In Memoriam: Shraddhavan

Shraddhavan is the Sanskrit name given by the Mother in June 1972 to a young Englishwoman who left her country to join the upcoming project of Auroville in 1970. Shraddhavan means ‘one who has faith in the higher being’. She fully embraced her name.

She was born Anne Margret Robinson on June 4th, 1942. Her father was a protestant pastor and her mother, Winnie (known to many in Auroville), was a teacher. Before leaving England, she studied English Language and Literature as well as Library Science at Bristol University. Before coming to Auroville she traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, including India, and Australia.

When she arrived in Pondicherry in November 1970, she was sent by the Mother to Auroville to teach in the newly started school in Aspiration.

In Last School 1974

But the work for which she will always be remembered is her work as Project Coordinator of Savitri Bhavan, which along with her partner, Helmut, she built up from its inception.

Savitri Bhavan

Shraddhavan undertook an in-depth study of the works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. She was a teacher, a poet (she published a book of her poems ‘Stars in the Soup’), a translator, a researcher, an efficient administrator, and above all a great sadhak. Several of her poems, stories, essays, articles, and book reviews have been published in the Ashram journal Mother India, Heritage magazine, Collaboration, etc. She was the editor of the journal Invocation: Study notes on Savitri. She has been honored with the ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ by the Overman Foundation on 18 November 2012.

Shraddhavan conducted classes on The Life Divine, Essays on the Gita and Savitri. Many AVI centres were happy to have hosted her for her classes in their countries and via Zoom link. They continue with regular classes guided by Shraddhavan’s books and videos.

Savitri Study Group in Holland

The depth of her understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s mantric epic poem Savitri was reflected in her classes, the joy her students experienced during her Sunday Savitri Study Circle, which have been going on for the last 25 years, and her ‘English of Savitri’ classes.

The Savitri Study Circle

Her sentence by sentence explanations of Sri Aurobindo’s great epic have been transcribed into 12 volumes, the last two volumes are in the stage of publication. They are an unparalleled guide for Savitri lovers around the globe.  Shraddhavan declared that this was her life’s work.

Late last year, she gradually began to fade away and left her body on July 19th 2022 aged 80 years.

As the Mother wrote in Prayers and Meditations:

Some give their soul to the Divine, some their life, some offer their work, some their money, a few consecrate all of themselves and all they have – soul, life, work, wealth; these are the true children of God.

Shraddhavan – A True Child of the Mother

Helmut, Judith and Dhanalakshmi
on behalf of the Savitri Bhavan Team

Shraddhavan

This is to inform the community that our sister Shraddhavan of Savitri Bhavan on 19 July 2022 left her body in the Sri Aurobindo’s Nursing Home where she had been taken several weeks ago. She just had become 80 years old. In November 1970 she came to Pondicherry and met the Mother who accepted her for Auroville.

Shraddhavan has been with us since 1971 and was the initiative taker of Savitri Bhavan and its main guiding force.

Our gratitude and prayers go with her.

OM~


Shree Krishna, Himself has pronounced the term ‘Shraddhavan’ (Adorer) while narrating the Bhagavad Gita.

‘The one who performs Bhakti is a Bhakta. However, we must not forget that the one who remains within the Devotion Sentience (Bhaktibhav Chaitanya) is the real Bhakta that is – the ‘Shraddhavan’.

Shraddhavan is the Sanskrit name given in June 1972 by the Mother to an English woman who joined Auroville in 1970. After studying English Language and Literature at Bristol University in the U.K., she travelled extensively in Europe, Asia and Australia before coming to Auroville, where she lived ever since, played the role as an educator, translator, editor and writer. Several of her poems, stories, essays and book reviews have been published in the Ashram journal Mother India as well as in Heritage magazine.

Since August 1999 she had been the Project Coordinator of Savitri Bhavan, a centre of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Studies which is a unit of SAIIER (Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research). She edited the Savitri Bhavan’s journal, Invocation: study notes on Savitri and led study courses on Savitri and The Life Divine.


ABOUT SAVITRI BHAVAN

We dream of an environment in Auroville
that will breathe the atmosphere of Savitri
that will welcome Savitri lovers from every corner of the world
that will be an inspiring centre of Savitri studies
that will house all kinds of materials and activities to enrich
our understanding and enjoyment of Sri Aurobindo’s revelatory epic.
that will be the abode of Savitri, the Truth that has come
from the Sun.

Shraddhavan (for Invocation journal)

submitted by Uma
Melin, Shraddhavan’s friend and collaborator

Marion

This is to inform the community that our dear friend and sister Marion Maekin passed away by suicide in the morning of Monday 13 June. She was 72 years old, and had been struggling with clinical depression.

Originally from UK, Marion came to Auroville in 2014 with her husband Tony, and officially joined in 2016. With her straightforward, direct and friendly nature, she was a much-appreciated teacher in several of our schools and other educational projects, took part in the Aikiyam support group, was involved with the Farewell team as well as with the Tibetan Pavilion, and functioned as a lively and hands-on member of the Auroville child protection group.

Many of us will remember her from the road, on her three-wheeler scooter with on the back her elderly husband Tony, whom she always surrounded and treated with the utmost love and care.

