About the Book
This book by the eminent scholar K. R. S. Iyengar is the most extensive biography of the Mother published thus far. Iyengar tells the story of the Mother's outer life in vivid detail, supporting his narration with a generous selection of extracts from her writings and talks. These passages provide insights into the Mother's inner life, evoke her character and reveal her motivating influences, aims and ideals. The author also gives a perceptive account of the Mother's teachings, again quoting freely from her own words, giving voice and form to her vision of life. We see that the Mother was a tremendous force of action who drew everything and everyone she touched into her embrace. For those who would learn more about the Mother, this biography offers an in-depth introduction to her life and work.
Soon after the publication of the first edition of my biography of Sri Aurobindo in February 1945, friends began asking me: "Why don't you now give us a companion 'Life of the Mother'?" It was only a suggestion - a request - and perhaps a challenge as well. But wouldn't it be, I thought, like attempting a history of Infinity or a biography of Eternity? A 'Life' of the Mother! What did one know about her except that she was the Mother?
And yet - why not? A child might very well stretch forth its delicate arms and declare: "Infinity is as big as this!" That would be part of the Truth. Divers roads lead to the mountain-peak of identity through understanding: there is the steep way of Knowledge, there is the sure way of Works, and there is the sovereign way of Surrender. Or one might read Savitri, and find one's way through its rasadhwani to its matridhwani. But I knew that a simple canter to the Everest of Truth was not for me. I had slowly, laboriously, hopefully to scale the slippery steps up the steep arduous climb, feeling the firm rocky ground, gazing with wide-eyed wonderment at the cloud-capped mountain-heights, the will bravely battling against distraction, fatigue, impatience, dizziness, doubt.
From a human standpoint, then, it was permissible to write about Sri Aurobindo, and about the Mother. On the other hand, I felt it would be unwise merely to pile up the so-called dates, facts and outer circumstances, to cram the narrative with pseudo-realistic detail or gossipy biographical odds and ends, and to traffick all the time with the weights and measures of a strictly Euclidean world. Sri Aurobindo had once written to Dilip:
Neither you nor anyone else knows anything at all about my life; it has not been on the surface for men to see.
The Mother too has said:
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.
The point of these warnings is that the biographer should not surrender to an obsessive interest in the outer details so as to divert the readers' attention from the all-important inner history, the unfolding of the Divine Manifestation and the saga of the Divine Ministry. The familiar categories of birth, growth, maturity, of childhood, girlhood, womanhood, of heredity, environment, upbringing, have little relevance indeed to the life in the Spirit. The Soul transcends Space and Time, it has neither growth nor decay, it is neither European nor Hindu, it is not even specifically masculine or feminine! The Soul but IS, eternally has been, and eternally will be. "Throughout all this life," the Mother has said, "knowingly or unknowingly, I have been what the Lord wanted me to be, I have done what the Lord wanted me to do. That alone matters."
Siddhartha, Jesus, Mahomed, Nanak, Ramakrishna; Andal, Teresa, Juliana, Rabia, Mira - these were men and women no doubt, and yet a divinity hedged them round, they surpassed our familiar categories of thought and feeling, and ceasing to be merely human they became emanations of Infinity, ambassadors of the Absolute, pilgrims of Eternity. Even a Siddhartha was "born", he "grew" from year to year through sun and shower, he loved and he married, he knew suffering, and success, and disappointment. Yet how inconsequential, how almost stupidly obtrusive, are these so-called facts of his terrestrial life in the total context of his great redeemer-role? With such a phenomenon as the Buddha or Sri Aurobindo, what matters is rather the reality of the spiritual history behind the distracting multiplicity of detail in the external story, although the latter may also have its place in our memories and affections.
Even so with the Mother. She is Mother only when we approach her from the human end. "The Mother was inwardly above the human even in childhood," said Sri Aurobindo once, and her history was verily the "manifestation of a growing Divine consciousness, not human turning into divine." Winningly and radiantly human in appearance, the Mother was beginningless Love, she was eternal Light and infallible Wisdom. Nevertheless the human approach to her, the childlike spontaneous attitude of trust and affection, reverence and awe, had its validity too.
