Dilatato Corde 2:1
January - June, 2012
Hasmukhlal Gopaldas Mehta
Hasmukhlal Gopaldas Mehta

The Mehta family [1] in Kumbakonam played a key role in the life of Swami Abhishiktananda in 1956. The family belongs to the Jain community and claims the Hindu master, Sri Pujya Mota, as their guru. The family originally came from Gujarat but moved to Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu because of its fame as a religious and cultural center with its many temples. In 1929 Mr. Gopaldas Mehta established a money lending business, “H. Gopaldas & Co.,” which today is a prominent jewelry business located at T.S.R. Big Street.  The family business came to be managed by Gopaldas’s son, Hasmukhlal, who was born in 1919, and later by Hasmukhlal’s son, Hari, born in 1949. Tragically, Hari died unexpectedly of a heart attack on January 20, 2011. Six months later, his heart broken by the death of his son and being worn out by age and hard work, Hasmukhlal Mehta passed away on July 28, 2011. The two men are survived by Hari’s brother, Kamalkumar Mehta, his wife, Vandana Mehta, and his daughter, Mira Mehta. Today Mira manages the family business.

The Mehta family is known for its simplicity, humility, hard work, spirituality, and generosity. They attribute their values to their master, Sri Pujya Mota who, among other accomplishments, had worked for the uplift of rural peoples at Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad .[2] The Mehta family spends much to support the development of rural people, education of poor children, medical mission, and the care of destitute children. Particular institutions they support include the Shanmugananda Ashram and the Sri Vallalar Orphanage and School. Mira Mehta is managing these institutions in place of her late father.

The Mehta family played an important role in the life of Swami Abhishiktananda. It owns and manages a “Mauna Mandir” near their family home. These “Temples of Silence” were initiated by Sri Pujya Mota and are retreats where aspirants of any religion can go for a minimum of seven days to live isolated in a single room. The family hosted Abhishiktananda in the Mandir for thirty-three days in 1956. There Abhishiktananda lived in complete isolation, with the door closed and the windows shuttered, receiving his food through a hatch. Numerous diary entries show that this was a mental and physical ordeal. For instance, "this silence and this solitude is a dangerous experience (not to mention the lack of fresh air plus the damp and cold) which is to a large extent the cause of being physically unwell.”[3]

Abhishiktananda referred to this retreat as a “milestone” in his life.[4] An important realization for him there was that his restless questing for Advaita actually inhibited the dawning of Advaitic realization. He stated that “my desire to be misleads me into looking for being everywhere except where it really is. So it is with the self that looks for the Self within the self, as if it was something distinct from itself.”[5] This realization mirrors the advice that Mr. Gopaldas Mehta had offered him, telling him “to sit and to be.” Abhishiktananda contrasted this advice with that of Christians, who “urge” him “to run and to do.”[6] The family maintained a consistent message, as, five decades later, Mr. Hasmukhlal Mehta instructed a group of foreign students visiting from a Christian university “Do not roam around! Do not go here and there. Go to church tomorrow and stay

Hari Gopaldas Mehta
Hari Gopaldas Mehta
there!” explaining to them that they would not find happiness through restless wandering.

The recently deceased Hasmukhlal and Hari  remembered Swami Abhishiktananda through the years with much affection. The family was intrigued by his French manners and accent, and was impressed by his long stay in the Mandir. Yet, they were also very concerned about his well being; as discussed, it was a tough challenge mentally and physically for him. Regarding the current interest in Abhishiktananda in the West, Hasmukhlal stated a month before his demise,

"It is good to know that many people are fascinated by Swami Abhishiktananda in the West. If anyone wants to learn about him, he should do sadhana, it is better; he should come in person and know him better through sadhana, spend long hours in silence to get darshan. I welcome the people who write books and articles on him but at the same time, these things will not help the person for self realization, peace and joy. The personal experience and faith alone could help the people to disown themselves in this world."[7]


[1]The authors thank Mr. Kamalkumar Mehta and Ms. Mira Mehta for their communication, as well as Mr. Mani Dharmendra of Kumbakonam for facilitating contact with them. The authors also thank Dr. Christian Hackbarth-Johnson for sharing his knowledge with them

[2]See Pujya Mota, Shri Mota’s Narrations of Self-Experience: Autobiography, trans. Chhikniwala(Nadiad: Hari Om Ashram, [2009?]), 31-40, 48.

[3]Abhishiktananda, Ascent to the Depth of the Heart: The Spiritual Diary (1948-1973) of Swami Abhishiktananda (Dom H.Le Saux), ed. Raimon Panikkar, trans. David Fleming and James Stuart (Delhi: ISPCK, 1998), 188.

[4]Abhishiktananda, Ascent, 195. (“Milestone” is italicized in the original.)

[5]Abhishiktananda, Ascent to the Depth, 168. 

[6]Abhishiktananda, Ascent to the Depth, 196. (The quotations are italicized in the original.) Although Mehta’s words mirror the lesson Abhishiktananda learned, he is only cited by Abhishiktananda at the retreat’s end, suggesting he might not have been the most direct influence on Abhishiktananda in this matter.

[7]Hasmukhlal Mehta, interview by Chinnaiyan Bosco, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, June 6, 2011. (The words in first line of this quotation were modified to make it flow more smoothly. Also, “Sadana” was changed to “sadhana.”)


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