At the Feet of The Mother (28 March 2008, Gnostic Centre, Delhi) - Session 1

I am an apprentice, like many many of us, to be at the feet of The Mother and you will pardon me sometimes if I am autobiographical. Like many young people of India who've been brought up under the philosophy of individualism, competition, autonomy, it is very difficult for me to be submissive and the psychology of looking upon the world with a sense of, if not superiority, the sense of equality was very dear and dominant in my consciousness for many many years in my boyhood and college days. The background in which I lived was disrespectful to the idea of gods and goddesses, disrespectful to all authority and the idea of surrender was anathema. It is under a great state of mental crisis through which I passed between the age of 16 and 19 during which I sought only one important answer, what is Truth? I had heard of Swami Vivekananda who was asking questions as to whether those who claimed to be God lovers, if they had seen God? In my intellectual arrogance I had a feeling I would not ask this question whether one has seen God or not? My question was whether one can prove intellectually whether God exists or not. If you believe in God, because you see that is much more simple, without seeing God and to intellectually prove that He exists, that I felt was much more important but it's much more difficult and it was that question that I was asking all the time and there were many other intellectual questions which had arisen in my mind. By the age of 11, I had read Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s Satyarth Prakash. That was one of the most important landmarks in my intellectual development. By 14 I had read much of Swami Vivekananda and Swami Ramakrishna and by 16, I had read almost everything that Gandhi had written. This was my intellectual search and then I studied a great deal of logic and world history and economics between the age of 16 and 19. Also particularly I made a study of Greek philosophy and modern philosophy, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Bradley and Bertrand Russell and so on and also made a study of Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya and Yoga and Purva Mimansa and Uttar Mimansa and various schools of Indian philosophy. I studied quite a lot of the Bhagavad Gita and I felt that none of them had answered the basic questions. And I was asking why people talk of so many great minds who have not been able to answer some of the basic questions, on the answers of which our life can be truly built. If I want to serve the world, myself or anybody, I must know what is this world made for, why has it come into being and how best can you serve this world? Of course, I had seen the study of Vedanta, the theory of the Absolute Brahman and the concept of Maya was full of Maya for me because Maya was supposed to be the most intellectually satisfying answer which has itself admitted that it is inexplicable and yet it was regarded to be the most wonderful answer in the whole Indian philosophy and I was wondering how that philosophy can be regarded as the acme of philosophical thought! I was perhaps very rebellious in the eyes of many of my friends whether they belonged to Western tradition or Indian tradition but I was quite desperate and rebellious. At the same time I was very very pained by the fact that I had no answer.

It was at that time that I think The Mother contrived that I should read The Life Divine. This is how I see now retrospectively. A friend of mine who was studying with me in my college in Bombay. His uncle had read The Life Divine without understanding it and he told his nephew, who was my room mate in the hostel, that he should read that book and tell him the summary of that book. So that friend of mine that evening came to me and said, “You must read this book.” He said, “You know that I am engaged in a romance at present. I have no mood to read books. You read this book and tell me what this book contains.” So when I read the title, The Life Divine, I said, once again, this must be about Maya, so I left it on my table. I said all these philosophers talk of Maya and explain nothing at all and give no meaning to life. So that is how the book remained for one week on my table and I did not touch it but that uncle was very persistent and when he asked him again if he had read that book, my friend came to me and said, “Kireet, please don't read it for god's sake, read it for my sake. Please read this book.” So, I remember on that particular day I happened to read The Life Divine. I started it and went on reading the whole night with a little rest and then the next day and next day and the next day. The first part of the volume one I read in four days time and I came to the answer I had been searching for. I knew that Sri Aurobindo was the author but I did not know anything about Sri Aurobindo and I told my friend that if there is only one person in the history of the world who knows the Truth and who speaks the Truth truthfully, it is only one person, it is Sri Aurobindo. This was my intellectual conviction. He had proved to me intellectually that God exists, intellectually. Later on when I read The Mother saying that The Life Divine is intellectually perfect, it was simply a confirmation in my own consciousness of the conclusion that I had arrived at when I was 19 years old. There is no book in world history which is intellectually as perfect as The Life Divine. I consider this to be the first boon that Mother gave to me, to give me the chance to read The Life Divine and gave a great balm to my intellectual query.

