On 19th February 1919, Sri Aurobindo wrote the following letter to Bhupal Babu, Aurobindo’s father-in-law:
Two letters were written by Sri Aurobindo to his father-in-law Bhupal Chandra
Bose (1861—1937). The first letter, dated 8 June 1906, was written
during the early days of Sri Aurobindo’s political career and the second
letter, dated 19 February 1919, was penned shortly after the death of Sri
Aurobindo’s wife Mrinalini Devi in December 1918.
“My dear Father-in-law, I have not written to you with regard to this fatal event in both our lives: words are useless in face of the feelings it has caused, if even they can ever 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, & 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 Mrinālini would have desired, should be done, & I have no doubt that this is what she would have approved of. I consent to the chūdis 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 only of her, her letters & a photograph.” [Shailendra Nath Basu, Sri Aurobinder Sohodhormini Mrinālini Debir ShmritiKotha, 1917]
Bhupal Chandra Bose (1861-1937) Reported the following:
Mrinalini spent her early childhood in Calcutta. She was at first educated under a private teacher, and soon after her father’s transfer to Shillong, she was sent down to Calcutta and lived as a boarder for nearly three years at the Brahmo Girls’ School until the time of her marriage in April 1901. She evinced no exceptional abilities or tendencies at this age, indeed at no stage of her life.
Sri Aurobindo first met Mrinalini at the house of her uncle Sj. Girish Chandra Bose in Calcutta in the course of his search for a mate to share his life, and chose her at first sight as his destined wife. Their marriage took place shortly afterwards in April 1901.
There was no issue of the marriage. During Sri Aurobindo’s trial at Alipore which lasted a full twelve months Mrinalini lived with her parents at Shillong or with her uncle Girish Babu in Calcutta. She paid several visits to her husband at Alipore Central Jail in the company of her father.
Sri Aurobindo disappeared from Calcutta at the end of February or beginning of March 1910. Mrinalini was living at the time in Calcutta. We did not know his whereabouts until several weeks later it was announced in the papers that he had escaped to Pondicherry to get out of the reach of the British Courts.
During the first 3 or 4 years of his exile, Sri Aurobindo lulled her with the hope that some day (which we thought could not be very distant) he would return to Bengal. His letters to his wife as well as to the writer were few and far between, but they gave ample grounds for such a hope. At last Sri Aurobindo ceased to write at all, possibly because of his
exclusive preoccupation with Yoga, but to the last day of her life Mrinalini never ceased to hope.
Sri Aurobindo never called his wife to Pondicherry for Sadhana. They never met again. Her father made a serious attempt after his retirement from Government service in 1916 to take her to Pondicherry but the attitude of the Government at the time prevented him from realising this wish.
These long years of separation (1910-18) she spent with her parents at Shillong and Ranchi, paying occasional visits to Calcutta. She devoted these years almost exclusively to meditation and the reading of religious literatures.
Mrinalini desired at one time to receive dīksha from one of the Sannyasins of the Ramakrishna Mission. Her father wrote to Sri Aurobindo for the necessary permission but the latter in reply advised her not to receive initiation from anyone else and he assured her that he would send her all the spiritual help she needed. She was content therefore to remain without any outward initiation.
Mrinalini passed away in Calcutta in the 32nd year of her life on the 17th of December 1918, a victim of the fell scourge of influenza which swept over India in that dreaded year.
Mrinale Aurobindo (Marriage Song) -written by Nirodemohini Devi
Mrinalini was 14 years old when she married Aurobindo in April 1901, she was 29 at that time.
30 April 1901
SOURCE: Smriti-Tirtha written by Anshu Banerjee.
The moon is smiling in the clear sky
With her smiling a multitude of stars
Flowers smiling in the garden
Queen Nature is smiling beside herself.
Vernal breeze is blowing gently
A delighted stream is gurgling merrily
All-round everything is fervently smiling
What a beautiful night it is.
Moonlight intoxicating the world
Wherever one looks, everything is smiling
Gaiety, as if has engulfed the earth
What an auspicious moment is today.
Today at this auspicious hour
Mrinal weds Aurobindo
With sweet smelling blossoms and
A garland of flowers in hand,
Adorned with charming ornaments
What a profoundly admirable sight for the eye
With cheerful countenance and delightful mind
Everyone together blessing them.
Grateful Supreme Lord and your prescript
In this earthly life you are the treasure-house of love
That’s why you have united them as one life
Tied them in an eternal knot.
