May 19, 1961
(During the work, the difficulty of competently translating Sri Aurobindo comes up.)
Something is inevitably lost in translating; we translate, we lose something.
Not something – a great deal. A great deal.
The more I see these texts, the more.... At first I had the impression of a certain nebulous quality in the English text, and that precisely this quality could be used to introduce the spirit of another language. Now I see that this nebulousness was in my head! It was not in what he wrote.
Yes, I see what you mean – there's a sense in the way it is put.
Every word, mon petit! Every word and the POSITION of the word in the sentence – even the position of an adverb has a fundamental importance for the meaning. All the finesse, all the profound wisdom evaporates in translation, and finally we express only platitudes by comparison – platitudes. They are not platitudes compared to ordinary intellect, but they are platitudes compared to the kind of keen PRECISION with which Sri Aurobindo discerns things.
And the trouble is that if one translates literally, into poor French, it doesn't yield the deeper sense either, because that also considerably demolishes the meaning.
If we want to translate literally it's as much a mistranslation as translating freely.
Yes, yes! Actually only one thing would do – to have his genius!
Yes, we have to rethink it all.
(Laughing) It's the only solution!
Personally, I don't see at all how to write this book on Sri Aurobindo. The further I go, the more it seems to me....
That is another matter. After all, you are writing it for people who know nothing.
Yes, I agree, but still....
And despite everything, our translations of Sri Aurobindo are superior to those published in France; because those translations you know....
It's an absolute betrayal.
Oh, the translations by H. and company are appalling!
It's a betrayal. A betrayal.
Yes, and done with such self-assurance! Imperturbable.
Not very long ago I met someone from France who told me, “Personally, you understand, I had no wish at all to read Sri Aurobindo – Sri Aurobindo translated by H.: no, thank you.” And then he read some things translated here. “Ah,” he said, “that makes a difference!”
But still, I am not satisfied.
Anyway, what can we do, poor creatures like us! (Laughing) We do our best, that's all.
(Later, Satprem wanted to read certain past conversations to Mother for her to add to her Agenda. Mother refused to listen – it wasn't the first time, either – and lively protestations ensued.)
You don't want to hear them?
I don't find it very interesting, mon petit!
Obviously, for you it's a review. But it is absorbingly interesting – no doubt about it.
I mean there is nothing sensational, interesting to recount. It's a minuscule labor, minute to minute, like... oh, it's not even like cutting a path through a virgin forest, because a virgin forest is pleasant to look at! But this.... It's almost like laying stones together to build a road. Every day and all the time, night and day and at any moment whatsoever, there are tiny, tiny things, tiny things, tiny – it's not interesting.
There are successive curves, each second of which would have to be noted down; and in the course of one of these curves, something is suddenly found. For example, at the beginning of The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Sri Aurobindo reviews other yogas, beginning with Hatha Yoga. I had just translated this when I remembered Sri Aurobindo saying that Hatha Yoga was very effective but that it amounted to spending your whole life training your body, which is an enormous time and effort spent on something not essentially very interesting. Then I “looked” at it and said to myself, “But after all,” (I was looking at life as it is, as people ordinarily live it) “one spends at least 90% of one's life merely to PRESERVE one's body, to keep it going! All this attention and concentration on an instrument which is put to hardly any use.” Anyway, I was looking at it with that attitude, when suddenly all the cells of my body responded, in such a spontaneous and WARM way.... How to say it? Something so... so moving. They told me, “But it's the Lord who is looking after Himself in us!” Each one was saying: “But it's the Lord who is looking after Himself in us!”
It was truly lovely. Then I gave my reason a good poke: “How stupid can you be! You always forget the essential.”
It was very spontaneous and quite lovely.
So there you are-things like that happen, one thing or another, but it's nothing.
This feeling was so warm, so intimate, so... I don't know how to express it. At once so soft and so powerful and so.... Oh, it was concrete! The whole atmosphere, the whole atmosphere became solid – all, all had the taste of the Lord. I don't know how to make it clear. It was quite material, as if you had a mouthful of it, everything was full of it – it was like that. In such a PHYSICAL way! Like.... You might compare it to the most delicious taste you could ever have – it was the sense of touch and of taste – very, very material. It was like closing your hand on something solid – such a warm, soft vibration, and SO STRONG, so powerful, so concrete!
It is evidently proof of an evolution in this direction, within this whole cluster of cells, but....
Finally, we want something else.
Finally, what we want is ... (long silence) it's something like an absolute in the presence, the action, the consciousness, which annuls this ... (here Mother makes a gesture which perhaps expresses a distance, a separation, or an exchange between two distinct things). It can hardly be called a duality any more, but all the same there is “something which sees and which feels.” And that's what is irritating.
I do sense that all, all in me is reaching for ONE thing: “You, You alone, let there be only You... One cannot say I (there is always a misunderstanding with that idiotic “I”), but it isn't “You,” it isn't “I” it is... one single thing. Let THAT be, and nothing else.
As long as it's not THAT, ah!... Yes, we are paving the road.
it's not entertaining to talk about.
Yes, it's important.
It's night and day and day and night, when I see people, when I don't see them....
When I am all alone, it's wonderful! As soon as this body is left all alone, oh!... it melts, it melts. There are no more limits, it is content: “Oh, at last I can cease to be!”
And then truly, truly it forgets itself; truly it passes on to something else.
But all the rest of the time.... From morning to evening, letters to read, things to organize, people to see. And at night, every time I come out of my trance there is a swarm of things here (gesture around the head) waiting to be heard, demanding attention.
