Loretta reads Mother's Questions and Answers:1956-06-06 part 1

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Transcript of:
Mother's Questions and Answers: June 6, 1956 (part 1 of 2)
by Loretta, 2017 (31:44)
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This week Mother's class is exceptionally long, so we'll have it in two parts. It divides itself very naturally into two completely different subjects. And the first half of the class is all about something which Sri Aurobindo calls 'sortilege'. Sortilege means to seek an answer to a question by concentrating on what you want to know, and then opening a book at random and finding your particular answer on the page.

Sri Auribindo used this method regularly in his own Yoga practice. He started to keep a sort of diary – recording his experiences in a book – in June of 1909; but he didn't write much until July 1st, 1912, when he really started a very solid diary, a recording of his experiences. He continued this until October 30th of 1927. (Although from the end of 1920 to the end of 1926 he didn't write; but he picked it up again and wrote all the way until the 30th of October of '27.)

This group of his diary entries is called [“Journal of Yoga” in] the Record of Yoga.

1-25 July 1912 “Journal of Yoga”

Record of Yoga - 1-25 July 1912.jpg
PDF (30 pages)

He starts on the 1st of July of 1912 by saying:

“August, 1912, will complete the seventh year of my practice of Yoga.”[1]

Then he goes on to tell what had happened up to that date; even on this day, his very first entry, he wrote about doing sortilege. He wrote:

“Yesterday, the 30th, there were four apposite sortileges...

(And it sort of sounds like 'opposite', which means 'the contrary': the other view, or the other side – but it's not; it's 'apposite'. And 'apposite' means 'relevant': very relevant or pertinent.)

“...which have an importance of the future and are besides worth noting for their entire appositeness to thought or circumstance.”[2]

So from this we can understand that he didn't write down all the sortileges; but he seems to have done it quite a lot. And sometimes we don't know the question he asked, but we can kind of figure it out from the answer he got. And sometimes he says the question that he asked.

For the very first sortilege, he looked in the Upanishads. And he went to the Brihajjabala Upanishad. And it has told him that the last tendencies in his physical mind to the impressions [“sanskaras”] of “asceticism & mere renunciation”[3] have only just now gone out of his being. And this is after quite a long effort. And this sortilege tells him that he is now completely passed beyond the limitations of practicing the yoga of the Gita, to practicing the yoga of the Veda. And if we look back on Mother's class on April 4th, they were reading part of The Synthesis of Yoga where he says that the Gita is limited. And Mother explains that it can be interpreted in this limited way, which means that the whole of yoga is limited only to renunciation. (And Sri Aurobindo's yoga makes renunciation only a part of what has to be done.)

The second sortilege, he went to the Upanishads – the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad – and he wanted an answer to a depression: something that he felt, a personal depression caused by lack of faith and by doubt. And he also wanted a personal assurance; he wanted the assurance of fulfillment by ishita. And he defines 'ishita' as “force of life creating things, raising up from weakness to strength, from nonbeing to being”[4]. So he writes in his diary that in this sortilege, he learned that his prayer is the divine desireless reaching out of the divine One-in-All in his personality (his embodied personality) to the One in the object of the prayer (or the wish)[5]. So in him, now, it is the One reaching out to the One. And he is told that this is ishita: this is the force of life creating things through his prayer.

For his third sortilege, he wrote that he had had some anxiety in his physical mind about the maintenance of his physical body. Our physical mind is the part of our mental activity which is only involved with the objective, physical world that we can experience through the senses. So he went to the Taittiriya Upanishad, and the sortilege answered his worry. (He doesn't tell us what his doubts were about maintaining his physical body, or his problems[6], but he tells us that he got the answer that he wanted.)

And the very last one, which he also looked for in the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, was an answer to doubts he had “about the activity of ill-wishers”[7]. Apparently there were people around him who really wished harm; and he had some reassurance with this sortilege.

