I haven’t heard Mozart in the open air since the
mid-fifties when I attended the Aix-en-Provence festival. Until last year I
hadn’t heard any Mozart for about ten years. I am now sitting in a baroque
courtyard. It could be Italy, it could even be Salzburg - is it really part
of India? The terrifying, unearthly opening to Mozart’s Requiem is dragging
me back into a world of brooding magic on which I thought I had turned my back.
Suffering, dejected Mozart; he lay dying penniless at the height of his creative
flowering, struggling to finish this work destined to be his own Requiem. He
started it as a commission from a mysterious stranger who offered money with
the proviso that the completed piece would appear under someone else’s
name. No wonder he left unable to finish it.
Early the next morning, an Australian I had already
met in the dining hall and who had agreed to Dhruva’s request to tell
his story, arrives at my room. I can see he has by nature a fiery temperament,
but there’s also a sad gentleness, a resignation which is immediately
appealing. The spiritual path is nothing but a struggle to transform one’s
baseness, so each step – up or down – polishes, cuts away, scrubs,
releases (especially the painful downward steps) until there’s equanimity
I am speaking to Baruni and he is speaking to me as
if we have known each other many years. Only when we have tasted helplessness,
rejection, insignificance can we become one in sympathy with others.
Baruni’s name in the West was Brian Sutton which
he never liked. He was given the name Baruni by the one person in the Ashram
who befriended him when he first arrived, young, raw, serious -- serious enough
to accept the lowest work, the work no one else in the Ashram would do.
In India cooking vessels are cleansed with dirt –
earth – and this makes them shine. I would say Baruni shines not because
he was born a sparkling vessel, but through jumping into, and being scrubbed
by the dirt.
I am from Sidney, Australia. My parents are both Jews.
My mother is coming from — I guess you would say — a very upper
class family. My father — on the contrary — is coming from…well,
his father was a tailor, but he is a doctor. After my birth they were divorced.
I lived with my mother’s family with much wealth, but they were extremely
unpleasant, which didn’t help to give me a settled upbringing. Attempts
to harmonize with others, or making a family life — not that I was ever
married — was difficult, so difficult that I broke free to find a greater
harmony. I studied architecture at university for some time, but just before
finishing, I felt compelled to leave: I couldn’t find any harmony with
the people I was with. I went to New Zealand to live in a community, and there
I was happy; in fact, before I came to India I had reached a point of being
happy with myself and in harmony with others.
How old were you when
you decided to come to India?
My early twenties… I’m now 35. I met some people who had been to
this Ashram; that determined me to come also. I had to first undo the shackles
of university and learn to live with people — I didn’t feel I was
ready. I used to be swept along by something I couldn’t understand. Eventually
when I felt ready to come to the Ashram, I got the news that Mother had passed
away. That disappointed me, but I was determined to come; I knew there was something
here for me — not just the physical Mother: I wanted to embrace the whole
Had you been studying
I can hardly say studying…experiencing what I felt the teachings were.
When I came to the Ashram I was disappointed in what I saw. Still, there was
something magnetic about it. I went after a time to the north of India to study
Burmese Buddhism, which helped me. On my return,
I lived at Auroville; again it was difficult, but I was certain I had to have
that experience. They ostracized me so I lived with the villagers: I embraced
them as my brothers. When I came back to the Pondicherry Ashram — that
was about six years ago — and was suffering from jaundice, an old man,
whom I can hardly praise enough, helped me. He was untidy, not handsome, he
fed stray cats and dogs. But after that illness I was in a clear state, and
I asked him questions that had been with me some time. He was the first person
able to answer them. For six months I had a fine relationship with him.
Can you say what the
I had seen a picture of Sri
Ramakrishna holding his fingers in a certain position; I asked what it meant,
and his answer satisfied me. He answered every possible question. One day he
told me everything was settled for me to stay in the Ashram. I had asked some
of the Ashram people if I could stay and would they support me. They replied:
“Not at all!” — after Mother’s passing no outside people
are to be supported! But it turned out as my friend said. I am one of the few
who have been officially accepted and given everything to make me equal to the
old residents. After those six months, he too passed away: I was eating with
him — he had just finished his work in the Ashram dining room —
he went to meditate, and just left the body. Just like that! Many people here
suddenly go without any suffering, without pain.
In return for the support
you receive, what work have you been given? Can you describe your daily routine?
I start by coming to the Ashram at 6 where I meditate for half an hour —
more if there’s time. I take breakfast in the dining room; this is followed
by a French class. At 9 I start work in the dining room right through till 2.
I am pretty free until 8, so I can rest or study…I have become interested
in wood-carving and painting. Late afternoon I usually go to the sports ground
for physical activities — running, basket-ball. I then take a bath before
my evening work in the dining room. About 10, finished, home, end of day.
