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At the Feet of The Mother

The Divine Mother in Savitri

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(The 10th Dr. M.V. Nadkarni Memorial Lecture, recorded on Febuary 19, 2020 at Savitri Bhavan, Auroville. This talk is based on the story of the Divine Mother as it unfolds in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri.)

Sri Aurobindo’s main work, at least one of his most important works, has been to awaken and install the divine Shakti in the heart of humanity and in the heart of Earth. Not that the Shakti was not there earlier, she has always been there; nothing in this creation can stir without the Shakti. But she has been in the background. And what we see with Sri Aurobindo is that he brings the Shakti into the forefront of the human quest. This is something of unparalleled significance.

During India’s freedom movement, we see that Sri Aurobindo installed the Shakti in the heart of the Indian people, awakening them to the strength that is innate within. We know how the song Bande Mataram was used so effectively and powerfully to awaken the Shakti. Once the Shakti was awakened, the result was inevitable. Nothing can stop it, because with her is the victorious force of the Supreme.

Then he moved on to the larger sphere of humanity, starting with a small nucleus, where once again, he established and installed the Divine Mother as the Shakti right at the forefront. He stepped behind, because in creation the Ishwara always stands behind with the Shakti in the forefront.

When He withdrew… Withdrew is here a very awkward word, because where does Sri Aurobindo withdraw? But human language is very inadequate when we talk about deeper truths, and when it comes to Mother and Sri Aurobindo, it’s completely inadequate. But still, for the sake of the limits of our sight, when he withdrew from the limits of our sight, he once again installed the Shakti in the heart of humanity through the mantric power of Savitri. He gave it to mankind in 1950-1951, that’s the birth year of Savitri. Through this gift, he installed and established the supramental Mahashakti for the creation to march further. Seen thus, Savitri is essentially the story of the Divine Mother.

Shraddhavan agreed that I should speak about the Divine Mother in Savitri because it’s the 100 years anniversary of the Mother’s final coming to Pondicherry, India. I didn’t imagine how very vast is the subject; the whole of Savitri is the story of the Divine Mother. But She is the inspirer, the guide, the leader. So let’s run through Savitri as the story of the Divine Mother, and see how it develops.

Right in the opening scene of Savitri in Book One Canto One, Sri Aurobindo gives us a hint to what is going to come. The hint is in the form of the symbol of dawn. The morning dawn brings the light and energy of the Sun to the Earth. The same Truth which is inside the Sun – the same light, force and splendour – reaches out to Earth. This is a big difference from the Vedantic way of turning to the Purusha because then we have to travel. But the Divine Mother comes down to us; the dawn is the very symbol of this; she comes right into the very soil of Earth nature. We read these marvellous lines in Canto One,

Our prostrate soil bore the awakening ray. [5]

Then comes the great assurance:

All can be done if the god-touch is there. [3]

Her coming and touching Earth is itself the beginning of a marvellous change. And what does she bring as gift when the Divine Mother comes to Earth? When mothers go to their child’s home, they bring a number of gifts. Here we have those gifts:

The proud and conscious wideness and the bliss

The key to the flaming doors of ecstasy. [6]

She comes to give us all this. It’s a different story than what we ask from her. On one side she brings these gifts. Second, she wants to ensure that our future, the future of Earth and humanity, is secure. How does she make it secure? We have it in the opening canto itself that she has come to wrestle with Doom. She has come to once again perform the sacrifice, which man offers constantly, unconsciously:

The sacrifice of suffering and desire
Earth offers to the immortal Ecstasy [10]

Unfortunately, for us it is a sacrifice to the nether gods, but yet, as the Gita says, ultimately it reaches the Supreme and something comes trickling down. But she also makes this sacrifice, consciously, for the sake of humanity. This sacrifice starts with the process of assuming a human form, a human face and body. This itself is a great sacrifice of the Divine Mother, the holocaust of the Supreme in creation. This is how Savitri opens.

But who is Savitri? We have a wonderful description of Savitri’s being, and from there we can start; it’s one of the most exquisite passages. Leaving aside its poetic beauty, its inspiration is magnificent. For me, many things in Savitri are inspiring because they serve as an example of what we should be. Sri Aurobindo spends quite a number of pages in Essays on the Gita on a phrase said by Sri Krishna in which he explains to Arjuna that even if I don’t do anything, nothing will happen to me, but still I come to set an example. If I don’t work, the world would perish. Here too Savitri comes to give us a living example of what we should be. When the Divine comes, he by his own life shows us what we should become, but of course he also shows us the simplest way of becoming it. She will reveal that subsequently; Savitri itself will reveal to us that the shortest, the surest, the swiftest way is through love. After all, don’t we become the image of that or whom we love? Savitri comes as the embodiment of love. She has come to fight Doom, but this time she has come armed with a weapon as never before, the weapon of love, which has a transforming power. I will read a few lines.

Her look, her smile awoke celestial sense
Even in earth-stuff, and their intense delight
Poured a supernal beauty on men’s lives. [15]

Even a smile, her silence, her speech, her look, they are all an action. Her Presence is an action. Then come these very inspiring lines,

A wide self-giving was a native act; [15]

The Divine comes to teach us what is it to be like a god. We are busy wanting, wanting, wanting. Even when we go to the Divine, the problem of want is there. Even if the Abyss is filled, there will still be want, because want comes from separation from the Divine. The Divine pours his heart of Love into this Abyss. The Mother has come to give and give and give at all levels. That’s the beauty. She repeatedly says you can ask anything from me and it doesn’t depend on whether we collaborate or not. When she was asked what do you expect from us, she said ‘nothing’. What can we expect from you? ‘Everything’. That disciple again asked, ‘Is humanity fulfilling your expectations? This is the same question but turned upon its head. She says, ‘Since I expect nothing, I cannot answer this question’. As we see here:

A wide self-giving was a native act;
A magnanimity as of sea or sky
Enveloped with its greatness all that came
And gave a sense as of a greatened world: [15]

None is outcast from her. None is too low as not to be accepted by her. None is too great who cannot be enveloped by her vastness so that a greater greatness can open its doors. Everyone, who ever came to her, from the child in the kindergarten, nursery school, to the saints, sages and seers, to prime ministers and presidents and commoners. Everybody could come to her and she opened the doors to greatness. This is the difference between the Divine’s action and the action of an exalted humanity. Exalted humanity, when you go to them, they make you feel you are inferior – ‘I’ll give you something’. The other day somebody was saying how the Mother speaks about forgiveness, she said it’s not a very good term. It’s like ‘I’m somebody superior and I forgive you, you lowly creature’. What was the Mother’s action? She exalted, greatened, heightened. That’s why she says that true surrender enlarges you. It aggrandises you, but people are afraid of it. Of course, it will take away all that is dark, all that is ego-based, but what it will give you in return is all the beauty, all the goodness, all the qualities which are still in the making, they will blossom and reach their perfect fruition.

