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Nirod-da:  Happy Birthday Centenarian Child


Arun Vaidya

Ordinarily my birthday wish would be to wish, all that you wish to your heart’s content.  But this is not an ordinary birthday – it is a centenary birthday and it is not an ordinary person’s birthday but it is of an extraordinary Aurobindonian affectionally known around the world as Nirod-da. It is an occultic secret that great souls come along to participate in the creation of a new paradigm, to usher the new milestone of civilization, and to facilitate dawning of the new Spirit. Sri Aurobindo characterized them as high-reaching souls.  Nirod-da is one of them. Sri Aurobindo explained the mission of such high-reaching soul, “To attain the Supreme and to be for ever for the good of the world. … The earth calls most, because it has most need of him, to the soul that has become one with the universe. …The greatest helpfulness of all is this, to be a human center of the Light, the Glory, the Bliss, the Strength, the Knowledge of the Divine Existence, one through whom it shall communicate itself lavishly to other men and attract by its magnet of the delight their souls to that which is the Highest.”[1]  And so my birthday wish on his 100th birthday is for Nirod-da to remain the luminous center for us to renew our faith in mankind’s divinised future, to seek unabatedly guidance from the Mother and Sri Aurobindo in our work-sadhana because They are always here, and to learn from his life-journey to tread along the Sunlit Path of the Integral Yoga. Happy birthday Nirod-da! The Century salutes you and the world adores you! 


May be collectively we could wish that the following slip up of Nirod-da in his correspondence of February 12, 1934 with Sri Aurobindo become a grand reality:

N: May I be permitted to see you on the 15th instant, the centenary of my arrival here?

            [Sri Aurobindo underlined the word “centenary”, put an interrogation mark above it.]

Sri Aurobindo: I say, you have not been here 100 years surely![2]


His Beloved Guru might want to whisper on his centenary birthday to acknowledge:


Out of the paths of the morning star they came

Into the little room of mortal life. …

The labourers in the quarries of the gods,

The messengers of the Incommunicable, …

Lips chanting an unknown anthem of the soul, …

Their tread one day shall change the suffering earth

And justify the light on Nature's face. …

All shall be done for which our pain was borne. [3]


We know from the Mother that on the birthday an individual is more receptive to the divine vibrations and so She might want to convey to Nirod-da on his 100th birthday to strive on and be exemplary: “One must have an unvarying will to acquire what one does not have in one's nature, to know what one does not yet know, to be able to do what one cannot yet do.”[4]  In my homage to Nirod-da on his 100th birthday, I will focus on his inadvertent but destined role as a high-reaching soul acting as a beacon not just to me but also to many aspiring Aurobindonians around the world to show the path to the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. 


A brief outline of his life’s external activities provides a backdrop for his yogic pursuit.  It is believed that Nirod-da’s mother had a vision of a luminous Rishi at the time of his birth and years later when she visited Ashram she recognized that the luminous Rishi of her vision was indeed Sri Aurobindo.  It seems that the Lord had already chosen Nirod-da but the Lord had to wait until he was accepted by Nirod-da!  Nirod-da was educated in England as a physician. His first medical assignment was a government job for 2 years. Next, he went into private practice but left it in 6 months to come to Pondicherry Ashram at the tender age of 29 to pursue Integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo.  He was quite unaware of his destiny.  At Ashram he accepted the assignments given by the Mother in the spirit of “Self-giving is true prayer.”[5]  Initially he was responsible for the timber godown and subsequently was assigned to the Ashram Dispensary. These were his formative years as a sadhak of Integral yoga and a budding poet. He corresponded extensively with Sri Aurobindo to seek His guidance on all matters affecting him. His correspondence activity turned out to be a grand event in the annals of yogic sadhana depicting a rare Guru-Shishya relation that was nothing short of Ananda Rasa. He became one of the personal attendants of Sri Aurobindo for twelve years when Sri Aurobindo met with an accident and fractured his thighbone in 1938.  Sri Aurobindo was having extensive communications with Amal Kiran from early on about Savitri and Nolini-da used to prepare the typed copy of Savitri for on going reviews and revisions by Sri Aurobindo. However, around 1944 due to failing eye sight of Sri Aurobindo, Nirod-da was accorded the unique privilege to be the scribe for Sri Aurobindo’s epic Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol. It was the final and extensive phase of revisions culminating decades of labor to reflect the highest realized level of consciousness and to present the Truth of the Supermind in a poetic form of about 24,000 lines. In ancient India, Seer-poet Veda Vyasa was reputed to have engaged the services of Sri Ganesh as a scribe to write in Sanskrit the Indian epic Mahabharata.  Nirod-da has thus acquired a unique distinction to be scribe of the Avatar of Supramental Consciousness. Later on, he became a participant at the International Center of Education, which was under the guardianship of the Mother. He has remained active all along even in his 90’s and periodically gives talks at Ashram as well as at Auroville. For quite sometime, Nirod-da and Amal Kiran, his friend for 71 years (and counting) have become a symbol of harmony and source of inspiration to many Aurobindonians from various parts of the world. 


