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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1931, September (II)

September 8, 1931

Yes, it is a very fine and powerful poem. There was no reason why you should stop the inspiration when it came.

But what precisely do you mean by sending the inspiration? The inspiration comes from above — through your inner being who, very evidently, is not only a Yogin and bhakta but a poet of Yoga and bhakti. The Yoga-force which woke up the power in you came from me. It was when you were translating my poems that you got into touch and the power woke in you because you came inwardly into my Light. Since then I have been acting on you to develop this poetic power, and as there is a large opening there it has been an easy matter. As for the Power itself that works, that gives words and rhythms, you ought to know or at least your inner being knows very well that all divine powers are the powers of the Mother. But the way in which these things work is the occult and not the physical (not the crudely mediumistic) way, and it works in each according to his nature and the material and capacities actual or latent it finds there.

I doubt whether I can give you a more explicit explanation without entering into things for which an occult knowledge is needed which you have not yet. That will come hereafter.

Did you not write to Pramatha Chaudhary? Why then do they still insist? Apart from my rule of which I told you, I am not at all inclined to write anything merely complimentary and conventional, and for anything more than that I have not the time.

*   *   *

September 10, 1931

In your friend’s[1] English poem there are the signs of poetical power but there is not a sufficient technique. I have marked the best lines. It will do for the Orient.

Bandir Bandana is certainly remarkable for so young a poet. There is an extraordinary power of language and a great force in the writing and a strong flow in the verse. The thought-substance I find a little deficient, less mature, rather crude in places. This kind of God baiting, owing I suppose to Russian influence, seems to be now popular in the “advanced” minds of the East — but it is childish and out of date. Russia is still in the nursery in these matters, but I don’t see why millennial India and China should want to prelude their new life by a second childhood. This kind of thing was done and done with in Western Europe fifty years ago and done too in a much more profound and, as I may say, grown-up manner.

Apart from that, the gifts he begins with are considerable and, if he develops and achieves depth and subtlety as well as power — for power is not enough — may lead to something very great. The great danger for him arises from his early facility — for that sometimes stands in the way of the arduous growth that can alone raise the poetic stature to the level of the highest summits.

*   *   *

September 11, 1931?

The translations from Goethe are excellent. You are certainly quite right in varying the answers in N°3; even in the German there is some monotony felt in the form, — a monotony, I would suggest, Shakespeare would have avoided. By the way, what is the meaning of “aus unseren Stall” in the poem “of lighter vein?” I could not quite equate it with your rendering.

Goethe certainly goes much deeper than Shakespeare; he had an incomparably greater intellect that the English poet and sounded problems of life and thought Shakespeare had no means of approaching even. But he was certainly not a greater poet — I cannot either admit that he was an equal. He wrote out of his intelligence and his style and movement nowhere come near the poetic power, the magic, the sovereign expression and profound or subtle rhythms of Shakespeare. Shakespeare was a supreme poet and, one might almost say, nothing else; Goethe was by far the greater man and the greater brain, but he was a poet by choice rather than by the very necessity of his being. He wrote his poetry as he did everything else with a great skill and effective genius, but it was only part of his genius and not the whole. And there is a touch wanting — the touch of an absolute inevitability; this lack leaves his poetry on a lower level than that of the few quite supreme poets.

When I said there were no greater poets than Homer and Shakespeare, I was thinking of their essential poetic force and beauty — not of their work as a whole. The Mahabharata is a greater creation than the Iliad, the Ramayana than the Odyssey, and either reigns over a larger field than the whole dramatic world of Shakespeare — both are built on an almost cosmic greatness of plan and take all human life (the Mahabharata all human thought as well) in their scope and touch too the things which the Greeks and Elizabethan poets could not even glimpse. But as poets — as masters of rhythm and language and the expression of poetic beauty — Vyasa and Valmiki are not inferior, but also not greater than the English or the Greek poet. I leave aside the question whether the Mahabharata was not the creation of the mind of a people rather than of a single poet, for that doubt has been raised also with regard to Homer.

*   *   *

September 12, 1931

Sri Aurobindo’s comments on Dilip’s translation into
Bengali of three poems from James Cousins,
Jehangir Vakil and Tennyson.

The first translation is good, the second superb and the third (third version) superlative. Cousins’ poem is very felicitous in expression — generally he just misses the best, but here he has done very well. Your translation is close and adequate.

I don’t remember Vakil’s poems very well, but they gave me the impression, I think, of much talent not amounting to genius, considerable achievement in language and rhythm but nothing that will stand out and endure. But how many can do more in a foreign language? Here the poem certainly attempts and almost achieves something fine — there are admirable lines and images; but the whole gives an impression of something constructed by the mind, a work built up by a very skillful and well-endowed intelligence. Your translation strikes me as surpassing greatly the original for this very reason — it gives the impression of a thing not merely thought out but seen within and lived, which is the first requisite for the best poetry.

Of the three versions of Tennyson’s lines, the first is null, the second good as a translation but otherwise a leaden rather than a golden means; but your third version is admirable. Here too you have excelled the original. Don’t think this is a hyperbole — for I suppose you know that I have no great consideration for Tennyson. I read him much and admired him when I was young and raw, but even then his In Memoriam style seemed to me mediocre and his attempts at thinking insufferably second rate and dull. These lines are better than others, but they are still Tennyson.

But truly you are a unique and wonderful translator. How you manage to keep so close to the spirit and turn of your originals and yet make your versions into true poems is a true marvel as usually faithful translations are flat and those which are good poetry transform the original into something else — as Fitzgerald did with Omar or Chapman with Homer.

*   *   *

September 15, 1931

A very charming lyric — but why Jātismar,[2] though it is a taking title?

Yes, I thought “aus unserem Stall” meant “from out of our stable” and could not see much point in it; I was not sure whether it meant that the dogs came from the stable or simply that they followed right all the way from the stable. In any case the turn you gave to it is at once more poetic and more meaningful.

Did I send you back the Hungarian article “Dilip Ray and hindu musjika?” If not it must have taken to itself wings and flown back to Buda-Pesth.

About your “grandfather” dream the Mother has said everything needful. I only want to add that all “dream-experiences” are coherent. Ordinarily dreams are incoherent because they are confused impressions surging from the subconscient, not true experiences. Dream-experiences are incoherent only when (1) they are badly transcribed in the recording consciousness or improperly remembered, (2) when they belong to a certain region of symbol occurrences in the vital to which the physical consciousness has no clue. But in the second case there is only an apparent incoherence, for once one gets the main clue, everything falls into its place and is full of a connected significance. At any rate these dreams show that you are now very much awake and active on the inner vital plane.

*   *   *

September 18, 1931

Your series of experiences are very interesting by the constant (though interspersed) development they illustrate. Here two new significant elements have been added to the previous substance of the experience. The first is the very precise localisation of the uprush of the consciousness from the pit of the stomach — that is to say, from the navel or perhaps from just below it? The navel-centre (nābhi-padma) is the main seat of the centralised vital consciousness (dynamic centre) which ranges from the heart level (emotional) to the centre below the navel (lower vital, sensational desire centre). These three mark the domain of the vital being. It is therefore clear that it was your inner vital being which had this experience, and its intensity and vehemence was probably due to the whole vital (or most of it) being awake and sharing in it this time. The experience itself was psychic in its origin, but was given a strong emotional-vital form in its expression. I may add, for completeness, that the centre of the psychic is behind the heart and it is through the purified emotions that the psychic most easily finds an outlet. All from the heart above is the domain of the mental being — which also has three centres, one in the throat (the outward-going or externalising mind), one between the eyes or rather in the middle of the forehead (the centre of vision and will) and one above, communicating with the brain, which is called the thousand-petalled lotus, and where are centralised the thinking mind and higher intelligence communicating with the greater mind planes (illumined mind, intuition, overmind) above.

The second new significant feature is the self-manifestation of the inner mind; for it was your inner mind that was watching, observing and criticising the vital being’s psychic experience. You found this clear division in you curious, but it will no longer seem curious once you know the perfectly normal divisibility of the different parts of the being. In the outer surface nature, mind, psychic, vital, physical are all jumbled together and it needs a strong power of introspection, self-analysis, close observation and disentanglement of the threads of thought, feeling and impulse to find out the composition of our nature and the relation and interaction of these parts upon each other. But when one goes inside as you have done, we find the sources of all this surface action and there the parts of our being are quite separate and clearly distinct from each other. We feel them indeed as different beings in us, and just as two people in a group can do, they too are seen to observe, criticise, help or oppose and restrain each other; it is as if we were a group-being, each member of the group with its separate place and function, and all directed by a central being who is sometimes in front above the others, sometimes behind the scenes. Your mental being was observing the vital and not quite easy about its vehemence, for the natural base of the mental being is calm, thoughtfulness, restraint, control and balance, while the natural turn of the vital is dynamism, energy thrown into emotion, sensation and action. All therefore was perfectly natural and in order.

