26 Feb 2015

Sri Aurobindo's Marriage (Part 2) -- by Raman Reddy (republished)

Heehs then concludes on the basis of this evidence that it was “the usual desire for gratification” that was presumably a factor in Sri Aurobindo’s decision to get married. Now is this scholarship or speculation? I thought historians base themselves on concrete evidence and not on what imaginary characters say in Vedantic commentaries. If the teacher in the commentary speaks as if he has had marital relations, does it prove that Sri Aurobindo went through the same experience in real life? Extend that argument to other authors in their respective fields and you can come to ridiculous conclusions. How many novelists would be accused of committing murder, robbery and rape just because they have convincingly described them in their crime thrillers! [extract]

Part Two – Marriage and Brahmacharya

Let us now take up the passage on pages 55-56 of the Lives of Sri Aurobindo to which endnote 76 on page 425 (discussed in Part 1) is attached. I will first draw the attention of the reader to the desperate attempts of Heehs to prove what he calls Sri Aurobindo’s “knowledge of sex”. Apart from the most uncouth manner with which he treats this subject, which so many have already objected to, I would like to point out a few glaring deficiencies in his so-called scholarship. He quotes a long passage from an early commentary of Sri Aurobindo on the Isha Upanishad [1] in which an imaginary Guru describes the scale of human love to his student. The passage begins:

If sensual gratification were all, then it is obvious that I should have no reason to prefer one woman over another and after the brute gratification liking would cease; I have seen this brute impulse given the name of love; perhaps I myself used to give it that name when the protoplasmic animal predominated in me.

(Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 55)

He then concludes on the basis of this evidence that it was “the usual desire for gratification” that was presumably a factor in Sri Aurobindo’s decision to get married. Now is this scholarship or speculation? I thought historians base themselves on concrete evidence and not on what imaginary characters say in Vedantic commentaries. If the teacher in the commentary speaks as if he has had marital relations, does it prove that Sri Aurobindo went through the same experience in real life? Extend that argument to other authors in their respective fields and you can come to ridiculous conclusions. How many novelists would be accused of committing murder, robbery and rape just because they have convincingly described them in their crime thrillers! Good writers are precisely distinguished by their creative imagination, their ability to identify themselves with the world around them and the capacity to convey their stories realistically to their readers.

Even admitting for the moment that the passage from the commentary has some connection with Sri Aurobindo’s married life, we need not hunt for material to counter Heehs’s conclusion. The very next two sentences in the same paragraph read:

If emotional gratification were all, then I might indeed cling for a time to the woman who had pleased my body, but only so long as she gave me emotional pleasure, by her obedience, her sympathy with my likes & dislikes, her pleasant speech, her admiration or her answering love. But the moment these cease, my liking also will begin to fade away. This sort of liking too is persistently given the great name and celebrated in poetry & romance.

(Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 55)

By the same method of direct inference from what the teacher says, emotional gratification also must have been a factor in Sri Aurobindo’s decision to get married and not merely physical gratification, as Heehs presents. The teacher in the commentary discusses next aesthetic and intellectual gratification, so they too must have been contributory factors. Why were not these factors taken into consideration and only the first highlighted as if it were all that mattered? Because Heehs has never the patience to follow a line of argument to its logical end; he stops midstream as soon as his purpose is served, which is nothing but public denigration of Sri Aurobindo. He will of course say that there was no scope for intellectual gratification with Mrinalini, so the text does not apply in that case. But then who decides when and where the text applies or not? Logically, if it does not apply in one case, it need not apply in the other cases too.

The teacher concludes by telling us the sublime reason why a man’s love for a woman does not cease even after the cessation of the above-mentioned four gratifications – physical, emotional, aesthetic and intellectual. I quote from the same commentary:

Whence then comes that love which is greater than life and stronger than death, which survives the loss of beauty and the loss of charm, which defies the utmost pain & scorn the object of love can deal out to it, which often pours out from a great & high intellect on one infinitely below it? ... That Love is nothing but the Self recognizing the Self dimly or clearly and therefore seeking to realise oneness & the bliss of oneness.

