with The Mother
I. The Great Moment. First Contact
III. Plunge Into Darkness
V. Medical Sadhana
VI. The Mother Takes Up Medical Correspondence
VII. After 1950 — New Relation
VIII. Light Interlude
IX. The Mother’s Ways of Action
X. The Mother’s Magnanimity
XI. My Family and the Mother’s Grace
XII. I960 Onwards
XIV. Loss of Personal Contact from 1963
XV. Short Ascension. 1966
XVI. Sweetness and Light 1971-1973
XVII. The Last Ray
XIX. Our Debt and Homage
XX. The Mother’s Talk of April 2, 1972
XXI. I am with you...
APPENDIX. The Mother’s Letters to a Student
I. The Great Moment.
It was in the first week of January 1930.
At about 3 p.m., I reached Dilip K, Roy’s place. “Oh, you have come! Let us go,” he said, and cutting a rose from his terrace-garden he added, “Offer this to the Mother.” When we arrived at the Ashram he left me at the present Reading Room saying, “Wait here.” My heart was beating nervously as if I were going to face an examination. A stately chair in the middle of the room attracted momentarily my attention. In a short while the Mother came accompanied by Nolini, Amrita and Dilip. She took her seat in the chair, the others stood by her side. I was dazzled by the sight. Was it a “visionary gleam” or a reality? Nothing like it had I seen before. Her fair complexion, set off by a finely coloured sari and a headband, gave me the impression of a goddess such as we see in pictures or in the idols during the Durga Puja festival. She was all smiles and redolent with grace. I suppose this was the Mahalakshmi smile Sri Aurobindo had spoken of in his book The Mother. She bathed me in the cascade of her smile and heart-melting look. I stood before her, shy and speechless, made more so by the presence of the others who were enjoying the silent sweet spectacle. Minutes passed. Then I offered into her hand my rose and did my pranam at her feet which had gold anklets on them. She stooped and blessed me. On standing up, I got again the same enchanting smile like moonbeams from a magic sky. After a time she said to the others, “He is very shy.”
She had been informed that I had taken a degree in medicine.
“When are you going and where do you intend to practise?” she asked me softly. I found my voice and replied that I would settle down in my native town. It was an impromptu answer, for I had not made up my mind at all. She approved and said, “Yes, that would be good.” Then I did a second pranam and we came away. All the way home, I was in a trance-like condition wrapped in that beatific vision. The Mother’s radiant look and smile, mingled probably with a tinge of amusement, had such an indefinable sweetness that I could not imagine how I, an utter stranger of a young man, could be the recipient of this rare boon. It was so divinely human!
We shall see, later on, how after a good deal of wandering I had to return to my native place, thus carrying out the plan that had obtained the Mother’s approval.
How did this extraordinary meeting take place? Well, many surprises overtake us in a manner strange to our outward eye, and “exceeding Nature’s groove”, life voyages on an uncharted sea. This is particularly true for those who are meant to embrace a spiritual life. At least, it was so in my case. When I look back, I cannot rationally explain some decisive turns my life has taken without any pre-conceived plan. And yet, as I string together these disparate events, the culmination I reached seems inevitable and predestined.
To mention one or two such inexplicable events. My going abroad with my niece for medical studies and not, as I had desired, for Law was a sheer desperate venture. For, my education had been non-scientific by deliberate choice. I did not like cutting human bodies dead or alive, besides other unaesthetic adjuncts of Medical Science. Further, people dubbed my ambitious project a Don-Quixotic adventure because of my young age and inadequate financial resources to cope with a long six-year course. But that I should go abroad, was my adamantine resolve. And there in Europe our meeting with Dilip Roy sealed my fate for a final renunciation — another Quixotic dash.
Most unexpectedly my niece and I met him in Paris. He had come on a tour after his celebrated interview with Sri Aurobindo. He stayed a few days with us in Edinburgh and we came to know from him something about the Mother, Sri Aurobindo and the Ashram. But it was my niece who, being some sort of an idealist, was attracted by the idyllic picture of life in the Ashram while the picture of human bones and human cells loomed before my eyes and made the quest of Matter dearer than that of the nebulous Spirit. My physical crust was impermeable — “too thick”, to quote the Guru’s later words. A seed was sown in the fertile emotional soil of my niece and it sprouted so fast that on her way back to India she visited the Ashram. Dilip who had made the Ashram his home welcomed her with a warm heart. He had hoped that she would come one day for good. She had the exceptional privilege of meeting the Mother at Dilip’s place more than once and fell under the spell of her divine beauty. She wrote to me a glowing account of her unique experience and of her complete conversion to a new mode of life. At the same time she urged upon me to visit the Ashram when I returned to India.
After taking my degree I arrived all on a sudden at Pondicherry and presented myself to Dilip, like a European with a stick in my hand, but no hat on the head. For an instant he gaped in wonder. When recognition dawned on him, he cried, “Oh, it’s you! I could never imagine.... Come, come, sit down.” He was as affable as ever. He arranged an interview with the Mother, though she seemed to have remarked that I had not written to her anything about my visit. As I had no dhoti with me, he spared me one of his own and asked me to come to his house the next afternoon at the right hour. I felt quite embarrassed and did not know how to face the new test, even after passing so many tough medical examinations. My niece had given a very gracious picture of the Mother to allay my fears. Still, I felt extremely ill at ease, particularly because I had no idea of spirituality at all, nor had I much love for it. Suppose the Mother asked, “Do you want a spiritual life?” What answer would I give? Before starting, however, I thought I must take a bath. I felt even like praying a little. As soon as I sat down, my eyes closed and something startling happened of which my medical science had not dreamt even. I saw the upper pan of my body suspended in the air for a few seconds and the lower part non-existent. Frightened like a child, I opened my eyes and the thing vanished! In a dazed condition, I started for the Ashram, from my hotel. Dilip received me with his affectionate smile which helped me regain my composure. “Come, let us start,” he said.
This is how the interview took place with its rapturous vision.
“Her look, her smile awoke celestial sense
Even in earth-stuff, and their intense delight
Poured a supernal beauty on men’s lives....”
Today I understand how I had that strange experience. The Mother must have put some Force on me in order to test my receptivity and when, at the meeting, she found that the ādhāra was not bad, she was happy. This is the explanation I offer to myself of the divine action. Perhaps there was more to it than I could sound. Probably it was also a form of initiation.
The next evening, I was to leave for Calcutta. Dilip came to see me off. As soon as he started me off in a “pousse-pousse” (archaic form of a rickshaw), another wonder, a surpassing delight! I began to see the Mother’s radiant face and smiling eyes whichever way I turned. I was thrilled. All through the ride to the station and until the train left, her face floated before me and would not leave me even for a second. So great was the burden of delight that I uttered, somewhat vexed: “Oh, when will it leave me?” And the ecstatic vision slowly receded and faded away. “Mortality bears ill the Eternal’s touch.” The din and rumble of the train and the chattering of the passengers took its place and “there was the common light of earthly day.” It was only after I had returned and settled in the Ashram that I realised how foolish I had been to drive away the divine Presence that had come to me as an act of Grace.
All this happened in the first week of January 1930. In February my niece and I visited the Ashram for the Darshan and stayed about a month. The inspiration came from her and I believe she enjoyed the stay much more than I did. I was still uncommitted. It was an altogether new mode of living, an esoteric life of the initiates into which I had stumbled without the least preparation. We took part in all the functions and observed the discipline of the Ashram: we never went out to the bazaar to have any refreshment, though we were often hungry during the day or at night. I had not yet become a tea-addict. The simple beauty, purity and quietness of the atmosphere and the dedication of the sadhaks were emblematic of the soul’s aspiration for the Highest, and impressed me deeply. For them, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were the Highest incarnate upon earth.
There were two occasions in the course of the day when the sadhaks could meet the Mother collectively: one for Pranam in the morning, the other during the soup distribution1 in the evening. Both of them were silent communions. Of these two, the soup distribution was something unique of its kind. As Amal Kiran has given a memorable account of it in the book of talks. Light and Laughter and Narayan Prasad in his Life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, I shall content myself with what concerned me for the most part. The soup distribution used to take place at 8 p.m. in the present Reception Room and lasted two hours. The inmates were about hundred in number and they sat inside the hall while we visitors had to sit in the verandah outside from where it was difficult to see the Mother — one had to peep over the shoulders of the people in front. Still, I preferred to remain outside, for from what I saw I could not bear sitting for two hours in a room surcharged with dimness, incense fume and an atmosphere mystic but sleep-inducing to my unaccustomed nature. Later on, we were given a chance to sit inside and then we had a good view of the Mother in her various moods, sometimes in trance, sometimes awake, smiling or grave, and very often pouring the soup in an indrawn state, the hands shaking a little as she poured it. Each one had to wait for his turn and it was a long waiting for me. As I was not used to meditate, I had to struggle hard against losing my chance by falling asleep, and thus being marked “missing”. If that happened, my niece was there, wide awake, to stir me into consciousness.
We felt as if we had entered into some “prophet cavern” or some ancient Greek temple where Eleusinian mysteries were being performed, the Mother being the presiding Priestess. Amal said, “This is exactly the impression I had. I told it to the Mother and I used the word ‘ancient’ for the presiding Priestess. Unfortunately this word means ‘old’ in French and the Mother was a little taken aback.” After taking her seat, she would close her eyes; then her arms would stretch out and her hands spread over the soup-vessel by way of channelling Sri Aurobindo’s power into the liquid. Then her eyes would open and she would start the distribution. Some people used to see Sri Aurobindo’s hands spread over hers in response to her call to him. As I had to wait quite an hour before my turn came, I spent my time partly in sleep-meditation, partly in looking at the quick-changing moods of the Mother. I could not vouch for any concrete experience. Neither could I say that she took any cognisance of my presence when I went before her, but she was invariably an impersonal sweetness. Once only, and that makes me remember it, she cast an inquiring look when I approached her for the soup, I could not make out what it meant. I knew that at the time I had a boil — the “blessed boil!” and it was causing me pain. Could the pain have been reflected on my face? But that would be too trivial a matter to draw her attention. Now I know that nothing that concerned our well-being, physical or otherwise was too trivial for her.
After the ceremony was over, a grand spectacle used to greet our eyes. The Mother would return to her room across the courtyard, which had an altogether different appearance. Two sadhaks held a lamp and a censer in front of her and some sadhaks followed her from behind. The rest of us would stand on the side watching her pass with a solemn gait, almost in semi-trance. Her resplendent face, with an enchanting half-smile, would fill the whole hushed atmosphere with a supraphysical ambience. “Eternal beauty wandering on its way” — one could repeat with Yeats.
The next ceremony of importance was the morning Pranam. Spiritually as significant, the atmosphere was quite different. Here the Mother appeared nearer to our earth — “Near to earth’s wideness, intimate with Heaven.” The Pranam was held at 7.30 a.m. in the room now occupied by Bula. A few of the sadhaks who had been in the Ashram for many years would sit inside the room and the rest would come, do their pranam and go away. Some would stand outside waiting to have the parting darshan when the Mother returned to her room. We found her sitting upon a cushion on a low seat in a simple manner, clad in a sari, the head bare, strikingly different from her orbed majesty at night. Here she was quite awake, “Smiling sweetly, smiling meetly” and giving flowers and blessings. Here too I remember the one and only occasion when she spoke to me during our month’s stay. We had asked her permission for sea-bathing — it was the rule to take permission for all movements beyond the prescribed Ashram life, so that her protection might accompany us. As she was going back, she saw us waiting outside and said in a sweet French tone, “You want to take a bath in the sea? Be careful; there are plenty of jelly-fish here.”
These were the two “spiritual occasions” for us. Apart from them we passed the rest of the day in doing almost nothing. Dilip and Sahana used to visit us now and then; Sahana especially would talk about the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and the life in the Ashram. Another inmate, John Chadwick, alias Arjava, a name given by Sri Aurobindo, struck a friendship with us, invited us to tea and even offered us some butter when he learned that we took nothing except what was given from the Ashram. I must confess that though the Ashram food was tasty, the quantity was not adequate for us. In consequence we went half hungry. Our appeals for more went somehow unheeded. “Ask and thou shalt be given” did not seem applicable to material needs. We, being new-comers, were not allowed to join the common Dining Room. Our meals were sent to our rooms.
Sometimes we went to the Ashram to have the darshan of the Mother when she would go for a drive in the afternoon. Once we saw her attending a flower-show in the Colonial Garden, (now Botanical Garden) in which our Ashram also took part, and she along with another French lady was supervising the Ashram stall. This, in short, was all about our initial, or shall I say “initiate”, period during the one month’s sojourn.
Let me mention here an indiscretion that we committed inadvertently at the very first summons to the spiritual life and for which the person involved had to suffer a lot. A friend of ours accompanied us for the Darshan without obtaining previous permission. He insisted so much on coming with us that we could not forbid him. Besides, we took this business of “permission” as no more than a formality. But when the Mother came to know about it, she seemed much displeased and was supposed to have said that his coming was very premature and he would have to suffer a good deal. He was not allowed to stay in any Ashram house nor to enter the main Ashram building. He would have to go back soon after the Darshan. We felt embarrassed and very sad indeed at this unfortunate turn, but he did not seem to be much affected. He did suffer a lot, it is true, later in life, and yet at the same time, he received Sri Aurobindo’s Grace and has been immortalised by him in our correspondence as the unique and unparallelled Chand. His pet name was Chandu. Sri Aurobindo baptised him Chand. He was a Muslim by birth, but in every other way, a Hindu. He studied Sanskrit in school, could recite the Gita and other scriptures, worshipped Hindu deities, etc., etc. — a strange specimen of humanity. When we came to know him better, we found to our surprise what a queer mélange he was of the most contradictory elements in nature and we realised why the Mother had disapproved of his premature visit. This is why our Shastras speak of adhikāra and proper time. Now that death has drawn a veil over his mortal existence, I should not dissect his shade. Only, I am happy to say that he loved Sri Aurobindo genuinely and the Master also loved him, in spite of his many failings. There were several instances to illustrate Sri Aurobindo’s solicitude for this “most loose and unpractical and disorderly fellow that ever was...” In another Shakespearian outburst, he described him thus, “He blunders through life, stumbling over every possible or impossible stone of offence with a conscientious thoroughness that is unimaginable and inimitable.” For him too the Lord cared.
To come back to our story:
It was time to return. Some friends wished that we should stay on for good; for the Mother seemed to have been pleased with us and would accept us if we wanted to remain. But I, at any rate, did not, and on the advice of our friends wrote a letter to Sri Aurobindo expressing my future plan of life. I said frankly that I was not at all ready for a spiritual life, I preferred to do Karmayoga outside. Strange that I used that word without knowing sufficiently what it meant. The very next day an answer came explaining at some length that I was quite right in my decision, that Karmayoga could be practised outside and it would be a good preparation for my future spiritual life, if I turned to it afterwards. My friends saw the letter and were not a little surprised to see that a newcomer had received such a nice long letter from Sri Aurobindo. The tone was indeed very affable, though I did not perceive it at that time. Unfortunately, I lost the letter during the Police search of my house. Perhaps the Police thought that it was one of those “sweet letters” the Government much-adoed about in Sri Aurobindo’s trial!2
It was curious that I had no spiritual experience to speak of during my long stay, while my previous short visit had been so strikingly different. Still a month’s quiet sojourn in the spiritual atmosphere, with the daily touch of the Mother, could not have gone in vain. At least, it was a very welcome interlude after a life of bhoga in the West and before a plunge into darkness in my native land. On our way back we halted in Madras for a week at Dorai-swamy’s spacious house. My niece’s idea was to get a job there in order to be as near the Ashram as possible. But nothing came of it in spite of Doraiswamy’s personal influence. Our destiny led us far away.
During our stay in his house, Doraiswamy paid a visit to the Ashram at the week end. My niece requested him to get some blessing-flower from the Mother. When he returned I asked him, “Is there none for me?” He replied, “You didn’t ask.” I felt humbled: the first cognizance of the Mother’s way of action.
III. Plunge Into Darkness
As soon as we reached Chittagong, I received a telegram from my relatives in Rangoon that a Government post had fallen vacant and I was sure to get it, if I applied for it. I was in a fix, for I had told the Mother that I would practise in my home town. Fate now decided otherwise and I sailed for Burma. That post was, however, not available, but in its stead another job offered itself almost unasked for and unexpectedly. I had gone to pay a courtesy-call to a Professor in the Rangoon Medical College, an I.M.S. who was an Edinburgh graduate. He spoke to me of a job that was going to be vacant and he wanted me to apply for it. Not only so, he made me see the proper authorities with his letters of recommendation and himself came to look for me at my address. The upshot of it all was that the job came “walking into my parlour”, and I was comfortably settled. Though the Burma National Ministry tried to unsettle me, my patron defended his choice saying that he was fortunate in getting a foreign-qualified man for the post. I could not but be struck by the swift turn of events as if some force had been driving me. But, my crass physical nature realised much later that it was the Mother’s Force that had achieved that miracle. “A Force worked, but none knew from where it came.”
A fixed income and some private practice made life smooth and promising, if not affluent. Gradually I drifted into the hybrid Rangoon atmosphere which was, in one word, philistine. People knew only position and money. I fell into step with them and forgot that I had visited Pondicherry. Karmayoga was a far cry and bhoga became more insistent. I kept no connection with the Ashram. But my niece had kept it up. So it was that as I was swept along in the tide, all on a sudden I received a copy of Conversations with the Mother with my name, the Mother’s “blessings” and her signature written on it. I could not but be surprised and extremely moved at the same time: the fact that the Mother had remembered me though I had forgotten her shed a new light and made a dent somewhere in me. But “the roots were not deep enough”. Life in the old rut continued. After a year or so, my house was suddenly searched by the Police. Nothing incriminating was found except that “suspicious” letter by Sri Aurobindo which the Police grabbed, and so was lost for ever. From this point, the weather began to be rough. Fortune seemed to have turned her face away from me. I was served with a notice by the Government that my services would terminate in six months though the contract had been signed for three years. It came like a bolt, but was truly a blessing and probably the Divine Hand was the thrower. Otherwise the perilous direction I had taken would have drifted me into an abyss. Dizzy was the rise and equally vertiginous the apparent fall.
The secure job lost as suddenly as it had come, I had to make a hot retreat and go to Calcutta. It was like leaving an enchanted island of Circe and buffetted and bruised, reaching one’s native shore. After knocking about for six months or so for a job, finally I was driven back to find my anchor at Chittagong as I had told the Mother at our first meeting.
I was within an ace of getting a Government post at Calcutta, but on the eve of the selection my lodging was again searched by the Police, very probably getting a clue from the Rangoon Police. The Police report must have saved me from becoming a life-long Government servant and paved my way to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. I cannot then be wrong in claiming for me a predestination. The Police had been pursuing me since I had left college because of my participation in the Non-Co-operation movement.
The atmosphere at Chittagong happened to be more congenial. I found some friends who were connected with the Ashram. Through my niece, who had already become an Ashram member, my contact with the Mother was also renewed. I used to receive her letters and the Mother’s blessings and send some modest offering whenever I could. Thus a very definite change had come over me after a short but stormy career. Though materially I had to face hardships, spiritually I seemed to have rediscovered my soul. But since the soul was still an infant and the vital nature clamorous for its “flesh-pots”, I came more than once to the brink of a yawning pit and was drawn back somehow. One instance is even now fresh in my mind. I got myself so entangled in a sordid affair that I found no way of escape from it. I was completely under the grip of a vile Force and there was no strength or even inclination to resist. At that critical moment, a rose given by the Mother came from my niece without my asking. I did not know what was in that rose, for I did not feel anything, but I found myself full of strength and determination and at “one single blow and no more” knocked down the monster of Evil. This was the first concrete example of the miraculous power of the Mother’s blessing-flower which even a sceptic like me could not brush aside. Now, a new and more subtle danger was laying its trap in the guise of spirituality. My old friend Chand who belonged to the same town brought to me a middle-aged woman, first as a patient, then as some sort of a spiritual seeker. She had abandoned her family life and was looking for a shelter where she could pursue her “sadhana without any hindrance”. Candid as I was, I was almost ready to help her when something very strange intervened. I received a letter from my niece to the following effect: “You are wasting your precious time. How long will the Mother and Sri Aurobindo wait for you? Should you not think of joining the Ashram and taking up the yogic life?” It seems she had her letters read by Sri Aurobindo before posting them or at least summarised the contents to him. From the day I received the letter my mind began to be haunted by it. Gradually the effect increased and the world began to lose all its charm and appear insipid. The salt had lost its savour. I could not but write for permission for Darshan and, if granted, I resolved not to come back. The permission came and one day, very secretly, without telling even my poor mother, I started for the Ashram. It was in February 1935, three years to the day after my last Darshan in 1930.1 came to know later that, with regard to the woman brought by Chand, I had been saved from a snare I was unwittingly falling into in the name of spirituality. The woman’s later life confirmed the suspicion.
I arrived a few days before the February Darshan and was lodged in what was formerly called Boudé House near the Ashram Press. A little far but otherwise a nice quiet place on the seaside, ft was meant to be a halting station for the newcomers or even a jumping-board for prospective sadhaks. I had brought a silk dhoti for Sri Aurobindo and a well-known Bengal perfume for the Mother. The choice was made instinctively, or unthinkingly, if you like. My niece was much amused to see my present for the Mother and said with a laugh, “Do you imagine that the Mother uses such ordinary perfumes?” I looked very foolish. All the same, when an interview with her was arranged, I took my presents with me. The interview was not at all like the one on my first visit. She was quite serious as if I was not welcome or had done some wrong. This was my stupid human interpretation of the Mother’s look, an example of an error from which we suffered so much and which Sri Aurobindo took such trouble to correct. Later on, I understood what she had wanted to convey. Yes, the Light I had received was lost in the interval. I told her, however, that I would like to stay on if I were allowed. She replied that after the Darshan I could write to Sri Aurobindo about my resolve. I wrote, “My aspiration and decision still stand. May I hear from you about it?” His answer, kind but non-committal, was, “Before deciding for ever, we can fix a period of time and see — say till August.” I accepted the verdict knowing very well that if I was refused afterwards, it would entail a lot of difficulty. From February to August was a long gap, there being no April Darshan at that time. Perhaps Sri Aurobindo wanted to see how I adjusted myself to the Ashram life or did he want to suggest that acceptance needed a little more than the mere asking? Who could say? We know that his answers bear many levels of meaning, but he would certainly not have thrown me out after six months unless I had proved an utter failure. This was of course a later thought. So with the fear hanging over me I started preparing myself with all seriousness so that at the end of the period of trial I might present a better face and say, “Here am I, Master!” and he would graciously smile and answer, “Well done, young man. I accept you, but ‘shall beat you a lot’.” What actually turned out was nothing so dramatic; I simply stayed on. No question was raised on either side and no answer given.
During these months I felt some Force acting upon me and I could keep up an intense aspiration. The Mother would often pour upon me her lovely smiles at Pranam. From her response I felt an inner certitude that my place was here. As an outward sign of it, I was brought closer and given a room near the Ashram and some work in the Building Department under Khirode. The room was excellent, full of light and air with an opening to the sea. I was lucky indeed, to get so nice a room in such a short time. But the work could not catch my heart, particularly as it involved keeping monthly accounts. Figures had never been my strong point. I was shifted soon to a no better work — supervision in the House Painting Department. Though the Mother put me in contact with two of the finest Karmayogis, Khirode and Rishabhchand, my psychic being refused to be kindled by their bright examples. The fact was that I had always had an aversion to physical work. Neither had I taken up work seriously as an important part of sadhana. I had queer old notions about Yoga. I thought work was adopted as a device to keep us engaged as well as make us do useful service. So the departmental heads could not have given a very edifying report about my performance. Then a vacancy occurred in the Timber Godown and I was asked to fill it. This was a responsible allotment, for I was made the head supervisor. Still, the fire failed to burn. Leaving the carpenters to their job, I would spend my time in reading books. I used to see Dilip and other “intellectuals” of the Ashram engaged in literary activities and my subconscious ambition was to follow them and to become a “literary gent”. But suddenly there was a change in my attitude — a psychological jolt lighted the Agni in the heart and instead of a litterateur, I became a Karmayogi overnight. It happened in this way: One day in our daily report to the Mother, I wrote, “Can reading be done during the working hours?” or something to that effect. Sri Aurobindo wrote back, “I don’t know your work.” I can’t say what was there in that curt reply. I felt very humiliated and ashamed of myself. I thought, “If Sri Aurobindo doesn’t know what is my work, then what kind of work am I doing?” Thus a simple sentence brought about my conversion. And, as I said, I blossomed into a Karmayogi, for which the Guru awarded me a grand certificate in these terms: “The timber godown made you make a great progress and you made the timber godown make a great progress too.” I was happy beyond measure and patted myself for the big success which softened too the Guru’s heart and was the ostensible cause of the sweetness in his letters to me.
Once during supervision, a heavy beam fell upon my big toe causing acute pain and a black bruise. The Mother sent Dr. Manilal, who had come for the Darshan, to see me. Naturally I was deeply moved by this personal gesture coming from the Mother herself. I had to take a few days’ rest, but, strangely enough, I looked forward to rejoining the work as soon as possible. I learnt that any work done with the right attitude creates interest and brings joy. Apart from this, I cannot claim to have had any positive spiritual experience as a timber-supervisor, except one. It happened as far as I can remember after an interview with the Mother. She asked me how my aspiration was formulated. I could not understand what she meant. The language was too yogic or philosophic for my medical brain to understand. She therefore put it in a simpler form. Then I replied that what I wanted most was ānanda. She smiled and said that ānanda was very difficult to bring down. However, there was no harm in asking for it. That very afternoon when I had gone for my work and was looking at the blue sky overhead, a sudden downpour of ānanda came like a cascade upon me and made me feel like dancing, so overpowering it was! Not knowing how to contain it, I sat down to write some poetry and no sooner had I started than the whole experience stopped. How foolish of me to lose such a gracious boon from the Mother! Well-deserved was the scolding I received from the Guru when I narrated the story. In that interview the Mother had also explained the nature of the work that was being done here. She had said something like this: “You must have seen a pool where the water on the surface is clear, transparent and all the mud is quietly settled below. We are churning that mud: as a result all the water has become turbid. It is the process of purification. None has done this before.” I could not understand much of it, but it remained stamped on my memory. Now I see the truth of it everywhere. God knows how long we shall have to wallow in this muddy business.
On another birthday interview with the Mother in 1936, I asked Sri Aurobindo, “Guru, any impression of the Mother on my birthday? I am afraid I wasn’t calm but the whole day I felt peaceful.”
Sri Aurobindo: Mother’s verdict is “Not at all bad — I found him rather receptive.” So, sir, cherish your receptivity and don’t humbug about with doubt and despondency and then you will be peaceful for ever!
I was suddenly whisked away from my “timber throne” to adorn a more respectable one: I became the Doctor of the Ashram and for about four years occupied the “gaddi”3. Then I got a third — or shall I say triple? — promotion and came to serve the Master. As for my medical sadhana, my Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo is a standing testimony to its nature and the result derived from it. But I suspect the new turn of events was really intended to be a stepping-stone from which to take a leap to the Supreme across the Dispensary road. Here also lies the meaning of my going in for medical studies against my inclination.
V. Medical Sadhana
The story of my reversion to the medical job in spite of my professed dislike for it is quite revealing. With no less dislike had I been compelled in the first place to take up the study of medicine. I must have been born under a medical star whose influence ceased only after it had led me to serve Sri Aurobindo in my capacity as a doctor. Could I not then affirm that to be a medical gent was my destiny?
