Changing the Bus Changed Her Life
The date was March 20 in the year 1966. It was a Sunday, and the morning bright and sunny. Ms. Karuna Abrol, a few days short of 36, got into a bus to visit her music teacher, Pandit Pran Nath, who lived in Kailash Colony, New Delhi. By the time the bus reached Central Secretariat, she got a compelling call from within that told her that she should instead go to meet her father’s bosom friend, Shri Surendra Nath Jauhar, whom she knew as Chacha ji (uncle) since her childhood days but had not met for a very long time. She knew that Chacha ji had established the Delhi Branch of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Then she ‘saw’ on the sunlit bonnet of the bus a hand crossing her path, as if telling her not to continue in that bus. At the next stop, which was Shah Jehan Road, she got down, and changed two buses to reach Sri Aurobindo Ashram. She reached while the Sunday Satsang was on in the Meditation Hall. As she walked towards the Meditation Hall, she saw the Shrine, and said to herself, “This little monument has left the Taj Mahal far behind”. After the Satsang, she walked to the living room with Chacha ji and a few more. There she was in the living room with Chacha ji, the Jauhar family’s Master ji (teacher) Shri M.L. Parashar, one of Master ji’s students Ms. Indu Bala, and an American friend, Dr. Jay Smith. She asked Chacha ji whether he had recognized her. Of course, he had, he said, but asked her in a complaining tone, where she had been all these days. She used her sense of humour to give the question a twist, and said, “Chacha ji, it is not my fault. The bus brought me here”. After ‘catching up’, and a little chit chat, it was time to leave, but she now got another inner command that told her not to leave before singing a song. So, she said that she would sing a song before leaving. Chacha ji said ‘no’ because he had no time for such frivolous things. But she insisted. Finally, partly out of politeness, and partly to get rid of her, he agreed. Once she sang, Chacha ji and all the others present in the room had tears in their eyes. They asked for more, and more, and finally it was at least four songs before she was allowed to stop. Next was lunch in the Ashram, and Chacha ji’s command that she should stay in the Ashram. That was that, and the ‘ghazal queen’ became the Mother’s musical instrument for more than fifty years till the Mother decided to release her soul for the next leg of its journey.
Sri Karunamayee, popularly called Karuna Didi, left the body on 26 January 2017.
29 March, 1914 – The First Visit of the Mother to Pondicherry
The initiation of Sri Aurobindo-Yoga starts with the Mother; its accomplishment is with Her knowledge and philosophy and its perfection is the achievement of the Mother. But who is this ‘Mother’? Is She the same Mother who is with her children in the Ashram school or in the playground, sometimes in the athletics or in the swimming pool of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, some times helping sadhaks in their sadhana or directing in working of the various departments of the Ashram or supervising the construction work. Or she is the same Mother who has been adored by the gods, seers and thinkers of the times immemorial or who directs the million processes of the universe by her single gesture, or the same Mother whose description Sri Aurobindo has given in his little book ‘The Mother’? The answer to all these questions is given by Sri Aurobindo in one affirmative word ‘YES’. He writes:
The Mother not only governs all from above but she descends into this lesser triple universe. She has stooped to descend here into the Darkness that she may lead it to the Light, into the Falsehood and Error that she may convert it to the Truth, into this Death that she may turn it to godlike Life, into this world-pain and its obstinate sorrow and suffering that she may end it in the transforming ecstasy of her sublime Ananda. In her deep and great love for her children she has consented to put on herself the cloak of this obscurity, condescended to bear the attacks and torturing influences of the powers of the Darkness and the Falsehood, borne to pass through the portals of the birth that is a death, taken upon herself the pangs and sorrows and sufferings of the creation, since it seemed that thus alone could it be lifted to the Light and Joy and Truth and eternal Life.
A similar passage from Sri Aurobindo Savitri:
Her spirit opened to the Spirit in all,
Her nature felt all Nature as its own.
Apart living within, all lives she bore;
Aloof she carried in herself the world:
Her dread was one with the great cosmic dread,
And She prays:
“Thy embrace which rends the living know of pain,
Thy joy, O Lord, in which all creatures breathe,
Thy magic flowing waters of deep love,
Thy sweetness give to me for earth and man.”
