Sir Aurobindo – 1907
EVENING TALKS wit SRI AUROBINDO
Recorded by A. B. PURANI
13th January 1939.
The Mother was present when X put the following question
to her. Disciple: Mother, is it a sin to kill bugs,
mosquitoes, scorpions etc.?
“Ask Sri Aurobindo”; The Mother replied smiling. “When I
came here I used to drive them away by yogic force. Sri
Aurobindo did not approve of it.”
Sri Aurobindo: Because one is making friendship with the
in that way. What is the sin? If you don’t kill them they
will go and bite some other people and won’t it be a sin to
Disciple: But they have life, Sir? Sri Aurobindo: Yes,
they have. 119
Disciple: And, if one kills them?
Sri Aurobindo: Well, what happens?
Disciple: He will be liable to sin of course. I don’t
mean we don’t kill at all, for instance, we are breathing
Mother: The doctors don’t kill?
Disciple: Yes Mother. But I mean their killing is not
intentional. Disciple: It is said that the Jains hire people
to feed bugs! Disciple: No. That is only a story.
Sri Aurobindo: At any rate, I know of a story in history.
When Mahmed of Gazni invaded (West) India he defeated a Jain
king through the help of his brother. The dethroned king was
left in charge of his brother, who was now the king. He did
not know what to do with his brother; so, he dug a pit below
his throne and threw him in it and closed it up. As a result
he died: so that his brother did not kill him!
Mother: Then, in order to be true Jain, one must be a
yogi and then with yogic power he can deal with these
animals and insects?
Disciple: Is one justified in killing snakes and
Sri Aurobindo: Why not? One must kill in self-defense. I
don’t mean that you must hunt out the snakes and kill them.
But when you see that they are endangering your or other
lives, then you have every right to kill them.
Mother: The plants have also life. So, you mean to
that mosquito is more precious then rose? You don’t know
perhaps how the plants feel. Disciple: There are people who
say that killing a dog or a cat is not so sinful as killing
Sri Aurobindo: Life is life–whether in a cat, or dog or
man. There is no difference in that between cat or man. The
idea of difference is a human conception for man’s own
14th January 1939
The topic of Homeopathy came up. It was said that it has
cures for religious depression and anger also.
Disciple: Anger, the scientists say, is due to the
reaction of glands. But can “egoism” be cured like that?
Disciple: If it can be cured, I would be the first to
apply for it.
Disciple: “The fact you are conscious about the “ego”
makes half the cure–is it not?” he said turning to Sri
Sri Aurobindo: Not necessarily. But it is the first step.
Disciple: And what is the second?
Sri Aurobindo: To detach oneself from all these things;
to think as if all these things belong to the other being,
or some one else. As one goes on doing this the Purusha
gradually withdraws its sanction from the Prakriti and
the Prakriti looses its hold over nature till a spiritual
control takes place. But if one associates oneself with
Nature, Prakriti, then the Purusha becomes slave to it.
Rejection, of course, is the stronger way. One has to reject
these things before they enter, as I did the thoughts. It is
more powerful and the result also is quick.
There is also a mental control; but there too it is the
nature of Mind trying to control the nature of the Vital. It
has only a temporary and partial control. The thing is
rather suppressed within and can come out at any
I heard of a Yogi in Benares bathing in one of the Ghats.
In the neighbouring ghat a Kashmiri woman came to bathe. As
soon as he saw her he fell upon her and tried to outrage
her. That is evidently a case of mental control. But by
Sadhana–yogic effort–sometimes things which have not been
there come up. I have heard about it from many persons.
In my case, I saw anger coming up and possessing me. It
was absolutely uncontrollable when it came. I was very much
surprised as to my nature. Anger has always been foreign to
At another time while I was a undertrial prisoner at
Alipore jail, a terrible catastrophe was avoided. Prisoners
had to wait outside for sometime before entering the cells.
As we were waiting a Scotch Warder came and gave me a push.
