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At the Feet of The Mother

Champaklal

 

“I have been waiting. He will come straight to me.”

 

This profoundly mystical statement uttered by Sri Aurobindo and heard inwardly by a disciple when Champaklal’s health was deteriorating and there was no hope of recovery, startles and thrills us. His long period of ailment and suffering would end in his soul’s union with the Supreme, his beloved Master and enjoy eternal bliss. Who else could deserve such a wonderful consummation of his earthly life?

When we look far back, we notice in his early youth how in his first meeting with Sri Aurobindo he lay prostrate at his feet for nearly an hour and his entire face was bathed in happy tears. Then we find Sri Aurobindo enquiring about him and asking his friends to bring him back with them. Lastly, Sri Aurobindo’s surprising ecstatic embrace of his devoted disciple as a parting gift of his undying love — all these woven together prepare us in a way for the mystical utterance from Sri Aurobindo we have quoted. Add to them the Mother’s equally sublime statement: “Champaklal, you have become a part of me.”

Of such a sadhak I have been asked to speak a few words by virtue of my long association with him in the service of Sri Aurobindo, and thereafter.

There is much to speak and much also not to speak. We have seen, enjoyed, suffered, and shared so much in common of the Lila of the double Divine incarnation — the supreme Purusha — and — Prakriti on the earth.

It was in early morning when I was working at the Samadhi that somebody came and whispered to me that Champaklal had passed away. There was a moment’s shock though the end had been expected. The Samadhi too heard the news. What Sri Aurobindo had waited for had happened. Time began to move on. Similar was the shock when the sudden news of Dyumanbhai’s passing arrived. That was an unexpected blow.

Champaklal had endeared himself to all of us, young and old, by some inborn psychic quality that cast a spell and attracted people. His external features added to it in no small measure.

He was conscious of the truth that he was engaged in the service of the Divine, that the Divine was his Father and Mother, but he made no ado about it.

How did I come into a close contact with such a dedicated soul, a man in many respects my contrast? Our first contact was, however, not pleasant; it was rather a confrontation. When I came to the Ashram, my attention was drawn to him by friends saying that he was Sri Aurobindo’s personal attendant. His half bare robust body with a smooth shining skin, a brahminical thread across his chest, his flowing hair and beard — in a word he was an embodied High Priest. And of course everyone was whispering the awe-inspiring phrase that he was Sri Aurobindo’s personal attendant. I had no occasion to meet him till a few years later. One day he came to the Dispensary for medical help. I happened to be in charge of the Dispensary. Suddenly on some flimsy excuse both of us burst into hot temper, almost an explosion. In my medical report I narrated the incident to the Mother. At that time I enjoyed some intimacy with Sri Aurobindo. He wrote back: “Outbursts of that kind are too common with him. And when heat meets with heat… it is almost midsummer now.” The breath of the Master’s humour made me burst into a hearty laugh and all was quiet.

Now I was thrown into the company of such a man by an adverse fate when Sri Aurobindo broke his right thigh in 1938. But the adversity turned into golden opportunity by the alchemic touch of Sri Aurobindo’s Grace and we became sweet friends for long decades. I felt as if we had been together for many past lives in spite of our outer differences in nature and temperament. We served Sri Aurobindo for twelve years, slept together in the same room and shared our services amicably without any serious interruption by our egos. I have paid genuine tribute to him in my book, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo. So I need not repeat it. Throughout these long twelve years, one thing I have learned from him which has come as a revelation: it is his deep love for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, a love which is rare to find in this material world of ours. Perhaps it was quite a common feature in the Vedic and Upanishadic days when the disciple was an integral part of the Guru’s life. An utter self-abnegation and sacrifice obviating all physical necessities, and a single dominant note in his consciousness — how to serve the Divine Guru who needed nothing, asked for nothing yet was pleased with the bhakta’s service of love and devotion? When I used to go away after my duty for hours in the evening, it was he alone who remained with Sri Aurobindo and enjoyed the beatitude of his silent all-sufficing company. It was not without reason that he prided himself on being called Hanuman.

What he did at this time was revealed to me long after Sri Aurobindo has passed away. He was taking notes of many significant casual remarks made by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo on various topics. The daily routine work appeared to him important but for me it was trivial and therefore to be left out of our ‘Talks’. Now it appears in a different light. Of these notes I shall supply a number of instances which will give the key to the sealed heart of the bhakta.

 

 

II

 

Here are some of the Notes made by Champaklal. They bring us rare truths of both his inner and outer life.

 

1926 — While giving Sri Aurobindo’s dish to me Mother said: The Being which we want to manifest in you demands complete surrender. They are four brothers: one of them wants to manifest in you and he is waiting for you to be ready. He wishes that I should work in you.

 

Another day she said: The Being has entered in you.

 

The Mother was seated on a chair… Meditation started and an occult workup commenced. What was standing in my way was removed. When everything was finished I got up and embraced Mother. She took me in her arms and held me for a long time. I surrendered myself completely to her. She held me pressed like a child and made me a divine child.

 

Later I was told that when she mentioned it to Sri Aurobindo, he said: Champaklal has become a demigod.

 

1928 — Mother said this afternoon: When you were coming with the tray of fruit juice, Sri Aurobindo saw you coming through the shutters of the Meditation Hall and said, “Champaklal looks magnificent; he looks like a priest.”

 

It was before 1938. I used to wash Sri Aurobindo’s dhoti every day and dry it. Once it so happened that I need clips to hold the cloth for drying it. That day Purushottam had presented my chit to the Mother for signing. She asked me: “Why do you want so many clips?”

“You can come and see my cloth.” I said with some force.

She kept quiet. But the next day, she told me very sweetly “Champaklal, you know people were saying, ‘How can Champaklal talk to the Mother like that?”

I did not realise what was wrong at all and exclaimed “What is there?”

Again she remained quiet. It was much later that I realised that something was wrong in my attitude.

 

I wanted to offer something to the Mother, I got the idea of painting two lotuses one white and the other red. Curiously I received two beautiful lotuses that day and took up the painting. When it was finished I took them to Mother with great joy on my birthday: 2.2.40

She received the painting and said, “Oh, very pretty! Very pretty!” Then she said with a broad smile, I give it to you Champaklal! Take it, it is for you.”

I did not answer, then said, “Mother, I have done it for you.”

She gave another broad smile and said slowly, “Champaklal, I will take it to Sri Aurobindo and ask him to write upon it.”

I said, “Mother, if so, how nice it would be if you ask him to write its significance. He will write on the white lotus and you will write on the red.”

Mother brought it to Sri Aurobindo. I was there. She showed it to him and said “See, how nice it is! Today is his birthday, he has done it for me. If you write the significance on it I will give it to him. He also wishes that you write on the white lotus and I on the red.

With a beautiful affectionate smile he wrote on the top of the whiter lotus

Aditi

The Divine Mother

and below the red lotus

To

Champaklal

With blessings

Sri Aurobindo

 

After writing he looked at me and gave a sweet smile.

On the top of the red lotus Mother wrote

 

The Avatar

Sri Aurobindo

 

Mother asked me not to show them to anybody.

6.2.1940

 

Mona Lisa

 

Champaklal: Mother, can I show the painting now?

