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At the Feet of The Mother

Outer and Inner Methods (HH 204)

When we turn towards Yoga, we sometimes look for a concrete external method, an activity or an outer practice or technique so to say. But the real events of yoga, the practice and the results take place largely in our inner subjective psychological space. We look at this aspect of yoga in the Mother’s Light.

Words of the Mother


[106] Sannyasa has a formal garb and outer tokens; therefore men think they can easily recognise it; but the freedom of a Janaka does not proclaim itself and it wears the garb of the world; to its presence even Narada was blinded.

[107] Hard is it to be in the world, free, yet living the life of ordinary men; but because it is hard, therefore it must be attempted and accomplished.

Sri Aurobindo: Thoughts and Aphorisms


You see, to be free from all attachments doesn’t mean to run away from opportunities for attachment. All those people who assert their asceticism not only run away, but warn others that they shouldn’t try!

It seems to me so obvious. When you need to run away from a thing in order not to experience it, it means you aren’t above it, you are still on that level.

All that eliminates and diminishes or lessens doesn’t free. Freedom must be experienced in the totality of life and sensations.

In this connection, there has been a whole period of study of this subject, on the purely physical level…. To rise above all possibility of error, you tend to eliminate the opportunities for error; for instance, if you don’t want to utter unnecessary words, you stop speaking. People who make a vow of silence imagine it gives a control over speech – that’s not true! It only eliminates the opportunities to speak, and therefore of saying unnecessary things. For food, it’s the same problem: how to eat only just what is needed?… In the transitional state we find ourselves in, we no longer want to live that wholly animal life based on material exchanges and food, but it would be folly to think we have reached the state in which the body can live on without any food at all (still, there is already a big difference, since they are trying to find the nutritional essence in foods in order to reduce their volume); but the natural tendency is fasting – which is a mistake!

For fear of acting wrongly, we stop doing anything; for fear of speaking wrongly, we stop saying anything; for fear of eating for the pleasure of eating, we stop eating anything – that’s not freedom, it’s simply reducing the manifestation to its minimum. And the natural outcome is Nirvana. But if the Lord wanted only Nirvana, there would be only Nirvana! He obviously conceives the coexistence of all opposites and that, to Him, must be the beginning of a totality. So, of course, you may, if you feel that you are meant for that, choose only one of His manifestations, that is to say, the absence of manifestation. But that’s still a limitation. And it’s not the only way of finding Him, far from it!

It’s a very widespread tendency, which probably comes from an old suggestion, or perhaps from a poverty, an incapacity: to reduce and reduce – reduce one’s needs, reduce one’s activities, reduce one’s words, reduce one’s food, reduce one’s active life, and it all becomes so cramped! In the aspiration not to make any mistakes, you eliminate the opportunities of making them – that’s no cure.

But the other path is far, far more difficult….

Yes, I am thinking, for instance, of those who live in the West, who live the Western life: they are constantly swamped with work, with appointments, with telephones… they don’t have one minute to purify what constantly falls on them and to collect themselves. In those conditions, how can they be free men? How is it possible?

This is the other extreme.
No, the solution is to act from the divine impulse alone, to speak from the divine impulse alone, to eat from the divine impulse alone. That’s what is difficult, because, naturally, you immediately confuse the divine impulse with your personal impulses!

That was the idea, I think, of all the apostles of renunciation: eliminate all that comes from outside or from below, so that if something from above manifests, you will be in a fit state to receive it. But from the collective point of view, it’s a process that may take thousands of years! From the individual point of view, it’s possible; but then the aspiration to receive the true impulse should be kept intact – not the aspiration to total “liberation,” but the aspiration to the ACTIVE identification with the Supreme, in other words, to want only what He wants, to do only what He wants, to exist only through Him, in Him.

So the method of renunciation may be tried, but it’s a method for someone who wants to cut himself off from others. And can there be an integrality in that case? … It doesn’t seem possible to me.

Announcing publicly what you intend to do helps considerably. It may give rise to objections, contempt, conflicts, but that’s largely made up for by the public “expectation,” if we may say so: by what others expect from you. That was certainly the reason for those robes: to let people know. Obviously, you may incur the contempt and ill will of some people, but there are all those who feel, “I mustn’t touch this, I mustn’t have anything to do with it, it’s not my concern.”

I don’t know why, it has always seemed to me to be showing off – it may not be that, and in certain cases it isn’t, but still it’s a way of telling people, “Ah! Here is what I am.” And as I said, it may help, but there are drawbacks.

It’s still childish.

All those things are methods, stages on the way, but … true freedom is being free from everything – including from all methods.
It’s a restriction, a narrowing, while the True Thing is a blossoming, a widening, an identification with everything.

