April 5, 1972
(The first part of this conversation concerns the translators of “Notes on the Way.” One of them wants to give up the work.)
It's the ego demanding that things be done without forgetting its due respect – (laughing) Mister Ego wants to continue enjoying all due respect!... It complains shrilly before departing.
Oh, I have seen such fascinating things, mon petit! For hours I was a spectator – the consciousness witnessed an encounter between the Ego and the superman's consciousness... (laughing) it was like a duel! The ego was arguing so glibly! It seemed to be saying, “See, if you send me off, the world will become hellish!” And it was showing the most frightful scenes: “If I withdraw from this one,” it said, “this is what he will do; if I withdraw from that, this is what will happen...” (Mother laughs) Horrible things, you know, the most staggering catastrophes!... It went on for hours.
At night I don't sleep, you know; I remain very still, and I am then a spectator of all those scenes.
Told in detail, they would be very interesting.... Later, perhaps?
The Characters in the Play
The following conversation makes it necessary to explain the physical conditions Mother was living in. Alas, at the time I was still half-blind to these conditions, for Mother had wrapped me in such a cocoon of light that I could not really see what was happening – she knew my impetuous nature, she knew I would never have tolerated the situation in her room nor people's petty intrigues had I known what was really happening there. But gradually I did become aware of certain things.
Unknowingly, I was a witness to a tragedy.
But “tragedy” is afterwards, when it's too late. At the time, there are only people coming and going, with their everyday gestures, their empty words and simmering little desires, no worse or better than anybody else, and who don't really know what they are doing or where they are going. And yet the tragedy is already sealed in this little gesture, that careless action, those few fleeting words. Was the Trojan War not taking place “every day”? Did Alexander not die on “one fine day”? Destiny seizes upon a few beings and abruptly crystallizes a great moment in History, but the players are neither “cruel” nor “gentle” – they are much like everyday people, but with only a tiny distinction in their hearts. Each player plays his part, in black or white, for an unfathomable goal where everything is reconciled...
But in the meantime....
Mother's immediate entourage was then composed of: Pranab, her “bodyguard,” a former boxer, a violent and arrogant man whose flagrant flaws were the reverse side of a Love he never accepted, because it would have meant surrendering himself. “A for-mi-dable pride,” Mother once told me.1 He trusted nothing except his biceps and was frustrated in his dreams of “superman” without any tangible physiological realization. In his own way, he was perfectly devoted, as a sportsman who knows he has lost the game he had hoped to win but sportingly plays on till the end. He treated Mother like a brute and talked to her like a brute, but he served her brutishly, sparing no pains, although with a growing impatience. He served Mother for more than twenty-five years. Pranab had an instinctive aversion toward me, as he had toward Pavitra (whom he badly mistreated), and in general toward anything that exceeded his primitive intellect – Pranab could only love what he was able to dominate. He was also openly xenophobic: the “sahibs,” as he would say, forgetting, or maybe not, that Mother, too, was a “foreigner.” There were never any exchanges between Pranab and myself, we lived in completely different worlds and the work of one did not infringe upon that of the other. He only showed his annoyance and contempt for me when, entering Mother's room ponderously, he would find her in contemplation, holding my hands – perhaps he was eager for a Love that eluded him. I never spoke a word to him. He never said anything to me.
The second person in Mother's entourage was her -physician, Dr. Sanyal. A completely devoted, clear and uncalculating man but with a total lack of faith, except in his medicine and medical methods. He lived for some twenty years with Mother with no understanding of what she was doing, sowing her bodyconsciousness with his doubts and medical impossibilities. Mother has referred to him on several occasions in this Agenda.
The third person was Mother's helper, Champaklal, who had also been Sri Aurobindo's attendant. A pure-hearted man, simple and utterly devoted There is nothing to say about him, except my respect. He had come from his Gujarati village straight to the Ashram, some fifty years earlier, at the age of eighteen. There was nothing between his village and Sri Aurobindo. He understood nothing of what was happening – he simply served and did as he was bidden.
