About the Book
The Katha Upanishad says that man in the ordinary course looks outward but some seeking a greater life turn their gaze inward Caorttach aksbuy, and there they find the immortal life of their true Self. Yoga consists in developing this inward and upward look. Taking the celebrated Yogasutras of Patarijali as his framework, Sri Anirvan explains the eight limbs of Pataiijala Yoga in the life of India's spiritual traditions. The Vedas, the Upanishads and the Gita; ·the systems of Samkhya and Tantra; Buddhism, Vaishnavism and the Bauls - all form part of Sri Anirvan's vision.
In this book, Sri Anirvan takes his readers onto unfamiliar grounds; there is no doubt that they will find in him a sure guide on this unusual journey.
In his Introduction, Sri Ram Swamp adds a new dimension. He discusses different chitta- bbumis, a neglected Yogic idea; he mentions non-Yogic samadhis, fertile sources of many Revelations, Prophecies, Scriptures and Gods. This idea provides a new framework, a Yogic critique for evaluating different scriptures and different religious ideologies. The idea offers a radical, Eastern contribution to Studies in Comparative Religions.
Sri Anirvan was born in 1896 in Mymensingh in eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh). After his schooling (largely the study of Sanskrit and Insia’s scriptures), he lived for twelve years in Assam at the Ashram of his Tantric Guru, Swami Nigamananda. Then in 1930, at the age of thirty-four, he left the Ashram to become a free wanderer. Living sometimes in quiet Himalayan retreats, sometimes in the teeming towns and cities, Anirvan spent his time meditating, studying and writing. He passed away in Calcutta in 1978 at the age of eighty-two. Anirvan is the author of twenty books, most of them commentaries on the scriptures and philosophical systems of India.
His first book was a Bengali translation of Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine which was published in 2 volumes during 1948-51. But the centre of his studies was the Vedas on which subject he acquired a rare mastery over the years. His great work, Veda Mimamsa was published in 3volumes in 1961, 1965 and 1970. Meanwhile, several other works on the Upanishads the Gita, Vedanta and Yoga had also been published.
Sri Anirvan was born on 8th July 1896 in the town of Mymensingh in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). It was a typical small Bengali town of that era, small Bengali town of that era, natural and lovely, with thatched-roofed houses and yards hedged by flowering creepers. palm trees stood everywhere, on the outskirts lay paddy fields, and nearby flowed the mighty Brahamaputra. In this sitting the child imbibed the beauty of nature. His knowledge of plants in later life, was almost that of a botanist.
Sri Anirvan’s original name was Narendra Chandra Dhar. His parents, Raj Chandra Dhar and Sushila Devi, were cultured middle-class Hindus is Kayastha caste. They were pious and affectionate and the child grew in an environment of love and harmony. By the age of eleven, the boy knew Panini by heart and daily recited a chapter from the Gita. There was nothing unusual in all this – it was a part of the traditional teaching at home for most boys of his ageand caste. He also went to a newly-established school recently opened by the British Government of India where the teaching was non-traditional.
From his childhood, Narendrta was introspective and loved solitude. Once when he was only nine years, he had an inner experience which profoundly affected him. He saw that the sky with its myriad stars entered into him. He felt wide, free and detached, like the sky. The experience left its mark behind. In later life, he became the sadhaka of the Void.
At the age of sixteen, having completed his secondary education, Narendra left Mymensingh to live in Assam with the Guru to whom his whole family was devoted, Swami Nigamananda. The Swami was building a new Ashram on virgin land near Jorhat. Narendra joined the other disciples in clearing land, digging wells, ploughing and constructing. The one call was to work for the Guru, and Narendra served him ungrudigingly. A few months later, news came that he had been awarded a state scholarship based on the results of the matriculation examination he had taken before he left home. Swami Nigamananda told him to continue his education. For six years, first in Dhaka and then in Calcutta, he pursued his study of Sanskrit and Indian philosophy, specialising in the University of Calcutta Sanskrit examinations at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels.
