Narad (Richard Eggenberger), A longtime member of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville, landscaper, plumerian, gardener, musician and poet, was born on 29th July 1938 at New Jersey, U.S.A. His father, Jack, was a Roman Catholic and his mother, Nancy, (Anastiasia) was of the Russian Orthodox faith. He studied the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner including his bio-dynamic practices and studied Raja Yoga from a Pandit at the same time prepared for an operatic career for the Metropolitan Opera on a scholarship from one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of the day, Regina Resnick and took voice lessons from her teacher, Rosalie Miller.
When he was nineteen, perhaps, he heard in the Pandit’s group a man who said, ‘Oh, yes, I know Aurobindo, he’s that man who can say things in twenty words when he could have used one.’ That's when he heard Sri Aurobindo's name for the first time. He was twenty two years old and Jyotipriya said, ‘Why, you must come to Mother.’ In those days one had to send a photograph and a sample of one’s handwriting – not just a photo. Mother’s reply came back very quickly by telegram:
Tell him he may come and stay as long as he likes.
Oh, can you imagine that for a young man? So he boarded a Japanese freighter bound for Japan, with a Blessing Packet from Mother! Near Alaska they ran into a typhoon. The deck was loaded with redwood logs, 200-300 feet long. He watched them break off like toothpicks in the sea. Nothing was left on the deck. He was invited to join the Captain on the bridge and watch this tremendous force of Nature. His officers were kneeling and praying and the captain said, ‘If we go one more degree we will capsize.’ Knowing nothing, he still knew that Mother would not allow this ship to go down and the seas calmed and they made it through to Japan. Then, because it is not easy to get to Mother, they had two weeks in Tokyo and then Kyoto where, while waiting for another ship to come, he visited some of the gardens Mother had seen. Then he managed to get to Hong Kong. He was then helped get a flight to Madras and he made his way from Madras to Pondicherry – after many, many adventures in the south China sea – and the bus from Madras to Pondicherry. He arrived on November 23rd 1961, and He had just turned 23. On the morning of November 24 th He had his first Darshan of Mother.
During his first Interview, Mother spoke to him for some time about music. She asked him, ‘Is the music with you now?’ He said, ‘Yes, Mother, it is always with me.’ It was recurring music that came all the time. Mother looked at him and smiled and said, ‘Not always.’ And then She took it away for many years, to work on other aspects, especially that of helping him to ‘empty out’. Mother spoke to him about Chopin, which was very interesting. She said that Chopin’s music is that most often heard on the subtle planes, but She said, ‘I don’t know why.’ Then She said,
You must bring down a new Music!
It was Her first Adesh to him. At the time he was studying opera and more than opera, concert leader and art song. So poetry and music were very much intertwined. He said, ‘Mother, I don’t know anything about combining words and music.’ Mother replied,
No, no, you must go far above words and bring down the pure music.
After more than 47 years of listening to thousands and thousands of works of music, seeking the new music everywhere, and singing – but not often, having given up all thought of a concert career – about seven years ago he had the experience that the New Music was to descend in a collective body – one body with many tones, opening in surrender and aspiration. So he began the OM Choirs in the Ashram, Auroville and many places around the world.
Mother made him an Ashramite and put him on Prosperity, She also gave him permission to teach music in the school. He also formed an Ashram Choir with many of the people who are still with us today, Manoj Das Gupta, Richard Pearson, Rathna, Dolly, Lilou, Kokila and many others. The story of their singing to Mother is very interesting. There were many good voices among the young men and women who joined, yet even more important, an enthusiastic willingness to rehearse and a joy in singing that infused each work they sang. Having sufficient sheet music for a cappella choir, primarily from the religious repertoire, they soon built a program of choral music covering many centuries. Most of the singers were in the late teens and early to mid twenties and we all expressed an aspiration to sing for Mother. He wrote to Mother of their wish to sing for Her, eventually Mother replied, fixing the date and time, and saying that it would be better if they would stand by the Samadhi. She would come down the stairs and sit by the window overlooking the Samadhi. Quickly the word had spread that there would be a special darshan. A place was made for the choir on the east side of the Samadhi looking up towards the window where Mother was seated. As they concluded, they all looked to Mother in gratitude.
Once he wrote Her as to what should he do: ‘Mother, I feel that I can offer myself to the Divine through developing my voice and singing or through returning to school to study choral music, eventually forming a choir. As both of these ways require intense work, I would like to know which way is most pleasing to the Divine, or if I should do one now and the other later on, or both simultaneously? Please help me with this question.’ Mother replied at the bottom of his letter;
One or the other. Because the most important thing is not so much what you choose but the spirit in which you will do it. Keep living in you the spirit of consecration and all will be all right.
With blessings, Mother’
He went back to U.S. in 1962. He married Anie and took up various Mother's works.
The first meeting, when He brought Anie to meet Her, She turned to Anie and said,
This is not the first time we have met. You have been with me many times before, many, many times.
Imagine that! Then She turned to him and said,
You don’t want to come to Auroville in a few years? I feel you can do something there.
He said, ‘Yes, Mother, whatever is Your Will.’
He worked during the day with a landscape design and installation firm and learned so much. He went to college at night and met a great teacher and learned plant combination theory and many other aspects of sub-tropical horticulture while continuing to work with Jyotipriya.
Mother wasn’t interested in money but in helping the soul in each of us to come forward and lead the being on the path of the Integral Yoga. Nine months had passed and suddenly he receives the briefest note from Mother.
A bientot. (See you soon.)
So then they prepared to leave immediately. Anie went first as he had to sell whatever possessions they had. He arrived once again in December 1969. Narad writes, "We went up to Mother on Anie’s birthday, December 18 th , and it was at this time that Mother spoke to me of the Matrimandir Gardens. Her voice was so strong and clear...Mother looked at me and said:
It must be a thing of great beauty – of such a beauty that when men enter they will say, ‘Ah, this is it’, and they will experience physically and concretely the significance of each garden. In the Garden of Youth they will know youth, in the Garden of Bliss, they will know bliss and so forth. One must know how to move from consciousness to consciousness.’
Narad was asked by Mother in 1969 to design and build the Matrimandir Gardens . In the early 1970s he set up the Matrimandir Nursery for collecting, studying and propagating many rare and beautiful plants from all over the world. Twelve years later he returned to the U.S. where he continued to extend his deep knowledge of plants and trees and to collect specimens for the Ashram and Auroville.
Anie left returned to America in early seventies. Mary Helen received permission from the Mother to work on the Gardens of the Matrimandir with Narad. For the next 10 years, they were married for 31 years until Mary Helen passed away in cancer in 2002.
On his birthday in 1972 he went to Mother and She greeted him with a vast smile and a powerful and joyous ‘Bonne Fete’. After She handed him his card he placed his head on Her feet. When he began to get to his feet, Mother said:
Look at your card.
He opened his card and there was the old name, Richard, and the new name, Narad.
Mother gave him the work of reading Savitri every week under the Banyan where he read for 10 years. He was responsible for preparing the first slides of Huta’s Meditations on Savitri paintings, which the Mother arranged to be shown in the Ashram theatre, and later in Auroville, in 1972 as part of the celebrations of Sri Aurobindo’s Centenary.
Narad worked personally with the Mother on the significances of flowers and on the Matrimandir Gardens in Auroville. He is past President of the Plumaria Society of America and author of numerous books and articles on tropical plants.
Narad is the editor of the book “Flowers and their messages”, the first book published by the ashram on spiritual significance of flowers.