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21. Mental Tension

It was 10 o'clock in the morning. A friend of mine who was an officer in an erstwhile British-owned company walked into my house. He was in a kind of despair. He announced with suppressed fear that his boss had come and wanted to meet me. A minute later the boss came in. The boss was in a curious state of mind and his manners were odd. He was polite, deferential, interested, curious but also felt strange about something which I could not guess. My friend would not even sit down. He was virtually trembling and was taking notes of our talk. The boss asked me about the farms, about my job and then suddenly exclaimed that he had heard I was a regular visitor to the Ashram, as if it was a strange act or a mortal sin. In fact, the general population had no idea of what the Ashram was about. In the next breath he said he had been visiting the Ashram rest houses and found that there was peace in those places. He commented, as if to himself, that if there was peace in the guest houses, there should be much more in the Ashram itself. I felt he was incoherent and appeared under stress, being disturbed deep down. As if to echo my thought, he said he had some kind of lack of balance and his visits to the Ashram guest house had a soothing touch. He asked me why I was going to the Ashram, whether I had any imbalance, and what I felt about the place. He was asking the questions for the sake of asking and expected no reply. I noticed a strange pain had descended on my head and was spreading all over. Soon the pain lodged itself in my neck and became excruciating. After an initial spell of an odd exhibition of behaviour, suddenly he calmed down, found himself restored to the personality of the top business executive he was, relaxed and waited for me to say something. Surely, the man was a high-strung difficult case of deep disturbance which had lodged in him decades ago. The case was intricate, the acquaintance was fresh, the man was in no great mood to listen and understand, but something in him was attracted to the peace in the Ashram and was interested. My poor friend, who was himself a high officer, was a spectacle of sorrow at once terrified to be in the company of his chief executive and happy he was introducing his boss to me. I spoke briefly that Mother was peace, joy, love and sweetness. Her Presence was felt in every part of the Ashram and physically all over Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo's Samadhi, I said, was a place for realisation. The man listened intently. When I finished, he took leave of me. He went up to his jeep and came back inside the house again. He requested that I might call on him at his factory, if ever I visited his town. The pain in my neck intensified and rolled into a knot, shooting shock vibrations from there for almost an hour. My pain directly reflected the intensity of this man's years of suffering, from what I had no idea.

From then on, he began to meet me off and on. Gradually he told me the background of his particular complaint. He was directly under the Chief Executive of a multi-crore factory with a history of a hundred years. The factory gave him a high salary, a spacious bungalow, unlimited authority and almost all types of perquisites. Thirty years earlier his father had held the same post and in the previous generation his grandfather had also held that post. Over the generations they had acquired a vast landed property and accumulated wealth of every desirable description prevalent in rural areas. The family was very orthodox and was scrupulously religious. In that part of the district the family was a kind of legend and known for their traditional piety, philanthropy, interest in modern civilisation and high administrative position. Early in life this man had taken with zest to all the religious rituals connected with the tradition. There were many around who spoke highly of each type of pranayanam, japa, puja, etc. He was introduced to the religious scriptures, particularly the Vedas and some powerful portions of it. Unfortunately, this poor man accepted all of this, little understanding the high significance of these scriptures and the equally high importance of taking to them through the right Guru or right traditional method. He avidly gathered all of them in a somewhat undigested fashion and began to follow them with meticulous care. He was still augmenting this ‘wealth' of anushtanam.

When he became somewhat close to me, he disclosed that in spite of being a kind of favourite child of fortune, he had one serious problem. His mind was under a terrible tension, a devilish fury all the time. He was happily married and had a child. Materially he was affluent; socially he was in the highest bracket; officially, he was respected as an efficient, honest, dynamic executive. There was no known reason for any lack of satisfaction, much less any grievance. Still, he confided, he was under a great inner conflict. He knew no rest or respite. Though everyone knew him to be polite, he explained that he felt like throwing the chairs at others. He felt that his whole nervous system was on fire, but he managed to maintain a quiet front. This effort aggravated the situation even more. Occasionally he said he used to lose his temper powerfully with his subordinates for no fault of theirs. He would soon regret it, call and make up with them. His envy was for any man who could sleep soundly. Peace of mind was something unknown to him. He was jealous of anyone who had a quiet bearing.

It was clear he was looking for relief and was willing to receive it from any quarter. This was a fertile situation for favour-seekers as well as genuine well-wishers. He religiously followed the instructions given by orthodox priests, donated liberally to temples of family deities, celebrated festivals in famous temples. The whole district was combed out in this relief-operation and a good part of the state was covered. There was a peculiar inevitable result each time. His inner tension increased.

He disclosed that the very first time he had felt any touch of peace was at an Ashram guest house. His perception was true in his nerves and was a real experience, but his extreme orthodoxy stood in the way. He was undecided. Surely this was not an individual to whom anyone can offer advice, even if it is apparently sought for. In a vein of detachment, he said he was prepared to resign, settle down to work on a farm or offer his services to an institution, if only it would bring peace to his turbulent soul. He asked me whether he could join Sri Aurobindo Ashram and whether it would administer a permanent relief. I explained that it was uncalled for, too great a step to seek so small a relief. He was intrigued to see that I considered his suffering too small. I explained that it was too small a problem considering the great spiritual power coming from Mother in the Darshan. Anyway, he felt, his condition was less intolerable than before. With that amount of positive response, I ventured to mention he could attend one of Mother's public Darshans. He agreed and did so. He felt a substantial relief. Now he could consider the possibility of seeking Her Darshan privately. On his suggestion I arranged for it, though it was not a pleasant idea to introduce a mentally distracted individual to Mother. I explained the great stress the man was under and that he desired some relief. Mother was amused and agreed.

A month later, we met. He was sorry he had not told me what happened with Mother. It was a meeting of a split second. As he entered Her room, She turned around and looked at him for a second. The devilish tension that had haunted him for decades dissolved and disappeared. Mother's look was too powerful for him to bear anymore. He left the room as if new-born into peace and calm.

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