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At the Feet of The Mother

Yoga in the Material Field



Pondicherry is growing by rapid strides. Visitors who saw the town some fifteen years ago will be surprised at the remarkable development that has taken place in every sphere of its life. Let them take a walk along the sea boulevard on the extreme east or over the barren hill-side of the lake on the west, among the beautiful new buildings on tidy streets and roads: they will be impressed with an almost magical change in the once dirty and dead colony.

Not a little of this change is due to the influence of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Today tiny Pondicherry has acquired a place from India and abroad including ministers, high officials, men of culture are constantly streaming in and carrying away with them a new vision of life. How the Ashram also contributes to the material welfare of the town can be realised from the present story. This story is about a very practical piece of work resulting from the Yogic life pursued in the Ashram under the guidance of the Mother.

One day a gentleman accosted me and said, “Are you Nirod? I come from East Africa. I have wanted to meet you, for I heard Sri Aurobindo telling me in a dream your name which I never knew before. Since then I have been wondering who this person could be.”

Now I was a-stir with curiosity. Sri Aurobindo speaking of me to some one in East Africa! He continued: “You see, one of your group had come over there on a visit. All of us Indians wanted to meet and know something about the Ashram. I invited several people to my house. It was just before this occasion that I heard Sri Aurobindo saying, ‘If Nirod were here, he would manage everything. You would have no trouble.’” After a few friendly words we parted. I was very much struck with the strangeness of the incident.

This was two or three years ago. Later, he paid frequent visits to the Ashram, accompanied by some members of his family till almost all had the blessings of the Mother. His old mother who was suffering from chronic ailments of all sorts and had tried every kind of remedy, even talismans, gave up all human cures after seeing the Mother. One day we learnt that he was planning to start a sugar factory in Pondicherry. Another day we heard that the Mother was going to lay its foundation-stone! Things seemed to be moving fast. I discovered then the à propos of Guru’s visitation.

As we expressed a desire to see his mill-construction, he warmly agreed. One Sunday, after a swift drive of ten miles, we touched upon the sugarcane plantations with their typical green blade-like leaves waving in the air, and through the hedge-holes the ruddy robust stalks attracted our senses with their promise of sweet juice. “Here begins our land,” said the host, “fifty acres on this side and another fifty on the other side of the factory; you see some of the fields being prepared for the June crop. Here is the signboard. The factory has been christened by the Mother, ‘The Sacrur Sugar Factory.’ The word ‘sacrur’ has been derived from the Tamil word for sugar and from Ariyur, the name of the village.”

As we entered the site, we saw, shining in the bright sun, the skeletal frame of a huge steel structure, while the other wing set perpendicular to it had its body and roof covered with asbestos sheets. On the left side some buildings meant for store houses were almost complete. Far on the outer rings could be seen some silhouettes.

The host took us round and showed where the Mother had laid the foundation-stone with the message, “Faithfulness is the sure basis of success”, inscribed upon it. He read to us the other part of the message:

A happy beginning,
A good continuation,
And no end —
An endless progression

“A very potent message, like a mantra,” I said, “linking the two lives together — the life of the owner and that of the owned.”

Then he began explaining to us the various stages of sugar production, showing at the same time where the sugar canes would be crushed, where the juice would be collected, boiled, refined and finally crystallised. Through the maze of all these technical intricacies a vision of hundreds of people engaged profitably, fed by the mill, floated before my eyes. Even the sadhaks and sadhikas might be working side by side with the mill-hands, but with a different inspiration and consciousness, helping thus to bring a new orientation into the life of the workers. Factories there are many in the country, but meeting the mere demands of the stomach is not the greatest problem of existence.

He then led us on to the outer ring destined to be the quarters for the officers. A series of small modern flats with two rooms for each family were being erected in a line. Then would follow the quarters of the officers of the higher rank and finally those of the highest ones. Clubs, schools, libraries, playgrounds, swimming pools, in a word, all human considerations adding enjoyment to utility will have their due place.

As we returned to the Office, we saw two big photos of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo installed there. Our host said that he was building a suite of rooms for the Mother, so that if she ever chose to stay at the place she could have full privacy. As he regretted that perhaps we had not enjoyed the trip, we replied that apart from a Wordsworthian education in the sunny fields, we had seen the beginning of a big project. In life, the beginning and the end are the points that matter. Then we requested him to tell us how he had conceived this “unrealistic” project of starting a factory at Pondicherry.

“Well, it is a long story,” he said. “In fact, it is not I, but the Mother who gave me the idea and pushed me into it, so to say. You have seen the Tamil Journal of the Government of Pondicherry where it says that we, ‘on the advice of the Divine Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram decided to start the above Factory.’ You know that we have our sugar factories in East Africa where we live. Somewhere in 1953, the gentleman I have mentioned before came to pay us a visit and dispelled all our wrong conceptions about the Ashram. We had heard that Sri Aurobindo used to live in seclusion while a European lady conducted some sort of an Ashram. He held a collective meditation with my family members and then a very unusual thing happened. As soon as we sat down, my mother went into a deep trance. This new phenomenon put us off, but we were assured that it was the descent of the Mother’s force and that there was nothing to be panicky about. Since then, my mother has been having extraordinary experiences of various kinds. One night, Sri Aurobindo appeared to me in a dream. He lay down on a sofa and while I was massaging his legs he was talking with me as if we had been fast friends for ages. Next day, there was to be a gathering in our house. It was in that context that I heard your name pronounced by Sri Aurobindo.

“After a while I came for a short visit, for two days only. But the Mother, the Ashram, its bright children and new atmosphere made me prolong my stay. The Mother also sent word that if I extended my visit she would see me. When the day for the interview was fixed, I felt somewhat perturbed, for I had really nothing to speak about in particular. In the interview I was so much moved by her sweetness and grace that I talked my heart out. She inquired all about my family, my business and then startled me by saying that she had known me and had been always with me in my work. To my bewildered gaze, she answered smiling, ‘Yes, we have met before.’

“I went back to Africa. But the memory of that meeting exercised a sort of magnetic pull towards the Ashram. An idea flashed through my mind that I could very well start some factory in India. Things in Africa were also looking uncertain. On my second visit, my parents accompanied me; my father was very pleased to see an Ashram run very smoothly on modern lines. I told the Mother about my plan of buying the old Savana Mill in Pondicherry. She replied, ‘No, that mill is not for you. Why don’t you start a sugar mill, instead? That would be in your line.” As I could not afford a huge sum of money, she added, ‘Once you set it going, money will also pour in. Start without thinking too much. I will give all my help. I want also to show Yoga in the material field.’

“With a non-committal reply I took my leave. But the idea must have been transmitted with a certain force, for I could not reject it. After consultation with my family members, I tentatively agreed upon the project and, in my next visit, began to look for a site. At one time the difficulties became so great that I abandoned the idea and communicated to the Mother my regret. In addition to money matters, difficulties of import and export, Government taxes and other complications raised their heads to throw me out of joint. I felt so miserable that I resolved to have the matter thrashed out before her. In the interview, I made a staggering discovery. As I began to dilate upon the technical hurdles, I was surprised to see that the Mother could talk about finance, exchange, import, export, etc. as if she were a high-level expert Minister of the Government. Convinced by her arguments, I took the final decision and cabled to my people in East Africa to that effect. I flew to England and placed orders for the machinery. After two years of hard struggle, I was ready to proceed with the construction. The work is perhaps moving slowly but I expect it will finish by next June. As you will see in the Government Journal, the first nursery has grown to 600-700 acres of the second nursery. The seeds of the second nursery will be given to 25000 cultivators to cultivate about 6,000 acres of cane… It is anticipated to increase crushing capacity from 800-1200 tons to 1500 tons per day if the present attempt is successful.

“You see now how far the work has progressed. I had to face tremendous odds; in this remote corner facilities are lacking. But I have felt the Mother’s helping hand smoothening, as it were, all the difficulties little by little and I have no doubt that everything will turn out all right. I do not pretend that what I am doing is something unique, but the experience I have been granted and the circumstances under which I am working are new and valuable, aren’t they? The Mother says she wants to show Yoga in the material field. That will certainly be something unique, I believe. This then is my story.”

(Mother India)

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It is not the personality, the character that is of the first importance in rebirth — it is the psychic being who stands behind the evolution of the nature and evolves with it.