<< previous chapter     |     table of contents     |     next chapter >>

Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo



Letter from the French Foreign Ministry, Department of Political and Commercial Affairs, to “all diplomatic and consular agents of the Republic in Japan and China”, dated Paris, 28 February 1916. [Paul Richard Papers].

La présente lettre vous sera présentée par M. Paul Richard, Avocat à la Cour d’Appel de Paris, délégué de l’Union nationale pour l’Exportation des Produits français, qui se rend au Japon et en Chine.

Vous voudrez bien réserver bon accueil à M. Richard, s’il a recours à vos bons offices./.

Pour le Président du Conseil

The bearer of this letter, Mr Paul Richard, a barrister at the Court of Appeals at Paris and a delegate of the National Union for the Export of French Products, is on his way to Japan and China.

Kindly extend a warm welcome to Mr Richard should he be in need of your good offices.

For the Prime Minister


Extract from Supplement to “The Japan Gazette”, 29 April 1916.


Per N.Y.K Str. KAMO-MARU, from London, March 11th — TO Yokohama: Mrs. Messer, Bishop and Mrs. Lea, Mr. K. Endo, Mr. G. Okabe, Mr. K. Saito, Mr. and Mrs. P. Richard, Miss Hodgson, Capt. Moses, Mr. Kerr, Mr. A. Penny, Miss D.M. Hodgson, Mr. and Mrs. P. Richard. TO Kobe: Mrs. Roebuck, Mr. and Mrs. Bradbury, and Master K. Bradbury.


Extract from Government of India, Home Political-B Proceedings, July 1917, Nos. 426–30. [National Archives of India]


2. M. Paul Richard. — It is reported that M. Paul Richard is about to publish a book entited To Japan, in which he urges Japan to liberate Asia from European domination. The book will be printed in English, Japanese and Chinese, and copies will be distributed by the Pan-Asiatic League. Paul Richard was socialist candidate at the last elections in the French Indian possessions. While living in Pondicherry he was an intimate friend of Arabindo Ghosh and other Indian extremists. On being compelled to leave Pondicherry about two years ago he and his wife went to Japan. When Tagore and his party visited Japan, the Richards attempted to enlist their sympathies in Pan-Asianism and undoubtedly met with some success in the case of Messrs. Andrews and Pearson.


Draft of letter in handwriting of Paul Richard. [Paul Richard Papers (Japanese notebook).]

Nous sommes surpris de ce que vous nous dites. Le bail que nous avons fait avec M. Vincent porte une clause de prolongation indéterminée. A son expiration, vous nous avez demandé si nous préférions en faire un nouveau ou simplement continuer la location mois par mois, c’est-à-dire avec faculté pour nous de quitter en vous prévenant 30 jours d’avance, comme le dit votre lettre du ——, ce que nous avons accepté. En mars dernier, vous avez informé Miss Hodgson que M. Vincent ne reviendrait pas mais que vous ne feriez rien pour la vente de son mobilier tant que nous voudrions occuper la maison. C’est au 15 juin que commençait la location de notre maison et nous ne comptions pas la garder plus longtemps, devant quitter Tokio vers cette époque. Mais nous ne voudrions pas, si vraiment vous en avez besoin avant cette date, y demeurer contre votre gré, ayant toujours agi en toute bonne entente avec vous. Mais vous comprendrez qu’il ne nous est pas possible de quitter Tokio au milieu de l’hiver en plein travail d’écoles en rompant nos engagements à cet égard et que, d’autre part, il nous sera bien difficile de trouver une installation convenable pour une période de 4 mois seulement de février en juin. Nous ferons cependant tout le nécessaire pour y réussir afin de vous rendre la maison aussitôt que nous le pourrons. Si vous le voulez bien, soyez assez aimable pour venir un de ces jours entre 2 et 5. Je pense qu’il sera facile de nous entendre amicalement comme toujours sur toute chose.

We were surprised by what you have told us. Our lease with Mr Vincent includes a clause for indefinite prolongation. On its expiry you asked us whether we would prefer to renew it or simply to continue the rent month by month, that is, with the option of our leaving upon giving you 30 days notice, as mentioned in your letter of ——, which we accepted. Last March you informed Miss Hodgson that Mr Vincent would not return but that you would not proceed with the sale of his furniture so long as we wished to occupy the house. The renting of our house began on June 15 and we did not expect to live there beyond then, having to leave Tokyo at that time. But we would not wish to remain there against your will, if you really needed it before that date, as we have always acted in complete agreement with your wishes. But you can understand that it is not possible for us to leave Tokyo in the middle of winter while the schools are in session, breaking our commitments in this regard, and that, on the other hand, it would be difficult for us to find suitable lodgings for a period of only 4 months from February to June. We will however do everything possible to achieve this in order to return the house to you as soon as we can. If you wish, please be kind enough to come one of these days between 2 and 5 o’clock. I think it will be easy for us to arrive at a friendly understanding, as always in all things.



