12 May 2014

GURU NINDA ― by Niranjan Naik

[There is a story behind this article. It was originally written in Oriya for the November 2008 issue of Navaprakash by Niranjan Naik, who was its editor for the last 38 years. The Peter Heehs controversy had erupted around mid-August / September 2008, shocking the devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The question that figured most prominently in their minds was how an Ashramite could insult the Guru. Niranjan Naik answered the question indirectly in his article without mentioning any names. The November 2008 issue was printed and even bound at the Ashram Press when the matter was brought to the notice of the Ashram Trust. The Managing Trustee, on the advice of Manoj Das, immediately ordered the scrapping of the article and 9700 copies of the magazine had to be redone. The cover pages were torn and the pages of the article were shredded to bits. Luckily, a few copies of the article were preserved, xeroxed and distributed in Orissa where it elicited a highly favourable response. It is in the light of this event that readers of this site should judge the dubious public statement made by the Ashram Trust in 2012 with regard to freedom of speech and belief in Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

The story does not end there. Niranjan Naik was later removed from the editorship of Navaprakash in January 2011 under pressure from Manoj Das. His daily work of carrying the letters and offerings of devotees in Orissa to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s rooms was abruptly taken away from him by Manoj Das Gupta. Even now, he constantly faces harassment by the henchmen of the Trustees in spite of lodging two police complaints. This is the mundane reality of the present Ashram administration. – Bireshwar]

Question: A tremendous conflict is disturbing my mind. If an old disciple of the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana centre tries to defame them and bring them down to the ordinary human level under the pretext of writing a biography as a neutral person, then what should we do about it? Please answer this query in jijnashur prushtha [Question & Answer Page] of Navaprakash, as this question is haunting many of us.

Answer: First of all, you must rest assured that a dirty, worthless, foolish, harmful fly cannot comment upon an ineffable, incomparable, mysterious and supreme well-wisher Honey Bee. Sri Aurobindo himself has told us:

“What matters in a spiritual man’s life is not what he did or what he was outside to the view of the men of his time (that is what historicity or biography comes to, does it not?) but what he was and did within; it is only that that gives any value to his outer life at all. It is the inner life that gives to the outer any power it may have and the inner life of a spiritual man is something vast and full and, at least in the great figures, so crowded and teeming with significant things that no biographer or historian could ever hope to seize it at all or tell it.”

(SABCL, Letters on Yoga, Volume 22, p 428)

Once a disciple sought permission from Sri Aurobindo to help a Marathi writer to write the biography of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo replied,

“I do not want to be murdered by my own disciples in cold print.”

(A.B. Purani, Life of Sri Aurobindo, Preface)

The biographies of Mother and Sri Aurobindo are not on the surface to be published like ordinary people’s biographies; they can never be presented correctly, either by a friend or foe. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo have incarnated in human bodies for our sake only.

“God must be born on earth and be as man
That man being human may grow even as God.”     

(SABCL, Savitri, Volume 29, p 537)

Unlike us they are not bound to take birth on this earth. They have borne human difficulties and limitations to transform them into Divine Perfection. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have accepted all the venom as well as the nectar of this world in their lives; they have swallowed both without any attachment in order to transform both into Divine Perfection. If Sri Aurobindo had taken any intoxicants at any time in his life, then instead of understanding him in the proper perspective, we present him as a drug addict, then there is not a single person in the world as foolish and mean minded as us. Sri Aurobindo has made it clear in his poem, ‘A God’s Labour’.

He who would bring the heavens here,
Must descend himself into clay
And the burden of earthly nature bear,
And tread the dolorous way.

(SABCL, Collected Poems, p 99)

The outer life of the incarnated godhead might appear like the life of ordinary people, but extraordinary capacity, knowledge and power are hidden behind them. A real devotee or disciple can see flashes of these in his or her consciousness. If a person in the guise of a devotee attempts to write a biography of his Guru, proclaiming himself as an objective historian, then he will produce a monkey instead of a god. He will degrade the Guru’s divine capacities and personality. Let us take the example of Trailangya Swami’s outer life.

Trailangya Swami was a realised being, who used to remain naked at all times, irrespective of whether he was alone or in the public. He bore all the disgust, insult, hatred and anger of others with a calm and generous disposition. Many wicked people tried to harm him by offering him harmful food, but they were not able to harm him. The devotees and disciples, who were aware of the Swamiji’s inner life and power, had enthroned him in their hearts.

