Sir Aurobindo – 1907
EVENING TALKS wit SRI AUROBINDO
Recorded by A. B. PURANI
3rd January 1939
There was hearty laugh over the thesis of a Marathi
writer with Socialistic tendencies who tried to prove that
Swami Ramdas was a socialist!
Disciple: Some of the Sadhaks seem to become too
delicate,–a small cut or even smell of burning ghee upsets
them. Sometimes other people who cannot understand this say
this is mere fainting.
Sri Aurobindo: They used to brand the body with hot iron
to see if the man was in trance or not! They thought perhaps
that it might be only deep trance and not Nirvikalpa
Disciple: Can it be that the man would not feel anything?
Sri Aurobindo: There are cases of people who, when under
hypnotic influence, are unaffected by pins being introduced
into their bodies. And also there are cases where the man is
made to stretch out his hand and even two or three strong
people cannot bend it. There are also cases in which sugar
tastes bitter under hypnotic influence. And the question is
whether sweetness or any other property is in the
subject–as in the sense of beauty–or in the object.
Disciple: What is that capacity due to?
Sri Aurobindo: There are no physical causes, these
phenomena are due to supraphysical causes and there the laws
of the physical do not apply.
Disciple: But then what is sweetness due to–in the case
Sri Aurobindo: The question is whether experience of
sweetness is a common reaction of all human beings, or has
the object anything in it corresponding to the experience of
Disciple: But something of the property of the object
persists, like the effect of medicine in homeopathic
doses,–the smallest quantity retains the quality.
Disciple: But what is your conclusion, Sir?
Sri Aurobindo: I don’t know.
At this point the Mother came and the subject matter was
reported to her.
Mother: I do not believe that the phenomena were due to
hypnotism. In hypnotism you impose
control on another man, the subject, i.e., your will
replaces his will.
But I know what I have seen. In most cases I have seen
that both the hypnotizer and the hypnotized lend themselves
unconsciously to the influence of occult forces. Anything
that takes place in that condition is due to the influence
of those forces. I know one case,–an extraordinary case, of
exteriorization in which almost the material,–the vital and
the vital-material, form of the subject was separated from
the body of the hypnotized person. If the hypnotizer
controls the man and if he has good will it may do the
“subject” no harm. But in most cases he keeps himself aloof
to direct the person and cannot take charge of the body and
in the interval it is some other forces that take possession
of the body.
It is dangerous to do these things except under guidance,
or in the presence of somebody who knows these things. You
find people speaking languages in that unconscious condition
which they do not know at all. It is because some of their
being in the past, or subconsciously, knows the language and
in that state, a contact is established between the part of
the subconscient and the man speaks the language. It is not
as if the hypnotist willed that: “the man shall speak a
particular language” and the man begins to speak that
language even though there may be no part in him that knew
the language. Such a thing is impossible. Only, if there is
a part that knows and if one can establish a contact then he
can speak that language.
Disciple: Is this knowledge indispensable for yoga?
Sri Aurobindo: Not necessarily. It is useful for
knowledge of the physical and also for mastery over death,
it is essential.
There is an ancient prophesy in the Jewish Cabala
that the kingdom of God would be established in humanity
when the man will come who would have the power to die and
come back, i.e. take up his body again,–after death. It is
essential to know what is death if you want to conquer it.
That shows that the ancients foresaw the need for the
knowledge and also that of transformation of the
It is curious how some people can easily separate their
subtle bodies from the physical, say in three or four days
even. They go out of the body and see their body lying in
front of them, while in other cases they do not succeed.
This knowledge is also useful in curing diseases. For
instance, it is perfectly easy to prevent diseases and to
cure them if you have the knowledge of these planes. There
is what is called “the nervous envelope”, which is an
intermediary between the subtle and the gross body. It is
that which acts as a sheath protecting you against all
attacks of diseases. If the nervous envelope is intact no
disease can come to you. In most people, with aging, this
envelope wears out and then gradually the forces are able to
penetrate and pierce it. That is one of the causes of
Disciple: Can this nervous envelope be seen in the
Sri Aurobindo: Yes; and if you can see what is necessary
you can put it in. In order to keep it in tact you must have
quiet, a balanced life, rest, etc. People generally spoil it
by excitement and other irregularities.
In the case of exteriorization done by the Tibetans, a
thin thread is maintained when one leaves the body
and if that is snapped the man may not be able to return
to his body.
Disciple: There are cases of Tibetans who expose
themselves to ice without any bad reactions and also there
was report of the messenger who practically flies throughout
Tibet carrying the tidings of the lama.
