Hriday Ranjan Ghosh

Compiled by Vidagdha Bennett

 

“My brother Hriday’s philosophy and wisdom
I have inherited.”
1
                                                  – Sri Chinmoy
 

Hriday Ranjan Ghosh was Sri Chinmoy’s eldest brother and the firstborn child of Shashi Kumar Ghosh and his wife Yogamaya. Hriday was born in the family home in the village of Shakpura, East Bengal, circa 1911. I have prepared this selection of stories about this most remarkable liberated soul in anticipation of his birth centenary in 2011.

The name ‘Hriday’ means ‘heart’, while ‘Ranjan’ means ‘delight’. One can only imagine the joy that greeted the arrival of this first son and he soon acquired the nickname ‘Khoka’, which means ‘the darling of the family’.

It is the custom in Indian families for nicknames and even given names to be used only by the parents and others in the family who are older than the individual concerned. Younger members of the family, therefore, referred to Hriday variously by the deeply moving and respectful title ‘Baro-da Mani’, meaning ‘jewel of an eldest brother’,2 or ‘Dada’ or, quite simply, as ‘Da’.

Hriday passed away at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, South India, on April 7th, 1976, at the age of 65.

 

Table of Contents   Part Four: 1944-1976
          July 23rd, 1944
  Part One: 1911-1932     Chinmoy's First Darshan
    Hriday's Youth     The Lives of Two Brothers are Spared
    “My Uncle's Love for Hriday”     Hriday's Sorrow
    Hriday's Gift for Astrology     Hriday's Faithful Service
    The Inner Call     Hriday Scolds Chinmoy
        Nolini-da's tribute to Hriday
  Part Two: 1932-1942     Photos of Hriday
    The Question of Questions     Dedications to Hriday
    The Family Response     Chinmoy Offers a Family House
    Hriday at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram     Hriday Knew all Along
    Hriday's Connection with     Hriday's Complaint
       Swami Vivekananda     Hriday's Blessing
    Sri Aurobindo's Diplomacy     Hriday's Prediction
    Family Visits     Hriday's Passing
       
  Part Three: 1942-1944   Part Five: Insights
    Hriday Returns to Chittagong     Hriday's Poems
    The Stray Cow     Hriday's Letters
    Yogamaya's Passing     The Invocation in Sanskrit
    Hriday Becomes Madal's Schoolteacher     Surabhi's Reflections
    Hriday Receives Permission to Bring     Sri Chinmoy's Inner Experiences
       Chinmoy to the Ashram     Sri Chinmoy's Family Songs
        Conclusion

 

 

 

Part One 1911–1932

 

Hriday’s Youth

Hriday was a taller than average, handsome youth who resembled his father in stature and appearance. He had no inclination towards sports or physical activities, but was blessed with a profound, scholarly nature. He was greatly attracted to the ancient Indian scriptures – the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita – and, in due course, he became proficient in Sanskrit, the language in which they are recorded. Hriday memorised many Sanskrit mantras and would spend hours every day meditating and chanting.

 

This photo was taken in the village of Kelishahar, the ancestral home of Sri Chinmoy’s mother. The photo was taken before Sri Chinmoy’s birth, possibly around 1925. In the back row, standing, are Chitta and Hriday. Yogamaya is seated on the far left, in the centre is her mother and on the far right is her younger sister Charubala, whose nickname was ‘Bhuti’. Yogamaya’s three daughters – Ahana, Lily and Arpita (left to right) – are seated at her feet. Next to Yogamaya is her sister-in-law Chapala, wife of her brother Revati. This couple was childless and when Ahana was a little older, they looked after her. The other lady, seated between Yogamaya’s mother and her sister, is Yogamaya’s other sister-in-law, Savitri, wife of her eldest brother Ambika. Savitri is holding her infant daughter Shephali. The two children at her feet are Pushpita, the daughter of Charubala, and Vijali, her own daughter. Over the next few years, Mantu and Madal would be born to Yogamaya, and Savitri would have another daughter, Dipali.

 

After completing his middle schooling, Hriday went on to study for his BA in Chittagong town. I think we can accurately presume that he undertook his studies at Chittagong College, which was the first college in the greater Chittagong area.3 When the University of Dhaka was established in 1921, Chittagong College became registered as a Degree College under this university.

It was to the field of philosophy that Hriday was drawn and he became an authority on Eastern philosophy and, in particular, on Hindu mysticism.4 Hriday was extremely fortunate to study in a college whose Philosophy Department was at the leading edge of advances in the field. Moreover, in 1926, the College had become co-educational and, in that same year, student dormitories were established. Since it would not have been feasible for Hriday to commute to the College from his tiny village each day, it is quite likely that from the years 1929-1932 he either stayed at the College or lodged with his second maternal uncle and his wife. He may even have stayed in town from a much earlier date in order to complete his middle schooling.

 

“My Uncle’s Love for Hriday”

When Sri Chinmoy first published this next biographical story about Hriday, he substituted fictional names for all the main characters.5 This is the story that touches on Hriday and his maternal uncle, Ambika Charan Bishwas, in its original version. Presumably, the story took place in 1932, when Hriday was 21 years of age.

Madal’s eldest brother, Hriday, was extremely close to this uncle’s eldest son, who was named Kulai.6 Both Hriday and Kulai were many years older than Madal. It happened that Kulai became sick and had to go into the hospital. After two or three weeks, his case became very serious. Then, early one morning he died.

On that particular day, Hriday was supposed to take his final examination at college. Madal’s uncle knew that if Hriday came to learn that his dearest friend had died, he would feel sad and miserable and not do well in his examination. So he cleverly, wisely and compassionately kept his son’s death a secret.

On the morning that Kulai died, the cook in Madal’s house did not appear. So this uncle started cooking for Hriday. While cooking, he was smiling so happily. He told Hriday, “When you come back from the examination, I will have a most delicious meal for you. I will also cook a second meal for your dearest friend, Kulai, and you can bring it to him.”

Then he pretended that Kulai was making a surprising recovery. Hriday was so delighted to hear that his friend had taken a turn for the better and he was looking forward to visiting him that evening. So he was doubly happy when he took his examination. He always stood first, but on that day everything came easily to him. Because of his unimaginable happiness, he finished his examination in a very short time!

That evening, after eating the meal that his uncle had cooked, he brought the second meal over to the hospital for Kulai. There he heard the sad news that his dear friend had passed away earlier that morning. In the Indian system, the body has to be burned on the day of death. So already the body had been taken to his maternal uncle’s house. Hriday cried and cried as he went to his maternal uncle’s house to see his dearest friend for the last time. Madal’s maternal uncle had fooled Hriday only because of his tremendous love and affection for him. Otherwise, how could a father do this kind of thing?7

 

Hriday’s Gift for Astrology

In India, astrology is a highly respected and ancient practice and Hriday, with his love for the wisdom of the past, was greatly attracted to it. Perhaps it puzzled him that this young child Madal should come into their family. After all, the age difference between him and Madal was twenty years. Hriday sought to shed some light on the future of Madal, but the answer the astrologer gave must have mystified him even further. Sri Chinmoy writes:

In India, there are quite a few systems of casting horoscopes. The Bhrigu system is most significant. It was introduced thousands of years ago and now there are volumes upon volumes written about it, with everything recorded. You just give your chart to the Brahmin, the astrologer who is dealing with this system, and he will turn the pages in front of you and tell you everything about your life. Very often it is true. Your life history has been written there. If the proper chart has been drawn, then he does not even have to cast a horoscope. It is already written there.

My eldest brother, who is an astrologer, went to an astrologer who was conversant with this system and who had all the old, sacred books where everything is written. When he showed my chart to this astrologer, the astrologer said that after the age of twelve, my horoscope would not function any more. He was absolutely correct, because at the age of thirteen, I realised God and became immune to all the astrological laws.8

Clearly, Hriday must have shared this information with the rest of the family and perhaps they pondered over the significance of what the Brahmin astrologer had said. On another occasion when Sri Chinmoy narrated this story, he said:

In my case, Bhrigu says that at the age of twelve I will go to my Satguru and from that time onwards astrology will not apply to my life because my Guru would be responsible. Whatever was destined to happen would not happen because my Guru would change my fate.

 

The Inner Call

At the end of 1932, after he had sat for his final BA examinations, but before the results were announced, Hriday abruptly left Chittagong to join the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in faraway Pondicherry – a decision that took his parents by surprise and was a source of tremendous disappointment for his father, who had high hopes for his eldest son to become successful in the academic field.

What happened to this retiring scholar, then, while he was at Chittagong College to precipitate this sudden, dramatic renunciation not only of his home and family, but also of his cherished academic life? After all, Hriday had a towering intellect and could easily have become another Surendranath Dasgupta, authoring scholarly works that aspired to unravel the great Sanskrit texts.

In one of Sri Chinmoy’s stories, written in 1971,9 he indicates in vague terms what might have transpired in Hriday’s case. The story is not strictly biographical, but there are certain indications that he is referring to his eldest brother. The story begins:

There was a most sincere seeker who, right from his childhood, used to pray regularly to God. When he was seven or eight years old he started praying to Mother Kali, because she was his family deity. He was very fond of Mother Kali.

He read and studied spiritual books, and he learned that Sri Ramakrishna was the dearest child of the Mother Kali. So he started praying to Sri Ramakrishna, and he became Sri Ramakrishna’s disciple inwardly. He became friendly with some of Sri Ramakrishna’s disciples but unfortunately he did not see Sri Ramakrishna physically, because Sri Ramakrishna had left the body long before. Later, this seeker began reading spiritual books written by other Masters, and finally he came to realise who his own spiritual Master was, and he went to live at his Master’s Ashram.

Here Sri Chinmoy suggests that his brother was initially drawn to Sri Ramakrishna. This is very understandable, as Sri Ramakrishna [1836–1886] was also a Bengali. Even as late as 1930, there were still a number of the Master’s direct disciples alive, as well as many devotees who had seen Sri Ramakrishna or Swami Vivekananda in person. Swami Vivekananda had visited East Bengal in 1901. Moreover, one of Sri Ramakrishna’s greatest householder disciples – Nag Mahashoy – hailed from East Bengal. Branches of the Ramakrishna Mission had been established in Dhaka, Sylhet, Faridpur and several other towns, but not, it seems, in Chittagong. Nevertheless, the whole province literally throbbed with Swami Vivekananda’s fiery, man-making spirit.

However, the strongest pull for Hriday towards Sri Ramakrishna came from within. According to Sri Chinmoy, his brother had been a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna in his previous life. On one occasion, Sri Chinmoy borrowed my book Sri Ramakrishna: A Biography in Pictures10 and turned the pages intently, looking for a photograph of his brother in that incarnation. He could not find the one he was looking for. However, since Hriday was born around 1911, we can perhaps deduce that he passed away around the turn of the century, which would limit the number of possibilities. One thing is clear and that is Hriday was searching for a spiritual Master who was in the physical body.

Sri Aurobindo, another Bengali, had formerly been in the vortex of the revolutionary movement and had been incarcerated in Alipore Jail, Calcutta, for a year – from May 1908 until May 1909. In February 1910, upon receiving information that the British intended to arrest him again, Sri Aurobindo was forced to quit Calcutta for the French territory of Chandernagore. In April of that year, an inner command urged him to sail south and seek refuge in Pondicherry, also a French territory. There he retired altogether from his political activities and concentrated on his meditation. On November 24th, 1926 he attained his God-realisation and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram may be said to have formally started from this date.