When you reduce and reduce and reduce yourself, you don’t feel you’re losing yourself, it takes away the fear of losing yourself – you become something solid and compact. But the method of widening – maximum widening – there, you must … you mustn’t be afraid of losing yourself.

It’s far more difficult….

Certainly monasteries, retreats, running away to the forest or to caves, are necessary to counterbalance modern overactivity, and yet that exists less today than one or two thousand years ago. But it seems to me it was a lack of understanding – it didn’t last long.

It is clearly the excess of activity that makes the excess of immobility necessary.

But how to find the way to be what you should be in ordinary conditions?

The way not to fall into either excess?

Yes, to live normally, to be free.

Mon petit, that’s why we started the Ashram! That was the idea. Because when I was in France, I was always asking myself, “How can people have the time to find themselves? How can they even have the time to understand the way to free themselves?” So I thought: a place where material needs are sufficiently satisfied, so that if you truly want to free yourself, you can do so. And it was on this idea that the Ashram was founded, not on any other: a place where people’s means of existence would be sufficient to give them the time to think of the True Thing…..

But on the basis of the proof or proofs of repeated experiences, I am forced to say this: when that Power of PURE Love – a wonderful Power, beyond any expression – as soon as it begins to manifest fully, freely, a great many things seem to collapse instantly: they can’t hold on. They can’t hold on, they’re dissolved. Then … then everything comes to a stop. And that stop, which we might believe to be a disgrace, is on the contrary an infinite Grace!….

And then, for a long, a very long time, we should be content with the inner results, that is, results of personal and individual reactions, of inner contacts with the rest of the world, and not hope for or will things to materialize too soon. Because that haste people have generally delays things.

If this is the way things are, it’s the way things are.

We – people, I mean – live a harried life. It is a sort of semiconscious feeling of the shortness of their life; they don’t think about it, but they feel it semiconsciously. So they are forever wanting to go – quickly, quickly, quickly – from one thing to another, to do one thing quickly in order to go on to the next, instead of each thing living in its own eternity. We are forever wanting to go forward, forward, forward … and we spoil the work.

That is why some have preached that the only important moment is the present moment – which isn’t true in practice, but from the psychological point of view, it should be true. In other words, let us live every minute to the utmost of our possibility, without foreseeing or wanting or expecting or preparing the next minute. Because we are forever in a hurry-hurry-hurry … and we do everything wrong. We live in an inner tension which is totally false – totally false.

All those who tried to be wise have always said it (the Chinese have preached it, the Indians have preached it): live with the sense of Eternity. In Europe, too, they said you should contemplate the sky, the stars, identify with their infinitude – all of which makes you wide and peaceful.

They are methods, but they are indispensable.

And I have observed it in the body’s cells: they would seem to be forever in a hurry to do what they have to do for fear of not having the time to do it. So they do nothing properly. Clumsy people (there are people who bump into everything, their gestures are brusque and clumsy) have this to a high degree – this sort of haste to do things quickly, quickly, quickly…. Yesterday, someone was complaining of rheumatic pains in his back and said to me, “Oh, it makes me waste so much time, I do things so slowly!” I said to him (Mother laughs), “So what!” He wasn’t happy. You understand, to complain if you have pain means you’re soft, that’s all, but to say, “I’m wasting so much time, I do things so slowly!” was the very clear picture of that haste in which people live – they hurtle through life … where to? … to end up in a crash!….

t was Buddha’s wisdom when he said, “The middle path”: not too much on this side, not too much on that side, don’t fall on this side, don’t fall on that side – a bit of everything, and a balanced … but PURE path.

Purity and sincerity are the same thing.

September 16, 1964


* * *


Their main complaint was, “You are abstract.” So if we want to be concrete, we have to speak of experiences.

No, to them “concrete” means telling what Sri Aurobindo did physically. That’s what they call concrete. Psychology is something abstract for them.

Oh, I don’t know what to do!

Here, I’ll give you an example: A. wrote to tell me, “If you know how to get in touch with Agni,[[Agni: the fire of inner aspiration. In the Vedas it is represented by a particular god. ]] let me know, because I need him”!

I gave the natural reply, that what’s needed is aspiration for progress, a will for perfection, and that you kindle the fire by burning your desires. I told him this in a way I call very concrete. Well, he answered (laughing), “Ohhh! You’re living in abstractions. That’s not what I want, I want a living god” – a personality, you see!

That’s how people are.

Psychology: that’s abstract. What they want is: on such and such a date he went to this place, saw these people and did this – all the most external and banal sorts of things. Even yoga boils down to: he sat down and stayed there for so many hours, he had this vision, he tried out that method, he did asanas and breathing exercises…. That, for them, is concrete. That and that alone. Psychology is thoroughly abstract – thoroughly. It’s unreal to them.

