Talks with Sri Aurobindo by Nirodbaran (Volume 1 and 2)

Talks with Sri Aurobindo

On the eve of the November Darshan Day in 1938, the hostile forces finally managed to strike a heavy blow against Sri Aurobindo. In the wee, dark, hours of the morning, Sri Aurobindo “stumbled” over a tiger skin rug in his apartment and struck his right knee upon the skull of the tiger, causing a fracture of his right femur. However, as these two volumes of Talks with Sri Aurobindo recorded by Nirodbaran will attest, the attempt by the forces of Darkness to silence Sri Aurobindo actually had the opposite effect, creating an opportunity for a handful of disciples and others to engage in a free flowing, wide-ranging, informal and open inquiry into the Master’s thinking and teaching which would never have happened otherwise. Collected here, we have the reminisces, musings and discussions of that band of men who were fortunate enough to be there at the right time and place to make this intimate atmosphere among seekers of Truth possible. These conversations stretched over a period of nearly twelve years, bringing these men ever closer to each other and closer to the light.

Book Details

Author: Nirodbaran
Print Length: Volume 1 – 514p., Volume 2 – 517p.
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Submitted by: Blindshiva
Book format: Pdf, ePub, mobi (Kindle)
Language: English

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Volume 1

Volume 2


Talks with Sri Aurobindo


The eve of the November Darshan, 1938. The Ashram humming with the ar rival of visitors. On every face signs of joy, in every look calm expectation and happiness. Everybody has retired early, lights have gone out: great occasion demands greater silent preparation. The Ashram is bathed in an atmosphere of serene repose. Only one light keeps on burning in the corner room like a midnight vigil. Sri Aurobindo at work as usual.

A sudden noise! A rush and hurry of feet breaking the calm sleep. 2:00 a.m. Then an urgent call to Sri Aurobindo’s room. There, lying on the floor with his right knee flexed, is he, clad in white dhoti, upper body bare, the Golden Purusha. The Mother, dressed in a sari, is sitting beside him. Purani, hearing the urgent ringing of the bell, had answered the call. Then Dr. Manilal, who fortunately had arrived for the Darshan, was called. Presently some of us came. Dr. Manilal has examined Sri Aurobindo. Yes, a fracture and of a serious type. All necessary first aid given, a specialist from Madras is sent for.

Meanwhile a deep gloom has overshadowed the Ashram. The Darshan has to be abandoned. The visitors leave, one by one, with heavy hearts and ardent prayers for the speedy recovery of their beloved Master and Friend.

He was laid on the bed for an indefinite period at the rigorous command of the doctors and attended by a few disciples. There followed regular con versations with those disciples, who were given the privilege of serving him from then onwards for twelve years. There was not a subject that was not touched upon, not a mystery that he did not illumine, not a phenomenon that passed unnoticed, humorous or serious, superficial or profound, mundane or mystic. Reminiscences, stories, talks on art and culture, on world-problems and spiritual life poured down in abundant streams from an otherwise silent and reticent vastitude of knowledge and love and bliss. It was an unforgettable reward he accorded to us for our humble service. “The Divine gives himself to those who give themselves.” Those anxious days called forth our best and noblest and he gave in return his fathomless compassion, freely and divinely. All the talks could not be recorded, some have to be kept back, but the rest are presented here. They are as far as possible authentic, though the words and expressions cannot be his own in all places.
Sometimes a question bore no relation to the one preceding it. Indeed, that was often the general trend of the talks. In a group like ours and in the milieu in which we worked, a methodical discussion of a subject was not always possible nor even very worthwhile. But the pronouncements of one day would often be completed on another when new aspects were brought up in conjunction with those expressed earlier.

One of the most exciting and significant features of our talks was in con nection with the last World War. At its very start, a radio was installed in Sri Aurobindo’s room and he used to listen to the war news three or four times a day. Then would follow comments and discussions on the war situation, international politics, India’s vital role in the war and other allied topics. There we realised Sri Aurobindo’s deep and firm grasp of world-politics and, what was most surprising, his penetrating insight into military affairs. Once someone asked him, “Did you ever use the military genius you seem to have?” He replied briefly, “Not in this life.” Sri Aurobindo could foresee, as it were, the various strategic moves with their immediate or ultimate consequences on the fate of the war. Sometimes he would drop hints as to how by his spiritual force he was guiding, helping and protecting the Allies and safeguarding India’s interests.

