Here is an interesting history of how Russians came into contact with Sri Aurobindo during the time of the Soviet Union. This article was originally posted on the website of Varuna Energy & Water Pvt. Ltd., which is a unit based in Auroville.
Xu Fancheng (Chinese: 徐梵澄) was born in Changsha, Hunan province, on 26th October 1909. As a child he studied classical Chinese. In 1929 he went to Germany to study the History of Art at Heidelberg University. He also practiced wood engraving there and became the first Chinese artist of the new style wood engraving. He came back to China in 1932, and encouraged by Luxun (one of the most famous writers of modern China), he started to translate the works of Nietzsche from German into Chinese, and became the first expert of Nietzsche’s philosophy in China.
Dr. D. B. Bisht had a distinguished career in the medical profession. He was the Director-General of Health Services, Govt. of India, and upon retirement joined the World Health Organisation. While Dr. Bisht was posted at JIPMER in Pondicherry, he was called to attend on the Mother and served as her physician. He captured the interactions he had with her in a book titled “Mother and me“. I haven’t read the book but I am reproducing two reviews of this book in this post.
Mahabiplabi Arabindo is a 1971 Bengali film (don’t worry, it has English subtitles) which covers the life of Sri Aurobindo from his return to India in 1892 to his retirement to Pondicherry in 1910. Angel Television has uploaded the movie on youtube in 13 parts. The duration of this movie is about two hours. I have added brief descriptions of the content before each clip below.
Youth is a fragile period when boundaries are fluid and ethical values are not yet established, when there is a surfeit of energy but no balance of mind or depth of perception. During this phase, insecure and ignorant men and women lost in the merry company of debauched friends often succumb to peer pressure and undertake foolhardy actions which can trap them in lifelong vices. Gaining experience in alcohol, sex and drugs is mistakenly regarded as a sign of maturity. On three occasions in his youth, Mahatma Gandhi was inadvertently drawn by friends into a tryst with prostitutes but escaped narrowly due to his childlike timidity or his nascent ethical personality. He related these episodes in response to a question on the power of Ramanama (i.e. the chanting of the name “Rama”). This article first appeared in the Navjivan (“new life”) newspaper that Gandhi used to publish from Ahmedabad.
Before she became the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mirra Alfassa was a spiritual seeker like any other, reading books on mysticism, communing with nature, probing the recondite worlds of her dreams, meeting with fellow seekers, and generally assimilating the mysterious intimations of a vaster consciousness that were being disclosed to her from time to time. Along the way, she read Swami Vivekananda’s book on Raja Yoga and found it illuminating. Jnanendranath Chakravarty, who was visiting Paris, gave her a French translation of the Bhagavad Gita and asked her to read it with the understanding that Krishna was the symbol of the immanent God, the inner Godhead .
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.
This article brings together some predictions and uncanny observations made by Sri Aurobindo that were fulfilled later in time. To preserve chronological fidelity, I will only draw on remarks which predate the actual occurrence of the event. If the modern tech-savvy yogi had to record predictions about the future, he or she could use Trusted timestamping(digital notary), a cryptographic technology which is now available in commercial software products. Such technology was unfortunately not available in Sri Aurobindo’s time nor did he care to impress others with his yogic abilities. Consequently, the neutral observer wishing to verify these predictions has to rely on a combination of trust as well as the fact that the original manuscripts from which these remarks are drawn are preserved in the Archives Department of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.
Dec 30, 1896. Swami Vivekananda was fast asleep on the ship which was taking him back to India after a whirlwind tour of Europe and America when he had a vivid dream. An old and bearded man appeared before him, saying, “Observe well this place that I show to you. You are now in the island of Crete. This is the land in which Christianity began.” In support of this origin of Christianity, the speaker gave two words, one of which was Therapeutae, and showed both to be derived direct from Sanskrit roots. “The proofs are all here,” added the old man, pointing to the ground, “Dig and you will find!”. The Swami woke, feeling that he had had no common dream, and tumbled out on deck, to take the air. As he did so, he met a ship’s officer, turning in from his watch.
We may call it the “come to Sri Aurobindo moment“. It is a psychic awakening, a distinctive phase in life when the mind falls in rhythm with the elegant cadence of Sri Aurobindo’s elongated sentences, when the heart feels gladdened reading the sensitive and sublime insights of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and little by little, one begins to grasp and live their teaching. Zackaria Moursi, Egyptian by birth, came across a book on Integral Yoga while studying in Germany in the 1960s. In this article, he describes how that book launched him on the spiritual path.