But the course it followed was a sinuous one. Let me recount what led to my being transferred to the Dispensary in an unexpected manner. One day when I was doing well in my timber-job, I wrote in an unguarded moment to Sri Aurobindo that my medical studies costing me Rs.20,000 had come to nothing since I was made to attend to carpentry. Sri Aurobindo pounced upon my slip of pen and hurled back: “I was under the impression that you were not enthusiastic over medicine,” etc., etc. Just at that time my predecessor had tipped his balance and as Sri Aurobindo put it, “We wanted somebody to fill up the hole left by the erratic D. S.” A friend of mine told me later that he had suggested my name to the Mother. Very probably Sri Aurobindo put an occult pressure upon me to see how I would respond to it. That could explain my suddenly speaking, as he put it, “lovingly and hungeringly about the Rs.20,000”.
The final proposal came in this tentative form making it tempting with the bait of humour:
“What would you say if the Mother actually proposed to you to exchange the timber-trade for medicine? E.g., to transfer your worldly and unworldly goods and your learned and noble person to the Dispensary and take physical charge of keeping it in order....
“The Mother is rather anxious that you should take up this work; she had the idea, as I told you, when D. S. broke down (which was a pity because he was in many respects the ideal man for the charge), but she did not propose it because she was not sure you would like it....”
Well, I accepted the proposal, with a good deal of diffidence; for I must confess that though I was a “foreign degree doctor”, I was not backed by sufficiently solid experience. Besides, I had learnt enough of the Ashram life to give me some qualms about my profession. So for both the reasons I had to rely constantly on the Mother and Sri Aurobindo to guide me in the science as well as the art of healing.
As soon as I took up the work, my duties were underlined in clear terms. The first instruction I received from the Mother was, in Sri Aurobindo’s words, “to keep the Dispensary meticulously clean as D. S. did....” Then asked about the hours’ of attendance in the morning and the afternoon, the reply was: “There are two different things — (1) sadhaks who can be confined to limited hours and (2) workmen and servants who cannot, for the workmen may have accidents and that must be seen to immediately. So you must be available, especially at the times when the work closes. No. (2) is the main thing, for it throws a considerable responsibility upon us.” I was informed afterwards that we, being British subjects, had no legal right to medical practice. By way of concession the French Government had given us the permission provided we confined ourselves to treating our own people. Hence the use of the phrase “considerable responsibility” by Sri Aurobindo. We had quite a number of workmen and I had to send a daily report of the patients. Accidents were of particular importance; minor troubles were left to our discretion. In any case we were not to take any serious risk, all complicated cases were to be sent to the local hospital. From my medical report which covered sadhaks, servants and workers I found that the Mother went through it very carefully and noted even minor details. If in a hurry or due to my indolence, I was too succinct or imprecise, Sri Aurobindo would draw my attention to it and ask for further elucidation, of course in his sweet taunting manner. I may mention that though it was he who answered the correspondence, all instructions relating to practical questions about sadhana and work were given by the Mother. I observed how thorough they were in all matters trivial as well as serious, be the patient a sadhak or a workman. All were samam Brahma. I could not therefore make any supercilious bourgeois distinction between classes, besides, since everyone had the privilege of approaching the “Queen”, I had to be on my guard about my behaviour and medical treatment too. The readers are familiar with my medical image from the glowing pen of the Master. Pulling me up, he wrote “...tradition demands that a doctor should be soft like butter, soothing like treacle, sweet like sugar and jolly like jam.”
About the medical treatment I had a lot to learn. In fact, it was in the Mother’s School that I took initiation in the Healing Art. Her knowledge of medicine was far beyond any average intelligent doctor’s. I have noted in Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo how she even non-plussed the orthopaedist. This knowledge that she possessed was primarily intuitive, but also partly derived from her vast general experience in which, I am afraid, Europeans in general are superior to us. I had to forget or change many of my accustomed notions about drugs and stop or be careful about their use. I had to learn to employ as few medicines as possible and thereby give Nature a chance to heal. Sri Aurobindo sent me an article by a famous President of the Royal College of Physicians where he advocated the theory that Nature cures 90-99% of our diseases and that medical practitioners are only agents of Nature. Besides, the great secret I learnt was that it is not the germs that cause the disease, nor the drugs that cure it but the doctor — that is, the man, the personality — that counts. In other words, the doctor is an instrument of a higher Force that uses him, and medicines play a secondary role. So I tried at times to be a yogi-doctor, which earned me the semi-serious left-handed compliment that I was more a sadhak than a doctor. I withheld drugs for simple maladies and left the patients to their faith or inner resistance.
I further learnt that behind illnesses also there are forces. These forces, psychological or occult, attack first of all the subtle sheath that envelops the body and weaken it. Then only germs can produce an illness. Anyone who has a strong and sound sheath can go about in germ-infested areas during epidemics and will be immune to any contagion or infection. All this was an illumination to my orthodox medical mind which knew only the British Pharmacopoea with its thousands of drugs and their curative properties. I do not know, however, what practical use can be made of the knowledge of the subtle sheath. A patient, if he is perceptive, can feel an attack coming upon him and ward it off in time before it enters his body, but what will be the doctor’s role in it unless he too is an occultist and helps the patient in an occult way?
The greatest thing I learnt was that spiritual Force can cure diseases. Though I believed in it, my outer medical being probably lacked a total faith. Or else my doubting nature stood in the way and I had to put up with the Master constantly drilling my brain and pouring in more and more faith.
Medical practice itself in the Ashram was not as easy or simple as it is outside. The patient here had a right to appeal to the High Court of the Mother if his cure was delayed or if he fancied that the doctor was giving wrong or strong drugs. In short, all kinds of complaints real or imaginary were sent up because they did not cost anything! Sri Aurobindo would jocularly make inquiries or humour me with some tit-bits of gentle instructions. Of these there are plenty of instances in my book Sri Aurobindo’s Humour. But the Mother always observed the rules of the game: once she had given authority to a person, she rarely used her absolute power.
I have said that the Mother used to read the medical reports very carefully and follow the progress of the patients from day to day. Even at Pranam time her eyes would penetrate not only into the psychic being, but into the physical being as well and if something was wrong, she would refer the case to us. Here is an instance in point: A sadhak had an innocent tumour on his neck. I advised an operation; he vacillated. Sri Aurobindo replied, “The Mother was looking at his ‘mango’ at Pranam. It looked to her as if it was rather deep and would need more than a local anaesthetic. If he is afraid of the operation, no use operating.” The patient was finally operated upon after many years.
As a rule, the Mother was not well-disposed towards operations. She had also many “divine objections” to our “human remedies”.
I wrote once, “I find that many things recommended for diseases are not much favoured by the Divine. So it is better to ascertain your opinion before using drugs.” Sri Aurobindo answered, “There are some remedies which cure the disease temporarily but are bad for the system like quinine — others which suit some people but harm others, others which have a good effect one way, but a bad one in another way. That is why Mother does not like them to be used indiscriminately. Some she disapproves of altogether e.g. quinine. She also disapproves of the excessive use of purgatives.” I may also add atropine, bismuth, etc. among her bêtes noires. Once many bottles of castor oil came from outside and were sent up to the Mother. She looked at me and said, “You can now poison the patients with your castor oil!” And giving it to a baby was to her a murderous act. Again, she did not consider that tuberculosis was a contagious disease. When I heard this for the first time, and the authority of the French doctors was quoted, my medical blood was on fire and I was on the point of throwing defiance but thought better of it. Since then we have had the case of a woman suffering from TB. She was kept together with all the other inmates of the Ashram and shared a common life except that she used to have her meals in her room. When Dr. Ram Adhikari, a well-known TB specialist, visited the Ashram, I showed him the case. He was surprised to see her living with the others and pleaded with the Mother to send her to a sanatorium. The Mother listened quietly and said to me in private that we need not take notice of the specialist’s views. The patient is still alive and going about like any other woman. Nor has anyone been infected by her as far as I know.
In situations where children were involved, the Mother was more conservative. Quite often differences of opinion would arise between the Master and myself. Sri Aurobindo, while respecting the doctor’s views, would uphold his own and the Mother’s. Once he seemed to get a bit nettled when I wrote, “Whatever little the doctors have found by experience to be effective is not acceptable to you. For instance, they recommend Calomel, (in a particular case), you refuse.” He wrote back, “It is no use discussing these matters — the Mother’s views are too far removed from the traditional nostrums to be understood by a medical mind, except those that have got out of the traditional groove or those who after long experience have seen things and can become devastatingly frank about the limitations of their own ‘science’.”
VI. The Mother Takes Up Medical Correspondence
Neat about 1937 Sri Aurobindo had some trouble with his eyes. All correspondence had to be suspended. Though I carried on my medical duties without the Mother’s guidance, both the patients and the doctor felt the need of her physical support. The Mother, therefore, came to our rescue and took up the correspondence herself. I shall give in these pages some instances of her direct instructions.
An old sadhak had contracted TB. I wrote to the Mother that the case was serious, but that there was still hope. The medical treatment possible was next to nil (I am talking of the ’thirties). “If you want to cure him,” I said, “please do it as you said the other day, ‘by some accident’!” She replied, “Not accident — miracle.” She also approved of our sending him to hospital since we had no proper arrangement for diet and nursing. The hospital physician, friendly with us, took all possible care, but the patient died after a month. I was quite upset and held myself partially responsible for the mishap. I wrote to the Mother that if she wanted me to serve as a doctor, I was prepared to go to a big hospital for a period of training. The other alternative was an energetic sadhana which would naturally take a long time to develop the special healing capacities. She replied, “I don’t believe in the usefulness of a stay in a hospital — the ‘energetic sadhana’ is much better. I can console you by assuring you that those who died had to die.”
Here, by the way, I may mention that I was attending the local hospital in the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat departments in order to get some experience in this branch. The Mother fully approved of it and considered it helpful in many ways. Once when I was assisting the surgeon at a tonsil operation, the patient suddenly stopped breathing. We tried all means of resuscitation but to no avail. As we were looking on helplessly, I began frantically to call the Mother. After some time the patient revived. I wrote in my report: “I wish I could know if you heard my call.” The answer: “Forgot to tell you yesterday that I heard your call all right.”
Another patient who later became an attendant of Sri Aurobindo had been suffering from a chronic headache, migraine, from his childhood. I wrote to the Mother, “I wonder if it can be cured by the Force.” She replied, “Nothing is incurable but it is the hidden cause of the illness that must be discovered. I’ll put in French what I mean: C’est un fonctionnement qui est mauvais quelque part, pas une lésion — et l’origine de ce mauvais fonctionnement est probablement nerveuse (due à quelque chose de faussé dans le vital — ceci est l’ultime cause psychologique).”4
Myself: What to do with these workers? Neither will they attend regularly nor go to the hospital.
Mother: I suppose you have to threaten them with a refusal or stop treating them if they don’t attend regularly. We used to be very strict in that way before and it had some effect.
Myself: I want to resume my study of French, particularly for speaking. Can I have some hints?
Mother: The best is to speak... courageously at every opportunity.
Myself: The patient’s diet is very poor. She feels very weak. I don’t know what to do.
(This was a case of undernourishment. At this time people were supposed to take only the Dining Room food. The patient didn’t find it much to her taste. Things have changed a great deal since).
Mother: Unhappily these young ladies are very fanciful with their food; it is the palate and not the hunger that governs their eating.
Myself: We have a meat extract lying here without use. Shall we give it to Bala [the local boy who looked after the Mother’s car]?
Mother: Yes, but it is better if he takes it in the Dispensary itself as a medicine. Because if he takes it home, his mother may very well take it instead.
It is to be noted how the Mother attended to minor details even in the case of a servant.
Myself: ... local injection or operation is the only remedy.
Mother: Beware of operation; it doesn’t cure.
As I said before, the Mother held radical views about surgery and discouraged it. Later on, she became less orthodox either for yogic reasons or at the patients’ insistence. She sent two patients with the following note:
“(I) A says that the Ashram food is too rich and too spiced for him. Would it be possible to provide him with some boiled vegetables — beetroots, cabbage, potatoes, etc. once a day, at midday? [We had started preparing soup and boiled vegetables, in the Dispensary for patients].
“(2) M for a very long time has a cold which is refusing to go — he is still coughing; it has almost become chronic, I fear. It would be better to interfere and make him get rid of it. I would like you to see to it, even if he says it is nothing, etc.”
A was an Englishman about whom I have written at length in Twelve Years. He had a bad liver and was ailing constantly. Now a special arrangement has been made for Westerners who cannot digest Dining Room food.
The second patient had never come to us before. Very probably he disliked drugs and hoped to be cured by the Divine Force, but failed. There were many such instances. The Mother hardly forced people to take medical treatment against their will. Some cases were receptive to her and were cured, but it seems this general receptivity was lost afterwards. Sri Aurobindo wrote to me, “Well, T and S used to get cured without need of medicines once on a time. The later development has evidently come for your advantage, so that you may have elementary exercises in samata. I have had a lot of schooling in that way and graduated M.A. Your turn now.”
About another case sent by herself the Mother wrote: T complains of becoming more and more weak and lifeless (?). She says her stomach refuses to work, her blood has become very poor, her heart is weak, her liver is out of order, etc., etc. She wishes to have her blood examined, her liver X-rayed, her urine analysed....
Myself: Is it necessary to examine her blood?
Mother: She believes it very necessary as she is convinced, “She is fast declining” (her own words). Of course all I tell you is confidential.
Myself: But I was wondering if it would do her any good.
Mother: If she thinks it will do her good, there is a chance.
Myself: May I know why you object to dilatation of the pupil by atropine? Due to temporary inconvenience of sight? Or has it any other risk?
Mother: I know of people who never recovered fully the sight they had before.
Myself: X has broken our thermometer. She wants to pay. Shall we accept the money?
Mother: If she goes on taking her temperature she must pay as it will make her more careful in future. But is it wise to attract so much her attention on her temperature? It does not seem to help her to cure.
Myself: P has a dry cough. It may be better to make a screen examination of the lungs under X-ray.
Mother: Yes, provided she does not get frightened.
Myself: A Dining Room servant has got burnt. Don’t you think it advisable to keep some tannic acid solution in D.R. so that in such cases or in emergencies it can be applied at once?
Mother: Yes, but the contents and use must be clearly written on the bottle with a red label (for external use only) to prevent all possibility of mistake.
Is not picric acid more effective?
About a patient whom I wanted to show to a doctor in the local French hospital, the Mother said: “I have no confidence in the people who are now in charge of the hospital....”
About a young boy, she wrote: “X was telling me to-day that he always feels tired, very tired and very often he has a headache. Is it due to his liver? Can nothing be done to relieve him?”
Myself: His tiredness can be easily accounted for; he works like a Canadian lumberman and eats like a South Indian labourer, even less; today he came and said that his head was reeling, his whole body aching. Looked like a mild sun-stroke due to his prolonged working in the sun in Building Department. I advised him rest.
Mother: Is it not better to give him aspirin or something of the kind?
Myself: He says he has no appetite in the evening probably due to over-exhaustion. How to remedy that?
Mother: For a number of days I gave him something to eat at 4 p.m., a fruit or chocolate or biscuits. After a time he refused saying that his stomach was aching. Today I once more gave him as he told me what you had said.
Myself: His headache will go if he takes enough food. Some fruits could be given.
Mother: I shall give him fruits. I hope he will take them.
This boy since he refused to go back with his father was left by him under the Mother’s care. He was ten or twelve and was the youngest member of the Ashram. The Mother taught him painting, encouraged him to learn music and poetry and asked Nolini to teach him English and French. She used to see him every day and instructed me to look after his health. Sri Aurobindo used to correct his English poetry.
This is what she did when she took charge of somebody, but she could be very strict too. When he wrote that he wanted some other work instead of the one she had given him, she wrote (in French):
My little one,
I myself have asked Chandulal to give you the work of weighing the cement or, as before, the charge of the vibrator. Since it was something new, I thought it would interest you. But if it does not interest you and you would prefer weighing cement, you can say so and it will be arranged.
As regards giving up the work just after a day of concreting work, that I disapprove of entirely — and you can be quite sure that I won’t give you any other work except that.
Love from your Maman.
I may mention here two other cases where the Mother took direct charge of the patients. The guidance came through Sri Aurobindo. One was a child aged about six who was living with his parents. Sri Aurobindo wrote to me: It appears that D is getting 15 motions a day and today blood. Something will have to be done before it gets worse.
Myself: I examined one specimen of stool. No sign of dysentery. Stool bulky and frothy, probably a case of indigestion. He is taking dry raisins, bread, vegetables, etc., a bit too much, I should say.
Sri Aurobindo: Greens and raisins can be stopped. Raisins may easily irritate. Mother suggests carbon pills both to help against diarrhoea and also the time of action for digestion.
Myself: Yes, I gave them. Stools now less bulky and less in number. Fruits should be stopped except oranges.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, unless it is likely to lead to constipation. No medicine.
Myself: Today only two motions. He is hungry, wants sweet biscuits.
After a week, there was a relapse with a touch of colitis. I consulted some doctors; they recommended stovarsol and some product of intestinal flora.
Sri Aurobindo replied: No. Neither stova nor flora.
Finally some intestinal wash was given with Guimauve (a French vegetable root) boiled in water and the patient was all right with two or three washes. The Mother suggested the remedy and gave detailed instructions about its preparation.
There was another case of a baby under one year, very complex and beyond my depth. The baby was brought here with diarrhoea. Her mother had given her two spoons of Milk of Magnesia which irritated the intestines so much that they resulted in diarrhoea and finally bacillary dysentery.
It was about this case Sri Aurobindo wrote that the Mother and Pavitra were horrified at the idea of a child of 4 months being given a purgative, and commented: “Perhaps that and over-administration of medicines is the cause of excessive infant mortality.”
Another case was sent to me with a note from Sri Aurobindo. He wrote: “Mother thinks that the health of S needs special care. She is not eating well and is becoming thin and anaemic. At this period of her youth that would be disastrous and might affect her whole physical future. Mother thinks she should have some dépuratif for the blood and at the same time something strengthening and tonic — it has to be seen what will suit her. Mother would like you to look into the matter and speak also to P about it.”
Myself: Enquired about S. She does not. seem to take enough food and says she doesn’t feel hungry. I think she should take lots of vitamins. Do you believe in them? Oranges, apples, tomatoes, butter, etc.
Sri Aurobindo: Certainly. Tomato not available just now.
Myself: I consulted P. He is against any medicine.
Sri Aurobindo: It is not medicines that Mother wanted to give, but on the one side fortifying food stuff (like Cod liver oil, but all cannot stand Cod liver oil) and on the other something for purifying the blood (e.g. in France they give chicory tisane for that). All that will not be necessary if she takes sufficient food. If you can see to that those other things will not be necessary. What Mother wants is that she should not be allowed to be weak and underfed at this age which is important for the growth.
Myself: P can give her a new vitamin preparation called Ergosterol, a concentrated product.
Sri Aurobindo: Mother doubts. Better have vitamins in the ordinary way.
All these cases show how much the Mother was concerned about people, particularly the children and the young. I may add here that in the early days the inmates took only the Dining Room food. There was no cooking at home or any additional food supply such as fruits.
Now, I shall relate how, intervening out of ignorance in a food preparation which was done according to the Mother’s instructions, I spoiled her working.
I wrote: I understand that the curry given on Thursday evening is the residue of the soup with some potatoes added to it. It has not much nutritional value since boiling for a long time takes all the stuff out, leaving a bland residue of cellulose. I propose humbly to the Mother to change this meal, for I am afraid it is not good either for the stomach. Dr. M agrees with me.
Sri Aurobindo: We don’t know anything of the kind. According to chemical analysis in France, half of the nutritive elements goes to the soup, half remains in the vegetables and these are eaten in France to have the full value of the food used.
Why are you afraid? This soup affair on Thursday is done on the principle of French national dish pot-au-feu (as much as the national dish beefsteak is for England) in which the food is boiled in the soup, and then the soup and the vegetables etc., cooked in it are taken. If it is so bad for the health, how is it that the French are not a nation of dyspeptics with bad stomachs and livers?
I have answered from the scientific and health point of view above. But since there is such a prejudice as well as probably a strong dislike for it, Mother has stopped the whole soup affair. It is a very costly business and there is no use in spending so much if there is a dislike for the arrangement.
I felt so ashamed after this long explanation that I sent a quick apology for my stupid ignorance and prayed that the curry would be reinstituted. But the Mother did not budge! “What is done, is done,” wrote the Lord.
Now I shall speak of two mass interventions on the Mother’s part for the sake of two individuals alone. A curry used to be served in the Dining Room, which had an onion flavour. It was a very tasty dish. But a sadhak thinking it to be an onion dish complained to the Mother that he was not used to onions and they caused vomiting. The Mother stopped the dish at once, for the sake of one person! In fact the vegetable was leek, not onion at all.
Another intervention was in favour of a sadhika. She was a chronic asthma-patient. Peculiarly enough, when — ever she ate drumsticks, she used to get an allergic rash all over her body followed by a violent attack of asthma. So the Mother gave strict orders that drumsticks must not be included in the Dining Room vegetables. Once either by mistake or deliberately, just a few sticks were added to the curry, the idea being probably that so little a quantity could do no harm. But even that produced a rash and mild attack of asthma. The Mother then had to be very firm and banished the poor sticks from the Ashram menu.
The same patient used to suffer from eczema almost half the year. It is well-known that asthma and eczema are mysteriously linked together. If you cure or suppress one, the other makes its appearance. We tried all sorts of remedies to cure the eczema, from local application to auto-blood injection. When we were at our wits’ end, the Mother now suggested a simple remedy. She wrote; “Have you ever tried to wash the place with a cotton pad dipped in Listerine (pure) dusting afterwards (when dry) with an antiseptic powder? The powder must be a composed one, but for the composition all depends on the patient’s reactions.”
I tried the remedy without much success. The patient was losing all patience. One day, I don’t remember how it happened, the Mother said she would like to see her. I should take her upstairs. She looked at the patches on both the legs: the legs presented truly a very pathetic picture with vesicles, ulceration, pus, oozing, etc. After careful observation, she said in a solemn voice with due emphasis that the remedy did not lie in medicines, but in herself: she must change her nature. At the end she asked me to apply some non-irritating lotion and powder. I don’t know how far the patient’s nature was changed by her admonition, but the eczema had to take its leave. This was the first and only instance I had of the Mother’s direct intervention. The Mother of course knew the patient’s nature very well, and she told me, when alone, that she had to take this opportunity to tell her frankly and somewhat rudely what needed to be said. Here is the mystery of the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s ways. They wait for the time and occasion. I also learnt that nature and illness are closely connected.
The last medical episode about which I had a long lively discussion ostensibly with Sri Aurobindo but really with the Mother prompting him from behind, was regarding vaccination. Vaccination invaded, like the plague, the calm atmosphere of the Ashram at the behest of the French Government. Sri Aurobindo wrote: “There is an official order from the Government department and we can’t contemptuously waive it aside-we can only minimise its incidence.” It appeared to be a greater evil than the smallpox itself which it was supposed to prevent and we had to face a lot of trouble, inconvenience, difficulties in order to meet the Government’s demand. Sri Aurobindo’s opinion about vaccination was that “it is a very nasty affair, this vaccination”. When I asked him, “You seem to be G. B. Shaw in matters of vaccination, Sir. Do you deny its benefits?” He replied, “Have not denied partial effectivity though complete it is not, since it has to be renewed every year, as you say. The whole Pasteurian affair is to me antipathetic — it is a dark and dangerous principle however effective....”
And this “dark and dangerous” practice was foisted upon us by the authorities asking the whole institution of about 200 members, as well as servants, to undergo vaccination! The Mother and Sri Aurobindo had to apply all their supramental ingenuity to sacrifice as few victims as possible “on the sacred altar of science, so that Valle [French doctor] can say with satisfaction ‘Ah, ha! the Ashram has been vaccinated’.” The entire long correspondence on this affair, when published, will show with what minute care the Mother considered the health of all the members and how thorough she was in all the details. As a piece of writing, these letters are brilliant with wit, satire and at the same time perspicacity as regards practical directions. It was a wonder that there were minimum possible reactions compared to the number of people subjected to vaccination. That was because of the Mother’s force that acted as a bulwark against untoward consequences. Sri Aurobindo wrote to me, “Whom are you vaccinating? Mother wants to have the report everyday.” It meant that the Mother would put her force on the eve of the vaccination in order that the reaction could be reduced to a minimum.
People may think, “What a bother about a small and universally accepted practice!” I would have thought the same if I had been outside. But yogic insight is so often at variance with our ordinary sight!
Here ends the story of my active medical sadhana; for, I was called up to attend upon Sri Aurobindo when he met with an accident in 1958.
Truth is supreme harmony and supreme delight.
All disorder, all suffering is falsehood.
Thus it can be said that illnesses are the falsehoods of the body, and consequently doctors are soldiers of the great and noble army fighting in the world for the conquest of Truth.
VII. After 1950 — New Relation
1938-1950 was a long gap during which the story of my relation with the Mother has been told in Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo. I need not repeat it here.
I could not sever my connection, however, with the Dispensary all at once. When Sri Aurobindo’s condition had taken a settled turn and our respective duties had been fixed, I began to attend to the patients during my off-duty hours. I used to give a verbal report to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo whenever there was any need for it. Fortunately after a few years Dr. Nripendra came up and took charge of the Dispensary. I was then relieved of the burden of running up and down and trying to maintain a precarious balance between my service to the Master and his disciples. My lodging was also shifted from the Dispensary to the Ashram Building.
Apart from this, since 1950, life followed a chequered course. I was thrown into an abyss, as it were, and enveloped in darkness. How I came out of it and, stepping up a long laborious path, found myself at the summit, alas, just for a short-lived Dawn — this will be the account of the following pages.
After Sri Aurobindo’s passing, my occupation seemed to have gone. Champaklal had served both the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. So he could easily find his anchor fixed in the Mother. I had lost mine and had no other “talent” with which to serve her. I had the fear that I would have to take a job elsewhere and would be shifted to my room below. With much trepidation I asked the Mother about my future, what I should do, where I should sleep, etc. Most spontaneously she replied, “Why? you will continue sleeping in Sri Aurobindo’s room. As to work, you have a lot to do. You will work with Nolini on Sri Aurobindo’s manuscripts.” One single gesture swept away all my gloomy forebodings. What a divine solace it was!
I quote another instance: in later years when my health suffered, I once said, giving lack of good sleep as one of the reasons, “There are lots of mosquitoes in Sri Aurobindo’s room.” The Mother asked, “Why don’t you use a mosquito-curtain?” I was not prepared for this answer at all. For I thought rather childishly that she would forbid any use of such a facility there. It would be a profane act! This human trait in the Mother and Sri Aurobindo — simple common sense in the Divine — was so reassuring!
My fears having been allayed and the sleeping problem resolved, the question of a place to work in had to be decided. Here too I feared lest the Mother should ask me to work in my own room downstairs, since there did not seem to be any place to spare. She put my anxiety at rest. She took a round of the eastern side of the house and coming near the small room facing the street, said, “You can work here.” I was again speechless with wonder at her magnanimity. This room had been her sitting room before Sri Aurobindo’s accident and so full of light and air, open to the blue sky and green trees, that my poetic heart felt like “dancing in glee”. In addition, I could have a view of the Mother through the long passage when she was meeting people in her room. Champaklal supplied me with a table used by Sri Aurobindo. Then I told the Mother that I had to work on the Savitri manuscript, type it and get it ready for publication. I don’t remember if a typewriter was temporarily lent to me for the purpose, but the Mother said one day, “We have ordered a typewriter for you from Germany.” When it arrived, she handed it to me, a brand new portable machine. I offered her my silent gratitude. The machine has served faithfully for years.
