Sri Aurobindo Center
of Los Angeles
Theme - Difficulties
- Events & Activities
- Cause of Difficulties
- Difficulty as an Opportunity
- Difficulties in Yoga
- Face the Difficulty
- The Vital’s Drama
- The Right Spirit
- Offer to The Mother
- The Grace
- Inspiring Pilgrims of the Divine
- Sadhana of the Body
- Sri Aurobindo’s Humor
- Empowering Lines from Savitri
Events & Activities Home
The month of May passed quietly. It was a period of assimilation of all the benediction and love that was graced upon us in an intense April 24 Darshan. As in previous months, the activities included garden work, hosting devotees, renovation of the physical premises, the usual thrice-weekly collective sadhana over zoom and other miscellaneous tasks.
Since last year, our Center has been offering quotes from The Mother and Sri Aurobindo on the body, a unique but often ignored part of Their Integral Yoga, to the Bulletin of the Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education (SAICE). This journal was initiated in 1949 when the facilities of physical education became available. The Mother wanted Sri Aurobindo to write an essay for the first issue. This was the time He was actively immersed in completing Savitri and had to be reminded by Her more than once, an indication of how important the “Sadhana of the body” was for Their Yoga. We are grateful for this gift bestowed upon us.
It is notable that while the activities are mostly the same as in previous months, the work is carried with an increasing sense of devotion to Her; this is seen in the greater harmony, the effectivity and the joy with which all is done. Clearly the outer is informed by the inner in these beautiful offerings.
The Divine Grace is constantly with us, but mostly veiled by our state of ignorance. Sometimes though, it powerfully breaks the veil and the Grace is revealed, and the devotee confesses the hand of the Master. We were thrilled to witness the same last month. Two devotees in our group underwent surgeries, one a major one, and it was amazing to see a rapid recovery in both. We were reminded of Her words:
The Supreme's power is infinite ― it is our faith that is small.
Now over to the theme of the month.
This month’s offering is on Difficulties. We will request each one of you to contemplate what does this term means to you? What are your difficulties? What is their nature? Is there any recurring patten? What is bothering you, what is creating an obstacle on your path to be your true self, and who you will be once these difficulties are won over?
To each one of us, we are presented with a unique set of difficulties, and that is our door to progress, for if all the hardships of the world were heaped on a single person, he would be overwhelmed. It is important that we identify the challenges correctly, for they present to us the map that we must chart for sadhana; it is the task of the soul to overcome them, be it in this life or in the lives to come. The thought of obstacle creates anguish in most of us, and that is because of our ignorance and partial view. If we realize that these difficulties are like the exercises that the psychic being has chosen while taking birth, for growth or to finish incomplete lessons of the past, we will be able to appreciate life differently. To transform them will make us what we should be.
There are often challenges that we inherit, we carry the burden of others who were before us. Similarly, there are events that leave impressions. These memories, collective and individual, are trapped in our subconscious parts, sapping our energies, and silently misdirecting how we live, stopping us from fully experiencing life. Cleaning the surface does not help because their roots lie deep in the subconscious, and the work must be done there. The unplumbed, dark chambers are to be cleaned with personal effort, help and guidance of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and the Divine Grace. Through false identification and ignorance, we set boundaries around ourselves, causing self-harm and unhappiness. Love, the greatest transforming force, and Faith, a sure guide in darkest of the days, are two levers to come out of difficulties. If these two friends are there, we will be mindful of our aim in life, be purposeful and make every effort to come out of the net of difficulties, and by slow but certain steps the miraculous journey of the soul will continue.
Finally, we should not forget what the Mother told us:
He who wants to advance on the path of perfection, must never complain about the difficulties on the way, for each is an opportunity for new progress. To complain is a sign of weakness and insincerity.
28th May 1954
Our team has courageously chosen this topic, and diligently worked to present this offering. May all of us find something valuable for our progress in this issue of Quest.
Wishing you all a very happy reading.
The Quest Team
All are invited to join us for the following virtual events taking place via Zoom video and teleconferencing calls.
Aspiration for the Divine – Tuesdays, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Pacific Time
Savitri Reading - Thursdays, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Pacific Time
Readings from The Mother by Sri Aurobindo - Saturdays,
4:30 pm- 6:00 pm Pacific Time
Click here for the Zoom Meeting details.
Cause of Difficulties
Difficulties come because there are possibilities in you. If in life everything was easy, then it would be a life of nothing. Because difficulties come on your way it shows you have possibilities.
Do not be afraid.
22 February 1968
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 220
The difficulties are always due to a resistance, some part or several parts of the being refusing to receive the force, the consciousness and the light put upon them and revolting against the divine influence. It is rare that somebody can surrender entirely to the Divine’s Will without having to face one or another of these difficulties. But to keep steady one’s aspiration and to look at oneself with an absolute sincerity are the sure means to overcome all obstacles.
