November 24 has come again – one of the darshan days on which Sri Aurobindo used to appear before a pilgrim-public of hundreds passing in turn and receiving the benediction of his calm yet piercing gaze. Last year it was the final occasion on which, side by side with the Mother, he was seen in the body. After that, the public saw him only as he lay in state eleven days later, with his imperial eyes shut upon the world to which he had brought the vision of a new life victorious over the agelong ills of humanity.
The final living darshan is etched unforgettably on the minds of all disciples. For it was a sovereign act of grace. Sri Aurobindo was known by many to have been seriously affected on a sudden with some bodily disorder. The disease was, of course, symbolic of a process to which he had given his sanction as part of the spiritual fight waged by him against the powers that had held physical man under their sway. But it was no mock difficulty assumed in the course of a demonstration of divine power. When a spiritual genius is bent on transforming completely the condition of man on earth, he does not play-act: he takes up in dead earnest and in concrete actuality the whole range of human problems – mental, vital, physical. So the renal disorder accepted and suffered by Sri Aurobindo was genuinely acute and fraught with the most dangerous possibilities. To deal with them perfect rest was required. But Sri Aurobindo, both in order to answer the need of his followers and in order to dispel whatever defeatism might invade those who did not know what was happening behind the scenes, sat as on every darshan day – tranquil and august, with the Mother radiantly smiling beside him.
No sign did he show of the grave trouble through which he was passing. But there was one difference on this day from the usual darshan. As time went on, word travelled round that people should hurry. They were requested not to linger at all in the Master’s presence. They had to move fast before him, have but a brief instant of his regard so as not to prolong the period of his continuous sitting posture. Two or three times the doors of the darshan room were closed for a short interval. There was, however, no shirking of the task of letting every disciple and visitor meet those benedictory eyes.
Those who went in early for the darshan were lucky enough to have the customary standing-time. The present writer cannot be sufficiently grateful for the good fortune of having been among them. As he slowly went up the stairs in a queue, breathing the holy atmosphere that is especially intense during the darshan days and feeling with every step upward an increasing sense of what he can only call the luminous universality of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the all-embracing power and love of a limitless spiritual Being that had put forth two individual focuses, as it were, of Its eternal Truth-Consciousness, he could not remember that for a week or so before this occasion Sri Aurobindo had been rumoured to be going through a severe physical crisis. And as he reached the top of the stairway and, from the outer end of the darshan-hall, caught sight of the Mother and the Master seated as if in a timeless sculpture of serene compassion, the day joined all those wonderful days in the past when he had stood or knelt before his spiritual parents and had realised in concentrated richness the new-birth they had given him from the moment when, twenty-three years ago, he had been accepted in the Ashram. The normality, so to speak, of the super-normal seemed all the more unbroken.
There, as ever, was Sri Aurobindo, with his majestic countenance the colour of pale gold, his thin silvery beard and his mane of long white hair. One elbow resting on the arm of his seat, one hand placed upon his thigh, the whole body a picture of powerful ease, he sat gazing out as if towards glorious horizons for humanity that humanity itself could not yet vision from its grope at the foot of the Aurobindonian Himalaya. Imperturbable he looked, while the Mother was, as usual, most graciously attentive to every shade of the passing moment. With her expression of sweet intimacy she was taking away whatever strain the in-coming people might feel on approaching the Master on such rare occasions in the year.
Even as the writer drew near, nothing uncommon was visible to hint in any distressing way the strange event that was to occur in less than a fortnight. But one uncommonness marked the occasion to render peculiarly blissful this last darshan. The Mother leaned towards Sri Aurobindo and softly mentioned the name of him who was offering his salutation. Immediately Sri Aurobindo began to smile. It was a smile of supreme kindness, whose meaning was understood only later when he had left his body. On a back-look it seemed to have held a royal appreciation of all the little toils done with the pen in his dear name and also a vast beneficence assuring help for all future to one who had been in the habit of depending almost helplessly on him for inspiration.
The inner assistance has not ceased to be felt. Always the touch from within is ready as before and a wide store of thought and word is inwardly perceived to be waiting above the mind as if in Sri Aurobindo’s masterful hands, to come down at his sanction as in the years when the call used to go to his embodied Light in a room in the Ashram. That smile shines out through the veil of so-called death. And like it the whole Aurobindonian power is at work, and today’s darshan will be charged with it as on the day we last saw him beside the Mother.
November 24 is known as the Day of Victory, for, on it, Sri Aurobindo had the experience which promised complete fulfilment of his vision. It is significant that the last living darshan he granted was precisely on this day and in spite of grave obstacles. He declared through the occasion that his life was victorious, no matter what the appearance soon after. And the declaration was even verbal and explicit, for the sentence culled from his writings and published as a message on that day ran: “The Supramental is a truth, and its advent is, in the very nature of things, inevitable.”