Pages: 80 Dimensions (in cms): 12x18 ISBN: 978-0-9562923-0-8
Publisher: First Feature Ltd., London, UK
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About Seven Dedicated Lives
These biographical essays provide glimpses into the lives of seven disciples – Nirodbaran, Tehmi, Rishabhchand, Millie, Krishnalal, Mona Pinto, and Udar – who joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the 1930s and 1940s and played active roles in the life of this spiritual community. The book also includes an article on why Christmas is celebrated in the Ashram. The stories of how these sadhaks and sadhikas were drawn to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the ways in which they dedicated themselves and their work to the ideal set before them are inspirational and exemplary.
The Mother used to say that those who were with her, assisting her in her work, had also been with her in her former lives whenever she had descended on the earth to carry out her work of divinizing the world: We have all met in previous lives. Otherwise we would not have come together in this life. We are of one family and have worked through ages for the victory of the Divine and its manifestation upon earth. 7 April 1929
This slim volume, Seven Dedicated Lives, so masterfully written by Sunayana Panda, very palpably brings this fact home to the reader. Sunayana has depicted the raison d'être of each of these seven beautiful people very skilfully and clearly in this book by showing how, from the far corners of India and even from remote England, the Mother's beacon light guided them to the shores of the then little known and still less important town of Pondicherry to assist her in her stupendous work of transformation.
How true is the saying "He who chooses the Divine, has been chosen by the Divine"! It is intriguing to trace the life story of a young boy from an obscure town in Chittagong, who goes to Calcutta for higher studies, gets involved in the revolutionary movement then in progress, returns to his native town to avoid further harassment by the British CID, then sails away to Scotland to study medicine, holds a lucrative government job in Rangoon as a full-fledged doctor, subsequently loses the job because of his black marks in the police records, comes to Pondicherry to visit his niece and finally, lives on in the Ashram for the rest of his very long and fruitful life, in spite of his early avowal to his Guru that spiritual life was not his cup of tea! In retrospect do we not see the beautiful Hands delicately but surely pulling the strings to bring the chosen one to his ultimate destination?
In a similar way, on returning to India from England, a brilliant aeronautical engineer from Hubli finds himself jobless because he is overqualified. His well-to-do Roman Catholic family disowns him because he is engaged to a Protestant English girl. He is desperate to make money so that he can bring his sweetheart to India and marry her. He comes to Pondicherry, starts a business, makes money, marries his fiancée, lives in grand style and now his sole aim is to enjoy life to the full. But then he comes for the Darshan, he sees the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and he is irrevocably caught! He winds up his business and joins the Ashram with his young wife and baby daughter. In no time he becomes a most trustworthy and an indispensable instrument of the Mother. Working day and night, he assists her in her projects and starts many profitable industries and businesses for making the Ashram financially self-sufficient.
The young wife, a ravishing beauty at the age of twenty-six and English to the core, totally uninterested in either religion or spirituality, has only one aim in life—to make a very happy English home with her handsome husband and her darling newborn daughter. But the unseen Power is again at work. She turns out to be an ideal Hindu wife, who follows her husband's dharma, sacrificing her own likes and dislikes in the process, and joins the Ashram. To the end of her days she lives a most disciplined life, almost like an ascetic. The Mother had chosen her instrument well to run her newly built, dream guest house with the utmost efficiency and the legendary English standards of cleanliness! For, this young English lady, who had had some experience only in secretarial work, now brings out her hidden talent for organization, administration and bookkeeping.
The Mother needs an ideal teacher to teach English in her school—the flame of aspiration is at once lit in the heart of a young, versatile, extremely gifted Parsi lady, who is a much sought after professor in the prestigious Sophia College of Bombay. She resigns from her job, joins the Ashram and teaches in the Ashram school until she is well past eighty.
A fine artist is needed for decorating the Mother's rooms—just the right man comes all the way from Gujarat, having been trained in Santiniketan by the well-known painter Nandalal Bose, and serves her till the end of his life.
The Mother wants to break the rigid dress conventions of Indian women—a young housewife from a very conservative Bengali Brahmin family who has joined the Ashram only a few years back during World War II, appears in the Playground dressed in white shirt and shorts to set an example for the other Ashram ladies! At the Mother's bidding she courageously performs a very revolutionary role in the bold French play, Vers l'Avenir, written by the Mother herself, which deals a heavy blow to the age-old, artificial social concepts of marriage! To whatever the Mother asks her to do, however difficult it may be, this young housewife has only one answer: "Yes, Mother."
Generally, the Jains belong to a very orthodox community who do not readily take to alien ways. An inroad has to be made in this community! A very well educated Jain young man happens to read some political writings of Sri Aurobindo and straight away falls in love with the Master's sublime prose. He is at the helm of his family's textile business and so has miles to go before he can dedicate himself completely to the Master. He fulfils all his duties, trains able administrators to take over from him and comes to the Ashram to serve the Mother and Sri Aurobindo with his entire being. Since then, starting with his family members, there has been a steady influx of Jains to the Ashram.
Having been very closely connected with all the personalities mentioned in Seven Dedicated Lives, I am struck by the author's deep insight into their characters and aspirations which I had marked only because I had seen them at very close quarters. How a young person who is more than two generations removed from them can come so near the truth is really amazing! Sunayana has a very lucid, fluid and warm style which makes reading her book a really pleasant experience. The only regret is that like all good things it comes to an end much too soon.
This review would remain incomplete without a word of congratulation to the cover designer, Giles Herdman, who has chosen a very appropriate floral arrangement for his design; the spiritual significance given by the Mother to this beautiful flower is "Offering"!
— Aniruddha Sircar Aniruddha-da (Babu-da) settled in the Ashram in 1946, completed his schooling at the SAICE in 1955, and has since been teaching English at the Ashram school.