(This is the transcript of a talk I, like many other ‘old-timers’, was asked to give about my personal memories of the Mother; as it is quite long, I am putting it up here in two parts.)
My memories with the Mother happened with quite a different timing than with most people who would have met with her physically at least for some time.
I myself came to Auroville in 1972, in a very peculiar state of consciousness:
Throughout my childhood I had always been a very mystical type of person and then growing up into adult age I had discovered the actual condition of the world and the horrible societies that we have created all over the planet and the horrible way we human beings are treating each other on too many occasions. Around the end of the Sixties my whole understanding of God’s action in the world, my whole feeling of what the Divine is all about collapsed, and within a few years I was unable to bear life the way it is now and to go on participating in the whole scene of the world as it is now. Because I didn’t understand what was going on and what was the purpose of it, and I could not see anymore the Divine‘s action here. Anyway, finally I raised my fist to the skies and I said:
‘You’d better explain to me what this is all about. And quickly, because otherwise I am not going to be remaining here for long, if I don’t know, first of all, why things are the way they are, which is, horrible. And second question: how it can be changed. Because if it cannot be changed, I’m just not going to stay, sorry!’ So it was actually an ultimatum that went up in my angry words.
Luckily, it seems the Divine doesn’t mind!… An ultimatum is not an approach to the Divine that is recommended to you by most religions, but apparently the intensity of the aspiration, of the need in you, is quite enough for the Divine to listen to you and take your questioning into consideration.
So within a few months the Divine had spoken to me, by bringing to me one after the other exactly the right books to make me aware of, first of all, such central keys as the words ‘consciousness’ and ‘evolution’, things like that. You know, I couldn’t get yet clearly the meaning of it all, but those books started orienting my life. And then finally it was ‘The Life Divine’. I got to read the first chapter and that was it. At last everything made sense. And such incredible, wonderful sense! Evolution at once gives fantastic dynamism to the whole thing, instead of having a static world that they tell you is never going to change. The only way out, they say, is out somewhere else, in another dimension. But why this world, the earth, why the entire physical world, why this difficult life here, nobody has any satisfactory answer about that. Some people even will say it is just ‘Maya’, it doesn’t even exist. Nobody can tell you why the Spirit would have invented such a Maya, why our spirits ever got stuck in that. So at last, you know, ‘The Life Divine’ gives the full, the real picture, all the answers are there. And I think I had the first illumination in my life: suddenly I kind of saw innumerable pieces of a gigantic, cosmic puzzle, coming together like that in the sky in front of me and making… a fantastically beautiful picture of the future towards which are going, the world and our lives. So I just sat down and said to the Divine, ‘Now if THIS is what it is all about, well… I’m staying!’
And as you can see I stayed indeed. It was the turning point in my life. And after that everything unfolded quite naturally. I found more books of Sri Aurobindo and of… well, I discovered very quickly that also somebody else called ‘The Mother’ had found the same thing, and that they had worked together, and that there in Pondicherry, there was an Ashram. I had no idea about Pondicherry or anything. I knew nothing about India. When later I heard that Auroville was in India, I cried out ‘Oooh no, no, no !… Do I have to go there, all the way to India?!?. Why didn’t they put their Auroville in a normal place, you know, (laughing) somewhere in Europe, for example?!’
So I came very ‘grumblingly’ to India and I arrived in Auroville and you know I had still a lot to learn about the Integral Yoga. I had understood the big, big thing, the central thing: that one has to become conscious again of being the Divine, because that’s what everyone and everything really is. But beyond that, I had not read yet much about any of the main things that need to be done. I did not understand that there had to be, included in the overall process of Conscious Evolution, that aspect, you know (pointing to the heart), the whole ‘Bhakti’ (love for the Divine) aspect.
As a child something was spontaneously there, I had the feeling that here on Earth was also ‘home’, you know, an inner sense was open, of the Divine present everywhere: the sky, the stars, the little birds, the butterflies, the flowers … but when reaching adulthood all this feeling was gone – not only that: now in the recent years I had been trusting only my mind. I have quite a good mind, but an iron mind built in the Western way, and everything that would come into me, had to come now only through that mind. So I came in that condition to Auroville: as I said, entirely for the yoga, that I had started practicing immediately when I was in France. But I was coming to Auroville not just to practice the yoga (which I was already doing anyway), but more precisely to be part of the unique collective experiment that Auroville was. That’s all I had found in the world which was in my eyes such a plus: instead of simply continuing to do the Yoga alone in my corner in France where I was teaching, to come here and participate in this collective adventure that would some day become a whole very beautiful township, shaped like a galaxy.
