Letter to Mrinalini Devi
This is the famous letter written in Bengali by Sri Aurobindo to his wife Mrinalini Devi on 30th August 1905. In the letter, he divulges a deep secret about himself – his THREE MADNESSES, as he puts it! – and asks his wife to reflect on it with a tranquil mind.
30th August 1905
Your letter of the 24th August is to hand. I was sorry to learn that your parents have once again the same kind of bereavement, but you have not mentioned which of their sons died. However, how does sorrow help? Seeking happiness in the world inevitably leads one to find suffering in the midst of that happiness, for suffering is always intertwined with happiness. This law holds good not only in regard to the desire for children, but it embraces all sorts of worldly desires.
In place of twenty rupees I read ten rupees (in your letter) and so I wrote that I will send you ten rupees; if you need fifteen, I shall of course send you fifteen rupees. This month I have sent the money for the clothes which Sarojini bought for you in Darjeeling. How could I know that you have already made a loan? As was needed, I had sent fifteen rupees; if you need three or four rupees more, I will send the same next month. I will send you twenty rupees this time (i.e. next month).
Now, let me tell you about that matter. You have, perhaps, by now discovered that the one with whose destiny is linked yours is a very strange kind of person. Mine is wide apart from what the people in this country have at present as their mental outlook, their aim of life and their field of work. It is quite different in all respects; it is uncommon. Perhaps you know how the ordinary people view extraordinary ideas, uncommon efforts, extraordinary high aspirations. They label all these as madness, but if the mad man succeeds in the field of action then instead of calling him a lunatic, they call him a great man, a man of genius. But how many succeed in their efforts? Out of a thousand persons only ten are extraordinary, and out of these ten one succeeds. For me, success in the field of action is far away: I have not yet been able to enter into it fully; so, I may be considered a mad man. It is very unfortunate for a woman to be married to a mad man; for all the hopes of women are limited to the joys and the agonies in the family. A mad man would not bring happiness to his wife — he would only inflict suffering.
The founders of the Hindu religion understood this matter very well, and they loved very much characters, action and hopes which were extraordinary; they regarded highly all uncommon persons, whether great or insane. But what remedy could be there for the terrible plight to which women were put by such things? The Rishis decided upon this remedy: they said to women, “Know that, for you, the husband is the supreme Guru; this and nothing else, is the only mantra. The wife is the husband's co-partner in the practice of Dharma. She will help him, advise him and encourage him in the work he chooses for his Dharma; she will obey him as God, feel happy in his happiness and suffer in his suffering. It is the man's right to choose the work, to help and encourage him is the right of the woman.”
Now the question is which would you choose, the path of the Hindu Dharma or that of the new so-called cultured Dharma? That you have married a lunatic is a fruit of faulty actions of your previous life. It is better to make a settlement with one's fate; but what kind of settlement would it be? Swayed by the opinion of others, will you also dismiss him as a mad man? The mad man will, by all means, run on the path determined by his madness. You will not be able to hold him back; his nature is stronger than yours. Will you then just sit in a corner and weep and wail, or join him in his run and try to become the mad wife to match the mad husband, like the queen of the blind king who covering her eyes with a piece of cloth lived as blind? Whatever be the impact on you of the education you have received in a Brahmo school, you are, after all, a daughter of a Hindu family; the blood of Hindu ancestors runs in your veins, and I have no doubt that you will choose the latter path.
I have three madnesses. Firstly, it is my firm faith that all the virtue, talent, the higher education and knowledge and the wealth God has given me, belong to Him. I have the right to spend only so much as is necessary for the maintenance of the family and on what is absolutely needed. Whatever remains should be returned to the Divine. If I spend all on myself, for personal comfort, for luxury, then I am a thief. Up till now I have been giving only one-eighth of my money to God and have been spending the rest of it for my personal happiness — thus trying to settle the account and remain immersed in worldly pleasures. Half of the life has already been wasted; even an animal feels gratified in feeding itself and its family.
I have realised that all these days I had been pursuing the life of the animal and of the thief. Having realised this, I have felt much repentant and have grown a repulsion for myself; no more of it, — this sinful act I abandon for good. Giving the money to the Divine means using it for works of dharma. I have no regrets for the money that I gave to Sarojini or to Usha, because helping others is dharma, to protect those who depend on you is a great dharma, but the account is not settled if one gives only to one's brothers and sisters. In these hard days, the whole country is seeking refuge at my door, I have thirty crores of brothers and sisters in this country — many of them die of starvation, most of them weakened by suffering and troubles are somehow dragging on. They must be helped.
What do you say? Will you be, in regard to this, the copartner of my dharma? We will eat and dress like simple people and buy what is really essential, and give the rest to the Divine. That is what I would like to do. If you agree to it, and can make the sacrifice, then my urge can be fulfilled. You were complaining, “I could not make any progress.” Here is a path to progress that I point to you. Would you proceed in that path?