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 218
… Surrender does not ensure a smooth and unruffled and continuous progression. The reason is that your being is not yet one, nor your surrender absolute and complete. Only a part of you surrenders; and today it is one part and the next day it is another. The whole purpose of the Yoga is to gather all the divergent parts together and forge them into an undivided unity. Till then you cannot hope to be without difficulties — difficulties, for example, like doubt or depression or hesitation. …
14 April 1929
The Mother, CWM Volume 3, Page 6
Question: What is the greatest obstacle in ourselves to our consecration to impersonal work?
The Mother: Regarded from the most general point of view, this obstacle is indistinguishable from the very reason for the work to be accomplished: it is the present state of imperfection of physical Matter.
Since we are made up of an imperfect substance, we cannot but share in this imperfection.
Therefore, whatever degree of perfection, consciousness or knowledge is possible to our inmost being, the very fact that it incarnates in a physical body gives rise to obstacles to the purity of its manifestation; and on the other hand, the aim of its incarnation is victory over these obstacles, the transformation of Matter. We must therefore not be surprised or saddened if we encounter obstacles within ourselves, for every single being on earth has difficulties to overcome.
The cause of this imperfection may become apparent to us from two points of view, one general, the other individual.
From the general point of view, the imperfection of Matter comes from its lack of receptivity to the more subtle forces which are to be manifested through it. But this lack of receptivity itself has many causes, and to explain them would lead us too far away from the heart of our subject. Besides, I think that, in the last analysis, all difficulties lie in the illusion of personality, that is, the illusion that one thing can be distinct from the whole.
To avoid speculating on the necessity of this illusion for the very existence of the universe as we know it, I shall consider the question solely from the terrestrial and human angle.
This illusion of a self separate from the whole brings about two tendencies within ourselves.
The first comes from an unconscious need for identification with the whole. But by the very fact of the illusion of personality, each one conceives this identification only as an absorption into himself and seeks more or less to be the center of this whole. As a result, in proportion to his intellectual or physical strength, each one attempts to draw to himself everything he is conscious of in order to continually increase his personality.
This is the outcome of a desire which is justified in essence — to become conscious of everything — but ignorant in expression, for if a way to become conscious of everything does exist, it certainly does not lie in trying to draw everything to oneself, which is absurd and unrealisable, but in identifying one’s consciousness with the consciousness of the whole, which demands the very opposite action and attitude.
The second tendency, which is in fact a normal consequence of the first, is an excessively conservative spirit, a fixity of the whole nature — intellectual, moral and physical — which makes it impossible for us to transform ourselves as rapidly as we should in order to be always in harmony with the law of universal progress.
It is as if the individual were afraid of not being different enough from others if he encouraged too free and large an exchange with the whole.
Moreover, this fixity comes from the desire to appropriate and the error of believing that we can own something in the universe. We think that the elements we are made of are our own. Consciously or unconsciously, we want to hold on to them for ourselves while at the same time we are quite ready to add to them by drawing other elements to ourselves; but we forget that since there is no real separation, we can receive nothing if we do not give.
We must be a link in the chain: the link does not grow bigger at the expense of its neighbors. But when it faithfully transmits the current it has received, it will receive another, and the more complete and swift its transmission, the more it will be brought into contact with a great number of forces or things for it to use or manifest. And so, little by little, by taking and keeping nothing for itself, it can become aware of everything by communing with everything.
21 May 1912
The Mother, CWM Volume 2, Page 55
Difficulty as an Opportunity
Be grateful for all ordeals, they are the shortest way to the Divine.
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 225
Simply tell yourself: “We don’t know how to do things as they ought to be done; well, they are being done for us, come what may!” And if we could see to what extent all that seems to be, yes, a difficulty, a mistake, a failure, an obstacle — all that is just to help us, so that the realisation may be more perfect.
Once you know that, everything becomes easy.
6 October 1958
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 218
The difficulties come always to make us progress. The greater the difficulty, the greater can be the progress.
Be confident and endure.
With love and blessings.
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 220
|Difficulties in Yoga
The nature of your difficulty indicates the nature of the victory you will gain, the victory you will exemplify in Yoga. Thus, if there is persistent selfishness, it points to a realisation of universality as your most prominent achievement in the future. And, when selfishness is there, you have also the power to reverse this very difficulty into its opposite, a victory of utter wideness.
When you have something to realise, you will have in you just the characteristic which is the contradiction of that something. Face to face with the defect, the difficulty, you say, “Oh, I am like that! How awful it is!” But you ought to see the truth of the situation. Say to yourself, “My difficulty shows me clearly what I have ultimately to represent. To reach the absolute negation of it, the quality at the other pole — this is my mission.”
