No one who enters Mother's Room fails to be invaded by the sweetness of the Mother. Sadhaks and devotees addressed Her as 'Sweet Mother'.
The Mother was known in her family as Mira. Born on February 21, 1878 of an Egyptian mother and a Turkish father who were thorough materialists, Mira was brought up to become an ideal of perfection. Mira later reminisced about her early upbringing. Her mother was a strong-willed lady who appeared to the children to be an iron bar. She believed her children were not on earth to enjoy themselves but to make their lives the acme of perfection. In spite of this, she did not believe in any religion, perhaps because to harbour such belief, in her view, made the individual a weakling. Mira’s parents were more than affluent, they were wealthy. When Mira later became the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, she was able to foot the entire bill of the Ashram from its inception when it had 25 members until it reached nearly 1000 members during the Second World War. She gave her all to the work of Sri Aurobindo.
Mira was an exceptional child. Her being an exception was not known to her until later in life when she met Max Theon, her teacher in occultism. It was Madame Theon, an Englishwoman, who told Mira that she carried a white light on her head in the form of a circle with 12 balls of light. That light, Madame Theon explained, was the light of creation. At the age of five Mira would lapse into bliss and go into a trance sometimes when she was placed in an easy chair or during of a meal. Once in the middle of a meal with her outstretched hand holding a spoon, she found herself in trance, much to the annoyance of her iron-willed mother to whom it was a social embarrassment. Little did the mother or the daughter know that she was a Divine child meant to preside over the affairs of the world and to try an evolutionary experiment in her own body to evolve the first member of the next species, which Sri Aurobindo called Supramental Man.
Mira had a brother to whom she was fondly attached. Once when he was crossing a river a heavenly voice offered him the chance of becoming a god. He could not respond to this offer and he later joined the French civil service, ending up as colonial Governor in Madagascar.
Mira was a Divine Being and she was attended by several beings in times of need. Once when she was about ten years old running around with children of her age, she ran towards the edge of a cliff and was not able to stop in time. She went over the edge and fell from a great height. It was a fall that could have given her multiple fractures or even been fatal. But she found herself descending through the air as if borne by a benevolent being to a soft, safe landing. It was an angel-like being that gave her that protection. Such things happened to her all the time, but young Mira could not comprehend their full import at that time. Walking through Paris as if in a daze, she once wished to cross a busy street and did not notice a streetcar coming straight at her. She suddenly felt that something pulled her back and threw her violently to the side of the road. Next she found that the streetcar had come to a sudden stop and the driver was intensely abusing her for trying to cross the road thoughtlessly. Except that she was miraculously saved and the driver was vehemently abusing her, Mira could not make much out of the incident. When she grew up and was cooking, she sometimes found tiny beings pulling at her dress to remind her that the milk was about to boil over. She had such special divine attention at all times of her life.
Her early life was set on a search for the Divine and that was the one thing she was interested in. Her later life was dedicated to the ideals of Sri Aurobindo. At a young age, while dreaming, she found her being rising into the sky and spreading all over the town. Countless numbers of sad people with their grief, sorrows and ailments came from all around to touch her robe, which spread out in all directions. The robe was living and contact with it relieved the sorrowing beings of their misery. Mother greatly enjoyed this experience every night and awaited it with eagerness.
When the authorities of the Royal Swedish Academy were inclined to award the Nobel Prize to Sri Aurobindo, he passed away. The offer was still there, and it was considered that Mother could receive it. She felt that it was Sri Aurobindo’s ideas, ideals, force and work that were being carried out by her body as a docile instrument. In her view, the instrument should not be glorified and that was the end of the whole possibility.
Around age 20, her ‘search’ was intense and yet she did not know what she was searching for. She met an Indian in Paris who sensed her deep aspiration. He suggested she read the Bhagavad Gita and she obtained a copy of it in French. The French translation was quite poor but she understood the substance of it and received the necessary help. When she found out that there was something inside to be sought for, she says she rushed like a cyclone and made the discovery of her inner being. What normally takes decades of tapasya for rishis, she was able to realise in a few short months while in the middle of Parisian life.