Sometime after Sri Aurobindo’s passing somebody wrote an article on his last days and accused the doctors of giving him drugs against his consent. I complained to the Mother about this false charge. She said, “Why don’t you write an article yourself?” I wrote a small brochure. The manuscript was read out to her. She was on the point of suggesting a title when I foolishly interrupted her and said that I had named it I am here, I am here. “Oh, then it is all right,” she replied. She not only liked it, but distributed it along with Amal’s brochure The Passing of Sri Aurobindo to all the inmates. This is how, impelled by her, I wrote my first prose work, published in May 1951. Then I thought of bringing out my correspondence with Sri Aurobindo in book-form. The Mother did not at first approve of the idea, she said that the letters were personal and meant for my use only. How could they be made a public property? When I replied that there were many letters which could be of general interest, she gave her consent. In fact she did not know what the contents of the letters were, for Sri Aurobindo had read out to her only those which had been of practical import. When I set myself to the task of compilation, I found the job not a little complicated and tedious. Fortunately, Albless, a Parsi disciple-friend who was living in the Ashram and was Amal’s associate in editing Mother India, took up this work and helped me to publish the book. But he was of a puritan temperament and would not allow any flippant note or the playful swear words of Sri Aurobindo to see the light. Neither would he allow any of my weaknesses to be published, for that would lower the prestige of an “old sadhak” in people’s esteem! At times when there was a difference of opinion on some issues the Mother had to settle the matter.
The most important matter after Sri Aurobindo’s departure concerned the Mother’s connection with the Ashram. It was necessary to testify that the Mother had been all along in charge of the Ashram and that she still had the executive power. A document was drawn up and in front of a notaire of the town it was signed by a few members of the Ashram chosen by the Mother. I was one of the signatories.
A few months later, the Mother got some gold rings prepared with Sri Aurobindo’s symbol engraved on the bezel and a small photograph of him stuck inside. She herself put these rings on the fingers of the sadhaks selected by her. I was one of them. I remember very well the wonderful event. The Mother had come out of her bathroom in the morning, and standing in the passage she called for me. As I arrived, she caught hold of the third finger of my left hand and put the gold ring on it. I was so surprised that I could not utter a single word; I simply did pranam at her feet and came away.
But to my utter misfortune, after a number of years, I lost the ring. In fact it was my servant-boy who had stolen it. When I informed the Mother about it — I was seeing her then — she listened gravely and asked me how it had happened. To my proposal to call in the Police, she said, “No! that will invite a lot of trouble afterwards.” The Mother never wanted to take the help of the Police or of the law court in any of our internal matters. I cannot forget the loss of the doubly precious ring.
There is still one long letter on Politics which Sri Aurobindo marked “confidential”. The Mother did not allow it to be published. When this letter was privately shown to a well-known historian who while appreciating Sri Aurobindo as a great revolutionary, a great patriot, etc., etc., had passed the judgment that Sri Aurobindo had not the quality of political leadership, it came as a revelation to him and he changed his views completely. In this letter, Sri Aurobindo chalked out item by item a plan of the political work he had intended to carry out during his leadership, some of which he had already accomplished. It showed that Mahatma Gandhi had proceeded exactly on the lines envisaged by Sri Aurobindo, except that he made a fetish of passive resistance and non-violence.
About this time, an idea flashed through my mind that I should write an account of our unique life we attendants lived with Sri Aurobindo. But I rejected the idea at once, knowing that the Mother would not countenance it. At the same time, something seemed to push me to it and in a dubious frame of mind I drafted a few chapters; then the flame went out. It was long afterwards and in a different situation that the flame was rekindled and I obtained the Mother’s permission. The story will be told in its proper place.
I had also written a long article in French on Sri Aurobindo as Guru, at the request of some French savants in Paris who were admirers of Sri Aurobindo. Naturally the article needed much pruning and a French friend helped me in this respect. It was read out to the Mother and she wrote on a small piece of paper, “Très bien” (Very good) in appreciation.
This is the story of my literary work in the two decades.
In the year 1952 or 1953 we saw a few films on French writers and musicians like Balzac, Zola, and Chopin (originally a Polish Jew). I had some interesting talks with the Mother on them. I do not know how it happened. Probably because I had at that time become a teacher of French in the School and was therefore studying French literature, she wanted to help me in this respect. We saw two films on Zola; the first one was “J’accuse” (I Accuse). I still remember. When after seeing it she returned to the main Ashram Building, she said to me, “It is very interesting. You will see some people tomorrow whom I knew at that time. I was twenty then, i.e. in 1898.” (She meant particularly Anatole France. She was very fond of him as a writer). Next day the second film was to be shown on Zola’s life. I asked her in the morning, “Mother, have you read Zola?” “Not much,” she replied, “he is too pessimistic throughout. He looks at life exclusively from the exterior, it takes away all possibility of transformation. But from the literary point of view he is extremely powerful and very beautiful. The names of all his works were mentioned last night.”
After some time, we had a film on Balzac, apropos of which I asked the Mother, “Have you read Balzac, Mother?” “Yes,” she replied, “but I could never go to the end. His writing is so boring as if you are chewing stones. But from the psychological point of view, he is excellent; his observation of ancient customs, social habits, etc., is quite correct. If you want to read him for these things, he is very good, but for learning French he is not good at all; he has, no style, his style is rocailleux [harsh]. His short stories are tolerable, but they are few.
“Zola has a better style and it is very powerful. What he has written is true; he is not a man of imagination, he is very concrete. I read a description of a garden — Paradou, I do not know in which book it is, it is magnificent. I have not read such a description anywhere else: so much wealth of splendour, harmony with Nature. When I went to the south of France, I saw such a garden. Reading him, I felt as if I was there in that garden. If you can find out that description, read it. It is worth reading.”5
After this we saw the film on Chopin. The Mother asked me next day, “Were you there last evening?”
“Yes, Mother,” I replied and taking this opportunity, I asked, “Did you like the film?”
“No, I don’t like Chopin’s music; it makes me sick. His music is too vital.”
“What about George Sand, Mother?”
“She is like that; she is well-known for such things. She had many lovers and left one for another. Musset, I think, fared at her hands in the same way. But,” she added with a smile “she was not so bad as all that,” (as was depicted in the film).
“Who was the other musician?”
“Oh, he is the famous musician, Lizst. It is he who made Chopin’s success.”
“Have you read Sand, Mother?”
“Oh yes, her novels are very interesting. She has written a lot. I have read most of it. She is an occultist. Her two books. La Croix Rouge and another one are occult.” Then again with a smile she repeated, “She is not so hard!”
Now I am writing something which has no direct relation to my topic, except a chronological connection. I don’t remember how it crept into my note-book. It concerns an Air Commodore who saw the Mother and had a talk with her. Since it bears on a general problem, I am putting it here. He said to the Mother, “I don’t know at times what should be my course of action or my duty in the Worldly life. Have I done the right thing? Was my attitude right? All these questions trouble me in spite of my best efforts to do the right thing. Where does one start?”
Mother: It is because you want to decide by the mind. The mind can never give the truth. Try to silence it and get the answer from within.
Visitor: For example, when I have a difference of opinion with my superior about the Conduct of our subordinates?
Mother: There you must obey your superior, as you do in yoga. You may think differently from the Guru, but you must do what he says — that is what keeps you in the right attitude. It is not the action, but the inner attitude that matters most and decides finally your action. If you can’t obey your Guru, you have to leave him. So also if in some vital matter you can’t see eye to eye with your superior, you have no other alternative but to leave the job. Towards your subordinates, be as kind, generous and sympathetic as possible.
Visitor: To get the inner answer takes time.
Mother; Oh yes, it takes a lot of time, sometimes many years, and you have to go on patiently. Whenever you have a problem, go within, feel here — in the heart. If a question arises whether some ideas of your religion are to be followed or not, you have to see where they come from — from ancestors, social environment, education, etc., then dissociate yourself from all that and plunge deep within.
A sea of green, in front, to the right, to the left, all over. A sea rolling its surge of leaves till the horizon, unchecked by an impeding house or a piece of wall or a dusty road. A lonely, virgin, sacred sea spreading its savage softness into the innocence of solitude. Only the sun entered there, wallowed over the meadows in a golden sheet, ran through the alleys in the escaping course of his rays, let his flaming, fine hair hang through the trees, drank from the springs with a blond lip that sopped up the water with a thrill. Under a dust-haze of flames, the vast garden lived with the voluptuousness of a happy beast who has been let loose far away, away from all, free from all. Such debauchery of foliage, the swell of grass so overflowing that the garden seemed from one end to the other hidden, hulled, drowned. Nothing but green slopes and branches that gushed out like fountains, curly masses, curtains of forests hermetically pulled down, cloaks of creepers trailing on rije earth, flights of giant branches swooping down on all sides.
With the passage of time, one could hardly recognise under this formidable invasion of sap the ancient outline of Paradou. In front, in a sort of an immense ring was to be found the parterre with its sinking ponds, its battered slopes, its worn out stairs, its fallen statues whose whitenesses were perceived at the bottom of the black lawns. Further away, behind the blue line of a sheet of water spread a jumble of fruit-trees. A little further down, an ancient forest thrust its violetish trunks streaked with light — a forest become virgin once again, a forest whose summits protruded like rounded hillocks unendingly, spots of yellow-green, pale green, puissant green in all its essences. To the right, the forest was escalating the heights, planting little pine-woods, almost dying out in meagre bushes while bare rocks piled up an enormous rise — a collapsing mountain that obstructed the horizon; there ardent vegetation pierced through the earth, plants monstrous and immobile in the heat like reptiles in drowse; a silver net — a splash that from far resembled a dust of pearls — pointed to a waterfall — the source of those tranquil waters that so indolently slid along the flower-bed. Finally to the left flowed the river in the middle of a vast prairie where it diverged into four streams and one witnessed their caprices below the reeds, between the willows, behind tall trees; plots of pasture extended the freshness of the low-lying terrains — a landscape bathed in a bluish mist, a morning-glade slowly melting away in the greening blue of the sunset. Paradou, parterre, forest, rocks and waters and meadows occupied the entire width of the sky.
At this time, i.e., between 1950 and 1952, in spite of my daily contact with the Mother, I was not quite free from moods of depression. During such moods I would go to the Samadhi. One day, as I was standing there, I saw the Mother looking at the Samadhi from a window in the corridor of the first floor. Almost immediately my head began to reel and I was obliged to sit down. The next day, I told her of this queer feeling. She said, “I know why. When you were standing there and looking towards me, I saw a dark cloud of depression coming from you in my direction. Naturally I pushed it away. It went back to you and produced this sensation.”
In the year 1953, the Mother fell ill and all our contact with her stopped. When after a time it was resumed I was not a part of it. I would watch from my office the Mother meeting people and giving them blessings. She could see me, but did not call me. I kept myself aloof waiting to be called. For, I had taken up an attitude like my friend Champaklal that I should not ask anything for myself. Things should come in their natural course. I do not know if this movement sprang from pride or humility. But throughout the rest of my life I have tried to follow this rule. Sometimes I doubted my sincerity and felt that I had lost much of the Mother’s contact by sticking to a rigid attitude. Anyway, I had to wait pretty long before she called me and, though my attitude may have been right, I could not keep it up with equanimity. Besides, Dr. Sanyal who had settled in the Ashram at this time had the Mother’s touch every day near my own office. He used to come in the morning and meditate in front of Sri Aurobindo’s room at the east end. The Mother would come, making a shuffling sound with her Japanese sandals, and Sanyal would be ready to receive her. But the Mother, without ever looking at me, would walk straight to him and go back after blessing him. I would sit at a little distance, as a silent witness. As her apparently deliberate neglect would hurt my vanity, I would either move away or try to keep down my abhimān, teaching myself some samatā.
This painful period continued for many months, till one day I entered again into her Presence. After finishing her usual distribution of flowers she suddenly cast a glance towards me and beckoned me. I simply rushed forward. With a broad smile she received me and blessed me with flowers. From then onwards my pranam continued and became a daily rite and worship till the next interruption. I do not know what had been prepared, what seeds had been sown in my inner field before I was called.
On my birthday in 1953, the Mother greeted me with her usual “Bonne Fête” and then started in French, with a sweet smile, Quel âge avez-vous? (How old are you?)
Myself: 51 ans passés, Douce Mère. (51 years over, Sweet Mother.)
Mother: Vous êtes encore enfant. (You are still a child.) Then holding both my hands, she resumed in English:
“You feel better now?”
Myself: Yes, Mother. I feel much better and stronger, but I can’t get rid of the suggestion that I am getting on in age.
Mother: No, you must not listen to it. It is a collective suggestion thrown upon everybody. One can go on being active in spite of age. I have seen people of 90 who were younger than boys of 10. No, you must get rid of that suggestion altogether.
Myself: I don’t feel at all that I am so old, but the suggestion is there. There are so many things left to be done.
Mother: Exactly. You must not allow that suggestion to disturb you. This year things are going to be hard for us. Difficulties will come to a head, I mean of things exterior. Even a small place like Pondicherry can be so hard, resistant.
Myself: Will there be physical trouble?
Mother: Yes, even an attack on the organisation. It is then that one has to be firm in one’s loyalty, endure in spite of all struggle and put one’s will and faith on the side of the Divine. In 1956 on 23rd April something decisive will happen, 23rd April makes 2,3,4,5,6. That happens to be the date of Surendra Mohan’s birthday. I remember that when he was here I told him about that date and his face at once lit up. He said it was his birthday. Then I told him, “You must be here on that day.” As I uttered 2,3,4,5,6, he got attracted: you know he is attracted by such things. Yes, it is he who sent some Bhrigu reading from Delhi, you remember, regarding Sri Aurobindo’s departure and he was supposed to play an important part. Yes, it was a mantra to be repeated 10,000 times. I wanted to have the mantra and repeat it myself, but he could not get it. I don’t know why. At any rate I did not believe till the last moment that Sri Aurobindo was going to leave his body,6 Afterwards it became clear to me what all the indications he had given meant.
Myself: Do you envisage his coming back?
Mother: Well, he has himself said that he would come back in a supramental body, the first supramental body.
The other day I had an interesting dream. I saw that both he and myself had gone somewhere and were living in a house. He was very young with broad shoulders and a thin waist. Only his eyes betrayed that he was Sri Aurobindo. I had my usual appearance — only younger, with the flowing hair of my early days. It was a rainy day; clothes had become damp. I wanted to bring out a blanket from his room. He was sleeping; the noise woke him and he said, “Why take all those old things again? Let us go out for a walk.” He got up. He was in his dhoti and I was in my robe de chambre. We walked on and came to a place near a hill. There was a big house on the other side of the hill. Both of us sat together on a lawn. After a while a young boy came out from nowhere, looked at us and went away. Then four or five people in charge of the Ashram came near, did not like our sitting there and said among themselves, “Can’t anyone tell these people that they are spoiling our lawn?” They didn’t dare to say it to us. Then Sri Aurobindo said, “Don’t they know who we are?” We wanted to see how the Ashram was getting on! It was not a dream, but a vision, the place was far off, somewhere near Hyderabad, and the people were dressed in the style there. This was the first time I saw Sri Aurobindo so young. Well, what meaning it can have, I don’t know and when it will take place, shortly or after a millennium, I can’t say.
According to Champaklal Speaks, on the morning of 9th December 1953 after meditation, the Mother informed Dyuman that she would go up to her room on the top floor from that night. After that day she started spending the nights there. But now and then she would also spend some time there during the day. From March 20, 1962 onward, however, after going back to the room from the Balcony Darshan she did not come down at all.
Now, one early morning in 1954, I was urgently called by Pranab to see the Mother in her room. This was my first visit to the room. I saw her sitting on the couch with her legs stretched out, the hair flowing down. I was told she had fallen in the bathroom and injured her head. Pranab showed me the site of injury. I saw a tiny cut near the crown, blood was oozing slowly, some hair was glued together due to clotting of the blood. The oozing was stopped by pressure and nothing farther seemed to be called for. Still, I felt that since it was a head injury, I had better call in Dr. Sanyal to share with me the divine responsibility. The Mother gave her consent. I found him still in bed. He heard the story, got up and quickly dressed himself. Both of us returned together. He examined the wound carefully and confirmed my observation. Pranab reminded me that the Mother strongly protested to the doctor’s cutting the hair for the purpose of examining the wound. However, while he was dressing the cut, she started talking with him, first of her health, then of sadhana. She said that as usual she had gone to the bathroom and was preparing a gargle with alum salt as she had some gum trouble, when she suddenly fell down. She said she had a floating kidney; it functioned well, though, and the body was receptive. Her nerves had been shattered in 1915, when she had gone back to France from here. Her condition had become very critical; she just managed to write a few lines to Sri Aurobindo, but though the letter did not reach him, she was cured by him. It took several months to build up the lost health.
During the subsequent years in Pondicherry she was subjected to constant attacks by hostile forces. The fight was untiring especially between 3 and 5 a.m., when she used to work for the sadhaks and had to go out of her body. Just the time of getting up was the opportune moment for attack, because it was the most unguarded moment. That was how the accident happened. She seemed to have heard a voice, but did not obey it. She should have sat down. It was a case of black magic, according to her. She knew how the attack had come and who had made it, but she could not throw it back on the evil person.
“Why not punish such miscreants?” asked Sanyal.
Mother: I don’t believe in punishment.
Sanyal: Can’t these forces be changed?
Mother: If they want; otherwise they suffer their fate. But they serve a purpose: they show your weak points in the body and you work on them. Transformation of the body is not easy. If it were not for this aim, I would have gone to Heaven long ago.
I had two visions: in one, while I was walking at 6 p.m. I saw children rushing to hear a humbug! I thought, what would happen in my absence! In the other, I saw an archbishop. He was in disguise as my late mother . We were in some house, closed on all sides. The archbishop was trying to convert me, but failed. Then I tried to leave the place, but found all the doors closed. This is a vision of things that are constantly going on inside us.
As regards the talk on sadhana, the only part I remember was that the Mother said she would not abandon Sanyal. She would even force down the true consciousness into him. I wished inwardly that she would do the same for me, for the two doctors were similar in some respects. But surprisingly as soon as I formulated my desire, she, addressing me as if my thought had been communicated to her, said something I don’t quite remember. We had many proofs of the Mother’s sensitivity or thought-reading even at a distance.
After the talk was over, we came down. The next morning, Sanyal came early and enquired if there was any news. I said that everything was quiet. Then he asked me what we should do. Probably the Mother would come down as usual. Should we ask her about her condition? We decided, however, that both of us would stand in the corridor through which she would pass. Soon she came down, followed by Pranab, and silently passed by us. We also kept quiet, our question remained unuttered. Our conclusion was that she must be all right. This is the way of the Divine, I suppose.
VIII. Light Interlude
After all these serious talks, let us see the Mother in her lighter moods, just for a change, but no chronological order is intended in the narration of the various incidents.
I had now the chance of seeing the Mother along with the others every morning. It was the time of the morning Pranam. Some young students were going to the Gingee Hills for an outing during the holidays. They invited me as a teacher to join them. Their captain Prabhakar brought a list of names to the Mother for her sanction. As she scanned the list, she found that my name was also there. “Will you be able to climb the hills?” she asked me. I replied, “Oh yes, Mother!” I was above fifty. Then she turned to Prabhakar, a strong muscular young man and said, “Carry him on your shoulders, if he fails!” All laughed.
A friendly cricket match was to be played between our Group teams. The captain had put my name without my knowledge. As the Mother was going through the list, she struck off one or two names before she came to mine. “Nirod!” she exclaimed in surprise. “Is he here?” she asked. “Yes, Mother,” I replied. “I find your name in the cricket team. I am striking it off,” she added. “All right, Mother,” I agreed without question. I had noticed that she had always tried to keep me off from rough games like football, especially when I had been serving Sri Aurobindo. I could not divine the exact reason; but the realisation came later on to my cost. Let me recount the incident as it has a point.
Knowing that I was very fond of games, the boys used to invite me to play football with them, promising that they would not hurt me in any way. I could not resist the temptation and deceived myself by saying that since I knew how to play, I could avoid all clashes; I forgot the fact that clashes or accidents do not always depend on oneself. I managed somehow to escape unhurt on a few occasions, the credit was really due to the older boys’ consideration for me, but I usurped it for myself and felt quite proud. One day when I was taking my afternoon nap, I dreamt that I had a fall and injured myself during a game. When I went to the Sportsground, the youngsters called me and I joined them, ignoring the prophetic dream altogether. This was a younger group; hence the boys were less experienced than the older ones. In the heat of the game, as I ran for the ball, a boy running from behind dashed against me. I tumbled down and fell upon my right arm. My left eyebrow suffered a cut caused by the ring on my finger. The boys were staggered at my fall and stunned to see my blood-streaked face. I was taken to the Dispensary and given a few stitches. That was the grand finale of my foolish craze for sports. This incident took place during one of the breaks in my contact with the Mother. I believe that it was reported to her.
One small joke which proved to be not a joke: I had written to the Mother that a distant niece of mine wanted to do Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. The Mother replied verbally that I could be her guru! It seemed to be a joke, à la Sri Aurobindo. But after some years I realised that it was not so, for I heard that the girl had abandoned our yoga and taken initiation from another guru. Evidently the Mother had foreseen such a possibility.
One of my grown-up nieces was constantly keeping unwell, probably owing to some psychological complex. She wanted one evening to have the Mother’s prasād at the Playground distribution but she would have to stand for a long time in the queue, and she was too weak to do so. When I told the Mother about it expecting almost a negative answer, she said with a teasing smile in front of others, “Why, you can carry her in your arms,” and at once stopped her mouth with her hand. I was not a little surprised at this unaccustomed levity on her pan, but pleased nevertheless.
There used to be mixed doubles tennis matches among our Groups. The Mother took a great deal of interest in them. She herself would choose our partners and enquire about the results of the games. Some of us took her blessings before going to the court. One pair remained unbeaten in successive tournaments. When our turn came to play against them the Mother said, “Try to beat them.” I don’t know why she was keen on it. I could not, however, fulfil her wish. I returned defeated and explained to her why I had failed. I said, “The male partner on the opposite side kept his companion standing like a dummy and he played all the game, while I allowed my partner to have a good share of it. Naturally then the opponent getting his chance began to send all the shots to my weak partner and I kept on standing like a witness-Purusha. He was bent more on winning than enjoying the game.”
Next year, however, my partner and I changed our roles. I was now the active Prakriti and she the witness-Purusha and we gave the formidable pair a good thrashing. The news had already reached the Mother so that when I met her, she said smiling, “So you have killed the giant!”
In our doubles tennis tournament, we also used to play with the Mother; Pranab was her invariable partner. Once before going for the match, she told me, “Today our match? I hope we shall have a good game, but,” she added lowering her voice, “you know it does not depend on me.” We knew of course that Pranab was in the habit of falling into a bad humour and would not then put his heart into the game. That was what she meant.
Since I am now in a “playful mood”, let me cite a few more instances, amusing as well as intriguing. Table-tennis had just been introduced in the Ashram. The Mother was taking part in it. I had also joined and was going for practice after my duty. She said to me, “It seems you play well; I would like to see how you play.” The next day she saw and, on coming back, reported to Sri Aurobindo, “He plays well; he is quite promising.” But I have noticed throughout my life that whenever my performance in games showed promise something intervened and cut it short. The same thing repeated itself here.
Be that as it may, in table-tennis too we were holding tournaments. In one of them, I and my partner (selected by the Mother) were pitted against a younger pair. We were sure of a crushing victory. There was a tense crowd and the Mother was sitting in its midst watching intently the game. What happened and how it happened, I can’t imagine even now. We lost most ignominiously. It reminds me of our later doubles match for tennis championship that I have described in my Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, Since then I had laboured under the superstition that the Mother’s presence during my play worked adversely on me. Let me give another flagrant instance, leaving the truth of my supposition to the readers to judge.
It was a singles knock-out tennis tournament. My opponent was a youngster. I was on the point of beating him hollow. At that very moment, the Mother entered the court for her game of tennis. She cast a swift glance at us as was always her habit. Someone informed her of the bad plight of my opponent. My old prejudice tried to raise its head, but I thought nothing could wrench my victory away. I was leading by 5 to 1 or so; one game more and then the set and match! In the adjacent court the Mother was playing. Now the wheel turned and however much I tried, I could not take one single game. The opponent snatched at last the victory.
My “insight” now into all these bafflements is that the Mother was concerned not to let me get involved in occupations which would most probably interfere with my attendance on Sri Aurobindo. The more proficient I might become in other occupations the more would I be tempted to plunge into them — and this would surely take away something from the whole-hearted attention I was giving Sri Aurobindo.
Once, after my attendance on Sri Aurobindo, I went as usual to the Tennis-ground to see the Mother playing. She was not there. I was told that she had gone to the Playground. I moved in that direction and reaching there, I saw that she was playing badminton. As soon as she saw me, she said, “Come, come! We shall have a game.” I replied, “Mother, I have not played the game since I left school.” She added, “It doesn’t matter! We are all new hands.” This was also one of her moods.
At another time, a volley-ball match was arranged between two veteran teams. I was made the captain; we were playing the finals. The Mother was to distribute the prizes. We won. When as a captain I went to receive the prize, she said with a smile, “I didn’t know you could play so well.” Puffed up with pride, I answered, “I play even better. Mother.” She gave me the new year’s diary with my name and her blessings written on it.
On the first of every month the Mother used to go to the Library House to distribute to the sadhaks their material needs for the month. It was called the Prosperity day. Some of us would accompany her. She had to pass through a long corridor where quite a number of people used to assemble. The Mother would have fun with the gathering. She would distribute toffees to each member; to some in their hands, to most others, she would throw a toffee very playfully so that we might not catch it easily. Most of us were good catchers but Amrita had never been a sportsman and the Mother would bring that out by either throwing the toffee at great speed or tossing it up or hurling it beyond his reach. Poor Amrita would invariably miss it. Once she threw the sweet quite hard and Amrita made a violent comic gesture with both arms as if he were. trying to embrace somebody. “Oh Amrita,” the Mother cried with a smile, “to catch a small thing you make such a violent movement?” “Douce Mère,” he replied, “I was trying to catch what was behind it!” Everyone burst into laughter. Amrita was very good at such repartees.
IX. The Mother’s Ways of Action
The Mother gave me some apparently simple and trivial work whether as a test or with a deeper intention, I cannot say. But this we knew that she had almost always an occult or hidden purpose behind her movements. Sometimes she would disclose it. At any rate we were supposed to take it as a matter of discipline. I am afraid, my nature was not so obedient and thus I failed to cooperate with her at times. She asked me, for example, to give instructions in anatomy and physiology to a young girl who had come from outside. I could not understand why a girl who intended probably to stay here, and would never take up a medical career should learn these subjects. However, I started. The girl was quite intelligent but my interest was not equal to her intelligence. Besides, the subjects were quite new to her and could not be properly learnt unless followed by practical demonstrations. I found it therefore a tedious job. After a couple of months, I told her that a new doctor had come to the Ashram whom she would find more competent and I left her. I came to know afterwards that she had gone away and got married. I wondered then if the Mother wanted to use our contact as a means of keeping her here. Many years later, she returned to the Ashram.
Another example was of a young boy whose parents had settled in the Ashram. The Mother told me that the boy had an inner opening. It would do him good if I read with him Sri Aurobindo’s poems. We began. The boy was really nice and had some regard for me. Here too, I could not continue for long and broke off.
Once during the Pranam in the thirties, I had to face a very embarrassing situation. I was going through a period of acute inner struggle As always, I used to write frankly about it to Sri Aurobindo. Extremely patient and affectionate, he let me fight it out, but I could not do so and groaned. Finally I became impatient and wrote a desperate letter saying that the tussle must end now. Next day was Pranam. The Mother came down as usual. I noticed behind her seat a garland of flowers called ‘Courage’. The hall was full of disciples. When it was half-empty, my turn came for pranam. As soon as I had knelt down before the Mother with folded hands, she fixed her concentrated gaze on my eyes and kept me immobile like a statue. The people around were witnessing the scene with awe and wonder. I felt all their strange vibrations. After about five minutes, she relaxed her grip and with a soft smile gave me the garland “Courage”. It did its work.
