Saturday, September 5, 2009

Biographical: Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

The Golden Bridge

Mirra Alfassa was a trained artist, a musician, an occultist, a teacher, a writer and a great organizer. She was the Mother of humans, animals and plants. She lived from wonder to wonder, she lived to go beyond life. Embodying a divine personality in a human frame, she became a golden bridge between earth and heaven. She is our Mother, human and divine.
Her ancestral heritage was rooted in different countries. She was the grand-daughter of an Egyptian Prince, Said Pinto, who permitted the digging of Suez Canal, which was opened after his death. Her mother Mathilde was an Egyptian but her father Maurice Alfassa was a Turk. Her parents migrated to France in 1877. They were very practical and did not bother about the existence of God.
Mirra was born on Thursday, 21 February 1878 at about 10-15 am. Immediately after birth she was christened by her father as Mirra Alfassa. The nurse at the maternity clinic wrote at the corner of the cloth, M. A. So her nickname became Ma, which was liked by her father. Ma means mother in many languages, somewhere with some variations. She became mother from her birth.
Mother said later that she had begun her sadhana at her birth, but she did not remember anything before the age of five. At five she would sit in a chair, specially made for her, for hours together and would feel a pressure of light and force over her head. Sometimes, when she would sit very gravely in her chair, leaving aside all her playthings, her mother would wonder if all the miseries of the world had bent her head. When the child would reply that it was really so, she would leave her alone.
“Between 11 and 13 a series of psychic and spiritual experiences revealed to me not only the existence of God but man’s possibility of uniting with him . . .” she said in 1920. She had written in her diary on 22.2.1914- “When I was child of about thirteen, for nearly a year, every night as soon as I had gone to bed it seemed to me that I went out of my body and rose straight up above the house, then above the city, very high above. Then I used to see myself clad in a magnificent golden robe . . . and as I rose higher, the robe would stretch, spreading out in a circle around me to form a kind of immense roof over the city. Then I would see men, women, children, old men, the sick, the unfortunate coming out from every side; . . . . the robe, supple and alive, would extend towards each one of them individually, and as soon they had touched it, they were comforted or healed, and went back to their bodies happier and stronger. . . . Nothing seemed more beautiful to me, nothing could make me happier . . . this . . . was the true life for me.”
As late as on 17 July 1963 she said to one of her disciples that shower of letters had started coming from known and unknown people who described their miseries and implored her blessings. During the only time for her rest, between 2 and 4-30 am, she said that she saw people whom she had never seen before physically on earth. She went to places completely unknown to her. When she was about twelve, she used to go to the woods of Fontainbleu, near home. Though she did not know the right meaning of meditation, she would often sit under big old tree, resting herself on its trunk and silently delve deeper into her inner self, merging herself in union with the surrounding nature. Squirrels would play on her body, a bird would perch on her head and perhaps after an hour’s meditation when she opened her eyes, she would see a gazelle looking intently at her from a distance.
Mirra completed her regular education at the age of 15. She then joined the Academie Julian as an art student. She had the inborn talent and soon she became a good artist. Some of her paintings were exhibited and sold at the famous ‘Salon de la Societe National de Beaux Arts’ in Paris. She married a senior artist, Henri Morisset, on 13 October 1897. They separated in 1908. This was a period of her intense vital and artistic growth. At that time she worked with many great artists to whom she was like a sister. But she did not like their life style. It was only a passing phase in her life, a preparation for a greater one.
By and by she entered another phase of her life. It was a plunge into the occult world. But she did not give up art forever. She remained a lover of beauty. She did many oil paintings in a different situation in her life in Japan. Later she did many pencil drawings in Pondicherry. From time to time she formed groups of elites, who were intrigued by the invisible. They thought of philosophy, ethics and a higher way of life. They planned a greater future. Mirra was their leader.
She met Max Theon, the great occultist, in Paris in 1905 and travelled to Algeria in 1906 and 1907. There she learnt occultism from Max and Alma Theon, his wife, very systematically and soon became an adept. Many extraordinary things happened there. Going out of the body or taming the turbulent sea were a few of them.
