INDIRA DEVI, born to wealth, luxury and culture and refined to her finger-tips, came, unaccountably, to be dogged by other-worldliness which gave her no peace till she met her ‘destined Guru’, as she puts it, in Sri Dilip Kumar Roy who advised her to accept Sri Aurobindo as her Guide in 1949. But she refused and the great Sage counselled Dilip Kumar to accept her and wrote that she was an aspirant of “advanced spiritual consciousness” whose “samadhi was of the savikalpa kind”, and nature highly psychic and receptive. After founding the Han Krishna Mandir Ashram at Poona under the aegis of her accepted Guru, she began, at his instance, to write about her experiences and evolution in Yoga to two American brother-aspirants, Richard Miller and Don Taxay, who had adopted India as their spiritual home. These letters form the first Part of the present volume. The second consists of letters written by Dilip Kumar and others about the happenings in Han Krishna Mandir and about the saints and sages and spiritual life in general. These have been edited finally by Dilip Kumar as a tribute to Indira Devi on her birthday this year 1964, with the one aim: to attest the last Rality, vivid and large as life, which answers all true aspiration with its boon of bhakti and adoration of Lord Krishna who “manifests His Love through Beauty to lead us to Bilss.”.
I am yet to see this living flute. But I have, indeed heard her strains from afar. And I have found them passing sweet – to the outer ear even as to the inner soul. Here is a melody (She writes to Ekanta and Prashanta, two Amercian devotees):
Grace is not a salve ready to do our binding at every turn, nor a mistress easy to please, who can be propitiated with little gifts, still less is it a medal that we earn for good conduct. Grace is the mother’s kiss on the infant’s brow..”) And then, in her fourteenth letter:
All are sustained by Grace: the sun that shines, the rains that appease the thirsty soil, the air that gives life, the beauty that eludes us.. the mother’s love, the friend’s sympathy, the child’s laughter.. a mere cloud floating in the infinite blue.. a lovely morning.. the sun receding reluctantly behind a ridge, with its radiant rays bidding adieu ... and then, lo, the evening star appears to take over — what marvellous beauty! All this is Grace. But, alas, most people take it all for granted! And how much they miss thereby!”
How revealing! And doesn’t it cool our scorch-rid life? Every word rings a bell, touched into beauty by the Grace of the All-Beautiful! And here is another, on prayer (8th Letter):
“I have sold myself to Him, and my only prayer is: ‘Let me think of you all the time. Whatever comes from you or is sanctioned by you is a blessing for me: joy or pain, love or rejection, whatever I receive let me accept on bended knees; only show me your will and the way to do your will. Give or take what you will, only let me not take my eyes off the Goal. I do not know what is good for me nor want to know why and how you are drawing me towards you. Draw me close to you — is all I ask. If this self-will does not bend, break it with the wrath of your Love. Let me only learn to give all I have and am — keeping back nothing. All that I give I save, and all that I hoard I lose. Let me become what you want me to become. Good or bad, whatever I am, I belong to you. To become yours is my job. The rest is your business, not mine.”
What a moving prayer, simple like a child’s! I am memorising this memorable poem, hoping that I may feel it all embedded in my heart, some day. And who knows perhaps a day will dawn when this flute-call shall be heard by all hearts the world over - when the prophecy of India’s Seer poet about the Supramental Epiphany will be fulfilled:
Translator’s apology: I was deeply impressed by His Holiness Sri Mahanam’s twin books on the Gita and Sri Gouranga. So I wrote to him. He complied with my request and sent me this Preface (in Bengali) to serve as a Foreword to Indira Devi’s Letters, translated into Bengali by myself and published in Calcutta last year. While gratefully acknowledging the debt, I asked His Holiness to translate his Foreword into English for the present edition. In reply he suggested I myself undertake the task. I have availed myself of his permission but with deep diffidence, as I am fully alive to the impossibility of doing justice to his inimitable style in an English translation, the more so as many of the images and similes which star his poetic prose can never retain their savour and ambiance in a language like English whose genius and temperament are very different from Bengali. So, I hope His Holiness will forgive me for having been forced to be somewhat free at places in my translation, as also for omitting a few passages I could not cope with. I have also taken the liberty of adding two quotations: one from Indira Dcvi’s 14th Letter and the other from Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri - at the tail-end. His Holiness has written in Bengali: “Manush pabe divyatanu”. But although it sounds perfect in our language, to translate it literally with “Man shall have a celestial body” would have sounded very much like an anticlimax in English, especially in a closing sentence.
