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Powers Within
Light Endless Light Sat-sang
About Us
HOME Powers Within
India-Gods's Abode

I


After Sri Aurobindo's complete withdrawal in November 1926, the opportunities for the sadhaks to see or communicate with him were very severely curtailed. This was a terrible deprivation for them, all the more so because they had so long basked unfettered in the old unrestricted sunshine. The sadhaks who came later, not having known the earlier freedom of personal interviews with the Master and the open Evening Talks with him, had perhaps less reason to complain; and, besides, some of them- Sethna, Nirod and Dilip, for example -had the privilege of regular correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, not only on matters pertaining to Yoga, but also on art, literature. and poetic composition, and even on matters political and medical. This privilege, however, was not taken advantage of by all the sadhaks, many of whom were mainly engaged in Karmayoga, doing works as an offering to the Mother.
    The Mother was always easily accessible, except during her illness of October 1931. Nevertheless, to meet in some measure the understandable desire of the sadhaks to see Sri Aurobindo and offer pranam to him, the three Darshan days of 21 February , 15 August and 24 November were set apart, when the sadhaks and a select number of visitors were permitted to have darshan of the two together -the Mother seated to the right of Sri Aurobindo- and offer pranam to them. Since 1926 the number had grown year by year, but intelligent and tactful management made it possible for the Darshan to be completed in the course of the forenoon, or at least before 2 p.m. The sadhaks and the permitted visitors first assembled in the Meditation Hall, and went up in a file carrying the garlands to be offered. A list giving the order in which they were to go up for darshan was put up on the notice board downstairs, and a copy was kept with Sri Aurobindo so that he could take note of the newcomers. Everyone was given a minute or two for making his pranam. Thus each was in the Darshan Room all alone with the visible divine Pair for a blissful interim, and then moved off, giving place to the next. However, from 1939 (whence 24 April became the fourth Darshan day) several changes in this procedure were unavoidable. "Putting up the list of names and indicating the time was stopped for good... as a check on unauthorised intrusion, cards were issued over the signature of the Secretary." Later still, the work of issuing passes was transferred to a Bureau Central. The Darshan time was fixed "almost at 2 p.m To get an opportunity to touch the feet of the Master became a thing of the past. ..we had to form a queue and have Darshan while filing past."

Darshan, of course, was much more than a concession to mere human curiosity, and Pranam no mere concession to the vitalistic desire for touch or for demonstrative love and devotion. Sri Aurobindo himself conceded a place for such "physical means" of approaching the Guru, the visible Divine, and "receiving the Light and materialising the psychic contact". But they would defeat their purpose and might even have a baneful effect if they were not done in the right spirit, or were tainted by "indifference and inertia, or revolt or hostility, or some gross desire". The best state to be in for Darshan was to be recueilli, that is to say, to be "drawn back, quiet and collected in oneself', ready to receive whatever is vouchsafed.
                                           

II


For the sadhaks and disciples, the Darshan days came to acquire the character of milestones on the great journey to the Supramental Light and Force. There was hope and high expectancy in the air, the small room on the first floor of the Meditation House where the Darshan was to take place came to be decorated with loving care, and for the Ashram they were festive days as also days of fulfilment. "Each Darshan in our life," wrote Sahana Devi, "was an experience, nearly a supra-realisation." From Darshan to Darshan the heart yearned once again for the mystic face, the magic touch, and when another Darshan day dawned over the Ashram, there was a new elation and joy:
    It brought to us the golden opportunity to reach out to the unattainable.. He [Sri Aurobindo] instilled into us something that no one else could. Thus as the Darshan day approached our minds too, leaned to a self-gathering, with a view to receiving rightly .....
And here is Narayan Prasad's remembrance of these regular occasions of benediction and grace:
    To each the Master gave a penetrating and gracious look and then blessed him. ...In those days the Master's Grace would rain over us like Amitabha Buddha's. As through glass windows the things in a room are visible, so the Master's yogic eye would penetrate our being and read our possibilities. Newcomers would return with a new energy to fight the battle of life.
The Sri Aurobindo-Mother-sadhak relationships in the Ashram acquired a focus and a clarification at the time of the Darshans. Although the sadhak could see the Mother daily, when he saw her on a Darshan day sitting by the side of Sri Aurobindo, it was an enriching and revealing moment for him. On one such occasion, in August 1934, Nirodbaran "felt a great dryness", instead of the expected Ananda, Force or Light. On the next Darshan, in November, Nirod thought that it was Shiva he was seeing, and felt Ananda too, and "these happy impressions and recollections were with me vividly for 2 or 3 days. Then I found that all that consciousness has , evaporated -and I have passed these days most passively, without any strong aspiration. But I marked that there was no depression."' On yet another occasion, while Nirod found Sri Aurobindo "grave and austere",
he found the Mother smiling seraphically . But a more vivid index to Nirod's opening and reception is his poem:
    A moment's touch -what founts of joy arise
    Running through dull grains of my life's dead sands
    Like a cool stream where once never was shade!
    The finite for this one moment brief drinks
    The Infinite.


