The Mother is not a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. She has had the same experience and realisation as myself. … She has helped and is helping to give a concrete form to my yoga. This would not have been possible without her cooperation. One of the two great steps in the yoga is to take refuge in the Mother.
I came to India to meet Sri Aurobindo. I remained in India to live with Sri Aurobindo. When he left his body, I continued to live here in order to do his work which is, by serving the Truth and enlightening mankind, to hasten the rule of the Divine’s Love upon earth.
What Sri Aurobindo represents in the history of the earth’s spiritual progress is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a mighty action straight from the Supreme.
Sri Aurobindo has come on earth not to bring a teaching or a creed in competition with previous creeds or teachings, but to show the way to overpass the past and to open concretely the route towards an imminent and inevitable future.
Sri Aurobindo : Life and Work
Education in England
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15 August 1872. In 1879, at the age of seven, he was taken with his two elder brothers to England for education and lived there for fourteen years. Brought up at first in an English family at Manchester, he joined St. Paul’s School in London in 1884 and in 1890 went from it with a senior classical scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied for two years. Sri Aurobindo’s education in England gave him a wide introduction to the culture of ancient, mediaeval and modern Europe. He had learned French from his childhood in Manchester and studied for himself German and Italian sufficiently to study Goethe and Dante in the original tongues. He passed the demanding Tripos course in Cambridge in the first class and obtained record marks in Greek and Latin in the examination for the Indian Civil Service. But upon qualifying he was unwilling to join the Indian Civil Service and repeatedly failed to present himself for the compulsory riding examination and was disqualified for the Service. At this time the Gaekwar of Baroda was in London. Sri Aurobindo met him, obtained an appointment in the Baroda Service and left England for India in January 1893.
Sri Aurobindo passed thirteen years, from 1893 to 1906, in the Baroda Service, first in the Revenue Department and in secretarial work for the Maharaja, afterwards as Professor of English and finally Vice-Principal in the Baroda College. In England he had received, according to his father’s express instructions, an entirely western education without any contact with the culture of India and the East. At Baroda he made up this deficiency, learned Sanskrit and several modern Indian languages, and assimilated the spirit of Indian civilisation and its forms past and present. In 1901 he married Mrinalini Devi of Calcutta. A great part of the last years of this period was spent on leave in silent political activity, for he was debarred from public action by his position at Baroda. In 1905 the outbreak of the agitation against the partition of Bengal gave him the opportunity to give up the Baroda Service and join openly in the political movement. He left Baroda in 1906 and went to Calcutta as Principal of the newly-founded Bengal National College.
The political action of Sri Aurobindo covered eight years, from 1902 to 1910. During the first half of this period he worked behind the scenes, preparing with other co-workers the beginnings of the Swadeshi movement, till the agitation in Bengal provided an opening for the start of a more forward and direct political action. The new-born Nationalist party inspired by him put forward Swaraj (Independence) for the first time as the goal of the nationalist movement. It proposed a programme based on the principle of self-help. It aimed on one side at an effective organisation of the forces of the nation, and on the other a complete non-cooperation with the British Government. Boycott of British and foreign goods and the fostering of Swadeshi industries to replace them, boycott of British law courts and the foundation of a system of Arbitration courts in their stead, boycott of Government universities and colleges and the creation of a network of National colleges and schools, the formation of societies of young men which would do the work of police and defence and, wherever necessary, a policy of passive resistance were among the immediate items of the programme. He persuaded the party to take up and finance as its recognised organ the newly-founded daily paper, Bande Mataram, of which he was the acting editor. The Bande Mataram circulated almost immediately all over India. During its brief but momentous existence, from the beginning of 1907 till its winding up in 1908 when Sri Aurobindo was in prison, it changed the political thought of India which has ever since preserved fundamentally, even amidst its later developments, the stamp them imparted to it. But the struggle initiated on these lines, though vehement and eventful and full of importance for the future, did not last long at the time, for the country was still unripe for so bold a programme.
In May 1908 Sri Aurobindo was arrested in the Alipur Conspiracy Case as implicated in the doings of the revolutionary group led by his brother Barindra. But no evidence of any value could be established against him and he was acquitted. After a detention of one year as an undertrial prisoner in the Alipur jail he came out in May 1909.
