SRI AUROBINDO AND THE MOTHER
AS I SAW THEM
About the year 1920 a good-humoured joke
of Sri Aurobindo, —
one of his many —, used to be current in his
circle. A certain person wanted to publish a magazine and sought Sri Aurobindo's advice. Sri Aurobindo was reported to
have said to him, "What is it you want to publish? your ignorance?"
This I remembered when I was debating within myself whether to write this
article or not. Finally, I have decided to write this knowing full well that I
am publishing my ignorance. Two reasons weighed with me in coming to the
First, I thought I must publish the authentic words of the Master, whom
I consider to be Knowledge incarnate; I must share them with all, though they
were from my private interviews with the Master. For they highlight his
gracious personality as Guru, as Father, as Mother...,
his unbounded compassion even for an unworthy person like myself, his
sympathetic understanding,' his uncanny
insight and power to guide the disciples, his superhuman patience, and his
manner of encouraging them. His love for his disciples was more than a mother's
love. I can find a parallel only in Ramakrishna's
love of his disciples. Sri Aurobindo was so informal, so affable, so genial, so
lovable, so adorable, so willing to listen to us and answer any
question, so intimate, we were never conscious of any reserve of manner in him,
or any barrier between us. I never heard one hard word from him. I have
preserved the notes of my conversations with the Master, some extracts from
which I append below in Section II. Any comment would be superfluous for they
reveal very clearly the aforesaid aspects of his personality.
Secondly, I felt I must repay my debt of gratitude to
and the Mother, if that were at all possible, in this manner.
By the Grace of Sri Aurobindo I had my first
Darshan of him in 1920 when I was a college student. I heard that he was a
great patriot, quite out of the ordinary, one who renounced his all for our
country, who saw our country actually as Bharat Mata, a Goddess, and who
elevated patriotism to the height of Religion and Spirituality, and kindled the
fire of spirit in the nation by his courage, and by his eloquent speeches and
writings. I heard also that he was a poet, a scholar, and a Maha Yogi. I was
very eager to have Darshan of the great personality, and so I went to Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo kindly granted me an interview.
Before seeing me he stood for a few minutes
facing the sea and gazing into the beyond. He stood erect, motionless like a
statue. Then he came near and sat in a chair. I made my pranam and sat opposite
My first impression of Sri Aurobindo was
that he was a true Rishi. His God-like face radiated profound peace, and
serenity. His intent and faraway look indicated to me that he was not of the
earth. He was lean, but he was a picture of health and immense, dynamic calm
strength. His complexion was dark, but his personality was radiant.
Sri Aurobindo made kind inquiries
regarding my studies and interests. Politics inevitably came up for discussion.
It was a very informal talk, but extremely stimulating and useful to me.
I had Darshan of Sri Aurobindo every
evening for a week afterwards. We used to talk mainly about literature, fine
arts, philosophy and politics. In English literature he advised me to begin
with Thackeray's Pendennis and other novels. He remarked: "Thackeray is
more subtle and psychological than any novelist of his time or before
recommended by him were George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte Sisters, Stevenson....
Among poets he asked me to start with Tennyson, Matthew Arnold (especially his
essay on translating Homer), Wordsworth, Shelly, Keats, and then take up the
Those meetings and many others
afterwards were etched in my memory. While taking leave of him I requested his
permission to come to see him again, and he kindly granted my request. After
leaving Pondicherry I began to read the works of Sri Aurobindo with
avidity. In them I found solutions of important problems concerning the nature
of man, of the world and of God. The mental pleasure and spiritual satisfaction
that I got from reading his works, I had never got from any other thinker or
writer. It was not only admiration for the constant incandescence of his
intellect; his philosophy of life and living appealed to something deeper, some
inmost chord in my being, and moved me to my depths.
So in the beginning of 1926 I decided, "Sri
Aurobindo is my Guru". But I asked myself, "Will he accept me as his
disciple?". With trepidation I proceeded to Pondicherry and sought an interview with the Master, which
he readily granted. I wondered at the great change in his physical appearance since
I had seen him last. His complexion was fair, and his body had filled out.
Spiritual fire shone through his eyes. I remembered the epithet in the Mahābhārata
describing the eyes of the Tapaswins as ‘dumiriksya', unseeable.
(Later I saw it was not always so. Usually it was a soft and gentle light like
the stars). I told him the purpose of my visit. When he consented to accept me
as his disciple, I felt myself blessed.