It was in that frame of mind that I completed my little book, On the Mother, in mid-1950, a few months after the publication of the second edition of my biography of Sri Aurobindo. Something like a rough first outline of the inner life - a quick graph connecting certain significant pins of light in that multi-dimensional world - was all that I could attempt relying mainly on the Mother's writings, notably her Prayers and Meditations. Although generally approved by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, as my late friend Shankargauda intimated to me at the time, the publication had to be delayed for over a year, and the book came out only in August 1952. Some years later, it appeared also in a Hindi translation.
Twenty years after the publication of the second edition of my biography of Sri Aurobindo, I took up at last the formidable task of a large-scale revision of the work. During the intervening two decades, a considerable mass of Sri Aurobindo's writings - poetry as well as prose -had been posthumously published, and a great deal of valuable fresh material had come to light. The revision thus became a rewriting and a radical expansion, and the third edition came out in two volumes in August 1972, just before the Birth Centenary celebrations.
It was natural that I should now seriously think of revising my other book too, On the Mother. I knew it was going to be an even more taxing venture than the work on Sri Aurobindo. The mystique of her divine manifestation and the splendour of her divine ministry were such marvels that, while one might feel a surge of joy and measureless gratitude, any attempt to pluck the heart of the mystery or probe the nature of the ministry must prove very much of a frustrating experience. On the other hand, with Grace assisting, what might not be attempted, - what might not be achieved? Unworthy vessel though I knew I was, I still felt that right aspiration would elicit the needed response, and I would be filled with a sense of purpose and charge of energy strong enough to carry this great work through to a reasonably successful conclusion. Since the first publication of On the Mother in 1952, so much had happened, the Ashram and the Centre of Education had put forth vast wings of meaningful expansion, and Auroville, the "City of Dawn", had been launched as a symbol-township heralding a revolutionary "Next Future". The Mother's letters, messages and conversations were being regularly. Published-serially in journals like Mother India and the Bulletin, as also separately in book-form - and there appeared to be no limit to the range of her experiences and realisations or to the ramifications of her ministry. How was that Infinity - that eternal Sunlight - to be gathered and contained within the pages of a book?
I visited the Ashram yet once again in February 1973, and had an ambrosial darshan of the Mother. Then, towards the end of March, I wrote seeking the Mother's permission and blessings for my projected new biography. A few days later, Nolini-da replied to me on 6 April that the Mother had been informed of my new undertaking, and that she had blessed it. "I am sure this work will be as successful as the book on Sri Aurobindo," Nolini-da wrote. "It is more difficult, to be sure; but with the Mother's Grace, you will come out of it brilliantly." This was godspeed indeed, and it was as though Grace had already taken the matter in hand.
The Mother had in the meantime withdrawn into a deeper retirement in May 1973, and although she gave her last Balcony Darshan on 15 August to the thousands assembled below (and I was one of that rapt congregation too), she presently withdrew again, and on the evening of 17 November she chose to leave her body. It was a testing time for her children near and far, and I tried to give feeble expression to my feelings in the halting verse of Tryst with the Divine, published in August 1974.
When I began the work at last, there was doubtless excitement and dedication, but there was also some residual fear and trembling. My vision suffered sudden impairment in September 1974 on account of retinal thrombosis, and later of haemorrhage, but I could still read with my right eye though I was also advised not to strain myself too much. There were other difficulties too, for the 'hostile forces' were ever on the prowl, and any chink in the armour would do! But I persevered, gathered the available materials and organised them, read and re-read the seminal writings and conversations of the Mother, had long sessions with Savitri (which is verily the Mother's quintessential history), and I commenced the actual writing of the book on 21 February 1976. For about a year, day after day my limping narrative followed the Mother's life-history - Paris, Tlerncen, Pondicherry, Paris again, Tokyo, Kyoto, Pondicherry again - I saw her as Mirra and as Mother and as Aditi "perfect in her ministry" - and the whole typescript was ready by 21 February 1977. I was now able, on 3 April 1977, to make my offering, and send it to Nolini-da through Jayantilal Parekh.