So the practice of sortilege was very well-known, and used quite often by Sri Aurobindo. And very well-known by Mother, as we're going to see in the class; and most likely she also used it.

Sri Aurobindo used it for other things besides his own personal progress in his Yoga. He was always very involved in the universal evolution. And on the day after he wrote about those four sortileges that we just read, on the next day, July 2nd of 1912, he wrote:

“I may note that a former sortilege occurring after the Titanic disaster and pointing to fresh disasters in the struggle of machinery with Nature, which I had supposed to be false or falsely interpreted, is today vindicated. ...”

(And most people have heard today about the tragic sinking of the ocean-going liner Titanic; there was a very popular and successful film about it, and it's part of our recent history.)

“...No less than four accidents (three fatal, one extensive) in two days in aviation! It is noteworthy that I was wondering only a day or two ago at the comparative freedom of Germany from these accidents but these accidents (except one, I think) are in Germany.”[8]

And we see that even when he was in the Ashram – involved in his Yoga – he was doing the Yoga of the world. He continued to record sortilege experiences throughout the Record of Yoga. But here, we're truly lucky, because we have Mother giving us a full, detailed explanation of how the process works. And then we see her also doing some of them for the class – for the people in the Playground at the time.

Seeking answers in this way has been done for ages, and in all cultures. A couple of examples are the Tarot cards, or the I-Ching (“The Book of Changes”). And there are many, many methods.

Somewhere else, Mother recommended to someone that they use Savitri for sortilege. Sri Aurobindo devoted himself fully to writing Savitri just about the time he stopped writing his experiences in the Record of Yoga. And he said that he re-wrote Savitri from a higher consciousness whenever he attained a higher consciousness. And he also said that he did all he could to fill Savitri with the new consciousness that he was bringing in. In Savitri he wrote all of his teachings: wrote them again in a poetic way; wrote his experiences, and also Mother's experiences. And there are places in the Agenda where she tells Satprem that she read something in Savitri and she saw that it was exactly what had happened to her.

So if someone wants to have one book for sortilege, which contains the highest, the widest, the deepest consciousness – Savitri would definitely be the book.

Unfortunately, they weren't able to keep the French recording of Mother's class, so we can't listen to the original. But there's one thing we can see from what's written in the book: and that is that there are more disciples asking questions. It's not just the students. It used to be that one disciple, but now, from the way it's written in the book, we can see that there are at least two and possibly three disciples who are asking questions in this class.

So here we are, with the students, with the disciples. It's June 6th of 1956; we're all in the Playground, sitting on the sand, or perhaps leaning against the wall at the back. Mother's there – she's sitting in her chair in front of the map of India (the map of the whole of India). And a student says (after the Mother has read from The Synthesis of Yoga; she's read in French, but there are no questions on the Synthesis) – a student says...

6 June 1956[9]

Once or twice, as a game, you took one of your books or Sri Aurobindo’s and opened a page at random, and read out a sentence. Can these sentences give one a sign or an indication? What should we do to get a true answer?

Everybody can do it. It is done in this way: you concentrate. Now, it depends on what you want. If you have an inner problem and want the solution, you concentrate on this problem; if you want to know the condition you are in, which you are not aware of — if you want to get some light on the state you are in, you just come forward with simplicity and ask for the light. Or else, quite simply, if you are curious to know what the invisible knowledge has to tell you, you remain silent and still for a moment and then open the book. I always used to recommend taking a paper-knife, because it is thinner; while you are concentrated you insert it in the book and with the tip indicate something. Then, if you know how to concentrate, that is to say, if you really do it with an aspiration to have an answer, it always comes.

