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THE IRON CHAIN*
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How many of you have been here since the beginning, I mean from the Kindergarten classes- any? One, two, three, four... Oh, a good many. Very creditable, very creditable indeed, that so many have continued so long and passed through. This is something really creditable.

I will tell you a story in this connection. A young man who was an aspirant, a seeker of spiritual or religious life, once upon a time went to Gandhiji. He wanted to remain there. He said, “I am a seeker of spiritual life. I want to remain with you.” Gandhiji saw the person and accepted him. “It is all right, you may try,” he said. He remained there sometime, pretty long time, perhaps even more than a year. But at the end of the year he approached Gandhiji and said, “Please permit me to go away from here. Somehow I feel I cannot remain any longer.” Then he came away, he came away, where do you think? Here to the Ashram. The Ashram he liked very much and remained here. After some years Gandhiji thought of the young man. “Where is he? He was a nice man. Where is he gone?” Then he learnt that the young man was here in Sri Aurobindo Ashram. How many years? “Seven years!” Gandhiji was astounded. “How is it? I know the young man. I knew he was a restless person, so uncertain about himself, about his movements- he could not stick to one place or one occupation for long. And he has been in Sri Aurobindo Ashram for seven years! It is a great credit to Sri Aurobindo Ashram being able to keep him so long!” And I may add: he is still there! So I may say those of you who have continued to remain here may claim some credit for their performance, or does the credit goes to the Ashram?

I have an idea. You have heard very much of the golden chain that the Mother puts on whoever comes near her and touches her- an unbreakable eternal chain we all knew and experienced, the golden chain with which she ties everyone whoever comes in her embrace. Now I feel she has another chain also in her wallet- handcuffs and fetters- with which she binds some people physically to her, to her material Presence. She takes up the physical destiny also of the person. The golden chain belongs of course to the soul that is eternal, beautiful and glorious and all that: it is another matter. But even the very body, this material carcase can belong equally to the Mother. With the golden chain you are the beloved of the Mother, or her lover, but with the iron chain you become a physical slave. Yes, I am trying to hint that those who have been here for long years, many from their infancy, have earned a particular merit: from the spiritual point of view this continuance, this continuity, I may add, is itself something significant, it is an achievement. Even if you do not pass any examination, that is, move up, promoted from class to class after a hard test, instead, even if you simply glide through, pass along ambling and at ease, that is sufficient. There is something that remains, something very valuable sticks to the consciousness- of which you may not be aware now, but one day you are sure to know and recognise. So I congratulate you all for your happy achievement which is indeed the sign of a signal grace of Her.
*A talk to the outgoing students of the Centre of Education (Sri Aurobindo Ashram) on 29-10-1977
-Nolini Kant Gupta

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