(Isha Upanishad, p 139)

He then discusses the same with regard to friendship and concludes similarly that even the love of a friend is actually based on the recognition of one’s universal Self in him:

What again is a friend? Certainly I do not seek from my friend the pleasure of the body or choose him for his good looks; nor for that similarity of tastes & pursuits I would ask in a mere comrade; nor do I love him because he loves me or admires me, as I would perhaps love a disciple; nor do I necessarily demand of him a clever brain, as if he were only an intellectual helper or teacher. All these feelings exist, but they are not the soul of friendship. No, I love my friend for the woman’s reason, because I love him, because in the old imperishable phrase, he is my other self.

(Isha Upanishad, p 139)

So does the love of the patriot for the nation, the love of the philanthropist for mankind and the love of the whole world by great beings such as the Buddha, depend on this essential unity of the Brahman, by which you see “your Self in all creatures and all creatures in your Self”. The teacher is in fact explaining the sixth verse of the Isha Upanishad which Sri Aurobindo translates:

But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught.

(Isha Upanishad, p 7)

I need not further summarise this long commentary as I have given a sufficient idea of the sublime topic discussed by the teacher as opposed to Heehs’s attention which is riveted only on one aspect of it – sensual gratification. Heehs then quotes in his endnote the occurrence of the term maithunananda in the Record of Yoga to prove Sri Aurobindo’s “knowledge of sex” and refers to his letters on Yoga as additional material to prove the same. Now is this genuine scholarship or a mania for sex which reflects his own psychological abnormalities? I am reminded of the hilarious example of a psychopath who saw sex not only in the image of a goat, but a circle, a triangle, a hexagon and even a square. [2] I may add that, in this case, Heehs seems to see it everywhere like the Self in all existence. I would not be surprised if one day he solemnly declares to the world that the Self is nothing but a personification of Sex!

Why is he so desperate about proving Sri Aurobindo’s “knowledge of sex” as if his disciples would not believe it at any cost? Had it been undeniably true and authentic information on it was available, I don’t think they would have had any objection to it. For instance, don’t they hold the Mother in equal esteem as their Master despite her marriage and the birth of her son? All that they would insist upon is that the subject be dealt with deference and dignity and not in the repugnant manner that Heehs has done. Even the biography of an ordinary person deserves more discretion and respect for privacy in these matters.

Let us see what the documents have to say on the subject of Sri Aurobindo’s married life. I quote four documents below which Heehs has deliberately left out; these are what a writer on this site has called “active omissions”, a frequent trick played by Heehs in order to deceive his readers.

Document 1:

One day I had asked him in the course of conversation, “Chief, you knew that you were going to plunge into the vortex of revolutionary politics. Why did you marry? Don’t tell me if you don’t want to.” He thought for a moment and replied very slowly, “Well, Charu, it was like this. Just then I was very despondent and felt that I was destined to lead the life of a pedagogue. Why, then, should I not marry?” Aurobindo married, be it noted, in April 1901.

(Charu Chandra Dutt, My Friend and My Master, Sri Aurobindo Circle, 1952, p 137)

Document 2:

In 1909, after his acquittal, I once invited Sri Aurobindo for lunch....
We discussed whether one can maintain brahmacharya after marriage. I was of the opinion that one can’t. He was explaining how it was in fact possible. I was curious to know whether Sri Aurobindo himself maintained it but could not muster the courage to ask him. After a while he told me, “I can see what is in your mind. You are eager to know whether I have sexual relations with my wife or not. I don’t,” he declared. “I have been able to maintain my brahmacharya even after marriage.”

Manomohan Gangopadhyaya (Shruti-Smriti, Part 1, (1927), p 13)

Document 3:

I asked Sri Aurobindo one day: “Sejda, on the one hand you practise the austerities of yoga and on the other you sleep in one bed with your wife. What kind of austerity is that?” Smiling sweetly he said: “It is not simply by sharing one’s bed with one’s wife that brahmacharya is lost. To form a group of naked ascetics is not my intention. We have thirty-three lakhs of such ascetics in India. I want ‘grihasta sanyasis’ – men leading the full life in the world who when the need arises will renounce everything at the call of duty.”

Abinash Bhattacharya (Galpa-Bharati: 829-50)

[This conversation took place early in 1908 around the time Lele visited Calcutta.]

