A Series Inspired by India’s Rebirth – 8a

Author: Beloo Mehra (2019). Published under the title ‘When Young India Awakes’ in Sri Aurobindo’s Action, Vol. 50 (8-9), August-September 2019, pp. 16-19


(The August-September issue of Sri Aurobindo’s Action journal is a double issue. For the ease of online reading, the full Chapter VII published in the print-version is reproduced here in two parts – 8a and 8b.)

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When Young India Awakes


Yuvaan suddenly woke up from his nap as his taxi went over a pothole. He had dozed off the moment he sat in the taxi which he hired to take him to Rishikesh. The driver informed him now that they were only half an hour away from the hospital where Yuvaan’s mother was admitted. Once at the hospital, Yuvaan met with his mother and was relieved to know that things were under control. He talked in detail with her friend who had made all the initial arrangements, and also went through all the reports. The doctor assured him that it was mostly a stress induced situation, and that his mother would be discharged in a couple of days. Yuvaan felt immensely grateful.

Next morning, sitting at the Ganga ghāt outside the ashram where he had spent the night in the room his mother had booked for herself, Yuvaan felt peaceful. He recalled with a smile the pleasant journey from Varanasi to Haridwar, thanks to the great bunch of guys – Rishi, Pranav and Aman. He was already looking forward to meet up with Rishi at Haridwar after a few days.

After spending some time at the hospital with his mother, Yuvaan was now walking through the streets of this pilgrimage town. For a few seconds he was very conscious of the fact that everything around him was simply perfect, everything was as it should be, in the place it should be. What is this feeling, he wondered?

Realizing that he was getting hungry, he walked into a small restaurant. As he waited for his food, he looked around and felt a kind of kinship with the people there, sort of like a familiarity where one doesn’t really need to know or talk with the other person. What an unusual feeling, he said to himself. It was as if they all were part of something bigger than each one of them. What is that bigger thing? This was all a new sensation for him, he felt – this growing sense of awareness of the thoughts arising in him, this growing sense of observing his own thoughts.

It was now 4:00pm and streets were getting empty as pilgrims were perhaps resting in their ashrams and hotel rooms. Yuvaan was still walking, enjoying the quiet town and being with his thoughts. Suddenly he spotted a small bookstore and in a glassed store window near the door was a book on display “Sri Aurobindo: His Life Unique.” Obviously, he had to go in there and get the book.

Sitting at a chai shop near the bookstore, Yuvaan started browsing through the book. In the very introductory pages, he came across a sentence which not only made him deeply curious but also left him somewhat puzzled. The sentence was:

“What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world history is not a teaching, not even a revelation, it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.” (The Mother) [i]

What does it mean? What is a decisive action? Or a revelation? Who is this Mother? He needed to know it all, understand it all. But first he needed to know more about Sri Aurobindo’s unique life. So, deciding to delay his multiple queries for a later time, he dug into the book in his hand.

Sri Aurobindo - childhood
Sri Aurobindo at St. Paul’s School, London, 1884

Sipping more than three cups of tea, Yuvaan had now read up to page number 30 in the book, but he kept going back to the page where he saw this photo of Sri Aurobindo as a child. He was mesmerised by it. Until now he had been reading some of the profound words written or spoken by this genius mind, this yogi with a life unique. But now he was getting to know him a bit more closely, as a person. He felt a strange and deep love rising in him for Sri Aurobindo, something he had never felt before.

Yuvaan was deeply moved when he read that Sri Aurobindo did not then know much about India, but he “felt a mysterious pull towards her, an irresistible attraction which his mind could hardly explain. “It was a natural attraction,” he said later, “to Indian culture and ways of life, and a temperamental feeling and preference for all that was Indian.””[ii]

“A temperamental feeling and preference for all that was Indian” – this explained so much, Yuvaan immediately sensed. Why it would explain and what really it would explain, his mind didn’t know, but something about it rung so true to his heart. He went on further with the book.

He was amazed at discovering the 1893 connection between Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda. And then there was the description of Sri Aurobindo as a teacher. He loved the passage quoted by the author, where Sri Aurobindo had in his later years described his teaching style thus:

“He (Manmohan) was very painstaking. Most of the professors don’t work so hard. I was not so conscientious as a professor. I never used to look at the notes, and sometimes my explanations did not agree with them at all…. What was surprising to me was that the students used to take down everything verbatim and mug it up. Such a thing would never have happened in England…. Once I was giving a lecture on Southey’s Life of Nelson. My lecture was not in agreement with the notes. So the students remarked that it was not at all like what was found in the notes. I replied: ‘I have not read the notes — in any case they are all rubbish!’ I could never go to the minute details. I read and left my mind to do what it could. That is why I could never become a scholar.” [iii]

Yuvaan felt great admiration for the kind of educator Sri Aurobindo was. It was not only because of how Sri Aurobindo described himself in these words, but also, and more so, because he could see that even his written words which he had been reading in the other book “India’s Rebirth” conveyed an exceptional stamp of originality and authenticity. Some kind of unique force was there in his words. Wondering why it was like that, Yuvaan suddenly looked at the time and realised that the hospital visiting hours were about to be over.

Back at the hospital, he found his mother much rested and better than the previous day. The doctor said she could be discharged the next day. After spending some time with his mother and ensuring that she was comfortable, he went back to the ashram. He really wanted to get back to his book.

To be continued…


[i] CWM, Vol. 13, p. 4

[ii] Sri Aurobindo: His Life Unique, by Rishabhchand, p. 16

[iii] ibid, p. 25


Read earlier parts in the series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

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