[Note of A.B. Purani: On
30 August 1905 Sri Aurobindo wrote a letter to Mrinalini Devi. The letter
is one of those which were found and taken away by the police during
the search of the Grey Street house in connection with the Alipore bomb
trial and afterwards produced in court. It was in this way that these
intimate documents unexpectedly saw the light of day and what was intended
by Sri Aurobindo to be secret has become public property.
The letters reveal a side of his nature which had to culminate in his
great spiritual work.
The letter of 30 August, translated from the Bengali, is reproduced
30th Aug. 1905
I have received your letter of the 24th August. I am sorry to learn
that the same affliction has fallen once more upon your parents. You
have not written which of the boys has passed away from here. But then
what can be done if the affliction comes? This is a world in which when
you seek happiness, you find grief in its heart, sorrow always clinging
to joy. That rule touches not only the desire of children, but all worldly
desires. To offer, with a quiet heart, all happiness and grief at the
feet of God is the only remedy. [
Now I will write the other thing of which I spoke before. I think you
have understood by now that the man with whose fate yours has been linked
is a man of a very unusual character. Mine is not the same field of
action, the same purpose in life, the same mental attitude as that of
the people of today in this country. I am in every respect different
from them and out of the ordinary. Perhaps you know what ordinary men
say of an extraordinary view, an extraordinary endeavour, an extraordinary
ambition. To them it is madness; only, if the madman is successful in
his work then he is called no longer a madman, but a great genius. But
how many are successful in their life's endeavour? Among a thousand
men, there are five or six who are out of the ordinary and out of the
five or six one perhaps successful. Not to speak of success, I have
not yet even entirely entered my field of work. There is nothing then
for you but to consider me mad. And it is an evil thing for a woman
to fall into the hands of a mad fellow. For woman's expectations are
all bound up in worldly happiness and sorrow. A madman will not make
his wife happy, he can only make her miserable.
The founders of the Hindu religion understood this very well. They loved
extraordinary characters, extraordinary endeavours, extraordinary ambitions.
Madman or genius, they respected the extraordinary man. But all this
means a terrible plight for the wife, and how could the difficulty be
solved? The sages fixed upon this solution; they told the woman, Know
that the only mantra for womankind is this: 'The husband is the supreme
guru.'[Up to this point the translation follows an early version
by Barindra Kumar Ghose which was seen and revised lightly by Sri Aurobindo.
The rest of the translation is new.] The wife shares the dharma
[law of conduct] of her husband. She must help him, counsel him,
encourage him in whatever work he accepts as his dharma. She should
regard him as her god, take joy in his joy, and feel sorrow in his unhappiness.
It is for a man to choose his work; the woman's part is to give help
Now, the point is this. Are you going to choose the path of the Hindu
religion or follow the ideal of the new culture? Your marriage to a
madman is the result of bad karma in your previous lives. It
is good to come to terms with one's fate, but what sort of terms will
they be? Will you also dismiss your husband as a madman on the strength
of what other people think? A madman is bound to run after his mad ways.
You cannot hold him back; his nature is stronger than yours. Will you
then do nothing but sit in a corner and weep? Or, will you run along
with him; try to be the mad wife of this madman, like the queen of the
blind king who played the part of a blind woman by putting a bandage
across her eyes? For all your education in a Brahmo school, you are
still a woman from a Hindu home. The blood of Hindu ancestors flows
in your veins. I have no doubt you will choose the latter course.
I have three madnesses. The first one is this. I firmly believe that
the accomplishments, genius, higher education and learning and wealth
that God has given me are His. I have a right to spend for my own purposes
only what is needed for the maintenance of the family and is otherwise
absolutely essential. The rest must be returned to God. If I spend everything
for myself, for my pleasure and luxury, I am a thief. The Hindu scriptures
say that one who receives wealth from God and does not give it back
to Him is a thief. So far, I have given two annas to God and used the
other fourteen annas for my own pleasure; this is the way I have settled
the account, remaining engrossed in worldly pleasures. Half my life
has been wasted - even the beast finds fulfilment in stuffing his own
belly and his family's and catering to their happiness.
I have realised that I have been acting all this time as an animal and
a thief. Now I realise this and am filled with remorse and disgusted
with myself. No more of all this. I renounce this sin once and for all.
What does giving to God mean? It means to spend on good works. The money
I gave to Usha or to Sarojini causes me no regret. To help others is
a sacred duty; to give protection to those who seek refuge is a yet
greater sacred duty. But the account is not settled by giving only to
one's brothers and sisters. In these dark days the whole country is
seeking refuge at my door. I have three hundred million brothers and
sisters in this country. Many of them are dying of starvation and the
majority just manage to live, racked by sorrow and suffering. They too
must be helped.
What do you say, will you come along with me and share my ideal in this
respect? We will eat and dress like ordinary men, buying only what is
truly needed and offering the rest to God:
this is what I propose to do. My purpose can be fulfilled, once you
give your approval, once you are able to accept the sacrifice. You have
been saying, I have made no progress. Here I have shown
you a path towards progress. Will you take this path?
My second madness has only recently seized me. It is this: by whatever
means I must have the direct vision of God. Religion these days means
repeating the name of God at any odd hour, praying in public, showing
off how pious one is. I want nothing of this. If God exists, there must
be some way to experience His existence, to meet Him face to face. However
arduous this path is, I have made up my mind to follow it. The Hindu
religion declares that the way lies in one's own body, in one's own
mind. It has laid down the rules for following the way, and I have begun
to observe them. Within a month I have realised that what the Hindu
religion says is not false. I am experiencing in myself the signs of
which it speaks. Now I want to take you along this way. You will not
be able to keep step with me, for you do not have the requisite knowledge.
But there is nothing to prevent you from following behind me. All can
attain perfection on this path, but to enter it depends on one's own
will. Nobody can drag you onto it. If you consent to this, I shall write
more about it.
My third madness is that while others look upon their country as an
inert piece of matter - a few meadows and fields, forests and hills
and rivers - I look upon my country as the Mother. I adore Her, I worship
Her as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on his mother's
breast and started sucking her blood? Would he quietly sit down to his
dinner, amuse himself with his wife and children, or would he rush out
to deliver his mother? I know I have the strength to deliver this fallen
race. It is not physical strength, - I am not going to fight with sword
or gun, - but the strength of knowledge. The power of the Kshatriya
is not the only one; there is also the power of the Brahmin, the power
that is founded on knowledge. This feeling is not new in me, it is not
of today. I was born with it, it is in my very marrow. God sent me to
earth to accomplish this great mission. The seed began to sprout when
I was fourteen; by the time I was eighteen the roots of the resolution
had grown firm and unshakable. After listening to what my aunt said,
you formed the idea that some wicked people had dragged your simple
and innocent husband onto the bad path. But it was this innocent husband
of yours who brought those people and hundreds of others onto that path
- be it bad or good - and will yet bring thousands and thousands of
others onto that same path. I do not say that the work will be accomplished
during my lifetime, but it certainly will be done.
Now I ask you, what are you going to do in this connection? The wife
is the shakti, the strength of her husband. Will you be Usha's
disciple and go on repeating the mantras of Sahib-worship? Will you
diminish the strength of your husband by indifference or redouble it
by your sympathy. and encouragement? You will say, What can an
ordinary woman like me do in these great matters? I have no strength
of mind, no intelligence, I am afraid to think about these things.
But there is an easy way out. Take refuge in God. Enter once the path
of God-realisation; He will soon make good your deficiencies. Fear gradually
leaves one who takes refuge in God. And if you can put your trust in
me, if you can listen to me alone and not to all and sundry, I can give
you my own strength; that will not diminish my strength but increase
it. We say that the wife is the husband's shakti, his strength.
This means that the husband's strength is redoubled when he sees his
own image in his wife and hears an echo of his own high aspirations
Will you remain like this for ever: I shall put on fine clothes,
have nice things to eat, laugh and dance and enjoy all the pleasures?
Such an attitude cannot be called progress. At the present time the
life of women in this country has taken this narrow and contemptible
form. Give up all this and follow after me. We have come to this world
to do God's work; let us begin it.
You have one defect in your nature. You are much too simple. You listen
to anything anyone might say. Thus your mind is for ever restless, your
intelligence cannot develop, you cannot concentrate on any work. This
has to be corrected. You must acquire knowledge by listening to one
person only. You must have a single aim and accomplish your work with
a resolute mind. You must ignore the calumny and the ridicule of others
and hold fast to your devotion.
There is another defect, not so much of your personal nature, as of
the times. The times are such in Bengal that people are incapable of
listening to serious things in a serious manner. Religion, philanthropy,
noble aspirations, high endeavour, the deliverance of the country, all
that is serious, all that is high and noble is turned to ridicule. People
want to laugh everything away. At your Brahmo school, you picked up
a little of this fault. Bari also had it; all of us are tainted by this
defect to some extent. It has grown in surprising measure among the
people of Deoghar. This attitude must be rejected with a firm mind.
You will be able to do it easily. And once you get into the habit of
thinking, your true nature will blossom forth. You have a natural turn
towards doing good for others and towards self-sacrifice. The one thing
you lack is strength of mind. You will get that through worship of God.
This is the secret of mine I wanted to tell you. Do not divulge it to
anybody. Ponder calmly over these matters. There is nothing to be frightened
of, but there is much to think about. To start with, you need do nothing
but meditate on the Divine each day for half an hour, expressing to
Him an ardent desire in the form of a prayer. The mind will get prepared
gradually. This is the prayer you are to make to Him: May I not
be an obstacle in the path of my husband's life, his aim, his endeavour
to realise God. May I always be his helper and his instrument.
Will you do this?
In A.B. Purani "The Life of Sri Aurobindo"
- pages 79-84
also in SABCL, Volume 4 "Writings
both published by Sri
Aurobindo Ashram - Pondicherry
diffusion by SABDA