In the early period, the conversations took place in the evenings. Some five or six of us used to sit by Sri Aurobindo’s bed and wait for his signal. The Mother’s presence was an occasional feature that added a lively interest to our talks. Later, however, her work kept her away. Those who took part in the talks were the regular attendants, Purani, Satyendra, Nirodbaran, Champaklal, Mulshankar and Dr. Becharlal, and three occasional visitors. Dr. Manilal, Dr. Rao and Dr. Savoor.

10 DECEMBER 1938

Evening about 7:00 p.m. Sri Aurobindo lying on his bed. We, the regular attendants, sitting on the floor, very close together. Dr. Manilal opens the con versation with a question. Sri Aurobindo’s voice is very soft, his speech slow

DR. MANILAL: Why did you choose Pondicherry as the place for your sadhana?

SRI AUROBINDO: Because of an Adesh, a Command. I was ordered by a Voice to come here. When I was leaving Bombay for Calcutta, I asked Lele what I should do about my sadhana. He kept silent for a while, probably waiting to hear a voice from within, and then replied, “Meditate at a fixed time and hear the voice in the heart.” I didn’t hear any voice from the heart but a quite different one from above, and dropped meditation at a fixed hour because meditation was going on all the time. When Lele came to Calcutta and heard about all this, he said to me, “The Devil has caught hold of you.” I replied, “If it is the Devil, then I will follow him.” The same Voice from above brought me to Pondicherry.

DR. MANILAL: We have heard that spirits used to come to The book Yogic Sadhan is said to have been written by the spirit of Keshab Sen.

SRI AUROBINDO: Keshab Sen? When I was writing it, always at the beginning and at the end the image of Ram Mohan Roy came before me. Somebody has evolved Keshab Sen out of Ram Mohan Roy. Do you know the origin of the name “Uttara Yogi” who is put as the author of the book?


SRI AUROBINDO: There was a famous Yogi in the South who, while dying, said to his disciples that a Purna (Integral) Yogi from the North (Uttara) would come down to the South and he would be known by three sayings. Those three sayings were those I had written to my wife. They are published in Mrinalinir Patra. A Zamindar disciple of that Yogi found me out, took the book Yogic Sadhan, gave the author’s name as Uttara Yogi and bore the cost of publication.

DR. MANILAL: Did Lele have any realisation?

SRI AUROBINDO: Of course he had.

DR. MANILAL: It is said that Christ used to heal simply by a touch. Is such healing possible?

SRI AUROBINDO: Why not? There are many instances of such cures. No doubt, faith is necessary. Christ himself said, “Thy faith has made thee whole.”

NIRODBARAN: Is faith always necessary?

SRI  AUROBINDO:  No, not always. Cures can be effected without faith, especially when one doesn’t know what is being done. Faith is above mind, so any discussion or dispute spoils its action.

DR. MANILAL: Yes, I know of instances of cure or help by fait When I first came to see you, you told me to remember you in any difficulty. I followed your advice and passed unscathed through many troubles. But when I came here again, I heard many conflicting things from people and didn’t get the same result. I thought perhaps I couldn’t open myself to you.

SRI AUROBINDO: Yours was what is known as simple faith. Some call it blind faith. When Ramakrishna was asked the nature of faith, he replied, “All faith is blind; otherwise it is not faith.” And he was quite right.

DR. MANILAL: Is it because there is something in our nature or in the surrounding atmosphere that doubts come and the results are not as before?

SRI AUROBINDO: For both reasons. The physical mind has doubts inherent in it and they come up at one time or another. By contact with other people also, the faith gets obscured. I know one or two shocking instances in the Ashram itself. Once a truthful man came to pay a visit. Someone told him that the habit of always speaking the truth was nothing but a superstition and that one must be free to say whatever one likes. There is another instance of someone advocating sex-indulgence. He said that it was not a hindrance to Yoga and that everybody must have his Shakti! When such ideas are spread, it is no wonder they cast a bad influence on people.

DR. MANILAL: Shouldn’t those who broadcast these ideas be quarantined

SRI AUROBINDO: I thought of that. But it is not possible. The Mother tried at one time to impose restrictions and regulations; it didn’t work. One has to change from within. There are, of course, other Yogic systems which enforce strict disciplines. Buddhism is unique in that respect. In France also there is a school which enjoins rigorous silence.

NIRODBARAN: Is exterior imposition good?

SRI  AUROBINDO:  It can be good, provided one sincerely keeps to it. In that school in France, for example, people who enter know what they want and so keep to the regulations meant to help their object. Here the object is different. Ours is a problem of world-change. People here are an epitome of the world. Each one represents a type of humanity. If he is changed, it means a victory for all who belong to his type and thus a great achievement for our work. But for this change a constant will is required. If that will is there, lots of things can be done for the man.

