Just a few steps away from the shore of Bay of Bengal where the sea breeze blows to drive away your fatigue and as soon as you touch Pondicherry, very close to Sri Aurobindo’s Samadhi, lives Shri M.P. Pandit. He is well known to many who tread the path of the spirit. At the age of 21, he had dedicated himself at the altar of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. He speaks with a divine right – his interpretation of IntegralYoga bears testimony to his deep insight into the spiritual, occult and intellectual realms. He is deeply involved in the realisation of the vision of a perfect man in a perfect society.His words penetrate even the hearts of non-believers. He is always on the move, caring and sharing, taking the message of light, peace and harmony to all with whom he comes into contact.

Shri Pandit is also a prolific writer, with more than hundred and fifty books to his credit. Through him a good number of people have come in touch with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s philosophy and yoga. He is like a lamp that lights other lamps. In him there is a  fusion of the past and the present.

Q1. You are a globetrotting philosopher advocating Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga to Indian and Western minds alike, how much has Sri Aurobindo’s yoga really been accepted in India and in the West?

A. I would like you to make a distinction between Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and his yoga. There is a general acceptance of his philosophy of spiritual evolution as an affirmative philosophy. But the Integral Yoga, especially its practical side, is not liked in the West. The Western mind finds it easier to follow what passes for Vedanta, Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and a little bit of Jnana Yoga as propagated by Ramakrishna Mission and ISKCON.
The concept of an integral approach, and living it in the world, they like it in theory, but in practice our yoga does not have an appeal to the Western mind which wants a systematic presentation: 1,2,3,4,...some asana, pranayama, prayers—that way they want the artificialisation of the natural process, i.e. too systematic an approach which cannot be accepted in our yoga. Our yoga is more individualistic, and human nature being what it is, and this yoga aiming to change it, you cannot systematise it. They want to read and practise Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga as presented by a number of teachers from India like Swami
Sivananda, Swami Muktananda, Swami Satyananda and so many gurus. Patanjali’s yoga, Hatha Yoga modified, even diluted, to suit the Western mind – they like that. They are fascinated by the concept of Kundalini yoga, a quick means of God realisation. Integral Yoga has not been able to make a dent in the Western mind although the word ‘Integral’ yoga has been used by other teachers.

The theory of evolution has been accepted by the intelligentsia as a direction to humanity but there is an absence of a concrete formula. The practical side of it has not been followed up as has been done by the Ramakrishana Mission and the Yogananda people. They have stayed there, conducted courses, spiritual retreats, etc. Sri Aurobindo’s yoga has suffered from inadequate presentation and a lack of practical follow-up action to concretise the gains of theoretical preachings. Do you take pains to relate yourself to the level of the people whom you talk to? It has not been done.

You said India is a spiritual country. But you must know India is not a spiritual but a religious country. It has got spiritual ideas but very little of spiritual practice. The
real inculcation of higher values like harmony, truth and beauty—these things nobody cares for. Values are only spoken of, nobody practices. I have been to a number of ashrams throughout the world. I found that behind good behaviour and politeness there is jealousy, sectionalism, groupism, etc. They are all religious. The transition from religion to spirituality is yet to be achieved. There are a few individuals with spiritual attainments but they have all been institutionalised by their disciples and become commercial and sectarian.

Q2. Without spiritual attainment, man is not complete—your comments.

A. Yes, true, because the spiritual aspect is the ultimate reality. All else is preparation. Intellectual achievement, vital achievement, physical achievement, all these are preparatory – leading to a stage where spiritual aspect becomes fundamental. So, no man can be complete without spirituality taking a leading role. Life should be built around this spiritual truth.

Q. Why is it necessary for people to stay under the shade of an ashram atmosphere? Is it not possible to do intense sadhana outside the ashram?

A. Definitely, sadhana is also possible outside the ashram. Ashram is only a centre focussing on the working of the yogic principles. This is only a focus. The circumference has to be wider and wider and even here yoga is first individual and then collective. Merely staying in an ashram does not mean that one is practising sadhana or is progressing, just as staying outside does not mean that one is not progressing. It depends upon individual sincerity. Regarding collective sadhana, this ashram for instance has an advantage: an atmosphere
is generated here which can inject some of the higher dynamisms. It is like going to a hill station or religious people going to a holy place. But ashrams are not a permanent solution. Each home must be turned into an ashram. Ashram is like a launching pad. It is necessary
at one stage as a spiritual nucleus. Hundreds of centres have to come up to practise this yoga to bring about a change in our lives.

Q. Was it your own decision to join Sri Aurobindo Ashram or was it a predestined affair? You possibly can at this stage of your life analyse this in a balanced manner.

A. Apparently it was my own decision. But when I look back I see that from my childhood things moved in such a way that I had to take a decision. It was my free will. I wanted to come much earlier than I did. My spiritual yearning had started before I had heard of the
Mother and Sri Aurobindo. It was a turn of the soul. I had no control over it. So, both have operated.

Q. Could you narrate a single incident that has reinforced your faith in the Mother as the Divine Mother?

A. My faith in the divinity of the Mother was based not on her miraculous power: it was recognition. I saw her and I knew she was divine. She had a rare human side to come down to our level but it would be perplexing for many. One thing you must know for certain is that
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had not come to the earth under the compulsion of their karma but as a divine incarnation. They came with a definite purpose. But to say that they are the only Avatars is not true. Each Avatar creates the ground for the next Avatar.

Q. It is seen that around a self-realised soul an ashram is organised, but no ashram could produce a self-realised soul— any comment?

A. (Laughs) A self-realised being does not always announce itself. Unless he is so charged by the Divine, a self-realised person does not become public. So let me tell you, not only in ashrams but even outside there are today self-realised souls. They may not be called upon
to become gurus or leaders. They are satisfied with being what they are. But an ashram is a most unlikely place for a self-realised soul to remain because of institutional factors—too closed a community to permit free evolution of the individual. A realised person is not
satisfied only with himself. He wants to light various lights, possibly silently. His intention is not occupying a post of power, but lighting other lamps. An ashram is not always the best place to get realisation. From many ashrams some have gone out, and because they went
out they have done well; otherwise they would have become a part of the institution.
Here things are not like that because of the Mother’s dynamic consciousness. I can participate in the collective life, or I can stay aloof. But how far we have progressed
towards our goal is difficult to judge. I have been in the West and seen many ashrams. Almost all are busy with physical aspects of life. But definitely they have achieved a lot.

Q. What is the meaning of life, not theoretically, but what you feel life is like?

A. Life is a perpetual dynamic movement towards perfection. So each step, each happening is a step towards something else, to move on. Tomorrow you should do something more than what you have done today. That should be our motto. It is not moving in a circle but in a
spiral way.

Q. What is the reality behind birth and death?

A. The belief that you would not die is a reflection of the soul’s knowledge. Death is not the end but a renewal of life.

(Reproduced from ‘The Call Beyond’ Volume 18, No. 2, 1993, pp. 15-18)