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At the Feet of The Mother

Sri Aurobindo’s Work and the Way to Its Fulfilment (1)

 

Sri Aurobindo left his body on December 5, 1950. The Mother departed from hers on November 17, 1973. But the Ashram which they founded is aware of their presence all the time. The Samadhi in the courtyard of the main Ashram-building — holding the physical remains of both these mighty pioneers of a new world — is a living power. All who have stood before it have known a Light and a Love ready to respond to their prayers and aspirations. A giant Grace breathes out from this simple flower-laden incense-haunted monument of peace. Our hearts feel suffused with the promise of that fourfold state of fulfilled being which Sri Aurobindo has summed up in a master-mantra:

Arms taking to a voiceless supreme delight,
Life that meets the Eternal with close breast,
An unwalled mind dissolved in the Infinite,
Force one with unimaginable rest.((( Collected Poems, SABCL, Vol. 5, p. 575: “The Life Heavens”.)))

It was to embody such a state in its entirety that the Mother carried on the work of Sri Aurobindo after he had sacrificed, as she has declared, his own physical transformation in order to hasten the divine destiny of the world. As a result of the exhaustion of the forces of Darkness in his willingly accepted “death”, he sought for his companion, the Mother, an easier passage in the future to the goal of his Integral Yoga. And, through the Mother’s physical transformation, the path was to be cleared for the race to evolve from humanity to supermanhood. Sri Aurobindo meant to concentrate in his co-worker the achievement of his victory in the time to come.

The first step towards this victory was the permanent establishment, in the Mother’s most outward self, of that phase of the supramental consciousness which he had called the Mind of Light. And that establishment was a prelude to the progressive illumination, which she subsequently described, of the subtle consciousness within the very cells of the body. But when this illumination had reached — if we may judge from her “Notes on the Way” — a stage preparatory to a radical reversal of

the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,

there took place on the contrary what appeared to be a radical reversal of the entire course of the Yoga. The Mother abandoned the physical frame she had used for ninety-five years in the cause of the Divine’s manifestation on earth.

What are we to make of this act of leave-taking by one whom we expected to complete the Yoga of Supramental Descent and Transformation? And how are we to envisage the shape of the future?

One thing may be immediately said. All the energies the Mother had to spend on her body in the enormous uphill fight for Matter’s divinisation have been set free. They are turned now to a general impact on individuals and groups everywhere. Increasingly they are felt as a new cosmic impetus bearing mankind over hurdle after hurdle thrown in its path by agencies mundane and preternatural. Individuals also have known a vast Care bearing them easily along with a strength that is at the same time a sweetness.

But this is one side of the situation. As against the advantage of a greater impact on a universal scale, there is the absence of a pou sto, a fulcrumlike poise on hard earth to move its downward gravitating nature to finer intensities. The focus of divine consciousness held within a human face and form, with a recognisable receptiveness to our calls and a sunshine-smile for every agonised grope of our beings, is missed. And, when we realise that the Mother’s body which had kept the now-freed energies busy with its maintenance was precisely the fiery point at which a divine future for the very substance of earth-man was being moulded, we cannot help looking anxiously for sign-posts and guide-lines.

 

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On November 17, 1973, when the Mother withdrew from her body, the question could not but arise: “Is her work fated to remain incomplete?” If any doubt could be entertained of Sri Aurobindo’s project of complete success, the idea of incompletion would be out of place and the perplexed mind might find comfort. But how would we reconcile such comfort with the drive of numberless pronouncements by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother? Two brief expressions by Sri Aurobindo of their fundamental goal may be quoted to speak for all.

