6. The Mother and The Ashram
7. Samadhi Darshan
8. Mothers Life in the Ashram
9. Coconut Garden
10. Ph.D. Thesis
The Mother joined Sri Aurobindo in the hope she could work for divinisation of life on earth. Sri Aurobindo Ashram was founded by her in 1926 for this purpose. The occasion for founding the Ashram was the retirement of Sri Aurobindo on November 24, 1926, when his yoga moved into the final stages of realisation.
The aim of Integral Yoga is not moksha, release of the soul from the body, but the conversion of human life into a Life Divine. When She founded the Ashram, devotees and disciples began to gather around Her. Though She threw the door of the Ashram open to everyone, irrespective of position, creed, religion, sex, or nationality, She made a very careful selection in matters of admission. Decades later She disclosed that everyone in the Ashram had been with her and Sri Aurobindo in their previous births, working for the same ideal. She indicated that Sri Aurobindo had been Napoleon and Leonardo da Vinci in previous births and was Krishna, too. Among the disciples She once said there were people who were rishis and emperors in their previous births. She described Sri Aurobindo Ashram as the cradle of the new civilisation composed of the new race of supermen. It was an experiment to evolve the Superman from humanity, and for this purpose man had to conquer his human nature. The civilised man conquers his behaviour while his inner feelings remain the same. The cultured man changes his inner feelings and character, too. But even in him his consciousness remains the same as the animals from which he evolved. Especially his subconscious is the untamed brute. To convert human life into a divine life, it is not enough to change the behaviour or character. It is also essential to change this basic animal consciousness into a higher consciousness. This, She calls transformation. It is not given to man to bring about this change. Only the Divine can do this miracle. All that is asked of man is a total surrender of all that he is.
Mother once said that until the number in the Ashram grew beyond 150, she guided and controlled every inner and outer movement of each sadhak. In other words, She herself took charge of their sadhana and guided them. It is said that a rishi or a yogi could bless, at a time, one person seeking his grace. The greatest known rishi is said to be capable of blessing seven persons at a time. In her public Darshans Mother used to emanate the vibrations of her Grace, meant individually for everyone, to all the three thousand devotees gathered. That is why no one, not even her permanent attendants, would miss this public Darshan.
She said she held herself responsible for everyone She had seen even for a minute. She is the Mother, not only to human beings but to all life on earth. Trees in her garden used to complain to her, if they were not watered. Animals under her care have always sent their silent messages to her. The sea god himself listened to her and obeyed her commands. She is the Mother of all life on earth, and she showered her love and blessings and Grace on all. She does the sadhana in all, too. She loved India and said India would be the Guru of the world. When the French settlements merged with India, She sought Indian citizenship and secured it. She felt France and India have a common destiny. The ideal of the Ashram was extended in founding Auroville, where the yogic experiment was extended to a wider cross-section of people.
The whole world is her Ashram, as she sought to kindle the light in the heart of every living being. On the evening of November 17, 1973, a sadhak saw a huge light breaking into a million sparks and shooting to all sides of the earth. Finally each spark lodged itself in the heart of a person. He couldnt understand the meaning. Next morning he heard from All India Radio that Mother had attained Mahasamadhi. She loved all of humanity and lives in its heart.
We go to temples on auspicious days like Fridays or during festivals. Many visit temples on their janma Nakshatra to conduct an archana. When we go there, we carry coconuts, camphor, flowers, etc., known as the articles of archana. We pay a dakshina to the priest to recite our name, nakshatra, and conduct an archana in our name. Normally we visit the temple during the daily puja, after which the priest distributes prasad and thirtam. All this we know, as it is our tradition. We hear of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, their Ashram, their Samadhi and conceive of going there, impelled by faith and bhakti in these avatara purushas. One does not know what to take with him or what to expect there or what to do. When he finally gets to the Ashram, he finds no deity, no puja or prasad, and has no way of conducting an archana in his name. He finds a Samadhi covered with flowers and a meditation hall with a bed at one end. It has the touch of Chidambar Rahasyam. This vast difference is there simply because temples are created to organise religious worship for the masses, whereas the Ashram was founded for the spiritual realisation of the soul. Religion carries with it the deity, puja, worship, archana etc., whereas spiritual realisation is by the opening of the human soul to the Divine reality. The Ashram does the latter.
Gopura darsanam papa vimochanam (The sight of the temple tower will deliver you from sin) is the old adage. A visit to the samadhi gives the individual the opportunity to open his soul to the Supreme. Mother has said that the Samadhi is a place of realisation. A young unmarried girl during her first visit to the Ashram was part of a group going to Sri Aurobindos Room. As the room would be open only at 11:45 a.m. and there were fifteen minutes more, she sat at the Samadhi and simply became lost within. The party became concerned after it passed 11:50, but still she did not open her eyes. As it was not proper to disturb someone lost in meditation, nothing could be done. The silent calls of the party finally made her open her eyes, and she got up. She explained, I was lost in ecstasy and had no desire to open my eyes. As you called out my name I awoke and came away. Indeed, no one had called her name. She heard the calls of the party. She heard like that because she was at the Samadhi. That is the power of the Samadhi.
