Even though the Richards had specially returned to France because
Paul had been drafted as a reservist, they only stayed there for
a year. Paul was freed from military service and moved to Marsillargues
with the Mother, where Andre, the Mother's son, visited them during
the summer vacations and heard for the first time about Sri Aurobindo.
In October it was his turn to join the Army, and from then he always
felt the protection of his exceptional Mother, piloting him through
those difficult times. Meanwhile, Paul Richard got some work in
Japan and thus we find the Richards in London on 13 March 1916,
embarking on the long journey to the Far East. They reached Japan
in June 1916 and stayed for four years in the land of the rising
sun, the first year mostly in Tokyo, the last three years in Kyoto.
In between they also visited other places, especially places of
pilgrimage. They briefly touched China too.
For the Mother this change certainly came as a great
relief. Here was a country which could offer, if not India's deep
spirituality, yet high traditions and exquisite beauty. "For
four years, from an artistic point of view, I lived from wonder
to wonder"she said later in a talk. She has given elaborate
descriptions of the beauty of Japanese landscapes and the perfect
arrangement of houses which merge into a harmonious whole with their
surroundings, being one with Nature, as it were. She also points
out that even simple people had a highly developed aesthetic sense
and would rather spend their spare time outside in Nature in order
to admire a beautiful landscape, than seek other distractions. And
yet she has some reservations and adds that all this was no more
than "a marvellously organised mental-physical domain"
and that there was an entire dearth of spirituality.
Once there was a characteristic and amusing incident in connection
with a Japanese friend of hers, which she told her students in the
Ashram. She had brought the young man into contact with his soul
and as a result he had extraordinary experiences. But the next morning
he suddenly disappeared. Later, the Mother met him in the city and
asked him why he had run away. "Oh! you understand, I discovered
my soul and saw that my soul was more powerful than my faith in
the country and the Mikado; I would have had to obey my soul and
I would no longer have been a faithful subject of my emperor. I
had to go away."
On the other hand, the Mother was appreciating
the enormous vitality and energy of the people. There seems to be
prophetic foresight when she writes in 1917 that Japan possesses
the vitality and concentrated energies of a nation which has not
yet reached its zenith. That energy is one of the most striking
features of Japan. It is visible everywhere, in everyone; the old
and the young, the workmen, the women, the children, the students,
all. ..display in their daily life the most wonderful storage of
concentrated energy. "
We know today the potential of a Japan that has climbed to its zenith.
Another characteristic feature of the nation, "the
secret of her power", has been explained by the Mother in connection
with the ancient tradition of Samurai: "They know how to remain
silent; and though they are possessed of the most acute sensitiveness,
they are, among the people I have met, those who express it least.
A friend here can give his life with the greatest simplicity to
save yours, though he never told you before that he loved you in
such a profound and unselfish way."
The Richards stayed in Tokyo with Dr. Okhawa, a university
professor. A long friendship formed between the two families. The
Mother soon adopted the Japanese style of living and wore the kimono
with natural grace. She also learnt the highly developed Japanese
art of flower arrangements. She grew her own vegetables in a garden
and reports, in this context, an astonishing experience which illustrates
her close communication with Nature. when she went into the garden
to collect vegetables for the meals, some said to her, "No,
no, " whilst others called, "Take us, take us". "So
it was very simple, I looked for those which wanted to be taken
and never did I touch those which did not. I used to think it was
something exceptional. "
In July 1917 the Richards went
to Akakura Spa, a hill- station 800 m above sea level. The Mother
felt deep peace in the beautiful landscape of this remote resort.
Next they travelled to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, and
made contacts with Dr. Okhata, the founder of the still-sitting
movement, which had some affinities with Indian Yoga and therapeutical
values. They also met Dr. Kobayashi and his wife, two close collaborators
of Dr. Okhata. An intimate friendship was formed between the Mother
and Mrs. Kobayashi, and they often meditated together.
In January 1919 a frightful
epidemic swept over Japan. In Tokyo alone hundreds of new cases
of infection were registered every day, and the victims died, as
a rule, after three days. If they could survive the third day, they
were cured after seven days. The Mother shielded herself from infection
with the help of her occult knowledge and avoided every thought
of the disease. But this inner discipline was made difficult by
someone who stayed with her and kept asking her what was behind
this epidemic. One day the Mother had to drive to the other end
of the town and in the tram she saw all those people with protective
masks before their faces. The whole atmosphere was filled with unbearable
fear. Finally, the Mother herself started asking herself involuntarily,
"Truly, what is this illness? What is there behind this illness?"
when she returned home, she had caught it. The symptoms used to
appear at once, immediately after the infection. The Mother lay
down with a high fever. A doctor was called (without her knowledge),
but she dismissed him and refused to take medicine. She wanted to
fight it out all from within. She kept asking herself what was behind
the illness. Then, "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 ahead to suck my force. I took a good look, then realised
that I was about to die. He was drawing all my life out. ..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. "
A little later a Japanese friend came to see her
and he understood at once what had happened. He told the Mother
that the disease was suddenly under control and there were hardly
any more death cases. The Mother disclosed to him her experience
and her friend talked about it to others. Some newspapers even published
articles about the incident.
The Mother explained the occult background of
the epidemic as follows: during the First World War many young healthy
soldiers were suddenly thrown out of their bodies, without knowing
that they had died, physically. They were now desperately trying
to regain their lost lives in other bodies and thus became vampires.
Whosoever got into the atmosphere of these forces fell ill and was
cured only if he was not personally attacked by one such being.
All others died invariably. " I know how much knowledge and
force were necessary for me to resist," said the Mother. "It
"Consciousness, to be sure, is more effective than
packets of medicine, " was the Mother's final comment on this
incident. She always avoided medicine, as far as possible. Once
she told an Ashram sadhak that she used to cure all the illnesses
herself of her son Andre in his young days, without calling a doctor.
Of course, not everybody can imitate her methods and we also find
in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram a number of doctors of all medical systems
who help to take care of the health and well-being of children and
During her stay in Japan the Mother met Tolstoy's son
who was touring the world and preaching to everybody that all people
should speak the same language, take the same food and wear the
same clothes, then there would be peace on earth and everybody would
be happy. The Mother seems to have talked to him, but he stuck to
his naive ideas.
In 1919 she met Rabindranath Tagore and they stayed
in the same hotel for some time. He requested her to take charge
of Shantiniketan, his educational institute, but the Mother did
not accept his request since she knew that her destiny was elsewhere.
In April 1920 she could at last and for good return
to Pondicherry .She was accompanied by an English lady, Miss Dorothy
Hodgeson, whom she had already known in France. When their boat
was approaching Pondicherry , the Mother had a remarkable experience:
"I was on the boat, at sea, not expecting anything ( I was
of course busy with the inner life, but I was living physically
on the boat), when all of a sudden, abruptly, about two nautical
miles from Pondicherry , the quality, I may even say physical quality,
of the atmosphere of the air, changed so much that I knew we were
entering the aura of Sri Aurobindo.. It was a physical experience.
More Details see :
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