31st July, 1962

* * *


I am sure that’s how the work is done, slowly, imperceptibly, like a chick being formed in the egg: you see the shell, you see only the shell, you don’t know what’s inside, whether it’s just an egg or a chick (normally, I mean – of course, you could see through with special instruments) and then the beak goes peck-peck!

And then cheep! Out comes the chick, just like that. It’s the same thing exactly for the contact with the psychic being. For months on end, sometimes years, you may be sitting before a closed door, push, push, pushing, and feeling, feeling the pressure (it hurts!), and there’s nothing, no results. Then all at once, you don’t know why or how, you sit down and poof! Everything bursts wide open, everything is ready, everything is done – it’s over, you emerge into a full psychic consciousness and become intimate with your psychic being. Then everything changes – everything changes – your life completely changes, it’s a total reversal of your whole existence.

In the end, it’s best not to worry, not to get agitated or depressed (that’s the worst of all), not to get worked up or impatient or disgusted – just be calm and say, “It will come when it comes,” but with an unyielding stubbornness. Do what you feel has to be done, and keep on with it, keep on even if it seems utterly futile.

But if I only had a method!

There are methods – books are full of them. I don’t recommend any of them: it’s always the method the author uses or has heard of. Everyone has to find his own method.

One can get certain hints, one can find one’s own method.

But one has to…. Look, it’s the same as for japa. Your japa is given to you, isn’t it? You receive it (unless you find it on your own, but that’s harder and already requires another level of realization); you receive your japa along with the power to do it – but you have to learn how to do it, right? For a long while you don’t fully succeed; all sorts of things happen – you forget it right in the middle or fall asleep or grow tired, get a headache, all sorts of things; or even outer circumstances interfere and disturb you. Well, here it’s the same: you tell yourself, “I’ll do it,” and you will do it, even if…. You have to go at it just like a mule: everything blocks the way but you keep going. You said you’d do it and you will do it. There are no results – I don’t care. Everything is against me – I don’t care. I said I’d do it and I will … I said I’d do it and I will. And you keep on going like that.

It’s the same thing in your case. It depends on what you want to achieve. Simply what I told you about sleep or resting, for example, ought to be enough. On that, you base your own discipline – or on words that were uttered, or gestures that were made, or ideas you’ve received. You establish your own discipline. And once you have chosen your discipline, you keep on with it.

That’s my experience.

Stubbornly. You have to be stubborn – stubborn, stubborn, stubborn. You’re up against all the resistance of unconsciousness and ignorance, up against all the power of unconsciousness and ignorance – something obstinate and unyielding. But it’s like the story of the drop of water on the rock: a matter of time. The water will eventually wear its way through the rock. It takes ages, but it will succeed, for it falls persistently, drop after drop. First it runs off, eventually it makes a hole, and you have a wide river flowing below. Nature gives us this wonderful example to follow. That’s it: we must be like the water dripping on the rock.

Water is vital energy. The rock is unconsciousness.

September 5, 1962


* * *



My method is essentially very simple: for each thing that comes, I say, “Here, Lord, it’s for You; change it, transform it.” A work of offering and dedication (gesture of presenting something to the Light). And this morning there was a sort of reply – not exactly to a question, but as though I were wondering “How do I do it?” (because the Lord tells me I am here for His work), “How do I do His work? What’s the new way of doing the Work? We know all the old ways, but what’s the new way?” And the reply came, very concrete, without words: “By bringing the two extremes together.

Everything you see, everything that comes to you or that you discover is automatically put in the presence of the Most High, of the Supreme. You join the two extremes. Your whole work is to make the junction.”

November 14, 1962


* * *


(D., a disciple, sent Mother an eighteenth-century account by a Japanese monk of the Zen Buddhist sect describing a method called “Introspection,” which enables one to overcome cold and hunger and attain physical immortality.60 Mother reads a few pages, then gives up.)

It’s better to work out your OWN system – if you want to work one out at all.

That’s what people have always reproached Sri Aurobindo for, because he doesn’t tell you, “Do this in this way and that in that way….” And that’s precisely what made me feel that there was the Truth.

People cannot live without reducing things to a mental system.

They need a mechanism.

 Yes, but as soon as there’s a mechanism, it’s finished.

The mechanism may well be very good for the person who found it: it’s HIS mechanism. But it’s good only for him.

As for me, I prefer not to have any mechanism!

The temptation comes sometimes, but … It’s far more difficult without, but infinitely more living. All this [the Zen account] seems to me … I immediately feel something that’s becoming dead and dry – dry, lifeless.

They replace life with a mechanism. And then it’s finished.

August 5, 1964

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