Kapali Sastry's notes are brief but suggestive. Thus, after the Darshan on the Mother's birthday in 1936: "Sri Aurobindo gave recognition-smile. The Mother was gracious, putting a seal on his blessings." Again, on the same day next year:
    The Mother looked long into me with a very benign smile and blessed me longer while my right cheek rested on her lap. Sri Aurobindo, majestic as usual but not serious....

Darshan was always a seminal moment, an act of divine insurance, a moment in time and out of time when something that was truly timeless was sought and won. About the sort of instantaneous effect the Darshan could produce there is this testimony by a visitor:
    One look of Sri Aurobindo at a man's heart, and it is conquered. There is a lustre in his eyes that infuses itself into the soul of man and sets it aflame. The flame goes on growing in intensity. He puts into the heart of man the flower-seed of Divine love that is sure to grow....


Such, then, were the gains of the Darshan for the sadhaks, disciples and visitors who filed past Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and received the touch of their palms as the concrete symbol, as the electric currency, of their benedictions. It was certainly worth waiting for weeks, months and (with some) even for years; -but when would they be vouchsafed that grace again?


III


From Sri Aurobindo's or the Mother's point of view also, each Darshan had an importance of its own as a carefully controlled spiritual experiment. Every time Sri Aurobindo and the Mother tried to bring down a force or power of consciousness, a Ray of Light, a tremor of the Delight of
Existence, and they would watch how the sadhaks and the others received it: whether there was a ready opening, or only the usual tamasic or rajasic resistance. For example, Sri Aurobindo wrote as follows about the Darshan on his sixty-fifth birthday, 15 August 1936:
   The last Darshan was good on the whole. I am not now trying to bring anything sensational down on these days, but I am watching the progress in the action of the Force and Consciousness that are already there, the infiltration of a greater Light and Power from above, and there was a very satisfactory crossing of a difficult border which promises well for the near future. A thing has been done which had long failed to accomplish itself and which is of great importance... it forms part of an arranged whole which is explicable only when it is complete. But it gives a sort of strong practical assurance that the thing will be done.


In aYoga that was verily a struggle and a march, the Darshan struck Sri Aurobindo as the crossing of a difficult border presaging ultimate victory . And wasn't the descent of the Supramental on 29 February 1956 the most decisive crossing into the Next Future, altering the'whole character of the divine communion, introducing a fundamental change in the Sri Aurobindo- Mother-disciple relationships? As the Mother explained in her talk of 15 August 1956, -the day she had distributed the flower symbolising the supramental manifestation ,
    In the days when Sri Aurobindo used to give Darshan, before he gave it there was always a concentration of certain forces or of a certain realisation which he wanted to give to people. And so each Darshan marked a stage forward; each time something was added. But that was at a time when the number of visitors was very limited. It was organised in another way, and it was part of the necessary preparation.
        But this special concentration, now, occurs at other times, not particularly on Darshan days. And it occurs much more often, on other kinds of occasions, in other circumstances. The movement is much accelerated, the march forward, the stages succeed each other much more rapidly. And perhaps it is more difficult to follow; or in any case, if one doesn't take care to keep up, one is more quickly out-distanced than before; one gets the feeling of being late or of being abandoned. Things change quickly.
                                          