And so it was to Sri Aurobindo that Hriday felt the strongest magnetic attraction. According to his younger brother Mantu, both Hriday and Chitta learned about Sri Aurobindo from a gentleman named Manodhar-da, who later joined the Ashram:

Manodhar-da came from Comilla. He lived in Chittagong and my father appointed him to teach our eldest brother Hriday-da and Chitta-da. He used to practise music then. It was he who told my brothers about Sri Aurobindo for the first time. He had learned a few songs from Dilip-da. In the Ashram, he allowed Chinmoy to play his harmonium, which was given to him by Dilip-da. Manodhar-da was also a poet and a painter.11

Perhaps around this time, during his philosophical studies, Hriday also came into contact with some issues of the magazine Arya. Sri Aurobindo’s principal work on yoga, The Synthesis of Yoga, was originally published in serial form in Arya between 1914 and 1921, and his Essays on the Gita was published as a separate book in 1928. For a keen student of philosophy, like Hriday, these writings must have acted like an irresistible summons.

Some time after 1930, Hriday presumably corresponded with the Mother of the Ashram and asked to join the Ashram. Not all seekers who applied were accepted. However, the invitation came. Somehow, Hriday managed to gather sufficient funds to purchase a train ticket and he left Chittagong around December 1932, when his youngest brother Madal was only one year and three months old. It seems that he did not advise his parents in advance of his intended course of action and they did not learn of it for two weeks. To have their eldest son disappear without a trace must have been harrowing for them and, no doubt, they were deeply hurt that he had not sought their permission before choosing to go so far away. Like many an ardent seeker with close family ties, Hriday seems to have made every effort to maintain secrecy and avoid being challenged about his decision.

Again, in our day and age, when long distance travel is very much the norm, we may not appreciate the enormous courage required for a young Indian village youth to undertake such an epic and, in a sense, irreversible journey in quest of a Master whom he had never seen. Many years later, his dramatic decision would be echoed in his youngest brother’s decision to leave Pondicherry and go to America.

 

Part Two: 1932-1942

 

 

The Question of Questions

Hriday’s zeal for inner illumination is revealed in the following story about his very first day in the Ashram, which Sri Chinmoy was fond of recounting:

My brother Hriday was a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna in his past incarnation. In this life, the very first day he entered the Ashram, he said to the Mother: “I believe that here there are some souls who have realised God and have come here to serve you, and some who will realise God in this incarnation. So please tell me which category I belong to.”

What a question! The Mother blessed him, this 22-year-old boy, and said, “I cannot say whether you have realised God or not, but I assure you, if you have not realised God, in this incarnation you will be able to realise God.”

My brother really tried very hard, plus he got so much encouragement from Sri Aurobindo. In our family, Hriday did Yoga for everybody. Hundreds of hours in front of the shrine he spent, and he was always occupied, working here and there, studying the Vedas. In comparison to him, we were just jokers.

To hear from the Mother’s lips at the outset of his spiritual sadhana that he had the capacity to realise God in this life must have been a wonderful boon for the young man.

 

The Family Response

The immediate result of Hriday’s departure was a huge upheaval within the family. Within a few months, his parents, siblings and various other relatives descended upon the Ashram with the sole aim of taking Hriday back home with them. To add to the emotional scene, Yogamaya was frail from fasting and she had her infant son Madal in tow. What firstborn Indian son could resist such pressure? Here are the dramatic events and their significant ramifications as recorded by Sri Chinmoy:

When I was only one year and three months old, my eldest brother, Hriday, left the house and went to join the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in South India. It was a terrible shock to my parents. My brother had just graduated from Chittagong University, and he was thoroughly versed in Indian philosophy. Right from his childhood, Hriday had been spiritually inclined, and he used to pray and meditate all the time. So he disappeared and became a disciple of Sri Aurobindo.

When my parents came to know his whereabouts in two weeks’ time, my mother begged my father to take her to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. She was convinced she would be able to change her son’s mind and bring him back.

My father was so sad and mad that he refused. He said, “He can desert us. I do not need him. I do not want him.”

When my father did not want to go to the Ashram, my mother started fasting. She fasted for a day and a half. Then my father’s heart melted. A day and a half was enough; then he agreed.

He brought the whole family to the Ashram. My father used to get free railway passes since he was head inspector of the Assam-Bengal Railway Line. He would get free passes for eleven in our family plus two servants. On other occasions, people who were not our relatives became our relatives for the ride. Young girls and boys from our village would pass as daughters, sons and cousins. After my father’s death, we went only once to the Ashram and, at that time, we had to pay.

In those days, if you were not seven years old, you were not allowed to come to the main building of the Ashram. We stayed in a rented place, and I was not allowed to come to the main building. Every day the Ashram Mother used to come to the balcony and people used to meditate with her. I used to cry a lot, so my cousin, Nirmala-di, would take me three or four blocks away, making the sacrifice so that my mother could see the Divine Mother.

My mother was overjoyed to see my brother, but my brother was miserable because he knew my mother had come to take him away. The day came for my mother to have an interview with the Divine Mother. My mother was all prepared to beg the Divine Mother to give her eldest son back so that she could take him home. My mother did not know English. But luckily one of my sisters who knew English was behind her. With the Mother was her General Secretary [Nolini Kanta Gupta].

My mother said in pure Bengali, “I am so grateful to you, Divine Mother, that you have taken responsibility for my eldest son. He is now at your feet. Now I am praying to you to take care of all my children. They are still quite young, but when they grow up, please promise me that you will take full responsibility for all of them, as you have taken my eldest son under your protection and guidance.”

The Mother of the Ashram immediately said, “Yes, they are all mine.”

Look what happened! My mother had gone only to take her son back. Instead of that, she was begging the Divine Mother to take care of the rest of her children when they grew up.

When my sister and mother came back to the house where we were staying, my mother said, “Look what I did! I went to take my eldest son back home. Instead of that, I have offered all my children to the Mother.”

Everybody laughed and was so deeply moved. Even my father was deeply moved that his wife was so devoted to the Mother.

So the heart says one thing; the mind says something else. I always say that the heart will eventually win. The mind came to take the eldest brother away, and what did the heart do? The heart did just the opposite.

And the Divine Mother did keep her promise. Over the next eleven years, all of us went to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and became permanent members.12

Somehow Hriday remained firm in his resolve. He withstood his father’s silent disapproval and his mother’s tears. Indian sons find it extremely difficult, if not impossible to refuse any request their mothers may make. In the great Hindu epic, the Ramayana, Lord Rama tells his brother Lakshmana:
 

Janani janmabhumishcha swargadapi gariyasi
“Mother and motherland are superior to Heaven itself.”

 

Hriday would have been steeped in this belief and still he resisted his mother’s entreaties. Had she not had that remarkable experience in the presence of the Divine Mother of saying the exact opposite of what she intended, there is every possibility that Hriday would have had to accede to her request and return home. But it was not to be. His parents and all the relatives who accompanied them eventually departed without the object of their quest to make the long train journey home and I imagine that it was with something akin to a sigh of relief that Hriday settled into his new life.

In 1988, Sri Chinmoy learnt the exact date that he was brought to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for the first time: the 8th of August 1933, when he was one year, eleven months and nineteen days old. On August 8th, 1988 he observed the 55th anniversary of this most significant day in his life and said:

My parents and my elder sisters and brothers brought me to the Ashram and the spiritual life – the place of my heart’s awakening and my life’s oneness-realisation with the highest Absolute Supreme. Nothing can be more important, more significant, more meaningful and more fruitful in the life of a seeker than to go and sit at the feet of one’s Master.

There is an additional possibility that if the family arrived on August 8th, they would have stayed for the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on August 15th, just one week hence. Although the youngest children would not have been able to participate, Hriday’s parents, his brother Chitta and perhaps even his sister Arpita would have been eligible. Again, this is only conjecture.

 

Hriday at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The number of sadhaks and sadhikas at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1933 numbered only around 150.13 Those who entered the Ashram were expected to offer the Ashram their worldly goods, since the Ashram would be taking full responsibility for both their spiritual and their physical wellbeing. Because he was only a student, and had left without his parent’s permission, in all likelihood Hriday did not have money of his own to offer. Some other young men were in the same situation, particularly those who had been with Sri Aurobindo during his revolutionary days.

Hriday was provided with a room in a rented house near the main building where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother dwelt. Meals were partaken in the dining hall and, on the first of every month, the Mother would distribute necessities to each Ashramite – such as soap, oil, towels, tea, and sugar – all packed in a cardboard box. On that day, she also gave each person two rupees as pocket money. She assigned Hriday daily work in the bakery, doing physical work, grinding the flour. Then he used to work in the kitchen, carrying heavy pots containing vegetables and curries, and washing bananas. They were incongruous jobs for the scholar-philosopher, but he did not complain and continued carrying heavy pots until around 1973, at which time the Ashram kitchen was feeding around two thousand people twice a day. He took it as part of his sadhana and consciously did not seek a job that might have involved greater importance or responsibility.14 Meanwhile, he pursued his meditation discipline under the guidance of Sri Aurobindo.

The main events of the calendar year in the Ashram were the three Darshan Days when Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would sit side by side and the Ashramites would pass by them in silence and receive their blessing. The Darshan Days took place on February 21st, the birthday of the Mother; August 15th, the birthday of Sri Aurobindo; and November 24th, the day of siddhi. These were the only opportunities when the Ashramites were able to see Sri Aurobindo. In 1939 a fourth Darshan Day was added: April 24th, the day of the Mother’s final arrival in Pondicherry.

Even though Sri Aurobindo was in seclusion, he took an active interest in every aspect of his disciples’ lives, and from the year 1933 until his accident in 1938 he would answer their written questions through extensive correspondence. Hriday received over two hundred handwritten letters from his Master. Some of them are in a very elevated style. By way of answering Hriday’s searching questions, Sri Aurobindo would expand on lofty philosophical themes and also on the meanings of certain Sanskrit passages from the Vedas and Upanishads. He referred to Hriday as “my philosopher-disciple”.

In other letters, Sri Aurobindo would enquire after Hriday’s health, expressing concern even when Hriday suffered from a slight headache.15 Such touching words of love and affection from the Master were treasured by Hriday and eventually by the entire family.16 In later years, Sri Chinmoy often recalled Sri Aurobindo’s boundless love for his family and especially his eldest brother:

Sri Aurobindo gave Hriday much affection. Hriday was extremely devoted to Sri Aurobindo, and he meditated for hours and hours every day. Hriday was in his most fruitful years at that time. He used to write about Sri Aurobindo, and Sri Aurobindo encouraged him and appreciated his writings highly. He wrote hundreds of poems and many articles about his experiences. Sri Aurobindo always encouraged him, inspired him, and also deeply appreciated his experiences.

 

Hriday’s Connection with Swami Vivekananda

Sometimes spiritual Masters give their close ones glimpses into the intricate world of connections and affinities that link various souls. In Hriday’s case, Sri Aurobindo said something momentous. He sent a note in his own handwriting to Hriday. It read: “The soul that created Vivekananda has a direct connection with your soul.”

It seemed destined that Hriday’s life would be moulded along the same lines as that of Swami Vivekananda, who embodied Sri Ramakrishna’s light and manifested it to an unimaginable degree. We can see the glints of Vivekananda’s indomitable spirit in Hriday’s dramatic gesture to leave Chittagong. In a small way, it parallels Vivekananda’s sudden decision to set sail for the West. Again, even as Vivekananda sheltered hundreds of souls, so Hriday sheltered and protected his entire family.

Thus we can conjure up a picture of Hriday, in his mid-twenties, at the dawn of his spiritual life, brimming with endless possibilities and guided by his Master at every moment. We can imagine him living in the sacred atmosphere of the Ashram, free from the responsibilities of the outer world and the ties of family, performing his simple, dedicated service in the Ashram kitchen, and spending endless hours in meditation and in reading the sacred writings of his Master.

