Altar at Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles

Sri Aurobindo Center
of Los Angeles

The Quest
May 2021

Theme – Reminiscences on Jyotipriya
Dr. Judith Tyberg
  1. Introduction
  2. An Anecdote: Psychological Perfection
  3. Reminiscences by Mandakini
  4. Reminiscences by Narad
  5. Reminiscences by Anie Nunnally
  6. Reminiscences by Sam Gravef
  7. Reminiscences by Dr. Arthur Fielder
  8. Reminiscences by Dr. Dorian Schneidman
  9. Reminiscences by Dr. Wilfried Huchzermeyer
  10. Jyotipriya’s Mantra Readings
  11. Jyotipriya’s Last Words
Extract of a Letter from The Mother to Jyotipriya

Introduction                                                             Home

The words of the Mother: "Our life ought to be governed by the love for Truth and the thirst for Light" kindle the heart when one remembers Jyotipriya, founder of the East-West Cultural Center (EWCC), now known as Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles. The month of May being her birth month, we are filled with deep gratitude for the Truth that she lit in the heart of all seekers; the living example of her life, offered at the service of the Divine, and the flame she lit, as the Center continues to inspire aspirants from near and far.

Born to theosophist parents at Point Loma in 1902, Dr. Judith Tyberg, was a philosopher at heart, dedicated to the service of the Theosophical community. She became a teacher at a young age, and studied philosophy and classical languages. But she found her calling in Sanskrit. From 1930 for over a decade, she immersed herself in the study of Sanskrit, translating the Rig Vedas, participating in the publication of the English version of Sankaracharya’s Viveka Chudamani, and developing Devanagari script type settings in Sanskrit. But all these were a preparation for a greater life. In 1946 she reached Varanasi, India for a serious course on Oriental Studies, with a question in her heart - to find the meaning of the Vedas, hidden in the maze of the archaic texts. This question led her to Sri Aurobindo. Home is from where you never want to leave. She found her home and refuge in Sri Aurobindo. From that point till her passing away in 1980 she offered herself at the service of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, touching the lives of many, steering them to Integral Yoga, guiding those who were ready to take shelter in the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo named her "Lover of Light" (Jyotipriya). An ardent seeker of the spirit, Jyoti was graced with the Realization of the Soul. The greatly inspiring and outstanding aspect of her quest was her selfless spirit; her pilgrim feet both led and carried along with her many an aspirant on the path. We are reminded of Sri Aurobindo's beautiful aphorism: "Beatitude is God's aim for humanity; get this supreme good for thyself first that thou mayest distribute it entirely to thy fellow-beings".

This issue of Quest is dedicated to the living memory of Jyotipriya. We hope this series of reminiscences on her will serve to inspire fellow aspirants on the path.

Those who would like to read in detail about Jyotipriya’s life, may follow this link for a biography:
All are invited to join us for the following virtual events taking place via Zoom video and teleconferencing calls.

Free Flowing Discussion – Tuesdays, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Pacific Time
Savitri Reading - Thursdays, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Pacific Time
Essays on the Gita - Saturdays, 4:30 pm- 6:00 pm Pacific Time

Click here for the Zoom Meeting details.
Jyotipriya sharing wisdom of Sri Aurobindo in the library at EWCC, W 9th St – 1970s
Easter Flower Festival at EWCC, W 9th St - 1970s – Jyotipriya & Seekers

An Anecdote: Psychological Perfection                 Home
Jyotipriya gave a talk in the Ashram Playground soon after coming from Banaras. One incident she recounted was most memorable.

After coming to India and having grown up in America, she was of course used to certain comforts that did not exist here at all in the late forties. Her studies were in the old city of Banaras and the room given to her was simple, yet sparse and ascetically bare. In particular she found the bed (called a cot in those days) so very hard! However, she would sense a beautiful perfume around her every night and she could not tell from where it came. This made her quite relaxed in spite of the discomforts and the lack of taste in the room.

When she came down to Pondicherry to see the Mother and seek her blessings, the Mother gave her a flower of “psychological perfection,” (Plumeria champaca, Frangipani), during the general ‘Blessings’, as she used to for everyone. When she smelled the flower, she immediately remembered the very same fragrance that came to her each night in Banaras!