Mother: Yes

After seeing it Mother said: That is the best.

Champaklal: Is that so?

Mother: I think so, Sri Aurobindo was the artist.

Champaklal: Leonardo da Vinci?

Mother smiled sweetly and said: Yes

Champaklal: Mother, it seems this is yours?

Mother: Yes, don’t you see the resemblance?

Mother put her finger on the lips and showed also the lower portion of the face.

01.06.40

 

 

Mother: I am very much pleased with your work.

I like your faithfulness.

I like your sincerity.

I like your steadiness.

I like your regularity.

I like your courage.

24.05.44

 

Sri Aurobindo said about injection

Yatha buddhistatha gatih

Yatha injection tatha gatih

(As is the mind so is the course.

As is the injection so is the course.)

30.05.1944

 

Dr. Manilal: Sir, when will the first transformed man appear? I am not asking of the last man.

Sri Aurobindo: Who is the first?

Manilal: I don’t know. Sir; you must be knowing.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t try to know. I was not born for Sadhana Siddhi. I was born only for doing Sadhana. So I must remain ignorant of what you ask. Perhaps an unexpected person may come first!

 

Writing Savitri

Sri Aurobindo used to sit on his chair in the passage outside his room late at night after his dinner and write. He would place chit pads on the handle of the chair and write. After writing he would repeat the lines to himself. I would sit outside in the hall listening to his voice. It was so beautiful. One day he saw me there. For a moment he looked surprised but immediately afterwards he smiled and proceeded with his work.

Sri Aurobindo used at times to write on small chit pads and pin them together. One day I saw him having some difficulty with the pinning because the sheets were too many and it was not easy to pin them all together.

Pussh: he made a sound. I saw that the pin had slipped. I ran to him. It was difficult indeed to do in that way. Somehow I succeeded and I received a broad smile, and a look. Oh, what a look!

After that day, whenever it was needed, he would call me by name, “Champaklal” How sweet to hear the name from his mouth! I remember I had even kept a record of how many times day and night he had called me by name.

So it was when Mother called me by name. Once Amrita told me: How lucky you are. Champak! How sweet it is to hear Mother when she calls you by name!

9.6.1944

 

When Sri Aurobindo was on his bed, I showed him my palm and pointed out one of the lines there and told him that I wished to see how far his line had gone.

He smiled, gave me his hand to see. Then he asked, what? I said, it is very long and it is exactly what X has asked me to see. He smiled and said, oh!

27.5.1946

 

It was my birthday. I was indeed very happy when the Mother came to Sri Aurobindo’s room, she looked at me with a broad smile and told Sri Aurobindo: Today is Champaklal’s birthday. Sri Aurobindo’s response was immediate and he said “UMM” with prolonged emphasis.

(Then Champaklal gives here a long account of how he managed to take Sri Aurobindo’s footprint without inconveniencing him in any way. We saw the whole operation: how cleverly he manipulated it! After drawing the feet, he took the paper to Sri Aurobindo for writing his name and blessings. Which he did gladly. We are indeed grateful to Champaklal for preserving Sri Aurobindo’s footprints in this way.)

2.2.47

 

Mother used to receive some persons at night…. Today it was past eleven p.m. and yet she had not finished. Sri Aurobindo enquired who was there with Mother. Half an hour passed, still the person continued. Sri Aurobindo asked “Why is Mother keeping him so long? He is still there?”

17.04.48

 

Today Mother was not well. A notice had been put on the board to that effect. And yet she went down, gave pranam. She was so tired that I could bear to see her. Tears rolled out of my eyes. I went and informed Sri Aurobindo about it. He said, “She ought not to go down.” Next day also she went down.

This was not the only occasion when she did so. People have no idea how much she exerted herself and in what conditions.

22.5.48

 

I was always at my best with Sri Aurobindo. With Mother it was different; my behaviour with her was exactly as it was with my physical mother whom I had served in the same way. I remember her saying that only a girl could have served like that.

Mother has trained me orally. Sri Aurobindo through look and smile. I have served Mother but I have not known her.

24.5.49

 

Mother said this morning: People think I am sleeping but I do not sleep, I go deep inside. But all the while I know all about my surroundings. I hear even the clock.

23.7.49

 

Á propos of cure of diseases Mother said that the contemporary biggest doctor of France had told her that only strong will cures human diseases. Medicine only helps and increases one’s faith. Her own experience corroborates the doctor’s view. She said that physiologically some kind of white cells form and fight against diseases. These cells increase when a strong will is exerted.

11.8.49

 

Mother said that once she did not take anything — not even a drop of water for ten full days. Since then she got acidity and it was still continuing. In another context she said: The most important thing is not to fear at all under any condition.

…Even if the heart be bad, there be appendicitis or liver trouble, the way to cure is to have absolutely no fear and have a strong will.

10.90.49

 

Sri Aurobindo’s dinner started at 12.52 a.m. and lasted till 1.15 a.m.

At one time, there were lots of mosquitoes in Sri Aurobindo’s room and he was bitten by them. He would rub an ointment on the bitten places. Afterwards he would call me by name and I would rush by his side. He would show me the places and I would rub the ointment there.

The joy at the touch of his body, the joy while rubbing the ointment is indescribable. So, too, what I felt when he would put his arm around me while walking: it is unimaginable.

She has brought a picture of Durga and shown it to Sri Aurobindo. He said: Very living image, very spirited image. It is full of life, especially the lion biting the hand of the Asura is very living and also the posture of the goddess. That was one quality about the Indian sculptors that they could put spirit into the things and life and expression which the European sculptors could not do. The posture of Durga is very natural and also the hands.

13.10.49

 

Today it was 11. a.m. when Mother came with Sri Aurobindo’s lunch — very unusual. She had brought with her one small dish with a small bowl on it — some bread slices and a knife.

This was the first and last time we saw them taking food together. It was a rare event.

10.08.50

 

I once asked Mother: You say I am your child and I was so in my previous birth also. But I have a strong feeling that I was the son of a Rishi.

Mother replied: How do you know that I was not the Rishi?

1964

 

I mentioned to Mother that I wished to donate one eye for anybody who needed it. If Mother did not approve of it, then both eyes would be donated after death.

On hearing it, the Mother said, “No, no, no. Your eyes belong to me. This is a hostile suggestion. I do not approve of this giving of eyes at all.”

1960

 

In the course of some remarks Mother said: I want three kinds of people: those who can work, those who do Sadhana, those who have money. At least one of these things must be there. When I say sadhana, it is not a nominal sadhana, but the true sadhana.

 

 

III

 

I have read out to you Champaklal’s Diary Notes, an extensive record that he had kept for so many years. Some of these records may appear to us modern disciples very trivial and superficial. But read carefully they appear in a different light and prove to be very significant indeed. You find there three significant illustrations about which we have heard and read theoretically, but which here we see in a living form as it were. First the relationship between the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Second, the extent of sacrifice the Mother has made for our sake — e.g. letting the sadhaks do pranams at midnight; in the day time seeing people while standing on the doorsteps hours together, with Sri Aurobindo keeping an invisible eye on her all the time. Next we are astonished to see that Sri Aurobindo had his dinner at midnight just because the Mother could not manage it earlier due to the pressure of her work. Lastly, Champaklal’s own relation with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. With the Mother he is so free and natural like a child asking questions, correcting her, and the Mother indulging his whims and views. None of us would dare to take so much liberty with her and he did it because he loved her as his own mother.