For me, Nirod-da has been a role model in adapting to changes with faith in the Divine and sincerity of his commitment to continue his yogic pursuit as his life went through several major changes.  He remains an encouraging Aurobindonian to live by one of the fundamental principles of the Sunlit Path charted by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, “If man surrenders totally to the Divine, he identifies himself with the Divine.”[6] Nirod-da went through significant churning of his inner being as he embarked upon Integral yoga and spiritually progressed in the process.  He demonstrated while working in timber godown and in Dispensary that a true sadhak strives to be a fit instrument in pursuing teachings of Integral Yoga, “Orderly harmony and organisation in physical things is a necessary part of efficiency and perfection and makes the instrument fit for whatever work is given to it.”[7]  He has been a source of inspiration to me through his spiritual endeavors and treading on the Sunlit Path in spite of profusion of activities of his mind and vital frequently plunging him into despondency, disheartenment, doubts, dreariness, and desolation.  In fact, it was his this vulnerability and display of roller coaster mode of emotions along with his convoluted logic that attracted me to him, as they seem so natural human tendencies.  Overcoming them and transforming himself to the state of increasing equanimity with steady faith and sincere commitment to the Divine was the most fascinating and spiritually uplifting example I had come across.  He has been a natural demonstrator of practice of Integral Yoga as work-sadhana.  He has been a resounding proof for hope to all Aurobindonian in particular and the humanity in general to change from its innate turbulent self; trapped in the endless turmoil of subconscious, vital and mental. With the continuing help of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s, Nirod-da could focus on his limitations and progressively overcome them. This paved the path for him to develop the required spiritual foundation and to victoriously embark upon the limitless ascend into the higher levels of consciousness. He is a real life example of, “The Mother's victory is essentially a victory of each Sadhak over himself.”[8]


Nirod-da’s sadhana has led him to spiritual journey that is multidimensional, non-sequential, concurrent, and ever continuing. This is consistent with the principles of Integral Yoga as Integral Yoga deals with all of mental, vital and spiritual aspects of us.  It focuses on our inherent attitude, personality, nature, propensity, and aspirations to transform our consciousness to be spiritual. The milestones of Nirod-da’s continual spiritual transformation in pursuing Integral Yoga are quite relevant to any individual in trenches and in the grooves of life. After all Integral Yoga is not meant to be practiced in some desolated monastery or remote peaks of Himalayas. All the elements of life are to be addressed and transformed with the Supramental Consciousness in Integral Yoga.  Accordingly, Sri Aurobindo’s maxim is that, “All life is Yoga.” In case of Nirod-da, we find that in practicing Sri Aurobindo’s maxim, he curtailed his vital propensity to indulge in food and socialization, which is liberating himself from being body-vital-focused. In addition, he reformed his logic-driven mental mind to step aside to make room for his psychic to surface, which germinated interest in poetry and with Sri Aurobino’s plodding, he became a ‘Poet of Occult Worlds’. Furthermore, he changed his demeanor from the ‘Man of Sorrows’ to ‘Man of Delightful Humor’. This is a transition towards delight-focused--‘Ananadamaya’.  These are remarkable strides in one’s lifetime in the spiritual journey of self-transformation.  However, it does not end here in case of Nirod-da. 


Nirod-da’s pursuit of Integral Yoga took him to another frontier of Yoga called Karma Yoga, which was previously propounded by Lord Krishna in Bhagawata Gita in a discourse to Arjuna. In pursuing sadhana of Integral Yoga, Nirod-da was inspired by Champaklal while in attendance of Sri Aurobindo to unify work and sadhana. Champaklal was the personification of service with devotion.  He made service to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo as his life’s mission.  In Champaklal’s pursuit of Integral Yoga, we find he intuitively unified Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Nirod-da adopted this approach during his role as a scribe to Sri Aurobindo. His work became his sadhana and his sadhana was carried out meticulously with devotion for the Mother has taught us that “All service done sincerely to the Divine is sadhana. And all increase in the urge to serve is a sure sign of progress.”[9]  If we venture to apply Nirod-da’s own logic, which Sri Aurobindo would characterize as ‘Nirodbaranian’ logic to the Mother’s preceding message, one might say that because of Nirod-da’s long life of service and his ever increasing urge to serve Divine, he has most certainly progressed a lot!  Nirod-da had received an epithet of ‘Woodenhead’ from Sri Aurobindo with affections for his flawed logical thinking leading to questionable inferences.  The Doctor (Nirod-da) will find that the dose of his own medicine is putting him on the high summit of spiritualization! 


Nirod-da’s publications are treasure trove of insights about sadhana for all the Aurobindonians. In his Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Volumes I & II we find the record of the most fascinating interactions of Sri Aurobindo with his disciple. The Correspondence is like an ocean full of treasures – ‘Ratnakar’; we receive and perceive according to our own needs, requirements, preferences, and limitations.  While reading it, I invariably feel that Sri Aurobindo was simply the perfect Guru – all-knowledgeable, boundlessly compassion, endlessly considerate, and ever so encouraging… Nirod-da was so fortunate that he was revealed this human side of the Avatar.  In Mahabharata, Lord Krishna revealed His Universal Being to Arjuna to get him ready to perform his duty and discharge his responsibilities as a warrior.  In 20th Century, we find the Supramental Avatar revealing his human side, the most reassuring and enchanting personality to encourage Niord-da to pursue his true calling –sadhana!  Nirod-da provides a very significant insight about himself, his freedom and the divine largesse he received, “Whenever I read them (the Correspondence), the one feeling is the unrestrained freedom and the divine largesse accorded to my nature in that I could soar with wings unfurled in the bosom of the infinite blue.  Indeed freedom, not license, is the cardinal principle of the integral yoga, and the key by which my soul was released from its prison-house.  Oh, the halcyon days!”[10]   Nirod-da has provided some reflective comments about his unique association with Sri Aurobindo leading to his metamorphosis,  “I have always wondered at and failed to probe the mystery of that intimacy.  I have even imagined that Sri Aurobindo must have seen in his timeless vision that one day this humble self might be physically of some service to him.  He prepared me for that eventual day, initiated me into love for poetry that I might at least transcribe his epic Savitri from his dictation, gave some intellectual training that I might be useful to him in his literary work.  He even made me familiar with his often-baffling handwriting so that I could read his manuscripts and decipher them.  These may be all weavings of fancy, but if I have been of any help in his intellectual pursuits, most of it was undoubtedly due to his previous coaching through voluminous letters, literary training and above all, his patient and persuasive manner.”[11] No wonder the Mother had conveyed to Nirod-da, “He has given you everything.”[12]


