In the Book's Preface that appears at the start of Volume one, Nirodbaran relates the dramatic account of the event that occurred on the eve of the November Darshan in 1938: the accident in which Sri Aurobindo's right leg was seriously injured. The talks recorded in these two volumes began soon after, when a few disciples were required to attend on Sri Aurobindo who was confined to his bed. It was this select group of five or six people, disciples and the doctors who visited from time to time, who would gather, usually in the evening, and sit by Sri Aurobindo's bed, waiting for the day's talk to begin. The conversation flowed freely, and often began with a question put to Sri Aurobindo, a question which perhaps elicited his comments on spiritual matters, called forth reminiscence, triggered a discourse on art and culture, or prompted a keen analysis of Indian politics or the world situation. Sometimes, indeed, a question would provoke a humorous response from Sri Aurobindo, and laughter would fill the room.
For several years Nirodbaran recorded most of these conversations in his notebooks. Talks with Sri Aurobindo: volume Two continues the record from 1 March 1940 up to the final entry dated 27 June 1948. It offers the reader a many layered, vivid impression of the high purpose behind Sri Aurobindo's work and the versatile nature of his personality, in the intimate setting of these talks with his attendants.
Talks with Sri Aurobindo is a thousand page record of Sri Aurobindo's conversations with the disciples who attended on him during the last twelve years of his life. The talks are informal and open ended, for the attendants were free to ask whatever questions came to mind. Sri Aurobindo speaks of his own life and work, of the Mother and the Ashram, of his path of yoga and other paths, of India's social, cultural and spiritual life, of the country's struggle for political independence, of Hitler and the Second of modern science, art and poetry, and many other things that arose in course of conversation. Serious discussion is balanced with light-hearted banter and brought out the warm and intimate atmosphere of the talks.
Nirodbaran, who completed his medical studies in Britain, joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the early 1930s and became the ashram's chief physician in 1935. From 1938 to 1950 he served as one of Sri Aurobindo's personal attendants and as his amanuensis. Nirodbaran is the author of several books, including biographies of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, but is Probably best known to readers for the letters he exchanged with Sri Aurobindo, published in two volumes as Nirodbaran's Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo.
The eve of the November Darshan, 1938. The Ashram humming with the arrival of Visitors. On every face signs of joy, in every look calm expectation and happiness. Everybody has retired early, lights have gone out: great occasion demands greater silent preparation. The Ashram is bathed in an atmosphere of serene repose. Only one light keeps on burning in the corner room like a midnight vigil. Sri Aurobindo at work as usual.
A sudden noise! A rush and hurry of feet breaking the calm sleep. 2.00 a.m. then an urgent call to Sri Aurobindo's room. There, lying on the floor with his right knee flexed, is he, clad in white dhoti, upper body bare, the Golden Purusha. The Mother dressed in a sari, is sitting beside him. Purani, hearing the urgent ringing of the bell, had answered the call. Then Dr. Manilal, who fortunately had arrived for the Darshan, was called. Presently some of us came. Dr Manilal has examined Sri Aurobindo. Yes, a fracture and of a serious type. All necessary first aid given, a specialist from Madras is sent for.
Meanwhile a deep gloom has overshadowed the Ashram. The Darshan has to be abandoned. The visitors leave, one by one, with heavy hearts and ardent prayers for the speedy recovery of their beloved Master and Friend.
He was laid on the bed for an indefinite period at the rigorous command of the doctors and attended by a few disciples. There followed regular conversations with those disciples, who were given the Privilege of Serving him from then onwards for twelve years. There was not a subject that was not touched upon, not a mystery that he did not illumine, not a phenomenon that passed unnoticed, humorous or serious, superficial or profound, mundane or mystic. Reminiscences, stories, talks on art and culture, on world problems and spiritual life poured down in abundant streams from an otherwise silent and reticent vastitude of knowledge and love and bliss. It was an unforgettable reward he accorded to us for our humble service. "The Divine gives himself to those who give themselves". Those anxious days called forth our best and noblest and he gave in return his fathomless compassion, freely and divinely. All the talks could not be recorded, some have to be kept back, but the rest are presented here. They are as far as possible authentic, though the words and expressions cannot be his own in all places.
Sometimes a question bore no relation to the one preceding it. Indeed, that was often the general trend of the talks. In a group like ours and in the milieu in which we worked, a methodical discussion of a subject was not always possible nor even very worthwhile. But the pronouncements of one day would often be completed on another when new aspects were brought up in conjunction with those expressed earlier.
One of the most exciting and significant features of our talks was in connection with the last World War. At its very start, a radio was installed in Sri Aurobindo's room and he used to listen to the war news three or four times a day. Then would follow comments and discussions on the war situation, international politics, India's vital role in the war and other allied topics. There we realised Sri Aurobindo's deep and firm grasp of world politics and, what was most surprising his penetrating insight into military affairs. Once someone asked him, "Did you ever used the military genius you seem to have?" he replied briefly, "Not in this life." Sri Aurobindo could foresee, as it were, the various strategic moves with their immediate or ultimate consequences on the fate of the war. Sometimes he would drop hints as to how by him spiritual force of the war guiding helping and protecting the Allies and safeguarding India's interests.
In the early period, the conversations took place in the evenings. Some five or six of us used to site by Sri Aurobindo's bed and wait for his signal. The Mother's presence was an occasional feature that added a lively interest to our talks. Later, however, her work kept her away. Those who took part in the talks were the regular attendants, Purani Satyendra, Nirodbaran, Champaklal, Mulshankar ana Dr. Becharlal, and three occasional vistors, Dr. Manilal Dr. Rao and Dr. Savoor.
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