Even in ordinary life, we have sometimes the experience of contraries. He who is very timid and has no courage in front of circumstances proves capable of bearing the most!
To one who has the aspiration for the Divine, the difficulty which is always before him is the door by which he will attain God in his own individual manner: it is his particular path towards the Divine Realisation.
There is also the fact that if somebody has a hundred difficulties it means he will have a tremendous realisation — provided, of course, there are in him patience and endurance and he keeps the aspiring flame of Agni burning against those defects.
And remember: the Grace of the Divine is generally proportioned to your difficulties.
The Mother, CWM Volume 3, Page 143
He [The Divine] has given you a certain amount of substance and of matter in all the domains — mental, vital and physical — in proportion to what He expects from you, and all the circumstances around you are also in proportion to what He expects of you, and those who tell you, “My life is terrible, I lead the most miserable life in the world”, are donkeys! Everyone has a life appropriate to his total development, everyone has experiences which help him in his total development, and everyone has difficulties which help him in his total realisation.
If you look at yourself carefully, you will see that one always carries in oneself the opposite of the virtue one has to realise (I use “virtue” in its widest and highest sense). You have a special aim, a special mission, a special realisation which is your very own, each one individually, and you carry in yourself all the obstacles necessary to make your realisation perfect. Always you will see that within you the shadow and the light are equal: you have an ability, you have also the negation of this ability. But if you discover a very black hole, a thick shadow, be sure there is somewhere in you a great light. It is up to you to know how to use the one to realise the other.
This is a fact very little spoken about, but one of capital importance. And if you observe carefully you will see that it is always thus with everyone. This leads us to statements which are paradoxical but absolutely true; for instance, that the greatest thief can be the most honest man (this is not to encourage you to steal, of course!) and the greatest liar can be the most truthful person. So, do not despair if you find in yourself the greatest weakness, for perhaps it is the sign of the greatest divine strength. Do not say, “I am like that, I can’t be otherwise.” It is not true. You are “like that” because, precisely, you ought to be the opposite. And all your difficulties are there just so that you may learn to transform them into the truth they are hiding.
Once you have understood this, many worries come to an end and you are very happy, very happy. If one finds one has very black holes, one says, “This shows I can rise very high”, if the abyss is very deep, “I can climb very high.” It is the same from the universal point of view; to use the Hindu terminology so familiar to you, it is the greatest Asuras who are the greatest beings of Light. And the day these Asuras are converted, they will be the supreme beings of the creation. This is not to encourage you to be asuric, you know, but it is like that — this will widen your minds a little and help you to free yourself from those ideas of opposing good and evil, for if you abide in that category, there is no hope.
If the world was not essentially the opposite of what it has become, there would be no hope. For the hole is so black and so deep, and the inconscience so complete, that if this were not the sign of the total consciousness, well, there would be nothing more to do but pack up one’s kit and go away. Men like Shankara, who did not see much further than the end of their nose, said that the world was not worth the trouble of living in, for it was impossible, that it was better to treat it as an illusion and go away, there was nothing to be done with it. I tell you, on the contrary, that it is because the world is very bad, very dark, very ugly, very unconscious, full of misery and suffering, that it can become the supreme Beauty, the supreme Light, the supreme Consciousness and supreme Felicity.
17 February 1951
The Mother, CWM Volume 3, Page 118
“FACE the danger!” Thou saids to me, “why dost thou wish to turn away thy gaze or flee far away from action, flee from the battle, into the deep contemplation of Truth? It is its integral manifestation which must be realized, its victory over all the obstacles of blind ignorance and dark hostility. Look the danger straight in the face and it will vanish before the Power.”
O Lord, I understood the weakness of this most external nature which is always ready to surrender material things and escape, as a compensation, into a supreme intellectual and spiritual independence. But Thou expects action from us, and action does not allow such an attitude. It is not enough to triumph in the inner worlds, we must triumph right down to the most material worlds. We must not flee from the difficulty or obstacle, because we have the power to do so by taking refuge in the consciousness where there are no obstacles. . . . We must look the danger straight in the face with faith in Thy Omnipotence, and Thy Omnipotence will triumph.
Give me integrally the heart of the fighter, O Lord, and Thy victory is sure.
“Conquer at any price” should be the present motto. Not because one is attached to the work and its results, not because one needs such an action, not because one is incapable of escaping from all contingencies.
But because Thou hast commanded action from us. But because the hour of Thy triumph upon earth has come. But because Thou willest the integral victory.
And in an infinite love for the world . . . let us fight!
5 September 1914
The Mother, CWM Volume 1, Page 240
The resistance with which we meet in the accomplishment of our work is proportionate to its importance.