So when I arrived I knew nothing about the life of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother as persons, nothing. I arrived on the 2nd August 1972. A few days before the 15th of August I was sick with fever like many people, you know, who arrive in India, and soon their body has to readjust, adapt itself. There was, in the same small Ashram Nursing-Home where I was sent, another young lady Aurovilian whom I knew already, an old-timer. On the 15th morning she said to me:
– We are lucky to be already better and not in bed any more: today is Darshan day.
– What? You don’t know what is a Darshan day! Today is Sri Aurobindo’s Birthday Centenary. Let’s go to that window there, we might have a chance to see Mother from afar, coming out on her balcony.’
And from that corner of the Ashram Nursing__ (how do you call that small healing center?…) I did see the Mother from afar: a simple frail silhouette on that balcony far away. That was my first time, and it happened to be for Sri Aurobindo’s Centenary, of which I wasn’t even aware a moment before. I consider myself fortunate and blessed that I didn’t miss that unique occasion, as I surely would have without the presence of that friend who knew better.
But did I meet Mother then later?… Well, I cannot say really that I have met her in the way people would expect. Okay, I have gone later on to another Darshan – several actually, but one at least that I remember clearly. I didn’t like at all the profuse demonstrations of devotion I could see at the Samadhi, I would have had to force myself for joining them, but I didn’t have to force myself for being out there with everybody else for a collective Darshan when Mother would come out at the balcony and from the street down below you could see her. It was just such an extraordinary experience: there was a huge crowd, streets were crowded, kids, street-dogs that bark, it was quite noisy. And then suddenly, everything silent – what a silence… and after a while she was disappearing again inside, and down below we all kind of started breathing again. Sharing that moment was quite something.
Still, when I discovered that it was not possible to come closer to the Mother, to be with her in a personal way (even though she would not speak), except for your birthday, I didn’t go for it. I was not really interested. My mind was holding me back, not seeing what tremendous inner benefit I might get from meeting the Mother personally. Well, the Divine Grace saw to it that it happened nevertheless, but in a totally unusual and unexpected manner.
At that time my closest friends were a sister and her brother who were also from France and of my age but who had been in Auroville already for some time. We used to meet especially once a week in Pondy. In those days everybody in Auroville was functioning on cycles, there were no bikes at that time. Once a week we used to cycle out to Pondicherry and have lunch in a restaurant, one of the only two that were existing then, which was the ‘Indian Coffee House’, still in its days of relative glory. So the three of us plus another friend would every week come on that same day to have a lunch there. Then one day, I am coming as usuaI, I see the sister and I see the other friend but not the brother; I ask his sister:
– Where is so and so?
– Oh, today is his birthday, he went to see the Mother.
I didn’t say anything, but I thought, ‘Oh, they too are into that ‘personality cult’ kind of thing (!!!)’ You can see what state of mind I was still in at that time. Well, I went on talking with the two others and I didn’t think about it anymore.
I happened to be sitting with my back to one of the two big front doors there. Suddenly, without knowing why, I start turning around… and there he was, standing within the frame of the door. It was him, and yet not the person I knew, there was a change in him I could not believe. He had light around him and he had peace – a peace so deep it was kind of thick. When finally he came in slowly, that Peace was there entering with him. Slowly he came walking and he sat down with us. And he didn’t talk one word until we all left. All the while when we were there I couldn’t stop looking at him. It was so strong, so strange, I had never experienced anything like that (except in fact some forgotten childhood experiences, but nothing as an adult). So when I went home after experiencing all this, well you know, while leaving my friends, I couldn’t help but thinking ‘She has quite an effect on people, this lady…’(!!!)
After a few months, I finally asked my friends:
– If I want to see the Mother for my birthday what do I do?
– Oh, it is so simple: you go to the Ashram fifteen days before, you ask for your name to be put on the list for that day.
– What?!? Even in the Ashram, even to see the Mother, one has to register!!! What is that administrative business, that bureaucracy?!? I don’t want to have anything to do with all this, come on, if it is like this, I am not going to go.’
And so I didn’t put my name on the register and I just forgot about it. You know, it was for me like it is in Europe, I mean, for people who are from Europe and adults like I was, I still felt about it from the experience of birthdays as it is in Europe: your Birthday means something as long as you are a kid, but when you are grown up people usually don’t celebrate anymore, it is not so important. So I was also thinking about it that way, I was not really taking it as something that could be important, something I should be in a hurry or should worry about.