We also get a glimpse of the Mother’s mysterious dealings with people. Lastly, we see his deep genuine love for Sri Aurobindo, so much so that a simple touch of his body, hearing his name pronounced, and to be merely near him always etc. etc., give him a heavenly ecstasy.

One can realise then the consciousness in which he was living, where no earthly recompense had any lure for him.

Is it for nothing that Sri Aurobindo, his father, his Lord, embraced and kissed him as his farewell boon on this earth?

You will also remember Champaklal’s heart-breaking grief and loud lamentation when Sri Aurobindo breathed his last.

Let me add here one small but very meaningful event in which Champaklal was involved and the Mother was much concerned about him. He happened to contract a serious disease in one eye. I was asked to take him to the eye-specialist in the local hospital. The doctor diagnosed the case and said, “It is iritis, he has to be confined to his room and make as little movement as possible. It may take a serious turn unless proper steps are taken now.” The doctor bandaged Champaklal’s eye and asked us to come next day. Not to be able to attend on Sri Aurobindo or see him even was for poor Champaklal a severe punishment. I had to do his part of the job. I used to visit him in his room and bring the report. He presented a picture of utter dejection and lay down in bed almost lifeless. Two or three days passed in this manner without any improvement in his condition; it was rather getting worse. The Mother went to see him and reported with a grave tone to Sri Aurobindo while he was taking his meal that Champaklal’s condition was taking a serious turn. Unless he came out of his seclusion and jointed his work, he would lose his eye. Sri Aurobindo simply listened and made no comment. I was alarmed. The remedy suggested by the Mother seemed to me very risky and unorthodox. Next day, however, he appeared and joined the work without any bandage. The Mother asked me to put some simple eyedrops. The iritis disappeared in two or three days and Champaklal was again Champaklal with a beatific smile. Now, here is a miracle I saw with my own eyes. The Mother flouting all medical wisdom presented the patient before the All-healer’s silent Presence and cured him.

There is another example of how we enjoyed a forbidden delight that might meet your strong disapproval. Uday Shankar, the famous dancer, visited Pondicherry with his troupe. I think his new film Kalpana was being shown in the town. Naturally the whole Ashram was caught in a wave of excitement. The Mother’s notice that no member should attend the show cooled down the simmering expectation. Myself and Champaklal, however, conspired to go out stealthily after our work was over and Sri Aurobindo had retired. Another attendant would do our duty. So, almost at dead of night, we slipped out. Everything was arranged for us. The cinema was shown in an open field and we were given an honoured place. But unfortunately we could not appreciate the film. I think it did not meet with success. The Mother must have heard about our escapade, but she gave us no hint.

 

*

 

I am starting the second part of Champaklal’s life with a long digression. Its purpose will be obvious to those who know that Leonardo da Vinci was no other than Sri Aurobindo himself in a past life. And the boy who became so fond of him could only be Champaklal. The audience will find ample traits of similarly between Champaklal and the boy. I’ll start quoting from the famous book, Romance of Leonardo da Vinci:

On the evening before Leonardo had set out for the villa of Melzi in Vaprio, Girolanno Helzi had forsaken his service at the court of the Sforzas after the death of his young wife and had settled with his son in an isolated villa at the foot of the Alps. There he had formed a group of friends, philosophers esoteric scientists, alchemists. Leonardo used to visit them and give Helzi the greatest joy.

Timid, as bashful as a girl, the boy for a long while fought shy of him. But once, entering the artist’s room on an errand from his father, he saw the varicoloured glasses with the aid of which the artist was studying the laws of supplementary colours. Leonardo invited him to look through them; the amusement was to the boy’s liking.

In the village school of the old abbot of a neighbouring cloister, Don Lorenzo, Francesco studied but lazily, — he memorized Latin grammar with aversion; at the sight of the ink-smeared, green covers of his arithmetic book his face would lengthen. (It reminds us of Champaklal’s bitter school-days). But Leonardo’s science was such that it seemed to the boy as interesting as a fairy-tale. The appliances of mechanics, of optics, of acoustics, of hydraulics, attracted him just as though they were living, magic toys. From morn till night he would not tire of listening to Leonardo’s stories. With grown-ups the artist was secretive, inasmuch as he knew that every careless word might draw suspicions or a sneer upon his head. With Francesco he spoke of all things trustingly and simply; not only did he teach him, but, in his turn, learned from him. And, recalling the word of the Lord: “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” he would add: “Nor shall ye enter into the kingdom of knowledge.”

On one occasion the boy asked him if it were true of the stars, that they were like diamonds, set by God within the crystal spheres of the heavens, which revolving, draw them along in their progress and produce music. The master explained that, according to the law of friction, the spheres, revolving for the duration of so many millennia, with unbelievable rapidity, would have fallen apart, their crystal edges would have been eroded, their music would have ceased, and the “irrepressible dancers” would have ceased moving.

Having pierced with a needle a sheet of paper, he allowed him to look through the opening. Francesco beheld the stars devoid of their rays, resembling radiant, round, infinitely small dots or globules.

“These dots,” said Leonardo, “are enormous; many of them worlds hundreds, thousands of times larger than ours; which, however, is by no means worse, nor more insignificant, than all the other heavenly bodies. The laws of mechanics, — mechanics, discovered by the intelligence of man, and sovereign on earth — govern world and suns.”

Much of what he said Francesco did not understand. But when, throwing back his head, he would contemplate the starry sky, he was overcome with awe.

“But what is there, — beyond the stars?” he would ask “Other worlds, Francesco, other stars, which we see not.”

“And beyond them?”

“Still others.”

“Yes, but in the end, — in the end?”

“There is no end.”

“There is no end?” repeated the boy, and Leonardo felt Francesco’s hand tremble within his; in the light of the unmoving flame of a lamp burning on a little table in the midst of the astronomical instruments he saw that the child’s face had become covered with sudden pallor.

“But, where,” asked he, slowly, with growing amazement, “where paradise then, Messer Leonardo, — the angels, the martyrs, the Madonna, and God the Father, sitting on His throne — and the Son and the Holy Ghost?”

Leonardo would keep quiet.

In the last days of March, more and more alarming tidings began to arrive in the Villa Melzi. The troops of Louis XII had crossed the Alps.

Rumours of war (with France) and of politics reached like faint, muffled rumbling to the villa at Vaprio.

Thinking neither of the French king, nor of the Duke, Leonardo and Francesco rambled over the neighbouring knolls, dales and groves. At times they climbed upward, following the current of the river, into the wooded hills. Here Leonardo would hire labourers and make excavations, searching for ante-diluvian sea-shells, and petrified marine animals and water plants.

On one occasion, returning from a ramble, they sat down to rest under old linden-tree on a cliff over the steep bank of the Adda. The endless plain with its ranks of wayside poplars and elms, was spread out at their feet.

He indicated the plain spreading out before them with an all — embracing gesture.