Document 4:

He never slept on a soft cotton-bed, as most of us do, but on a bed made of coir (coconut fibres) on which was spread a Malabar grass-mat which served as a bed-sheet. Once I asked him why he used such a coarse hard bed and he said with his characteristic laugh, “My boy, don’t you know that I am a Brahmachari? Our shastras enjoin that a Brahmachari should not use a soft bed, which may induce him to sleep.” I was silenced but I thought myself that he must be a great man….

One day … in the beginning of 1905, Messrs. Arvind Babu, Deshpande and Jadhav went to Chandod, a small town on the bank of the Narmada, a place of pilgrimage. There they passed a day with a Yogi and then proceeded to Ganganath, a place a few miles distant from Chandod. There is a beautiful Ashram there where Swami Brahmanand spent his life. At that place they passed another day, discussed some spiritual problems with the disciple of Brahmanand Swami and then returned to Baroda. After this trip I saw a marked change both in Arvind Babu and Deshpande. Both of them changed their life altogether. They started worshipping the Goddess and taking only one meal – a pure vegetarian meal – a day; both started living a life of austerity. But between the two I saw a greater change in Arvind Babu. He was never as free with me as he used to be before. He looked serene and calm with the gravity of a man of ripe old age.

R.N. Patkar, quoted in A.B. Purani, Life of Sri Aurobindo (1978), pp 62-65

[The date 1905 in the second paragraph obviously refers to the period of Sri Aurobindo’s brahmacharya mentioned in the first paragraph.]

According to Document 1, the reason why Sri Aurobindo got married was to overcome his despondency and avoid the prospect of being a lonely pedagogue. It is obviously an understatement but nevertheless suggests that Sri Aurobindo was looking for companionship and perhaps all that goes with it in married life. In that case, physical gratification would be only one of the factors in his decision to get married and not the only one as Heehs seems to be obsessed with. But what happened after the marriage? Documents 2 – 4 show that he lived the life of a brahmachari! Do these documents contradict each other? No, because it matches with what he wrote to Nirodbaran in 1936:

So we don't understand why they [Confucius, Buddha, Sri Aurobindo] marry and why this change comes soon after marriage.

Perfectly natural —they marry before the change — then the change comes and the marriage belongs to the past self, not to the new one….

I touch upon a delicate subject, but it is a puzzle.

Why delicate? and why a puzzle? Do you think that Buddha or Confucius or myself were born with a prevision that they or I would take to the spiritual life? So long as one is in the ordinary consciousness, one lives the ordinary life – when the awakening and the new consciousness come, one leaves it – nothing puzzling in that.

(Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, (1983), p 576)

Sri Aurobindo began his Yoga in 1904-1905, after which you would expect him to have taken to Brahmacharya. As both years have been separately mentioned by him, let us for the moment consider 1905 as the year he commenced his yoga on the basis of his famous letter to Mrinalini regarding his three madnesses, which I quote below:

The second madness has recently taken hold of me; it is this: by any means, I must have the direct experience of God. The religion of today, that is, uttering the name of God every now and then, in praying to Him in front of everybody, showing to people how religious one is—that I do not want. If the Divine is there, then there must be a way of experiencing His existence, of meeting Him; however hard be the path, I have taken a firm resolution to tread it. Hindu Dharma asserts that the path is there within one's own body, in one's mind. It has also given the methods to be followed to tread that path. I have begun to observe them and within a month I have been able to ascertain that the words of the Hindu Dharma are not untrue. I am experiencing all the signs that have been mentioned by it. Now, I would like to take you also along that path; you would of course not be able to keep up with me as you have not yet acquired so much knowledge, but there is nothing to prevent your following me. Anybody can have the realisation by following the path, but it is left to one's will to choose to enter the path. Nobody can force you to enter it. If you are willing, I will write more on the subject….

Now I ask you: What do you want to do in this matter? The wife is the sakti (the power) of the husband. Are you going to be the disciple of Usha and adulate the sahibs? Would you be indifferent and diminish the power of your husband? Or would you double his sympathy and enthusiasm? You might reply: "What could a simple woman like me do in all these great works? I have neither will power, nor intelligence, I am afraid even to think of these things." There is a simple solution for it—take refuge in the Divine, step on to the path of God-realisation. He will soon cure all your deficiencies; fear gradually leaves the person who takes refuge in the Divine. And if you have faith in me, and listen to what I say instead of listening to others, I can give you my force which would not be reduced (by giving) but would, on the contrary, increase. We say that the wife is the sakti of the husband, that means that the husband sees his own reflection in the wife, finds the echo of his own noble aspiration in her and thereby redoubles his force.