10 October 1954
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 316
Our ordeals never exceed our capacity of resistance.
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 231
Sadhak: I would like to pray to the Mother to kindly explain to me the meaning of the dramatising of everything by the vital nature.
The Mother: What I meant is that life is always full of difficulties, hardships and sufferings; this is a common fact and each one has to face his own lot of them. The only way to face them properly is to endure and to put one’s interest, hope and faith in the inner life and consciousness turned towards the Divine, aspiring for the Divine and capable of receiving the Divine’s Force and Help. But often the vital being or some part of it takes a kind of perverse pleasure in giving a dramatic importance to each and every difficulty and thus cuts the contact with the inner being and the Divine’s Force.
This bad habit which is common to many people must be stopped and then each one can and will feel that he receives very concretely the help he needs to go through the ordeals of life.
2 February 1964
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 230
He who wants to advance on the path of perfection must never complain about the difficulties on the way, for each is an opportunity for a new progress. To complain is a sign of weakness and insincerity.
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 221
Never grumble. All sorts of forces enter you when you grumble and they pull you down. Keep smiling. I seem always to be joking but it is not mere joking. It is a confidence born from the psychic. A smile expresses the faith that nothing can stand against the Divine and that everything will come out all right in the end.
28 May 1954
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 221
Don’t foresee difficulties — it does not help to surmount them and helps them to come.
5 August 1932
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 223
Never think of a difficulty — you give it strength.
14 April 1958
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 224
The best remedy is to stop thinking of yourself and your defects and difficulties.
Let us think only of the big work to be done, the ideal that Sri Aurobindo has given us to realise. The work and NOT how we do it.
I will help.
5 June 1961
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 224
To conquer the difficulties there is more power in a smile than in a sigh.
27 December 1941
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 229
Whatever is the difficulty, if we keep truly quiet the solution will come.
8 August 1954
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 229
Student: Sweet Mother, here Sri Aurobindo says, “... the difficulty faced in the right spirit and conquered, one finds that an obstacle has disappeared.” What is the right spirit?
The Mother: Ah, I was expecting this question. The right spirit means what he has explained in the following sentence: to keep one’s trust, to remain quiet — I think it is there a little farther off — wait patiently for the attack to pass, keep one’s trust. It is not there? Then it is in another passage. In any case the right spirit means not to lose courage, not to lose one’s faith, not to be impatient, not to be depressed; to remain very quiet and peaceful with as much aspiration as one can have, and not worry about what is happening. To have the certitude that this will pass and all will be well. This indeed is the best thing.
12 January 1955
The Mother, CWM Volume 7, Page 9
|Offer to The Mother
If you keep your faith unshaken and your heart always open to me, then all difficulties, however great, will contribute to the greater perfection of your being.
19 April 1937
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 227
Student: Sweet Mother, when one has a difficulty in the day and it is not possible to see you or tell you about it, what should one do?
The Mother: If it is not at all possible, you must sit quite alone, try to become silent, call, call me as though I were there, make me come and put the difficulty before me absolutely sincerely and objectively; and then remain very silent, very quiet and wait for the result.
And I think the result comes. For it depends on the nature of the difficulty. If it is a problem that’s to be solved, then the solution comes; if it is an inner movement, something that has gone wrong, then usually if one does this very sincerely, well, it is put back in its place; and if it is a decision that’s to be taken, if it is something one doesn’t know whether one must do or not do, then this too, if one is very quiet one knows whether it’s a yes or no; it comes: “Yes” or “No”. Then here you must not discuss any more, the mind must not say, “But if...? and then...”, for then everything becomes foggy. You must say, “Good!” and follow like this. But for this you must be sincere, in the sense that you must have no preferences.
If the difficulty comes from one part of the being wanting one thing and another part of the being knowing that one must not have it, then it becomes complicated because the part which wants can try to introduce its own will into the answer. So when one sits down, first one must begin by persuading it to make a little act of sincere surrender, and it is here that one can make true progress, saying, “Now I am conscious that it is this that I desire, but I am ready to give up my desire if that should be done.” But you must do this not only in the head, it must be done sincerely, and then you proceed as I said. Then one knows — knows what’s to be done.
Sometimes it is easier when you write it down; you imagine that I am there and then take a paper and write on it what you wanted to tell me. Then just the very fact of formulating it clearly sometimes gives you the true picture of the situation and you can have the answer more easily. It depends, sometimes it is necessary, sometimes not, but if you are in a confusion, a kind of whirlwind, above all, if there is a vital upsurge, the fact of compelling yourself to put it on paper already quietens you, it begins the work of purification.
In fact, one should always do this, when he feels that he is caught by an impulse of some kind or other, particularly impulses of anger. If one takes as an absolute discipline, instead of acting or speaking (because speech is an action), instead of acting under the impulse, if one withdraws and then does as I said, one sits down quietly, concentrates and then looks at his anger quietly, one writes it down, when one has finished writing, it is gone — in any case, most often
30 March 1955
The Mother, CWM Volume 7, Page 105
Question: What do you mean by these words: ‘When you are in difficulty, widen yourself’?
The Mother: I am speaking, of course, of difficulties on the path of yoga, incomprehension, limitations, things like obstacles, which prevent you from advancing. And when I say “widen yourself”, I mean widen your consciousness.
Difficulties always arise from the ego, that is, from your more or less egoistic personal reaction to circumstances, events and people around you, to the conditions of your life. They also come from that feeling of being closed up in a sort of shell, which prevents your consciousness from uniting with higher and vaster realities.
One may very well think that one wants to be vast, wants to be universal, that all is the expression of the Divine, that one must have no egoism — one may think all sorts of things — but that is not necessarily a cure, for very often one knows what one ought to do, and yet one doesn’t do it, for one reason or another.
But if, when you have to face anguish, suffering, revolt, pain or a feeling of helplessness — whatever it may be, all the things that come to you on the path and which precisely are your difficulties — if physically, that is to say, in your body consciousness, you can have the feeling of widening yourself, one could say of unfolding yourself — you feel as it were all folded up, one fold on another like a piece of cloth which is folded and refolded and folded again — so if you have this feeling that what is holding and strangling you and making you suffer or paralysing your movement, is like a too closely, too tightly folded piece of cloth or like a parcel that is too well-tied, too well-packed, and that slowly, gradually, you undo all the folds and stretch yourself out exactly as one unfolds a piece of cloth or a sheet of paper and spreads it out flat, and you lie flat and make yourself very wide, as wide as possible, spreading yourself out as far as you can, opening yourself and stretching out in an attitude of complete passivity with what I could call “the face to the light”: not curling back upon your difficulty, doubling up on it, shutting it in, so to say, into yourself, but, on the contrary, unfurling yourself as much as you can, as perfectly as you can, putting the difficulty before the Light — the Light which comes from above — if you do that in all the domains, and even if mentally you don’t succeed in doing it — for it is sometimes difficult — if you can imagine yourself doing this physically, almost materially, well, when you have finished unfolding yourself and stretching yourself out, you will find that more than three-quarters of the difficulty is gone. And then just a little work of receptivity to the Light and the last quarter will disappear.
This is much easier than struggling against a difficulty with one’s thought, for if you begin to discuss with yourself, you will find that there are arguments for and against which are so convincing that it is quite impossible to get out of it without a higher light. Here, you do not struggle against the difficulty, you do not try to convince yourself; ah! you simply stretch out in the Light as though you lay stretched on the sands in the sun. And you let the Light do its work. That’s all.
29 August 1956
The Mother, CWM Volume 8, Page 285
When, in your life, you meet with a hardship, take it as a Grace from the Lord and, indeed, it will become so.
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 95
For those who have given themselves to the Divine each difficulty that confronts them is the assurance of a new progress and thus must be taken as a gift from the Grace.
19 June 1966
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 96
All difficulties are solved by taking rest in the Divine’s arms, for these arms are always opened with love to shelter us.
The Mother, CWM Volume 14, Page 232
|Inspiring Pilgrims of the Divine
(17.05.1897 - 06.04.1990)
May is the birth month of our center’s founder Jyotipriya, but another remarkable disciple of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo was also born in this month, Sahana Devi. Born on 17th May 1897 it is her 125th birth anniversary, and we offer this section to her this month.
Named after the evening raga, an Indian classical musical composition, Sahana lost her father early, when she was only two. She grew up in, Kolkata, Bengal, in the household of her maternal uncle Chittaranjan Das, or C.R. Das, an accomplished lawyer and a friend of Sri Aurobindo. C.R. Das was one of the great leaders of India, who was called as Desh Bandhu or “Friend of the nation” who had sacrificed even his residential house at the service of his country. Probably his greatest identity is that he was the defence counsel of Sri Aurobindo in the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy case, where he delivered the eloquent, prophetic speech. Sahana came from an illustrious family, apart from her uncle, Atul Prasad Sen the great Bengali composer was her first cousin, many are not aware Satyajit Ray, the Oscar winning film director from India, who inspired great Hollywood directors such as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg was her nephew.