At the age of twenty-two, the young scholar returned to the Ashram, which had grown rapidly after the initial labour. The number of inmates rose to fifty. Narendra taught in the Ashram’s school, Rishi Vidyalaya, edited its journal, AryaDarpana, and in time assumed many other responsibilities as well. Swami Nigamananda was in fact preparing Narendra to succeed him. He initiated him into Sannyasa and gave him the new name Nirvanananda. Eventually retiring to Puri, the swami left Nirvanananda in charge of the Ashram. But after twelve years of service, new forces were stirring in the disciple. His soul sought release from the cares of the Ashram which, as it developed, involved many administrative activities; it sought freedom to express itself in its own way. One day in 1930, at the age of thirty-four, he left the Ashram never to return and beginning a new life. Events prove him right. It was a great gain for the cause of Indian religious of which he became a great interpreter and exponent. In due course, he also gave up the saffron clothes of a sannyassin. He also changed his name from Nirvanananda to Anirvan, a name by which he was to be known later onto the larger world. It signified a change in approach, philosopht and life-goal. It was also a declaration that he was no longer bound by the vows of sannyasa and that he was free from the ties which even sannyasa forges.
Not much is known of his years of wandering during the next twelve years. Travelling widely in the Himalayas and Assam, he spent much time alone in quite retreats, meditating, studying, writing. By disposition he was a lover of solitude and nature but Sri Anirvanalso believed in accepting the world and sharing his life with other. Even during his wandering years, he lived for long stretches in the cities, often as the guest of an old friend, Biren Sen, a government officer who was posted at the time in Delhi, Allahabad, Lucknow and, mainly Ranchi. Wherever he stayed, a small number of fellow-seekers gathered around him. Sri Anirvan shred with them what light he had, but at the same time was careful to remain unassuming and informal; he wished to keep others and himself free. In the winter, it was his custom to travel about India, visiting friends in the towns and cities, gong to historical sites and places of pilgrimage. This winter tour was a way of keeping in touch with things around.
In 1944 Sri Anirvan began living in a house near Almora, in the Himalayan foothills of Uttar Pradesh, there he made a translation of Sri Aurobindo’s great philosophical work, the life divine, and also started writing his own great work. Veda Mimamsa, for which he received the Rabindra Puraskar award. It was during this time that Sri Anirvan fully realised the meaning of a brief but momentous childhood experience. At the age of seven he hand a revelatory vision of a young girl of radiant beauty, shoes charm and mystery had haunted him ever after. At Almora he recognised her as the presiding deity of his life, “the Divine Mother born of perfect wisdom” who, he felt, was unfolding to him the secret of the Veda, the meaning of India’s philosophical systems and the essence of her heritage. In her, he recognized the Uma Haimavati of the Kena Upanishad who led Indra, King of the Gods, to the Supreme Godhead. Throughout his life Sri Anirvan remained a devotee and interpreter of this Haimavati principle.
It was also here at Almora that Sri Anirvan met Madame Lizelle Reymond who became his pupil and biographer and interpreter of his philosophy to the West. She remained with him for five years and kept intimate contact with him throughout his life.
In 1953-54, Sri Anirvan moved from Almora to Shillong in Assam; and again finally in 1965 to the vicinity of Calcutta which remained the field of his activities during the rest of his life. He continued writing and also started giving systematic lecture courses to a small group of disciples.
Still active even in his seventies, he took long walks and excised regularly. Then in July 1971, a tragic fall altered his way of life forever. Sri Anirvan’s legs were paralyzed by the fall and examination revealed that in addition he was suffering from tuberculosis of the backbone. Bedridden for the last seven years of his life, he was dependent upon others of everything. Sri Anirvan bore this condition with equanimity. His body, always lean, became emaciated and weak, but his mental powers remained strong till the end and always there was a light and smile on his face. During these long years, he was devotedly tended by his disciples. Srimati Rama Chaudhuri and Dharmapals joyously shouldering the main burden.
Sri Anirvan passed away on 31 May 1978, at the age of eighty-two.
“My ambition is not very great,” he once said. “It is to live a life rich in impressions, luminous to the end; to leave behind a few books embodying my life-long search for Truth, and a few souls who have caught fire. My aim? Simply to inspire people and give them the most complete freedom to live their own life. No glamour, no fame, no institution – nothing. To live simply and die luminously.”
Sri Anirvan is the author of twenty books, most of them commentaries on the scriptures and philosophical systems of India. His first major published work was a two-volume Bengali translation (1948, 1951) of Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine. Sri Anirvan’s Veda Mimamsa, an exposition on the Vedas, came out in three volumes in 1961, 1965 and 1970. His commentaries on the Isha, Kena and Aitareya Upanishads appeared in the late 1960s, and a three-volume commentary on the Gita, between 1968 and 1970. Other books include several volumes of letters and a few smaller works such as this one. All but one were written in Sri Anirvan’s mother-tongue, Bengali. The exception is Buddhiyoga of the Gita and other Essays (1983), a collection of most of his writing in English.
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