“The strength of Dyuman’s character is his essential straightness of aim, fidelity to the highest he sees and intensity of will to receive the Light and serve the Truth.”
10-4-1934 Sri Aurobindo
Occasionally, late at night, one would observe an interesting and amusing sight inside the Ashram main building. The Mother would call from Her room on the first floor, “Dyuman!” Instantly, a man in his early thirties would rush out of his room below with a ladder in his hands, place it near the open terrace of his room, climb it and announce, “Yes, Mother. I am here.” He did this so he would not lose time using the staircase (which was further away from his room) and then cross the corridor to reach the Mother. Should one keep the Divine waiting! The Mother would ask him some questions or give him some instructions and he would climb down the ladder, go back to his room, and carry out Her wishes. Thus was the magnitude of his devotion, dedication and urge to serve.
Chunibhai Desaibhai Patel was known as Dyuman — the luminous one — the name given to him by Sri Aurobindo. The Mother found him to be a wonderful worker when She met him for the first time. He joined the Ashram at the age of twenty-four (in 1927) and till his passing at the age of eighty-nine, he assisted, managed, and laboured for its growth and prosperity. This devotion was reflected clearly in a letter written by Sri Aurobindo in 1936 when replying to an inmate of the Ashram: “If Dyuman and a few others had not made themselves the instruments of the Mother and helped her to reorganize the whole material side of the Ashram, the Ashram would have collapsed long ago under the weight of mismanagement, waste, self-indulgence, disorder, chaotic self-will and disobedience. He and they faced unpopularity and hatred in order to help her to save it.”
He came from Gujarat, the land where the Narmada, one of the seven holy rivers flows and meets the sea. During the formative years of the Ashram, many sadhaks including Champaklalji, Puraniji and Pujalalji flocked around Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to further their tapasya for attainment to Supramental yoga and also laid the foundation of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s vast and daring work. Dyuman, the karmayogi, was one of the pillars on whose selfless work and faithfulness the Ashram grew to its present stature.
Born on 19th June 1903 in Napada village near Anand, Gujarat, at the age of eight he was called away from school and married to Kashi-ba, also eight. When he was eleven, he realized that his life was not to be an ordinary one, but was meant for something higher. Since then, an unknown force guided his life. He was restless and kept searching for something without knowing what it was or where to find it. He travelled all over the country, went to Shantiniketan and Belurmath and when he came back home, he also met Gandhiji. He also came to know Lele, but his thirst was not quenched. Little did he know then that his destiny lay south, beyond the Vindhyas, on the eastern shore of India, in a small town under French rule, lulled by the chant of the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal.
Bhakti-ba, a relative of Kamalaben, was aware of Chunibhai’s restlessness. When she returned after visiting Pondicherry, she told him, “Your place is not here with us, but at the feet of Aravinda Babu in Pondicherry.” Chunibhai forgot everything else — even Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, whom he revered — only one name filled his whole being: Pondicherry. He had heard of Sri Aurobindo in 1920 and had already started reading the Arya, and The Secret of the Veda. In his school, his boy-scout troop was called “Aravinda troop.” Finally, Bhakti-ba got permission from Sri Aurobindo and arranged for his journey to Pondicherry. Chunibhai and his wife Kashi-ba reached Pondicherry on 11th July 1924.
They both had the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo in the Library House. Chunibhai told Him that he had come here for Yoga and Sri Aurobindo talked to him about it for about an hour. His ears heard every word and in his heart Chunibhai replied, “You are my all. This is my life, this is my home.” Kashi-ba offered her gold bangles at the feet of Sri Aurobindo. One offered his life and the other her precious possession. That was the end of Chunibhai’s search. At last he had found his home — his Guru — his life’s fulfillment.
They went back to Gujarat after two months. Chunibhai wrote to Sri Aurobindo every week seeking the Guru’s permission to stay permanently in the Ashram. The long wait finally ended when he came to the Ashram permanently in May 1927. He left behind his parents, his wife, and the non-cooperation movement of Gandhiji. He even left his fight for the freedom of India. The moment he joined the Ashram, he no longer felt the pull of all his old connections.
He met the Mother for the first time in 1927. Her remark to Sri Aurobindo was, “He will go very far.” She asked him to help Satyen in serving rice in the Dining Room in the main building of the Ashram — that was 22 May 1927, and till his passing on 19 August 1992, his close connection with the Dining Room remained uninterrupted. It grew deeper and closer as he treated the workers there as his close family members. The Mother accepted him as Her close attendant — a faithful, dependable worker. On his part, he had already accepted Her in 1924 as the Mother, even though he had not even met Her!