First Spiritual Realisations
His twelve months in prison had been spent entirely in the practice of Yoga, and his inner spiritual life was pressing upon him for an exclusive concentration. In February 1910 he withdrew secretly to the French enclave of Chandernagore, close to Calcutta, and in the beginning of April sailed for Pondicherry in French India.
By that time Sri Aurobindo had already realised in full two of the four great realisations on which his Yoga and his spiritual philosophy are founded. The first he had gained while meditating with the Maharashtrian Yogi Vishnu Baskar Lele at Baroda in January 1908; it was the realisation of the silent, spaceless and timeless Brahman gained after a complete and abiding stillness of the whole consciousness and attended at first by an overwhelming feeling and perception of the total unreality of the world, though this feeling disappeared after his second realisation which was that of the cosmic consciousness and of the Divine as all beings and all that is, which happened in the Alipore jail. To the other two realisations, that of the supreme Reality with the static and dynamic Brahman as its two aspects and that of the higher planes of consciousness leading to the Supermind he was already on his way in his meditations in the Alipore jail.
Sri Aurobindo had left Bengal with some intention of returning to the political field under more favourable circumstances; but very soon the magnitude of the spiritual work he had take up appeared to him and he saw that it would need the exclusive concentration of all his energies. Eventually he cut off connection with politics, refused repeatedly to accept the Presidentship of the National Congress and went into a complete retirement. During all his stay at Pondicherry from 1910 onwards he remained more and more exclusively devoted to his spiritual work and his sadhana.
Pondicherry – writings
In 1914 after four years of silent Yoga he began the publication of a philosophical monthly, the Arya. Most of his more important works, The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita, The Isha Upanishad, first appeared serially in the Arya. These works embodied much of the inner knowledge that had come to him in his practice of Yoga. Others were concerned with the spirit and significance of Indian civilisation and culture (The Foundations of Indian Culture), the true meaning of the Vedas (The Secret of the Veda), the progress of human society (The Human Cycle), the nature and evolution of poetry (The Future Poetry), the possibility of the unification of the human race (The Ideal of Human Unity). The Arya ceased publication in 1921 after six and a half years of uninterrupted appearance.
Formation of the Ashram
Sri Aurobindo lived at first in retirement at Pondicherry with four or five disciples. Afterwards more and yet more began to come to him to follow his spiritual path and the number became so large that a community of sadhaks had to be formed for the maintenance and collective guidance of those who had left everything behind for the sake of a higher life. This was the foundation of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram which grew up around him as its centre. The Mother, who had first met Sri Aurobindo in 1914, returned permanently to Pondicherry in 1920 and in 1926 Sri Aurobindo gave her the full charge of his Ashram and the guidance of the spiritual and material lives of the disciples.
Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga
Sri Aurobindo began his practice of Yoga in 1904. At first gathering into it the essential elements of spiritual experience that are gained by the paths of divine communion and spiritual realisation followed until now in India, he passed on in search of a more complete experience uniting and harmonising the two ends of existence, Spirit and Matter. Most ways of Yoga are paths to the Beyond leading to the Spirit and, in the end, away from life. Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga rises to the Spirit to redescend with its gains, bringing the light and power and bliss of the Spirit into life to transform it. Man’s present existence in the material world is in this view or vision of things a life in the Ignorance with the Inconscient at its base, but even in its darkness and nescience there are involved the presence and possibilities of the Divine. The created world is not a mistake or a vanity and illusion to be cast aside by the soul returning to heaven or Nirvana, but the scene of a spiritual evolution by which out of this material inconscience is to be manifested progressively the Divine Consciousness in things. Mind is the highest term yet reached in the evolution, but it is not the highest of which it is capable. There is above it a Supermind or eternal Truth-Consciousness which is in its nature the self-aware and self-determining light and power of a Divine Knowledge. Mind is an ignorance seeking after Truth, but this is a self-existent Knowledge harmoniously manifesting the play of its forms and forces. It is only by the descent of this Supermind that the perfection dreamed of by all that is highest in humanity can come. It is possible by opening to a greater Divine consciousness to rise to this power of light and bliss, discover one’s true self, remain in constant union with the Divine and bring down the supramental Force for the transformation of mind and life and body. To realise this possibility has been the dynamic aim of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga.
Sri Aurobindo left his body on 5 December 1950. His work continues.