And gave a sense as of a greatened world:
Her kindly care was a sweet temperate sun, [15]

The Divine has come as the Mother. Of course, the Divine has come in many forms. If you are a follower of Rama, you have to be a warrior and be willing to go into the jungle and fight the battle. If you are a follower of Krishna, you have to be ready to abandon everything, like the gopis, or to fight under the Chakradhari’s great flag. If you are a follower of Christ, another Avatar, you have to be ready to sacrifice and forgive from the cross. But if you are a child of the Mother, what does she demand? Simply to receive her care, to receive her love. That’s why repeatedly Sri Aurobindo speaks of openness and receptivity. If you look at the Letters on Yoga, the later part, he keeps emphasising on openness and receptivity to the Mother. What is strange is that people say this Yoga is so difficult. It means that either one has not walked the path, I’m sorry to say, or one has not read all that Sri Aurobindo had said. This Yoga, Sri Aurobindo says in The Synthesis, seen from the point of view of the goal, is the most difficult of all, but seen from the point of view of the method, is the easiest of all, because surrender is its beginning and surrender is the end.

Her kindly care was a sweet temperate sun,
Her high passion a blue heaven’s equipoise. [15]

What do we experience when we go to her? All of us, I’m sure, can relate to this:

As might a soul fly like a hunted bird,
Escaping with tired wings from a world of storms,
And a quiet reach like a remembered breast,
In a haven of safety and splendid soft repose
One could drink life back in streams of honey-fire,
Recover the lost habit of happiness, [15]

People ask, ‘what miracle have you experienced after coming in contact with the Mother?’ Just before I started today somebody was narrating me some story and said I wish the Mother did some miracle like x, y, z guru. That person did something wrong and his hand was paralyzed. I said, ‘Good Lord! What miracle the Mother gives is that we ‘recover the lost habit of happiness’. Is it a small thing? As we grow through adulthood this is something we lose, and we don’t even realise that we have lost it. To once again recover it we try all artificial means from money to relationships to cars and various objects, and in extreme cases, drugs and alcohol, just to recover that which we have lost, that which we were born with. It was a free gift and we lose it. That’s a different story. When you go to a big conference they give you a bag full of things. Here the first thing you get is to ‘Recover the lost habit of happiness’.

A couple of lines below it describes who she is:

A deep of compassion, a hushed sanctuary,
Her inward help unbarred a gate in heaven;
Love in her was wider than the universe,
The whole world could take refuge in her single heart. [15]

She’s not just the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. She is not just the Mother of Auroville. She’s not just the Mother of this or that centre. She wants the whole world to become the garden house of the Lord. This is something she wrote also when Rabindra-ji once asked her. He had left everything and had come but some of the family members wanted to come much later in 1971. By then the Ashram was already chock full of devotees. He asked, that now they want to come, what do I do? She said, if it was up to me, I would want the whole world to be here in the Ashram, but my means are limited. The material means are limited, but look at her heart, she would want the whole creation, ‘The whole world to take refuge’. That’s how I look at it. Even the birds, the squirrels and every creature is under her shelter, here, there and everywhere.

This is the opening, the first two cantos of Savitri. Then of course the story starts, as we know, in a flashback. The whole of Savitri takes place in about 18 hours, primarily. How did she come down? Who called her down? She’s here upon Earth, but what was it that led her to be here. We now have Aswapati introduced to us; he embodies within him the anguish and the aspiration of Earth. He is God’s delegate in humanity, the representative of the Divine, who must embody what we experience and carry it right up to the Divine Mother. We see that Aswapati engages in a yoga, and as he engages in the yoga, at one point after he had what is so much celebrated as Self-realisation and the Brahman, he wants that state to be embodied in his very body. The ideal which he has glimpsed must be now his home, even the body must experience it. This is a completely new aspiration for Earth. Otherwise, we have to withdraw in a great trance of Samadhi and have some glimpse, but he wants that state to be right in the very cells of the body. In response to his aspiration, he experiences something which has never happened before.

A violent Ecstasy, a Sweetness dire,

In a moment shorter than death, longer than Time,
By a Power more ruthless than Love, … [81]

Suddenly he experiences the descent of… (This line reminds me of Kali and Krishna in Sri Aurobindo’s own yoga, during a stage when they were constantly working in his consciousness.) ‘A violent Ecstasy, a Sweetness dire’. ‘A violent ecstasy’ is certainly the Kali aspect of the Divine Mother, who slays the ego and liberates the soul into ‘Ecstasy’ and ‘Sweetness dire’. He is the gopala with the flute, but don’t be misled. The Shakti is going to come behind. He is not just standing on the Yamuna, he also stands on the battlefield of Kurukshetra as the leader of the march of mankind. He’s ‘a Sweetness dire’. When he experiences it the transformation starts because in his own body this aspiration is awakened.

