Room with a View|Apr 6, 2013 4:05 AM| by:

In the Mother’s Light

in the mother's light

Book: In the Mother’s Light

Author: Rishabhchand

(Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Pondicherry. 383 pp, ISBN 978-81-7058-913-6, Rs 220)

Our secular lives and the society we live in always seem to be alternating between high points of achievement and precipitous decline. The ideologies that have guided us so far have had limited success and have subsequently either had to alter course or have been completely rejected and replaced by new theories. It is becoming increasingly clear that it is not forms of government, economic models, ethical and moral rules of conduct, not even policies of sustainable development that are going to solve the problems of this planet. No one knows for sure where we are headed. Religion provides us with partial answers but leaves many questions unaddressed.

What happens to our souls once they have merged with the Divine, what becomes of our terrestrial life and the world that we live in? What should be the ultimate goal of the individual and the ideal of humanity? What is the purpose and meaning of our existence?  These and other related questions, and specifically why human nature needs a radical change, and how we can bring this about by turning to the spiritual wisdom of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, are what Rishabhchand explores in minute detail in In the Mother’s Light, a collection of essays first published in 1951, and later revised and enlarged in 1967.

A practical handbook, it can serve as a reference manual for neophytes as well as advanced sadhaks. Practitioners of the Integral Yoga will find both the format and the content of the book extremely useful, specifically the detailed table of contents as well as the exhaustive and insightful analyses of the Mother’s spiritual experiences as recorded in Prayers and Meditations, her personal diary comprising 350 prayers written between November 1912 and October 1937. The concepts and nuances of each topic in the book are first delineated in lucid discourses based on the experiences and teachings of the Mother, supported in many instances with short, interesting anecdotes, then weighed and counterweighed against their opposing arguments with references to both Indian and Western thought, and finally concluded with a recapitulation of the salient points.

Through in-depth reflections on such subjects as peace, love, self-surrender, sincerity, asceticism, the mind, the utility and the limitations of reason, dreams, the conquest of desire, yogic action, money and its proper use, the nature and true instrumentality of the body, and divine union, one discovers three main themes resonating throughout the book:

a)  The very defects of human nature are actually pointers to that which needs to be changed for the evolution of an ideal state of human perfection in all aspects of mind, life and body;

b)  The Mother’s role on earth as a representative of the Supreme, the interface between the two apparently unbridgeable dualities of Truth and Ignorance, the catalyst that will accelerate man’s discovery of his true mission and purpose on earth; and

c)  The Mother’s yoga aims not only at realising the psychic or the Divine within oneself, at establishing contact with the Supreme Being at the highest level, but also in bringing down that consciousness here on earth, transforming life and matter and qualifying our thoughts and activities with the Divine Presence.

The author explains that the progress of man, spectacular in its material achievements, has, however, not met with similar success insofar as his nature is concerned, because he still remains a welter of contradictions and disparate elements. While he strives for peace and harmony and to express all that is noble within himself, his penchant for greed, cruelty and perversity pulls him in the opposite direction. He is like Sisyphus, the Greek mythological character who is forever doomed to roll a huge rock to the top of a hill only to see it falling back down from its own weight. The author, however, points out that these atavistic tendencies in man’s nature as well as the “forces of resistance” were designed by Providence to help him understand what needs to be changed and guide him to a higher life. There are several essays that enumerate and deal with the nature of these defects, their origins, their deceptive forms and disguises, how they need to be tackled in order to transform them into positive energies, and finally psychological pitfalls that one can expect to encounter during this long and arduous process.

At this point the author makes the practical observation that the difficulty man faces because of his inherent contradictory nature is rendered even more intractable because defects once eliminated from the conscious nature often rise up from the subconscient and the inconscient, two lower levels of awareness dealt with at length in the book, to hound him again and again, leading to a regression. The only method that the individual has at his disposal is a sincerity of aspiration and an integral self-surrender to the Divine Mother who has come down on earth as a representative from the Supreme to lift not only a few select souls but all of humanity out of its present predicament. In some moving passages of her prayers, we read how her presence on earth is revealed to her as a necessity not for herself but for humanity. She had from a very early age already established a deep connection with the highest consciousness, but her endeavour and the dedication of her entire life, like that of Sri Aurobindo, has been to bring that consciousness down to this earth for the benefit of all.

The author reiterates again and again that this unique aspect of the Mother’s as well as Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, the Integral Yoga, is something that has not been attempted by anyone else. Although, as he points out, there is mention of it in the concept of the Chatushpada Brahman of the Upanishads, no such endeavour has been postulated by any other school of thought, much less recorded by mystics or saints in any part of the globe. To realise the Divine Consciousness at the highest possible level has been the goal set by many spiritual seekers and religions, often to the detriment and neglect of the secular life. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, however, have raised the bar, arguing for the inevitability of divinising life and matter, transforming the very cells of our body and creating the passage to a new species that will be “what man is to the animal”. Anything else remains unsatisfactory and incomplete.

The last five chapters of this book deal with an interesting and unique insight from the author. He points out that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo had always shared this same goal of a divine life here on earth, even before their meeting on 29 March 1914. He quotes extensively from their writings prior to their meeting to illustrate his point under four headings: 1) The Divine Union, 2) Physical Transformation through service in an integral surrender, 3) Conquest of the Subconscient and the Inconscient, and 4) The Divine Manifestation and the Divine Life.

The book is a testimony to the erudition and scholarship of the author and is recommended to all who have chosen to lead a higher life in the Light of the Mother.

— Gautam Chatterjee

Gautam, who studied at SAICE and earned a master’s degree from the Institut Universitaire d’Études du Développement in Geneva, has worked as an interior designer, furniture maker and builder for the last twenty years. Interested in history, economics, sociology, metaphysics, and the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, he also teaches history at SAICE.

 (In the Mother’s Light is available at SABDA which also holds the copyright for this review.)