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To Thee Our Infinite Gratitude

Writings on the Passing of Sri Aurobindo

— Compiled from various sources

Price: Rs 95

Soft Cover
Pages: 103
Dimensions (in cms): 14x22
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Pondicherry
ISBN: 978-93-5210-016-3

About To Thee Our Infinite Gratitude

This book of reminiscences, essays, letters, and excerpts evokes the hours and days before and after the passing of Sri Aurobindo on 5 December 1950. It begins with the Mother's words, recalling his sacrifice and offering the assurance of his continued presence and spiritual action. There are personal accounts by Nirodbaran, Dr Prabhat Sanyal, and Pavitra that convey the gravity and emotion surrounding Sri Aurobindo's final withdrawal, and essays by Amal Kiran, Udar Pinto, and K. R. S. Iyengar that attempt some understanding of its inner significance. The final remembrance is by the American scholar Rhoda P. LeCocq, who had come for the Darshan on 24 November, and later recorded her first impressions of the Ashram and her own experience of the Grace.


This is a humble testimony of my deep gratitude towards those who recorded their experiences, observations and vivid descriptions of events at a time of immense inner and outer shock after Sri Aurobindo left his body. I will mention passages in the book that touched me personally.

Indeed, this book of just over a hundred pages is a recueil, bringing together the writings of sadhaks who lived and worked closely with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Admittedly, the last account by Rhoda P. Le Cocq is, perhaps, out of place here since it also describes, in sharp contrast to the other accounts, life in general in the Ashram and the town. She was a Western seeker who too received the blessings of the Mother at that time.

Let us begin with the Mother's messages given at the time, after 5 December 1950. In two or three of these messages, the Mother alludes to Sri Aurobindo's body in a revealing way. She writes, "The lack of receptivity of the earth and men is mostly responsible for the decision Sri Aurobindo has taken regarding his body." How many of us are able to separate our consciousness from that of the body? Again, in a poignant invocation and tribute she addresses his body thus: "To Thee who hast been the material envelope of our Master, to Thee our infinite gratitude." Finally, we are deeply moved by her message of 12 April 1953: "Sri Aurobindo has given up his body in an act of supreme unselfishness, renouncing the realisation in his own body to hasten the hour of the collective realisation. Surely if the earth were more responsive, this would not have been necessary."

In Pavitra-da's account "A Telegram and a Letter" (p. 66), we are struck by certain portions of his letter to his father. For instance, he writes:

For us, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are, now more than ever, one and the same Person. We have lost the great sweetness of the personal relation with Sri Aurobindo, but not his guidance, his knowledge and his power, and he has left to us the great sweetness of the relation with the Mother (p. 69).

He sends a photo of Sri Aurobindo taken after he left his body, indicating that the picture had to be viewed so as to show him reclining against a cushion. The Mother distributed another photo of the Lord's profile shown too in an erect position. Incidentally, this reminds us of the Mother's attitude towards lying down. She did not lie flat when resting or "sleeping" but would recline on a couch. We are told that she wanted to avoid sinking into inconscience. I may add that Pavitra-da's utter surrender and firm belief in Sri Aurobindo's "living and active presence, radiating Light and Force until…the Supramental has descended and is fully manifested on earth", shines through the restrained objective analysis written to his beloved father.

In "A ‘Call' from Pondicherry" (p. 29), Dr. Sanyal recounts his own experience of the events. Among other intimate conversations with the Mother he mentions her poignant remark: "People do not know what a tremendous sacrifice He has made for the world. About a year ago, while I was discussing things I remarked that I felt like leaving this body of mine. He spoke out in a very firm tone: ‘No, this can never be. If necessary for this transformation I might go, you will have to fulfil our yoga of supramental descent and transformation!'" (pp. 39–40).

There are intimate exchanges between Sri Aurobindo and the doctor: for instance, the day after arriving he went to Sri Aurobindo's room and gave him a head massage. The doctor enquired if he liked it. The Master replied, "I know you went to England for your Fellowship but where did you learn massaging?" I may add a personal note here that Dr. Sanyal, the renowned surgeon, had the softest, most gentle hands I have ever felt.

Just before leaving Pondicherry he asked the Mother ‘naively', "Why was I called?" The Mother sweetly and lovingly replied, "We wanted you to be here, not so much for treatment." A day earlier, while kneeling by the Mother's feet at the bedside of Sri Aurobindo, he had whispered to her, "Where is the light you speak of—can I not see it?" With "infinite compassion", he writes, "She put Her hand on my head. There He was—with a luminous mantle of bluish golden hue around him."