 

Sri Aurobindo’s Diplomacy

Sri Chinmoy reveals this amusing incident in Hriday’s life where the Master said one thing to him and something entirely different to others:

Sri Aurobindo was so diplomatic. My brother wanted to learn singing. Sri Aurobindo told him, “Singing is not good. Singing is only for people who live in the vital. You do not have to learn music – and the teacher is useless!” My brother was so happy – he is spiritual, music is so bad. Then, to the singers, Sri Aurobindo said that my brother could not carry a tune. He would ruin everything. This is how Sri Aurobindo used to make everybody happy.

 

Family Visits

Hriday’s family had not forgotten their darling. Somehow Yogamaya and various members of the extended family managed to undertake the epic four-day train journey from Chittagong to Pondicherry three more times – in 1936, 1939 and 1941.17 It was a round trip of approximately 4,915 km (3,054 miles), including segments that could only be negotiated by steamer or ferry.

When the family arrived in Pondicherry, they would stay in a guest house. It is not known whether their visits coincided with one of the special Darshan Days, when they might have been able to pass before Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, but there is some evidence that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were not unaware of the visits. Perhaps, from behind the scenes, they observed the six younger Ghosh children growing up, showing more and more inclination towards the spiritual life, taking to the quiet routines at the Ashram naturally and spontaneously. Chitta, in particular, was only three years younger than Hriday and already had tremendous spiritual maturity.

Again, it is also possible that the family had to apply for permission to visit Hriday and this would also have brought them to the attention of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. It is not known whether Yogamaya had any subsequent interviews with the Mother of the Ashram but, since the family was quite wealthy by Indian standards, it is highly probable that Shashi Kumar made a substantial monetary love-offering to the Ashram each time he came to see his eldest son.

One further thing to note is that the last two visits – in 1939 and 1941 – were undertaken during wartime, although the theatre of operations did not move to Southeast Asia until December 1941.

It seems that Shashi Kumar made each of the trips up until 1941. He is not in the photograph that was taken during that visit of Yogamaya and her four sons.18 Since this was not long before his passing, he may already have been unwell. Yogamaya was also suffering physically. She had developed a large goitre on the left side of her neck. Sri Chinmoy once remarked that in the photograph taken in 1941 she has deliberately draped her sari over her head in such a way as to hide the goitre.

 

In this photo taken at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1941, Hriday is standing on the far left. His age at the time would have been 30. Next to him is his mother, Yogamaya, and his brothers Mantu and Chitta. Chinmoy is in the front row in front of Chitta, while Hriday is holding the young brother of one of his Ashram friends.

 

The family visit of 1941 was a turning point of sorts for Hriday. He realised that he would not see his father again and that his mother, too, was not long for this world. Somehow, Yogamaya extracted a promise from Hriday that when she or Shashi Kumar was dying – whomever went first – he would return to Chittagong to perform the obsequies, put the family affairs in order and take care of the little ones. As the eldest son, Hriday could not escape these family responsibilities.

 

Part Three: 1942-1944

 

 

Hriday Returns to Chittagong

In 1942, Shashi Kumar Ghosh passed away and it was now incumbent upon Hriday to return to Chittagong and shoulder his responsibilities as head of the family. He applied to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for temporary leave from the Ashram and they gave him permission to return to Chittagong so that he could fulfil his promise to Yogamaya. Their magnanimous decision reflects not only their humanity, but also indicates their inner confidence that Hriday would return and eventually bring the entire family back with him to the Ashram. In fact, almost as soon as Hriday arrived home, Chitta expressed his own urgent desire to go and join the Ashram.19 This is Sri Chinmoy’s recounting of that time in his family’s history:

When my eldest brother Hriday came back to Chittagong for a few months, my middle brother Chitta went to replace him at the Ashram. This is how it happened. Hriday had promised my mother that if she or our father died, he would return for a few months to take care of the family. When my father passed away, Hriday came back to Chittagong with the permission of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. They gave permission so that my brother could keep his promise.

When Hriday arrived, my mother was very sick. The family knew that she would soon follow my father to the other world. Hriday said to my mother, “I will stay here as long as you want me to.”

She said, “Then stay for a year.” He was so happy that she only said one year and not more.

Then Chitta wanted to go and join the Ashram. He said to my mother, “Now that my eldest brother has come back, I would like to go to the Ashram.”

My mother was so sad. She said to him, “Can you not see how sick I am? I am dying. It is only a matter of months. Will you not feel sad if I die in your absence? And I will feel miserable if you are not here with me.”

Chitta immediately said, “All right, I will not go.”

My mother asked him, “Did you buy the ticket?”

He said, “Yes, I bought the ticket to go on [such and such a date], but definitely I am not going. I will cancel it. I do not want you to die in my absence” So Chitta returned the ticket. My mother was so happy that Chitta had postponed his departure, but she knew that after she passed away, all her children would go to the Ashram.

Chitta totally forgot about the date on which he had planned to leave, and he did not mention it again. But my mother did not forget. Two weeks later, when that particular day came, the day he was supposed to go, my mother was so sick. She was lying down. Even then she had to think of him. She called my brother to her side and said, “You are not going today?”

Chitta said, “How can I go? You told me not to go, so I cancelled the ticket. I wanted to fulfil your last desire.”

My mother said to him, “No, I want to fulfil your desire. Who am I? I am only an ordinary human being. I want you to go, I want you to go.”

My brother said, “I have returned the train ticket.”

My mother said, “I want you to buy another ticket and go. I want you to go to the Divine Mother. I am your physical mother, but I know your Divine Mother has to take care of all of us.”

That was her heart’s wish. She said, “Now that your eldest brother is here, and your other brothers are here, this is the time for you to go and be in the presence of the Divine Mother. You should go, you should go.”

So my mother compelled my brother Chitta to go to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. This is my mother’s heart. He wanted to please her and she wanted to please him. You see what a compassionate mother I had. And he went on that day. A few months later, she passed away.20

As each of the Ghosh siblings came of age, they longed to follow Hriday’s example and join the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and consecrate their lives to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Chitta, Arpita and Lily joined after Hriday returned to Chittagong, which only left Ahana, Mantu and Madal to follow.

 

The Stray Cow

This next incident occurred after Hriday returned home for his mother’s final days on earth. It shows that comedy and tragedy are never far apart. Sri Chinmoy recaptured the story across the great divide of more than six decades:

This is a very funny story from my childhood in Chittagong. One of our neighbours, a boy of fourteen or fifteen years old, took a cow to the field. Unfortunately, the cow entered into our property to eat the grain. Our servant happened to see the cow in our field. He rushed to the scene and he struck the cow. Then he and the boy who was with the cow had a wonderful fight. I was at home that afternoon, but I did not come out of the house.

Our neighbours brought a court case against our family. They did not bring the case against our servant. They claimed that I was directly involved. They said that I was the one who had not only struck the cow, but also beaten the boy very badly. In India, cows are extremely sacred. To strike a cow is a most serious crime.

That was not enough. The elder brother of the boy who was with the cow struck the boy and wounded his arm. The boy was bruised black and blue. The elder brother did it so that there would be a nice case against us. How that young boy suffered!

When my father was alive, he was the honorary judge of one village court. But he had died two years earlier. My eldest brother, who had been in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for twelve years, had made a promise to my mother that if she was very sick, bed-ridden, he would come to see her and also to take care of the family. My mother’s case became very serious, so this brother of mine arrived home.

The court decided that our family had to pay a fine of twenty-five rupees or I would be in jail for three days. I was only twelve years old at the time. My mother cried and cried.

My brother said, “Twenty-five rupees is nothing! Let us pay it.”

But my mother said, “No, they may change their minds. They will take the money and then put my son in jail.”

I was supposed to go to court, but my mother would not allow me. So my eldest brother said, “All right, I will go. Let me see if I can deal with it.”

My brother went with twenty-five rupees to the court to defend me. The judge was a Muslim. He happened to be a great admirer of my father but, since it was a court case, he had to remain impartial. The boy who was struck was there, but our servant did not go. There was no case against him and also nobody would have taken him seriously. Only my brother Hriday went.

When the judge saw Hriday, he asked, “How did you come too be here? You were far away, in the south of India.”

Hriday said, “I came to see my mother. She is dying, so I came back to see her and take care of the family.”

The judge was quite fond of Hriday because Hriday was deeply spiritual. So he asked my brother a few questions about his spiritual life. He was so moved by what my brother told him about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Then the case was dismissed because my brother’s honesty and spiritual life pleased the judge. Hriday did not have to give twenty-five rupees to the neighbours who had lied. The poor boy was beaten by his own brother for nothing.

 

Yogamaya’s Passing

While Hriday was absent from the Ashram, he maintained contact with certain sadhaks to whom he had grown close. It seems that he corresponded with Nirodbaran, a medical doctor who was also from Chittagong. Nirodbaran was one of those select few who personally attended Sri Aurobindo and so he was in the unique and very privileged position of being able to speak to the Master every day. Moreover, unlike others, Nirodbaran did not hesitate to ask the Master questions which might seem impertinent. Thus we find him one day interrogating Sri Aurobindo directly as to why he did not exert his spiritual force to cure Hriday’s mother:

Sri Aurobindo had two or three secretaries. One of the secretaries was a former doctor. His name was Nirodbaran. He was a great poet, author and supreme authority on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. One day he said to Sri Aurobindo, “Hriday’s mother has been suffering for such a long time. Can you not cure her?”

Sri Aurobindo said to him, “What can I do? Her time has come. It is God’s Will for her children to come here.”

My eldest sister, Arpita, was at that time a permanent member of the Ashram. On that same day, while she was enjoying her siesta, she had a dream. In the dream, she saw that my mother had passed away.

That day, at the very hour when Sri Aurobindo said, “Her time has come,” my mother passed away in Chittagong.21

In November 1997, Sri Chinmoy added:

That was the thing he said and that very day, at that very hour, my oldest sister – who was living in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram – had a dream that my mother had died. Then, in the evening, a telegram came from Chittagong saying that my mother had passed away. The music teacher, Manodhar-da brought it to Chitta. As soon as he saw the telegram, my brother Chitta said, “I know what it is.” He did not need to open it.

Meanwhile, Madal narrates what occurred hundreds of miles away in Shakpura on his mother’s last day:

On the day of my mother’s passing, I was at my maternal uncle’s house, five and a half miles away from our house. Early in the morning, my mother said, “This morning I am leaving the body. Where has Madal gone? Send for him.” Then a cousin of mine came to give me the message. My cousin knocked at my uncle’s door and said that my mother was dying. I had known that her case was serious, but now she was dying.

As soon as I got the message, I started running. Right from the start, tears were running down my cheeks because I was afraid I would not see my mother’s last breath. Finally, I reached our house and went into her room. My mother’s life could be measured in minutes. She was unable to speak, but as soon as I was at her side, she took my right hand very gently. She could not lift my hand, but she held my hand and then she placed my hand in my eldest brother’s hand. That meant she was telling my eldest brother to take responsibility for my life.

My eldest brother said, “Yes, I will take responsibility.”

Then my mother gave me a smile, her last smile, and in a few seconds she passed away.22

Yogamaya entrusted Hriday with the full responsibility for the care of his youngest brother. It was a responsibility that he took with utmost seriousness. What is also most enthralling about these two stories is that they took place within hours of each other, yet hundreds of miles apart. They show how intimately involved Sri Aurobindo was in each circumstance of the Ghosh family.

 

Hriday Becomes Madal’s Schoolteacher

Hriday was instrumental in helping to reduce Madal’s suffering after his mother’s death. He saw that his little brother was being tortured by other children and so he took him under his wing and placed him in the school where he was acting as headmaster. This story also gives us an insight into the relationship between the two brothers. Madal had never lived with his eldest brother before and he looked on him with awe. He felt shy in his brother’s presence and Hriday, on his part, seemed to have maintained a certain distance from the family as he continued to practise his spiritual disciplines.