Thereafter, I have had no scepticism of any kind. I was totally liberated from scepticism. I came to the conclusion definitively that God exists, that this world is a gradual manifestation of the Divine Consciousness. Because it is gradual, it is not perfect. It is possible to make this world perfect if divine manifestation can take place fully and that it is possible to make it fully manifest. These are three conclusions intellectually, from the age of 19, I have never doubted. All my life is a confirmation of these three statements but still there was no question of submission and I can only say intellectually because of my great satisfaction if I could say truthfully that if I bow to anybody in my life it was to Sri Aurobindo. The only person to whom I can bow down effortlessly, there was no question at all in my mind that he is the only person in the world to whom you can give yourself. After two-three years, I was still studying and I read still more of Sri Aurobindo during this time until one day one of my teachers asked me, “Do you want to go to the Ashram in Pondicherry ?” So I said I would like to go one day but from whatever I have read I have found that to do the yoga of Sri Aurobindo you must attain first Brahmic Consciousness because where all the roads end, Sri Aurobindo’s yoga begins. So, I said that I must first attain to Brahmic Consciousness, then I can be fit to go to the Ashram, to visit the Ashram. So I said that I have not yet reached Brahmic Consciousness so how can I think of going to the Ashram? So he smiled and said, “But tell me, would you like to go ?” So I said, “If I’m not qualified and yet if I can go, I’ll be happy.” So he wrote a letter to The Mother and got permission for me to go. At that time you must know that it was very difficult to get admission even to visit the Ashram. Not many of you may be knowing this fact but it's a fact that even to visit the Ashram here one needed to have a very special permission. Within a week's time he told me, “Mother has permitted. So I am going and you can come with me. I’m going on the 1st of November.”

Seven days I remained in Golconde. I had no questions in my mind because intellectually I was perfectly at home and the only boon I had was to see the Mother several times a day because at that time Mother used to be coming to the balcony at about 9.45-10 o'clock. Not many people used to, I mean ashramites were not there at that time. All visitors used to sit below the balcony when Mother would suddenly come, we would rush out and see The Mother from the balcony. And then of course, she used to go for playing tennis and one could see The Mother playing tennis and this was a very elevating experience for me, to see The Mother playing tennis and when she used to hit a ball I used to feel as if the whole universe was being smashed by one hit of Mother's racquet and that is the majesty of The Mother. And then in the evening she used to distribute ground nuts to people who all used to come there and visitors also had the privilege at that time and that was another time when one could go and see The Mother.

But on 7th November when I was leaving and when I went to The Mother for her blessings, She gave me a bunch of jasmine flowers, they're called flowers of purity and She gave me a smile which has remained immortal for me. Even today when I remember that smile of The Mother, then I say, “I am now at the feet of The Mother.” That was the time when I fell at the feet of The Mother. I often ask this question, “What is it to be at the feet of the Mother?” There is in our tradition, a great place given to the guru, to the teacher. They even speak of Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu and so on but I must confess that I have not looked upon The Mother as a guru and even the way in which in Indian tradition the worship of guru is extolled I don't harmonize so easily and I was greatly gratified when Sri Aurobindo wrote that the guru of the Integral Yoga does not arrogate to himself guru hood. It's a tremendous statement that the guru of the Integral Yoga does not arrogate to himself guru hood, that he is a brother calling the brethren, he is a child leading the children. If that is the meaning of the guru, I prostrate. See there's no question of submission or pranam, it is a prostration. This is the guru at whose feet I can be always lying blissfully forever and that is The Mother, that is the guru who is a friend and who walks with you and who takes care of you so thoroughly and does not allow you to relax. This is one aspect of The Mother, my own personal relation with The Mother is I have not found her allowing me relaxation. As Mother Herself says that this Yoga is not for those people who, having finished the work, want to sit at the back. And this is the spirit I love very much. Mother has spoken of vigilance and a constant vigilance, an awakening and as you all know Sri Aurobindo has spoken of personal effort. In our Yoga so much importance is laid on our personal effort.