With a most reassuring title, "I am here! I am here!", Nirodbaran also gives us a full account of the events prior to Sri Aurobindo's leaving the body and the time afterwards. Nirod-da was the scribe who wrote down the lines of Savitri as dictated by Sri Aurobindo at the time when his eye sight was failing. Here we can experience the intimate and deep camaraderie that had grown up between the disciple and the Master. There are also the most precious pages, from page 12 to page 16, in which is revealed the progress of Sri Aurobindo's work on Savitri, which he wanted to "finish soon". Nirod quotes these prophetic lines:

A day may come when she must stand unhelped
On a dangerous brink of the world's doom and hers.
. . . . . . . .
In that tremendous silence lone and lost
. . . . . . . .
Cry not to heaven, for she alone can save.
. . . . . . . .
She only can save herself and save the world.

Writing about Sri Aurobindo's dogged determination against all odds, he quotes the Master: "Even if I knew that my mission would fail, I would go on working till the last moment" (p.21). The full text of Nirodbaran's report was read out to the Mother. She liked it, and when it was printed as a booklet, she distributed it along with "The Passing of Sri Aurobindo" by Amal Kiran and, if I remember correctly, Dr. Sanyal's "A ‘Call' from Pondicherry" too.

"The Passing of Sri Aurobindo: Its Inner Significance and Consequence" by Amal Kiran is the longest record here by a disciple present at the time. One reads indeed a beautiful, detailed, exhaustive and analytical report. In the very first line we read this statement of Sri Aurobindo: "No one can write about my life because it is not on the surface for men to see." It is certainly befitting to mention Amal-da's after Nirod-da's, since they were both poets, and close friends too. Amal was a born poet and it is my impression that in complexity, sweetness and richness, his style approaches that of Sri Aurobindo. For instance, his description of Sri Aurobindo's body as "spiritually imperial" is very beautiful and shows his deep, loving devotion and sensitivity (p. 58). However, I feel that the second part of his article is unparalleled, beginning with these words: "The core of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy and yoga is the dynamic Truth-consciousness that is the Supermind." The whole section from page 51 to page 61 is superb and so true! It cannot be condensed. One should just let the words sink into the silence of one's mind and the depths of one's heart.

There is just one extract from Savitri included in the article, from a passage in Book I, Canto II that Amal particularly cherished. It includes the following lines, which describe Savitri, the central figure of the poem:

A body like a parable of dawn
That seemed a niche for veiled divinity
Or golden temple-door to things beyond.

There are also those disciples who did not live in the Ashram, yet whose souls and beings lived steeped in adoration and deep love for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar was one such disciple. In "The Mystery of 5th December 1950", we get all the salient facts given in other accounts earlier in the book. It is truly a chronicle—the longest in this slim book. Here we are given a vast sweep of experiences, personal notes, visions of disciples, as well as tokens of respect from seekers and important persons at the time. I was happy to see here repeated two messages of the Mother:

To grieve is an insult to Sri Aurobindo who is here with us, conscious and alive.


We stand in the Presence of Him who has sacrificed his physical life in order to help more fully his work of transformation.
He is always with us, aware of what we are doing, of all our thoughts, of all our feelings and all our actions.

Srinivasa Iyengar has also mentioned the words put up on the Ashram notice board, I believe, by Nolini-da as Managing Trustee:

He has done it: he has made the Nature take the final leap. The mental being with its triple nodi is at last bundled up and cast into the Supramental status. As he saw and assured us,
A seed shall be sown in Death's tremendous hour,
. . . . . . . .
Nature shall overleap her mortal step.
The formed seed is now in the womb developing fast and sure, it awaits the moment to break out into the light of material and universal day.

It is interesting to read the way this scholar defines the ‘withdrawals' in Sri Aurobindo's life as means to make many greater steps forward (see pp. 86–87). Finally, as a seal on the Avatar's tremendous labour for the earth, "we have the Mother's word – reinforced by the experience of the Supramental radiance from his body from 5th to 8th December – that ‘as soon as Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his body, what he called the Mind of Light got realised here.'"

To would-be readers I must add a final word. Read the book a little at a time, slowly, quietly; bathe your mind, your heart and your soul in each of the experiences evoking the presence of the Mother and the Lord. Relive that past which points clearly to a glorious Future!

— Richard Pearson

Richard arrived in India from England to join his father in 1946 at the age of eleven. He studied at SAICE where he teaches Natural History and is a gymnastics coach. He is the editor of the book Flowers and Their Messages.

June 2013