- Richard Pearson, a sadhak based in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.
Collaboration: Fall 2015, Vol 40, No 2.
Jyotipriya's photo at the Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles.

Reminiscences by Mandakini                              Home
The year before I first met Jyotipriya, I had gone to a New Age event on the East Coast. There I met a woman who said, "You live in Los Angeles, you must meet Judith Tyberg’’. But I put off taking any action, saying to myself that I didn’t want to meet any more false gurus and be disappointed again. However, on August 15th, 1977 I had a free day, and found in Southern California New Age events calendar that there was going to be a celebration honoring Sri Aurobindo’s Birthday at the East-West Cultural Center led by Dr. Tyberg. So I said to myself, "It’s now or never!’’ I walked in just as Jyotipriya had declared with upraised arms and tremendous force, "Friends, we are at the dawn of a New Age for humanity’’. And that was it! I followed her from that point onwards.

I knew nothing about the Integral Yoga, and with the years of Thursday evening satsangs with Jyotipriya, I began to learn. Certain things stand out in my memory:
  • How she would always insist on the point that the Mother as a practical being. At first it was totally incomprehensible to me, but much later on repeated occasions I found that to be entirely true.
  • The letter from the Mother to Jyotipriya that was hanging in her office saying:
"For you who have realised your soul and seek the integral yoga, to help the others is the best way of helping yourself. Indeed, if you are sincere you will soon discover that each of their failures is a sure sign of a corresponding deficiency in yourself, the proof that something in you is not perfect enough to be all-powerful.”
- The Mother, December 1955.
  • How she said that the incessant pain in her arthritically crippled fingers, that once played the piano and violin, would cease the moment she started teaching Integral Yoga.
  • The wonderful events that she organized where we played out scenes from Savitri or read the Mother’s Prayers and Meditations. The prayer she chose for me absolutely resonated with my inner state then and is still relevant now.  
  • The day she paid off the mortgage on the East-West Center building at last, and marked the event by burning the papers in a joyous ceremony.
  • When I went to the hospital to wash and set Jyoti’s hair during one of the stays that started to signal her imminent end, and I had my first experience of Seva (service) which was an important experience for my future course of life.
  • The warm and sage advice that she gave me before I left for the Ashram.
In October 1980, she passed away. It seems that the roses of my garden had royally bloomed that day, and Suzanne Sekhon brought them to accompany Jyoti for her last voyage. Jyotipriya’s old friend Dr. Arabinda Basu, the one who had led her to Sri Aurobindo, asked me to briefly write her biography for Mother India. So, I wrote to Trudy King asking her to send me just a few things to help me. I received three enormous packs of papers – photocopies of her diaries, her correspondence with seekers, the letters she received from Anandamayi Ma and Swami Sivananda, and others. One thing, among so many other deeply telling aspects of Jyoti’s life and Self was that she was so very modest, and it was really an eye-opener to learn about her rich and extraordinary life. The originally planned three-page piece became over thirty pages. Years later, Anie Nunnally asked me to write a shorter but less devotee-oriented version for Wikipedia and again, there was so much more that I learned to add to the story! Mario Santonastaso then added recordings of some of Jyoti’s mantra chanting and recitations.

The Mother had said that only a few people had felt the Supramental Descent of February 29th, 1956 when it happened, and so I always wondered, whether Jyoti was one of them. The Ashram gave me permission to read Jyoti’s letters to the Mother that were kept in the Ashram Archives. In her first post-Supramental day letter (March 8th), I was disappointed to find nothing … until I read the PS!! Not surprisingly, Jyotipriya with her sincerity, devotion, intelligence, lifelong aspiration and consecration, was yes, one of the privileged few who had felt the universal vibrational change. 

In her letter to The Mother of 8 March 1956, she wrote in her PS:
“It is hard to explain to you a new type of experience I’ve been having but I can only say it is a kind of sudden awareness at times of the presence of another realm with a different vibration and sound around me.  It lasts only a few minutes at a time, but comes rather often at various times during the day.” 

