Mahatma Gandhi’s aborted 1934 attempt to meet Sri Aurobindo

In 1934, Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the Indian freedom struggle, sought to meet Sri Aurobindo because they had never met in person before.  The latter declined the request because he didn’t want to break the seclusion that he had been observing since 1926.  Strangely, the Mother who had no such restriction also declined to meet him.  By combining the correspondence available in the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi with the records in the Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo, it is possible to build a complete picture of why this important meeting never transpired.  One of Mahatma Gandhi’s letters seen below also furnishes us with a second-hand account of daily life in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

For those who may not know, from 1906 to 1910 Sri Aurobindo had risen to become a prominent leader in India’s freedom struggle against British rule.  He retired to Pondicherry in April, 1910 after receiving a Divine command (“adesh”) to abandon  political life and devote himself to spiritual transformation.  In 1915, Gandhi, who had been fighting for the rights of Indian immigrants in South Africa for about two decades, returned to India and within a few years became the undisputed leader of the Indian freedom struggle.  For many years, the national leadership continued to hope that Sri Aurobindo would one day return to lead the freedom struggle.  In 1920, Gandhi had wired Sri Aurobindo to accept the nomination for the president of the upcoming Congress session but the latter turned down the request (1).

In November 1933, Gandhi embarked on a nation-wide tour as part of his campaign against untouchability and the caste system.  Since his tour was to take him to Pondicherry, he sought to use the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with Sri Aurobindo. He wrote to Govindbhai Patel, an Ashram inmate, to facilitate the meeting:

December 25, 1933

Bhai Govindbhai,

On receipt of your letter I inquired and learnt that an invitation had been received from Pondicherry, and most probably I shall be visiting the place. If I go, I should certainly like to call on Shri Aurobindo. It would be a great disappointment to me if I could not see him. If, therefore, you can arrange for a meeting without much fuss, please do so. After the programme is finalized, I also will write and request for an interview  (2)

Govindbhai put the matter before Sri Aurobindo who politely declined:

28 December 1933

Govindbhai Patel: Here is a postcard from Gandhi. If you think he can receive something from you, please grant him permission to meet you.

Sri Aurobindo: You will have to write that I am unable to see him because for a long time past I have made it an absolute rule not to have any interview with anyone—that I do not even speak with my disciples and only give a silent blessing to them three times a year. All requests for an interview from others I have been obliged to refuse. This rule has been imposed on me by the necessity of my sadhana and is not at all a matter of convenience or anything else. The time has not come when I can depart from it. (3)

Gandhi again pressed Sri Aurobindo for a few minutes of his time:

2 Jan 1934

M. K. Gandhi: . . . Perhaps you know that ever since my return to India I have been anxious to meet you face to face. Not being able to do that, I sent my son to you. Now that it is almost certain that I am to be in Pondicherry, will you spare me a few minutes & see me! I know how reluctant you are to see anybody. But if you are under no positive vow of abstinence, I hope you will give me a few minutes of your time. . . .

Sri Aurobindo replied to him courteously:

Dear Mahatmaji

It is true that I have made no vow, for I never make one, but my retirement is not less binding on me so long as it—and the reason for it—lasts. I think you will understand that it is not a personal or mental choice but something impersonal from a deeper source for the inner necessity of work and sadhana. It prevents me from receiving you but I cannot do otherwise than keep to the rule I have adhered to for some years past.  (4)

Sri Aurobindo’s letter was delayed so Gandhi had to write again to Govindbhai:

January 12, 1934

Bhai Govindbhai,

I have written to you saying that I had written a long letter to Shri Aurobindo. I have received no reply till today.  I have written to you in reply to your English letter, too, and said that you may ask me any questions you wish to when we meet.  (5)

Sri Aurobindo surmised (correctly) that his letter must have been intercepted by the British intelligence agency.  Gandhi was being closely monitored by the British to ensure that he kept his pledge of eschewing political agitation during the untouchability tour.  Reports of his talks and actions were continuously filed by low-level observers and traveled all the way to the secretary of state for India in Whitehall in England. (6)