Paul Richard, a French politician and intellectual, had interest in occult matters. He had travelled to Algeria. For sometime Mirra and Paul Richard worked closely together and Mirra found it expedient to marry him in 1911. Richard came to Pondicherry with some political assignment and met Sri Aurobindo in 1910. He was highly impressed by the sage. After he went back to France, Mirra started communication with Sri Aurobindo. While her life with Henri Morisset was intensely vital, physical and emotional; she made many experiments with senses, it became mental, intellectual and occult from 1908, until she met Sri Aurobindo in 1914.
During her sleep and meditation, Mirra used to see a few luminous beings who often guided her in the subtle world. When she came to Pondicherry and met Sri Aurobindo in 1914, on the auspicious 29 March, she immediately recognized him to be the Krishna of her dream and trance, the Guru who often came to her, in another world. She fancied him to be Krishna, an Indian deity, as she knew then.
After they had met for the first time, both of them plunged in deep meditation. Later Mirra said that she got such a perfect silence in the presence of Sri Aurobindo that she ever longed for but never had before. Sri Aurobindo too admitted that he had never seen such a perfect surrender as Mirra did in his presence, which was so essential for his yoga. Mirra and Paul Richard had to leave for France on 22 February 1915, under political compulsions. During their stay, a great quaterly magazine, the Arya and its French counterpart, Le Revieu Cosmique, were launched on Sri Aurobindo’s birthday on 15 August 1914. The Arya continued up to January 1921. The magazine carried the major portion of Sri Aurobindo’s important works.
From France they went to Japan where they spent four years and then returned to Pondicherry 0n 20 April 1920. While Richard left, Mirra stayed on, to work with Sri Aurobindo, to fulfil her spiritual dream. In the course of time Sri Aurobindo rcognised the divine presence in her and declared that she was the Divine Mother incarnate. She, in fact, took charge of the household comprising of the disciples and the master on 22 January 1922. When the master completely interned himself for his Supramental Yoga, after the Siddhi on 24 Novmber1926, Mirra became the Mother of all the ashramites, as desired by Sri Aurobindo. It is considered to be the birthday of the ashram.
Thereafter it grew up under the divine leadership of the Mother. The foundation of Auroville, the international township, was laid on 28 February 1968 under Mother’s guidance.
Mother was more than a genius. She could be at the top of many human activities, but she cared little to be the champion. She was a tennis player who always played with her superiors and seniors so that she might learn better.
A great plant lover, Mother could enter into the heart of a flower in a subtle, mystic way and identify herself with it, with its inner truth. Through the flowers she conveyed to others her messages- thoughts and feelings. Through them she bestowed her blessings, which were full of light, love and power. Flower is a manifestation of the psychic presence. “Look at a rose opening in the morning at the first touch of the Sun, it’s a magnificent self-giving in aspiration.” She said.
To a disciple on 25 October 1967 she said, “They have a sensitiveness unknown to us- sometimes in the morning, I have a closed rose bud, then I take it out of the water like this (gesture of stroking the flower all around), without touching it . . . and it opens!
“And people say it’s not conscious!”
An animal lover from the core of her heart, she perhaps loved the cats most. Kanai Lal Ganguly, an early inmate of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, recalled from memory- “The first time I saw the Mother, she looked at me for a second. She was very beautiful and looked much younger than her age. There were two cats on her shoulder; I looked around and saw a few more. One of the cats from her shoulder jumped on Sri Aurobindo’s throne chair.”
“People speak of maternal love with such admiration, as though it were purely a human privilege, but I have seen this love manifested by a mother-cat which would never touch her food until her babies had taken all they needed”, She said in one of her talks.
We have her photos with Goro and Puchi, her pet dogs. Many types of animals, from lion to warty frogs received her affection. About a few bullocks working for the Ashram, she wrote on 14.9.1932, “The bullocks are not mischievous. On the contrary, they are very good and peaceful creatures, but very sensitive- unusually sensitive perhaps”-
Mother was a musician who welcomed each New Year with her organ music till 1964. She was a writer and wrote three dramas, a few short stories, number of articles and essays. Her diary notes, published as Prayers and Meditations, and her answers to questions made by her disciples on varied subjects, almost covering the entire human life, the life of plants and animals, are golden treasures to be preserved by the human race.
She was a teacher and a teacher’s teacher. She was an administrator who did everything for the running of her establishment, from procuring funds to execution of each of her plans through her disciples. When Kulapati K. M. Munshi revisited the Ashram in 1952, there were some 750 ashramites. In an article in the Hindusthan Times he wrote on 15.8.1952, “I saw a unique experiment . . . which enabled people to live a self-contained community life. But who created this wondrous atmosphere and how? And why did Mother do it? Was it with the great intention of creating on earth a little island of peace, an island where existence acquired a sacramental quality?” he asked.
Mother had withdrawn from most of her activities by the end of 1958, when she
was 80 years old, mainly for physical disabilities. But she continued her real work, the work of transformation, which was specially assigned to her by Sri Aurobindo, as only her body suited the purpose. “Your body is at present the only one on earth that can do the work”, he said to Mother. Mother confided it to her disciple on 22 November 1967.
“We are determined- he and I- to complete what he lived for,” she said to Munshi.
She paid value only for the consciousness she embodied. “Do not ask questions about the details of the material existence of this body: they are in themselves of no interest and must not attract attention,” she said on 22.6.1958.
But her consciousness was not restricted in her mind and vital, it permeated into her body. On 22 November 1967 she said to a disciple who recorded her talks, “You understand, people were asking to be divine in their mind and vital- that is, the whole ancient history of spirituality, the same old theme for centuries- but now, it’s the Body. It’s certainly a progress . . . . ‘It’s a denial of all the spiritual assertions of the past: “If you want to live fully conscious of the divine life, leave your body- the body cannot follow.” Well, Sri Aurobindo came and said, “Not only can the body follow, but it can be the base that will manifest the Divine.”
“Well, that’s what I have been trying to explain for months. It’s first of all, awakening the consciousness in the cells . . . . Once it’s done it’s done: the consciousness keeps awakening more and more, the cells live consciously, aspire consciously . . . .
“Since it’s taking place in one body, it can take place in all bodies! I am not made of anything different from others. The difference is of consciousness, that’s all.” Mother said.
It is like Sri Aurobindo, who also asserted to his disciple that what he had accomplished as a man could be accomplished by any other mortal.
Mother transformed the cells of her body with Supramental light and force, to the extent her mortal frame permitted, up to her last day on earth, 17 November 1973. She conceived, quite independently, that the cells were talking to each other in her body, the truth the Scientists discovered on their own. That was the process required for the divinisation of life, to bring god down to earth as per the yogic vision and divine plan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. But the work was not ccmpleted here on earth, as it was not ready for it. Mother prepared a new body in the subtle physical plane. Nolinikanta Gupta, in his Sweet Mother, wrote about it-
“The New Body of hers, prepared behind the material curtain, she sought to infuse into the material form, even press into it or force into it this new element; Earth still considered it as an intrusion, as something foreign. The material casing broke in consequence- perhaps not broke down, rather broke through, but that must be another story. But it is there, living and glorious in its beauty and power and is still at work within us and around us in the world, incessantly, towards the final consummation of its material embodiment.”
Mother is not here but her consciousness is ever vibrant with us, with those who may come in contact with it. Mother is not here, but we still hear as she whispered once to one of her disciples, “You know, we belong to eternity!”


  1. Dear Aju-da,
    It read well and I liked your posting of the Life of The Mother.
    One of my English teachers Sri Norman Dowsett had mentioned a long time back in the class that anybody who wants to study the Life of The Mother will have to make a deep study of Her - Prayers and Meditations. I was also reminded about how one of the followers of Abdul Baha had come to receive Her when the ship kaga Maru reched Port Said in 1914, and the Prayer that she then has written.

  2. Yes dear Srikant bhai-
    Thanks for your comment. This was published in papers and magazines. Really- Prayers and Meditations are the marks of her life through the spiritual path- even her day to day life is visible through it on many occasions. Recently I have written on Sri Aurobindo's Creations- diferent aspects of it including his works and their status- if I do further in English, I shall tell you.
    Aju Mukhopadhyay