It has been said that an authentic God-seeker’s life dates from the moment he is initiated in Yoga, that is, when his soul is born spiritually. As I believe this, I will refrain from writing Indira Devi’s biography by way of preface even though she is the central figure in The Flute Calls Still. I have done my humble best to tell here how His Flute called her and, how again, after answering its call, she became a flute in His hands, as His Holiness Sri Mahanamavrata has put it so aptly. Still, many who have appealed to me to write about her life in the past are likely to be disappointed. I can only console them by stressing that I have portrayed, through others’ letters and mine, her spiritual evolution and stature in the second part of the volume entitled, Our Mandir. In its pages, however, I have tried to keep myself in the background, because I want all that I have penned or edited to be taken, by and large, as a history of and tribute to her rapid blossoming in the light of the spirit — a blossoming as incredible as it is indubitable - by which I wish to underline her astonishing Aspiration (referred to by Ruth St. Dennis, the famous dancer) which outpetalled with such breathtaking swiftness since her spiritual birth in 1949.
Here, however, I must pause to submit that although superficially, it may, indeed, look as if I, as her elected Guru, was the worker of this miracle, I myself, honest to God, have never claimed any credit for whatever she has achieved under my aegis. In point of fact, after her coming to me I have wondered, often enough, whether our roles had not been reversed by Dame Destiny: that is to say, whether she had not come to me more to teach than to learn. Of course she always resented such misgivings on my part, claiming with verve and vivacity that her nonpareil Guru had been duly appointed by his Nominator on high to take her in tow and not the other way about. Her contention may be valid from her point of view. I can but state mine as equally valid from my own: that is, I can only concede that something came down through me — call it light or strength or inspiration — which she needed in order to realise her Yogic potentialities. Those who know have told me that this is what is called Gurushakti — or, more explicitly — a mystic Force which is impersonal and divine and yet acts through the Guru’s human medium to meet the disciple’s psychic needs. Here I may add that I concede this because I have seen, any number of times, an anonymous but a throbbingly real Force using me as a counsellor to wean her once and for all from her cherished world of make-believe, or — shall I say — as a Kindly Light to lead her on as my fellow-pilgrim to the Goal. But there I must cry halt because do what I would, I could never quite grasp how the Force functioned through me or how the Light guided her home in uncharted waters. All that I was sure of was that it was, every time, a beneficent power of the Lord’s Grace which persistently made use of us both for a divine purpose, ordaining irrevocably that we work together in harmony as His human instruments. That is why, I take it, Indira had to come to me. But beyond that I have no bedrock certitude to go by, and so must insist on disclaiming any personal credit for having helped her on to her flowering fulfilment. I have taken this stand for another powerful reason: her lightning-swift, spiritual evolution has recalled
But it is not because of any personal sentiment or reverent faith that I have come to accept this finality about the Lord’s nomination of His office-bearers. The conviction has gained ground slowly but steadily in me from day to day after having borne witness, for fifteen eye-opening years, how His Grace transformed her beyond recognition. Her father, Captain Kriparam Jauhar, a military contractor, was a multimillionaire. He had given her, his favourite child, the very best education (money was no object with him, he had given lakhs away in charity, he was one of the most unsnobbish and large-hearted aristocrats I have met in my life) with the result that she had, even in her teen-age, become cultured to her finger-tips. She moved in the most exclusive fashionable and refined set; undertook a deal of humanitarian work; was happy in her family life where everybody adored her for her generosity, affability and innate nobility: and last, though not least, her sincerity, grace, purity of character and loving nature had endeared her to all. In a word, she had everything a social climber could desire. For all that, the star of her destiny did not allow her to stay put in the soil she had sprouted and blossomed in, a complacent nursling of favour and fortune. Otherwise could she have even dreamed of yearning to submit to a Guru, she who had loved all along to thrive on the freedom of self-will in the delightful citadel of plenitude and culture? To quote from a letter she wrote to me fifteen years ago (2-8-49):
