K.M.Munshi’s two visits to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram

K.M.Munshi (1887 – 1971) was a freedom-fighter, politician, writer and educationist.  He was instrumental in rebuilding the Somnath temple which had been repeatedly destroyed by Mughal invaders.  He founded an education trust, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and was a founding member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. In this article, he speaks of his meeting with Sri Aurobindo as well as the Mother.

Bhavan's BHEL

The following article appeared in the Times of India newspaper on Aug 15, 1952

Shri Aurobindo was my professor in the Baroda College, and his militant nationalism of 1904 moulded my early outlook.  Later, I casually read some of his works.  During the last few years, however, his influence has been coming over me intermittently, but I have felt more and more perceptibly benefited by it.  Often in the past I wanted to go to Pondicherry, but I did not wish to offer formal respects to a man whom I revered so deeply.  In July 1950, however I felt an urge to visit the Ashram.  Normally, as you know, Shri Aurobindo did not see people except on three days in the year.  But in my case, he told that Secretary, he treated me as a disciple and would make an exception.

Godlike Calm

When I visited him, after a lapse of more than forty years, I saw before me a being completely transformed – radiant, blissful, enveloped in an atmosphere of godlike calm. He spoke in a low clear voice, which stirred the depths of my being.  I talked to him of my spiritual needs.  I said: “I am at a deadend. The world is too much with me.”

The Sage replied: “You need not give up the world in order to advance in self-realisation. But you cannot advance by impatience.  I wrote to you that I would help you and in my own way I am helping you… You have the urge and the light.  Go your own way.  Do not be deflected from the faith in your natural evolution.  I will watch over your progress“.

Then we discussed Indian culture, its present crisis, even the Hindu Code.  When I said: “The younger generation is fed on theories and beliefs which are undermining the higher life of India,” Shri Aurobindo replied: “You must overcome this lack of faith.  Rest assured that our culture cannot be undermined.  This is only a passing phase.

Then he sprang a surprise on me.  “When do you expect India to be united?” he asked.  I was taken aback.  I explained to him how our leaders had agreed to partition. “So long as the present generation of politicans is concerned, I cannot think of any time when the two countries – India and Pakistan – can be united.”

A Prophecy

The Master smiled.  “India will be re-united. I see it clearly.”  Was it an opinion? Or a prophecy?  Or was it clear perception?

I shook my head in doubt and asked how India could be reunited.  In two short sentences he described what Pakistan stood for and indicated how the two countries could come together. Knowing us politicians, I could do nothing but again shake my head sceptically.  Now we talked of Pondicherry.  He told me that this territory would come to India only through international negotiations, not by any plebiscite.

At the time, out of regard for the sage, I took only a few people concerned into confidence concerning this conversation. I felt humble in the Master’s presence, and came out dazed.  There is no doubt that there was something in him which made my thoughts turn to him time and again.

In December 1950, he died.  I was the first to be told about in Delhi on the telephone by our Consul General.  For two hours my mind went blank.  I did not know why.  There  was only a vague sense of being stunned.  I did not feel like this even when Gandhiji, who was certainly very near to me died; and I saw him dying.  But after that, my mind went back to him again and again.

When I went on an official visit to the scarcity areas in Madras, in March 1952, a visit to the Ashram was a foregone conclusion.  Another motive impelled me to go: I wanted to understand the Mother – Madame Paul Richards of fifty-two years ago; French-born occultist of a forgotten age; the Mira who in a far-off continent pined for the Lord Krishna of her dreams and found him in Shri Aurobindo of Pondicherry; the one who in actual life realised what I call the Undivided Soul and joined Shri Aurobindo in the search for the Divine.

Warm Welcome

Mr Munshi then refers to the warm welcome he received at the Ashram and his visits to the “samadhi” of the late Shri Aurobindo, “I felt waves of reverence, ” he says, “surging up in me.”  Enclosed within this stone monument were the remains of the man who, for sixty years, had lived and taught the true message of India; who for forty years, had stormed the fortress of the Unknowable in order that the world’s life may be broadened into DIvine Consciousness.  Conscious, too conscious of my own imperfections, humbly I placed the flowers on the samadhi.

