We don’t know exactly when this picture was taken but of course we know where. Most likely it was taken shortly before Sri Chinmoy left Pondicherry to come to America in 1964. In it we see a young man paying homage to his late spiritual teacher Sri Aurobindo. With his head bowed and his hands folded he stands in front of the Maha Samadhi in the very heart of the Sri Aurobindo ashram in south India.
Question: You had a teacher?
Sri Chinmoy: I had a teacher in those days. Sri Aurobindo was my teacher. I was at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for twenty years. But then, when I became fully aware of my inner realities and existence, the Supreme became my Guru. At first, Sri Aurobindo was in the physical body, then he left the body in 1950. But once I got my inner illumination, then I found that the Absolute Supreme is the only Guru — your Guru, my Guru, everybody’s Guru. Only the Lord Supreme is the Guru of the entire world.
When Kaivalya was asked to produce the play in 1999 it had never been performed in its entirety. At the time of his phone conversation with Sri Chinmoy he was asked to take as many hours as necessary to perform the play and also to include as many of his students as was necessary. He was very enthusiastic about seeing the play at last reaching the stage. “I want a nice big play”, he told Kaivalya.
The year that Kaivalya was asked to perform the play, he immediately got into action. “I was getting really prepared for it.” Fate however unfortunately intervened. A host of circumstances arose that made it impossible to proceed further with the production. Over the years Kaivalya says he was never asked by Sri Chinmoy to try again. So the whole idea of actually fulfilling this request was slipping away as more years passed.
Of course with the passing of Sri Chinmoy in 2007 it became even more unlikely that it would ever be performed, at least by Kaivalya. That is until a series of unforeseen coincidences conspired to once again breathe life and inspiration into a very big dream that had long gone still.
It was the simple inspiration of performing in a small skit and a casual conversion in early 2014 that the fire of inspiration was once again ignited for Kaivalya. He knew then, that the time was right to fulfill the request he had so fervently and directly received 15 years earlier.
With the help of his 2 sons Kaivalya now looked upon the project as a family effort. One which would utilize all the family’s skills and allow a collaboration of all their powerful and unique talents. What became apparent quickly was that original play would draw upon new inspiration.
As well it would call upon a new generation of actors to tell an even larger story than that which lay upon the original pages. One whose dimensions and scope expanded so much that the play would need to be performed in 2 parts. Each to be presented during August celebrations over 2 years.
But even this notion was transcended when Devashishu, the architect of the new script, realized in July of this year that it in fact the play needed to be expanded once again even further. The goal was now to tell the story of the great Spiritual master Sri Aurobindo over 3 installments. The 3rd portion to be mounted in August of 2016, next year.
As Kailvalya describes this new process, he says his son Devashishu told him, that though he would be at the heart of the play, performing the role of the elder Sri Aurobindo, that he was however past the age when it was possible for him to write and direct the new enhanced version of the play. “I admitted to him that I liked the way he was going about it.”
His two sons collectively worked out all the details, Devashishu focusing on writing the script and directing, and Sahadeva arranging and performing the music.
The first installment of the production last August was a great success. I ask Kaivalya now, in the few hours leading up to the performance of Part 2, what he feels about fulfilling such a significant request after so many years. “I can still hear his voice. Kaivalya I want you to do the big play. I want you to make a big success of it. I feel that I am fulfilling the request that I didn’t do originally.”
“I have a tremendous empathy with Sri Aurobindo.” Kaivalya says that this portion of the play covers the period when Sri Aurobindo was released from jail and makes his way to Pondicherry in South India for the first time. “It develops the whole context before the ashram gets started and on its way.” As the start of the play approaches, he says, “I am absolutely thrilled.”
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“It such a great honor to play such a high soul. Such a special spiritual Master. I have to say that it was always a dream of mine to play a spiritual Master.” Abhinabha once again has been asked to take the role of Sri Aurobindo.
Going to school in Amsterdam Abhinabha studied theater and has shown over the past few years a remarkable capacity to excel. Not just in performing in plays and music but also he has as well demonstrated a great talent in competitive sports.
Abhinabha says that he joined the spiritual life at about the same time he was studying theater. He says that when Devashishu approached him originally to take on the role he was thrilled and excited.