(Bengali Writings, pp 349-54)

In this letter dated 30 August 1905, Sri Aurobindo is very clear about his resolution to tread the path of Yoga and is, in fact, exhorting his wife to help him in his aspirations. The turning point in his life seems to have been recent. Note the sentence, “I have begun to observe them [yogic methods] and within a month I have been able to ascertain that the words of the Hindu Dharma are not untrue.” After this, you surely cannot expect him to have led an ordinary married life.

But what happened during the interim period between the time he got married in April 1901 and his decision to take up Yoga in 1905? First of all, Mrinalini hardly stayed with him during this period, because she went away to her parents’ place unable to bear life in Baroda. Sri Aurobindo took leave from his service in April 1902 and left her in Bengal, from where she proceeded to her home town in Assam. Heehs himself writes that “the separation between husband and wife was meant to be brief, but it lasted at least a year and a half, perhaps twice as long as that.” That leaves only one year or thereabouts of conjugal life, if there ever was any at all between them. Keeping also in mind that there was no progeny, the weight of evidence thus tilts towards Brahmacharya even during this short interim period. However, in the absence of genuine first-hand evidence on Sri Aurobindo’s conjugal life (which you surely cannot expect to get), historical discipline as well as sheer discretion and public decency dictate us to be silent about it.

Let us now take Heehs on his own ground of speculation. He seems to assume that speaking authoritatively about sex or giving yogic advice on it necessarily implies its experience in real life. The hypothesis at first seems quite convincing, but is it really so? Are not sexual thoughts and impulses so natural to man that they really don’t need any outward support? Are not sex-emissions inbuilt in his physical constitution so that they can occur without any external agent? It is precisely because of this reason that it takes ages to overcome sex in Yoga. Brahmacharya is not accomplished by mere celibacy but by the expunging of all sex-thoughts and corresponding physical and psychological reactions in your being. Sri Aurobindo says that when sex-thoughts are driven away from the mind, they take refuge in the vital. Driven away from there, they take shelter in the physical being, and pushed away from there, they go into the subconscient and inconscient from where they can rise up in dreams or once again invade the waking state. There is thus a whole range of operations which are not taken into account by Heehs’s naive approach to sex. In fact, the outward act is only the tip of the iceberg visible to us while the real forces behind are invisible in the seas of our consciousness.

How do you explain, for example, the frequent phenomenon of bala brahmacharis in India who impart yogic advice on overcoming sexual desires? Where does their “knowledge of sex” come from if they have been celibates all their life? Going by Heehs’s logic, they should be ignorant of sex if they haven’t gone through the actual physical act. Extending that argument, the best way to escape from the problem of sex would be thus to simply avoid it from the very beginning and remain celibate all your life. How easy would Yoga have been if it merely depended on such a cloistered life! Indeed, that was the purpose behind the ancient practice of going to the forest where you could be alone with God. But we are speaking here of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo which accepts life and aims at its transformation instead of escaping from it. Our consciousness is therefore constantly subjected, whether we like it or not, to the thousand and one pulls of the environment around us.

It is evidently because Heehs is overwhelmed by his own limitations with regard to brahmacharya that he is unable to accept it in the case of Sri Aurobindo’s married life. Now, had the author frankly expressed his personal hesitations with regard to the matter, people would have been more sympathetic with him. This is a standard difficulty of our present state of mind which cannot look beyond its own parameters, especially so with Westerners who have had no spiritual background. Not that Indians have to be patted on their back, but, because of long standing spiritual traditions, they have no fundamental difficulty in admitting the extraordinary and supernormal without being mentally bound by their own limitations. Spiritual experience and Yogic attainment precisely belong to this realm which is reached by the few who are great and chosen by destiny to guide humanity to the next stage of evolution.

I quote two more replies of Sri Aurobindo, the references to which have been given by Heehs in his long endnote:

Does your above answer mean that the Avatars too satisfy the vital desires, cravings, lust etc. as a layman?

What do you mean by lust? Avatars can be married and have children and that is not possible without sex; they can have friendships, enmities, family feelings etc. etc. – these are vital things. I think you are under the impression that an Avatar must be a saint or a yogi.

