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At the Feet of The Mother

Chapter 2. The Influence of Subramania Bharati

The five years, 1910-1914, served the need of my preparation. It should be called a pilgrimage to Sri Aurobindo.

Each act of mine, each event of my life had become, as it were, offerings in the sacrifice done unknowingly by me. Prior to my surrender to Sri Aurobindo, Bharati helped me a great deal to attain wideness in the heart, to loosen the ties of old samskaras and the like, to impart purity and newness to my thoughts, by means of his words, his deeds and his way of living.

Because of Bharati’s association with Sri Aurobindo and his im­mense respect and devotion for him, I felt in me a great inexplicable attraction to Bharati.

Every evening, a little after dark, Bharati would go to Sri Aurobindo’s house. He chose that time not with the purpose of avoiding people who would want to make a note of his visit. It was because Sri Aurobindo used to come out of his room and receive his friends only after seven in the evening. An exception, however, was made for close friends like Bharati and Srinivasachari, who, at a very urgent need, could see him at any time of the day. Their visits to Sri Aurobindo’s house after seven had become a regular affair. Bharati would visit without fail; it was not so with Srinivasachari, however.

There was hardly any subject which they did not talk about in their meetings at night. They discussed literature, society, politics, the various arts; they exchanged stories, even cracked jokes, and had a lot of fun. In the absence of Srinivasachari their talks would no doubt disregard all limits of sect or cult. In Bharati’s absence, Sri Auro­bindo’s talks with the inmates of the house at dinnertime would reach the height of the humorous. That apart, I heard people say that Bharati and others would return home by eight-thirty or nine at night and carry in their hearts lovingly whatever share of the divine riches they had the capacity to receive. In consequence of their inner and outer change they would find the exterior world also changed the next morning. A long time after, I too had a little of this mystic experience. But now as I cast a retrospective look, I perceive that the past was in a way a period of tapasya before reaching the Gurudeva.

As I said, not a single evening would pass without Bharati’s calling on Sri Aurobindo. Bharati delighted in pouring out to Sri Aurobindo all that he had read in the dailies, all about local affairs and happenings in the suburbs. And if, however, Sri Aurobindo made comments on one or two of the points raised, his joy would know no bounds.

On his way to Sri Aurobindo’s house, Bharati would first call at Srinivasachari’s, go with him to the beach, stay there till 7 p.m., and then make for Sri Aurobindo’s house. The three together would jocularly discuss a variety of subjects. Bharati, on his way back, would often halt for a while at Srinivasachari’s and then go home. As soon as they reached home from Sri Aurobindo’s, the people assembled there would put the identical question: “What did Sri Aurobindo say today?” It was as though the Jivatman wanted to know the Will of the Paramatman.

Two years passed in this way. At home we had a strict observance of orthodox rites and rituals. But the moment Bharati arrived, these began to crumble away; in his presence all rules and ceremonies, habits and customs slipped off from me and disappeared in no time. Why so? Because it was Sri Aurobindo’s wish that expressed itself through him.

My neighbour was no more a stranger to me, whether a shudra or a pariah; he was as I was, a man; little by little my heart got soaked in the feeling that he was my brother. This feeling began to translate itself into due practice. Today it might appear as nothing uncommon. But even to imagine today what difficulties it might have created some fifty years ago can make one shudder with fear. The village life was orthodox in its ways; the town life was somewhat different to the same extent as green leaf and green fruit might appear to differ. Later on, Bharati did away with these customs and threw them off like chaff, as things without substance. It would be interesting to follow the whole development and examine it through all its stages. That was the time when the removal of the mere tuft of hair from the head would mean the loss of the very truth of Brahminhood. But now the white people are not only not looked upon as Mlechchas as before, but, in addition, they as well as the Chinese and the Negroes and other races are all felt as pertaining to humankind. Afterwards I realised that the disappearance of the sense of division from within me had been the effect of a continuous shedding of light upon my heart imperceptibly by Sri Aurobindo. PART 2A

Whether in Bharati’s house or by the tanks or beside the big lake, at the time of collective dining the so-called Pariahs, Shudras, Brah­mins would all sit together comfortably without any distinction of caste or creed and take their meals. Today it may appear quite common. But in those days many of us would not dare to disclose such a conduct at home. We would be alarmed if some family member chanced to see us taking part in a collective dinner. Along with Bharati we would make fun of caste distinction. The feeling that all were men had taken deep root in the heart of each of us. Now as we look back upon the past we come to realise how far we have progressed in our endless pilgrimage to Sri Aurobindo. Looked at from another stand­point it would appear clearly as but one step in the path leading to Aurobindo’s ideal.

The truth must manifest itself in the heart; the manifested truth must grow up step by step. An unending, ever-growing aspiration hailing from afar in the bourneless space of my being fell upon me like a golden light.

In the matter of ritual observance a change within me was going on without my knowledge during two or three years; the truth had dawned upon me that the outer was nothing else than the inner. Old habits and customs had lost all meaning and looked like worm-eaten things to me.

I had to pass through a period when my inner being would say one thing and my outer life would express something else. Gurudeva, whom I had not yet seen with naked eyes, caught hold of my heart and brought about its radical change. Bharati was very helpful in effectuating my inner nearness to Sri Aurobindo. Often it would occur to me: “Why did I not have, like Bharati, courage enough to act according to the inner voice?” As I grew more and more familiar with Bharati, the rites and ceremonies, rules and regulations dropped off from me as withered leaves from a tree. During that time my old orthodox friends and relatives took upon themselves the task of explaining to me what amount of truth lay in religious rules and regulations, in what way they were true. But they failed to strike my mind as true. Was it because of an attraction for the new? Or was it that I could find no relation ever existing between the eternal and the old?

At times Bharati made us hear what Sri Aurobindo had told him on the Shakti cult. But I put no question on its details.

I made repeated requests to Bharati to take me to Sri Aurobindo. He, however, kept silent each time I made this request. Several times I requested my late uncle also. But no definite reply from him either. I used to hear that a very limited number of persons had permission to see Sri Aurobindo; that only Bharati and Srinivasachari could see him daily; that my uncle had his Darshan only once a month.

It had been made evident to me after those numerous attempts that Sri Aurobindo’s Darshan was a rarity and to obtain it with the help of Bharati or Srinivasachari or my uncle was well-nigh impossible-Then how was I to have Sri Aurobindo’s Darshan? In the core of my heart burnt a living faith incessant and unwavering, that somehow some day I would have his Darshan.

During that period, one day at about five-thirty or six in the evening, I happened to meet on the beach Ramaswami Iyengar, who, a few years later, became well renowned as Va Ra. He had been living theft in Sri Aurobindo’s house. As intimacy with him grew, I felt a singular attraction for conversation with him. His remarks were always trench’ ant and scintillating. Never would he speak of anyone with respect. His face had charm. His eyes beamed. While returning home from the beach I would always feel sad to break off conversation with him. And the hope to meet Sri Aurobindo through him drew me all the more to his company.

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To be spontaneous means not to think, organise, decide and make an effort to realise with the personal will.