Mridu-Di: my first and foremost mother of affection (Mridu Bhashini Devi)

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My first and foremost mother of affection — Mridu Bhashini Devi

Sri Aurobindo Ashram Series: Number 1 Chinmoy



Sri Aurobindo is the Father of a beginningless beginning and the Son of an endless end.

The Mother always gives. We too always give. Hers is the Blessing. Ours is the unworthiness.

Sri Aurobindo's Truth is the Seed. His Law is the Plant. His Forgiveness is the Tree. His Holocaust is the Fruit — the Supermind for the world's transformation.

The Mother is ceaseless forgiveness. It is man's bulwark against perdition.

- Chinmoy (1959)

The Birth of the Infinite1

The golden dawn of the cosmos rapt in trance,
Awaits the Birth of the All.
The seven worlds' bliss converges in her heart
With august and sun-vast call.

Slowly the Peak unmeasured of rapture-fire
Climbs down to our human cry.
His diamond Vision's deathless Will leans low,
Our mortal yearnings nigh.

Suddenly life's giant somnolence is stirred.
His all-embracing Wing
Declares, “I come to end your eyeless fear.
To Me alone now cling!

“No fleeting dreams your teeming births do trace:
Now own My infinite Bloom.
In Me the flood of Immortality!
Nowhere shall be your doom.”

— Chinmoy (1956)

MDM 2. (5 a.m., August 15th, 1872)

The Mother

An endless birth from mute Eternity
Within Thy Bosom dawns at Thy Will supreme.
Thy blissful Touch on all the limbs of earth
Bestows a thrill of joy, unknown, extreme.

In Thee is hushed, O Mother!
our empty cry.
We are Thy stoic sons of the fire-pure way,
Firm-poised in dreadful hours of earth's blind drag;
No more the harrow of doom shadows our day.

Proceedest Thou across the path of Night
With Thy Flame-white Love to change its face and fate.
Thou art the matchless fruit of Thy cosmos' seed;
In Thee the key of Transformation's gate.

— Chinmoy (1955)

He is my son

My adolescent days at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram were sweeter than the sweetest. I can tell hundreds of stories about how kind and affectionate people were to me. One lady used to cook for Sri Aurobindo, and he liked her food so much, specially her luchis. Her name was Mridu, but because she was older than me by many years, I called her Mridu-di.

Once a week, on Saturday evening, she used to cook for the children also. There were thirteen boys, and I was her most favourite, so she used to give me double quantity. When others asked her why she was giving me so much food, she used to tell them, “He is my son.”

So Mridu-di became my mother, my first Ashram mother, and I was always her son. How much love and affection she poured into me!

Mridu-di reserves my place

Every night around eight o'clock, four hundred people or even more would stand in a line to receive the Mother's Blessings. The line was very strict. Mridu-di used to go two hours early so that she could be in the front of the line. Then she would sit and meditate for two hours. There would be only one or two people ahead of her. She would be sitting on the staircase that leads to the second floor, just two or three steps away from the door.

Mridu-di was quite fat. She used to occupy enough space for at least two persons. Then she would spread her legs out so that nobody could sit near her. No one dared to ask her to move.

I would come only two or three minutes before the set time. Before that I was playing volleyball or football, fooling around, running, throwing, taking a shower — not paying attention to the time. Then I would come running to the meditation hall and go to where Mridu-di was sitting. Mridu-di would keep a most beautiful rose for me to give to the Mother and sometimes she used to bless me also before the Mother blessed me. Then she made me go ahead of her in the line. In two minutes she made me a saint!

Behind her there were so many people. They used to curse her for allowing me in the line. “Why are you doing this?” they would ask.

“I am doing it for my son,” she would reply. If I had followed the line, I would have been at least two hundred persons behind, but because of her, I was almost at the front of the line every night.

The tulsi leaf ceremony

When I was thirteen years old, Mridu-di had another job. Every day, around eleven o'clock, no matter where I was, she used to find me and put a leaf in my mouth.

According to our Indian mythology and spirituality, this particular leaf — the tulsi leaf — means devotion. It is said that at times people have actually been pronounced dead by the doctors. Then the village ladies have brought the tulsi plant. They have put a little water in a leaf and then placed it in the mouth of the dead person, and the person has revived and opened his eyes.

Anyway, it became Mridu-di's bounden duty to put this tulsi leaf into my mouth without fail every day with the hope that I would increase my devotion to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Sometimes I would be in a rush and I did not want to have devotion. Then Mridu-di would scream and scream in the street until I stopped. She would never place the leaf in my hand. Even though she was so short and I am quite tall by Indian standards, she always had to put the leaf in my mouth herself.

Every day she used to trap me, only to give me one leaf. So if I have an iota of devotion today, it is because of Mridu-di.

Mridu-di's affection

Mridu-di got married at the age of twelve. Her husband died when she was thirteen years old. She was so fortunate. At that tender age, she was able to place herself at the feet of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Such affection she had for me! From the street I would hear her call, “Hey, Chinmoy! Hey, Chinmoy!” And if she did not see me throughout the whole day, in the evening she used to go to my sisters' house to bark and scream: “Where has Chinmoy gone today?”

Even if she saw me three times during the day, she always showed the same affection. Her affection was in screaming and shouting! Others used to say she was crazy.

Mridu-di appreciates the French scholar

Once a French scholar came to the Ashram and gave a lecture in French. It was on religion, as far as I remember. As he was leaving, this particular lady — my mother — said to him in Bengali, “You spoke extremely well. I enjoyed your lecture.”

So he asked her, “Which part did you enjoy most?”

She said, “I enjoyed everything.”

“But can you not tell me which part?” he said.

“Do I know French?” she replied. “I saw you moving your hand and writing on the blackboard. Sometimes you just moved your hand. That is why I enjoyed it so much. And when people clapped, I clapped also.”

She had a dog at that time on a leash. While she and the French scholar were having their conversation, the dog ran away. The man thanked her for her remarks and said in English, “Better take care of your dog.” Poor Mridu-di misunderstood his pronunciation.

She thought he said “You dog.” Then she became so furious. She started screaming, “This professor called me a dog!”

Mridu-di defends her dog

Mridu's dog used to bark incessantly, without any rhyme or reason. The man who was said to have given the money to buy the main Ashram building lived very near Mridu-di, on the same block. If you saw this man, you would immediately think that he was a saint. He had long hair and a long beard — all grey. He really looked like a saint.

Anyway, Mridu-di's dog was too much for him. He complained that he could not sleep at night. One day he told Mridu-di that if her dog barked that particular night, he would definitely kill the dog on the following day.

That evening, when he was coming back home, Mridu-di was standing on the comer right near his house with a thick knife in her hand. I think it is called a machete. She said to him, “Before you can kill my dog, I am going to kill you!”

He got frightened and said, “Oh no, I am not going to kill your dog.” Then he quickly went inside his house.

That was my dearest Mridu-di! How she dominated my life in those days with her affectionate demands and commands. Her anger was of the quickest, but luckily, for me she was all love, all fondness.

Mridu-di's daily blessing

Sri Aurobindo was extremely, extremely kind to Mridu-di. Every day she was able to see him for a few minutes. Very few disciples were allowed to see Sri Aurobindo. When he took his meal, she would go and kneel in the doorway for one or two minutes for his blessing.

The Mother allowed Mridu-di to be there on condition that she did not bring complaints against anybody. But Mridu-di did not listen, so the Mother would withdraw this special privilege. Then Mridu-di would cry and cry to be allowed to see Sri Aurobindo again. Needless to say, she won the Mother's compassionate heart.

A superlative cook

Every Saturday Mridu-di cooked for Sri Aurobindo. At one time she used to cook for him every day. Then afterwards other cooks got the opportunity, and she was allowed to cook only once a week. She used to make eggplant and other dishes. If she heard that Sri Aurobindo had not eaten her food, intentionally she used to cry and scream very loudly. Her house was right across the street from the house where Sri Aurobindo lived.

The Master consoles his disciple

This story is about Mridu-di's eggplant. One Saturday she cooked her famous eggplant dish for Sri Aurobindo. She was so happy because her Lord would be eating her food on that day. A few hours later, who knows why or how, somebody informed her that Sri Aurobindo did not even touch her food.

Poor Mridu-di started crying and crying and crying. When Sri Aurobindo heard about her miserable condition, he sent her a message, saying, “Perhaps you forgot to send it today.”

She replied, “How could it be? Definitely I sent the food. I am sure it was not served to you.”

Then Sri Aurobindo sent another message: “Now I realise why I am so hungry! I am so hungry because I could not eat your eggplant. Send it for me once more.”

Although it was not her regular hour for cooking, Mridu-di made her eggplant dish again from the very beginning and sent it for Sri Aurobindo. This time he sent a message that the eggplant was excellent, simply excellent.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother share a joke

This story is the funniest of all. One day Mridu-di took her food to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother served it to him as usual. Then the Mother looked at Mridu-di seriously. It seems that Mridu-di had done something wrong. Poor Mridu-di could not brook the Mother's stern gaze and so she wanted to touch the Mother's feet to beg for forgiveness.

As I mentioned before, Mridu-di was extremely fat. As she was bending down to put her hands on the Mother's feet, she could not keep her balance, and so she literally fell on top of the Mother's feet.

The Mother immediately screamed, “Police! Police! Police!” Sri Aurobindo started laughing. He knew that the Mother was only joking. She was pretending to call the police to come and protect her from this emotional Bengali lady. But she did not mean it. Both the Mother and Sri Aurobindo had boundless love and compassion for their Mridu.

Mridu-di used to tell this story so often. It was one of her favourites.

Mridu-di compels me to translate her story

Mridu-di's uncle, Anil Baran Ray, was a great scholar. He translated one of her Bengali stories into English. He did a very good job, but Mridu-di wanted me to translate it as well. Because of her love for me, she compelled me to translate it. So I did it. The name of the story is “A Child's God.”

Then her uncle was so kind to me. His knowledge and wisdom far surpassed mine, but to make Mridu-di happy, he said that my translation was better than his. And his translation had already been published in a magazine many years earlier.

My translation came out in Mother India. When I was working at the Indian Consulate here in New York, a great writer whose name is Channa Lai selected that story for an anthology of stories for children.

Mridu-di encourages my love of music

Mridu-di used to give me her esraj to play. It was smaller than the smallest. Her harmonium also she used to let me play. That, too, was smaller than the smallest.

Mridu-di's passing

My physical mother died when I was twelve years old. Of all my mothers at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mridu-di was by far the best and the most affectionate.

On the 22nd of September, 1962, Mridu-di passed away. I wrote a special poem for her in Bengali. Then I translated it into English. Even in those days I was able to write poems in English!


Unwarned by the Grim Reaper, unweighted with years,
In silence off she shuffled her mortal frame.
A ceaseless fount spraying pure joy was she,
Her heart all sweet with the zeal of a daring flame.

Her heavy boat plied from shore to shore unrhymed
Of blooming, quiescent or withering souls.
A snow-white train of humour with rosy thrill
Her presence called forth in persons of varied roles.

She served her Father divine, the Lord of the gods,
With earthly manna savoured with her soul's delight.
Her heart's up-brimming transport she shared with all.
Mridu, His dove, flew quick to His golden Height.

She bodied forth a climbing, sleepless love,
Her Parents blessed her life with bending Grace.
A unique prayer the child from Him received;
Behold, ecstasy's emblem grew her face.

— Chinmoy
September 22nd, 1962

A unique prayer the child from him received

Sri Aurobindo wrote the following to be used by Mridu-di as her prayer:
"I pray to be purified from self-will and self-assertion so that I may become docile and obedient to the Mother and a fit instrument of her work, surrendered and guided by her grace in all I do.
  November 5th, 1942"

This particular prayer that Mridu-di received was made compulsory for all the students at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in those days. Every day before starting school, we had to recite the morning prayer, standing up with folded hands.

