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DILIP KUMAR ROY, who achieved fame throughout India and abroad as a singer, comes from one of the most aristocratic and artistic families of Bengal, where he has long been regarded as one of the foremost cultural leaders of the artistic renajssance in India. He started his career as singer and composer. Mahatma Gandhi once said of him: "I may make bold to claim that very few persons in India- or rather in the world - have a voice like his, so rich and sweet and intense." But his grande passion has always been his deep thirst for the spiritual life and he has written about a good many yogis in his personal reminiscences.
A friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Romain Rolland and Bertrand Russell, and a disciple of sri Aurobindo, he made his mark as a writer in English and Bengali. So far he has written about seventy books in Bengali and a dozen in English.
This book is the story of Yogi Sri Krishnaprem, a great mystic philosopher, written by a leading mystic poet of India. It is the story of a life-long friendship that turns mutuality into a sense of identity in the Divine. The reading of this book is indeed a delightful and illuminating experience. Sri Dilip Kumar has made a charming presentation to the public with profound feeling and insight of the variegated experience and wisdom of a person who was, as Ramana Maharshi truly observed, "a rare combination of a jnani and bhakta."
A mystic alone can fully appreciate a mystic, This book IS the story of a great phildsopher written by a leading mystic poet of India. It is the story of a lifelong friendship between two dedicated. pilgrims of the Spirit-the kind of friendship that turns mutuality into a sense of identity in the Divine.
Our author, Sri Dilip Kumar Roy, is essentially a lover--a lover of beauty, a lover of man, a lover of greatness, a lover of God. Out of the deep love that flows freely at the centre of .his being has blossomed forth his many-faceted personality as a novelist, an essayist, a playwright, a humani- tarian, a poet, and a God-intoxicated singer. When I first met him at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, in October 1938, I found in him the most warm-hearted gurubhai. The magnetism of his personality was second only to that of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Those delightful evenings when he used to pour out his heart through his soul-entranc- ing devotional songs are just unforgettable. He used to inspire his vast audience by the magic of divine love, because he was himself lost in the love of the Divine.
Under the affectionate guidance of Sri Aurobindo, the loving heart of Dilip Kumar turned more and more to the Divine with increasing purity and fervour. Deeper springs of creativity were opened in him. Having produced about sixty books in Bengali and twenty in English-all delightful reading and illuminating-the creative impulse in him still seems to be fresh and strong. The establishment of an independent Ashram in Poona, named Hari-Krishna Man- dir, which is a centre of light, love and joy to thousands of people, bears witness to a new dimension of his creativity.
In the full flowering of bhakti in the life of Sri Dilip Kumar, the bhakta, Sri Krishnaprem played a very signifi- cant role. Whereas Sri Aurobindo kindled the flame in Dilip's soul, Krishnaprem helped to prevent the gusts of changing wind from blowing it out. Sri Aurobindo set the ideal and the direction; Krishnaprem provided the support and encouragement of a kindred soul. In following the same goal, Dilip and Krishnaprem strengthened each other -Dilip with his devotional songs, and Krishnaprem with his flashes of faith and intuition.
Sri Krishnaprem was indeed a shining example of what Norada Bhaktisutra calls parabhakti (supreme love). His love of Krishna was illumined by deep philosophic under- standing. Dilip Kumar has put together in this book the jewelled sayings and revealing letters of Krishnaprem. They radiate the light and joy of an illumined soul. They sparkle with brilliant flashes of spiritual insight. In making these public, Dilip Kumar has indeed made a valuable contribu- tion to the literature on higher mysticism.
Our author has arranged and organized the sayings of Krishnaprem with rare insight and artistic skill. The rea- der can hardly miss the central message of a professor turned yogi who "brought British doggedness to bear upon the practice of yoga." Adroitly set in the background of interesting life-episodes, the gems of his wisdom shine with irresistible charm.
With deep discernment Krishnaprem distinguishes faith from mental belief. Faith is for him "the light which the higher personality sends down to the lower". It is one's firm conviction about the Eternal, and as such can keep the flame of aspiration alive amidst the darkness of doubt and despair occasioned by conflicting doctrines and ideas and ever-changing outward happenings. So he could write: "I keep a whole collection of doubts, grow them in fact like mustard and cress, and when they are ripe, I eat them up." He defines true faith as, "the naked smokeless flame that bums in the secret recesses of the heart", afford- ing glimpses of the Infinite. ,
In discussing philosophical and spiritual matters, Krishnaprem has a way of going straight to the very heart of a problem. He always speaks from the depth of his per- sonal realization. For him bhakti is not emotional rapture as such, but self-giving to Krishna, which is naturally accom- panied by emotion a 1 rapture. It is "the offering of the mortal (ahuti) in the pure flame of the immortal". Such self-offering must be, he agrees with Sri Aurobindo, total and unconditional. It involves "the staking of everything that does not matter for the one thing that does." It is the complete replacement of the ego by Krishna's will.