Sri Aurobindo: These are known phenomena.
Disciple: There are so many miracles reported about Sj.
Bijoy Goswami. Do you think they are all true?
Sri Aurobindo: I have no personal knowledge of them. But
I believe most of the miracles attributed to Bijoy Goswami
are more possible with the subtle than with the physical
Sri Aurobindo then recounted the story of how Mother was
once on the point of death in Algeria when she was
practicing the yoga with Theon and his wife both of them
great occultists. Madame Theon particularly was a remarkable
The Mother exteriorized and visited Paris and met her
friends. The exteriorization was sufficiently material to
enable her to write on a piece of paper with pencil. The
Tibetans are more familiar with occultism than with
The Europeans are more taken up with the occult things.
They either believe everything or nothing. That explains
their attraction for Tibet, Bhutan and other places of
occult atmosphere. Now-a-days stories and novels are being
written with these themes. Japanese Zen Buddhism, and also
Chinese Laotze have also attracted their attention.
I also wrote some stories but they are lost; the white
ants have finished them and with them has perished my future
as a story-teller. It is a pity that the translation of Megh
Duta which I did is lost. It was well done. Most of my
stories were occult.
4th January 1939.
Disciple: X’s expression showed the usual gesture which
to the company present indicated the coming of a
Disciple: What is the effect of fasting on yoga? Sri
Aurobindo: On what?
Disciple: The effect of fasting on yoga.
Sri Aurobindo: Oh, on yoga? It gives a sort of excitement
or an impetus to the vital being but the general effect does
not seem to be sound or healthy.
I fasted twice: once in Alipore jail for ten days and
another time in Pondicherry for twenty-three
days. At Alipore I was in full yogic activities and I was
not taking my food, and was throwing it away in the bucket.
Of course, the Superintendent did not know it, only two
warders knew about it and they informed others saying: “The
gentleman must be ill; he will not live long”. Though my
physical strength was diminishing I was able to raise a pail
of water above my head which I could not do ordinarily.
At Pondicherry while fasting I was in full mental and
vital vigour. I was even walking eight hours a day and not
feeling tired at all, and when I broke the fast I did not
begin slowly but with the usual normal food.
Disciple: How is it possible to have such energy without
Sri Aurobindo: One draws the energy from the vital plane
instead of depending upon physical substance. Once in
Calcutta I lived for a long time on rice and banana. It is a
very good food.
Disciple: The trouble is that one can’t draw conclusion
from your case.
Sri Aurobindo: At best one can draw the conclusion that
it can be done. Once R. C. Dutt called me to dinner and was
surprised to find that I was taking only vegetarian diet;
while he said he could not live without meat. With the
vegetarian diet I was feeling light and pure. It is only a
belief that one can’t do without meat; it is a question of
Disciple: Can fasting be a cure for diseases also?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, if you know the process. The
Europeans sometimes fast for that purpose but in their case
it is the mental idea that works. You start with the idea of
being well or ill, and it happens accordingly.
Disciple: Can neurasthenia be thrown off like that?
Sri Aurobindo: In the case of neurasthenic and hysteric
persons the nervous envelope is damaged. Disciple: Then it
is the question of the nervous sheath.
Sri Aurobindo: All the diseases come from outside. The
force of the disease pierces, what the Mother calls, “the
nervous envelope” and then enters the physical body. If one
is conscious of the nervous envelope,–the subtle
nervous sheath, then the disease can be thrown away
before it enters the physical body, as one throws away the
thoughts before they enter the mind.
Disciple: “X” told us once that she used to have the
headache which was just above the head and it was very
severe. We laughed at it because we could not believe that
head-ache could be above the head.
Sri Aurobindo: How do you know there can’t be such a
head-ache? If the consciousness can be lifted above the head
and remain there why not the head-ache?
The body is a mere mass of responsive vibrations;
everything comes from outside and finds a
response in the body.
Disciple: If everything comes from outside then what are
we? What belongs to us?
Sri Aurobindo: In one sense nothing belongs to you. The
Physical is made up, one can say, of various
predispositions, energies of the past, and what you have
acquired in this life. These are there ready to act under
favourable conditions, under the pressure of nature. It is
Universal Nature that gives the sense of “I” or “I am doing
everything”. This “I” and ‘mine’ have no meaning except in
Disciple: The other day I could not understand what you
said about fundamental personality. What is the truth behind
Sri Aurobindo: There are two things: Personality and the
Person, which are not the same. The true person is the
eternal Divine Purusha assuming many personalities and
it is thrown in Time as the Cosmic and the Individual for
a particular purpose, use or work. This true Person is all
the time conscious of its identity with the Cosmic. That is
why liberation is possible.
