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Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo

The Complete Set

What did you mean by a Yogic “literary man”? I find here that sadhaks who have flourished as literary men have read a lot – N, A, D etc.

A literary man is one who loves literature and literary activity for its own sake. A Yogic “literary man” is not a literary man at all, but one who writes only what the inner will and Word wants to express. He is a channel and an instrument of something greater than his own literary personality.

Of course the literary man and the intellectual love reading – it is their food. But this is quite apart from writing. There are plenty of people who never wrote a word in the literary way, but were enormous readers. One reads for ideas, for knowledge, for the stimulation of the mind by all that the world has thought or is thinking. I never read in order to create. As the Yoga increased, I read very little, for when all the ideas in the world come crowding in one, there is not much need of food there. At most an utility for keeping oneself informed of what is happening in the world – but not as food for one's own seeing of the world and Truth and things.

I have found that one's reading does not always help one in expressing the thoughts in the most effective way. So also with writing poetry, we have the ideas, words, thoughts, yet we can't write a poem as poets do.

Poetry especially – even perfect expression of any kind comes by inspiration, not by reading. Reading helps only to acquire a language or to get the technique of literary expression. Afterwards, one develops one's own use of the language, one's own style, one's own technique. It is a decade or two since I stopped all but the most casual reading, but my power of poetical and perfect expression has increased tenfold. What I wrote with some difficulty, often great difficulty, I now write with ease. I am supposed to be a philosopher, but I never studied philosophy – everything I wrote came from Yogic experience, Knowledge and inspiration. So too my greater power over poetry and perfect expression was acquired in these last days not by reading and seeing how other people wrote, but from the heightening of my consciousness and the greater inspiration that came from the heightening.

What is it then that operates behind? Reading, natural talent or painstaking labour?

Reading and painstaking labour are very good for the literary man, but even for him, they are not the cause of his good writing, only an aid to it. The cause is within himself – as to “natural” I don't know. Sometimes, the talent is inborn and ready for expression, then you call it natural. Sometimes, it awakes from within afterwards but I suppose then also it is natural, though from a till then hidden nature.

I am ashamed to say that I couldn't follow your advice about tea. I fell a victim to the temptation. If I would really profit by giving it up I shall do so.

If you can give up, it is all right – if you can't or have to force yourself too much, wait till you can. The important thing is the opening of the inner being.


1934 09 11 Exact Writting Letter Nirodbaran