After describing the various other incidents and visits, Mr Munshi proceeds:-

After seeing one or two institutions, we made for the parade ground. Mother came in tripping lightly from the tennis court dressed in the same manner as before, her blue-green scarf fluttering in the wind round her neck. Then she went into a small office, where, a few minutes later, I was ushered in. She sat on a high-backed small chair, her feet on a foot stool. Her eyes were transparent, almost clear as crystal.

I told of my personal problems, of my old struggles, of Shri Aurobindo’s message and the message of the Gangotri. She replied in a quiet, firm tone, in a simple straightforward way. There was no attempt on her part to play the teacher or mystic or as someone of superior power. “I heard of you from Shri Aurobindo“, she said.  “He also showed me one of your letters; that was,” she tried to recollect, “in October 1950, if I remember rightly“.

The Mother (née Mirra Blanche Rachel Alfassa) – WRSP
the Mother with children in Pondicherry

Forgotten Letter

I had forgotten all about it. I had sent a letter to Shri Aurobindo through Jauhar. “He showed me your letter“, Mother said, “and told me that he would not like to send any reply. But he added that you had possibilities and that one day you would find your soul.” She paused.

At that time,” she continued, “he was very much exercised over the manifestation of wickedness all over the world; he concentrated all his power on bringing light into the world. When he left his body, it was glowing for days with the concentrated light of his spirit.  You know how grand he looked.   The body looked grander, after he had left it. There was no decomposition, but after some days his face showed signs of shrivelling up. His body was then buried“.

And here she passed a finger over her left eyelid.  It may have been an instinctive gesture, for her eyes were not wet and she spoke calmly, though with quiet emphasis as if Shri Aurobindo were still alive. “But he is still alive, as living as ever“, she resumed, “and will continue to live.  We feel it every day. You told me that for many months he seemed to be haunting you. It is not only your experience, but of many”.

I remained quiet; she continued, “We are determined – he and I to complete what he lived for“.   She was silent for a little while and looked into space away from me, and then in a low voice said as if in reminiscence: “India must maintain the spiritual leadership of the world; If she does not, she will collapse, and with it will go the whole world.”

About yourself,” she said, “he was very clear. You follow the lines of your own development and, as he said, you will gain your soul. As regards the message which you received, it is clear to me. You must devote yourself to proclaiming your truth.

Varsity’s Future

There was a little silence between us, a little tenseness in the atmosphere. Then I brought the conversation down to earth and asked her about the progress of the Shri Aurobindo University. “You have seen how we have begun,” she said. “Why not invite a few professors to come and study Shri Aurobindo’s philosophy and mysticism?” I asked. “I have been receiving letters from persons interested in his message, who want to come here“, she replied. “I am receiving letters also from parents about sending their children. But I do not believe in starting in an ostentatious way. I am building up slowly, step by step, but firmly, and in ten years you will see what this university will be like.

Next morning, when I left for Madras, it was with infinite regret. And I thought of our criticism of the Mother. Yes, I, too, at one time had criticised her.  Suppose this French-born lady were exactly the same in other ways, but dressed in the saffron-coloured robes of a sanyasin – if the ashramites, instead of modern drill, did the hatha yoga prakriyas, the physical exercises of a bygone world,-and instead of playing tennis, the Mother stood on her head in shirshasan and spun the charkha-and if the ashramites ground their own flour instead of having it ground by a machine, what would have been our judgment? India would have gone on her knees before her in ardent devotion.

We ourselves put on silks, eat machine ground flour, play tennis; but for our spiritual uplift we want only ways considered acceptable five thousand years ago.  And that is why perhaps, subconsciously, we keep the spirit away from modern life. Then what about Janak Videhi? And what about Shri Krishna, the Lord of Yoga Himself? If the spirit has to permeate and transform life, it must be through life as we live it; and that is perhaps the Ashram’s speciality.

See Also

1 thought on “K.M.Munshi’s two visits to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s