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At the Feet of The Mother

Chapter 9. The Year 1914

In the year 1914 I had the darshan of the Mother. I could not perceive then that the Mother’s was not an ordinary human birth. In 1914 the Mother came for the first time to the land of India, the decreed repository of spiritual riches.

As directed by Sri Aurobindo in 1910, the Mother reached Pondy on March 29, 1914. A few days after her arrival, Bejoykanta intro­duced me to her. How did he do it? He introduced me as one of the students of the Calvé College and as one keen on practising Yoga.

The Mother lived in the house No. 3 facing the North, in Dupleix Street. She had so much work to attend to that she met people only at an appointed time. Steps were taken even then to start the monthly review Arya both in English and in French.

Students from our school, in small groups, would come at their leisure hours to see the Mother. We did not know then who the Mother was.

At that time the book Yogic Sadhan could be seen in the hands of many of those persons who frequented Sri Aurobindo’s house. This book Bejoykanta taught me. I did not consider him a teacher. The terms Guru, Acharya, teacher, instructor, preceptor were not current amongst us those days. All that we had been taught was social etiquette and hospitality; no one had given us any idea of modesty or humility or devotion.

Amidst all these superficialities I approached the Mother with the help of Bejoykanta. My dumb heart at once came to feel the magic power of the Mother. Over my poor heart lay loads of dirt. If one load dropped down, another would roll in to occupy the empty space.

In my first approaches to the Mother I thought her to be one like others. My mind’s way led me in one direction, my heart’s voiceless feeling led in another. I had not learnt at that time either to listen attentively to the still voice of the heart, or forgetting all outer hankerings, to feel the inner urge. The tapasya perhaps that I had failed to do in my previous births I began doing now in this short span of life.

Had someone seen the Mother and myself seated on chairs, facing each other, almost as equals, with the book Yogic Sadhan in hand, he would have been in a fix to know who was teaching whom. In truth, however, I approached the Mother in the spirit of a seeker of knowledge.

The school remained closed two days per week — Sundays and Thursdays. On these two days, at 10 a.m., I would go to the Mother study with her for half an hour one or two pages of the Yogic Sadhan, proceed to Sri Aurobindo’s house for his darshan and return home.

An image of immeasurable power — that was how I felt the Mother to be whenever I approached her. She, however, held that power herself without allowing the least display of it. On some occasions the great power would shine forth irresistibly. Our inner sense would Perceive this radiation if it was awake.

Not only myself but some of my friends of those days had felt certain necessary changes taking place, whether we had wanted them or and without our being conscious of them, changes not only in our basic consciousness but in some of our external parts too. We would approach the Mother with our contradictory ideas and doubts and after a talk with her each one of us would be filled with an unaccountable purity and joy, and self-oblivious we would come back home talking merrily like people living in a happy world.

In this year 1914 Ramaswami Iyengar left Sri Aurobindo’s house and started from Pondicherry for his native place. In this year 1914 again, during April and May, efforts were made, as I said, to bring out the monthly magazine Arya. On July 28 of this very year the First World War broke out. On August 15 the first issue of the Arya saw the light of day in English and French versions. In this 1914 indeed the foundation was laid of my close contact with Sri Aurobindo. And in this same year 1914 I began feeling like a simple child the Mother’s continuous affection.

On August 15, 1914, Sri Aurobindo’s birthday was celebrated more openly. In the spacious hall upstairs two or three big tables, taken on hire, were placed side by side; on them were spread thick washed sheets, white as jasmines; and above these sheets were heaped, moun­tain-like, milk-white rice. Finally, rose-petals were strewn over the rice.

That morning, at about eleven-thirty, Sri Aurobindo came and stood in the long verandah, south of the hall, at the western end and, looking at us eastwards, spoke something in English for two or three minutes.

Ten or fifteen persons only out of those who had assembled that day stayed behind for sometime and I was one of these few. I do not remember now where the Mother was, where she sat and took her food.

In October 1914, I suppose, Abdul Karim, a chief C.I.D. Inspector of the Madras Presidency sought Sri Aurobindo’s permission for an interview. I do not remember the date. He was asked to come on a particular day at 10 a.m. for the interview. Abdul Karim came on that day in time and met Sri Aurobindo. The talk must have lasted for more than half an hour in private. While going to Sri Aurobindo Abdul Karim had carried a big rose-garland and two or three plates full of fruits, etc. Not being an inmate of Sri Aurobindo’s house, I had no means of knowing what transpired between them. Even if I had been an inmate, Sri Aurobindo would have said only what could be dis­closed. It was rumoured in Pondicherry that the talk must have been mainly about the World War and Abdul Karim sought to know Sri Aurobindo’s views about it.

One or two months passed after the outbreak of the World War. Nolini Kanta Gupta and Saurindranath Bose who had gone to Bengal came back hurriedly to Pondicherry. Now Bejoykanta also grew impatient to go to Bengal like them for a short visit. He persisted in it. Sri Aurobindo gave no consent to it. Bejoykanta’s friends in Pondicherry and some others, including Abdul Karim, had come to know that he was about to leave for Bengal.

Either the very next day after Abdul Karim’s interview with Sri Aurobindo or one or two days later, Bejoykanta started for Bengal. The news circulated in the town that, as Bejoykanta was suspected to be a revolutionary, a warrant of arrest was in Abdul Karim’s pocket the very day of his interview with Sri Aurobindo.

Bejoykanta started from Sri Aurobindo’s house and caught the train to Madras. Directly he crossed the French border he was arrested and taken into police custody at Cuddalore; he was then transferred a few days later to his native place in Bengal and interned there till the end of the War, that is to say, five long years. As soon as he got released he came back to Pondicherry.

Before the publication of the Arya, it was widely talked about — and most amongst the Tamil poet Bharati and his friends — that a Review of the kind was soon going to be published. The idea also spread, along with the talk, that a new age was about to dawn, this new age was for the whole human race and Sri Aurobindo was the Rishi of this new age. Poet Bharati was chiefly instrumental in spreading the idea.

I was fortunate enough to hear many say several times that the Arya would elucidate the secrets of the Veda and, as a corollary, unravel many a knot, till now unloosened, in the Upanishads, Itihasas, Puranas, etc. I heard many also declare that Sri Aurobindo had found a new method of Yoga for the sake of mankind and would divulge in the Arya the characteristic process of sadhana for following this method.

Hardly a month had passed since the declaration of the great War when I heard elderly people, rich in knowledge, affirm that the World War was but the unhealed sore in the human consciousness and the appearance of the Arya was destined to heal the sore. I could not grasp all that clearly then.

One day at the beginning of September I took up a copy of the first issue of the Arya from the table on the long verandah upstairs in Sri Aurobindo’s house and started reading the first article of the series, “The Life Divine”, written by Sri Aurobindo, just loudly enough for myself to hear. I read it over and over again. Great thoughts clothed in great words — I could not at all comprehend! However, it was sweet to read and re-read it. It was as if someone else in me was compre­hending all that was read!

As I was reading, Sri Aurobindo came, stood in front of the table and kept listening to my reading. When I put down the copy of the Arya and lifted my head I saw Sri Aurobindo standing there. I told him that the reading was delightful but nothing could be grasped.

Sri Aurobindo heard all that I said and replied, “It is not necessary to understand it all at once. Go on reading. If you find a joy in reading, you need not stop it.”

Anyone may perceive in Sri Aurobindo’s writings a wealth of experiences, a mantric power and an extraordinary superhuman attrac­tion. That first sublime article in the Arya begins with one or two Riks from the Rig Veda.

Hear:  “She follows to the goal of those that are passing on beyond, she is the first in the eternal succession of the dawns that are com­ing, — Usha widens bringing out that which lives, awakening someone who was dead…. What is her scope when she harmonises with the dawns that shone out before and those that now must shine? She desires the ancient mornings and fulfils their Light; projecting forward her illumination, she enters into communion with the rest that are to come.”

Kutsa Angirasa — Rig Veda 1.113.8,10

Without being conscious of my relation with the Mother before and after my birth on this earth, I felt a child’s love for her at the very outset.

The Mother left for France in February 1915. I too went to Madras for the Matriculation examination that very year.

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