For the first chapter of the play last year, he says that he received the script in July. “With our plays that we do here at celebrations it is always so intense. We only rehearse for a couple of days, and we know that it is still going to work. A professional company will rehearse for weeks, and we are doing it in 3 or 4 days. It is just amazing to me how it always turns out so beautifully. There is something magical happening there.”
I ask Abhinabha what he learned about Sri Aurobindo and Sri Chinmoy and perhaps even himself when he took part in the play. “It is not an ordinary part you are playing, when you play a part like Sri Aurobindo, a realized Master. I could actually feel a really deep sense of peace entering into me as I was doing the part.”
“During the play I was immersed in this really deep peaceful state. Such a beautiful experience. I think in terms of outer information it didn’t teach me much that I didn’t already know.” Inwardly though he felt a state of consciousness which was incredibly peaceful. “It felt very close by. That was a really special experience.”
“When Guru asked Kaivalya to do the play it was just about the same time that I had joined the path. It feels for me like a little bit of a full circle, that now after all those years we are doing it. It is totally awesome.”
“Last year the play started when Sri Aurobindo was getting his education in Cambridge. He must have been around 18 years old. We took it all the way till he came back to India and was imprisoned. I think it was around 1911, so it was about 12 years of his life.”
As for the play that is about to go on shortly. “This is a very interesting time. It is the period when he comes out of jail. He is an enlightened soul now. He is a spiritual Master but not yet recognized by the world. He doesn’t have any followers or disciples yet. It is a time when he is still involved in the political movement, a little bit, but more on the fringe of it. He still writes political articles, and is still being chased by the British. They want to put him in jail. It is all up to when he moves to Pondicherry.”
“It is a very interesting time. It is when he is shifting from the political world to the spiritual world.”
As we are talking there is just a few hours before the play will go on. “On a practical level I just have to go over the lines a few times. The other thing is just mediation. I feel that for this part, you really have to be in a soulful consciousness. So I will make sure before the play starts that I do a solid meditation. Than just be very quiet. Not think too much.”
“I realized that to play Sri Aurobindo is to not do too much. You just have to embody something. It is coming through you. That was really my experience. So the less I get in the way the better it will be I think.”
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Devashishu describes the order of events in the play before last rehearsal…
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“This one was a little better than usual. I started putting the script together in mid July.” Moments after the play ended I interviewed Devashsihu.
“When I was starting to write this and trying to decide how to do it. I realized it would take hours to finish it. There are so many beautiful stories, and beautiful moments. Just the settling down in Pondicherry there is so much too it. I thought, we can’t rush to the end. So we have a 3rd part still to come.”
“We have the Mother of the ashram still too come. There is the 2nd world war, which is a very interesting part of Sri Aurobindo’s life. In Sri Chinmoy’s original Descent of the Blue there aren’t very many scenes after this point. It is mostly about the settling in Pondicherry and the people who come to meet him in his early years in Pondicherry.”
“I was really happy tonight. I don’t know if you envision it. When you start writing you are a little precarious. You always err on the side that this might not be as brilliant as the last one. This one I decided straight away was not going to be as slap stick. There wouldn’t be any guns or bombs or explosions. Which we had in the revolution the first one.”
“But actually working with these great guys we actually came up with quite a few fun, enjoyable, physical moments. Which really kept it going. They are just in there in support of Sri Aurobindo’s profound words. This was just a perfect combination of physical and philosophical.”
“Guru had such love for Sri Aurobindo and everything you do around Sri Aurobindo you can feel Guru’s presence. Even though it is not word for word Descent of the Blue, which Guru wrote many many years ago. It is based on that. I took all the stories that Guru had in there. Those were my starting points for each thing, and obviously we added humor.”
“Just looking out at the audience at the end you could just feel Guru’s love, joy, and pride. It is fantastic.”
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Final Line of Play and applause:
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“I am an Avatar. My mission is clear. Who knows what work still lies ahead of me. And who knows what great souls will come here to Pondicherry. Perhaps, another avatar will come.”
Question: Guru, can you tell us what you were repeating all those thousands of times?
Sri Chinmoy: Only “Supreme, Supreme,” or “Kali.” I did not say anything else. My Guru, my only Guru, is the Supreme.
Once upon a time my Guru was Sri Aurobindo. We used to say the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, placing the Mother’s name first. In front of the Mother I did not utter Sri Aurobindo’s name. Something — respect, veneration, adoration and worship — would not allow me.