Disciple: Is Cosmic liberation static or dynamic?
Sri Aurobindo: It is either, or both. In the static
aspect one realizes the pure Self as the Infinite, One,
without movement, action or quality.
In the dynamic liberation, it depends upon where and how
you experience the unity. If it is in the mind you feel your
mind as one with the Cosmic Mind; in that case your own mind
does not exist. If you feel the unity in the vital, then
your vital being becomes a part of the cosmic vital, one
with cosmic life. You can experience the Unity on the
physical plane; then you feel your body as a speck of
Universal Matter. Or, the identity can be above the Mind, by
breaking open the lid that divides the Mind from the
Infinite. Just as there is a wall that separates the psychic
being from the outer nature, so also there is a wall above
the head. You break the wall or, what is called the lid, and
you feel yourself as the Infinite, and your individual self
in the Infinite. That opening can be either vertical or
horizontal. This realization makes dynamic liberation
possible,–not merely a liberation of Laya.
Disciple: Is it true that illness comes from Sadhana?
Sri Aurobindo: From Sadhana? Not necessarily.
Disciple: I think he means that illness may come in the
course of Sadhana for purification. Sri Aurobindo: That is a
different thing. It can be a circumstance in the
Disciple: When I was a new-comer here and used to have
physical trouble, people said it was due to Sadhana and so I
used to hide it from you lest you should stop the use of
Disciple: Some Sufis and Bhaktas, devotees, take illness
and other troubles as gifts from the Beloved,–the Divine.
So, can one say that everything comes from the Divine?
Sri Aurobindo: They are right in a way. They take
everything as coming from the Divine and it is a very good
attitude if one can truly take it. Whatever happens is with
the sanction of the Supreme. If you neglect the chain of
intermediate causes there is a Superior Cause to
Disciple: If a thing happens due to our negligence, can
we say that it happened by the Divine’s sanction?
Sri Aurobindo: I say, “neglecting the intermediate
Disciple: Would there not be some danger in that
attitude? We may shirk our responsibilities and lay it on
Sri Aurobindo: I said about the Bhakta–the Devotee, not
about everybody. For the Bhakta what happens is the best and
he takes it in that light.
For the Yogi who has to conquer these things they will
come, otherwise there would be nothing to overcome. It would
be no real conquest at all. One can always feel the
difficulties as opportunities, and in one sense one can say
that whatever happens is for the best. Hostile forces also
are recognized as hostile, but from another standpoint they
become the Divine power throwing out attacks for the work to
be done. Ultimately all powers are from
the Divine, they assist in the work. They throw up
difficulties to test the strength. It is the Divine that has
created the opposition and it is the Divine who sends you
the defeat so that you may conquer the difficulties
hereafter. This is necessary also to counter the ego’s sense
of responsibility. At one time I experienced the hostile
forces as the gods trying to test my strength. You have to
act not for success but for the sake of the Divine, though
it does not mean that you must not work for success. Arjuna
complains to Sri Krishna in the Gita that he speaks in
“double words”: saying “do not be eager for the result” but
at the same time he said “fight and conquer.”
Disciple: There was a letter from our friend “X” in which
he has tried to show that the Gita is a book on
psychoanalysis and that Sri Krishna was a great
psycho-analyst! He psycho-analyzed Arjuna and worked out his
complexes. He was very much perturbed at your denunciation
of Freud’s psycho-analysis in the ‘Basis of Yoga.’ You have
run down the greatest discovery of the modern times.
Sri Aurobindo: Psycho-analysis means that the
subconscient is there in man and it influences the
consciousness. It means to say that if you suppress anything
it goes down into your being and comes up in queer and
Disciple: What, according to them, is this
Sri Aurobindo: They say it is inconscient. Then how does
it throw up everything and raise symbols in your
consciousness? Modern psychology is only surface deep.
Really speaking a new basis is needed for psychology. The
only two important requisites for real knowledge of
i. Going inwards, and,
Those two are not possible without yoga.
5th January 1939.
Disciple: How long does human bone continue to grow?
Sri Aurobindo: Cranium fifty-five years, Madulanta fifty
years. Disciple: What was your age when you entered politics
(openly)? Sri Aurobindo: 33 years.
Disciple: When did you begin yoga?
Sri Aurobindo: Somewhere in 1905.
Disciple: How did you begin?