The Mother’s message of the Supramental Manifestation reached Jyotipriya two months later, when she sent this cable on 4 May:


About the Relics arriving at the East-West Cultural Center:

A final memory comes to me, it was a few years after Jyoti’s passing when we were considering different models for consecrating and housing the Relics that were to come. Four of us ladies (shaktis) positioned ourselves (Trudy, Susan Cosgrove, Loretta Shartsis and myself) around the cardboard mock-up of one of the models, to see what it would be like to kneel and place our heads there, as on the Samadhi. We all four immediately went into a state of deep trance for 20 minutes, and we all awakened at the same time ... which occasioned Loretta to say in the voice of an oracle “And this is what we call a Descent!”. Another act of Grace!

Now, in my work for Acres for Auroville, I feel I have taken on a small part of her mantle for communicating Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s vision and work with large numbers of people.

Jyotipriya’s influence has stayed with me and guided and shaped my life for over four decades, and I am deeply grateful.

- Mandakini, core member of Acres for Auroville.
Heralds of the Supramental World (as later named by The Mother) which was painted by Promode Kumar in Golconde on the night of 29th February 1956.
Jyotipriya as a young teenager at Point Loma, California
(L) Jyotipriya in India - late 1940s
(R) Jyotipriya at EWCC, W 9th St. – 1965
Louis Gainsborough, Dr. Frederic Spiegelberg, Dr. Judith Tyberg, Dr. Haridas Chaudhuri, and Alan Watts. Members of the American Academy of Asian Studies.
An article on Jyotipriya's work & research on Sanskrit.
Los Angeles Times, 30th Dec 1940.
Reminiscences by Narad (Richard Eggenberger)        Home

... I was offered a scholarship to Shantiniketan by the Pandit I had been studying with since my late teens. I worked two jobs at the same time for many months to earn enough to come to India and followed him to California. I waited week after week and he kept delaying, having been enticed by wealthy ladies in Riverside, California, and finally, as my funds were dwindling – after working 16 and 18 hours a day! – he said, "Everything has fallen through. If you truly want to do yoga, go home to your family and practice samata – equality." I looked him in the eye and said, "No! I am going to India." And almost, as if by miracle, within a day or two I met Dr. Judith Tyberg, Jyotipriya, whose name was given to her by Sri Aurobindo … She became a Professor of Sanskrit and founded the East-West Cultural Center, one of the focal points of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s work in America. It was here that I saw the photographs of Mother and Sri Aurobindo for the first time. … Jyotipriya said, "Why, you must come to Mother." In those days one had to send a photograph and a sample of one’s handwriting – not just a photo. Mother’s reply came back very quickly by telegram:
Tell him he may come and stay as long as he likes.
We returned to America in March 1968. Then I began a period of – I was in fact already working as a manager of a restaurant specializing in French cuisine, in a very exclusive area of New York City, and then became a partner in another restaurant in Greenwich Village, which became famous for its food and its atmosphere. I was making a lot of money for the first time in my life. Then a day came when I began to hear this voice. The voice was saying constantly, "Go to California and help Jyotipriya." So, I wrote to Mother. No answer. A month went by and I wrote again thinking, "Surely Mother, there has to be something…" because the voice wasn’t stopping. Then I received a telegram from Mother.

My answer to you was so positive that I thought I had written it.

So, we left New York immediately for California to work with Jyotipriya.

My work with Jyotipriya was filled with joy for she encouraged me in everything and shared so much of her life and experience, especially with Mother. Once, I memorized the first three cantos of Book One of Savitri and she had me give a recitation in the library. I also wrote to Mother on October 18, 1967; "Dearest Mother, I am radiantly happy and grateful to be here helping Jyotipriya. I feel Your Presence and Force and Sri Aurobindo’s pouring down. I pray that I may become purer and more open to Thee to become more effective as an instrument. I aspire for an increasing calm and receptivity. Before Thy Feet…". Mother wrote a very large "Blessings" at the end of the letter. I remember once Jyotipriya telling me of perhaps her last darshan of Mother. She was in great pain with arthritis and other ailments and with much difficulty managed to walk up to Mother’s room. As she came before Mother, Mother said to her, "But you are all right!"