This was the beginning of a close association between the Mother and Her child, Dyuman. Sri Aurobindo had given him that name on 24 November 1928 based on his request earlier that year. His only aim in life became to serve Her. Yoga was far away, but through his work, he started understanding the yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. That is why one day the Mother told him, “You do my work and I will do yours” — meaning his sadhana. In those early years, the emphasis was on discipline and work. No sadhak could talk to another without informing Her. So when Kashi-ba came in 1930, the Mother asked him not to talk to her. He obeyed and met her only once in the presence of the Mother when she went to Her for pranam before leaving Pondicherry.
The Mother asked him to keep two notebooks. One was to note down his daily inner movements and the other was about the details of daily work. One was given to Her at noon and the other at night. One day the Mother asked him if it was necessary to keep these diaries. He replied, “Not necessary, Mother.” She instructed him to inform Her whenever any difficulty arose. That was the end of his writing the diaries. The external need was over. Henceforth, his inner guide would guide him. She gave him a picture of Her taken in Japan and told him to meditate in front of it before opening the Dining Room door in the morning and before closing the door at night.
His passion for gardening began when along with others he participated in a flower exhibition at the Pondicherry Botanical Garden in 1930. The people of Pondicherry were surprised to see the size of the carnations and discovered that these men of the Ashram were not making bombs but were engaged in growing flowers! It was at that time that the Mother asked them to get a sapling of a Service tree from the Botanical Garden. Manibhai, Ambubhai and Dyuman-da planted it at the place indicated by the Mother. They watered it and took care of it. Planted in 1930, the tree still stands high and mighty in all its majesty over the Samadhi — proud, protective and undaunted. From then on, he started his double work of Dining Room and gardening and this was soon followed by numerous errands as the Mother slowly started putting more confidential work into his trustworthy hands.
In the Dining Room, which was then located in the Ashram main building, the cooking was done by servants under the guidance of an inmate. When Tara-di and Lila-di joined the Ashram, they proposed to the Mother that they would cook for the inmates. Later they took charge of Datta’s kitchen, which came to be known as Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s kitchen and was managed by Dyuman-da. He would carry Their food upstairs — a service that could only be done by a punyatma. When the fruit room had a cold chamber, he arranged to get fruits from various parts of the country to have an uninterrupted supply for Them. The Dining Room was shifted to its present building on 4 January 1934. Life went on smoothly in Their service but the strain started with World War II. More and more people joined the Ashram and the money was not enough. Dyuman-da was worried. How to feed so many! One day, as he was walking down Gandhi Road and thinking about the funds, he was taken in his subtle body to visit Kubera’s treasures and realized that everything was there — he need not worry. Somehow or the other, the funds would come and the needs of the Ashram would be provided for.
Once in 1937-38, the Mother gave him a piece of Her jewellery and asked him to sell it as an inmate was in dire need of some money. That was the first time, but it was not to be the last! Soon, selling Her jewellery became one source of income for the Ashram to maintain the numerous devotees who had started pouring in. The Mother gave Her ornaments — the timepiece given by Her grandmother, the Durga crown, which She did not want to sell but had to because of adverse circumstances, and even her pearl necklace, which She was in the habit of wearing on Darshan days. However, She wanted to know whom these were given to as they carried a special aura and power and any mishandling would be disastrous for those who had bought them. She warned them against misuse. Dyuman-da became Her instrument for such work. Soon Her jewellery coffer became empty.
Her next step was to sell Her saris. That disturbed Dyuman-da a lot and he protested as Her children embroidered most of them for their loving Mother. But She insisted on selling them in one lot to a single person. The saris were brought out and Vasudhaben wept on seeing them. But who could imagine the play of Dyuman- da! He collected the amount that the Mother wanted from a disciple who was close to him, took away the saris and kept them in his room! The generous disciple did not want the saris even though they were paid for. However, he requested Dyuman-da to sell them piece-by-piece and offer the proceeds to the Mother.