The Vision of Sri Aurobindo
There is an ascending evolution in nature which goes from the stone to the plant, from the plant to the animal, from animal to man. Because man is, for the moment, the last rung at the summit of the ascending evolution, he considers himself to be the final stage in this ascension and believes there can be nothing on earth superior to him. In that he is mistaken. In his physical nature he is yet almost wholly an animal – a thinking and speaking animal, but still an animal in his material habits and instincts. Undoubtedly, nature cannot be satisfied with such an imperfect result. She endeavours to bring out a being who will be to man what man is to the animal, a being who will remain human in external form, and yet whose consciousness will rise far above mind and its slavery to ignorance.
Sri Aurobindo came upon earth to teach this truth to men. He told them that man is only a transitional being, living in a mental consciousness but with the possibility of acquiring a new consciousness, the Truth consciousness, and capable of living a life perfectly harmonious, good and beautiful, happy and fully conscious. During the whole of his life upon earth Sri Aurobindo gave all his time to establish in himself this consciousness, which he called supramental, and to help those gathered around him.
Message on August 15, 1947 – India’s Independence Day
August 15th, 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity.
August 15th ismy own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of its full fruition. Indeed, on this day I can watch almost all the world-movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, though then they looked like impracticable dreams, arriving at fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements free India may well play a large part and take a leading position.
The first of these dreams was a revolutionary movement which would create a free and united India. India today is free but she has not achieved unity. At one moment it almost seemed as if in the very act of liberation she would fall back into the chaos of separate States which preceded the British conquest. But fortunately it now seems probable that this danger will be averted and a large and powerful, though not yet a complete union will be established. Also, the wisely drastic policy of the Constituent Assembly has made it probable that the problem of the depressed classes will be solved without schism or fissure. But the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that this settled fact will not be accepted as settled for ever or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. India’s internal development and prosperity may be impeded, her position among the nations weakened, her destiny impaired or even frustrated. This must not be; the partition must go. Let us hope that that may come about naturally, by an increasing recognition of the necessity not only of peace and concord but of common action, by the practice of common action and the creation of means for that purpose. In this way unity may finally come about under whatever form—the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India’s future.
Another dream was for the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and her return to her great role in the progress of human civilisation. Asia has arisen; large parts are now quite free or are at this moment being liberated: its other still subject or partly subject parts are moving through whatever struggles towards freedom. Only a little has to be done and that will be done today or tomorrow. There India has her part to play and has begun to play it with an energy and ability which already indicate the measure of her possibilities and the place she can take in the council of the nations.
The third dream was a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind. That unification of the human world is under way; there is an imperfect initiation organised but struggling against tremendous difficulties. But the momentum is there and it must inevitably increase and conquer. Here too India has begun to play a prominent part and, if she can develop that larger statesmanship which is not limited by the present facts and immediate possibilities but looks into the future and brings it nearer, her presence may make all the difference between a slow and timid and a bold and swift development. A catastrophe may intervene and interrupt or destroy what is being done, but even then the final result is sure. For unification is a necessity of Nature, an inevitable movement. Its necessity for the nations is also clear, for without it the freedom of the small nations may be at any moment in peril and the life even of the large and powerful nations insecure. The unification is therefore to the interests of all, and only human imbecility and stupid selfishness can prevent it; but these cannot stand for ever against the necessity of Nature and the Divine Will. But an outward basis is not enough; there must grow up an international spirit and outlook, international forms and institutions must appear, perhaps such developments as dual or multilateral citizenship, willed interchange or voluntary fusion of cultures. Nationalism will have fulfilled itself and lost its militancy and would no longer find these things incompatible with self-preservation and the integrality of its outlook. A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race.
Another dream, the spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India’s spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of the time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice.
The final dream was a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society. This is still a personal hope and an idea, an ideal which has begun to take hold both in India and in the West on forward-looking minds. The difficulties in the way are more formidable than in any other field of endeavour, but difficulties were made to be overcome and if the Supreme Will is there, they will be overcome. Here too, if this evolution is to take place, since it must proceed through a growth of the spirit and the inner consciousness, the initiative can come from India and, although the scope must be universal, the central movement may be hers.
Such is the content which I put into this date of India’s liberation; whether or how far this hope will be justified depends upon the new and free India.