A letter on January 14, 1932, has the phrase: “…I want to divinise the human consciousness, to bring down the Supramental, the Truth-Consciousness, the Light, the Force into the physical to transform it….”((( Sri Aurobindo on Himself, SABCL, Vol. 26, p. 122.))) The same letter goes on to say: “All other Yogas regard this life as an illusion or a passing phase; the supramental Yoga alone regards it as a thing created by the Divine for a progressive manifestation and takes the fulfilment of the life and the body for its object. The Supramental is simply the Truth-Consciousness and what it brings in its descent is the full truth of life, the full truth of consciousness in Matter.”((( Ibid., p. 124.))) Here Sri Aurobindo’s aim is the Supermind’s descent and the process of this descent finally achieves the total transformation of the “physical”. That will be the crowning stage of Sri Aurobindo’s action and the Divine’s manifestation.

Again, Sri Aurobindo’s letter of September 15, 1935, which couples the Mother with him by name, says: “What is being done is meant to prepare the manifestation of the Supermind on the earth-consciousness down to Matter itself, so it can’t be for the physical of myself or the Mother alone.”((( Ibid., p. 450.)))

This short declaration implies three basic points: (1) Not only the higher parts of the earth-consciousness but “Matter itself” is to hold the Supermind’s manifestation; (2) Sri Aurobindo and the Mother who are trying in 1935 to bring about this manifestation are to exemplify it in their “physical”; (3) they would not be “alone” in that achievement: others too should succeed by their help.

No doubt, the “physical” of the Mother as well as that of Sri Aurobindo has been given up short of total transformation. But is real failure at all possible? The answer is “No.”

What else can the answer be in the face of such words as Sri Aurobindo employed on October 19, 1946, when conditions in India looked very unfavourable? — “…I have not been discouraged by what is happening, because I know and have experienced hundreds of times that beyond the blackest darkness there lies for one who is a divine instrument the light of God’s victory. I have never had a strong and persistent will for anything to happen in the world — I am not speaking of personal things — which did not eventually happen even after delay, defeat or even disaster.”((( Ibid., p. 169.)))

Then there is the letter of April 4, 1950, to a disciple “badly upset” with his “sense of the present darkness in the world round us”. Sri Aurobindo writes: “For myself, the dark conditions do not discourage me or convince me of the vanity of my will ‘to help the world’, for I knew they had to come; they were there in the world-nature and had to rise up so that they might be exhausted or expelled…. Afterwards the work for the Divine will become more possible and it may well be that the dream, if it is a dream, of leading the world towards the spiritual light, may even become a reality. So I am not disposed even now, in these dark conditions to consider my will to help the world as condemned to failure.”((( Ibid., p. 172.)))

We may remember that this letter was penned at almost the time when Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were aware that one of them had to give up the body in the interests of their work and he had decided that he would go and she would stay for its completion.((( “A ‘Call’ from Pondicherry” by Dr. Prabhat Sanyal, Mother India, December 5, 1953, p. 87.)))

Even apart from our faith in such direct references by Sri Aurobindo to his own mission, we may dismiss the idea of failure on the basis of our insight into the nature of the Avatarhood we ascribe to him and the Mother.

Generally speaking, in the case of Avatars of any type, real failure cannot be thought of, whatever the surface appearances. Has not Sri Aurobindo exclaimed: “Why should the Divine be tied down to succeed in all his operations? What if failure suits him better and serves better the ultimate purpose? What rigid primitive notions are these about the Divine!”((( Letters on Yoga, SABCL, Vol. 22, p. 411.))) If the Divine’s (that is, the Avatar’s) ultimate purpose is served, the failure which helps it cannot be regarded as a real one. A real failure is the frustration of one’s avowed ultimate purpose. The Avatar comes to establish a certain stage in the earth’s evolution and always fulfils his mission in the mode intended by the Divinity that he is. To quote Sri Aurobindo again: “The Divinity acts according to another consciousness, the consciousness of the Truth above and the Lila below and It acts according to the need of the Lila, not according to man’s ideas of what It should or should not do. This is the first thing one must grasp, otherwise one can understand nothing about the manifestation of the Divine.”((( Ibid. )))

The same view Sri Aurobindo expresses elsewhere also. According to it, the Divine Consciousness of the Avatar, concerned as it is with only two things fundamentally — “the truth above and here below the Lila and the purpose of the incarnation or manifestation” — does “what is necessary” for them “in the way its greater than human consciousness sees to be the necessary and intended way”.((( Ibid., pp. 421-22.)))

