31 August 2008

A tribute to Sachindra Nath Chatterjee

Sachindra Nath Chatterjee It is almost thirty seven years now when I visited The Mother in Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the month of November. I stayed there for four days only. I was under pressure of very disturbed situation. But my days in Pondicherry (now Puducherry) passed with a subtle and hidden happiness. I am describing it ‘subtle and hidden’ as I did not feel it at that time but long after I had left the Ashram I felt that I had been enveloped in a refreshing delight. I went there with my wife. One of our relatives who lived near Chennai (then Madras) knew an Ashramite and so he wrote an introductory letter to him requesting to look after us during our stay in Pondicherry. So we met Sachindra Nath Chatterjee in his work place in Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press by the sea side. It was in the noon of eighth November. It was a momentous meeting for us. He welcomed us and accepted us instantaneously as persons very close near to his heart. As I am writing this now tears come up on my eyes as I touch him in his love retained intact in my heart. We were bound in a loving relation with him till his last days in 1999. He once told me that the relation had been continuing from previous births. In another occasion he wrote to me that if ever the relation was physically severed by his death the relation would remain with me for eternity. When we met him first he was then above sixty. I have never seen a person so soft and sweet-spoken in my life. He was older than my father in age then and I regarded him as my father. He was so loving and so dutiful that I sometime wondered how it was possible with a human being! He was always with us during our four day-stay in Pondicherry. All my worries and pains did not find any scope to enter into me eluding his loving presence. At that time it was very difficult to visit the Mother (whom I knew very little). So I myself was not interested to visit her but I was extremely worried for my wife who had chosen South India as our touring place replacing my choice for Rajasthan-only to go to Pondicherry for visiting the Mother. I told it to Sachinda. So he made a draft in English addressing the Mother on behalf of us and told us to sign it. After our signing he sent the letter to those who received such appeals and placed before the Mother for her approval. Afterwards on the day I came to know it was Sachinda’s birthday-the ninth of November. On my query whether the Mother would approve our appeal Sachinda told us that it depended solely on the Mother but advised us to pray sincerely to the Mother for a darshan. So I along with my wife used to sit near the Samadhi and looking up above to the Mother’s room prayed to her. In the evening, light trickled through the glass pane of the room where the Mother lived and looking to that light I felt the presence of the Mother. That divine light carrying the touch of the Mother trickled to my heart clearing all the dark lanes and by lanes and hiddenly inspired me to pray. Sachinda accompanied us always in the afternoon after his duty in the Ashram Press. He had a favourite place to go. It was on the road beside the Dining Hall. There were two houses in a garden surrounded by a high wall. The building was very old. The Ashram had taken a lease of the premise for the Ashramites’ living. There lived the poet Nishikanta with his sister Aparna. They were good friends to Sachinda. So we visited the house and also became very close to them. They loved us. There was a giant old Bakul tree in the garden. Nishikanta loved this tree much and called it ‘briddha bakul’ (old Bakul). The Ashram, as a lessee, did not renew the lease-hold which ended after the death of Nishikanta and Aparnadi. The Ashram constructed a big complex with several buildings called New Creation for the residence of the Ashramites. Sachinda along with others shifted to New Creation. The houses in that premise are vacant now and in a dilapidated condition. We were introduced to many Ashramites –old and young. They all seemed to be sources of inspiration and conviction. We stayed in Pondicherry for four days. But not for a single day Sachinda uttered anything significant about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He knew it well that we knew actually nothing of The Mother and the spiritual aspect of Sri Aurobindo. In spite of that he never told us anything about them. Actually in his conversation with us he seldom referred their names and the significance of their sadhana. I also asked him nothing about them. He told me that he had come to the Ashram much before Sri Aurobindo left his mortal body. So one day I asked him whether he had seen the light that was emanating from Sri Aurobindo’s body after his physical death. His face beamed up with a remembrance and told me that he had seen the light surrounding the whole body of Sri Aurobindo even after two days of his withdrawal. But only this much and did not show any emotion. On the eleventh, we came to know that the Mother condescended to allowed us to visit her at 9 am of the twelfth-i.e. the very next day. Sachinda was visibly happy and told us that he would meet us at Nishikanta’s house and accompany us up to the stairs leading to the Mother’s room. He told us that he would come at 8 am the next day. We reached Nishikanta’s house much before 8 am next day. It was a cloudy day and at 7.30 it started to rain. In ten to fifteen minutes the whole sky broke down with rain all over Pondicherry. It was so intense that it was impossible to see something at three-metre distance. We became worried and began to think of Sachinda’s coming in such situation. The rains showed no signs to cease soon. We were watching the clock almost every minute. We knew that the time on this clock was exactly the same with that of Sachinda’s watch. The clock at last struck eight and the bell of Sachinda’s cycle was simultaneously heard. He arrived sharp at 8 am drenched to his skin. He brought with him two flower-bouquets for our offering to the Mother. He saved them somehow under his umbrella. But he was visibly worried for us for the rain. Fortunately the rain ceased in five minutes and we started for the Mother. Sachinda left us near the stair as he had to go to the Press. We began to climb the stairs holding the bouquets in our hands. We had no meeting with Sachinda after that as after our visit to the Mother we returned to our place took our luggage and from there boarded a bus for Chennai. After returning to Asansol, West Bengal, I wrote a letter to Sachinda informing our safe arrival at home. In that letter I also wrote that