The young men around me became very excited, and I did
nothing but gave him such a look that he immediately fled
and called the jailer. It was a communicative anger and all
the young men rallied round to attack him. When the jailer,
who was rather a religious man arrived, the Warder said, I
had given him
a “subordinate look”. The jailer asked me and I told him
that I have never been used to such treatment. The jailer
pacified the whole group and said while going, “we have all
to bear our cross.”
Disciple: Is Rudra Bhava something like Ramakrishna’s
story about the snake, where anger is to be shown without
really feeling it.
Sri Aurobindo: Not at all. It is something genuine, a
violent severity against something very wrong. e.g. the
Rudra Bhava of Shiva. Anger one knows by its feeling of
sensations, it rises from below, while Rudra Bhava rises
from the heart. I will give you an instance. Once X became
very violent against the Mother and was shouting and showing
his fists. As I heard the shouting, a violent severity came
down, that was absolutely uncontrollable. I went out and
said: “Who is shouting at the Mother? Who is shouting here?”
As soon as he heard it he became very quiet.
Disciple: I heard X had a very violent temper.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, he was otherwise an earnest Sadhaka,
became conscious of many things and made progress. But these
fits used to come to him now and then. Some Asuric forces
used to catch hold of him and he could not control himself.
It is these forces that have failed him in the yoga, for I
hear he does not have these attacks now outside. When under
the grip he could not see that he was in the wrong. He
blamed me and the Mother, though we had been very lenient
and considerate to him. After sometime he was able to
recognize his faults, admit it and promise that he would not
do it again. But again he would be swept away by the forces.
Sometimes his vanity and self-respect would come in
the way of his admitting the fault immediately. That is
the mistake. One must not justify one’s wrong. If one does
that, it comes again and makes it more difficult to get rid
Disciple: ‘Y’ after doing so much Tapasya is thinking of
leaving the Ashram and that too after twelve years of
Sri Aurobindo: What Tapasya? If complete control was
given to him he would have stayed perhaps.
Disciple: He says, he is helping the Mother.
Sri Aurobindo: Helping only? I thought he was conducting
the Ashram? (Laughter)
Disciple: but these kinds of people–will they ever
realize the Divine?
Sri Aurobindo: Everyone will arrive at the Divine. ‘A.’
once asked the Mother if he will realize God. The Mother
replied that he will, unless he did something idiotic and
cut short the life, and that is what he has done.
15th January, 1939
Sri Aurobindo opened the topic by referring to a letter
from an American.
Sri Aurobindo: There is a job which perhaps “X:” would
like to attend to. The letter is addressed to Sri Aurobindo
Ashram under the belief that it is a person. The man wants
sporting items, and “predictions”. He says:
As you are a Yogi you “can go into trance” and we will
share the profits!! Let me know your terms. Then he says:
“If you don’t want to take the money, you can give it to the
poor! (turning to X.). You can go into trance or send “Y”
into it. I will be a hard nut.
I have no objections to sharing profits, only we share in
profits not in loss!! Besides, we class ourselves among the
poor, so we won’t have to find them! (pause)
All sorts of half-crazy people are writing to us from
every where, from Germany, America etc. I wonder how they
manage to get the address.
Disciple: It must be from the magazine in which A wrote
an article giving his Ashram address from which he thought
“Aurobindo Ashram” was a man! In that case, A must take up
the matter and reply to this man.
Disciple: I am afraid, we won’t get anything in spite of
the proposal to share profits. In Gujarat there was–I
believe even now is–a small group of seekers under the
guidance of late Narsimhacharya who got an offer from
American promising fabulous returns from small investments.
The followers were all taken in, Lakhs of rupees were sent
and nothing was heard afterwards.
Disciple: On the other hand some Indian Sannyasis are
making good business in America. One of them has modernized
yoga; his method is a combination of business and yoga,
“sets of lectures and courses of meditation” etc.
Sri Aurobindo: “R” was telling “M” that if he went to
America he would be a great success. I think “R” was right.
Some of these people have the character of a charlatan.
Disciple: But coming to his question: is it possible to
predict sport items and cotton prices and
Disciple: I knew an astrologer who impressed my cousin
very much and when he acted under his guidance his
predictions did not at all come true.