Our warmest condolences and strength go out to Tony and family members abroad, as well as her friends here in Auroville.

May you find peace, dear Marion.

OM~

To remember her, enjoy her choice of music and comments on https://www.aurovilleradio.org/soul-tracks-se2-ep-7-music-from-marion/ recorded in March ’21.

Jean Neal

This is to inform the community that in the afternoon of Friday 10 July, our dear sister Jean Neal, wife of Bob Neal, peacefully left her body at the age of 86 in her UK home. She had been in constant pain for years and had got to the point where communication was not possible anymore.

Jean was a lively, amazing woman who already in the early seventies was part of London’s ‘Bell Street’ group that regularly came together to study works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In 1998 Bob and Jean came to Auroville where, while living in Sri Ma, Bob would see many an Aurovilian in his capacity as healer using Samalin chiropractic and bio-magnetic techniques. Jean, who had from young age onwards a second sight & hearing ability, would assist Aurovilians in different ways by giving ‘Beyond the 5th sense’ and other workshops and one-to-one treatment sessions.

Unfortunately, Jean’s health gradually started deteriorating, causing the couple to leave in April 2006. They both joined AVI UK and worked from there, although Jean’s health remained troublesome.

Thank you Jean for having been with us;  our sincerest condolences go out to Bob and other family members.

OM~

Navoditte (Norman Thomas)

At around 3am of Saturday morning 1 February, our long-term friend and brother, Aurovilian-of-the-first-hour Navoditte (Norman Thomas) left his body at the age of 93 at Marika Home, quietly in his sleep. During the last few days he had steadily withdrawn and was in peace.

Originally from Wales, UK, Navoditte was an author and poet. In 1963 his first book ‘Ask at the Unicorn’ was published to critical acclaim in UK and USA. When travelling in USA in the sixties, he met his wife Alice, and many of the major poets and writers of the time. In 1967 Navoditte came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and worked at Senteurs. He attended Auroville’s inauguration and moved to Aspiration around 1971 where he was involved in the Prosperity distributions of that time. He was part of the group that regularly met with the Mother (which conversations were recorded in ‘Aspiration Talks’). Extensively making notes on the turmoil events of those early years, he later destroyed them because he no longer wanted to be caught up in the memories thereof.

During the 80’s, Navoditte worked in Shuttle Technology library at Aurelec, as its librarian. Already still in the seventies, he had moved with Alice to Certitude where he functioned for some time as the weatherman, living in the Eco House and taking daily weather records. Eventually the couple built their own house there where they lived until Alice passed away after which he moved to Invocation. Several years ago he moved to Marika Home where he spent a good and happy last stretch of his life.

In 2003 his ‘The thousand-petalled daisy’ book was published in which he describes the experiences, findings, emotional growth and understanding of a young person’s first encounters with life in India, the Mother and himself in a rather unique and intimate way. Navoditte’s poems appeared in ‘Mother India’, ‘Sri Aurobindo’s action’, ‘50 poems from Auroville’ and other collections. (An excerpt of ‘With stump of candle’ is posted here at the end.)

Those who closely knew Navoditte will remember him for his great sense of humour and self-depreciation, and honour him for his unique contribution to Auroville through his steady composure and commitment to the highest ideals. For most of us he was a quietly present, early-on pioneer and stalwart old-faithful, whose passing seems the end of an era.

Thank you, Navoditte.

It is the dark world
I leave behind me on this pilgrimage…
Yet…He who meets me
greets me not with scorn
as I deserve, but with his grace.
It is almost too much for me to bear.



* * *

From Alan Herbert:

Navoditte 1926 – 2020 Navoditte came to the Ashram in 1967 with his wife, Alice, and in February, 1968 attended the inauguration of Auroville. He moved to Aspiration in 1971 where he was part of the group that met Mother a number of times, conversations subsequently recorded in ‘Aspiration Talks’. Later he moved to the Eco-House in Certitude where he was the weatherman, taking daily records of sun and wind. During the 1980s he worked for some time as the librarian at Aurelec. Above all, he was a fine writer. His best work navigates a delicate line between quicksilver humour and profundity, reflecting both his wry, self-deprecating take on life (he once wrote that the most marvellous phrase in the English language was “I don’t know) as well as his deep philosophical introspection and quiet devotion to The Mother. What he wrote about the ancient Chinese poet, Tao Yuang-Ming, could well have been written about himself: “He was quiet, even taciturn, had no desire for riches or fame. He amused himself with books, but never to such an extent that he would trouble himself with exact interpretations…He amused himself by writing occasion poems, wherein his aspirations are revealed, having no interest in worldly success or failure. And so his life passed to its end.” Navoditte, like Yuang-Ming, also loved laughter. Typically, he wrote his own funeral poem. It begins

“You won’t need a coffin

To carry me off in
But a sheet
Would be rather neat”

and ends

“No music. No heavy breathing. No words
Just – if you’re lucky – the sound of birds
And then, with the rising smoke
Let some-in-the-crowd bloke
Give a vote of thanks on my behalf,
And then you all can laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh”.

Navoditte passed away on 1st February at the age of 93. He was buried in Auroville’s burial ground three days later. His quiet, twinkle-eyed presence will be sorely missed.