Sri Aurobindo's correspondence with Mridu-di

Mridu-di received about two hundred letters from Sri Aurobindo in Bengali. She was very, very lucky. Four days after she passed away, Nolini-da gave me a special job in connection with Mridu-di. He gave me a file and said, “Here are hundreds of Sri Aurobindo's letters to Mridu. Separate the letters you feel are important from the unimportant ones and then give both files to me.”

With a grateful heart I completed this task.

Stories by Mridu Bhashini Devi

Gopal's Eternal Brother2

This is a very beautiful story. It is a story about Krishna. Krishna has another name, Rakhal Raja. Raja means king, and Rakhal means cowherd, one who takes the cows to the pastures to graze. Krishna was a king, and he was also a cowherd, so he was called Rakhal Raja, King of the Cowherds.

Once there lived an elderly man who was kind, generous and pious. He used to pray to God every day. When he became very old and was about to die, he said to his wife, “I am dying. I will leave you here on earth, but do not worry. God will take care of you.”

His wife replied, “You are going to Heaven, but do not worry. God will take care of you there.”

Now, this elderly couple had only one child, a little boy named Gopal. He was seven years old when his father died. This little family had always lived in the forest, and they were very poor. After Gopal's father's death, his mother, who had only one cow, used to sell the milk from the cow to get some money. With this money she fed Gopal and herself. Although she was very, very poor, she was a great devotee of Lord Krishna. She prayed to Lord Krishna twenty-four hours a day. She never forgot Him for a moment. Her entire life was a prayer.

Because Gopal was seven years old, he had to begin going to school. He lived in the forest, and the school was quite far from his home, so he had to go through the thick of the forest to get there. There were wild animals all around, and naturally he was afraid of these animals. He went to school in the morning with great fear and difficulty, and when he came back in the evening it was worse. At that time there was little light, and he was even more afraid. He came home trembling and practically weeping with fear.

One day he said to his mother, “I am not going to school anymore. I am afraid. You have to send someone with me or I will not go anymore.”

His mother replied, “My child, tomorrow you will have your elder brother with you. I have another son. He stays in the thick of the forest, and you will see him with the cows. When you call him, he will come and play with you. He will take you right up to the school, and he will bring you home again.”

Gopal was so happy. He asked his mother, “What is the name of my brother whom I have not seen?”

“Your brother's name is Rakhal Raja,” said his mother. “Rakhal Raja is his name.”

The following day when Gopal entered the thick of the forest on his way to school, he called out, “Rakhal Raja, Rakhal Raja, where are you?” Rakhal Raja immediately came. He looked like a real king, with a crown and a peacock feather.

So Rakhal Raja met Gopal and they went together to the school. When they came near the school building, Rakhal Raja said to Gopal, “Now you go, and I will come to take you home when your school is over.” In this way, every day Rakhal Raja took Gopal to school in the morning and brought him back home safely in the evening. Gopal was delighted with his new brother.

One day his mother asked him, “Gopal, does Rakhal Raja come?”

“Yes, he comes,” said Gopal.

“I told you he would come. He is your elder brother,' said his mother.

Both Rakhal Raja and Gopal were very happy together. They played all sorts of games in the forest. Rakhal used to bring nice sweets and all kinds of good things for his little brother, so Gopal was always happy and pleased. When he came home late, his mother was not worried because his elder brother Rakhal Raja was taking care of him.

After a few months, Gopal's schoolteacher lost his mother. In India, when somebody dies, we have a festival at the end of the month. Everybody comes and enjoys a feast. You eat as much as you can, and if you do not want to eat, they force you. You have to eat. So a month after the schoolteacher's mother died, there was to be a feast for the schoolchildren, and naturally, all the students were bringing presents to the teacher. Gopal knew that everybody was going to bring a present for the schoolteacher, but poor Gopal did not have any money. He asked his mother sadly, “What can I do? I wish to take something to my teacher, but we are so poor.”

“Ask your Rakhal Raja,” said Gopal's mother. “He will give you something to give to your teacher.”

In the morning, while Rakhal Raja was taking Gopal to school, Gopal said to him, “Rakhal Raja, today everyone will give a gift to the teacher, but I am too poor. Can you give me something?”

Rakhal Raja said, “I am also very poor, but I will give you something.” Gopal was happy to have anything that he could give his teacher.

Rakhal Raja, who was really a god, immediately placed before Gopal a small pot of sour milk, or curd. It is something like what you call yoghurt. “Take this,” he said. “Your teacher knows that you are very poor. He will not mind.”

Gopal was happy that at least he had something to give to his teacher. But, poor boy, when he brought it to the school, he saw that his fellow students had all brought expensive and beautiful things. He was very sad. He stood at the door like a thief. He did not want anybody to see him because he had brought only a little sour milk in a small pot. He was very embarrassed. But the teacher was extremely kind. He took the little pot from Gopal and poured the sour milk into a large pot. He thought that his servants would soon bring sour milk for the festival and that it could be added to the small potful of sour milk in the large vessel.

When the teacher emptied the sour milk from the little pot into the big pot, he found that something miraculous had occurred. The little portion of sour milk suddenly increased in quantity and filled the big pot to the brim! The teacher was astonished that this tiny little amount of sour milk had become so vast.

During the festival, the people who ate the sour milk from Gopal's little pot kept exclaiming about how good it was. “We have never tasted anything like this!” they all said. “It is so fragrant and delightful! The flavour is delicious! It is simply excellent!”

The teacher said, “Gopal brought it for me. It was Gopal's gift.” Then he asked Gopal, “Where did you get the pot of sour milk that you gave me?”

Gopal replied, “My Rakhal Raja gave it to me.”

“Who is your Rakhal Raja?” asked the teacher.

“Oh, Rakhal Raja is my brother. He is my most intimate friend. He always comes with me to school and takes me back home,” said Gopal.

The teacher knew that Gopal had no brother. He had only one relative, and that was his mother. So he asked, “Can you show me your Rakhal Raja?”

“Yes,” replied Gopal. “He is most beautiful. He has a crown with a peacock feather in it. He is so beautiful!” Gopal promised the teacher that he would take him to Rakhal Raja. “Yes, you come with me, Sir,” he said. “I will take you to my Rakhal Raja.”

In the evening, when the festival was over and everybody had eaten and gone home, Gopal took his teacher along with him to the forest. At the usual place where he used to meet his elder brother, he cried out, “Rakhal Raja, Rakhal Raja, Rakhal Raja!” But Rakhal Raja did not come to him.

He called again, “Rakhal Raja, why are you so unkind? You know that my teacher will think I am a liar. Every day you come here even if I do not call you. Today I am crying for you and you are not coming! Why are you so unkind to me? Why are you so cruel? My teacher will not believe me. He will think that I am a liar. Please come, Rakhal Raja, please come.” He cried and begged, but Rakhal Raja did not appear.

The teacher said, “You are a liar. Somebody else has given this to you.”

Gopal shook his head and said, “No, no, my Rakhal Raja has given it to me. I do not know why he is angry with me today. I do not know why he is not coming to me.” And again he started calling, “Rakhal Raja, please, please come!” But Rakhal Raja would not come.

Then Gopal and the teacher heard a voice from the forest saying, “Gopal, today I will not come. I come to you because of your mother. Your mother prays to Me every day. She prays to Me all the time. I am extremely pleased with your mother, and that is why I come to help you and play with you. But your teacher has never prayed to Me. Why should I show My face to him? He also has to pray to Me like your mother. Your teacher does not deserve Me. You deserve Me because your mother prays to Me every day, all day. I am only for those who pray to Me, for those who need Me. Your teacher has never prayed to Me, so I will not come.”