 IV


In the late thirties, as if to make up for the loss of the long sessions of meditation, pranam and interviews in the morning and the games, talks and the soup cermony in the evenings of the early years, anew experience was opened to the sadhaks in the form of a daily balcony darshan. This
unique form of spiritual concordat between the Mother and her children began as an individual grace that very soon grew into a universalist charter . Mridu was a devoted Bengali sadhika, who was not only permitted to cook for Sri Aurobindo but even to have a daily glimpse of him when she took up her dish at noon. Early in 1938, she was given a room in a building in Rue Saint Gilles opposite the north-facing balcony adjoining Pavitra's room in the Ashram main building. It was then that she is said to have declared that she would not have her breakfast until she had a darshan of the Mother. The Mother agreed to come to that balcony, so as to be seen by Mridu from her window across the street.
    The usual time of the Mother's coming was 6 to 6.15 a.m. and soon some sadhaks and visitors too began to gather for this early morning grace. It became an experience of immeasurable importance equivalent to a sacramental beginning for the day's run of activities. "Every custom, even ritual," wrote Naresh Bahadur in the late fifties, "grows stale by repetition. But the Balcony Darshan is an ever-new, ever-revealing phenomenon. For all is perennial freshness at Spirit level."The silent crowd would be expectant -and suddenly the Mother would appear on the balcony:
    The brief perpetual sign recurred above. ...
    Dawn built her aura of magnificent hues
    And buried its seed of grandeur in the hours.
    An instant's visitor the godhead shone:
    On life's thin border awhile the Vision stood
    And bent over earth's pondering forehead curve.
On 12 October 1959, the Mother wrote to a young disciple:
    Every morning at the balcony, after establishing a conscious contact with each of those who are present, I identify myself with the Supreme Lord and dissolve myself completely in Him. Then my body, completely passive, is nothing but a channel through which the Lord passes His forces freely and pours upon all His Light, His Consciousness and His Joy, according to each one's receptivity.
Consequently, this daily darshan too used to affect variously different individuals, and even the same individual on different days. Some have glimpsed in the Mother one or another of their favourite Powers and Personalities of Mahashakti, and some have seen an aura around her day after day. On the question of the Mother's aura in general, Sri Aurobindo had written in November 1933:


This darshan came to an end when the Mother fell somewhat seriously ill on 16 March 1962. Curiously, Mridu passed away in September 1962. Her house came to be known as Prasad House due to her practice of distributing the "prasad" that came back in the dish she used to take to Sri Aurobindo.


            What people see around the Mother is first her aura. ..and, secondly, the forces of Light that pour out from her when she concentrates, as she always does on the roof for instance. ...People do not see it usually because it is a subtle physical and not a gross material phenomenon.'"
        The sadhaks and disciples who had developed this subtle sight -and those that had the higher psychic sensitivity were able to see the aura, and even after the Mother's withdrawal from the balcony, some of the devotees are known to have stayed on for a while longer with an abstracted and self- absorbed air, perhaps seeing the Mother still, and the aura around her . While these were special experiences of a few, it may be said of the others that even their most prosaic reactions had a touch of the exceptional, and for the vast majority the Mother as she appeared at the balcony was rather like
            A rose of dawn, her smile lights every gaze -
            Her love is like a nakedness of noon:
            No flame but breathes in her the Spirit's calm
            And pours the omnipresence of a sun.


        Once, when someone wanted to know why the Mother seemed to "appear different at different times", Sri Aurobindo had written: "It is rather, I think, dependent on the personality that manifests in front -as she has many personalities and the body is plastic enough to express something of each when it comes forward. " The Mother herself once admitted that "at each Darshan I have the feeling that I am a different person... someone I have known very intimately, with whom I have lived perhaps, but not me... that is to say, the body says: 'It is not me.' " And then, referring to the Terrace darshan* of 24 November 1967, she added:

            When I went to the balcony, it was someone... (and this happens to me from time to time, but more and more often) someone who looks from a sort of plane of eternity with a great benevolence mixed in (something like benevolence, I do not know how to express it), but with an absolute calmness, almost indifference, and the two are together, looking like that (Mother describes waves far down below), as if ii was seen from very far away, from very high up, from very. ..how to say it? seen with a rather eternal vision. It was that which my body was feeling when I came out to the balcony. The body was saying: "I must aspire, there must be an aspiration so that the Force may descend upon all these people", and That it was like this (sweeping gesture from above) And all this the body feels  as though something were making use of it.


On 21 February 1963, at 6:15 in the evening, the Mother gave darshan from "the Terrace" (a covered east-facing veranda on the second floor of Meditation House), "the first for about nine months, since the 18th March last year"; according to another report she had last came out on the 20th March. It must also be noted that henceforth she would come out on the Terrace only on the four Oarshan days and always at around the same time until the last one on 15th August 1973.


 V


      There were other days too that evoked a subdued festive mood in the Ashram. The first of every month was called Prosperity day, when the sadhaks received from the Mother their month's requirements in apparel, stationery and other necessities. Since the Ashram under the Mother's management eschewed alike chilling asceticism and enervating luxury, the stress was on sufficiency, which was 'prosperity' enough. What was attempted was by no means a mathematical equality, but rather a sufficiency measured in terms of each sadhak's particular needs: and the Mother's Grace did the rest. The first day of the month thus gave the godspeed to the sadhaks, and they were happy and content to receive all they needed from the Mother herself.
On 25 December 1929, recalls Mrityunjoy, "In the evening after returning from the Soup Hall and before going up to her room the Mother distributed some small green leaves from the stairs, in the Meditation
House. Just before She began the distribution, She said, 'These leaves are called New Birth; not a new birth in the body but a birth in the new consciousness. These will be given to all, and according to each one's receptivity will be the realisation. ' Then She started giving a bunch of those leaves to each one in turn. The appearance of Her face was remarkable, the embodied Divine was present before all. "

Sahana Devi recollects that ; this practice stopped before 1939. It was only after the coming of the children, that 25 December gradually began to be celebrated as Christmas day when material gifts too were included in what was essentially known as the day of the rebirth of Light.
          Among the other important days in the Ashram calendar were the New Year day, 4 April, the day of Sri Aurobindo's arrival in Pondicherry in 1910, and 29 March, the day of the Mother's first arrival in 1914 and of her meeting with Sri Aurobindo in the afternoon.
          The coming of the New Year was celebrated in the Ashram at midnight every 31 December, and there was always a phenomenal concentration of aspiration. Before 1932, the sadhaks were permitted to walk up to the Mother's room to make pranam and receive her blessings. Sahana Devi's memories of the coming of 1929, 1930 and 1931 almost recreate those phoenix-moments of rebirth:
          It used to be a remarkable experience for us at that hour, in the silent depths of us all everything seemed to be self-gathered within in tune with the sombre night. The Mother too seemed to reveal herself in an eternity of
expressive beauty. We too lost our limited selves as we silently mounted the stairs to receive the eternal touch from her carefully guarding within the aspiration of the possibility of a new birth. On crossing the threshold into the room we would see the Mother seated on a chair faintly illumined by only a dim pink light -a dreamland of roseate hue. Her face alone was bright, as bright as the first glow of dawn As we got up after bowing to her she blessed us with her radiant smile handing us something more concrete in the shape of an orange or apiece of chocolate. Whatever she gave, however apparently insignificant, seemed to us as something designed to shatter our sleep in ignorance.
The Mother's illness in October 19311ed to a change of procedure on the night of 31 December heralding 1932. This time, the sadhaks gathered in the Meditation Hall and the adjoining courtyard before midnight, and as the ardours of the many mingled in a sea of silent aspiration, there was a session of collective meditation. Then, at the blissful moment of the birth of the New Year, to quote Sahana Devi again:
    ...like a flash of light tearing asunder the veil of darkness, pealed out a resonant chord from the organ and with it flooded out her voice in song. Her voice had a quality of magical power rising from the profundities as if endeavouring to awaken our consciousness to meet the light from above.
The strains of that marvellous music seemed to waft the listeners to the heavens of immaculate fullness and peace, and when the music came to a close, the sadhaks walked up to the Mother to receive her blessings as also the fruits or sweets. "The Mother appeared to me," reminisces Romen Palit, "like a Queen of Beauty in the semi-darkness of midnight. "


VI


From 1933, the Mother started distributing a message after ushering in the New Year with her ambrosial music. By and by such messages came to be circulated widely even outside the Ashram, and thus many who couldn't participate in the midnight ceremony were also able to receive the Mother's benedictions and guidance for the New Year .Sadhaks and disciples kept the New Year messages on their tables throughout the year as an exhortation and as a protection. In course of time, the New Year messages came to carry the word-power of the 'Orders of the Day' of a spiritual Generalissimo engaged in fighting the forces of darkness, ignorance and tamas that threatened to overwhelm the world.
    The first New Year messages seemed to come charged with a distinctive spiritual force. A combination of meditation and prayer, resolution and exhortation, the messages touched sensitive responsive chords in the sadhaks and became engines of new aspiration and purposive action:


1933: Let the birth of the new year be the new birth of our consciousness. Leaving the past far behind us, let us run towards a luminous future.