Subhas Chandra Bose (1897-unknown) was an Indian revolutionary who rose to prominence during India’s struggle against the British rule. In 1941, he escaped house arrest and traveled to Germany to seek Hitler’s help to raise an Indian army. Disillusioned by Hitler, he then went to Japan where he assumed command of an army of Indian POWs(Indian soldiers captured by Japan while fighting under the Allied flag in Asia). At its height, the army called the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National army) comprised of 80,000 men and saw action against the British in Burma and the north-eastern provinces of India. The circumstances of Subhas’s death remain unknown. His body was never found.
- Some disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother
- Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Anandamayi Ma
- The first meeting of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa
- Sri Aurobindo’s interaction with an American soldier during World War II
- Sri Aurobindo’s 1947 meeting with two French visitors
- Silviu Craciunas has a dream of Sri Aurobindo
- Sri Ramakrishna’s occult contact with Sri Aurobindo
- Emma Calvé’s interaction with Swami Vivekananda
- Progress reports of Sri Aurobindo
- Receiving guidance from Masters of a bygone age
- The teachings of Paracelsus
- Obsessive-compulsive spirituality by Dr Ramesh Bijlani
- What Did J.D. Salinger, Leo Tolstoy, and Sarah Bernhardt Have in Common?
- Sri Aurobindo on synchronicity
- How can Sri Aurobindo smoke and drink while practising Yoga?
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“Man is a transitional being” – Sri Aurobindo averred when he envisioned the coming of a new species he called “superman”. It is generally not necessary to practice Yoga after you attain Self-realization but both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother continued to do so in order to attain the next stage, which they called the “supramental transformation” (hence the epigram “Sri Aurobindo’s yoga begins where other Yogas end”). This aspect of their work is often misunderstood by pedantic scholars who have the irksome tendency of rashly equating superficially similar ideas espoused by various thinkers across the globe. These scholars tend to claim that Sri Aurobindo’s idea of the superman must have been influenced by Neitzche’s Ubermensch or by Darwin’s theory of evolution. In this article, I will endeavour to demonstrate the actual origin of the concept of the superman through numerous remarks made by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the subject. As much as possible, I shall present original quotations in order to avoid adding a layer of (mis)interpretation.
In January of 1939, when Britain was consumed by the anxiety that Hitler might invade Netherlands(the “Dutch war scare”), the young British novelist Christopher Isherwood arrived in America to further his literary prospects. In Los Angeles, he found his fellow countryman and friend Gerald Heard engaged in some mystical meditation practices under the guidance of Swami Prabhavananda who headed the Vedanta society of Southern California. In Isherwood’s opinion, the Christians were sour life-haters and sex-forbidders, hypocritically denying their rabid secret lusts while the Hindus seemed to be stridently emotional mystery-mongers whose mumbo-jumbo was ridiculous rather than sinister. Nevertheless, his curiosity was sparked by the discreet and composed Heard, who refused to divulge the secret teachings because it was absolutely forbidden to repeat the teacher’s instructions to anyone else.
Anandamayi Ma(1896-1982) was a spiritual personality from Bengal, India. Her birth name was Nirmala Sundari. She attended the village school for two years. Although her teachers were pleased with her ability, her family thought she was dull-minded because of her indifference and constantly happy demeanor. When her mother once fell seriously ill, relatives remarked with puzzlement about the child remaining apparently unaffected.
In one of his notebooks entitled “Philosophical Questions”, the English scientist Isaac Newton(1642-1727) jotted down his musings into questions related to the mind-body problem. He contemplated on the working of the mind, the seat of the soul (was it in the brain?), the nature of free will, the existence of a soul in animals and so on. Amongst these jottings, we find a brief allusion to meditation and to the mind-reading skills of an Oxford scholar.
Akbar (1542-1605) was the third Mughal Emperor who ruled over much of Northern and Central India. The family was Turko-Mongol in origin. Akbar, after ascending to the throne at the age of fourteen, cemented his power with successive victories over insubordinate local chieftains. He was a great patron of art and culture, somewhat analogous to Lorenzo the Magnificent of the House of Medici, who nourished the artistic community in Florence and turned the city into a locus of the Italian Renaissance. Akbar was known for his syncretic and liberal religious policy. Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and even Jesuits who had travelled all the way from Europe by sea to spread Christianity graced the royal court of Akbar. When he was thirty six years old, he had a mystical experience which seems to have been a turning point in his life.
Emma Calvé (1858 – 1942) was a well-known French female opera soprano of the Belle Époque. These are the recollections of her interaction with Swami Vivekananda(1863-1902). This article first appeared as Chapter XXII of her autobiography “My Life“, and has also appeared in the Nov 1922 issue of the Prabuddha Bharata(Awakened India) magazine.