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At the Feet of The Mother

24th November (4) The Darshan

Amidst all these events and changes and the opening of new doors in the course of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga of evolutionary transformation, something that goes unnoticed is that the 24th November 1926 marks the beginning of Darshan Days observed as special occasions in the Ashram when the Mother and Sri Aurobindo would be seated together, the Mother to Sri Aurobindo’s right representing the Shakti of Sri Aurobindo while the disciples went up to have a glimpse of the twin Avatars one by one in a silent queue. Though they could spend only a few moments, a minute or two before Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, it was a life transforming moment that has been captured in the account of various disciples. Let us read an account from one of the chapters from Life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram from Sri Narayan Prasad’s book ‘Life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram’: 

The auspicious days on which we have the Darshan of the Master and the Mother are known in the Ashram as the Darshan days. By celebrating the birthdays of Prophets and Avatars people imbibe at least something of their spirit or their influence. But there are other days too, in spiritual history, whose ‘celebration can be a fountain -of inner joy and light. One such is called in our Ashram the Day of Siddhi or Victory-November 24, 1926. In fact, before this day on which Sri Aurobindo established what he himself considered a solid base for the truly Divine manifestation, there was according to him no question of Darshan. He would deal with all on the same level as himself. After November 24, 1926, three Darshan days were fixed in the Ashram. One was the birthday of the Mother, February 21; another that of Sri Aurobindo, August 15; the third, the Siddhi day.

Before 1926 very few had access to the Mother – only a few sadhikas, about three or four in number, meditated with her. In the beginning of 1926, the Master began to send a few others to meditate. This was a sufficient hint that he was withdrawing for some higher purpose, leaving the whole charge of the disciples their inner sadhana and the outer organisation of the Ashram-to the Mother’s executive powers….

In the early years, a day before the Darshan a list of the names of those participating in the Darshan used to be put up on a board. One and a half minutes were allotted to each person. The names of those permanently residing in the Ashram would come first in the list. Half an hour before the time given, people would reach the meditation hall and wait for their tum. A copy of the list would be with the Master. From time to time he would look up the names of those coming in. Sometimes strange things happened at Darshan, overwhelming the disciple or devotee. Once an American doctor remained lying at the feet of Sri Aurobindo for about half an hour as he had forgotten all about himself. When he came out he said that he had seen the whole map of America at the Master’s Feet.

A little to the south-east of Sri Aurobindo’s room there is a small apartment. It was here that the Darshan took place. All through the night some sadhaks and sadhikas would be busy decorating the throne with flowers. Only one person at a time would be with the Master for Darshan. For that moment the Divine would be with him alone. To avoid disturbing him, others would be stopped at the top of the staircase. When he would finish his darsan and come out, the next one would get in. Between the exit of the one and the entry of the other, the Master kept waiting: so great was the care taken for the feeling of every individual. To each the Master gave a penetrating and gracious look and then blessed him, putting his palm on his head. All were allowed to touch his feet. Either before or after finishing the obeisance, the person would offer pranam to the Mother in the same way. Before parting some of us would put our heads in the centre of the throne and both the Master and the Mother blessed again together. In those days the Master’s Grace would rain over us like Amitabha Buddha’s. As through glass windows the things in a room are visible, so the Master’s yogic eye would penetrate our being and read our possibilities. New-comers would return with a new energy to fight the battle of life….

Once someone asked a visitor out of curiosity: “What is that which makes you run from 1500 miles away for a momentary Darshan?” In all the earnestness of his heart he replied, “God knows what Power is in him that he conquers the heart of a man in the twinkling of an eye. When the Darshan day approaches such a burning desire flares up within that one cannot restrain oneself.”

In an article a Professor from Kanpore, who had written a thesis on a particular aspect of Sri Aurobindo, wrote: “One look of Sri Aurobindo at a man’s heart, and it is conquered. There is a lustre in his eyes that infuses itself into the soul of man and sets it aflame. The flame goes on growing in intensity. He puts into the heart of man the flower-seed of Divine love that is sure to grow till it cannot afford to miss even a single occasion of the Darshan.”

The Darshan would start at 6.30 in the morning and go on till 2 p.m. Many used to come in their cars or in hired buses from Madras and the suburbs. After 1942 the privilege of the August Darshan was extended to the Ashram employees. Those who came for Darshan before 1938 had the luck to have the personal touch of the Master. Afterwards rarely anyone could have the opportunity to touch his feet.

“The outward touch is helpful but the inward is still more helpful when one is accustomed to receive it with a certain concreteness – and the outward touch is not always fully possible,

while the inward can be there all the time.” From 1926 to 1938 – for 13 years-this procedure of the Darshan continued uninterrupted. Afterwards several changes took place ….

Before 1939 there were only three Darshan days during the year. The fourth Darshan was introduced from 1939. April 24 is the Mother’s final arrival day at Pondicherry. Since her return in 1920, she has never left the place even for a day….

“At the Sri Aurobindo ‘darshan’ she was seated on his right. Sri Aurobindo himself, golden-hued in complexion, looked healthier than in his photograph which was taken about 30 years ago. There were a few wrinkles on his brow but his face was unlined and serene. He sat completely still without moving a muscle, without the slightest stir. The ‘darshan’ itself, to enable the 650 members of the Ashram and the 1500 or so visitors to file past him, each making his or her offering of garlands, of springs of flowers, took nearly three hours. The upper part of his body was bare, a dhoti covering him from the waist downwards…

Let us close with an account of Swami Ramananda Tirtha as recounted below.

“I was sitting in my place along with others for my turn. There were others, thousands in number, who had gathered for the same purpose. Absolute silence was reigning everywhere. It was evident that some unseen power was acting upon us and our whole being was drawn towards it. On the other side were those who were returning after their Darshan. Casting our eyes upon theirs and looking at their countenances we tried to read what they had received. When my turn came I too started to climb up the staircase and the next moment was before the Master. I had taken with me a lotus in my hand as a token of my offering. Placing it before him I stood for his Darshan. Turning his eyes upon mine he seemed to pass into me. I felt as if a powerful, illuminating cluster of stars were spinning before me. Only half a minute I could manage to stand before him and I felt here was s soul which had worked silently and created a great reserve of power which could lead humanity to a higher life.” [this account can also be found in the Darshan section of the aforementioned Narayan Prasad’s book]

Such accounts are too numerous to be narrated here.

As we have seen the official Darshan started after the 24th November 1926. The first Darshan message was distributed on the 21st February 1927. While there was no ticket or money charged for the Darshan consistent with the highest standards of spiritual life, a request had to be sent to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for approval to come for the Darshan. The reason is that while for the person having the darshan the matter would apparently be over after he or she had the darshan, for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo a new responsibility began of looking after the person’s future progress. This did not depend upon the person’s subsequent withdrawal from the Grace that had touched their life. As the Mother reveals that there are many who withdraw from the Grace but it is seldom that the Grace withdraws. And if it seems to do so it is more a waiting behind the veil to allow the person to go through their experiences as part of the preparation to return back to the Grace and open to Its workings. The Mother reveals to us this supreme secret, the mystery of Divine Love that They embodied:

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 and 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 the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and myself, — and, 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 in Pondicherry, this 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, a 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….

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 truth, I hold myself responsible for everyone, even for those whom I have met only for one second in my life. [CWM 13: 73-74]

The inner attitude is of course important since we receive little if the doors and windows of our consciousness remain closed. In other words, it is not a formal ritual or a ceremony but part of the means given to us for our inner progress. While there was always the Divine Force and Divine Consciousness around them, on darshan days, there would be a special manifestation for particular purposes. It was a concrete help right into the physical which is the most resistant of all to the higher spiritual and the supramental consciousness.

While we seldom have the eyes to behold the Divine there is a tremendous shift within by the Divine Gaze falling directly upon our life. There is an inner logic to it.

Darshan literally means to see the Divine who, though beyond form and formlessness reveals Himself to the seeker in a momentous moment of Apocalypse that seals his future destiny. The darshan may be of one or the other aspect of the Divine in the form and persona of god’s installed through prajapati stha in a temple. Or it could be, rarely though, of the Divine Himself which has the effect of loosening the bonds of ignorance that time is down or even releasing us completely into the Peace and Silence of the Divine as we see happening in Sri Aurobindo’s life during certain exceptional moments. The seeing may be inner with the mind’s eye opening to the Divine and conjuring an image that is inspired by the Divine Himself. Or else it could be in a dream – vision or through the opening of the subtle sight as in certain seers and yogis that can behold forms hidden to our outer sight built to register only the world of gross matter and that too within the limits imposed upon it by earth nature in its present state of evolution. Or it can be the result of a special Grace lending the Divine Vision to the chosen instrument of His grand design as in the instance of Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had already released this Divine Sight from within the casements of the material body and knew fully through direct experience its life transforming impact upon our outer and inner existence. But it is not easy, in fact quite difficult for our average matter bound human consciousness to so release the agency of sight from the prison of matter. It may be noted that though one can come in contact with the Divine through other senses as well but the sight is the direct window of the soul, the route for the Divine Revelation and Vision even as ears are the routes for the Divine Inspiration to enter. Of course our outer eyes and ears are not tuned to receive the Divine. As the Kena Upanishad says there is the Eye behind our eyes, an Ear behind our ears, there are faculties that can behold the Divine and receive the Divine Inspiration, Drishti and Shruti as they are called. But as it is difficult to find release from the hard grip of matter and the bodily existence, here in the context of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother meant that they sat at the moment embodying the Divine Consciousness fully in their body of whom They are the twin incarnations represented in earthly bodies. 

It is here that the significance of 24th November comes in from another angle. While the birthdays of Sri Aurobindo (and later of the Mother) was observed as a special day, a day of quiet celebration with a touch of some festivity, it was more like the darshan of a great Yogi and Master that naturally filled the heart of the disciples with joy and gratitude thereby providing an occasion for the Psychic being to emerge from behind the veil. But the Darshan days as came to be observed after the 24th November was the darshan of the Supreme Lord, the Divine Himself in a human body. Its effects were momentous. Though the resistances of the human vital also came up in some, it provided a tremendous opportunity for the disciple on the path of the integral yoga to take a leap in his progress. The difference came about because Sri Aurobindo completed the program of Yoga given to him by Sri Krishna. He became completely one with the Divine in every aspect. He became the living embodiment of the Divine, something that surpasses anything imaginable or conceivable for the human soul struggling upon earth in its rendezvous with Fate. 

The Mother is within but the darshan of her helps to realise the Divine on the physical plane also.

It is a mistake to bring sick people or the insane to the Darshan for cure—the Darshan is not meant for that. If anything is to be done or can be done for them, it can be done at a distance. The Force that acts at the time of Darshan is of another kind and one deranged or feeble in mind cannot receive or cannot assimilate it—it may produce a contrary effect owing to this incapacity if received at all. If the Force is withheld, then Darshan is useless, if received by such people it is unsafe. It is similar reasons which dictate the rule forbidding children of tender years to be brought to the Darshan.  [CWSA 32]

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