Now for a very trivial instance, but typical of the Mother’s subtle action. It belongs to the earliest period of our twelve years with Sri Aurobindo. The Mother brought a big calendar for Sri Aurobindo’s room and said to me that I should tear off each date-sheet day by day and hand it over to her when she would leave the room after her work. I took the gesture as a sign of Grace on her part, though I could not understand why she was so particular about my doing it or about the way it should be done. However, I obeyed cheerfully and daily I used to receive a broad smile to start with. But gradually the response began to vary. On some days she would give a half-smile; on other days her “eyes would grow solemn and laughter fade away”; on other days, she would not look at all. A hundred variations on a single theme of apparently no significance and likely to be called pure whimsicality. Yes, but a divine whim that bore often a hidden meaning for me.
Another incident also took place at the time we were serving Sri Aurobindo. One evening, sitting on the floor we were raptly listening to Sri Aurobindo’s talk. The Mother came in suddenly and told Sri Aurobindo that X, a well-known local political leader, had been shot by his opponents. She would like to know his condition. The Mother asked me to go and bring back the news from the hospital if possible. I was asked because of my acquaintance with the hospital authorities during my period of training.
When I reached there, I found a big crowd gathered before the gate and no one was allowed to enter without a pass. Many high French officials were pouring in, seemingly very agitated. I found no way through the Police cordon. Ashamed of going back empty-handed, I waited and caught sight of the eye-specialist with whom I had worked in the hospital coming out with a frown on his face. I approached him and asked for the news. He replied that the man was out of danger or something to that effect, but his facial expression belied his words. When I gave the report to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo said, “But I saw him lying dead on the operation-table.” That was what had happened in fact. This man was, by the way, the son or grandson of the leader of Pondicherry’s fishermen, who had agreed to help the British Raj in carrying out a plot to transport Sri Aurobindo to the Madras territory so that he could be put under arrest, but as expected the plot miscarried and the leader himself had to flee to Madras on a warrant issued against him by his opponents.
One of the funniest or most queer jobs the Mother gave me was to supply regularly a small quantity of Lithiné powder to a doctor. It turned out to be an unpleasant duty and unworthy of my position as a doctor. I expressed my reluctance to continue it. She heard in silence without any comment. It is not to be thought that she took no notice of these reactions. Any work given by her, light or serious, pleasant or tedious, was recorded in her consciousness and the person gained or lost inwardly according to the attitude with which he had done the work. We know that in the spiritual life, strict obedience to the Guru is enjoined upon the disciple.
I remember an instance of her clear intention in a given case. A boy running away from home had come to the Ashram and wanted to stay on. Outwardly he had nothing to recommend him except that he had relatives living here. The Mother accepted him and wanted certain relatives who were an easy-going people to take charge of him. She said that it would teach them a sense of responsibility. In spite of knowing her intention, the members refused the offer, except for one member of the same family. She took up the responsibility and had to undergo a lot of trouble, from the boy’s waywardness and other bad habits till he himself left the Ashram, but she earned the Mother’s grace.
I have spoken of a young boy in the medical chapter who came as a patient, but whom I was given also to look after as a sort of a guardian and friend. I was supposed to help him to a disciplined life as regards food, sleep and other habits. To this end, he used to take his breakfast with me and spend his evening time playing indoor games in the Dispensary. When he left for Calcutta, I asked the Mother if I was “one of those who had harmed him”, for that was the story going round in the Ashram in her name. Sri Aurobindo replied, “Mother never said anything of the kind about you. On the contrary she has always approved of his going to you because you give him a physical support, encourage him to eat, etc...”
Another young man came to work in the Dispensary with the Mother’s permission. He too was a problem. The Mother had wrested him from undesirable influences and put him under my care! Brilliant, but almost reckless, having a big idea about himself and making various experiments in yogic practice, he ended up as a nervous wreck. Since he entertained genuine feelings towards me, the Mother thought that I could help him to get some balance. We were good friends, but his spirit was too unruly for my yogic samatā to bear him for long. Finally he had to leave with tears in his eyes to fulfil a “big mission”, to quote Sri Aurobindo. I wrote to Sri Aurobindo: “It is really a pity that he is going — with so many parts also!” He answered: “He is going with tears and full of blessings. Perhaps it is the ‘pans’ you speak of that call him — his horoscope was found to be brilliant and almost Leninesque. Perhaps one day you will gaze at the figure of pāglā [mad] Jaswant (I think that is Mridu’s description) presiding over the destinies of a Communist India! Why not? Hitler in his handsome Adolf days was not less pāglā or prettier, so there is a chance.” Let me be permitted to make a pleasant digression here, though not strictly appropriate in the context, but a striking example of patience, good humour and an ideal yogic samatā. It is about Amal (K. D. Sethna) giving lessons in Sri Aurobindo’s Vyasa and Valmiki, Ilion, The Life Divine and what not, to a sadhak who was extremely keen to learn, but alas, God gave him not much of grey matter! Amal used to come every day for Pranam upstairs and, while waiting for the Mother who sometimes was an hour late, he would stretch himself on the mat and his zealous pupil sitting by his side would start reading. How Amal used to correct his pronunciation, tell the meaning of words which the pupil could with difficulty articulate, explain the passages, was a sight repeated from day to day. The teacher’s temper was always unruffled, kind and indulgent. I wondered why he was wasting his precious time. Did he take it as an exercise in yogic samatā or did he think that whatever was done in the yogic way would count in the economy of the universe? At any rate, I could not but admire his perfect composure and sweetness of temper, which seem, by the way, to be the innate qualities of his soul, and an object-lesson to many of us. It was reminiscent of the Guru’s patience with us in his letters. The state of the pupil’s mind can be gauged by a couple of humorous examples of malapropism I am giving below:
He turned the poetic phrase, “Starry eyes that falter not, set in an exalted visage” into the champion distortion: “Staring eyes that flatter not, set in an exhausted village.” Once he asked Amal: “Isn’t the hero of Homer’s epic Odious?” Amal said: “Yes, many people have thought that, but nobody before you has uttered such an apt thing about Odysseus.”
I have cited all these trivial instances in order to show how, apart from her yogic force, the Mother used also minor psycho-physical aids to prepare the sadhak in the inner discipline. Of course all these ways of her action were commonplace to us, but not always to those who were not familiar with them at least at the beginning. Here are some more personal examples: I was passing through a hard time; the Guru’s long sweet letters had only a momentary effect. At this period an intimate friend wanted to come for his second visit. As no suitable room was available, I offered to share with him my small room in the Dispensary. The Mother consented at once, though it was a dispensary. When people raised an objection, Sri Aurobindo wrote to me: “Mother has put him there, because his influence would be helpful to you.” I was surprised! Yet, in the case of another friend, the answer was, “You are not to share your room with him.”
A more subtle way: During the Pranam downstairs in the fifties, quite a number of people would sit in her Presence throughout the function. I used to work in my office-room upstairs, go down for Pranam and come back at once. The work was just an excuse for my reluctance to sit “unnecessarily”, for such a long duration. It would be a waste of time, I thought. One day the Mother, coming up after the Pranam, told me, “I looked for you. A sadhika was ill. I wanted you to go and see her, but you were not there.” I replied, “I was here all the time, Mother.” As if she did not know it, she simply heard me without a word more and I understood what she had meant. She wanted that instead of my so-called reading, I should have been sitting like the others in her Presence. If this is a too fanciful interpretation by a bhakta, I shall give a clearer example. At one stage, she was seeing some people, especially the departmental heads, in her boudoir, in the afternoon. Others would sit outside watching her and enjoying her Presence, and later expecting to catch her soul-stirring glance and sweet smile when she would pass by them to her room upstairs.
This would last about an hour. I used to do my work at my desk instead of being bathed in her atmosphere. One day light dawned on me and, putting aside the books, I went to sit with the others outside. As soon as she came out, her eyes fell on me and she exclaimed with a gracious smile, “Ah, you are there!” Then she moved on, radiating joy, beauty and love on all around. I was reminded of Wordsworth’s lines:
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds
And fragrance in thy footing treads.
I understood her exclamation and from then onwards I came every day, but strangely enough, rather I should say naturally enough, she neither repeated that smile nor looked at me, but I was sure she noted my presence. Nothing could elude her eyes nor her knowledge. As to her not looking, she had done her work by dropping a hint and I had caught it. That was enough.
Vivekananda, if I remember rightly, and Nivedita too perhaps have said what a fine life it would have been to pass one’s days sitting at the feet of Sharada Devi, the Mother of the Ramakrishna Ashram, instead of spending all one’s energy in useless hectic activities! A moment’s mood, it may be, but the truth of the feeling is unmistakable.
I was trying to learn French, but was still playing with the idea, going about from one teacher to another. Then I heard that our engineer Chandulal was taking with the Mother’s permission a French class for a few sadhaks. The number was restricted and approved by her. It was hardly a class: we used to read one sentence each from the Mother’s Prayers and Meditations — that’s all. I was not very regular. One day the Mother herself came to the class and read a whole prayer and that very day I was absent! I learnt that her visit had been pre-arranged, but it had been kept a secret. She had also the door bolted from within. Imagine my sense of shame and regret at missing this rare opportunity. But that was her way.
One peculiar action of hers still remains to me a mystery. A young fellow came to her with a red eye — a clear case of simple conjunctivitis. She asked my opinion and I told her the diagnosis. Then she said, “You can treat him here.” I could not understand why, when there was a fully equipped dispensary opposite the Ashram, while I had nothing at the spot. But mine was not to question, only to obey. I had to get all the necessary implements, attend to him, and show her the patient’s daily progress. Of course both the doctor and the patient got “a chance”, to use our Ashram lingo.
Since I have touched upon the subject of medicine, let me give one more instance along this line.
One day the Mother told me that an old army doctor had come to the Ashram and was teaching physiology in the school. She would like me to go and tell the doctor that he should give the students some elementary lessons on the reproductive organs, their functions, purpose, etc.; in other words, what we call sex-education. I wondered what lay behind this move. We knew very well that the Mother was “modern”, even “ultra-modern” in many ways, just as Sri Aurobindo was “a modern Avatar”; still this seemed to be too modern for the Ashram. There must be an inner call for it, I conjectured. The doctor accepted the suggestion and said that he would get some slides on the subject. A few years later when the doctor had left I was asked, with the Mother’s permission, to give a number of talks to a group of young men on the same subject with a special emphasis on brahmachārya and its vital connection with the seminal fluid. When, however, years afterwards, another request was made for a talk, she said, “Why raise the issue again? Its necessity is over.” A significant remark which implied that she was always guided by inner laws and inner movements.
Once the Lieutenant-Governor of Pondicherry wanted to meet the teachers of our Centre of Education in order to have an idea of our method of teaching. I was at that time teaching French. I was one of the teachers selected by the Mother for the occasion. Her choice of my name had an occult touch, for I had just a passing whim to go to the Lieutenant-Governor and the Mother caught its vibration! I was so surprised when Pavitra, our Director, spoke to me of her choice. I had several other instances and I am sure many others know too how such small passing wishes or prayers were caught by her.
From the year 1953 when the Mother had begun to sleep in her new room, or perhaps a few years later till she had stopped going to the Playground, every night on her way to her room she gave her benedictions to Kamala, Champaklal and myself as we used to wait to wish her “Bonne nuit”. One night Champaklal was not present. The Mother enquired, “Where is Champaklal?” I replied, “I don’t know, Mother; perhaps he has gone down.” She was not satisfied with the answer and was visibly concerned. She said, “Has he run away?” I was surprised to hear such a strange surmise from the Mother, but answered firmly, “Mother, how can he run away? It is impossible!” “I should think so,” she answered dubiously. I cannot say how far she was assured by my reply, but leaving us in a perplexed mood, she went slowly up to her room. I do not remember now what made Champaklal absent himself that night or if there was any ground for her remark.
The construction of our lovely swimming pool in the Sportsground had been complete and was thrown open to all the Groups of Physical Education. At last, I thought, some pleasant innocent exercise when I had given up all other games. But alas, soon I began to feel uneasy after the dip, even a bit out of sorts. One night I had the vision of Sri Aurobindo’s right arm stretched out across the entrance to the Sportsground. The indication was quite clear that I should stop my innocent pastime. I asked the Mother if swimming was harmful for me. She answered, “No, you can go for swimming.” But when I told her about my dream, she said, “Then you should not go.” This is how the Guru guides us in every little detail!
It was 21st February, 1971, the laying of the foundation-stone of the Matrimandir at Auroville. Twelve sadhaks headed by Nolini were selected by the Mother to represent the Ashram. I happened to be one of them. I was not in physical contact with her at this time. Some of us like Sahana and Sisir were the least expected persons to be named. The time fixed for the ceremony was early morning. Hundreds of people gathered in the vast open space; all kinds of vehicles were used to cover a distance of about ten miles; children, boys, girls, men, women old and young, Indians, Westerners — all had assembled for the solemn occasion. A sacrificial fire was lit — “A fire that seemed the body of a god” — with the chanting of Vedic hymns, and the Mother’s music, in an atmosphere of hieratic stillness. The foundation-stone was laid by Nolini. Soon after, the Sun-God appeared in the eastern sky in his silent majesty and beauty. His beneficent smile kindled in our hearts a hymn of adoration to the supreme Deity — the Divine Mother.
On the Prosperity day, the Mother used to distribute our monthly material necessities to each of us. During the long distribution, some of us used to sit by her with her permission. To be so close to the Divine’s physical Presence and watch at the same time the significantly changing expressions on her face was a delight to be envied even by the gods. Dante says of Beatrice:
What she appears when she smiles a little,
Cannot be spoken of, neither can the mind lay hold on it,
It is so sweet and strange and sublime a miracle7
This is true of the Mother much more.
One day a visitor managed to slip in and sit close to us. We noticed him, but none could tell him that it was not allowed, for we could not be impolite nor were we sure if the Mother would approve of our action. Suddenly she looked at me and with her eyes made a sign. It was a quick. glance which others had hardly perceived, but I understood and told the person that he had to go. How her single moment’s glance could take note of so many things, small and big, at a time, was to us a perpetual wonder.
Sometime in 1961, we went to Puttur, a village in the South, famous for setting bone-fractures by an indigenous method. It was the first time that I went out of Pondicherry after about thirty years. I shall tell the story very briefly. Kalyan, a friend of mine, had broken his elbow-bone in a football match with our youngsters. Our Ashram doctor had set the fracture and put the elbow in plaster. But the pain would not subside. For three months, the poor fellow could not have good sleep. The suffering was too much to bear. So he decided to try Puttur. He took permission from the Mother and her blessings. She warned us to be very careful about food and water. We started in a car along with two friends who knew the place and the healers. Our arrival stirred the locality into wondering, whispers and stares. Well-dressed people from the Ashram straying into a dingy, dirty place tucked away in a lonely countryside! The vaidya was informed and we were at once ushered in. He heard the story, removed the plaster and examined the place of injury. “The bones have not been properly set,” he said. We had come too late. He could certainly set the bones right but he could not guarantee a perfect union; there might remain a gap between the bones. “But I am more concerned about the pain,” Kalyan said. “Oh, the pain, it will go at once!” he replied with an assuring smile. He took Kalyan’s hand and gave it a sudden twist; Kalyan had just time to emit a sharp “ah” and the thing was done. Then he applied a paste prepared with leaves and eggs, and tied a bandage. As soon as the paste was applied, the pain vanished as if by magic. A broad smile lighted Kalyan’s face and a few jibes by him at our medical profession darkened mine. I pocketed them — happy, however, at his happiness. The only fee for the treatment was the cost of a few eggs. We were very happy, for we would be able to greet the Mother with our success. Thanking the vaidya profusely, we departed and set out for Tirupati to see its celebrated temple. Kalyan was so jubilant that he started driving the car himself.
At Tirupati we had a wonderful time, thanks to the influence of a young Andhra sadhak, whom Sri Aurobindo had named Dayakar and who had been a favourite of the Mother. After two days we returned and narrated the whole Puttur story to her. She remarked: “There is a power in the family that acts through them.” She was surprised to hear that Dayakar had met us at Tirupati and that we had had a good time. Somehow I did not tell her that we had planned to meet there. When, however, he visited the Ashram, she came to know from him about the plan. “And Nirod did not tell me all that! Farceur! (Jester)” she added.
Later on, I wrote an article on Puttur and the Tirupati temple, which was published in the Illustrated Weekly of India and earned me Rs.100/-, my first income from Writing. When I offered the amount to the Mother, she asked, “Don’t you need some of it?” “No, Mother,” I replied.
The following incident also took place in 1961. The gymnastic Groups in the Playground were reorganised. A propos of it a point was raised about the need of a certain degree of compulsion for those who joined them. This was especially in the case of those above the age of forty, I believe. It was decided by the captains that one day in a week, preferably Monday, there should be compulsory marching for the “Blue Group”, i.e., the seniormost male members. On other days the members were left free to do exercises as they liked. The word “compulsory” raised a small storm of indignation among us. Why should we, responsible sadhaks, be treated like school-children? This was the burden of the controversy. Some of us left the Group on this account. I was one of those who had a dislike for any sort of compulsion. All the same, I thought I would take the Mother’s views on the matter, though I suspected that she had already been consulted before the step was taken.
It was the usual morning Pranam time and people had gathered, among whom were Nolini, Amrita, Pavitra, Champaklal, Madhav and others. The Pranam being over, the Mother was on her way to her room on the top floor, when I asked her, “Mother, what should I do? Shall I join the Group?” The question led to a discussion lasting nearly half an hour, the entire assembly listening with rapt attention and the Mother standing all the while. She replied, “That was what A was telling me about. He said that he had been doing regular exercise; so he need not join the Group. Besides, he said, all his friends were keeping out. Of course, he can’t carry the flag.8 P says March Past will be done without the flag. Well, what I want is that everyone should do regular exercise, not doing it one day to drop it the next. It must be done regularly to keep the body fit. There is also a provision made for those who don’t want to join the Group. All the facilities will be given to them except the March Past on special days. That also does not matter very much since it is held only four or five times a year.
Myself: People are making two objections to the scheme, one about the “Mass Drill”. It is neither interesting nor useful.
Nolini: (suddenly raising his voice) Why, I find it very interesting.
Myself: It seems more like some amusement; that was the impression given by our captain.
Mother: I don’t know why he gave that impression. The drill is meant as a preparation for the December show. If one starts learning it very early, then there is a chance of its being perfect. The previous ones had many defects. Though I am not an expert judge of these things, I have seen the photographs taken of them and there the defects can be seen. So they want to give training very early.
Myself: Next is the point of compulsion.
Mother: Compulsion is necessary. If you want to remain in the Group, you have to obey the Group discipline. That is quite reasonable. I will tell you one thing: without discipline, strict discipline, no progress can be made in life. No yoga is possible without it. You can’t take one step forward without strict discipline. You may utter a mantra for a hundred years, but without discipline you won’t be able to see beyond the tip of your nose.
Another point is about the uniform. You know it costs quite an amount of money. Those who won’t join shall not have uniforms. They don’t need them, besides. Not that a few uniforms cost much, but when it comes to a big number, the expenses become quite heavy.
No, I have read the whole programme; it is quite reasonable. You have a choice: you can go to the Non-Group. But once you have made your choice, you have to stick to it till the end of the year. If you can’t follow any discipline yourself, well, then submit to the discipline of those who have some experience of life. So make your choice. Au revoir!
With these words, the Mother went up, leaving us stunned in an atmosphere charged with force and silence. As soon as I had touched upon the last question, that of discipline, the tempo of her voice had begun to rise in a crescendo till it reached its peak at the end of her advice. All the while, her gaze had been fixed on my eyes and the words hit like bullets my vital nature’s self-will in the name of freedom. The entire assembly had listened, standing still like statues. Many years have passed since then, but I am continuing my compulsory Monday attendance, so much force had been generated in that dynamic utterance. Only we have named it “Black Monday”, à la Charles Lamb. Nolini who was one of the listeners was also in our Group; he did not, of course, need any such compulsion from outside, neither was Monday black for him; it was golden. But Nolini is Nolini. He joined also the Mass Drill which, as he said, he found interesting, and attended both the items regularly till he retired due to age. There were others too who had left for other reasons, but somehow, however reluctant and antipathetic I am to this Black Monday, when the day arrives some force drags me on to the Playground.
There was another occasion when we witnessed the Mother in a similar mood, but far more intense, more trenchant. We shall speak of it later.
One word about discipline. We hear very often that the Mother has given us freedom. Freedom and discipline are therefore contradictions and people justified their free ways by quoting the Mother’s authority. When it was referred to her, she vehemently protested and said, “Where and when have I supported indiscipline?” Well, this strong admonition should now dispel all such wrong ideas still going about in the Ashram.
X. The Mother’s Magnanimity
A young man came to me with a letter of introduction from a friend in Calcutta. Our friendship went back to Scotland days but we had hardly met since our arrival in India. This man had gathered all particulars about me from that friend, and, adding that he too was a doctor, said he would like to stay here. He also said he knew Dr. Sanyal. From other details it appeared that he was well-connected in Calcutta. Quite impressed, I arranged for him a room in Golconde. I informed the Mother about him and even consulted him in a medical case. Some days passed; he was gaily moving about and telling many tall stories to the young people.
One evening, when he was at the Playground gate, Dr. Sanyal also happened to be there. The Mother was in her Playground room. The boys caught hold of Sanyal and introduced him to this man. Sanyal could not identify him at all nor could he trace the connections he had mentioned before. There was great excitement at the gate. It was proved finally that he was a bogus fellow and had played a big hoax on us all. Finding that the game was up, he was crest-fallen, and admitted that he belonged to a political party, was involved in a murder case for which the Government had issued a warrant against him and announced a sumptuous reward for his capture. Now an absconder, he had sought asylum in the Ashram.
I was called at once to the scene and we took him before the Mother. She heard the tale very gravely and said to me at the end, “Since he has taken refuge in me, I can’t hand him over to the Police. But he must leave the Ashram this very night; otherwise I will call the Police. Go with him to the station and see that he leaves.” We went to Golconde. While packing his things, he showed me a revolver he was carrying with him. I took him to the station, calmed his fears that we would expose him, but rebuked him for playing this dirty trick on us. I put him on the train and sent him off! I felt ashamed at the same time that I could be so easily duped.
The incident passed like a shock through the Playground but because of the Mother’s Presence it could not disturb the routine activities. She went on with her work as usual as if nothing had happened. Some of us were moved to tears by her divine magnanimity and her words echoed and re-echoed in my heart, “He has taken refuge in me!”
Now I shall relate the story of how the Mother too once appeared to have been “duped” — at least so we thought, till we knew the truth — by an unknown young man. We noticed this man coming one day to the Mother and doing pranam to her with great devotion. He knelt down, clasped her around her knees and looked up at her like a child in utter self-abandonment. The Mother too looked at him with a smile full of love and compassion. The scene reminded me of some Renaissance painting of the Madonna and the child. We wondered who this lucky fellow was, how he came to the Mother. The Pranam-scene was repeated for two or three days, I believe. He paraded himself as an officer in the Indian Air Force and naturally became very popular with our youngsters. Some days after he left we heard the shocking news that he had impersonated an I. A. F. officer and had been discovered and arrested as a Pakistani spy. The report went up to her and when she was asked how she could have been so misled about him as to accord him special favour she calmly explained, “The very first time he met and did pranām to me, his soul jumped out weeping and prayed to be saved. That is why I was kind to him.” This story called “Weeping Soul” has appeared in Madhav Pandit’s book, Sidelights on the Mother.
The next story of a minor deception went in this way. It took place a few years after the first incident. A youngster of about 20 saw me and proposed to stay in the Ashram. He said that he hailed from my village and gave me details about his family members whom I had known very well. I spoke to the Mother about him. He was given some work. After a few weeks, a complaint went to the Mother that he had been caught preaching communistic ideas to the workers, while he himself was doing very little work. It was suggested that he should leave the Ashram. I took him before the Mother at the Playground. It was evening. Plenty of boys and girls flocked around. Far from rebuking him, she looked at him in silence for about half a minute with a kind and sweet smile. I did not know what to make of her enigmatic smile. The boy had to leave. Years later, he sent me a silk chaddar for my personal use.
XI. My Family and the Mother’s Grace
By “my family”, I mean my old mother, my sister and her children. Most unexpected was their arrival here, particularly of my sister; and most generous, I should say magnanimous, was the Mother in her acceptance of them all. My mother came first followed by my sister with her children, but they arrived in batches. When the last batch wanted to come, the Mother said, “Let us first see how these get on.” After a year or so, all of them found shelter under her wide protective wings. She observed later on before Sri Aurobindo that they were a “success”. I remember Amrita going about and looking for a house where the entire family could be lodged together. A new house which had recently been taken for some young sadhaks was chosen for them and the sadhaks removed to another house. It is a beautiful big building, near the Ashram with a small garden in front. They were lucky indeed to get it so easily. But some tragic happenings marred to a certain extent this good fortune.
The children were admitted to the school. One of the boys turned out a good athlete and broke the Ashram record in javelin throw and it still remains unbeaten. He was able to draw the Mother’s attention by this extraordinary feat at such a young age and she seemed to have enquired how old he would be in a particular year. But most unfortunately after this achievement he lost his mental balance. Then followed a long tale of suffering, throughout which period die Mother bestowed her constant love and care upon the poor boy. I shall take up the story again subsequently.
About my mother, I have said that she came first. She had been extremely upset, almost heart-broken when I came away leaving her all alone without sufficient resources. Now she was exceedingly happy to live with her only son after many years’ separation. Before she joined me, I had heard that she had been passing through hard times. I asked the Mother if I could approach a friend of mine to give her some monetary help. She replied, “Better not.” At the same time she seemed to have done something in her occult way which thenceforth rendered my mother’s life quite comfortable, even cheerful. Here when she took up work in the Dining Room, the Mother remarked, “It is good to do some-work.” I was told that she used to compose nursery rhymes in the old style and was quite popular among the elderly women.
Her happiness was, however, cut short by the cruel hand of Fate. After a number of years she noticed a small innocent-looking growth on her skin. Dr. Sanyal and Dr. Satyavrata suspected it to be skin cancer. The question of sending her to Madras for an operation was discussed. When I placed it before the Mother, she said emphatically, “I don’t advise it. I see plainly that she will collapse on the operation-table itself.” Well, that was the end of the matter. I could do nothing else than leave her to her Fate and the Mother’s care. I did not expect any miracle, neither did the Mother give any such fond hope.
The swelling went on increasing insidiously without causing any trouble. She used to go to work, come for Pranam, attend the Playground function. The Mother used to caress and bless her in her special manner. But the malady took its relentless course; it began to cause pain and suffering which became more and more intense, and at last unbearable.
One day in a distressed mood I was meditating and praying before the Samadhi, when I saw Sri Aurobindo’s right hand raised up above it and the palm shown as if to mean protection, or signing to me to be fearless — मा भेः. To cut the story short, after about a year of agony, my mother passed away on the eve of the August Darshan. She had a small string of beads. The next day I offered it to the Mother; she took it and placed it in front of a miniature statue of Buddha on her mantelpiece. It is still there. My family, by the way, was Buddhist.
Some years after the whole family had settled, the father of the children paid a visit to the Ashram. He was unimaginably happy to see his children growing up and blossoming like spring flowers, including the boy I have mentioned before. It was beyond his wildest dreams. After a couple of months he went back and, soon after, the news came that he had suddenly expired. When I informed the Mother about it, she said, “Oh, that is why I saw him standing beside you when I was going round your Group in the Playground. I was wondering why he was there.” I myself wondered at this revelation.
Now I come to the pathetic story of my nephew. I have said that the symptoms of his mental disorder were noticed after his winning the prize. It was rumoured that the Mother had given him on the tournament day a special Force by virtue of which he had broken the record. The boy himself admitted that while throwing the javelin, he felt as if it simply flew off his hand like a bird. Failing to explain this sudden unbalance and wondering how the Force could have caused it, if it did at all, I asked the Mother whether the story was true. She said that she had certainly given some Force. Perhaps the ādhāra, being too small, had not been able to contain it. I did not know what to say. Neither do I suggest that the Force was the cause of the disorder. For Sri Aurobindo has emphatically said that the Force cannot do any harm unless there is some root-cause within and in this boy’s case, there certainly was.