Sri Aurobindo: But I had a remarkable experience at
Baroda, not of an astrologer but of one who knew
thought-reading. His predictions as an astrologer were all
wrong. The manager of my house, Chhotalal, took me to this
man and asked me to have some questions in my mind.
As we entered his room he told me all the four questions
that were in my mind; and the curious thing is that three
questions were clearly formulated in my mind, but the fourth
one had escaped me; but he caught that also; it was
Disciple: Is anything being done to get some of your
books published in America?
Sri Aurobindo: No. Besides, I don’t know if the Americans
are interested in profound questions. Swami Nikhilananda, I
heard, wrote an article about me which Miss Wilson Nishta
says, was profound. The editor of the paper returned it
saying, “it won’t interest the Americans,” and he had to
change it and made it what it is.
Disciple: But the Americans are open to new ideas.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes. If they would not want sensation and
change the openness to new ideas would be very great
advantage. As it is all one can say is that there are more
people in America interested in these things than in
Europe, though in Europe also the number of people who
are interested in these things is increasing now a days.
Disciple: One Thompson, graduate from Oxford, according
to his own statement, came to the gate and I had some
humourous exchange of sentences with him. He was very
Sri Aurobindo: It must be he, who recently sent me a long
letter on philosophy. I don’t think, he himself was clear
about what he wrote. What was your exchange with him
Disciple: I was just going out when the Sadhak at the
gate-duty asked me to help him to understand this new
arrival, Thompson. I asked him: May I know your name,
please? He: “Name! I have no name”. “Apart from
philosophical considerations about the reality or unreality
of it, a name is a necessity in this unphilosophical world”
I said. He: “You can call me anything you like–it matters
very little to me”. I: “It is not a question of my calling
you anything. Unfortunately there is the Police Department
which will demand a passport with a name, and that
Sri Aurobindo: Then what did he say?
Disciple: At last he said his name was Thompson.”
Disciple: I remember a difficult question: “Is it in
keeping with yoga to get oneself insured?”
Sri Aurobindo: Thakur Dayananda would say “no”. He was
always depending on God and did not believe in storing
things. If you don’t get anything, it means, God wants
you to starve. The whole group used to sing and dance,
there was an excited expression of their Sadhana, some kind
of vital demonstration.
Later on he complained that the disciples were drawing
out his vital forces.
They had the faith that nothing could happen to them;
when the police came to arrest them they were all singing
and dancing. Seeing them in exaltation the police went away.
They thought that they were invincible. The Government sent
soldiers to arrest them. Then their faith was shaken. One of
the prominent disciples, Mohindra De also lost his faith,
though he was the victim of his own enthusiasm.
Disciple: How can the vital forces of oneself be drawn
out when one is in contact with the Divine?
Sri Aurobindo: The force that supports the work, the
vital force, is different from the Divine Consciousness.
Disciple: Do you remember one Kulkarni who came and was
complaining that his vital force was being drawn out?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes. He was surrounding by forces of
disintegration, chaos, disaster and death. And he was
unconsciously throwing it out.
Disciple: One of us then told you that Kulkarni had
strength and intensity. Then you had said something
remarkable: “You call it strength? It is some wild intensity
of weakness–not strength!”
Sri Aurobindo: Intensity with solidity pays; but without
support below, it does not lead to anything. ‘B’ was like
that and so was ‘J.’
Disciple: But B did brilliant work.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes. What he did was brilliant but slight,
there was nothing below to support, the intensity had no
body, so to say. He went because of his ambition, he wanted
to be right-hand man. Mother put a divine entity into him;
it left him when he left the place. He has failed all
Disciple: But he was a good lieutenant in the old
Sri Aurobindo: There are some people who are good as
lieutenants, but by themselves they are nothing. ‘B’ is like
that. I supported him but he used to leave one thing and go
in for another. He spoiled his career through his own
Disciple: Some people say that now he speaks unfavourably
about the Ashram.
Sri Aurobindo: We know that. To ‘M’ who was coming here
he said: “he has caught you by his philosophy” meaning
But the Mother knows these things even without any
reports from outside.