Introspective observation of Nirod-da about the Correspondence reveals his humility: “I need not dilate upon the spiritual and psychological effect the letters have produced and even now produce upon my stumbling journey towards the Unknown.  They are the golden chain by which I am bound and drawn willy-nilly towards the destiny the Guru has foreseen. …The total effect of the entire correspondence can be summed up in Sri Aurobindo’s luminous sentence, ‘But within there is a soul and above there is Grace.  This is all you know or need to know, and if you don’t, well, even then you have at least somehow stumbled into the path and have got to remain there till you get haled along it far enough to wake up to the knowledge.  Amen.’”[13] It seems that here Sri Aurobindo had personalized for Nirod-da who symbolized ‘A Man of Sorrows’, his universal guidance offered in the book, The Mother, “There are two powers that alone can effect in their conjunction the great and difficult thing which is the aim of our endeavour, a fixed and unfailing aspirations that calls from below and a supreme Grace from above that answers.”[14]  


It is interesting and almost hilarious to note what transpired with Nirod-da when he followed Sri Aurobindo’s suggestion of March 20, 1937 to “read the passages in The Mother about tamasic surrender and the place of personal effort in the sadhana.” This is what Nirod-da responded with on March 22, 1937: “Yes, I tried reading The Mother, but the first chapters gave me a fright and made my blood freeze – ‘no use, no use’ resounds everywhere, resulting in the idea of giving up even the ghost of Yoga!” One can almost feel sympathetic towards Sri Aurobindo for having to deal with this infant terrible for having to come to his rescue with the comforting clarification: “I suggested to you to read the passages referring to the necessity of effort. …”  Nirod-da enjoyed the divine Boone that was beyond his wildest imaginations. Nirod-da is truly blessed to have had experienced such an extraordinary relationship with Sri Aurobindo.  We are also very fortunate that Nirod-da has shared his experiences with us by publishing them. His sharing of this good fortune with us without reserve and with an intent to serve ‘His’ will, only demonstrates him being in the words of Sri Aurobindo a ‘high-reaching soul’. Nirod-da has explained the purpose of his publication, “My intention is clear.  For one thing, I wanted to show kind of stuff we were that Mother and Sri Aurobindo had to fashion into a new race.”[15]  We can derive solace from the Correspondence in knowing that Integral Yoga does not preclude anyone.  In fact, it deals with us as we are and leads us towards the spiritual transformation of consciousness.  There is a hope for all of us for a better future – after all. His magnanimity has enriched so many of us and it will remain the source of enrichments forever to revisit and rejuvenate, if one is already on the Path.  For those who are newcomers, they will discover and experience the astounding Grace of the Divine through him and his work.       


We as a human race tend to carry opinions and views with so many convictions that we remain ignorant of true knowledge and wisdom leading to enlightenment and Truth.  We also have propensity to be indifferent to any revelations that is not conforming to our framework of principles and ideals.  No one particular individual, group, race or a nation has a monopoly on being ignorant of and indifferent to spiritual matters as these traits are ageless for the human society all across the world.  We have made giant strides in Science to understand Nature but more we come to understand the mystery of Nature, more we find less we have known the world in which we live and know even lot less about our ownselves!  Quantum Physics, Genetics, and Astrophysics are some of the new frontiers of our knowledge of Nature and yet we are humbled to recognize that there are many unknowns beyond our grasp.  Regarding understanding of our inner being and the mystery of life’s existence and its purpose, we tend to be like a man looking for a blind black cat in the dark.  We do need something to relate with our world and to help us navigate through the maize of life in spite of ourselves and despite the preconceived views, biases and ignorance we harbor within us.  Thank God that we have the Correspondence through the industrious efforts and refreshing candidness of Nirod-da that transcends the socio-economic and geo-political barriers with its universal humor and eternal truth-value.  


For me, the significance of the Correspondence is beyond measure as it opened the gates of Integral Yoga to me. The ageless humor embedded in Correspondence fascinated me and invited me to plunge into pursuit of Integral Yoga even as a teenager. Sri Aurobindo had lavishly bestowed jovial epithets on Nirod-da in course of their correspondences. Some of them are: Doghead, House-Kitten, Mr. Gloom, Man of Sorrows, and Wooden head!  Over the years, I have experienced delightful humor that transpired between Sri Aurobindo and Nirod-da not just percolating but cascading through the Correspondence. This delightful humor was like holy Ganges descending from Heaven to earth not only rejuvenating my tired heart and fatigued mind but also enriching spirit in quest of Light, Beauty and Bliss.   


I would humbly like to convey, “Nirod-da’s collected work, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Volumes I & II, was a joyous, riveting, illuminating and reassuring reading experience for me. While reading, I would wish that the book would never end. This collected work fascinated me and intrigued me. It aroused my interest and inquiry to understand Sri Aurobindo and his teaching. It brought me closer to the world where Essays on Gita (of Sri Aurobindo) was the reassuring first step of the journey, yet unknown. It brought me to the feet of the Lord. I found my guide!”[16]  Furthermore[17], “I felt Nirod-da was a type of person, I could relate with.  He represented my questions.  He echoed my concerns.  He argued my doubts. He sought my answers.  He was unabashed, persistent, focused and above all was having so much fun with Sri Aurobindo! Gopies in Vrindavan were not the only people to enjoy Rasa-Lila. After all, who else would unabashedly convey (or command) to the Lord, “Stand up and deliver”? Who else would find the utterances of the supreme Guru on their face-value ‘non-acceptable’ practice unless they passed the ‘muster’ of his personal ‘critical thinking’?  Who else would insist on clarity on teachings of Integral Yoga to penetrate through the jargon of the intricacies of Yoga and seize the core of spirituality that is at once eternal in meaning and universal in its application and yet simple and straight forward to practice? Who else would not hesitate to tell the Avatar of the Supreme if the message received was perceived to be empyrean and required it to be brought down to the simple understanding for the ground level humans?  Who else would draw out and down the reclusive and Olympian Master to relate with our life in trenches?” Nirod-da’s unabashed persistency in seeking answers and requiring clarity on them enabled me to relate my concerns and queries; the replies he received became the guiding light for me.  It showed me the path to pursue then and even now.  