Then comes the great renunciation. People speak about the renunciation of Buddha and of Mahavira, and of course, each renunciation is something powerful in its own right. But Sri Aurobindo, as the Mother writes, renounced by his physical withdrawal the realisation in his own body so that it could take place for the whole earth. When he experiences the descent, which has not been there in old yogas, he departs. When Dilip Kumar Roy asked him if there had never been any descent in previous yogas, Sri Aurobindo said, if at all, it has been incidental, some illumination in the mind. But that’s not what he calls the transformation. But because he has grown so wide,

A lonely freedom cannot satisfy
A heart that has grown one with every heart:
I am a deputy of the aspiring world,
My spirit’s liberty I ask for all. [649]

He says this must happen for all, and he renounced the realisation in his own body for the hastening of the collective realisation. After this, Aswapati starts a long, long journey, undertaken through an arduous tapasya in Book Two. He is running upstream, as it were, catching the rays of the sun and climbing up up up to find the Source from where this Power is coming down, this transformative alchemist energy. There are places or  levels where he has some glimpse of that Power. One of the places, one of the first glimpses, is in the Kingdom of the Greater Mind. There he sees that the Divine Mother, her energies, her Power has come into the cabin of the idea. Man is tying her down by conceptions like a noose, believing that this is it. It is like in Tantra sometimes they try to draw the Divine Mother through the power of mantra, yantra and puja; through these means, they call the Divine Mother and try to fix her in a space or something. Sri Aurobindo reveals to us what really it is. She accepts to come, but we should not be mistaken, it has nothing to do with our greatness, our tapasya; it is simply the Grace accepting to come to anyone who calls with a sincere heart. He says,

Into thought’s narrow limits she has come; [275]

Even if you were to read book after book – there have been so many wonderful hymns and books on Tantra and on the worship of the Divine Mother: the Puranas, and she is there even in the Vedas and the Upanishads, she is hinted at in the Gita and discussed by countless devotees – still, this gives only a very limited understanding, a limited glimpse.

She made earth her home, for whom heaven was too small.
In a human breast her occult presence lived;

Into thought’s narrow limits she has come;
Her greatness she has suffered to be pressed
Into the little cabin of the Idea, [275]

I have heard some very interesting things. There was a seminar on the conception of the Divine Mother. I said, I don’t understand the subject. The Divine Mother is not a conception. She’s a living reality and a living truth for one who undertakes the journey. It’s not a conception. We should not reduce it to a conception. In this age that is the way academics work. Nevertheless, she says, okay, ‘I’ll come into the cabin of the little idea’. But on the next page Sri Aurobindo reminds us,

But thought nor word can seize eternal Truth:
The whole world lives in a lonely ray of her sun. [276]

Instead of wanting her to be limited by the idea we should give ourselves to her.

In our thinking’s close and narrow lamp-lit house
The vanity of our shut mortal mind
Dreams that the chains of thought have made her ours;
But only we play with our own brilliant bonds;
Tying her down, it is ourselves we tie. [276]

Many times she reminds us. When people would say, ‘Mother says so’, ‘Mother likes this’, ‘Mother does not like this’, she would say, ‘what do you know?’ She may act in one way in a given circumstance and in a different circumstance completely differently. Even with the same person, the same situation. She would change her viewpoint and the disciple couldn’t understand. He would say, ‘Mother, you have changed your opinion’. She said, ‘no, I don’t act according to opinions’. In fact, she says, ‘thankfully, I have no opinions’. As things change, her action changes. Amal-da gives a beautiful example of how when once he approached the Mother in the context of Savitri when he wanted to make a few corrections, so-called corrections, in Savitri. Mother looked at him and said, ‘Not a coma is to be changed!’, like a Mahakali. He went back and then looked within and saw was there was a bit of arrogance on his part, there was something within that was feeling proud that he was going to help in the work, or something like that. After some time, he went again to the Mother with the same issue when the final printing had to come, and he explained to Mother, this is how it is. Then she said, ‘yes’, it was completely different. He notes that he went in a very different state of mind.  They were not actually changes, there were so many different scripts and transcripts, and it was a complex issue. But the point was that depending on the change within the disciple, she could change the very next moment. It is not a change of opinion, but our own state of consciousness. If that changes, everything changes.

This is what she would teach us and show us. But still, we say ‘Mother said so’. Once somebody quoted Sri Aurobindo to the Mother. He said ‘Mother, Sri Aurobindo has said “Truth and Falsehood cannot live together”. Why are you keeping them together?’ Mother laughed and said ‘Everybody believes they are in truth and others are in falsehood. How do I tell them that everybody has their own little falsehood, clinging?’ Then she says, ‘not only Sri Aurobindo, they quote me also and tell me ‘Mother you have written “Cling to Truth”’. She said, ‘What can I do? Yes, I wrote it. But that’s not what I meant’. Then the disciple asked, ‘What is truth?’ And this gives us a hint again: she said, ‘Truth cannot be defined. But if you want to live it, it will reveal itself to you’. And then she says, ‘the only word that comes closest to it is the word dharma’. It is not something fixed. It’s not a rigid edict firmly engraved in rock: thou shalt do this, and thou shalt not do this; truth is not like that. It evolves, it changes. For a child, there is one way of being and becoming; for an adult, another; for an old man, another; for a wise man, another; for a stupid man, another; for everybody it is different. It’s something that grows and opens and unfolds and evolves and helps us on the journey. We should be very careful not to reduce their words into rigid dogmas. What we should understand, and what he says,

We see not what small figure of her we hold;
We feel not her inspiring boundlessness

Thus is it even with the seer and sage;
For still the human limits the divine: [276]

The Divine is infinite, it is not a fixed something. What we should do, and here comes the hint:

Out of our thoughts we must leap up to sight,
Breathe her divine illimitable air,
Her simple vast supremacy confess,
Dare to surrender to her absolute.
Then the Unmanifest reflects his form
In the still mind as in a living glass;
The timeless Ray descends into our hearts
And we are rapt into eternity. [276]

This surrender opens the doors to that immortal ecstasy.

For Truth is wider, greater than her forms.
A thousand icons they have made of her
And find her in the idols they adore;
But she remains herself and infinite. [276]

This is the command to us. But the beauty, or the strangeness, of human nature, as someone has said, is that only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. About the former one may doubt. Man must ‘Dare to surrender to her absolute’. ‘Her simple vast supremacy confess’. We see the web of thought, ‘Oh, this is another cult created around the Mother’. ‘Out of our thoughts we must leap up to sight’.

