Nolinida: To know him



By Arun Vaidya

Nolini Kanta Gupta was considered the manas putra (mental son) of Sri Aurobindo and regarded by the Mother as a collaborator. He was a trustee and secretary of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and editor of The Advent, The Bulletin, Vartika, and other Bengali publications. He was dean of the Faculty of Languages of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and author of eight books in English and ten books in Bengali. He was also a freedom fighter, athlete, linguist, thinker, ardent exponent of truth and beauty, and one of the foremost followers of Integral Yoga.

Taking a clue from Nolinida himself -- "The full flowering of the human soul, its perfect divinization, demands the realization of a many-aspected personality, the very richness of the Divine within it" (1) -- let's attempt to understand him.

Historically, Nolinida in his previous western births was believed to be the French poet Pierre Ronsard; Le Notre, the gardener of Louis XIV; Andre Chenier, the poet of the French Revolution; Virgil; and Sir Francis Walsingham, the secretary of state under Queen Elizabeth I. Likewise, in the eastern culture, Nolinida was believed to have been Mahatma Yuyutsu during the Mahabharata era (2) and Satyakama Jabala in still more ancient pre-Upanishadic times in India.

Like any pursuer of Integral Yoga, Nolinida had his share of despondency, loneliness, weariness, and age-old questions ("Why, what, where, and which way?") during his stay in Alipore Jail as a freedom fighter of Bharat Mata (Mother India) from May 1908 to May 1909. And like any reasonable seeker of enlightenment, for solace he turned to good books, such as Vivekananda's Colombo to Almora, Bacon's essays, Shakespeare's King John, the Vishnu Puranas, and Oscar Wilde's De Profundis. (3)

He established equanimity within himself in Alipore Jail and had the experience of a something that was clear and bright and calm: "The horizons grew bright, the winds felt delightful" -- the experience of the Universal Being.

But the journey of yoga is not a one-step solution or a one-phase self attainment, as evident from Nolinida's sentiments in relating the words of Rabindranath Tagore: "Thou hast found a shelter for everyone, O Shankara, O Lord of the Worlds, But to me thou hast assigned the road alone." (4)

Nolinida's transformative years are a poignant reminder to us that even the most chosen of the disciples have to endure the challenges of the path of Integral Yoga and that we should remain resolute in our pursuit with faith in our truth of the being and the soul's mission.

After his release from Alipore Jail, Nolinida was undecided about his future and was wandering about like floating dust -- a state to which most of us can relate. But a sincere aspiration and honest commitment to the divine cause were his assets and guiding force.

Sri Aurobindo chose him to work for the publications of Dharma and Karmayogin. At the tender age of 20, Nolinida's first article was published in Dharma.

Sri Aurobindo settled in Pondicherry in 1910, and after six months Nolinida followed him. This initial period symbolized their relationship as comrades and as tutor and student.

When Mother came, she made the disciples realize through her own conduct that Sri Aurobindo was the guru and lord of yoga. Nolinida's feelings mirrored what Arjuna expressed having seen Sri Krishna's virat swarupa (all-encompassing, gigantic form):

By whatever name I have called you, O Krishna, O Yadava, O Comrade, thinking in my rashness that you were only a friend, and out of ignorance and from affection, not knowing this thy greatness; whatever disrespect I have shown you out of frivolity, whether sitting or lying down or eating, when I was alone or when you were present before me, -- may I be pardoned for all that, O thou Infinite One. (5)

It was Nolinida's willingness to adapt and his unconditional dedication to his spiritual guardians that molded his character, and humility became his hallmark.

In the book Tribute to Nolinida Gupta, (6) Jayantilal observed that "Nolini never projected himself as a thinker, a writer, a worker, or a sadhak. He lived unobtrusively like a quiet white shadow of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He never displayed any restlessness of ambition. Personality, ambition, self-importance, self-assertion of an individual were lost in his identity with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother."

In the book Nolini: Arjuna of Our Age, (7) Indra Sen noted that Nolinida's articles on matters occult, spiritual, literary, social, and cultural were clear and illuminating. V. Madhusudan Reddy believed Nolinida to be a pilgrim of the infinite and a sadhak of purna yoga, regarding him as one of the conscious instruments of a new world.

Around 1940, Sri Aurobindo told Nirodbaran, "I always see the Light descending into Nolini." "His is the pure mind," said the supreme guru at another time.

Nolinida's life itself is a legacy to encourage us in discovering our own truth of being. According to the Mother, "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."

Nolinida was a true child of the Mother. To attempt to understand and know him is to undertake a journey towards the world of truth-knowledge-infinity (satyam-jnanam-anantam) and to venture into Integral Yoga to manifest that Divine state on earth.


  1. Nolini Kanta Gupta, The Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, Parts 5-7, "The Soul and Its Journey."

  2. Shyam Kumari, How They Came to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Vol. 3, "Nolini."

  3. Ibid.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11.

  6. Jayantilal, Tribute to Nolinida Gupta: A Compilation.

  7. Indra Sen, Nolini: Arjuna of Our Age: A Compilation.

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Arun Vaidya ( lives in Haverford, Pennsylvania.

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