The origin of the Sapta Chatusthaya

This article presents presumably decisive proof of the origin of the Sapta Chatusthaya and maybe of interest more to longtime Aurobindonians than others.  The Sapta Chatusthaya (Seven Quartets) is a program for inner yogic development that Sri Aurobindo received through his spiritual visions sometime in the 1908-1912 period.  However, the exact origin of this program has been regarded as uncertain because Sri Aurobindo’s early spiritual realizations occurred during a turbulent period of his life when he was actively involved in India’s freedom struggle against the British rule, in the course of which he had to undergo a year’s imprisonment and was subsequently actively pursued and watched by British spies for several years.

In The Record of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo’s personal journal published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, we find the following editing note which states that it is not known when exactly the Sapta Chatusthaya was received:

As mentioned above, Sapta Chatusthaya or the seven tetrads was the “programme” of Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana that he received sometime after his arrival in Pondicherry in April 1910. It is not known exactly when the system came to him, but it must have been familiar to him by 16 January 1912, when he referred in the Record to “the first two chatusthayas” [1]

While going through a book called Light to Superlight published in 1972 by the Prabartak Sangha of Calcutta, I came across a short note by Arun Chandra Dutt explaining the origin of the Sapta Chathusthaya, which I am reproducing here.  In the following passage, we learn that Sri Aurobindo received the Sapta Chatusthaya in Alipore prison and Arun, then an inquisitive teenager living in Chandernagore, made a copy of it for his own study, thereby fortuitously saving the Mantras from inevitable destruction.  He later discovered that the Synthesis of Yoga that Sri Aurobindo began writing from 1914 onwards was actually based on the Sapta Chatusthaya :

“I had heard from Mahaguru Shree Aurobindo that during his silent tapasya (practice) in Alipore Prison, a series of mantras was revealed in his spiritual experience, which were felt by him  as signals or landmarks of his new yogic consciousness. These were recorded by him as we believe-just after he came out of jail-and this record in several pages of his own hand-writing-an invaluable document, is still in our possession.

This original document along with some other original writings of Shree Aurobindo-essays, epistles, historical impressions and poems-also in his own hand-writing had been received by our revered Gurudeva Shreemat Motilal Roy in February 1910, when Shree Aurobindo came to Chandernagore and stayed in his house in secret seclusion. The writings were copied out by me in my then teen age curiosity as well as under an intuitive urge and intention to keep them with me as a precious possession for later study and deeper contemplation in future. The originals were–so far as I am aware-sent in a bundle by Shree Samgha-gurudeva to Pondicherry after Shree Aurobindo’s retreat to that place.

But it so happened that the original of these “Saptachatustaya” note-records of Shree Aurobindo were somehow left behind with us here in Chandernagore, and continued to be preserved in my personal custody-as I feel now-as an actual legacy of my latent sub-conscious urge or intuitive intention. They have been subsequently photostated for more lasting conservation.

Shree Aurobindo, however, never called for it, perhaps having taken it for granted as being lost during the period of frequent police-raids and house-searches and other transitional disturbances or uncertainties of the time.

I was however, astonished beyond measure, when ever since the publication of the “Arya” from August 1914, I began to read and study the series of articles appearing in its pages along with the ‘Life Divine‘ series-under the heading of “Synthesis of Yoga“–a serial presentation of Shree Aurobindo’s new thought on Yoga-of equal, nay, as we feel-of even more practical importance-for a follower of his Yoga. This continued feature-month after month-it was amazing enough to be found by me-to be following on exactly same lines just as outlined in his note-record of his spiritual experiences in jail, we have mentioned above-but without those written records actually with him to help his mind or memory.

It was indeed, a wonder of wonders to me to observe and realise how his elaborate exposition of the new yoga was proceeding with almost verbatim precision as a faithful expansion of those pre-attained experiences, so much deeply and accurately they must have been imprinted in his inner consciousness as not to lose any the least either in content or sequence of thought matter, and arrangement also in its consequent methodical presentation.

A page of the original document of “Sapta-Chatustaya” has been found to be missing through the carelessness of one of my fellow-associates. It is a matter of sorrow and regret that this cannot be now at this distance of time actually recovered and replaced.

An article in Bengali Prabartak (vol 1, num. 2, 1915),-from the pen of my Samghagurudeva (Motilal Roy), containing the gist and purport of Shree Aurobindo’s note-record, centering round the four revealed mantras quoted verbatim in that article, is here reproduced in English translation along with those four mantras that will at least help a little towards the filling up of that missing gap or link.

The Sapta-Chatustaya” is therefore, felt and termed by me as the index of the Master’s “Synthesis of Yoga” volume.” [2]

For more on the Sapta Chatusthaya, click here.

References

  1. Sri Aurobindo.  Record of Yoga, CWSA vol. 10-11, (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram: 1997) p 1490.
  2. Light to Superlight.  (Calcutta : Prabartak Publishers : 1972), pp 207-208.
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9 thoughts on “The origin of the Sapta Chatusthaya

  1. Diane

    Thank you for this article Sandeep, I found it very interesting. I am at the moment towards the end of my third reading of the Record, I think it is an invaluable guide to sadhana. One question I have is regarding the reference to Mantras, do you know the mantras, and can they be published on this site? Or if they are already available where can I locate them
    Regards
    Diane

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      If I am not mistaken, the Mantras are already listed on pages 3-23 of the Record of Yoga, at the beginning of each section of the Sapta Chatusthaya. In any case, I have emailed you the relevant scanned pages from the Dutt’s book “Light to Superlight” so you can compare both versions.

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Sri Aurobindo’s 1947 meeting with two French visitors | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  3. Sandeep Post author

    The following note, which appeared in Archives and Research journal( vol 2, p 221) published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, affirms the validity of the above manuscript:

    The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library is happy to announce the acquisition of a valuable collection of manuscripts and newspapers. The collection, which was donated by Shri Arun Chandra Dutt. President, Prabartak Samgha. Chandernagore, includes a number of letters of Sri Aurobindo to Motilal Roy, Sri Aurobindo’s original manuscript of Saptachatushtaya, and seven volumes of the daily Bande Mataram.

    Reply
  4. Sandeep Post author

    There is a talk dated 10 July 1926 where Sri Aurobindo says “when I came to Pond[icherr]y when a programme of what I would do was given to me & it came to me independently and I took it down”. This information clouds Arun Chandra Dutt’s claim that Sri Aurobindo received the Sapta Chatusthaya in Alipore Jail. How Arun living in Chandernagore came to possess the original manuscript as noted above remains an enigma.

    Reply
  5. mike

    lsn’t this book on the SA website (perhaps l’ve got the wrong one):

    hxxp://motherandsriaurobindo.org//Contents.aspx?ParentCategoryName=_staticcontent%5csriaurobindoashram%5c-09+e-library%5c-04+Compilations%5c-01+English%5cLight+To+Superlight

    Reply

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