12 January 1934

Govindbhai Patel: Gandhi writes that he has not yet received Sri Aurobindo’s answer. I hear that he asked at least a line in Sri Aurobindo’s hand; and that Sri Aurobindo has written a full letter in his own hand—which he does not usually do. Is this a fact?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. I wrote to him a short letter explaining the nature of my retirement and regretting that I could not break my rule so long as the reason for it existed. It was addressed to Bangalore I believe and ought to have reached him, unless it has been pocketed by the C.I.D.  I suppose even if he had left Bangalore it would have been forwarded to him. You can write and inform him of the fact.  (7)

Since he could not meet Sri Aurobindo, Gandhi wondered if he could meet the Mother instead and also tour the Ashram.

January 21, 1934

Bhai Govindbhai,

It seems my stay in Pondicherry will be a very brief one. But if I can, I should very much like to see Mother and to go round the Ashram. Sri Aurobindo’s letter reached me yesterday after a good deal of wandering. I cannot follow all that you say in your letters. I may say this for myself, that nothing is dearer to me in this world than the search for truth (8).

Govindbhai put Gandhi’s new request before Sri Aurobindo.

24 Jan 1934

Govindbhai Patel: I am sure he will prolong his stay to see the Mother. And the Mother is Mother after all, let him have Her touch. I am sure he is not going to bother Mother by political topics. If he talks at all, he will talk about his search after Truth.

Sri Aurobindo: With his programme it is impossible. Also I do not see any utility. You must on no account ask him to delay his departure, that is quite contrary to what we wish. His search for Truth is on fixed lines of his own and the Mother can say nothing to help him there—nor has he said that he wants any help—and the Asram would hardly please him since it is run on quite unascetic lines contrary to his ideal (9).

Sri Aurobindo turned down the request because Gandhi’s political and spiritual ideals were markedly different from those espoused by him and the Mother.  Inspired by Tolstoy, Gandhi had adopted an extreme form of ascetism; he used to observe fasts regularly ; he had given up cow’s milk because of its alleged aphrodisiac properties and switched to drinking goat’s milk. There were differences on the political front as well.  During his political career, Sri Aurobindo had advocated a vigorous industrialisation of the country to free India from its dependence on British goods while Gandhi who preferred a simple rural life wanted everyone to make their own clothes at home by spinning cotton on the charkha (the spinning-wheel).  Sri Aurobindo had advocated passive resistance as long as the ruling power, the British, did not turn violent, in which case the resistance had to become more active and aggressive (10).  By contrast, Gandhi favoured the use of Ahimsa (non-violence) in all circumstances in the fond hope that it would melt the aggressor’s heart.  He even asked Jews to practice the same method against Hitler. Hitler, on the other hand, had once advised Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India from 1926-1931: “All you have to do is to shoot Gandhi” (11).

Since he did not receive any favourable reply from Sri Aurobindo, Gandhi decided against visiting Pondicherry :

February 3, 1934

Bhai Govindbhai,

I have your letter. A new programme has been drawn up, in which the visit to Pondicherry has been dropped. I must confess that I do not have the same curiosity that you have. I have respect for all individuals. I have known about Sri Aurobindo since a long time. You have many Gujaratis there. There are others, too. I would want to know something of an ashram which shelters so many people. It was in order to satisfy this desire that I made the attempt. But that is over now. It would have given me some satisfaction if I could have at least met you all. (12)

Gandhi then wrote a letter to Vallabhbhai Patel (another Indian leader) informing him of the reluctance of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to meet him:

February 5, 1934

Vallabhbhai Patel

The attempt which I made to see Shri Aurobindo was for the sake of the Gujaratis in Pondicherry. His refusal was courteous. He said that he saw nobody. The Revered Mother did not reply at all. My visit to that town has been dropped now. In a way I am glad that it has been.  (13)

In the meanwhile, a notice had been put up in the Ashram prohibiting members from attending Gandhi’s meetings, as we learn from the following exchange.