The Avatars can of course be married and satisfy the vital movements. But do they really indulge them as ordinary people? While satisfying their outer being do they not remain conscious of their union with the Divine above?

There is not necessarily any union above before the practice of yoga. There is a connection of the consciousness with the veiled Divinity and an action out of that, but this is not dependent on the practice of yoga.

(Nagin Doshi, Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, Volume 1, 1974, pp 280-281)

Though Heehs has referred to these replies of Sri Aurobindo in order to prove Sri Aurobindo’s conjugal life, they do not necessarily support his assumption. As we see from the first reply, Sri Aurobindo had no moral inhibitions about an Avatar’s experience of ordinary life, in which case you could suppose that he himself might have gone through it. At the same time, he says in the second reply that the divine consciousness behind the Avatar may influence him even when he is not practising Yoga. Applying that to his own case, he may have thus avoided the conjugal life without having formally commenced his spiritual practice. The inner consciousness behind the external one could have kept him away from it even though he might have not yet decided to practise Yoga, which obviously cannot go with sex. Moreover, he had spiritual experiences long before his marriage in April 1901. A “vast calm” had descended upon him the moment he stepped on Indian soil at Apollo Bunder in 1893. A few months later he had the “vision of the Godhead surging up from within when in danger of a carriage accident in Baroda”.[3] He had read the Upanishads and was sufficiently familiar with the Hindu traditions not to know of the yogic benefits of Brahmacharya. All these indicate that the power of the “veiled Divinity” was acting long before he formally began his spiritual practice in 1905 and may very well have influenced his external life despite his decision to get married in 1901. I may add that we see this happening not only with great men but seekers of a lesser order. Yoga often begins and proceeds for a long time in a half-conscious way before the mind gives its full support.

Thus a very different picture of Sri Aurobindo’s married life emerges from practically the same documents used by Heehs, not counting, of course, the crucial omission of the three documents on his Brahmacharya. These documents have been deliberately omitted so that the balance of evidence does not tilt in favour of his Brahmacharya. This is a standard strategy of Heehs who omits or downplays positive evidence, makes negative statements based on secondary evidence or even on purely conjectural grounds as has been done here, and then pretends to balance the scale with a few positive statements in order to be appreciated by a few sceptic scholars and be promoted by them to the academic world. It is like trying to please your enemies at the expense of displeasing your friends. The result is that you often end up displeasing both or falling on that side of the fence where you never wanted to be.

Let me sum up my article with a short analysis of the objectionable passages on Sri Aurobindo’s marriage. Heehs begins by a speculation based on the questionable assumption that if Sri Aurobindo wrote about sex and advised his disciples on sexual problems, he would have necessarily gone through a conjugal life. I quote what I consider to be one of the most distasteful passages in this biography:

The usual desire for gratification, as Aurobindo has the guru call it, was presumably a factor in his decision to get married, but it does not seem to have been an important one. His later writings show that his knowledge of human sexuality was more than academic, but the act seems to have held few charms for him. [endnote 76] Consummation may have been delayed because of Mrinalini’s youth, and his own stoicism, partly innate and partly learned from philosophers such as Epictetus, would have helped him to keep his sexual tendencies in check.

(Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 56)

The speculation here is only matched by the state of confusion in writer’s mind! If the “desire for gratification” was not an all-important factor in Sri Aurobindo’s decision to get married, then what made him take the decision? And why did he quote such a long passage from the Isha Upanishad commentary to prove that it was precisely because of this desire for gratification that he wanted to get married? Replace Sri Aurobindo by an ordinary person in this passage and you will easily understand what I am trying to point out. Next, if Sri Aurobindo’s knowledge was not merely academic but profound enough to have written “more than forty pages” on overcoming sex to his disciples, how is it that “the act seems to have held few charms for him”? How could he advise on the very propensity that never really affected him? From what did he then derive his knowledge? The presentation of these apparently contradictory statements without giving an adequate yogic explanation puts the new reader of Sri Aurobindo’s writings in a fix. He would carry home the impression that Sri Aurobindo was a bundle of contradictions instead of being made aware that he went through the lower nature in order to master it, and it is because of this mastery that he had profound knowledge of it. He rose so fast and so far above human nature that he had an aerial view as it were, by which he could see and explain things better than the person who was entangled on the ground. It is because of this missing Yogic background that the presentation becomes false, by default as it were, even if the facts and statements mentioned may have been correct.