Now we beg at thy feet
Keep the two ever happy
From all obstacles of life
Protect, O Lord these two lives
Adopting Truth’s shelter both
Should stay as Thy servants
In happiness or in sorrow, both
Should never ever forget Thee.
SRI AUROBINDO’S LETTERS TO HIS WIFE MRINALINI DEVI
c/o K.B. Jadhav, Esq.
Near Municipal Office
25th June 1902
I was very sorry to learn of your fever. I hope since then you have
begun to look after your health a little more. It is a cold place, so you
must be careful not to catch cold. I am sending ten rupees today. Buy
some medicine and take it daily. Don’t forget. I have heard of a medicine
that will cure you of your disease. You don’t have to take it daily. One or
two doses will cure you; but it won’t be possible to take it in Assam.
You’ll be able to take it in Deoghur. I’ll write Sarojini about what is to be
Sarojini is in Deoghur. Baudidi [elder brother’s wife] has left
Darjeeling for Calcutta. Darjeeling did not suit her. Sarojini writes to say
that she will remain in Bengal until winter. Grandmother is putting a lot
of pressure on her. She hopes Baudidi will be able to arrange a marriage
for Sarojini. I don’t think there is much hope. If Sarojini gives up her
excessive demands in regard to looks and attainments, there will be
‘Kencho’ went to the Lonavala Hills. He called me there too. He called
me because he wanted to write a document. It was written but he did
not send it. At the last minute he suddenly changed his mind. Another
very big and secret work came up. I had to do it. When he saw my work
‘Kencho’ was very satisfied and he promised to raise my salary. Who
knows whether he will do it or not. ‘Kencho’s’ word is not worth very
much. But he may give the raise. It seems to me that the day of
‘Kencho’s’ downfall is coming. All of the signs are bad.
I am staying now in Khaserao’s house. When you come we will go to
the “Navalakha”. There probably will not be much rain this year. If there
is no rain, there certainly will be a terrible famine. In that case your visit
here will have to be cancelled. If you come it will only mean a lot of
trouble — trouble as regards food, water and prices. It is not hot in
Baroda this summer. A beautiful breeze is blowing, but this beautiful
breeze has blown away the hope of rain. Now only ten or twelve days
remain. If we have good rain within ten or twelve days we may yet be
saved from the stroke of a great misfortune.
I will send your photo soon. Jotin Banerji is staying with us. Today I
will go to see him and select the best photo.
Give my respects to your father and your mother. You will
understand all that I leave unexpressed.
Aurobindo to Mrinalini after escaping from Calcutta in 1905
30th Aug. 1905
I have received your letter of the 24th August. I am sorry to learn that the same affliction has fallen once more upon your parents. You have not written which of the boys has passed away from here. But then what can be done if the affliction comes? This is a world in which when you seek happiness, you find grief in its heart, sorrow always clinging to joy. That rule touches not only the desire of children, but all worldly desires. To offer, with a quiet heart, all happiness and grief at the feet of God is the only remedy. […]
Now I will write the other thing of which I spoke before. I think you have understood by now that the man with whose fate yours has been linked is a man of a very unusual character. Mine is not the same field of action, the same purpose in life, the same mental attitude as that of the people of today in this country. I am in every respect different from them and out of the ordinary. Perhaps you know what ordinary men say of an extraordinary view, an extraordinary endeavour, an extraordinary ambition. To them it is madness; only, if the madman is successful in his work then he is called no longer a madman, but a great genius. But how many are successful in their life’s endeavour? Among a thousand men, there are five or six who are out of the ordinary and out of the five or six one perhaps successful. Not to speak of success, I have not yet even entirely entered my field of work. There is nothing then for you but to consider me mad. And it is an evil thing for a woman to fall into the hands of a mad fellow. For woman’s expectations are all bound up in worldly happiness and sorrow. A madman will not make his wife happy, he can only make her miserable.
The founders of the Hindu religion understood this very well. They loved extraordinary characters, extraordinary endeavours, extraordinary ambitions. Madman or genius, they respected the extraordinary man. But all this means a terrible plight for the wife, and how could the difficulty be solved? The sages fixed upon this solution; they told the woman, “Know that the only mantra for womankind is this: ‘The husband is the supreme guru.'[Up to this point the translation follows an early version by Barindra Kumar Ghose which was seen and revised lightly by Sri Aurobindo. The rest of the translation is new.] The wife shares the dharma [law of conduct] of her husband. She must help him, counsel him, encourage him in whatever work he accepts as his dharma. She should regard him as her god, take joy in his joy, and feel sorrow in his unhappiness. It is for a man to choose his work; the woman’s part is to give help and encouragement.”