“All that you see here, Francesco, was at one time the bed of an ocean covering a great part of Europe, Africa and Asia. The marine animals which we find in these mountains bear witness to those times when the summits of the Apennines were the islands of a great sea, and over the plains of Italy, where the birds soar now, the fishes were swimming…”

Not far from the settlement of Mandello, near the foot of Monte Campiont there was an iron mine.

A subterranean passage, steep, dark, resembling a well, with half-ruined slippery steps, descending in the direction of the lake, led to the shafts. The guide went on ahead with a lanthorn, Leonardo, bearing Francesco in his arms, followed him. The boy, despite the supplications of his father and the dissuasion of the master, had won his way after much imploring to be taken along.

The passage constantly grew narrower and steeper. They had counted up to two hundred steps, but the descent still continued, and it seemed as if it would never end.

“Afraid?” he asked with a kindly smile, feeling Francesco snuggling up to him.

“Nay, tis naught — with you I am never afraid.”

And, after a silence, he added quietly:

“Is it true Messer Leonardo, what father says — that you are going away soon?”

“Yes, Francesco.”

“Whither?”

“To Romagna, to serve Cesare, Duke of Valentino.”

“To Romagna? Is that far?”

“Tis several days’ journey from here.”

“Several days!” repeated Francesco. “That means we shall never see each other again?”

“Nay, why should that be? I shall come to you, just as soon as I can.”

The boy grew pensive; then, with both arms, in impulsive tenderness, he embraced Leonardo’s neck, snuggled up to him still closer, and said in a whisper:

“Oh, Messer Leonardo, take me, — take me with you!”

“Whatever art thou saying, lad? How can it be? A war is going on there…”

“Let there be war! I tell you that I fear naught when I am with you!… I shall be your servant, I shall clean your clothes, sweep your rooms, give the horses their feed, and also, as you know, I can find sea-shells, and imprint plants on paper with charcoal. Why, you yourself were saying but the other day that I do it like a grown-up. Oh, do but take me. Messer Leonardo, — do not forsake me!….”

“But what of your father Messer Girolamo? Or dost thou think that he will let thee go with me?”

“He will let me go, he will! I shall wheedle it out of him. He is kind. He will not refuse me if I cry… Well if he will not let me go, then I shall slip away on the … sly. Only do you tell me that I may… Yes?”

“Nay, Francesco, I know that thou dost but say so; yet thou thyself wilt not leave thy father. He is old, poor fellow…”

“Poor fellow, yes — I am a poor fellow… And yet you too… Oh, Messer Leonardo, you do not know — you think me a little fellow. But I know everything! Aunty Bonna says that you are wizard, and the schoolmaster, Don Lorenzo, also says that you are wicked, and that I may send my soul to perdition with you. Once, when he spoke ill of you, I answered him so that he almost gave me a beating. And they all fear you. But I fear you not because you are better than all of them and I want to be with you always! …”

Leonardo stroked his head in silence and, for some reason, there came back to him how several years ago he had been carrying in the very same way the little lad who had taken the part of Golden Age at Moro’s festival.

Suddenly the clear eyes of Francesco dimmed, the corners of his mouth drooped, and he whispered:

“Well, what can I do? Let it be so, then — let it be! For I know why you do not want to take me with you. You love me not… Whereas I…”

He burst into uncontrollable sobs.

“Cease, lad. Art thou not ashamed? Better listen to what I shall tell thee. When thou art grown up, I shall take thee as a pupil, and we shall live gloriously together, and shall never part again.”

Francesco raised his eyes to him, with the tears still glistening on his long lashes, and looked at him with an intent, prolonged gaze.

“Is that true — you will take me? Perhaps you do but say so, in order to console me but will forget about it later?…”

“Nay, I promise thee, Francesco.”

“You promise? But after how many years?”

“Well, in seven or eight, when thou shall be fifteen…”

“Seven…” Francesco checked up on his fingers. “And we shall part no more?”

“Never, till very death.”

“Tis well, then, if it be for certain, — but only if it be for certain in seven years?”

“Yes, for certain.”

Francesco gave him a happy smile, caressing him with an especial caress he had invented, — which consisted of rubbing his cheek against Leonardo’s face, as cats do.

“But do you know, Messer Leonardo, — tis amazing! I had a dream once, — it seemed I was descending in darkness down long, long stairs — just exactly as we are doing now; and it seemed as if I had always been doing so and would always be doing it, and there was never an end to them. And someone whose face I could not see, was carrying me. But I knew that this person was my mother. And yet I do not remember her, — she died when I was very little. And here, now is this dream, in reality. Only it is you, and not my mother. But with you I feel just as well as I did with her. Nor have I any fear…”

Leonardo glanced at him with infinite tenderness.

In the darkness the child’s eyes shone with a mysterious light. He offered lips to Leonardo trustingly, as though really to a mother. The master kissed them, — and it seemed to him that in this kiss Francesco was surrendering his soul to him.

Feeling the heart of the child beating against his, firm of step, with insatiable inquisitiveness, following the dim lanthorn, down the fearful stairs of the iron mine, Leonardo descended lower and lower into the subterranean murk.

 

 

IV

Champaklal’s Collaboration with the Mother

 

One can write a small volume on the second chapter of Champaklal’s life spent with the Mother, from Sri Aurobindo’s passing to her passing, and his vigilant collaboration with her in her multiform physical, material, even occult activities concerning the inmates, visitors, bhaktas, etc.; but since much is known about it, I shall bring to focus only the important episodes which are known to me. Some of them have been recorded in my book: Memorable Contacts with the Mother.

Sri Aurobindo’ sudden departure left us forlorn. Our close golden bond for twelve years with the One who was our Master, Friend, Guide — our Immortality — was cut asunder. “Shall we (at least myself) have to go back to the old world to resume our duties?” That was the question. Days dragged on, we two, Champaklal and myself, still holding together, but without any communication, as if we were strangers to each other moving about like shadows — this was our inner condition. I had a fear that I might be sent back to take up some other work; but we were not kept long in suspense. When the Mother resumed her work after twelve days, she out of her compassion allowed me to continue my life as before, while Champaklal was restored to his original service with the Mother. She said to me one day, “Along with Nolini, you have a lot of work to do on Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri.” And allocating the corner which she had used as her sitting room, she added, “This is your study.” And she asked Udar to prepare whatever furniture I would need for my work. Later on, when I had settled down, she said, “This new typewriter is imported from Germany for your Savitri-work.”

Thus I was installed as a member of the divine family, neighbour to the Mother, as it were, with Pavitra-da on the one wing, Champaklal and myself on the other. I could see her moving about and was at her beck and call, so to say, though she rarely called. It was my unique privilege to be in her atmosphere, and breathe her divine fragrance from a distance, then whenever called, to approach her with timid yet exultant steps.

Champaklal, on the other hand, who became her lion and her Hanuman afterwards, began with a modest but useful work as a preparation for a more serious one in her Presence. A room was given to him on the landing place leading to the Mother’s new room which was constructed somewhere in 1952 or 1953. There he was to receive the parcels, offerings, presents etc. meant for the Mother while Nolini and Amrita used to visit her for their daily work. He was also given the charge of controlling the visitors to the Mother. He was quite strict in this respect. He would see to it that the visitors had really obtained a genuine permission and that they did not take too much liberty with the Mother misusing her time. His cross-questioning of the visitors was an ordeal for them. It was as if they were put in the witness-box in a court facing the interrogations of the counsel. There is a verse in Savitri:

None can reach Heaven who has not passed through Hell

which I parodied thus:

None can go to the Mother who has not passed through Champaklal.