On 9 February 1934

Disciple: It seems some people from the town went to see Gandhi and asked him why he had cancelled his visit to the Asram. Gandhi is supposed to have said that it was because Sri Aurobindo was not willing to see him, after which he showed a copy of the notice which was put on our notice board—the one prohibiting members of the Asram from attending Gandhi’s arrival procession, etc.  I don’t believe Gandhi actually had a copy of the notice but some people in town must have known of it.

Sri Aurobindo: That is all nonsense. Gandhi’s decision not to come here was made before the notice was put on the board. My decision to issue the notice and his decision not to come may have coincided —but how could he know it except by telepathy?

Disciple: In one of his letters to Govindbhai, Gandhi said that he would be much disappointed if he did not see Sri Aurobindo. If that was the case, I wonder why he couldn’t wait till the 21st to have Darshan.

Sri Aurobindo: I suppose the disappointment was nothing more than a phrase —meaning, I would so much have liked to see what kind of a person you are. If I have read his last letter to Govindbhai aright, his request was dictated by curiosity rather than anything else. If anybody expected him to come here seeking for Truth, it was absurd—he has his own fixed way of seeing things and is not likely to change it. (14)

Plans changed again.  Gandhi decided to visit Pondicherry on February 17, 1934 (15).  Sri Aurobindo still refused to allow Gandhi to meet the Mother!

16 Feb 1934

Govindbhai Patel: As he has written to me to inform you, shall I answer that the Mother cannot see him or shall I remain silent? If he enquires about seeing Mother, shall I say that she will not be able to see him?

Sri Aurobindo: You can tell him that just now the circumstances are such that it is impossible for the Mother to receive his visit (16).

Given the series of blanket refusals, Sri Aurobindo then asked Govindbhai to personally meet Gandhi to alleviate any misunderstanding.

Disciple: Yesterday Gandhi asked permission to see the Mother. I heard that Mother asked Govindbhai to meet him and explain her inability to see him.

Sri Aurobindo: Gandhi wrote to Govindbhai and from his letter it seemed as if he were still expecting to see the Mother and the Asram or at least expecting an answer. In view of this persistence we sent Govindbhai to explain to him that it was impossible for the Mother to receive his visit (17).

The rationale behind this stubborn reluctance to receive Gandhi becomes apparent in a subsequent letter that Gandhi wrote after meeting Govindbhai.  It seems that the Ashram was being closely watched by the British.  Welcoming Mahatma Gandhi at this juncture might have imperiled the friendly relations that the Ashram enjoyed with the French government which ruled over Pondicherry.  In this letter, we also get a glimpse of daily life in the Ashram.

February 19, 1934

Letter to Vallabhbhai Patel

I visited Pondicherry. I could see nobody there. Mother didn’t reply at all. But Govindbhai came and saw me when I was in another place. He told me the whole story. The Ashram is being watched, and so there was some risk even in letting me visit the place. Half the number of the inmates are Gujaratis. Govindbhai was also in the Ashram formerly. The daily routine in this Ashram is as follows: They get up at five in the morning. Every sadhaka has a separate room for himself. There are about 150 sadhakas. They come from everywhere. Among them are Dilip (Kumar Roy) and Harin Chattopadhyaya, the husband of Kamaladevi. The Ashram has rented about 40 houses. The food is similar to that provided in our Ashram. Shri Aurobindo comes out only on three days in the year. Shri Aurobindo and Mother don’t sleep at all. Shri (Aurobindo) does recline in an armchair between 3.30 a.m. and 4.30 a.m., but he does not sleep. The sadhakas have to send up their diary every day. They can ask questions. Letters from Shri (Aurobindo) and Mother are delivered to them four times a day. Between them, they write about 200 letters daily. No letter remains unattended to. Shri (Aurobindo) knows innumerable languages. He reforms sadhakas through secret  influence on their minds. Harin Chattopadhyaya has given up drinking, etc. Liquor and meat are forbidden in the Ashram. This is the description given by Govindbhai, and he has invited me to join the Ashram. I hope you will be satisfied with this (18).