Unlike his Indian disciples, the Europeans were unable to comprehend the Swamiji’s inner life. Therefore some European ladies reported against him to the magistrate. The magistrate ordered the police to arrest him. The police took the calm yogi in a sack and presented him before the magistrate. But the magistrate’s rebukes had no effect on the Swamiji. The magistrate got angry and ordered the police to handcuff him and put him in jail. But to everybody’s amazement the Swamiji disappeared and, while they were looking for him in every nook and corner, he reappeared at the same spot smiling like an innocent child. The speechless magistrate was told by the devotees that Swamiji was beyond shame, greed, attachment, respect and vanity of the worldly life. So sandalwood paste and faecal matter were equal to his eyes!

The magistrate tried to test the Swamiji’s equanimity with his European intelligence. He asked Swamiji to eat non-vegetarian food. Swamiji agreed on the condition that the magistrate should also eat the food that he would offer him, to which the magistrate consented. Swamiji then defecated in the court premises and offered the faeces to the magistrate. But the faeces turned to sandalwood paste, filling the atmosphere with its fragrance and Swamiji ate it. Overwhelmed and defeated, the magistrate released the Swamiji and got himself transferred to another place. After him, another foreigner came there as the magistrate, who also behaved as foolishly as the previous one. To teach the naked sannyasi a lesson, he arrested him and put him in jail. Next day, the sahib saw that Swamiji was loitering in the veranda though the door of his prison room was locked and flooded with water. When the surprised and angry magistrate accosted him, the Swamiji said, “I wanted to urinate and saw that the door was locked, so I had to urinate in the room. As the day dawned, I wanted to get some fresh air, so I preferred to come out of the room and roam around. The closed door did not give me any trouble.” The sahib flared up and put him in the room, and locked it with double locks. But after reaching the court, he saw the naked Sannyasi standing in a corner of the court room with a childlike smile on his lips. Swamiji went to the flabbergasted and speechless magistrate and, breaking his vow of silence, told him, “Sahib, you Europeans understand only matter and material powers. Behind this material world, there is a great world of Consciousness which you don’t know and also don’t believe in. But for Indian Yogis, it is not at all impossible to have contact with that power of the subtle world and to do anything he wishes.” Wonderstruck and afraid, the sahib left him free and allowed the Swamiji to go away naked.

The grace of the great Tapaswi Trailangya Swami was very helpful in the sadhana of Prabhupada Bijoyakrishna Goswami, who wrote about the many miracles of Swamiji. I will refer to one of them. Once Bijoykrishna Goswami saw Swamiji sprinkling his urine on the idol of Kali at Manikarnika bank of the the river Ganga. Goswamiji felt uneasy and asked Swamiji, “What are you doing? How can you sprinkle your urine on the idol of Kali?” The silent Swamiji wrote on the ground, “It is the water of Ganga.” Goswamiji asked again, “What is the necessity of sprinkling it on Kali?” Swamiji again wrote, “Worship,” meaning that it was his worship to Kali. At that time, there was nobody in the temple. Thereafter when it was crowded  Goswamiji told everyone (the priest, the sevakas) about it. But nobody was irritated or surprised; rather they told him, “Swamiji is Kashi Viswanath. It is true that his urine is the water of Ganga. Besides, Kali herself is satisfied with him. We can do nothing about it.”

There are so many examples like this in the outer life of Trailangya Swami that any foolish materialistic man can portray him as a vulgar, shameless and ill-mannered person. But only a good devotee or disciple can describe and judge him from a different perspective and prove his glory and divinity. So for the devotees and disciples, the material life of the Guru is not at all important. The most important thing is the truth, the ideal, the aim, which the Guru represents.

The outer life of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo is not full of miracles, which can astonish or overwhelm people, though their inner life was full of supreme miracles, which are not visible to the eye of a materialistic historian. So, in order to know them, it is enough for a devotee to read their writings about each other. Besides, all the essays and articles by people on their lives are incomplete, erroneous, superficial and sometimes create terrible confusion.

If an old disciple or devotee of your institution writes or speaks defaming Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with a mala fide intention, then take it for granted that he is doing the same thing in disguise as did Judas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, who was treacherous and ungrateful to Jesus. The soldiers of the King were in search of Jesus but could not recognize him. So Judas, tempted by 30 silver coins, promised the soldiers of the king that he would help them. He told them that he would kiss Jesus and then the soldiers would be able to recognise him. Thus he made them catch Jesus and they took Jesus to crucify. When Satan, who made Judas do such a thing, left him, Judas repented and committed suicide. So any old disciple may try to bring Sri Aurobindo and the Mother down from the level of their Divinity to the ordinary human level by defaming them like Judas, but this ungrateful, foolish, treacherous disciple can never crucify them.  Mother and Sri Aurobindo are not only the incarnations of Divine Love like Jesus, they are also the incarnations of Divine Love, Divine Knowledge, Divine Power. To try to crucify them will only glorify them. One can throw any amount of rubbish in the Eternal Fire, but the fire will not get extinguished though the rubbish will burn and turn to ashes.

