Editors Devdip Ganguli and Gautam Chikermane talk to Prabha Khaitan Foundation about the life, politics, philosophies and writings of the “supramental sage”
We have all come across the works of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh — his texts, politics, the battle for independence, philosophies and more. But most of us have never encountered an in-depth reading of who he was. This is why it was a special moment when Prabha Khaitan Foundation hosted a session of The Write Circle session, where editors Devdip Ganguli and Gautam Chikermane spoke about their 2022 book, Reading Sri Aurobindo. Hosted at the India International Centre, the focus of the discussion was on Ganguli and Chikermane’s scholarly work on the great philosopher, Sri Aurobindo. They shared insights and perspectives on Aurobindo’s teachings and writings. The session was moderated by Pooja Poddar Marwah, Ehsaas Woman of Dehradun.
Devdip Ganguli, an accomplished educator, imparts various aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy to undergraduate students at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre in Pondicherry. He is also associated with national and international institutes that offer courses on Aurobindo’s writings. Gautam Chikermane serves as the vice-president of the Observer Research Foundation and specializes in research areas such as economics, foreign policy, the Mahabharat, and, of course, Sri Aurobindo’s works.
After a welcome speech by Archana Dalmia, Ehsaas Woman of Delhi, Marwah began by asking the authors editors who Sri Aurobindo really was. Chikermane said that Aurobindo can be described as someone who has been ‘mercilessly cancelled’ over the last 75 years. “Our book is a small attempt to revive his personality,” he said. “We call him the ‘supramental sage’.” When asked about what inspired this collection of essays by different people, Ganguli had a ready answer. “There are infinite ways of approaching and understanding a personality like him, who touches upon the infinite,” he said. “And even then, you just get a glimpse.” he said. Ganguli added that he sees Sri Aurobindo as a “revolutionary” not only in the political sense but also in the spiritual sense. He did not wish to seek and formulate a new religion but adapt a unique way of living in which he values the past of Indian culture while also being forward-thinking in his vision.
“There are infinite ways of approaching and understanding a personality like Sri Aurobindo, who touches upon the infinite. And even then, you just get a glimpse.” – Devdip Ganguli
Marwah asked Ganguli for his unbiased views on the sage, since he and three generations of his family have been involved with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. “I do not have an unbiased view!” said Ganguli. “I grew up in an environment where it was my light and air, and I was lucky that at a formative stage, I got interested in reading. A lot of people complain that his writing is too difficult. But he wrote in a way in which his words were a force in action.”
The rest of the discussion focused on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophies, his spiritual collaborator Mirra Alfassa, as well as Savitri, his longest poem in the English language. The session came to a close with a Q&A round with the audience. Anantmala Potdar, Ehsaas Woman of Delhi delivered the vote of thanks, and Karuna Goenka, Ehsaas Woman of Delhi, felicitated the authors.
The Write Circle Delhi was supported by Shree Cement Limited as their CSR initiative in association with India International Centre Delhi and with the support of Ehsaas Women of Delhi and Dinesh Nandini Ramkrishna Dalmia Foundation.