When my eldest brother Hriday came back from the Ashram, he used to pass the whole day chanting from the Vedas and the Upanishads. He was in his own world. We could not mix with him freely, as we did with Chitta.

At that time, his dearest friend opened up a school for young girls and asked Hriday to be the Headmaster. Hriday had his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Chittagong and he was a great scholar. So some of Hriday’s time was occupied with teaching.

When my mother died shortly after Hriday came back, I was not being treated well at school. The other children were mocking me. In India, when your father or mother dies, you have to perform so many austerities. For one month, you cannot eat meat or fish. You cannot sit on a chair, you cannot use a bed or pillows. You have to wear a thick cord from your shoulder to waist and shave your head. We had examinations at the time, so I had to sit on the floor and write my paper. There were more than one hundred students and everyone was making fun of me. They looked at me like a stranger. The teachers were very kind and compassionate to me. They knew that I was suffering. They would scold the other students, but then, in two minutes, when the teachers walked to the back of the room to check that nobody was cheating, again those boys would start mocking me.

Here I was, the darling of the family, and I was being treated like an outcaste. Tears were welling in my eyes and falling on my papers. I will never forget. Even then, somehow I managed to pass my examination. And these are the same boys who came and ate at our place after one month when we observed the obsequies. At that time they behaved well.

My older brothers and sisters did not suffer in the same way because people of their age were full of concern and affection for the members of our family. But my family knew that I was being tortured, so my eldest brother said to me, “Come and study with me for a few months at our school.” Even though the school where he taught was for girls, a few selected boys were allowed.

I studied under my brother for three months, up until we left for Pondicherry. Many years later, two girls from that school came to Pondicherry. They remembered me because I was the youngest brother of the Headmaster, but I did not remember them at all. Their names were Minu and Pakhi. After staying at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, they went back to Chittagong and got married.23

Madal was placed in the unique position of being able to observe his eldest brother’s behaviour in many situations. One incident that made a deep impression on him was when Hriday met with his former primary schoolteacher and showed this gentleman the utmost gratitude. Hriday’s humility is, indeed, remarkable.

Gratitude towards the schoolteacher is not at all unusual in India. In my own family, my eldest brother, who is now a great scholar, touches the feet of his primary schoolteacher with great reverence. Unfortunately, here in the West, this kind of experience is very rare.24

 

Hriday Receives Permission to Bring Chinmoy to the Ashram

As World War II unfolded, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were acutely aware of the deteriorating situation in East Bengal and the danger to their devotees in that region. In an unprecedented move, they decided to open the Ashram doors to children and, towards the end of 1943, they accepted the first batch of children. On December 2nd, 1943, the Mother opened a school for about twenty children25 and this paved the way for Hriday to apply for special permission to bring Madal and Mantu with him. Madal reveals that it was an anxious time of waiting both for him and for his eldest brother:

Every week Chitta used to write to us from the Ashram and tell us all the news. I used to go two miles to the Post Office and get his letter. Of course, I would read the letter on the way home!

One day, while reading the letter, I saw two English words followed by the names of our family members. The first word was ‘permission’, but I did not know the second word at all. Poor me, my English was only Chittagong primary school standard. In Bengali, we also use the word ‘permission’, so that is how I was familiar with it.

I knew that Chitta had applied to the Divine Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for us to be accepted into the Ashram as permanent residents, but I could not tell from his letter whether his request had been accepted or denied. So for two miles I was worrying and worrying. On the one hand, I did not see the word ‘not’, so there was hope that we had been accepted. But, on the other hand, I thought there might be another English word which meant that we had been refused.

When I arrived home, I rushed to my brother Hriday and gave him the letter. I was full of apprehension. Then I saw my brother smile. He was so happy. The second word was ‘granted’. The Mother was allowing our whole family to come and join the Ashram.

To the end of his life, Sri Chinmoy remained supremely grateful to the Mother for her magnanimity. In Mantu’s reminiscences, he reveals that the addition of children to the Ashram community gave fresh energy to the older sadhaks:

During the war, many parents wrote to the Mother begging Her to allow them to bring their children to the Ashram for protection. At this time, Japan was dropping bombs on various parts of India. The Mother gave Her permission. Because of the children’s presence at the Ashram, a school was established and also a playground was procured.

Nolini-da wrote: “Because of the young generation, our old, dry life-tree once again has blossomed.” The Mother’s special Blessings descended upon the young generation and because of this the older generation also felt new life.

 

Part Four: 1944-1976

 

 

July 23rd, 1944

There was now considerable urgency with regard to Hriday’s preparations to leave Shakpura. From May 1942, the Allied Forces had been pushed back into India from Burma by the Japanese and there was a sharp spike in Japanese air activity over East Bengal. Air raid sirens frequently sent townsfolk and villagers alike scurrying into makeshift air raid shelters. On March 25th, 1944 there was a huge Japanese aerial attack on Chittagong. Five medium bombers and thirty fighter planes targeted the area.26

Chittagong, with its convenient airfield and large harbour, had become a major base for allied operations and full-scale offensives were being launched against the Japanese in nearby Burma. Moreover, the Allied Forces had appropriated much of the food resources, leading to widespread famine throughout East Bengal. Hriday realised that the situation had become too dangerous for him to delay their departure any longer.

He gathered together the group that would be travelling with him to Pondicherry: Ahana, Mantu and Chinmoy; then there was his widowed maternal aunt Charubala, known to the family as Bhuti, and her daughter Pushpita; his maternal uncle Revati Charan Bishwas with his wife Chapala; and his cousins Nirmala and Soma. There may have been as many as eleven in the party. With the passing of Shashi Kumar Ghosh, the era of free travel on the Indian Railway system was over and Hriday would have had to pay the fares for the entire family. His father had left various bank accounts and was not a poor man by any means. So we may assume that when Hriday realised his father’s assets, there was a fair sum remaining which Hriday would eventually give to the Ashram.27 On the other hand, his father’s property, which was considerable, was not sold, but was provisionally entrusted to the care of some distant cousins who were permitted to live there.

The extended family group arrived at the Ashram after their long train journey on July 23rd, 1944. There they were reunited with Chitta, Lily and Arpita. Chinmoy was given a bed in the same room as his brother Chitta, while Mantu stayed in a room with Hriday at another place. The girls were in houses reserved for sadhikas. Mantu gives more precise details:

I got a room in Subon. My eldest brother Hriday and myself were staying in the room where at present Ashok Dey is staying. Chitta-da and Chinmoy got a room which is now at present our photographic exhibition room.

The Mother welcomed the orphaned family with immense love. She expressed this by giving them permanent status almost immediately:

After we arrived in Pondicherry, in two weeks the Mother made us permanent members. Usually it takes two to three years to become permanent.28

In 1995 Sri Chinmoy commented, “Our family is responsible for at least fifteen people to come to the Ashram.”

 

Chinmoy’s First Darshan

Chinmoy29 could easily have been compelled to wait for several months before he had the opportunity to see his spiritual Master face-to-face for the first time. Fortunately, however, he only had to wait just over two weeks. The next Darshan Day was on August 15th – Sri Aurobindo’s 72nd birthday.

This Darshan of his Master was the most significant event to this point in the life of the young boy and, in later years, he told the story of that day many times. It was indelibly printed on his heart and in his memory. One can imagine him queuing up with the other aspirants. Perhaps he was in the line sandwiched between his elder brothers and sisters. Then the moment came when he left his sandals at the door and entered the room, to stand alone before Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The Mother broke her accustomed silence to say a few words about Chinmoy to Sri Aurobindo. Then, anxious that the young boy would continue to stand there indefinitely, Sri Aurobindo’s secretary/attendant Nirodbaran stepped forward, grabbed Chinmoy by both his shoulders and showed him the way to leave the room.

Here is Chitta’s version of the story:

In 1944, during the Darshan time, the Mother herself introduced Chinmoy to Sri Aurobindo, saying, “Hriday’s youngest brother, Chinmoy...” Usually the Mother never did this kind of thing.

Although some of us came long before Chinmoy and joined the Ashram, Mother used to refer to us as Chinmoy’s brothers and sisters. Always Mother used to introduce me as “Chinmoy’s brother”. We have been in the Ashram now for at least forty years. Even now, when they talk about us, many members in the Ashram say, “Chinmoy’s brothers and sister”. Such affection, such love he enjoyed both from the Mother and the members of the Ashram.30

 

The Lives of Two Brothers are Spared

Sri Chinmoy told this dramatic story from 1947 a number of times. First, his own life was spared and then, the very next day, Hriday was physically attacked by hooligans. Hriday was saved by his faith in his Master Sri Aurobindo:

There was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo named Mulshankar. He was a Gujarati man, about forty-five years old. I liked him very much. Mulshankar was a nurse, and he was also Sri Aurobindo’s attendant. He did everything that was needed for the Master. Mulshankar was a purity-flooded soul. Indeed, his entire being was flooded with purity.

One year, on the 15th of August – Sri Aurobindo’s birthday – Mulshankar was on his way to his own home. In one hour more, he would come back again to be at Sri Aurobindo’s service. In those days, the people of Pondicherry stood against the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. They were threatening to kill us, the residents of the Ashram. Many young, strong boys of the Ashram were stationed at different places. We were patrolling in various groups. We all had fixed hours and places where we were supposed to be. For an hour or so, five or six boys would walk along the street together. But while we were stationed at one particular place around the main building, we would be alone.

How the Supreme saved me! I was at a corner of the main building. Just one or two minutes before the incident took place, I went to respond to nature’s call. I went to the bathroom in the main building. Mulshankar happened to be standing at exactly the same corner where I had been standing. O God! He was stabbed! A man came with a big knife and stabbed Mulshankar in the back of his neck. Immediately he was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Many, many Pondicherry police gathered in front of the main building. I was coming out of the building after using the men’s room. The news spread that I had been killed. Nobody was giving the correct news that it was Mulshankar who was killed because I had been seen at exactly the spot where he was killed. My life was saved.

My aunt happened to be inside the main building. She was screaming like anything, even when I went and stood right in front of her. She was seeing me and, even then, she was crying. She had such a shock that she was still crying. This is my aunt who lived to be 103 years old. Can you believe it? This is the real love and affection that she had for me. I shall never forget her crying.

My sisters were so horrified when they heard about this incident. “Rakhe Krishna mare ke, mare Krishna rakhe ke.” This Sanskrit verse means, “Whom Krishna saves, who can destroy? Whom Krishna destroys, who can save?” Mulshankar happened to be at the very spot where I was assigned. He was such a good and nice man. How pure he was! That was how his life ended.

The following day, around 4:30 in the afternoon, my eldest brother was attacked by eight or ten people. They wanted to kill him. He was working at that time in the botanical gardens. While he was going home from the botanical gardens, he was attacked.

Hriday shouted and screamed at the top of his voice, “Sri Aurobindo! Sri Aurobindo!” Over and over he screamed his Master’s name. He screamed so loudly that all of his attackers left. His life was saved.

After that, my aunt would not allow Hriday to work at the botanical gardens. She cried and cried, so he had to quit his job there. Then he started working at the dining hall washing bananas.31

 

Hriday’s Sorrow

Around 1948 or so, Hriday’s beloved youngest sister Ahana got an attack of tuberculosis. She was only 22 years old at the time. The whole family was deeply concerned. Her maternal uncle and aunt in Chittagong, who had raised her as their own daughter, offered to pay for her to go back to Chittagong to receive medical treatment. The family was united in feeling that no effort should be spared to save her.

However, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, for which Hriday was not responsible, Ahana was not taken for medical treatment. Her health deteriorated steadily, until she reached the stage where she could no longer get up from her bed. Among the Ashramites, there were four or five excellent medical doctors who had their degrees from England. Two of them examined Ahana at the Mother’s request, but they found that the disease was far too advanced to save her. They informed the family that it was a hopeless case. In another fifteen or twenty days, she went to God.

Ahana passed away at the tender age of 24. Sri Chinmoy told us that after her death, his brother became almost insane with grief. Impulsively, he decided to leave the Ashram and go far away. Sri Chinmoy continues:

[Hriday] was leaving the Ashram. My sister’s body was not yet taken to the cremation ground. Then our relatives and dear ones grabbed him. They said, “What are you doing? Think of your younger brothers and sisters. If you go away, the whole family will be shattered.” Then they gave him philosophy, philosophy. In this way, they convinced my brother to stay and gradually he calmed down.

Just four months later, when the family was still reeling from the loss of Ahana, Sri Aurobindo left his body. She died in July 1950 and Sri Aurobindo entered Mahasamadhi on December 5th.

 

Hriday’s Faithful Service

One of the most touching stories about Hriday’s love and concern for his youngest brother is connected with Hriday’s work at the dining hall. Knowing that his brother was habitually late, Hriday would save food for him. Here is the story as Sri Chinmoy told it on July 9th, 1998:

Every morning I was allowed to go and meditate in Sri Aurobindo’s room. At first, I stayed for three minutes, then five minutes. Then, in the space of one week, I went up to fifteen minutes, then half an hour, then one hour. I would start at six o’clock and go to seven, or a quarter past seven. Then it became six to eight o’clock regularly. My brothers were so proud that their youngest brother got this opportunity.

At half past seven in the morning, the dining room would close. My brother Hriday used to work there and so he used to stay and wait for me. He would take a plate of food for me and wait until I came. He himself would not eat until I came. He was waiting, waiting. Never did he scold me when I was late, unlike my sisters. My brothers were all very civilised. They never scolded me for my misbehaviours.

In the meantime, I would finish meditating in Sri Aurobindo’s room and then I would go to the Samadhi. Around nine o’clock I would come to the dining room in a very relaxed way. At half past nine, I had to start work in Nolini-da’s room, so I would spend time eating and chatting with my brother. He would be sitting like a gentleman, cross-legged, and my legs would be wide open, relaxed, while I ate. We were two brothers together.”

 

Hriday Scolds Chinmoy

This next fascinating anecdote was a great favourite of Sri Chinmoy’s. It not only reveals Hriday’s insight into his youngest brother’s occult powers, but also shows that he wanted to instil restraint in his youngest brother with regard to their application.

My maternal aunt Charubala had a daughter named Pushpita. It was to Pushpita that I showed my occult power for the first time. It happened in 1952 or ’53. I have told this story many times. Every day, around three or four o’clock in the afternoon, I used to go to my cousin’s house to eat. My three sisters used to live in the same house for some time. Since I did not have a mother, my cousin and my sisters used to take it in turns to give me food.

Alas, I was a vagabond. On this particular day, I was late by an hour and a half or so. My dinner was spoilt and my cousin had a very important appointment. So, when I finally arrived, my cousin scolded and insulted me ruthlessly. In the morning, she had told me to be on time because she had something to do.

Since I was her junior, for her to scold me was as easy as drinking water. Her scolding never stopped: “Why are you such a vagabond? Why are you always late?” And so it went on. This happened around five o’clock or so. While she was scolding me, I practically finished eating. Then I said to her, “You have given me food. You can stop scolding now.”

Still she continued. While she was scolding me, she started washing dishes near the sink. In the beginning, I had tolerated her scolding. Then I became furious. I said to her, “Look here, you will not be able to take one more step.”

She was holding onto the tap. She said, “I can come and kick you.”

I challenged her. “Then kick me,” I said. “Just come forward one step.” She lifted her leg up in the air. I was standing seven or eight metres away. Immediately I used my fastest occult power, and she could not lower her leg. She was stuck. Her mother was the eyewitness.

Then Lily came home and said, “What are you doing?”

I repeated, “What am I doing?” I was still angry.

After ten or fifteen minutes, my eldest brother Hriday came. Pushpita was telling him how bad I was. She told them the story how I had turned her into stone and they were absolutely horrified. Still she could not move her leg. It was absolutely paralysed in front of her. Then I felt sorry for her and released it.

I said to my eldest brother, “Now you come with me. Only walk with me for five minutes, and then we shall see a paddy field. You will see people working there. I will turn one of the human beings into a lamb. Then I will turn him back again and he will not be afflicted at all. Do not worry. I will take care of him.”

My brother said, “Tsch! Tsch!”

I said, “I am begging you to come and see.”

Then my brother made me sit down and he started lecturing me. “I have to go and see this kind of thing? Yes, you do have that kind of occult power, but who asked you to use it in this way? My own brother will turn a human being into a sheep? No, no, it is horrible. Please, never misuse occult power.”

“No, I will not misuse it,” I promised. “I just want to show you this first and last time. I did not beg God to give me occult power.”

He said, “All right, God gave you occult power. But why do you have to use it? It does not help your spiritual life.”

“It does not help, but it gives me a little relaxation and joy,” I answered.

Hriday knew I had that kind of occult power, but he did not take the trouble of coming with me and so I could not show him. I had literally begged him to see my occult power. At that time, I had occult power and I wanted to show it. Now I do not have it, so I do not have to worry about it!

 

Nolini-da’s tribute to Hriday

Aside from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the main pillars of the Ashram were also familiar with Hriday’s expertise in the Vedas and referred to him for assistance in this field. Nolini Kanta Gupta, the General Secretary of the Ashram, pays tribute to Hriday’s knowledge in this excerpt from Chinmoy’s diary of December 22nd, 1962. Chinmoy was then the literary secretary to Nolini-da but, as we can see from this brief glimpse into his daily schedule, his duties involved much more general work, as well as numerous errands.

Nolini: “Chinmoy, I have something for you to do. Go to Sahana and tell her that when they sing ‘idam shrestham...’ in that particular sloka they are making a mistake. I shall point out the mistake. You go to Sahana with my correction.”

When I came back from Sahana-di, Nolini-da gave me a big orange and said: “Here is your reward. Now you have to do something else. Go and tell Hriday [my eldest brother] that I wish to have the eighth ‘ashtaka’ of the commentary on the Rig Veda by Sayana. I need it badly. I tell you, there are very few people in the Ashram who study the Vedas. Hriday’s interest in the Vedas is considerable.”

That afternoon when I gave him the book, he said to Rajen-da, who happened to be there: “With this book from Hriday, my collection of the Rig Veda is complete.” Then he said to me: “This morning I gave you a reward. Now I wish to give you a beautiful picture which shows the natural beauty of Japan. I am sure it will inspire you.”32

Photos of Hriday

 

This photo was taken while Chinmoy was still a permanent resident of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, but the year is not known. It is quite likely that it was in the mid 1950’s. Seated in the front row from left to right are Arpita, Hriday, Chitta and a friend of the family. Standing in the back row, from left, is Jyotish (Chinmoy’s dearest friend), Mantu, Chinmoy and Lily.

 

 

The date on the back of this photo is September 8th, 1966 and it is stamped “Sri Aurobindo Ashram Photographer Lakshmipati”. It is possibly a photo that the family members arranged to have taken specially to send to their brother in America as a keepsake. The siblings from left to right are Mantu, Lily, Hriday, Arpita and Chitta. It is significant that Hriday is standing in the middle as head of the family.

 

 

Left: This photo of Hriday was taken by Sri Chinmoy in March 1969 when he returned to the Ashram for the first time since he had left for America in April 1964. The photo reveals Hriday’s contemplative depth.

Right: This wonderful photo, taken by Sri Chinmoy, shows Hriday with his dog. It is a portrait of infinite tenderness. The dog originally belonged to Arpita, who took care of it because it had a broken leg. Hriday gave it the name “Sarama”, meaning “the hound of Heaven”. Sri Chinmoy said that Hriday, Arpita and Lily were extremely fond of Sarama.

 

In this photo from Chinmoy’s March 1969 visit to Pondicherry, all the living brothers and sisters are shown. They are, from left: Chitta, Chinmoy, Mantu, Arpita, Lily and Hriday.

 

 

This photo of Hriday and Shivaram Trichur was taken in 1972 or ‘73, on the occasion of Shivaram’s visit to Pondicherry. At the time, Hriday was 61 years old. Shivaram asked him many questions about his life and recorded them on cassette for posterity.

 

 

In this photo, Hriday is standing in the centre and Mantu is on the far right.

 

 

Hriday meditating on the roof of the family house.

 

Dedications to Hriday

On November 17th, 1972 Sri Chinmoy offered the first in a series of lectures on the Vedas. The lecture took place at Barnard College, New York, and in it Sri Chinmoy focused on the Rig Veda. He concluded his talk by saying:

With loving gratitude I offer this talk to my eldest brother, Hriday Ranjan Ghosh, who is a great lover of the Rig Vedic lore, and an erudite exponent of the four Vedas.33

On another occasion, Sri Chinmoy paid his brother a very beautiful tribute:

My great philosopher brother, Hriday Ranjan Ghosh, has studied Indian philosophy thoroughly on my behalf. That is why fear does not torture my heart at all when I speak on Indian philosophy at the American universities.34

 

Chinmoy Offers a Family House

As soon as Sri Chinmoy was able to, he purchased a modest house in Pondicherry where his remaining brothers and sister could at last live together in their old age. Lily, Hriday and Chitta moved into the house, but Mantu decided to live in the original room where Chinmoy had spent eighteen years of his life. Mantu wanted to preserve that room as a shrine. However, he visited the house every day and took his meals there. Meanwhile, Hriday, Chitta and Lily enjoyed each other’s company and kept a special room aside for their youngest brother where he could stay when he visited them. Perhaps they still cherished the hope that he would one day return to India. They named their house “Chinmoy” and had it engraved on a marble plaque outside the front door.

 

Hriday Knew all Along

A certain Ashramite was very close to Hriday and his family. One day, this gentleman had a dream in which he saw that Chinmoy had been the great yogi Gorakshanath in a previous incarnation. In his dream, he saw the physical form of Chinmoy alter and become emaciated; he had burning eyes and long, matted hair. Chinmoy had merged into Gorakshanath. Full of excitement, the gentleman rushed to the Ghose family house to share his realisation. As soon as he entered, he described his dream in vivid detail and said with absolute certainty: “Chinmoy was Gorakshanath.”

To this, Hriday replied, laconically, “I have known it all along.” Lily and Chitta were shocked. They said to their eldest brother, “If you knew it all along, why didn’t you say something before this?”

But that was Hriday’s nature. It seems that he was aware of many things about his youngest brother, but he chose only to reveal some of them.

 

Hriday’s Complaint

Because Hriday had begun praying and meditating long before his little brother was born, sometimes he wondered why Chinmoy had been blessed with realisation and not him. It was because of Hriday’s intense aspiration that all the family members came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Moreover, Hriday spent hours each day praying and meditating, whereas Chinmoy was usually to be found on the sports field. It was just one of those incomprehensible things that Hriday had to grapple with. Here Sri Chinmoy records a conversation with his brother which reveals Hriday’s complaint against God and a tinge of jealousy with regard to his youngest brother:

Now I wish to tell you something amusing. As you know, my eldest brother Hriday was the one who prayed and meditated the most in our family. Once he complained to me jokingly, “I prayed and meditated for hours and hours – for years – even long before you were born. Now what is this? God has given you the realisation. What have I been doing?”

My brother was saying this in a cute family way, but if he had had real surrender, he would have said, “All right. I prayed and meditated. If God wants to give my brother the realisation, I do not mind.”