You know there are two statements which I hear from many of my friends in the ashram and all over many places, “We are all doing Mother's work.” This is one statement I hear very often. Second statement is, “Mother will do everything.” I tell you that both these statements I fully disagree with. There was one disciple who wrote a letter to The Mother. I had taken it to The Mother and the letter said, “Mother I am traveling all over India to do Mother's work.” So Mother told me, “You cannot do Mother's work! You tell him, you cannot do Mother’s work. You first of all aspire. Secondly, you begin to offer your work to The Mother, your work to The Mother. Don't say I’m doing Mother's work. It is at a very high level, when you reach a kind of union with the Divine's Will and the Divine’s Will manifests through your consciousness, when you receive the rays of Mother's work straight coming from Her, transmitted to you and when you are simply moved; then you can say perhaps, if you at all want to say, that you are doing, that too if you should still remain you, that you are doing Mother's work.”

Similarly, this statement that Mother will do everything,– it's such a great statement. I don't want to discourage anybody when people say Mother will do everything, but Sri Aurobindo himself has written very clearly and that is very connected with this, – 'To Be at the feet of The Mother that if you think that the Divine will do everything, you will remain what you are. You will not be deceived. It's a big illusion. Inert passivity is the one thing which has to be exiled if you really want to be at the feet of The Mother'.

Sri Aurobindo while speaking of the threefold labour of personal effort,– aspiration, rejection and surrender; even the word surrender is used by Sri Aurobindo for personal effort. It requires personal effort to surrender. It is only when personal effort comes to a very high level, high intensity that a real submission begins to take place. And Sri Aurobindo has put down three great conditions to arrive at that condition. It is a condition of glad and strong submission, glad and strong submission and obedience of the illumined disciple of the Truth, illumined disciple of the Truth. Secondly, an inner warrior who fights against obscurity and falsehood and thirdly, a faithful servant of the Divine. When these three things combine together, then we can say that we are now approaching what is called submission and surrender to the Divine. It is when that surrender becomes perfect that you can truthfully say Mother will do everything.

This is how I see, I may be wrong in my understanding but this is how I understand it. To be at the feet of The Mother according to me, is a long process of a sadhana which requires a tremendous effort at getting illumination of the mind and that illumination speaks all the time of Truth and Truth and Truth and Truth and nothing but the Truth. And to be a courageous hero and a warrior who fights against obscurity and falsehood, this is a tremendously difficult task and to be a servant and a faithful servant and that too, of the Divine. These three conditions put together, when they can be combined, then I can say that now one is fit to be at the feet of The Divine Mother.

That is why I introduced myself as an apprentice and I cannot say I have moved very far in this apprenticeship. It's a very long apprenticeship but that is itself a joyous process of development. Now, let me come to the last part of what I want to say today. I spoke of a sense of submission, a sense of surrender and obedience to the teacher, to the guru but what is most unique as far as the feet of The Mother are concerned is that the Divine Mother is the incarnation of the Supreme Divine Mother as Sri Aurobindo is the Avatar. Once again in the present climate of intellectual arrogance, the concept of worship is an anathema, the concept of surrender is an anathema and now if we say or speak of surrender to the Avatar and to conceive of and to regard The Mother and Sri Aurobindo as an Avatar and try to understand what this means, this has been my subject for the last 50 years. What is an Avatar? Even in the Indian tradition there are many who do not believe in avatars. Arya Samaj, for example, rejects the theory of Avatarhood. There are many other trends in Indian thought which do not accept Avatarhood. The Veda does not speak of Avatarhood. Upanishad does not speak of Avatarhood. The Gita speaks eloquently about Avatarhood. The Puranas speak of Avatars. Shaivism speaks of it, Vaishnavism speaks of it and even there the concept of Avatar remains so wooly and so inadequate that one does not know what is this Avtarhood? And in that inadequacy if you look upon The Mother as an Avatar and Sri Aurobindo as an Avatar, to be at the feet of The Mother as an Avatar, it is even more complex, more difficult. This has been a subject of my study for many many years, what is an Avatar?