Disciple: Our friend D who has the “eternal doubter” in
him met Upen Banerjee at Calcutta and asked Upen whether he
believes in God.
Sri Aurobindo: What did Upen say?
Disciple: He said: “How can I say I don’t believe in God
when I know Sri Aurobindo? I have a measuring rod for men
and I can measure them all right; but in Sri Aurobindo’s
case I cannot measure him. In case of other
great people they reach a certain point in their growth
and then they stop, whereas in his case he is always going
on further and further.
Sri Aurobindo: (smiled) I see. Upen also has intensity;
he had agnosticism and faith. It is that which makes his
writing brilliant. But he could never understand the “Arya”.
Why, Rishikesh (Kanjilal) also was one in whom doubt could
never get the better of faith and faith could not of doubt!
(Laughter) He always wanted to fix himself to some
anchor,–he could not give up seeking, nor pursue steadily
and find an anchor. “The movement will not grow” he used to
say. (after pause) The revolutionaries were quite an
interesting lot and though not fit for yoga, one could not
feel dull in their company.
Disciple: “K” was enthusiastic about Sadhana.
Sri Aurobindo: He was. But he was not able to stand the
trial of yoga. I don’t think he had the capacity to do the
yoga; he had too tall an idea about himself, and he is
crude. And as to ‘Kh’ I wonder how he could ever have done
16th January 1939.
There was a humourous sequel to a telegram requesting for
“ashes”. It was a puzzle for some time and after some effort
the word “ashisha”, meaning “blessing” was rightly
Disciple: I do not understand why he is asking for
Sri Aurobindo: I don’t understand either. When I used to
smoke I could have sent at least the cigar ashes. But now I
do not smoke?
Disciple: But we are burning here the mosquito-coils. The
ashes of the coils can be sent. (laughter)
Disciple: But I think he is asking for Blessings–the
post office in receiving the Sanskrit word Ashisha seems to
have turned it into “ashes”! (Laughter)
Disciple: I read a paper written by Prof. Somesh Bose, a
mathematician, in which he mentions that Bholagiri, a Sadhu
had meditation with his wife who was dead. He says that he
saw them both, his dead wife present “in flesh and blood”.
The question is: Is it possible? Also, whether Bholanath
materialized his wife or she did it herself? Somesh says,
she was everyday present at the prayer time. Can she remain
like that in her materialized body almost all the time? Does
she live with Bholagiri all the time, or does she come and
go? What will materialists say?
Disciple: They will say, it is all humbug. (turning to
Sri Aurobindo) But what does yoga say?
Sri Aurobindo: “Many possibilities”. This seems to be a
case of temporary materializing, as Bholagiri is present
every time. I believe, there is always a difference between
material body and a materialized body. This kind of
materializing commonly takes place immediately after a man
dies. You find that he visits either a relation or a friend.
If the fact of his death is not known or if the man is not
known to be living far away, people mistake it for an actual
There are many authentic cases of this kind. My poetic
brother Mono Mohan’s friend Stephen Philips said that his
mother had visited him after her death. Mono Mohan told me
the story, ascribing the experience to telepathic
communication of the form. But I think it is not mere
communication of form or cast by the mind only. There is the
vital and the physical part which materializes.
Disciple: You have already cited the other day the case
of Lord Strethmore. But is it possible to materialize
Sri Aurobindo: Theoretically, it should be possible,
though I have known no case of the same. After the
experience we had of the stone-throwing in the Guest-house
here, I believe, if the stones could be materialized, why
not a human being?
Disciple: The Egyptians preserved the human body after
death, with the belief that the soul would return to it
after some years. Paul Brunton claims to have met some
spirit hoary with age on the hill near the pyramids.
Sri Aurobindo: The Egyptians believed that at the time of
death the Ka, the vital being, went out of the man and after
a thousand years, if the body was preserved, it would return
to it. Brunton, I suppose, materialized the belief.
Disciple: Is it possible to revitalize the dead? Sri
Aurobindo: I can’t say.
