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At the Feet of The Mother

A Few Reminiscences – by Pujalal

It was either 1925 or 1926.

From 1924 I had started coming to Pondicherry for the Master’s Darshan every year as soon as I could collect some money for my long journey and stay for two to three months. This continued till I became permanent after November 1926.

Those days I was looking upon Sri Aurobindo as the greatest son of Mother India and the greatest Master of Yoga, although I had learnt through the late Sri Puraniji that he was not only a Master Yogi but also a living embodiment of Sri Krishna. But as I myself had no such experience at that time, I continued to look upon him as my Master who had graciously initiated me into his Yoga of Integral self-perfection.

Now, it so happened that Mrs. Purani, our Lilavatiben, with whom I had started visiting Sri Aurobindo, felt like preparing some dishes for the Master’s midday meal. Both she and Puraniji jointly got them ready and delivered them to one of the inmates of the Library House a little before Sri Aurobindo’s mealtime.

But fortunately for me, one day it came to my lot to carry the dish. I came with it to the Library House and after duly handing it over to Amrita or Bijoy Nag (I don’t quite remember to whom) who was standing in front of the Reception Room of today, but then of Nolinida’s room, in the company of the other inmates, unexpectedly I saw that Sri Aurobindo was coming down the stairs for his dinner.

I stood wonder-struck, for it was not the great Yogi whom I saw before my eyes, but the Lord of Yogis in his eternal glory. His sun-bright eyes cast a luminous glance of grace on me utterly overpowering my being. My heart and soul felt blessed by this mighty vision of living Ishwara, the Lord of Yoga and of Yogis.

As I stood almost stunned, he passed his way, but I got my God, my Ishwara, my fulfilment, living in the divine person of Sri Aurobindo.

*

Soon after 1921, Sri Aurobindo changed his residence from the Guest House (at present annexe to the Dortoir) to the Library House, 9, Rue de la Marine, the house the entrance to which is now the Main Gate of the Ashram. Here, as we approach the present Reception Room, we find a staircase by which Sri Aurobindo used to come down for his meals, and crossing the Reception Room and Prithvi Singh’s office go to his dining room (our present Fruit Room). The upstairs verandah is hallowed by the Master, for he sat there daily for 2 to 3 hours in the forenoon and about an hour in the afternoon when the Evening Talks took place sometimes with the Master and sometimes among the sadhaks, the Master participating in them when he thought fit or called for.

There was arranged a simple table and an equally simple chair a little to the east of the middle door and there the Master sat, going through the newspapers or seeing some sadhaks or an occasional visitor.

But sometimes before he came, one of the house cats found it comfortable to occupy his chair — perhaps as a matter of right — and would not leave the chair for the Master. It probably wanted to enjoy the celestial warmth emanating from the yogic body of Sri Aurobindo, as the light from the sun. And the ever-considerate Master never disturbed the confident cat in any way whatsoever, but simply, nay, precariously sat on the little border-space all the time he remained there. He was by nature a democrat — more than any democrat. His democratic susceptibility extended not only towards human beings but towards animal life also.

*

Sri Aurobindo’s Compassion

It was about 5 in the morning. As usual, I had gone to the holy house in which the Master and the Mother lived. I had been graciously granted the work of cleaning part of the house and the Mother herself used to open her door for me to enter and start my delightful work.

But one day, after opening the door, the Mother stood there and in Sri Aurobindo’s name asked me to be more careful and quiet that day so as not to disturb a sparrow that was resting on the top of the big middle door.

I took it as a divine command and promised to be cautious. Then I stepped in and the Mother retired. Without making a stir or a sound, I passed by the aforesaid door and to my wonder and delight saw the sparrow sitting motionless on its topmost part.

I was moved. How compassionate was our divine Master! He used to be walking at night in the hall there and had observed this tiny creature taking its night-rest in the peaceful atmosphere always prevailing there. We human beings were not the only creatures for His compassion to look after, but all beings, big and small had a place of love in His more than universal heart.

Blessed, indeed, are we all and blessed the earth for having Him, the divine Master, the living embodiment of the Lord of the universe, for ever leaning over us from His heights and housing us in the depths of His heart of love.

*

Bushy, the Cat

Cats, too, were along with us, bright recipients of the bountiful grace of Sri Aurobindo. For long years, right from His early stay at Pondicherry, i.e. soon after 1910, some lucky cats enjoyed His divine hospitality and made His house their own.

It started like this. A cat persisted in her desire to adopt His house, and although other house-members were at pains not to allow her there, she remained resolute in her will and won.

Sri Aurobindo thought of working upon cat-consciousness also, and this cat-sadhika found a home for herself and her progeny.

It may need a long chapter for dealing with this cat-colony, which we cannot afford. I will, therefore, limit myself to one, Bushy by name, one who is immortalised by Sri Aurobindo, the Master-Poet in His poem “Despair on the Staircase”.

Bushy was a great devotee of the Mother and the Master. She had made it a rule of her life to follow the Mother like a faithful dog, whenever She came down either for the giving of Her soup-prasad or for general meditation. Bushy’s greatest ambition or rather aspiration was to carry her kittens to the Mother and if possible to the Master to be laid at Their feet as her offering.

It was for this reason that she kept her young ones under the corner-cupboard, half way up the stairs. From here as soon as the door opened and the Mother came out, she would carry them and lay them at Her feet. It was, indeed, a touching sight. How even a cat aspired to make her offering of her dear ones to the divine Mother!

And this was not all. She yearned to lay her offering at the Master’s feet also. But before one could reach Sri Aurobindo’s room there was first the main entrance door to be negotiated and then there was a wooden partition over 7 feet high. So at night when the Master was alone and the Mother in the meditation hall, Bushy would wait at the stairs to take her chance and at the first opportunity jump in with her kitten in her mouth and again jump over the wooden partition, and perhaps have the Master’s darshan, but I don’t know whether she laid her baby at His feet or not.

Sri Aurobindo in His stroll at night must have seen her waiting on the topmost stair at the entrance door, ardently desiring to enter, but being refused the opportunity, showing her pose of self-respect worthy of a cat belonging to the Divine.

There she was in despair, magnificently upholding her dignity. This is the subject of the poem “Despair on the Staircase”, wherein is revealed the way our Lord looked at all creatures. He writes, “Whether she is spirit, woman or a cat” and “A charm and miracle of fur-footed Brahman”. He naturally looked upon all beings as forms of the One Brahman, and in this particular case clearly indicated that there was in her cat-body a future woman too.

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It is not the personality, the character that is of the first importance in rebirth — it is the psychic being who stands behind the evolution of the nature and evolves with it.