Darshan of the Mother

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Mother 21 February 1968.jpg

(Mother:) “You know, when people come to see me, I do not look at the outer appearance, but what they have within, their soul, the aspiration, the effort for progress, whether they are conscious of their inner being, whether they have an urge to perfect themselves, or whether they are very developed mental beings and who are exclusively guided by their mental ideas. I see only this [soul] force, this consciousness and what they are capable of. I see their soul, their capacity to hold the consciousness. I never see the exterior of a man, but all that he has potentially, what he can truly make of his life, if he has a possibility or not.”[1]

(Satprem to interviewer:) “But Mother... I had seen her with Sri Aurobindo before that whole circuit of mine. And she had... she had a different kind of gaze from Sri Aurobindo.
         A different kind of gaze.
         In fact, what had overwhelmed me when I had seen Mother was her gaze... It seemed that, for the first time, someone was looking at me with love.
         It was a gaze that... went deep into your chest and pierced something open there – a rather overwhelming experience, and a bit... scary, you know. I was leery of it.
         But nobody ever looked at me that way.
         Nobody had shown me that love.
         I had met... first, there was my own mother, who loved me very much. A wonderful – wonderful – woman, truly my mother, and not just in terms of passports and birth certificates.
         But in all the gazes I had seen, deep down, there was always something trying to ‘take’ or EXPECTING something of you.
         But here, with Mother, it was quite strange. There was mainly a sort of ‘power’ of love. And you felt that it didn't seek to take anything, just plunged deep, deep, deep inside you, like a... SWORD, as if seeking to TOUCH the roots of your being.
         That gaze had very much struck me.
         It was not like Sri Aurobindo's. Sri Aurobindo looked at you... and you felt immensity, infinity. You felt as if you were melting there, moving through centuries and centuries, and it was soft, and it was like a great snow. And you lost yourself there, and it was... Oh, there were no more words; it was all over, and you felt so... so comfortable! You felt so at home, in a country you had known forever.
         But with Mother it was... it was quite extraordinary – it was a sword. But a sword filled with love. It wasn't something trailing into infinity; it went straight down into matter, into the ‘heart’ (for me, at least).
         It was very, very perplexing, fascinating, and... a real question for me. Because there was no mistaking the truth of that gaze – it went too deep. And in fact, I came back BECAUSE of that gaze. I wanted to understand. That sort of sword she drove into your innermost being – I wanted to know where exactly it went. If it went anywhere! And I was ready to go there as well. That's what interested me.”[2]

(Sri Aurobindo:) “You must remember that for her [Mother] a physical contact of this kind with others is not a mere social or domestic meeting with a few superficial movements which make no great difference one way or the other. It means for her an interchange, a pouring out of her forces and a receiving of things good, bad and mixed from them which often involves a great labour of adjustment and elimination and, in many cases though not in all, a severe strain on the body.”[3]

(Sri Aurobindo:) “She is doing the work for which she took birth and has prepared herself uninterruptedly from her childhood. The Power is in her that can bring down a true supramental creation, open the whole nature of the disciple to the supramental Light and Force and guide its transformation into a divine nature.”[4]

(Sri Aurobindo:) “Your unwillingness to come to the Pranam because that would interrupt some subjective experience is altogether out of place. No experience in formal meditation, not a hundred experiences together can be worth the touch of the Mother in the Pranam. If you had the psychic being in front in the physical or even in the heart and the vital, you would feel that at once.”[5]

(Maggi Lidchi Grassi:) “One of the beautiful things in my memory of my time with Mother was watching people’s reactions to her. Quite often I would be asked to arrange an Interview for somebody… so many would come, it was difficult at times. I remember one person who spoke non-stop, often critically; you must know about intellectuals barging into Ashrams and what a pain they can be. For two days right until the moment she went up to see Mother this woman never stopped talking — quite amusing but snide remarks about devotees and aspects of Ashram life which to outsiders can be regarded as ridiculous. We went up at last, we saw Mother. Mother didn’t say anything. They just looked into each others’ eyes, and she was struck dumb. She left 36 hours later without saying anything, she just sent me a note: “I finally realized why I had to come to the Ashram…”
         That often happened. One would take in a strutting, arrogant person and he would come out melted — weeping copiously not knowing where the door was. One had to edge them out gently by the elbow to prevent them going out through a window. They would then sometimes sit on the steps weeping helplessly, not being able to say why. It was as if the true being of the person swam up to the surface when they saw Mother.”[6]

(Jocelyn:) “When I arrived in her room for the first time.... my mind stopped totally, I was so astonished. But when I came out of there, I couldn't walk down the stairs, I didn't want to go down the stairs, I never wanted to go down the stairs, everything I had ever wanted in my life was right there in that room. It was something totally inexplicable. I had met all the big gurus, Sai Baba and Babaji and Gurumayi and Anandamayi. I had never ever seen anything like the Mother. She was...
         The most wonderful vibration you can imagine! You just cannot imagine the vibration. People say, “Oh, I am doing the same yoga as the Mother!” I just... You haven't a clue! Or when people start using Mother's words as dogma... Mother never said things like that, she never did things like that, she was Douce Mère, she was the sweetest, the most wonderful being I have ever encountered in this life.
         ...My father came. He wanted to take Binah to America, he was going to find her a good home. I took him to meet Mother. He came out of the Ashram, he was skipping down the streets with a basket of gifts she had given him. He had taken the gifts out and he had put the basket on his head. He had fallen in love, he was always sending her gifts, and presents and whatnot. He just totally fell in love. That made it very easy for me to remain in Pondicherry. Then my mother came in Christmas 1972. We went to the Mother, and my mother didn't see anything, she just saw an old woman. And she said, “Why are people bothering about an old woman?” There was never a lot of understanding between us, but at that point I could see that there wasn't any understanding.”[7]

(Mother:) “For some time I have been seeing a considerable number of people I had never seen before (with all the old or familiar people there was no difficulty, but with the new ones it generally caused a shrinking of the work), and now with this ‘study’ of states of consciousness, people are placed: here, there, here (Mother draws different levels in space). And if they are receptive, they must go away [after seeing Mother] with a new impulse to transform themselves. Those who aren’t receptive just miss it; but they are no longer a disturbance: they come in and go out. And from that I know what state they are in – I can even do it with photos, but when I see people it’s much more complete. Photos are no more than one moment of their being, while here, even what isn’t being manifested is there, hidden behind, and can be seen, so I see the person more completely. It’s very interesting. It transforms this whole burden of visitors into something interesting.”[8]

(Vijay:) “Of what I saw when Her door finally opened to me, I could never say but only give the vaguest of hints: a body was there wrapped in golden silk or seemed to be in a certain light, and yet it was so magical, as if... transparent, glowing from within, like a window to infinite, endless wide open dimensions. My first impression was of infinite, multidimensional spaces opening in front of me, and I felt as if I had lived my whole life in a matchbox. Eyes were there which looked into my utmost depths like I was utterly naked within, which saw all I ever was and every event of my life, saw even the most shameful and terrible things I ever did but without any judgment or condemnation at all, like the sun casting its rays upon all things on earth big or small alike, be they dirty slums, battlefields or mountain peaks.
         A mouth and a warm smile were there, and suddenly I became aware of a rising tide, wave after wave of Her infinite Love engulfing me, and I felt then that I would be forever safe in Her...
         But at the same time I felt so ashamed of being myself, still existing and being nothing. Like never before, I became aware of all my shallowness, of being so terribly unworthy of Her Love, and something in me cried out then, “Mother, see all the darkness in my heart, all the violence and lust in my heart, how I am deeply crippled in my spirit and inwardly blind; You know how I did hurt even some who loved me. Please forgive me for having defiled Your spaces with my presence, for Who You were, I knew not...”
         But She just kept smiling and smiling to me with infinite love for a time which seemed to have no end.”[9]

(Janet:) “I went up to Mother's room on Sunday morning with André Morisset. I am not sure if the experience was dramatic at the moment. It was more that it had a slow effect on me afterwards but she was... What I remember was the smile and she even laughed and said to me, “Do you speak French?” because Udar had told her that I was from Canada. She said, “You are from Canada and you don't speak French!” (laugh) Anyway, after it was over, I remember being so tired, my God, it was like I had run a marathon, it was incredible. I was staying at Society Guest-House, I went there and slept the whole day...”[10]

(Mother:) “I had another interesting example, with a visitor: a German industrial magnate, it seems. I had seen his photo and found there was something in him – I had him come. He entered the room and came in front of me: he didn't know what to do (no one had told him anything). So I looked at him and put some force (Mother slowly lowers her hand), a little, progressively. And all at once ... (at first he was quite official, it was MISTER So-and-so who was there), all at once his left hand began to rise, like this (gesture of a hand clenched as in trance), all the rest was absolutely still. When I saw that, I smiled and withdrew the force, then let him go. It seems he went downstairs, went into Sri Aurobindo's room and started weeping. Afterwards, the next day, he wrote to me and told me in German English that I had been ‘too human’: “Why have you been too human?” He wanted his being to be DESTROYED in order to be born again to the true life.
         That interested me. I thought, “Oh, he felt it, he was conscious both of the force and of my withdrawing it.” I answered him, “True, I spared you, but because it was your first visit! Prepare yourself, I will see you again.”
         You see, he came in as a big industrial person with a remarkable power of mental creation that organizes events – that's what entered the room – and then ... it melted. And I didn't put the full charge: I simply put some power like this (Mother lowers her hand), and I was looking him in the face. Then I felt something going on lower down; I looked: his hand was tightly clenched. So I stopped.
         But the remarkable thing is that he was CORRECTLY conscious.
         And he complained.”[11]

(Gérard Maréchal:) “We [the caravan] arrived on the 4th of October. On the 14th of October it was my birthday; I met Mother. I was just 22. I had been told: you can see Mother because it is your birthday. I said, “But I don't know her.” I felt a bit shy: “What is she going to tell me? What am I going to tell her? She is an elderly person...”
         “Doesn't matter, go and see her!”
         So I went. I waited, then I went up the stairs and saw an old woman, with a hunched back. I was intimidated. I came close to her. Entering that room was like entering another space, so vast, so vast... and I found myself sitting in front of Mother. You look at her and everything is shattered. I was shattered. It happened in a flash. I understood why I had come. I had arrived in front of what I was searching for, it was a recognition. What struck me immediately was the power. An extraordinary impression of force emanated from her, like I had never experienced before. I was astonished, because she was an old woman and yet from her came that extraordinary force. Not an aggressive one, a kind of calm force. And also a presence. It was the first time I could see somebody really present, somebody who was ‘there’. I became aware of what the presence of somebody meant. You are completely astonished; this is so powerful. Mother looks at you, she is serious, she goes through you, you are totally overwhelmed, there is no word for that... (silence) And then she smiles, and this smile... You enter into a space of love, something so vast, so vast... And what came to me spontaneously, inwardly, was: “I want to go wherever you are.” That's it. You come out, you are pulverized.
         Yes, it is still with me...[12]

(Amal Kiran:) “I said: “Now, Mother, I want to tell you something. Will you please open me up for good? Put your hand on the middle of my chest so that my hand may be always open to you.”
         She put her hand where I had wanted and pressed her fingers on the spot.
         “Oh, it is going very fast!”
         “Yes, Mother, it's like that because I am very impatient now.”
         She laughed and blessed me.”[13]

Terrace darshan

(Loretta:) “In 1962, Mother retired to her room on the second floor. That room was built especially for her. It was a small suite of rooms: it had two rooms, a bathroom, a small place for cooking. Mother was 84 years old when she retired. After that, everybody thought that there would be no darshan ‒ and so they built a terrace out at the eastern side (the side where the ocean is). And it was a bit of a sneaky move! Because the terrace was finished, everything was done, and word was very quietly passed around that everyone should go and stand on the street, three floors below ‒ just underneath this new terrace. And they invited Mother out to see her terrace. And so there she was, and there everybody was (!), down on the street.
         And afterwards she said something like, “These rascals very sneakily made this place for giving darshan!” But after that, she gave four public darshans every year. She went on the terrace, and hundreds of people stood in the street below. And as the years went on, it was hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people. They stood on the street; they stood on the rooftops of the houses opposite; they stood in the windows...”[14]

(Peter A.:) “In the Ashram guesthouse I heard news about the ‘birthday darshan of the Mother’ whose portraits were seen everywhere. At first I did not pay much attention to frequent invitations to come to her darshan. This ‘Mother’ was barely in my mind and even less on my agenda. Obviously didn't she leave the same impression in that famous book? Moreover I wasn't too much interested to see a ‘guru’ or a ‘grande dame’ at her balcony. Yet, as destiny willed I was gently encouraged by one of those early pioneers from Auroville to go anyway so as to look for myself what's on with ‘the pope on the balcony’. Well, it turned out to be the most memorable event of my life.
         It was February 21st under a warm Indian afternoon sun when we arrived in that small street adjacent to the main ashram building where already thousands of devotees had gathered. It seemed they had come from all over India, most of them in their traditional white clothing, a few westerners among them. There was a lot of chatting and excitement mixed with an atmosphere of intense expectation for that special moment to come. I landed just in the middle of the packed crowd getting fully the feel of it all. By and then one or the other was looking intensely up to the roof terrace where the Mother was to appear at any moment.
         Suddenly a great silence descended on all and everybody, the air felt still and compact, when a small hand was seen groping along the railing up there. Then a little face was emerging slowly from behind radiating the presence of a great power.
         I was stunned: as if looking into the face of a baby ape I was looking into the face of evolution itself. When hearing two westerners next to me talking to each other like: oh; she is old and fragile, I was wondering in utter disbelief — look, can't you see, cant you see the eternal himself?! During those minutes of eternity and feeling the massive experience in my body I followed Her when she was slowly moving down the railing from one end to the other. At one moment she suddenly was like throwing herself over the railing with such a concentrated power so to reach out to everybody, no one to be left out, to perceive all, to be seen by everyone who had gathered there from one end of the street to the other — and everybody was looking up to her.
         I was caught by her overwhelming glance, a stream of compact energy from eye to eye, soul to soul, in utter abandon and trust...
         Long after the Mother had retreated to her room and the crowd had dissolved I was still standing there all alone in the deserted street, I had not moved an inch as if glued to that sacred power point where that Presence was still there all powerful, that feeling of total bond without fear... and no time, no time.
         It sounded as if from far away when my companion, trying to get me back to time-bound reality, appealed to me: Peter, she is gone since long, let's go! — yes, yes, I made an attempt to gather myself and to get going, but only to sit down a few steps further at the edge of the street ... remaining there for a very long time...”[15]

(R. Meenakshi:) “Somewhere in 1969, we, a bunch of college students, boys and girls with an American scholar, came to Pondicherry. You know the psychology of young people in a new place on the loose wanting to tease everybody around and giggle all the time.
         As we came from the beach side we saw many people standing in a corner of a street in perfect silence looking at a particular point. I came to know much later that they were drawn to have the ‘Balcony Darshan’. At that time I didn't know what it was and why those people were standing there quietly. I was totally and thoroughly ignorant. Actually we wanted to disturb the people. “Why these people are standing so silent?” was the mental state at that moment for our group. And one could even listen to the rustle of the dresses and the breathing of the people. But slowly we also started feeling the silence. So I could silence myself along with those devotees. Slowly I became a part of one soul, one body along with the big gathering there and I was also looking up. I found a small sparrow-like being (Sparrow is called chittukuruvi in Tamil.) moving on a balcony. And then it looked like an old person was coming, waving. Then the boom came. Two blue eyes became blue and white waves, big waves that took me, churned me and threw me completely upside down. It is very difficult to share my experience; the colour of it, the depth of it, the image, the dimension — very difficult. I try to capture in a language close to me but I am really short of words because the experience was so rich and strong. I try my best to share but still I can't.
         I don't know what happened later — through my friends I came to know that I was taken to the Ashram hospital. There was an old doctor — later I came to know, Dr. Nripendra — who said, “I know what the problem with this girl is; put her in the Ashram hospital.” So I was taken into the Ashram hospital for three days and on the fourth day when I opened my eyes, my hair was done differently with double plaits and I was wearing a pyjama and shirt. I didn't know how, but all got transformed — my dress, my style, everything...”[16]

  1. Sweet Mother - Luminous Notes, p.107
  2. Satprem, My Burning Heart: Interview by F. de Towarnicky, p.50
  3. The Mother with Letters on the Mother, p.42
  4. Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of Historical Interest, p.391
  5. The Mother with Letters on the Mother, p.249
  6. “Maggi Lidchi on the Mother and the Ashram”, interview by Malcolm Tillis, January 1981
  7. Turning Points: An inner story of the beginnings of Auroville, p.9, “Come to India Now!”
  8. Mother's Agenda 1966, 26 October 1966
  9. Darshan, p.194, “Like the sun casting its rays upon all things alike” by Vijay
  10. Turning Points: An inner story of the beginnings of Auroville, First Edition, p.70, “A blank slate”
  11. Mother's Agenda 1963, 3 December 1963
  12. Turning Points: An inner story of the beginnings of Auroville, Second Edition, p.18, “So, what about mental silence?”
  13. Amal Kiran & Nirodbaran, Light and Laughter: Some Talks at Pondicherry, p.94
  14. Loretta read's Mother's Questions and Answers: 15 August 1956, part 1
  15. Darshan, p.209, “Memorable moments with the Mother” by Peter A.
  16. Ibid., p.104, “Two eyes became blue and white waves” by R. Meenakshi

See also