Disciple: There is a reported case of a Bey whom Brunton
met and who revived a sparrow after it was dead. Brunton
says that he saw the same phenomenon perfor-
med by Vishuddhananda, “Gandhi Swamy” as he was called.
Is it possible?
Sri Aurobindo: That is possible. Just as you can revive a
drowned man by pulling his physical organs into function
again, that is, by resorting to physical devices life can be
restored. If you know how to reintroduce the power that sets
the organs to action, after the body is wounded or dead, you
can revive the man.
The real question is whether it is the being of the man
that comes back to life, or it is some other spirit that
wants to live and gets hold of the body. Both are possible,
because revival is done in two ways: One, is to bring back
the spirit of the man which is still not far away, the other
is to get some other spirit that consents to come.
Disciple: Can the vital-being be called back to the
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, if it has not gone away very far it
can be pulled back to the body. (The subject was
Disciple: There is chance of “C” coming.
Disciple: He has been coming for a long time.
Disciple: He is coming after organizing his property.
Sri Aurobindo: Is he still organizing his property? Has
he much property left? Disciple: I am afraid he has lost
Sri Aurobindo: He is a phenomenon! Do you remember
the name of the person who apologized to us? I wonder
whether he offered the apology because his public attack did
Disciple: Yes. He seemed to have gathered all sorts of
false facts from all kinds of people. Disciple: Did you read
Sri Aurobindo: I simply glanced at it! I don’t think he
sold more than half a dozen copies. (after a pause) It seems
“M” has expressed sorrow for what she did here and explained
that she acted under the influence of S and B.
Disciple: The attack by “R” was not of any allegations.
His objection was that the Ashram was not doing what he
calls public work.
Sri Aurobindo: What work?
Disciple: Say country’s work, work for humanity.
Sri Aurobindo: It is quite a new objection. Nobody
expects an Ashram, a spiritual institution, to do work!
Disciple: The Ramkrishna Mission, Gandhi’s Ashram and
some other institutions do some public work and so people
expect an Ashram to work for humanity.
Sri Aurobindo: Perhaps, because I did political work they
expect that I should continue doing it all my life.
Disciple: Not only that, the objection is that so many
young men are being drawn away from the field of work.
Sri Aurobindo: Oh, I see.
Disciple: But Gandhi’s Ashram is not a spiritual
institution. It is a group of people gathered to be trained
to do some work on Mahatma’s principles and methods. One can
say that service to the public is one of their aims.
But Subhas wrote against the Ashram recently on the
ground that it was attracting away some of the best people
from country’s work.
Disciple: I don’t remember if he wrote “best” or “good”
for those who came here. He quoted the example of D.
Sri Aurobindo: But D was not doing political work.
Disciple: Subha’s idea was that D may not do political
work now. But when the time came he must be prepared to give
up everything and join the struggle.
Sri Aurobindo: I see, one can’t give up everything for
Disciple: But suppose one gives up everything for
country’s freedom, then what is he to do afterwards, except
perhaps going to jail.
Sri Aurobindo: D in jail! Perhaps he would write off some
stories about his agony. Disciple: That, perhaps, would be a
gain to literature, not to politics.
Sri Aurobindo: At the time of the Gandhi movement some
one asked Abanindranath Tagore, why he was not giving up his
painting for the sake of the country and take to politics.
He said: I believe, I serve the country through my painting
in which I have some capacity, that, at
least, is something I know; whereas I would be only a bad
Disciple: Tagore narrowly escaped the Charkha. But it
seems Nandlal Bose is turning at!
Sri Aurobindo: He is a man of ascetic temperament. There
was an enthusiast who even wrote an article showing that the
Chakra referred to in the Gita was the Charkha!
Disciple: It was Vinoba Bhave, a disciple of Mahatma.