The fourth and last person was Mother's new attendant. She is going to appear in the following conversation. I was particularly blind about her because she was young and affectionate – but she was completely under Pranab's thumb and ruled by her passions. I had, of course, noticed that she was listening in on my conversations with Mother, thus subtly clouding the atmosphere, invisibly breaking in upon Mother's free expression; for, needless to say, Mother sensed all that went on in the atmosphere. How many times did she stop in the middle of a sentence, invisibly interrupted: “I can't speak” – that was not just because she was short of breath. Hence, the atmosphere of our conversations was no longer what it had been for the last fifteen years, until 1970. But in addition, we were responsible for a new and sad turn of events. We knew that Mother frequently spoke about Auroville, or with one disciple or another, and we regretted the loss of those words – to us each of her words seemed to have so much importance for the world, even if we were not yet fully able to understand all that she was saying. So with her approval, we managed to obtain a small, easy-to-operate cassette recorder. It had been agreed with Mother that her attendant would record all the important conversations in Mother's room, then pass them on to me to be added to the Agenda. At first, I noticed that the attendant was keeping the tapes, but an innate shyness kept me from saying anything lest I appear to “monopolize” things or seem pushing, and also I didn't know exactly whose instructions she was obeying. Then, gradually, the attendant stopped giving me the recordings altogether, even those of Mother with Sujata. At that point, the situation in Mother's room was so fragile that I didn't want to say anything, for fear of sparking an outburst that would have ultimately bounced on Mother. I was already feeling also the invisible barrier against Sujata, whose name was systematically crossed off the list of visitors under one pretext or another, along with those of the few young women who were the Ashram's positive – and silent – elements. And how could we possibly argue when Sujata was told, “Mother cannot see you... Mother is sick...”? Once, Sujata mentioned it to Mother, but when the same incident occurred three, four, ten times, there was nothing to be said. Without knowing why, I too was feeling my own meetings with Mother threatened and precarious. In fact, we were alone, facing an obscure league of opposition. Why the opposition? There is no answer – except human pettiness, which does not understand and hates everything that exceeds it. Even Mother's own son was jealous of my place near her, not to mention the others, the “liars” pure and simple, as Mother used to call them, who were, and still are, directing the Ashram. Finally, much later, I discovered that the notorious cassette recorder, whose recordings I was no longer even receiving, was clandestinely used to record my own conversations with Mother – on whose behalf?
That was the end. The atmosphere had become so rotten that, obviously, it could not last much longer – Mother was suffocating there. I later discovered in my own body and from direct experience that all bad thoughts are agonizing to the body, they create a sort of oppression as if you were short of air. Yet, even when they closed Mother's door on me, a year and a month later almost to the day, on May 19, 1973, I COULD NOT believe it was the end. I was convinced that this was the last stage, that Mother was finally going to shake off the old slavery to food: the last tie to the old physiology. But, as we now know, her “bodyguard” would not let her. In his speech on December 4, 1973, he declared, “In the beginning [from May 201, She refused to take any food or drink, but somehow we persuaded Her to take them.”2 She did fight as much as she could, and then.... At times, I seemed to hear her faltering little voice up there: “Where is Satprem? Where is Satprem?...” and then silence. Had I attempted to force the barrier, this Agenda would never have seen the light of day. In a way, the following conversation is therefore prophetic.
Such was Mother's immediate entourage: a devoted but uncomprehending helper, a doctor with no faith, a violent and despotic bodyguard, and a blind and blinded little being controlled by her passions and by Pranab.
Henceforth, we will let the facts speak for themselves.
(After a silence, Mother resumes the conversation.)
The body has been weakened by the transformation, the doctor says it is showing signs of weakness.
What is true is that it feels a kind of tension whenever it has to exert too great an effort. But I think that will pass. I am convinced – as I have already told you – that if I reach one hundred, at one hundred I will be strong.
But what about the other day, Mother, when you told Sujata again about the possibility of your body becoming apparently lifeless, “dead,” as they say ...
... as part of the process of transformation. And if this were to occur, we should make sure not to put you into the hole....
But why?... Did the thought occur again that you may have to....
Yes.... I don't know. At any rate, I would like someone to prevent such a stupid thing, because then all the work would be ruined.
Yes, of course. But people like K. will be there [Satprem turns toward the bathroom door and gestures to Mother's attendant to come closer].
People like K. will be near You.
Yes, mon petit, but K. is a young girl, she does not have any authority.
Of course, she does, Mother! [K. laughs]
(Sujata:) As a matter of fact, Mother, we don't have any authority either.
People with some authority should be there and say (Mother speaks forcefully): YOU MUST NOT DO THIS – Mother DOES NOT WANT.
(Satprem:) Yes, Mother, but I see only K. or Sujata near you who could say that – I mean, what can the others possibly say?
Yes, and what about you?
Me? What say do I have? Who will listen to me? They'll say I'm crazy – they won't even let me enter your room!3
(Mother laughs with a sort of surprise)
It's true, they won't allow me to enter your room. But people who are here, like K. or Sujata, WITH THEIR FAITH, they can do something – or Pranab. But Pranab, only you can....
But Pranab... Pranab will think I am dead!
Yes, that's so.