The trouble began to increase. Everyone felt sorry for him, for apart from being a promising athlete, he was a very fine chap, sweet and simple by nature. He began to show symptoms of indiscipline in the Group and had to be warned by the captain. Reports to the Mother about his rudeness and violent conduct poured in, but she was always kind and considerate and told me more than once that the youngsters must have been teasing him. She always defended him. I took much of her time, whenever disturbances broke out, in discussing what was to be done, how to treat him, and the like.
Meanwhile Panditji, a great Tantric yogi of the South, visited the Ashram. He was supposed to have extraordinary occult powers and could cure even madness. We know from Sri Aurobindo that madness results from possession by evil spirits. Many fantastic stories were going round about Panditji’s powers. I asked the Mother if I could take his help; she gave her approval. I took the boy to Panditji and told him the story of the javelin-throw, adding that there was a family taint of insanity and that the house in which he lived seemed to be haunted. Panditji expressed his desire to see the house and we took him there. He confirmed that the house was haunted; there were two or three small beings, one of which had possessed the boy, but since it was an intermittent possession, he could cure him. He prescribed some kriyās and wanted the boy to visit him every day. I used to report everything to the Mother and she would listen with keen interest.
After Panditji’s discovery that some spirits had found a habitation in the house, we thought of changing it but no suitable alternative was found and my nieces were extremely reluctant to leave such a beautiful dwelling. They said that they were not afraid of any spirit since the Mother’s protection was with them. When the Mother heard about it she said, “If they have faith, they can remain.” The Mother also enquired if she had visited the house. The answer was No. Then she said that on one particular day incense sticks should be burnt and some mantra recited, after which there would be no trouble. And there has been none!
There was, however, no appreciable improvement even after months of treatment. Finally one day in a fit of bad temper the boy smashed a tennis racket during the game. This set off the spark: some boys of his Group caught hold of him and gave him a sound beating which exasperated the boy tenfold. I reported it to the Mother at once. She was extremely annoyed at the conduct of the boys and sent me to Dr. Sanyal so that he might do something to make him quiet. Sanyal resorted to the same means that we use in such cases: he injected a maximum dose of morphia and asked me to keep watch over the patient. Morphia had no effect, the patient could not be induced to sleep.
The next morning, when we had gathered upstairs as usual for the special Pranam, the Group captain was present. The Mother had now her chance. She started at once to rebuke him in a very severe tone for serious failure in his duty. Knowing very well that the boy was not normal in his mind, to make a display of brutal physical force in a mass against a single person was the worst kind of cowardice she could ever imagine. She went on battering in this vein for some minutes in front of about a dozen persons. The atmosphere was tensely silent. We saw and heard the veritable Mahakali in her wrath. The captain took it all without a word of self-defence. At the end the Mother patted his head and cheek. On several previous occasions she had praised him highly for his leadership. Once during the forties when he had some marks on his face left by chicken-pox, the Mother told Sri Aurobindo, “They will spoil the fine beauty of his face.” She sent him a special French cream to efface those marks. Such was the Mother’s solicitude for all of us. She rarely rebuked anyone except those who had an intimate relation with her. Then she discussed with us in her normal manner what was to be done about the boy. It was decided that he should be sent to the Bangalore Mental Hospital. All arrangements made, he was packed off in two or three days.
He remained there for a couple of months and improved a lot. Following the instructions of the Director, we brought him back and put him, with the Mother’s advice, in the Lake Estate far away from the Ashram. There he could stay alone and work in the fields. The Mother sent special orders to the man in charge to look after him well and allow him to work independently. Things went on fairly well for some months. The Mother was kept constantly informed.
After this quiescent period, symptoms of the malady began to show themselves again. Agitation, ranting for hours, loss of sleep, etc., with intermittent quietness, lucidity — these were the phases he passed through till one day he attacked the man in charge and hit him on the head with a stick. Realising the magnitude of the crime he ran away from the place. News reached us with lightning speed; we were in suspense. After many hours he arrived home in a subdued mood.
There was no question now of his going back to the Lake, neither was there any other place where he could live in isolation. No other choice was left but to send him back to East Pakistan, his native place, for some months at least. He was accompanied by his mother and his elder brother. Be it noted, all the expenses including his stay at Bangalore were borne by the Mother.
At last I was at peace and so was the Ashram; but for the poor boy life was hell in Pakistan. Stern and forceful restraints, even being put in chains, were his lot. Besides, he caused a terrible strain on the scanty income of the family. The Mother sanctioned a monthly allowance of Rs.100/- to ease the situation to a certain extent. When there was a question of putting him in an asylum, she said, “He will die there.” But on the other hand, when the boy’s mother out of sheer frustration thought of sending him back here, the Mother replied firmly, “Impossible! he must not come back.”
Yet he did! To put the story in brief: during the civil war in East Pakistan, he, accompanied by his elder brother made his escape. Trudging along a perilous route from the farthest end of Chittagong and crossing the border at Tripura, he arrived one day at the Ashram. When the Mother was told about it, she exclaimed, “Good Lord!” That’s all. So the boy’s destiny brought him back. After this, there were minor troubles, and complaints were made to the Mother against him, she paid no heed to them.
But the threat came from an unexpected quarter: the Central Government sent an order that all the refugees had to go back. This was a thunderbolt for the entire family. Now the Mother took up the charge and directed Counouma, the Manager of the Ashram, to try all means possible to keep the boy here. The boy was a member of the Ashram, but by mistake was enlisted as a refugee, as he had to take shelter in a refugee camp at the border. Surendra Mohan Ghose helped us in the matter. As a result, the Government kept quiet. But after the Mother’s passing, all of a sudden another injunction from the Government arrived to the effect that the boy should leave within two weeks. The Police would come and take charge of him. This was the unkindest cut of all. Ruin and disaster were writ large on the life of the boy and the family. Which way to turn? The Mother was no more with us. O, the difference between the subtle Presence and the physical! In a hurried consultation with Counouma we hatched a plan that we must plead for more time on the grounds of the boy’s health. A medical certificate was produced.
But it is not all this that played the decisive role. What happened was something unique, inconceivable, at least for my doubting mind. I was so tormented by the prospect of sending back the boy that I lost my sound sleep. I prayed and prayed. One night I woke up suddenly and heard myself uttering in an extremely fervent manner, “Divine Grace! Divine Grace!” and went on chanting it automatically for minutes together. It was as if I had been invoking the Divine Grace in my subconscious and it broke into a waking passionate cry. I knew then that the prayer had been heard.
Soon after we came to be informed that a six-months’ extension was granted to the boy.
I have divulged this secret with some hesitation to testify to the fact that the Divine is with us, we are not left alone. This is not the only instance of the sort and, I am sure, many others have felt the wings of Divine Protection spread over their lives.
I have dwelt quite at length on this single fascinating episode to serve as a glaring example of the Mother’s solicitude for all her children, irrespective of any distinction. But the battle has not come to an end. Very strangely indeed, the Government is still pursuing its point and we are fighting.9
Lastly the story of my eldest niece, in brief. She too had received special favour from the Mother. Her marriage took place in Pondicherry and the Mother blessed the couple. When she had a son, the Mother named him Saral — simple. The Mother agreed to pay half the house-rent and allowed free boarding to the family. When my niece went to visit her father-in-law in Bengal she gave birth to a second son. After some months, their stay in Bengal proved a trial, even unsafe, especially for the children. My niece wanted to come away. But the Mother kept quiet. A few months passed; another letter came urgent, frantic, adding that the older child wanted to return. As soon as the Mother heard the mention of the child, she relented and said, “Look for a house and ask them to start at once.” I was astonished by her change of attitude and inferred that the child’s cry must have touched the Mother’s heart. Since then, they have been here; the children are in the school and my niece’s husband has by the Mother’s help got a job in a local mill.
This is how the Grace of the Mother flows and spreads all over the world and particularly over those who have come under her Love’s Protection. I am sure each one of us has such stories to tell and if they were gathered together they would make a wonderful collection full of instances of her अहैतुकी कृपा, Grace beyond any reason. Though some have come out, still a large number remains unpublished.
XII. I960 Onwards
I have said that from the year 1953 onward the Mother spent the night in her room on the second floor. She used to come down in the morning and go back, finishing all her work, at night. Then a change took place: coming down in the morning she would finish her work starting with the Balcony darshan and ending with seeing a particular group of people. It would last till noon, even a little later. Then she went up for lunch. After a couple of hours she came down, had her bath and began another round of seeing the departmental heads and other people. Near about 6 or 6.30 p.m. she would go up and retire for the night. She had stopped going to the Tennis-ground and the Playground since 1958. This was her daily programme till 1962 when she fell seriously ill and her coming down ceased altogether. An admirable account of her morning programme will be found in Champaklal Speaks in the section dealing with the year 1960.
Some of us used to see her regularly in the morning and have talks with her on various issues. Otherwise it was just a simple pranam and receiving her blessings. Sometimes she would be quite late and we had to wait and wait. Since at that time I was working as a teacher in the School, I could not always wait long and had to miss my “chance”. One day — a Sunday — there was a meeting in the School which ended at about 11 a.m. I feared that the Mother might have gone up, but fortunately, she had just finished her interview. As I approached her, she gave me a steady look as if she would say something. Quite unprepared for it, I contracted my eye-brows. “Oh, he is afraid,” she said smiling. “He is afraid!”
“No, Mother, I am not afraid, but somewhat surprised,” I replied.
“Are you usually aware of my meeting and talking with you at night?”
“Sometimes, Mother. Either I just see you or hear some words but can’t make out the sense.”
“For instance, two days ago I met you and what I consider something important for you happened. Are you aware of it?”
“You didn’t even feel anything?”
“I don’t remember.”
Then smiling she said, “Prendra du temps”. (It will take some time.)
One day it was raining heavily and it was school-time. As I approached the Mother for my flower, I said, “How to go to School in this rain, Mother?” “Why? what has rain got to do with the School?” she replied. Another day, she came late and we had all been waiting. My school-time was almost striking. When I approached her, she said, “Don’t be impatient. When you are patient, time goes slow.” She must have felt my unquiet vibrations. Talking about vibrations I may cite an instance. The Mother was having a long interview with somebody and a whole crowd of us were getting fidgety. When at last she came, she at once felt our restive mood and said, “I am very sensitive to vibrations.”
Once as a teacher of French I had set a question paper. I showed it to the Mother. She said, “It is very stiff.” “No, Mother,” I replied, “the students are supposed to know this much.” “Then it is all right,” she said.
At another time a teacher of French had blundered with regard to an idiom and the students would have had a wrong idea about it. When I pointed it out to the Mother and asked what was to be done, she said, “Leave it to me. I shall speak to him.” How considerate and tactful she was even in these small matters!
When I was teaching French in our School, the Mother told me more than once that there was a French lady who always spoke highly of me to her. “Do you know who she is?” she asked me. “I can guess, Mother,” I said. “Is it Bharatidi?” “Yes,” she smiled, “whenever she comes to me, she puts in a good word for you.” But unfortunately, one day I fell from her favour, as happens with some people. Bharatidi was a cultured French lady, a well-known Indologist, more especially the Mother’s close associate in early days. Her sister was an intimate friend of Tagore’s. Our rupture took place over a minor difference of opinion. I realised later on that I had made a faux pas. I should have submitted to her, since she was superior to me in many respects and particularly because she was high in the Mother’s esteem. Once the Mother seems to have said that she could spend hours chatting with her, because of her wonderful beauty of expression, but unfortunately she could not spare much time. I suspected that the Mother was also not very pleased over the incident, not so much because of the rupture as because in her scheme of things Bharatidi had an important role to play and she did not want that it should be disturbed.
Now an amusing story, a tiny comedy of errors. At our teachers’ meeting, a student was declared to have failed. She sent an appeal to the Mother. The Mother took her side and said that she could not fail since she knew her as a good student. The teachers always went by outer results. They should have had more insight, etc. Later on she met the girl in a special function and told her, “Do you know I have passed you cancelling the judgment of the teachers?” The student was bewildered, for she had already heard from her teachers that she had passed quite creditably. When she reported to them about the matter there was an excitement and a surprise. On inquiry, it was found that the Mother had mistaken this girl for another bearing a similar name, since the name had not been pronounced to her in the right way. The Mother admitted her mistake to the teachers concerned and said that she had withdrawn all that she had said about them. The teachers were much moved by her humility.
In truth she could never be hard on the students. If there was even a slight redeeming feature in a student, she would give him a chance, particularly if he appealed to her compassion. Rough and hard was not the way she adopted when dealing with anyone, especially children.
Lastly a battle royal raged among the teachers with regard to the study of English literature in the Higher Course. Some wanted it to be made compulsory for the Art students, others for making it optional. The decision was finally left to the Mother, Hearing both sides, she wrote:
“To the teachers,
It is not so much the details of organisation but the attitude that must change.
It seems that unless the teachers themselves get above the usual intellectual level, it will be difficult for them to fulfil their duty and accomplish their task.”
The Mother’s views about literature did not seem to be as catholic as Sri Aurobindo’s; on the contrary, they were very classical. A profusion of words, colour, imagery, etc., was not at all to her taste. One remark she made about literature in general brings out her views in a succinct manner. Hearing the controversy I have mentioned above, she said to me, “I have read at least a thousand books. In very few of them have I found true insight.” As regards poetry, she appreciated Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri and a few other poems the most. They reveal the sheer truth, she said. On poetry in general she said that French poetry was hardly poetry because it was written not with the imaginative mind so much as with the intellect.
For days in succession, the Mother was unusually sweet with me during the morning Pranam. She would hold my hands, look intently into my eyes smiling all the while so bewitchingly that it would be difficult for me to turn away my gaze. As the other people around were watching with keen interest this mysteriously ecstatic communion, I used to feel embarrassed, but the Mother paid no attention and was absorbed in what she was doing. I felt as if she were looking into my very soul and suffusing my whole being with light. But what was the reason for it all, I could not tell. My friends, very much intrigued, would ask me afterwards for a clue. I had to disappoint them.
During this period or a few days earlier, in my daily morning meditation, I suddenly began to concentrate on the Mother in the heart. One day I saw that I was going somewhere in a carriage. It stopped at a place; I got down and began to walk through a wooded path. Then somebody appeared before me; I could see only the feet and they seemed like those of a woman. A voice said, “Follow me!” As I did so, I asked, “What about my carriage?” “Doesn’t matter; you follow me,” said the commanding voice. The wood was not dense, but trees, bushes, “hollow lands and hilly lands” punctuated the long track. Before it led anywhere the meditation ended.
Two days later the Mother said, “This morning you came to me, the feeling was strong. You are coming now very often. You are sometimes conscious of it, aren’t you?”
“Listen! I will tell you something. Today Sri Aurobindo was also present. There was a branch of celery stuck on your window. ‘It will do you good,’ Sri Aurobindo seemed to be saying to you. I didn’t hear the actual words, they were written on the window, as it were. I was wondering what could be the meaning of celery or was there some mistake in the reception?”
She repeated the story.
The next day again she received me with a broad beaming smile and then said, “I will tell you a nice story when we are all alone.” As I could not hear distinctly, I asked, “When we are?” “When we are all alone,” she repeated, “One day; there is plenty of time. The story is continuing.”
Exactly two months later, on my birthday, she said, “Tomorrow I will tell you that story. There is a short interview with X; after that I shall see you.”
When she was giving me a bunch of Prayer flowers, she said, “Four granted prayers.” I could not understand the meaning at once; so I asked, “Granted — ?” “Yes, granted prayers,” she repeated. “When you come to me in the afternoon, come with these prayers formulated. But be careful about what you ask. They are granted. Don’t ask for material things, for I can’t give them. Ask what I can give.”
“Mother, my material needs are very few. I don’t need to ask for them,” I replied.
In the afternoon, I went to her with the prayers written on a piece of paper. She read them and said, “They are all granted. I will speak about them tomorrow; they will be pan of our talk.”
The following day when I met her, after a talk on personal matters, the Mother said in a very affable tone, “Do you want to hear my story? Well, it was somewhere at the beginning of the year, March or April, I don’t remember, because I haven’t noted it down. One night as I had gone into the subconscient — 1 was working there, I actually went down — I came to a place filled with doubt, depression, etc. It was the abode of Doubt. There in a big public hall I was doing my work. Many people were constantly moving to and fro. I saw people trying hard to throw away their doubts but they were returning again and again.
“After some time, I saw that there was another hall inside and I was told that Sri Aurobindo was there. So I went in that direction and knocked at the door. I could not see anything inside. When someone came, I told him that I wanted to see Sri Aurobindo. He answered rather rudely, ‘You can’t see him; he won’t see you.’ A bit surprised, I came away quietly. After a while I went back and knocked again. This time I could have a glimpse of the interior through a slit in the door. I noticed particularly three people, you, D and S. Somebody came, the same person as before or another, I don’t know, and opened the door. When I repeated my desire to see Sri Aurobindo he replied, ‘You can never see him and he will never see you. You are insincere; what you are doing is all for power, fame and ambition.’ As he said this, I saw a tall figure, taller than Sri Aurobindo; he was thin and appeared to be like Sri Aurobindo, but was really a hostile force. He came and stood in front as if to give support to his statement. He was cruel, hard, full of rigid principles; no love, no compassion at all. It was, I believe, a sort of distant distorted figure of a part of Sri Aurobindo’s mind, or what they believed to be Sri Aurobindo’s mind. Looking at that figure I said, ‘It is a negation of all spiritual experience.’ Till then you were not taking any part in all this; you were sitting somewhere inside. But as soon as I uttered that sentence, you came forward like this (stretching out her arms) and exclaimed, ‘Mother, you have helped me a lot; you have given Light, Force...’ And immediately everything vanished. Sri Aurobindo came out and descended into my body, full of love.
“I uttered my sentence, ‘It is a negation of all spiritual experience,’ with great power, but you see, it required some exterior support and when you came out with that support, that hostile force could not withstand any longer.
“You remember Sri Aurobindo was writing to X about X’s doubt, not to play with it but to throw it away, that it was fatal to harbour it. So perhaps X had made a formation with something from his own mind and mixed it with something of what he thought to be Sri Aurobindo’s mind; it is all very complex. He was citing broken phrases and sentences from Sri Aurobindo; you know those sharp, compact expressions, but quite out of the context, they were absolutely false and meaningless.
“I wanted to follow up this experience and see what consequences it would produce. I began to work on it and then saw that a sort of big load was lifted off your head and you appeared luminous. There was a prodigious change in you. Formerly I used to see, while you were working at your table or at other times?, this dark load above your head. Now all that has gone for ever. That is why I said that your prayers were granted. Voilà.”
I was utterly speechless. Surprise, wonder, joy, love, gratitude made me dumbfounded. Emotions needed some time to become tranquil. Then I said, “Mother, is all this private?”
“Well, better not say it just now, because my work is not yet finished. You may note it down if you like. I will follow it up and, when it will be finished, I will let you know. I had not told you so long and would not have done yet, but since it is your birthday I have told you. Some days ago, S wrote that his doubts had been solved by Sri Aurobindo. So you see the work is going on. Sri Aurobindo is all the time busy with you.”
There were some old sadhaks who had left the Ashram after Sri Aurobindo’s passing. S was one of them. Sri Aurobindo was working upon them in an occult manner so that they might see their mistakes and be converted. That was what the Mother meant by “the work is going on”. In fact two of them realised their grave error. One came back and settled in Pondicherry. The other also visited the Ashram, his eye-sight practically lost, and had to go away.
A truth of deep spiritual significance carrying a great solace to the disciple was revealed here in the Mother’s remark that even if a disciple leaves his Guru in a mood of revolt, the Guru does not leave him. “Few are those from whom the Grace withdraws, but many are those who withdraw from the Grace,” Sri Aurobindo has said. I know of a disciple to whom Sri Aurobindo had written that he would never leave him and when the disciple left, I asked Sri Aurobindo, “He has gone and you had said to him, it seems, you wouldn’t leave him.” He answered, “I don’t propose to leave him.” Only, when the disciple betrays the Guru by some act of treachery, I believe he cuts himself off from his protection and even then not completely because of the Guru’s grace. I remember someone who had committed such a treachery. When she was suffering from a long illness and asked the Mother’s .pardon, the Mother told me, “You know what she has done.” If I were Champaklal, I would have appealed to her compassion, but I kept silent. We heard, however, that the person had been repeating the Mother’s name and had a peaceful end.
Somewhere in 1961, after a lapse of 7 or 8 years there was a recrudescence of my old malady: piles. It continued for about three weeks, fortunately unaccompanied by pain. I had an indication that it was coming but what brought it about I did not know. The Mother was inquiring every day and giving me the flower, Endurance. One day she said, “It has to go.” But it did not. One morning while in meditation, I heard, “Tomorrow it will stop.” I took it to be the Mother’s voice. When I told her about it, she asked, “Is it not your imagination?” “No, Mother!” “Sanctioned,” she said, and the bleeding actually stopped. The Mother complimented me on the success. But I had a fear that the bleeding might recur. And actually it started after a couple of days. When I reported it to the Mother, she told me, “The fear was the cause. But why should you fear? If it comes, surrender it to the Divine: that’s the way to get rid of it.” The bleeding continued all the same. “Why don’t you do some sadhana?” she said. As I wore a puzzled expression, she explained, “I mean, try to get down peace. Once you can bring it down, the disease will be cured.” “I am trying but peace is the one thing I fail to get. I get force,” I said. After a few more days, however, the bleeding stopped.
Three months passed. Then I went to Bangalore to fetch my nephew from the Mental Hospital. The day I returned, bleeding resumed as a result, I suspect, of my indiscretion regarding food, and continued for days. I informed the Mother about it and it almost stopped but reappeared the next day. As I was feeling exhausted I again told the Mother. She exclaimed, “Oh, I thought it had stopped. But are you sure you are weak? Not mental imagination?” “No, Mother,” I replied. “I get out of breath especially when climbing stairs.”
“Sure? The mind can be made to think like that. As the thing rises from below, it covers up the mind and gives that impression. Lack of strength does not depend on the loss of blood. Strength depends on making contact with the universal Force. Try to draw that Force.”
I could not draw that Force nor did the bleeding stop and I was getting weaker. At last I told the Mother that I would like to try local injections.
“Are you sure they will cure you?” she asked.
I tried. Dr. Sanyal gave the injections and the bleeding stopped.
How to explain the vagaries of our physical consciousness? At one time it responds to the Force or to a medicine; at another time it does not. That is why I suppose some outer support is needed now and then.
Now I shall relate a revelatory experience in connection with the bleeding from piles on another occasion. It happened after 1962, as far as I remember, when the Mother had stopped coming down. I did not write anything to her about the incident.
I caught a chill and had slight fever. Some antibiotics were given. The fever stopped but bleeding from the piles started. Though a little weak, I went to take a class in the afternoon. After a while, my head began to reel and before I could control myself, I fainted and fell face down on the floor, both my hands tucked and twisted under my chest, causing a good deal of pain. The students in great consternation rushed to my help. The doctor was called. He said that the median nerve must have been injured. I was, however, more concerned about the bleeding, for, as we know, it produces a kind of irrational nervous fear far out of proportion to the quantity of blood lost. At night when I had gone to bed in Sri Aurobindo’s room, I could not sleep. I was groaning in pain, but my mind was more troubled by the apprehension of bleeding the next morning. Suddenly I heard Sri Aurobindo’s voice saying, “It is the pain which is more serious, not the bleeding.” I was startled by the voice and extremely surprised, since I had not prayed nor said anything to him. Yet how did he know all that had happened or what I had been worrying about? And his prognosis was so true, for the bleeding stopped soon but the pain in the arms continues even now intermittently in a mild form. I cannot do any vigorous exercise with my hands without producing as a reaction a subacute pain of a twitching nature. But the wonder of wonders was the voice! It bears out the truth of what the Mother had said, “I see Sri Aurobindo all the time busy with you.” The irony of it is that he is seen or heard only at critical times!
In Champaklal Speaks there is a reference to an illness of mine that I had forgotten altogether. Dr. Sanyal had brought some instruments for me. The Mother asked in surprise, “For Nirod? He does not need them; he remains all the time here, so for him they are not necessary.” This was in 1949 when I was attending on Sri Aurobindo.
I think the reference was to my piles for which he had suggested a minor local operation if I wanted to get them removed. I had told him to bring the necessary instruments and, that if the Mother agreed, I would undergo the operation.
I was sleeping in the passage in front of Sri Aurobindo’s room. I heard someone calling out “Nirod” in a very sweet and melodious voice which was very distinct. I was startled out of my sleep and exclaimed, “Who is there? Who is calling?” Somebody was perhaps asking for help, I thought. I switched on the light and saw it was 3.25 a.m. I took it to be the Mother’s voice. In the morning, when I told her about it she said, “Ah! but I told you many things.” About the time also she replied, “Yes, that’s exactly the time.”
This happened a few months after she had said, “It will take some time.”
Nearly a month later, during the morning Pranam, the Mother said to me smiling, “You were quite a long time with Sri Aurobindo last night, quite a long time. And yesterday, when you came for Pranam and were taking flowers, I saw him behind you in a dazzling white light.”
The following day Champaklal told me that during his meditation in the Mother’s room he had a long dream in which Sri Aurobindo was telling me how all the pains that he had felt at each stage of his last illness were felt by Champaklal himself in his body. Champaklal was full of joy and gratitude for this recognition on the Master’s part.
He also saw that Sri Aurobindo was teaching me Sanskrit, particularly how to read it correctly. This was very strange! for I had been thinking of learning it, specially to read in the proper way, not in the Bengali manner.
All this proves what the Mother had told me — that she used to see Sri Aurobindo busy with me. It is equally true of the Ashram, as a whole. I am quite sure that his vigilant eye is keeping watch day and night over all our movements and activities, as it had done before.
XIV. Loss of Personal Contact from 1963
In the year 1962, probably after April, a long period of personal contact with the Mother came to an end and was resumed in 1966. For she fell seriously ill. As a result all the interviews had to be suspended. When she recovered she stopped coming down altogether. The personal contacts were re-established only with those who were in charge of the departments. Interviews were granted to people on their birthdays and they used to take place in the Music Room on the second floor.
On the first of February, 1963, the month of her birth, I had a strange experience during my morning meditation. It lasted about an hour. I saw many things apparently incoherent, having no logical connection. But I had a very strong impression that something extraordinary was going to take place. I wrote about it to the Mother in French and got her reply in French. (Her reply has been published in Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Vol. I.) It runs as follows in English:
“Last night we (you and myself and some others) were together for quite a long time in the permanent dwelling of Sri Aurobindo which exists in the subtle physical (what Sri Aurobindo used to call the true physical). All that happened there (much too long and complicated to be told) was, so to say, organised in order to express concretely the rapid movement with which the present transformation is going on; and Sri Aurobindo told you with a smile something like this: ‘Do you believe now?’ It was as if he was evoking these three lines from Savitri:
‘God shall grow up while the wise men talk and sleep;
For man shall not know the coming till its hour
And belief shall be not till the work is done.’
I think this is a sufficient explanation of the meditation you are speaking of.
On one birthday I told her that I felt I was making no progress in sadhana; everything seemed to remain at status quo. She replied, “You know you were playing with doubt for a long time. Now you are coming out.”
XV. Short Ascension. 1966
The year 1966 is a memorable year for me: I had the opportunity of renewing my contact with the Mother after a long interval and it was one of the closest and happiest, as if some old barrier had broken down. It came about in an unexpected manner. Champaklal had fallen ill during the last months of the year. Dr. Sanyal was treating him. I was one of the attendants. When after recovery he went to the Mother I accompanied him till he reached the door of her room. Then he asked me to come inside with him. Though I had a strong impulse, I hesitated to go without previous permission, but he insisted and told the Mother what he had done. She did not, mind, of course, and received me very sweetly. Champaklal was naturally overwhelmed to meet her after such an ordeal and a long absence. He complained that the doctors would not allow him but added that he had heard her call. The Mother’s response needs no description. I too felt uncommonly happy, the occasion had come unexpectedly, and I met her in a completely new surrounding. I tasted the bliss for some months till again the curtain fell upon the light and I had to come down before the cup was even half-full, and wait for the fullness which was not to be.