As an average individual without much of any knowledge of the world, life and the mystery of existence, I derived invaluable benefits through Nirod-da’s Correspondence.  Succinctly they are: 

·   Found that the Correspondence echoed my questions, voiced my puzzlements, and represented my ignorance. I was not alone.

·   Recognized that purification of mental and vital consciousness is fundamental and continual requirements.

·   Experienced that the search of life’s purpose is a daunting task but not impossibility.

·   Learnt to pursue the Sunlight Path as pilgrim of Integral yoga with an understanding that sadhana integrates work, devotion and knowledge.

·   Faith in the Divine became dynamic and not an abstract feeling. It led to humility and progressive surrender.

·   Realized that a quest to fathom His will is to be silent within.

·         Became aware that mental faculties are useful but only to the extent of sorting out priorities, establishing rational relevancy for a frame of reference, interrelating information, and making sound inferences. They are essential for functional expertise but inadequate to address issues of life concerning its purpose and mission, and frequently burdensome in day-to-day living with spiritual hankering.

·   Discovered that sound mental base facilitates Yoga of Knowledge-Jnanayoga. However, it is the psychic being that enables the progressive association of soul with the Will of the Supreme, which alone enables the spiritual transformation of the being.

·   Offered me a contemporary reference point for divine-human relation and found that factual reality was more fascinating than any imaginable fiction.


Historic references are always inspiring, however the collusion of time and space creates its own flavor of unique distortion, puzzlement, challenge, and chaos making them often impractical to follow.  As much as Dhruva’s ardent longing for Lord Vishnu and Prahalad’s single-minded devotion to the Lord Vishnu are everlasting examples to inspire a soul to a flight of Empyrean, in our time following Nirod-da’s divine-human relationship with Sri Aurobindo helps me in my daily life to begin my journey with baby-steps to relate with the Supreme beyond my reach. The mantra of work-sadhana-devotion has been my guiding force and pursuit of enlightenment-knowledge has remained integral to my sadhana.  Through Nirod-da, I found my Guru: Sri Aurobindo and his Integral Yoga. 


Sri Aurobindo had expressed: “Nirod is no doctor to me; he has come to serve me.” Yes, Nirod-da did remain in the service of Sri Aurobindo for last 12 years.  Nirod-da provides a very poignant description of being in the service of Sri Aurobindo, “A largeness, compassionate forgiveness and divine consideration have made life’s stream flow through an apparently trackless solitary journey towards the ultimate vastness.”[18]  However, I have often wondered while reading the Correspondence that as much as Nirod-da was being himself in trying to pursue Integral Yoga and seeking guidance, may be it was also the mysterious will of the Divine for Nirod-da to serve His greater purpose in unintentionally becoming the voice of the masses and acting as a representative of the world at large.  Sri Aurobindo’s consoling to him provides an insight, “You see, your difficulties are not yours alone.  When they are conquered, others also benefit by it.  That is the meaning of one man doing yoga for all.”[19]  In addition, Sri Aurobindo’s assertion to Nirod-da, a resident sadhak of Ashram about the role of Ashram which was regarded by many as a small Supramental Laboratory gives us a clue of the big picture, “The Ashram is an epitome of the human nature that has to be changed…”[20] The final seal of universality of implications of Integral Yoga is provided, “My sadhana is not a freak or a monstrosity or a miracle done outside the laws of Nature and the conditions of life and consciousness on earth.  If I could do these things or if they could happen in my Yoga, it means that they can be done and that therefore these developments and the transformations are possible in the terrestrial consciousness.” [21] I surmise that through Nirod-da a greater purpose was served in myriad ways.  For instance:


·   Demonstrate Divine’s commitment to humanity to lead on.

·   Address common man’s concerns and questions with unfailing compassion and integrality.

·   Eliminate misconceptions about divine ways of working of Force.

·   Validate Common Man’s faith and sincerity of commitment in establishing dynamic relationship with Divine and demonstrate the Divine’s success with Common Man, who commonly tends to be indifferent to the Divine will and ignorant about life mission.

·   Communicate direct insight into pioneering Integral Yoga leading to the Supermind.

·   Substantiate practice of Sunlit Path -- rejection, surrender, aspirations in return for acceptance by Lord; to discover truth of the being, to become an instrument of God, to function as a toiler-pilgrim with work-sadhana; dispense with luminous intellect prowess and dazzling spiritual capabilities in favor of unconditional surrender and service without reserve leading to psychichisation and spiritualization for progressive transformation leading higher minds.  

·   Reveal basis of democratic and humorous kinship between Guru and Shishya and in turn Nara and Narayana.


The Mother lauded the role played by Nirod-da and expressed in preface of his book, Twelve years with Sri Aurobindo: “Thanks to Nirod, we have a revelation of an altogether unknown side of what Sri Aurobindo was.  It is extremely interesting and very instructive,”


The following sampling of the interactions recorded in the Correspondence is provided to invite a reader to the wonderland where Nirod-da basked in the Bliss with his beloved Guru.  The sampling categories are Humor, Poetry, Sadhana and Revelation.




Nirod-da’s humor with Sri Aurobindo -- it all just happened in a natural mysterious way.  The correspondence of January 17, 1935 marks the momentous shift towards the humor:


N: If you mind the way I have written the last few letters, I mean the humorous vein in them – I shall stop it and keep to the point.  But let me say that it was by some gracious movement of yours that I dared to do this, and I have really wondered how I dare!  I have told you already how much I enjoy and feel happy by your kindly jokes and humor…

Sri Aurobindo:  Not necessary to stop.  Unless you are afraid of word-punctures in the skull.  My indignation and objurgations are jocular and not meant to burn or bite.”[22]


I perceive that the humor in the Correspondence was to communicate freely and let the Guru-Shishya relation find its mark on its course.  The following dialogues are treasure beyond compare:


N: You have often spoken of the Man of Sorrows in connection with me.  But I was a cheerful fellow at school and college. So, I am afraid he is a contribution, partly at least, of your Yoga.

