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At the Feet of The Mother

“The Mother of Dreams” — Some Experiences from 1973 (1)

I left for Bombay from Pondicherry by plane on August 2, 1973 to have the cataract in my right eye removed. I had to remain there owing to unexpected circumstances right on to the night of November 18. On the morning of that day I had a phone-call from Pondicherry informing me of the Mother’s passing away the previous evening. Along with my wife, her sister, my sister, my niece and her husband who were all in Bombay at the time, I flew homeward the same night.

Looking back at the stay in Bombay I cannot help seeing the Grace of the Mother in the series of dreams I had of her, such as had never happened to me in all the years I had known her. It was as if she showed herself close and intimate to one who was far away but needed her intensely — a presence of love and light giving repeated Darshan before the great leave-taking. The last dream was on the very night of November 17. I used to write a report of each dream and send it to Pondicherry. Perhaps these reports may prove of general interest and hold meanings for others no less than for myself. They are reproduced below as originally written. Some later comments follow them whenever these second thoughts seem to illuminate the earlier experiences.



Dream of 18-8-1973

I have got up from sleep, with a wonderful dream as a grand finale to the night’s rest. Yesterday before going to bed I had the news that the Mother had appeared on her balcony at 6.15 p.m. on August 15 but had gone in because it had started raining. I felt there was something wrong with the information, for it was hardly like the Mother to be frightened by a bit of rain. But I was elated by the fact that after all she had given Darshan. I went to sleep concentrating on her.

Round about 6.15 this morning I had my dream. I was in a horse-carriage going somewhere. I ended up in the midst of a crowd waiting to see the Mother. Each of us had a card with a number and two words. My card read: “47. Matter-of-fact. Independence.” There was a sort of balcony from which Champaklal was calling out the numbers. I joined the queue and climbed up a staircase and reached the first floor. There was a room to the right. The Mother was sitting there, awaiting all of us.

On the way I had interrogated my own condition and found some faults or rather ambivalences in it but on the whole it seemed fairly receptive. I approached the Mother. She appeared a little lean in the face, the nose looked sharp-cut; otherwise she was as I had seen her in my first interview in December 1927 — and, as on that occasion, a soft white radiance seemed to play all over her. I knelt down, she smiled, I put my head on her feet, she blessed me. When I lifted my head — with my hands clasped together and pressed to my heart — she was still smiling. I was filled with a sense of beauty and graciousness. It was the Mother I had always known — with no barriers between us, all the recent withdrawal and absence due to her ailing condition were wiped off.

I moved away and stood in a big adjoining room. Watching from there I saw a visitor-sadhak doing Pranam to the Mother. He kept his head at her feet even after she had blessed him. She did nothing for a while and then touched his head two or three times impatiently. She did not want such an artificial self-centred ceremony as this prolonged Pranam. But the chap hardly took notice of her disapproval. He got up in his own good time. The Mother started saying something. I don’t remember all the words, but the last one got translated in my mind into the Gujarati term “Gandio!”, meaning “Imbecile!”. I was surprised, and looked with mingled shame and pity at the fellow.

He got up and with a dazed expression walked hurriedly away and disappeared. In contrast to this occurrence I came to know from my wife Sehra that she had done Pranam sixteen times, bowing at the Mother’s feet first and then touching the head to the sides of her seat and so on, but the Mother had kept smiling and said, “It’s all right.” The two occurrences showed her different responses to false devotion and to true love.

I lingered for some time in the adjoining room talking with people. Then I woke up. My whole being was brimmed with a deep quiet joy. And the realisation came to me that utter humility is the only way to receive the Divine’s personal physical presence on the earth. Not the mind but the heart has to be our answer to this supreme grace. And, while I became aware of this truth, I felt that by her appearance to me and by her blessing the Mother had not only compensated me for missing August 15 in Pondicherry but also rounded off a certain puzzling period and given the “green signal” to me, opening the way at last to my cataract-operation which had been suspended even though I had been in Bombay for it from the 2nd of the month.

Suddenly I remembered that a few days before starting for Bombay I had had a dream of the Mother which I had not told anybody because I had regarded it as just a projection of my own desire to get the cataract treated in an unorthodox way — without surgery. In this dream the Mother was seated in somewhat the same fashion as in my present one. I approached her and told her, “I am going to have my cataracts removed.” She at once replied, “No, don’t get them removed. Go to Togo”. The closing part of the speech was a mystery except that the last two syllables were merely the first two in the reverse order: instead of “Go to” there was “To go”. The opening part of her speech was surely a non-acceptance of my hurried desire for the operations. And yet the command to go pointed to my leaving Pondicherry for some other place. Perhaps my memory garbled what she had said and I had missed the word “Bombay”.

I may add that in this dream the Mother was not quite normal. For, when my right hand touched her left foot she winced in pain. As the feet are symbolic of the most exterior part of the being — the gross-physical — I suppose the pain signified that some crucial work was going on in this part of the being — work which seemed to have been essentially over before my second dream. And during the crucial process her attitude to the question of getting my cataracts removed was clearly negative.

My hurry in the opposite direction was mistaken and has actually proved useless. The Mother’s Grace has intervened to check it. A doctors’ strike has gone on stopping what I had arranged to be done as soon as I would have arrived in Bombay.

Here I may record in parenthesis an interesting event. Our “astrologer-royal” of the Ashram — Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet — had told me that according to my horoscope the time was very inauspicious for the operation. She said she was not happy at my going in for it. The stars showed “isolation, detachment, separation”, but in an unfavourable manner for a move like the operation. As a Yogi who steps out of the round of common cosmic forces I was supposed to ignore stars — whether ethereal or Hollywoodian. But perhaps Sri Aurobindo who, in spite of telling us that the stars’ indications are not binding when one enters the Yogic life, had yet coincided the day of his passing away with the astrological indications of the time of his “death”, as if deliberately to pay with his sacrifice the full penalty of material fate — perhaps Sri Aurobindo saw something worth attending to in the pointers of my horoscope. Anyway, the Mother’s negative attitude in my pre-Bombay dream had come before Patrizia spoke to me. Somehow it had been decided by the Divine that my operation should not happen in the period which was horoscopically inauspicious.

The upshot of the delay was that the doctor who would have operated on me was put off the scene and another who proved to be an ideal surgeon came into the picture. As though to make the change-over doubly sure, fate whisked away the first doctor to a conference in Africa. It strikes me that, if the operation had occurred when I had ventured to have it, there would have been some loss of protection. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have evidently saved me from myself.

One question may puzzle people. If the Gurus so hold me in their hands, why did they not prevent me from starting in such hot haste to get the operation done? One may say that my folly was so great that they could not directly counter it. But I think this is only half the truth. My state of mind at the time was such that I just had to be — as my horoscope showed — isolated, detached, separated from my immediate circumstances. And Bombay was the best place to “go to”, as the Mother’s words had it. But, though badly needing to go, would I have gone if the urge to get rid of those awful impediments to my work — the cataracts — had been lacking? So to rush like a cataract to get the cataracts removed was the unavoidable mode by which the sorely needed isolation, detachment, separation could be achieved. The Grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lay behind even my folly. The folly itself may be interpreted as a paradoxical action of their wisdom.

While writing this, it occurs to me that the name “Togo” itself might be a hyperingenious way of pointing to Bombay. For, impossible as it may sound, I knew when I was a boy an English child in Bombay who had been named “Togo” because he had been born in 1904, the year at whose near-end during the Russo-Japanese War Admiral Togo had started the masterly manoeuvers by which he had destroyed the whole Russian fleet off the coast of Manchuria. And I myself was also born in the same year in Bombay. Perhaps the month of my birth — November — was the one in which Togo’s manoeuvers started.

I am now waiting, in gratitude and confidence, for events to take the turn which the Divine wishes. The Mother, according to her own sense of the right time, will see me through my cataract-problem and lead me, in every sense, from Darkness to Light.

In closing, I may confess that I have not yet properly gauged either the meaning of “Matter-of-fact” and “Independence” or the suggestion of “47”. May be those two words tell me that I have to be realistic and not live under illusions, as well as that I should stand in my own inner strength and not be influenced by outward factors. What they tell me could be a manner of conveying what Sri Aurobindo deems essential for realising the Spirit in terms of Matter: a sublime common sense and a supreme poise.

As for “47”, it may be taken in the context of the word “independence” as appropriate since India won her independence in the year 1947 on August 15 which was also a birthday of Sri Aurobindo. But there is another reference possible. There will start for me in the December of this year — on the 16th, to be exact — my own 47th year as a member of the Mother’s Ashram.


Later Comment

After the Mother’s passing away a sharp light falls on the number 47. The Mother took charge of the Ashram, at Sri Aurobindo’s bidding, on November 24, 1926. The year 1973 completed, in November, 47 years of her creative role as the Ashram’s Head — no less than its Heart. The number in my dream appears to mean that, on the physical plane, this completion was also the end.

In view of the termination of the Mother’s physical presence amongst us, the words “Matter-of-fact” and “Independence” acquire, in the meanings I have tried to read in them, a special point. They beckon me to an undreamt-of stance of practicality and self-reliance in the outer half of the spiritual field.

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