Act IV, Scene 1

(A trip to Kashmir. The Maharaja of Baroda and Aurobindo on Shankaracharya Hill.)

MAHARAJA: Arvind Babu, now we are on the top of the hill. We have ascended a thousand feet above the level of the valley of Kashmir. As we climbed higher and higher I felt as if a screen were slowly lifting up and revealing the splendid beauty of Kashmir. It seems you, too, are thrilled all over by the scenery of this place.

AURO: My feeling is at once overwhelming and inexpressible.

MAHARAJA: What is it? I must hear it from you, I must. (He comes closer to Aurobindo.)

AURO: I made no effort, yet I have had an experience of something so vivid, so astonishing.

MAHARAJA: Do confide it to me, my young friend!

AURO: It is the vacant Infinite! It cannot be described in words. I am sure this experience will leave an abiding impression upon my mind.

MAHARAJA: How wonderful you are! You have spiritual experiences while I merely enjoy the beauty of the scenery. By the bye, do you know the funny story about the Hill?

AURO: No. I would like to hear it.

MAHARAJA: The story is that during his itinerant life the great Vedantin, Shankaracharya, with some of his disciples paid a visit to Kashmir. For some time they made their stay on this hill, and it was at this instance that this temple of Shiva was first set up. Hence this hill has been known as Shankaracharya Hill.

AURO: Now what about the funny portion?

MAHARAJA: Ah, have patience, I am coming to the point. I have told you that Shankara came over here with his disciples. Soon they ran short of provisions. But nobody from the neighbouring villages turned up to offer hospitality to them. It was after some days that a few pundits came to meet them. The disciples of Shankara flew into a rage. They said to the pundits: "Are you not ashamed of your indifference? Are you so ignorant of the Shastric injunctions on hospitality to guests? Did you care to know that we have been without food for some days?" The pundits did not hesitate to defend themselves and asked: "How on earth could you expect us to know this?" Then they turned to Shankara and said that if he had any spiritual power he could have easily fed his disciples. Thereupon Shankara said: "I don't believe in Shakti. The world is an Illusion." The pundits cried out: "No, never, the world is real. It is Reality itself. The world is neither illusion nor hallucination."

AURO: The pundits are right, absolutely right.

MAHARAJA: Ah, but let me complete the story. I have come to the end. The miracle begins. One of the pundits invoked a goddess by chanting some mantras and placed his right palm on the ground. Lo, jets of water began springing up from below the very spot. Poor Shankara had to admit the existence of Shakti.

AURO: I fully believe in the power of such mantras.