Now, if real failure is out of the question for all Avatars, how much less can it be conceived in connection with the incarnate Supermind? The Supermind, unlike even the highest Overmind consciousness like Sri Krishna’s, is the Transcendent not acting indirectly as in Sri Krishna through the supreme grade of the Cosmic Divine, but acting directly, with all the power of the more-than-cosmic level, however self-veiled and self-limited for the necessities of the World-play. So to believe that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother did not succeed and that their plan to supramentalise their own “physical” went quite astray is to entertain a sheer anomaly. Simultaneously, we have to come to grips with the fact that they have shed their bodies and thereby made a straight interpretation of their aim unrealistic. But, before doing so, let us further underline the situation in which we are placed by our argument. We cannot deny Sri Aurobindo and the Mother the full possibility to do what they set out to accomplish.

In Sri Aurobindo’s letters we have even a few open clues to the unfailing character of the power brought by the Supramental Avatar. A question was put to him in 1933: “It seems to me that if the Supermind is not established in Mother’s body-consciousness, it is not because she is not ready for it like us, but because in order to establish it she has first to prepare the physical of the sadhaks and of the earth to a certain extent. But some people take it in the wrong way; they believe that the Supermind has not been established in her body because she has not yet reached perfection. Am I right?” Sri Aurobindo answered: “Certainly. If we had lived physically in the Supermind from the beginning nobody could have been able to approach us nor could any sadhana have been done. There could have been no hope of contact between ourselves and the earth and men. Even as it is, Mother has to come down towards the lower consciousness of the sadhaks instead of keeping always in her own, otherwise they begin to say, ‘How far away, how severe you were; you do not love me, I get no help from you, etc., etc’ The Divine has to veil himself in order to meet the human.”((( Sri Aurobindo on Himself, SABCL, Vol. 26, pp. 449-50.)))

Here Sri Aurobindo, speaking of living physically in the Supermind from the beginning, affirms that from the beginning the Mother and he could have had not just a completely divinised consciousness but also a completely divinised bodily existence. To “live” is to be more than merely conscious: it is an organic activity, and when one adds the adverb “physically” one brings in a realisation in terms of the matter composing the organism. Moreover, just to have the physicalised mind or the physicalised life-force turned supramental would not render Sri Aurobindo and the Mother unapproachable or any sadhana impossible to do. As long as some part of the physical being — namely, the material constitution of the body — remained unsupramentalised, a point of contact with Sri Aurobindo and with the Mother would be there for people, and the two Gurus’ sadhana of this part’s supramentalisation would give people an opportunity to do some sadhana of their own along with the still unperfected Gurus. Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s capacity of living physically in the Supermind from the start must signify nothing short of their capacity of having a bodily existence divinised to the full.

Further, in saying “Certainly” to the correspondent Sri Aurobindo has concurred with the latter’s opinion that there never was any question of the Mother’s not being ready for the Supermind’s establishment in her body-consciousness or of her body not attaining the perfection necessary for the establishment of the Supermind in it. This means that complete success in their present lives was always within the reach of the Mother and, by the same token, that of Sri Aurobindo himself. Hence failure, in the essential sense, could never be anticipated for either of them.

