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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1931, November-December

November 17, 1931

(A letter from Mother.)

For God’s sake come back to your common sense!

I never said that I would see you no more. Sri Aurobindo asked you only to be a little patient, as for the “silent expressionless love” He is not conscious of having written to you anything of the kind.

Now, about my “grudging” smile — I will tell you what I said to Sri Aurobindo when I met Him today at 1.30. Relating what happened in the morning at pranam, I told Him, concerning you: “There is a letter of Dilip to you and I do not know what he writes, but I can assure you that when he (Dilip) came to me this morning, I gave him a good, long blessing and my best smile.”

You can understand that I felt somewhat astonished when I heard that my best smile was a grudging one. Are you quite sure that you did not look in your head at what you imagined would be, instead of looking at my face? …

Your going away is quite out of question. I want you to remain here because I know that it is here — and here only — that you can and will be happy.

Why do you ask for my love? Is it not long since you have it already?

*   *   *

November 20, 1931

It is not surprising that your poem should draw so much admiration, — it is a magnificent poem and you have made of it a magnificent translation. I read it to the Mother and she was very much struck by its beauty and power and also its depth of psychological and spiritual feeling and knowledge.

I have made only a few alterations where it seemed to me necessary in order to satisfy the turns of the English language. For instance “spicy urge broken by mortification” “azure melody of attainment” “peak roots the gloom” are in English a little strange and forced; I have substituted turns which ran better into the mould of the language, — in the first two instances approaching, I think, nearer to the original. “Filth” is rather violent; I have substituted a milder phrase. Expressions like “your peak it is that” “your clarion it is that” are a little awkward in a poetic prose style: “he will seek” “he will look” etc. sounds stiff, the directness of the present tense gives a better effect. Your “Aurora” can hardly be said and is besides too classic and academic for present-day language; I substitute “Dawn-Goddess”. The three or four other corrections are for nicety of phrase and rhythm.

I am glad to hear that your friend in Germany is already benefiting inwardly by turning here. The Mother can think of nothing from Vienna except the “Largo” of Hendel; she intended to speak to you about it (or perhaps she spoke?) just before she fell ill.

*   *   *

November 22, 1931

The Mother always intended to see you after the 24th, so you need have no scruple about coming to her on the 25th. It will not be at all extorting anything or forcing yourself upon her.

What I want of you is not to love the Mother from a distance, but to become accustomed to feel her presence, her help, the working of her forces even when she is not physically present and this not only in your sleep or inward drawn condition (which seems to be sufficiently easy for you) but in your waking consciousness whether in meditation or in ordinary hours. And this I want because it would give a great push to your Yoga. It would besides give a deeper meaning and power to your physical contact with her. I am sure that all this will come fully in time.

For Pratap, you could perhaps bring him with you on the 25th. He could see her for five minutes or so and then leave you. It is not necessary for him to speak of family etc., as she already knows through you. His seeing her should be rather as a help in deeper things and to give a push to his spiritual growth and establishing the connection between him and the Mother.

*   *   *

November 27, 1931

It is good to hear that you have had this experience, the beginning surely of a new progress. “A concrete feeling with a realisation of truth” would seem to show that it was mental and psychic at the same time — and that is all right. For it is not only the soul but the instrumental nature also (in the end down to the most material and external) that must feel the divine union.

Your translation of Amal’s poem is at once astonishingly close and exquisitely beautiful. As to the others, you are quite right in using this freedom when translating from prose into poetry; to be literal or too close to the original hampers one in finding the full poetic turn and expression. Be as free as you like; fidelity to the idea is the only thing needful. As a result of the freedom, these two translations, are much more poetic and convincing than those you sent me before.

*   *   *

December 1, 1931

The translation of Wordsworth is very good. That of Nolini’s sonnet perhaps fails a little in the eighth line (the finest in the original) — and it may be in the twelfth and the last, but of that I am not quite sure; the rest is admirable.

