In the Light of ...|Apr 24, 2003 4:47 PM| by:

The Incredible

Never before in my life had I felt so soundly challenged than the day when I was asked to deliver the keynote address at a very purposeful seminar organized to celebrate the 125th Birth Anniversary of the Mother. A strange sense of wonder overwhelmed me the moment I concentrated on the subject – a sort of preface to the life and vision of the Mother. Were I to articulate that feeling – which would be only a weak translation of it – it would take the form of a question: Did the Mother really exist in a gross physical sense? We believe we knew her – don’t we? – through a plethora of different perceptions and only thirty years had passed since her leaving her body. Even so she appears to me to be a fantasy. I realise how incredible a truth you have experienced yourself can appear at times – for those of us living in an average plane of consciousness most of the time.

There are still so many people who had closer contact with the Mother than I had ever had during the first ten years of my life in the Ashram (1963 – 1973) when she physically presided over the institution. They would have several significant experiences. Many of them would probably agree with my observation that the moment one entered the Mother’s room, one felt as if the time one knew – the time consisting of past, present and future – had been left outside the door. One had stepped into a different dimension of time – marked by an inexplicable tranquillity, a total absence of tension, an elevation in consciousness, an ambiance of loving trust emanating from her and our hearts at once reciprocating to it. While she worked in the splendour and infinitude of Consciousness, no man or woman who met her and sought her blessings was insignificant for her; while she remained preoccupied in as sublime an issue as transformation, no issue was too silly for her – even a question like whether one should mix one spoonful of sugar in one’s tea or two.

The great poet Kalidasa, says a legend, was taken to task for describing Goddess Saraswati from her head instead of from her feet. Following this in a figurative sense, we should focus on the Mother, beginning with the physical facts of her life before passing on the sublime. The problem, however, is, neither Sri Aurobindo nor the Mother gave any importance to the events that marked the surface of their lives. Even though volumes could be written on the tumultuous pre-Pondicherry life of Sri Aurobindo – his brilliance as a scholar in Cambridge, his wriggling out of the I.C.S., his days in Baroda when he secretly inspired revolutionary societies at different corners of the country, his pioneering the national education programme in Calcutta, his taking over as the editor of the Bande Mataram, his role at the epoch-making Surat Congress, his arrest and incarceration, the famous Alipore Conspiracy Case, his release and editing of the Karmayogin and the Dharma, the plot at the highest level of the colonial government to deport him and his giving them the slip, the House of Commons debate on him, so on and so forth, he declared that there was nothing on the surface of his life for anyone to write his biography when an author aspired to do so. What we learn from this is, for him his life is meaningful only in terms of what he did in the domain of Consciousness – the Yoga he did for ushering in the Supramental.

The Mother’s outlook on herself was no different. She said, ‘Do not ask questions about the details of the material existence of this body; they are in themselves of no interest and must not attract attention.

‘Throughout all this life, knowingly or unknowingly, I have been what the Lord wanted me to be, I have done what the Lord wanted me to do. That alone matters.’

But however insignificant the surface of their lives may appear to themselves, we cannot help reading an undercurrent of imports in them. The task they had set for themselves, after all, was to change this gross mortal life into a life Divine. A subtle link between their actions at the physical plane and those at the sublime plane can always be sensed. For example Sri Aurobindo fought for the freedom of India and India for him was not a piece of earth but godhead. This phase of his action as though was the prelude to his colossal adventure in consciousness devoted to freeing the human psyche from its bondage to ignorance and unconsciousness. The Mother had wonderful spiritual experiences right from her infancy. Even then, for a while, she was an atheist, for sincere atheism too was an exploration of truth in a certain way and that sort of outlook too must be ultimately blessed with a momentous discovery.

Indeed, the consequences of the Mother’s actions had always a vaster significance. They were often symbolic. Let us look into an incident that took place while she was in Japan. It was January 1919. A terrible epidemic of flu claimed innumerable lives. The third day of one’s catching it was generally fatal.  The city of Tokyo was in the grip of panic. People used masks so that they did not breathe in the microbes. One day the Mother had to travel the whole length of the city in a tramcar to fulfill some obligation. All around her were passengers exuding an air of fear.