Music came naturally to Sahana, though she never learnt it in the strict traditional sense. Her first teacher was her maternal aunt Amala Bose, who in turn was one of the few people, apart from Sahana later, who had the fortune of learning Tagore’s songs from him directly. Rabindranath Tagore - the poet, educationalist, thinker, composer, and the artist was setting the trends of Indian art, music, and culture at that time. She met Tagore first as a child at her uncle’s place, like Nishikanto who looked upon him as the magician of Arabian Nights – Harun Al Rashid, Sahana took him as someone who resembled Jesus Christ. That was the beginning of a very important relationship in her life. Tagore, who addressed her by her nick name “Jhunu” stood by her in her darkest days, till she found her refuge in the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. When Tagore learnt that she did not have classical training, he arranged her lessons with a classical master, but even that teacher did not give her traditional training, he bypassed the traditional lessons and went directly to songs! Tagore opened doors of a new phase of her life. He admired her thirst for music. In those days, between 1905 - 1915, in absence of recording systems, it was important for Tagore to immediately codify his tunes by someone after he composed them, it was also important for him to test how a song after composing. His nephew Dinendranath, affectionately called as Dinu Da, was this keeper of his songs. Sahana too became a trusted disciple, whom he would teach new songs as he composed. Later there were instances where Tagore included songs in dance drama just to include Sahana and her performance. Tagore used to stay in Shantiniketan, around 100 miles away from Kolkata, he would call over Sahana when he would visit Kolkata. Once she could not visit him, but so strong was her yearning that she picked up 14 songs from Dinu Da over phone. She received appreciation for her music from the greatest doyens of Indian music.
In 1916, she got married to Dr Bijoy Bose of Varanasi. Married life did not bring any happiness. After growing up in the company of personalities such as CR Das and Tagore, she found it impossible to fit herself in a smaller frame of life. But she got introduced to Hindu dance forms in Varanasi, prevalent amongst the ladies of North India. India is a land of cultural diversity, that which is prohibited in one region is promoted in another. Sahana learnt to dance, and in turn taught some of the girls back in Bengal, in her family. Silently she cross-pollinated art forms.
In 1922, the annual session of the Indian Congress, the most influential political party of the time, was held in the holy city of Gaya. Sahana, accompanied her uncle, who was the President of the session. She heard Dilip Kumar Roy the first time there and was mesmerized by his performance. Dilip, another soul dedicated to music, was a polyglot, an intellectual, a poet, novelist, a yogi, a composer, a singer but most importantly an ardent music lover. Dilip too came from an illustrious family, a man of letters, who received much affection from both Sri Aurobindo and Tagore, let alone other great figures. The friendship deepened between Sahana and Dilip in no time.
Sahana with Dilip
In 1925 CR Das passed away, ending an era of Sahana’s life. Disappointed with marriage when she had her questions about her future path, she found solace in Tagore’s words. He wrote to her that he respects her for her artistic thirst, and if there is a requirement, she may find a nest near his home and then the days will be filled with music.
In 1926, Sahana left her husband’s home. Soon she was diagnosed by tuberculosis, which was a much-feared disease then, and found herself alone, abandoned by most of her friends and family. Tagore stood by her, she stayed in Shantiniketan for three months at the beginning of 1927, in a small cottage near his residence. Then she went to a sanatorium, along with two helpers arranged by Tagore’s family, in the Himalayas. Without any friends and family life was lonely up in the cold mountains. Sri Aurobindo’s Gita was her companion in those days. She felt a connection with Sri Aurobindo. Meditation came naturally to her like sleep - she received some indications. In the winter months, towards the end of 1927, as the sanatorium closed due to snow, she came down to the plains. She stayed for some time at Dilip’ s sister place and then at Vishakhapatnam, a place by the sea. Dilip and another common friend visited her for a few days, the days overflowed with joy filled discussions and music. Dilip had the quality to invigorate his surrounding, the discussions started with literature or culture but ended up on spiritual personalities such as Sri Ramakrishna or Sri Aurobindo. She observed the joy when he discussed about the spiritual personalities. Dilip influenced her in spiritual directions. He had earlier asked her to read Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita or the Gospels of Sri Ramakrishna, but she did not feel much pull. She came to know about Integral Yoga and Sri Aurobindo through him. She learnt to view life through a different lens. Soon the visitors had left, and she went to a hill station in South India – Ooty. She had not recovered fully. In Ooty, she first felt the deep urge to join the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. She sent her request to Nolini Kanta Gupta, who would later be her lifelong well-wisher in the Ashram. Nolini da sent a reply that her request has been conveyed to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. He wrote to her that the yogic life is difficult, and the demands are stiff. It is for those one-pointed ones who are ready to sacrifice mercilessly and absolutely. The habits of the ordinary life will not be useful, rather they will pose obstacles. Imagination will not be useful to fathom the yogic power, which is self-existent and independent, the aspirant must lose himself in that ocean of yoga. He told her to self-reflect more and judge carefully, the more sincere will be her yearning, the easier it will be for her to receive the Mother’s Grace.