Sri Chinmoy concluded:

A truly surrendered attitude will say, “I have done my best. Now, if You want to give the results, give them to anybody You want to. I have tried so hard to climb up the tree. But if You want to give the fruits to somebody else who has not even climbed the tree, then please pluck the fruit from the highest branch and give it to him. I will not mind.” That is called oneness with God’s Will.35

Elsewhere, Sri Chinmoy explains how it came to pass that he was the one to be blessed with realisation and not his older brother:

In my case, in my previous incarnation I realised God. In this incarnation, at the age of twelve, when I became fully conscious of my previous God-realisation, it was just like turning the pages of a book that I had already devoured. But in terms of hours, my eldest brother Hriday definitely used to meditate more than I did. In my family, two or three members meditated more than I did. They used to meditate for eleven or twelve hours daily. For me, it was five, six or seven. In my case, meditation became spontaneous. While I was running, jumping, throwing or doing other activities, I could meditate. I was able to do many, many things at the same time, whereas while my brothers were meditating, they were unable to do anything else.36

Hriday eventually overcame his feelings of injustice and showed the same acceptance of his brother’s height and joyous pride in his brother’s achievements as Chitta and Lily did.

In her biography of Sri Chinmoy entitled The Life of Sri Chinmoy, Madhuri records this most significant conversation between Sri Chinmoy and Hriday:

The Guru, joking with his brother about the latter’s scholarship, once told him, “You studied the Scriptures and I preach the Scriptures without studying.” To which Hriday replied, “You needn’t study because you have the Commission from God. God has taken you as His chosen instrument, so God is speaking through you.”37

 

Hriday’s Blessing

Sri Chinmoy remarked that his elder brothers did not bless him by placing their palms on the head in the traditional Indian way:

In Indian tradition, no matter who you are, elder brothers have the right to touch the heads of the members of the family. My eldest brother is a Vedantin. When I go home, he never blesses me. He only goes as far as my shoulder. My other brothers only come and stand in front of me and smile. Like Hriday, they never touch my head. Hriday places his hand on my shoulder. That is his blessing.

 

Hriday’s Prediction

Hriday made a unique prediction about his youngest brother’s final years on earth. Although it did not come to pass, Sri Chinmoy referred to this prediction on a number of occasions, revealing that it did linger in his consciousness. This is his account from January 2nd, 1988:

My eldest brother had such loving respect for me. He started spirituality long before I was born even. But, finally, he surrendered because I had realised God and he could not realise God. Towards the end of his life, he said to me, “I know you will give up all your disciples, you will give up everything and go back to the Himalayas.”

 

Hriday’s Passing

In the middle of March 1976, Sri Chinmoy went to Pondicherry to visit his family. He left there on the 27th and returned to New York. Just eleven days later, he received the news that his eldest brother Hriday had passed away very unexpectedly of a cerebral haemorrhage while sitting in front of his shrine to Mother Kali.

It was a great blow for Sri Chinmoy. He held a memorial observance for his brother and a large photo of Hriday was placed on the stage. Sri Chinmoy then offered the following farewell tribute:

This is my eldest brother, Hriday Ranjan Ghosh. On the seventh of April, his soul left the physical body. On the 27th of March, I saw him for the last time. I wish to offer you his last words to me. When I was about to leave for Madras, he came near me at the main door of the Ashram and placed his hands on my shoulders. With utmost love, affection and concern, he said to me in English: “You have conquered America, but I want you to conquer the whole world. You have the capacity.” These were his blessingful words, his message, his prediction.

Right up to his departure, he was in perfect health. He left the body at 6:30 in the afternoon. Until four o’clock, he and my brother Chitta were together. Then Chitta left for the dining hall to work. At 4:15 my sister Lily came in, only to discover Hriday sitting in front of his shrine shivering. When they called in a doctor, the doctor took him to the hospital. At 6:30 they pronounced death from a brain haemorrhage.

According to his horoscope, he was destined to live for at least 78 years. He himself was a good astrologer and palmist, as well as a philosopher, a poet and a great, very great, seeker. Last year when I was in Pondicherry, both of us discussed our past and our future. He was the eldest member of our family, head of our family. It was he who brought the entire family to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. When he was a young man of 21 (I was then only a year and three months old), he left our parents and joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It was simply impossible for my mother to live without him; therefore, she went to the Ashram to see him. She brought me, the youngest in the family, with her. My mother wanted to take her eldest son away. She was determined to take him home. She went to the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram with an adamant desire to take her eldest son home. But what she said to the Mother of the Ashram in Bengali was: “Mother, you are so kind to my entire family. You have already taken full responsibility of my eldest son. Now I wish to offer you all the other members of my family. Please promise to me that you will take full responsibility of all my children, as you have taken my eldest son under your protection and guidance.”

The Mother of the Ashram immediately said, “Yes, they are all mine.” The Mother kept her promise. Over the next eleven years, all of us went to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and became permanent members.

This particular brother received from Sri Aurobindo hundreds and hundreds of letters. This brother also wrote considerably in Bengali and English. My brother Hriday wrote hundreds of poems. Poetry is in our family. Right from Hriday, all the members of my family have written poems. Philosophy is also in our family, and that philosophy comes from this brother of mine, who was an authority on the Vedas. He studied all the scriptures thoroughly and was a true authority on the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. He was fully conversant with all forms of Hindu mysticism, Hindu literature and the Hindu way of life.

He had many, many high experiences. Sri Aurobindo encouraged him, inspired him and illumined his aspiring heart to an unusual degree.

Hriday’s last blessingful message to me I interpret in my own way. He said to me, “You have conquered America.” I wish to say that I have loved America. Then he said, “But I want you to conquer the whole world.” My own interpretation is that my love must spread throughout the length and breadth of the world. “You have the capacity.” My capacity is nothing other than the Supreme’s unconditional, infinite Bounty. My capacity is the Supreme’s unconditional Compassion-Light.

My brother used to chant mantras from the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Gita every day, almost every hour, aloud or in silence. It is my wish that all those who know the Sanskrit verses that I have taught you will join me. Hriday’s soul is here with us now. I wish all of you to offer soulful love to him on the strength of your oneness with me.38

On the subject of his brother’s untimely death, Sri Chinmoy remarked to Janani and Janaka, the leaders of his Edinburgh Centre shortly after Hriday’s passing, “Do not ask me what the hostile forces can do. Ask me what they can not do.”

Through this comment and similar remarks Sri Chinmoy made in his eulogy, we may conclude that Hriday was not destined to leave this world on that day. Somehow the hostile forces managed to snatch him away in the very narrow window of time between when Chitta left the house and Lily arrived. Moreover, his youngest brother had just returned to New York and was not easily contactable.

However, Sri Chinmoy’s view was not shared by his older brother Chitta. On May 20th, 1976 Chitta wrote to Shivaram:



We have received your letter about Hriday-da. He would say, “My work is finished. Now I pray to my Lord to take me to Him.” His prayer is granted. Hostile force has got nothing to do in it. It is my sincere belief. He was a liberated soul, came on earth to serve the God and to show us path. You know him, I shall not write anything more about him… We all will leave the body. Nothing should move us. We should try to see the Grace everywhere. What has happened for the present, this is the best. This is God’s Will, otherwise it could not happen.

On the reverse side of the aerogramme, Mantu adds a few illumining words:

When you were in New York, Chinmoy told us “It is only Sivaram who has kept Hriday-da’s voice recorded, otherwise we would have missed it.” We think it is a Divine plan. You came from Canada just a few months before his passing. I remember how Dada was joyous when he was introducing me to you. I think Hriday-da has answered all your questions about spiritual life… Since 1944 Hriday-da did not go so far from the Ashram except with you to bus stand when you were leaving Pondicherry.

That means for 33 years – from the time Hriday brought his younger siblings to the Ashram until his death – he did not go beyond the radius of just over two miles, except to farewell Shivaram at the bus stand.

 

Part Five: Insights

 

 

Hriday’s Poems

Hriday was endowed with a tremendous creative talent. He wrote many poems and articles, as his youngest brother mentions in the following excerpt from March 30th, 1993:

In my family, almost everybody has written poems. My father wrote about thirty poems; my two older brothers, one to a hundred; and my eldest brother, two or three thousand.39

Hriday’s poems may one day come to light, but in the meantime we know of only one Bengali poem. In 1997, Sri Chinmoy said that Hriday wrote this poem before he was born. Perhaps we can date it then from around 1930.

Sri Chinmoy set music to this exquisite poem circa 1968 and he used to sing it at many of his concerts around the world. It is a devotional song in praise of Sri Aurobindo:

 

 

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Sri Chinmoy singing.40

 

Tumi Je Hao Se Hao                

 

Tumi je hao se hao kiba kaj jene
Tumi je amar devata eka
Tomar karuna amar jibane
Sonar ankhare rayeche lekha.

He param priya tumi kato baro
Swarup naoba janale more
Barinu tomare rateri swapane
Tomare bari jibana bhore.

Amar nayane arup asim
Swarup simai tomar dehe
Jagater guru he amar guru
Ki khela khelicho dharar gehe.

 

The English translation runs:

 

Who and what Thou art,
What need have I to know?
Thou alone art my God:
Thy Grace in my life
Forever has been written in golden letters.

Supreme Love!
How great Thou art.
Thy real identity Thou mayst not reveal.
I accepted Thee in dream of night.
Thee alone I greet at the dawn of life.

I see Thee as the Formless One,
As the Infinite in Thy Universal Self-Form.
O my Guru, O Guru of the world,
What kind of game art Thou playing
Inside the world-room?

 

The source of this exquisite English translation is not known at present. It may have been done in its essence by Hriday himself and then polished a little by his youngest brother. Again, there is every possibility that Sri Aurobindo’s poetic touch is there. In The Hour of God, published around 1918, Sri Aurobindo uses ‘mayst’ in the following sentence:

In the hour of God cleanse thy soul of all self-deceit and hypocrisy and vain self-flattering that thou mayst look straight into thy spirit and hear that which summons it.41

Although both Hriday and particularly Chinmoy used many semi-archaic and archaic words that they imbibed from the writings of Sri Aurobindo (‘seraglio’, ‘poltroon’, ‘askesis’ and so forth), ‘mayst’ does not appear in any of Chinmoy’s other poems, to my knowledge. Moreover, since the Bengali poem is dedicated to Sri Aurobindo, Hriday may have offered it to his Master with an initial translation in one of his early letters, as was the practice of many pioneer Ashramites, especially those with literary inclinations. It was Sri Aurobindo’s custom to collaborate with his disciples to help them achieve the most perfect poetic rendering of their inner experiences.

On May 31st, 1997, Sri Chinmoy gave an extemporaneous English translation:

 

I do not want to know
Who You are or what You are,
But I do know that You are
My Absolute Lord Supreme.
You are my God,
You are the God of the entire world.
Your Compassion is all I need,
Your Compassion is all I need.

 

If any poem should survive from Hriday’s two to three thousand creations, then surely this must be one of the most beautiful. It stands as a testament of his life. This is the musical notation given by his youngest brother:
 

 

Hriday’s Letters

In addition to his regular letters to his youngest brother, Hriday wrote a number of aerogramme letters to Shivaram Trichur in Toronto, Canada, which give us rare glimpses into the personality of this great seeker.