How have you applied
the teachings to your daily life?
It’s important to spend time in meditation — that isn’t difficult,
I could easily spend more time in meditation, but I look at it this way: if
someone asks me what I have offered Mother — well — I can say, my
work. It’s the type of work no one wants to do here. It’s pretty
messy. I wash all the vessels, when the servants don’t come, I clean the
dustbins, sometimes the drains. If anyone is ill or drops a stool somewhere,
I will clean it up — things most people here just won’t touch. I
have managed to do all this without being involved in what I do. There are plenty
of people who have come here to do what they want to do…to teach, to meditate,
to study; they have all sorts of ideas. By starting at the bottom I found I
have achieved something.
Can you explain what
Recently someone said the outer cleaning is the inner cleaning, and the quickest
way to cleanliness is to concentrate on the outer cleaning — they both
go hand in hand. I have always been in a hurry, so this is a quick way and a
harmonious way also; it makes me more patient with others. After all, I am stuck
in the lowest, humblest work.
Do you see yourself staying
It’s not up to me. Financially I’m not concerned. I wanted to be
a great architect, but the more I found out what an architect has to do, I didn’t
want to be involved in those things. I’m still interested in creating
things of beauty, so this year I’ve taken to sculpture. I’m interested
in designing for a better environment. But what will eventually happen, I don’t
know. I wanted so much to meet Mother but she had just passed — but I
was certain I was meant to come here. Sri
Chinmoy was visiting the Ashram some years ago; it was his brother who was my
old friend and helped me six years ago. I asked Chinmoy should I stay on here;
he said: My brother was far greater then me — but you have the opportunity
to be in such a place, don’t leave. I have become very close to the whole
family — perhaps we were connected in other lives.
Do you have any contact
with Auroville these days?
There is a basic difference in what happens here and over there; we living in
the Ashram tend not to associate with those living in Auroville. We are very
much concerned with overcoming the animal nature in ourselves...we don’t
go in for sexual activity — even thinking about it is dangerous. Whereas
in Auroville — well — let’s say it’s more lenient…
But surely the teachings
are the same?
Yes…but here, you see, we had Mother’s presence. She so permanently
put herself into everything that even now everything seems to run by itself.
Auroville is a new creation and, well…something wonderful will happen
there. But for sensitive people to mix among those there at the moment is difficult.
I knew this yoga would change me, would change the
most basic part of me as a new consciousness descended. At one time I was having
experiences — they were happening even in Australia -- so I asked Mother
to please stop them…
They were during meditation
…everywhere, even while walking. I prayed to Mother: I don’t want
this to happen, such a way I don’t want; I want to behave like a normal
person, to walk in the street unnoticed, yet I still want to progress. Well,
I now see that by working in the grossest matter she has put my feet on the
ground — I don’t resemble a freak anymore.
It’s strange; many of the people I am friendly
with here would be those people I would never have talked to years ago, and
many of those I talked to — well — I don’t care for their
company now: they’re too crude for me. Sri
Aurobindo was an aristocrat, and Mother also; so I try to be like that. I don’t
wish to use filthy words anymore, and I don’t wish to be with people like
that, however truthful they are. I can be with them if I have to — I can
have compassion for them, but I won’t live amongst them. Maybe I’m
getting soft. Anyway, I don’t think about tomorrow. I’m careful
not to make enemies here because that has some problems.
Should the whole thing fail and I’m asked to leave the country, well,
I’ll be happy in the thought that I did something, and I know Mother will
be there looking after me.
At the moment there are only seventeen Westerners
living in the Ashram permanently. Many come to stay say for six months, many
just pass through as there are visa problems. So you see, the number of those
allowed to stay permanently is extremely small. Even those able to stay don’t
always make it; the pressure is too much. Ashram life is not easy…it must
be the same in all Ashrams, though.
In June 2006 Baruni wrote:
“I have been here continuously 32 years with a few trips to Oz to
see my mum and one in 1986 to see my dad. I am now working in the drawing
office, have designed a few buildings (hardly work in the dining room)
but I’m now always measuring buildings for our ashram records and
correcting drawings. I’ve also at long last started art classes
with an excellent teacher, bought a nice apartment and am living with
a nice Indian girl who has been here 27 years. We live completely by the
rules of the Ashram - no drinking no drugs no politics no smoking no sex.
Baruni also gave me the following news:
Norman Dowsett (Interview
No. 29) passed away many years ago.
Regeni (Interview No. 24)
No. 28) who is incidentally of royal Dutch blood though she keeps
it secret, is still here, happy but no longer in a condition to converse.