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At the Feet of The Mother

On Pavitra da (HH 194)

Jan 16, 1894 is birthday of Pavitra da, one of the early and foremost disciples of Sri Aurobindo. His life (and his death) are truly exemplary. Born in France and a scientist by training, Pavitra da worked as an engineer in the French Army during the First World War. Subsequently his quest led him to Japan and Mongolia. While in Japan his yogic life continued with his work, he practiced rigorous Shintoism in Mongolia. Finally his seeking brought him to Pondicherry at the Feet of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in 1925, where he devoted the rest of life until his departure in 1969 at the age of 75 years. Today we shall take a look at some aspects of Pavitra da’s life.

Conversations with Sri Aurobindo


Your going back to France at the moment would be a defeat. You would fall off from the state of consciousness of which you have caught a glimpse. It could even be worse. Perhaps after a few years you would get over it, but in any case, you would be missing an opportunity and failing in what you have to do.

You bring a sincerity of heart in your search and the aptitude of your mind for learning (for reserving your judgment). But your mental activity is harmful ; you must make your mind silent.

A new consciousness is seeking expression in you. There are in India people, yogis, who can help you in this and give you a new birth. But there will be some difficulties in finding them, for you do not speak their language and they are often hard of access. This, however, is one of the solutions before you.

This spiritual consciousness will give you mukti. Personally, my yoga would be finished if my goal were liberation. Mukti is only the first part. The second is to bring down the light into all the instruments, to make them perfect and to become the embodiment of Truth. The universal truth and power will then act through you and by your instrumentation. It is true that people are more or less unconscious instruments of the Shakti ; but it is a question of remaining perfectly conscious.

This perfection of man is difficult—very, very difficult, and it is a life-time’s work. One may fail and make a mess of one’s life. It is in fact so hard that I do not advise anyone to take this path. However, there is a powerful aspiration in you and something which is seeking to come down. So I put this ideal before you. If you choose it remain here, with us, and see what I can give you and what you can take from me before going farther.

December 18, 1925


* * *


There is in us a region which is above space and time, immobile, immutable, at first; it does not participate in the waves of emotions and thoughts. The first step is to centre one’s consciousness in this region and keep it there : this is mukti. In us, beyond our personality, the Purusha is seen, with many attributes which are successively unveiled.

First of all, he appears as the witness of actions and sensations, un-touched, unalterable.

Then he manifests as the giver of sanctions : he approves or refuses his consent to a movement of Prakriti : desire or thought or even action. When such an order is given, as for instance, the refusal to take part in a certain emotion, though the past is yet strong, the being turns away from that emotion.

Then, Purusha is the Knower and in him is the knowledge. This knowledge has several forms : the lowest is intuition, then comes the knowledge in unity. In any case, the senses are no longer avenues of knowledge : it comes directly. Finally, Purusha reveals himself as Ishwara, the Lord. Governing and acting through his instruments he at last takes his kingdom in his hands.

This is accomplished in two stages.
At first the contact is mental—zone of the spiritual mind (Buddhi ?). Man recognises his mind, his emotions and his body as not-himself. He feels himself existing above them—above the spatial and temporal form. He has peace and certitude.

To reach this, the first thing (and specially for you) is to stop the thoughts at will. One must first separate oneself mentally from the mind (for one is not yet capable of doing it otherwise), must look at it and study it. When that is done it becomes easy to stop the thoughts. This is the first lesson of Yoga. Thus, whilst talking with you at this moment, I have no thoughts. I see what is around me but without thinking (unless I want to do so and call the thought). When I began Yoga I went in search of Lele to ask him to help me. He ordered me to sit beside him and practise this mental separation. At the end of three days I had succeeded and slain the thoughts.

There are other means of arriving at this, like the one of sitting down and opening oneself to the influx from above, so that this working may be accomplished from above without any personal effort. To you I would recommend the first method. Till this first realisation everything is mental. And intuition is only fragmentary, uncertain and intermittent. One must go beyond. Little by little, strong aspiration brings about (sometimes suddenly) the irruption into the consciousness of something new. Some-times it is a peace, solid like a rock. Sometimes a light, almost physical, which illumines all things, inner and outer. Sometimes a guidance. In any case, ineffable peace is followed by knowledge.
Besides, all this descends from above below. And not as with the Tantrics starting from the lower cakra. But on the contrary from above.

So—for you—the first aim: to separate yourself from your mind and know it as outside you. To take the attitude of the witness. Let the thoughts come but do not let yourself be carried away by them. Practise during meditation. Then, you will have to infuse into daily life what you establish first in meditation.

December 20, 1925


* * *


Sometimes the mind opens first to the light and the supermind works then through the mind and uses the machinery of mind. Sometimes the psychic being, which is always behind — without a psychic aspiration nothing in this Yoga is possible — comes forward. There is then no mental illumination, but a burning fire which turns the whole being upwards. It makes then the progress easy. Afterwards of course the whole machinery of nature is also directed from above, but the mental movement is not the chief one.


* * *


Now, in meditation I only open myself to the force and allow it to work. I am not acting upon my mind any longer….