Shivaram visited Pondicherry for the first time in 1972 (at Sri Chinmoy’s request) and met with all Sri Chinmoy’s brothers and sisters, except for Ahana, who had passed away. On March 24th, 1973, we find Hriday writing to Shivaram:

I think you hail from Kerala, – one end of Mother India, and Chinmoy from another end – East Bengal – Bangladesh of today. He comes from Chittagong, situated on a bank of ‘Bay of Bengal’, which surrounds Madras and Kerala – the land raised from Bay of Bengal by Parashuram with the help of his axe, as the tradition goes. All the acharyas, from Shankara to Madhava, come from the south which is very rich with Bhakti. You have inherited this Bhakti from forefathers. Otherwise, being a co-worker of Chinmoy in New York Consulate, how can you become his admirer? Your life is very precious. This is why the Supreme has miraculously saved and extended it. With renewed vigour in an extended life serve the Supreme as a helper of Chinmoy in his divine mission. Your letter has made you dearer to us: our physical life is short but with our physical life we can mould our spiritual life and existence that will outlast the physical one. All my brothers and sisters have been in Dakshineshwar and Belur. But I could not, though I longed it very much. The Avatar of the nineteenth century is One who has moulded India – through his spiritual sons, mainly Vivekananda.

In the sender’s name and address portion, Hriday gives his name Hridayranjan Ghose and his return address as 31 Perumal Koil St., Pondicherry 1. On the top of the page, he has written ‘Aum’. In a subsequent letter to Shivaram just three months later, on June 11th, he signs his name Hriday Ranjan Ghosh and gives his address care of the Ashram. In this letter, he comments on a trip Shivaram has recently made:

These sorts of outings are very helpful and essentially needed for growth – spiritual, mental and vital. They widen our consciousness, increase our love, sympathy and concern for our sisters and brothers, and help us to feel and see our Self and the Supreme Self around us, in other forms. Our life is sustained by two most important things: Light and Delight. The outings give us pure Delight and in a certain sense a little Light also because they help us see unity in diversity. Tagore has written – “Many unknown persons Thou hast made known; in many houses given shelter; what was far Thou hast brought near; Thou hast made a friend of him who was foreign.” – Always try to feel that you are not alone, only one of a huge [indecipherable] – whose every light is only a form of the Self – and more of the Supreme Self. And there lies the Real Bliss – the Vast alone is Bliss: no bliss in egoistic littleness.

Chinmoy sent us a wire on the 27th conveying U Thant’s admiration beyond expectation. After that we have received no communication from him – and for that we are in a bit [of] anxiety. Normally he writes once – if not twice to us a week. Will you give us any information? He was to go to England on the 8th. Of course we shall write to him at his London address: – A letter may have been lost…

The anxiety of Hriday for his youngest brother is palpable. From afar, he is still trying to shelter and protect him.

The next letter from Hriday was sent without a return address. In this letter, Hriday’s mind is on a very high plane. In the top right corner, he has written: Vedantin, Sri Aurobindo, 27/9/73. After only a single opening sentence of personal reference, Hriday launches straight in to a lofty explanation of the seemingly inexplicable outer actions of the Avatars. The entire aerogramme is reproduced below:

Dear brother Sivaram,

accept all our love and best wishes. Thinking mind beset with Ignorance raises all sorts of doubts. The best thing is to cut the gordian knot – to accept Lila – play of the omnipotent, omniscient, all merciful Supreme with His innumerable Selves in the field of cosmic Ignorance. Mayavadins of Shankara type will say – it is all false – illusion – mistake of snake for the rope. Lilavadins of Sri Chaitanya, Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo say in its ultimate sense – it may not be real – but in its apparent sense – it is as real – as a rope when the rope is mistaken for a snake.

But how to judge – and whom to judge? Ego-creation of unillumined mind – with half-baked intelligence – born of past experiences, ideas and preferences – as the criterion – goes to judge and you see, things seen from different angles of vision, different planes and different times and different moods vary – often contrarily and sometimes contradictorily: For example – certain actions of Sri Ram and Sri Krishna judged according to modern standard are wrong. People will say – Ram should not have gone to forest to keep an old imbecile effeminate father in dharma truth. He should not have killed in an unkshatriya way Bali. He should not have banished Sita – when he knows or believes that she was chaste, he should not have killed Shambuk, the Sudra Tapaswi – for the premature death of a son of a Brahmin, etc. Or they doubt his divinity because he could not see that the deer was not a gold deer or that Sita would commit suicide by entering the earth if asked to appear in Agni test for the second time. But if these actions are seen from the higher plane – we see that these are the things that should be done for fulfilment of the Cosmic Will – to serve which he came as an Avatar. What is true of Avatar is also true of Vibhuti, or of a realised soul. If we go further – we see there is no mistake: It is the Supreme with His omnipotent, omniscient, all merciful Shakti – the Mother of All, that is arranging and re-arranging things – according to the necessity of the Cosmic Play. Krishna fled from Mathura 17 times when Jarasandha, King of Magadha attacked the Kingdom. He vowed not to take weapons in the battle of Kurukshetra. He was running with his whip and disc of chariot two times to kill Bhishma and he was the greatest Avatar with Sudarshan at his command. Yet he was breaking his vow. Modern mind would say he was imperfect. If we take him for an Avatar it means the imperfection or so-called imperfection of the most perfect Supreme – of course as an Avatar. In the same way – you and I and all are all, each one Self of the Supreme Self: God. So, you see, our imperfections – or so-called imperfections are only His.

At the very end of Hriday’s message, on the reverse side, he clarifies some of the Sanskrit words he chose to use in his translation of the Invocation. There is a short note from Mantu appended to his message:

Reverse

Aum

The mask is only on the face of the Superconscient, Omnipotent, Omniscient at present for Play – Lila.

[Hriday then makes minor revisions to various Sanskrit words that he included in his translation of the Invocation.]

Other portions are allright.

With love
Your elder brother
Hriday

Shivaram received a further letter from Hriday on February 16th, 1976 – less than two months before Hriday passed away. Here he says, most poignantly and presciently,

I most grateful to you. You have recorded my voice. I shall not die with the death of my body. In our old age when we feel the absence of our dear departed souls their voices if recorded give us hope and strength to carry our load. How I miss them who filled my youth with hopes and inspiration. I am sure you will learn Bengali very well. When you come back I shall read to you – if of course, my fate-maker does not grant me my visa in the meantime – some of my Bengali poems, which will number a few thousand. I started writing in 1923 or 24. In 1925 I was recognised as a poet by my School.

I shall read to you a short article in Bengali which I wrote in 1935 January, and published in February 1935. About one hour was taken in writing the essay – named Chinta Kona, tit-bits of thoughts. Sri Ramakrishna was before me in the full-moon throughout. I was seeing him and writing. Sri Aurobindo gave a certificate “good” on that essay. There you will find both Tantra and Vedanta combined. My first poems were published in college magazine in 1928-29 – when I was a 1st year college student. As they contained some philosophy, I was known in those days as a poet-philosopher. Had the words of my private teachers, schoolteachers and old well-wishers been recorded, they would have puffed up my ego with vanity. It is good that there is not a single vocal or written record. The inspiring writings of my Lord and Master are only for me – private as well as hallowed. As regards money – I have no faith in charity or charitable work. I have faith only in love – as in love alone, not in charity, we feel identity. Whatever I can, I spend only in feeding and taking care of some pets. You have seen that we live a very simple life. Only very recently Chinmoy is giving us some money. We have lived our whole life without money. We were happy with what the Ashram has given us. I have no intention of coming back to this sorrowful earth. But if my Master wants that I should come again, I shall choose an orthodox Brahmin family of the south, either Madras or Kerala, where the ancient Indian culture is still unadulterated. Veda is in my blood. Aryan civilisation is my one object of love and admiration…

My love, Hriday-da

It is a most remarkable letter in many ways. Hriday hints at the depth of his philosophical genius and also his profound spiritual experiences, but the overriding impression in the end is of the humility of this great soul who chose to live such a simple life at the Feet of his Master. As we now know, the Supreme did grant him his ‘visa’ shortly after this letter was written and he departed this world.

 

The Invocation in Sanskrit

The Invocation was written by Sri Chinmoy in English on August 27th, 1967. Subsequently, he himself did the Bengali translation, but the Sanskrit translation was made by his elder brother Hriday at the request of Shivaram around 1975. Here is Sri Chinmoy’s original English and Hriday’s immortal Sanskrit rendering:

Supreme, Supreme, Supreme, Supreme!
I bow to Thee, I bow.
My life Thy golden plough;
My journey’s Goal Thy soulful Dream.
Supreme, Supreme, Supreme, Supreme!
I bow to Thee, I bow.

Supreme, I am Thy glowing Grace.
My world, Thy Feet of Light;
My breath, Thy Vision’s kite.
Thou art one Truth, one Life, one Face.
Supreme, Supreme, Supreme, Supreme!
I bow to Thee, I bow.

 

Iśvara parama janaka puruṣottama
Namastubhyam namo namah!
Jivanam mama tava svarnābha sitah
Gantavyam mama tava svapnah ramitah.
Iśvara parama janaka puruṣottama
Namastubhyam namo namah!

Iśvara tavāham karunā ruchirā
Joytirmayam tava charaṇam me dharā
Prānāścha me te kriṛanakah driṣterhi
Satyam tvam nikhila jivanam.
Iśvara parama janaka puruṣottama
Namastubhyam namo namah!

 

Surabhi’s Reflections

In August 1974, Sri Chinmoy’s student Kathy Splain – Surabhi – visited India with a group of teachers. While there, she made a side trip to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. She conversed with Hriday and Chitta several times over the course of her three-day visit. At one point, she observed Hriday carrying a tiffin of rice and other food to feed a menagerie of cats, dogs and birds that Arpita used to take care of. Arpita had just passed away a few months before and Hriday had taken over this duty. Because of his advanced age – 62 years – he no longer worked in the dining hall, but attended to simple duties. Surabhi observed about Hriday:

Hriday was grandfatherly towards me, but at the same time very childlike and I was delighted by his humour and spontaneity. He said he was amazed himself at his talkativeness, since he was considered to normally be a very silent Brahman. I found him to be an eloquent philosopher as we sat on the bench in the courtyard garden outside Chitta’s room, waiting for him to return. We had a long chat. By 1974, Hriday had been 42 years a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and seemed to have been quite favoured by him. He said, “[Most of the family] was now living at the Ashram, but I was the very first. I remember holding Chinmoy in my arms in 1933 while the family had gone for Sri Aurobindo’s darshan.”

That day Surabhi took a photograph of Hriday [see below]:

Hriday was most delighted with his snapshot. He showed it to all his friends, who were so surprised to see such a smile from one who was ordinarily such a serious person.

The following day, Surabhi held another conversation with Hriday:

Hriday said, “I was asked by my Lord Sri Aurobindo to be a teacher, but I politely refused in 1932. This is not my work. My brother, Chinmoy, carries out this work. Even now, he says, Brother, I beg for your blessings to help me carry out my work.” Then Hriday started packing up food into small lunch pails. He said, “I am a big family man! I have 17 cats, dogs and birds. I take two meals here in the dining hall and one at home, but I share these meals with my animals.”

Hriday saw the Divine in all things and all people, I thought to myself. No sooner did I note this, than he said to me, “I gave myself the name Vedantin, which means one who sees the Divine in all. It is my protection, along with my Mother and Sri Aurobindo. When a person thinks of their spiritual name, he or she is protected from all jealousy and greed.”

He gave me two Indian sweets on parting. “Au revoir,” he said, “but at this time I also have to say to you goodbye. You have a realised soul as a Guru. The Guru, realised or unrealised, represents the Supreme to the disciple. The Supreme takes charge of the sincere and surrendered disciple through the Guru and guides him for the best benefit of the disciple, who gets benefit from his Master according to his or her faith in or receptivity to Him. My love and blessings of an elderly elder are with you and all who flock around the pastor with simplicity, faith, surrender and dedication to the Great Cause.”

 

 

Surabhi’s rare smiling photo of Hriday.

 

A photograph of Sri Chinmoy taken in the 1990’s shows a clear family resemblance to his eldest brother.