The present work has expanded to over ten times the bulk of the first edition of 1952. But basically my approach hasn't changed, for it had the sanction of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; and so the stress is on the inner history, on the progressive efflorescence of the Manifestation, and on the far-ranging character of the Mother's ministry for man and the earth.
While I was writing the book, it became increasingly clear to me that, not only was the Mother's life-history closely interwoven with Sri Aurobindo's and both with the history of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the lives of its growing number of inmates, but there were also invisible links, correlations and creepers of causal relationship between the Mother's ministry and the evolutionary destiny of man spanning two World Wars and overflowing into the present, and even pointing towards the far horizons of the Next Future. Like Sri Aurobindo's, the Mother's story also is intrinsically the spiritual history of humanity, and it is this silken thread of continuity and movement that holds together the seeming shifts in scene, the startling transitions, the forced marches, the sudden set-backs, the definitive advances and conquests.
It was Grace indeed that I was enabled, notwithstanding the constraints and impediments incidental to a formidable undertaking of this nature, to complete the book in time. The two main sources were of course the Mother's and Sri Aurobindo's writings and conversations, but I have also often presented the Mother as others had seen her from time to time. A unique 95-year human chronicle, a spacious temporal history scooped out of Eternity, an inspiring drama of the flowering of the Divine in the human, a nectarean promise and process and spectacle of the dialectic of integral change and transformation, a decisive evolutionary movement from the brilliant past dawns to the supramental noons of the Future - all this is involved in the recital of the Mother's wonder-story. And the story is yet to be concluded.
I have drawn freely upon the work of earlier writers, and my debt is indicated, generally in the Select Bibliography, and more pointedly in the footnotes. My debt to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is immense for readily permitting me to quote from the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and from other books and journals copyrighted by the Trust. My daughter, Prema Nandakumar, and my wife, Padmasani, were my first eager readers; and I am thankful to Dr. Kishor H. Gandhi for going through the typescript and offering valuable suggestions towards the rectification of slips and errors. For various acts of assistance and sustenance, I owe a great deal to the love and unfailing understanding of Sri Surendra Nath Jauhar, who like a true friend and elder brother has kept watch over the progress of the book. It is also a pleasure and a duty to thank the Manager and Staff of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry, for the devotion and despatch with which they have produced this book, checking the quotations and references in the footnotes, often drawing my attention to mistakes in the copy, and effectively minimising for me the frightening labour of proof-reading. They had, as always, undertaken the work in the true spirit of Karma Yoga aiming at nothing short of perfection. Finally I am happy that, like my earlier book on Sri Aurobindo, this Homage to the Mother too is being published under the aegis of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, and, opportunely, at the time of the Mother's Birth Centenary celebrations.
Preface To The Third Edition
There was a time-lag of twenty-five years between the handy first edition of On the Mother, published on 15 August 1952, and the greatly expanded second edition in two volumes that appeared just in time for the world-wide celebrations during the Mother's birth centenary year, 1978-79. On the Mother was also selected for the 1980 Sahitya Akademi annual award, and the citation referred to the book's "deep and sensitive insight into a great life, its authenticity, artistic vision and evocative creative language". And the two birth centenaries, Sri Aurobindo's in 1972 and. the Mother's six years after, have generated during the last two decades a growing - almost an escalating - interest and involvement in their life and work, their Agenda for the Future, their Ashram in Pondicherry, and their world-redeeming and world-transforming Integral Yoga.
I have also separately touched upon some aspects of the Mother's life and ministry in my survey of "The Mother's Birth Centenary" (Sri Aurobindo Circle, 1978, pp. 69-92), in my essay "Words on the Mother's Words" (Sri Aurobindo Circle, 1991, pp.66-91), and in my two Shri Navajata Memorial Lectures on "Sri Aurobindo and the Mother: Their Teaching, Self-revelation and Yogic Action" (Pondicherry University, 1988).