What actually happened may be guessed from another point covered by Sri Aurobindo’s “Certainly”. The correspondent has opined that the reason why the Mother’s body had not been divinised by the time he wrote his letter was that “the physical of the sadhaks and of the earth” had not yet been prepared to the needed extent. This point comes out very clearly in a statement of Sri Aurobindo’s in August 1936 on the spiritual fight upon the physical plane: “As for the question about the illness, perfection in the physical plane is indeed part of the ideal of the Yoga, but it is the last item and, so long as the fundamental change has not been made in the material consciousness to which the body belongs, one may have a certain perfection on other planes without having immunity in the body. We have not sought perfection for our own separate sake, but as part of a general change — creating a possibility of perfection for others. That could not have been done without our accepting and facing the difficulties of the realisation and transformation and overcoming them for ourselves. It has been done to a sufficient degree on the other planes — but not yet on the most material part of the physical plane. Till it is done, the fight there continues and, though there may be and is a force of Yogic action and defence, there cannot be immunity. The Mother’s difficulties are not her own; she bears the difficulties of others and those that are inherent in the general action and working for the transformation. If it had been otherwise, it would be a very different matter.”((( Ibid., p. 476.)))

The implications are clear. If the Mother did not drag with her the whole world’s difficulties in opening up the most material part of the physical plane, if she did not have to tackle the whole earth-consciousness’s resistance to the transformative action and working, she would achieve her own supramentalisation, her body would be divinised and she would be yogically perfect and the Aurobindonian goal would be compassed in toto. There could be no possibility of failure for her and for Sri Aurobindo in themselves: their own personal success was a certainty. The evolutive process, without which no terrestrial achievement can be permanent and grow in expression of the terrestrial plane’s Dharma, is bound to take time but the time required for instruments like Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would be fairly short. Their supramentalisation, even if evolutively stretched out, would show in its history something of “what men would regard as a miraculous intervention”, an amazing rapidity of movement which would come, as Sri Aurobindo has said, “if the human mind were more flexible and less attached to its ignorance than it is”.((( Ibid., p. 471.))) In any case, there could be no in-built chance of failure for her and him if they sought supramental perfection for their own separate sake: rather there would be an automatic success.

But they did not seek this perfection like that — and there was the rub. Yet it was not such a rub as might lead to failure: it could only lead to a host of difficulties and sufferings and illnesses in the course of an earth-representative sadhana whose final fruit would be a success holding out the promise of transformation to all mankind. Carrying within themselves the power to live physically in the Supermind from the beginning and having the ability to be perfectly ready for divinisation of their bodies, they must be expected to have power enough to establish the Supermind in their physical beings in spite of all obstructions accepted from others and from the general earth-conditions. The obstructions might even create an early period during which Sri Aurobindo would not be sure whether he would succeed: evolutionary Avatars have to pass through all human phases. But, however evolutionary, these were Avatars — and Supramental Avatars at that. Consequently, a time must come when Sri Aurobindo would go past possibility and even probability and reach practical certainty and the luminous dominating sense of achievement in the near future. Thus on December 25, 1934 he writes:

“I know with absolute certitude that the supramental is a truth and that its advent is in the very nature of things inevitable. The question is as to the when and the how. That also is decided and predestined from somewhere above; but it is here being fought out amid a rather grim clash of conflicting forces. For in the terrestrial world the predetermined result is hidden and what we see is a whirl of possibilities and forces attempting to achieve something with the destiny of it all concealed from human eyes. This is, however, certain that a number of souls have been sent to see that it shall be now. That is the situation. My faith and will are for the now.”((( Ibid., p. 167.)))

Granting the non-failing supramental power in operation through its two chosen emanations who came, as this letter shows, with a small group of beings as collaborators in the work of supramentalisation in the present time and not in another age, we are left with no escape from seeing as a success what has happened to both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and hence as a voluntary fate their passing away without personal supramentalisation. This fate has to be interpreted as having been embraced for nothing less than success but success in a fashion enigmatical to man’s non-flexible mind which is attached to its ignorance.

The call on us is to keep steadily before this mind the true nature of the Avatarhood that was Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s — and then to probe the events of the two “deaths”. But to reach the proper view we must clear a few crucial points. While refusing to deny the authenticity of the success in spite of those events, we must ask how in view of them the Master and the Mother could be said to succeed in the “now” to which Sri Aurobindo refers and, if they could, under what aspect consistently with their certitude their success would arrive.

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