Sri Aurobindo incarnated in a human body the supramental consciousness and has not only revealed to us the nature of the path to follow and the method of following it so as to arrive at the goal, but has also by his own personal realisation given us the example; he has provided us with the proof that the thing can be done and the time is now to do it.
The Mother – Life and Work
The Mother was born in Paris on 21 February 1878. Mirra, as the child was named, was the daughter of the banker Maurice Alfassa (born in Edirne, Turkey, in 1843) and Mathilde Ismaloun (born in Aledandria, Egypt, in 1857). Maurice, his wife and their son Matteo (born in Alexandria in 1876) emigrated from Egypt to France a year before Mirra’s birth. Her early education was given at home. Concerning her early spiritual life, the Mother has said :
Between 11 and 13 a series of psychic and spiritual experiences revealed to me not only the existence of God but man’s possibility of uniting with Him, of realising Him integrally in consciousness and action, of manifesting Him upon earth in a life divine.
In 1893 she joined an art studio in Paris where she studied for several years. Besides being an accomplished painter (some of her works were exhibited at the Paris Salon), the Mother was a talented musician and writer. In 1896 the Mother married the artist Henri Morisset, and in 1897 their son Andre was born.
In 1906 and 1907 the Mother travelled to Tlemcen in Algeria to study occultism with the Polish adept Max Theon and his English wife Alma. She started her first group of spiritual seekers in 1906 in Paris. Between 1811 and 1913 she gave many talks to various groups there.
At the age of thirty-six the Mother came to Pondicherry. Here, on 29 March 1914, she met Sri Aurobindo. At once she recognised him as the master who for many years had inwardly been guiding her spiritual development. After staying in India for eleven months, she was obliged to return to France because of the First World War. She left France again after about a year and lived for almost four years in Japan. On 24 April 1920 the Mother returned to Pondicherry and resumed her collaboration with Sri Aurobindo. She remained in India for the rest of her life.
At the time when the Mother rejoined Sri Aurobindo, a small group of disciples had gathered round him. After her coming the number of disciples increased. Eventually this informal grouping took shape as an Ashram or spiritual community.
From its very beginning in November 1926, Sri Aurobindo entrusted the full material and spiritual charge of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram to the Mother. Under her guidance, which extended over nearly fifty years, the Ashram has grown into a many-faceted community which at present consists of about 1500 persons. The Mother also founded the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in 1951, and in February 1968 the international township of Auroville. Her many talks, messages and writings are contained in the 17 volumes of the Mother’s Collected Works.
As Sri Aurobindo left his body on 5 December 1950, his realisation of the Mind of Light – the Supramental Consciousness working in the physical human brain – was realised in the Mother. On the evening of 29 February 1956, during a collective meditation in the Ashram Playground, the manifestation of the Supramental in the earth consciousness was achieved. Here is the Mother’s account of the event.
29 February 1956
During the common meditation on Wednesday
This evening the Divine Presence, concrete and material, was there present amongst you. I had a form of living gold, bigger than the universe, and I was facing a huge and massive golden door which separated the world from the Divine. As I looked at the door, I knew and willed, in a single movement of consciousness, that “the time has come,” and lifting with both hands a mighty golden hammer I struck one blow, one single blow on the door and the door was shattered to pieces. Then the supramental Light and Force and Consciousness rushed down upon earth in an uninterrupted flow.
This was the achievement for which the Mother and Sri Aurobindo had been working all their lives. The record of the Mother’s sadhana in her body from this time onwards is contained in the thirteen volumes of her Agenda.
On 17 November 1973, at the age of 95, the Mother left her body. Her work continues.
The Mother is not a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. She has had the same experience and realisation as myself. The Mother’s sadhana started when she was very young. When she was 12 or 13 every night many teachers came to her and taught her various spiritual disciplines. Among them was a dark Asiatic figure. When we first met she immediately recognised me as that dark Asiatic figure whom she used to see a long time ago. That she should come here and work with me for a common goal was, as it were, a divine dispensation. The Mother was an adept of the Buddhist yoga and the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita before she came to India. Her yoga was moving towards a grand synthesis, so it was natural that she should come here. She has helped and is helping to give a concrete form to my yoga. This would not have been possible without her cooperation. One of the two great steps in the yoga is to take refuge in the Mother.