The Mother also used to distribute saris to inmates and devotees who were present before each Darshan. Once She wished to give Her own saris to Her children but alas, the remaining saris were not enough. When Dyuman-da heard about this, he told Her that Her wish would be fulfilled and brought nearly 500 saris from his room from the lot that was supposed to have been sold! What joy, what inner fulfillment he must have felt to be an instrument to execute Her wish! Not only this, but no one really knows how many of Her wishes he fulfilled. For example, She once saw a blue Ford V8 car and wished to have a similar one. Dyuman-da collected the required amount from a friend and bought an exact replica of the car She wanted. But was he satisfied with this? No! She must have something better; so he again collected money from some friends and bought a Humber for Her. The Mother used that car till 1952. Imagine how closely he was connected with those devotees staying far away from Pondicherry that they immediately gave — in cash or in kind — whatever he wanted for the Mother, without a question or a doubt crossing their mind. The trust they had in him only reflected the trust the Divine Mother had in him. If Hanuman was the Dasa of Rama, then truly, Dyuman-da was no less a Dasa of the Mother.
The work to clean Sri Aurobindo’s room was given to Dyuman-da, as Pavitra-da was unable to do it because of his knee problem. Dyuman-da cleaned Sri Aurobindo’s room for five years and never even glanced at Him as that was the Mother’s instruction and he obeyed it. Once he had to repair the beams of Sri Aurobindo’s room as some bees had made holes in them. He had to climb a ladder, clean the beams with a vacuum cleaner, and seal them without dropping anything on Sri Aurobindo, who was lying on the bed directly below the beams. Surely that must have been the toughest work in his life-long service! And he was aware that the Mother had put him to test; he did his work to Her satisfaction.
The Ashram started growing rapidly with the School, Playground and many other departments. Dyuman-da’s activities also increased; other than his regular work, he now also had the additional responsibilities of a trustee. The Mother created the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust on 1st May 1955 and She made Dyuman-da one of the Founder Trustees. She gave each of the four trustees the flower “Divine’s Love” on the first day and the next day, She gave each of them the flower “Faithfulness.” It was a duty he discharged till the end even though the other Founder Trustees had long since passed away. He had to stay, for that was the Mother’s wish and She wrote it on his Birthday card in 1972:
And a long, long, long life of happy and remarkably useful life.
With love and blessings.
For February 29, 1960, the first recurrence of the leap year after the Supramental Manifestation, Dyuman-da decided that the entire celebrations would be in golden colour. We were given golden-coloured dresses, the saris had a golden border, the Meditation Hall was decorated with golden satin curtains and the lights glowed golden. Her room was spread with golden satin. On the first floor corridor, he spread golden satin so She could walk on it to the Balcony Darshan. Her dress had gold buttons, and the cutlery She used was of a golden hue. She distributed gold-coated symbols to the Ashramites. The whole Ashram vibrated with a golden aura; truly a dreamland on earth! In the evening, the Service Tree was decorated with coloured lamps; in the quietness of the night, they glowed golden — a fairyland — a wonderland in the universe! She asked him, “Why do you want to do all this?” His reply was that even if the vibration touched one soul, he would be happy and fulfilled. Then the Mother asked, “And if I ask you to sell all these things off later?” His immediate reply without any hesitation was, “Yes, Mother I will do it.” A detached, unsentimental, disinterested worker.
One day when he saw that the Mother wanted to lie down after coming back from the Playground in the evening, he was worried. She must have a room of Her own. The Mother hesitated. Finally, She agreed to have one constructed on the second floor with money he would collect from his friends. She shifted to Her new room on 9 December 1953, but slowly, even that room turned into Her working place when She retired there in 1962.
That was not the end of his untiring endeavour. He found out that a parcel of land near the Lake was up for sale. Once again he collected funds from his friends so that the Ashram could purchase the land. Here his normal life pattern changed again. Until now his responsibilities included looking after the Mother, the Dining Room, the Granary, going to the market to buy vegetables for Dining Room, the store, etc. Now he had to look after a farm. His dream was to grow vegetables and fruits without chemical fertilizers because the Mother was against its use. So how could he give Her food that was grown with chemical fertilizers? His life was simple because he had a single, one-pointed aim — to serve Them in whatever way he could.
He was a visionary and never stepped back for fear of overwork or paucity of funds to give shape to his vision. It was his idea to make the documentary film “Sri Aurobindo Ashram — Four Chapters.” It was filmed by Ajit Bose and was displayed in many centres of the Ashram. Where the money came from, no one knew, and neither did anyone need to know. The immense archival value of the documentary can never be measured. It is a treasure for future generations as it shows some of the activities of the Mother in real life. His preparation for the centenary of Sri Aurobindo in 1972 started many years in advance and he got a steam boiler in 1967 for the Dining Room, which was well geared to cater to innumerable visitors who came for the celebration. For the second time in the history of the Ashram, the Service Tree glowed with coloured lamps in the evening: