Loretta reads Mother's Questions and Answers:1955-08-31
|Mother's Questions and Answers: August 31, 1955|
|by Loretta, 2015 (22:26)|
|Listen on Auroville Radio →|
In this class, we get a glimpse of the way people took up work in the Ashram. We also see that Mother was concerned with everything the children read. And that while she believed in allowing a child freedom to learn, she also wanted these children to make a constant effort to raise their consciousness.
The Ashram school was – and still is – a Free Progress school, without grades or any kind of marks. Children are allowed to choose their own classes and their own teachers. And there are very few children in a class, so all the students get special attention.
In this class, Mother uses a Sanskrit word. She's speaking about how to always express the highest truth one can perceive. And she also uses the word when she speaks about how to have a true rest. So the word is in a negative context: it's what should not happen. And the word is 'tamas'. She uses it to tell the children that they should avoid the state of tamas. Tamas means inertia, dullness, sloth, indolence, laziness, and darkness. (Obviously something to avoid!)
The last part of the class is taken up with a discussion about some books which all the children are reading. The books were called the Classics Illustrated. This is a rare instance where we see that Mother is angry with the children. And actually, we get the impression that she was very angry.
I asked a friend of mine who was in the Ashram in the class about the incident. She said that Classics Illustrated were comic books. They were made in America and sold in India. After that, I remembered those comics as a child, and I asked an Aurovilian friend, and she remembered them also. They had taken the great classic novels in literature and distilled them down to a few pages in small comic books. They told the exciting, adventurous things which would appeal to very young minds. And they illustrated them with dramatic comic book drawings.
I was told that one of the boys in the Ashram, who had the money to buy the comics, was buying them and then letting all the children read them. The children would collect a comic book and read it, and then they would return it and get another one. They were all sharing these comics amongst themselves, like a little lending library.
The children in Mother's class – this class, that we're listening to – were in their mid-teens in 1955. The boy who had been buying the comics was also in this class. They had had English classes, but not really classes in literature – that was for when they grew older. But it turns out that the children did know of the stories, and none of them thought it was wrong or bad to read comic books with these stories in them.
But we see that Mother is really angry about this. I remember that when I was young, my parents did not approve of comic books, but they didn't have such a strong feeling about something that Mother does express: she tells the children that the comic books are part of a movement of vulgarization. And that this movement is going on in everything, and everywhere.
If we look back sixty years, with the knowledge that we have of world history today, we can see that the movements in the late 50s and 60s – which broke down the narrowness, and the pettiness, of the establishment – opened things; and things were able to rise higher. But things were also free to sink lower. Now we can see both improvement and light, and degradation and darkness, everywhere.
Mother was making a school where these children would receive the highest of man's endeavors. This was also the same ideal for the Ashram and the Ashramites. And if we remember the qualities of the psychic being, the individual soul – as Sri Aurobindo and Mother used to tell them from time to time – they were always higher things also. Refined things.
So if we look at Mother's position about the comic books in the light of what sixty years of history has shown us, it seems that she must have known what was going to come – and that she was trying to keep it out of the school.
Even though it is sixty years later, the friend who I asked about the books remembered this class perfectly. And she said that everyone there was very upset when Mother got angry about the comic books; and after that, all the children gave the comic books back to the boy who was buying them, and they didn't read them any more.
Unfortunately, this is still one of the classes where they had to reuse the tape. So we don't have the original French recording.
31 August 1955
- Sweet Mother, here I did not understand “One must have the same consciousness in inner experience and outward action and make both full of the Mother.”
I haven’t understood [the French translation of Sri Aurobindo's original] either. Isn’t there a clause of the sentence missing? I too haven’t understood the structure of this sentence. (Mother turns to Pavitra) It seems to me that there’s at least a word missing.
- (Pavitra) I shall verify it with the English on our return. [Because this class took place in the Ashram Playground, and they'd go back to the main Ashram building where the books were.]
No. It may be like this in English. I can imagine the English sentence, but in French it is not clear. (Mother takes up the book) Yes, it is right at the beginning. (Mother reads the sentence) Oh! Yes, yes... it is not clear.
- (Pavitra) That’s it; the word “remplir” is too concrete in French.
So, [(to the child who asked the question)] now do you understand?... [(to the group)] Is that all?
- Sweet Mother, when someone wants to do some work, is it better that you choose the work for him or that he chooses it himself?
This depends on the point of view one takes.
If it is from the point of view of yoga and of the person who wants to do the work, it is preferable to let him choose, because he can be, for example, under the illusion that he is capable of doing something and he is not; or he has an ambition, he wants to do something to satisfy his self-love, his vanity. And so, if he is allowed to do so, as the work that’s done here is under the influence of the Truth-Consciousness, his incapacity for the work will appear immediately, and he will be able to make progress; whereas if I see that a particular person is capable of doing a particular work — another work, you understand — and I tell him, “No, that work does not suit you, it is better that you do this one,” he will never be convinced (he or she, it doesn’t matter), he will always think that it’s an arbitrary decision, that it’s simply because one preferred his doing this thing or that. So from his personal point of view it is better to let him do what he asks for, so that he may make the progress he ought to make. If it happens that he is very conscious of the work he can do and asks precisely for the work he ought to do, then it is good, there’s no more discussion, it is very good.
But in certain cases, perhaps it is not very good to let somebody muddle up and disturb the work in order that he may have an experience of this. So if the work which is to be done is more important than the person’s yoga, he is told, “No, I am sorry, but you are not capable of doing that. You must do this.” Only, this increases the difficulty for him (or her), as I said; for he will remain convinced that his choice was better than the one made by somebody else; whereas by experience, when he has really failed in what he has undertaken, he will understand that he has made a mistake.