Yes.... Yes, Pranab doesn't believe, he doesn't have faith.
Personally, I think that only the faith of people like – well, yes, “little girls” like K. or Sujata can have authority with their faith. That's all I can think of. They will have to be there.
(Mother nods approvingly,
Sujata remains silent till the end)
Possible, but not certain it will happen [the deep trance]. Sometimes, when I see all these things, I am.... My difficulty of speech is caused by that weakness, you see; I have trouble expressing myself; all of a sudden, I feel... I feel a sort of... I don't know, I can't say fatigue or exhaustion but... as though life were literally drained out of me – and yet the consciousness is more ALIVE, stronger than ever!
Suddenly, the body doesn't know if it will be able to go through it – that's what happens.
So, for this reason, appearances may be very deceptive.
(Satprem, aside to K.:) But couldn't someone like Champaklal understand that?
(K.:) I don't think so.
The big difficulty is the government, you see: a bunch of dimwits who know nothing outside of their rules and regulations.
(Satprem:) No, no, Mother, I can assure you that....
(K:) No, no!
(Satprem:) In any event, as long as we're alive, we will do everything we can to safeguard you....
No, I really don't think anything will happen, Mother.
(K:) I don't either.
(Satprem:) I don't think anything will happen. If you must remain for a given number of days in a state of apparent samadhi, well, you will be protected and everything will be all right, that's all.
(Mother nods approvingly)
All that's needed is ONE person with real faith.
Yes, YES, exactly. Exactly so. Yes.
Well, there are at least three of them right here with real faith!
(Mother laughs) Yes.
Even four! [Vasudha, Mother's former assistant, has just entered the room.4 ]
(The clock chimes
Mother takes Satprem's hands, she looks reassured
So, K. has recorded a lot of things – did she give them to you?
(K.:) Not today – yesterday.
(Satprem:) Yesterday, yes, Mother. I haven't yet looked at them.
I no longer speak with the force I used to have, because speaking is difficult. What I say doesn't have the power it used to have.
But there's power behind it!
Yes, the consciousness is stronger than it has ever been.
Exactly!... No, I really find that the power is still there, behind .... True, you don't speak like an orator!...
That's right! Far from it!
Well, my children, there. We'll do what we can, we'll do as best as we can.
Yes, and we'll look after you well and... WE WON'T LET YOU DOWN.
Good. Well, all right, then! (Mother laughs)
Au revoir, mon petit.
(to Sujata, very tenderly)
Mon petit ....
“We won't let you down...” How these words still ring with an agonizing question mark, eight years later! What could we possibly do? A scandal? Useless – it would only have unleashed the pack before we had time to get this Agenda to safety. Here are the facts, as reported in English by Pranab himself in a public speech, on December 4, 1973:
“I arrived at about five past seven [in Mother's room, the evening of November 17] and saw that Dr. Sanyal was already there examining Her. Dyumanbhai [the disciple who brought Mother her meals] also had come. I went and felt the Mother's pulse. It was still there, beating at long intervals. There was still some respiration. But slowly everything stopped. The doctor gave an external heart massage to Her. It had no effect. Then he declared that the Mother had left Her body. This was at 7:25 p.m. Then, being present and feeling my responsibility, I thought what I should do. At that time there were present Andre [Mother's son], Champaklalji [the helper], Dr. Sanyal, Dyumanbhai, Kumud [the attendant] and myself. I talked with Andre and told him that I wanted to wait for some time and then take the Mother's body down, place it in the Meditation Hall for people to see. We would keep the body in such a way that it was not disturbed, then we would decide what to do. Andre agreed to my proposal. He wanted to remain with us but as he was not well I suggested that he should go home and take rest and come the next day. He left. We remained there and discussed what to do.
Now we thought that if people immediately came to know about the Mother's passing there would be a big rush, and the crowd would all clamor to see Her. There would be noise and shouts and a tremendous confusion. So we thought of keeping the event secret for some time. Also Dr. Sanyal said that we must not disturb the body in any way for several hours. So the Mother was left as She was and after I I o'clock, when the gate of the Ashram was closed, we cleaned Her body with eau de cologne, put a nice dress on Her, arranged everything and then Dyumanbhai and I went down and called Nolinida. Nolinida came up, saw everything, and asked what we were going to do. I mentioned my plans to him. He said the Mother had once told him that if it looked to us that She had left her body we should not be in a hurry, but see that Her body was properly kept, and then wait. I said, ‘We are just about to do the same. We have cleaned Her, otherwise ants and insects would have come. We have put on Her a new dress and we shall carry Her quietly, carefully downstairs and lay Her in the Meditation Hall. After some time we shall call people.’ He agreed to our proposal.... At about 2 o'clock [in the morning] we brought the Mother's body down, placed Her on the bed, arranged everything. Then I went out, called Mona, told him to come and see me with four other boys, five of my lieutenants, so to say. When they came I explained to them what to do: to call the photographers first, then to call the [Ashram] trustees, then all those who were very close to Her.... From 3 o'clock the people who had been called started coming. While we were upstairs, we prepared some kind of statement that could go to the Press and to All India Radio so that no wrong information might go out.... Our draft of the statement we got corrected by Nirodda and gave it to Udar to circulate. At 4:15 in the morning we opened the gate of the Ashram for people to come in and have a last Darshan....