- Extracts from Narad’s (Richard Eggenberger) talk, “Remembering the Mother” at Savitri Bhavan on 18th February 2007.
Cards from Jyotipriya to Narad
Anie and Jyotipriya
Reminiscences by Anie Nunnally                          Home

My first meeting with Jyotipriya was a visit from her to my home in New York City in the mid-1960s. She was on her way to the Ashram for a visit. I was most impressed by her highly intuitive assessment of my state of being at that time and how she so accurately read and analyzed my palm prints. During her visit, she spoke to me in such enlightened speech about spiritual and mystical matters that I was instantly drawn to her in a way in which no other spiritual teacher had affected me up to that point. How blessed I was. Here was this powerful spiritual presence in my home, virtually a stranger to me, who was pouring out her love and help in unending streams of eternal truth. She urged me to make a pilgrimage to the Ashram to physically meet the Mother, and I ultimately fulfilled this urging. 

A few years after meeting Jyotipriya, I moved to Los Angeles at the Mother's behest, and had the great privilege of working with Jyotipriya in her "one room schoolhouse" from 1967 to 1969. This was located at the center, then on West 9th Street.

What a joy it was to be in her presence! Not only was she a Sanskrit scholar (two published books: First Lessons in Sanskrit Grammar and The Language of the Gods), but also, she was an accomplished pianist and violinist. So high was her spiritual will that her speaking voice, soft and lyrical, sounded like music. Her Thursday-night readings of Savitri and Sanskrit chanting created an atmosphere that could transport one to another realm of being. Her answers to questions were as if the Mother herself had spoken. 

Jyotipriya opened the center and her heart to all seekers during those days without a shred of discrimination. A steady, egoless, guileless calm guided her being. She maintained equanimity, poise, strength, and courage in the face of many challenges and difficulties at the center, particularly during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. She was truly and completely surrendered in her being to Sri Aurobindo and Mother.

In her private one-room school, she taught students from ages 6 to 17 years old. She would move easily from desk to desk, where she would deal with a simple addition problem with one student and on to another grappling with geometry and algebraic equations. She brought a love of study to these fortunate children and a thirst for knowledge. All her students were special, and their love for her was palpable.

She never raised her voice to them, never lost patience. She produced plays, pageants, music recitals and recitations. Her annual spring "Flowers and Their Messages" presentation at the center was a breathtaking event. On display in a large meeting room were beautifully arranged vases of exquisite flowers of every variety and color. Jyotipriya's descriptions and comments on Mother's spiritual names for the flowers were offered in this uplifting tribute to springtime and the renascence of life.

- Anie Nunnally (President of the Board of the East-West Cultural Center 2009-15), an excerpt taken from an article published in Collaboration: Fall 2002, Vol 28, No 2.
Reminiscences by Sam Gravef                              Home

I would like to share some of my early personal experiences at the East-West Cultural Center. I was fortunate to have Dr. Tyberg whom Sri Aurobindo named Jyotipriya, introduce me to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. A friend who had loaned me Satprem’s book ‘The Adventure of Consciousness’, wanted me to meet Jyotipriya. This was in the late 60s and at a time when many other young people were looking for meaning and spirituality in their life.  Every Thursday night Jyotipriya would hold informal discussions around spiritual topics and especially readings of Savitri.  At first only a few folks attended but after a while the library was full, mostly young folks like me.  Jyotipriya would read a few lines from the epic poem and explain the context. I was fortunate to be exposed to Indian Spirituality through these open discussions.
I can only describe this experience as really a spiritual awakening. Jyotipriya had spent time in the Ashram during the time of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. She did speak about these meetings as well as meeting Ramana Maharshi and other well-known spiritual leaders of the time.  She was a linguistic scholar with several degrees but would accept any question and listen with kindness and answer with a wholeness and a wideness that demonstrated to the listener her keen integrated Spiritual vision.

We would always close the gathering sharing a meditation with Jyotipriya giving a mantra first.  At these times it was often my experience that the library was suffused with both a soft light and intense power. These mantras are among those that are on the website with the translations in English.

The mantra tape has been very valuable to me for many years and I recommend them.  Especially the Isha Upanishad and Guru Stotram.  I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the late Jyotipriya for her lifelong service to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and to establish this center that has served and continues to serve people of all ages from different parts of the world who pursue the Integral Yoga with harmony and joy.  It was Their vision that she brought forward, and it is by Their Grace that we take part in it.

- Sam Gravef, a long-time member of the Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles.
Jyotipriya at the library of the East-West Cultural Center.

Reminiscences by Dr. Arthur Fielder                  Home
I had the opportunity of attending Jyotipriya’s (Dr. Judith Tyberg) discourses on the Yoga and Indian Philosophy at East-West Cultural Center, Los Angeles. Meeting with Jyotipriya was an important milestone in my life. Later during her prolonged period of illness, I had helped her with my medical knowledge. After her departure, in the early 80s the East-West Cultural Center (now the Sri Aurobindo Center, Los Angeles) shifted to its current location at Culver City.

- Dr. Arthur Fielder, a long-time member of the Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles.
Reminiscences by Dr. Dorian Schneidman          Home
I really did not know Jyoti well, unlike Narad and Sam. I had just started coming to the Center and I was a peripheral attendee who sometimes attended the public meetings on Saturday.  I didn't even know about the Thursday Savitri meetings which were the highlight of the week for devotees. I only knew of the public meetings where she would introduce various teachers, yogis, spiritual friends and others.  I never had the opportunity of a private meeting with her.  The most significant memory I have is when I first came to the Center.  She had noticed that a new person had come, and she asked Frederick, her assistant that time, to bring me to her.  She asked me some questions, but I don't remember the conversation.  All that I remember is that after we had spoken, afterwards she extended her arms towards me, grasped my hands in hers, looked deeply into my eyes and said, "Come back".  It was only several years later that the memory resurfaced, and I remembered her 'look' and reflected on it.  I was not 'deep' enough at the time to really understand what her message for me was.

- Dr. Dorian Schneidman, a long-time member of the Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles.
Reminiscences by Dr. Wilfried Huchzermeyer     Home
In 1978 I studied at the University of Oriental Studies, Los Angeles, in the Department of Comparative Religion. There I wrote a PhD thesis under the guidance of Dr. Judith Tyberg, titled 'Sri Aurobindo and Nietzsche – A Comparison of their Superman Concepts'. Jyotipriya, as she was called by the Mother, gave me a lot of freedom and encouragement in developing my thoughts and greatly appreciated my approach to the subject. I also attended several meetings at her Sri Aurobindo Centre. My thesis was later published in a slightly modified form in Germany.

- Dr. Wilfried Huchzermeyer, is a German author, translator and publisher in the field of yoga and integral yoga.
Dhruva, Nadkarni, Mary Helen, Jyotipriya holding Chali, friend, Meera Nadkarni holding Nandita, Anie.
Jyotipriya with the children of the school at the center.
Jyotipriya’s Mantra Readings                                  Home
Mother’s Mantra for Difficult Times
Savitri Reading with her introduction:

As when the mantra sinks in Yoga’s ear,
Its message enters stirring the blind brain
And keeps in the dim ignorant cells its sound;
The hearer understands a form of words
And, musing on the index thought it holds,
He strives to read it with the labouring mind,
But finds bright hints, not the embodied truth:
Then, falling silent in himself to know
He meets the deeper listening of his soul:
The Word repeats itself in rhythmic strains:
Thought, vision, feeling, sense, the body’s self
Are seized unalterably and he endures
An ecstasy and an immortal change;
He feels a Wideness and becomes a Power,
All knowledge rushes on him like a sea:
Transmuted by the white spiritual ray
He walks in naked heavens of joy and calm,
Sees the God-face and hears transcendent speech:
An equal greatness in her life was sown.
- Savitri, Page 375.
Teaching Sanskrit at the Theosophical University – 1943

Jyotipriya’s Last Words                                      Home
Jyotipriya left her body at 3:15 p.m. on the third of October 1980.  In her last testament she had written:

“In the event of my death, I would like my body to be cremated and the ashes there from thrown among the flowers of a happy garden.  May any service that may be held be one of meditation, music and prayer for the speedy return of my soul to the Divine for new joy, power and wisdom, so I may return again to serve the Light.”
The Mother once had told Jyotipriya: “You were in such a rush to come down and join in the work, that you were careless about the body you chose!”
To Share on Facebook To Share on Facebook
To Forward via Email To Forward via Email
visit our website
visit our center
Copyright © Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles
All rights reserved.
You're receiving this email as a member of the Sri Aurobindo Center Los Angeles
Our mailing address is:
12329 Marshall St, Culver City, CA 90230

Our phone number:

Our email:

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles · 12329 Marshall St, · culver City, Ca 90230 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp