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The Mother


Volume 6

June 14, 1965

(Mother looks for a card to reply to a disciple on. One card is illustrated with a big fish.)

What's the fish a symbol of?

I don't know. The Buddhists use the symbol of two intertwined fish. I think it's Multitude?

I often have underwater dreams: the other day, for instance, I went under water (and without any difficulty) and there were hosts of fish – I was fishing under water. But those fish were dead, or had just died – hosts of fish that weren't decomposing, that were still good, but dead, because they didn't have any more air or water.

Generally, fish in the sea mean Multitude.1 But there must be many meanings; I have told you that Buddhism often uses the image of fish as a symbol.

Symbolisms, mon petit, there are hundreds and hundreds of them. And people always oppose them, but ultimately they are just different ways of seeing one and the same thing. According to my experience, everyone has his own symbolism.

For snakes, for instance, it's quite remarkable. Some, when they dream of snakes, have the feeling they're going to meet with catastrophes; I myself have had all sorts of dreams with snakes: I had to go through gardens full of snakes everywhere – on the ground, in the trees, everywhere – and not kindly snakes! But I knew very well what it meant; during the dream itself I knew it: it depended on certain mental conditions around me and ill will – mental ill will.2 But if you have mental control and power, you can go through, they cannot touch you. And other people, when they see a snake, think it is the universal consciousness. So we can't say. Théon used to say that the serpent is the symbol of evolution, and those who were with him always saw rainbow-colored serpents, with all the colors, and it was the symbol of universal evolution Basically, to tell the truth, everyone has his own symbolism And for myself, I have seen that it depended on the periods in my life, on the activities, on the degree of development. There are things I see again now in which I see another meaning, which was behind the meaning I had seen.

It's very interesting, but it belongs entirely to the domain of relativity.

It's very mental.

I remember, for instance, there was a time when I used to see people in the form of animals!... It was the indication of the type of nature they belonged to. And I remember, when I was still in France, having one day seen (I was sitting in a large room) hosts of small animals coming, especially rabbits, cats, dogs, all kinds of animals, birds; they kept coming and coming, all of them onto my knees! And there were hosts and hosts of them.... And there suddenly entered the room a big tiger, which rushed at them all and vrff! sent them scurrying off in all directions! (Mother laughs) But the animals were people... and the tiger, too, was someone.

It's amusing.

But now I see that there are superimposed depths: you have one symbolism, then deeper, there's another symbolism. And ultimately, all form is a symbol. All forms: our form is a symbol – not a very brilliant one, I admit!

Oh, if I had nothing to do and spent my time just writing down my activities of the night, what I see and hear and do in the night with everybody... oh, all kinds of people, in all kinds of countries. And things, hosts of things, so many, many things I never saw physically and never thought of – totally unexpected things.

It's more interesting than novels, and how! It just requires a lot of time.

*   *

(Mother takes up the translation of “Savitri,” from The Debate of Love and Death. Then she stops in the middle of a line:)

I can't hear anything just now, I am in... Well, the feeling is absolutely of being inside a blanket of fog... (Mother “looks”) a very pale pearl-gray fog. And a fog for both sound and sight.

As if things were far, far away, far away from me: things, people, noises, images, everything, far, far away... (Mother takes up “Savitri” again):

My will once wrought remains unchanged through Time

And Satyavan can never again be shine.

He made him a bit stupid, because even if Satyavan doesn't come back in this body, what prevents him from taking another!

He's bragging!

And Savitri (or “the Voice”) afterwards tells him, you remember, “Ah, we'll keep you all the same, we still need you for a while.” When he has been beaten hollow, when he is finished, she tells him, “We'll still keep you because we still need you,”3 don't you remember?

A nice gift.... Oh, it is true that in many cases it's indispensable.

I remember having read a story, at the time when I used to receive... I think it was Le Matin, the newspaper Le Matin. There were novels in it and I used to read the novels to see the state of mind of people. And there was an extraordinary novel in which the main character was a woman who was immortal (she had been condemned to immortality by God knows which deity), and she tried her best to die, without success! It was stupid, the whole thing was stupid, but the standpoint was reversed: she was compelled to be immortal and... she said, “Oh! When will I be allowed to die?”, with the ordinary idea that death is the end, that everything is over and one rests. And she had been told, “You will be able to die only when you meet true love....” Everything was topsy-turvy. But when I read that, it set me thinking a lot – sometimes it's the most stupid things that set you thinking the most. And to complete the story... you see, she had been someone, then someone else, a priestess in Egypt, anyway all kinds of things, and finally (I don't remember), it was in modern times: she met a young married couple; the husband was a remarkable man, intelligent (I think he was an inventor); his wife, whom he loved passionately, was a stupid and wicked fool who spoilt all his work, who ruined his whole life... and he went on loving her. And that's what (laughing) they gave as example of perfect love!

I read that maybe more than fifty years ago, and I still remember it! Because it set me thinking for a long time. I read that and I said to myself, “Here's how people understand things!”

It was, oh, certainly more than fifty years ago, because I had already come upon the “Cosmic,” Théon's teaching and the inner divine Presence, and I knew that the new creation would be a creation of immortality – I immediately felt it was true (that it was a way of expressing something true). So then, when I read that, I thought, “Here's how people make everything topsy-turvy! Head and feet upside down.” And I pondered for a long, long time over the problem: “How to bring this to the true position?” And I set to work.... Already at the time, I used to practice adopting that standpoint, looking at things from that standpoint, understanding how that standpoint could exist. And those two things made me ponder: the will to die, and what that man considered to be “perfect love” – two idiotic things.

But I discovered what was true in it; that's what was interesting: I tried and tried to find, and suddenly I felt that aspiration towards the immutable, immutable peace. Well, it was upside down: only immutable peace can give you eternal existence. There, it was all upside down, the idea was to cease existence in order to find immutable peace. But it's immutable peace one is after and that's what compels the cessation of existence, in order to allow the transformation to take place.

And love, which is unconditioned: it doesn't depend on whether you are loved or not, whether you are intelligent or not, whether you are wicked or not – that goes without saying. But it was put in a ridiculous way. But it goes without saying, love is unconditioned, otherwise it isn't love, it's what I call bargaining: “I give you my affection so you give me yours; I am nice to you so you are nice to me”! That's how people understand it, but it's stupid, it's meaningless. That's something I understood when I was quite small, I used to say, “No! You may wish others to be nice to you if you are nice to them, but that has nothing to do with love, no, nothing, absolutely nothing.” The very essence of love is unconditioned.

*   *

Soon afterwards

We are putting together... (what can I call it?) a set of rules (oh, that's an ugly word) for admission to the Ashram.... Yes!... Not that if you accept the rules you're admitted, it's not that, but when someone is admitted, we tell him, “But, you know, here is...” (when he is potentially admitted), “here is what you are committing yourself to by becoming a member of the Ashram.” Because requests for admission are pouring in like locusts, and at least ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it's from people who want to come here to be comfortable and rest and do nothing – one in a hundred comes because he has a spiritual aspiration (oh, and even then... it's mixed). So they shouldn't tell us afterwards (because we've had such experiences), “Oh, but I didn't know it was that way,” with the excuse that they hadn't been told. For instance, “I didn't know we weren't allowed to...” (Mother questions herself for a moment) What isn't allowed?... (Then, laughing, she points to Satprem:) Smoking isn't allowed. And drinking alcohol isn't allowed, being married isn't allowed, except nominally, and so on. And then you have to work, and all your desires aren't automatically satisfied. So they send me letters, “But you told me that...” (oh, things I never said, naturally), “at such-and-such a date” (you understand, sufficiently far back for me not to remember!), “you told me that...” And from what they write I see very clearly what I said and how they turned it upside down. So now we'll prepare a paper that we'll give them to read, and we'll ask them, “Have you clearly understood?” And when they have said they've clearly understood and have signed, at least we'll keep the paper, and when they start being a nuisance, we can show it to them and tell them, “Beg your pardon, we told you this wasn't a...” (what's the word?) “an Eden where you can stay without doing anything and where your bread is buttered on both sides!”

So I put as first condition (I wrote it in English): the sole aim of life is to dedicate oneself to the divine realization (I didn't put it in these terms, but that's the idea). You must first (you may deceive yourself, but that doesn't make any difference), first be convinced that this is what you want and you want this alone – primo. Then Nolini told me that the second condition should be that my absolute authority had to be recognized. I said, “Not like that!”, we should put that “Sri Aurobindo's absolute authority is recognized” (we can add [laughing!, “represented by me,” because he cannot speak, of course, except to me – to me he speaks very clearly, but others don't hear!). Then there are many other things, I don't remember, and finally a last paragraph that goes like this (Mother looks for a note).... Previously, I remember, Sri Aurobindo had also put together a little paper to give people, but it's outdated (it was about not quarreling with the police! And what else, I don't remember – it's outdated). But I didn't want to put prohibitions in, because prohibitions... first of all, it's an encouragement to revolt, always, and then there is a good proportion of characters who, when they are forbidden to do something, immediately feel an urge to do it – they might not even have thought of it otherwise, but they just have to be told about it to... “Ah, but I do as I like.” All right.