The Mother, who used to cover herself with her own power of protection, was caught up in that atmosphere for a moment with her curiosity about the origin and nature of that epidemic. By the time she was back home, she was already beset with a bad fever. There was a certain medicine, supposed to be effective though rare, which was made available to her by a sympathetic physician, but she refused to be treated with it. She must delve deep into the very mystery of the epidemic now that she had become a victim of it herself.

As she waited quietly, the revelation came. Let us turn to her own narration of it:

‘At the end of the second day as I was lying all alone, I saw clearly a being, with a part of the head cut off, in a military uniform (or the remains of a military uniform) approaching me and suddenly flinging himself upon my chest, with that half a head to suck my force. I took a good look, then realised that I was about to die. He was drawing all my life out (for I must tell you that people were dying of pneumonia in three days). I was completely nailed to the bed, without movement, in a deep trance. I could no longer stir and he was pulling. I thought: now it is the end. Then I called on my occult power, I gave a big fight and I succeeded in turning him back so that he could not stay there any longer. And I woke up.

‘But I had seen. And I had learnt, I had understood that the illness originated from beings who had been thrown out of their bodies. I had seen this during the First Great War, towards its end, when people used to live in trenches and were killed by bombardment. They were in perfect health, altogether healthy and in a second they were thrown out of their bodies, not conscious that they were dead. They did not know that they hadn’t a body any more and they tried to find in others the life they could not find in themselves. That is, they were turned into so many countless vampires. And they vampirised upon men. And then over and above that, there was a decomposition of the vital forces of people who fell ill and died…’

A few days later someone who had some knowledge of who the Mother was came to see her. He had guessed right. The Mother had been the target of the destructive force and she had destroyed it. That explained to him how the epidemic had suddenly come to an end! There had been no death since the moment the horrific being was vanquished by the Mother.

Thus, herself suffering, she had saved the population of any further damage. Known and mostly unknown to us, she had taken recourse to so many similar exercises – intervening in an occult way in situations that were undesirable.

As all those familiar with her life know, she had mastered mighty powers, occult and spiritual. But – and here we glimpse yet another aspect of her magnitude – she simply wiped out all her achievements, all her earlier ideals and notions the moment she saw Sri Aurobindo. She had of course met him in her visions even when a child and called him Krishna even before she had mentally learnt the meaning of the word, but now the moment had come for her to place her entire being at his disposal – and to set for his followers the true example in humility. Indeed, the very first thing she wrote after that extraordinary meeting is the very soul of sanguinity and optimism: ‘It matters little that there are thousands of beings plunged in the densest ignorance; He whom we saw yesterday is on earth; his presence is enough to prove that a day will come when darkness shall be transformed into light, and Thy reign shall actually be established upon earth.’

The realisation that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are one Consciousness in two physical forms comes spontaneously to the Sadhaks of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga. Well known to many is her incomparable epigram to that effect: ‘Without Him I exist not, without me He is unmanifest.’

But, that indispensable perception apart, there are several other significances to their sublime association. The Yoga of Sri Aurobindo embraces the destiny of mankind. In the togetherness of  Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was symbolized the best of the East and the West. The Integral Yoga combines the principles of both Yoga and Tantra. For the Mother mastering the powers of occultism was her way of bringing the Tantrik lore under her command. Thus, the Sadhak of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, by the virtue of his surrender to the Mother, receives the gains of Tantra relevant to his progress.

The Mother, the supreme exponent of Integral Yoga, led a life that was a demonstration of integral conduct. She was the best conceivable human mother for her children – the seekers both in the Ashram and outside. Everything received her equal attention – from the smallest needs of those who turned to her to the tricky psychological or spiritual issues one placed before her. She not only explained complex ideas in the works of Sri Aurobindo, but also taught even alphabet and arithmetic, literally, to young children.

Who could have given us the essence of Sri Aurobindo’s vision more simply and with authority than the Mother? This is how she put it:

‘There is an ascending evolution in nature which goes from the stone to the plant, from the plant to the animal, from the animal to man. Because man is, for the moment, the last rung at the summit of the ascending evolution, he considers himself as 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 a man in its external form, and yet whose consciousness will rise far above the mental 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 he called Supramental, and to help those gathered around him to realise it.’

She gave shape to every department of the Ashram, founded the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and launched the daring experiment that is Auroville. But, once again to remind us, while these were deeds splendid by themselves, they were far more valuable as deeds that were symbolic. They are charged with certain consciousness, but more than that, they are actions on the world consciousness. ‘Since the beginning of the earth, wherever and whenever there was the possibility of manifesting a ray of consciousness, I was there,’ she once said. Certainly, she was here this time to hasten the evolutionary process. We are only slowly learning, as we study her words of her physical life, the stupendous ascesis she had undertaken in that regard, the hitherto unimaginable experiments she was doing on her own person. I am afraid it will take a long time for her observations to sink into our comprehension.

Someone asked me – probably more than once I have been asked this question – in different styles: ‘Did you ever see any aura around the Mother? Did you see any miracle of hers?’

For many people aura is a whitish circle around one’s head – as the textbook illustrators draw with a compass around the pictures of prophets. But Aura is an experience. Indeed, what I had seen can be called an aura. It was my first Darshan of the Mother – on the 21st of February in the year 1963. Like the other thousands of people I stood in front of the Mother’s terrace with no specific expectation. Then she appeared. To put it briefly and in a matter-of-fact manner, I saw her as the highest conceivable manifestation of beauty. I could not have imagined a human frame containing so great, so sublime, so majestic and loving splendour.

For me, if ever there was an aura, this was it. I stood entranced and stunned. That experience was not to repeat; experiences of this category do not as a rule. But one revelation was enough for me.

About miracles – sometimes the curiosity itself seems so childish! If I throw a paperweight up and it remains suspended in the air, it is a miracle. Yet as stupendous a stuff as the sun remaining suspended in space is no miracle! There is no dearth of miracle for one who can see. It has to be a rather poor god if he had to impress people with what ordinarily they understand as miracles.

But, on second thought, who am I to pass a judgment like this? Does not Sri Aurobindo say that great saints perform miracles, greater saints laugh at them and the greatest ones laugh at them and also perform them? The instance I am going to quote is no miracle in the traditional sense, but I leave it to you to take it the way you like.

Sri Aurobindo left his body in the early hours of 5th December 1950. As is widely known, his body lay bright, showing no external sign of death for five days, despite thousands of people filing past it across his room that was not air-conditioned and December in Pondicherry being hardly cold. Here is an extract from the account of P.K. Sanyal, a renowned medical doctor from Calcutta who had come down to attend on the Master:

‘December 6th. I entered Sri Aurobindo’s room before dawn. The Mother and I had a look at Him; how wonderful, how beautiful He looked, with a golden hue. There were no signs of death as science had taught me, no evidence of the slightest discoloration, or decomposition. The Mother whispered, “As long as the Supramental light does not pass away, the body will not show any signs of decomposition, and it may be a day or it may take many more days.” I whispered to Her, “Where is the light you speak of – can I not see it?” I was then kneeling by Sri Aurobindo’s bed, by the Mother’s feet. She smiled at me and with infinite compassion put her hand on my head. There He was – with a luminous mantle of bluish golden hue around Him.’

It is amazing that Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s vision of the future is supported by one of the most ancient, primeval myths of India – the myth of the Dashavatar or the Ten Incarnations. According to this – the only futuristic myth in the world – the tenth Avatar would destroy the barbaric among the human beings, paving the way for the emergence of a new humanity.

The destruction of the barbaric could very well be the transformation of the barbaric elements in man.

Manoj Das

(Manoj Das is an internationally known creative writer. He is the recipient of India’s national recognition, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the nation’s most prestigious literary award, the Saraswati Samman. As a social commentator, his columns in India’s national dailies like The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Hindu and The Statesman, revealing the deeper truth and the untraced aspects behind current issues, have been highly appreciated.)