Room with a View|Feb 20, 2013 4:00 AM| by:

The Mother: Her Miraculous Touch

Book: The Mother: Her Miraculous Touch (Photographs of the Mother and quotations from the Mother and Sri Aurobindo)

(Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Pondicherry; ISBN 978-81-7058-970-9; 585 pp, Rs 1250)

Have you ever stood before a painting that attracted your attention and felt as you concentrated upon it that you were actually entering the picture, while a warmth and a sweetness captured you entirely? You may experience such a feeling as you turn the pages of this book and stop at a certain photograph, drawn in by its charm.

A warm and hearty welcome to this recently published book in two large volumes. Here are sixteen chapters; note the special number—that of the four aspects of the Mother plus the twelve Powers put out for her work. It is truly a pictorial biography of the Mother, beginning with her childhood, and depicting through numerous photographs her multifarious activities. What is most valuable, refreshing and enchanting is the fact that the story is recorded in her own words and often in Sri Aurobindo’s, revealing to us her divine manifestation undergoing the vicissitudes of earthly life, rejecting nothing that can be transformed, and teaching us how every activity and state of being can be perfected here for the divine manifestation.

Behind all lasting work I believe a great deal of preparation is needed. As the old rhyme goes:

Little drops of water, little grains of sand,

Make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land.

So it has been with this book. It has taken nearly twenty years of labour, involving as many workers, both skilled and dedicated, for this collection to see the light of day. An added bonus is seven quotations drawn from previously unpublished letters of the Mother.

The extracts that accompany the photographs are inspiring words of advice and prayers that I feel are mantras. In places the quotes are simple down-to-earth words of wisdom meant for childlike folk:

A good deed is sweeter to the heart than a sweet in the mouth.

A day spent without doing a good deed is a day without a soul.


To the rich God gives money, to the poor He gives Himself.

And on the other hand there are in abundance messages to spur us on and kindle an intense aspiration, such as this one which I have newly translated so as to be closer to the original French:

To know at each instant how to be reborn to a new life is the secret of eternal youth.

Yes, this is a book for all of us, sadhaks both young and old. Many of the photos are of interest to those who would like to have a glimpse of how the Mother initiated so many of the Ashram’s activities. The photographs of the Mother in her various moods lead us, as we concentrate on her, to see behind the human form her divine presence. Let me point out for those not so familiar with the spiritual significances given to flowers that below the title on the opening page of each chapter there is an outline of the little flower known as Moses-in-the-boat (Rhoeo spathacea). The Mother gave the significance of this flower as the “Divine Presence” that supports all we do here and, as she says along with the meaning, “hides from the ignorant eye its ever-present magnificence”.

I was struck by the short sentence in the Mother’s beautiful handwriting on page 189:  “Read with your heart and you will understand.”  Later, I thought one could say in a similar vein: look intently with your soul and you will be more receptive. I believe this is truly a book for introspection as well as for ready guidance.

Perhaps we can say that this is a book to grow with, as well as a digest of the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s teachings to refer to in times of need, for if our aspiration is ardent, with each reading we see the distant goal draw closer. Of course it is true that for each of us the experience must be different and unique; I believe that is the beauty and the wonder of this yoga of ours!

What a joy and spontaneous ease radiates from those around the Mother in so many of these pictures. In the expression of those showing their work to her there is the sense of something done in dedication and expressing the beauty of their love. This, I feel, reflects the happy state Sri Aurobindo describes for us: “to be close to her is a profound happiness and to feel her within the heart is to make existence a rapture and a marvel.”

And yet she was, is and will be always ahead of us, looking forward towards future realisations. I remember that for the 2nd December programme in 1955 she chose to stage “The Spiritual Destiny of India”. It was a seven-hour performance, so long indeed that some children could go to sleep during the practice and be woken up before it was time for them to go on stage. Well, it was after the dress rehearsal, which was for us more important than the actual day, since it was at the dress rehearsal that the Mother gave her comments, suggestions and above all her lavish appreciation.  As she stood in the Playground talking to Udar, Vishwanath and Chandubhai, I happened to be standing nearby when I heard her say: “So what shall we do next year?” This took me absolutely by surprise as I thought that nothing could be better than what we had done! This is how she was and is, always surging forward, urging us towards new achievements and greater heights of consciousness.