Sri Aurobindo says through his book “The Mother”:
There are three ways of being of the Mother of which you can become aware when you enter into touch of oneness with the Conscious Force that upholds us and the universe. Transcendent, the original supreme Shakti, the stands above the worlds and links the creation to the ever unmanifest mystery of the Supreme. Universal, the cosmic Mahashakti, she creates all these beings and contains and enters, supports and conducts all these million processes and forces. Individual, she embodies the power of these two vaster ways of the existence, makes them living and near to us and mediates between the human personality and the divine Nature.
A similar description in Savitri:
At the head she stands of birth and toil and fate,
In their slow round the cycles turn to her call;
Alone her hands can change Time’s dragon base.
She is the golden bridge, the wonderful five.
A power of silence in the depths of God;
She is the Force, the inevitable Word,
The magnet of our difficult ascent,
Further Sri Aurobindo says:
The Mother is the goal, everything is in her;
If She is attained, all is attained.
If you dwell in her consciousness
Everything else unfolds itself.
Man is a transitional being. At present he is in the clutches of ignorance, suffering, pain, disease, decay and Death. His is the search for God, Light, Freedom & Immortality. He prays for it. The whole world prays for it and for this the Divine Mother accepts her mortal birth on 21st February, 1878 at Paris as MIRA ALFASA.
A world’s desire compelled her mortal birth.
Although little is known of the Mother’s childhood, a few anecdotes throw light upon the intimations of ‘immortality’, a ‘great brilliant light’ flooding her being and her characteristic reply. “Yes, indeed, I do feel the weight of the world’s miseries pressing upon me!”
Even her humanity was half divine:
The Mother received guidance in occultism from master Max Theon of Algeria. She practiced occultism only to heal the dread pain and miseries of the world e.g. saving of a ship from a raging storm and also to establish a closer contact with the Divine. Then her occultism was a Dynamic Spirituality.
The Mother and Sri Aurobindo are the two facets of the same consciousness, same idea, same goal. As in Savitri:
In the one task for which our lives were born,
To raise the world to God in the deathless light,
To bring God down to the world on earth we came,
To change the earthly life to life divine.
Sri Aurobindo did the intense, deep and great Tapasya in his own way to bring nearer the end of Death, death of Ignorance. He cried to the Unknowable:
How shall I rest content with mortal days
And the dull measure of terrestrial things,
the Voice replied:
“O strong forerunner, I have heard thy cry,
One shall descend and break the iron Law
Change Nature’s doom by the lone Spirit’s power….
A seed shall be sown in Death’s tremendous hour,
A branch of heaven transplant to human soil;
Nature shall overleap her mortal step;
Fate shall be changed by an unchanging will.”
The Mother aspired with hope to visit India to see Sri Aurobindo as she heard all from Paul Richard when he returned from India after seeing Sri Aurobindo. She prayed:
Oh! may all tears be dried, all sufferings relieved, all anguish disappear, and may a calm serenity dwell in the hearts of men and a potent certitude strengthen their mind.
The Mother’s prayers are published as a book “Prayers and Meditations”. They reveal a sadhak constantly waiting for God, for the advert of the hour of the Divine. They are written with an identification of the earth Consciousness bringing a certainty of the life divine on earth. She prays:
O Lord! I cry to Thee: make me a burning brazier which consumes all suffering and transforms it into a glad light pouring its rays into the hearts of all.
The Richards first went to Geneva, then Japan and disembarked at Colombo to reach Pondicherry in dawning hours of 29 March, 1914. Now the Mother had an occult vision of a great column of light at the centre of the town whose intensity of light increased as they approached.
On the very day they arrived, the Richards met Sri Aurobindo at 3.30 p.m. The Mother was overwhelmed to see him, whom she used to see in her visions and called him Krishna, is himself standing before her to receive them. There was mutual understanding on both sides. On the Mother’s part it was instantaneous and total self-surrender. As Sri Amal Kiran says:
Before meeting Sri Aurobindo… all kinds of powerful ideas she had for the world-upliftment — ideas artistic, social, religious. At sight of Sri Aurobindo, she aspired for a total cessation of all mental moulds. She did not speak a word, nor did he; she just sat at his feet and closed her eyes, keeping her mind open to him. After a while there came, from above, an intimate silence and settled in her mind.
On the following day the Mother sit down in her diary the memorable words:
It matters not if there are hundreds of beings plunged in the densest ignorance. He whom we saw yesterday is on earth: His presence is enough to prove that a day will come when darkness shall be transformed into light, when Thy reign shall be indeed established upon earth.
This has been the Supreme Discovery of the Mother.
The Mother, to Women
When the Mother was in Japan, she once addressed the women there, and said something that should be of tremendous interest not only to women anywhere in the world, but to mankind as a whole. She spoke on the mundane subject of maternity, but gave it a twist that makes women potentially the agents of a radical change in human nature. The process of creating a new life through maternity can be a conscious process. The mother’s thoughts and feelings during pregnancy can shape the consciousness of the baby taking shape in her womb. The Mother had once seen two beautiful little girls, twins, whose beauty had the perfection of a child in a painting by Reynolds. The girls resembled neither parent, but it so transpired that the girls’ mother had looked at consciously, throughout pregnancy, especially just before going to bed, and on getting up in the morning, a painting by Reynolds, and had prayed that she give birth to a child as beautiful as the child in the painting. The physical features offer much more resistance to any modifying influence than do thoughts and feelings. Therefore, if even the body of her child can be affected by a pregnant mother, it should be easier to influence the child’s mind during pregnancy. Hence, the Mother urged women to use the power of their minds to “conceive and create a character capable of manifesting an ideal”. This, the Mother said, is more important now than ever before in history because we are on the verge of a new step in evolution. The first among the supermen will naturally be born to women, and therefore women can contribute to the process by treating maternity as a process of conscious creation. The superman the Mother had in mind was not the same as visualized by Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s superman is “a man aggrandized, magnified, in whom Force has become super-dominant, crushing under its weight all the other attributes of man”. Instead, the superman that the Mother visualized is the man who lives by a principle higher than reason. The superman’s guiding Light would be the Spirit within, the highest Truth of which man is capable. This faculty would change human nature itself in such a way that evil and injustice, and the consequent misery associated with human life would be wiped out. The Mother also said something extremely interesting about the superman: his mental ability might be less than that of man. But this foresight should not be so surprising, because evolution has not been accompanied by a linear and progressive increase in all abilities. Man’s predecessors like the lion have far more physical ability; man cannot even jump from tree to tree like a monkey. Similarly, the superman might lose some of man’s mental abilities. What the Mother said further is even more significant. By losing some of man’s mental abilities, the superman will lose the “ability to deceive himself and others”. It is such a superman, who will change the very character of terrestrial life, that women should concentrate on creating consciously through maternity. For this, they, and their partners, need to be on the spiritual path all along, not just during the woman’s pregnancy. We must change if we want to see the change in the next generation.
(Based on: Words of Long Ago by The Mother. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, fourth edition, 1994, pp. 115-126.)
The Mother spent about four years in Japan from May 1916 - March 1920. It was from Japan that she sailed for Pondicherry, where she arrived, for the second time, on 24 April 1920. After that, She never left Pondicherry for even a single day. 24 April is, therefore, an important date in the calendar of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and is one of the four Darshan Days celebrated every year.
The Legend Lives On
... to feel love and oneness is to live
SRI AUROBINDO (In: Savitri, Book 12, p. 724)
Chacha ji, c. 1980
Not all great men are famous; this is the story of one such great man. He was born in 1903 in a village called Vahalee in the Punjab, and named Sikandar Lal. When he was 16, Mahatma Gandhi gave a call to the youth of India to interrupt for a few years whatever they were doing to join the struggle for the freedom of the nation. Seems simple, but it is not easy. Therefore, not many responded to the call, but Sikandar Lal was one of those who did. How is it that a few make choices that the majority consider rash, if not foolish. We have three basic tools for making choices: feelings, reason, and an intangible inner voice. In this case, the part of us that is guided by feelings would see in responding positively to Gandhiji’s call a life in prisons, certainly not a very pleasant prospect. Reason may see the significance of freedom, and hence the nobility of responding to the call positively, but would also argue against the wisdom of a rash decision that crushes the career and neglects the family for the sake of an uncertain outcome in an unpredictably distant future. Even if the reckless idealism of youth motivates a young man to take the plunge, his parents and other well-wishers may foist on him their discouraging ‘mature advice’. However, there is an inner voice, emanating from our deepest Self, which is illumined by our divine essence, the soul. This voice whispers to us what the right choice is. But this voice, although very clear, is a voice that does not insist; it is quite content to be ignored. Therefore, when pitted against the clamour of feelings and reason, this voice does often get ignored. It is only a few rare souls, who are in conscious contact with their deepest Self, who can ignore, oppose and conquer or ignore all opposition in order to act on the dictates of the soul. Sikandar Lal Jauhar was one such person. He responded to Gandhiji’s call positively, in spite of opposition from his own family. He joined the freedom struggle, stayed with it till the goal of independence was realized, and during the intervening almost 30 years faced the lathis and bullets of the British police while participating in several demonstrations, and went to jail several times where he was tortured with fetters and beatings, the scars of which he carried on his ankles and the back all his life. He changed his name to Surendra Nath, which he said was a minor phonetic variation on his true nature, which was to ‘surrender not’. During the 30 years that he was with the freedom struggle, starting almost penniless, he also initiated a business. God helps those who help themselves. The business flourished, and that is how he acquired in the 1930s a plot of land near Mehrauli. The land was also used for serving the cause of the freedom struggle, but to cut a long story short, when the country became free, Surendra Nath ji faced another dilemma, whether or not to continue with politics. He responded to the faint whisper of his deepest Self once again, and decided not to. This time the choice was easier, because in 1939 he had discovered his true calling. In 1939, an ‘unplanned’ visit to Pondicherry led to his discovery of The Mother, a discovery that he calls in his memoirs, “the Supreme Discovery of my life, the miracle of Pondicherry where I lost my heart and won the soul and the real life”. His dedication to The Mother after 1939 was total, as it had been to the freedom struggle since 1919. The commitment that he made in 1939 finally culminated, with the permission and blessings of The Mother, in the establishment of an Ashram on the land that he had bought in the 1930s on 12 February 1956, the date chosen by The Mother, with its name ‘Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Delhi Branch’ also given by The Mother. In keeping with the spiritual philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, which is a life-affirming philosophy, the Ashram started a school in the same year, the school that is now known as The Mother’s International School and has on its rolls more than 2000 students. Besides education, health care is another major activity of the Ashram today. This is the story of a man who started with the resolve that he would ‘surrender not’, but ended with total surrender to The Mother. This is the story of a man who started with the ambition of seeing his country free, and ended with the aspiration of liberating the world from the ignorance of a dividing ego-dominated consciousness towards a consciousness dominated by love and oneness.
(Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Delhi Branch, established on 12 February 1956, is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary this year)
The Mother had once called the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry a veritable laboratory to work out the future society. Its counterpart in the capital of India, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram - Delhi Branch, can best be understood as an extension of the centre of sadhana at Pondicherry. What is being done in this spiritual endeavour is the overcoming of the ascetic phase of the Indian tradition, which in a lopsided way equated spirituality with outer renunciation. In the Vedic times, integral life, prosperity, equality of sexes and a life-affirming attitude were cultivated by spiritual seekers. This integral approach was lost in later epochs when Mayavada (Illusionism) prevailed.
According to Sri Aurobindo “all life is Yoga.” In the Integral Yoga, the integral life down to the smallest detail has to be divinised : an inner illumination that does not change the outer life leaves the world as it is. The object of our Yoga is self-perfection and world-perfection.
From an early age The Mother had dreamed of a place where seekers of the Divine could completely dedicate themselves to spiritual life. “Earth needs a place where men can live away from…social conventions, self-contradictory moralities and contending religions, a place where human beings, freed from all slavery to the past, can devote themselves wholly to the discovery and practice of the divine consciousness that is seeking to manifest itself.” By providing a congenial environment and field of activities the Ashram seeks to be such a place. With the needs of the body provided, each one takes his work in the spirit of service and unselfishness, in the spirit of Karma Yoga — as an offering to the Divine.
The Delhi Branch was officially inaugurated on 12 February, 1956, with the Blessings of the Mother. To the great joy and gratitude of spiritual seekers in Northern India, the Mother graciously granted the very first Sacred Relics of Sri Aurobindo to be enshrined here on 5 December, 1957. Since then the Ashram has been growing at a steady pace. The shrine and the Meditation Hall continue to be the centre of life and the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother the guiding light. The Love and Blessings of the Master and the Mother and their Grace are always available to their disciples living here.
All live and work here as equals. No distinctions of sex, creed, religion, race, caste or national origin are observed: all are looked upon as souls and children of the Mother. There is no hierarchy of officials and subordinates. All work in association and as a unit under the general supervision of one or more sadhaks.
The doors of the Ashram are open for those who aspire for a higher life, with the trust that their aspiration will not stop merely at having a pious wish for a higher and nobler aim, but will manifest increasingly in the thoughts, the life movements and the physical expressions—which will all be progressively and integrally consecrated to the Divine.