For, in books of this kind (Mother shows The Synthesis of Yoga), books of revelation, there is always an accumulation of forces—at least of higher mental forces, and most often of spiritual forces of the highest knowledge. Every book, on account of the words it contains, is like a small accumulator of these forces. People don’t know this, for they don’t know how to make use of it, but it is so. In the same way, in every picture, photograph, there is an accumulation, a small accumulation representative of the force of the person whose picture it is, of his nature and, if he has powers, of his powers. Now, you, when you are sincere and have an aspiration, you emanate a certain vibration, the vibration of your aspiration which goes and meets the corresponding force in the book, and it is a higher consciousness which gives you the answer.

Everything is contained potentially. Each element of a whole potentially contains what is in the whole. It is a little difficult to explain, but you will understand with an example: when people want to practise magic, if they have a bit of nail or hair, it is enough for them, because within this, potentially, there is all that is in the being itself. And in a book there is potentially — not expressed, not manifest — the knowledge which is in the person who wrote the book. Thus, Sri Aurobindo represented a totality of comprehension and knowledge and power; and every one of his books is at once a symbol and a representation. Every one of his books contains symbolically, potentially, what is in him. Therefore, if you concentrate on the book, you can, through the book, go back to the source. And even, by passing through the book, you will be able to receive much more than what is just in the book.

There is always a way of reading and understanding what one reads, which gives an answer to what you want. It is not just a chance or an amusement, nor is it a kind of diversion. You may do it just “like that”, and then nothing at all happens to you, you have no reply and it is not interesting. But if you do it seriously, if seriously your aspiration tries to concentrate on this instrument — it is like a battery, isn’t it, which contains energies — if it tries to come into contact with the energy which is there and insists on having the answer to what it wants to know, well, naturally, the energy which is there — the union of the two forces, the force given out by you and that accumulated in the book — will guide your hand and your paper-knife or whatever you have; it will guide you exactly to the thing that expresses what you ought to know.... Obviously, if one does it without sincerity or conviction, nothing at all happens. If it is done sincerely, one gets an answer.

Certain books are like this, more powerfully charged than others; there are others where the result is less clear. But generally, books containing aphorisms and short sentences — not very long philosophical explanations, but rather things in a condensed and precise form — it is with these that one succeeds best.

Naturally, the value of the answer depends on the value of the spiritual force contained in the book. If you take a novel, it will tell you nothing at all but stupidities. But if you take a book containing a condensation of forces — of knowledge or spiritual force or teaching power — you will receive your answer.

So now, what do you want to know? I have explained the mechanism to you; you want me to do it? Is that what you wanted, or did you only want to know how it is done?

No, Mother, before the class, as we had no questions I opened many books and tried to find something in this way, but I couldn’t find anything.

You didn’t find anything, because probably at that time there was no curiosity in your mind!

There are many explanations in this book [The Synthesis of Yoga], so if you tumble into the midst of an explanation... It should be rather a book like Thoughts and Glimpses, or Prayers and Meditations, or Words of the Mother; also Questions and Answers.

We tried the Letters of Sri Aurobindo, Mother, the third series.

The Letters?... Give me the book. Isn’t this the one about literature?

Yes, Mother.

Then it’s the worst of them all! (Laughter)

No, it is the second series.

Then I am going to draw first for the collectivity. That is, what will answer and express the collective state of all those who are gathered here. We are going to see what it will do. (Mother concentrates and inserts a small card in the book.)

My child, this is in English! I must translate it off-hand.

My card was on this, which indeed seems to me quite a general problem for everybody here: the true attitude in work. (Laughter) Sri Aurobindo says this, that the true attitude in work comes “when the work is always associated with the Mother’s thought, done as an offering to her, with the call to do it through you”[10] This is the sentence I have found, I think that’s not bad for a beginning!

Now, does anyone want me to draw for him?


You! And what do you want? Do you want to know the state you are in, or what?

The state I ought to be in.

(Mother concentrates for a moment, opens the book and reads silently.) This is the problem you are interested in: the purpose of the Avatar:

“I have said that the Avatar is one who comes to open the Way for humanity to a higher consciousness....”

