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At the Feet of The Mother

Laughter of the Gods

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The old idée fixe that Sri Aurobindo was an anchorite who did not know how to smile or laugh is by now dead. A new fixed notion may swing to the other extreme that he smiled or laughed too much for a yogi. But a sensible estimate, after a reading of his letters, talks and creative works, will confirm the view that his Yoga instead of drying up the fountain of laughter made it flow like the Ganges. For his consciousness grew as vast as the universe; it sounded the uttermost depths and heights of existence. He read the “wonder-book of Common things” as well as the supernal mysteries of God and found the very rasa which is at the root of things. His love and compassion flowed towards all men and creatures like a life-giving ocean. He said in one of his letters: “It is only divine Love which can bear the burden I have to bear, that all have to bear who have sacrificed everything else to the one aim of uplifting earth out of its darkness towards the Divine. The Gallio-like ‘Je m’en fiche’-ism (I do not care) would not carry me one step; it would certainly not be divine. It is quite another thing that enables me to walk unweeping and unlamenting towards the goal.” In his own Ashram which is composed, on the one hand, of unlettered villagers and, on the other, of the intellectual élite, with what patience and forbearance, love and sympathy he, like a grand patriarch, guided and led us all towards the goal! Humour that springs from a heart of sympathy made him smile at our follies and foibles and the numerous eccentricities of our human nature. The readers of Talks with Sri Aurobindo must have observed how Sri Aurobindo threw aside his mantle of gravity and enjoyed with us pure fun and frolic, as if we had been his close playmates. In the preceding chapter we have already touched upon one instance. In the period after the accident to his right leg, when he failed to carry out Dr. Manilal’s instructions about hanging the leg, he would exclaim as if out of fear, “Oh, Manilal is coming, I must hang my leg.” And one of us, piqued by his fear, would remark, “Sir, you seem to be afraid of Dr. Manilal.” When Manilal arrived and enquired about the leg, he replied, “The leg is still hanging.”

Yogis and great men there were, who used to joke with their disciples and friends; but it seems to me that there was always a barrier of awe and reverence between them. And though Sri Aurobindo allowed us to forget that and we cut jokes with him on equal terms, the sense of his being our Guru was there.

At certain places in this book, I have given some indication of his sense of humour. Here I shall reveal it further by citing instances from several sources and add my little bit to the gaiety of nations. The readers will also notice how any circumstance or situation could trigger off his comic Muse either in the form of sustained volleys or quick sparkling shots.

An example of pure fun:

Sri Aurobindo was lying on the bed. We were talking in whispers among ourselves. Champaklal who had been trying to suppress his laughter let go suddenly and had to run away from the room. Sri Aurobindo, looking at us, said, “What divine descent was it?” I replied, checking my mirth, “Champaklal burst into laughter.”

Sri Aurobindo: Oh, so it was Vishnu’s Ananda that descended!

Later on, Champaklal said, “My eyes always remain watery.”

Sri Aurobindo: Virgil had eyes like that, while Horace used to breathe hard. Once Mycaenas, the great patron of literature in the reign of Augustus Caesar, was sitting between the two poets and remarked, “I am sitting between sighs and tears.”

Addressing Dr. Manilal with whom he was very free during the talks, Sri Aurobindo said, “Your mention of bribe and small amount makes me think of X. He said that people simply thrust the money on him and he couldn’t but accept it. ‘After all, it is a small bribe,’ he argued. I was then reminded of the maidservant’s story. She got an illegitimate child. The mistress of the house was very angry and rebuked her severely for the fault. She replied, ‘But, oh madam, it is such a small one!’”

A sadhak, while meditating, saw a beautiful woman looking at him with plaintive eyes. He asked Sri Aurobindo about the meaning of the vision. Sri Aurobindo wrote back, “This is your weakness presenting itself to you in a concrete form and plaintively asking, ‘Will you, won’t you, will you?’ When it comes, you have to say, ‘Get thee behind me, plaintive Satan.’”

I wrote about a patient, “Most of the trouble is in the abduction of the hip joint… I will take him soon to Philaire [a French Surgeon].”

Sri Aurobindo: Abduction of a joint, sir? What’s this flagrant immorality? What happens to the joint when it is abducted? And what about the two colliding bones? Part of the abduction? Right. Abduct him to Philaire.

I wrote again: X had irregularity in her periods caused by physical and mental strain due to poetry.

Sri Aurobindo: Good Lord! If poetry is to be the parent of irregular menses!

I protested: It is not poetry, but physical and mental strain, Sir! Coming here, going there with the poem to send it to you, etc., etc. Not enough to cause strain?

Sri Aurobindo: You relieve me! I was thinking if poetry could be the parent of i.m., what it would do to you and Dilip and Nishikanto.

Moral purists, I am afraid, will burn with a righteous indignation at such uninhibited levity.

Once I asked him: Please give me some precise practical suggestions on the art of healing. How to bring down the Force?