There is a repetition of this unwanted speculation and confusion on page 318:

About their connubial relations nothing is known. Her father [Mrinalini’s father, Bhupal Bose] summed up the situation in a sentence: “There was no issue of the marriage." After Aurobindo entered what he called “the sexual union dignified by the name of marriage,” he seems to have found the state bothersome and uninteresting.

(Lives of Sri Aurobindo, p 318)

If nothing is known about their connubial relations, how does the he say that the consummation may have been delayed by Mrinalini’s youth and Sri Aurobindo’s stoicism? How I wish he had simply kept his mouth shut on these matters! Further damage is done by quoting Sri Aurobindo’s description of marriage as if it were his own: the phrase “sexual union dignified by the name of marriage” is actually from a letter written to Nolini Kanto Gupta in 1919, in which he humorously dissuades the latter from getting married. [4]

Lastly, the worst and most subtle distortion is in endnote 76 on page 425, which is attached to the passage I have quoted from page 56. He defines the term maithunananda used in the Record of Yoga as “a particular intensity of spontaneous erotic delight”. As I have already consecrated the first part of my article on this definition, I will note here only the implications of this wrong interpretation. What is indirectly suggested without openly stating is that it is because Sri Aurobindo found conjugal life “bothersome and uninteresting” that he sought yogic satisfaction in “spontaneous erotic delight”. It implies that his yoga has ample space for erotic delight of a subtle kind and not of the gross type. Nothing can be farther from the Truth than this conclusion. You have only to read the first four of the forty pages of Sri Aurobindo’s letters on sex or even the long letter that I have quoted in Part 1, to know his stand on it. Sri Aurobindo certainly did not advise suppression for those who are not ready for the yogic life, but he made it unambiguously clear that sex of whatever kind has no place whatsoever in the spiritual life.

For those who are disappointed by my conclusion because they are attached to sex and cannot ever conceive of conquering it, I will only say the following. Let us not mix up the issue of yogic capacity with the goal of Integral Yoga. Let us be at least mentally clear as to what the goal is despite our inability to follow the straight and high road to it. And indeed most of us need to take detours and diversions and have to often end up in a blind alley in order to be convinced about the right direction. Sri Aurobindo never told us to eschew the experience of life if it is necessary; neither did he put life in opposition to Yoga, but he certainly insisted on the eventual transformation of life. He also gave considerable freedom for each one to walk on his own path, but this means that there are many paths leading to the summit of the same mountain of Truth. It does not mean that there are many mountains of Truth with different paths leading to their respective summits. If that were case, there would have been no necessity for Sri Aurobindo to come to this god-forsaken earth and discover for humanity the supramental Truth that unites all lesser truths.

Finally, the best thing about his Yoga is that it provides various stages in order to make a gradual scale of progression for those who are willing to participate in this evolutionary process. This aspect particularly comes out in his letters to disciples written in the late twenties and thirties during the first expansion of the Ashram. It is all the more evident in the Mother’s practical application of his yoga to life in the forties and after Sri Aurobindo’s passing away. How the life of a community of about 1500 members consisting of a large number of school children got organised around such a high ideal is a marvel that has still to be fully appreciated by those who have never experienced it. From this point of view, the founding of Auroville in the sixties with no yogic restrictions should be considered as a step farther in this direction than an abandoning of the original spiritual aim. Of late, the large scale positive response to Sri Aurobindo’s ideals first in Orissa and now in Tamilnadu, apart from the hundreds of centres that have sprung up all over India and abroad, shows that Sri Aurobindo’s yoga is not limited to only a few serious sadhaks but has a considerable influence on the masses. All this has not diluted the ideal; it has only been received to the extent we have been able to bear its transformatory process, for the ultimate goal of supramentalisation will remain in the distance like a beacon showing us the general direction of our journey for a long time to come.

Raman Reddy

24 February 2010

Additional Document on Sri Aurobindo’s Marriage:

[The document below is from Charu Chandra Dutt’s reminiscences of Sri Aurobindo. I have provided it here as an appendix in order to show Sri Aurobindo’s relation with his wife.]