Back to our story: I used to follow Champaklal every morning and the Mother, sitting in her chair before her breakfast, divinely fresh, would see me. She used to take hold of my hands, look steadily into my eyes and caress and pat my head as never before. It seemed as if so many years’ void was being filled up with her radiant Presence. I had never had such a succession of “long drawn link’d sweetness” since my first contact with her. On the contrary there was always, even in the midst of sweetness which must have been necessary for my inner growth, a certain distance. On the first or second day, she said, “Nirod, take care of Champaklal’s health.” Besides this, our meeting was mostly a soul-to-soul communication. On the third day, I believe, I told the Mother, “Now that Champaklal is quite strong, I need not accompany him,” while I really wished the contrary, and she fulfilled my wish saying, “No, you may continue.”
When some weeks had passed, I came to know Dr. Sourin Bose. His wife was suffering from cancer and was under H’s homeopathic treatment. One day I went to see her. I was far from happy with the condition of the patient and reported the fact to the Mother. Since she took interest in the case, I began to give a daily account. The patient was going downhill and suffering the agony which only cancer can inflict. She prayed for cure or for deliverance from the body’s unbearable pain. Her suffering made me so gloomy and depressed that I carried that dejection to the Mother herself. One day her warmth and sweet smile stopped. She would give me flowers and even caress my head during the pranam, but would not look at me. This continued for about two weeks. I knew very well the meaning of her stern gesture but I could not simply throw away “the heavy and the weary weight” — “the hump”, as the Guru would have said — till one day the Mother resumed pouring her beatific smile. The burden was off my shoulders. The patient’s death-in-life did not now affect me so much. Every day she would pray for deliverance. The Mother was trying hard to cut off the life-cord, but it proved extremely tough and resistant. One day the Mother said, “I was with her for three hours last night.” Every morning she would expect the news of the end but none came. On another day she said, “I sent such a tremendous Force that it would either cure her or end her.” But when neither happened, she was markedly surprised and said, “There must be something that is working against the Force. I don’t know what it is.” Finally, on the eve of the February Darshan the poor lady found her peace. According to Dr. Bose, her face became radiant at the last moment and she exclaimed in an exultant voice, “The Mother has come, the Mother has come!” “Where, where?” asked Bose. “Here, here, in my heart. Don’t you see?” With these words she passed away. The Mother was happy to hear of the soul’s blissful deliverance.
That was another case of cancer to which I was an unhappy witness. I saw a frail woman dying inch by inch with nobody to look after her except her husband who nursed her till the last moment with a love and devotion rarely to be met with.
The second topic that I discussed with the Mother was about my old ailing friend Nishikanta. He was at this time suffering from T. B. and had been admitted to the Jipmer hospital. I often used to visit him and inform the Mother about his condition. A new aspect of the poet Nishikanta was revealed to me. Living for days in a T. B. ward among patients from a very ordinary class of people and almost every week one of them going to the other world, amidst the loud lamentations of relatives, Nishikanta remained supremely detached and preserved his native wit and humour. One day, however, something went wrong and all on a sudden his urine stopped flowing. The surgeon wanted to remove his enlarged prostate but he refused to undergo any operation. At last he agreed provided the Mother gave her consent. When I put the case before her, she asked, “What does he say?” “He doesn’t want it, Mother,” I replied. “Well, then, there is no question,” she said in a firm tone. Then looking at me she added in a grave voice, “Do you remember what happened five or six years ago? Nishikanta was dying. All of you brought him to me in that critical state. He took hold of my foot, placed it on his chest and prayed, ‘Mother, I want to live.’ ”
“Yes, I remember, Mother. It is much more than five years. Now, he would like to see Sri Aurobindo’s centenary before he passes away. You have to fulfil his prayer,” I replied.
“If he has faith,” she answered with a smile. And with that faith he carried on till the year 1973, when on 19th May, leaving behind a lifetime’s trail of poetic splendour, he disappeared from our earth.
My visits to the Mother were also cut short as had happened before, owing to her illness. I do not recollect when exactly the contact was re-established. Very probably from the next year, i.e. 1968.1 used to see her once a week which again came to a halt because of her ill health.
I may give a brief account of the miraculous intervention to which the Mother is referring here. I have already dwelt upon it at length in my article on Nishikanta. He had fallen seriously ill. It was a matter of life and death. The Mother said to me: “Tell him that I want to see him on the 24th. Gathering all his strength, he must come on that occasion.”
The occasion was 24th April, 1956. In 1955 the Mother had spoken to me about the manifestation of the Supermind which, she was expecting, would take place on 24th April, 1956. But then it manifested on 29th February, 1956; and on the 24th of April of that year it was first announced. Nishikanta had written to the Mother to keep him alive till that date and the Mother had given him her word. Now there were only three more days to go and he was on his death-bed. Somehow he survived till the Darshan day. Just after the darshan was over, we brought him on a stretcher for the Mother’s darshan. The stretcher was placed at the foot of the staircase. She came down followed by Pranab and others. We raised the stretcher. Nishikanta stretched out his feeble hands. The Mother at once clutched them with both her hands and, drawing them towards herself, silently smiled into his wide open supplicating eyes. Then with her delicate fingers she smoothed his anguished brow, wiping away, as it were, all the dark karmic scripts from it. Suddenly Nishikanta, pointing to his chest, whispered haltingly, “Mother, your foot here!” The stretcher was put down. The Mother holding Pranab’s arm for support placed her right foot gently upon his chest. Nishikanta pressed it with his trembling hands. Sri Aurobindo’s mantric verse came to my mind:
Heal with her feet the aching throb of life.
In the evening when I went to see Nishikanta, there was no longer that fevered restlessness; the face and body breathed serenity. In a low voice he said, “That hell-fire within has subsided. Ah! the body has become ice-cool. Every cell is soothed with peace and peace.”
This was the miracle that happened before our eyes in 1956. Nishikanta lived on seventeen years more!
To return to my story:
In a talk about my sadhana, I told the Mother, “During meditation I feel some Force coming down to my head, but when I try to bring it further down into my heart, I cannot. What should I do? Will Mother help me?” She said, “I should not disturb the action, it will create a lot of trouble. Let it follow its own natural course.”
I have two entries in my diary of what the Mother said to Pradyot. Since they are interesting and revealing, though not relevant, I am recording them here with his consent. One entry was with regard to the severe drought in Bihar in 1966. Pradyot said to the Mother that though as a result of the rain — which had been brought about by the intervention of the Mother — green patches were visible, still some places were without any vegetation, and that there was general scarcity of drinking water.
The Mother asked, “Are there still difficulties? The rain was not sufficient?”
“It may not have been sufficient in those places but that need not have caused the difficulties,” he replied.
“No! There are two reasons for the difficulties in general. One is the people’s inertia. They need blows in order to wake up. The other is more serious; it is a sort of liking, a preference, for dramas, which invites the blows.” Apropos of the subject of inertia, she went on, “When we were working in the physical cells, Sri Aurobindo realised the difficulty of transforming the mind of the physical cells. I am not speaking of the physical mind or physical consciousness. He thought of leaving the mind of the physical cells alone. Then I saw that their refusal to change was not due to any bad will but to ignorance. The cells have a great aspiration and the progress is steady, there is no vacillation as in the mind or the vital. So Sri Aurobindo, before he left his body, entrusted to me this work and said that I alone could do it, but it takes long and I can’t give sufficient time to it. I work upon it only in the first part of the night. In the second part I go about visiting people. Otherwise they go wrong. When the work in the cells will have been finished, there won’t be any further difficulty.”
The other incident is about the special descent or manifestation that took place on the 4th of May, 1967, briefly represented as 4-5-67. Pradyot was to leave for Calcutta and he wanted to know what was the significance of these figures so that he could, if he were asked, tell people about it. When Pradyot went to see the Mother, she said:
“You came to me this morning in a dream, and asked me the meaning of 4-5-67. You can tell them:
6 New Creation
This will keep them quiet.
“I am not sure that it didn’t happen on 24th April. The meditation on that day was unique in my life. The very cells of the body were totally conscious. After the meditation, I should have sat down for a few minutes but I got up to reach the table and I nearly fell. Something was happening from the New Year’s day, very, very concrete. 24th April might have been a preparation for 4th May.”
Pradyot was seeing the Mother once a week at this time. I asked him to inform her that my heart did not seem to be functioning well. I was feeling short of breath when climbing the stairs, the result perhaps of a general weakness. On hearing the complaint she sent two special blessing packets, the gold one to be kept under my pillow during sleep and the other to be kept in my breast-pocket near the heart whenever I went out. That was easy enough, but the difficulty came when during exercises I put on the Group banian which had no pocket. So I circumvented the difficulty by getting a pocket stitched on the banian but I had to face the curious eyes of people who wanted to pry into the secret of this unusual addition!
At another time later on, I told the Mother that some uncanny adverse forces were often trying to attack me during sleep. Then too she gave me a special blessing packet to be kept under the pillow and it saved me from further incursions.
I do not recollect if I saw the Mother till 1970 except on my birthdays. For there are no notes in my diary. But in 1969 I remember that I sent a message to her through Pranab about my health. I was suffering from general weakness. The Mother sent word that I must do everything necessary to improve my health. She sanctioned some pocket-money to purchase whatever I needed for the purpose. On the first day of every month, Pranab used to bring a small envelope of different colours, different shapes, containing the sum, with my name beautifully written by the Mother on the envelope. Sometimes when I was asleep at noon, Pranab would tuck it under my pillow and go away. I have a whole lot of these: they make a fine demonstration of her calligraphy. In later times when she was not keeping well, the envelopes used to come with the name written on a piece of paper by somebody else.
In the middle of this year I felt that I needed an assistant to help me in my work. I found a young girl, who had been my student, ready to do it. I proposed her name. The Mother gave her consent readily.
On the eve of my birthday in the year 1969, I wrote a letter to the Mother saying,
“Perhaps you don’t yet know that tomorrow is my birthday.” Sudha dreamt that you were asking me what I wanted. Well, I pray for something that I will never forget in my life.
The Mother replied,
“I knew your birthday is tomorrow and put you on my list. Come at about 9 a.m. You ask for something you will never forget. What about
“trust in the Divine?”....
with love and blessings
Next morning when I went to her, she gave me a splendid folder prepared by our Master of cards — Champaklal — in which with her beautiful handwriting she wrote in French:
“Bonne Fête à Nirod, avec ma tendresse et mes bénédictions pour une confiance totale dans Ie Divin.”10
At the beginning of 1970, I wrote to her in a certain context, “Please think of me now and then.” She underlined the sentence and wrote, “That much only! Surely I do think of you more often! love and blessings.”
It was a very touching reply carrying as it were a personal contact. A couple of months later I dreamt of the Mother telling me, “I will see you at 3 p.m.” I asked her for confirmation of the dream. Was it a true one or just wishful thinking? In reply, she wrote, “Something true coated with a mental formation — I thought of seeing you, but 8 p.m. is an impossible time.” The next day, when I corrected the error about the time saying that I wrote 3 which must have looked like 8 she wrote, “3 p.m. is quite all right. And you can come tomorrow, Tuesday, at 3 p.m.” Was it only for a single occasion or did it continue every week? I cannot say. Whichever might have been the case, the Mother fell seriously ill in this year and all of us passed through a very anxious time. Here is what I noted:
1970. The Mother’s Illness
The Mother had been suffering from cough and other ailments. The symptoms took a bad turn when Vasudha left for Bombay before the August Darshan. The heart was irregular; some beats were missing, a usual feature with her whenever she fell ill. There were other complications. She had been uttering piercing cries of agony during the day and also at night. She had done that before too but this time it seemed to be more acute and far more distressing. We thought it would pass off as had happened in the past. Her condition did improve but after the Darshan a reaction set in, perhaps due to exhaustion. The situation took a serious turn. The heart was found to be the main seat of trouble and the lungs were involved as well. All of us became very anxious. On inquiry I learnt that Coramine was one of the drugs administered. Coramine had been her mainstay each time she had fallen ill. But now it seemed to be contra-indicated under such conditions and grave consequences would follow, if continued. I hesitated to accept the verdict, for doctors very often differ, and I had no direct knowledge of the case. We thought of a certain heart specialist who was supposed to be very good; But how to call him? The Mother would not like an outside doctor to come and treat her. I spoke to Champaklal; he would not advise any interference. Similar was Pranab’s attitude when I approached him. Both of them were the Mother’s attendants. I did not know what to do next. Meanwhile the Mother’s condition was none too happy. My mind kept harping on the bad effect of Coramine. My only recourse in such a predicament was to pray to the Lord and I prayed fervently, not knowing, of course, what effect the prayer would produce and particularly in what manner. At the same time I remained alert in order to seize any available opportunity for help. In this mood, I met most unexpectedly the Mother’s son Andre in front of his office. I was not yet very familiar with him. It was his birthday. Our glances met. Approaching him I wished him Bonne Fête. I asked him about the Mother’s condition, as he was one of those who had been seeing her at that time. His news was not encouraging at all. Then he asked me my opinion. I told him our objection to Coramine. He reflected and said, “Yes, I have marked that Mother doesn’t want to take this drug, she violently rejects it. But what to do?” We were in a dilemma.
In the afternoon I felt moved to go to the attending doctor. He was very cordial and, explaining the situation, said why he had been giving Coramine. He said also that he was much handicapped by the absence of other facilities such as cardiogram, blood examination, etc. In short he said that he had no objection to any other doctor being called in. Things drifted along. One day Pranab told me that the condition had slightly improved and we should keep quiet. But the improvement was illusory. Symptoms of difficulty in breathing, swallowing, etc., were now noticeable.
A few days later, when Champaklal came down at 2 a.m., he informed me that Dr. Bisht of the JIPMER hospital was to be called. I felt much relieved and happy. At night I had a strange dream. I saw that I was following a man in a white dress; I could not see his face. He strode across the corridor, climbed down the stairs, flung open the door with great violence as if in disgust and strode off. “Who is he and why in such a huff?” I wondered. Then I realised that he must have been an evil force so long responsible for the illness. Now that a specialist was coming, his game was up. I felt it to be a good sign, got up with a light heart and remained happy the whole morning. Pranab then told me, “Have you heard the news? Dr. Bisht is coming. Last night Dr. Sanyal himself suggested that, if needed, another doctor could be consulted. Then your idea came to my mind and I said Dr. Bisht could be called. Mother asked, ‘Is he a yogi?’ ‘I don’t know about that,’ I replied, ‘but he reads your books and Sri Aurobindo’s and he is a good man.’ ”
Dr. Bisht was then called. He stopped the Coramine and some other drugs. The condition began to improve and gradually the Mother was out of danger.
André told me the next day that he had informed the Mother about the effect of Coramine. Still she had taken it but it was done consciously.
The day before, perhaps, I saw during my afternoon nap a very strange animal huge in size, a hybrid of lion and tiger, drooping down as if from loss of vigour. That again meant for me the weakening of the hold of the adverse forces, I realised once more Sri Aurobindo’s remark that behind diseases, as behind everything else, there are forces that work for our weal or woe. Doctors are instruments only in creating such conditions as may help the benevolent forces to work without any hindrance.
This was the first time when an outside doctor had to be called for the Mother’s illness except that once, long ago, Dr. Amaladas, a physician of Pondicherry, was called to clarify certain impressions the Mother had about her body’s condition during an illness. In Sri Aurobindo’s lifetime it was Sri Aurobindo himself who was the Mother’s physician as I have stated in my book Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, and I had never seen her suffering from any serious ailment. I was once again reminded of Sri Aurobindo’s prophetic lines in Savitri — among the very last he had dictated before his passing:
Alone with death and close to extinction’s edge...
The Mother recovered, however, but I am afraid the disease had left some permanent damage to the system and her health was never the same.
In the month of November when she had resumed her work, I wrote her a letter expressing my intention to write my book Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo. I gave a detailed account of the contents of the book but I was not at all sure that she would give her permission. So I was exceedingly surprised when she replied, “C’est un excellent projet et mes bénédictions sont avec toi pour son accomplissement.”11
XVI. Sweetness and Light 1971-1973
The Mother’s unexpected sanction and encouragement for writing Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, spurred me to action and I began working on the book. She seemed to have pumped a Force into me at the same time so that I had to be constantly busy and active which is against the grain of my nature. My personal contact with her had stopped owing to her illness. Now I felt that it should be renewed: then I might draw some inspiration directly from the contact. My prayer was granted and I started seeing her once a week. It was not quite the same Mother as I had seen in 1967 and 1968. Physically she had become frail, but her face was ever bright and her energy as dynamic as before. Every day a host of people — sadhaks and visitors — were pouring in to have her blessings; on some days the number shot up to a hundred or more. The visitors went in a line and returned after having her darshan, but without doing pranam.
My book took a tentatively final shape by the beginning of November. I wondered whether the Mother would like at least some parts of it read out to her. But even if she wished, she had no time, so crowded was her programme. I consulted Kumud who was attending on her and used to arrange her programme. Kumud said that Andre would be leaving for France before the November Darshan. His time of seeing the Mother — between 7 and 7.30 p.m. would fall vacant. That was the only occasion she could think of, provided, of course, the Mother consented to hear me read. But Kumud wished personally that the Mother should be left completely free during this short span, since after the whole day’s work, she badly needed some rest. On the other hand, she knew that there were persons waiting eagerly to grab this time as soon as André would leave and the Mother could not refuse them. So, between the alternatives, mine would be preferable and more pleasant. In this dilemma we decided to leave the issue to the Mother herself. Just on the eve of André’s departure, I went to see her. I placed my proposal before her. She at once “fell for it”, to my utter surprise and said, “I would very much like to hear it, but when?” We were waiting with suppressed animation. Then she added herself, “Tomorrow André is leaving. We can use that time. You can start reading at 7 and stop at 7.30 when Pranab comes.” How glad we were both for her consent and for our conjecture proving successful. I was also struck by the happy coincidence of all these circumstances as if a Force had been guiding them from behind.
The next day, before 7 p.m., I was on the terrace outside her room, with a thrilled expectation and some nervousness, as I had rarely felt before. To be so close to her and be able to read something of my own composition seemed, a dream come true. Of course, when I was attending on Sri Aurobindo, I used to read out to him and the Mother people’s writings, but there was Sri Aurobindo too and that made a big difference. I was called in: the Mother was seated in her chair, looking very fresh, a picture of sweetness and light. I did my pranam. She smiled very affably. “Maharaj” Champaklal gave me a low stool to sit on her right side while he sat on the floor in front of us. Kumud was silently busy with her work. The white glow, hushed silence, the shadowy branches of the Service tree outside waving against the window panes created an appropriate mystic ambience. As I started reading, the Mother closed her eyes to hear every word of it, as it were. At 7.30 I stopped and told her that it was time. She opened her eyes. As I was doing pranam before leaving, she caressed and patted my head, looked into my eyes steadily and then said with a gracious smile, “A domain” (Tomorrow). My heart leaped in joy: I had passed with distinction, if not with honours! I leave my readers to imagine my feeling — 1 had heaven in my very hand — to use a Bengali expression.
In this manner the reading continued from day to day and she listened with an unflagging interest till the end. Once she had even said to me, “I wait eagerly for you.” What a soul-stirring compliment, and that too from the Mother! One day the reading had crossed the time-limit; still I could not stop since she seemed to be so intent on listening. Pranab arrived and waited, perhaps with a certain displeasure, for 7.30 had been fixed for her dinner at the doctor’s bidding. We knew that the Mother had very often to be irregular for her meals. So, Pranab saw to it that the rule was observed and he would not tolerate any breach on that score. Somewhat guiltily and in a hurry, I came away. But it was a sign that the Mother was gripped. I had thus won the first round. The reading went on apace; even the Darshan day evening (24th November, 1971) was not spared. I did not go for the March Past. It seems I read in such a loud and sonorous voice that people used to gather below in the courtyard to hear and that they could catch almost every word. Somebody said to me, “What you are reading is extremely interesting. Why don’t you read it to us in the Playground?” The suggestion appealed to me for spiritual, as well as practical reasons; the practical one being that it would mean a good sale of the book. I put the proposal before the Mother. “Oh, you want to read in the Playground? Very good. But read every word slowly and distinctly.” Then she added with a sweet smile, “Don’t be in a hurry.” From her remark, I conjectured that perhaps I was not reading to her in the manner she had suggested. Much later she herself pointed it out to me.
The reading in the Playground was a great success. The packed audience listened, as it were, to a tale of supernatural mystery, in breathless wonder.
So far the Mother had been a silent admirer, if I may use the word. But as I was approaching the chapter on the Mother, I could not but feel uneasy and even abashed, for it was the poorest chapter in quality and quantity, almost like a farce or an anti-climax. I could not find sufficient material to write about her during that specific period of contact with Sri Aurobindo except what I had narrated in the previous chapters. When I spoke frankly about my embarrassment to her, “Maharaj”, who was always seated in front of us listening or at times dozing, leaped up immediately and said, “Why don’t you ask Mother to give you inspiration?” I was hesitating. He pressed, “Ask, ask!” Then I did and she simply smiled. But what happened was nothing short of a miracle. From the next day, ideas began to flow in at a tremendous speed, as if a sluice-gate had been opened. The result was that it became one of the longest chapters of the book. Strangely enough, all the facts had been there but a veil seemed to have fallen upon them and covered them from my sight; the veil removed, all the hidden subliminal treasures were revealed at a glance. Here was a very tangible instance of the effect of the force of Inspiration. Of course I had the proof when I was writing poetry, but this was almost an immediate physical evidence. It was in the course of this chapter that I had spoken of her occult way of working with regard to our game of tennis with her. When she heard the part concerning myself, she observed, “I admire your understanding.”
This was the first personal remark she had uttered since I commenced reading the book.
My reading went on in a happy canter; the pace was a bit too fast, a chapter was finished in about two days. Now a selfish fear caught hold of me. I thought if I proceeded at this speed, the book would be run out in a fortnight, after which my chance of going up would cease. I tried to slow down my tempo; even so, the terminus was not far off. I told of my concern to X. She used to see the Mother and had a close relation with her and was sympathetic to me. She came forward with a bright suggestion: “Why don’t you read your Correspondence to her? It is such a wonderful book! I don’t think she has read it. Sri Aurobindo could not have read out all the letters.” This idea had never come to my head; woman’s brilliant intuition, indeed! But I hesitated to act upon it, for I thought the book was now pretty old; it had parts on literature in which the Mother would hardly find interest. Above all, the tone of the letters was so full of “jocund grace”, that the Mother might disapprove. All these points apart, I could not pluck up courage to make this proposal to her. Then S gallantly said, “I will!” And she did, persuading her that she must hear the correspondence, so sparkling it was. The Mother agreed and herself proposed the plan to me. I was overjoyed to see my lease extended.
The reading of my book was finished sometime in December, I believe. She had kept a sustained interest throughout with eyes closed in rapt attention. Near about 7.30 p.m. I would signal to “Maharaj” that we should wind up. He would say, “Call out to her,” and I would shout, “7.30, Mother!” which would bring her down to our world of reality. Then she would open her eyes and “give a broad smile”, as “Maharaj” used to say. He himself would then get up, remove the table-lamp and leave me room for pranam, after which I would make my reluctant exit from the ethereal Presence.
This is the story of Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo. She hardly made any verbal comment on the book at the time but, later on, accorded an unexpectedly magnificent tribute to it. When objections were raised against certain passages, for instance, the Mother’s kissing Sri Aurobindo’s hand or combing his hair, she said, “I find nothing objectionable.” I was pacified.
Simultaneously with the reading, revisions, changes and corrections were proceeding, specially about the style, for as I have said, the book was completed in a rather rough form before I wanted the Mother to hear it, for reasons stated above. I cannot but mention Amal and Clair, his friend, offering their happy cooperation in revising the book and giving it a stylistic perfection. When after passing through many versions, it was almost ready to come out, I prayed to the Mother with hesitation, if she would write something. She at once asked Champaklal to give her a piece of paper. He rushed for the paper and her favourite felt pen. Then she wrote,
“Grâce à Nirod
nous avons la révélation
de tout un côté
inconnu de ce qu’ était
Then she added in English:
“It is extremely interesting and very instructive.”
As she could not see very well while writing, the lines would not keep straight. “Maharaj”, Kumud and myself were watching her hand. Whenever she showed a tendency to break the line or the margin, “Maharaj” corrected her and guided her hand saying, “Mother, here, here! Now it is all right,” and so on. Like a child she obeyed the directions. One could see from the copy how the lines had wavered and become unsteady. When she had finished, she asked, “All right?” We replied, “Yes, Mother.” I wish I had been more expressive, for she wanted and cherished the heart’s sincere eloquence. What she had written was beyond my wildest imagination. I felt so grateful to Her and Him for having inspired me all through and enabled me to finish the work just in time for Sri Aurobindo’s Birth Centenary. My worshipful gratitude to them had behind it the feeling of the endless trouble they had taken to fashion my raw material into a writer and to mould it into a spiritual stability full of trust in their Grace. Talking about gratitude reminds me of a significant dream I had some years ago. One evening I was in a reminiscent mood asking myself why Sri Aurobindo had showered on me so much kindness of which I was not in the least worthy. I regretted that I could not make any return, even in a small degree, for his unaccountable magnanimity.
At about 2.45 a.m. as I had sat to meditate, I heard a voice speaking in Bengali. Rendered into English, it would mean: Man can only express his gratitude, he can do nothing more.
This seemed to be in answer to my evening musing.
When the book came out, she received the news with her usual candid smile and blessed it with her touch and glance. Now I made two audacious prayers. I requested her, in the first place, to give her signature on a few copies which I could present to the friends who had been of inestimable help, and, in the second place, to receive three of them particularly and give them each a copy with her own hand; the three being Amal, Clair, and Sudha, my assistant. She granted both the prayers and asked me to bring them along with me one evening. When Amal heard about the proposal, he jumped up with joy and said, “Nothing can be better!” So they came and received her much-coveted signature and her personal touch which were so rare in those days. Thus is completed the story of the book — Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, a God-given gift.
Then started the reading of Correspondence. It would take a longer time, I thought, since it was a bigger book than Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo. But would she find it equally interesting? I wondered. Still I observed that she was showing a keen interest. When we had advanced a bit and touched upon the topic of Karma Yoga which has truly some of the finest letters, the Mother asked:
“When are these letters appearing in the Bulletin?”, (The Correspondence was being translated into French and published there at that time.)
“It will take time, Mother,” I answered.
“Oh, if I had them by my side, I could ask people to read them. Sri Aurobindo has answered all the problems in your letters. C’est merveilleux.”
“We can give you copies, Mother.”
“Then it is all right.”
This was on January 2nd, 1972. Three days later I told her,
“Mother, I had a dream this morning. You were telling me that Sri Aurobindo had given me everything; you have nothing to give.”
“It is true,” she replied.
“But I want a lot of things from you,” I rejoined. She smiled, caught hold of my hand and added, “I mean from the point of view of Yoga, he has said everything. It is marvellous, it is marvellous.”
She stroked gently my hand, looked into my eyes for a while, then closed her eyes and blessed me.
Our reading continued till the middle of May. I had skipped the parts on literature, poetry, style, etc., the main subjects being yoga and medicine. There was no further comment from her side. She enjoyed Sri Aurobindo’s humour a great deal, smiled and laughed quite often, to my surprise. For, I used to labour under a fear during my correspondence with Sri Aurobindo lest she should frown upon my levity and I should face her “rolling eyes” at Pranam. It was quite the reverse here that I found. When someone had remarked to Sri Aurobindo that the Mother lacked humour he replied that her humour was very subtle. Once during my twelve years with Sri Aurobindo, the Mother on entering his room had a vision of two children playing and gambolling with each other on his bed. The children were supposed to be Sri Aurobindo and myself. I believe it referred to our sallies and repartees of the Correspondence-period.
Here is what she said to S:
Nirod is reading out to me his correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, and it contains all the things (it’s amusing), the things I said long, long afterwards, and I didn’t know that he had written them! — exactly the same thing. I was very much interested.
In this correspondence, he told Nirod in a letter13 (he said it several times): “I may take a fancy to leave my body before the supramental realisation...” He said that a few years before he died. He had felt it.
But he spoke of a transformation that would come before the advent of the first supramental being.14 And that was what he told me. He told me that his body was not capable of bearing this transformation, that mine was more capable — he repeated it.
But it is difficult, I told you so the other day.
Food, especially, is... it has become a labour.
19 January 1972
Have you read the whole “Correspondence with Nirod”?
I am translating it as I go along, so I haven’t read the whole thing.
There are extraordinary things in there. He seems to be joking all the time but... it’s extraordinary.
You see, I lived — how many years? Thirty years, I think, with Sri Aurobindo — thirty years from 1920 to 1950. I thought I knew him well, and then when I hear this, I realise that... (Mother makes a gesture as if to indicate a breaking of bounds.)
16 February 1972
According to what Nirod is reading out to me now of his correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, it seems to have been the same thing for Sri Aurobindo. Because, according to what he wrote (you will see when you read it), I am always the doer. He says: “Mother says, Mother does, Mother...” You see, as far as the organisation of the Ashram is concerned (relations with people and all that), it would seem that, quite naturally, all the time, it is all done through me.
And you know, from the point of view of humour, I have never read anything more wonderful, oh!... He had a way of looking at things... it’s incredible. Incredible. But it seems that for him, the outside world was something... absurd, you know.
Oh! it’s very strange. It’s very strange. Since my childhood all my effort has been to (how can I put it?) achieve a total indifference — neither annoying nor pleasant. Since my childhood, I remember a consciousness which tried... That was what Sri Aurobindo meant — an indifference. Oh! it’s strange. Now I realise why he said that I was the one who could attempt to effect the transition between the human and the supramental consciousness. He said so. He told me, and he says it, it is recorded in Nirod’s thing. And I understand why...
Ah! I understand.
Yes, I understand.
26 April 1972
I am hearing — through Nirod — things that Sri Aurobindo said, and he himself says that he contradicted himself a considerable number of times... (...) and that, of course, the two or three different ways are true.15 So we can be as... as wide as he!
In tact his understanding was very flexible — very flexible. While listening to the things he said, I felt that I had understood very little of what he meant. And now that I am more and more in touch with the supramental Consciousness, I can see that it is extremely flexible — flexible and complex — and that it is our narrow human consciousness that sees things... (Mother draws little squares in the air) fixed and definite.
And I can see that when one goes above the mind, it becomes... it is like waves on the sea.
14 February 1973
Now the question of reading the “Talks” was considered. She accepted the proposal, but since André had arrived and he had many private communications for the Mother, she proposed that I should read on alternate days, and if I had no objection André could join us and listen. This was the arrangement. When André heard about it, he graciously proposed to the Mother that I could come on his day as well, just do pranam and leave. Therefore my chance of seeing her every day continued. I was naturally very gratified and thanked André in my heart for this benevolent gesture. On my day of reading, André was given a stool with a cushion to sit on in front of the Mother, while I used to sit close to her on her right side so that she might hear me properly. She used to enquire if André was comfortably seated and could hear well. Now and then he used to bring Manoj and Sumitra with him, the former being in charge of the Copyright section and the latter his secretary. When I had finished reading the first Talk which ends with one of us stating that the Mother’s Prayers and Meditations contains many things identical with Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and Yoga, she asked, “What did he say?” “He simply heard it, Mother,” I answered.
The following day, I told the Mother that I had seen her in my dream at night, applying something on my head. She asked with a smile, “What’s the result?”
“I don’t know, Mother.”
“You will know within a few days.”
I am afraid, I did not — too obtuse perhaps!
The name of X had figured very often in the “Talks”. The Mother had so far listened to it quietly without making any comments. But when the next time I read, “X says...” she burst out, “Why do you read about him? You have been doing it for so many days. I am not interested in him. Why do you give him so much importance? Don’t you know how nasty he has become and what he is doing? We have sent to the Press a statement that we have no connection with him.”
This person had left the Ashram disregarding the Mother’s advice not to go and had spread the false news outside that she had permitted him. He was taking part in politics as a self-styled mouthpiece of Sri Aurobindo, though Sri Aurobindo had forbidden all his disciples to join politics. The Mother could not stand such insincerity and falsehood.
Another day, apropos of my reading a Talk on Jules Remain, a famous French writer, the Mother asked, “Those letters of Sri Aurobindo you once read out — were they on Jules Remain?”
“Yes, Mother,” I answered.
“He who could see and hear without the use of eyes and ears? Not Remain Rolland?”
“No, Mother; it is Jules Remain.”
“I am asking because Romain might mean Romain Rolland.”
“Yes, but it is Jules Romain all right, doctor and literary man; and it was not from Sri Aurobindo’s letters I was reading but from the talks we had had with him.”
The Mother, to be fully sure, wrote also the name on a piece of paper and showed it to me. “Then it is all right,” she said. “When my brother was the Governor of the Sudan,” she added, “he met Jules Romain and asked him to come here. But he never came.”
“You like his books very much, it seems?”
“Yes, I had a whole collection of his works. I don’t know where they are now. Have you read them?”
“Yes, Mother, I have read some. They are fine; some are about occult things.”
When the Mother was taking a French class in the Playground with a selected few of us, she read out a drama called Dictateur by Jules Romain. The reading was superb. I think a picture was taken of her while reading it.
A disciple had sent through me a letter to the Mother saying that she had a strong double attraction, one for Sri Krishna and the other for the Mother. She could not leave either. What should she do?
The Mother answered, “Why double attraction? There is no opposition. When I used to walk in the verandah of Sri Aurobindo’s first house [the Guest House], Krishna used to walk with me. Sri Aurobindo would see us from his room, but nobody else could.”
Months rolled on; we reached September. Andre was to leave for France and he had still many problems to discuss with the Mother. So she said to me one evening, “Andre will be going back. He will read his documents now every day till his departure, after which you will read your book every day. Is it all right?”
“Quite all right, Mother,” I replied.
“But you can come every day as usual,” she added and patted me,
Throughout the long period of my reading, André used to listen quietly without making any remark. Occasionally he would appreciate something with a smile, or the Mother would draw his attention to certain points Sri Aurobindo had made. The relation between the Mother and son was a subject of immense interest for me to observe. I remembered how she used to talk of André to Sri Aurobindo and, when he was to arrive for the first time, after a separation of over thirty years, how anxious she was to meet him, almost like a human mother. I was thus given an opportunity to see the Divine’s love expressed in the human way. It was simple, unostentatious and yet very sweet. Every day she would enquire about his health, if he was seated comfortably, etc. He, in his turn, would take hold of her hand and kiss it. That was all the expression I saw, so quiet yet so profound! I wonder how Buddha and his child greeted each other when they first met.
One thing I noticed about André’s reading was that the Mother could follow his natural intonation quite easily, while I had to shout at the top of my voice. I found two reasons for it. He sat at a right angle to the Mother on her right side so that the sound could enter straight into her ear, but in my case our faces being turned in the same direction, my voice could reach her sideways. Another reason was that he was reading or speaking mostly in French. Also, possibly his pronunciation was more clear and he had struck upon the exact pitch needed. Apart from all this there was a closer rapport, perhaps.
One incident is worth recording as an illustration of the Divine’s way of action. Arabinda Basu (alias Arindam) had gone to Delhi as the Director of an international Seminar on Sri Aurobindo and Human Unity. It was being sponsored by the National Committee for Sri Aurobindo’s Birth Centenary which was set up by the Government of India with the then President as its President and the then Prime Minister as its Chairman. Arabinda in his capacity as the Director was in charge of organising the Seminar in all its aspects. He prayed to the Mother, through me, for a message to be read at the inauguration of the Seminar. The Mother told me that she would not give a message but would give her blessings. She said she would write out “Blessings” on a card which could be sent to Arabinda. On being informed of this by me, Arabinda wrote back that he accepted the Mother’s decision and was looking forward to receiving the card. The Seminar was to be held from December 5th to 9th, 1972. Arabinda rather unexpectedly came to the Ashram for the Darshan on 24th November. And almost as soon as he arrived he wrote to the Mother repeating his prayer for a message on the following grounds: first, the Seminar was the last function in connection with the Centenary; secondly, 60 delegates were coming from 26 countries of 4 continents; lastly, the Prime Minister who had not attended any of the functions had agreed to come to the inaugural session. I had to take the letter up to the Mother though I reasoned with him that perhaps he should not insist on having a message. He said he was not insisting on it, that he had accepted the Mother’s decision but on reaching the Ashram he felt very strongly that the Seminar should start with a message from the Mother. When I took the letter up to the Mother one or two people present there remarked that she should not be asked to give a message since she had already refused to do so. I, however, felt it my duty to read Arabinda’s submission to the Mother. What followed was quite unexpected.
The Mother kept quiet for a short while, then began to concentrate. I do not know how Champaklal read the situation but he kept paper and a pen ready at hand. The Mother was in a trance. When she came to, she started writing on the paper. After a moment she stopped and closed her eyes again. She seemed to be somewhat hesitant. But it later transpired that the message was first coming in French though she meant to give it in English. Anyway she began to write and penned the word “hommage”. André and I looked at each other but did not say anything. The Mother, however, caught the vibration immediately and asked, “What is the matter?” We both said that it was nothing. But she asked again and I pointed out that “homage” in English is written with one m. When she asked what she should do, André suggested that she could strike out one m. She simply replied, “No, it has to be done perfectly. I will write it tomorrow.” She did it the next day.
The message was: “The best homage we can pay to Sri Aurobindo is to prepare for the advent of the Supramental race.”
Champaklal told me later that as soon as the Mother started concentrating, he felt that she would write a message and that is why he kept the paper and pen handy; he also added that he knew that the Mother did not refuse Arindam anything.
I was very happy indeed to receive the message, but I did not express it in words. “What? You don’t like it?” She asked in a rather sharp tone. “It is splendid, Mother,” I replied quite startled. “Then why don’t you say so? It is as if you didn’t like it!”
I smiled. That is the Mother and that is myself. She wanted just and full expression whereas, like myself, I acted reticently. Mine was not a vocal appreciation. Her nature always invited forwardness; we should come forward and not wait to be called. Once, I remember, we had assembled for Pranam. Someone had offered a big spray of the flower “Disinterested Work” having many small twigs. The Mother came, saw the branch and was very pleased. Then looking at all of us, she asked, “Who wants it?” Nobody stirred. A little piqued, she said, “Oh, nobody wants it? Very well!” Then one of us rushed to her and said, “Mother, I want.” Others followed.
The first item on the programme of the inaugural meeting of the Seminar was the reading out of the message by Arabinda who later told me that it had given a flying start to the proceedings and that the distinguished audience had heard it with rapt attention in the atmosphere at once calm and powerful which it had created.
Another message of the Mother on Sri Aurobindo gave rise to a question which she herself answered. It was given for a collection of original essays by several writers on Sri Aurobindo, which Arabinda edited.16 It was published by the Sri Aurobindo Research Institute of which the Mother was the President and he was the Director. The message was:
“Sri Aurobindo is an emanation of the Supreme who came on earth to announce the manifestation of a new race and a new world: the Supramental.
Let us prepare for it in sincerity and eagerness.”
A sadhak asked Arabinda about the phrase “an emanation of the Lord”, “Was not Sri Aurobindo the Lord himself?” Arabinda referred the sadhak to me and I took his question to the Mother. She replied, “There is no essential difference, but the Lord is all and Sri Aurobindo is a part but conscious of the Supreme of whom he is an emanation.”
“Then, is he not all?” I queried.
“Voyons,” she replied, a bit testily, “the Lord is everywhere. Is Sri Aurobindo everywhere? He has a body by which he is confined to a place, but his consciousness is everywhere.”17
I am reminded of my own question to Sri Aurobindo in a somewhat different context. I had asked him what the difference was between the embodied Mother and her emanations. Was an emanation of hers a deputy of the Mother? He answered, “The Emanation is not a deputy, but the Mother herself. She is not bound to her body, but can put herself out (emanate) in any way she likes...”
This clarifies, in its own way, the identity of consciousness between the Supreme Lord and his emanation.
After André had left for Paris, I fell ill in the beginning of November, the first illness that made me take to bed for about two weeks. What a misfortune! I thought. I had to lose the Beatific Vision and the nectar-touch of the Mother. “Maharaj” used to come and visit me every day bringing a flower from the Mother. He would not enter the room for fear of carrying the infection to her, but pop his head in from the door and bawl out, “How are you, Doctor?” and leaving a sunshine-smile in my dark room he would go .back and report to the Mother. One day he said that my birthday was approaching and that I must be up on my feet and present myself before the Mother. Well, his wish was fulfilled. I became quite well even before the date. She gave me a warm reception and we resumed our reading.
In the course of it I read out to her an account by X of the early Ashram-days. It had come out in a journal. Since it seemed a very good picture, I thought of reading it to her. The article was about the Mother’s dealing with the said person. The account conveyed the impression that she was very strict with him, stern like a school-teacher, ready to use the cane or rod for any slight infringement of his duty or any little false step,— no doubt, for the good of the person. We know that the Mother bestowed a great deal of personal attention on him. When I had finished reading, she remarked, “Je suis étonnée que j’ étais comme Ça; tout Ça est si loin!”18 Then I asked her if the report was not correct. She simply made a gesture with her hands to imply, “I don’t know.” After a while she added, “Now I am another person.”
“Yes, Mother,” I affirmed with emphasis. I am afraid our impression, at least mine, was something near to what the article had depicted of the early days, and when I had audaciously written to Sri Aurobindo about her seeming sternness, I came in for a good dose of chastisement. For instance I wrote:
“I felt that the Mother was serious with me at Pranam, because perhaps she did not like my complaining about some sadhaks in the way I did.” Sri Aurobindo’s reply was: “Rubbish! Mother did not think anything about it at all. Why the hell or heaven or why on earth or why the unearthly should she be displeased? You all seem to think of the Mother as living in a sort of daylong and nightlong simmering cauldron of displeasure about nothing and anything and everything under the sun. Lord! what a queer idea!”
Now all that had changed. Probably the change was brought about by the invasion of the children or by Sri Aurobindo’s withdrawal. That is what she meant perhaps when she said, “Now I am another person.”
The next day I went with another instalment of the same account and was on the point of reading it, when “Maharaj” asked Kumud to tell me what the Mother had said regarding the previous article. Kumud said, “Mother doesn’t like it. It must not be published.” “But it has been published!” I replied. “What shall I do now?” As I had not taken anything else for reading, the Mother said, . “Meditate then.” We meditated for about ten minutes. It was a new experience indeed. We meditated on later occasions also when there was nothing to read. Sometimes she would go into a deep trance and the time-limit would be crossed. She had to be gently called, “Mother, it is time.” This also failing, “Maharaj” would say, “Touch her.” I would gently touch her and then she would open her eyes.
After a few days “Maharaj” gave me a copy of Madhav’s “Bulletin”19 dated 1.2.73 to read to the Mother. He had found it to be very well written. At some place she was not able to follow my reading. I therefore started explaining. “No, no! it is not that,” she said with force, “I want to know the word; I don’t want an explanation. I can’t hear properly. You must read slowly and clearly. You don’t need to read loudly but read lentement et clairement.” The word she failed to catch was “grip”. I repeated it twice; still, she failed. Then I caught hold of her hand and said, “This, Mother.” It was a bold demonstration on my part, a la “Maharaj”. “Oh, grip, grip!” she exclaimed.
“Yes, Mother,” I said, smiling.
Then she, on her part, took hold of my hand, by way of a second demonstration perhaps, pressed it and asked, “Is it strong?”
“Yes, Mother, very strong!” I replied enthusiastically.
At this moment Pranab arrived and it was our signal to go. I had to stop reading. She found the piece very interesting and wanted to hear more of it. But as I had pronounced that the time was up, she exclaimed, “C’esf dommage.” (It is a pity.) I added, “Champaklal says, I have taken five minutes more.”
“Cela ne fait nen!” (It doesn’t matter!) she replied defiantly.
I quote here the passage she found interesting:
“A couple of friends from the United States have just arrived. They were last here some 2-3 years before. They had the surprise of their lives when they met the Mother last week. ‘My!’ one of them said, ‘Mother is much better in health than two years ago. She is younger, brighter and stronger.’ ‘This time I knew what a beautiful smile is,’ said the other. ‘Yes, indeed. She is beautiful. Her blue captivating eyes are bright as the sun; her rosy complexion has acquired a fresh tone. Her grip is as strong as that of a 20-year old.’ ”
Here is the word “grip” mentioned in the talk above.
I cite now from the same “Bulletin” those portions of the article “After Mother, what?” on which the Mother made comments. The article is, by the way, very relevant today. Madhav writes, “...We are convinced that the Ashram has come into being, because it has a part to play in the Divine Scheme for humanity. It is not running on the lines of any public institution..,. As long as it has a role to play, the Divine will see to its continuance. If a time comes when its role is over, there is no reason why it should continue. It is the Divine’s look-out. We have plunged ourselves in the Divine Service and have no care. This is the simple truth...”
Against the last sentence, the Mother remarked, “This is good.” Madhav continues:
“Way back in 1951, when the Mother first announced the idea to build up a Centre of Education as the best memorial to the ideal of Sri Aurobindo, she observed to a group of devotees who had gathered to know about the project, that it would take some thirty years for the centre to take full shape.
“ ‘Would you be there with us then?’ was the impertinent question asked by one who used to look upon himself as the indispensable pillar of the Ashram. I will not say what the Mother replied. But know it that within a few years he himself passed away with a heart-attack.”
The Mother then asked me, “Do you know my reply?”
I had already heard about it but I asked her, “Will you tell us, Mother?”
“No!” she answered. “But who was he?” she asked, because she used to forget many things, specially names of people. I told the name and asked, “Can your reply be inserted?” “No!” she protested. Now I can disclose the reply. She had said, “You will pass away long before me.”
Lastly, Madhav writes:
“We know that if the Mother were to exert her personal will, things could be entirely different with her body and all around her. But she has chosen not to exercise her will. She has left everything to the Will of the Supreme Lord.
“ ‘Am I right, Mother?’ I asked the Mother this morning as I was speaking to her on the subject.
“ ‘Yes, you are right. I do not even ask to stay,’ she replied.”
“She confirmed her answer by saying to me also, ‘Quite right, quite right.’ ”
Here ends the episode of Madhav’s “Bulletin”.
“Maharaj” made me read out to the Mother a booklet called “What a sadhak must always remember” and a letter. The booklet was published in 1951. Both of them were letters written by Sri Aurobindo. The first letter has the date 1928. The second letter has been entitled by the Mother “Conditions to live in the Ashram and to become a disciple.” She gave me a few copies to distribute to my friends.
About the booklet “Maharaj” said that he found it very interesting and very appropriate for the prevailing situation in the Ashram. Therefore he asked me to read it to the Mother. She also found it excellent and said that people should read it every day. I think it formed part of a general distribution by the Prosperity.
Somewhere by the middle of February T and K started coming to the Mother with a view to discuss various important matters regarding the School organisation. The Mother said to me, “They will come on alternate days. You can also remain at that time.” On my days I read the “Talks” or any writing by others that was likely to be interesting to her. It was her act of grace to allow me to be present and listen to the others’ conversation, for I had no part in it at all. I would sit quietly near the Mother’s feet, observe, hear them and watch the Mother’s movements. I need not mention here all the topics they discussed except that when K started reading some selections he had made from Sri Aurobindo in order to compile a book meant for the young, the Mother was very interested to hear whatever related to the Supermind. She appreciated the selections a great deal and asked where they were going to appear. Her intention was that the youth of today should have a good grasp of Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the future. She said further that at Auroville there were some people who believed that they were on the way to manifest the Supermind and when they were told that it could not be, they would not believe. They should be made to read this book. It should be read by everybody.
This remark was made apropos of the citation K read about the Supermind: “The Supermind is in its very essence a true consciousness... a march to Light, to Ananda.”
The Mother said, “It is very, very, very important. All the people who pretend to manifest the Supramental will be quietened down.”
One evening T and K brought a few young teachers of the School with them. They were to introduce a new system of education in the School. They had been here from their childhood and were close to the Mother. A very practical question was posed by T which led to a long elevating talk by the Mother. There was such a fine homey atmosphere and it was so sweet to hear her at length after months, even years. The question was: “What is the best way to prepare ourselves so that we may be able to put in place the new structures?”
The Mother replied: “Naturally you have to enlarge and enlighten your consciousness. But how to do it? If each one of you could find your psychic being and unite with it, all the problems would be solved. The psychic is the representative of the Divine in the human being, isn’t it? The Divine is not something far off and inaccessible. The Divine is in you, but you are not altogether conscious of it. It acts now as an influence rather than as a Presence. It has to be a conscious Presence so that at all moments you can ask yourself how the Divine sees, and then how the Divine wills and how the Divine acts. And it does not mean going off into some inaccessible regions, it is here itself. Only at present all the old habits and the general consciousness put a cover which makes us unable to see and feel. This has to be removed. In fact, you have to be conscious instruments of the Divine. Usually it takes a whole life, at times for some people many lives. Here, in the present conditions, you can do it in a few months... those who have an ardent aspiration can do it...”
After a long silence, she asked, “Have you felt anything? Be quite sincere; say if you have felt anything or if it has made any difference to you. No answer?” The Mother asked each one in turn and each told his or her reaction. Then K asked, “Was there a special descent, Mother?”
The Mother: There is no descent... it is again a wrong idea. It is something that i§ always there, but which you don’t feel. There is no descent.... Do you know what is the fourth dimension?
K: It has been spoken of.
Mother: Have you experienced it?
K: No, Mother.
Mother: Ah! but this indeed is the best approach of modern science. The Divine for us is the fourth dimension.... It is everywhere, everywhere all the time. It doesn’t come and go, it is always there. It is we, who, with our imbecility, prevent ourselves from feeling it. There is no need for it to go away, not at all, not at all.
To be able to become conscious of your psychic being, you have to be capable once of feeling the fourth dimension. Otherwise you won’t be able to know what it is.
(After a silence) My God! It is 60 years since I knew what the fourth dimension is.... Indispensable! indispensable! life starts with it. Otherwise we are in falsehood, in a jumble, in disorder, in obscurity. The mind! mind! Otherwise to be aware of your own consciousness, you have to mentalise it. It is horrible, horrible!
T: Mother, the new life is not a continuation of the old, is it? It is a gushing out from within.
Mother: Yes, yes!
T: There is no common point between....
Mother: There is, but you are not conscious of it. But you have to be. It is the mind which prevents you from feeling it. You mentalise everything. What you call consciousness is the thought of things; it is not at all consciousness. Consciousness should be able to be lucid and without words. Altogether luminous, warm and strong and the true peace that is neither inertia nor immobility.
T: Mother, can this be given as an objective to all the children?
Mother: All, no! They are not of the same age, even when physically they are. There are children who are primary. If you were fully conscious of your psychic being, you would have known the children who have a developed psychic being.... There are children whose psychic being is only an embryo. The age of the psychic is not the same. Usually the psychic takes several lives to form completely, and it is that which goes from one body to another. That is why we are not aware of our past lives. But at times there is a moment when the psychic being participates in an event, it becomes conscious and it remembers. We have sometimes a partial recollection of a circumstance or of an event, of a thought, even of an action, because the psychic was conscious.
Now I am nearing a hundred, only five years more. I began the effort for becoming conscious at the age of five, my child, and I continue and it continues. Only recently I have taken up the work on the cells of the body, but it is a long time since the general work began.
It is not for discouraging you, but only to tell you that it is not done in this way.
The body is still matter which is very heavy and it is matter itself that must change so that the Supramental can manifest.
There were many other talks on different subjects concerning mainly the School. My reading continued on alternate days. When we used to read or talk the Mother would listen with her eyes closed. She would speak too in that way. Only when we were leaving, she would open them. We would then do pranam and receive her blessings. She could not make out distinctly the different persons. One day, as we bowed down one by one, she asked the name of each one with her eyes closed. After K, came T’s turn. When the Mother took hold of his hand, K said, “It is T.” “Oh, I know,” the Mother replied, “It is the hand of a European. I know the difference by the manner of holding.” When another person came, she uttered, “It is the hand of an Indian.”
As I was leaving last, after the others had left, she suddenly asked me, “Why didn’t you bow down?” I was so taken aback by her abrupt question that I did not know what to answer. I simply mumbled, “Mother, it is to spare you the trouble.” “Trouble?” she rejoined, “What a funny idea! Is it trouble for me to put my hand on your head?”
“Mother,” I replied quickly and apologetically, “sometimes, you are pressed for time; all of us are in a hurry to go lest you become late for your dinner. That is the reason.” This explanation appeased her. Shaking her head she now said, “Then it is all right.”
I was so moved by her sweet query and the intimate tone in which she had expressed her love and solicitude for me that I felt as if a veil had been lifted from my heart. These sudden touches were like stars gleaming out on a cloud-laden night.
The next day it was my turn to read, so I was alone. As soon as I had sat down, the Mother said, “I want to complete yesterday’s topic. The Indians believe or have the experience that the Divine lives in the human being. The Europeans don’t believe it. For them, he is somewhere above. He has incarnated only in Jesus Christ. So they don’t bow down to any human person. But if one bows down to a person who has embodied the Divine Consciousness — of course with faith — then that person can more easily transmit his consciousness or experience to the other.”
The day after the next, I read this statement out to her and asked her if I had reported correctly. She replied, “Yes, it is correct.”
The next time, I started reading a talk on Y and wanted to know if she would approve of its publication. She asked, “Is he alive?” “No, Mother; he is dead,” was my reply. “Then it is all right,” she said.
Two or three days later, the Mother explained in French to T, a Frenchman, the significance of the pranam, when he was receiving her blessings before our departure. He did not usually do pranam; he would hold her hand only. Rendered into free English the significance would be explained somewhat as follows:
“This experience, when one has it in all sincerity, is the consecration to the Divine... in the entire creation. And this is the origin of the gesture... it is like a recognition... a surrender to Him in the creation.
“This is the true meaning. Naturally, there is not one in a thousand who does it in this way,... but it is the true meaning of this gesture.”
What a deep meaning she revealed in the pranam, something truly wonderful! The French is like this:
Cette expérience-là, quand. on la fait en toute sincérité , c’est la consécration au Divin... dans toute la création. Ça, c’est l’origine de la chose... comme une reconnaissance — recognition en anglais-une reconnaissance... et une soumission au Divin dans la création.
Ça, c’est Ie vrai sens... naturellement... il n’y en a pas un sur un millier qui’le fait... mais c’est Ie vrai sens de ce geste.
When, after T and K had left, my turn came for pranam, the Mother placed her hand gently on my head and began to utter something very softly and musically. I could not catch it at first, then made it out. It was “Om namo bhagavaté .”
It was a delightfully soothing experience, indeed. “Maharaj” also heard and asked me smiling, “Did you hear it?”
“Yes, I did.”
“What was it?” he asked. He wanted always to verify.
“Om namo bhagavaté.”
The Mother had explained in one of our previous talks what this mantra meant for her. She had said, “These three words, for me they mean:
Om — I implore the Supreme Lord
namo — pranam (obéissance) to him
bhagavaté — make me ‘divine’.
