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August 2009


“We cannot help writing about His life” – Manoj Das

- Manoj Das


How to introduce Sri Aurobindo to those with no background in Yoga or spirituality? Alas, billions in the world have no interest in Yoga and Manoj Dasspirituality. They are absorbed in seeking happiness in their own ways, probably in the wrong ways for the most part, as we may feel. But I know that I cannot do anything about it, first because the quest for something sublime had not been awakened in them and second because I do not have the adhikara or the psychic right to correct their ways.

Yet we may feel that there are many among them who are truly seeking the way – the true way that would make them satisfied in life – the way to truth, if I may so put it, and out of our goodwill for them we may feel the urge to share with them the truth we have been fortunate to find. Well, what is it that I will feel inspired to tell them, that would inspire them in turn? It is Sri Aurobindo's vision of the future of man, his assurance that despite the complex crisis through which humanity is passing today, there is the certainty of a different tomorrow, a transformed humanity in terms of evolution.

I will invite such conscious or unconscious seekers to the essence of the Life Divine as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo, to participate in the process through a synthesis of various principles of Yoga as presented by him and, to minds that are intellectually-oriented, to the knowledge of human development through the ages so convincingly explained by Sri Aurobindo in his socio-psychological works, such as The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity.

For me, this alone could be the motivating force behind any urge to introduce Sri Aurobindo to others. Once introduced, the seeker's inner resources would guide him or her, depending on his or her sincerity and psychological need, to continue in the mighty adventure of consciousness that the endeavours of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother represent. He or she may even reach the stage of tasting the nectar that is Savitri.

How relevant is the life of Sri Aurobindo to His vision?

Mankind being what it is, once introduced to the vision of Sri Aurobindo, some people may become curious about his physical and historical life. Traditional education has taught us to follow the examples of the great, in which case the examples imply their concrete and palpable achievements. These may include conquest of a mountain or country; victory in a battle, or a great discovery or invention. There is a basic difference between such heroes and those who work in the realms of consciousness. Any noteworthy changes in individual or collective consciousness are not brought about by conquerors and discoverers of the former category, though their achievements could have helped humanity in different ways. The explorers of the invisible realms of consciousness – we call them the mystics – alone are responsible for the rapid enlightenment of individuals who follow their clue, or the slow growth of the collectivity that has come a long way from the primeval chaos to forming a United Nations or participating in an experiment like Auroville.

When we are curious about the physical life of mystics – something they consider superficial – we may play havoc with our little knowledge. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to compare those who tried to gauge the profundity of spiritual truth through their puny intellect with a doll made of salt entering the ocean to measure its depth. The irony is that, in spite of that warning, people have done exactly that to the Paramahamsa himself! The salt-dolls may, of course, be under the sweet illusion that they had survived the ocean.

We all know that Sri Aurobindo's life was rich with events and involvements, voluntary or otherwise, that would fill up volumes of interesting biographies. But it is also known to all of us what he told one of his earliest would-be biographers – that there was nothing on the surface of his life which could justify writing a biography. Obviously what he thought to be the real purpose, works and achievements of his life were matters that remained beneath the surface.

But I realise that we cannot help writing about his life. I have not been able to restrain myself from doing it in a small way. But a would-be biographer must ask himself, will a narration of bare physical facts necessarily lead to our spreading or explaining his vision? The answer is bound to be No. Nothing will help spread or explain his vision except what he himself had said about it or what The Mother has said on the subject.

Even then, if we must delve into the factual aspects of his life, we have to answer one unavoidable question: Do I believe that there are extraordinary beings who from age to age become inexplicably available to the average humanity? If I believe this to be so, then there can be some justification for an author scanning the external events of such an extraordinary life – I mean extraordinary spiritually and not in any social sense. Then the author will see that the external facts are spontaneously falling into the right slots, leading to the realization that he was extraordinary even in his outward life. However, if the external facts are recorded without this belief, without the shraddha this belief is bound to cultivate, if recorded with a mixed motive on the part of the author – a motive, say, to be acknowledged as an academic, a sensible rationalist, the facts will lend themselves to serve his purpose but that purpose will be a far cry from introducing the vision of Sri Aurobindo to the world.

Once incarnated as human the Avatar, too, plays, sleeps and snores, suffers from flu and fever. These are facts that can titillate us or console us by showing the Avatar's proximity to us. But that does not serve the expected purpose; rather it creates a mist between the seeker or the aspirant on the one hand and the vision of the Avatar on the other, just as it has always happened on the lesser planes. For example, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Cassius succeeds in confusing Brutus with his casually thrown-out suggestion that since Caesar once failed to swim across the river Tiber and cried like a baby girl when suffering from fever in his youth, he could not be fit to rule Rome !


(Manoj Das was born in Orissa and joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1963, where he teaches English literature and the works of Sri Aurobindo. He is probably the foremost bi-lingual writer in the country, with about forty books in English and an equal number of books in his mother tongue. He has received numerous awards including India 's national award for creative writing – the Sahitya Akademi Award. In 2001 the President conferred upon him the Padma Shri.)


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