Therefore Aswapati goes beyond. What that surrender is, is described very beautifully. By the thought we cannot know her, but there is another way through which we can go. We see when Aswapati approaches through the thought that he enters into the Self of the mind. It is a vast impersonality and it doesn’t allow him to go further. There is no further extinction. That’s it. It is an escape. Then he takes another route. He’s seeking and an answer comes. He’s drawn into a tunnel and at the end of that there is light and what he sees is something very marvellous. It is a living Darshan of the Divine Mother.

Often people speak about darshan: we are having Darshan Day. Sri Aurobindo has made Darshan so easy, simple, natural. There are places in Savitri where there is actually a living Darshan of the Divine Mother and, of course, of the Supreme Lord. This is one such place where we have the first glimpse of the Divine Mother as the world Mother, as the universal Mother. And it’s only by her grace that one can go beyond. No human effort or tapasya can take us, even when it seems like that.

Ramana Maharshi followed the way of Jnana yoga and he reached that point and at one point when he was struggling, moving from here and there, suddenly he met an old woman who tells him ‘why are you so restlessly moving from here to there? Why don’t you stay at one place?’ ‘Where should I stay?’ ‘Stay here in Arunachal.’ When someone asked Sri Aurobindo he said yes, it was the Divine Mother who came to show him the way. This is also seen in the life of Buddha, acknowledged or unacknowledged. Buddha was struggling and trying so much. One day, the Divine Mother comes as Sujata. Thankfully, in Gaya now they have a temple dedicated to Sujata. At least they’ve acknowledged her, that she was a power of the Divine Mother. She comes as ordinary common folk and gives him some payasam and she sees he’s sitting so tense. What does she do? She just relaxes him. ‘Don’t tighten yourself so much like a bowstring that it snaps, and don’t keep it so lax that you can’t use it’. He gets the hint. Everywhere throughout we see in the evolutionary history of mankind that she has always been there, but in the background. Here we have the Divine Mother opening the gates of infinity for Aswapati to facilitate his quest.

Behind them in a morning dusk One stood
Who brought them forth from the Unknowable. [295]

The Ishwara and Ishwari:

Ever disguised she awaits the seeking spirit;
Watcher on the supreme unreachable peaks,
Guide of the traveller of the unseen paths,
She guards the austere approach to the Alone. [295]

Even for the tapaswin, who claims that it’s by his own effort, She keeps the watch guides, and helps, gives an indication based on his faith or absence of faith. She leads him through the journey and he thinks it’s by his own effort of tapasya. But where does the power of tapasya come from? It comes from the Divine Mother.

At the beginning of each far-spread plane [295]

She is the universal Mother and she is there on each plane of consciousness, waiting for the seeker.

Pervading with her power the cosmic suns
She reigns, inspirer of its multiple works
And thinker of the symbol of its scene.
Above them all she stands supporting all,
The sole omnipotent Goddess ever-veiled
Of whom the world is the inscrutable mask; [295]

Any which way we go, any aspect of the world we take, if we go deep, deep, deep within, we will meet the divine Shakti standing there.

The ages are the footfalls of her tread,
Their happenings the figure of her thoughts,
And all creation is her endless act. [295]

Whatever she has conceived, that will be. There is no way it cannot be. It may take a while, it may take centuries, but it is going to be. It cannot be changed because She is the one who conceives and the rest follows. What does Aswapati do? We see it in the Greater Mind.

His spirit was made a vessel of her force;
Mute in the fathomless passion of his will
He outstretched to her his folded hands of prayer.
Then in a sovereign answer to his heart
A gesture came as of worlds thrown away, [295]

The Divine Mother says okay, what do you want? She throws away the world. You want all these worlds? You can take them. All these triple worlds of body, life and mind, you can become sovereign king over them, the great Emperor. You want these worlds? You can take them. With one arm she’s giving. Aswapati has done the tapasya and the surrender. By the other arm she does something else:

And from her raiment’s lustrous mystery raised
One arm half-parted the eternal veil. [295]

On the one side, all the glory and greatness of the worlds. On the other side, do you want the Eternal?

A light appeared still and imperishable.
Attracted to the large and luminous depths
Of the ravishing enigma of her eyes,
He saw the mystic outline of a face. [295-296]

Look at the Darshan.

Overwhelmed by her implacable light and bliss,
An atom of her illimitable self [296]

Who is Aswapati? He is a tapaswin, a great yogin. What does he experience himself as?

An atom of her illimitable self
Mastered by the honey and lightning of her power,
Tossed towards the shores of her ocean-ecstasy,
Drunk with a deep golden spiritual wine,
He cast from the rent stillness of his soul
A cry of adoration and desire
And the surrender of his boundless mind
And the self-giving of his silent heart.
He fell down at her feet unconscious, prone. [296]

One cannot remain conscious in that blaze. This is the universal Mother and her arm parts the eternal veil. Aswapati goes further because he’s in search of that which can transmute. The universal Mother can give all that is there in creation within the cosmic consciousness, but if there has to be something more, one has to go to the Transcendent. Aswapati goes further, because she knows his heart. He doesn’t want this; he wants something else, something new, something which has never been on Earth, which he wants to be.

He goes further. He is face to face with the transcendent Mother going past the gates of the Unknowable. We all are aware of this wonderful passage. It is a very long passage so I will just read a few lines from here and there. As she comes out, as he stands at the gates of the Unknowable, he has to make a choice. The choice is like that many yogis have made, well, a few yogis: to dissolve in the supreme consciousness of the Ineffable and be done with birth and life and death and rebirth, or to bring something of That back and recreate this world and mind and life. Aswapati obviously has chosen the second one, but he doesn’t know how it will come through. He stands at the doors of the Unknowable. One can’t know it, That has to reveal himself. But it’s a ‘She’. Someone comes out of the Unknowable. This God is a woman. Sri Aurobindo says in one his Aphorisms: After I knew that God was a woman, I learned something from far-off about love; but it was only when I became a woman and served my Master and Paramour that I knew love utterly[CWSA 12: 481]. This is where he stands:

Even while he stood on being’s naked edge [312]

Trip over onto that side and … gone – no Aswapati, no creation, nothing.

And all the passion and seeking of his soul
Faced their extinction in some featureless Vast,
The Presence he yearned for suddenly drew close. [312]

This is the thin line over which Sri Ramakrishna must have stood when he said, whoever has a glimpse of that side, he falls and vanishes. The great Upanishad declares, ‘what can one speak about that Mystery?’ There’s nothing one can say, every word that you utter will be a blasphemy before That. Then he gets a glimpse of the transcendent Mother.

Out of a marvellous Transcendence’ core,
A body of wonder and translucency
As if a sweet mystic summary of her self
Escaping into the original Bliss
Had come enlarged out of eternity,
Someone came infinite and absolute.
A being of wisdom, power and delight,
Even as a mother draws her child to her arms,
Took to her breast Nature and world and soul. [312]

Here he finds: ‘yes, this is what I am seeking. She is the One whom I am seeking’. This beautiful passage goes on describing her, and on page 314 Sri Aurobindo says,

At the head she stands of birth and toil and fate,
In their slow round the cycles turn to her call;
Alone her hands can change Time’s dragon base.
Hers is the mystery the Night conceals;
The spirit’s alchemist energy is hers; [314]

She is the one who can transmute matter and divinise it.

She is the golden bridge, the wonderful fire.
The luminous heart of the Unknown is she,
A power of silence in the depths of God;
She is the Force, the inevitable Word,
The magnet of our difficult ascent, [314]

This word is the Supreme Word of creation. Once she was asked, but Mother in Indian mythology, it is written that the word of creation came from Brahma. What do you have to say about it? The Mother says ‘Yes, but hasn’t Sri Aurobindo said that I am the Mother of Brahma?’ It is actually there; if you read the Puranas it’s there: She is the Mother of Brahma Vishnu Mahesh, and there is not one but there are countless Brahma Vishnu Mahesh. Incidentally, they also have a term. Nobody enjoys termless power except the Absolute. None of us should think that we are going to enjoy power forever, that is only given to the Absolute. She comes, Aditi:

The Sun from which we kindle all our suns,
The Light that leans from the unrealised Vasts,
The joy that beckons from the impossible,
The Might of all that never yet came down. [314]

We know of the Mother as mighty Durga, Kali and countless other forms, but there is a still greater Power which has never come down upon Earth, and that he glimpses:

All Nature dumbly calls to her alone
To heal with her feet the aching throb of life
And break the seals on the dim soul of man
And kindle her fire in the closed heart of things. [314]

Every time we have a pain – we shouldn’t have pains because Mother doesn’t want us to have pain – it is a beautiful opportunity to remember her: Ma Ma Ma, because She alone can heal. I remember one incident in which Jugal-da had a corn on his leg that was very painful. For many days he would walk with a limp and someone asked him ‘why don’t you get it operated?’ He said ‘no, no, no, don’t say that.’ ‘Why? You don’t believe in doctors?’ ‘No, no, doctors are very nice people.’ ‘Then what is it?’ ‘Every time I have pain, I say “Ma”, inwardly. It’s so wonderful; it’s making me remember Her.’

Aswapati is now face to face with the Divine Mother. She has appeared and She knows his heart. She first cautions him:

My fire and sweetness are the cause of life.
But too immense my danger and my joy.
Awake not the immeasurable descent,

Truth born too soon might break the imperfect earth. [335]

She says: ‘Don’t try. You’re calling me down, but be careful. This is not just some godlike energy. It is the supreme Energy and think what will happen to Earth.’ Aswapati of course is the gods’ delegate in humanity; he is the representative. He says, ‘yes, I know, but you could come down and prepare earth’. There have been other tapaswis who have asked the Divine for a boon and the Divine appeared and said ‘no, I can’t grant you this’. Most of these would ask for a second boon, but Aswapati is wisest of the wise, so he says ‘yes, I understand what you’re saying. But Mother, why don’t you come down in a human body and prepare us? Is there a problem with that?’ We have these wonderful lines describing this:

O Truth defended in thy secret sun,
Voice of her mighty musings in shut heavens
On things withdrawn within her luminous depths,
O Wisdom-Splendour, Mother of the universe,
Creatrix, the Eternal’s artist Bride,
Linger not long with thy transmuting hand
Pressed vainly on one golden bar of Time,
As if Time dare not open its heart to God.
O radiant fountain of the world’s delight
World-free and unattainable above,
O Bliss who ever dwellst deep-hid within
While men seek thee outside and never find,

Mission to earth some living form of thee. [345]

And the Mother agrees: ‘Tathastu’ – so be it. She says ‘I’ll choose my moment’. When will she come? ‘When darkness deepens, strangling the earth breast’ [55], in ‘…Death’s tremendous hour’ [346]. ‘Let that fellow Death do my work a little bit more to clear the ground’:

A seed shall be sown in Death’s tremendous hour,
A branch of heaven transplant to human soil;
Nature shall overleap her mortal step;
Fate shall be changed by an unchanging will.” [346]

There must be some preparation in the background. Wherever the Mother went – for example, when she returned to France from Pondicherry in 1915 – revolutions started. In her previous incarnations also the Mother was associated with revolutions. We should not imagine God is a pacifist who comes and says ‘please’. When Krishna comes there is revolution. With the Mother there is the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution. When she went to France in 1915 there were all kinds of activities, attacks, everything was happening. She had to move from there because France was not ready to contain that Shakti. It was ‘Death’s tremendous hour’ and it knew its game was up, so in a last ditch attempt the whole world was engulfed on the one side with the first great war and on the other side with the influenza epidemic. More people, by the way, died of influenza in the First World War than by the war itself. And yet humanity advances. Sri Aurobindo said because she was coming all the vital forces came down to Earth to make sure we didn’t succeed but they end up doing our work. They cleared the ground and created everything afresh. Otherwise, man would have said, we are a very fine, we don’t need anything. You need a Kansa unfortunately for Krishna to come.

The Divine Mother grants Aswapati’s request, and the Divine Mother is born on earth. Sri Aurobindo describes it very beautifully. The whole long passage,

One had returned from the transcendent planes
And bore anew the load of mortal breath,
Who had striven of old with our darkness and our pain;
She took again her divine unfinished task: [353]

This is not the first time she has come. This is not the first time that all of us have come. That’s what she has said something to this effect that ‘We have all met in previous lives. Otherwise, we would not have come together in this life. We are of one family and have worked through ages for the victory of the Divine and its manifestation upon earth’. She allows us to take the joy of the effort. Some people get so worried, ‘Oh, how many centuries will it take for the supramental body?’ If you keep waiting and thinking like this, for you, it will remain as it is. Let it take centuries, if it means centuries of her seva, centuries of our service to her. How beautiful is the joy of service, the Ananda of service, through which we are prepared.