Now, the point is this. Are you going to choose the path of the Hindu religion or follow the ideal of the new culture? Your marriage to a madman is the result of bad karma in your previous lives. It is good to come to terms with one’s fate, but what sort of terms will they be? Will you also dismiss your husband as a madman on the strength of what other people think? A madman is bound to run after his mad ways. You cannot hold him back; his nature is stronger than yours. Will you then do nothing but sit in a corner and weep? Or, will you run along with him; try to be the mad wife of this madman, like the queen of the blind king who played the part of a blind woman by putting a bandage across her eyes? For all your education in a Brahmo school, you are still a woman from a Hindu home. The blood of Hindu ancestors flows in your veins. I have no doubt you will choose the latter course.
I have three madnesses. The first one is this. I firmly believe that the accomplishments, genius, higher education and learning and wealth that God has given me are His. I have a right to spend for my own purposes only what is needed for the maintenance of the family and is otherwise absolutely essential. The rest must be returned to God. If I spend everything for myself, for my pleasure and luxury, I am a thief. The Hindu scriptures say that one who receives wealth from God and does not give it back to Him is a thief. So far, I have given two annas to God and used the other fourteen annas for my own pleasure; this is the way I have settled the account, remaining engrossed in worldly pleasures. Half my life has been wasted – even the beast finds fulfilment in stuffing his own belly and his family’s and catering to their happiness.
I have realised that I have been acting all this time as an animal and a thief. Now I realise this and am filled with remorse and disgusted with myself. No more of all this. I renounce this sin once and for all. What does giving to God mean? It means to spend on good works. The money I gave to Usha or to Sarojini causes me no regret. To help others is a sacred duty; to give protection to those who seek refuge is a yet greater sacred duty. But the account is not settled by giving only to one’s brothers and sisters. In these dark days the whole country is seeking refuge at my door. I have three hundred million brothers and sisters in this country. Many of them are dying of starvation and the majority just manage to live, racked by sorrow and suffering. They too must be helped.
What do you say, will you come along with me and share my ideal in this respect? We will eat and dress like ordinary men, buying only what is truly needed and offering the rest to God:
this is what I propose to do. My purpose can be fulfilled, once you give your approval, once you are able to accept the sacrifice. You have been saying, “I have made no progress.” Here I have shown you a path towards progress. Will you take this path?
My second madness has only recently seized me. It is this: by whatever means I must have the direct vision of God. Religion these days means repeating the name of God at any odd hour, praying in public, showing off how pious one is. I want nothing of this. If God exists, there must be some way to experience His existence, to meet Him face to face. However arduous this path is, I have made up my mind to follow it. The Hindu religion declares that the way lies in one’s own body, in one’s own mind. It has laid down the rules for following the way, and I have begun to observe them. Within a month I have realised that what the Hindu religion says is not false. I am experiencing in myself the signs of which it speaks. Now I want to take you along this way. You will not be able to keep step with me, for you do not have the requisite knowledge. But there is nothing to prevent you from following behind me. All can attain perfection on this path, but to enter it depends on one’s own will. Nobody can drag you onto it. If you consent to this, I shall write more about it.
My third madness is that while others look upon their country as an inert piece of matter – a few meadows and fields, forests and hills and rivers – I look upon my country as the Mother. I adore Her, I worship Her as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on his mother’s breast and started sucking her blood? Would he quietly sit down to his dinner, amuse himself with his wife and children, or would he rush out to deliver his mother? I know I have the strength to deliver this fallen race. It is not physical strength, – I am not going to fight with sword or gun, – but the strength of knowledge. The power of the Kshatriya is not the only one; there is also the power of the Brahmin, the power that is founded on knowledge. This feeling is not new in me, it is not of today. I was born with it, it is in my very marrow. God sent me to earth to accomplish this great mission. The seed began to sprout when I was fourteen; by the time I was eighteen the roots of the resolution had grown firm and unshakable. After listening to what my aunt said, you formed the idea that some wicked people had dragged your simple and innocent husband onto the bad path. But it was this innocent husband of yours who brought those people and hundreds of others onto that path – be it bad or good – and will yet bring thousands and thousands of others onto that same path. I do not say that the work will be accomplished during my lifetime, but it certainly will be done.
Now I ask you, what are you going to do in this connection? The wife is the shakti, the strength of her husband. Will you be Usha’s disciple and go on repeating the mantras of Sahib-worship? Will you diminish the strength of your husband by indifference or redouble it by your sympathy. and encouragement? You will say, “What can an ordinary woman like me do in these great matters? I have no strength of mind, no intelligence, I am afraid to think about these things.” But there is an easy way out. Take refuge in God. Enter once the path of God-realisation; He will soon make good your deficiencies. Fear gradually leaves one who takes refuge in God. And if you can put your trust in me, if you can listen to me alone and not to all and sundry, I can give you my own strength; that will not diminish my strength but increase it. We say that the wife is the husband’s shakti, his strength. This means that the husband’s strength is redoubled when he sees his own image in his wife and hears an echo of his own high aspirations in her.
Will you remain like this for ever: “I shall put on fine clothes, have nice things to eat, laugh and dance and enjoy all the pleasures”? Such an attitude cannot be called progress. At the present time the life of women in this country has taken this narrow and contemptible form. Give up all this and follow after me. We have come to this world to do God’s work; let us begin it.
You have one defect in your nature. You are much too simple. You listen to anything anyone might say. Thus your mind is for ever restless, your intelligence cannot develop, you cannot concentrate on any work. This has to be corrected. You must acquire knowledge by listening to one person only. You must have a single aim and accomplish your work with a resolute mind. You must ignore the calumny and the ridicule of others and hold fast to your devotion.
There is another defect, not so much of your personal nature, as of the times. The times are such in Bengal that people are incapable of listening to serious things in a serious manner. Religion, philanthropy, noble aspirations, high endeavour, the deliverance of the country, all that is serious, all that is high and noble is turned to ridicule. People want to laugh everything away. At your Brahmo school, you picked up a little of this fault. Bari also had it; all of us are tainted by this defect to some extent. It has grown in surprising measure among the people of Deoghar. This attitude must be rejected with a firm mind. You will be able to do it easily. And once you get into the habit of thinking, your true nature will blossom forth. You have a natural turn towards doing good for others and towards self-sacrifice. The one thing you lack is strength of mind. You will get that through worship of God.
This is the secret of mine I wanted to tell you. Do not divulge it to anybody. Ponder calmly over these matters. There is nothing to be frightened of, but there is much to think about. To start with, you need do nothing but meditate on the Divine each day for half an hour, expressing to Him an ardent desire in the form of a prayer. The mind will get prepared gradually. This is the prayer you are to make to Him: “May I not be an obstacle in the path of my husband’s life, his aim, his endeavour to realise God. May I always be his helper and his instrument.” Will you do this?
Aurobindo’s last letter to his wife Mrinalini
23 Scott’s Lane,
17th Feb. 
I have not written to you for a long time. This is my eternal failing; if
you do not pardon me out of your own goodness, what shall I do? What
is ingrained in one does not go out in a day. Perhaps it will take me the
whole of this life to correct this fault.
I was to come on the 8th January, but I could not. This did not
happen of my own accord. I had to go where God took me. This time I
did not go for my own work; it was for His work that I went. The state of
my mind has undergone a change. But of this I shall not speak in this
letter. Come here, and I shall tell you what is to be told. But there is only
one thing which must be said now and that is that from now on I no
longer am the master of my own will. Like a puppet I must go wherever
God takes me; like a puppet I must do whatever He makes me do. It will
be difficult for you to grasp the meaning of these words just now, but it
is necessary to inform you, otherwise my movements may cause you
regret and sorrow. You may think that in my work I am neglecting you,
but do not do so. Already I have done you many wrongs and it is natural
that this should have displeased you. But I am no longer free. From now
on you will have to understand that all I do depends not on my will but
is done at the command [adesh] of God. When you come here, you will
understand the meaning of my words. I hope that God will show you
the Light He has shown me in His infinite Grace. But that depends on His
Will. If you wish to share my life and ideal you must strive to your utmost
so that, on the strength of your ardent desire. He may in His Grace reveal
the path to you also. Do not let anyone see this letter, for what I have
said is extremely secret. I have not spoken about this to anyone but you;
I am forbidden to do so. This much for today.
In 1914 Mirra Alfassa (Mother) came to Pondicherry to meet Sri Aurobindo. Aurobindo ashram was formed in 1926.