Sri Aurobindo and the Ashram which came up later in Pondicherry had been under British surveillance since 1910.  It was in 1937, when a Congress government came to power in the Madras Presidency (roughly equivalent to today’s Tamil Nadu state) that the surveillance finally came to an end.  Doraiswamy Iyengar, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and a lawyer by profession, made the request to the Premier of Madras Presidency, C. Rajagopachari to have it ended (19).

First TV interview with Mahatma Gandhi (30 April, 1931)

Mahatma Gandhi’s 1931 trip to England for the Round Table Conference


  1. Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG), New Delhi, Publications Division Government of India, 1999, vol 21, Letter 173.
  2. CWMG vol 62, Letter 372.
  3. Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo (CWSA) vol. 36, Autobiographical Notes, pp 442-444.
  4. CWSA vol. 36, Autobiographical Notes, pp 442-444.
  5. CWMG vol. 62, Letter 451.
  6. Lelyveld, Joseph. Great soul : Mahatma Gandhi and his struggle with India, New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, p 244.
  7. CWSA vol. 36, Autobiographical Notes, pp 442-444
  8. CWMG vol. 63, Letter 20
  9. CWSA vol. 36, Autobiographical Notes, pp 442-444.
  10. CWSA vol. 6-7, 263-304.  (The Doctrine of Passive Resistance)
  11. Lelyveld, Great Soul, p 281.
  12. CWMG vol. 63, Letter 113.
  13. CWMG vol. 63, Letter 124.
  14. CWSA vol. 35, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, p 186-88.
  16. CWSA vol. 36, Autobiographical Notes, pp 442-444.
  17. CWSA vol. 35, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, p 186-88.
  18. CWMG vol. 63, Letter 194.
  19. Minakski Amma, A Stream of Surrender.

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28 thoughts on “Mahatma Gandhi’s aborted 1934 attempt to meet Sri Aurobindo

  1. vishwamitra2

    “The Ashram is being watched, and so there was some risk even in letting me visit the place.”

    I guess there is no way to tell if that was the main reason or just one of the reasons given to Gandhi and if it was given at the behest of Sri Aurobindo or one provided by Govindbhai.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      The Sri Aurobindo Ashram was under British surveillance until 1935 or 1937, until a Congress leader intervened and got it lifted. I have read this somewhere but I am unable to find the source right now. I have asked someone to help me find the source. Once I find it, I will add the reference here.

    2. Sandeep Post author

      Yes, found it finally. What luck or possibly Grace! It was in the reminiscences of Minakshi Amma, wife of Doraiswamy Iyer.

      This is the text:

      Now, from the day Sri Aurobindo arrived in Pondicherry, the British police had been keeping a watch, not only on him and those in his household, but also everyone who visited him. An account by one of his disciples from Andhra Pradesh is worth noting:

      When I left Pondicherry to go to Madras [in 1923] a secret policeman was dogging my footsteps and pointing out to his relieving brother policeman at the railway junction, and this continued till I reached Gooty, my destination…. After I reached the place, the local inspector came to enquire with my father-in-law as to when I would leave the place and about my future plans etc.

      [And when he returned to Pondicherry] …the police, as usual, dogged my steps till I reached the Master….[T. Kodanda Rama Rao, At the Feet of the Master]

      Then, in 1937, the first Congress ministry was ushered in in Madras, with Rajaji as the Premier. Rajaji offered Appa (Doraiswamy) the post of Advocate-General. While declining the offer, Appa requested a cessation of this police harassment, perhaps making it worthwhile by pointing out how unproductive and ever-increasing was the expense of money and manpower. Rajaji pulled the necessary strings and, ultimately, the harassment stopped, as is reflected in this remark by a sadhak:

      I began my journey to Pondicherry, arriving on 11 August 1932. In those days, the main gate of the Ashram remained always closed. Outside the Ashram, British spies kept constant vigil. Only in 1937 did this spying stop, due to the intercession with the Government by… Doraiswamy.[“Their Presence: Vast and Unfathomable”, Yogananda, Mother India, January 2009, p.61]

      (Minakski Amma (1899 – 1993), A Stream of Surrender)

      1. S Avinash

        Agree with Vishwamitra2. And I am more inclined to believe that police surveillance was probably not the primary (or even secondary) cause. Had it been so, Sri Aurobindo would have mentioned that as well. In fact, from his private conversations (at other times as well), one gets an impression that he didn’t have much regard for Gandhi’s views on spirituality and politics. The one provided by Govindbhai was probably to assuage Gandhi’s feelings.