Then we have the divine Advent itself. She is Divine from birth, as Sri Aurobindo puts it, but there is a progressive manifestation of her divinity as the instruments develop the divine consciousness which she has brought with her. Along with that, she brings something new which is not there within the cosmic consciousness. That is the beauty.

In the Ramayana there is a description of the marriage of Rama and Sita. When the marriage is going to take place, all the gods have come, and they know it’s not just an ordinary marriage. Suddenly Brahma says, ‘Look at that flower!’ Vishnu says, ‘What about it?’ He says, ‘I have not created this. Where does it come from?’ The gods nudge him, ‘Please, don’t you know it is the Divine Mother’s wedding? There will be things which you have never dreamed, they will also be here’. Like that the Mother has brought something new. A new epiphany appeared in her. And what is it that is new?

As from the soil sprang glory of branch and flower,
As from the animal’s life rose thinking man,
A new epiphany appeared in her.
A mind of light, a life of rhythmic force, [357]

This is something she brought with her. What is this mind of light? Sri Aurobindo speaks about it at great length. The first thing that the Supermind will do is create a mind of light that is no more in ignorance. It has not yet reached the supramental but it is a mind which is already luminous and will take us towards it. The fundamental ignorance is gone. It’s a mind of light; it is one of the first things that manifests and becomes a link for man’s ascension. ‘A mind of light, a life of rhythmic force’  comes to attune us to the Supermind, because we have lost that rhythm, but this is appropriate to man as an evolutionary being.

A body instinct with hidden divinity [357]

We have lost the instincts of the animal, that is good, but we don’t know how to act because we are trying to do it with the mind. Ultimately, we have to discover the intuition. That is part of man’s journey. She has ‘a body instinct with hidden divinity’; there are so many examples in Mother’s life. She has said that when you pick up something you should know with the hands. How much all this is instinct with divinity! One example I often remember is when she was sitting in a car and suddenly a cobra slithered in somehow and sits on her lap with its hood spread open. She looked into the cobra’s eyes. God knows what she said. She must have seen Shiva and perhaps said I’m in Uma’s form but you’re not supposed to be on my lap. After some time, she said ‘OK, now it’s enough’. It just put its head down and went away. It must have come for Darshan, as all creatures might come. The disciple told Mother, ‘this is too dangerous, you should have killed this fellow’. Mother said, ‘Kill? Don’t you know I am the Mother’. The body itself is instinct with divinity, it’s not a thought; the body knows spontaneously what has to be done. She has described that several times.

Prepared an image of the coming god; [357]

She comes and then we have beautiful description of her growing up. Humanity in its various types and shades comes to her. In France, the Mother had started the New Idea group, and subsequently, in different places, all kinds of humanity were coming to her. Savitri also met a number of beings and people, from other worlds and this world. But whom is she going to choose now as a partner in this great game? Because the Divine is not playing with marionettes. When Nirod-da asked Sri Aurobindo, why is the effort needed from our side, he said, because the Divine is a real thing, and the Divine is not playing with marionettes; it’s not a puppet show that is going on. If it’s a puppet show, then there’s no evolution and then we won’t even deserve the Divine. A puppet you can paint to look like a king or queen, but they’re not kings and queens within, it’s still made of the same material. We have to go through that evolutionary process to become divine. There is something which mankind has to do and she’s in search of that. There is a canto  called ‘The Quest’ in which she is in search of that material she needs to transmute, that person who will be picked up by her and lifted to the Divine.

Satyavan is not just one person. There is a little Satyavan in all of us who is ready for Her. We have a description of Satyavan where he says,

I looked upon the world and missed the Self.
And when I found the Self, I lost the world, [407]

Satyavan is not a seeker after Nirvana; he had that experience. He’s a Veda Knower of the unwritten book. He wants the great reconciliation, the creator and the creation; God, Spirit and Nature. She comes in her quest looking for Satyavan. What a beautiful symbol this is. We talk about going in search of God. But Sri Aurobindo has said, and all mystics have said, when you are ready, the guru and the guide come to you.

We shouldn’t worry about that part. We should worry about what we have to do. She comes to us, but where does she come? Does she come to some hermitage looking for some sadhu or sannyasi? No, she goes past all of them. They are too satisfied with their realisations. Some are uncompanioned and reaching the Absolute – seer sages, ascetics – but she goes past them. She goes past the palaces of kings, all these people, she goes past knowing there is someone waiting for her. That person may even be in a forest where there is nothing, even Google maps will not show that there is a place like that.

That’s how she comes. Each one of us, I’m sure, has our own beautiful story of journey, how the Divine caught us. People often ask, ‘how are we initiated in the Ashram?’ Old time sadhaks used to say she catches our choti and then she doesn’t let us go. She starts with our choti and after some time all our being is Hers. That is how we are initiated. Where does she initiate? Do we have to go to the Ashram? Will she give us a mantra? No, no. You might be initiated while taking a stroll on Connaught Place, you may be in the busy street and She will come and initiate. It is not only when we are ready that She comes. She comes, but then there’s something we have to do, and that is the offering of our being to her. That’s all that She wants. When Satyavan sees her, what does he say?

Although to heaven thy beauty seems allied,
Much rather would my thoughts rejoice to know
That mortal sweetness smiles between thy lids [401]

We want the Divine to be like a human. There’s a great difference between the Divine becoming human as the Avatar and coming close to us and the Divine who is out there somewhere as an absolute abstraction beyond thought. How can we concentrate on That? Therefore She comes within the human range. That’s why the Avatar is an unparalleled phenomenon.

And thy heart can beat beneath a human gaze
And thy aureate bosom quiver with a look
And its tumult answer to an earth-born voice. [401]

O, Mother, can you hear our voice? We have not read the hymns and prayers in the Shastras. Can you just listen to our babble?

