Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Sri Aurobindo mentions that he first started practicing sadhana in 1904

Sri Aurobindo’s first major spiritual experience
Presentation by Shraddhavan, January 7, 2008 Invocation 28.pdf
1 : Chronology
When, last October, I learned that it had been decided that the Centenary of Sri Aurobindo’s realisation of the Silent Brahman would be celebrated by all the Sri Aurobindo Centres of Gujarat on the 5th and 6th of January 2008, I was puzzled.
Of course I had heard of this major realisation of Sri Aurobindo; and I knew that it had happened in Baroda. I had always assumed that it had taken place during Sri Aurobindo’s stay in what is now the Sri Aurobindo Nivas, the house he lived in during his stay in Baroda.
But Sri Aurobindo left Baroda in 1906 to take up the principalship of the National College in Calcutta. So I wondered why the centenary of this important realisation was happening now, in January 2008?
This question launched me on an interesting research project. Tonight I would like to share with you some of the stages of my exploration, and some of the things I found on the way.
First I turned to Volume 30 of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library – the Index and Glossary. There I made my first startling discovery.
In December 1907, Sri Aurobindo was in full political action, meeting nationalist groups and giving speeches. On December 21 he left Calcutta for Surat to attend the Indian National Congress. Most of us who know a little about the major events of Sri Aurobindo’s life know that the Surat Congress was a very important point in his political work. Working with some enthusiastic young Nationalists, he managed to disrupt the Congress, which until then had been dominated by so-called "Moderates" who hesitated to demand full Independence for India from British rule. As a result of the activities of those few momentous days at the end of December 1907, the Moderates lost influence in the Nationalist Movement, and the goal of full Independence became the official policy of the Indian National Congress. Nirodbaran and others have written in detail about the role played by Sri Aurobindo in this major change of policy. I do not want to go into more detail about it here. What surprised me was to learn how closely in time this major stage in his political action coincided with the first major realisation of his spiritual path.
Sri Aurobindo remained in Surat from December 24th to the 31st, when he left for Baroda – not so very far away. He was going there expressly to meet Vishnu Baskar Lele. In the first week of January 2008 Sri Aurobindo stayed at a friend’s home, along with the yogi, and then accompanied him first to Poona and then to Bombay. In Bombay they parted company, Sri Aurobindo returning to Calcutta.
They met only once again, a few months later – at which time Lele, says Sri Aurobindo in a letter, "was alarmed, tried to undo what he had done and told me that it was not the Divine but the devil that had got hold of me." (SABCL 26:79)
2: Sri Aurobindo’s own words about this event I turned next to see what Sri Aurobindo himself had said or written on various occasions about this event. In Letters on Yoga (SABCL 22-23-24) I found only a few references to it, but one very significant one, which I intend to share with you later. In On Himself (SABCL 26) I found many more, some of which we can have a look at now.
Here is a passage dictated by Sri Aurobindo:
From 1904 onwards Sri Aurobindo began practising Yoga on his own account, starting with pranayama as explained to him by a friend, a disciple of Brahmananda. Afterwards, faced with difficulties, he took help of Lele who was called for the purpose from Gwalior by Barindra – this was after the Surat Congress, in 1908. SABCL 26:19-20
Sri Aurobindo mentions this point in several of his letters or dictated clarifications : that he first started practicing sadhana in 1904, but that he was not able to make much progress; and that it was Lele who helped him to make the needed breakthrough, in January 1908.
Here is another passage dictated by Sri Aurobindo :
Before he met Lele, Sri Aurobindo had some spiritual experiences, but that was before he knew anything about Yoga or even what Yoga was, – e.g., a vast calm which descended upon him at the moment when he stepped first on Indian soil after his long absence, in fact with his first step on the Apollo Bunder in Bombay: (this calm surrounded him and remained for long months afterwards); the realisation of the vacant Infinite while walking on the ridge of the Takht-i-Suleman in Kashmir; the living presence of Kali in a shrine on the banks of the Narmada; the vision of the Godhead surging up from within when in danger of a carriage accident in Baroda in the first year of his stay, etc. But these were inner experiences coming of themselves and with a sudden unexpectedness, not part of a Sadhana. He started Yoga by himself without a Guru, getting the rule from a friend, a disciple of Brahmanananda of Ganga Math; it was confined at first to assiduous practice of pranayama (at one time for 6 hours or more a day). There was no conflict or wavering between Yoga and politics; when he started Yoga, he carried on both without any idea of opposition between them. He wanted however to find a Guru. He met a Naga Sannyasi in the course of this search, but did not accept him as Guru, though he was confirmed by him in a belief in Yoga-power when he saw him cure Barin in almost a moment of a violent and clinging hill-fever by merely cutting through a glassful of water crosswise with a knife while he repeated a silent Mantra. Barin drank and was cured. He also met Brahmananda and was greatly impressed by him, but he had no helper or Guru in Yoga till he met Lele, and that was only for a short time. SABCL 26:50-51
As we have seen already, Sri Aurobindo was in full political action at the time that he met Lele, and it seems that from the outset he made clear to Lele what his aims were :

When I told him [Lele] that I wanted to do Yoga but for work, for action, not for Sannyasa and Nirvana, – but after years of spiritual effort I had failed to find the way and it was for that I had asked to meet him … his first answer was, "It would be easy for you as you are a poet." SABCL 26:279
Sri Aurobindo has also repeatedly spoken of the importance and value of this encounter for his development; for example, this dictated clarification:
Sri Aurobindo never took any formal diksha from anyone. He started his Sadhana at Baroda in 1904 on his own account after learning from a friend the ordinary formula of pranayama. Afterwards the only help he received was from the Maharashtrian Yogi, Vishnu Bhaskar Lele, who instructed him how to reach complete silence of the mind and immobility of the whole consciousness. This Sri Aurobindo was able to achieve in three days with the result of lasting and massive spiritual realisations opening to him the larger ways of Yoga. Lele finally told him to put himself entirely into the hands of the Divine within and move only as he was moved and then he would need no instructions either from Lele himself or anyone else. This henceforward became the whole foundation and principle of Sri Aurobindo’s Sadhana.
From that time onward … and through many years of intensive experience at Pondicherry he underwent no spiritual influence from outside. SABCL 26:61
In a letter, Sri Aurobindo states:
The Brahman experience came when I was groping for a way, doing no Sadhana at all, making no effort because I didn’t know what effort to make, all having failed. Then in three days I got an experience which most Yogis get only at the end of a long Yoga, got it without wanting or trying after it, got it to the surprise of Lele who was trying to get me something quite different. SABCL 26:77-78

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