My dearest father,
Lots of people speak beautifully, eloquently and intelligently, but, after a time, one loses all interest in their talk. Theirs is an acquired talent, an accomplishment like the glamour of a dame de salon who looks so fascinating from afar, but it doesn’t do to come too near Flow different one feels when one hears a true Guru speak! He makes even small things seem so important. When one hears him talk, one does feel the difference between the right and wrong use of speech I know you will say I am the limit, but you will have to use a great deal of your Guruship’s Force to make me go beyond the limit ... Yes, I am proud to be so fortunate. But who dare blame me for my pride? Can you blame a little drop when it speaks proudly of the deep it belongs to, knowing full well that a drop of water in the ocean doesn’t make the ocean greater, but still the little droplet has only to lose itself in the ocean to become the ocean itself. Ghalib has said so beautifully in one of his gazals:
“The greatest aspiration and joy of the little drop of rain is to lose itself in the river for it knows that only by losing it can gain.
When the heart aches in love deeply and truly, then the very intensity of the pain becomes its own healer Your loving child, Indira”
I feel tempted to go on for pages and pages, quoting her spontaneous reactions to the lore of Guruvad if only to show how they are all on fours with the findings of our forbears, but since that is not possible, I will conclude with a short account of what is perhaps the most remarkable and singular feature of her spiritual evolution, to wit, her relationship with Mirabai of hallowed fame, who has been singing to her moving songs on love divine day, after thrilling day, from the year of her initiation in Yoga: 1949.
These lovely songs (which have already added up to more than 800 in number) she heard in her samadhi, a miracle, indeed, of the first water, hut what is a still greater miracle is that she remembered everytime the words and recited them verbatim! And, as this is, assuredly, the most abiding divine miracle I have witnessed in my life so far, I cannot, for fear of being scoffed at, fight shy of writing at some length about this breath-taking phenomenon. Were space at my disposal I could have easily written a hundred pages and still feel I have not said enough; but as that is neither feasible nor advisable, may I be permitted to quote my own Preface to a sheaf of her songs entitled, Pujanjali which was printed here in Pune three years ago in Sindhi script.
It was in 1949 that Indira Devi first came to Pondlicherry and requested me to accept her as my disciple. I refused her outright, pleading incompetence, but, as she would not take my no for an answer, I appealed to my Gurudev to come to my rescue. To my amazement, he agreed with her, blessing her at once as a person of “advanced spiritual consciousness” (this he wrote in a letter dated 8.12.1949) and enjoined me to accept her as a disciple. So, I gave in and she sang with me the mantra: the Name of my Ishta - Lord Krishna. This touched off a series of remarkable experiences (a few belonging, indeed, to the category of revelation) about which I hope to be able to speak some day - if and when the time comes. (I have written a few pages about these in my book Sri Aurobindo Came To Me.)
One of these experiences, however, I will have to speak about as this was a precursor to her flowering out as a composer of these remarkable devotional songs — Mitrabhajans - as inexhaustible in quantity as in variety of Hits and rhythms. What happened was that directly after her initiation, whenever I sang songs on Krishna, she started going off, intermittently into a samadhi which sometimes lasted for hours. She would sit stone-still — often with a beatific smile on her lips, or with profuse tears streaming down her cheeks. Once I saw her sit like this, petrified, for more than eight long hours. Sri Aurobindo wrote to me in a letter that her samadhi was of the savikalpa kind.”
Then she began to see, in her vision, a lovely lady in Rajput dress who sang to her beautiful devotional songs in a voice athrob with loves yearning and pain — viraha. Once, at my request, she wrote about it all in a letter dated August 19, 1950, from Mussourie where she used to meditate daily from eight to ten hours.
“I am writing this in the small hours of the morning after having just woken up from my meditation which lasted about five hours.
“Mira came to me again. 0 Dada, how dear she has grown to me and how near! How real Her love and how close she is to my heart! And yet isn’t it all but incredible? To think that one so holy, who comes to me in my dreams and trances, should be growing as it were with my own growth! ... I am told that people simply will not believe me. I can only smile.Now that I have seen and loved Her, could it matter to me one jot or tittle, even if the whole world were to laugh at my experience ? A mere dream? But can a mere dream give one more lasting peace and sustenance of love than all the realities of the world put together? O Dada, I shall always be grateful to you, for it is because of your blessing, your meditation, that she came to me and loved me as she has. And how precious is Her Love! I wish you could see Her! She is lovely and her beauty grows on one. But I cannot make her out. I asked Her the other day: But tell me, are you really real? She placed herpalm on my head in token of blessing and smiled again and said: But do you know yourself, the real you ? I will tell you more about it all when you come next to Mussourie . But one thing I may tell you now as certain: that she will never forsake me even if the whole world does.
Next followed a series of thrilling mystic experiences after which she began, lo, to remember the songs which, in her trances, she had heard Mira sing. As she started dictating these songs and I went on in delight, taking them down, I could no longer doubt their authenticity: the lady who continued to visit Indira I her Samadhi could be no other than the famous Mira Bai, Queen of Mevar, whose life – history had crystallized into a haloed legend centuries ago.
While in Pondicherry, I first published in 1950, 165 of her songs entitled Shrutanjali meaning an offering of songs heard”. Thereafter, in 1953, Premanjali (with 95 songs) saw the light, to be succeeded, in 1958, by Sudhanjali with 183 songs, and lastly, in 1960, by Deepanjali with 167 songs, making up a sum total of 610 songs in all, of which about 600 were heard and dictated by her, a phenomenal feat in all conscience! And 200 more such songs remain still to be published.
Some people have wondered how Indira could report verbatim the songs she had heard, the more so as some of these were pretty long ones. But the question can be easily met as it is by no means without a precedent in hagiography. Our Vedas were called Shrutis (meaning things heard) and the sages claimed that the messages came from on high and as such must be looked upon as Apaurasheya, Revelatory. So also, the numerous songs Guru Nanak sang are alleged to have been heard by him and taken down by his disciples to be subsequently incorporated into the Guru Granth. Furthermore, there is the authentic instance of the great Sufi mystic Shah Latif of whom Sri Gurudayal Mullick writes in his beautiful book on Sufis:
“Whenever he was in a state of ecstasy he would burst forth into song and one of the fellow-seekers, sitting by, would take them down.” These were later approved by the poet-mystic who said: ‘This is my nuska” (a physician’s prescription for the malady of life) (Divine Dwellers in the Desert pp. 47-48).
To conclude with the comment of Sri Aurobindo (and who could be a greater authority on authentic mysticism ancient or modem?) He wrote to me three letters when I sent him a few of Indira’s songs with an elaborate’ account of how they were inspired and conveyed.
There is nothing impossible,” he wrote first, “in Mirabai manifesting in this way through the agency of Indira’s trance, provided she (Mira) is still sufficiently in touch with this world to accompany Krishna where He manifests and in that case there would be no impossibility either in taking the part she did in Indira’s vision of her and her action. If Indira wrote in Hindi with which she was not used to write and it was under the influence of Mirabai, that would be a fairly strong evidence of the reality of Mirabai’s presence and influence on her.”
(7.5.1950) “It is evident,” he further explained in his second letter, “that Indira is receiving inspiration for her Hindi songs from the Mira of her vision and that her consciousness and the consciousness of Mira are collaborating on some plane superconscient to the ordinary human mind: an occult plane; also, this influence is not an illusion but a reality, otherwise the thing could not happen as it does in actual fact. Such things do happen on the occult plane, they are not new and unprecedented.”(2-6-1950).
“In any case,” he went on to stress, “the poems Mirabai has conveyed through Indira — for that much seems to be clear — are beautiful and the whole phenomenon of Indira dictating in a language she does not know well is truly remarkable and very convincing of the genuineness of the whole thing.” (11-6-1950)
For the rest, I need only add that I am sure that these songs will go on inspiring — irrespective of caste and creed, race or religion — all true devotees and aspirants who need the light of Love Divine to help them tread the Path that leads to the Peak of soul’s fulfilment in this world of perfidious phantoms and false glimmers that end only in the Abyss.
Postscript: The well-known critic Indu Pransh Pandey, while reviewing Indira’s Deepanjali in the December issue of Aryan Path (1960), has commented on her mystic inspiration with such rare insight that I am sure all who have loved her songs will be glad if I quote his encomium in full:
In the foreword we are told that this book — containing 167 Hindi bhajans and 33 English translations - is the fourth collection of Indira Devi’s devotional songs, which has been rightly compared with Mira’s songs.
Both possess the ring and cadence of the same melody. The difference between the two personalities is a difference of lilt and joy of the same consciousness from age to age one only evolves into a richer manifestation through the other.’
In these words the Yogi Anirvan has very correctly described Indira Devi’s songs and her complete dedication to Krishna. Mira used to consider herself an incarnation of Lalita a dear sakhi of Sri Radha who was the greatest devotee of Krishna. Therefore, it is not at all out of place that Indira Devi equally deeply in love with Krishna, should be considered by Shri Dilip Kumar Roy ‘in contact with Mira, singing’. In such rapturous moods, almost in trance, she dictates the songs with tears in her eyes, conveying the pure message of Mira’s world-oblivious love for Krishna. It is the purest devotion of an inspired soul and complete dedication that is manifested in the bhajans of Indira Devi: It is true that nobody can say whence arises this mystic longing, this overwhelming aspiration for self- surrender; but one can see it in Indira Devi and in her songs. Her whole personality is surcharged with love for love’s sake .... ahetuk prem .... which knows only love and wants nothing in reward, not even moksha — salvation. She considers human bodies or moulds as the pradips (clay lamps) and holds that we do not count till we make our lives into lamps to manifest the Lord’s Light.
“Therefore such a personality as has been reflected in these songs fulfils, in a great measure, the overwhelming necessity to us, men, of pure love for the Lord! She could easily be termed a Mira of the modern age. There is not a single line in the whole book which does not reflect her deep love for and devotion to Lord Krishna. Her approach and expressions exactly resembles that of Mira’s, who was a great mystic lover of Krishna.”
As I am bringing out The Flute Calls Still, by and large to pay the deep debt I owe to Indira Devi, but for whom Han Krishna Mandir, with the yugala-vigraha of Radha-Krishna, would never have come into being, any more than the vista of an undreamt of world of the Saint Mirabai’s personality, parables and inspiration would have opened before me (initiating for me a totally new phase of sadhana, blest by Radha, Krishna and Guru), I should like to add one word more before I conclude: namely, that now-a-days she not only recites Mira’s songs verbatim — for me to take down — but can, as often as not, reproduce also some of the beautiful and original tunes in which she has heard Mira sing them. A few of the tunes are quite new in style arid movement, so much so, that sometimes I have had to take them down in notation before I could sing them correctly. Someday, God willing, I hope to be able to publish some of these lovely airs to prove my contention — the airs that we sing almost daily in chorus in our temple — bhajans as well as namakirtans, and ever so many respond to them whole-heartedly. This I mention not only because it is a fresh miracle in itself (since Indira when she came to Pondicherry could not sing at all) but also because I look upon the achievement as a veritable landmark in the evolution of her many-mooded personality.
Brahma Sutras (81)
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