Guiding Light of The Month

THERE is a great difference between being in the midst of active work, of external action, while keeping one’s thought constantly fixed on Thee, and entering into that perfect union with Thee which leads to what I have called “absolute Consciousness, true Omniscience, Knowledge”. - The Mother

A century since the arrival of Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry

It will be a century since Sri Aurobindo stepped on the soil of Pondicherry and retreated into his ‘cave of Tapasya, not of an ascetic kind, but of a brand of my own invention.’

And nothing happens in the cosmic play
But at its time and in its foreseen place

The auspicious time was 4 pm on April 4 1910, the foreseen place- Pondicherry. He arrived with Bijoy Nag with two trunks and was received by three friends Moni, Srinivasachari and Bharati at the port. In a poem which is autobiographical, ‘The Infinite Adventure’, Sri Aurobindo writes:

On the waters of the nameless Infinite
My skiff is launched, I have left the human shore.
All fades behind me and I see before
The unknown abyss and one pale pointing light.
An unseen Hand controls my rudder……

As one tries to picture this magnificent scene, Sri Aurobindo, The Sailor on the flow of Time, stepping on the soil of Pondicherry, leaving behind the last lands, crossing ‘ the ultimate seas ‘ and turning to eternal things his symbol quest, to his ‘cave of Tapasya’, one pictures this youthful Rishi, concentrated, immobile and vast..

As if a weapon of the living Light,
Erect and lofty like a spear of God.

His look was a wide daybreak of the gods,
His head was a youthful Rishi’s touched by light…

A public reception was planned but it was thought to be unwise as he was coming in secrecy. His three friends received him. There was no loud beat of trumpets or fanfare, one can hear the voice of The Mother’s …. ‘The greatest victories are the least noisy’. This port which remains intact after a century will witness the grand celebrations being planned by Pondicherry to mark this momentous event on April 4th.2010

Why did the master choose to go to Pondicherry?

“While the prosecution was pending I went away secretly to Chandernagore and there some friends were thinking of sending me to France. I was thinking what to do next. Then I got the Adesh- command- to go to Pondicherry.

I came away because I did not want anything to interfere with my Yoga and because I got a very distinct Adesh in the matter. I have cut connection entirely from politics, but before I did so I knew from within that the work I had begun there was destined to be carried forward, on lines I had foreseen, by others, and that the ultimate triumph of the movement I had initiated was sure without my personal action or presence. There was not the least motive of despair or sense of futility behind my withdrawal.”

The events that led to his arrival to Pondicherry has been narrated in ‘The Life of Sri Aurobindo’ by A.B. Purani. After Sri Aurobindo received the Adesh or higher command to proceed to Pondicherry, he conveyed the intention of departing from Chandernagore to a few friends who made the necessary arrangements.

It is said that as he was about to board the streamer, there were some anxious moments and restlessness among his friends but Sri Aurobindo was ‘unmoved, quiet, without the least anxiety, like a statue, as if in meditation.’

“The steamer left Calcutta in the early hours of the morning, April 1, 1910. Moni arrived in Pondicherry on the 31st of March. He met Srinivasachari and informed him of Sri Aurobindo’s expected arrival on the 4th of April. But Srinivasachari and others did not trust his word. They thought it was improbable that Sri Aurobindo should elect to come to Pondicherry, so far in the South instead of other places nearer to Bengal. Moni pressed upon them the need of having a house. But they were not keen on it. At last on the day of arrival Moni asked them to arrange for a house in advance. They said they would manage to put him up, when he came. All along, they suspected Moni to be a spy. But in the case that Sri Aurobindo actually came they said they would give him a public reception. Moni argued with them and prevailed upon them to drop such an idea as Sri Aurobindo was coming secretly and wanted to remain in seclusion. Moni, Srinivasachari and Bharati went to the port to receive Sri Aurobindo; they found Sri Aurobindo and Bijoy Nag with two trunks. The steamer arrived in Pondicherry at 4 0’clock on the 4th of April 1910. After tea, Sri Aurobindo was taken to the house of Shanker Chetty in Comty Chetty Street. Sri Aurobindo remained there till October as the guest of Shanker Chetty.”

We observe this significant Centenary of his arrival on April 4th 2010. It will be a special day full of the Presence of the Divine Master. The Buddha is said to have told ‘What I know is the entire Bodhi tree, what is given to you is one tiny leaf’. Similarly, one can never know the entire mystery of the Work of The Divine Master and Sri Aurobindo as it has not been on the surface for us to see. In the words of Sri Aurobindo,

‘Neither you nor anyone else knows anything at all of my life; it has not been on the surface for men to see’

As Sri Ramakrishna once said, ‘It is not necessary to know of the majesty of the River Ganga in its entirety from its source in Gangotri to the point it merges in the Ocean, but just a drop of it is enough to purify and sanctify our being’. Similarly, a drop of their Grace is enough to shed their grandiose ray on human life. In whatever manner those of us ‘touched by this tenant from the heights’ choose to observe this significant day either collectively or in one’s own unique way, may it be with gratitude for the light, knowledge and force which he has imparted to ‘our struggling world ‘, sowing in our minds immortal thoughts, and teaching us the great ‘Truth to which man’s race must rise… opening the gates of freedom’.

One souled to all and free from narrowing bonds,
Large like a continent of warm sunshine
In wide equality’s impartial joy,
These sages breathed for God’s delight in things.
Assisting the slow entries of the gods,
Sowing in young minds immortal thoughts they lived,
Taught the great Truth to which man’s race must rise
Or opened the gates of freedom to a few,
Imparting to our struggling world the Light
They breathed like spirits from Time’s dull yoke released,
Comrades and vessels of cosmic force
Using a natural mastery like the sun’s;
Their speech, their silence was a help to earth.

(‘Savitri’, Book 4, Canto 4)

- Sudha

1) A..B. Purani, ‘The Life of Sri Aurobindo (1872-1926)’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1964.
2) Sri Aurobindo, ‘Collected Poems, Volume 5’, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1972.
3) Sri Aurobindo, ‘Savitri’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry-1954.

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