Out of their deep compassion Mother and Sri Aurobindo have incarnated on this earth which is full of sorrow and suffering; they knew that human beings would one day adorn them with a crown of thorns for their supreme Sacrifice. Remaining above all insults, they have worked for the welfare of ungrateful human beings; they are working for them even now and will work for them as long as human beings are not completely free from ignorance, sorrow, pain and death.

If the psychologists, who are engaged in the study of the petty surface mind, judge Sri Aurobindo’s Divine realisations and condemn them to be sheer madness, then Sri Aurobindo would not have any reaction. He would say,

They say, O my God, that I am mad, because I see no fault in Thee; but if I am indeed mad with Thy Love, I don’t wish to recover my sanity.”

(Mother’s Collected Works, Vol. 10, p 337)

People might say that if Sri Aurobindo and the Mother do not care for praise or blame, and if they are above them, then why should we react towards their insult? We should be silent and maintain our peace, equanimity and stillness. In the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjuna also did not want to fight for the sake of peace and equanimity. But did Sri Krishna allow him to do so? One has to fight for the Divine, maintaining inner peace, equanimity and stillness. One has to think that the Divine Himself is fighting through you. In our Yoga, peace, equanimity and stillness do not mean inactivity or inertia. After all, we are not the Mother or Sri Aurobindo; we are their disciples and devotees. The Gurus might remain silent over their own insult and defamation. But if the disciples remain silent, without any protest, then it can be equated with Guru Droha (betrayal of the Guru). If we want to work in the Mother’s light, let us turn to the following messages, which are her reactions to the misrepresentation of her Guru, Sri Aurobindo.

I was painfully shocked when I heard the translation of the leaflet you are distributing here in the Ashram. I never imagined you could have such a complete lack of understanding, respect and devotion for our Lord who has sacrificed himself totally for us. Sri Aurobindo was not crippled: a few hours before he left his body he rose from his bed and sat for a long time in his armchair, speaking freely to all those around him. Sri Aurobindo was not compelled to leave his body, he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality. And when one cannot understand, the only thing to do is to keep a respectful silence.

26th December 1950
CWM, Vol. 13, pp 7-8)

It is not a question of disobedience. I know nothing about your additions to the Life Sketch of the sources from which they were taken. My point of view is this, that anything written by a sadhak about Sri Aurobindo which brings him down to an ordinary level and admits the reader to a sort of gossiping familiarity with him is an unfaithfulness to him and his work. Good intentions are not sufficient, it is necessary that this should be understood by everybody.

(MCW, Vol. 13, p 27)

When the Mother is so reactive to the slightest dilution of the Lord’s magnanimity and glory, then why should we, the disciples, tolerate it silently under the plea of maintaining peace, equanimity and harmony? Peace, equanimity and harmony are not static in our yoga. Dynamic and peaceful silence is also possible. If any member of our institution wilfully and deliberately abuses the Mother and Sri Aurobindo either through speech or written word, we should retaliate. Otherwise, it would be presumed in general that we are acknowledging to his deliberate and baseless abuse. If someone speaks against us, we could tolerate it, but never when it is against the Guru. Disciplinary action deemed proper according to the norms of the concerned institute has to be taken against such a person. Such persons, who openly blame and insult their masters in the public, undoubtedly consider themselves superior to the Masters. Therefore they should quit the institution and form their own institution. It is unethical to remain in the institute and falsely portray the Mother and Sri Aurobindo as ordinary beings.

Apart from these external measures, inner measures are more important. We have to sever all our relations; even in our consciousness we should dissociate with such persons. We should open ourselves entirely, more deeply and intently to the influence of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and surrender to them. We should work on ourselves, root out all the impurities and darkness and all that obstructs the Divine action in us. We should take courage from the Mother’s words,

“No adverse force can prevail against the constant action of the Grace. One day the Victory is certain.”

(Huta Hindocha, The Mother of Love, Vol. 1, p 249)

Though the answer has become very lengthy, I still want to share with you another example from the Indian tradition of the sanctified and intimate relationship between a Guru and his disciple.