This is the translation... it has, for me, the power to make everything calm.”20
XVII. The Last Ray
Our meeting with the Mother proceeded in this manner, T and K together, and myself alone, reading our respective matters on alternate days. She had no further comments to make on my Talks. Probably at the end of March 1973, she fell ill and all our meetings stopped. When she had recovered, some interviews were gradually resumed. I think it was at this time I had my last darshan. As usual, I was waiting outside for my turn though I was almost certain that I would not be called since she had just come out of her illness. Still I had to go and wait, for none could predict the Mother’s ways. And this was precisely what happened. I was called in. She was lying stretched on her couch with just a thin cover on her body. She looked very emaciated. Her face was pale and she seemed to be breathing with difficulty. When I approached her with faltering steps, she cast a glance at me, and as I bowed down within the reach other hand, she blessed me. Then I took leave of her — for good in this earthly existence. Soon all interviews were stopped except Andre’s who kept up his usual visit at night. I realised only after her withdrawal that she had given me her last blessings.
Now followed a long period of distress to her body to which the regular attendants alone were witnesses. I would meet Champaklal only at night, and he could give no detailed news either, but there was always in his speech an uncertain tone ending with “Only He can help”, or something to that effect. At times he used to be called urgently by Pranab at night while he was taking food or resting and he would rush up.
Dr. Bisht was called at one stage. An electro-cardiogram was taken; other tests also were done, and all the reports were depressing. Still, we hoped, as we had done in Sri Aurobindo’s case. Champaklal kept up his unvarying doubtful tone.
I used to go upstairs every evening and pass some time in quiet concentration at my accustomed place on the terrace. The months rolled on and the August Darshaa was at hand. Speculations were rife as to whether there would be any Darshan at all. But the Mother did appear at the Balcony and we were deeply stricken by what we saw. Instead of elation, a profound sorrow and anguish seized our hearts. It was a sheer act of grace on her part to give us her darshan, which proved to be the last. The condition began to deteriorate from that day. On Andre’s birthday soon after the Darshan it seems she made no response. The attendants kept a vigil round the clock. Night after night Pranab and Champaklal were alternately by her side. From below one could hear Pranab’s voice telling the Mother something or other.
Arrived 17th November, the fatal day. It was my birthday, too. There was no question of having her darshan, but we could not imagine that things were so serious. Everything went on as usual, even the weekly cinema-show that evening. In the afternoon friends came to wish me ‘Bonne Fête’ and I was busy entertaining them, but my mind was not there. As soon as I could make myself free, I went up. I was sitting outside; Kumud opened the door of the Mother’s room and asked me if I could find Pranab and call him. It was about 7 p.m. He had gone out for a short while. He came running. The doctor was also sent for before his usual time. Dyuman who never went up at that hour was also there. So Was Andre. Near about 8 p.m. he came out to go home. His face was grave and calm and bore no indication of disaster. But what about Dyuman or the doctor? What made them stay on and why had Pranab been urgently called back,— these were the questions disturbing my mind. The situation must be critical, I felt. Gautam, a young sadhak who had served the Mother personally, had come from his home to spend the night with us. I was moving to and fro pricking my ears for every little sound, went to bed for a while in Sri Aurobindo’s room as usual and got up at a sudden noise. It was about midnight. I rushed out and saw that Nolini was coming down from the Mother’s room followed by Pranab. Nolini’s face was a mask, but Pranab uttered the fatal words in his grave voice, “Mother has left her body.” The shock was too great to bear and the loss too deep to be told.
It was decided that the news should not go abroad at the moment. The body was to be brought down first and kept in the Meditation Hall.
Pranab carried her in his arms and brought her down to the landing from where some of us helped him carry her to the Meditation Hall. There the Mother’s second couch had been kept ready and the body was placed upon it. It was about 3 a.m. Then the people were informed of the unbelievable painful truth.
The rest of the story is too well-known to be repeated.
XIX. Our Debt and Homage
Thus more than forty long years of my contact came to a sudden end just when that contact was blossoming into a closer union “through a long dim preparation”. As I have shown in my account, there had always been unhappy but seemingly unnecessary interruptions since 1950, severing the physical tie and throwing me for a time on reliance upon the inner support. But my personal loss counted for nothing before the tremendous void felt by the entire Ashram. The Mother had made us forget Sri Aurobindo’s most painful absence by her all-encompassing divine love and solicitude. But who is there to console us now? Who shall guide and protect us? We have to seek for that consolation within our hearts.
As Nolini says,
“The Mother’s physical body was our protection; we did not suffer the full consequences of our Karma because her body acted as a buffer.... Her body bore our burden and relieved us of the misery otherwise due to Us. Mankind, the world even, does not know the saving Grace that her material frame brought to them.
“Since we have no longer the support of her body on which we depended most exclusively, we are compelled to seek the true support, the support of her consciousness, the inner reality-her inner presence, her living Person within....
“It is there, living and glorious in its beauty and power and is still at work within us and around us in the world incessantly towards the final consummation of its material embodiment.
“What is expected of us is to see this golden Mother within us and try to become as she always wanted, her golden children, within and without.”
Thus, though she has left her physical body, we have Still her golden body. Not that alone, even materially she has seen to it that we do not suffer from indigence in her absence. Our material prosperity has not been affected by her physical withdrawal. God has fully paid his debt to man. Her bounty is flowing abundantly.
“Affiliated to cosmic Space and Time
And paying here God’s debt to earth and man
A greater sonship was his divine right.”
It is now our part of the bargain that we have to fulfil. We can “requite the debt we owe to her Grace, we can show our love to her by admitting her Presence into our physical being and allowing her to do the work she has undertaken to do.”
“A mutual debt binds man to the Supreme:
His nature we must put on as he put ours;
We are sons of God and must be even as he:
His human portion, we must grow divine. Our life is a paradox with God for key.”
What is this work mentioned above? Work for humanity? Or any other high ideal — social or religious? The Mother herself said in her “Reminiscences”, “I came to India to meet Sri Aurobindo. I remained in India to live with Sri Aurobindo. When he left his body I continued to live here in order to do his work which is, by serving the Truth and enlightening mankind, to hasten the rule of the Divine’s Love upon earth.” And it was at the express command of Sri Aurobindo when he left his body that she remained behind and carried on for more than twenty years this work unflinchingly, a fractional glimpse of which has been given in this book. Sri Aurobindo himself has in a letter summarised the Mother’s role in his yoga and work. Here are extracts from that letter sent by him to Arindam Basu on 17th August, 1941, dictated to me. Sri Aurobindo saw and approved of the written version. It runs thus:
“The Mother is not a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. She has had the same realisation and experience as myself.
“The Mother’s sadhana started when she was very young. When she was twelve or thirteen, every evening many teachers came to her and taught her various spiritual disciplines. Among them was a dark Asiatic figure. When we first met, she immediately recognised me as the dark Asiatic figure whom she used to see a long time ago. That she should come here and work with me for a common goal was, as it were, a divine dispensation.
“The Mother was an adept in the Buddhist yoga and the yoga of the Gita even before she came to India. Her yoga was moving towards a grand synthesis. After this, it was natural that she should come here. She has helped and is helping to give a concrete form to my yoga. This would not have been possible without her co-operation.
“One of the two great steps in this yoga is to take refuge in the Mother.”
In answer to Arindam Basu’s inquiry, apropos of this observation of Sri Aurobindo’s, as to what was the other great step, Sri Aurobindo said, “Aspiration of the sadhak for the divine life.” Sri Aurobindo’s voice appeared to stress the phrase “divine life”.
The work goes on, whether we allow her or not. The Mother said in one context, “... I may be there or not, but these children of mine will be there to carry out my work.” Her Birth Centenary is a great landmark towards the consummation of her divinely appointed mission.
XX. The Mother’s Talk of April 2, 1972
For centuries and centuries humanity has waited for this time. It is come. But it is difficult.
I don’t simply tell you we are here upon earth to rest and enjoy ourselves, now is not the time for that. We are here... to prepare the way for the new creation.
The body has some difficulty, so I can’t be active, alas. It is not because I am old, I am not old. I am not old, I am younger than most of you. If I am here inactive, it is because the body has given itself definitely to prepare the transformation. But the consciousness is clear and we are here to work — rest and enjoyment will come afterwards. Let us do our work here.
So I have called you to tell you that. Take what you can, do what you can, my help will be with you. All sincere effort will be helped to the maximum.
It is the hour to be heroic.
Heroism is not what it is said to be: it is to become wholly unified — and the Divine help will always be with those who have resolved to be heroic in full sincerity. There!
You are here at this moment, that is to say upon earth,. because you chose it at one time — you do not remember it any more, but I know it — that is why you are here. Well, you must rise to the height of the task. You must strive, you must conquer all weaknesses and limitations; above all you must tell your ego: “Your hour is gone.” We want a race that has no ego, that has in place of the ego the Divine Consciousness. It is that which we want: the Divine Consciousness which will allow the race to develop itself and the supramental being to take birth.
If you believe that I am here because I am bound — it is not true. I am not bound, I am here because my body has been given for the first attempt at transformation. Sri Aurobindo told me so. Well, I am doing it. I do not wish anyone to do it for me because... because it is not very pleasant, but I do it willingly because of the results; everybody will be able to benefit from it. I ask only one thing: do not listen to the ego.
If there is in your hearts a sincere Yes, you will satisfy me completely. I do not need words, I need the sincere adhesion of your hearts. That’s all.
XXI. I am with you...
I am with you because I am you or you are I.
I am with you, that signifies a world of things because I am with you on all levels, in all planes, from the supreme consciousness down to the most physical. Here, at Pondicherry, you cannot breathe without breathing my consciousness. It saturates the atmosphere almost materially, in the subtle physical and extends to the Lake, 10 kilometres from here. Farther, my consciousness can be felt in the material vital, then on the mental plane and other higher planes, everywhere. When I came here for the first time, I felt the atmosphere of Sri Aurobindo, felt materially, at a distance of ten miles, ten nautical miles, not kilometres. It was very sudden, very concrete an atmosphere pure, luminous, light, light that lifts you up.
It is now long since Sri Aurobindo had this reminder put up everywhere in the Ashram that you all know: “Always behave as if the Mother was looking at you; because she is, indeed, always present.” This is not a mere phrase, not simply words, it is a fact. I am with you in a very concrete manner and they who have a subtle vision can see me.
In a general way my Force is there constantly at work, constantly shifting the psychological elements of your being to put them in new relations, defining to yourself the different facets of your nature so that you may see what should be changed, developed, rejected.
But that apart, there is a special personal tie between you and me, between all who have turned to Sri Aurobindo’s and my teaching,— it is well understood, distance does not count here, you may be in France, you may be at the other end of the world or at Pondicherry, the tie is always true and living. And each time there comes a call, each time there is a need for me to know so that I may send out a force, an inspiration, protection or any other thing, a sort of message comes to me all of a sudden and I do the needful. These communications reach me evidently at any moment, and you must have seen me more than once stop suddenly in the middle of a sentence or work; it is because something comes to me, a communication and I concentrate.
With those whom I have accepted as disciples, to whom I have said “yes”, there is more than a tie, there is an emanation of me. This emanation warns me whenever it is necessary and tells me what is happening. Indeed I receive intimations constantly, but all are not recorded in my active memory, I would be flooded; the physical consciousness acts like a filter. Things are recorded in a subtle plane, they are there in a latent state, something like a piece of music that is recorded without being played. When I need to know with my physical consciousness, I make the contact with the subtle physical plane and the disc begins to turn. Then I see how things are, their development in time, the actual result.
And if for some reason or other, you write to me asking for my help and I answer “I am with you”, it means that the communication with you becomes active, you come in my active consciousness for a time, for the time necessary.
And this tie between you and me is never cut. There are people who have long ago left the Ashram, in a state of revolt, and yet I keep myself informed of them, I attend to them. You are never abandoned.
In fact I hold myself responsible for everyone, even for those whom I have met only for one second in my life.
Now remember one thing. Sri Aurobindo and myself are one and the same consciousness, one and the same person. Only, when this force or this presence, which is the same, passes through your individual consciousness, it puts on a form, an appearance which differs according to your temperament, your aspiration, your need, the particular turn of your being. Your individual consciousness is like a filter, a pointer, if I may say so, it makes a choice, fixes one possibility out of the infinity of divine possibilities. In reality, the Divine gives to each individual exactly what he expects of Him. If you believe that the Divine is far and cruel, He will be far and cruel, because it will be necessary for your ultimate good that you feel the wrath of God; He will be Kali for the worshippers of Kali, and Beatitude for the Bhakta. And He will be the All-Knowledge of the seekers of Knowledge, the transcendent Impersonal of the illusionists; He will be atheist with the atheist and the love of the lover. He will be brotherly and close, a friend always faithful, always ready to succour those who feel Him as the inner guide in each movement, at every moment. And if you believe that He can wipe away everything, He will wipe away all your faults, all your errors tirelessly, and at every moment you can feel His infinite Grace. The Divine is indeed what you expect of Him in your deepest aspiration.
And when you enter into this consciousness where you see all things in a single look, the infinite multitude of relations between the Divine and men, you see how wonderful all that is, in all details. You can look at the history of mankind and see how much the Divine has evolved according to what men have understood, desired, hoped, dreamed and how He was materialistic with the materialist and how He grows every day and becomes nearer, more luminous according as human consciousness widens itself. Everyone is free to choose. The perfection of this endless variety of relations of man with God through-out the history of the world is an ineffable marvel. And all that together is only one second of the total manifestation of the Divine.
The Divine is with you according to your aspiration. Naturally that does not mean that He bends to the caprices of your outer nature,— I speak here of the truth of your being. And yet, sometimes He does fashion Himself according to your outer aspirations, and if, like the devotees, you live alternately in separation and union, ecstasy and despair, the Divine also will separate from you and unite with you, according as you believe. The attitude is thus very important, even the outer attitude. People do not know how important is faith, how faith is miracle, creator of miracles. If you expect every moment to be lifted up and pulled towards the Divine, He will come to lift you and He will be there, quite close, closer, ever closer.
(Bulletin, February 1958)
APPENDIX. The Mother’s Letters to a Student
Sweet Mother, Can you hear me whenever I call you?
My dear child,
Be sure that I hear you each time you call and my help and force go straight to you.
With my blessings.
Je t’embrasse de tout cœur et te donne mes bénédictions pour l’accomplissement de ton aspiration la plus haute.
Avec ma tendresse.
[I embrace you with all my heart and give you my blessings for the fulfilment of your highest aspiration.
With my love.]
Avec toute une collection de roses (surrender) pour que ton aspiration se réalise et que tu deviennes mon enfant idéale consciente de ton âme et du but véritable de ta vie.
Avec mes bénédictions et ma tendresse.
[With a whole bunch of roses (surrender) so that your aspiration may be fulfilled and you become my ideal child aware, of your soul and the true goal of your life.
With my blessings and my love.]
From the Mother and Sri Aurobindo to Esha
Letters to a Child
[These letters were written by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo to Dilip Kumar Roy’s niece, Esha. She was about six or seven years old when she came to the Ashram with her parents — most probably in 1930. Sri Aurobindo wrote to her both in English and Bengali and she was the first child who received letters from him in Bengali, As will be seen from the letters, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo took special interest in her and considered her an extraordinary girl.]
To Esha with our blessings.
I am so sorry to hear that you have been ill. I hope you are quite well now.
This is to send you strength and our love.
We never forget you and your dear mother.
My dear little Esha,
I am not at all angry.
If I was not writing to you, it is because I was expecting you to come soon.
With our blessings and love.
I have taken a nice house for you; there is electricity and a fan. Come quick, even if you are not quite well.
You know that here your health becomes very good.
With love and blessings.
To Esha with our blessings.
About your coming here, my will is that you should come with your dear mother at once.
Our love and protection are with you always.
To Esha, our blessings.
So many times I have answered your letters with my heart, but could find no time to write the answer on a sheet of paper. Hoping that your dear mother and yourself are quite well.
Our love and protection are with you always.
To Esha with our blessings.
I am not sending you away from here. I know that here only you can be really happy. I would have liked very much to keep you with me. But you are too young to be able to do as you yourself would like. You depend on your parents. Your mother is returning to Barrakpore and has to take you with her. So I have let you go. When you are older, you will be able to choose for yourself; then you can come here. Meanwhile remember me always as I will remember you always. I will always be with you there and I will try to make you see me. Be happy and become strong and wait till things are changed and you can come back to me.
The Mother said she would try to make .you see her because it is not always easy for people to see her even when she is near them. It is also easier to see with eyes shut than with eyes open — though this too is possible — because it is a sight within you that has to open in order to see her. It is not necessary to call her for any fixed number of hours. It is enough if you love always, remember her often, sit every day a little time before her photograph and call her.
You must never doubt that the Mother loves you and you need never weep for that, for her feelings towards you cannot and will not change.
Of course you can take the photographs given to you by the Mother and keep them with you there.
It is not that because the Mother loves you she can show herself to your physical eyes at a distance. The physical eyes of men are not made so as to see in that way. It becomes possible only after long sadhana. First one sees with the eyes closed, then afterwards it becomes more possible to see with the eyes open. So you should not be too eager to see at once in the more difficult way. It will come in the end, if you want it, but it does not come at once. Don’t mind if it takes time. You must grow first more and more able to feel the Mother near you; that you can do by thinking of her and calling her often. Then seeing will be more easy.
Do not mind about the time that it will take — one can’t fix the time of these things beforehand. When you feel the Mother’s presence more and more, when you begin to see her with the inner sight, then it can come.
It is better not to speak of the Mother to your friends — they do not know her, therefore they can take no interest in her. The more you live close to the Mother yourself, the less you will need to speak of her to others.
P.S. You can of course take your temples with you. We shall certainly write to you when you are over there.
(The following letters except the two small ones were written in Bengali. They have been translated by Arindam Basu.)
It isn’t necessary that one should leave home in order to call the Mother. One can do it remaining at home. Besides, the Mother doesn’t like what you want to do in this connection. Because you are very young, you’ll not be able to do it but you’ll only suffer. And the Mother doesn’t want that you should suffer in any way.
No, it’s much better that you remember the Mother within you, call her, in all circumstances, whether happy or unhappy, pray for her nearness, her help, her protection.
If you do that, then everything will be achieved.
I don’t know when you’ll be able to come again — perhaps your father won’t let you return so soon, don’t be sad about it. Remember the Mother always, she will be always with you. Let this firm faith be awake in you that she is always with you and protecting you. You will try for three months, and if there are no results after that you will give up: that’s not right. The main thing is: remember her and call her, however long it may take; as you go on doing it, you will become conscious, feel that she is with you, and also see her.
I am replying to your letter in Bengali. From now on I will do so. It is difficult to say what will happen in the future, but I hope that circumstances will be such that you will be able to come back to have darshan before long. Till then remember us and wait. The closer our inner relation becomes, the greater will be the possibility of your life being fulfilled.
It is better for you not to go to a house where no one calls the Divine. But if you are sent there, even then call the Mother. If you can’t do it any other way, do as you do now, silently in your mind — in such a way that nobody will understand or know. Then you will get the result of your calling the Mother.
Our blessings to Esha, our love and protection with her always.
Always remember me as I will always remember you.
My love and blessings will always be with you.
Dear little Esha,
I have received all the nice things you sent me; the saree and the cloth for the blouse, the slippers and the frame — they are all so very pretty.
Hoping you are quite in good health and happy.
Our love and blessings are always with you.
Why have you written that we’re annoyed with you? We never were nor are we now angry with you, there is no reason for annoyance, you haven’t done anything wrong.
Did you not get my letter yesterday morning? I certainly wrote to you about our love, also that you would attain union with us. Anyway, I’m writing the same thing again, we love you very much and that love will always remain unimpaired. Don’t be sad or give any quarter to hopelessness in your mind. Foster this firm faith always in the mind — “I shall certainly attain union with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, shall have the vision of them even though I stay far from them.” Remember us always. Those who do so achieve unity with us, you’ll also do the same. And if you do this, it is very likely that there’ll be such a combination of circumstances that you’ll be able to come here and have our darshan. Come tomorrow definitely and see the Mother.
I could not reply to your letters because till now I had work all day every day. It is the same even now, but there is a little respite today, it being a Sunday; that is why I am writing a few lines.
Why do you feel sad if you think of us or see us in dreams? It should be a matter of joy that the Mother came to you in a dream. Don’t allow yourself to be sad, because you will not see us now. Remain calm, believing that the Mother is remembering you, loving you, is near you always; wait for the right moment; what obstacles are there now will not be there always.
Remember the Mother at all times, rely on her. If there is constant remembrance, one day you will see her, see her within yourself too.
Look, if I see you, will anybody else spare me? Won’t they say, “You have seen Esha and you can’t see us? What is this arrangement? Why this injustice! Aren’t we also human beings?” And then when one hundred and fifty people will come crowding on to me, what will be my fate? Just think about it and tell me.
I have to write a long letter in Bengali? Have I got that capacity or the time? I am at the end of my tether trying to write this small one, the night also is over. All right, this time I have somehow written in Bengali, but I warn you that I shall not be able to do such an exercise again.
I have got three letters from you, but as I was busy with many things I couldn’t answer them-today I am answering all the three together. It was known that it wouldn’t be possible for you to come for darshan this time, it can’t be easy to come twice within this short time. Don’t be sorry, remain calm and remember the Mother, gather faith and strength within. You are a child of the Divine Mother, be tranquil, calm and full of force. There is no special procedure. To take the name of the Mother, to remember her within, to pray to her, all this may be described as calling the Mother. As it comes from within you, you have to call her accordingly. You can do also this — shutting your eyes you can imagine that the Mother is in front of you or you can sketch a picture of her in your mind and offer her your pranam, that obeissance will reach her. When you’ve time, you can meditate on her with the thinking attitude that she is with you, she’s sitting in front of you. Doing these things people at last get to see her. Accept my blessings, I send the Mother’s blessings also at the same time. From time to time Jyotirmoyee will take blessing flowers during pranam and send them to you.
I’ve got your two letters. Remember what I wrote to you when you were here and remember the Mother with a calm mind, call her. At the beginning one sees the Mother by shutting one’s eyes, can hear her words within oneself, but even that does not happen easily. Man sees the external form, hears external words and sounds — only what he sees and hears with his outer senses, that alone he sees and hears. To see or hear anything else is difficult for him, but the capacity for inner vision and hearing has to be opened, one has to try for it, it takes time. If it doesn’t happen in the beginning, don’t be sad. The Mother will always love you and remember you, one day you will have her vision and hear her voice. Don’t be sorry, invoke the Mother’s peace and force within you, you will feel her nearness by that.
No, why should we be angry with you? I was very busy, there was no time to write; Even now I am indeed very busy because it is a darshan month. This time many people are coming for darshan. I hope your health will be better than it is now. You have written that you will go to Ranchi. When will you go and for how long will you stay there?
Don’t be anxious or sad because of the present condition. Remain calm and content, relying entirely on the Mother, wait for better times. One day you will certainly see her. Those who rely on her firmly and call her, they reach her at the end. There may be obstacles and many upsets in life in this world, it may take time, but even then they will achieve nearness to the Mother.
I haven’t been able to write to you for a long time. I wanted to but couldn’t manage. This time more than seven hundred people have come for darshan — many came long before the 15th, many have stayed on even after that day till today, now they are departing. That is why there was a great deal of additional work. The Ashram work also increased a lot. It could not be finished in spite of working all day and night. That is why I couldn’t write to anyone outside. Now it has eased a bit, I can therefore write this letter. But the decrease in work is very little. I still have a good deal of necessary work, can’t finish it, can’t make time yet.
I can’t understand why you haven’t received Jyotirmoyee’s letter and the flower sent by her... but you may have perhaps received the letter sent meanwhile, she must have given her own explanation.
I hope you are well. Even if you can’t get fixed times to call the Mother, call her always and try to offer all your life and all your work to her.
I haven’t been able to write to you though I wanted to. Work doesn’t become less, in fact there is always more of it,— if there is less work of one kind, others pile up. While I’m trying to finish all this the night gets over; after that there is no time left to write letters (to anyone) outside the Ashram. It’s the same today also, still I’m writing.
I see that both you and your mother have been very ill. I hope this won’t happen again and all that has come to an end. This has happened in many places, here and also in the case of many sadhaks in Bengal. It hasn’t been easy to control the situation and bring it to an end.
No, I am not angry with you, why should I be? Our love for you is undiminished, it will always remain so.
There is no time to write anything more, I shall do so later. Accept our blessings.
My own Mother,
I was very happy to receive your letter. Mother, can I take the two castors from M? For, plenty of ants come to the place where I offer flowers before your photo and Sri Aurobindo’s. If I can have those two castors then I can fill them with water and place the table on them. The flowers will thus be safe from the ants.
Mother, yesterday I received a book from Nolini. Its name is The Ashram and the Teachings of Sri Awobindo. In that book there are pictures of you and Sri Aurobindo as well as of the Ashram. I shall get the pictures of both of you framed. To whom shall I give them? I will do as you advise.
Please reply to my letter.
You can get them framed by Biren.
I was very happy to receive Sri Aurobindo’s letter. Can I come to see you upstairs? I hope you have received my mother’s letter. Can Manu come to the music? I like music very much. My pranams to both of you.
Yes, you can come. Manu will come with Nolina.
Thanks to Nirod, we have the revelation of an altogether unknown side of Sri Aurobindo. It is extremely interesting and very instructive.
This was the Mother’s comment on Nirodbaran’s book Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo which he wrote for Sri Aurobindo’s Birth Centenary, the 15th of August 1972. Next, Nirodbaran paid his homage of love to the Mother on her Birth Centenary, the 21st of February 1978 in The Mother — Sweetness and Light. And from his personal contact with her, he revealed one of the most intimate aspects of the Mother, of which he was the grateful and happy recipient and witness.
One of the personal attendants of Sri Aurobindo, Nirodbaran was initiated into poetry and literature by him. Eventually as Sri Aurobindo’s scribe, he took down a major portion of the epic poem Savitri dictated by the Master. To-day Nirodbaran is an active member of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry.
Now we are bringing out a revised and enlarged edition of his book on the Mother under a new title.
1 Its significance is thus described by the Master
“The soup was instituted in order to establish a means by which the sadhaka might receive something from the Mother by an interchange in the material consciousness.”
2 Barin, Sri Aurobindo’s younger brother, wrote to him in a letter that sweets, had been delivered — The Police took the word “sweets” as a codeword meaning “bomb”. They were not wrong, though they could not prove it.
4 It is a functional disorder. Something has gone wrong somewhere — it is not a lesion — and the origin of this malfunctioning may be nervous (due to some falsehood in the vital. That is the ultimate psychological cause).
5 Mother refers to a passage from the book La Faute de I’Abbé Mouret, an English translation of which is given at the end of this section.
6 Amal comments; “This is correct. On Dec. 3 she told me that Sri Aurobindo would soon read my articles. Later, when I asked her why she had let me go to Bombay on Dee. 3 she said that Sri Aurobindo’s departure had not been decided yet.”
7 Translation by Sri Aurobindo.
8 During the Darshan and 2nd December March Past, the Groups are led by standard bearers.
9 We are much relieved and happy to read the Janata Government’s proclamation (1977) that Bangladesh refugees will not be compelled to return against their will.
10 Happy Birthday to Nirod with my love and blessings for a complete trust m the Divine.
11 It is an excellent project and my blessings are with you for its completion
12 Thanks to Nirod, we have the revelation of an altogether unknown side of Sri Aurobindo.
13 30 March 1935, p. 196.
14 17 April 1935, pp. 218-20; October 9, 1936, p. 704.
15 22 December 1934, p. 83.
16 Sri Aurobindo, A Garland of Tributes
17 For a full exposition of the subject, see Amal Kiran’s article in Mother India, August 1973.
18 I am astonished to see that I was like that. All that is so far off!
19 The Mother commented that the word “Bulletin” would create a contusion with the Bulletin of the International Centre a/Education. So it was named Service Letter.
20 Evidently it is not a literal translation, but as the Mother says, it is what , it means for her.