Extract from Government of India, Home Political-B Proceedings, December 1918, Nos. 158–59. [National Archives of India]


4. Arabindo Ghosh. — The Asia Jiron for August publishes a photograph of Arabindo Ghosh and a eulogistic article on his work by Shumei Okawa. The Asia Jiron is the organ of the Black Dragon Society which aims at a union of Asiatic countries against the domination of the West. Okawa is one of the Society’s propagandists and an associate of Indian revolutionaries in Japan. He was recently mentioned in the following terms by one of our officers who was describing the pan-Asiatic movement: “The leading spirit of the pan-Asiatic movement in Japan is Shumei Okawa, a person of considerable influence, who is deeply interested in Indian affairs and is bitterly opposed to British rule in India.”


Article published in Asia Jiron, August 1918. Translated from the Japanese by a student of Clifford Gibson. The editors have made a few necessary revisions, but for the most part let the translation stand as written.

A Sage, Arabindo Ghosh

Shumei Okawa

Arabinda Ghosh is a great character whom modern India has produced, or rather only India can produce.

He is now leading a meditative life with a group of his disciples in the France-held southern territories of India under the strict observation of his government, which fears him as the most horrible revolutionary.

Under such conditions, he is now expressing his extensive and thoroughgoing thoughts in the monthly magazine entitled “Arya”.

The government of India is so afraid of him that it regards him as a devil and it always sends out scores of secret agents to watch and report every detail of his action and remarks.

He cannot go out without causing much excitement and uproar everywhere among people as if something serious happened to them, but in fact he is far from being one of what they call “revolutionaries”. For he has never attempted to overturn his government by means of brute force, nor has he ever tried to organize any direct political movement.

Arabinda Ghosh, unlike any other revolutionary in India, has never restricted his aim only to set his own country free from the yoke of the British Empire politically or to shake off its monopoly economically. What he has really wanted to fight against with all his mind and strong will are the very English spirit, English culture and all the anti-Indian spirits themselves.

This sage, believing himself to be a true Indian, has the most profound understanding of the significance of the Indian civilization. This great man, taking pride in the superiority of the sacred Indian spirit, believes firmly in the solemn mission that his fatherland has to fulfil both for humanity and for the world. Thus the most sacred mission for him is to bring the true life of India into full play and to cultivate its real spirit.

He is a real fighter who fears nothing in the battlefield of our spirit, where one must sink deep into his own mind to find out and embody in himself “the real India” which is ever shining in defiance of all external decadence, chaos and fetters. And he is also a fearless soldier who dares to devote his whole existence to identifying, advertising and restoring “the real India”, and who tries to attack, defeat and destroy both the internal and the external enemies that get in the way of attaining “the real India”.

In these regards, he is the most genuine Indian of all the Indian thinkers in the strict sense of the word, and at the same time the most nationalistic of all the leaders of the national movements in the radical sense of the word.


However, we shall be completely mistaken if we believe him to be an old-fashioned conservative thinker who knows nothing but his own country. For this great genius, as Valentine Chirol said, had as much education of European style as any Indian, and in fact studied in Europe for so long a time as to forget Bengali, his mother tongue.

The principal of a school, where he had studied before entering Cambridge University, admired him greatly, saying that he had never seen such an excellent and clear-headed student in his thirty years’ teaching career.

At Cambridge University he distinguished himself especially in the classical study of Greek and Latin and he never failed to take honors in the literature and philosophy of this field. Upon reading any thesis of his, we will be sure to be convinced that he has not only marvelously abundant knowledge of European thoughts but also profound and exact understanding of them. Having said all this, his thought is deep rooted in his native country — India. Comparing the fact that Har Dayal and other revolutionaries have as their background the democracy inherited from England and America, we will come to see clearly that the thought and action of Arabinda Ghosh is truly Indian to the backbone.

Thus we should not be surprised in the least when we realize that his character and opinions have inspired deep emotion in the mind of the young people in India.

Finding that this sage had first experienced the traditional spirit of India, especially the religion and moral of Bhagavad-Gita, that he had then organized those experience and knowledge into a thorough-going system of thought, and that at last, being based on these foundations, he had criticized keenly all the foreign thoughts and cultures as if he were Yama in his judgment seat, young people of India realized clearly that there is a great and essential and priceless treasure hidden deep in themselves and at the same time their sense of national identity was suddenly aroused and inflamed furiously. So he can justly be called a revolutionary in the most profound sense of the word, if we like. But his ultimate aim is not simply to set India free from its external enemy, Great Britain. For it is needless to say that one must get rid of external tyranny, and he never hesitates to express this kind of belief like any other Indian thinker.

In his pamphlet entitled “My Appeal to the Nation”, he impeached relentlessly Great Britain saying that this empire had pressed India to adopt its inferior culture though it is much inferior to its subject state in its attainment of civilization, and that it had injured the holy nature of Indian people and hindered them from developing purely and naturally. When, in 1905, those interested in and worried about the future of India opened the National Council of Education with a view to setting up a university wholly independent of their government and conducting education in the field of philosophy, science, literature and technical art organized genuinely by the Indian people, he also gave up decisively his post and enormous honorarium as an educational adviser of Baroda, and since then, as principal recommended by those concerned, he has been trying to accomplish their aim and going through all kinds of persecutions and hardships for more than ten years.