The teacher understood, and he was extremely pleased that Gopal’s mother was so spiritual. He could not see Lord Krishna himself, but he knew that there was somebody who could see Him because she prayed to Him every day, and that person was Gopal's mother.

MDM 22. by Mridu Bhashini Devi. (Translated from the original Bengali by Chinmoy)

A child's God3

Gulu had completed his fourth year and stepped into his fifth. He had been introduced to the alphabet. Gulu's father said, “Well, Gulu, I shall now put you in the primary school of the pedagogue Aghore.”

Gulu's joy knew no bounds. Now he would go to school with a satchel under his arm.

Gulu was very intelligent and spoke sixteen words to the dozen. He was very fond of stories. He often begged his grandmother to tell him stories. He listened to her words with wonder. The story of Prahllad appealed to him most. He would say to his grandmother, “Tell me only the story of Prahllad. I do not want to hear any other story.” Gulu listened to the story of Prahllad with implicit faith. The whole story always filled his mind. Gulu said, “How cruel is the father of Prahllad, Grandmother! What tortures he has inflicted on Prahllad! But nobody can slay him who has God for his helper.”

One day it occurred to Gulu to find God. “Since God is worshipped with flowers, He must be hiding in the roses in the garden,” Gulu reflected. “Once I am able to discover God, I will so befriend Him that He will not be able to desert me anymore.”

Gulu spent the day in the garden, shaking the plants in his search for God. But he met Him nowhere. At last he returned home disappointed.

One day Gulu asked his mother, “I search for God so much. Why do I not find Him, Mother?”

She said, “Gulu, God is fond of playing. So He plays hide-and-seek with us. He is an expert Player. He hides Himself in such a way that even the great saints and sages fail to find Him.”

“Who then can discover Him, Mother?”

“Nobody can find Him unless He reveals Himself. Still He stays with each and everyone and protects all as he did Prahllad. He hides Himself in your heart, too.”

“In the core of my heart! Believe me, Mother, when I search for Him in the garden it seems someone responds from within my heart.”

“It is this Indweller who is God. Adore Him. Learn to love Him as you love me. He is there not only in your heart but in all hearts. Learn to love all, then He will surely be pleased to reveal Himself to you."

Gulu's mind was set at rest by the words of his mother. He cherished the hope that someday God would come to him.

One day Gulu visited his maternal uncle's house along with his mother. They returned home on the eve of the Pujas. The train was packed with passengers and there was not enough room. Gulu was not concerned about that. He peeped out of the window to muse over the scenery. His uncle said, “Do not bend forward like that. You may fall down, Gulu.”

“How can I fall? I am holding on to the door.”

Suddenly the door somehow opened out. Unable to check himself, Gulu fell down below. People inside the compartment raised cries of horror and lamentation. Gulu's mother, under the spell of despair, was about to jump from the train, but someone held her back.

It was night time. Nothing was visible in the dark. The train was running at top speed. Owing to the excitement, no one thought of pulling the chain. Alerted by the confused noise, the passengers in the next compartment finally pulled the chain. The motion of the train was immediately arrested.

The train went backward. Nobody hoped to see Gulu alive. After some distance had been covered, a figure became visible on a bridge. Gulu's mother cried out, “Behold, my Gulu is there!”

The train stopped. Gulu's mother rushed up to him and took him in her arms. “Did you get hurt, Gulu?” she cried.

“How can I be hurt, Mother? The moment I fell down, my uncle jumped and took me in his arms.”

In a surprised voice, the mother said, “Your uncle did not come down. He was there inside.”

“Do not tell a lie, Mother. All this time my uncle held me on his lap. As you all drew near, he put me down and went that way. You can look for him.”

A thrill passed through the whole body of Gulu's mother. She said, “Gulu, your God saved you in the form of your uncle.” At the words of his mother, Gulu was beside himself with wonder.

MDM 23. by Mridu Bhashini Devi (Translated from the original Bengali by Chinmoy)

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