Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sri Aurobindo's experience in prison - The wit - Part 1

Sri Aurobindo, one of India's foremost mystics of the 20th century, was arrested in 1908 by the British (who were then occupying India) in connection with a bomb-blast. Acquitted a year later, Sri Aurobindo has penned down his experience in jail in a delightful essay. There's a lot of spiritual import in the essay; it's gratifying to know that even great Gurus - who we think have been born Gurus -  have a tough time controlling their mind.

I really loved the sarcasm and wit in the essay. Am posting some extracts in three separate posts. And a final post looks at some of his spiritual insights.

1) When he was arrested (p.4)
Subsequently, Cregan asked me: "It seems you are a B.A. Yet you sleep on the floor of an unfurnished room. Are you not ashamed that despite your educational qualifications, you dwell in such conditions?" . I said, "I am a poor man, and I live like one." Cregan immediately responded in a loud voice, "So have you worked up all this mischief with the aim of becoming rich?" .  Considering the impossibility of explaining the import of patriotism, selflessness or a vow of poverty to this thick-headed Briton, I refrained from any such attempt.

2) Before being led away (p.6)
Then the police mahatmas descended to the ground floor. Cregan had his tea there. I had a cup of cocoa and toast. Cregan took this opportunity to impress his political views upon me through logical arguments - I remained unmoved and bore this mental torture without a word. Physical torture may be a longstanding police tradition, but may I ask if such inhuman mental torture too is within the ambit of its unwritten law?
3) First impressions of jail (p.18)
The impeccable standard of hospitality manifest in arrangements for our accommodation, was maintained, by the generosity of the authorities, in the matter of furnishings too. The bare courtyard was adorned with a single plate and a single bowl. Once scoured with suitable care, this representative sum of my material possessions - the plate and the bowl - would shine ever-so brightly that the silver-like lustre would simply melt one's heart; and taking the faultless, glowing radiance as symbolic of the 'heaven-like' perfection of the British Monarchy, I would savour the pure bliss of loyalty to the Crown.
4) About having to excrete in the same place and eat and sleep (p.22)
It is needless to say that such arrangements in a small cell caused great discomfort - especially during meals and at night. One is aware that attached toilets, in many parts of the world, are considered an integral part of western culture; but one tiny cell serving as bedroom, dining-room and toilet - this was simply too much of a good thing! We Indians with our primitive customs find it painful to attain such higher rungs of civilization.

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