Sri Aurobindo:  Not of my Yoga, but of the blasted atmosphere that has been created here by the theory that revolt, doubt and resultant sorrow and struggle and all that rot are the best way to progress. … The others have opened themselves to the confounded Man of Sorrows and got the natural consequence.  But why the devil did you do it? ”[23]


N:  You have admitted your failure in intellectualizing me; now I am waiting to hear at any time the admission that all your attempts to make me a yogi seem to be in vain!

Sri Aurobindo:  Perhaps that is because for the sheer fun of it I tried the impossible, intending not to succeed. …[24]


N: What would be the nature of the physical transformation?…Old men into gods of eternal youth?

Sri Aurobindo:  Why not seven tails with an eighth on the head – everybody different colors, blue, magenta, indigo, green, scarlet, etc; hair luxuriant but vermilion and flying erect skywards; other details to match?  Amen.

Now you can’t say surely that all your points have not been cleared!

N:  Now, lend your ears, Sir, to my ailment!  I was disappointed by your answer yesterday about the Supermind…

Sri Aurobindo:  I am disappointed that you could not appreciate the splendidly colored prospects held out there…[25]


N:  Guru, your theories are irrefutable, Sir! O wonderful, they are!  I have hitched, I have pitched, I have hooked and dishooked!

Sri Aurobindo: But that is not a theory.  It is a fact. [26]


I just wonder if the following dialogue with Sri Aurobindo was casting of a net of humor by Nirod-da for the Divine to become a human:


N: I remember a story of my childhood.  I was dinning with my father when I was obliged to go out. I turned around and said,“Papa, see you don’t eat my fish!” Well, fathers may not, but Gurus?

Sri Aurobindo: No, sir, I don’t eat your fish.  I have oceans of fish at my disposal and have no need to consume your little sprats. [27]


Sri Aurobindo provided the most personalized spiritual guidance to disciples through correspondence.  As much as they were individualized, they also represented the worldly type issues requiring enlightenment and transformation.  The sheer volume and the frequency of letter writing alone are indicative of the burden that he carried on his shoulder for the deliverance of the world.  Yet, he was bombarded with merciless demands and he endured it all for all of us. For instance:


N: What has happened to my typescript?  Hibernating?

Sri Aurobindo: My dear sir, if you saw me nowadays with my nose to paper from afternoon to morning, deciphering, deciphering writing, writing, writing, even the rocky heart of a disciple would be touched…[28]


N: With your silence, consciousness, overmental partly supramental, etc., etc., it should be possible to draw from the highest plane, at the slightest pull, and it should tumble down, Sir, but it doesn’t.  Why not?  We wonder and wonder!  Could you send Alice to Wonderland and ask her to discover and divulge the secret to us – not in hints, but at length?

Sri Aurobindo: The highest planes are not so accommodating as all that.  If they were so, why should it be so difficult to bring down and organize the supermind in the physical consciousness?  What happy-go-luck fancy-web-spinning ignoramuses you all are.  You speak of silence, consciousness, overmental, supramental, etc. as if they were so many electric buttons you have only to press and there you are.  It may be one day but meanwhile I have to discover everything about the working of all possible modes of electricity, all the laws, possibilities, perils, etc., construct roads of connection and communication, make the whole far-wiring system, try to find out how it can be made foolproof and all that in the course of a single lifetime.  And I have to do it while my blessed disciples are firing off their gay or gloomy a priori reasonings at me from a position of entire irresponsibility and expecting me to divulge everything to them not in hints but at length.  Lord God in omnibus![29]


Nirod-da aroused many types of responses from Sri Aurobindo. Some of them reflected Sri Aurobindo’s levity or frustration, however they all have his candor and grace.  For instance:


“Sometimes you might get nothing except perhaps an invisible stare; sometimes I might say ‘Now, look here, Nirod, don’t make an immortal ass of yourself – that is not the transformation wanted.’  Still another time I might shout ‘Now! Now! What the hell! What the blazes!’ So it would depend on the occasion, not only on the person.”[30]


 “You are a most irrational creature.  I have been trying to logicise and intellectualize you, but it seems in vain.” [31] 


 “You are as naïve and ignorant as a new-born lamb.”[32]


 “Hail, Rishi, all-knower! Tell us all about our past lives.”[33]


“You seem to be the most candid and ignorant baby going.  We shall have to publish an “Ashram News and Tidbits” for your benefit.”[34] 


N: Guru you have castigated me for my inexperience, calling me sheep, lamb, house-kitten, and what not.  You will exhaust the whole zoology on me, methinks!

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? Man has all the animals within him as he is an epitome of the universe.[35]


In response to Nirod-da’s sweeping generalization about newness of Karma in Integral Yoga, Sri Aurobindo let him have it, “Karmayoga is as old as the hills.  What is this nonsense about it absolute newness?  Donner-wetter! Tausend Teufel!! (Thundering weather, thousand devils.)”[36]


In response to Nirod-da’s erroneous evaluation of Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana, we have a poignant answer of Sri Aurobindo: “What a wooden head! What is the use of saying things if you deliberately misinterpret what I write?…I can only look mournfully at your ununderstanding pate.” [37]





Poetic endeavors were encouraged by Sri Aurobindo as a means for the opening of the psychic and the growth of the creativity fostering sadhana.  Some of the disciples were encouraged in writing poetry as a part of their spiritual growth.  This group consisted of likes of Amal Kiran (K. D, Sethana), Arjava (J. A. Chadwick), Dilip Kumar Roy, Harindranath Chattopadhyaya, Jyotirmoyee, Nishikanto Roychaudhuri, Nirodbaran Talukdar, Nolini Kant Gupta, and Pujalal.


