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