This is where I put my paper-knife. He adds this:

“If nobody can follow the Way, then either our conception of the thing, which is also that of Christ and Krishna and Buddha also, is all wrong or the whole life and action of the Avatar is quite futile.”[11]

I don’t know if this is a problem which you have been thinking about, but anyway this is what has come in reply.... It was obviously for someone who had asked him: “The Avatar comes and opens the Way, but if there is nobody to follow him, what happens?” Sri Aurobindo says: either his conception is wrong or his life is quite futile. That is to say, if a divine Power comes on earth to open the Way to a higher realisation and it so happens that there is nobody on earth to follow the path, it is quite obvious that it was useless for him to come. But as a matter of fact, I don’t think it has ever happened.

Let me see the end of the sentence.... Yes, it is in reply to someone who said:

“There is no way and no possibility of following it”, and “that all the struggles and sufferings of the Avatar are unreal and all humbug” —

That well-known English word! This person declared that there was

“no possibility of struggle or effort for one who represents the Divine.”

That is to say, the denial of the life of all those mentioned here. And Sri Aurobindo adds that

“Such a conception makes nonsense of the whole idea of Avatarhood;” and “there is then no reason in it, no necessity in it, no meaning in it.”

He adds (Mother laughs):

“The Divine being all-powerful can lift people up without bothering to come down on earth.”

He can do it just like this (gesture), he is all-powerful, he has only to pull them up and then they will be lifted up. Why should he come and take all this trouble here?

And Sri Aurobindo says in conclusion:

“It is only if it is a part of the world-arrangement that he should take upon himself the burden of humanity and open the Way that the Avatar has any meaning.”[12]

There he touches on a problem you were concerned about, no? You have never asked yourself this question: what was the purpose of a divine incarnation in a human body, whether it was necessary or not, and how it happened and why it happened? This question has never interested you? No?

Not in this way.

Not in this way. Then it was in reply to something you were not conscious of. I know what it was an answer to, but you were not conscious.

Ah! does anyone else want anything? Nobody?... Oh! How shy you all are.


Ah! what are we going to find for you? (Mother opens the Letters....) These are answers to people who want scholarly knowledge. You want to know in Indian terminology what the transcendental Mother is?... People always ask scholarly questions — there is no life in them, it goes on only in the head.

Wait, I am going to try with this (Mother takes The Synthesis of Yoga), we’ll see if by any chance we can find something.

(Mother concentrates and opens the book.) Ah! this answers very well:

“The most disconcerting discovery is to find that every part of us — intellect, will, sense-mind, nervous or

desire self, the heart, the body — has each, as it were, its own complex individuality and natural formation independent of the rest;...”[13]

This is the very thing for you ! (Laughter)

It continues, he explains:

“...it neither agrees with itself nor with the others nor with the representative ego which is the shadow cast by some central and centralising self on our superficial ignorance.”

Why! this is really very fine. (Mother reads again:) “The representative ego which is the shadow cast by some central and centralising self on our superficial ignorance.” And then:

“We find that we are composed not of one but many personalities and each has its own demands and differing nature. Our being is a roughly constituted chaos into which we have to introduce the principle of a divine order.”

This is indeed very fine.

  1. Record of Yoga, p.74
  2. Record of Yoga, p.78
  3. Ibid., p.79
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., p.8 (Lipsa: “divine desireless reaching out of Brahman in personality to Brahman in the vishaya or object”)
  6. Ibid., p.80 (“The financial condition is now at its worst, a debt of Rs 300, money almost at an end, all sources either denied or suspended & everybody who could help temporarily in a similar condition of destitution. The sortilege came as an answer to the anxiety in the annamaya mind about the sharirayatra.”)
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Questions and Answers 1956, p.162
  10. The Mother with Letters on the Mother, p.253
  11. Letters on Yoga – I, p.476
  12. Ibid.
  13. The Synthesis of Yoga, p.75, “Self-Consecration”