One afternoon, subsequently to Rabindranath’s visit to Aurobindo above described, Bhupal Babu, Aurobindo’s father-in-law, came to see us in the Wellington Square house. The Chief had not as yet returned from his college. Bhupal Babu said to us, “Charu, Subodh, I have to ask Aurobindo to come and dine with me this evening. My daughter, Mrinalini, has come to Calcutta to meet him, if possible. So I would like Aurobindo to stay the night in our house and return to you tomorrow morning. Do send him along.” We were all tremendously excited over the invitation. When Aurobindo came home about 5 p.m., he could see that something out of the common had occurred. We gave out a loud yell on seeing him and all spoke together. He laughed and said, “One at a time, please.” Then I said, “My dear fellow, this sort of gala occasion comes but once in a blue moon! Aurobindo is going to visit his spouse this evening.” He said with a suppressed smile, “Yes! Go on.” It was Subodh’s turn to speak. He said, “Bhupal Babu came to invite you. You are to dine with him this evening and spend the night in his house. It appears that Mrs. Ghose has come down to Calcutta expressly for the purpose of congratulating her lord on his acquittal.” Aurobindo said merely, “I see.” Then my wife started, “There is nothing to see. Please get ready quickly and put on the clothes I have laid out for you. They have all been properly pleated and crinkled by Subodh’s bearer.” No reply from the other side; nothing but a shy twinkle in the eye. My wife, encouraged by the twinkle, went on, “And, look here, Ghose Sahib, Subodh’s wife and I are weaving two beautiful garlands of Jasmine – one for you and one for our Didi. I shall instruct you about them later on. The poor philosopher quietly capitulated. He had not a chance of speaking. After tea, he was hustled into the dressing room for being valeted by Subodh’s bearer. He did not protest. After all, who was going to listen to him that evening, our great Chief though he was. When he came out, he looked gorgeous in his fine dress, but there was also a simple shy smile on his face. We had all been waiting to greet him. Lilavati stepped forward with the two garlands and said, “One of these you are going to put round Didi’s neck and the other she is going to put round yours. Please don’t forget.” The Chief with a tender smile replied, “It shall be done, Lilavati.” As he was getting into the carriage Subodh called out, “And please don’t come back till tomorrow morning.” Turning to the Durwan he ordered. “Lock the gate at 10 p.m. Ghose Saheb is not coming back tonight.”

Next morning, quite early, a servant came upstairs and said to Subodh, “Ghose Saheb wants know, sir, if you are all coming down to tea.” “Ghose Saheb? When did he come back?” “He returned about 11 p.m.” We all trooped downstairs. There he sat in his arm-chair, quietly smiling to himself. We fired a volley of questions at him. He replied calmly, “Well, I had a superb dinner and returned here about 11 p.m. Lilavati, your instructions regarding the garlands were carried out to the letter.” Lilavati asked plaintively, “But why did you come away so soon?” The Chief’s reply was, “I explained things to her and she allowed me to come away.” I suppose these explanations were later on embodied in the famous letters.

(Charu Chandra Dutt, My Friend and My Master, Sri Aurobindo Circle, 1952, pp 137-38.)

[The document can be dated circa September 1907. Sri Aurobindo was acquitted from the Bande Mataram case on 23 September 1907.]


[1] Isha Upanishad, pp 138-139

[2] Read Dr. Anand Kumar’s article on this site.

[3] Autobiographical Notes, p 110

[4] Autobiographical Notes, pp 295-296


  1. Excellent analysis of the distortions of PH. I am shocked at the cunning and devious ways adopted by PH.


  2. why the shock? its natural that the hostile forces (working through PH) would seek to distort Sri Aurobindo's truth by introducing the sexual element. The reason is that, as we know, the sex impulse is one of the great impediments to realizing the Soul or Self, let alone anything to do with the Supramental Consciousness.

    If, by perpetuating a myth that Sri Aurobindo and The Mother were actively engaging in sexual or lower vital activities, the hostiles are able to confuse enough seekers, then they will have won some battles (they will always lose the war) by, at the very least, preventing the realization of a Divine truth. More precariously still, they may confuse the seeker enough to make him/her highly susceptible to being influenced or under direct control of an occult hostile being.