The Mother was, and will be, with each of us different in a special way. I recall a memorable image from the past. It was again in the Playground, with all of us, young and old together, waiting, I believe, for the March Past to begin. I noticed the Mother standing to one side talking to a couple of American businessmen, or so it seemed to me, for the Mother, by her unusual expression and distinctive hand movements looked just like an American corporate woman!

On another occasion, also in the Playground, two senior sadhaks, whose names I would not like to mention, had such a heated argument that they came to the Mother, each asserting that the other was in the wrong. As she listened intently to them, I was astonished to see the two disciples becoming quieter and quieter. They finally left without a word! Such was and is the Mother’s silent action. In fact, she confided once to a disciple that in the silences and long pauses during her talks she was able to give much more of her force than while speaking.

I would like to draw the prospective reader’s attention to the message, written in Sri Aurobindo’s own hand, which appears in facsimile on the last page of the second volume. Identifying himself with the Mother he writes: “I am the Shakti of Sri Aurobindo alone, and the Mother of all my children.” This reminds me of his translation of a single paragraph of the Mother’s prayer dated November 28, 1913. The Mother had written in French, “O Divine Master, grant that today may bring to us a completer consecration to Thy Will.” Sri Aurobindo, with a most natural simplicity, began his translation: “Mother Divine, grant that today may bring to us a completer consecration to Thy Will.” A real divine lila! What a unique manifestation has been sanctioned for the earth, and for man!

Even from a human point of view, everything she did was original. For instance, I’m told that when she went for occasional long drives in her car, she would ask Pavitra to go as fast as possible, remarking that then she could relax better. It seems too she would observe a person’s feet as he or she approached and was able to get an idea of the individual’s nature. Evidently once a person stood in front of her, she saw only the soul, its need and its response. This reminds me of the personal experience I had when as a young boy I approached her. I could never observe anything around me in the Meditation Hall while going to her. When I stood in front of her and looked into her eyes, her gaze penetrated so deep, so deep in me that it was slightly scary. Sometimes it was the other way around, and I felt I was descending down through her eyes so far that it seemed it would never end!

As we pass through this difficult phase in our collective life, these twin albums can certainly help to guide us. For on a small scale we see that she had established a unified and united Ashram. The Mother knew the solution for a true and lasting unity when she remarked: “if only man consented to be spiritualised”.  Now the world’s difficulties have truly become ours.

During the two decades (1947–1967) when a large number of these photos were taken, the Ashram was little more than an intimate group of disciples; “small is beautiful”, as they say. People knew each other. There was a simple harmony, a sense of belonging to the Mother and the delight of being at her service. Now we are no longer a limited community; we are indeed a multifaceted and complex ensemble. Throughout this book we can discover the ways to establish an integral harmony based on a true understanding, an inner affinity and a complex unity. And if we try to look at things from the Lord’s terrestrial perspective, let us not forget what Sri Aurobindo wrote in his essay titled “Is India Civilised?”, when he warned against losing “the harmony of the inner and outer man which is the true meaning of civilisation and the efficient condition of a true progress”.

I feel the Mother is leading us towards a solution: to allow our consciousness to rise above the individual relation with her and begin to contact her universal aspect so as to see things and people and events with that wider vision. Finally, we can realise the third step of identification by communing with the reaches of her transcendent aspect. Let us take off from this springboard so as to reach the happy Sunshine reflected throughout these albums.

I would like to end with the final paragraph of that message in Sri Aurobindo’s hand appearing on the last page of the second volume: “It is the unity of all in the solidarity of a common manifestation that will allow the creation of the new and divine world upon the Earth. Each will bring his part, but no part will be complete except as a power in the solidarity of the whole.”

— Richard Pearson

(Richard arrived in India from England to join his father in 1946 at the age of eleven. He studied at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education where he teaches Natural History and is a captain of gymnastics. He is the editor of the book Flowers and Their Messages.)

(The Mother: Her Miraculous Touch is available at SABDA  which also holds the copyright for this review.)