Remain open and passive and follow. That is what you have to do. The force will transform by itself and by its own means and ways. The way of doing it with the mind is slow and imperfect, though the mind sometimes thinks it to be the best, because it feels itself acting. That is wrong. The mind does not know the conditions and the means. That force acts with a directness of which the mind is incapable. And you are receptive enough to allow it to work. Obstacles may arise, obstacles in the physical, vital or mental, as they arise always. But that does not matter. They will be worked out and rejected. Do not try to do something by yourself.

October 23, 1926


* * *


Conversations with the Mother

Yes, the force descended. It descended right to your feet; but in the lower regions it was rather outside than within.
At the beginning you had a very strong aspiration. Then something must have disturbed you; all the time there remained a peaceful and calm aspiration. You have a power of aspiration but it has been almost completely strangled by the mind.

The force which descended at first is a force of wisdom, of pure knowledge which descended to the level of the solar plexus. There, there was a sort of order to open the mind. There was an opening but it had a geometrical form: a triangle. And within, a sort of representation of the idea you have formed of the divine.

A force of calm, a silence, descended afterwards. You say you did not feel it. Yet it was there and you will perhaps feel it soon. Much more descended than what you are aware of at present. But it is not lost for the subconscious and it will be realised little by little. There is in you a great capacity of calmness, which may serve as a useful base for a descent and subsequent manifestation.
Yet in that, in this calm, there was Ananda.

There was some response in the lower centre, but the response was feeble and mostly recorded by the subconscient.

In short, I do not think this will take very long now. There is a certain rigidity in the mind, but that is common to all westerners.

September 14, 1926


* * *


When you came, you were well prepared. Your psychic being had prepared and adorned — under a symbolic form — a sort of bed of roses and gold leaves to receive what was going to come down. It was very pretty.

The force which descended is a force of transformation. It will act from the centre now — fully conscious of the movements.

October 19, 1926


* * *


… for want of a better word, I would say : several exams — or “tests” if you like. You have passed them all successively and regularly, which shows that you were quite sincere. Now all will go well till the end — all will be easy. I am sure of it.


* * *


To leave one’s consciousness in order to enter another state is not what one must seek. That may be interesting as an experience; but the present movement is different. It is a question of linking up the two consciousnesses, but that means to bring down the higher consciousness into the physical body. Everything must be present there in the natural consciousness. You will be brought back thus every time you try to escape.

Something is being prepared for you. That was said yesterday. It is as though the divine will had traced the goal, and the road ; it is as though it had told you : “You will be like that”. It was very clear. The Goal is known to us, but it is reserved for us two. To you it is rather the road that this indicated. And this road is very different from what you expected in your outer consciousness. I wouldn’t know how to express it. You would not understand me in your outer consciousness. Your inner being knows : it almost told me sometime ago something very similar. That must become conscious. You are on the eve of something. Don’t be surprised if it is very different from what you expect or if it is very intense. It is so willed.

Today I saw that a shadow had tried to cloud things. But there is nothing left of it now. When something like this descends, the first effect is to raise up all the oppositions. All that is unsubdued in the being bristles up. Then there is a waiting in the darkness, for one sees nothing yet. That must be the cause of your difficulties yesterday.
Remain calm and concentrated.

October 31, 1926


* * *


Account of Mrityunjay (a close associate and another early disciple of Sri Aurobindo)


Pavitra’s room in Rosary House was a veritable godown. It did not have all the windows that are there today. Pavitra once told us with a laugh how even in the daytime, when he sat down to eat, bandicoots would come near to collect their share. At night, when he slept outside on the verandah on a mat, the rats would run over him freely. He got a cot only later on. This frugal life went on for a little over one year.

Then in November 1926 Sri Aurobindo withdrew and the Mother took charge of the disciples, dealing personally with their spiritual and material activities. Under her guidance an organised Ashram took shape. Pavitra became her invaluable aid in creating its physical framework. His mastery over material things, his wide experience of life, and his soul’s surrender to her made him a precious instrument for her work.

Meditation, a number of times a day, went on side by side with work. The morning meditation took place in the meditation room upstairs at 7.00 o’clock. Then the Mother would give individual interviews to the disciples who went to her by rotation on different days. These interviews continued up to noon. Next she went to the Dining Room (now the present Publication Department) to distribute food to them all. After the meal there was again a meditation at 1.00 p.m. Then the Mother went to Sri Aurobindo to give him his food. At 3.00 or 4.00 o’clock she would visit sadhaks in their rooms for a few minutes, seeing a few of them each day. From 1927, when she got a car from a brother-in-law of Mr. Patel, she usually went for a ride from 5.00 to 7.00. Pavitra would drive. When she came back she would go to Prosperity to check on the affairs of the stores and from there come down to distribute the evening soup. The last meditation was at midnight.

In this way the possibility of a Divine Life on earth began to germinate in miniature form in the Ashram. The Mother gave herself completely to this task spending almost every hour of the day with the sadhaks. She reduced her food and sleep to the minimum, almost to the breaking-point; indeed, she almost gave them up…..

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