When the Mother heard it while I was reading Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo to her, she smiled. I think one of the sadhikas, later an admirer of Champaklal, has written about her ordeal in this regard. In this way he performed his duties faultlessly albeit somewhat harshly.

However, soon he got his legitimate promotion when the Mother’s work increased in her room. Her many-sided activities: interviews with visitors v.i.ps., inmates, presents, post parcels pouring in after Sri Aurobindo’s passing. Who else but Champaklal could put this motley assortment of activities in a harmonious order? Thus he made himself indispensable to her and served her for years till her passing.

Among all this plethora of duties I will select a few to give a rough idea of their nature. For example, his preparation of birthday cards — which was one of the most elaborate and impeccable works of art he accomplished, putting his heart and soul into it. I observed once how much meticulous care; sense of beauty and perfection he concentrated on them! — all the instruments and materials — scissors, knives, cutting machines, gums, pastes, colours, papers, cardboards, the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s pictures of various sizes, ready by his side — to prepare each card. It was verily a divine passion with him. And for hundreds of inmates, children and disciples! Those who have still preserved them as souvenirs of the Mother’s blessings, messages inscribed in the Mother’s excellent handwriting, will bless Champaklal for this precious gift. And he earned on the other hand the Mother’s encomium: “Champaklal, Master of Cards.” We used to vie with each other to see our respective cards and appreciate the beauty of the artifacts. Once Amrita-da came to see one of my birthday cards because he had learnt that something special had been written on it by the Mother.

He used also to be present during the Mother’s work with Huta and the recording of her talks with Satprem which has now come out as the Agenda. Two copies were made of the Agenda, one of which was in Champaklal’s custody in the Mother’s room. After her passing that copy was found missing. Somebody must have innocently given it to Satprem on demand by him for some plausible reason.

Champaklal had a number of almirahs at his disposal to store the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s books, and photos of various sizes, for her to distribute to the inmates on their birthdays in her divine largesse. One interesting instance comes to mind. A young boy, who had no interest or capacity to understand Sri Aurobindo’s works, was given as his birthday present a number of Sri Aurobindo’s more difficult books. He protested to her saying, “Mother, you know I can’t read. I have no use for these.” She argued, “Keep them with you, all the same.” Surprise of surprises! Later when I came to know him somewhat intimately, I saw that he had become a different man, and he confessed that now Sri Aurobindo’s books alone interested him and in his special work he has found many practical suggestions, guiding intimations from them. He is now bringing out a book on the working of the five elements in our system, based on Sri Aurobindo’s observations in his book The Life Divine.

Another hobby Champaklal took up was marbling. At one time the Mother evinced some interest in this art. People were explaining and demonstrating to her its technique and place in this Art of Painting. Champaklal was taken up by its newness. He was always attracted to new things.

After finishing his work with the Mother and coming down at night, I saw him doing all kinds of experiments in his room with this art of marbling with various colours sprinkled on the surface of the water collected in a broad vessel, forgetting his food and sleep until he achieved success. He showed them to the Mother. We have seen some of these paintings bearing the significances given to them by the Mother.

His service was, however, interrupted by a sudden attack of an uncommon malady in our atmosphere. He had a hereditary tendency to arthritis. His backbone was particularly vulnerable, which often made him suffer from a backache aggravated by his long sitting position. He used to ignore it. Once he consulted our doctors about it, but their advice did not meet with his approval. At that time a pamphlet on urine therapy fell into his hands. It claimed to be a panacea for all kinds of diseases. Champaklal, always an experimenter, now utterly desperate, wanted to give it a chance. We may remember the former Prime Minister of India, Morarji Desai, had also recourse to his therapy which he claimed yielded splendid results. Champaklal also found relief from the use of this remedy and he was extremely happy that he could continue the Mother’s work. But, as he continued the treatment without taking sufficient precautions about its use, he fell seriously ill. Pain in the joints, high fever and other toxic symptoms confined him to bed for quite a long time. Dr. Sanyal, the Mother’s doctor, used to treat him, and Kamala and myself attended upon him. Sanyal kept the Mother informed about his condition. His recovery took time. When, after a long absence, he met the Mother he was moved to tears. The Mother’s Presence and caress soon restored him to his normal health. I got the chance of accompanying him for some days to have the Mother’s darshan. At that time she said to me: “Nirod, take care of Champaklal’s health.” Unfortunately I could not fulfil that obligation in spite of my best intentions, due to various factors that intervened in the last period of Champaklal’s life.

Before I close this subject let me speak about a fairly long interlude during which I had a chance of reading to the Mother my recently finished book Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo. Champaklal was always present on these occasions. Once I told the Mother that my chapter on Her was very short and I felt very sad about it. Then suddenly Champaklal shouted, “Ask Mother for inspiration.” She simply smiled. I did as I was told and, to my utter surprise, inspiration came down in full force and it became the longest chapter. Strangely enough all the facts I had written there were known to me, but a veil seemed to have shut them from my vision. The Mother simply removed that veil as it were and I could see. It was a novel experience indeed. Even while writing poetry under Sri Aurobindo’s inspiration I did not feel such a prolonged outflow.

I wind up my story with the Mother’s last days when She was suffering from a mysterious ailment and her condition was deteriorating. It was the most painful phase of her life. Since we have written at length on this painful phase in our books, I shall here mention only briefly Champaklal’s exemplary service to the Mother at that time. For days and days, Pranab and Champaklal had to forgo their sleep, rest, even food, for one of them had to be constantly at her side. Champaklal used to come and lie down on the terrace for snatches of rest, when there would be a sudden call from Pranab, and he would have to spring up and rush to her side, till one day the tragic drama came to an end. The last living memory we cherish is of her final Darshan on Sri Aurobindo’s birthday.

 

 

V

The Last Chapter

 

After the Mother’s passing in 1973, the last part of Champaklal’s life took a complete somersault as it were. Now he no longer had an occupation. It was apparently a dreadful come-down from the significant role he had played in the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s long heavenly drama on earth, for more than a half-century.

I have said that after the Mother’s passing he was one of those who were in charge of the Mother’s room and were looking after it from day to day. The room was packed with many precious things offered by the disciples and devotees over the years. He used to go regularly in the morning and evening to put her bed, articles, papers etc. in order. That was his main work, while he employed his free time for his various hobbies. One day, however, we found that he had stopped going to the Mother’s room. He would not tell us the reason. Then we suggested that he should take up some other work, for without work life here would be difficult for him or anybody else. He tried to adjust himself. For one who had given his entire life to the service of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo it was not easy to divert his attention in other directions. Finally he turned his gaze outwards, to the vast external world. He thought perhaps that the Mother had given him uncharted freedom to turn his ample free time to the best account. He had no regrets, for had he not served the Gurus every minute of his life for many decades, till his old age? The vast natural beauty of God’s wonderful world now opened wide before him, particularly the snow-covered mountain ranges of the Himalays with their floral and faunal grandeurs for which he had cherished a subconscious attraction for long. Thus he went on a pilgrimage to holy Badrinath, Kedarnath. Kashmir and other places in the North. He assumed that the Mother’s approval was behind it and felt at places her Presence.

