Many years ago in Auroville I participated with a whole group of other volunteering Aurovilians in the writing of a big philosophical book about the Meaning and Purpose of Life, as seen by various great men and women from all times and all countries. Each of us had to choose from a list of those great human beings the one we wanted to write about to present what had been the Aim of his or her life. The comments of each writer, to be somehow woven into the short biography that had also to be narrated, would be based on what Sri Aurobindo himself had written about that great human being, to clarify what exactly had been his or her contribution, conscious or not, to humankind’s inner evolution towards a vaster and vaster understanding of life, and the gradual dedication of every aspect of one’s life to the Divine, to the Presence who Is behind All That Is.
My immediate choice in the list was Sri Chaitanya, a most ardent ‘bhakta’ (spiritual lover) of Lord Krishna, Bhagawan Sri Krishna, seen not only as one of the foremost deities in the traditional Hindu pantheon, but as one of the forms taken through the Ages by Vishnu the Preserver, to help at each difficult time in the terrestrial evolutive process, passing from one step to the next.
In a beautiful symbolic progression, the Divine was taking shape on Earth by incarnating from time to time into a succession at first of more and more evolved animal bodies, then reaching the human form, then living as Rama to give the example of the wise human King, while later as Krishna it was the Divine Person who was consciously present in human form, participating in the momentous events happening and about to happen in the Great India of that time, the Maha Bharat. It was all going to be changed through a gigantic war involving, on one side or the other, all the various Kingdoms ruled then mostly by powerful and arrogant Princes and Kings from the Warrior type and caste, who had become a burden on Mother Earth by all the violence they were perpetrating constantly against the righteous and the wise they were supposed to uphold and protect as per their true function in society.
It was at the beginning of that terrible war, which couldn’t be avoided although he tried his best, that Krishna, in the long talk given right on the battlefield of Kurukshetra and known since then as the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, had explained to appalled and disheartened Prince Arjuna that nobody really dies, that we all only enact what has to be enacted on the huge stage of Life so that the Divine Purpose behind it all is gradually achieved.
When I arrived in India, I was coming only for Auroville, I knew nothing about India, be it the India of today or the India of that incredible spiritual past, or of the long millennia in between.
I discovered it all little by little, and swallowed it eagerly in amazed gulps, thanks to the very popular children publications, the humble illustrated comics called “Amar Chitra Katha’.
It is also in the same series that I discovered my favorite bhaktas of Lord Krishna: the lovely Rajput princess Mirabai, and… this wonderful Chaitanya.
It was with extreme pleasure that I wrote both the biography and the comments needed for the chapter dedicated to Chaitanya. Through him, it was Bhakti, the Love for God, that I was writing about, Bhakti which was so strong in me too I had the feeling I was speaking of myself while writing the article. In May 1975, the Bhakti I felt already for the Divine Mother I had met in the vast but intimate sweetness of the Psychic Realm during a kind of very intense NDE, was completed by the incontrollable Bhakti I also irresistibly felt when the Divine unexpectedly came to me again, but this time as the Divine Lover of my Soul, and in immediate rapturous recognition my being could only utter the beloved Name: “Krishna…”
So you can imagine with how much care and self-dedication I had written this article about Chaitanya/Krishna. Having seen the wonderful Face, having heard the Call of the Flute, I could testify quite personally as to the very real existence of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, and I wished the whole world would know Him and would honor and adore Him as much as I did. Peacock feathers, His wonderfully beautiful symbol, were all about my room in graceful bouquets.
Several months later came the time when the whole group of us Aurovilian writers was called to Delhi in order to present the texts we had written, to the inspired Professor of Philosophy who had initiated and was coordinating the whole project of the book. Evening after evening, in the apartment where he lived, we would all gather and listen to some of us reading out what they had written for their chapter of the book, and then he would make his own comments to perfect what had been written.
One day, I woke up with a special emotion in me: the coming night would be my turn. I would have finally to read out what I had written. I didn’t know so well the other participants, nor the Professor for that matter. I felt shy and unsure of myself, when several of the other participants were considerably more knowledgeable and capable than me for the kind of writing required; I was no philosopher for a philosophy book. Would my Bhakti-filled write-up be appreciated?…
I didn’t mind being ridicule; but I didn’t want my beloved Krishna to suffer the same ridicule because of me, because of my inability to express the wonder of what He is.
So the whole day passed for me in that secret mood of apprehension.
As we had nothing special to do in the afternoon, our Aurovilian group leader, who was also a participant but happened to originate from Delhi and so to thoroughly know his way around, took us all to one of the great touristic attractions in Delhi: the several level high ancient tower known as the Qutub Minar. Part of the same complex of monuments and ruins of still older buildings was also a metallurgical marvel one could look at and touch: a tall iron pillar extremely old but still without a trace of rust.
All this was very interesting in itself, but my heart wasn’t in any touristic discovery that afternoon; my heart was growing more anxious as the hours passed and the time of my test grew nearer.
After a while, longing to be alone, I discretely left the group and withdrew from the area most crowded with visitors like us. Walking a little away, I found myself in an open field where obviously the tourists never went: it was full of some wheat-like sort of cereal growing wild, all a sea of pale green gold moving softly in the breeze. I sat on some fallen pillar among the few ruins still visible here and there, closed my eyes, and started inwardly talking to Krishna, praying ardently, almost tearfully that I may not fail Him in my presentation later that night. Slowly my intense concentration went deeper and deeper, and became a kind of trance, my consciousness plunging in some ignored depths of my soul, into vague forgotten scenes I could see, somehow in connection with Krishna, that had happened in ancient times right where I was sitting – dim memories it seemed, or perhaps some eternal reality half-seen again in the complete stillness of my being and the timelessness of that ‘past’.
And then suddenly my eyes opened again, and I abruptly became conscious again of the ‘present’ I was part of in this lifetime; the sun had come down, I needed urgently to go find the others again, they were probably waiting for me, wondering where I had disappeared for so long.
But before standing and going away, I talked one last time inwardly to my beloved Krishna, passionately asking Him His help so that everything would go all right when, in but a few hours, I would talk about Him in front of the others.
As I rose and saw again the top of the golden sea around me, lo and behold: right in front of me, directly on top of whatever was growing there, was now lying…. a peacock feather!!!
I couldn’t believe my eyes. How was such a thing possible?! How could a peacock feather have landed there?! But the peacock feather was there, really there, just all by itself, unbelievably beautiful in its myriad colors shining in the last of the sunlight.
A peacock feather from my beloved Krishna.
What a miraculous, loving, humorous, obvious, adorable, perfect Answer to my prayer.
I took it preciously and pressed it against my heart with utter delight and amused gratitude.
No more fear. I knew now with certainty that I had His Blessings, and that everything would go fine – great perhaps even – for my presentation of Him.
And it did!…