But one day I woke up with the strangest of feelings: something within me was pulling me, pulling me towards Pondy. I wondered ‘What’s going on?! What’s happening to me?!’ I had nothing to do there, I was not going to go there for nothing, I thought, but try as I did to ignore that feeling, I just had to dress up and get onto my cycle and I found myself cycling towards Pondy. Only on my way did I suddenly realize it was the day of my birthday. I told myself inwardly, ‘Okay, if I’m meant at all to see the Mother for my birthday, okay, let’s see what happens’. I arrived there in front of the Ashram, and when I entered the office, the lady at the table said,
‘Oh, today is your birthday? Wonderful. So I assume your name is on the list for today, then?’
‘Well, I said, sorry madam, it is not on the list…
‘Oh, but it is a real problem. Sorry, if you are not on the list you cannot see the Mother.’
I was stunned. You know, I think I got more or less angry, I made a scene, I must have cried too… nothing doing. I just couldn’t go to the Mother. So in the end I got back on my cycle and went home.
While cycling I said to myself ‘Okay, you stop behaving stupidly now! Next year you are going to put your name on that list, not be a fool like this time, and just see what happens.’ And then after promising that to myself I forgot all about it in the meantime. My birthday happens to be at the end of February. So I had missed my birthday contact with the Mother in February’73, which was my first birthday here. I was now counting on being able to see her the next year, in February’74.
And some months passed again.
At that time I was living in Aspiration, the biggest community in Auroville. At that time already there was a community kitchen, the same that is still there now, but it was used for another purpose and everybody from Aspiration area would for their meals come to the place where Douceur and the Bakery now are, that is, about one kilometer away. That was a simple place like most of us have seen at that time. Just a big hut in the middle of that area, a cement floor and a big circle – a very low wall of bricks – all around it. In fact it was as usual a dining-room called ‘community kitchen’, with the kitchen aspect in the back of it. And on the dining-hall side a counter where you had the pile of trays and then the dishes. You serve your food on your tray and you go and sit on the small individual mats around with small tables in front, eat your food out of the tray, then wash everything and go home again.
So I was there usually early every morning. One day I went there and I was very early, perhaps the first person to come for breakfast. I walked as usual towards the counter with the intention to get my tray. But just next to the pile of trays there was a slate with something written on it. It read: ‘Yesterday 17th November at 7:25 pm, Mother left her body.’
Nothing happened in me, no reaction – in my mind, in my heart, nothing. But I haven’t taken any tray. Without knowing why, just like an automaton, I turned around and started walking towards a place outside of the kitchen where there was a kind of small open garden under the sky. There the strangest thing happened: standing there quite normally with my eyes open, I felt literally that my head was splitting open (without any pain, I hasten to say). It did happen exactly with that weird feeling of my head kind of splitting open vertically, upwards. I discovered that suddenly my eyes, my ears, all my senses were perceiving nothing any more of the outer world. The normal world around us as we know it had totally disappeared.
I was actually in an infinite ocean of light. Not an ethereal light, but a light that had substance, really like an ocean of light. Of total peace too, of total power, and also of total consciousness. It was like the immense body of some infinite Being, and I was just an infinitesimal point in that immense body, although I could feel the total bliss that this infinite body was made of too, that bliss was flowing through my body as well. It was a fantastic experience. I was thinking… Not exactly thinking, but a thought came up in my mind, just like that, that something was wrong; my mind was shrieking ‘Hey, what is happening to you?! Mother has left her body and you are in that joy! Are you going crazy?!?’. But all the rest of my being didn’t listen at all to my mind, it was only answering ‘Shut up, shut up…’ and just enjoying that most wonderful state of bliss it was experiencing. You know, you lose all sense of time somehow, experiencing such incredible things. So I have no idea how long all this lasted, but at one point at the level of my heart I heard a voice – a strong, deep, masculine, almost stern but loving voice, which was speaking to me. It was telling me:
‘This, what you are experiencing now, is what in India they call The Divine Mother, and this is what the person who died yesterday embodied upon Earth.’ And these words engraved themselves somehow as if in gold fire for ever in the depths of my heart.
And then after some more time the strangest thing started happening again: it was as if this infinite ocean started going down around me. It was the only thing existing really, the only real thing, and it started going down. Not going up, but down – it took some years for me to find the explanation by Sri Aurobindo and Mother about this, which explained very clearly how it could happen that way, but at the time I could only observe and see that it was all very real, although I only felt it and couldn’t at all understand it. Into the earth it went, down into the earth. Went down and down, and then my eyes started seeing normally again, and then my ears could hear normal sounds, and finally I found myself still standing just like before, my eyes open and now seeing everything of the ordinary reality.