If you plan to visit the Ashram, it is best to make it an exclusive visit to the Ashram, so that the heart will be focussed on it. A simple, pure, silent aspiration qualifies a person to wish for a visit. The two articles that are taken to the Samadhi are flowers and incense.
As the Presence of Sri Aurobindo extends to seven miles from the Ashram, one can feel the spiritual peace before reaching Pondicherry, as Nehru felt it and as an American devotee felt in the plane even when he crossed over Indian soil. On reaching the Ashram one can visit the Samadhi in which the bodies of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are interred and also visit the meditation hall.
Mother says that, when Sri Aurobindo was there, he took charge of her yoga, and she looked after his needs and the Ashram management. She adds that in those thirty years she was able to manage the affairs of the Ashram without the least trouble.
In 1920, the Ashram was a dozen disciples around Sri Aurobindo. One who was there at that time says, The first thing Mother taught us was how to keep our books and things in a proper order. In those days we had no shelves and kept the books on the floor. This shows the magnitude of the work she had to do, especially when she had to start with the merest physical details. It was she who did the cooking and the serving too! Those were the days before the Ashram was officially formed, and there were only a few houses in which the disciples lived. Only in 1926 when Sri Aurobindo retired into silence did the Ashram come into official existence, and Mother took charge of the disciples sadhana along with the material-physical management of daily affairs.
In those days the present rule that disciples should wake up at 3 a.m. was introduced. Each had his own round of activities woven around the schedule Mother had given. Mother used to appear at the Ashram balcony at the rear of the Ashram building at 6.15 a.m. All the disciples would gather on the road to receive her blessings. She used to stand there, meditating, invoking Grace on the days activities. She would silently give each sadhak a special help for the daily work. This came to be known as the Balcony Darshan, which she continued till 1962 when she retired into her own room where she stayed until 1973.
Whenever work demanded, she even undertook journeys to Cuddalore and Chidambaram or places around Pondicherry itself. I remember Alampoondi Bashyam Reddiar narrating the visit of Mother to his house at Cuddalore in the 30s. He was coming to her till his old age and met her on his birthday a few days before his death. She once visited a timber shop at Cuddalore to buy rosewood and teakwood for making new furniture for Sri Aurobindo. Generally in the afternoon She undertook those visits.
She spent the forenoon in meeting all the sadhaks once again, receiving the heads of departments to whom she allotted work, and receiving those sadhaks whose birthday fell on that day. The Ashram later developed over 50 departments of activity, but all of them grew gradually. She met each department head periodically to discuss the work. Some of them, such as the manager of the Ashram, secretary, and cashier, met Mother everyday. As the Ashram later came to own 100 buildings and to rent about 300 more, as well as owning a press, a workshop, a woodworking unit, a cement casting factory, 2,000 acres of land, several guest houses, an international school, a book shop, photo studios, sports ground, restaurants, etc., the daily load of work for Mother was considerable.
Mother considers the birthday of a sadhak as a special occasion. She says during that day and around that day his capacity to receive the Divine Blessings is greatest. Therefore, birthdays are special occasions in the Ashram. Each sadhak would meet Mother with a bouquet of flowers on his birthday. She would bless him with flowers, a birthday card on which she wrote her blessings and signature, and any special gift, such as a book that she wanted to present to him. Sadhaks cherished their birthdays and Mothers blessings to them on that day.
In the evening Mother would go to the tennis ground to play tennis for a while. Until she was 80, she was playing tennis. After this exercise, she would go to the playground, where the sadhaks do their physical exercise. At the end of those activities, the sadhaks used to file past Mother, receiving Her blessings once again. She conducted meditations in the playground on Wednesdays and Saturdays. She started classes on yoga for children on those days. Of course, every sadhak joined the classes for children, as all are truly her children.
every first of the month sadhaks used to receive
their personal requirements such as paper, pencils, ink, soap, toothpaste, etc. Mother
distributed these items herself. Those days came to be called prosperity days
in the Ashram. She would distribute clothes to the sadhaks
on a Sunday preceding each of the four Darshan
days. As sarees were given to the ladies and napkins to men, these came to be called
saree distribution days.
On every first of the month sadhaks used to receive their personal requirements such as paper, pencils, ink, soap, toothpaste, etc. Mother distributed these items herself. Those days came to be called prosperity days in the Ashram. She would distribute clothes to the sadhaks on a Sunday preceding each of the four Darshan days. As sarees were given to the ladies and napkins to men, these came to be called saree distribution days.