As soon as people came to know that they could have his rare darshan, he was invited to various places, particularly by Tara Jauhar of Delhi, who used to arrange trips to Nainital and the Himalayas. She would always send him an invitation. We have seen exquisite slides showing “Maharaj” in various poses and dresses, trekking through the Himalayan woods, streams, and waterfalls, meeting sannyasins and seeing multitudes of variegated flowers. He used to bathe in very hot or very cold fountains, quite immune to their effect. I need not expatiate on the beauty, grandeur and splendour of the Himalayan valleys and the tremendous attraction that an artist like Champaklal would feel, that made him visit them more than once when an opportunity presented itself through the invitations of Tara Jauhar. And he always had groups of people who were only too glad to accompany him because of their ‘Dadaji’s’ natural charm.

Once, I remember, he was not in the best of health when a call came from Tara. In later life, he had developed high blood-pressure and prostate trouble. We advised him to postpone his trip, but he was most reluctant to do it. We persuaded him to consult a doctor and took him to the JIPMER hospital. A urologist examined him and advised him to abandon his trip since his blood pressure was too high, and his prostatic condition could give him trouble in the cold regions. He would not listen, particularly because he did not want to disappoint the group which had made all the arrangements. As it turned out, he did have prostatic trouble on the way. This was Champaklal, a man of a very strong will and an adamant adherent to his way of life and full of softness for ‘bhaktas’. It was while returning from another of his trips that he suffered a mild heart attack and had to send a wire from Madras for a car to fetch him. This was the first signal to him to be careful.

We noticed another strange happening at this time. He suddenly began to observe silence and stopped talking. I came to know that he had visited a throat specialist at Madras for some throat-trouble and, following his advice, began to observe mauna (silence). He never sought my advice in these matters. Unfortunately he extended this precaution over such a long period that ultimately he lost his power of speech altogether, and could not regain it in spite of exercise in voice training. It seems he made this extension in order to control his outburst of temper.

When his Himalayan journeys came to an end he turned his attention to the vast plains and visited almost all the places in the North, South, West and East of India. From among all of them three places attracted him the most: Orissa, Baroda and Hyderabad. The bhaktas of Orissa in particular gave him a royal reception, looking upon him almost like a demi-god. Many used to fall at his feet, and some even craved his blessings for their various ailments. There are stories that he had cured people’s diseases, solved their problems and performed other miracles. One particular bhakta looked upon him as a god. I myself have seen him prostrating himself before him. Every time he came, he offered him big sums of money and bore, it seems, the greater part of the expenses of his travels.

I cannot but mention here an incident showing Champaklal’s calm courage. As recounted by some bhaktas, there was a park in Orissa quite far from the city where a tame tiger had been set free to roam. Champaklal was very curious to visit the place. There he entered the enclosure against the objections and persuasions of his friends not to do it. Then he fed the tiger. I, for one, would not dare to do it though the tiger was a tame one.

During Darshan days, the darshan of “Maharaj” was also a regular feature, people from Orissa especially, more than a hundred at a time, would line up for his touch and blessings.

About doing pranam at his feet, Champaklal said that in the beginning he did not like people touching his feet, but later when he saw that people were happy doing it he relented. Since then, it happened that when certain people touched his feet he got for an instant a pain similar to a scorpion bite. Sometimes when certain people stretched out their hands to touch his feet, his feet themselves rejected the touch by an automatic withdrawal. Each time when people would touch his feet, or pray to him, he would pass on consciously the person’s prayers to the Mother and seek Her Grace and Love, he said. He acted only as a mediator. However, sometimes, he said, when people carried within themselves vital and hostile forces they attacked his body. Once when he was distributing grapes and other fruits to visitors at Hyderabad, one lady caught hold of his hands tightly and stared into his eyes. Champaklal too looked back at her with a quiet but intense gaze. It was as if a veritable battle of forces was taking place and the lady’s dark force was being absorbed by the Divine Force in Champaklal. At the end of the distribution, when Champaklal was going to rest after his lunch, he suddenly sat down and slowly collapsed on the ground. He did not allow anyone to touch him. He said he would take five minutes to become all right. His lips moved as if intensely calling the Mother. He got up exactly five minutes later. As he clarified afterwards, it was an attack of a hostile force on his body, and he took some time to throw it out and offer it at the Mother’s feet.

Champaklal used to go out twice a year but return by December. At that time we had the pleasure of his silent company in the Ashram. He would also accompany us on our annual group picnics. We visited quite a number of places of natural beauty or historical fame: the temples of the South, Shivaji’s Gingee Fort, the Ashram of Ramana Maharshi, and so on. Though he kept mostly silent, his rishi-like presence among the young group members sanctified the atmosphere.

Two incidents from the picnics are still fresh in my memory. Once we were climbing the hill at Tiruvannamalai at Ramana Ashram. Our destination was the famous Skanda Ashram near the summit where the Maharshi lived many years alone, doing tapasya. The morning sun grew scorching as we trekked uphill, and we noticed that “Maharaj” was beginning to feel the heat. His gait became unsteady, his face and the bare part of the chest flushed. But he would not allow anyone to help him. What we feared finally happened: he started sweating and his breathing became laboured, alarming all of us. It looked like a mild sunstroke. We brought him a few metres down the hill, sought for shade and managed to lay him down under a tree almost denuded of leaves. After an hour’s rest and whatever treatment we could give him, he came to and resumed walking without our support. He had given us some anxious moments indeed. He would not allow anyone to touch his body even if he stumbled. I had to be always behind him as a shield of protection!

On another trip we had a contrasting experience with him. A river in the South had dried up. At places there were pools. Champaklal and myself and a few others simply rushed towards one of these and plunged into it. Champaklal’s joy was a thing to be seen. How he splashed, sprinkled water all over his body, tried to float and submerge himself! Just like a bird splashing in scanty water! I paint this picture to show how “Maharaj” was a completely different person at times, just like a child.

I have said that Hyderabad was one of Champaklal’s favourite places where he had some significant visions. Ananda Reddy of Hyderabad has given a very attractive account of his mystic visions and other experiences there in his book on Champaklal. He begins: “I had a dream in which Sri Aurobindo said to me, ‘She has brought down with Her the Aura of Her Manifestation.’ I understand the aura to mean the intimate circle of persons who have closely served the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

During one of his last visits to Hyderabad, Champaklal had a unique experience at Aurodarshan, one of the places given names by Madhusudan Reddy where some foundations were to be laid. He went to visit the spot of Auromandir of which he himself had laid the foundation stone in 1984. After watching the spot for a while he suddenly sat down in padmasana and went into a trance followed after some time by the performance of many mudras. The photographer recorded his different poses, while the persons around him stood motionless in wonder and awe. Champaklal wrote later, “I have seen many places in the world including the Himalayas, but I have not found anywhere a unique place. Previously there was an Ashram here. And what they have achieved is still there undisturbed.” On another day he wrote: “Since the beginning, I had a feeling that I knew this place. Mother had revealed to me what it was, but not what it will be…. It will be like Auroville, but of a different character. Matridarshan is beautiful and has a lot of possibilities for the future but Aurodarshan has a beautiful spiritual background and it is unique.” (Matridarshan is a hilly spot about seven kilometres from Jangaon.)