Now, I am repeating it: if he happens to be conscious of what he can truly do, one has only to let him do what he wants, it is very good, this. There’s no problem. There is no difference between the perception of what he ought to do and what he chooses to do; in this case there is no problem. So it depends absolutely on the case, and on the nature of the work to be done.
It’s exactly the same thing as the problem of the education of children. There are all kinds of different and even opposite theories. Some people say, “Children must be left to have their own experience because it is through experience that they learn things best.” Like that, as an idea, it is excellent; in practice it obviously requires some reservations, because if you let a child walk on the edge of a wall and he falls and breaks a leg or his head, the experience is a little hard; or if you let him play with a match-box and he burns out his eyes, you understand, it is paying very dearly for a little knowledge! I have discussed this with... I don’t remember now who it was... an educationist, a man concerned with education, who had come from England, and had his ideas about the necessity of an absolute liberty. I made this remark to him; then he said, “But for the love of liberty one can sacrifice the life of many people.” It is one opinion. (Mother laughs)
At the same time, the opposite excess of being there all the time and preventing a child from making his experiment, by telling him, “Don’t do this, this will happen”, “Don’t do that, that will happen” — then finally he will be all shrunk up into himself, and will have neither courage nor boldness in life, and this too is very bad.
In fact it comes to this:
One must never make rules.
Every minute one must endeavour to apply the highest truth one can perceive. It is much more difficult, but it’s the only solution.
Whatever you may do, don’t make rules beforehand, because once you have made a rule you follow it more or less blindly, and then you are sure, ninety-nine and a half times out of a hundred, to be mistaken.
There is only one way of acting truly, it is to try at each moment, each second, in each movement to express only the highest truth one can perceive, and at the same time know that this perception has to be progressive and that what seems to you the most true now will no longer be so tomorrow, and that a higher truth will have to be expressed more and more through you. This leaves no room any longer for sleeping in a comfortable tamas; one must be always awake — I am not speaking of physical sleep — one must be always awake, always conscious and always full of an enlightened receptivity and of goodwill. To want always the best, always the best, always the best and never tell oneself, “Oh! It is tiring! Let me rest, let me relax! Ah, I am going to stop making an effort”; then one is sure to fall into a hole immediately and make a big stupid blunder!
The rest must not be one which goes down into the inconscience and tamas. The rest must be an ascent into the Light, into perfect Peace, total Silence, a rest which rises up out of the darkness. Then it is true rest, a rest which is an ascent.
- Sweet Mother, the “Dortoir” [boarding] children told me to ask you if it is good to read the illustrated “classics”.
- “Classics Illustrated”!
Whatever is that? (Laughter)
- (The child gives Mother a copy of these “Classics”) Nowadays all children read this and they told me that they read it even during the class, when the teacher is speaking of something else.
Well, what is this stuff? (Mother turns over the pages) Ooooh! Where does it come from, this thing?
- From America.
It is American? (Mother turns some more pages) Well, my children, it is lamentably vulgar! There, that’s all I can say about it.
- Nowadays there are hundreds of these things here, Sweet Mother!
There are hundreds of copies?
- Yes, Mother. They make collections of them.
- (Another child) Of different books, not the same books.
- (Pavitra) More than a hundred.
- (Second child) Different books, not this.
- (First child) All books; of the best books they make this and then the children read this stuff and don’t read the books.
- (Second child) In all languages.
Yes, it is a sign of the times. It is the vulgarisation of everything: the vulgarisation of ideas, the vulgarisation of masterpieces, the vulgarisation of history, everything; everything put as low as possible, so that one doesn’t need to raise oneself, one can crawl on the ground and have this. It is the descent of the consciousness as low as possible and then one wallows there!
Oh, no! It is repulsive!
However, that’s your business! If you like to live like animals which love to waddle in mud, do that, it’s your affair. That’s all. It is deplorable!
Good, the question is closed, without any amendment.
Now I don’t give orders; each one follows his own consciousness. If you want to go down it is a very good means.
If you want to go up, well, I advise you to throw it away into the street. Oh! It doesn’t matter where. It’s not worth keeping — anywhere.
- Mother, it is the older children who spread it among the little ones.
- And without asking you.
They have asked me. Just asked me.
- They had already done this before asking you.
Well! Is it in the Library that you get these things?
- No, Mother.
- Medhananda is feeling nervous.
Just imagine, even when these things are given to you on a record (we had some records) well, even that... I was just on the point of saying, “Well, it is a little vulgar.” Because, so that the record may sell and be heard by everybody, they bring down the artistic value of the thing a little, in order to put it within the range of the public... and it was a bit grandiloquent, forced, it did not have all the purity of the original. Julius Caesar was played to us one day, you know. Well, there already I made my reservations; I told myself, “It is falsifying people’s taste.” Instead of having the pure nobility of the thing, it exaggerates just a little in order to please the greatest number.
So you understand, this was already a summit in comparison. At least, it had some aspirations to artistic realisation. It was not altogether well realised but there was an effort.
This thing is the very opposite. Still...!
Now, be courageous! How many of you have read these books?
- (Many children raise their hands).
Good heavens! And you have the cheek to ask me to give meditations! Well, here’s a fine preparation for meditating!
- I read a few just to see, Sweet Mother.
Well, this evening I won’t give you any meditation. It will be for next week, if you like, but not this evening.
There, then! Au revoir.
- Questions and Answers 1955, p.280