In her meditations she saw several spiritual figures, all of whom offered her help of one type or another. Among them she saw a dark Asiatic figure whom she called to herself ‘Krishna’. Krishna guided her inner journey. She came to have total implicit faith in Krishna and was hoping to meet him one day in real life. When she was introduced to the enigmatic Max Theon, she accepted him in many ways and learnt several occult disciplines from him. A doubt lingered in her mind whether Theon could be her Krishna. Eventually she concluded that it was not he. Later in Pondicherry when she met Sri Aurobindo, she recognised him at first sight, “It is He, my Krishna.”
She was married and had a son. They divorced and she later married Paul Richard, a politician. In her later life, she described the world as ruled by four main asuric figures whom she named Lord of Death, Lord of Nations, Lord of Darkness and Lord of Suffering. These four asuras have several thousand minor emanations. She also said the first two of them had dissolved and if the other two were wiped out, the earth would be ready for the rule of Truth. She had personal contact with the first two of them.
In her frantic search for the Spirit, the only guidance she had was her daily meditation. The introduction of Max Theon, his stupendous knowledge of the cosmos, and the fact that his English wife was an adept in occultism had a great impact on Mother. Also she says that Theon resembled Sri Aurobindo. Her own need for spiritual, occult knowledge supported by her surmise that Theon might be the Krishna of her meditations made her accept him as a teacher or even guru. ‘Theon’ was not a name. It means God. He never disclosed from which country he had come or any other detail of his life. He had an extensive estate in Algeria. Mother went there for a prolonged stay. There she learned lessons of occultism such as leaving her body, travelling to other worlds and other planets, communing with non-humans, and obtaining an occult power over material objects.
Mother was in touch with several supernatural beings whose status was not fully clear to her in those initial stages. Towards the end of her earthly embodiment, in one of her public Darshans given from her terrace to several thousand devotees assembled on the road adjoining Sri Aurobindo Ashram, she spoke of a Being from eternity looking at her with benevolence. Even at a young age, she was in contact with her inner soul, which Theon called the psychic being, and was guided by it in her daily life. At Tlemcen where she stayed with Theon, she met an extraordinary being from the other worlds whose real nature was later revealed to her when she met Sri Aurobindo. He described it as the Supramental Being.
On arrival at Theon’s estate, Mother and he took a walk into the interior of the expansive grounds. Suddenly Theon took it into his head to start a tantrum and sprang before her, announcing that she was now under his control. Mother’s life was already presided over by her psychic being. She took his threat in stride and told him nonchalantly in her own unperturbed fashion that she was under the influence of her psychic being and was not afraid of him. Theon was disarmed, but even then he would not stop his pranks with her. It was true that his powers were enormous and he took occasions to demonstrate them. Once she was standing on the roof of his house with him by her side. A lightning flashed and headed towards them. She saw the lighting suddenly deflected in the middle of its course in another direction. She asked him if he had done that. He nodded his assent.
Madame Theon demonstrated to Mother how she could ‘eat’ a grapefruit by placing it on her stomach. After a little while the fruit was sucked out and lay flat on her stomach with all its nutrition transferred mysteriously to her body. She had so much power over material objects that they obeyed her as if obeying a spoken command. Mother explains that if Madame Theon looked at her pair of slippers, wishing to wear them, they would move toward her and slip themselves onto her feet.
Theon was taking Mother to other worlds in her subtle body while her physical body lay on the floor. Travelling thus in various places of mystical interest, Mother arrived at a place where the mantra of Life was inscribed in Sanskrit. Mother knew no Sanskrit at that time but took the mantra into her memory. Theon, standing beside her and presiding over the operation, wanted Mother to give him the mantra. It was clear to Mother that the mantra was not intended for him or, perhaps, it should not fall into his hands. She refused the unspoken authoritative demand of the occult guru in whose hands her very body and life were now entrusted. Mother was quiet and her refusal was also quiet. Theon flew into a rage and snapped the chord that bound her to the body. In later life Mother explained that Theon was the Lord of Death and her husband Paul Richard was the Lord of Nations who inspired Hitler to destroy the world. She even joked, “I had good company.” After twelve years with Richard when she parted company with him, she told him that she had tried her best for twelve long years to convert him in vain. The ways of the Divine are inscrutable. Mother, who was the very incarnation of the Transcendent Adiparashakti, spent the prime of her life with two incarnations of darkness in the hope of converting them to Truth. When she failed in her attempt at transformation, she found that they had exhausted their negative mission on earth and come to dissolution. Naturally, Mother, in whom this revelation was slowly gathering could not put into the hands of the Lord of Death the mantra of Life. She later gave the mantra to Sri Aurobindo. Theon who had severed the chord of life through which alone Mother could reenter her body, saw the purpose of obtaining the mantra was not going to be served. Knowing the Mother as he did, the enormity of his impulsive act dawned on him and he revived the connection.
Paul Richard, who was seeking election to the French Senate from Pondicherry, visited the French colony to organise electoral support. During that visit he met Sri Aurobindo too. During his next visit to Pondicherry, Mother accompanied him. Even from a distance of ten miles from the city, Mother could see a column of white light rising from the middle of the town to the sky. A meeting of Sri Aurobindo and the French visitors was scheduled. Sri Aurobindo came out of his room to the top of the staircase where Mother was waiting at the bottom. They met. That was a meeting of evolutionary significance for the earth and the universe. At first sight, she knew for certain it was He. During the meeting Sri Aurobindo and Paul Richard sat across a table to discuss politics, the election and his personal prospects. Mother sat at the foot of the table on the floor, an unusual act for an accomplished Westerner. She found something was happening inside her head. Thoughts ceased to run, her mind became quiet and silence began to gather momentum. Mother was 36 at that time. There was no important book published in the world that she had not read by then. Apart from high art and higher mathematics, she had accumulated a great fund of knowledge. Not only that, that knowledge in her mind had created its own structure through which it functioned. Mother saw that formidable structure giving way and dissolving at its core as well as at its fringes. Sri Aurobindo, while engaged in a conversation was conferring on her the boon of Akhandamounam, eternal silence, a yogic attainment of decades of Tapas. He was transferring it to her without her asking for it, not through a ceremony of initiation, but casually, in spite of diverting himself in a conversation. Mother prostrated before Him without knowing that that was what Indian sishyas do to their gurus. The next day she noted in her journal, “It does not matter that thousands of beings are plunged in darkness. He whom we saw yesterday is on earth. His presence is enough to assure us that one day Truth will rule here.”
Sri Aurobindo said that in Mother he found surrender down to the very physical, the likes of which could not be found in any human being.
Having listened to Sri Aurobindo, Mother and Richard felt that a great treasure of yogic wisdom lay buried in him and it should be given to the world through a journal of his writings. They proposed to start a journal and the three of them would contribute. The journal Arya was thus started, but the First World War took the French disciples of Sri Aurobindo to Paris, “leaving him with 64 pages of philosophy to write every month.” Mother spent a year in France and four years in Japan before she returned to Sri Aurobindo in 1920. When she left India, she left her psychic being with Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry. With her soul literally left behind her, life during those five years was one of suffocation.
After her return to India and until Sri Aurobindo’s passing away in 1950, she says a part of her soul lived in ecstatic realisation. When he passed away she took her psychic being and locked it up and sealed it for several years. Her psychic being, which had lived in the constant presence of Divine Love embodied in Sri Aurobindo, could not live without it. Slowly the psychic being came out to the surface of her life after about a decade. It is significant that the descent of Divine Love in great pulsations took place in 1962 overwhelming and submerging her heart too by its power of first descent.
Mother’s life is incomparable in many ways. She has narrated an experience of hers while on board ship. There is a belief that on seeing a meteor if one can formulate a wish or a thought before the meteor disappears, the wish would be fulfilled within twelve months. Mother had such an experience with a falling meteor. But Mother’s wish was not an ordinary one.
Man lives on the surface guided by the behaviour which can be changed with effort. Whatever the behaviour is, it is the outward expression of the deep-seated character, swabhava. Man’s character is innate and is born with him. It is inherited from the forefathers and is buried in the subconscious. All over the world it is known that a man’s character is not changeable. There is a tradition which Mother knew of which claims that character can be changed in 35 years if one subjects himself to serious spiritual austerities. Mother’s wish was that her character should be dissolved and transformed into a Divine character. While on board a ship she sighted a meteor and clearly formulated that wish in her mind. And she says it came true in twelve months, confirming the traditional belief.
Mother says she does not represent a philosophy, a religion or a sect. She says she is a Force of action, a creative force that can new-create. When it was considered by some people that Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy could be made the basis for founding a new religion, she declared that she would be the very first person to quit the Ashram if such a thing were done.
Her brother who could not accept the heavenly offer to become a god became the Governor of Madagascar in Africa. Sri Aurobindo had left British territory in 1910 when he fled to Pondicherry, but the British government was still keeping track of him until 1937. Everyone who entered the Ashram had to pass a British Central Intelligence officer at the entrance and sign his register. It was in 1937 when the Congress government was installed in power in Madras that this act of shame was scrapped. Several times the British police tried to kidnap Sri Aurobindo and transport him to British territory so that he could be thrown in jail. So great was their fear that they continued their heinous crime even after Sri Aurobindo had left politics. One move they attempted was to have Sri Aurobindo removed by the French authorities to an African colony. Mother came to know of this scheme and contacted her brother. She asked him to persuade the French government not to listen to the British intentions. He spoke to the concerned officer and managed to have the file on Sri Aurobindo buried at the bottom of a forgotten heap.
Of all the books written by Sri Aurobindo, Mother says Synthesis of Yoga inspired her the most. She translated it into French and during the translation she discovered that Sri Aurobindo’s English was largely influenced by the French syntax lending itself to an easy translation.
It was in 1926 that she was officially made Mother of the Ashram. Sri Aurobindo’s yoga had taken the double route of an ascent into the spiritual heavens and descent into the human earth. He classifies existence into physical, vital, mental and spiritual realms. Though he prefers his own classification for the purposes of his writing, it generally conforms to the Indian yogic tradition. The physical is the material world represented in man by his body. The vital is life in general and the nervous prana represents it in man. The mind is subdivided into six regions for convenience. Spirit is Satchidananda, comprising the spiritual trio -- existence, consciousness and bliss.
The divisions of mind are: the ordinary mind of man, higher mind of the sage, mind of the rishi, intuitive mind of the yogi, overmind of the gods and Supermind, which is above the gods but below the spiritual world. Sri Aurobindo’s yoga does not seek release of the soul into moksha. In his yoga the parts of the human being, viz. body, vital and mind, are to be purified so that the higher spiritual force would descend into man to saturation, making him a fit instrument of the Divine to create the first member of the next species, the Supramental Man. As the sadhak rises to each level above his ordinary mind, forces of the higher regions to which he has ascended would descend to integrate his whole being with the new height he has scaled. Sri Aurobindo in 1926 reached the Overmind of the gods and the descent of the Overmind began in him down to his very physical. This was a turning point in his yoga and at this point, he thought it necessary to withdraw into his room and into total silence so that the further ascent to the Supermind and descent of that world would be accelerated. He called all the disciples and announced to them that henceforth Mother would take full charge of the Ashram and he would live in retirement. Mother heard for the first time that this new responsibility was conferred on her and she had been installed officially as Mother. Sri Aurobindo did not consult her prior to the declaration nor did he inform her of his intention. She too heard the news for the first time along with the disciples.