Thus, SIX HOURS AND THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES after Mother's so-called death, they brought her downstairs, they removed her body from the peace and protection of her atmosphere... and then they threw her to thousands of avidly curious visitors amidst glaring neon lights and droning fans, just EIGHT HOURS AND FIFTY MINUTES after her heartbeat stopped ...
What universal complicity bound all these people together, who ALL fully knew that Mother's body was to be left in peace in her room, who ALL were fully aware of Mother's “instructions”?
Had they wanted to get rid of her, they could not have rushed any faster.
Pranab himself brazenly declared in his speech:
“One thing She repeated to me often quite some time back, and to some other persons also. She said that all the work She was doing on Her body could be spoilt in two ways-one, this force She was pulling down on Her could be so strong, so great, that the body would not be able to tolerate it and the body might fail.5 That was a possibility. The second thing was that if ever She went into a deep trance and it looked to us that She had left Her body, then if by mistake we put Her in the Samadhi [tomb], that would absolutely spoil Her work. And She gave instructions that we should give the body the necessary protection, we should watch, and only when we would be absolutely sure that She had left Her body we should put Her in the Samadhi. I think we have done as She had wanted.”
True, they did all that was necessary “to be absolutely sure.” Removing her from her room was in effect condemning her to a sure death.
Naturally, no one ever informed us of anything. We were not among those “close” to Mother. It is Sujata's brother, Abhay Singh – himself alerted by the public rumor, who sent word to us. We arrived at the Ashram around six in the morning, stunned, to find thousands of people in line, waiting their turn – it had been six months since we had last seen Mother. Less than five minutes later, Nolini called me to translate the press release into French as well as his own “message” – they all had a “message” ready. He handed me a piece of paper. I could not believe my eyes. I read like an automaton:
“The Mother's body belonged to the old creation. It was not meant to be the New Body.6 It was meant to be the pedestal of the New Body. It served its purpose well. The New Body will come.... The revival of the body would have meant revival of the old troubles in the body. The body troubles were eliminated so far as could be done being in the body-farther was not possible. For a new mutation, new procedure was needed. ‘Death’ was the first stage in that process.”
I read once again, in speechless outrage: “The Mother's body belonged to the old creation. It was not meant to be the New Body...” I looked at all those people staring at me in Nolini's room. A terrible silence fell. And then I said NO. “I will NOT translate that.” They looked at me as if I had gone mad I left.
The battery of droning fans, the huge crowd, the glaring lights reflected on the zinc ceiling. Her little white figure, which seemed to be absorbed in a powerful, almost fierce concentration. Scream? Scream what? To WHOM? Could my screams bring her back to her room? Were they going to cancel their messages and prepared statements? There was no one to listen. They had arranged everything to perfection. There was not a single dissenting voice. The collusion was total.
1 See Agenda VIII, August 2, 1967.
2 We would like to know how they “persuaded” her. I cannot help thinking of the vision I had eleven years earlier (Agenda II, February 11, 1961), in which Mother had “died” because she had eaten “a grain of rice.”
3 On May 19,1973, six months before Mother left, Pranab closed Mother's door on Satprem, and on everyone else as well, including Sujata.
4 Stricken with cancer, Vasudha could no longer serve Mother actively but came and saw her every day for a few moments. Her exit was a real tragedy. Had she been there, nothing would have happened – she knew and she understood. For so many years she had discreetly kept watch not only over Mother but also over the privacy and secrecy of our conversations with Mother, making sure that no one disturbed us and above all encroached on the time Mother gave us. I can never express enough gratitude to her – and my infinite regret. There was someone in that pack who understood and that someone was taken away from Mother – why?
5 Which was not the case, since in Pranab's own words, “it [Mother's passing] looked to me as if a candle was slowly extinguishing.”
6 This last sentence (“It was not meant to be the New Body”) was later deleted for the official version of the message, probably in part because of Satprem's reaction.