The topic changed to Baroda. Dr. M. mentioned that now
the old race course is covered by fine buildings constructed
by co-operative Societies and that doctor Balabhai was still
alive staying in one of the new buildings. He is nearly
Sri Aurobindo: (After a pause) The mention of Baroda
brought to my mind the connection with the Gaekwad. It is
strange how things arrange themselves at times. I had failed
in the I. C. S. and was looking for a job. Exactly at the
time the Gaekwad happened to be in London. I don’t remember
whether he called us, or we met him, but an elderly
gentleman, whom we consulted, was quite willing to propose
Rs. 200/- per month as a good sum. It would be more than
£10/- and it is surprising that he thought it was very
But I left the negotiations to my elder brother and James
Cotton. I knew nothing about life at that time.
Disciple: What were the expenses in those days?
Sri Aurobindo: Before the war, it was quite decent living
for £5/-. Our landlady was an angel. She came from
Somerset and had settled in London–perhaps after she was
widowed. She was long suffering and never asked us for money
even if we did not pay for months and months. I wonder how
she managed. I paid her from my I. C. S. stipend.
It was father’s fault that I failed in the riding test.
He did not send money and the riding lessons at Cambridge
then were rather costly. The teacher was also careless; so
long as he got his money he simply left me with the horse
and I was not particular.
I tried riding again at Baroda with Madhav Rao but it was
My failure was a great disappointment to my father
because he had arranged everything for me through Sir Henry
Cotton. A post was kept for me in the district of Arah which
is considered a fine place. All that came down like a wall.
I wonder what would have happened to me if I had joined
the civil service. I think, they would have chucked me for
laziness and arrears of work! (laughter)
Disciple: Do you remember Nana Saheb Sinde of Baroda?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, Madhav Rao Jadhav, myself and Nana
Saheb all of us held revolutionary ideas at that time.
Disciple: He has spoken to the youth conference
emphasizing the need of military training for the defense of
the country. His speech was against the current vogue of
Sri Aurobindo: It is good that some one raises voice
that when efforts are being made to make non-violence the
method of solving all problems.
Disciple: But the insistence on non-violence has
succeeded in disarming the Pathan of the Frontier. It seems,
Gandhi objected to armed volunteers keeping guard over him
while he was in the Frontier province.
Sri Aurobindo: And what were they expected to do in case
there was an attack? Stand simply? Disciple: No. They should
Sri Aurobindo: This non-violent resistance I have never
been able to fathom. I can understand an attitude of
absolute non-resistance to Evil, as the Christians say
“Resist not the Evil”. You may die without resisting and
accept the consequences as sent by God. But to resist
passively seems to me meaningless. And to change the
opponent’s heart by such passive resistance is something I
Disciple: And the “Modern Review” put in another
objection which is worth considering. The article accepts
that non-violence may be a good gospel for a great Saint but
for the ordinary man to allow evil to triumph so easily–by
passive resistance–would not be good for the society. There
is no reason to hope that the goonda will change his mind,
or heart, if you allow him to kill you.
Sri Aurobindo: I am afraid, non-violence is being applied
to other fields whereas its extreme application is meant for
spiritual life. Non-violence or Ahinsa as a spiritual
attitude and its practice is perfectly understandable and
has a standing. You may not accept it in toto but it
has a basis in the Reality. You can live it in spiritual
life but to try to apply to all life seems too
much. Such an application ignores the great principle of
Adhikar,–qualification even as the Europeans do. Also it
makes no provision for difference of situations.
Disciple: Mahatma’s point is that in either case, whether
with arms or without, you are prepared to die. Then, why not
try to die without arms, since armaments are piling up in
all nations and there is no end to where it will lead. In
the other case you perpetuate passive-resistance while in
fighting you perpetuate killing.
Sri Aurobindo: If you bring in the question of expense
then the reasons for non-violence, we must admit, are
economic and not ethical. (after a pause)
It is a principle which can be applied with success if
practiced on a mass scale, specially by unarmed people like
the Indians, because you are left with no other choice. But
even when it succeeds it is not that you have changed the
heart of the enemy, but that you have made it impossible for
him to rule. That is what happened in Ireland. There was in
Ireland armed resistance also but that would not have
succeeded without the passive resistance side by side. Such
tremendous generalizations like “passive resistance for
all”, “Charkha for all”, “celibacy for all” hardly work.