If our time-vexed affections thou canst feel, [401]

We don’t know what She will ask from us. We have little issues and little problems. Can you feel these little issues that so vex us?

Earth’s ease of simple things can satisfy, [402]

What I can offer you is not riches and bungalows and palaces. I can’t offer things like Ravana of Lanka for you. But I can offer my heart, it’s a small little place.

If thy glance can dwell content on earthly soil,
And this celestial summary of delight,
Thy golden body, dally with fatigue [402]

Knowing myself, I can tell you Mother that you will have to work a lot with this fellow. Can you?

Oppressing with its grace our terrain, while
The frail sweet passing taste of earthly food
Delays thee and the torrent’s leaping wine,
Descend. Let thy journey cease, come down to us. [402]

Come Mother, come. And She comes, whenever a devotee, a child, calls her with a sincere heart. It is not like only if we offer much money she will come. She says your gift is not measured by how much it is worth, it is measured by the completeness of your offering. She gives the example of when Shiva comes disguised as an ordinary mendicant and asks for something from a poor lady. The lady says I don’t have anything, but I’ve eaten half my apple and half is kept here. I can give it to you if you want it. Shiva says give it to me, and then he says this is the most perfect gift. Then Mother says the gift is even more beautiful because she didn’t know he is Shiva. That makes it more beautiful.

Then there is the divine marriage, the divine betrothal, the mystic marriage, as it’s called. Krishna has all his gopis and Christ, all the nuns are married to Christ. And we can say that all of us are married to Mother and Sri Aurobindo, in the deepest sense. It’s called the mystic marriage. This mystic marriage takes place between Savitri and Satyavan. Once it happens, our own life is no more our own. Actually, it never was, but we lived in that illusion. Now it is hers. What happens next is that Satyavan doesn’t know she is leading his life, just like all of us. It’s okay. We have come here and think ‘very good, Mother is there’ but she’s keeping watch. There’s a line in Savitri,

Thou hast come down into a struggling world
To aid a blind and suffering mortal race,
To open to Light the eyes that could not see, [536]

We don’t even know. When you are leading a blind person and you say, ‘Be careful’, the person doesn’t know what to be careful about. It is so difficult to lead us through the blindness of our ignorance. And then destiny approaches with silent feet and Satyavan dies. Now what happens, it is again something very beautiful. Satyavan is making no effort, but what does he do before he dies? That is important. Just before he’s going to die, he lies in Savitri’s lap and says,

“Savitri, Savitri, O Savitri,
Lean down, my soul, and kiss me while I die.” [565]

That’s all I want. Maybe if you are near, even death will go away. Satyavan’s first act is the act of surrender and Satyavan’s last act is the act of surrender. All the yoga is basically between these two great acts. Sri Aurobindo says that surrender to the Divine, and to the infinite Mother is the first and the last word of Integral Yoga.

He makes that last act. Then it’s no more his journey through death, but her journey. She carries Satyavan; she follows him through the gates of death. We know that there is a long debate between Savitri and Death and finally Death gets transformed. Basically, she doesn’t have to engage in this debate. She could have just said, ‘here I am’. But it’s not just about one Satyavan, one Satyavan could easily be brought back. It’s about the destiny of mankind, with countless small Satyavans. It is his great shadow which is lurking in man’s depths that must be transformed. Through all the debates, she is transforming Death the restrainer, the Yama Raja, to the upholder of the law, the guardian of truth, Dharma Raja. That is his origin, because Yama is the child of the Sun. From Surya and Chaya, Yama is born. Surya gives the law of truth but Death is the restrainer, he doesn’t know. All that he does is restrain. Ultimately, he restrains the breath which restrains the life which restraints the body. Then he restrains our upward climbing, and in doing so he oversteps his brief; this is something he’s not supposed to restrain. He even restrains that, he doesn’t know, he has only one word in his head. She reveals herself to him and says ‘now move away’. At the end, he says, ‘okay, I’m convinced, but who are you hiding behind the human form? The eternal truth speaks through your voice, but I want to see your face and see your power so that I too, can bow and worship you’. This is about the conversion of Death, which is one of the most important things. Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s work is not confined to us humans. We are very important as partners because the work is to be done in us. But there are many actors behind the scene. The gods must consent and the titans must surrender or dissolve or be converted. Here is this revelation of the Divine Mother to Death:

And Savitri looked on Death and answered not.
Almost it seemed as if in his symbol shape
The world’s darkness had consented to Heaven-light
And God needed no more the Inconscient’s screen.
A mighty transformation came on her.
A halo of the indwelling Deity,
The Immortal’s lustre that had lit her face
And tented its radiance in her body’s house,
Overflowing made the air a luminous sea. [664]

Suddenly she shows him her swarupa. What happens next, is the inevitable:

A pressure of intolerable force [667]

This what many people experienced when in close contact with the Mother. Some of the old disciples would say when in front Sri Aurobindo they would feel as if they are entering into infinity, into vastness, but when the Mother came there was a tremendous pressure of transformation. Not that she said anything. People mistranslated it into ‘oh, she’s a disciplinarian’; it was none of those things. But her presence brought that transforming energy. The only way one could bear it was through love, the power of love. There was that pressure, and the pressure was felt as intolerable. There is a divine intolerance:

A pressure of intolerable force
Weighed on his unbowed head and stubborn breast;
Light like a burning tongue licked up his thoughts,
Light was a luminous torture in his heart,
Light coursed, a splendid agony, through his nerves;
His darkness muttered perishing in her blaze. [667]

We have to bear all this change because within us also, along with the immortal wine, there is mixed this poison of falsehood. When she starts the cleansing process, it hurts. It’s okay. It’s the process. Sri Aurobindo says we need endurance and faith. These are the two watchwords. We know that Death perishes, and she has reached the Ultimate. She wants to bring down the boon for earth. She brought these gifts to earth and men, but man is not ready. But she makes men ready. To become ready we have to go through the gates of death, unfortunately. That’s how we are. She brings these boons to men. What is it that the Divine Mother has come to give us?

“Thy peace, O Lord, a boon within to keep [p. 696]

Oh, the peace of flight from the world? No, not that peace.

