The Proper Channel
A deep of compassion, a hushed sanctuary,
Her inward help unbarred a gate in heaven;
Love in her was wider than the universe,
The whole world could take refuge in her single heart.
Savitri, Book 1, Canto 2, p. 15.
The One who is invariably called The Mother in Aurobindonian institutions the world over was born Mirra Alfassa on 21 February 1878 in Paris. Although she had a contemplative disposition since childhood and had read the Gita in her youth, few would have imagined when she took walks in the Luxembourg Park in Paris, mingled with the artistic and literary circles of France, and studied occultism in Algeria that she would finally become the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry (now called Puducherry) near the southern tip of India. But She and Sri Aurobindo must have known it, and they only had to wait for the right time for the two who were one to be brought geographically closer. When they met for the first time on 29 March 1914, there was instant recognition on both sides. But perhaps the right time had not yet come, and in less than a year Mirra went back, the apparent reason being that her husband was required in France to participate in the First World War. She came again on 24 April 1920, this time to stay in Pondicherry till she left her body in 1973. Soon after her second arrival in Pondicherry, She came to be called The Mother, a name that stuck because nothing else could have described her better. The first six years of her stay in Pondicherry were those of intense personal seeking of the Divine in solitude. However, this exclusive focus on inner work was interrupted after Sri Aurobindo went into seclusion on 24 November 1926. This was also the formal beginning of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and right from its inception, Sri Aurobindo entrusted its full material and spiritual charge to the Mother.
Starting with just twenty-four disciples, it was under the care of the Mother that the Ashram grew and developed to house hundreds of seekers. As and when the need arose, she created different departments and a school, and set up systems, and into all these she brought the admirable Western traits of precision, punctuality, order and discipline. Perfection in outer work is an integral part of the life-affirming spiritual philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. Thus, the Mother gave a practical shape to Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy. As Sri Aurobindo has said, “All my realisations – Nirvana and others – would have remained theoretical, as it were, so far as the outer world was concerned. It is the Mother who showed the way to a practical form. Without her, no organized manifestation would have been possible.” Her vision of the Ashram was to create a place where spiritual seekers could pursue their highest aspirations without having to worry about basic physical needs such as food and shelter. And it was here that her maternal role was an asset to the inmates of the Ashram. Not only is there none better than a mother to take care of the physical needs of her children, on the spiritual quest also it is much more comfortable to have a mother who guides and protects than a teacher who instructs and evaluates. Spiritual quest is a seemingly endless journey, the requirements are stringent, and the seeker is a mere human riddled with weaknesses and failings (as goes a song: pankh hain komal, aankh hai dhundhlee; jaana hai saagar paar, i.e. the baby bird’s wings are weak and the vision is blurred, but its mission is to cross the ocean). Hence, it is very difficult to be the disciple of a guru; it is much easier to be her child. The Mother, with infinite maternal patience, answered all the questions of the seekers, even questions that were too simple, or simply silly. What the disciples saw in Her eyes was immense unconditional love, what they felt in Her lap was comfort of the carefree, and what they experienced under Her protection was abundant Grace. But above all, what the seeker seeks is communion with the Divine. It is the Divine to whom the seeker turns with all his aspirations. It is the Divine to whom the seeker turns over all his weaknesses for transformation. It is the Divine will to which the seekers surrenders his personal will. It is the Divine to whom the seeker can reveal all. It is the Divine to whom the seeker gives all. It is the Divine for whom the seeker does all. It is the Divine whom the seeker adores. Such communion is difficult to establish with the impersonal Divine. To the inmates of the Ashram, the Mother was the Divine in flesh and blood. And, what is even more significant is that her leaving the body has made no difference. To devotees all over the world, the Mother continues to be not only an indulgent all-providing mother but also the proper channel for communicating with the Divine.
You have only to aspire, to keep yourself open to the Mother, to reject all that is contrary to her will and to let her work in you – doing also all your work for her and in the faith that it is through her force that you can do it. If you remain open in this way, the knowledge and realisation will come to you in due course.
– Sri Aurobindo