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At the Feet of The Mother

Diary Notes and Meeting with Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo’s complete works (Centenary Edition) comprise 29 volumes (plus an index volume). The major part of these works are texts which were written by him, even though there are also the transcripts of a few speeches. Furthermore, a few disciples like Nirodbaran or A.B. Purani have recorded some talks with him on the basis of notes. But he was mainly communicating himself through the pen (or the typewriter), and his voice has not been recorded. Just the reverse is the case with the Mother. Out of the 15 volumes of her Collected Works most contain transcripts of her speeches and talks with students, the greatest part of which were recorded on tape. The Mother’s only written work of some length is Prayers and Meditations, a selection from her comprehensive diary notes. Their origin goes back to the year 1912, when she was regularly meditating in the early morning in her room at rue Val de Grâce in Paris. Sitting near the window with a Kashmiri shawl around her shoulders, she entered into communion with the Divine and noted her experiences in a diary. Extracts from this diary were published in 1932 under the title Prières et Méditations, and Sri Aurobindo himself translated many of the entries into English.

In the preface the Mother explains the purpose of this publication. The texts are meant to help those “who have undertaken to achieve self-mastery, those who want to find the path that leads to the Divine, and those who aspire to consecrate themselves more and more completely to the Divine Work.”[1] A great number of quotations in this chapter will be taken from this diary.


After a few years the Mother had dissolved her marriage with Henri Morisset and she married Paul Richard, a well-known and well-read philosopher who was keenly interested in Eastern and Western spirituality as well as Vedantic Yoga. He had also political plans and so in 1910, in connection with an election campaign, he came to Pondicherry, which was at that time part of French India. He also wanted to consult an advanced Yogi about the symbolic meaning of the star of David and therefore went to see Sri Aurobindo who was in exile outside British India. In what follows we shall first give a short survey of Sri Aurobindo’s life, which was later to merge more and more with that of the Mother.

Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15 August 1872. His father was an anglophile and sent him with his two brothers to England for education when he was seven. Sri Aurobindo spent fourteen years in that country. He first stayed with an English family at Manchester, then he joined St. Paul’s School in London and later studied at King’s College in Cambridge. He passed the open competition for the Indian Civil Service, but got himself disqualified by not presenting himself at the riding examination.

In 1893 Sri Aurobindo returned to India, and the next thirteen years he worked in Baroda in the Revenue Department and the Secretariat, then as a Professor at the Baroda College and, finally, as Vice-Principal there. During this period he studied keenly the basics of Indian culture, learnt Sanskrit as well as some modern Indian languages and wrote many poems. In 1905 he joined the political arena and the next year became editor of the journal Bande Mataram. In numberless inspired articles he sought to stir up the Indian national consciousness and to further the independence movement. At Baroda in early 1908 he had the experience of Nirvana or silent Brahman. Later in the year at Calcutta he was arrested in a conspiracy case and detained for one year as an undertrial prisoner in the Alipur Jail. There he had his second decisive spiritual experience and saw God (Krishna) present in all things and beings, moving in them and expressing Himself through them. After his acquittal in 1909 he continued for a while in politics. The next year he withdrew from the political field. Following an inner command, he sailed first to Chandernagore and later to Pondicherry where he completely devoted himself to developing a new path of spirituality, the Integral Yoga.

Richard had several meetings with Sri Aurobindo and one of his questions related to the symbolic character of the lotus. Sri Aurobindo explained that the lotus represents the opening of the consciousness to the Divine.

When Richard had returned to France, he told the Mother about Sri Aurobindo and they started some correspondence. In April 1914 Sri Aurobindo wrote to a friend that the Richards were rare examples of European yogins who had not been misled by aberrations on the spiritual path.

The Mother felt now irresistibly drawn towards India, the one country which she had always felt to be her true mother country. In 1914 her longing was at last fulfilled and she could embark on a journey to Pondicherry with Paul Richard. They left Paris on 5 March, 1914 and the next day they boarded the ‘Kaga Maru’, a Japanese steamer. In a diary note of March 8 the Mother describes an inner experience, an inner movement which is characteristic of her being and points towards her future role: she takes all fellow-travellers on the boat into her consciousness and envelopes them in love, tries to awaken them to the Divine. In her inner experience the boat is “a marvellous abode of peace, a temple sailing in Thy honour over the waves of the subconscient passivity which we have to conquer and awaken to the consciousness of Thy divine Presence.”[2]

On Sunday a service was arranged in the saloon of the boat, but the Mother did not take part in it. When the priest asked her, why she had not come, she answered: “… I don’t feel that you are sincere, neither you nor your flock. You all went there to fulfil a social duty and social custom, but not at all because you really wanted to enter into communion with God.”[3] When the priest told her that he was on the way to China as a missionary, the Mother did not mince words in giving him her opinion on his mission: “Listen, even before your religion was born – not even two thousand years ago – the Chinese had a very high philosophy and knew a path leading them to the Divine; and when they think of Westerners, they think of them as barbarians. And you are going there to convert those who know more about it than you? What are you going to teach them? To be insincere, to perform hollow ceremonies instead of following a profound philosophy and a detachment from life which lead them to a more spiritual consciousness?”[4]

The Mother and Paul Richard left the boat at Colombo and arrived in Pondicherry in the early hours of March 29. Even while approaching the town, the Mother had a vision of a huge column of light in the centre of Pondicherry, and the intensity of the light became greater when they got down at the railway station.

On the very day of their arrival the Richards met Sri Aurobindo in the afternoon at his place in rue François Martin. The first physical meeting with Sri Aurobindo was a decisive experience for the Mother and she immediately recognized in him the one whom she had so often met in her dreams and whom she had called ‘Krishna’. She was now deeply convinced that her place was at his side, that her work was here in India. After the meeting she noted in her diary:

“It matters little that there are thousands of beings plunged in the densest ignorance; He whom we saw yesterday is on earth; his presence is enough to prove that a day will come when darkness shall be transformed into light, and Thy reign shall actually be established upon earth.”[5]

The Mother had sat down at Sri Aurobindo’s feet and made her mind completely empty, giving up all her ideas and concepts, in order to be completely open only to him. After some time an infinite silence had descended into her and settled in her mind. This experience brought about a deep inner change in her: “It seems to me that I am being born into a new life and that all the methods and habits of the past can no longer be of any use. It seems to me that what was once a result is now only a preparation… It is as if I was stripped of all my past, of my errors as well as my conquests, as if all that had disappeared to give place to one new-born whose whole existence has yet to take shape… An immense gratitude rises from my heart. I seem to have at last arrived at the threshold which I have long sought.”[6]

The Richards now met Sri Aurobindo every afternoon, whilst he came to the Richards on Sundays and his companions joined him for dinner with the Richards after their daily football game. The talks often continued until late in the night.

The Richards now started publishing a philosophical journal, the Arya, in collaboration with Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo contributed many articles in which he propounded his own interpretation of important Indian Scriptures such as the Vedas and Upanishads, and he wrote about Indian Philosophy as well as world history and world evolution. Here he laid the foundation for some of his major works like The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Secret of the Veda, The Human Cycle, etc. Richard made his contribution with a collection of aphorisms of famous thinkers, poets, saints and sages, whilst the Mother – the actual collector of them in the past – maintained the accounts and was the chief executive. They also prepared a French edition (Revue de la Grande Synthèse). The first edition of the Arya appeared on Sri Aurobindo’s birthday, 15 August 1914, and it was like a message of Light for the world which had just been precipitated into the chaos of the First World War. The aims of this monthly journal were given as follows on the cover page:

1.The systematic study of the highest problems of existence.

2.The formation of a vast synthesis of knowledge, harmonising the diverse religious traditions of humanity, occidental as well as oriental. Its method will be that of realism, at once rational and transcendental, a realism consisting in the unification of intellectual and scientific disciplines with those of intuitive experience.[7]

While the first copies of the Arya were going out into the world, Paul Richard was called home to join the French Reserve Army and had to leave Pondicherry. The Mother went with him, certainly against her will. But obviously Sri Aurobindo felt that the time for their direct collaboration had not yet come. So they started the return journey on 22 February 1915, one day after the Mother’s birthday. She later stated in one of her talks, with obvious pain: “He (Sri Aurobindo) did not keep me, what could I do? I had to go. But I left my psychic being with him, and in France I was once on the point of death: the doctors had given me up.”[8] The separation from Sri Aurobindo, from India was a powerful shock for the Mother. She was drawn, as it were, into the whirlpool of the World War to become its silent witness. In Paris she saw trains with wounded soldiers arriving and was deeply moved on seeing the noble manner in which they bore their sufferings. She tried to help them in her own way, by inwardly enveloping them in love, and she discovered that the soldiers had a great receptivity for her invisible gift.