I have no time to write more. But note how entirely conscious your inner being is when it does come into action, — which perfectly justifies what I wrote to you about it at a time when you were in despair over your incapacity and unfitness for Yoga! You will see now that I was right and your fits of despondency had no true ground — and also that I knew what was in you better than you yourself knew it.

*   *   *

September 22, 1931

As regards the progress you have made, I do not think you have given us an exaggerated impression of it; it seems to be quite real. It is no part of the Yoga to suppress taste, rasa, altogether; so, if you found the ice-cream pleasant, that does not by itself invalidate the completeness of your progress. What is to be got rid of is vital desire and attachment, the greed of food, being overjoyed at getting the food you like, sorry and discontented when you do not have it, giving an undue importance to it, etc. If one wants to be a Yogin, it will not do to be like the ordinary man to whom food, sex and gain are nine-tenths of life or even to keep in any of these things the reactions to which vital human nature is prone. Equality is here the test as in so many other matters. If you can take the Ashram food with satisfaction or at least without dissatisfaction, that is already a sign that attachment and predilection are losing their old place in the nature. It is also an excellent sign if empty social meetings are no longer attractive, — a sure sign that the psychic and the Yogic consciousness are gaining ground. As for sex, the progress you report is also excellent; sex is almost the strongest of human vital pulls and to master it altogether takes time, but here too a good beginning is half the battle.

For the rest, I had told you that even when people do not seem to be progressing outwardly a preparatory work is often being done behind the veil and that this was your case. When the preparation is complete, then one day one wakes up to find that, without having noticed it, a large stride forward has been made.

As for scepticism, that disease of the age that is passing away, it is another story and I will deal with it perhaps some other time. I will now only say that discrimination is an excellent element in Yoga, but scepticism is the reverse; it poses as an exacting discrimination, but is only an exaggerated caricature of the real thing. Saṃśaya [doubt], aśraddhā [lack of faith] are not viveka [discrimination, discernment].

*   *   *

September 23, 1931


This afternoon towards the end of meditation of about two hours the silence in me deepened and a curious feeling I had. My body became numb as usual but I had all the time a sort of divided consciousness. It is very difficult to describe it but you will understand even from my baffled attempt. I will try.

I felt going deep and at a certain stage as though the consciousness changed suddenly. A relaxation set in and I took your name with an ease and rhythm which was delectable. No effort was needed. And yet I was conscious I could move my limbs at will even though they had become more numb than usual — so much so that even when I got up, they had a trace of the numbness. Is it because the force came down more or what? However, what I felt was very pleasurable. It was as I said as if my japa of your name got a sort of rhythmic flow with my breath. I had read about such an experience but had never yet felt it. Usually I take your name with effort — after every five minutes or so my mind wants to run off at a mad tangent — I fly after it and bring it back a prisoner. But as my meditation deepened I suddenly found your name had become sort of woven into my breathing which became very deep as the breath of a man under an anaesthetic. Of course all this happened spontaneously.

I think that what happened was simply this — that, just as before your inner vital and inner mental came to the front in the inward-going consciousness, so this time it was the inner (subtle) physical being that manifested itself. The outer body was numb, the inner body able to move; the breathing with the name flowing in it was the breathing of this inner physical being. Mark that all three (inner mental, inner vital, inner physical) immediately they appear, show themselves to be those of a born Yogin. For breathing with the name flowing in it is usually the result of a long practice of combined pranayama and japa: but to your inner physical being it comes spontaneously and at once, as if it were to the manner born.

N.B. I shall answer your morning’s letter in due course. But you have misunderstood my aśraddhā which was not used in the popular (Bengali) sense [disrespectful distrust! but in its technical (Sanskrit) sense. I shall explain at length.

*   *   *

[1] Buddhadev Basu (30 Nov. 1908 – 18 March 1974), poet (in Bengali and English), novelist, dramatist, literary critic. Author of Bandir Bandana, and other works. He received the Sahitya Academy Award in 1967 and Padmabhushan in 1970. Pratibha Basu, his wife, is also a writer.

[2] Who remembers his past birth.

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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.