      2. Sandeep Post author

        If what you said were true, that would make Sri Aurobindo a petty man who can’t tolerate the presence of someone that he doesn’t respect. No, I disagree. I think the surveillance was the primary reason.

        Even if he didn’t have regard for Gandhi’s views, he could have allowed the Mother to meet Gandhi. After all, she met many other people during the course of the day. I suspect he didn’t allow it because he didn’t want the British and the French to collaborate and jeopardise the Ashram. Around the same time, the French also had been making inquiries about the unchecked growth of the Ashram.

        There is a footnote to the (16 Feb 1934) remark above “Sri Aurobindo: You can tell him that just now the circumstances are such that it is impossible for the Mother to receive his visit” which I omitted which is relevant to the discussion. It which reads as follows:

        The “circumstances” to which Sri Aurobindo refers were those created by an inquiry instituted by the government of French India into the status and finances of the Ashram. Sri Aurobindo learned about this inquiry on or shortly before 16 February 1934. See Letters on Himself and the Ashram, volume 35 of THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO

        (CWSA vol. 36, page 44)

        More importantly, it was not just Gandhi but Nehru as well who was refused permission by Sri Aurobindo. Dilip Kumar Roy wanted to arrange for Nehru’s visit in October 1936 and this was Sri Aurobindo’s response:

        Sri Aurobindo: I am afraid what you propose is impossible. Jawaharlal is coming on a political mission and as president of the Congress, while we have to steer clear not only of politics but of the shadow of politics. If he put up in a house of the Asram, we would be in for it! A flaming report from the British Consul to Delhi to be forwarded to London and from London to Paris. Just now we have to be specially careful, as the friendly Governor is going away—perhaps to return in March, perhaps not. If the Colonial Minister there questions him about us, he must be able to give a spotless report in our favour. The future also may possibly be turbulent and the wash of the turmoil may reach Pondicherry— we have to be on our guard from now onwards. So don’t make Jawaharlal pray for an interview—it is not possible. Let us be patient and let things develop. If Jawaharlal is to be at all led forcewards, it is more likely to happen when he is less occupied with outer stress and turmoil.

        When Dilip Kumar Roy said he would make it appear to the British that he invited Nehru as friend and not a politican, Sri Aurobindo replied “That won’t go down with the British Consul and other watchers. He will neigh “Ah ha! Ah ha! Ahh! that’s their little game, is it?” Besides Nehru won’t come alone—he will have his retinue or his staff with him, I suppose. At least all Congress Presidents used to go about in that way in my time. Pondicherry besides is an unimportant place—they are not likely to let him tarry and dally here.”

        (CWSA vol 36, Autobiographical Notes, pp 447-448)

      3. S Avinash

        It is not about pettiness, but about the futility of it. From my own experience I can say that mystics do not like to entertain people or their questions if they are more out of curiosity than from an inner urge. It is evident from the words of Sri Aurobindo – “Also I do not see any utility… His search for Truth is on fixed lines of his own and the Mother can say nothing to help him there—nor has he said that he wants any help…”
        The correspondence between Govindbhai and him was an internal one. Had surveillance been the prime reason, he would’ve been candid enough to mention it to the former at the very offset, the way he does to Dilip Kumar Roy. The “circumstances” as a reason takes precedence only when Gandhi appears to be unrelenting and needs to be restrained (“You can tell him …”)

      4. Sandeep Post author

        If it were futile, he could still have allowed Ashram inmates to attend Gandhi’s arrival procession, but Sri Aurobindo also put up a notice prohibiting inmates from going there. Why would he care if the Ashram inmates took a few minutes of their time to attend Gandhi’s procession? He obviously did not want the British to think that he was politically supporting Gandhi in any manner.

        These are other pertinent remarks from CWSA vol. 35 (Letters on Himself and the Ashram), section on “Relations with the Government of French India, 1934 – 1935”:

        On 16 Feb 1934, Sri Aurobindo learned that the Government of French India planned to launch an inquiry into the status of the Ashram. It appears that this move was provoked by reports that the Ashram was a formal “institution” that had a “common fund”. Had this been the case, it ought to have been registered with the government as a legal entity.(page 30)

        On 20 March 1935, he wrote : “We have had ourselves serious difficulties from the outside, petitions made against us to the Minister of Colonies in Paris and a report demanded from the Governor here which if acted on would have put the Asram in serious jeopardy. We used outward means of a very slight and simple character, i.e. getting the Mother’s brother (Governor in French Equatorial Africa) to intervene with the Ministry (and also an eminent writer in France, a disciple), but for the most
        part I used a strong inner Force to determine the action of the Colonial Office, to get a favourable report from the Governor here, to turn the minds of some who were against us here and to nullify the enmity of others. In all these respects I succeeded and our position here is much stronger than before; especially a new and favourable Governor has come. Nevertheless we have to remain vigilant that the situation may not be again threatened. Also one disadvantage has resulted, that we have been asked not to buy or rent more houses, but to build instead. This is difficult without land near here and much money; so we are for the moment unable to expand.” (page 31)

        Not everything about the prevailing environment is noted in written historical records.
        It doesn’t matter anyway, for we can agree to disagree on this conclusion.

  2. Alok

    Is Doraiswamy Ji alive now? Are there any records left by Sri Doraiswamy regarding his role as the emissary ? What was the response of congress leaders towards the suggestion of sri Aurobindo to accept the Crips Mision?

  3. Sandeep Post author

    In the text above:

    Gandhi wrote: But if you are under no positive vow of abstinence, I hope you will give me a few minutes of your time. . . .

    Sri Aurobindo replied: Is true that I have made no vow, for I never make one…

    This is the difference between an ethical saint like Mahatma Gandhi and a yogi like Sri Aurobindo. Ethical saints seek to subdue their being through vows which get violated in times of tumult while the yogi strives to attain a vast immobility of consciousness through the practice of equanimity.

    As Sri Aurobindo wrote in the chapter “Self-Surrender in Works — The Way of The Gita” in the Synthesis of Yoga :

    …Therefore the first rule of action laid down by the Gita is to do the work that should be done without any desire for the fruit, niskama karmla.

    A simple rule in appearance, and yet how difficult to carry out with anything like an absolute sincerity and liberating entireness! In the greater part of our action we use the principle very little if at all, and then even mostly as a sort of counterpoise to the normal principle of desire and to mitigate the extreme action of that tyrant impulse. At best, we are satisfied if we arrive at a modified and disciplined egoism not too shocking to our moral sense, not too brutally offensive to others. And to our partial self-discipline we give various names and forms; we habituate ourselves by practice to the sense of duty, to a firm fidelity to principle, a stoical fortitude, or a religious resignation, a quiet or an ecstatic submission to God’s will. But it is not these things that the Gita intends, useful though they are in their place; it aims at something absolute, unmitigated, uncompromising, a turn, an attitude that will change the whole poise of the soul. Not the mind’s control of vital impulse is its rule, but the strong immobility of an immortal spirit.

  4. Aurovrata Venet (@aurovrata)

    It is rather not surprising that Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo never met. There was no necessity for it from a spiritual view point. Gandhi’s work has always been on a mental plane which did not allow him to understand Sri Aurobindo’s work, and which led him to leave behind a legacy from which India is still struggling to liberate itself.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Yes, we still have leaders who hold ridiculous hunger strikes to mimic Gandhi

      OTOH, Gandhi’s effort to erase the caste system has failed. The idiotic Indian politicians are only perpetuating caste through reservations as yesterday’s article in New York Times indicates

      1. nizken

        Hi, Are there any other blogs devoted to SA&M that you follow online? I see a lot of blogs listed on this site and on the web, are there any specific ones which stand out in your opinion?
        Which media sources like NYTimes etc do you follow on a regular basis? I’m just asking this question to everyone I know…..

      2. Sandeep Post author

        Blogs : I regularly follow Overman foundation ( because it posts historical material and Savitri ( because it posts material related to the poem Savitri. The rest I check infrequently.

        Media Sources: There are tons. I have a whole bunch of them in my google reader. TED Director talks and the Onion are the best. I suspect in this age most tech-savvy people have armed themselves with some such software-driven newsfeed to filter our useful information.

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  9. Sandeep Post author

    21 August 1926 (Evening)

    Disciple: Is there a chance of India’s breaking up?

    Sri Aurobindo: Yes, if there be four or five more Gandhis. (Laughter)

    Disciple: Did you ever work through Gandhi?

    Sri Aurobindo: I at first did not know what he was about. I thought that it was a resuscitation of the Swadeshi movement. Then gradually I came to know that there was nothing behind the movement and it was going to end in a fiasco. Gandhi was not meant for politics — he could not see the political needs of the situation. He only had some constructions in his mind and wanted to throw them into action.

    Disciple: He at first did not take up the idea of Swaraj. His movement was for redressing the Khilafat and the Punjab wrongs.

    Sri Aurobindo: Gandhi always had something behind what was superficially in his mind. What he says is not always what he means. He had for a long time an idea of fighting against the British rule.

    He is not for great things. He can do things on a small scale and over a selected rogroup of people he can exert tremendous personal influence. He ends often in a sort of compromise — as he did in South Africa. Nowhere has he achieved any great success.

    Disciple: Perhaps he would have succeeded if he had started civil disobedience at Bardoli.

    Sri Aurobindo: No, that would have ended in a miserable failure — there would have been huge massacres and the progress of India would have been checked for decades. There Gandhi got the right inspiration when he stopped that; he felt within himself that he was going beyond his depths.

    Disciple: Then it was only a pretence that he stopped civil disobedience at Bardoli?

    Sri Aurobindo: It was not a pretence — it was his mind which found out certain justifications, though there was something behind without his knowledge, which really stopped him.


  10. Sandeep Post author

    18 May 1926 (Evening)

    Sri Aurobindo: Gandhi made a confusion when he sought to gain the Mahomedans by helping them in the Khilafat movement. There was some sort of plan constructed by his mind, but it has proved to be a mistake. The nature of the Mahomedans has to be changed; their spirit is more communal than national; they feel more for Islamic brotherhood than for Indian solidarity. The Khilafat agitation gave nourishment to this wrong mentality of the Mahomedans and the result has been disastrous. It required no super-mind, but ordinary common sense ought to have told us not to help the Khilafat movement. But some mental obsession confused Gandhi and his followers. Gandhi took no account of facts, ignored the nature of the Mahomedans, formed in his own mind a scheme of Hindu-Muslim unity and thrust it on the country without having regard to the existing circumstances.

  11. Pingback: Xu Fancheng (徐梵澄) : a Chinese disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

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  13. natujaya

    “Let hundreds like me perish,but let truth prevail,let us not reduce the standard of truth even by hair,s breadth for judging erring mortals like myself.” M.K.Gandhi.

  14. mike

    “The nature of the Mahomedans has to be changed; their spirit is more communal than national”

    SA was certainly spot on about that. ln most european countries and America – France, Germany, Belgium, Britain {also scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway] etc.. muslims will move into an area and set up a community and isolate themselves completely – ‘lntegration’ isn’t in their lslamic vocabulary [l’m talking here about large cities which is where most of them congregate – l believe the biggest number of muslims in europe can be found in the french sea-port of Marseille]. You don’t see this with jews, buddhists, hindu’s etc.. – at least not to my knowledge..
    ln places like Sweden the local swede’s are afraid to enter these area’s – because they get attacked. Jews have to remove any jewellery with the ‘star of David’ because it makes them a target..
    Like the Master says, their nature needs to be changed – l wouldn’t like that job lol..