Thanks to Nirod-da, we have the benefit of starting at the beginning of his poetic endeavor and to understand the joy of mysterious process of writing poems:


N:  Why is that people get so much joy out of writing a poem?

Sri Aurobindo:  It is the joy of creation partly, partly the joy or “enthousiasmos” the sense of exaltation and Ananda which always comes when one is freely and powerfully used by a greater Force. [38]


On June 8, 1934 Nirod-da was advised, “You must remember that you are not a ‘born’ poet – you are trying to bring out something from the Unmanifest inside you.  You cannot demand that that should be an easy job.  It may come out suddenly and without apparent reason like the Ananda – but you cannot demand it.  The pangs of delivery cannot always be avoided.”[39]  However, in about six months time he made a tremendous progress and this is what Sri Aurobindo had to say, “Gracious heavens! You are really a poet.”[40] In one more year on February 14, 1936, we see a significant poetic milestone in the words of Sri Aurobindo,


You are opening, opening, opening

Into a wider, wider scopening

That fills me with a sudden hopening

That I may carry you in spite of gropening

Your soul into the supramental ropening. [41]


Nirod-da used to get upset with himself when Sri Aurobindo did not praise his poetic work loftily.  He even used to induce Sri Aurobindo feel guilty for not being generous in lavishing praise on him. Nirod-da spared no words in unleashing his flurry of frustration and Sri Aurobindo calmly absorbed it like Lord Shiva who absorbed poison in his throat to save the world from destruction.  That is how Lord Shiva got green throat and became known as Neel-Kantha. We do not know what consequences Sri Aurobindo suffered due to his encouraging of Nirod-da to write poetry. But, we hope that it brought smile to his face.  One example of such interactions:


N: At times I think why the devil do I bother my head with Poetry?  Poetry, poetry, poetry!  Have I come here for blessed poetry?

Sri Aurobindo: You haven’t.  But the poetry has come for you.  So why shout? [42]


In their characteristic humor, the highest praise Sri Aurobindo would accord to a poetic expression is ‘Damn fine’, which he had illustrated in the works of Shakespeare, Milton and Wordsworth.  Naturally, Nirod-da coveted for such recognition and it did happen after 4 years of his pursuits on August 8, 1938 with the following lines:


N: The whole universe seems to be a cry

    To the apocalypt vision of thy Name

Sri Aurobindo: Damn fine, sir![43]

A full fledge recognition as a poet was accorded to Nirod-da in early September of 1938.  This happened in just about  4 years but not without ordeals.  The real question remains: “Whose ordeals?”  Nirod-da would like us to believe, that it was he who had to endure,

N:  I break my head over them but they remain as damned hard and unprofitable as the Divine!  I am paying the penalty of trying to become an English poet and of facing a hard task-master!

Sri Aurobindo: What the deuce are you complaining about?  You are writing very beautiful poetry with apparent ease and one a day of this kind is a feat. …

N: Ah, what a hard Master you are and what a tough customer!

Sri Aurobindo: Can’t help being that, otherwise you would fall back into a lax and feeble imitative romanticism, which would be quite inadvisable.[44]


Here we have a case history of a doctor (Nirod-da) transforming into a bonafide poet.  Review of his case history  leads to an unmistakable conclusion that with a pursuit of Integral Yoga transformation of consciousness is possible leading to many unknown heights of  self-actualization.  Becoming a poet is one of such transformations.  Nirod-da’s spiritual journey with specific milestones does prove that the reality is a result of choices we make.  On December 21, 1934, Sri Aurobindo told him, “…The Yogic consciousness is beginning to grow in you.”[45]  He was also told of his progress due to poetic endeavors, “You are making good progress, and I think if you had remained only a literary gent or only a medical gent, it would have taken longer.”[46] Nirod-da was not an exception but a proving ground for Sri Aurobindo to invite and encourage others to use poetry as a means of sadhana to purify mind and vital, to aspire with the ardent of psychic and open consciousness to receive the Grace to progress spiritually.  One may find ample examples to support this assertion in reviewing poetic contributions made in Mother India.


Sri Aurobindo clarified to Nirod-da about Yogic literary endeavor, poetic undertakings and sadhana.  For instance:


N: In other words can literary activity be taken as part of one’s sadhana?

Sri Aurobindo: Any activity can be taken as part of the sadhana if it is offered to the Divine or done with the consciousness or faith that it is done by the divine Power.  That is the important point.[47]


“A literary man is one who loves literature and literary activity for its own sake. A Yogic “literary man” is not a literary man at all, but one who writes only what the inner will and Word wants to express.  He is a channel and an instrument of something greater than his own literary personality.”[48]


I found the above clarification of immense significance to me in my sadhana with the following outcomes:


… When all is quiet within,

Spirit and soul in solitude,

Silence becomes the only muse,

Feet of clay follow the Whisper. …[49]


 Along the way in journey of life

 Detours await and challenges abound.

    Hope, aspirations, prayers pave the path,

    Longings turn into discovery unrealized. [50]


Your Angels steer my steps and uplift my spirit

   Unseen and unknown as they are.

I pray for Your grace and guidance

Luminous and splendorous as You are. …[51] 




Sri Aurobindo had categorically expressed elsewhere that, “It is not by the intellect that one can progress in the yoga  but by psychic and spiritual receptivity -- as for knowledge and true understanding, it grows in sadhana by the growth of the intuition, not of the physical intellect. [52] This theme was frequently emphasized by Sri Aurobindo to Nirod-da.


 “Aspiration is an essential part of the sadhana….Get your mind silent, learn to feel within, to aspire from within – then things will come more easily.”[53]


 “…Give some chance for the psychic with its deeper and truer love and surrender to come forward and take up the Adhar as its kingdom.”[54]


To set the level of expectations of Nirod-da’s spiritual progress appropriately, Sri Aurobindo puts things in proper perspective for him as seen from the following exchange of  August 17, 1934:


N: It is exactly one and a half years since I have been here.  Unfortunately I cannot detect any sign of progress, everything is status quo, so to say.