NIRODBARAN: We gather that sadhana was going on very well in the Ashram at the beginning and things became sluggish only afterwards.

SRI AUROBINDO: Yes, it is when the sadhana came down into the physical and subconscient that things became very difficult. I myself had to struggle for two years. For the subconscient is absolutely inert, like stone. Though my mind was quite awake above, it could not exert any influence down below. It is a Herculean labour. If I had been made to see it before, probably I would have been less enthusiastic about it. There is the virtue of blind faith! When one enters into the subconscient, it is like stepping on an unexplored continent. Previous Yogis came down to the vital level, they did not descend farther, and they were quite sensible in not doing so! But if I too had left it there, the real work would have remained undone. Once the subconscient is conquered, things will become easy for those who come after. That is what is meant by the “realisation of one in all”.

NIRODBARAN: Then why should we take so much trouble? We can wait for that victory.

SRI AUROBINDO: You want an easy path?

DR. MANILAL: More than an easy path; we want to be carried about like a baby. Not possible, Sir?

SRI AUROBINDO: Why not? But you have to be a genuine baby!

NIRODBARAN: Ramakrishna has said that one need not be like a drawn bow.

SRI AUROBINDO: Where has he said that? A Yogi has to be always vigilant, es pecially in the early part of his sadhana, otherwise all he has gained can come down with a thud. People usually don’t make sadhana the one thing of their lives. They have two parts, one internal and the other external which goes on with its ordinary movements, social contacts, etc. Sadhana must be made the one central thing.

NIRODBARAN: You once spoke of the brilliant period of the Ashram.

SRI  AUROBINDO:  Yes, it was when sadhana was going on in the vital level. Then everything was joy, peace, Ananda. And if we had stopped there, we could have started a big religion or a vast organisation. But the real work would have been left unattempted and unachieved.

DR. MANILAL: Why did you retire? Was it to concentrate more on your work? SRI AUROBINDO: N It was in order to withdraw from the general physical at mosphere. If I had to do what the Mother is doing, I would hardly have found time to do my own work; besides, it would have entailed a tremen dous labour.

NIRODBARAN:  The Mother’s coming must have greatly helped you in your work and in your sadhana.

SRI AUROBINDO: Of course, of course. All my realisations—Nirvana and others—would have remained theoretical, as it were, so far as the outer world was concerned. It is the Mother who showed the way to. a, practical form. Without her, no organised manifestation would have been possible. She has been doing this kind of sadhana and work from her very childhood.

NIRODBARAN:  Yes. We also find in the Mother’s Prayers and Meditations a striking resemblance between your ideas and hers.

About Author: Nirodbaran

Nirodbaran was born on November 17, 1903 in Chittagong (now Bangladesh). He lost his father when he was five years old. After passing Matriculation Examination, he participated in the famous Non-Cooperation Movement and was punished with two months’ imprisonment. After passing Intermediate Examination in the first division, he decided to go to England to qualify for the Bar. In 1924, he went abroad, but finally went in for Medical Studies at Edinburgh. After a long six-year course, he took the M.B.C.H.B. Degree and then went on a tour of Europe with his niece. His meeting with Dilip Kumar Roy, the famous musician in Paris, sealed his fate. His niece, having heard about Sri Aurobindo from Dilip Kumar Roy, met the Mother and was highly impressed. On her repeated requests, Nirodbaran, after coming to India in 1930, met the Mother and was overwhelmed and had a spiritual experience. After some vacillation he finally felt the call and joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1933, leaving behind the prospect of a highly lucrative career. In the Ashram he entered upon a new life and had many experiences and realizations. With Sri Aurobindo’s help and inspiration he flowered into a wonderful poet. His correspondence with Sri Aurobindo is an invaluable treasure. In 1938 when Sri Aurobindo broke his leg, he was drawn into the inner circle of Sri Aurobindo’s personal attendants. He served Sri Aurobindo till his passing away in 1950. He had the extraordinary good fortune of being Sri Aurobindo’s scribe when the latter dictated “Savitri” to him. He had been engaged with Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education as a teacher of English, French and Bengali. He has been a prolific writer, in English and Bengali, having to his credit quite a few beautiful books (“Twelve years with Sri Aurobindo” and “Memorable Contacts with The Mother” deserve special mention) and numerous articles which will not only rank as fine literature, but also serve as an invaluable guide for knowing Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, their teachings, their many-splendoured personality and also about the Ashram and the disciples.

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