“Thy peace, O Lord, a boon within to keep
Amid the roar and ruin of wild Time
For the magnificent soul of man on earth.
Thy calm, O Lord, that bears thy hands of joy.” [696]

Without peace we cannot bear the Ananda. Peace in the midst of the roar and ruin of wild time. Peace in the storm, calm in the effort, that is the peace she brings.

“Thy oneness, Lord, in many approaching hearts,
My sweet infinity of thy numberless souls.” [697]

Not the oneness that blots out all differences, but oneness that is enriched by differences, that oneness she brings.

“Thy energy, Lord, to seize on woman and man,
To take all things and creatures in their grief
And gather them into a mother’s arms.” [697]

This is the perfect solution for all grief and suffering: to fling oneself in her arms and feel the touch of divine love. And finally she asks for men,

“Thy embrace which rends the living knot of pain,
Thy joy, O Lord, in which all creatures breathe,
Thy magic flowing waters of deep love,
Thy sweetness give to me for earth and men.” [697]

All these boons are granted and then there is a passage in which Savitri’s true nature is beautifully revealed:

O Savitri, thou art my spirit’s Power,
The revealing voice of my immortal Word,
The face of Truth upon the roads of Time
Pointing to the souls of men the routes to God. [703]

This is, of course, for our own being. This applies as much to Savitri the book, the Immortal word that opens and points the road to mankind.

And at the end, when Satyavan is back on Earth, and she has received all the boons, Satyavan asks her, what is the path you have followed? He asks, ‘What high change is in thee, O Savitri’ [718]. And Savitri says,

All now is changed, yet all is still the same.
Lo, we have looked upon the face of God,
Our life has opened with divinity. [719]

People speak about the Mother’s withdrawal, but it was not a withdrawal. It is a transformed being. Nothing of her human approach changes. That is how she revealed herself to Nolini-da in 1974, or perhaps it was 1976. He has a vision where the Mother appears in a new and transformed body, and she says I’m here just as before, just as accessible as before, you can approach me just the same way as a human mother. And there are countless people the world over, some I’m sure in this very room, who will testify to the fact. If you tell them that the Mother is no more they will say there could be nothing more untrue than this.

All now is changed, yet all is still the same.

Heaven’s touch fulfils but cancels not our earth: [719]

But when she is asked, have you done all this, it seems like the seers and sages are not satisfied. Satyavan says simply, ‘Lay all on her; she is the cause of all’ [723]. Don’t ask me how to meditate, which mantra to say, what kind of breathing techniques to do, which asanas to do. I know only one thing, ‘Lay all on her; she is the cause of all’. They wonder, and looking at her they see that her face is aglow with the glow of the suns. They ask, what is your secret? Is there something you’re hiding inside? What is the secret that you have come to give to earth? Savitri’s message, the Mother’s message, is given in four lines:

“Awakened to the meaning of my heart
That to feel love and oneness is to live [p. 724]

There are few lines more powerful than these. If we don’t feel love in our heart, we are as good as dead. The Mother says somewhere that there are many who are living but dead inside, and there are many who are dead that are alive.

“Awakened to the meaning of my heart
That to feel love and oneness is to live
And this the magic of our golden change,
Is all the truth I know or seek, O sage.” [724]

Then come these beautiful lines:

Wondering at her and her too luminous words [724]

Truth can be so simple and so profound. Nolini-da once was asked before a play in the Ashram to speak a few words about the programme. He went to the stage and stood silent for a while. Then he said, ‘Love the Mother’, and came back came down. Yoga and life could be this simple and easy. But perhaps love is the most difficult thing for human nature. It always wants it but it doesn’t know how to love even a human being, forget about the Divine. It is jealous and full of competition: ‘Oh, Mother loves this person more’; ‘He is closer’; ‘She loves talented people’; ‘She loves those who go around and give lectures’’ ‘She loves wealthy people’. The truth is she loves everyone because she’s a wonderful Mother of unnumbered souls.

We will end with an earlier passage which describes when Savitri recovers the fullness of her being and culminates her yoga for earth and man. She does the yoga for earth and man and she completely identifies with earth and all of us. What does she discover?

Her spirit saw the world as living God;
It saw the One and knew that all was He. [556]

Never a greater truth was ever uttered. He, in the being, he in the becoming; he in the past, and he moving towards himself in the future. When the Mother used to do the japa ‘Om Namo Bhagavate’ people thought, ‘oh, she’s doing something very traditional, that’s very good’. She said, ‘no, when I do the mantra Om Namo Bhagavate I’m invoking the Divine of the future’. It’s not just about the mechanical repetition, it’s about what is put in the japa. On the next page the description continues:

She was the single self of all these selves,
She was in them and they were all in her. [557]

This is our permanent dwelling place. All places, the whole world, Auroville, Ashram, Andromeda galaxy, Mars, they’re all temporary places. She is the only permanent place.

This first was an immense identity
In which her own identity was lost: [557]

She loses herself in the creation and is there in each atom of existence.

What seemed herself was an image of the Whole.
She was a subconscient life of tree and flower,
The outbreak of the honied buds of spring; [557]

That’s why they give us joy. Everywhere we can glimpse something of her magic and mystery.

She burned in the passion and splendour of the rose, [557]

When we look at a rose and feel joy it’s the Divine Mother who is burning in its splendour. For a moment our eyes see something wonderful and we feel happy looking at it.

She was the red heart of the passion-flower,
The dream-white of the lotus in its pool.
Out of subconscient life she climbed to mind,
She was thought and the passion of the world’s heart,
She was the godhead hid in the heart of man,
She was the climbing of his soul to God. [557]

It is a portion of her that dwells in us as a divine spark and grows into a psychic being. The psychic being is nothing else but a portion of the Divine Mother. That is the realisation one has when one discovers the psychic being: that I am forever, have been forever, and will be forever, a part and parcel and portion of the Divine Mother.

The cosmos flowered in her, she was its bed.
She was Time and the dreams of God in Time;
She was Space and the wideness of his days.
From this she rose where Time and Space were not;
The superconscient was her native air,
Infinity was her movement’s natural space;
Eternity looked out from her on Time. [557]