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At the Feet of The Mother

Gratitude (4/18) A Human Vessel of Descent

In the unfolding process of the Self
Sometimes the inexpressible Mystery
Elects a human vessel of descent.
A breath comes down from a supernal air,
A Presence is born, a guiding Light awakes,
A stillness falls upon the instruments:
Fixed, motionless like a marble monument,
Stone-calm, the body is a pedestal
Supporting a figure of eternal Peace.
Or a revealing Force sweeps blazing in;
Out of some vast superior continent
Knowledge breaks through trailing its radiant seas,
And Nature trembles with the power, the flame.
A greater Personality sometimes
Possesses us which yet we know is ours:
Or we adore the Master of our souls.
Then the small bodily ego thins and falls;
No more insisting on its separate self,
Losing the punctilio of its separate birth,
It leaves us one with Nature and with God.
[Savitri: 47]

His father, a kind and generous doctor was married to a beautiful lady who had lost her inner balance due to an excessive sensitivity. The illustrious father was completely taken over by the English way of life and wanted his children to have a thoroughly British upbringing and education so that he is untouched by the inferior way of thought and life that India represented. He was not alone in this thought. Like many others in his time he too was carried away by the outer glitter and glamour and the impeccable ways of the successful and pompous imperialistic Britain. At the tender age of seven, he travelled westward, to England, since his father, Dr K. D. Ghosh, wanted his sons to receive a through and through western education. Sri Aurobindo excelled there as a student. His talent was appreciated not only by his teachers but also by some well-known names in English Literature.

Around the same time, separated by six years, on the 21st February 1878, a girl was born in France to parents who aspired to have the very best child in the world. They trusted nothing but what the senses could perceive. In such a family of positivists and atheists, the daughter of the Sun carrying the Word of the New Creation in her secret bosom, a Flame of Love born from the original Marvel and Mystery took on a human shape. She was named Mirra Alfassa, whom the world would know as the Mother and whose saviour Name would become synonymous with the Divine Grace and embodied Divine Love. She arrived from the other shore of boundlessness armed with the Divine Will and the mandate for the New Creation.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were growing apart equipping themselves for their earthly mission. For now we can focus on Sri Aurobindo’s life returning back to the Mother when the time for their coming together is near. Meanwhile Sri Aurobindo grew in England learning the ways of the British much more than the British ways. He must learn the ways of the Adversary he had to conquer. But his method of knowing was primarily from within outwards. Instead of losing himself in the outer glitterati he rather plunged himself into the poetry and literature of Europe in general and England in particular.

Living in England for nearly 14 years as if in exile had quite the opposite effect than intended by his father. Sri Aurobindo could see through the hollowness of a civilisation built on polished externals but without any deeper firm foundations. England was surely not the country with which he shared natural affinity. It was France, possibly because of his deep connection with the country in previous lives whence he worked actively during the French revolution. Yet it was necessary to learn all about England and the English people with whom he had to engage as a revolutionary leader. He had to also master the subtleties and the turns of the English language that had become largely international. It would be the means for communicating his message to the world. England also gave him enough opportunity to practice equanimity which had to become an important foundation for his yoga. After all it was not easy to live through the English winter with minimum clothing and just about one meal a day. And yet he neither allowed his spirit to be dulled or develop a cynical attitude towards life. He kept intact his humour and his thought remained high soaring towards things that were true and beautiful and of a lasting value. One of his writings during this period at the age of 18, ‘The Harmony of Virtues’ gives us a glimpse of his depths and profundities of his thought.

He passed the prestigious ICS Tripos in first class but failed to appear in the riding test and thereby deliberately lost the chance of a rich, successful career offered to him as a young man. His destiny and his calling lay elsewhere:

Me from her lotus heaven Saraswati
Has called to regions of eternal snow
And Ganges pacing to the southern sea,
Ganges upon whose shores the flowers of Eden blow.
[CWSA 2:37]

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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.