For him religion, morality, politics and education — all these factors cannot be separated from one another, for all of them form one body both as an organ to improve life and as a system to cultivate morality.

Therefore, when a lot of revolutionaries lay a stress only on the political aspect, he emphasizes the spiritual aspect too, insisting that people in India have as their enemy not only the Great Britain outside them but inside them the stronger enemy named “the inner Great Britain”. As a fighter in the battlefield, no doubt, he can never be beaten by anyone in India today.

There is a common belief in this country that Tagore is the best thinker they may well be proud of. To be sure he is India’s vaunted poet, but he is far from being a great thinker, much less is he equal to Ghosh in the depth and extent of thought.


Now, staying out of the political activities in the real world, he is concentrating his whole mind and energy on refining and strengthening the idea of the “real Indian life”.

Such works as The Life Divine, The Ideal of Human Unity, The Psychology of Social Development published in these several years, tower far above any other philosophical writing in the world in terms of the seriousness of the thinking, thoroughness of observation, extent and profundity of knowledge, and coherence of system.

“Arya” is in nature a pure philosophical magazine, so never touches on the actual political problems, but it falls under various suspicions and indirect pressures only because it has Arabinda Ghosh as its chief editor. Thus this eminent magazine has been decreasing in its circulation to only several hundreds and recently there is a rumour abroad that it might be forced to suspend publication for a while for some reason or other.

Knowing that this “Asian Review” is going to carry one of his recent pictures on the first page and introduce to the Japanese people this towering mind in the Orient who should have been known to us much earlier, I would like to have the opportunity and honour of expressing my enthusiastic admiration for his sublime aspiration, my deep respect for his true patriotic spirit, and my fullhearted sympathy for his hardships which he is now suffering from.

May his spiritual struggle end in a glorious victory!



Letter from the Governor of French India, Pondicherry, to the Minister of Colonies, Paris, dated 3 June 1920. [ANSOM, Aix-en-Provence].

J’ai l’honneur de vous rendre compte de l’arrivée à Pondichéry de M. Richard, avocat, ancien candidat aux élections législatives de 1914, dont le départ de la Colonie a donné lieu en 1915, à un échange de correspondance avec le Département.

M. Richard, qui revient du Japon où il se serait rendu en mission — est accompagné de Mme Myrrha Richard, sa femme, et d’une certaine Miss Houdgson. Il paraît s’être fixé dans la Colonie pour une période d’une durée indéterminée.

M. Richard entretenant de longue date des relations assez suivies avec les éléments extrémistes hindous, son passage a été signalé au Gouvernement de l’Inde par la police anglaise des divers ports d’Extrème Orient où il a fait escale en venant à Pondichéry. Nos voisins se sont émus de son arrivés dans l’Inde et le Gouverneur de Madras, qui vient de m’en informer par lettre du 20 mai, m’a demandé de vouloir bien avertir son Gouvernement des mouvements ultérieurs de M. et Mme Richard et de Miss Houdgson, qu’il soupçonne d’avoir été porteurs de correspondances émanant des extrémistes réfugiés au Japon et adressées à ceux réfugiés à Pondichéry notamment à Aurabinda Ghose.

J’ai confirmé au Gouverneur de Madras l’arrivée à Pondichéry des personnes signalées et je me propose de l’informer dans le cas où elles quitteraient cette ville.

J’ai cru devoir vous mettre au courant de cette affaire qui intéresse la police internationale et dont il peut vous paraïtre utile de donner connaissance à M. le Ministre des Affaires Etrangères.

I have the honour of informing you of the arrival in Pondicherry of Mr Richard, barrister, candidate in the legislative assembly elections of 1914, whose departure from this colony, in 1915, was the occasion of some correspondence with the department.

Mr Richard, who arrives from Japan, where he had gone on a mission, is accompanied by Mrs Myrrha Richard, his wife, and a Miss Houdgson. He seems to have settled in the colony for an indeterminate time.

As Mr Richard has long been in rather steady contact with undesirable extremist Indian elements, his passage was reported to the Government of British India by the British police in several ports of the Extreme Orient where he stopped on his way to Pondicherry. Our neighbours became concerned by his arrival in India, and the Governor of Madras, who has just informed me about it by a letter of 20 May, has asked me to keep his Government informed of the subsequent movements of Mr and Mrs Richard and Miss Houdgson, whom he suspects of bearing correspondence from extremists who have taken refuge in Japan addressed to the refugees of Pondicherry, in particular Aurobindo Ghose.

I have given confirmation to the Governor of Madras of the arrival in Pondicherry of the above-mentioned persons and I intend to inform him in the event that they leave this city.

I thought it necessary to let you know you about this affair, which is of interest to the international police and which you may find useful to communicate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

<< previous chapter     |     table of contents     |     next chapter >>