The letter was important for her, it was a moment of awakening. Till then she had heard tales of Tapasya of Sadhaks, but she had no real understanding of the requirements of the Spiritual life. She contemplated on the letter, the directions that it carried. In August 1928 she came down to Bengal. Her quest became serious, inwardly she understood Sri Aurobindo was her destination, thought outwardly she did not receive any indication. She continued to meditate and reflect, she found herself more and more indrawn. She again requested to Nolini da, this time for a brief stay. Consent was granted for meeting with Mother, sometime after the October of 1928, but no mention of Sri Aurobindo. She felt that she was going to leave the shores of Bengal forever. She travelled towards the South to Bangalore, wherever she went, success of her musical career followed - the incessant requests to perform or to teach dance or music. She found all that stifling, she was looking for solitude and had an aspiration for a darshan of Sri Aurobindo. She wrote again to Nolini da requesting for the November Darshan of Sri Aurobindo. In the interim tired of the requests, she went to Nandi Hills near Bangalore, in those days the place was deserted, apart from two guesthouses. She stayed there and meditated in a nearby cave where she received important directions. One night she saw Sri Aurobindo in her dream, he was standing on a beautiful green spot, she did her pranam and enquired about her stay in Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo asked her what the hurry was, she should sing for some more time. Distraught, she replied, that she could not sing anymore. Sri Aurobindo affectionately placed his hand on her back and said that she will receive the consent the next day. Indeed, next day she received the letter carrying permission for the Darshan. She reached the Ashram on 22nd November 1928, what was supposed to be brief stay continued till the end of her life in 1990, for 62 years. Joining the Ashram was not the end, instead was the beginning of a new adventure. She had her difficulties — anger, jealousy, sorrow, doubt, depression, fear, and revolts. There were times when she wanted to leave, but she held on, she loved Them sincerely and could not go. From 1930 to 1938, till Sri Aurobindo’s accident, she wrote regularly to Them. Sri Aurobindo patiently expounded many important topics of sadhana to her. She observed how she was trying to justify herself when she was writing to Them, how her nature was trying to hide and not open when she was penning her letters, she was adamant, she made it an exercise to forcefully open herself to Them, to be transparent. She later published these letters for the benefit of other seekers (Title: At the Feet of the Mother and Sri Auronindo).
In the Ashram her life soon was busy, she moved from meditation to work, she cooked for Them twice a week, accompanied the Mother in her evening car rides till her serious illness in 1931. She used to perform in the Ashram programs along with Dilip. Sri Aurobindo commented, “She sings from Psychic”. She had a visions and experiences, once she realized when she was singing at her rooftop, as an offering to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, a descent of force, which slowly took control of her, and the song happened independently of her physical voice. She had the experience of becoming a Divine instrument. She had to face her fears — she knew how to sew but was afraid of accepting responsibilities for others. The Mother formed a tailoring department in the Ashram and made her the Head, a work that she carried on till the end of her life. She had penned beautiful poems — Sri Aurobindo sent her inspirations. She translated some of the difficult poems of Sri Aurobindo in Bengali as a mental challenge. She danced; the Mother wrote the Radha’s prayer to convey to Sahana the state of Radha’s consciousness. She wrote a few beautiful books, her autobiography where she covered her life till she reached the Ashram, the early days of the Ashram, New Year Ceremony, and published her correspondence with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Some of them were very well received in the literary and spiritual circles.
Sahana with other ashramites in the Tailoring department
While reminiscing at the age of 92, we see her expressing her deep gratitude towards Dilip. She wrote that Dilip came to her life as a blessing from the Divine, who was instrumental in bringing her to Sri Aurobindo, and that was the core of their relationship. Her voice was flexible till the end, and she could still sing in that advanced age. In one of her last writings, probably, as an answer to all who questioned her leaving her promising musical career joining the ashram, she said that she joined the Ashram to realize the Divine and taking that path did not hamper or create any obstacle in her music practice, in fact it strengthened and enriched her musical capabilities.
Sahana receiving Blessings from The Mother in 1954
She passed away on 6th April 1990, at the age of 93. She was quite fit and moved around almost till the last day of her life. The Curtain fell over a long and fruitful life, offered to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Sadhana of the Body
Even he who might have arrived at perfect contemplation in silence and solitude, could only have done so by extracting himself from his body, by making an abstraction of himself; and thus the substance of which the body is constituted would remain as impure, as imperfect as before, since he would have abandoned it to itself; by a misguided mysticism, by the attraction of supraphysical splendors, by the egoistic desire of being united with Thee for his personal satisfaction, he would have turned his back upon the reason of his earthly existence, he would have refused cowardlike to accomplish his mission to redeem and purify Matter. To know that a part of our being is perfectly pure, to commune with that purity, to be identified with it, can be useful only if we subsequently utilize this knowledge for hastening the earthly transfiguration, for accomplishing Thy sublime work.