Sir Aurobindo: You have had some experiences which are signs of a future possibility.  To have more within the first 1½ years, it would be necessary to have the complete attitude of the sadhak and give up that of the man of the world.  It is only then that progress can be rapid from the beginning. [55]


In the Hour of God Sri Aurobindo had emphasized that “Strive rightly and thou shalt have; trust and thy trust shall in the end be justified; but the dread Law of the Way is there and none can abrogate it.”[56] The same principle is echoed in the Correspondence, “I have never said that this Yoga was a safe one –no Yoga is.  Each has its dangers as has every great attempt in human life.  But it can be carried through if one has a central sincerity and a fidelity to the Divine.  These are the two necessary conditions.”[57]


Sri Aurobindo explains the significance of Yogic attitude, “Work by itself is only preparation, so is meditation by itself, but work done in the increasing Yogic consciousness is a means of realization as much as meditation is.”[58] Inclusiveness of Integral Yoga was once again emphasized, “Please remember that I have been declaring all along an Integral Yoga in which Knowledge, Bhakti, works – light of consciousness, Ananda and love, will and power in works – meditation, adoration, service of the Divine have all their place.”[59]


Sri Aurobindo simplified, clarified, and amplified the sadhana of Integral Yoga once again with compassion beyond compare, “If I have to write the same thing over and over again for each sadhak, -- well! …There can be no karmayoga without the will to get rid of ego, rajas and the desire which are the seals of ignorance. … I mean by work, action done for the Divine and more and more in union with the Divine – for the Divine alone and nothing else. … Works done in this spirit are quite as effective as bhakti or contemplation. …By constant reference of all one’s will and works to the Divine, love and adoration grow, the psychic being comes forward. … Finally works, bhakti and knowledge join together and self-perfection becomes possible – what we call the transformation of the nature. … There is no royal road to the divine realization.”[60]


Nirod-da has helped tremendously all the readers of Savitri by going on limbs to ask about the need of numerous revisions of it.  The response reveals that Yoga is a progressive ascension process and that we all can tread the path charted by Sri Aurobindo as he did not arrive at the ‘solution’ by fiat: 


Nirod-da:  Lastly about your inspiration.  Amal and I have been wondering why you should have to write and rewrite your poetry – for instance, Savitri ten or twelve times.  …

Sri Aurobindo:  That is very simple.  I used Savitri as a means of ascension.  I began with it on a certain mental level, each time I could reach a higher level I rewrote from that level.  Moreover I was particular – if part seemed to me to come from any lower level, I was not satisfied to leave it because it was good poetry.  All had to be as far as possible of the same mint.  In fact, Savitri has not been regarded by me as a poem to be written and finished, but as a field of experimentation to see how far poetry could be written from one’s own Yogic consciousness and how that could be made creative.[61] 





The integral transformation sought by Sri Aurobindo encompassed mind, life and matter.  It had an occult and ominous implication of facing the opposition of the Matter Forces*.  Purani narrates a first-hand account of this problem, “ In one evening talk he [Sri Aurobindo] said that he was engaged in the tremendous task of opening up the physical cells to the Divine Light and the resistance of the Inconscient was formidable.”[62]  This problem required a different strategic approach as narrated in a letter dated 25 November 1935 to Nirod-da, “The tail of the supermind is descending, descending, descending. It is only tail at present, but where the tail can pass, the rest will follow…The attempt to bring a great general descent having only produced a great ascent of subconscient mud, I had given up that as I already told you.  At present I am only busy with transformation of overmind (down to the subconscient) into supermind;  …”[63]


For over a decade, Sri Aurobindo had remained preoccupied with the transformation issues affected by the Subconscient, “But there are different parts or planes of the subconscient. The subconscient of which I speak lies in between the Inconscient and the conscious mind, life and body. …The subconscient is the main cause why all things repeat themselves and nothing ever gets changed except in appearances.  It is the cause why, people say, character cannot be changed…It is the main support of death and disease and the last fortress (seemingly impregnable) of the Ignorance. …the master mode of Nature is this obstinate repetition and recurrence. …But they cannot last long once the environmental consciousness is cleared.”[64]


All the Aurobindonians are familiar with the Blessing Package distributed on the Darshan Days, received on personal auspicious days like birthday or dispensed as a protection in crises. They are charged with the Force and the blessings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.  The Force is invoked to facilitate sadhana, to protect against impending mishap, or to shelter the world against the attacks of the Asuric Forces as it happened during the WW-II.  This Force is an occult mystery and we tend to harbor some myth or misconceptions, such as that the Force be non-conditional, instantaneous and absolute in consequences. We tend to believe that miracles are magical without any rhyme or reason.  I would say that we are fortunate that we are not alone in our ignorance and our misconceptions.  Nirod-da was in our boat at one point and Sri Aurobindo explained at length to him about the Force, “As to Force let me point out a few elementary notions which you ignore.

1)            The Force is a divine Force, so obviously it can apply itself in any direction; it can inspire the poet, set in motion the soldier, doctor, scientist, everybody.

2)            The Force is not a mental Force – it is not bound to go out from the Communicator with every detail mentally arranged, precise in its place….It is not necessary for the Communicant to accompany mentally the Force…He can send the Force or on the Force, leave to do its work and attend himself to other matters. …

3)            In the case of a man acting as an instrument of the Force the action is more complicated. …That is why we speak of and insist on the perfectioning of the instrument.  Otherwise there would be no need of sadhana….

4)            The Communicant need not be an all-round many-sided Encyclopedia in order to communicate the Force for various purposes. …Such a process would be absurdly cumbrous, incompetent and wasteful. …In some or many cases the Force has to be renewed from time to time or supported by fresh Force. …If you want to reduce things to patterns and formulas, you will necessarily fail to understand the workings of a spiritual (non-mental) Force.