There are a great number of diary entries of this time which reflect the tumultuous developments in the world as well as her own trials.

“O Lord, this earth groans and suffers; chaos has made this world its abode.

“The darkness is so great that Thou alone canst dispel it. Come, manifest Thyself, that Thy work may be accomplished.”[9]

“Solitude, a harsh, intense solitude, and always this strong impression of having been flung headlong into an inferno of darkness! … Sometimes… I cannot prevent my total submission from taking a hue of melancholy, and the calm and mute converse with the Master within is transformed for a moment into an invocation almost suppliant, ‘O Lord, what have I done that Thou throwest me thus into the sombre night?’”[10]

Meanwhile Sri Aurobindo continued his correspondence with the Mother and helped her in her serious crisis. After the departure of the Richards he shouldered all alone the responsibility of publishing the Arya. He wrote 64 pages every month. After it had been proposed to him to seek a safer place for his stay than Pondicherry, he wrote the Mother in a letter of 6 May 1915: “The whole earth is now under one law and answers to the same vibrations and I am skeptical of finding any place where the clash of struggle will not pursue us. In any case, an effective retirement does not seem to be my destiny. I must remain in touch with the world until I have either mastered adverse circumstances or succumbed or carried on the struggle between the spiritual and physical so far as I am destined to carry it on.”[11]

During her serious illness the Mother was staying in Lunel and she noted in her diary on 19 April 1915 how all external circumstances were just then representing the very opposite of her ideal of a harmonious world. “The hour has not yet come for joyful realisations in outer physical things,” she writes with a view of the gloomy situation. But she silently submits to her suffering and accepts it to be the will of the Lord that she has to share this experience of the complete darkness of the world, which takes her physically to the verge of death. And yet she remains unshaken in her resolve, in her deep aspiration for a truer life on earth, and keeps the flame of her faith burning amidst the hopeless chaos of the holocaust. Whilst her body has been put out of action by an inflammation of the nerves, she carries her work on in the inner planes which are out of reach for the clutches of Death. In the following quotation we learn something about the multi-dimensional workings of the Mother and come to know how she could further and hasten the evolution and individual development of seekers of the Truth, independent of her body:

“I was lying in an easy-chair, in front of a garden. I saw that the spiritual power was still active in me: I could go on with occult experiments in spite of the illness. I used to concentrate on things and persons and circumstances and wanted to see if the power worked. It worked very well on the mental and vital planes. Then I broadened the field of activity. I could go on doing my work in various parts of France and America and other places. I could clearly see the faces of the persons worked upon. They could be made to do what they by themselves could not. These were controlled experiments.

“I could see that nothing could stop the work: even without my body the work could go on.”

“Wherever the call was, I could attend.”[12]

On the strength of this quotation we may surely assume and affirm that now after her physical departure, the Mother is in a similar way influencing earth events from the subtle physical plane and giving individual guidance to disciples and devotees all over the world. “Even without my body the work could go on.” This is certainly a most significant revelation.

[1] Nilima – Glimpses of the Mother’s Life 1:113
[2] K. R. S. Iyengar’s On the Mother 1:79
[3] Nilima – Glimpses of the Mother’s Life 1:128
[4] Nilima – Glimpses of the Mother’s Life 1:129
[5] Nilima – Glimpses of the Mother’s Life 1:131
[6] K. R. S. Iyengar’s On the Mother 1:88
[7] K. R. S. Iyengar’s On the Mother 1:106
[8] Nilima – Glimpses of the Mother’s Life 1:160
[9] K. R. S. Iyengar’s On the Mother 1:113
[10] K. R. S. Iyengar’s On the Mother 1:133
[11] K. R. S. Iyengar’s On the Mother 1:138
[12] Nilima – Glimpses of the Mother’s Life 1:162

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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.