    1934: Lord, the year is dying and our gratitude bows down to Thee. Lord, the year is reborn, our prayer rises up to Thee. Let it be for us also the dawn of a new life.


    1935: We surrender to Thee this evening all that is artificial and false, all that pretends and imitates. Let it disappear with the year that is at an end. May only what is perfectly true, sincere, straight and pure subsist in the year that is beginning.


1936: O Lord! grant that this year may be the year of Thy Victory. We
aspire for a perfect faithfulness which would make us worthy of it.


1937: Glory to Thee, O Lord, who triumphest over every obstacle!
Grant that nothing in us may be an impediment to Thy work.


    1938: Lord, grant that everything in us may be ready for Thy realisation. On the threshold of the new year we bow down to Thee, O Lord, Supreme Realiser.


How did these messages first germinate in the Mother's deeper consciousness and achieve formulation in language of such adequacy and forcefulness? They were written by the Mother in French, at once with spontaneous ease and classical finish, but even the English translations retained the life-force and memorability of the originals. By what compulsion, then, by what art, did the words come in that order to set human hearts ablaze, to set thinking minds a task, to direct human lives towards the goal? There was of course the periodical need for an annual message for the benefit of the growing Ashram community and the even wider circle of followers outside. But with the Mother, it was never an intellectual or literary exercise. Neither was it merely a piece of advice or exhortation to others. Many years later, the Mother once explained how the New Year message usually came to her more or less as a response to some recent challenging event or experience. A New Year message was expected to reveal what was going to happen during the unfolding year. It could be a piece of prophecy; a warning, perhaps; perhaps a hope, perhaps an assurance.
    For example, on 1 January 1958, the Mother was to explain the genesis of her New Year message as follows:
    It is an experience, something that happened, and when it happened I noted it down, and as it turned out, it occurred just at the moment when I remembered that I had to write something for the year -which was next year at that time, that is, the year which begins today. When I remembered that I had to write something -not because of that, but simultaneously - this experience came, and when I had noted it down, I realised that it was. .. it was the message for this year!
In the first instance, it was a personal experience, an individual vision or leap of consciousness; but in view of its basic human relevance, it was also amenable to universalisation as a message.

VII


The practice of distributing messages began as early as 21 February 1927, when the Mother gave to the sadhaks copies of what was to become the first chapter of Sri Aurobindo's The Mother, beginning with the mantric words
    There are two powers that alone can effect in their conjunction the great and difficult thing which is the aim of our endeavour, a fixed and unfaiJing aspiration that calls from below and a supreme Grace from above that answers. ...
All her messages had a broad human appeal, and one could see the filiations -even if the Mother may not have deliberately intended them - between the message itself and the global perspectives for Man. But the Darshan messages were to have usually a direct bearing on the progress of the sadhana. As the Mother once explained:
    Everything that is said in a Darshan message has been studied, proved, tested, beforehand. And on Darshan day it is given. First the experiment is made, then it is declared publicly. The first movement is the individual development; at the Darshan time it is spread abroad.


The individual movement -originating in the Mother was all-important, of course; it supplied the initiating force of dynamism to the movement. But the mass, the collectivity, too had to be charged with the force to generate the desired momentum. Thus, after the probing, testing and the finding, the Truth -whether in the form of an extract from Sri Aurobindo's or the Mother's writings, or given a fresh formulation to suit the occasion - was distributed on the Darshan day, and the printed copies were sent in advance to the Ashram's centres outside to be likewise released and meditated upon on that day. "It is an externalisation of the thing," the Mother said, "it is a way of spreading the influence, spreading the message, reaching farther." While the individual experience or movement was "much more rapid and more penetrating", the collective exercise formed "a sort of basis" that at once restrained and supported the individual thrust:

    
And it is the balance between these two movements which is necessary. So, the more rapidly one goes individually, the more necessary it is to try to extend and strengthen the collective basis.
The Mother and Sri Aurobindo viewed their Integral Yoga as a man- changing and world-changing alchemic process, a transformation of the human and the terrestrial into the Divine. And every tested gain, every forced march, every climb of consciousness on the individual plane was to be shared by the whole world so that what was an individual victory for Sri Aurobindo or the Mother could become in the fullness of time a racial march onward, a global victory .

by K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar
On The Mother - The Chronicle of a Manifestation and Ministry -CHAPTER 25
ASHRAM CALENDAR


All extracts and quotations from the written works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the Photographs of
the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are copyright Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry -605002 India