day at the beginning of September I took up a copy of the first issue of the Arya from the table on the long verandah upstairs in Sri Aurobindos house and started reading the first article of the series, The Life Divine, written by Sri Aurobindo, just loudly enough for myself to hear. I read it over and over again. Great thoughts clothed in great words I could not at all comprehend! However, it was sweet to read and reread it. It was as if someone else in me was comprehending all that was read!
As I was reading, Sri Aurobindo came, stood in front of the table and kept listening to my reading. When I put down the copy of the Arya and lifted my head I saw Sri Aurobindo standing there. I told him that the reading was delightful but nothing could be grasped.
Sri Aurobindo heard all that I said and replied, It is not necessary to understand it all at once. Go on reading. If you find a joy in reading, you need not stop it.
THE NEW IDEA
Extract from Nolini Kanta Gupta, Reminiscences (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1969): 56-57 [translated from the Bengali].
Afterwards, when the Mother came in 1914, it was with a few men chosen from out of this group that she laid the first foundation of her work here; they formed the Society called LIdée Nouvelle. Already, in her Paris days, a similar group had been formed around her, a group that came to be known as the Cosmique, a record of whose proceedings has appeared in part in the Mothers Words of Long Ago (Paroles dAutrefois). Here, in Pondicherry, she started building up an intimate circle of initiates simultaneously with the publication of the Arya.
Extract from K. Amrita, Old Long Since, in Nolini Kanta Gupta and K. Amrita, Reminiscences (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1969): 179-80 [translated from the Tamil].
As directed by Sri Aurobindo in 1910, the Mother reached Pondy on March 29, 1914. A few days after her arrival, Bejoykanta introduced me to her. How did he do it? He introduced me as one of the students of the Calvé College and as one keen on practising Yoga.
The Mother lived in the house No. 3 facing the North,23 in Dupleix Street. She had so much work to attend to that she met people only at an appointed time. Steps were taken even then to start the monthly review Arya both in English and in French.
Students from our school, in small groups, would come at their leisure hours to see the Mother. We did not know then who the Mother was.
At that time the book Yogic Sadhan could be seen in the hands of many of those persons who frequented Sri Aurobindos house. This book Bejoykanta taught me. I did not consider him a teacher. The terms Guru, Acharya, teacher, instructor, preceptor were not current amongst us those days. All that we had been taught was social etiquette and hospitality, no one had given us any idea of modesty or humility or devotion.
Amidst all these superficialities I approached the Mother with the help of Bejoykanta. My dumb heart at once came to feel the magic power of the Mother. Over my poor heart lay loads of dirt. If one load dropped down, another would roll in to occupy the empty space.
In my first approaches to the Mother I thought her to be one like others. My minds way led me in one direction, my hearts voiceless feeling led in another. I had not learnt at that time either to listen attentively to the still voice of the heart, or forgetting all outer hankerings, to feel the inner urge. The tapasyā perhaps that I had failed to do in my previous births I began doing now in this short span of life.
Had someone seen the Mother and myself seated on chairs, facing each other, almost as equals, with the book Yogic Sadhan in hand, he would have been in a fix to know who was teaching whom. In truth, however, I approached the Mother in the spirit of a seeker of knowledge.
THE SITUATION DURING THE WAR
Extract from Government of India, Home Political-B Proceedings, August 1914, 259-62 [National Archives of India].
11. Stair Sidhar. In paragraph 13 of my report dated 2nd June 1914 I referred to the association of a mysterious individual named Stair Sidhar with Arabindo Ghosh. In April Stair Sidhar left Pondicherry for Bengal where he associated with well-known agitators like Shyam Sundar Chakravarti and Liyaqat Husain. On 21st October he was deported as an undesirable alien. He arrived at Port Said on 9th November and proceeded to Cairo but was again deported to Malta on 27th November, along with other subjects of the enemy, as being a Palestine Jew.24 In his possession were found several letters addressed to persons in Pondicherry, Chandernagore, Calcutta and Paris. I quote the following passage25 from one of these which bore the address:
Jai le regret de vous faire connaître que, par ordre du gouverneur du Bengal je suis deporté à Port Said, Egypt. Les derniers temps de mon sejour à Calcutta, je travaillais trop ouvertement avec le mouvement swadesi, etc. Je faisais trop de propaganda pour Arya, ce qui evidemment troublait les C.I.D., tant effarés par Aurabindo Ghose, quils voient de tous côtés à la fois, même à Berlin! Ils mont pris pour son ombre en Calcutta. Dautre part je demeurais avec un des grands swadeshi leaders of Calcutta Sham Sundar Chakravarty qui fut envoyé en deportation, lors du Vande Mataram case. La majorité du public en Calcutta est pour lAllemagne, pensant quelle sera disposée à aider lInde dans son oeuvre de liberation. Vous savez combien la situation politique est chaude maintenant dans le Bengal et le Punjab, surtout depuis laffaire du Komagata Maru.26 Pour toutes ces raisons le gouvernement a cru bon de se debarrasser de moi en menvoyant en Egypt. Mais ils se trompent, je crois. Quelque part où je sois, je travaillerais pour lInde ma Patrie spirituelle, pour sa liberation, pour sa gloire, suivant la voie tracée par nos chers Maîtres: Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo Ghose, Tilak.