The four Darshan days were February 21st, Mothers birthday; April 24th, Mothers final arrival day at Pondicherry; August 15th, Sri Aurobindos birthday; and November 24th, Sri Aurobindos siddhi day. During the days of Sri Aurobindo, Darshan on these days meant Darshan of both Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Outside his room where he did his yoga sadhana for 24 years, they sat together on a sofa in a small room. The queue of sadhaks and visitors filed past through his room and came for Darshan one by one. The disciples that were with Sri Aurobindo would explain who the next person approaching washis name, age, and any special detailbefore the person came in front of them. The disciples came before them and made pranams. Sri Aurobindo would put his hand on the head of the disciple and bless him. All that took one or two minutes for each person. It was a solemn occasion and a new birth for many.
Mouni Sadhu, a member of Ramanashram, once came to a Darshan. Before coming in front of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, he had to pass through Sri Aurobindos room. On entering the room, he said, his mind went blank and silent. Even if he had wanted to talk, he said, he could not have done so.
Once an American wrote to Sri Aurobindo asking for an interview. He was asked to come on a Darshan day. On seeing the line and learning that he would have only one minute with Sri Aurobindo, he said to a nearby sadhak in a tone of disappointment, I have come from 12,000 miles away, can I not be given some time to meet him? When he had his Darshan of a minute and came downstairs, the same sadhak went to him and found him filled with peace, silence and richness. The American had apparently lost his speech and was so full inside that he could barely talk. The sadhak asked him, Was it too short? He replied, The one minute was too much. Such was the spiritual power Sri Aurobindo transmitted in a minute.
After He left his body, She alone sat on a single seat at the opposite end of the same veranda and blessed the sadhaks and disciples on the same four days. Apart from that, she gave Darshan to the sadhaks on January 6th every year. She also gave Darshan on days dedicated to Maheswari, Mahalaxmi, Mahakali, and Mahasaraswati, and on Deepavali. On December 5th, when Sri Aurobindo attained Mahasamadhi, and December 9th, when his body was laid in the Samadhi, she also gave Darshan. Christmas was another Darshan day when Mother used to sit under a big illuminated Christmas tree and distribute several presents to the children. On that day she gave cakes and gifts to the elders too.
New Year day has always been the merriest day at the Ashram. Mother herself used to distribute calendars to the sadhaks. It was the prosperity day of the year at the Ashram. Calendars always carried her picture with a special message from her chosen for the occasion. Until 1962 she carried on all these activities personally. From 1962 until 1973, she continued most of them from her room. In 1973 on November 17th she attained Mahasamadhi.
One day on my way to Pondicherry I reached the bus stand where I happened to see a friend standing with another man. I stopped for a moment and enquired why he was waiting near the bus stand, more to make conversation than to elicit any information. My friend introduced the other man and said they were on their way to the Ashram. I happily invited them to join me. The other man tried to be very friendly and started a conversation. He said it would be his first visit to the Ashram. In reply I said it would be good if he remembered this date one year later and took stock of his position, as anyone who came to Mother would not remain in the same position after a year.
After about a year these two people called on me at my house. I was very happy to see them. The man explained that it was the same day the previous year we had met and reminded me of my earlier statement. He said he had a shop, a good extent of lands, a business in Singapore, a coconut garden and some shares in a few other businesses. He was happy and said that my statement the previous year about Mothers devotees not remaining in the same station of life for more than a year was true. He summarised his position saying, Every establishment of mine is doing twice as well. Now I see the truth of what you said. Only in the coconut garden it doesnt work.
His coconut garden was situated at the junction of three rural roads and surrounded by paddy fields. As it was a one acre garden, it was not economical to employ a full-time watchman to live there day and night. As long as his father was alive, things were different. Coconut harvests were regular and plentiful. Since his fathers death a few years before, he had expanded his activities to more than one field, and there was no one who could fill the place left vacant by his father. Since then, he had not had a single harvest of nuts, as all the nuts were stolen. He started harvesting them as tender coconuts with a view to salvaging as much as he could. I explained to him that apart from his fathers prestige it must be true that now attention to the coconut garden must be less. He agreed. He was in a difficult situation. He could neither appoint a full-time watchman with his family living in the garden, nor was it possible to prevent pilferage in view of its location. As the pilferage now reached 100% of the harvest, apart from the loss, it was not nice to have ones produce stolen like that month after month. There was no advice I could offer him in terms of farm management, as he seemed to be more experienced in these matters than I.
Besides all this, I said, trees love attention. Now his attention was diverted to many other establishments. The thieves were constantly thinking of the trees and nuts. Therefore the coconut plants responded to their attention by yielding their nuts to these rogues. I asked him to pay a visit to the garden at least once a week for an hour and evince keen interest in their upkeep. Also I suggested that he should remember the garden as often as possible wherever he was. If he could do both these things and pray to Mother that the pilferage should stop, it would be good, I said. About a month later he came to me bringing some coconuts. He said that it was the very first harvest after many years. The theft had stopped suddenly and mysteriously. One day after he had started the prayer, two men came to him and requested an appointment in his fields. They were apologetic. He could not understand their behaviour until they disclosed the full story. They had been part of a gang of four that was stealing his coconuts month after month. Recently their chief had suffered an electric shock, while climbing an electric post, and his fingers were so mutilated that he could not climb coconut trees anymore. Another one of them was caught by his own villagers and beaten for being a shame to the hamlet. They threatened to hand him over to the police, if he resorted to stealing anymore. Now that the gang had broken up, the other two, being camp followers, were on the lookout for jobs.
The story made me happy. I said Mother is great and Her ways are infinite. Also, I added, his remembrance of the garden and weekly visits were a more powerful medium for Mothers Grace as it was the attention of an owner and hence superior in quality to the attention of vile men.
He is a scientist devoted to his subject. He used to glue himself to his microscope, often until 10 p.m. His profession was teaching in a college. He was not only respected by his students but loved for his sweet, soft manners and devotion to his pupils. No strike, however universal, would prevent him from taking his classes. He was a devoted scholar, devoted to his subject, his students and his professors. After his M.Sc. he did his Ph.D. The Principal of the College was his professor and guide. As ill luck would have it, this man who was universally loved and respected, who identified himself with his duty and fixed himself at his post of duty, who was soft spoken, had for some inexplicable reason fallen out of favour with his Principal, who was also his guide. His course in Ph.D. was a shining success. His expertise was in grapes, jasmine and tomato culture. His thesis came out very well. Even before the thesis was out, his findings were recognised outside.
His guide was more of an administrator than a scientist. When a thesis was written by a research worker, it was necessary that the guide certify it as a bonafide work done under his guidance before the thesis could be submitted to the university for evaluation. This guide, for reasons best known to him, refused to certify this thesis as bonafide. The scholar was dismayed. The entire campus felt outraged. Such a treatment to such a devoted scientist over so valuable a research work! Soon the Principal left the college for a higher job in the Central Government with his office in North India. The statutory rules allow that any thesis may be submitted within four years, though the work is only for two years. If a thesis is not submitted within that four years, the whole work gets cancelled and procedure requires that the scholar must start over again from scratch. For this scholar, the expiry date was only a few weeks away. As he had already given up all hopes, his disappointment was less keen. His friend brought this incidence to my notice at that moment and asked whether a way out was possible. A way out was possible, I said, if the scholar agreed to pray to Mother.
A few weeks later a stranger called on me. He introduced himself as one sent by a friend of mine. I recognised the circumstances. I invited him in and asked where he was coming from. Slowly he warmed up and said he was coming from the Ashram, where he had an occasion to sit in meditation in the Room in which Sri Aurobindo had been in tapas for 24 years. After a while when we felt a little more comfortable and friendly towards each other, he explained as follows.
Your friend returned from the Ashram and spoke to me about my thesis and asked me whether I would pray to Mother. I know nothing about Mother, but I have often heard from him that She is Divine. I had no difficulty in accepting the idea of prayer, but there was a great practical difficulty. The last date for submission of the thesis was just two days away. I had no idea where my guide was. As a last resort I left for the university office the next day, having hurriedly collected all the relevant papers, certificates and documents in one day. There I met the Registrar and told him my position. It was the very last day, 10 oclock in the morning. The Registrar took a great interest in my case, appreciated my difficulty and was willing to offer any help, but he said it was totally invalid without the signature of my guide. I told him frankly that my guide refused to sign it and I did not know where he was at that moment. The Registrar agreed to receive the thesis as submitted on that day but also offered a suggestion. He told me that my guide was in the city on that day and I could try my luck in obtaining his signature. I hesitated. He explained that my guide was leaving for America that afternoon to receive an honorary degree and, perhaps, in such a mood he might agree to sign. With a heart filled with anxiety I went to his house. To my surprise, the guide was outside and received me with a big smile. My greater surprise was when he asked me about my thesis and offered to certify it. With a relief felt all over my body I held out my thesis. He readily signed and said he was taking the 2 p.m. flight that day and it was nice I could come in time. From there I went to the Ashram with a sense of wonder still hovering around me. That was my first visit. I offered my gratitude to Mother, about whom I yet do not know much. Straight away I am coming here.
He was really a very soft-spoken man and very cultured in his ways. Since then he has presided over international conferences and has risen to the highest position in the university in his own subject. Just now there are six professors working under him.