Mother had an energy unheard of even in spiritual history. Her energy was overflowing throughout the day and night. It was so great that she could never go to sleep. In fact, there was no bed in her room. Until she was 80, she used to rest for one or two hours after midnight in her easy chair. Once she asked for some work to be kept ready by her side, because during that short rest she sometimes woke up when the ananda inside was very intense. Unless it was expressed in action, its excess turned into pain. A stack of birthday cards was kept beside her so that she could sign them.
From 1920 she started organising Sri Aurobindo Ashram efficiently. She had to start with lessons in keeping material things and books in proper order and proceed up to the full Integral Yoga. For years Mother did the cooking for the sadhaks herself and also served them food. Until the Ashram grew to the size of 150 sadhaks, Mother says she held their inner and outer movements within her control as if in an eggshell. Perhaps no one could think without Mother knowing their thoughts. Those were the days when discipline was at its height to the point that even friendship among sadhaks was considered dangerous.
Henry Ford, the automobile king, heard of Mother and wanted to meet her. On the eve of his departure, World War II broke out and prevented his coming to India. The daughter of Woodrow Wilson, the US President, came to the Ashram in the 20’s and chose to remain there for the rest of her life. A friend of John F. Kennedy took interest in Mother and examined in depth the philosophy and yoga of Sri Aurobindo. He met Mother and asked her what were the external signs by which one could discern the attainment of Supermind in a person. His question was reminiscent of Arjuna asking Sri Krishna on the battlefield, “How does a realised person sit, walk and speak?” Mother explained to him the three conditions which would reveal the attainment of the Supramental consciousness and told him that of the three, equality was the most significant. The visitor arranged for Kennedy to visit Mother, but it could not take place. Mother’s plan for Auroville was presented to Khrushchev while he was in power. He felt the idea of Auroville was something worth the support of his government.
When Nehru visited Pondicherry, he commented that Pondicherry was saturated with peace, little knowing that it was the peace of Mother and Sri Aurobindo. He visited the Ashram school and was enamoured of the children and their sports. During his next visit to Pondicherry, the Ashram was not included. Not knowing that, Nehru inquired when he would be visiting the Ashram school. Hurried arrangements were made for his visit to the school and meeting Mother. During his first visit to Mother at the playground, he was accompanied by Shastri, Indira and Kamaraj. Shastri and Indira became the subsequent Prime Ministers and Kamaraj presided over their elections.
In 1971 Indira was in a political turmoil because of the split in the Congress organisation. Her government had lost its majority and on important occasions in the Parliament she relied on the support of the opposition group, DMK. She had ordered interim elections but thought she would be lucky if she could muster 250 seats in the Lok Sabha. It was at that time friendly advice brought her the suggestion that if she sought Mother’s support, her political and legislative uncertainty would end. Indira heeded the advice and came to Pondicherry to meet Mother. Her prayer was for 250 Lok Sabha seats. Mother smiled broadly, nodded her head vigorously and granted the prayer made through her cabinet colleague Nandini. Electoral victory was a landslide win. An Indira wave swept across the nation giving her 356 seats and the coveted two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution. Mother never gives what is asked for. She always gives much more than what is prayed for. Sri Aurobindo in his Hymn to the Mother of Radiances says, “You have revealed to me more than I ignorantly asked for.” Mother smothers her devotees with a copious shower of her grace.
During the days of Sri Aurobindo, Mother used to go out to the Ashram departments, and even to several other places in Pondicherry. Occasionally she visited Cuddalore, Chidambaram and Tanjore. When the furniture in Sri Aurobindo’s room was to be replaced, Mother herself went to a timber depot in Cuddalore O.T. to choose the right material in teak and rosewood. She once visited the Chidambaram temple and a Saivite Mutt in Tanjore district.
She wore saris and about 500 saris accumulated with her. Several devotees coming from outside wished to possess one of her saris. A senior sadhak persuaded Mother to part with two of her saris and gave one to an industrialist devotee. The other also was taken away. When Mother received a lakh of rupees as offering from one, she called all the sadhikas and distributed her saris, laden with the Divine Mother’s consciousness, and exhausted her sari treasury.
It was reported by the astronauts that they saw a large ball of white light on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. When this was told to Mother, she commented that they had seen the light of Sri Aurobindo over the ashram and recollected her own seeing it as a column of white light.
Mother had a special rapport with flowers. She has given names to 800 flowers basing herself on their spiritual significance. She says flowers have feelings of pride, vanity and sensitivity. For instance, roses do not like to be placed in a vase along with other flowers. When kept alone, they rise in stature and look around with pride.
Mother and Sri Aurobindo participated in the affairs of the earth and the universe according to the mission and the work they were doing. When it was clear that the Second World War was inevitable, they saw the Lord of Nations leading Hitler on and urging him to conquer the world with very tall promises. The Lord of Nations, it was said, appeared before Hitler in a dazzling light in shining white armour and gave him detailed advice. Sri Aurobindo called this war, “Mother’s war.” He used to send his spiritual force in support of the Allies and eagerly awaited the results of individual battles. At every important turning point of the war, Sri Aurobindo took great interest. At the famous Dunkirk battle where the British troops were miraculously saved, it was reported that the fog in the atmosphere served the British navy well. Sri Aurobindo used to refer to that with a smile as the ‘mysterious fog’. When Hitler was gaining success after success and Mother was trying in the opposite direction, she said the shining being who was guiding Hitler used to come to the Ashram from time to time to see what was happening. Things changed from bad to worse. Mother decided on a fresh strategy. She took on the appearance of that shining being, appeared before Hitler and advised him to attack Russia. On her way back to the Ashram, she met that being. The being was intrigued by Mother having stolen a march over him. Hitler’s attack on Russia ensured his downfall.
Mother came to know of her previous births on several occasions. In past lives Mother was Queen Elizabeth of England, Catherine of Russia, Joan of Arc, an Egyptian Queen, and the mother of Moses, among others. In France, she once visited the palace of Louis XIV. A portrait attracted her and she realised that it was herself. She recollected several other details of that life. In a museum Mother came across a special comb used by an Egyptian Queen. Mother recognised it as one she had used.
She had live contacts with several gods. Durga used to come to Mother’s meditations regularly. Particularly during the Durga Puja when Mother gave Darshan, Durga used to come a day in advance. On one occasion, Mother explained to Durga the significance of surrender to the Supreme. Durga said because she herself was a goddess, it never struck her that she should surrender to a higher power. Mother showed Durga the progress she could make by surrendering to the Supreme. Durga was agreeable and offered her surrender to the Divine.
Mother saw in her meditation some Chinese people had reached Calcutta and recognised the danger of that warning. Using her occult divine power, she removed the danger from the subtle realms. Much later when the Chinese army was edging closer to India’s border, a shocked India did not know which way to turn. The Chinese decided on their own to withdraw, much to the world’s surprise. Mother had prevented them from advancing against India by cancelling their power in the subtle realms.
Mother once smelt a bad odour but could not identify it. She neutralised its effect anyway in the plane where she smelled it. A little later an army officer from the Himalayas who came to seek Mother’s Blessings reported the explosion of an atom bomb by the Chinese and prayed to Mother to protect India. India was protected fully.
Sri Aurobindo passed away in 1950. In 1959 Mother saw him in the subtle physical plane for the first time. From then onwards Mother regularly met Sri Aurobindo in the subtle physical.
Mother has recorded her prayers during the first decade of this century and they are published as Prayers and Meditations. In one of those prayers she explains how she saw herself in her meditation. She found herself a being of light with all the subtle nervous centers -- chakras -- revealing themselves. In place of the head there was a moon and above it was a sun. She explains that she withdrew from the surface eight levels to reach this stage at the ninth. It took her nine stages in the reverse to regain her ordinary consciousness.
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