The experience of the “solid block” feeling indicates the descent of a solid strength and peace into the external being — in the vital-physical most, I suppose. It is this always that is the foundation, the basis into which all else (Ananda, light, knowledge, bhakti) can descend in the future and stand or play safely. The numbness is there in the other experience because the movement is inward; but here the Yogashakti is coming outward into the fully awake external nature, — as a first step towards the establishment of the Yoga and its experiences there. So the numbness which is a sign of the consciousness tending to draw back from the external parts, is not there.

*   *   *

December 5, 1931

I am finding nowadays a sense of power deepening in me when I translate these for my [?] of translations in my book. I feel almost sure the public will take very kindly to these. Besides, these will introduce a novelty and departure (particularly the prose to poem translations).

I will send the book to the press in a fortnight or so. I pray in humility for the continuance of my inspiration which comes from you and Mother.

Both the translations are extremely good. The Miltonic one is very fine and truly Miltonic. I have noted one mistake as to the sense of a word: I think “grateful” here does not mean kṛtaghna, it is used in its oldest sense “pleasing” which is still preserved in such phrases as “ungrateful task.”

My opinion of Browning has been expressed, I think in the Future Poetry. I had a fervent passion for him when I was from seventeen to eighteen, after a previous penchant for Tennyson; but like most calf-love both these fancies were of short duration. While I had it, I must have gone through most of his writings (Fifine at the Fair and some others excepted) some half dozen times at least. There is much stuff of thought in him, seldom of great depth but sometimes unexpected and subtle, a vast range not so much of character as of dramatic human moods, and considerable power and vigour of rough verse and rugged language. But there is little of pure poetic quality in him, or sheer beauty of expression, no magic; he gets the highest or finest inspiration only in a line or two here and there. His expression is often not only rough and hasty but inadequate; in his later work he becomes tiresome. Not one of the greater poets, but still a great creator.

*   *   *

December 7, 1931

I am rather shaky sometimes about philosophy in poems. My friends Niren and Annada are down on it. But how can I help it? I have to be true to myself, isn’t it? And besides, why must I agree with them about this dictum of theirs that a poem must have no philosophy? And why must philosophy be a taboo in a poem if it comes in a musical garb? Please let me have a few lines from you on this point. Isn’t this musical? By the way I am not at all depressed or anything. The poem, I hope, doesn’t suggest that? I am in a delightful mood as Mother will have told you?

It is a very beautiful poem and the poeticisation of Anatole France is very well done.

What do they mean by “philosophy” in a poem? Of course if one sets out to write a metaphysical argument or treatise in verse like the Greek Empedocles[1] or the Roman Lucretius,[2] it is a risky business and is likely to land you into prosaic poetry which is a less pardonable mixture than poetic prose! And also one has to be very careful, when philosophising in a less perilous way, not to be flat or heavy. It is obviously easier to be poetic when writing about a skylark than when writing about the attributes of the Brahman! But that does not mean that there is to be no thought or no expression of truth in poetry; there is no great poet who has not tried to ‘philosophise’. Shelley wrote about the skylark, but he also wrote about the Brahman. “Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,” is as good poetry as “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit”. And there are flights of unsurpassable poetry in the Gita and the Upanishads. These rigid dicta are always excessive and there is no reason why a poet should allow the expression of his personality or the spirit within him or his whole poetic mind to be clipped, cabined or stifled by any theories or “thou shalt not”-s of that character.

*   *   *

December 13, 1931

Yes, I had forgotten to answer about the Prayers and remembered only afterwards. I think for Anilkumar to approach his friend would be the best, if he thinks it a likely source. I hesitate to ask Biren for anything — for his position is awkward, surrounded by fathers, Dewans and other guardian angels, and he wrote some time ago that he finds it difficult to get his own allowance regularly because the estate is in a bad way — depression, I suppose, and non payment of rents.

