This volume, written in the very original and poetic style of Medhananda, contains fragments of conversations recorded by Yvonne Artaud. Medhananda plays the role of an invisible teacher or guide who unveils on the screen of our intelligence the different mantles that constitute the universe as well as ourselves. He links the wisdom of the East and West, showing an equal understanding of the ancient Egyptian and Chaldean cultures, of Buddha and Lao Tse, Pythagoras and Patanjaliand especially of the new consciousness and the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo.
This is a sequel to the earlier volume entitled With MEDHANANDA on the shores of infinity
. While the earlier one was autobiographical, in the present one, according to the publisher's note, Medhananda "remains out of sight, except in the interviews and his letters to the children of his children."
A polyglot who learned many languages early in life such as French, Latin and Greek, Medhananda was a gifted child with an extraordinary access to the world of nature and totems. With the rise of Nazi persecution in Germany, Medhananda left his position as a Junior Judge in Frankfurt. With his wife he went to the Pacific islands of Tahiti and Moorea. In that island paradise he cultivated vanilla and coffee in 200 acres of forest land and brought up their three children.
Medhananda began a correspondence with Sri Aurobindo and in 1949, he was formally accepted as His disciple. He joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram formally in February 1952 and became the librarian. After a life of dedicated service, he passed away in 1994. In the Ashram, Medhananda led a quiet and withdrawn life, concentrating on work and contemplation.
Divided into eleven chapters, this unusual book, posthumously published, is a tribute to the memory of this extraordinary soul. It takes us through a realm of consciousness and phenomena normally not within our access and ken. While some chapters such as "Integral Yoga", "The Yoga of Sri Aurobindo in brief", "The avatar of Supermind" are relatively easy to grasp, others such as "The new happenings" and "Our vibratory world" take us into more esoteric domains. However, regardless of the subject of deliberation, we witness in all the writings, a certain straightforwardness and inner transparency characteristic of a mind in direct communion with higher domains. The language and style here are at a heightened plane and essentially poetic.
As Medhananda takes us through earlier experiments in mysticism and spirituality and links up with the achievements of Sri Aurobindo, one can see an eclectic mind that has grasped the wisdom of the East and the West. He shows an equal understanding of Pythagoras and Osiris, the Egyptian and the Chaldean civilizations, Buddha and Lao Tse, Socrates and Patanjali, Vishwamitra and Sri Aurobindo.
Above all, Medhananda's approach to understanding the mysteries and miracle of the human evolution are manifest in many parts of the book.
The chapter, "In the age of Sri Aurobindo" could serve as a quintessential example. As he sees it, it is always the Presence of the Spiritual Being, the Avatar who makes a difference to human destiny. As he explains insightfully:
Sri Aurobindo once gave a beautiful example. There was a French Revolution, in 1789. All the people there were shouting "Equality! Fraternity! Liberty!" But the reason they were shouting these words was because a yogi sitting in the Himalayas was bringing these new concepts down into the consciousness of mankind. That is how you have to see a planet and the new things which come in. They infiltrate from somewhere...(p.61)
There are other pieces, essentially vignettes written in an aphoristic style. They act as useful signposts in the path of inner quest. Topics like "How to read Sri Aurobindo", "Non-attachment and effort" and "Integral yoga in the face of wickedness", may not contain many original ideas. Nevertheless, even here, a great care is shown by the author in developing arguments with the help of telling examples from multiple sources.
Medhananda is particularly effective when he talks about our approach to the Supermind. He alludes, in this connection, to a symposium organized in the Ashram Library around the visit of Ernst Benz, a Protestant theologian. As the Mother asked Medhananda pointedly after the meet:
"What did they talk about?" There was a smile in her eyes. I replied, trying to stifle the wild laughter that was overcoming me. "They talked about Supermind, Sweet Mother." Mother simply remarked, "What do they know about it?"
Medhananda cautions us that while devotion and loyalty to Sri Aurobindo are important, there is always a danger in relapsing into the earlier modes of thought and action. For instance stray passages from Sri Aurobindo could be taken out and used in a partisan manner. The result would be a falsification of His ideals. As he says aptly, "you can just take a few key words of Sri Aurobindo and there you have a new religion starting." A timely warning this. On the threshold of a new age
is a volume full of insights and illuminations and should interest all seekers of the inner life.
Prof. Sachidananda Mohanty