My brother V.
Chandrasekharam and I lived in the house next door to 9 Rue de la Marine, the
Master's residence. There were about a dozen disciples then living in a few
houses close by. It was like Gurukul. There used to be informal sittings in the
evenings when we used to talk on all kinds of
subjects. It was often
like table-talk. Sometimes serious subjects also were discussed. At other
times the talk was in a lighter vein on men and matters, on politics at home
and abroad, etc., but it was all off the cuff.
Sri Aurobindo's voice was soft and
gentle, almost feminine. His words flowed like the cool waters of a perennial
spring. Thoughts came to him incessantly. It appeared as if he was in
communication with higher levels of inspiration and direct knowledge. His
experience in the sphere of Sadhana as well as in other spheres was vast and
profound. But he made us feel quite at ease in his august presence. I never saw
him solemn or serious. The Master would talk in a relaxed and jovial mood. He
had a fine and subtle sense of humour. Even light hearted jokes and jests used
to be there in plenty. His repartee was good humoured and enjoyable. On
occasions he would chuckle happily.
We therefore looked forward to the evening
sittings with great pleasure. As days passed, it appeared to us, towards
November 1926 that Sri Aurobindo was getting more and more indrawn.
Evidently he had reached a crucial stage in his Sadhana and was on the verge of
achieving a great objective. Finally towards the last week of November the
evening sittings came to an end. The evening talks were an intellectual feast.
I found them as scintillating and stimulating, as illuminating and edifying as
the talks of Socrates and Plato, and in modern times of Goethe and Whitehead.
All his original thoughts were precious to me and I used to record most of
them faithfully the next day. On many days I could reproduce more than a
hundred lines. This I believed then, and looking back now I believe still more,
that it was all due to the Grace of Sri Aurobindo. My notes of these talks are
currently being published in Mother India. There is no continuity in
the notes, for the talks were on all kinds of subjects, and they cover
different periods of time, but looming above it all in the background is Sri
Aurobindo's personality and the pervading presence of his unique vision.
In the mornings at about we could see the Master individually whenever
we wished to have his guidance. He used to help us very patiently with his
advice and answer our questions.
In one of my interviews with the Master
after I had been accepted, he remarked: "At present you are actively
moving in the mind....Are your nerves solid?"
answer: My nerves are sensitive. Kindly tell me how to strengthen
them, and also how to quieten my mind.
sri aurobindo: Solid nerves means patience, vigilance, endurance, capacity
to break stones.... You must make your nerves strong by cultivating these
qualities, and by bringing down quiet and peace. To get the stillness and peace
you must first have silent aspiration in all the being for peace, then separate
yourself from your mind, draw back and look at it from above. Actively watch
the mind as it runs along. Don't give sanction to the thoughts; if they are
persistent reject them centrally, calmly,, steadily, without struggle or effort
or strain. Don't involve yourself in the act of rejecting the thoughts. A
vigilant will is essential lest you lose hold of self. You must be able to
inwardly seize the mind and hold it...this is also necessary for active
concentrated thinking. Both movements are mutually helpful.... With practice
the mind comes under control, there will be quiet and stillness. After
stillness is established, concentrate silently, consciously on the peace.
sri aurobindo : Emptiness of mind is something deeper than the normal
void of the inert, tamasic mind, it is a prepa-
ration for a higher
movement in consciousness. One must be vigilant and drive away all weakness and
impurity, lest in this emptiness the force that is in the atmosphere may take
advantage of the weak spot and overturn him. I have reached a stage where there
is something in the atmosphere around me, and the Sadhaks may feel the effects
of its pressure on all the levels of being.... Unless one has a strong hold on
the self there is every danger.
sri aurobindo: The external things do not much matter, it is the
restlessness and the inertia of mind that are the real obstacles. The body is
not so much of an obstacle as the mind with its activity and its desire for
results. Don't engage yourself in a duel with the mind. Don't fight with the
thoughts. You must stand back from the mind and like a spectator watch its
activity. Even in the act of watching the mind as it runs, you are passively
rejecting the thoughts.... Unless you do this, you will not get the peace and
the force. Even in my own case mind was the obstacle in the path of my progress
to Vijnana.... Silently command the mind to be still. There must be an inner
sri aurobindo: The stillness is of the mind.... The melancholy may be due
to the sentimental part of the mind. The mind raises up the melancholy to enjoy
it. It is the melancholy of the poets, Tagore, for example, Or it may be due,
as you say, to imagination. You have to still the sentimental mind, the
sensational mind by calling down the peace. When the peace descends, you feel
it within you in the body descending from centre to centre, and around you. The
peace is the foundation and the beginning of Yoga. Later come Ananda, vastness
of Brahman, Purusha consciousness, etc.
