31. Sri Aurobindo,
32. Lost Speech
34. One Crore
The Life Divine, the magnum opus of Sri Aurobindo, says the American Sri Aurobindo Library, has been acclaimed as the greatest book of our times. It goes on to say that The Life Divine is a landmark in human thought and aspiration. Sri Aurobindo was also the author of the epic English poem Savitri, which runs into 24,000 lines of blank verse.
As Sri Aurobindo attained Mahasamadhi before the Nobel Prize committee could implement its decision to award him the prize for literature, the prize was never awarded that year.
Sri Aurobindo says that his is not merely a philosophy or an ideal towards which one strives, but a Force in action. The Force enters into those who are open to it and urges their march towards the Supreme. And to authors his writings have a special message. He was unique as a writer in the entire history of the Eastern and Western civilized world, in that he started writing five of his major books simultaneously in 1914 and he wrote them in installments for his monthly journal Arya, completing all of them in 1921. They are only a sixth of his total writings which run into 30 volumes. History tells us that neither Aristotle nor Shakespeare nor Vyasa nor Shankara undertook such a phenomenal effort of writing at the highest level of human thought.
Writers are endowed with several faculties such as imagination, a right turn of phrase, inspired language, a knack for a striking plot, a capacity to maintain the readers interest, suspense, vivid images, descriptive narratives, etc. When a writer reads Sri Aurobindos writings or takes to his teachings, His FORCE enters the writer and energizes all his faculties. The writer finds that his imagination is more active, the right phrase comes to his pen more easily and more often, his ordinary writing becomes inspiring and his inspired moments creative, his dull plots change structure to become striking, his readers never tire of reading his writings, more images constantly present themselves and are live with energy, and descriptions become long and very interesting.
It is common knowledge with the devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother that after their Force enters the lives of devotees, in whatever profession they are, the devotees steadily rise in their profession, often ending at the top. That is true of writers too, only that being writers, the effect is two-fold in their lives. The writers main faculty is thinking and the Forces main expression is light. The light of His Force shows in the mind of the writer as higher capacity of the already existing faculties and also it creates new ones. On this score alone, the writer becomes a better member of the profession. In its general expression of inherent progress, the Force takes the writer to higher levels of his work.
In life, the writer finds his unpublished works are solicited for publication, long awaited recognition sails to him, rewards are announced for unexpected works, his services are sought for by the profession and the public at large, and above all, the intrinsic value of his thought, so far unrecognised, is now fully appreciated. He becomes a creative writer credited with wider recognition at all levels of the society.
I was returning home from the Ashram. In the bus I met a friend who was also returning home from Pondicherry. By way of conversation I asked him on what assignment he had visited Pondicherry. He said he was returning from JIPMER Hospital where his brother was an in-patient for the last three weeks. I had never known that he had a brother, but I continued my general enquiries about how old he was and why he was hospitalised. To my utter surprise he explained the developments. My brother is 17 years of age and he is in the 10th standard. Some three weeks ago he noticed some difficulties in his speech, but he had not clearly explained it to the other family members. It seems he knew that some throat trouble was developing and while speaking it manifested itself. It is not clear whether he himself was fully aware of it or not. One day we found him not answering our questions. As he is generally reticent and not given to talking, we were not initially struck by his not answering. After some time it dawned on us that he could not talk. Everyone in the family was upset. Some made light of it saying it may be a passing phase. Others were frightened. My brother himself did not make light of it. He was frightened beyond measure. In minutes his fright spread all through the family and there was overhanging gloom generating indefinable fear. After prolonged consultations within the family and with well-informed friends, it was decided to take him to Jipmer Hospital. The face of the boy became gloomier and gloomier, as he listened to the various stories of loss of speech narrated in his presence by the never-ending stream of visitors. Some said in these cases speech suddenly disappeared but reappeared with the same suddenness. This cheered the boy up. There was a faint smile on his face. Others cited cases of speech lost and only restored with a stammer. This was worse. No one was able to control their narration. Anyway, all of us hoped that as his speech had been lost abruptly, it may be restored in a spurt. There was hope, fear, gloom and, above all, a gnawing uncertainty.
We had him admitted to Jipmer Hospital. Now it was the turn of the doctors, nurses and co-patients to tell stories of lost speech. During the first week, the visiting doctors explained that the boy was under observation. We all anxiously awaited the results of observation. Doctors continued to visit but did not give us any explanation. In the second week we learned from the hospital staff that there was no known medical therapy for loss of speech. This smashed our hopes and we wondered why he was being kept in the hospital. Some of us felt that being hospitalised makes the patient feel that medical attention was being given and this helped to keep up his hopes. This appeared reasonable. We decided to continue in the hospital but our hopes were lost. We did not communicate our hopelessness to my brother. A few days later, one doctor suggested that in such matters one can only pray to God. We have all prayed to several gods ever since the boy was afflicted. What more is there for us to do?
This is a friend of a friend. I know him well enough, but he was introduced to me by someone else and my relationship with him is limited. I know only one incident in his life. My friend and this man were boyhood friends. My friend graduated, but this man stopped with SSLC. After that he tried to join in a clerks post somewhere. As he had not been selected by the Madras Public Service Commission, to secure a permanent post was ruled out. He was very efficient, in spite of his not being selected by the service commission. He secured a government clerks post on a leave vacancy for a month. He was so efficient, so amiable, alert, and cooperative that his boss was unwilling to part with him at the end of the month. He secured another temporary job for fifteen days. Here too, his boss and colleagues were impressed by him, but how could the temporary job be continued. He disposed of twenty files on one occasion in hours, whereas the man whom he had replaced could not handle that much in a day. This sweet treatment and short employment continued. There was no office in the district that he had not served in; there was no department he missed. He was now well versed in the rules of all the government departments and respected for it, but his jobs continued to be of short duration of months or weeks as they were all leave vacancies. About ten years had passed like this. My friend was sore over this misfortune of his boyhood friend. He once explained to me that the very first prayer he addressed to Mother after coming to the Ashram was that his friend should get a permanent job. Soon a new rule was introduced by which anyone who had put in a total of ten years temporary service could be made permanent. And so he earned his permanency. My friend also explained to me that he had never spoken about his prayer to his friend.
As soon as the bus reached our town, I took this friend to a quiet corner and started talking in a serious tone. He was also seriously listening. I said, It so happens that today is August 14 and tomorrow is Mothers Darshan. If you choose to pray to Mother, your brother will get his speech back. He agreed. I continued, Please come to Mothers public Darshan tomorrow and pray that your brothers speech must be restored. Take a flower petal from the Samadhi and give it to your brother. If you can persuade your brother too to pray, it will be good.
The Darshan was on a Thursday. I saw him in the Darshan. Visitors who had come to my house for Darshan all left on Friday or Saturday. On Sunday night I was sitting up late with a friend who still remained on an important work for Mother. At 11 p.m. we finished our discussions and went upstairs to sleep. No sooner had I lay down on the bed than my wife came up saying someone wanted to see me. Who could come at 11 p.m. and on what business? Surely, it must be something important. I decided to go down and meet the visitor. It was none other than the friend whom I had met on the bus and later at the Darshan. I asked if there was any news from the hospital. He replied, I came here to meet you at 6 p.m. to convey the glad news that my brother spoke one full sentence in a spurt this afternoon. This gave all of us hope and I thought I should first inform you. As you were not here, I returned home thinking I could meet you tomorrow. My brother and all others returned home from Pondicherry at 10 p.m., and I found his speech was fully restored late in the evening. I thought you wont mind being disturbed at this hour, if I bring this news to you.
When I decided to buy a cashew garden on the hill-top known as Caper Hills, my studies concerned the soil, climate, variety of cashew, the characteristics of the cashew plant, its present yield, its greatest capacity to yield, etc. These were all studies in cultivation of a crop. My friends and relatives were constantly reminding me that scientific studies of a crop may be important, but there was something more important, viz. the human factor. I was proposing to buy a piece of property officially described in the government records as forest. Wolves and jackals still lived there in good number. One has to carry drinking water from outside as there was no possibility of finding water anywhere on the whole property. Leave alone drinking water, life was not safe. The physical safety of a person was in danger in those places. All of them constantly asked me how I was going to feel safe and secure in such a place and how I was going to protect the property in such an atmosphere. I was well aware of these dangers, especially after I paid a few visits there before purchasing it. As I had in mind an idea of founding a modern farm, I was planning to create an organisation there in the coming years. When dozens of people were trained and employed, several supervisors recruited working under a farm manager and a crew of watchmen going around, the dangers described by the well-wishers would be overcome. Until then, it is surely a risk and an adventure. And no success can ever be gained without risks. Therefore, I overlooked the good advice given by many and purchased the garden.
The very first thing I did there was to appoint the man who was in charge of that garden for the last 20 years as my lessee. Before I took the effort to contact this man, he was on the look-out for the buyer and tried to explain to me the advantages of keeping him in continued charge of the garden. I spoke to him at length of my plans to found a modern farm there. Promptly he reacted to the idea saying that nothing of that kind would work there, as property of any descriptionequipments, sprayers, etc.or, for that matter, anything of value could not be kept safely.
My original plan was to clear the jungle, level the land, put up bunds in every place that needed them, plough the fields as often as necessary and saturate the soil with manure. All this work needed a great deal of investment and a long wait of three to four years for results to show. I was prepared for the effort, investment and long wait, as I had calculated the income of the garden would rise several fold in four years, dwarfing the effort. Those were days when an acre of cashew was giving Rs.50 return collected as jungle produce. No one ever spent any money on cashew trees, except the wages for collecting the nuts. Even for groundnut cultivation, only Rs.250 was spent, while my planned expenditure for modernising cashew cultivation was Rs.300 to 400 per acre. If only I succeeded in completing all the improvements, the rewards would far outstrip my investment. But that was four years away according to my calculation. My work started as planned and proceeded season after season to greater heights of success, confirming at every stage the calculation of results I expected. Two full years had been completed. The same lessee continued as my manager. He did all the work and spent all the money himself. I visited every morning to check the work.
The lessee, who was the manager, contrary to all warnings, proved to be loyal. He was interested in the progress of the work; rather, he was excited about the future prospects for the garden and for himself. He almost identified himself with the work. My friends quipped that I was lucky to get a good man as lessee, as otherwise their fears would have come true.
Though the lessee was very good and honest, our relationship was not without those subtle moments when he would hint that my safe operations on the field were only because he was there. Often visitors would allude to the fact that I was lucky in my lessee. But I had seen occasions when the lessee would put me face to face with field situations that only local people could overcome, whereas I, as an outsider, could not. That he did very rarely to drive home to me his importance for me. Once in a threatening situation I took the lead and decided to handle the situation myself and the situation did come under my control. In a flash the Rudra in him came out and he asserted himself against the pilferers. By and large he was a good man.
My third year arrived with the third season for me in the garden. The trees were fantastic, with flowers as no other garden around looked. People commented that my expected results came a year or two earlier. They said my three years investment, including the original purchase value could be retrieved in that one year. The flower laden trees spoke for themselves, and it looked as if everyone had spoken the truth.
Before I could lay the foundation for a modern farm, create an organisation, put up a few buildings, appoint an educated manager, I felt caught unawares by this prospect of a great yield. Had the yield waited another year or two, I could have prepared myself to handle it all with an organisation at my disposal to handle the collection of nuts, ward off intruders, drive away cattle, etc. Now I entirely depended upon the goodwill of my lessee. If he continued to be good, there would be no problem. He suddenly showed signs of greed. He knew I was at his mercy. As the enthusiasm all around was great because of the success of the work sooner than expected, this issue did not occupy my mind more than as an information.
Just then my jutkawalla, who was close to my lessee, brought the news that the lessee had changed his attitude. It seemed he had told my jutkaman, Give the garden to me on lease. Ask him to sit at home. Let him not worry. I shall give the lease honestly at the end of the season. It came to me as a jolt. What everyone warned me against had come true for no fault of mine. Had the success waited longer, I would have been right. It was well known in the ten gardens around us that no lessee gave the owner more than half the lease amount and there was no way of collecting it from these poor people. Mine was a new situation. It was not easy to fix the lease amount as the yield expected was five to ten times. No one in the village was able to assess the yield because it was new to them. The only reasonable course would be to collect the produce and at the end of the season to reward the lessee suitably after realising the real extent of produce. If I gave in now, even if I succeeded in creating an organisation later, the lingering results of having given in to the lessee would be there. Perhaps my giving in might stand in the way of creating an organisation. The lessee seemed to be actuated by greed and the trump was in his hand. It weighed on my mind heavily. In those days, I never used to pray to Mother for any particular reward or results. When faced with a problem, I used to meditate. The weight would be lifted from the mind and the problem would melt away. In fact, in the early years of my coming to the Ashram, there were very few problems at all in my life.
This time I meditated, but the weight did not fully lift itself from the mind. I went to the Samadhi and meditated again. There was greater relief, but not full relief. This was a new experience for me and I had to solve this problem before I met the lessee again. As I was visiting the garden every day the time left was short. In those days Mother Herself was issuing passes to a few people to visit Sri Aurobindos room. I obtained one and visited the room. I meditated and came out. Champaklal, who had attended on Sri Aurobindo for 25 years, called me and asked if there was anything important at home that made me visit the room. In trying to answer him, I recollected that I had a problem with my lessee which had gone out of my mind till then.
The next day I met my lessee. He had lost his usual smile and appeared serious. We retired to a secluded spot. I began the conversation asking him for news. Quickly he answered it was I who should bring him news. I started an explanation of what I had done in the garden and came to the harvest. I said we must settle between ourselves the terms for that years harvest. He stopped me short and burst out, You have spread thigh high manure in this place. You have spread knee deep currency notes here. All the money I spent with my own hands. And now when the results come, it should go entirely to you. I am not one who will ask for more than my due. Give what you please. No one will give more than you. I am not one who will lay hands on your share. I felt he was speaking my thoughts and was moved to see tears in his eyes. I proposed a rate per bag. He readily agreed and jumped up laughing. He said, Come, lets go. There is a lot of work to do.
Om is a North Indian businessman. He is a craftsman par excellence. He carves out of soft stone very attractive artwork in the shape of boxes, vases, etc. His goods sell like hotcakes all over Europe. Buyers come to him, pay the price in advance, sit in his factory for the order to be produced and take it with them. Otherwise, if they ordered from their own countries, they may not get the goods in time or may not get them at all. Such is the demand. Such is its beauty.
One of our Societys American members bought a small shipment of goods from him. Later he visited Om in his place. Om was nice, friendly, cordial and treated our friend as if he were an old friend or family member. Our American friend bought occasionally and in small quantities. Naturally, as a business contact, we were of little value. After a few months of our members visit, Om wrote saying he was going to visit us in Pondicherry. Strange! We are absolutely of no business significance to him. He has no other friends here. Why on earth should Om call on us here, we all wondered.
He came. He was very pleasant. He had not heard of the Ashram or the Mother up there in the North. Now that he had come, our friends spoke to him about Mother, suggested that he could visit the Ashram. He paid his visit to Sri Aurobindos room and made an offering of Rs.1,000.
Just before he was about to leave, he asked our American member if he could meet me. When I met him his face looked sad for some reason. I spoke briefly to him about his future life and business. I told him great things were in store for him, perhaps things he could never believe. He was happy and took leave. On reaching Madras before he took the plane, he called his office in North India on the phone. To his great disappointment, he learned that the tax officers had visited his office for some enquiry. From there he sent word to me asking why this disturbance should come to him just after a visit to the Ashram. I explained in a letter that I had expected great things for him, but this incident shows even greater things await him. I continued, Mother lays great importance on keeping accurate accounts, because that helps more money to flow in. Perhaps you can improve your accounting system. Only when greater things are in store and Mother wants the devotee to be better organised, such things happen.
Two years passed. He again visited us here in Pondicherry. This time the sadness on his face was not there. For him it was an important visit because a shipment of Rs.50,000 worth of goods sent to us had arrived in America all damaged due to poor packaging. We had earlier written to him about this. We sent our purchase officer to his factory to inspect the packaging. In spite of this, a lot of breakage took place. Om was disturbed at this happening and came here to settle the matter. He said to our friends, I send shipments all over the world without the buyers inspection and they are all right. Because your officer was there, I left it to his care. But this has happened and I am sorry. I offer to reimburse the entire Rs.50,000.
Om was not at all responsible. It was entirely the fault of our officer. This attitude of Oms cannot be seen anywhere in business. He had come 1500 miles to explain this to us and make this offer! I am sure he is a rare individual. We owned the fault entirely and it was a job for our friends to refuse his return of money. He was firm. Now that he was firm, my friends came to me and told me. I went to meet him. He explained to me, I was a successful businessman earning ten lakhs a year, but I lived the life of a businessman. Your member visited me. After that my business expanded very much. Now I believe great good has come to me after his visit. Therefore, I do not want him to suffer any loss from my shipment. Two years ago you said great things awaited me. All that has come true since then.
I was amazed at this young man, his gratitude, his attitude of friendliness to us, whom he knew very little of. This time I spoke to him at length and finally summed up, It is excellent of you to return Rs.50,000 for the breakage. Truly it is not your fault. It will be equally nice if we do not accept the money. I shall accept your good will but please withdraw the offer of money. He was happy and reconciled.
After he left I explained to my friends that Mother reaches devotees in the measure of their receptivity. Oms feelings of gratitude were noble. Surely Her blessings would reach him in a large measure, even if he did not actively think of Her.
Three more years passed. Now our friends in USA suddenly received a special order for Oms goods. After placing the order, another American friend visited him in his office. I give below the story he brought in Oms own words:
Om said, I am very sorry your company in America does not buy much from me. My goods are in great demand. People from Holland, Australia, and America constantly come here for goods. They pay cash on delivery. They pay any price I ask. It is enough they get the goods. In your case, you buy rarely and in small quantities. I wish you constantly buy at least a small quantity to keep in touch. None of you ever come here, whereas every other buyer constantly comes here. I would like to sell to you. When I take your invoice and change the prices to ten percent lower, everyone in the office is intrigued. My son, who is now in business with me, often asks why I do that. I believe good things started coming to me in life ever since your friend first set foot into my factory. Later in Pondicherry I was told that great, unbelievable things awaited me. At that time, I could not imagine at all what those things could be. It has happened to me just now this year. My goods are made out of a special stone, which is not easily available. I spotted a very good source and applied for quarry license. To my great dismay Tata and Birla companies entered the competition. The license became a hot issue and went from one office to another. Finally the issue entered the courts and went up to the Supreme Court. Am I a match for these industrial giants? I won, of course, after a great struggle and expense. I firmly believe I could win against these industrial houses only because I carried Mothers Blessings with me. To tell you the truth, I will earn a net income of one crore a year from these new mines allotted to me.
Balaraman is a mirasdar living in his native village. He is devoted to the Mother. His entire family is devoted to Mother. His thoughts come to him as images; rather, he thinks in images. Whenever he meets me he used to describe the many visions he had. Some are of Mother and others are of life. I used to think the Rishi was in him. One day late in the evening he came out of his village house and he was struck by a vision whose immensity immobilized him. Standing on the edge of the road outside his house, he saw a huge light (Brahmanda jyothi). To his great surprise, it fragmented into a million bits of light that spread all over the world, and each bit lodged in one human being. He was overwhelmed by the vision, but by itself it explained nothing to him. The next morning the All India Radio announced that The Mother of the Ashram had attained Mahasamadhi and She had left her body at 7: 30 p.m. the previous day. This news and the time of Mothers departure immediately helped him understand his previous days vision. It showed that Mother had not merely left the world but was enshrined in every human heart where a soul lodged.
A trader used to visit his house periodically to sell cloth, particularly sarees. This man was known for a long time to Balaraman. Once the trader brought his son, named Tirumoorthy, who was reading in PUC and introduced him, saying the son would continue his trade from then onwards. The son was attracted by the picture of Mother in Balaramans house. After some time Tirumoorthy evinced greater interest in Balaraman as a devotee than as a customer. He became a devotee too and started visiting the Samadhi and attending Darshans. Tirumoorthy is one who sees visions very often. This common faculty brought Tirumoorthy and Balaraman nearer. Tirumoorthy was an ardent young man who desired to know everything about the Ashram, The Mother, Sri Aurobindo and yoga. He spent a few years listening to devotees, particularly to Balaraman, and avidly reading all available literature. He began to talk about Mother. Soon people found him talking only of Mother. A large contingent of young men gathered around him, feeling the same devotion to Mother.
Tirumoorthy brought people to the Ashram quite often. They were men and women, young and old, from far and near. People saw that he devoted his entire time with others speaking of Mother in great admiration and in utter devotion. God knows what happened to his business. Some felt Tirumoorthy had abandoned his business and devoted all his time to visiting the Ashram.
But the facts were different. His business multiplied several-fold. His standing in the profession rose considerably. He had by now earned a good bit of savings too. He shifted to Bangalore, collected a few lakhs of capital from friends and relatives, and started something like a wholesale business, supplying cloth to men like himself who sold in the villages. His income too rose considerably. Among his friends whom he brought to the Ashram were college students, traders and college lecturers.
Tirumoorthy was anxious to do service to Mother. When he came to know a devotee from Madras was sending rose flowers for the Samadhi on Darshan days, he too offered to send flowers from Bangalore. Mother had a special liking for good roses and white lotuses. Once Tirumoorthy came to know this, he started collecting the best available roses in Bangalore and carrying them himself to the Ashram one day prior to Darshan. These flowers were offered to Mothers room, Sri Aurobindos room, Samadhi, mediation hall and other places of importance. Not content with this flower service, he bought lands in Pondicherry to cultivate flowers for the purpose of offering them to the Samadhi and Ashram. He once suggested he could bring a team of young people and offer service to Mother Estates during a cashew season. When his offer was accepted, he brought more people than the work required. Among the group was an M.A. who was unemployed.
This unemployed young man had applied to Canara Bank and UCO Bank for a clerks post a year earlier. At that time he wrote a long letter to me explaining his position. He sent offerings to the Ashram and received the blessings. He was very well qualified, intelligent and stood every chance of being selected as a bank clerk. He used to write quite often, that is, at every stage of his application. He was very anxious and impatient. But he was selected by neither of the banks and was sorely disappointed. In cases like this there is always a hidden factor, a higher factor. Man has not learned to appreciate disappointments. How can a young man whose application for a clerkship was rejected console himself that it is all for good, and that, maybe, greater things awaited him because he is a devotee of Mother? It goes against the grain. In this condition he too offered to come to Mother Estates for a brief period of service. There he met another young man who had just finished his B.Sc. and had come there for service like himself. On enquiry he learned that the man was preparing for the IAS examination. This put an idea into his own head, as he was an M.A. and was very intelligent.
On returning to his home, he waited for the IAS examination, preparing very thoroughly and with great care. He took the exam with confidence and passed it. This man, who had been sending me long letters the previous year during his hunt for a banks clerk post, now started sending me telegrams announcing every stage of his progress. In the interview he was not selected. But this time he was not fully dejected or completely disappointed. He gathered courage and decided to seek a job better than that of a clerk in a bank.
The State Bank invited applications for the post of Agent. He applied for it and was easily selected. The last I heard of him was his telegram informing me of his selection and his joining duty.