5)            All that I say here refers to spiritual Force.  I am not speaking of the Supramental.” [65]


Sri Aurobindo reveled Divine’s mode of operation, which became the kernel of his decision to withdraw in 1950 to the subtle physical, “If the Divine were not in essence omnipotent, he could not be omnipotent anywhere—whether in the supramental or anywhere else.  Because he chooses to limit or determine his action by conditions, it does not make him less omnipotent.  His self-limitation is itself an act of omnipotence.”[66]  Furthermore, “Why the immortal Hell should the Divine be tied down to succeed in all his operations?  What if failure suits him better and serves better the ultimate purpose?…What rigid primitive notions are these about the Divine?”[67]



I would like to conclude my homage to Nirod-da on his 100th birthday in relating his association with Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri and a poem of Tagore from Gitanjali.  Early on, we had noticed how as a scribe of Savitri, he embarked upon his Integral Yoga with work-sadhana-devotion. What I would want to add is that Nirod-da’s spiritual journey with Savitri has continued.  I am sure he has many sacred experiences that he may choose to share at some appropriate time in future.  However, my personal encounter with him has reveled to me that Nirod-da almost becomes selfless during his Tuesday evening Savitri recital session, which is confined to a small group of Ashram residents and a few more visitors preapproved by him.  He never engages in any in-depth discourse, just a few comments here and there. During the sessions I attended in my last visit from USA in 1998, his voice carried so much of deep devotion from the very core of his being, that I just could not help but feel that Nirod-da’s recital had mantric power to charge the room with the presence of Sri Aurobindo. I was no longer listening to reading of Savitri but actually experiencing the vibrations embodied within.  It was like being in the state of trance.  It was like suddenly experiencing that there is a spirit within me that is emerging from deep slumber to merge with something Beyond and Blissful.


Nirod-da has very graciously accorded a privilege to me with an open invitation to join him at teatime during my visits to Ashram.  In August of 1998, I made an unusual request to him to recite one of my favorite poems of Nobel Laureate Tagore’s Gitanjali:


“Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure.  This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.

“This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.

“At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

“Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine.  Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.”[68]


Nirod-da, upon recital commented, “A very fine poem!”  Naturally, I was delighted beyond description when my favorite poem from early school days was recited by Nirod-da.  However, the most gratifying experience is to have the privilege to know Nirod-da who has in fact personified the poem’s theme and whose life is but a splendid poem of divine gift. 


Happy 100th Birthday – Nirod-da, a high-reaching soul!




* Sri Aurobindo had identified four Dark Forces and their symbolism. They are Affinity to the Laws of

Past (Dragon), Perpetual Doubt of the Truth (Sphinx), Eternal Negation (Night), and Eternal Inertia     (Rock).

[1] CWSA, Vol. 18, Kena and Other Upanishads, pp. 97-98.

[2] Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 1, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. 37.

[3] CWSA,Vols. 33-34, Savitri -- A Legend and a Symbol, pp. 343-344.

[4] CWM, Vol. 14, Words of the Mother, p. 167.

[5] Ibid., p. 106.

[6] Ibid., p. 114.

[7] SABCL, Vol. 23, Letters on yoga, pp. 714-15.

[8] SABCL, Vol. 25, The Mother, p. 263.

[9] CWM, Vol. 14, Words of the Mother, p. 111.

[10] Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 1, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. xiv.

[11] Nirodbaran, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. 198.

[12] Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 1, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. ix.

[13] Ibid., pp. xiv-xv.

[14] SABCL,Vol. 25, The Mother, p. 1.

[15] Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 1, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. xii.

[16] Arun Vaidya, Nirod-da, Thank You!, Mother India, June 2001, pp. 465-466.

[17] Ibid., p. 466.

[18] Nirodbaran, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. 199.

[19] Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 1, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. xiii.

[20] Ibid., Vol. 2Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. 1047.

[21] Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 135.

[22] Ibid., p. 103.

[23] Ibid., p. 263.

[24] Ibid., p. 325.

[25] Ibid., pp. 321-322.

[26] Ibid., Vol.. 2, p. 1078.

[27] Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 324.

[28] Ibid., p. 525.

[29] Ibid., pp. 544-545.

[30] Ibid., p. 256.

[31] Ibid., p. 325.

[32] Ibid., p. 358.

[33] Ibid., p. 466.

[34] Ibid., p. 502.

[35] Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 1120.

[36] Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 85.

[37] Ibid., p. 467.

[38] Ibid., pp. 43-44.

[39] Ibid., p. 52.

[40] Ibid., p. 94.

[41] Ibid., p. 493.

[42] Ibid., p. 504.

[43] Ibid., p. 1139.

[44] Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 1152 & 1158.

[45] Ibid., Vol. 1,p. 82.

[46] Ibid., p. 87.

[47] Ibid., pp. 40-41.

[48] Ibid., p. 61.

[49] Arun Vaidya, Feet of Clay, Mother India, August 2001, p. 587

[50] Arun Vaidya, Along the Way, Mother India, March 2002, p. 197.

[51] Arun Vaidya, My Angels, Mother India, April 2002, p. 314.

[52] SABCL, Vol. 23, Letters on Yoga, p. 577.

[53] Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 1, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. 48.

[54] Ibid., p. 56.

[55] Ibid., p. 57.

[56] CWSA, Vol. 12, (Essays Divine and Human), p. 156.

[57] Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 1, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, p. 29.

[58] Ibid., p. 77.

[59] Ibid., p. 80.

[60] Ibid., pp. 85-86.

[61] Ibid., pp. 543-544.

[62] A. B. Purani, The Life of Sri Aurobindo, p. 217.

[63] Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 1, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, pp. 388-389.

[64] Ibid., pp. 247-253.

[65] Ibid., Vol. 2, pp. 896-897.

[66] Ibid., Vol. 1, pp. 136-137.

[67] Ibid., p. 137.

[68] Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali, MacMillan, 1967, p. 1.


All extracts and quotations from the written works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the Photographs of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are copyright Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry -605002 India.