our stay in Pondicherry for a visit to the Mother was futile as I had not had any significant impression from that visit. In reply he wrote that had he knew of my depression he would definitely have stopped my return to Chennai and would keep me with him for a day only to clear off my pain arising out of my disbelief. He wrote that he might disbelieve everything of this world but he could not believe that the Mother’s look on my eyes and her touch could go in vain. It would be revealed to me in my life sooner or later. It started to be revealed only after seven days in Asansol-thousand miles apart from Pondicherry. After this I always want to visit to Pondicherry and the Ashram, Sachinda and the Mother. At that time I could not differentiate Sachinda from the Mother.But my financial position could not afford me to undertake a tour to so long a place as Pondicherry. I feel restless for my inability to go to Pondicherry. I started to buy books on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I knew then about their sadhana and what for it had been necessary for them to come into this suffering world. Gautama Buddha was shocked to know the suffering of man and was convinced that to get rid of this suffering the only way out was to get rid of karmic chain to be dissolved in Nirvana i.e.to destroy the world. I questioned myself –‘Did not Gautama Buddha ever see a beautiful smile of a child? Did not he find the blooming of a fragrant flower? Did not he find the intense rain cloud in a July sky? Did not he ever see or hear the selfless sacrifice of life by someone to help other? Did not he ever hear the magnificent brave roar of a tiger? Did not he remember the loving look of his mother when he was a child? Did he find only the infirmity, decay and suffering –the only reality of this world?” Sri Aurobindo also saw this suffering world –no less than Gautama Buddha. He knew suffering in its extreme hell and found the root and remedy. What was the basic difference between these two persons that led them just the opposite ways and conclusion? One may just rightly provide an answer telling that it was as willed by God. But I like to add a little by saying that Sri Aurobindo was basically a poet. God had to have a poet’s mind to love his creation and so he wanted a LIFE DIVINE. I always involved myself in such thoughts. I told Anirvan-ji also my questions about Gautama Buddha and Shankaracharya and he assured me that I was not wrong in raising these questions. But at the same time he told me that I should do sadhana to prove it in this life. The Mother left her body in 1973 and I felt helpless. It was at this time Sachinda assured me of the Mother’s perennial presence in my life. He quoted the Mother to say that the Mother would never leave one whom even she saw for a moment. His accompaniment was for love and conviction to me. But I always thought of going to Pondicherry; it was heaven to me. I frequently saw dreams that I was going to Pondicherry but I failed to reach. Sometimes I was successful to reach there but failed to find Sachinda. I frequently told Sachinda of my love for him. Once he told me –“Devabrata, when you feel your love for me you feel the Mother only because she exists between us. It is the Mother whom you are feeling in me –I’m not a conduit for her love. She herself is the love” But I always felt for those four days. To me they were like a beautiful dream. It was unforgettable and like dream unreachable also. The sea, the frequent rain, the air, the Samadhi, the light of the Mother’s window ...all made an ambience of another world the kind of which did not exist anywhere in this world. Sometimes when I was intense with that ambience I slipped and crossed the boundaries of this life and lost in a white misty light-a place wherefrom I had come to this world. I wanted to get back to the place as I discovered the essence of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the essence of that place existed in one single place. I was always inclined to spiritual things and the atmosphere of spiritual places and feelings as I had been born in a very spiritual family rooted in Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Moreover I liked the spiritual atmosphere in many sacred temples in India. I could feel the presence of spiritual consciousness in India. This consciousness was soothing, calm, peaceful and other worldly. To me, personally, the physical symbol of this spirituality was best embodied in a scene with a banyan tree-standing near the bank of the river Ganga seen in the time of sunset. But it calls one to leave this world as written by Rabindranath Tagore in one of his beautiful poems for another aspect –“Not here, not here but in another place –somewhere else...” This is a very known and predominant mood of Indian spiritual mind. It has its own appeal-this saffron-tinged vairagya. I knew it well personally in me very well. But after my return from Pondicherry –I began to be filled with a completely new feeling. It was newness-its first emphatic identity. It was still inaccessible to me for its purity and newness. It did not provoke me to leave this world like the old spirituality but it had its own pressure also and i.e. to insist me to own it and establish it. It was very much refreshing as if a life giving touches. I now remembered that all this I had realised during my four day stay in Pondicherry but I had not been aware of it at that time. If the colour of old spirituality is saffron –then this new one is white. At times it was very pressurising for me –to turn my place into a Pondicherry-a fragrant Pondicherry-fragrant with the fragrance of the bosom of a white lotus. Thereafter I visited Pondicherry many times and enjoyed the loving company of Sachinda. Sachinda never tried to teach Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy to anyone. What he made of himself was the living embodiment of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. As I’m writing it I think that the Mother is sweeter than the nectar of heaven but in many parts we the children are more difficult than the denizens of the hell. These hellish denizens are hidden within the very cells of our beings. So the reality appears to some as the truth refracted through an impure medium. The Mother is sweet and loving but she is also absolutely pure. So we, including all, are tumbling at the intervention of this mighty purity. Sri Aurobindo had a vast mind and for the hunger of mind we love to read and discuss him with our mind. It’s quite natural and normal. But to realise the new consciousness of the Mother –one must find a path through one’s heart-what Sri Aurobindo named -the Sunlit Path.