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How They Came
to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother

02 - The Tapaswin

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When he was eight years old, B read the story of a devotee who had had the darshan of the Lord. An intense aspiration awoke in his heart that he too would have the Lord's darshan, however hard the road, however arduous the Tapasya. He at once chalked out a lifetime's programme.
B was the youngest in his family and his mother loved him dearly. He knew the inevitable pain of parting would be for her well-nigh unbearable. He decided to earn as much as possible in order to make his parents independent. They had very little income - just enough for a bare living.
From then B started saving every single paisa which he could get. When fairs were held in his village from time to time, each youngster in the family was given something to spend. B pleaded with his mother to give him more. He hoarded this meagre allowance with an old woman who lived opposite their house, thus foregoing the simple pleasures so dear to child-hearts. By the age of eleven he had finished all the courses of his village school. His elder brother was a court-clerk. B started learning the same job from him. At fifteen he took up the job of a teacher in a village school and the villagers gave him food and a little salary, which B faithfully gave to his parents.
After seven or eight months of teaching, B realised that with this scanty salary he would never achieve his aim of making his family free from want. He decided to go to a big city to work in land-settlement offices where they offered comparatively better pay.
When he informed his parents about his plan those simple people were aghast. He was not even sixteen. They scolded him, forbade him, but to no avail: B remained firm. Then his father asked him how he would get the money for his fare and other expenses since they were not going to give him a single paisa. B replied that he had money and did not need any help from them. His parents were astounded since money was scarce in this home and B had given them his salary as a teacher. B revealed his secret how he had been hoarding the small sums he had received from time to time to spend in village fairs.
Next morning B woke up at 4 a.m. He was about to leave when his mother confronted him again. But reiterating his resolve B left for the big city.
As divine providence would have it he reached the city to find that there was to be an examination for clerks that very day. He appeared for the examination and, having done well, was next day given a job which he did with great sincerity and ability.
Once when he took some papers to an officer, the officer was surprised at seeing a boy of fifteen doing the work of a responsible adult. Later he observed the boy closely and admired his sense of duty and regularity. B solved some very complicated cases which scared even the seniormost clerks. The officer-in-charge decided that henceforth worthy and meritorious clerks would be rewarded. B got many rewards. The other clerks became very jealous of him. One day they quarrelled with him, threatening to implicate him on a trumped-up charge of demanding a bribe. B was scared. He knew if his mother heard of stich a charge she would die. With all his heart he called to the Lord. Within a few minutes his colleagues returned with folded hands and begged his pardon, promising. never to say a word against him. After some time he appeared for a departmental examination which was very tough. Many senior people failed but B succeeded. Thus he worked for five years, as munsarim - a land-settlement clerk.
He was twenty now, so the family decided to marry him off. In those days it was unheard-of that a lad should speak about his own marriage. But 'B's aim was the Divine: how could he marry? He went to his brother and told him, “Please do not ask the reason since I would not be able to tell you, but I will not marry till I am twenty-five.” B thought he was duty-bound and love-bound not to leave his old mother, so he could not run away to escape the marriage. He had a belief that she would die by the time he was twenty-five and that then he would renounce family life. (Later this premonition would come true.) B's elder brother was perplexed by his younger brother's strange request. He rightly suspected that B was reluctant to marry because he wanted to renounce the world. Therefore he tried to bind him securely with marriage as early as possible.
B's resolve was unshakable, his path was Tapasya, his aim the Divine. Without telling anything to his family he got himself transferred to a far-off place, requesting his family to abandon the idea of his marriage. His elder brother wrote to him that they had postponed the marriage for two months, so he should take leave and come home as soon as possible. B knew that the moment to take a radical step had arrived, his family was impervious to reason. They did not know of B's inmost secret, the dream he had kept alive since the age of eight.
B had been sending most of his salary to his parents. They had bought eight acres of land. His elder brother was also earning, so now he knew his family would have enough for a simple living. Therefore he felt free to take the most important step of his life. Buying a ticket to a famous pilgrimage, he left his job without even resigning.
At the railway station many Pandas surrounded him, taking him for an ordinary pilgrim. He assured them he had come to seek the Divine. They could not believe that this young man intended to become a sannyasi. When he assured them that he had indeed come in search of a guru, they told him of a very rich guru suggesting that he should become his disciple - then who knows, one day he might succeed his guru to become the master of his considerable riches.
B assured these people that he did not want a rich guru. He wanted to become the disciple of a guru whose renunciation was true and sincere. He was sent to a famous realised soul who lived in the fork of a sacred river. B was accepted by this truly great saint who had numerous disciples. Among them there was much competition and aspiration to serve the guru personally. B was lucky to get the rare chance of personally serving his guru after only a few months. He wrote a letter to his family telling them of his renunciation of the worldly life, and that it would be futile on their part to try to trace his whereabouts. He did not leave a trace behind nor did he give them any hint of where he was staying. The trail was completely obliterated.
Living under the protection of his guru he twice had darshan of his ista devata - chosen deity - with open eyes. One day he was fanning his guru when suddenly he saw the Lord. In his subtle body he moved towards the Lord who kept retreating while his physical body continued fanning his guru.
During the rainy season this casuarina-covered fork of the sacred river was completely inundated. A handful of saints like B's guru lived on the water itself. They drove long poles into the sand and fixed boards to them. Thus they passed the rainy season on these planks only half-sheltered from rain and sun. The food had perforce to be very simple. Those were months of great hardship. One day a dark man came with a bag of coins - paper currency was yet to come - which he placed in front of B's guru and went away. B was very curious about this unknown man; how had he reached their abode which was difficult to approach even by boat? B went outside to investigate but there was no boat nearby, no newcomer nor had anybody drowned; only their own people were around. He enquired about the stranger but nobody had seen him. B was truly perplexed: from where in mid-river had this man materialized and where had he vanished to? He asked his guru, who only after many entreaties told him, “It was the Lord come to help us with money for our food.”
For fifteen years B continued his arduous Tapasya. His fame spread. Many people were attracted to him, some sought to be his disciples. He firmly refused to accept anybody as a disciple because his childhood aspiration was not yet fulfilled. He aspired to be the disciple of the greatest Mahatma on the earth. To escape the constantly increasing flux of people who came to him for guidance, solace or blessings, he stopped speaking during the day. At night he uttered some sentences about his simple needs. He was offered land and property which he firmly declined.
One day he chanced upon a magazine which had published a translation of The Words of the Mother. He was electrified. Each word seemed a door to Supreme Knowledge. He felt he had found what he was seeking. Surely this was the highest possible wisdom. He decided to become the disciple of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Hungry to read more, he wrote to the magazine for some books of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. They wrote back to say they had none.
Meanwhile a saint came to visit B along with some of his disciples. By divine chance one of these disciples had a treasury of books by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He had The Synthesis of Yoga, Bases of Yoga, and many others. B begged him for the books, proposing that he could order new ones from the Ashram for which B was ready to pay. This man said, “Sir, these books are far above my understanding. If you can read and understand them I offer them willingly to you. There is no need to order new ones.”
B marvelled no more at the ways of Grace for it had been guiding
his every step. The Divine made a path for him where there had been none.
In the meanwhile a princely family registered a big estate in B's name without even informing him. But B's signature was needed for the registration. He firmly refused and so the matter had to be dropped.
B now wanted to go to Pondicherry. Only one doubt kept tormenting him: the scriptures say that it is a sin to leave one guru to take another, a sin to renounce one's chosen deity to worship another. Did it mean that B should stay and continue in the old path, though greater and higher vistas beckoned to him? For he was sure that amongst the Avatars, Sri Aurobindo was the greatest and his path the only one which could transform humanity, which could bring heaven to this earth.
As was his practice, he put his problem before the inner deity. The answer came in a very simple and logical way. B was told that when a student has finished the course in a lower class he moves on to a higher class and to another teacher. This is in no way wrong. “As for changing your chosen deity - at present you worship only the Saguna Rupa of your Lord but you can attain to his Sachchidananda Rupa only through Supermind and by the grace of Sri Aurobindo.” These two answers completely satisfied B who decided to come to Pondicherry. He wrote a letter to the Ashram, waiting eagerly for an answer. After some time he received a reply saying that since it was war time it would be better not to come just then. After two or three months he wrote again. He received the same answer but this time a blessing packet was enclosed with the letter. When he read the letter an electric current passed through B's whole body. For three days he was in an ecstatic condition, constantly seeing Sri Aurobindo in visions and meditating on him. He thought, “If a letter from the Ashram has such a blissful effect, what will happen when I go there?” Yet they had asked him not to come.
Many highly educated persons were coming for B's darshan. He thought that on reading Sri Aurobindo's books all of them would realise the greatness of this path, so he lent the books to many of them. Most of them returned the books saying they could not make head or tail of them, that the books were too difficult for their limited understanding. B was astonished at this, for to him the books seemed very simple. Only two persons amongst all these could understand Sri Aurobindo and agreed with B that he was the divine Avatar. But one of them said that since he was a householder he was not meant for Sri Aurobindo's path. The other, P, found the path irresistible but had the very same two doubts about changing the guru and the chosen deity which B himself had faced. Writing on a piece of paper, since he did not speak during the day, B asked him to come at 8 p.m. P arrived punctually and B gave him the two arguments his inner voice had advanced in his own case. Like B, P was also fully satisfied by these answers. But he stipulated that he would follow B to Pondicherry only when B went to settle there himself.
Somebody advised him that he should ask permission for Darshan. So in 1944 he wrote a letter to the Ashram asking if he could come for Darshan, sending a reply-paid telegram. He received a telegram granting him permission. When he received this answer B again had the constant vision of Sri Aurobindo accompanied by a blissful state for three days.
So B arrived for Darshan on 2nd February. He was accommodated in a room where he had to share the toilet with persons of different religions and nationalities. Here it is necessary to understand the social background of B. Since renouncing the worldly life he had been cooking his own food and had not eaten anything touched by a person of a lower caste. He knew that in the Sri Aurobindo, Ashram there was no bar of caste or religion. He knew he would have to get rid of his samskaras, but he also thought that if a few words or a telegram from the Ashram could immerse him in ecstasy, surely in the Mother and Sri Aurobindo's presence and in their Ashram all these samskaras and inhibitions would automatically fall off like autumn leaves. Alas, nothing like that happened. A gentleman with a short beard served at the counter of the Dining Room. B took him to be a Muslim (actually he was a Hindu) but B could neither summon enough courage to ask about this person's religion nor could he eat that food with equanimity. Sometimes he blamed himself for not having the foresight to rent a room and cook his own food. But he realised the problem could be solved only by an inner change. One evening he called the Divine to show him the way and received from within the answer that if he had been from a low caste, even then he would have realised the Divine. In a flash there was a mental illumination. A load was lifted from his heart.
Yet there were other problems that were equally tormenting. B had never eaten bread. The Ashram bun had yeast in it which gave a faint sourish smell and taste. B suspected that wine was mixed in the bread. The very idea of taking wine was like death to him. Those twenty days were a long torture to him. If it had not been for the attraction of Sri Aurobindo's Darshan he would have left the Ashram. He was given some work at the Dining Room. In those days there were less than two hundred people in the Ashram. The work was easy and was soon finished. He was constantly assailed by these doubts and ethical misgivings. One day he realised that if he was breaking the rules about food, the Divine knew he was doing it for the Divine's sake, so the Divine would pardon his lapses.
Now fully at peace with himself and his surroundings he prepared for the Darshan of 21st February. He had heard miraculous tales from the older sadhaks - how one saw the Mother as Sita and Sri Aurobindo as Rama, how another saw them as Radha and Krishna, some boasted of seeing them as beings of light, others saw them in various ways. B went for his first Darshan of both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother expecting a miracle because he had been having three or four Darshans of the Mother every day. But he saw the Mother as the Mother and Sri Aurobindo as Sri Aurobindo. Greatly disappointed, he thought he was surely unworthy and full of grave faults and impurities, unfit for divine Grace. His heart was riven with self-reproach and existence seemed dark to hirn. He thought there must be some hidden insincerity in him, otherwise how could it happen that he did not see the Mother and Sri Aurobindo in some supra-physical form?
Tortured thus he went to the roof and meditated there. Suddenly the Mother - the Rajrajeshwari - appeared before him and put her left hand on his forehead. At once that beatific state - twice experienced previously - engulfed him, all was peace and bliss. His self-torment vanished for ever. He felt an all-embracing Grace. He felt himself a child of the Mother.
After a few days he approached Nolini for permission to stay permanently. Nolini jocularly replied, “Who has asked you to leave?”
Thus his whole life became an offering at the feet of the Mother.

in "How They Came to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother"
Volume 1, pages 47-54
published by Shyam Kumari
C/o Sri Aurobindo Ashram - Pondicherry
diffusion by SABDA

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