The Mother, CWM Volume 1, Page 20
The prayer of the cells in the body
Now that by the effect of the Grace we are slowly emerging out of inconscience and waking up to a conscious life, an ardent prayer rises in us for more light, more consciousness:
"O Supreme Lord of the Universe,
We implore Thee, give us
the strength and the beauty,
the harmonious perfection
needed to be Thy divine instruments upon earth.”
22 November 1967
The Mother, Agenda Volume 8, Page 388
You have only to admit that the mind and vital can influence the body — then no difficulty is left. In this action of mind and vital on the body faith and hope have an immense importance. I do not at all mean that they are omnipotent or infallibly effective — that is not so. But they assist the action of any force that can be applied, even of an apparently purely material force like medicine. In fact however there is no such thing as a purely material force, but the action may be purely material when it is a question of material objects. But in things that have life or mind and life one cannot isolate the material operation like that. There is always a play of other forces mixed with it in the reception at least and for the most part in the inception and direction also.
Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Volume 31, Page 561
To suppress hunger like that is not good, it very often creates disorders. I doubt whether fatness or thinness of a healthy kind depends on the amount of food taken — there are people who eat well and remain thin and others who take only one meal a day and remain fat. By underfeeding (taking less than the body really needs) one may get emaciated, but that is not a healthy state.
Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Volume 31, Page 426
The physical sadhana is to bring down the higher light and power and peace and Ananda into the body consciousness, to get rid of the inertia of the physical, the doubts, limitations, external tendency of the physical mind, the defective energies of the vital physical (nerves) and bring in instead the true consciousness there so that the physical may be a perfect instrument for the Divine Will. The food and care for the body is only to get it into good condition, afterwards it would not be necessary to attend to such things.
Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Volume 31, Page 367
When physical conditions are a little difficult and some discomfort follows, if one knows how to surrender completely before Thy will, caring little for life or death, health or illness, the integral being enters immediately into harmony with Thy law of love and life, and all physical indisposition ceases giving place to a calm well-being, deep and peaceful. I have noticed that when one enters into an activity that necessitates great physical endurance, what tires one most is anticipating beforehand all the difficulties to which one will be exposed. It is much wiser to see at every moment only the difficulty of the present instant; in this way the effort becomes much easier for it is always proportionate to the amount of strength, the resistance at one’s disposal. The body is a marvelous tool, it is our mind that does not know how to use it and, instead of fostering its suppleness, its plasticity, it brings a certain fixity into it which comes from preconceived ideas and unfavorable suggestions. But the supreme science, O Lord, is to unite with Thee, to trust in Thee, to live in Thee, to be Thyself; and then nothing is any longer impossible to a man who manifests Thy omnipotence. Lord, my aspiration rises to Thee like a silent canticle, a mute adoration, and Thy divine Love illumines my heart. O divine Master, I bow to Thee!
The Mother, CWM Volume 1, Page 101
A power released from circumscribing bounds,
Its height pushed up beyond death’s hungry reach,
Life’s tops shall flame with the Immortal’s thoughts,
Light shall invade the darkness of its base.
Then in the process of evolving Time
All shall be drawn into a single plan,
A divine harmony shall be earth’s law,
Beauty and joy remold her way to live:
Even the body shall remember God,
Nature shall draw back from mortality
And Spirit’s fires shall guide the earth’s blind force;
Knowledge shall bring into the aspirant Thought
A high proximity to Truth and God.
Savitri, Page 706,
Book 11: The Book of Everlasting Day,
Canto 1: The Eternal Day: The Soul’s Choice and the Supreme Consummation
Sri Aurobindo’s Humor
Satyendra: The Psychic of the Divine is like a Dictator.
Sri Aurobindo: It is more like a constitutional monarch who allows you to do whatever you like.
Satyendra: But it doesn’t come out.
Sri Aurobindo: Because it waits for the consent of all the members of the cabinet.
Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo by Nirodbaran, Page 171
Empowering Lines from Savitri
I ask thee not to merge thy heart of flame
In the Immobile’s wide uncaring bliss,
Turned from the fruitless motion of the years,
Deserting the fierce labour of the worlds,
Aloof from beings, lost in the Alone.
How shall thy mighty spirit brook repose
While Death is still unconquered on the earth
And Time a field of suffering and pain?
Thy soul was born to share the laden Force;
Obey thy nature and fulfill thy fate:
Accept the difficulty and godlike toil,
For the slow-paced omniscient purpose live.
Savitri, Page 335,
Book 3: The Book of the Divine Mother,
Canto 4: The Vision and the Boon
A Collective Offering by The Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles.