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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1931, October-November

October 11, 1931

I must have forgotten to send you my reply about O. C. Ganguli.[1] I did not want to discourage his visit, — he can come, if he does not mind being uncomfortable, and you can so tell him.

Don’t worry about the pressure; it is a good sign, not a bad one, and simply means that the Power is working to open that supremely important centre.

Also don’t worry about the perspiration; it is a phenomenon we have all had at certain stages of the Yoga, the heat also. The old style would have said it was the Yoga fire waking to purify the body of obstructive impurities and incapacities, and it was after all not an incorrect explanation and a fairly adequate expression.

You must really get rid of this idea that you are imagining things like the silence and wideness; an experience is not untrue because it is vague. If it is vague at first, it will deepen and intensify afterwards; but it must be affirmed and accepted, not denied and doubted. The “Essay on Doubt” will be written, never fear; but I have no time for it just now.

Keep your waking consciousness as pure as possible; the dreams will then get discouraged in the end. The subconscious always takes time to clear altogether.

*   *   *

November 1931?

(…) such fuming helps not. But I have had enough fun over the income tax and now this! Qu’en dites-vous.[2] Fine mess! I will have to pay lots [?] for a law-suit because my precious cousin has forgotten all along to pay the tax! O Lord!

I send you three poems — parables rather, all from Sri Ramakrishna. I have written in all eighteen. The others will follow. Some comfort this at least. But I have had to write so many letters today over this mess! … Quite annoyed, truly!

Have worked all day, — quite solitary! So be pleased, please.

I am.

No use boiling over human ingratitude — it is too immense a thing to deserve a single boil. You know Vidyasagar’s saying, “āmār upar tānr eta rāg keno? āmi ta tānr kona-o upakāra kari ni!!” [“Why does he abuse me? I never did him a good turn!”] Of course all humanity is not like that — luckily, but it is a familiar tract in human nature and a large part of the average human act like that. You may say he might at least have paid the tax — but what human being will pay a tax when he can shove [?] it on to somebody else — especially a benefactor. A benefactor ought to benefact always — to the extent of paying any little tax that may be going about — otherwise where is the constancy in his character? Even your cousin may be thinking, “What a strange fellow to object to paying the tax on his own bungalow!” At least if he did, that would be the human mind all over.

*   *   *

November 2, 1931

In the first place why on earth do you put any belief in the “reports circulated in the Ashram” and, in the second, why on earth do you allow these to depress you? I thought you knew the value or rather the entire absence of value of this kind of gossip and rumour? What about the “scepticism” which makes you unwilling to believe everything people tell you — why not make a useful use of it in refusing to believe these things? That would be better than to make a useless use of it in doubting the experiences of your own inner being which are a thousand times more reliable than this imaginative chit-chat built upon nothing. If the Mother makes you a communication when you are in your inner consciousness, why not put your faith in that and not in all this external noise and blather? And who, by the way, told you that the Mother is seeing those for whom she has love and confidence and that for others, like yourself, she has no love and confidence? The Mother has been “seeing” nobody and even now and for some time to come all visits and talk must be refused until she is stronger.[3] Certain people come here for their usual work, or to do necessary things, or to bring food or letters, etc. (dealt by me, not by the Mother!) but the Mother has not been wasting her strength in receiving them or in chatting with anybody, I can assure you. I do not think I need say more about all that you have built on what “they say”; you ought to see that the foundation is unsubstantial mist and that therefore the structure you have built on it has no right to exist. As for my not answering questions, I have naturally been too busy all these days, but I thought everyone would easily understand that; I did not expect that a theory would be built on it that I was “disappointed”, had turned tail and was running away from my work. At any rate, since they say so, please reassure them and tell them that such is not the case. For yourself, cheer up and throw sadness to the dogs. How can you be sad when you have such beautiful dreams and messages from the Mother?

I am glad to hear all you have written about Pratap. He may have been unlucky to come just at this moment, or rather it may seem so on the surface; but things are not always what they seem, and now he is here he had better remain until he has secured the object of his coming.

Your translation of Shakespeare is excellent, the less literal version is certainly much better than the other. Only, I am not quite sure that the last six lines are quite equal to the first eight; perhaps a retouching of the tenth and fourteenth lines would remove the inequality. Shakespeare’s last line is perhaps a little too intellectual and ingenious, the play of words exceeding the sense, but I find the last but one rather fine and effective.

I have only had time to glance at the poem; I shall read it again before I pronounce on it, but the first effect is very favourable.


P.S. I have since read the poem and I see that it is very beautiful poetry.

I send you back the German article; I made something out of the first paragraph, but had no time to labour through the rest. Perhaps you could make a translation for me as you propose. But he starts with a queer proposition — Aurobindo Ghose is a new Buddha! By the way he refers to Romain Rolland, but Rolland, I hear, is sadly disappointed with me! It was to be expected, after all; I rather thought it could be the result of closer acquaintance.

*   *   *

November 4, 1931

The new version is much better; it now reads as an even whole.

Please send the money on to me. Pondicherry houses are not safe and it is no use tempting the Dasyus — even when Indra is coming down with the rain in seven rivers.


P.S. Can you send me back the German article? I shall read it with the half of your translation, it may bring back some of my forgotten German. I don’t think habitus is habitat, but what it is is more than I can tell you.

*   *   *

November 12, 1931

I think we will keep to the refrigerator. Your information about our food-measurements is inaccurate. I am taking the same quantity of food always. The Mother, of course, for some days took nothing and is still taking very little, but more and more rather than less every day; but the diminution was due to temporary incapacity and not to any set purpose. So there is no ground of that kind for changing what was settled. On the contrary the experience of these days shows that the refrigerator would have been of immense use and saved much time and trouble. The refrigerator is not going to be in the stores, except for a short time; it will be put on our floor as soon as the new rooms are ready; so there Shankar will have full satisfaction. All machines have to be carefully kept and handled if they are to remain in good order, — the motor cars are a proof of that, — but that is not a reason for machinelessness; the necessary care will have to be taken, that is all. And we have electricians and mechanics here, so it ought not to be impossible to repair any slight harm done.

As for Pratap, the Mother intends, if all goes well, to give a short meditation daily at Pranam time to the sadhaks for some days before the 24th, and if this can be done, he can come to the meditation. After the 24th she will see him privately; meanwhile he will have at least met her and received her touch: I hope that will satisfy him and keep him to his soul’s purpose in coming here. Please do not speak to others of this intention of the Mother’s, as that would raise a riot of comment, discussion, interpretation and gossip which would disturb the atmosphere altogether. It is better that it should not be known till the Mother is ready to make it public.

As for all the rest you write, you should realise that the Mother has had a very severe attack and that she must absolutely husband her forces in view of the strain the 24th November will mean for her. It is quite out of the question for her to begin seeing and receiving them meanwhile — a single morning of that kind of thing would exhaust her altogether. You must remember that for her a physical contact of this kind with others is not a mere social or domestic meeting with a few superficial movements which make no great difference one way or the other. It means for her an interchange, a pouring out of her forces and a receiving of things good, bad and mixed from them which often involves a great labour of adjustment and elimination and, in many cases though not in all, a severe strain on the body. If it had been only a question of two or three people, it would have been a different matter; but there is the whole Ashram here ready to enforce each his claim the moment she opens her doors. You surely do not want to put all that upon her before she has recovered her health and strength! In the interests of the work itself — the Mother has never cared in the least for her body or her health for its own sake and that indifference has been one reason, though only an outward one, for the damage done — I must insist on her going slowly in the resumption of the work and doing only so much at first as her health can bear. It seems to me that all who care for her ought to feel in the way I do.

The weakness in yourself of which you speak is there, as the persistency of these movements show but it is not in the heart — your heart is all right — but in the lower vital nature. All your weaknesses are there; the rest of your being is quite strong enough for the spiritual life. But this inadequacy of the lower vital is not peculiar to you, it is in almost every human being. This tendency to irrational sadness and despondency and these imaginations, fears and perverse reasonings — always repeating, if you will take careful notice, the same movements, ideas and feelings and even the same language and phrases like a machine — is a characteristic of the lower vital nature. The only way to get rid of it is to meet it with a fixed resolution of the higher vital and the mind and psychic being to combat, reject and master it. As you were determined to master the desire of the palate, so you must determine to master this “irrational knot” of despondency in the lower vital nature. If you indulge it and regard it as a natural part of yourself with good causes for existence or if you busy yourself finding this or that justification for it when it comes, there is no reason why it should let go its unpleasant grip upon you. Be firm and courageous here, as you have learnt to be with other movements of your lower vital; you will then, I think, find less difficulty in your meditation and your general sadhana.

*   *   *

November 16, 1931

I am feeling very restless and miserable. All sorts of doubts are assailing me. I know you are very busy. But! don’t know whom else to approach.

I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to pass the whole night in such misery.

P.S. Most likely I won’t go to see Mother to-morrow morning. But I am afraid lest my misery should then increase. And then if I don’t feel like going to pranam her in the mechanical way what use is my going particularly since I feel I may contaminate the atmosphere.

All this is quite groundless as usual — I don’t know why you insist on putting yourself to self-torture in this way. The misery and doubts are in all probability due to your having made a wrong movement in determining not to come to pranam. I have never said or written that you were in any degree the cause or the sadhaks generally were the cause of the Mother’s illness. It is nonsense to talk of your contaminating the atmosphere. You will get a letter from me in the morning; meanwhile throw all this out of your head and go to the pranam in a spirit of quiet and confidence.

*   *   *

November 16, 1931

I hope that you have acted according to my note on your letter written an hour or two ago and thrown away this wrong idea and wrong movement of yours about the Pranam and the Mother’s illness. What you have written in these last letters including the one in which you strangely suggest that the best way to progress in sadhana might be to cease loving the Mother because you love her in the human way, proceeds from wrong notions generated by a confusion in your vital mind misinterpreting things we may have said or written to you. I will try to set them right as clearly as possible.

And first about human love in the sadhana. The soul’s turning through love to the Divine must be through a love that is essentially divine, but as the instrument of expression at first is a human nature, it takes the forms of human love and bhakti. It is only as the consciousness deepens, heightens and changes that that greater eternal love can grow in it and openly transform the human into the divine. But in human love itself there are several kinds of motive-forces. There is a psychic human love which rises from deep within and is the result of the meeting of the inner being with that which calls it towards a divine joy and union; it is, once it becomes aware of itself, something lasting, self-existent, not dependent upon external satisfactions, not capable of diminution by external causes, not self-regarding, not prone to demand or bargain but giving itself simply and spontaneously, not moved to or broken by misunderstandings, disappointments, strife and anger, but pressing always straight towards the inner union. It is this psychic love that is closest to the divine and it is therefore the right and best way of love and bhakti. But that does not mean that the other parts of the being, the vital and physical included, are not to be used as means of expression or that they are not to share in the full play and the whole meaning of love, even of divine love. On the contrary, they are a means and can be a great part of the complete expression of divine love, — provided they have the right and not the wrong movement. There are in the vital itself two kinds of love, — one full of joy and confidence and abandon, generous, unbargaining, ungrudging and very absolute in its dedication and this is akin to the psychic and well-fitted to be its complement and a means of expression of the divine love. And neither does the psychic love or the divine love despise a physical means of expression wherever that is pure and right and possible; it does not depend upon that, it does not diminish, revolt or go out like a snuffed candle when it is deprived of any such means; but when it can use it, it does so with joy and gratitude. Neither of us ever said that darshan and touch in the Pranam were given as a concession to human weakness and that in the psychic way there is no place for such things. On the contrary they were given as means of approaching the Divine and receiving the Light and materialising the psychic contact, and so long as they are approached in the right spirit and used for the true purpose they have their place. It is only if they are misused, not rightly approached or approached with indifference and inertia, or revolt or hostility or some gross desire, that they are out of place and can have a contrary effect — as the Mother has always warned people and has assigned it as the reason why she does not like lightly to open them to everyone.

But there is another way of vital love which is more usually the way of human nature and that is a way of ego and desire. It is full of vital craving, desire and demand; its continuance depends upon the satisfaction of its demands; if it does not get what it craves or even imagines that it is not being treated as it deserves — for it is full of imaginations, misunderstandings, jealousies, misinterpretations — it at once turns to sorrow, wounded feeling, anger, all kinds of disorder, finally cessation and departure. A love of this kind is in its very nature ephemeral and unreliable and it cannot be made a foundation for divine love. There has been too much of this kind in the relations of the sadhaks with the Mother in approaching her, I suppose, as a human mother with all the reactions of the lower vital nature. For a long time it was per force tolerated — and this was the concession made to human weakness — even accepted in the beginning as a thing too prominent in the human being not to be there to some extent but to be transformed by degrees; but too often, it has refused to transform itself and has made itself a source of confusion, disorder, asiddhi, sometimes complete disaster. It is for this reason that we discourage this lower vital way of human love and would like people to reject and eliminate these elements as soon as may be from their nature. Love should be a flowering of joy and union and confidence and self-giving and Ananda, — but this is only a source of suffering, trouble, disappointment, disillusion and disunion. Even a slight element of it shakes the foundations of peace and replaces the movement towards Ananda by a fall towards sorrow, discontent and nirānanda [blisslessness].

In your own case you often write in your wrong moods as if human love, even with some of these lower ingredients, were the only thing possible to you. But that is not so at all, for it contradicts your own deepest experiences. Always what your inner being has asked is Love, Bhakti, Ananda and whenever it comes to the surface it is, even if only in a first elementary form, the divine love which it brings with it. A basis of deep and intense calm and stillness, a great intensity of emotion and bhakti, an inrush of Ananda, this is in these moments your repeated experience. On the other hand when you insist too much on the love which exists by continual cravings, what comes is the other movement — fits of despondency, sorrow, nirānanda. In stressing on the psychic basis, in wishing you to conquer this other movement, I am only pointing you to the true way of your own nature — of which the psychic bhakti, the true vital love are the real moving forces, and the other is only a superficial immixture.

I had hoped to write shortly, but I have not been able to do so. Therefore, for the moment since I have promised you this letter in the morning, I can only repeat, on the other matter, that I have not said that you in any degree or the sadhaks generally were the cause of the Mother’s illness. To another who wrote something of the kind from the same personal standpoint I replied that the Mother’s illness was due to a struggle with universal forces which far overpassed the scope of any individual or group of individuals. What I wrote about the strain thrown on the Mother by the physical contacts was in connection with her resumption of work — and it concerns the conditions under which the work can best be done, so that these forces may not in future have the advantage. Conditions have been particularly arduous in the past owing to the perhaps inevitable development of things, for which I do not hold anyone responsible, but now that the sadhana has come down to the most material plane on which blows can still be given by the adverse forces it is necessary to make a change which can best be done by a change in the inner attitude of the sadhaks, for that alone now can make — until the decisive descent of the supramental Light and Force — the external conditions easier. But of this I cannot write at the tail end of a letter.

*   *   *

[1] A well-known critic of Indian art of the times.

[2] French for “What do you say?”

[3] This refers to Mother’s illness, which she recounted to Satprem in Mother’s Agenda, vol. 5, August 14, 1964:

“… I remember (Sri Aurobindo was here), I caught a sort of fever like influenza from contact with the workers, one of those fevers that take hold of you brutally, instantly, and in the night I had a temperature of more than 105. Anyway, it was … And then I spent my night studying what people call ‘delirium’ — (laughing) it was very interesting! I was explaining it to Sri Aurobindo (he was there: I was lying on the bed and he was sitting by the bedside), I told him, “This is what’s going on, that is what’s going on… and that (such and such and such a thing) is what gives people what doctors call ‘delirium.’ It isn’t ‘delirium’…. I remember having been assailed for hours by little entities, vital forms that were hideous, vile, and so vicious! An unequaled cruelty. They rushed at me in a troop, I had to fight to repel them: they retreated, moved forward, retreated, moved forward … And for hours like that. Naturally, at that time I had Sri Aurobindo’s full power and presence, and yet it lasted three or four hours. So I thought, ‘How terrible it must be for the poor devils who have neither the knowledge I have, nor the power I have, nor Sri Aurobindo’s protective presence — all the best conditions.’ It must be frightful, oh! … have never in my life seen anything so disgusting.

“I had picked it all up in the workers’ atmosphere. Because I hadn’t been careful, it was the ‘festival of arms’ and I had been in ‘communion’ with them: I had given them some food and taken something they’d given me, which means it was a terrible communion. And I brought all that back.

“I was ill for a long time, several days.”

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