In ancient times there was a famous Rishi named Angiras. One day he called all his disciples and told them that, as a consequence of his previous birth’s karma, he has to undergo the curse of leprosy. He would consequently lose his vision and the body would become full of filthy wounds with pus and blood oozing out. Therefore he had decided to proceed to Kashi and spend his last days there, immersed in the Divine consciousness. He asked his disciples whether any of them would like to accompany him on his journey to Kashi and be with him for those dark days of suffering and serve him. Only those who would like to come may come with him, and the rest should go to their respective homes. Most of the disciples fell silent, few expressed their difficulties, but the youngest of them Sandeepak, wanted to go with his Guru and serve him.

The Guru warned him that as he was very young it will be difficult for him to serve a patient. It is harder to serve a patient than to be a patient oneself. Moreover, leprosy is an accursed illness and he asked Sandeepak to go back home like the rest of the disciples. Sandeepak wept and replied to his Guru, “What would I do after going back home as my Guru is the only shelter I have in this life and the next. There is no other ambition in my life than to serve my Guru and follow his ideals and his mission. The pain and suffering would turn to bliss and supreme satisfaction if I am able to serve my Guru.” Finally, Angiras agreed to take him to Kashi.

In due course, Angiras was affected by leprosy. Eventually he lost his eyesight. Sandeepak served the Guru very sincerely attending to all his needs by being near him always, going away only to beg for alms, and returning and continuing with the service to his Guru. As his condition worsened, Angiras became irritated and abused Sandeepak, and accused him of not taking care of him and bringing bad food for him. He even told Sandeepak to go back home if he was not interested in serving his Guru.

Upon these accusations Sandeepak became even more vigilant to the needs of the Guru. He put his heart and soul into Gurubhakti. A few onlookers advised Sandeepak, “Why should you cling to that outrageous leper whose scolding is unbearable?” This hurt Sandeepak very much and made him grave. He replied, “Please don’t speak in such a disrespectful manner about my Guru to me. Never judge him from his outward appearance. He is Kashi Vishwanath. There is endless peace, power, beauty, knowledge, compassion and delight behind his apparent rage and leprosy. He is angry with me because he loves me and wants to rectify me. I never want to hear from you such spiteful words about him again.”

Everybody was amazed at such Gurubhakti and they profoundly respected Sandeepak. One day while returning back from his chores, Lord Shiva appeared before Sandeepak and told him that he was very pleased by his devotion to his Guru, and wanted to give a boon to him. Sandeepak wanted to consult his Guru. When he recounted his Guru what happened and expressed his desire to ask Lord Shiva to cure him, Angiras became furious and rebuked him and asked him whether he was his disciple or enemy. By asking Lord Shiva to cure him, he will not be relieved of the consequences of his previous birth’s karma and he would have to take another birth to suffer the consequences. He wanted to finish his karmic suffering in this very life.

Returning to Lord Shiva, Sandeepak respectfully said that his Guru did not approve of the boon which he wanted for him. He therefore asked Shiva to let him continue to serve his Guru faithfully, which was the supreme boon for him. Hearing this, Lord Shiva disappeared.

After a few years, Lord Vishnu appeared before Sandeepak and expressed his appreciation for his service and devotion. He implored Sandeepak to ask for a boon and not reject it as he had done to Lord Shiva’s boon. Sandeepak replied to Vishnu that he never served Vishnu even in his thoughts because he served only his Guru Angiras. Vishnu replied that all sincere service to one’s Guru reached him and he accepted the worship; there was no difference between the Guru and the Divine. So he wanted to bestow a boon on Sandeepak. Hearing this Sandeepak expressed again his desire to consult his Guru before asking for any boon. When Sandeepak asked his Guru as to what should be his boon, Angiras replied very calmly that he did not need anything, so Sandeepak could ask anything that he desired. Sandeepak asked Lord Vishnu to make him serve his Guru more sincerely and meticulously and to the Guru’s full satisfaction. He should not be the cause of the slightest discontent in his Guru’s life. Lord Vishnu blessed Sandeepak and went away.

When Sandeepak narrated what transpired between him and Lord Vishnu, Angiras’s leprosy vanished and he regained his eyesight. He embraced Sandeepak with deep love and affection. His spiritual realisation got transmitted to Sandeepak. Then the Guru spoke and revealed that he was a realised being and actually had no karmic consequences from his previous births, but had willingly undergone this suffering to test and prepare his disciples. Sandeepak was the only winner with implicit faith in his Guru and deserved the divine treasure of his spiritual realisation. Sandeepak was overwhelmed and grateful tears rolled down his eyes remembering the intense pain and suffering that the Guru had underwent to make the disciples grow in consciousness. What a sacrifice of the Guru for his disciple!

It is in this context, conforming to the highly effective and sanctified relationship of Guru and Shishya, that our inner and outer reactions should be determined, that is, if we are not hypocrites or westernised.

Niranjan Naik

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