You have to look at the thoughts, cast out the false,
receive the true.... The will should be silent intuitive will, a force that is
not mental.... If the melancholy is corrosive, it must be rejected.... If it is
soothing, as for e.g., such as is induced by certain melodies, it is psychic
sadness, and this can be utilised in the Sadhana....
sri aurobindo: There is no harm in summarily rejecting the thoughts, only
you should not involve yourself in the act of rejecting them.... In the act of
watching your mind, you are passively rejecting the thoughts, but you are not
involving yourself.... Though the quiet is not disturbed by the thoughts, you
must not allow them to rise often lest it become a habit. Try to silence them
as completely as possible. Otherwise they may be coming up like this (with a
gesture of the hand).... The quiet must not depend on any external causes for
e.g., music.... You must lay down the mind as freely as you do a tool.
sri aurobindo: You must have equality under all circumstances. If your
mind gets out of control even for a moment and gets disturbed or troubled, then
all troubles follow, mental unrest, suggestions, etc. Be vigilant always, more
vigilant in other hours than during meditation.... You must see the One
Infinite everywhere. Always you must try to see everything as the manifestation
of God. Aspiration in the heart, (i.e. the psychic mind,) and will in the
higher mind, — prayer is only the making precise of the aspiration —, will bring
down the peace. The peace you will feel as a Presence about you, within you....
Silence is a very powerful weapon and comes only after long Sadhana to those
whose mental development does not become an obstacle to the
silence, generally it does.... It depends on
one's Samaskara, temperament. Thought is a form of consciousness. And in the
near future since there would be no silence, thoughts would arise and make
their impression on the consciousness before they are dismissed.... Separate
yourself from mind, and quiet the mind. Be one with the Witness. Separate
yourself from Prana later.... You don't find the obstacles in your path now. As
the peace and force descend, they reveal the obstacles, and they also show you
how to get over them. The will in the Higher Mind you cannot reach so soon.
Till it is awakened, resort to aspiration purified and strengthened more and
sri aurobindo: The concentration of the physical mind on the Higher Power,
(Mother), will not do. What is required is an inner concentration and inner
peace. A certain stillness there may be, due to absorption in an idea, but
inner concentration alone can give you the inner stillness. Absorption in one
idea without full self-control, wakefulness and power of detachment behind is
dangerous. The concentration must be conscious.. When there is no vigilance
and detachment you unconsciously identify yourself with the mind, even in
prayer.... Absorption in one movement may be helpful sometimes....
sri aurobindo: It is because you are thinking much about peace you are not
getting it.... There should be no difference between the hours of meditation
and other hours. Only during meditation time you get the peace which you must
have during the whole day. Never for once throw yourself into the play.
You have to get back the largeness, the largeness which holds the peace.
You have to change the stuff of your mind, it must be flexible and plastic. It
is not enough if you have the stillness within, it must be around you...if you
cannot get the peace concentrate on the force. The two mean the same thing in
the end. The peace brings the force with it, and the force, when it comes,
removes the obstacles and establishes peace.
there obstacles of the subconscious?
A: There are any number of obstacles in the
subconscious. They don't matter now. Only aspire for peace. Let the thoughts
only play on the surface. Look at the thoughts as you look at things outside
yourself, e.g. tables, books, etc.
sri aurobindo: To still the mind is not to abolish mental activity
altogether. You don't throw away the habit of mental activity from your
nature.... The coming down of the higher things depends on the purity and
preparation of the lower nature; the purity of the lower depends on the descent
of the higher. The descent of the calm and the purity of the lower nature are
sri aurobindo: To try to quiet the mind by prayer is not the right thing,
for it is only a precarious calm that you get and soon the mind is up again....
Never allow the
mind to tyrannize over you. You must forever stop its mechanical habits and
learn to use it like a tool. Even in severe thinking you must be calm, and
stand back and coolly think. Don't be restless. Don't desire to possess
knowledge.... Make the questioning mind quiet. Don't lose hold of your mind.
Let it obey your command
every moment. If once you lose control, you will
allow the subconscious habit of mechanical restless thinking to rise and
continue for days.
sri aurobindo: Prayer merely mental or vital, and desire to know truth
in the mental form will not take you inside, on the other hand they will take
you more outside your centre.
You felt, or you saw that the mental aspiration and the
vital aspiration (the demand for knowledge in the forms of mind and the demand
for peace) are something foreign to you?
A: I felt, and then I saw.
sri aurobindo: Then it is the psychic being that felt it and
discrimination that saw it. Psychic aspiration first expresses itself through
the mental and vital being. The aspiration of the vital being must be there,
not the aspiration of the surface vital being which is overpassed soon.
Q: To what part of the being in us does nature
sri aurobindo: It appeals to the mind and vital being
generally. The aesthetic being is partly mental and partly vital.... Nature
appeals in some to all parts of the being. What you say is the appeal to the
psychic being. To the psychic being Nature reveals the Infinite; it feels
Bhakti, it enters Universal Beauty through Nature.
Q: How far does it help the Sadhaka ?
sri aurobindo: It first refines the vital being, frees it from desire and
egoism, — not directly. It creates a certain psychic sensibility, a door
through which the Sadhaka can enter the Infinite.
sri aurobindo: Music also appeals to the
Q: Likewise Poetry and
sri aurobindo: Yes, but with some people music appeals to the mind only.
These mental movements may help to prepare the being; the soul may be touched
through the aesthetic being, but they also obstruct. It is all sentiment.
Q: Their attraction is too great. Is it an obstacle ?
sri aurobindo: It is only something within which is struggling
to express itself. The Yogin has to exceed all these things. That does not mean
that he must suppress them. He must over-pass them and transform them.
sri aurobindo: Thoughts come from outside and take form in the mind. You
have to watch them as they come and reject them passively, throw them out.
Holding to the calm and watching the thoughts, i.e. separation from mind and
rejection of the thoughts, must be one movement till they are silenced. Then
you may turn inside and ignore the thoughts.... If you change the mechanical
habit of mind and insist on its passivity every moment, the mind will yield.
You must make it habitually passive and full of the peace within.
sri aurobindo: Complete control of the mind and using it like a tool
comes later. You have to look at thoughts, see where they come from, and if
they are any worth, take them up. You have to know the mental nature. What if
thoughts come? only they must not disturb the inner calm. Don't listet to the
thoughts.... You must reject them in the sense that you must make them more and
more external to your-
self; don't attend to them, don't dwell upon
them. When there is quiet, you can take them up. Calm is not of the mind, it
descends from above.... Control of the subconscious nature, e.g. of the mechanical
action of the mind in sleep or wakefulness, comes later. Give up the fighting
attitude. Meditation must be restful. Externalise the thoughts more and more.
Ignore all mental consideration. The essential thing is an easy, effortless and
natural opening to the Divine. A certain concentration is necessary to reject
the thoughts but it must be silent concentration, it must not cause strain....
When the mind gets calm, you can also have activity. On the basis of calmness
you have to build the active thought. First there will be scattered thought,
but afterwards there will be very clear, connected thought. When you attain perfect
calm, you can look for the Universal consciousness, Vijnana and so forth. The
first step however is the feeling of the Universal Prana, then the Universal
consciousness and so on....
sri aurobindo: It does not matter if your calm is disturbed,
only see that it remains in the background at least. Try to get the force. Fix
these two, calm and force, and if you get other experiences so much the better.
Q: Is the force vital force or nervous energy?
aurobindo: When you silence the
mind you get to pure mind. Then you get Pranic Energy, not nervous energy.
First Shakti comes as Pranic Energy. Later only come the higher forms of
Energy. You must receive, hold and stabilise this Pranic Energy. Then the
vital being feels refreshed.... The light seen when the mind is pure is the
light of Chidakasha, not of the outside atmosphere.... The delight, even if
is independent of cause, is mental, not prolonged. But it is helpful in the way
of seeing the One and Infinite every where.
sri aurobindo: There are two movements in this Yoga:
(i) The mind's stillness — thoughts
do not come from the brain or physical mind, but come like that (with a
gesture), and (ii) aspiration or will turned up, not a will that pulls down.
Don't feel yourself in the brain, but in the heart.... There should not be any
strain on the brain....
Q: Can we manage without the use of the brain in reading and writing ?
aurobindo: Yes. Not that the brain
does not function, but you will rise above it, rise above the physical mind
and watch from there.
Q: Can we station ourselves always there?
sri aurobindo: Yes.... Will does not exhaust. It is the
resistance of the mind that exhausts. I think there is no serious obstacle in
your vital being or physical being. The only obstacle now is your mental
activity, eagerness. Eagerness there may be, but it must be that of the heart,
intense. The mind must not mix up with it....
aurobindo : Concentrate not only in
the mind but in the heart. Don't expect anything, but remain quiet. There must
not be any mental insistence on the next step or any vital demand. Put some
confidence into it if you can.... You see the peace, vastness above you now.
You simply keep yourself open.... You quieted the thinking mind, you separated
yourself from the mechanical part of the mind,— for-
merely you were involved in it, so you did not
notice it —, now it has risen up. The dynamic mind is thrown into the mechanical
mind and it goes on repeating 'I shall do this, I shall do that'. But it will
soon get tired. When the Higher will or light becomes manifest it does
SRI aurobindo: Connect the
centre of the mind with the centre of the heart. The heart is at present man's
centre, the soul centre. If you concentrate in the mind, the mind begins to
meditate. But meditation in the heart easily takes you to the reality.
sri aurobindo: The aspiration must be spontaneous, there must be vigilant
will and detachment. Some energy is required to sustain the consciousness
within and to keep it from going outward. Concentration or aspiration helps to
open, but for that you must detach yourself completely from thoughts. When you
get that detachment you feel it even physically, you feel as if you are mixed
in etheric space, and so light.... You must feel the detachment, detachment
from the mind and from the body....
sri aurobindo: Your natural movement seems to be through the heart and
that part of the vital being which comes into contact with beauty.... You must
get the positive quiet of opening to the Universal, not the negative silence of
shutting yourself up in concentrated absorption.... The movement through the
mind gives knowledge, wide consciousness .....through the heart, feeling of
delight, power.... Concentrate in the heart, identify yourself with the quiet
feeling of aspiration, spread out the feeling, and let the
whole being become the quiet feeling....
sri aurobindo: Your only obstacle is the mental activity. When you try to
withdraw into yourself, you take your mind also there. That must not be. There
must be real detachment and aspiration for something from above, wideness
etc., not mere control of mind.... You have a lot of force in you, only you
allow it to be dormant.
to some circumstances I had to leave Pondicherry and go home. I therefore requested the Master's
permission to leave. He was so warm and kind and loving and gracious that he
said to me "Why do you want to go? Why don't you continue to stay
here?" I was overwhelmed. I felt his Grace enveloping me and I was deeply
touched. When I explained my situation to him he was all sympathy and
compassion and gave me his Blessings.
In those days the
Mother kept herself in the background, — physically. When first I saw her, I
was struck by her frail but super-earthly and radiant form, and her eyes that
seemed to be like endless Ocean expanses, fathomless. I stood before her
transfixed, and gazed and gazed far and long into those expanses, those
captivating eyes, those marvellous eyes of the Infinite. I was literally lost
in those eyes. Was this form of Mystery and Angel from afar an immortal spirit
or a Vision? I felt I was surrounded by her Love and Grace. Then collecting
myself I prayed for her Blessings. She looked into my eyes and smiled and
blessed me. What an enchanting smile
it was! I have not seen such eyes and such a
smile in any other person so far. That vision has remained engraved in my mind
all these years. I saw her again a number of times. I marvelled many a time at
the changing face of the Mother, now the very form of Grace, now a shape of
Light from some Beyond, and now a form of brilliant, flowing, living gold,
always clothed in Grandeur, Majesty, and Divine Dignity, and radiating waves of
light, of love and of bliss.
to the Mother to seek her guidance and to take leave of her....
Concentrate in the heart. Aspire for force and peace in the heart, open
yourself to us here.... There is no obstacle. Don't be anxious. Go ahead.
Everything will be all right.
Thus reluctantly, I
took leave of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother who were so full of the nectar of
Divine Love. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are inseparably associated in my mind
with the Divine Gourisankar of the Himalayas high above the earth, calm and tranquil and serene and
bathed in Light, and radiating Peace and Grace, and Love for all. They have
been my beacon lights on my life's journey, and I pray and trust that they may
continue to extend their Grace to me through all eternity.