I got your letter only at 10 o’clock and in any case your questions cannot be lightly or too briefly answered. They are not quite rightly put — the true question for us could not be to love or not love the Mother — that is already settled — but in what spirit to make the physical approach to her so as to avoid the mistakes of the past (the general mistake, not yours personally) and get the most spiritual benefit from her contact. However, there are various points of great importance behind your questions and I shall answer them; if I have not dealt with some of them before it is because I feared my answers would be gravely misunderstood by the [?] minds of the sadhaks.

*   *   *

December 15, 1931

I return your MS. I have made some alterations here and there (very few, I believe) to make the thought more clear or to suppress too vivaciously uncomplimentary phrases about loving people, permissible in a private letter but not in a criticism made public.

In one or two places I have corrected at a guess what seem to be mistakes in the typewritten copy — I could not remember what I exactly wrote. In the letter dated 8.12.31 (last page) there are obviously some words omitted; I have put a query in the margin; here you will have to restore from the original letter.

One letter (copied in handwriting, not typed) dated 8.9.31 cannot be published, it is too personal and touches matters which are not for the general public.

*   *   *

December 16, 1931

We don’t object to the photograph being published, but —. The poem is très joli (the English word “pretty” is a little deprecatory or at least too diminutive and does not express its quality); but is the photography worthy of it? It impresses me more like an illustration of a magazine article (in a popular magazine) or an institution prospectus. It is too glossy and ostentatious; but perhaps it will be turned down in the block of the Bharatavarsha press? If so, the objection may disappear.

*   *   *

December 20, 1931

Tagore is always Tagore (I hope you won’t find this saying too cryptic). As for the pictures, if people are pleased with them, (as they are by Tagore’s music), they serve the purpose of their existence, and what more can be said for any of the creations of this Prakriti?

*   *   *

December 26, 1931

I should like — and the Mother asks me — just to express a word of appreciation of the music yesterday. Your song to Mahakali was superb — full of a fine variety and great power. The Mother came up enthusiastic and said it was filled with a most wonderful life, energy and movement; one could feel the universal forces pouring themselves through it. Truly, you have opened your wings and soared into a larger ether.

*   *   *

December 28, 1931

It is regrettable that this attack should recur. Perhaps it was a little my fault — you were or seemed to me [to be] going on so well that I was not on my guard against its possible recurrence. During the last two or three days the suggestion did come to me that there might be a turn of that kind, but I was so much in the joy of your music that I did not give it credence.

It is certainly not the answering of questions that will remove the underlying cause of the recurrence. Even if the answers satisfy, it could only be for a time. The same questionings would rise either in a mechanical reiteration — for it is not truly the reason from which they arise, it is a certain part of the vital consciousness affected by the surrounding atmosphere — or else presented from a shifted ground or a somewhat changed angle of vision. The difficulty can only disappear if you remain resolute that it shall disappear — if you refuse to attach any value to the justifications which the mind is made to put forward for your “sadness” under this atmospheric influence and, as you did in certain other matters, stick fast to the resolution to make the yogic change, to awake the psychic fully, not to follow the voices of the mind but to do rather what the Mother asks of you, persisting however difficult it may be or seem to be. It is so that the psychic can fully awaken and establish its influence, not on your higher vital where it is already awake and growing through your poetry and music and certain experiences so that whenever your higher vital is active you are in good condition, full of delight and creativeness and open to experience; but it is the influence on the lower vital, for it is there as I have already told you that your difficulties are and that this vital depression recurs.

For the rest, it is not a fact that the Mother is retiring more and more or that she has any intention of going inside entirely like me. Your remarks about the privileged few are incomprehensible to me; we are not confiding in a few at the expense of others or telling them what is happening while keeping silent to you. I have, I think, written more to you than to anybody else about these matters and the Mother has not been confiding to anybody anything in that field which has been held back from you. This — about the privileged few — is an old complaint of yours and it has no foundation.

If anybody claims to have the special confidence of the Mother, he is making an egoistic claim which is not justifiable. Your real point seems to be about the Mother’s not taking up the soup [distribution] and its accompaniments again. I have told you already why she was compelled by the experience of her illness to stand back from the old routine — which had become for most of the sadhaks a sort of semi-ecclesiastical routine and nothing more. It was because of the mistaken attitude of the sadhaks which had brought about an atmosphere full of movements contrary to the Yoga and likely to lead to disaster — as it had already begun to do. To resume the soup on the old footing would be to bring back the old conditions and end in a repetition of the same round of wrong movements and the same results. The Mother has been slowly and carefully taking steps to renew on another footing her control of things after her illness, but she can take no step which will allow the old dark movements to return — movements of some of which I think you yourself were beginning to take notice. The next step is for the sadhaks themselves to take; they must make it possible (by their change of attitude, by their resolution to rise on the lower vital and physical plane into the true consciousness) for a union with the Mother on that plane in the right way and with the right result to become possible. More I cannot say just now; but I fully intend to be more explicit hereafter — so far as I can without special reference to individuals; for there are things personal to people’s Yoga that can often be spoken of only to themselves and not to others. As for your other questions I shall consider them in another letter; it is too late tonight. It is already 3.30 p.m.[3] I will only say that what happens is for the “best” in this sense only that the end will be a divine victory in spite of all difficulties — that has been and always will be my seeing, my faith and my assurance — if you are willing to accept it from me. But that does not mean that your sadness and depression are necessary to the movement! The sooner they disappear never to recur again, the more joyously the Mother and I will advance on the steep road to the summits, and the easier it will be for you to realise what you want, the complete Bhakti and Ananda.

*   *   *

December 29, 1931

(from Mother)


Why do you speak of “the ultimate human disappearance of the Mother”? I have — I assure you — not the least intention of disappearing or vanishing, humanly or otherwise; and those who care to see me with their physical eyes can feel quite at ease on this point.

If you permit, I would advise you never to listen to what sadhaks say — especially advanced sadhaks…

*   *   *

December 30, 1931

I have looked at your “questions” (not already answered directly), but I find that most of them are implicitly solved in my letter. The others (two only) are difficult to answer without going into the whole question of the Yoga and its condition and everything else and writing a chapter or perhaps a volume of the Arya. A shorter reply might lead to misunderstanding or perhaps merely non-understanding. I will consider however whether I can fit what I have to say into an expression which will be at once short and enlightening and not needing a commentary like the aphorisms of the Brahmasūtras[4].

*   *   *


There is only one answer to Sachin’s question — marriage and Yoga are two different movements going opposite ways; if he follows one, he will be moving away from the other. So if he marries, either of two things will happen — he will sink into the ordinary life and go far away from us in spirit or he will find married life unsatisfactory, renounce his wife and return to the path that leads towards the Divine. Marriage with the first result would be only a stupidity; marriage for the second result would be irrational inconsequence. So in either way — As for the withdrawal of Grace, it might be said that few are those from whom the grace withdraws …

*   *   *

[1] Greek philosopher, statesman and poet known for his cosmological writings.

[2] Latin poet and philosopher known for his single, long poem “De rerum Natura” [On the Nature of things] in which he tried to show that the course of the world can be explained without postulating divine intervention.

[3] Sri Aurobindo means “a.m.”

[4] Brahma-sūtras, also known as Vedanta-sutras, is one of three fundamental treatises of Vedantic thought, the other two being the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. Together they are known as Prasthāna Trayī. The Brahma-sūtras are terse aphorisms composed by Veda Vyasa to expound the knowledge of Brahman.

The various schools of Vedanta — Advaita, Vishishta Advaita and Dvaita — are based on differing interpretations of the Prasthāna Trayī as expounded by the Vedantic teachers Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva respectively.

Shankara was the first to comment upon the Brahma-sutras, his interpretation known as the Brahma-sūtra bhāṣya is considered as a masterpiece in Vedantic literature.

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