The second edition of On the Mother has been out of print for some years, and the desire has been widespread that a new edition should be brought out as a companion volume to the fourth edition of my Sri Aurobindo: A Biography and a History that came out in 1985. It was also felt that apart from making the necessary verbal and factual corrections, the time had come to make some revisions and additions in the light of new knowledge that had become available during the last fifteen years. In the process, a few footnotes have been added, the references updated and the bibliography enlarged. A new Chronology of the Mother's physical life, compiled by the Sri Aurobindo Archives & Research Library, appears here for the first" time.
The present one-volume edition owes a great deal to the collaboration between Sri Jayantilal Parekh's experienced editorial staff at Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research Library, and Sri A.R. Ganguli and his seasoned and dedicated staff at Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press.
I have known Shri Jayantilal since 1970 when the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary celebrations brought us together, and he helped to see through the press the earlier editions of my Sri Aurobindo and On the Mother, and he has also taken a friendly interest in my Sitayana and Satisaptakam.
My grateful thanks are due to my long-standing friend Shri K. D. Sethna whose generosity of understanding has been among the choicest blessings of my life. It was only under his active guidance - uninterrupted by his long hospitalisation due to a multiple fracture of his right femur - that the editing work could be undertaken. My thanks are also due to Sunjoy Bhatt, Ganapati Pattegar, Aloka Ghosh, Robert Zwicker, Richard Hartz and Patricia Frick of the Archives and Research, and S. Ravi of the Centre of Education, who together made the final 'copy' as flawless as humanly possible. Sunjoy of course was not a little responsible for the clean text of the fourth edition of my biography of Sri Aurobindo, and now On the Mother too owes a lot to his and his associates' taste and tact and finesse in finalising the 'copy'.
It is a rare pleasure, finally, to record once again my thanks to Kumari Parubai PatiI, Registrar of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry, for her decision to bring out this new edition of On the Mother to meet the steady demand for the book.
|Part One: Mirra|
|1||Childhood and Girlhood||3|
|2||The Realms Invisible||14|
|3||Encounters and Explorations||28|
|4||Agenda for the Future||46|
|5||Approaches to the Divine||61|
|8||Launching the Arya||108|
|10||Return to France||134|
|11||A Passage to Japan||153|
|12||Like Mount Fuji||172|
|13||Tea, Flowers, and Flu||189|
|15||Descent of Krishna||217|
|Part Two: Mother|
|16||Founding the Ashram||239|
|17||Coming of the Disciples||255|
|19||Powers and Personalities||292|
|20||Words of the Mother||301|
|21||A Choice of Games||319|
|23||A God's Labour||339|
|24||Surrender and Grace||349|
|26||The Golden Bridge||369|
|29||Attack, Defence and Counter-Attack||408|
|30||The Mother's War||422|
|31||Coming of the Children||432|
|32||War and Peace||441|
|Part Three: Aditi|
|36||Her Lonely Strength||501|
|37||Mother on Education||509|
|38||Readings and Discourses||518|
|42||The Next Future||577|
|43||"I Want only You"||587|
|44||Ministry of Words||600|
|45||A New World is Born||611|
|46||A Glorified, not a Crucified, Body||622|
|47||Readings in "Dhammapada"||639|
|49||Mother is Eighty||662|
|50||Wings of Expansion||674|
|51||Forward to Perfection||688|
|52||Readiness is All||699|
|53||Darkest before Dawn||719|
|55||Sadhana of the Body||738|
|56||Year of Wonders||758|
|61||The Saga of Transformation||829|
|A Chronology of the Mother's Life||845|
|List of References||869|
Item Code: NAH914 Author: K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar Cover: Paperback Edition: 2012 Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry ISBN: 9788170580362 Language: English Size: 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch Pages: 944 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 1.3 kg