Total self-giving to Krishna places one above the dis- putes of the Vedantist and the Vaishnava. The Vedantist says: "I want to be one with the Supreme." The Vaishnava says: "The Supreme is Honey. I do not want to be one with Honey-I want to enjoy Honey." Krishnaprem says: "It is not a question of what I want or don't want. It is essentially the question of what Krishna wills." This is para- bhakti.
Krishnaprem used always to carry with him an image of Krishna as his eternal companion and lshta. For him bhakti is not devotion to the Divine in the abstract or as the time- less Essence. It is concrete love of the living manifestation of God. The Vigraha of Krishna is not a mere symbol but the manifest reality of the Supreme. But is not that absurd? May be so. But the category of the absurd is, as the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard pointed out, an essential factor in man's profoundest religious experience. In the eyes of love the image is one with the reality. The holy idol is, as Ramanuja says, an Archavatara, a specific mode of manifestation of the supreme mystery that is Krish- na. It is the same mystery that gave meaning to Sri Rama- krishna talking to, and receiving constant guidance from, the living image of the Mother Kali.
Sri Dilip Kumar Roy is always prodigally ready to share with others his spiritual treasures, whether through his devo- tional songs or, more lastingly, through his many books, in Bengali or English, flowing unremittingly from his versatile pen. Although a disciple of Sri. Aurobindo and for years a resident of the Pondicherry Ashram, he often turned in perplexity to a fellow-traveller on the road-Sri Krishna- prem, who had come out from England to knock at India's door, and had very soon found it opened unto him. My own short tribute, following, at best evokes only the external image. Sri DiIip Kumar sought concrete answers to many of his deeper inner conflicts and doubts, and the personal letters he received in reply (and so wisely preserved), he now publishes, along with his reminiscences, in Yogi Sri Krishnaprem, convinced that they may help to clear away debris for others also stumbling along the same path.
Sri Krishnaprem never sought disciples, and, in the earlier days, repelled rather than welcomed intrusions into the privacy of his personal sadhana. Often he rebuked Sri Dilip Kumar for giving him unwanted publicity, but he always forgave him, out of a loving heart. Now that he has finally withdrawn into the inviolable privacy of what is known as death, surely there is no longer any "copyright" on his words. They stand out as significant signposts on the Road leading to the Goal, and readers can only thank Dilip Kumar Roy for his intransigence in making the imper- manent permanent, not in the spirit of an industrious archaeo- logist collecting artifacts out of the past, but as an offering of profound gratitude, from a warm-hearted devotee.
I am not attempting to give adequate expression to all that Sri Krishnaprem was and stood for-that would be impossible-but to focus and keep intact, if I can, some of my many cherished memories of him. His death occurred in a hospital at Naini Tal, on November 14, 1965. Ours is the sorrow, not his. His last words, according to Sri Madhava Ashish, his beloved disciple and companion of twenty years, were simply "My ship is sailing". Surely he set sail gladly, in full knowledge of his destination. For he himself once told me: "As long as we live in the past or the future, we are only running up and down the bank on this side. If we want to reach the goal, the Eternal, we have to steer the boat straight out and across to that other shore." He spoke figuratively, of course. The journey is always an inner journey, and the Eternal has to be found within.
Our personal relationship with him, my husband's and mine, was always a little special. We did not claim to belong to the inner circle of immediate disciples or intimate followers, but we loved him deeply, with a love that grew stronger every year, and his heart was big enough to enclose us too. The first meeting took place more than thirty years ago. We had gone over, as we often did, to attend Ram- nam at the little Ramakrishna Kutir, perched on a steep mountain slope close to our house in Almora. I was startled to see a fair-skinned, blue-eyed stranger sitting among the monks on the floor. To judge from his physical appearance, he was obviously a foreigner, and English so it seemed, but he was wholly Indian in his gerua dress, and the deep absorption with which he joined in the devotional chanting. After Ramnam, we learned from one of the monks that the stranger was Sri Krishnaprem, and that he had taken sannyas in 1928 from a saintly Bengali lady,-Sri Yashoda Mai. Wife of the Vice-chancellor of an Indian University, she had given up the house-holder's life and eventually retired to the Hima- layas, where she had established a Vaishnava temple and ashram at Mirtola, some eighteen miles beyond Almora.
Not long after this, Sri Krishnaprem unexpectedly came in to see us. His directness, his complete absence of self- consciousness and of even the slightest trace of pretence, and above all the deep respect and love he showed for India and Indian religious thought and feeling, at once attracted us to him. He also had a charming faculty of making con- versation a two-way affair. He did not lay down the law or pontificate. He stood for a few moments glancing over the titles of the books crowding the shelves in our small living-room. "I see I could get on well with the owners of these books," he remarked, turning a swift, pleasant smile in our direction. At the time we were unaware that before renouncing the world, he had for some years been young Professor Ronald, Nixon, a brilliant graduate of Cambridge, who taught English literature at the universities of Lucknow and Banaras. And he had also become a serious student of Sanskrit and Pali, and he could speak fluently .in both Bengali and Hindi.
There was another reason, however, for the link of friendship so newly forged. It seemed an odd coincidence- or was it?-my husband's guru's guru, Swami Vivekananda, had once, when he was still only an unknown wandering sannyasin, chosen the little daughter of a gracious host at Ghazipur for symbolic worship in the Kumari Puja, as ob- served in Bengal. That same little Brahmin girl was one day to become Sri Yashoda Mai, the guru of Sri Krishna- prem.
It might have been another year or more before we had the privilege of meeting Sri Yashoda Mai herself. Hear- ing that she was staying at the Almora dak bungalow, we went to pay our respects, and at our request, she promised in future to stay with us when passing through the town on her way to or from the plains. After this meeting, we naturally looked forward to visiting the Uttara Brindaban Ashram at Mirtola, and finally a June day arrived when that visit became a reality.
In Part II, I have mentioned more than once how I have always loved to keep a record of my talks with those I have admired. In the Mirtola chapter I have traced the genesis of this impulse which was to bear fruit subsequently in my Tirthankar, Among the Great, Kumbha, Smriticharan, Netaji -the Man and other Reminiscences. It goes without saying that I have rejoiced in yielding to this impulse because one can live in the delectable past only when a vivid memory helps one to resuscitate pictorially the dead past into a liv- ing reality. I can talk thus without hesitation of my mnemonic gift as it is not a faculty one can well boast about -the less so as very mediocre people too have been known to testify to this gift to an amazing degree. It is not a high power of the human personality like that of creative imagination or philosophic thought, not to mention the capa- city for love or spontaneous sympathy.
Nevertheless, I cannot, personally, help but thank my Maker for having endowed me with this retentive power, not only because I have always found it delightful to re- capture the past, but also and chiefly because it has beautified my creations (such as they are) in literature, poetry and music. In other words, time and time again have I expe- rienced that whenever I had imbibed anything through love it came subsequently to be assimilated by my heart to flower out eventually as inspiration. Which is perhaps one of the reasons why I have always felt so happy that I could retain the "jewelled sayings" of great men, seers, sages, and saints. Among these Krishnaprem was one of my idols.
I have been fortunate also in this that I have been able to draw out some of the greatest writers and thinkers of our age. I have always felt grateful to them for having materially helped me in my quest for Truth, by stimulating me with their findings and throwing light on problems which mystify the mind. Among these monitors Krishnaprem holds a unique place in my life in that, of all my dear friends, he is the only one who has trodden the same path as I have all along, to wit, the one that starts from and ends in Krishna. Of course no two persons' paths or problems can be identical all along the line; still, when all is said and done, there is such a thing as fellow-feeling or comradeship which can knit together two pilgrims of the spirit with a higher bond of psychic sympathy and love, thus forging one of the sweetest of affinities-as did happen between us despite the obvious divergence of rhythm in our outer gait.
I have owed much to ever so many kindred spirits in my journey through life. I have met friends in all climes and basked in the beneficent sunshine of their love. Some- times it was only a brief hand-clasp of deep understanding which thrilled but was never more to be repeated again! One journeys on in life through deserts of sand culling, on occasion, a few pearls of startling beauty here and there. One cherishes them dearly like "angels' visits short and bright"; for even when they are transitory, something re- mains that does not perish, a cadence of beauty that sustains us in life's tortuous paths criss-crossed by the dualities of laughter and rears, thrills and sighs, exaltations and heart- aches. Nothing is vain-tout se tient, true. Nevertheless, there are joys and joys even as there are gifts and gifts. Friends like Sub hash Chandra Bose or Sri Krishnaprem who are born with the light of stars in their eyes do not grow on every bush. To meet such souls is happiness, to win their smile bliss, to savour their intimacy a blessing redolent of Divine Grace. Few pilgrims on earth aspire for the heights with intensity, still fewer are called and the fewest are the chosen. Krishnaprem belonged to this last category, to the Pleiad who can think dispassionately, reject the lesser love regally and love selflessly-or, to put it in his own words, long only to "just give, give, give,-give in joy, give in sorrow, in laughter and tears, in conflict and in peace- that is the one boon we should crave: the power to give ourselves utterly."
To have known such a lover's love is blessedness, in- deed-the love of a Guru like Sri Aurobindo, a friend like Subhash, a fellow-pilgrim like Krishnaprem, a daughter- disciple like Indira. When one meets such souls one does not even stop to ask if one has, indeed, merited it: one just accepts it all as a divine boon on bended knees. On January 1, 1965, I sent Krishnaprem a few snapshots along with one of mine with a dear friend's little niece in my arms-under a lovely kadamba tree, in full bloom, in our temple-home. I sent these in joy, unknowing how gravely ill he was at the time-he having never so much as given me a hint of it in any of his long letters. On receipt of these he wrote back at once enquiring lovingly about Indira, who also was ailing then, with this simple moving blessing: "Thank you, Dilip, for sending me the photo The one with the little girl in your arms is still your charming self. Long may it remain with us." (7-1-1965)
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