He answered: My God, man! I am not a doctor. How? is there a how? You call, you open, it comes (after a time). Or, You don’t call, you open, it comes. Or, You call, you don’t open, it doesn’t come. Three possibilities. But how — ? Well, God he knows or perhaps he doesn’t.

In my medical report I wrote: No medical cases to report today.

Sri Aurobindo: Hello! Golden Age come or what? No — for R.B.’s pain is kicking cheerfully again. It is telling her, “Your Nirod’s potion and things indeed! I just went because I took the fancy. I go when I like, I come when I like. Doctors — pooh!”

Myself: Yesterday J’s finger was incised prematurely but there was hardly any pus. Today the swelling persists.

Sri Aurobindo: Mother suggests hot water 1 part peroxide, 3 parts water and dipping the finger for 15 minutes. Some of these things are cured by that — it ought really to be done immediately, but even now it may be effective.

Myself: Why, that is almost exactly what we have advised him to do from the very start, only peroxide was not given.

Sri Aurobindo: You are taking daily almost exactly the same thing as Anglo-Indians take in their clubs i.e. a peg. Only brandy and soda are not there — but the water is.

Myself: Couldn’t touch the patient without making her shed tears. The ladies are thinking, “What heartless brutes these doctors are!”

Sri Aurobindo: Much safer than if they think, “What dears these doctors are, darlings, angels!”

Myself: I am plunged in a sea of dryness and I am terribly thirsty for something. Along with it waves of old desire. Any handy remedy?

Sri Aurobindo: Eucharistic injection from above, purgative rejection below; liquid diet, psychic fruit juice, milk of the spirit,

Myself: For this yoga one must have the heart of a lion, the mind of a Sri Aurobindo, the vital of a Napoleon.

Sri Aurobindo: Good Lord! Then I am off the list of the candidates — for I have neither the heart of a lion nor the vital of Napoleon.”

Myself: What will be the nature of the physical transformation? Change of pigment? Mongolian features into Aryo-Greek? Bald head into luxuriant growth? Old men into Gods of eternal youth?

Sri Aurobindo: Why not seven tails with an eighth on the head — everybody different colours, blue, magenta, indigo, green, scarlet, etc.; hair luxuriant but vermillion and flying erect skywards; other details to match? Amen!

Now you can’t surely say that all your points have not been cleared?

Myself: Again a blessed boil inside the left nostril — painful, feverish. A dose of Force, please.

Sri Aurobindo: As the modernist poet says

O blessed blessed boil within the nostril,
How with pure pleasure dost thou make thy boss thrill!
He sings of thee with sobbing trill and cross trill,
O blessed, blessed boil within the nostril.

I hope this stotra will propitiate the boil and make it disappear, satisfied.

I complained: Inspiration is very wanton in its nature. I know nothing of its reason of arrival and departure. It has no railway time-table.

Sri Aurobindo: No reason. Only unreason or super-reason. Keep your end up and it will arrive again, and some day perhaps after jack-in-the-boxing like that sufficiently, one day it will sit down and say, “Here I am for good. Send for the priest and let us be married.” With these things that is the law and the rule and the reason and rhyme of it and everything.

Myself: The result of the last Darshan was disturbing in some quarters. Difficulties of individual nature rushing up?

Sri Aurobindo: Individual and general. The subconscient, sir, the subconscient. Brilliant irruptions of the subconscient Brahman into the dullness of the ordinary life. অবচেতনায় ব্রহ্মণে নমো নমঃ((( Salute to the subconscient Brahman.)))

Talking about astrology, Dr. Manilal said, “I met an astrologer who was after money. But he didn’t know I was a hard master to deal with.” Pat came Sri Aurobindo’s answer, “He would have to propitiate Saturn before coming to you.” A gentle hit at Manilal’s parsimony!

“But there was another astrologer,” Manilal added, “a good man who is dead.”

Sri Aurobindo: And this is a bad man who is alive?

Satyendra: The psychic of the Divine is like a dictator.

Sri Aurobindo: It is more like a constitutional monarch who allows you to do whatever you like.

Satyendra: But it doesn’t come out.

Sri Aurobindo: Because it waits for the consent of all the members of the cabinet.

A spiritual truth rendered in modern analogy.

Last example which can be taken as a piece of humour or as a serious statement.

Kalyan, a sadhak, offered to Sri Aurobindo the skin of the first tiger he shot, remarking to me, “Please tell the Lord that it is without the tiger’s skull. So, there is — no chance of his stumbling over it at all.” The Master replied with a smile, “Very well, it will be placed under my feet at Darshan.” Ever since it was always placed under his feet.

I think I can now close this chapter with the sense of “something done”. Here is what Sri Aurobindo has to say about the sense of humour: “Sense of humour? It is the salt of existence. Without it the world would have got utterly out of balance — it is unbalanced enough already — and rushed to blazes long ago.”