The Legend Lives On
... to feel love and oneness is to live
SRI AUROBINDO (In: Savitri, Book 12, p. 724)

SN JAUHAR

Chacha ji, c. 1980

 

Not all great men are famous; this is the story of one such great man. He was born in 1903 in a village called Vahalee in the Punjab, and named Sikandar Lal. When he was 16, Mahatma Gandhi gave a call to the youth of India to interrupt for a few years whatever they were doing to join the struggle for the freedom of the nation. Seems simple, but it is not easy. Therefore, not many responded to the call, but Sikandar Lal was one of those who did. How is it that a few make choices that the majority consider rash, if not foolish. We have three basic tools for making choices: feelings, reason, and an intangible inner voice. In this case, the part of us that is guided by feelings would see in responding positively to Gandhiji’s call a life in prisons, certainly not a very pleasant prospect. Reason may see the significance of freedom, and hence the nobility of responding to the call positively, but would also argue against the wisdom of a rash decision that crushes the career and neglects the family for the sake of an uncertain outcome in an unpredictably distant future. Even if the reckless idealism of youth motivates a young man to take the plunge, his parents and other well-wishers may foist on him their discouraging ‘mature advice’. However, there is an inner voice, emanating from our deepest Self, which is illumined by our divine essence, the soul. This voice whispers to us what the right choice is. But this voice, although very clear, is a voice that does not insist; it is quite content to be ignored. Therefore, when pitted against the clamour of feelings and reason, this voice does often get ignored. It is only a few rare souls, who are in conscious contact with their deepest Self, who can ignore, oppose and conquer or ignore all opposition in order to act on the dictates of the soul. Sikandar Lal Jauhar was one such person. He responded to Gandhiji’s call positively, in spite of opposition from his own family. He joined the freedom struggle, stayed with it till the goal of independence was realized, and during the intervening almost 30 years faced the lathis and bullets of the British police while participating in several demonstrations, and went to jail several times where he was tortured with fetters and beatings, the scars of which he carried on his ankles and the back all his life. He changed his name to Surendra Nath, which he said was a minor phonetic variation on his true nature, which was to ‘surrender not’. During the 30 years that he was with the freedom struggle, starting almost penniless, he also initiated a business. God helps those who help themselves. The business flourished, and that is how he acquired in the 1930s a plot of land near Mehrauli. The land was also used for serving the cause of the freedom struggle, but to cut a long story short, when the country became free, Surendra Nath ji faced another dilemma, whether or not to continue with politics. He responded to the faint whisper of his deepest Self once again, and decided not to. This time the choice was easier, because in 1939 he had discovered his true calling. In 1939, an ‘unplanned’ visit to Pondicherry led to his discovery of The Mother, a discovery that he calls in his memoirs, “the Supreme Discovery of my life, the miracle of Pondicherry where I lost my heart and won the soul and the real life”. His dedication to The Mother after 1939 was total, as it had been to the freedom struggle since 1919. The commitment that he made in 1939 finally culminated, with the permission and blessings of The Mother, in the establishment of an Ashram on the land that he had bought in the 1930s on 12 February 1956, the date chosen by The Mother, with its name ‘Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Delhi Branch’ also given by The Mother. In keeping with the spiritual philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, which is a life-affirming philosophy, the Ashram started a school in the same year, the school that is now known as The Mother’s International School and has on its rolls more than 2000 students. Besides education, health care is another major activity of the Ashram today. This is the story of a man who started with the resolve that he would ‘surrender not’, but ended with total surrender to The Mother. This is the story of a man who started with the ambition of seeing his country free, and ended with the aspiration of liberating the world from the ignorance of a dividing ego-dominated consciousness towards a consciousness dominated by love and oneness.

(Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Delhi Branch, established on 12 February 1956, is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary this year)