Sri Aurobindo: God knows how! It began very early
perhaps. When I landed on the Indian soil a great calm and
quiet descended on me. There were also other characteristic
experiences–at Poona on the Parvati hills and then in
Kashmir on the Shankeracharya hill,–a sense of a great
infinite Reality was felt. It was very real.
Then at Baroda Deshpande tried to convert me to yoga; but
I had the usual ideas about it–that one has to go to the
forest and give up everything. I was interested in the
freedom of the country. But I always thought that the great
figures of the world could not have been after a chimera and
if there was such a Power
why not use it for the freedom of the country?
Barin used to do automatic writing at Baroda. Once the
spirit of my father appeared on being called. He gave some
remarkable prophecies. When asked to give proof about his
identity he mentioned the fact of having given a golden
watch to Barin–which none in the company knew. And then he
spoke of a picture in Devdhar’s house. They tried to check
up and found no picture there. The spirit when told about it
repeated it and asked us to look again. On consulting the
old mother of Devdhar she said there was an old picture
which had been now plastered over.
About Tilak, when questioned, the spirit said: “He will
be the man who will remain with the head unbent when the
work will be on trial and others will bow.” Then we called
Ramkrishna. He did not say anything. Only at the end he
said: “Mandir gado”–“build a temple”, which we at that time
interpreted as starting Mandirs–temples–for political
Sanyasis, but which I later interpreted correctly as, “make
a temple in yourself.” I began Pranayama–breathing
exercises–in about 1905. Engineer Devdhar was a disciple of
Brahmananda. I took instructions from him on Pranayama and
started on my own. I practiced Pranayama at Khasirao
Jadhav’s place in Baroda. The results were remarkable: I
used to see many visions, sights and figures; (2) I felt a
sort of electric power round my head. (3) My powers of
writing were nearly dried up, after the practice of
Pranayama, they revived with great vigour. I could write
both prose and poetry with a flow. That flow never ceased
since then. If I have not written afterwards it is because I
had something else to do. But the moment
I want to write, it is there. (4) My health
improved,–I grew stout and strong and the skin became
smooth and fair and there was a flow of sweetness in the
saliva. I used to feel a certain aura round the head. There
were plenty of mosquitoes there but they did not came to
I used to sit more and more in Pranayama but there were
no more results. It was at this time that I gave up
meat–diet and found a great feeling of lightness and
purification in the system. Meat is a Rajasic food.
Vivekananda recommends it to the Indians. It gives a certain
force and energy in the physical. It was for that the
Kshatriyas did not give up meat in India. From Tamas you
pass to Rajas and Vivekananda was not quite wrong.
There came a Sanyasi who gave me a Stotra of Kali,–a
very violent Stotra ending with “Jahi” “Jahi”–“kill”, of
securing Indian freedom. I used to repeat it but it did not
give any results.
Once I visited Ganganath (Chandod) after Brahmananda’s
death when Keshwananda was there.
With my Europeanized mind I had no faith in image-worship
and I hardly believed in the presence of God. I went to
Kernali where there are several temples. There is one of
Kali and when I looked at the image I saw the living
presence there. For the first time, I believed in the
presence of God.
At one time–in Sadhana–I used to try all sorts of
experiments to see what happens and how far they are related
to the truth. I took Bhang-Ganja-hemp-and other intoxicants
as I wanted to know what happens
and why Sanyasis and Sadhus take these things. It made me
go into trance, and sometimes sent me to a superior plane of
consciousness. (But reliance on these outer stimulants was
found to be the greatest drawback of this method.)
I met Lele when I was searching for some guidance and
practicing meditation under his guidance. I had the Nirvana
experience in Sardar Majumdar’s house in the room on the
top-floor. After that I had to rely on inner guidance for my
Sadhana. In Alipore the Sadhana was very fast–it was
extravagant and exhilarating. On the vital plane it can be
dangerous and disastrous. I took to fasting at Alipore for
ten or eleven days and lost ten pounds in weight. At
Pondicherry the loss of weight was not so much, thought the
physical substance began to be reduced. It was in Shanker
Chetty’s house. I was walking eight hours a day during
twenty-three day’s fast. The miraculous or extraordinary
powers acquired by Yogis on the vital plane are not all true
in the physical. There are many pit-falls in the vital.
These vital powers take up even a man like Hitler and make
him do things by suggesting to him–“It shall happen”. There
are quite a number of cases of Sadhaks who have lost their
Sadhana by listening to these voices from the vital-world.
And the humour of it all is that they all say that they come
either from the Mother or from me!
6th January, 1939
Disciple: What are the methods in Sadhana for removal of
the ego? Sri Aurobindo: There are two methods of effacement
of the ego:
1. By realization of the spirit above and of its
nature of purity, knowledge etc.
2. By humility in the heart.
Disciple: What is the difference?
Sri Aurobindo: The second method does not remove the ego
but makes it harmless’ it would therefore help one
spiritually. Complete removal of the ego takes place when
one identifies oneself with the Spirit and realizes the same
Spirit in all. Also when the mental, vital and physical
nature is known to be derivative from the Universal Mind,
universal vital and the universal physical then the same
result ensues. The individual must realize his divinity i.e.
his identity with the Transcendent or the Cosmic Divine.
Generally, when one realizes the Spirit, it is the mental
sense of the ego that goes, not the entire ego-sense. The
dynamic nature retains the ego–especially the vital ego.
So, the best thing would be to combine the two–for the
psychic attitude of humility helps in getting rid of the
The complete dissolution of the ego is not an easy thing.
Specially important is the removal of mental and vital ego,
the other ego of the physical and of the subconscient can be
dealt with at leisure. That is to say, they are not so
As I said, humility helps in the removal of the vital
ego, but one must remember that it is not outward
There are many people who profess and show the
utmost outward humility, but in their hearts think: “I am
Disciple: “X” when he came for a short day, he found that
you lacked the virtue of humility or modesty.
Sri Aurobindo: How does he know? Perhaps I did not
profess like some other people that I was nothing. I could
not do that because I know I am not nothing.
Disciple: Were you modest when you have not taken to
Sri Aurobindo: There was a sort of voluntary
self-effacement, I liked to keep myself behind. But I can’t
say that I was more modest within than most people.
Disciple: Mahatmaji, when he finds somebody in
disagreement with him on principle, would say: “He is
superior to me, he is my elder, etc.; but I differ from
Sri Aurobindo: Does he really consider the other one
superior, that is the question. When I differed from some
one I simply said ‘No’ or “I don’t agree” and kept to my
view. The answer given to Suren Banerji when he approached
me for a compromise at the convention of Moderates and
Nationalists, was “No” and I kept stiff. Perhaps one may not
call me modest.
At the Hugli Conference we, the Nationalists, had the
majority. But in order to keep up unity the
Nationalists were asked by me not to oppose the
compromise resolution. The Nationalists all went out. The
Moderate leaders were very angry that the people did not
follow their tired and veteran old leaders and so completely
obeyed young leaders. Suren Banerji could not realize
difference between old, upper middle class leadership,
due to their influence and money and the new leadership of
those who stood for a principle and commanded a
It was at that time that people began to get the sense of
discipline and of obeying the leader’s orders. They were
violent, but at the word of the command they used to obey.
That paved the way for the Mahatma. Ashwini Kumar Dutt used
to jump and say: “This is life”.
Suren Banerji had a personal magnetism and he was
sweet-spoken, he could get round anybody. His idea was to
become the undisputed leader of Bengal by using the
nationalists for the sword and the moderates for the public
face. In private he would go up to and accept the
revolutionary movement. He even wanted to set up a
provincial board of control of the revolutionaries! Barin
once took a bomb to him and he was full of enthusiasm. He
even had a letter from Suren Banerji, when he was arrested
at Manik Tola. But in the court they hushed up the matter as
soon as Norton pronounced S. N. Banerji.
The constitution of Aundh was brought in by a
Disciple: Aundh State has given a very fine constitution
to the people. It has conferred wide powers on the
Panchayats. Such constructive work among the villages would
prevent communism. They are thinking of introducing
Sri Aurobindo: Co-operative farming is an excellent
thing; it would develop agriculture. But dictatorship of
proletariat is a different thing. It may have a very fine
constitution on paper, but it is quite different in
practice. In such a system all men are made to think
Religion is a different affair, it is voluntary; but
country is quite different from the church. You can’t choose
your country. If you make all people think alike there can’t
be any human progress. If you were to differ from Stalin or
Lenin you would be liquidated.
These dictators have remarkably few ideas: Take for
example Hitler. He believes that:
I. The Germans are the best people in the world.
II.Hitler should be the leader.
III. All the Jews are wicked persons.
IV. All the people in the world must be Nazis.
I do not understand how humanity can progress under such
Disciple: The tendency of all governments is to increase
Sri Aurobindo: All governments are robbing, some with
legislation, some without. You can well
imagine the condition in which you have to give 50% of
your income as taxes and have to manage with the rest as
best you can.
Disciple: The Customs also charge too heavily.
Sri Aurobindo: It is another form of robbery and yet in
spite of it all, I don’t understand how France produces only
250 aeroplanes as compared to 1000 of Germany!