One day a student had written to The Mother a letter, “Mother we have heard that Sri Aurobindo was Leonardo Da Vinci in one of his births, is it true?” So The Mother answered that letter. It was a great lesson for me and I want to share with you what Mother wrote as an answer to that letter. Mother said it cannot be said that Sri Aurobindo was Leonardo Da Vinci but it is true that the soul that was Leonardo Da Vinci was borrowed by the Supreme Lord when he came down as an Avatar as Sri Aurobindo. It's a very very illuminating statement. The soul that was Leonardo Da Vinci, that soul was borrowed by the Supreme Lord when he came down as an Avatar, as Sri Aurobindo. In fact in the Gita it is said, he who understands Avatarhood, understands everything. And this is very true. This complex statement, if you can understand the mystery of it, then the secret of Avatarhood is understood. In fact, as many of you might have seen, Sri Aurobindo wrote three important chapters in Essays on the Gita on Avatarhood and these three chapters put a seal actually, on the truth of Avatarhood, the role of Avatarhood and the process of Avatarhood, how does the Avatar come on the earth? As Sri Aurobindo says that the Avatar does not come on the earth to display miracles. You can do miracles even without coming on the earth as an Avatar. Avatarhood is in this world a part of the machinery of the movement of the world itself. To speak briefly about it, it can be said that the ultimate goal of this world movement is to have the full manifestation of the Divine on the earth. If you ask the question, “What is the meaning of the full manifestation of the Divine?” The answer would be that it the Divine Himself must descend fully, permanently, forever and ever in this world. In other words you might say that the ultimate aim is a permanent Avatar manifestation, constant manifestation of Avatarhood of the Divine on the earth. It is because the present world manifestation is incomplete, gradual that whenever there is a possibility of that, to the extent to which the divine manifestation becomes possible, that particular manifestation we call Avatar. As Sri Aurobindo has used the word that its a kind of a reflex action from the Divine. Create a condition on the earth such that there is a reflex, immediate striking from above, from the Supreme and He is manifest here.

At one time Mother had said to our teachers in the School that all of you today think with words, I ask you to think with ideas. In the future I will ask you to think with experiences. She had given three steps of development, a program,– today you think with words; I ask you now to think with ideas; a time will come when I’ll ask you to think with experiences. When I was studying this problem of Avatarhood, I was at that time in the grip of what The Mother had said at that time,– think with ideas and I was giving a lecture in my class and suddenly when I was speaking of avatarhood without understanding it; most of the teachers do not know when they speak what they're speaking about, and suddenly I felt this reflex, Sri Aurobindo has used this word,– that Avatarhood is a reflex from above, in a certain situation of the world. What is this reflex? It's instantaneous. This instantaneousness is the key to the whole concept of Avatarhood. This whole world is actually speaking, a field in which the divine drama is being rehearsed and when this world drama becomes ready for real action of the Avatar, real manifestation, it doesn't take time, it just enters into the world and accomplishes the task but once again when the world begins to languish, those conditions are over, then there is a kind of a withdrawal. Once again there's preparation. I will not dwell upon this subject further. I will only say that when we read Savitri, which can be read in many ways from many points of view but Savitri is Sri Aurobindo’s worship of The Mother. One does not see Sri Aurobindo as a worshiper but whenever Sri Aurobindo writes about The Mother, every word that Sri Aurobindo writes about Her is a worship of The Mother. And Sri Aurobindo is supreme in Savitri whenever Sri Aurobindo describes The Mother. Even the word Awakened Ray which is the title of your magazine, Awakened Ray, is one of the expressive terms that Sri Aurobindo has used for the Divine Mother, – Awakened Ray. And the first manifestation, the first Avatar in the very ancient, most ancient times, when the first Avatar came, of so just before the first myth that Savitri was written. It's a very interesting thing that Sri Aurobindo says that Savitri is an eternal myth. It was written at the very first instance. It repeats itself. It's a story of Avatarhood, the secret of Avatarhood and that secret story of Savitri is what Sri Aurobindo tells in his great book and although in the first canto Sri Aurobindo describes Savitri, there again you must see, it is the worship of the Divine Mother. When Sri Aurobindo describes Savitri in the very first canto and then when you come to Ashwapaty’s Book 3, Book 3 of The Mother and The Mother's boon to Aswapathy, and when the Supreme Divine Mother gives a boon and says She will come and then the description of Savitri that you read is again the worship of the Divine Mother. And as Mother said that Savitri is a prophetic vision of the future. In Savitri itself, in the 11th Book, Soul’s Choice and the Supreme Consummation, there again, when Savitri is offered the supreme happiness and bliss, complete withdrawal from this world and Savitri refuses to take that boon and speaks of the problem of the world and the earth and the necessity to be on the earth and then the Divine Supreme becomes so happy with that beautiful slave of God, then the Supreme Lord says that the mighty Mother will come one day and that description that is given is a prophetic vision which was a vision at that time prophetic but it was that Mother whom we saw playing tennis, being with us as our teacher. It is that Avatar at whose feet I think we all should be lying all the time. Thank You.