Sri Aurobindo’s Relationship with His Earthly Consort
Sri Aurobindo’s Relationship with His Earthly Consort
Sri Aurobindo married Mrinalini Devi (March 6, 1887—December 17, 1918), the eldest daughter of Bhupal Chandra Bose and Gopalkamini Devi in April 1901. During Sri Aurobindo’s imprisonment in connection with the Alipore Bomb Trial and then later after Sri Aurobindo shifted to Pondicherry, Mrinalini Devi stayed with her parents at Shillong. A young cousin of Mrinalini Devi wrote an anecdote about her, which also finds mention in the biography of Mrinalini Devi by Nirod Da:
“During these last 8 years, occasional letters from Sri Aurobindo were her only solace and support, Shillong was a hilly place, one of the loveliest spots of Nature. Mrinalini would wander about in the garden in her leisure time. One day I asked her, ‘Didi, you seem to love flowers best of all!’ She replied, ‘You know, your Gurudev was like a flower. I used to smell the fragrance of flowers in his presence.’ [The Mother also has said that a lotus-fragrance used to emanate from Sri Aurobindo’s body.] One evening meandering through a pine wood, Mrinalini sat upon a hillock. From there, the range of hill-tops beyond was exposed to view, clear like an enormous picture. Looking at the beautiful scene, Mrinalini fell into a meditative mood. I also enjoyed the charm of the place, but since her meditation lasted too long I got fidgety. When she opened her eyes, I asked her, ‘Didi, there is so much beauty all around us and you pass the entire period in darkness!’ She answered, ‘Silly boy, you don’t know that this infinite splendour helps me to plunge into the source of its beauty. You were annoyed perhaps! You know, in your Gurudev’s heart is a heavenly city many times more beautiful than this outer beauty.’”
Nirod Da writes further: “As regards Sri Aurobindo, I seem to have stumbled upon the key to the deeper mystery concealed behind his apparently futile marriage. The letter he wrote to Bhupalbabu [Mrinalini Devi’s father] after Mrinalini’s demise holds that key; here is the letter:
My dear father-in-law,
I have not written to you with regard to the fatal event in both our lives; words are useless in face of the feelings it has caused, if even they can express our deepest emotions. God has seen good to lay upon me the one sorrow that could still touch me to the centre. He knows better than ourselves what is best for each of us, and now that the first sense of the irreparable has passed, I can bow with submission to His divine purpose. The physical tie between us is, as you say, severed; but the tie of affection subsists for me. Where I have once loved, I do not cease from loving. Besides, she who was the cause of it, still is near, though not visible to our physical vision.
It is needless to say much about the matters of which you write in your letter. I approve of everything that you propose. Whatever Mrinalini would have desired, should be done and I have no doubt this is what she would have approved of. I consent to the chudis (gold bangles) being kept by her mother; but I should be glad if you would send me two or three of her books, especially if there are any in which her name is written. I have of her only her letters and a photograph.
Nirod Da goes on to explain his thoughts in the following words: “I find this letter extremely interesting, full of surprises. It is underlined with hitherto unknown aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s life and throws overboard our accustomed notions or conceptions about him. It is therefore a precious document. I shall try to probe the deeper meanings as I have understood them, knowing very well that my interpretations may be met with a strong disbelief and dubbed romantic fancy.
First of all, the letter is written in a very simple style and restrained in tone. It has a classical sublimity and is vibrant with a poignant pathos. People can be easily deceived about its inner richness. It is a masterpiece in the genre of letter- writing.
Sri Aurobindo addresses the recipient as ‘my dear father- in-law’. The first surprise is that one who had apparently snapped all worldly relations and had been living in a supreme consciousness, admitted still the old bond, unlike any other yogi. Next, we discover that he had maintained an intermittent connection with his wife also, though in the correspondence I have quoted earlier, he had said that once one becomes a yogi, the past relations belong to the past. He called his wife to join him in his sadhana. Also in his Calcutta period, he hoped that his separation from Mrinalini would end and they would pursue their sadhana together, somewhat like Sri Ramakrishna keeping his wife Sarada Devi with him after he had attained his siddhi. If that is so, how are we to understand Sri Aurobindo’s earlier statement that marriage becomes a thing of the past when the husband takes up yoga? Would it mean that though the wife lives with the husband, the basis of the relationship is entirely spiritual as in the case of Sri Ramakrishna? We cannot find any other satisfactory solution to the apparent contradiction. Also it is consonant with Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga where all relations are sublimated into a higher consciousness, not rejected. Then comes the stupendous phrase, ‘The one sorrow that could still touch me to the centre’, rising in a crescendo to ‘where I have once loved, I do not cease from loving’, and reaching the climax in the last phrase, ‘She who is the cause of it’, cannot but bewilder us and show how deep was Sri Aurobindo’s love for Mrinalini. We are likely to ask ourselves, ‘One who had realised Nirvana, had the cosmic experience of Vasudeva and other high experiences, can he still harbour or be subject to such human emotions?’ We would have brushed the matter aside as a fictitious story, had the letter not carried Sri Aurobindo’s own signature. I shall not enter into a controversy over the genuineness of the feelings expressed in the letter, but humbly state that we know very little of the great Enigma that was Sri Aurobindo. … Besides, we, the attendants of Sri Aurobindo have seen on the one hand his vast Impersonal Self high-seated above the turmoils of the world and on the other, his aspect of the Person who, before his passing, embraced passionately his devoted servant Champaklal. That would have been indeed incredible, had we not witnessed it with our own eyes. There are other mysteries we have seen before which his unbelievable shedding of a few tears pale into insignificance.