 

 

VI

Visits to Auroville and the Matrimandir

 

These visits were more often to the Matrimandir than to other parts of Auroville, after Auroville had been taken over by the Government of India. Westerners were in charge of the Matrimandir and were slowly building it up. In the early stages of its construction there were few workers and we were not very familiar with them. We enjoyed our visits there mainly for the scenic beauty and quiet atmosphere, both “Maharaj” and myself being lovers of Nature. We spent part of the evening with a few chosen friends before returning home.

We visited the Matrimandir at various stages of its construction. If I recall rightly, our first visit was when the outer frame of the globe was up and the Central Hall was under construction. In the book, Visions of Champaklal, he mentions our visits and the wonderful experiences and visions he had there. Their meanings and interpretations are also attempted in the book. These visits took place in 1978 and 1979, before his trips to the West.

Maharaj would very often go into meditation or trance with eyes closed for quite some time, and the rest of us would walk around leaving him in that blissful condition. Unfortunately for us he could not then communicate to us the visions and experiences he had during his meditations owing to his vow of silence. Now when we read about them in his book, we cannot but marvel at their beauty and grandeur, the wonderful mysterious beings present there, and the Mother and Sri Aurobindo enveloping with their mighty Presence Auroville and the Matrimandir.

It was after one of these visits that, impressed by the colossal structure hanging as it were in space, I was inspired to write about it. Mine was only poetic expression of my feelings while Champaklal’s visions were concrete experiences to which I had no access. These experiences assure us that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were and are still actively behind their own grand visions of the future of Auroville.

A tragic event that took place during the construction of Matrimandir is still vaguely alive in my mind. A young Western woman while working at a great height fell from the scaffolding and was so badly injured as to be reduced to a wheelchair existence. She expressed her desire to see Maharaj. Piero, the Italian architect, knew us, and communicated to us her wish. What we saw was extremely pathetic. She was a huddled figure lying in bed, and could hardly speak. Only with her eyes she gazed at Maharaj and seemed to implore his blessings. Maharaj, as was his nature, caressed her with his touch, consoled her with silent love and blessings. She was taken care of very lovingly by friends and by one in particular for the remaining 11 or 12 years of her life.

Another visit that was memorable was to the Plant Nursery of Narad, an American Aurovilian. Maharaj speaks about it in his book. On p. 91 he says, “Our brother Narad had arranged on 21st February 1979, the Mother’s birthday, a flower show at his place in Auroville… For me to go to his garden would have been a joy even on any other day, to see brother Narad with his plants as if he were near the Mother. The plants speak to him… When he is near the plants, his face beams. It is happy sight to see him and the plants together… As soon as we reached his place, we entered into a joyful and devotional atmosphere… All the flowers were expressing themselves and it was very difficult to move away from their presence.”

That was Maharaj, lover of man, lover of beauty and perceptive of the inner reality.

We had been to the Meditation Hall of the Matrimandir in its early stages of construction. But by the time it reached its final phase, Champaklal had lost the use of his limbs due to a stroke and was almost confined to his room. Even in this condition he visited the Matrimandir a few times. All arrangements were made to take him there by car and then carry him up in a chair to the Meditation Hall by the workers of the Matrimandir. By then he had become very well known to the Westerners there and every time he paid a visit all of them, even the children, would gather to sit or stand silently around him in an attitude of great respect. There are quite a number of pictures they took on these occasions: Maharaj in his lovely gown, with glowing face and flowing beard surrounded by an assembly of over a hundred people. He was present too when the Matrimandir crystal was ceremoniously installed. It is a pity he did not leave any description of the experiences he must certainly have had on these last visits.

 

 

Visits to the West and the East

 

Maharaj toured widely in the West. I can only give a brief sketch of his journeys, drawn from conversations with his companions, and from his books. England, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Geneva, Mont Blanc, New York, California, Mata Giri: wherever he went he was accompanied and looked after by a few young people who regarded him as their “Dadaji”, and they met Indian and Western devotees of the Mother who were extremely happy to have him in their midst. Though the meetings were silent ones — as Maharaj was under a discipline of silence — he kept a notebook and pencil with him and communicated with all in writing, as well as noting down his own observations and experiences.

In Germany he visited the Berlin Wall and meditated there. I am tempted to surmise that our Maharaj may have contributed his mite with an occult push to the notorious Wall. People soon gathered around him, attracted by his extraordinary appearance: his bright calm face, flowing white beard, silken grey hair, a noble figure robed in a silk gown, looking like a splendid patriarch of old. In Paris, near “Leonardo da Vinci Palace”, when he innocently picked up some coloured pebbles and began examining them, some children excitedly pointed to him and exclaimed, “Look, look, Leonardo!”

In Paris, he was overwhelmed with joy when he went to the Mother’s home at Val de Grace. In the garden of the famous French painter, Claude Monet, he had a vision and lay down on the lawn, arms fully stretched, hands together eyes closed in an obvious deep trance. There is a lovely picture of this pose in his book.

In Montreal, Canada, he met our people from India settled there who had established Centres and taken Sri Aurobindo’s relics to install in them.

In South Carolina, U.S.A., a wonderful thing happened. He was in his element in a place of scenic beauty, far away from human habitation, amidst hills, trees, fountains and groves, when he felt a pressure on his head and sat down under a magnificent tree and went into spontaneous meditation. His companion took a photograph of him then and when he developed it a beam of white light falling over him and enveloping him became clearly visible.

His journeys to the East included Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Japan, recorded in many photos, specially of the cultural aspects of these countries. He saw in Indonesia Hindu and Muslim architecture flourishing side by side without any sectarian spirit. Unfortunately, his vow of silence deprived us of any living description of his experiences, except for some spontaneous expressive gestures of delight at times.

One peculiar feature of all these wanderings was that he returned with a log of baggage containing gifts and offerings given to him by the people wherever he went. It was as if a conqueror had returned with booty of all sorts! A good bit of the money from the offerings he received he gave for the project of greening the arid places of the Ashram’s Lake Estate, carried out by the students and teachers of our Centre of Education. The successful development and growth of plants and flowers at “Merveille” was partly due to his contributions.

On the night of his return from every trip, he would unpack the gifts in his room, separate them, classify and make lists of them in his meticulous way, till the wee hours of the next morning, oblivious of time, space and, unfortunately, me, who would be trying to get a decent night’s sleep in Sri Aurobindo’s room next to his. A few times he very considerately drew the curtain between the rooms, thus reducing my hardship. He never forgot to give us some presents from the booty.

 

 

VII

THE END

 

We divided Champaklal’s life in the Ashram into three parts: 1) from his youth to Sri Aurobindo’s passing; 2) from Sri Aurobindo’s passing to the Mother’s departure; and 3) from then on to his own exit, all the parts making up about 73 years, which is the longest period of stay in the Ashram after Nolinida’s, I believe.