Sometimes there are amusing things – if I were to note down all I see! There are things... things which don't appear as they are in ordinary life, but as they ARE when seen with a slightly more clairvoyant eye – it's rather amusing. But it amounts to nothing-a sort of distraction.
And all the time the body says.... You know, it's marvelous – all the time, whenever I grumble or grouse, it says, “But it's for Me, it's Me, it's Me, it's for Me ...” like that. “Don't forget, it's for Me, it's Me, it's Me bringing in the people, it's Me organizing, it's Me making them ask things, it is Me....” Very well. So I tweak my ears or pull my hair and say to myself, “How stupid!”
This was the first time I had this experience. It was much more substantial than the physical contact, which, as I told you, I had already had.1 It was much more material, and related to taste. It was as if the whole atmosphere and all the things in it were a marvelous food... an ecstatic nourishment.
I had already had the experience for the sense of smell – the divine vibration, the vibration of Ananda in odors. Just under my window, you know, Nripendra has his kitchen, where every morning and afternoon food is prepared for the children2 – it all comes wafting up on gusts of air. And when the Samadhi tree is in flower, the scent wafts up to me on gusts of air; when people burn incense down below, it comes wafting up here on gusts of air – each and every fragrance (“fragrance” – let's say odor). And generally it all comes while I am walking for my japa – an Ananda of odors, each one with its meaning, its expression, its... (how to say it?) its motivation and its goal. Marvelous! And there are no longer any good or bad odors – that notion is gone completely. Each one has its meaning – its meaning and its raison d'être. I have been experiencing this for a long time.
But this experience of taste was completely new. It didn't last long, only a few minutes, because it amazed me so! It was as if I had a mouthful of the most marvelous foods one could imagine. And my hands were gathering it up in the atmosphere – it was so funny!
The body is obviously being prepared for something.
But this body is still much too open to people's mental formations, so it has to struggle against... oh!
That's my reproach to it – why does it struggle? Why, suddenly, do I have a terrible fatigue falling over me and have to brace myself? The body, naturally, does only one thing – it automatically repeats the mantra; then all becomes quiet, all is set in order. But why is this effort necessary? It should be done automatically [the sweeping away of bad vibrations]. Why is there a need to remember or to put up a struggle? Oh, a battle!
It's not the body complaining, it doesn't complain at all – I am the one who complains! I think that it's doing its best, but it's thwarted by this type of (one can scarcely speak of a mind) this kind of mind-like activity in matter3 interfering . it is sordid. I haven't yet been able to eliminate it completely.
There are moments when it's brought to a dead halt. Oh, sometimes while I walk for the japa everything is held like this (gesture of all being dominated from above and immobilized), inflexibly.
But then the difficulty is that for the ordinary consciousness – and unfortunately I am surrounded by a lot of people who have a very ordinary consciousness (at least it seems very ordinary to me, although from the human standpoint they are probably rather remarkable people) – for the ordinary consciousness I seem to be in a stupor, a coma, a state of imbecility, of... yes, of torpor. It has all those appearances. Something which becomes immobile, unresponsive, stopped short (same gesture as before); one can no longer think, one can no longer observe, one can no longer react, one can no longer do anything, one is like that (same gesture). But all these things keep coming from outside, all the time, coming and trying to interrupt that state; yet if I manage to prevent this, if I can keep this condition, after a while it becomes something so MASSIVE! So concrete in its power, so massive in its immobility, ohh!... It must lead somewhere.
But I could not remain in that state long enough (it would have to go on for HOURS), I could not, due to all these constant interruptions. And then, when the body is pulled brusquely out of it, it seems to lose its balance – it has a few difficult moments.
I understand people who choose to leave! But that's not what is wanted of me! I should have enough flexibility so that the two can exist together (gesture expressing the interlocking or the fusion of the two worlds).
If you only knew... (because the perception, the conscious perception... I've had it for years and years, but it is becoming more and more keen and precise...), if you could perceive this atmosphere I am made to breathe, mon petit! (gesture around the head) The foolishness, the stupidity, the nastiness, the inanity. It is full, full of all that – full. One cannot breathe without breathing that!
Not to mention the letters people write.
They say I have become deaf.... I believe it's the Lord's grace, because when I make an effort to hear what is being said to me, nine times out of ten it's completely useless and it's absolutely stupid. It's better not to hear!
So there, mon petit – and I said I wasn't going to talk! It's always the same thing.
It doesn't matter.
You have to suffer for it (laughing), having to listen to all that!
Not at all! It seems bizarre [this atmosphere Mother is made to breathe]... But no, I understand. “Understand” – I mean I appreciate.
When these “promised things” are achieved, then something like a Power will come – personally I don't consider that I have power. For the moment it's nothing. It is NOTHING. My conception of Power is that when “this must be” comes into the consciousness, well, it MUST be. But it's not like that now. All the other forces, the other movements of consciousness, enter and interfere,4 and the usual mess results; there is a little bit of that, a bit of this, a bit of the other – in short, an approximation. Sometimes it works, but then it is....
The movement of initiating the action always proceeds in the same way – as something imperatively SEEN. Consequently, it should ALWAYS have an effect; but all kinds of things enter and cause a disturbance. So I don't call that Power – it's too haphazard. But don't worry yourself over all this chatter.
1 Experience of January 24, 1961.
2 This refers to the Ashram dispensary, managed by Dr. Nripendra.
3 The physical mind.
4 Mother is alluding in particular to the physical mind (“this kind of mind-like activity in matter”).