The second madness has recently taken hold of me; it is this: by any means, I must have the direct experience of God. The religion of today, that is, uttering the name of God every now and then, in praying to Him in front of everybody, showing to people how religious one is — that I do not want. If the Divine is there, then there must be a way of experiencing His existence, of meeting Him; however hard be the path, I have taken a firm resolution to tread it. Hindu Dharma asserts that the path is there within one's own body, in one's mind. It has also given the methods to be followed to tread that path. I have begun to observe them and within a month I have been able to ascertain that the words of the Hindu Dharma are not untrue. I am experiencing all the signs that have been mentioned by it. Now, I would like to take you also along that path; you would of course not be able to keep up with me as you have not yet acquired so much knowledge, but there is nothing to prevent your following me. Anybody can have the realisation by following the path, but it is left to one's will to choose to enter the path. Nobody can force you to enter it. If you are willing, I will write more on the subject.
The third madness is this: whereas others regard the country as an inert piece of matter and know it as the plains, the fields, the forests, the mountains and the rivers, I know my country as the Mother, I worship her and adore her accordingly. What would a son do when a demon, sitting on his mother's breast, prepares to drink her blood? Would he sit down content to take his meals or go on enjoying himself in the company of his wife and children, or would he rather run to the rescue of his mother? I know I have the strength to uplift this fallen race; not a physical strength, I am not going to fight with a sword or a gun, but with the power of knowledge. The force of the kșatriya is not the only force, there is also the force of the Brahmin which is founded on knowledge. This is not a new feeling in me, not of recent origin, I was born with it, it is in my very marrow. God sent me to the earth to accomplish this great mission. At the age of fourteen the seed of it had begun to sprout and at eighteen it had been firmly rooted and become unshakable. Listening to the words of Aunt N you thought that some wicked person had led your simple and good-natured husband to the evil path. In fact, it was your good-natured husband who brought that person and hundreds of others to that path, be it good or evil; and he will bring thousands more to it. I do not say that the work will be accomplished while I live, but it will certainly be accomplished.
Now I ask you: What do you want to do in this matter? The wife is the śakti (the power) of the husband. Are you going to be the disciple of Usha and adulate the sahibs? Would you be indifferent and diminish the power of your husband? Or would you double his sympathy and enthusiasm? You might reply: “What could a simple woman like me do in all these great works? I have neither will power, nor intelligence, I am afraid even to think of these things.” There is a simple solution for it — take refuge in the Divine, step on to the path of God-realisation. He will soon cure all your deficiencies; fear gradually leaves the person who takes refuge in the Divine. And if you have faith in me, and listen to what I say instead of listening to others, I can give you my force which would not be reduced (by giving) but would, on the contrary, increase. We say that the wife is the śakti
of the husband, that means that the husband sees his own reflection in the wife, finds the echo of his own noble aspiration in her and thereby redoubles his force.
Would you always remain like this? “I shall dress well, eat good food, laugh and dance and enjoy all possible pleasures” — such a state of mind is not called progress. Nowadays the life of women in our country has assumed a very narrow and humiliating form. Abandon all these things and come with me. We have come to the world to do God's work, let us begin it.
There is one defect in your nature — you are too simple. You listen to all that people say. This always keeps the mind restless, does not allow intelligence to develop, and there is no concentration in any work. This has to be corrected; you must acquire knowledge by listening to one person only, accomplish the work with a firm aim and firm mind, you have to disregard the slander and ridicule of people and keep your devotion firm.
There is another defect also — not of your nature but of the times. The times have become like that in Bengal; people are unable to listen seriously even to a serious talk; they laugh at and make fun of all that is high and noble, Dharma, philanthropy, high aspiration, great endeavour, liberation of the country; they try to laugh away everything. You have developed this fault a little by your association with the Brahmo school; Barin also had it, and to some extent we all are subject to this fault, but it has increased to a surprising degree among the people of Deoghar. It is necessary to throw out this mentality with a strong resolution; you will be able to do it easily, and once you cultivate the habit of thinking, your real nature will blossom; you are already inclined to philanthropy and sacrifice; only what is wanting is the strength of mind. You will get that strength from your devotion to God. Your praying to God will bring you that strength.
This was my secret. Without divulging it to anybody, reflect over these things with a tranquil mind. There is nothing to be afraid of, but plenty to think about. In the beginning you won't have to do anything more than to devote half an-hour every day to meditate on God. You should put before Him your strong aspiration in the form of a prayer. The mind will get gradually prepared. You should always offer to Him this prayer: “May I not come in the way of my husband's life, and his ideals, and in his path to God-realisation; may I become his helper and his instrument.” Will you do it?