(Mother starts reading) To those... I am making a distinction: there are people who come here and want to dedicate themselves to divine life, but they come to do work and they will work (they won't do an intensive yoga because not one in fifty is capable of doing it, but they are capable of dedicating their life and of working and doing good work disinterestedly, as a service to the Divine – that's very good), but in particular, To those who want to practice the integral yoga, it is strongly advised to abstain from three things.... So, the three things ([laughing] you put your fingers in your ears): sexual intercourse (it comes third) and drinking alcohol and... [whispering] smoking.

I must tell you that I was born in a family in which nobody smoked: my father had never smoked and neither had his brothers – anyway, no one smoked. So since my early childhood, I hadn't been used to others smoking. Later, when I lived with artists... Artists smoke, of course (it seems it gives them “inspiration”!), but I detested the smell. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to be unpleasant, but I detested it. Then I came here – Sri Aurobindo smoked. He smoked deliberately, he smoked in order to say: one can do the yoga while smoking, I say one can smoke and do the yoga, and I smoke. And he smoked. And naturally all the disciples smoked, since Sri Aurobindo smoked. For some time, I even gave them pocket money so they could buy cigars (they smoked cigars – it was ghastly!). Then I came to live in Sri Aurobindo's house, we spoke freely, and one day I told him, “How awful the smell of smoke is! (laughing) It's disgusting!” So he said to me, “Oh, you don't like the smell?” “Oh, no!” I said, “Not only that, but I had to make a yogic effort to stop it from making me feel sick!” The next day, he had stopped. It was over, he never smoked again.... That was kind. It wasn't on principle, it was because he didn't want to impose the smell on me. But I had never said anything: it was simply because he asked me just like that, while talking, so I told him. And when he stopped smoking, everyone had to stop too – smoking wasn't allowed anymore, since he didn't smoke anymore.

No, for those who don't smoke (laughing), others' smoke is very...

But it was the same thing for food, meat and so on. For a long time we ate meat; it was even very funny. Pavitra was a strict vegetarian when he came, and at the time, not only were we not vegetarian but the chickens were killed in the courtyard (!) and... (laughing) Pavitra had the room right next to the kitchen – the chickens used to be killed under his nose! Oh, poor Pavitra! Then it stopped for a very simple reason (not at all on principle): feeding people with meat is far costlier than being vegetarian! It meant complications. I was personally vegetarian out of taste – everything is out of taste, not on principle. I became vegetarian at the beginning of the century, oh, a long time ago... (yes, it must have been more than sixty years ago), because in my childhood I was forced to eat meat, and it disgusted me (not the idea: it was the taste I didn't like, it disgusted me!) and the doctor said I should be given pickles and all sorts of things to mask the taste. So as soon as I was independent and free, I said, “Finished! (laughing) Ah, no! I won't eat meat anymore” – not as a rule, since now and then I still take foie gras (that's not vegetarian!) and for a long time I went on eating crayfish or lobster, things like that – no rules, oh, for heaven's sake no rules, but taste. But as you said earlier,4 it's “complications,” that's exactly how I felt. And when I moved to this room (you know that they stuck me in bed for I don't know how long – I can't manage to find out how long, no one wants to tell me), and when I started eating again, the doctor made me take chicken bouillon; but for that chicken bouillon they had to assassinate one chicken a day – they assassinated one chicken every day for me to have my chicken bouillon. Then, when the hot season came, they told me that the chickens were sick (the heat make them sick) and that, after all, maybe it wasn't so good to eat sick-chicken soup! So I said, “Stop it, do stop it!” And once I had stopped, ah, my heart was glad: “Now (laughing) we don't assassinate chickens anymore!” So I said, “Finished, we won't do it again.” But as it happens, it's precisely during that time that I put on two kilos (at the time the doctor used to take my weight), and he said, “See, you have put on weight!” I told him, “But I am not keen to put on weight!”

You see (to Sujata), in front of him I speak frankly! (laughing) You should do as I say and not do as I do!

Not on principle – no principles: out of taste.

There, mon petit.


1 . In a personal context such as this dream, fish, according to Sri Aurobindo, symbolize the “vital mind” in constant movement, making all sorts of formations.


2 This was in France with Richard, at the start of the war, after the return from Pondicherry.


3 I have given thee thy awful shape of dread

And thy sharp sword of terror and grief and pain

To force the soul of man to struggle for light...

Thou art his spur to greatness in his works,

The whip to his yearning for eternal bliss,

His poignant need of immortality.

Live, Death, awhile, be still my instrument.



4 A little earlier, Satprem had returned to the attack and asked again for Mother's permission to stop his meat diet and return to simple vegetarian food. Mother had refused because of Satprem's state of health.









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