    1. Sandeep Post author

      These are the American President Obama’s views on Islam from a recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic magazine)

      In private encounters with other world leaders, Obama has argued that there will be no comprehensive solution to Islamist terrorism until Islam reconciles itself to modernity and undergoes some of the reforms that have changed Christianity.

      Though he has argued, controversially, that the Middle East’s conflicts “date back millennia,” he also believes that the intensified Muslim fury of recent years was encouraged by countries considered friends of the U.S. In a meeting during apec with Malcolm Turnbull, the new prime minister of Australia, Obama described how he has watched Indonesia gradually move from a relaxed, syncretistic Islam to a more fundamentalist, unforgiving interpretation; large numbers of Indonesian women, he observed, have now adopted the hijab, the Muslim head covering.

      Why, Turnbull asked, was this happening?

      Because, Obama answered, the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs have funneled money, and large numbers of imams and teachers, into the country. In the 1990s, the Saudis heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam favored by the Saudi ruling family, Obama told Turnbull. Today, Islam in Indonesia is much more Arab in orientation than it was when he lived there, he said.

      “Aren’t the Saudis your friends?,” Turnbull asked.

      Obama smiled. “It’s complicated,” he said.


      One of the most destructive forces in the Middle East, Obama believes, is tribalism—a force no president can neutralize. Tribalism, made manifest in the reversion to sect, creed, clan, and village by the desperate citizens of failing states, is the source of much of the Muslim Middle East’s problems, and it is another source of his fatalism. Obama has deep respect for the destructive resilience of tribalism—part of his memoir, Dreams From My Father, concerns the way in which tribalism in post-colonial Kenya helped ruin his father’s life—which goes some distance in explaining why he is so fastidious about avoiding entanglements in tribal conflicts.

    2. mw

      Mike: “Like the Master says, their nature needs to be changed – l wouldn’t like that job lol..”
      Sandeep, Thank you for the article detailing Obama’s sensibilities on this delicate topic.

      Here is an excerpt from “Spiral Dynamic’s” by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan [1996,2006], chapter title “Change and the Spiral”, which details the conditioning of people, people-groups and the potentials for change and also the difficulties of changing ones position. The book is very thorough on-topic and please go to the authors book and/or contact the author/s directly if this rises any questions for anyone. Thank You!

      “The Open State: Readiness to Accept New Modes of Being:

      -OPEN thinking strives to remove barriers to allow for the expression of individual differences without getting locked into habitual patterns or unexamined assumptions.
      -OPEN thinking anticipates that change is inevitable and shows considerable elasticity without always jumping on bandwagons.
      -OPEN thinking acknowledges the role the external conditions play in making change easy or difficult for people.
      -OPEN thinking is often displayed in the ability of a person to engage a number of subsystems – from celebrating PURPLE in ethnic festivals to contemplating TURQUOISE on Earth Day. [see their diagram Chapter 3 “Mind of the Spiral”]
      -OPEN thinking is usually displayed in good listening skills, a nonjudgemental approach to life, tolerance of differences, and a lack of close-mindedness.

      The ARRESTED State: Reluctance to Rock the Boat:

      -ARRESTED thinking leads to attempts to live within life’s barriers and adjust to them the best way possible.
      -ARRESTED thinking is evidenced in undue stress, gastrointestinal disorders, passive-aggressive behaviors, and other forms of personal and social frustration.
      -ARRESTED thinkers reject transformational models of change focusing instead on fixer-uppers within the tried-and -true.”

      “The more OPEN the MEME systems, the more capable the entity will be of responding to shifts in the milieu. The more CLOSED, the greater the stress of dealing with change, the higher the resistance, and the stronger the denial that anything significant is even going on. If you push against a CLOSED system, know that you are asking for real trouble because it will push back.”
      (pgs. 78-9).

  15. Ronan

    Definitely Islam needs a reformation, including eliminating the many horrible verses from the Koran, words supposedly coming from God through Mohammed himself. But as Muslims are not allowed to question the Koran at all, it is unlikely to happen without the heretics being killed. Regressive leftists would rather blame Trump than take a critical approach to the problem of Islam.

    A good book on this subject;


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