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Sri Aurobindo as Guru
(331–330) From 1921 on, most descriptions of Aurobindo read as though they are taken out of the Puranas or other mythological texts. “The atmosphere round the Master was surcharged with pure vibrations of peace, light, power and Ananda [bliss]. One could feel the fragrance of lotuses from his transparent, luminous body”; “His God-like face radiated profound peace and serenity. His intent and faraway look indicated to me that he was not of the earth.”<Footnote 64> Many people remarked that he was tall, though his height remained unchanged at five feet, four inches. Much of the hyperbole may be ascribed to the charisma that was building up around the inaccessible, mysterious Aurobindo, who was reputed, like all certified holy men of India, to possess supernatural powers. Be that as it may, all descriptions of Aurobindo’s appearance from this and later periods lay stress on its singularity. He was, A. B. Purani wrote, “cast in a mould of arresting majesty, of regal splendour. We saw that uncommon majesty manifested in every look, in every gesture, in every movement of his. His deportment was kingly yet natural, his voice was melodious yet soft, pleasing yet firm. A born aristocrat, he could be easily spotted in a crowd. He was and looked so uncommon, so out of the ordinary.”<Footnote 65>
N.B. It is common knowledge that to the popular mind in India a yogi is one who possesses extraordinary powers.
Text of footnotes:
64. T. Rao, At the Feet, 41; V. Chidanandam, “Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as I Saw Them,” 2.
65. A. Purani, “An Intimate Glimpse of the Master,” Sunday Times, December 17, 1950, 2.
(342–343) Bowing down to the gurus Sri Aurobindo
Aurobindo’s birthdays began to be celebrated with some pomp. “From early morning,” reads one contemporary account, the house was “humming with various activities. All are eager to go to the Master for his Darshan [formal viewing]. As the time passes there is a tide in the sea of rising emotion. It is ‘Darshan’ — we see him every day, but today it is ‘Darshan’! Today each sees him individually, one after another. In the midst of these multiple activities the consciousness gets concentrated.” Climbing the staircase, they found him seated “in the royal chair in the verandah — royal and majestic. In the very posture there is divine self-confidence. In the heart of the Supreme Master, the great Yogin.” Those present were filled with emotion: “is it a flood that mounts or a flood that is coming down on humanity? Those alone who have experienced it can know something of its divinity.” As they approach, “all doubts get assurance. . Love and grace flow on undiminished. The look! enrapturing and captivating eyes! Who can ever forget? — pouring love and grace and ineffable divinity.”<footnote 112>
<para>There is no way to know what Aurobindo thought about the outpouring of emotion. Basically British in his upbringing, he was always reticent and reserved, never encouraging demonstrations of feeling. He was familiar with the conventions of the Indian guru-shishya relationship, such as bowing down before the master <note singular number> and elaborate gestures of devotion, but he resisted attempts by his followers to practice them. He may have regarded such customs as examples of those “ancient ideas and forms” that India had such difficulty getting beyond. <The reference here is to a passage from a letter cited and discussed on page 339.> But if Aurobindo was indifferent or opposed to ceremony, Mira thrived in it. <As will be evident when the passage is read in its entirety, the “ceremony” referred to here comprised the special acts performed on Sri Aurobindo’s birthday by the disciples, which Mira (the Mother) was “happy to see”. There is no mention bowing down to her.> She was happy to see the sadhaks spending hours stringing garlands and preparing special dishes, and later, during the darshan, bowing down at Aurobindo’s feet.
Text of Footnote 112:
A. Purani, Life, 196–197. Purani places this description with events of the year 1924, but it is more likely that it belongs in 1923.