I have described the first two parts from my own personal contact with him and from other sadhaks.

Now comes the last part, a very dolorous denouement to the life-long dedication of a sadhak in the devoted service of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. I shall content myself with giving only the salient points of this part so that the readers and admirers of “Maharaj” may have a fairly rounded picture of his life — a part which is not very widely known but which adds a significant aspect that completes the personality of the man.

Well, after this preamble, I must confess straightaway that the readers may find the following very sad reading and may ask themselves many questions about it without finding satisfactory answers.

I have said that Maharaj had finally returned home after his long globe-trotting during which he spread the Mother’s message to the world through his unique way of Silence. I don’t know if he intended to resume his journeys later, but his long peregrinations in the late seventies and eighties with a frail body had taken their toll. Whenever he returned, he had always a few admirers who would attend on him and give him bath, massage, etc. One morning we found to our shocking surprise that he was lying on the floor of his room in a kind of trance. There were no movements of his body, his eyes were closed. I suspected a mild stroke. I told the attendants that we should let him remain lying down and request Dr. Datta to come immediately. I had to go somewhere for a while. On my return I learned that Dr. Datta had found that Maharaj had had a mild stroke affecting the right side of his body. He could not move his right arm and leg. He had to be confined to bed. Now a systematic regime was started consisting of massage and walking with the help and support of volunteers to serve him and they were mostly young men from Gujarat and Orissa. Neither was there any lack of money. To nurse a paralytic patient is not an easy job, because of his loss of ability to make voluntary movements. Muscles had to be re-educated by regular artificial exercises. For a man who had been used to leading an active life, it was indeed a severe physical and psychological tapasya which Maharaj endured in the best of spirits. He would not express to anybody his inner condition even in writing, but we noticed that he always kept a cheerful expression, and a sweet smile greeted close friends who came to see how he was. There were plenty of visitors from Gujarat, Orissa and other places coming regularly to see their Dadaji in the morning, afternoon and even at night. They would sit by his bedside, sometimes for hours. Many suggestions were followed by way of treatment but none seemed to produce any substantial effect. On the contrary, the limbs gradually began to lose their power of movement. My role was very small — to keep a regular watch over his daily movements and enquire about his health. As I was busy during the day, I would spend some time in the evening with him. Maharaj had kept a chair reserved for me and, when I came, he would greet me with a smile and ask about my health by means of gestures.

Kamala attended to his diet. Here she had to face a big difficulty, for his food intake began gradually to diminish. In spite of her ingenuity in cooking various dishes he liked he would eat very little. I would see every day how much she had to coax him to eat some more with hardly any effect.

One very invaluable service that was rendered by his admirers and devotees at this time was to draft a number of books during this illness. I don’t know exactly what method was employed to bring out his experiences in book form. Did Maharaj scribble them with his left hand on a slate or in pieces of paper which the scribes transcribed to make books. At any rate, I would see some sadhikas attending on him regularly and reading to him from some texts, and we must be grateful to them for having done an excellent job. Otherwise so much of his inner life would have remained unknown to us. But, typically, he never mentioned anything about his physical troubles.

Of his various ailments, one was noticeable to all: he would groan with pain from time to time and press his head with his usable hand as if it was the seat of the pain. At night too he would cry out with the pain. When I would ask him about it, he would not give any reply. I would wonder if the Force was acting upon his body, which he could not bear. Much later the agony subsided.

Another curious sign of his ailments was that at times he would cough up thick sticky phlegm. The doctor found congestion in the lungs, due probably to his flat position. The drugs were not of much help. At times during his meals bouts of cough would suddenly seize him and he would bring out thick phlegm.

This symptom continued without any improvement, in spite of various treatments. The patient was finally confined to bed most of the time. But throughout his illness a stream of people used to come and seek his blessing which Maharaj gave unstintingly. A striking feature was that quite a number of people saw a golden light coming down on him from above, or they found his body suffused with it. This made me hope against hope that eventually by some miracle, the Force would cure him. But one day I heard our Guru’s voice saying, “I’m waiting for him. He will come straight to me.” Maharaj also had realised that he would not recover and he indicated from time to time that his end was nearing.

Then, for some mysterious reason, he made up his mind to once again leave the Ashram even though, in my view, things had gone beyond hope.

The way it happened was like this. Some Naturopath from Gujarat known to Maharaj had come to see him and had suggested that since the improvement was visible his treatment could be given a chance, but he did not promise a cure. Maharaj consented to go out and undergo the treatment. When I heard of it from one of his attendants, it shocked me and I doubted if he would be able to come back. When I asked him if it was true that he was leaving, he nodded his head in assent. I knew that nobody could stop him. His decisions were always abrupt and he would not listen to anyone. So, I simply told him, “My heart is going with you.”

He must have thought: “Since no other system of medicine was having any effect, why not give a chance to this new treatment?” He was almost resigned to his fate, and dying outside had not much importance to him because, for him, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were not confined to the Ashram alone. He had felt their Presence everywhere. I, for one, would presume that inwardly he had the Mother’s sanction for it. We bade him farewell. His servitors had gathered who had received tokens of his love in kind.

The rest of the story has come out in Mother India. I need not repeat it. I will only add this much that when some improvement was noticed after the treatment had succeeded in bringing out a copious amount of phlegm, Maharaj seemed to have expressed his wish to return, but friends persuaded him to stay and improve further. Sadly, it did not work out as they had wished.

Thus after a long span of ideal service a great soul quietly passed away in his native province, but Destiny brought his mortal remains to the Ashram. My friend Amal Kiran tells me that when the ashes arrived in the courtyard around the Samadhi he felt a sudden uplifting of the whole atmosphere for some time, a very remarkable experience testifying to the Mahatma that our Champaklal was. The ashes were given a sacred burial by the side of other lofty sadhaks in the bosom of the Cazanove garden.

 

 

Epilogue

 

Maharaj by all means was an extraordinary man. Few could have refrained from shedding silent tears when they heard the sad news. His only aim in life had been service to the Divine, and who will question the one-pointed aim and fulfilment of his soul? He was not a dreamer of big schemes for the Ashram like Dyumanbhai nor did he have a zeal like Madhav to spread the Great Message all over the earth, but to be like Hanuman, an absolute servitor, was the raison d’etre of his existence. And when that had been fulfilled, life lost its meaning and he was biding his time to hear the call to depart. He himself has said that he was happy and he had achieved what he had come for in this world.

A man, I should say, of a psychic type, he was balavat in his nature. Pure and candid, loving, simple, generous, free from all attachment and always living in the inmost consciousness — this is how he has appeared to me since I came to know him in the growing years. He had indeed a hot temper of which he repented but it was like the outburst of a child that was forgotten the next minute.

Two sadhaks of recent time stand apart from all others, whose image will always remain untarnished in our memory. One is Nolini-da and the other Maharaj Champaklal, two true yogis — one predominantly a “homo intellectualis”, the other essentially a “homo psychicus”. Both of them attained rare heights of consciousness, each following his own path indicated by his swadharma.

(Mother India, March – Sept. 1993)

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It is not the personality, the character that is of the first importance in rebirth — it is the psychic being who stands behind the evolution of the nature and evolves with it.