Over the past few years, quite a few blog readers have written to me appreciating the manner in which I have presented the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I would attribute much of it to my Guru whom I met early in my teenage years. My experiences with him seemed to correspond closely with the manner in which the Sri Aurobindo and the Mother interacted with their disciples. It is this correlation which has enabled me to provide an alternative perspective on their life and teachings.
While my Guru was alive, he preferred to keep a low profile so I am reluctant to share my treasured memories but I would like to share a few anecdotes for the benefit of fellow spiritual seekers. Looking back, it is hard to imagine that such a serene personage lived in the narrow alleys of a non-descript Mumbai suburb, amidst the constant din and clamour which permeate the stressful life in a busy metropolis. One expects to meet such people in a verdant retreat near the Himalayas.
I first heard of him from some family acquaintances who talked about the “miracles” he had done with them. When I visited him with my father, he singled me out and told me to come to meet him alone. He had sensed that, unlike the rest of my family, I had spiritual potential.
He would ask every visitor to sit in front of him in a chair. He seemed to emanate a mysterious heat or warmth which would induce a trance in the person who sat in front of him. Strong currents would flow through the spine for a while after which one would wake up refreshed and recharged. The feeling of being refreshed didn’t last too long however. By the time I boarded the crowded train to go back home, I would again feel worn down by the sweat and stress of metropolitan life. (The effect did not last because there is “tamas” in our consciousness which prevents complete assimilation of a spiritual experience, as I found out later while reading Sri Aurobindo’s “Letters on Yoga”.)
I became addicted to the “recharging” he bestowed on me and began skipping college almost every day to visit him. Conversation between us was minimal. I quickly realized that he could sense what I was thinking and would respond telepathically by implanting an idea in my mind. Once, I was troubled by the conduct of a family member and wanted the person to behave in a more respectable manner. As I sat in front of him during one of my visits, he told me telepathically, “One must not impose one’s Will on another”. This seemed like a startling idea at the time, spiritually true, but often unheard in India’s close-knit family life where every individual is expected to fulfill his duty and enjoy the resultant stability.
All those who came to visit him would touch his feet for blessings but I didn’t do so for quite a few years. I was then a shy, socially awkward, agnostic teenager reluctant to adopt new social customs. He didn’t insist of me bowing to him either. Somehow he had quite effectively suppressed in me the idea that he was my Guru. Many years later, when the realization of who he really was dawned on me, I did touch his feet and was pleasantly surprised to discover a faint spiritual current emanating from them. In India, touching the feet of elders has been invariably reduced to a social custom but as I discovered, it is only effective when one touches the feet of a sage. On the other hand, quite a few individuals raised in the highly individualistic Western culture tend to label the Indian custom of bowing and surrendering to the Guru as infantilism or idolatry. That is also false.
My Guru would bid every serious aspirant who came to him to read the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda followed by other books which were suitable to their temperament. In my case, he introduced me to J. Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi, Theosophy, “Psychic discoveries behind the Iron Curtain“, parapsychology (J.B.Rhine), Richard Bach, and even an English Vocabulary builder. I didn’t fully understand many of these books at the time but they left an imprint in my mind and I reread them later when my mind had matured. He kept an eclectic collection of books near him and would open a book at random and ask me to read the passage he had pointed out. I was often surprised to find that the particular passage contained an answer to my predicament. Many years later, I understood why this technique worked when I came across a description of the Mother practising the same technique with her disciples. See an earlier post “Guidance by random book opening“.
Once on my way to visit him, I thought of taking the bus instead of the train because buses are usually less crowded and one can travel seated instead of standing. That day, I waited and waited at the bus stop but no bus plying that route seemed to appear. During this interval, I became fervently praying that a bus should “materialize” out of thin air, similar to the miracles I had read in Paramahansa Yogananda’s book. No such miracle occurred and I was forced to take the train yet again. When I arrived at his house, he gently told me to come by train in the future because they are faster. I nodded silently. It was only years later that I realized I hadn’t really told him about my long wait at the bus stop. He had “seen” what I had been upto and cautioned me against losing my mental balance and expecting frequent miracles.
We tend to dilly-dally the spiritual pursuit until we face a crisis in our life. We try to bargain with the Divine, doing as little as possible in exchange for material health and prosperity. Why give up anything when you can fulfill your cherished goals while keeping the Divine in the background as a steady support ? I was doing the same until I faced a crisis. In my moment of crisis, I turned to him, expecting to hear an easy solution which might ease my hardship and emotional suffering. He declined to offer a way out, but instead firmly and politely asked me to meditate and find the answer within. The time had come to hatch the egg; the spiritual seeker had to be released from the cocoon and allowed to suffer some pain and develop the strength to fly on his own. Meditating alone, especially when I was living away from him, was tough. I hadn’t meditated in a while and wasn’t able to establish myself in the states that he used to put me into. It took many months to regain my composure but I found that his (invisible) help was forthcoming when I dedicated myself sincerely to the task.
About a year before he left his body, he asked me to read Satprem’s book “The Adventures of Consciousness”. From then on, I moved to reading the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and it was only then that I got a clear explanation for many of the things that I had experienced with my Guru. This made me marvel at the tremendous depth and clarity of the insights that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have left in their writings, and that is what I have aspired to present on this blog.
- The Mother Mirra Alfassa as a Guru
- Dharana Shakti : the capacity to sustain spiritual experiences
- The laissez-faire approach of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother
- Why spiritual experiences do not repeat?
- The story of a soul(Huta)
- A contemplation exercise before going to sleep
- Reconciling Family life with Yoga
- A case of Yogic Illness
- Gita Chapter 7, Verse 16 – Four types of Divine seekers
- Reminiscences of the Mother’s physician, Dr. Bisht
- How does the Self-realized person speak? (Gita 2:54)
- Handling Rejection by the Guru
- Concentration on Mother’s photograph
- The spiritual aptitude (adhikara) needed for Yoga
- Identifying the signs of spiritual progress
- Signs of readiness for the spiritual path
- Modalities of the Initiation process (Diksha)
- Practicing Yoga without a Guru
- Explaining the Ascent-Descent in Integral Yoga
- Early mystic experiences of Sri Aurobindo