12. Pondicherry. The following paragraph is from a report of the Madras police:
The French Government have published in Pondicherry and Karaikal a communiqué explaining in detail the cause of the rupture with Turkey. Muhammadan feeling in both places is satisfactory. They have also begun a rigorous campaign against the importation of the seditious literature both through the post and otherwise and in this connection have searched the house of the notorious V.V. Subrahmanya Ayyar in Pondicherry. They have at last realised the harm which is being done by the extremist party in Pondicherry and have warned V.V. Subrahmanya Ayyar that any mischievous behaviour on his part will be met by deportation to Saigon. They have also warned Paul Richard that his intimacy with the extremists must cease, or his removal from Pondicherry will be considered. All the extremists are now under strict surveillance by the French Police as well as by our mufti parties in Pondicherry and Karaikal, and the result of all this action has been that they are in a very dispirited condition. Two of the principal men, C. Subrahmanya Bharati and S. Srinivasa Chari have made overtures to a Deputy Superintendent, Criminal Investigation Department, in charge of the Pondicherry party, who has twice interviewed them under instructions from the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Criminal Investigation Department, and reported their conversation. They wished to petition Government to return to British India and desired his assistance. He was directed to give them a non-committal answer, as (their present attitude being entirely due to the fact that they are afraid of action by the French Government and are also becoming very hard up for money), their real ideas and purposes remain unchanged. The relations between the French and the British Police in Pondicherry and Karaikal are now very cordial and the situation in Pondicherry has not been under control to the extent it now is since the extremists took up their residence there four or five years ago.
Letter from History of Freedom Movement Files [National Archives of India].
Office of the Deputy Inspector General of Police,
My dear Deane,
There would be no objection at all to Arabindo Ghose coming out into British India but I dont believe he means to do so. The young man Bejoy Kumar Nag is a man whose previous history made it undesirable to let him enter India at present and he was arrested under the new Ingress into India Ordinance. I intend to put this into force against any of the associates of the Pondicherry anarchists who try to come out.
To: A. H. Deane Esq.,
THE EXPULSION OF PAUL RICHARD
Extracts from Fortnightly Report, Judicial Department, Government of Madras [Tamil Nadu State Archives].
The authorities at Pondicherry recently ordered the deportation of Paul Richard, a French socialist who has been on terms of intimacy with Arabindo Ghose and other agitators, and thereby caused these people some alarm; but Richard has appealed to Paris against the order and it has been held in abeyance pending decision of the appeal.
Report of 2 February 1915
The French authorities in Pondicherry and Karaikal are working harmoniously with the British police, and it is reported that the refugees in the former place are discussing the desirability of emigrating to Algiers, for the sake of the protection which M. Paul Richard professes to be able to extend to them. M. Richard left for France on the 22nd February, however, before any arrangements could be made.
Report of 2 March 1915
Extract from Government of India, Home Political-B Proceedings, February 1915, 77780 [National Archives of India].
SEDITIOUS CONSPIRACY IN INDIA.
7. Pondicherry affairs. Paul Richard, to whose association with Arabindo Ghose I have referred in previous reports, has been ordered by the French Government to leave Pondicherry and return to France to serve as a reservist. The real reason of the order is that he has made himself obnoxious to the Governor by his association with political refugees and his anti-British intrigues.