 

Sri Chinmoy’s Inner Experiences

The following inner experience took place in September 1986 during Sri Chinmoy’s early morning weightlifting workout. He was endeavouring to lift 400 pounds for the first time and in the inner worlds, the souls of all his family members, living and departed, came to encourage him.

Sri Chinmoy used to self-deprecatingly refer to these kinds of experiences as “my cock-and-bull stories”. They were, and remain, challenging for the minds of some individuals. But for Sri Chinmoy such experiences had more reality than those that he had every day on the outer plane. He was able to vividly describe what had happened – and each inner experience of this nature held a deep significance for him.

One morning I started weightlifting around 7:30. On my first attempt, which I always use as a warm-up, I got the weight up a little. So I was filled with confidence that I would achieve my goal. However, on my second attempt, the weight did not move at all, and I became furious. I said to myself, “Today I have decided to lift up 400 pounds with one arm. Who will dare to stand in my way at this time?”

On the third lift, I saw my whole family seated by the wall to my right. Some had already departed from this world and some were still alive, but I saw them so vividly! They were more real than actual human beings. My mother and my sister Lily were seated side by side. Above them were Ahana and Arpita. Hriday, Chitta and Mantu were above them. Finally, on the very top, was my father. All of them were in a very soulful and very intense consciousness.

As soon as I finished my third lift, they all smiled soulfully. But the brightest smile came from my eldest brother, Hriday. His whole face beamed with joy. He said, “Madal, you are our Lord’s genuine pride.”

Then my sister Lily asked me to try again. “I am more than satisfied,” I told her. “No, try again!” she begged. So, at my sister’s request, I did try again. My whole family remained seated in the same position, and once again they were watching me seriously, soulfully and intensely. The most poise I saw in my mother. Being the mother, she could have been full of panic, worry and anxiety, but she was only intense and serious. Then I lifted the 400 pounds again, and this lift was even better. I was so happy, and my family members were all so excited. Their happiness far, far surpassed my own. My happiness was nothing in comparison to theirs.

My father came to me and put his palms on my head to bless me. “I wanted you to do this,” he said.

Then my mother came to bless me. I had to bend down because she is so short, whereas my father is tall. On the video you can see how I was bending so that she could bless me. How affectionately she was blessing me, with tears of joy in her eyes. She was pouring her love and affection into me.

Then my eldest brother, Hriday, came and pressed my shoulders with his hands.

Next, my brother Chitta approached me very happily and proudly. He said, “Bravo! Bravo!”

Then my eldest sister, Arpita, came and said, “Useless, useless, useless!”

“What is useless?” I asked her.

She replied, “I cannot pray to God for your weightlifting. I can only pray to God for you to have a few good disciples. Your weightlifting will give me joy only after you have got a few good disciples. Alas, where are your good disciples?”

Then came my sister Ahana, whom we used to call Meri. She came and told me, “Earth does not know who you are and perhaps will never know who you are. But we in Heaven know who you eternally are.”

My sister Lily was next. First she looked into my left eye, then into my right eye, then into my left eye and finally again into my right eye. Then she placed her hand on her own heart and offered her most prayerful gratitude to God.

The last one to come was my brother Mantu. “Enough,” he said, “Enough in this life.”

After the conversation, when the Heavenly scene was over, I offered my gratitude to my Lord Supreme and to my Mother Kali. Then I invited a few disciples to come to my house, and we all watched the video together.42

 

Another inner experience occurred in 1994 in connection with Sri Chinmoy’s artwork. On January 5th, 1994 he completed his first million soul-bird drawings. Messages of congratulation from dignitaries around the world flooded in to Suva, Fiji, where he was staying at the time. Then, on February 9th, he had a most extraordinary inner experience. All the members of his family, both living and departed, offered their comments about his drawings.

Sri Chinmoy reflected: “Some will say that these comments are my mental hallucinations. Others will say that they are my heart’s oneness-connection. I take them as prophetic utterances. Here on earth, we see only the outer reality. There in Heaven, they see and feel the inner dream.”

Hriday was the third family member to offer his comments:

Madal, I do not understand your art and I do not want to understand it. But I do know your soul – unimaginably unfathomable. You are at once God the Creator’s Vision-Soul-Smile and God the Creation’s Manifestation-Heart-Cry. I am praying to God for one thing; not many things, not even two things, but just one thing: For you to have one disciple, only one, who will truly fulfil you and please you.

 

Sri Chinmoy’s Family songs

On May 27th, 1999 – on the passing of his cherished sister Lily – Chinmoy composed a number of songs dedicated to her. The following song is about the four brothers of the family:

Hriday, Chitta, Mantu, Madal
Prabhur kripa jache kebal

The unofficial translation runs: “Hriday, Chitta, Mantu and Madal desire only our Lord’s Compassion.”43

 

In 1994, Sri Chinmoy observed the centenary of his mother’s birth by composing 18 songs dedicated to her. In the following song, he addresses her directly:

Mantu, Madal 44

Mantu Madal Rani Meri

Nonai Ranu Kanu

Chitta Hriday sabai tomar

Tara shashi bhanu

 

Translation by Sri Chinmoy

Mantu Madal Rani Meri
Nonai Ranu Kanu
Chitta Hriday – we are your stars,

 We are your moon, we are your sun,

 Sempiternally inside your soul we breathe.

 

Conclusion

Hriday was an extraordinary spiritual seeker. Sri Chinmoy described him as “virtue incarnate”. Over the course of many lifetimes, he had been intimately connected with three Avatars: the Christ, Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Aurobindo. In this life, he was the eldest brother – the protecting banyan tree – for Sri Chinmoy who went on to become a towering spiritual Master of the modern era.

 

This final photograph of Hriday shows the nobility, depth, courage, independence and detachment
of this great soul.

Endnotes:
1 Stanza from the poem “I have Inherited”, The Dance of Life.
2 This wonderful insight was given by Shivaram Trichur, a colleague of Sri Chinmoy at the Indian Consulate in New York, who subsequently became his disciple. Shivaram visited Sri Chinmoy’s family at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram on several occasions and had a long interview with Hriday, which he recorded. He also maintained a correspondence with Hriday, Chitta and Mantu.
3 In 1912 the University of Calcutta had registered Chittagong College as a first grade Degree College. By 1919, both honours and pass level courses were available in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and English, with complementary courses available in Economics and Philosophy.
4 The eminent Sanskrit scholar Surendranath Dasgupta had been Professor of the Philosophy Department a few years before Hriday entered the College. While in Chittagong, Professor Dasgupta had dedicated himself to the study of the Indian ‘sastras’ and he later wrote his seminal work “The History of Indian Philosophy” in five volumes based on his years of research. He brought an abundance of knowledge and insight to the nascent study of philosophy at the College. See Dasgupta, S.N., A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 5, London: Cambridge University Press, 1969, p. vi.
5 This was due to a certain delicacy of feeling towards some distant relatives who are featured elsewhere in the book.
6 The actual name of this cousin is not known at present.
7 Excerpt from Compassion-Affection Versus Deception-Destruction.
8 Excerpt from Astrology, The Supernatural And The Beyond.
9 Excerpt from No Liberation For The Idle.
10 Sri Ramakrishna: A Biography in Pictures, Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1976.
11 Manodhar-da later became one of the Ashram barbers. He figures in a number of amusing stories told by Sri Chinmoy about his Ashram years.
12 Excerpt from To the Streaming Tears of My Mother’s Heart and to the Brimming Smiles of My Mother’s Soul.
13 According to Peter Heehs in The Lives of Sri Aurobindo [Columbia University Press, New York, 2008], this number remained stable from the beginning of 1934 to the end of 1937. (p.372)
14 In fact, he indicated to Surabhi in 1974 that he had declined Sri Aurobindo’s request that he become a teacher. Since this request was made many years prior to the opening of the Ashram school, one can only speculate exactly what kind of teaching role Sri Aurobindo had envisaged for Hriday.
15 Sri Chinmoy once said: “Even if my brother got a little headache, Sri Aurobindo used to send the doctor. So much concern, affection, he had for my brother.”
16 After Sri Aurobindo left the body, the Ashram authorities asked the disciples who had received letters from him to give them to the Ashram. Extracts from the letters were later published among Sri Aurobindo’s Collected Works, usually without any reference to the recipient. Hriday immediately complied with the Ashram request. However, he did make copies of his letters and these copies have remained in the family. His youngest brother Chinmoy repeatedly asked Hriday if he could publish the letters in one volume, but Hriday was reluctant to draw attention to himself in this way. After Hriday’s passing, out of respect for his elder brother’s wishes, Chitta also declined to give permission for the letters to be published, in spite of his youngest brother’s entreaties. If and when the letters are published at some future date, they may reveal many new facets of the family’s relationship with Sri Aurobindo.
17 Refer: Sri Chinmoy’s Childhood Ambition.
18 Refer: Yogamaya attends a Jatra Performance.
19 Excerpt from My Brother Chitta
20 Excerpt from My Brother Chitta.
21 Excerpt from To the Streaming Tears of My Mother’s Heart and to the Brimming Smiles of My Mother’s Soul.
22 Excerpt from To the Streaming Tears of My Mother’s Heart and to the Brimming Smiles of My Mother’s Soul.
23 Excerpt from My Brother Chitta.
24 Excerpt from In Search of a Perfect Disciple.
25 Refer: The Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Important Dates.
26 Refer: Chittagong Airfield.
27 Refer: “I did not come of a poor family; I came of a rich family, but we gave all our material wealth to the Ashram. My eldest brother went first to the Ashram and then the younger ones went. My uncle was against it, but my brother said that all would stay. He said, ‘If they leave the Ashram, then I will also leave. Right now they are young. It is my duty to do the right thing for them.’ Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh, has taken our property. But in those days we had two or three large gardens and several houses. My father was the inspector of a large railway junction then.” Excerpt from The Jewel of Humility.
28 Excerpt from My Brother Chitta.
29 I hope readers will forgive me for referring to my Master in various places as ‘Chinmoy’ instead of ‘Sri Chinmoy’. I intend no disrespect. I am simply adhering to a practice established by Sri Chinmoy himself of using only his given name throughout his Ashram years, and particularly when his spiritual Master Sri Aurobindo is mentioned in the same context.
30 Excerpt from My Brother Chitta.
31 This version is from January 23rd, 2003 when Sri Chinmoy was in Cairns, Australia.
32 Excerpt from A Service-Flame and a Service-Sun.
33 Excerpt from The Vedas: Immortality’s First Call.
34 Excerpt from God’s Orchestra.
35 Excerpt from Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 22.
36 Excerpt from Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 20.
37 Madhuri Ruiz became Sri Chinmoy’s student in 1966, after he had been living in New York for just two and a half years.
38 Sri Chinmoy then led his students in singing four verses from the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Finally, he sang “Tumi Je Hao Se Hao”, a poem Hriday had written in Bengali to which his youngest brother had set music. According to Tanima Bossart, who was present, when Sri Chinmoy reached the line “Jagater Guru, he amar Guru” (O Guru of the world, O my Guru) he sang it over and over again. Sri Chinmoy’s tribute appeared in Aum Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 4, April 27, 1976.
39 Excerpt from Poetry: My Rainbow-Heart-Dreams.
40 This recording from 12 June 1991 at PS 86, Jamaica, Queens, New York. Released on the CD “Hope's Fragrance-Heart” (Aum Music, 1991; reissued 2008).
41 Sri Aurobindo, The Hour of God.
42 Excerpt from To the Streaming Tears of My Mother’s Heart and to the Brimming Smiles of My Mother’s Soul.
43 Translation kindly supplied by Rintu Chakravarthy.
44 Song: Mantu Madal Rani Meri Nonai Ranu Kanu

 

Copyright © 2009, Vidagdha Bennett. All rights reserved.