Paul Richard, accompanied by his wife, arrived in Pondicherry from Paris in March last. They held a written commission from Abdul Baha to preach Bahaism, but have shown little or no zeal in this matter. They are also reported to have brought letters of introduction from Shyamaji Krishna Varma to Arabindo Ghose and V.V.S. Aiyar. Paul Richards main object in coming to Pondicherry was to stand for election as Deputy. He enlisted all the extremists on his side and canvassed Pondicherry and Karaikal vigorously with their assistance. His election speeches were socialistic and violently anti-British; but he gained very little support, getting only some 300 votes out of total of 50,000 at the elections in May last. He tried to get the elections upset by bringing charges of corruption against the Governor. During his stay in Pondicherry he has been in daily association with members of the extremist party, in particular with Arabindo Ghose, with whom he collaborated in the production of the Arya. He put forward schemes for starting societies among young Hindus, but nothing even [sic] came of these projects, although the formation of a society called LIdée Nouvelle was actually sanctioned by the French Government in June 1914. He has several times attempted to induce the French Government to have the British police party turned out of Pondicherry. In the end of October Paul Richard called on the British Consul in Pondicherry and assured him that he was an admirer of the British Government and that Arabindo Ghose wished to disassociate himself entirely from politics and was in the habit of exhorting other refugees to refrain from seditious activity. The object of this visit was to ascertain whether Bijoy Kumar Nag, who was acquitted in the Manicktolla case chiefly on account of his youth, would be allowed to go out of Pondicherry as an agent for the Arya. No permission was given, and Bijoy on entering British territory has been interned by the Madras Government.
1 This was the number at the time Amrita was writing (and is the number at present). In 1913 it was 41.
2 According to A.B. Puranis Life of Sri Aurobindo (1978, p. 153) the house was occupied in October 1913.
3 Governor of Pondicherry from July 1910 to June 1911. A historian as well as a politician, M. Martineau stood for election to the Chamber in 1920.
4 Political boss of Pondicherry, between 1911 and 1921 a member of the Conseil Général. According to Suresh Chakravarti Nandagopal was one of the main pillars of the European Party in Pondicherry (A & R 12 (1988): 191). The Madras C.I.D. considered him the chief rowdy of Pondicherry (see Document 8 below) owing to the great power he wielded by means of paid goondas.
5 The Governor of Madras Presidency (British India).
6 French politician (died 1928). Elected deputé from Pondicherry at least twice (1910 and 1914); in 1928 elected sénateur.
7 A code term for revolutionary activities.
8 Criminal lawyer of Pondicherry from around 1910 to around 1945.
9 Jean Lemaire (born 1856), French politician. After serving as Governor of Martinique, he became Governor of Pondicherry in 1904. In 1906 he was elected deputé from Pondicherry, but he lost his seat in the elections of 1910.
10 Jean Henri Frederic Gaebelé (1860-1936), Mayor of Pondicherry (1899 and 1908-28). A powerful, almost dictatorial figure, he held many positions besides that of mayor, dominating the local political scene until at least 1929.
11 Gaston Pierre, French lawyer, leader of the Pondicherry bar, and also of the Hindu Party of Pondicherry (see A & R 12 : 191.)
12 Government of India documents reveal that the Government of British India had entered into negotiations with the Government of French India concerning a proposed exchange of the French enclave of Chandernagore, which had become a major centre of Bengali revolutionaries, for British territory of equivalent value adjoining Pondicherry. See Home Department records, series A, December 1913, nos. 15-16.
13 Indian residents of the French Settlements in India who became full French citizens after renouncing their personal status under the Indian law (Nolini Kanta Gupta, Reminiscences [Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1969]: 72).
14 Not an educational institution, but (as in French) a political or electoral body.
15 See Document 19.
16 This is incorrect. See Document 7 for Laportes total.
17 The Psalmodist, also referred to in another of Sri Aurobindos letters to Motilal, may be Parthasarathi Iyengar (note that the first two letters of Psalmodist are the initials of Partha-sarathis personal name). Parthasarathis elder brother was Srinivasachari. See previous instalments of Archival Notes for more on these men.
18 Kali (i.e. Sri Aurobindo).
19 See the next document.
20 This section (in italics) has been taken from the inside front cover of the English edition of Arya.
21 The translation of these four parts is taken from the inside front cover of the English edition of Arya.
22 The translation of the contents of these four books follows the printed edition of The Eternal Wisdom (Madras: Ganesh & Co., 1921).
23 This was the number at the time Amrita was writing (and is the number at present). In 1914 the number was 7.
24 As a native of Palestine, Sidhar was a subject of the Sultan of Turkey, and therefore was considered an enemy alien.
25 This letter is reproduced as printed in the Government of India report. The French has not been corrected.
26 The Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship chartered early in 1914 to transport Punjabis living in the Far East to Vancouver. Most of the passengers were refused admission to Canada, and the ship sailed for Calcutta (the passengers not being allowed to disembark at Hong Kong or Singapore as a result of the outbreak of war). On 29 September the ship landed in Budge-Budge, Bengal. Refusing to enter a train provided by the authorities that would have taken them to Punjab, the passengers marched in a body to Calcutta. A riot ensued, and many lives were lost.