Past-life memories

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(Mother, 1957:) “It is only when one is consciously identified with his divine Origin that he can speak with complete truthfulness of a memory of past lives. Sri Aurobindo speaks of a progressive manifestation of the Spirit in the forms it inhabits. When one reaches the summit of this manifestation, one has a plunging view of the path already traversed, and one remembers.
         But that does not mean remembering in a mental way. Those who claim to have been this or that baron in the Middle Ages or such and such a person who lived at such and such a place during such and such a time are fantasizing; they are simply victims of their own mental fancies. For what remains of past lives are not beautiful illustrated classics in which you see yourself as a great lord in a castle or a victorious general at the head of his army – all that is fiction. What remains is the memory of the INSTANTS when the psychic being emerged from the depths of your being and revealed itself to you, or in other words, the memory of those moments when you were fully conscious. The growth of the consciousness is effected progressively through evolution, and the memory of past lives is generally limited to the critical moments of this evolution, to the great, decisive turning points that have marked some progress in your consciousness.
         While living such minutes of your life, you do not at all care about remembering whether you were Lord so and so who lived at such and such a place during such and such a time – it is not the memory of your civil status that remains. On the contrary, you lose sight of these petty external things, these minor perishable details, so as to be fully ablaze in this revelation of the soul or this divine contact. And when you recall these minutes of your past lives, the memory is so intense that it seems very near, still living – much more living than most of the ordinary memories of your present life. At times, in dreams, when you enter into contact with certain planes of consciousness, you may also have memories with this same intensity, this vibrant hue, as it were, so much more intense than the colors and things of the physical world. These being the moments of true consciousness, all assumes an extraordinary radiance, everything is vibrant, everything is charged with a quality that eludes our ordinary vision.
         These minutes of contact with the soul are often those that mark a decisive turning point in one's life, a step forward; a progress in consciousness, and they frequently result from a crisis, a situation of extreme intensity, when a call surges forth from the whole being, a call so strong that the inner consciousness pierces through the unconscious layers that envelop it and is revealed fully luminous upon the surface. This very strong call of the being can also call forth the descent of a divine emanation, an individuality, a divine aspect that unites with your own individuality at a given moment to do a given work, to win a particular battle, to express this thing or that. Then, when the work is accomplished, this emanation most often withdraws. So it may be that one retains the memory of the circumstances surrounding these minutes of revelation or inspiration, one sees again a landscape, the color of a garment one was wearing, the shade of one's skin, things that were around you at that particular moment – all this is imprinted in an indelible way, with an extraordinary intensity, for the details of ordinary life are then also revealed in their true intensity, their true tonality. The consciousness that reveals itself in you reveals at the same time the consciousness in things. These details can sometimes help you reconstitute the period in which you lived or the deeds that were accomplished, surmise the country where you lived, but it is quite easy, too, to fantasize and mistake one's imaginings for reality.
         You should not conclude, however, that all memories of past lives refer to moments of great crisis, important missions or revelations. Sometimes these are very simple, transparent minutes when a perfect and integral harmony of the being is expressed. And these may correspond to entirely insignificant external situations.
         But apart from the things that were around you at that minute, apart from that minute of contact with your psychic being, nothing remains. Once the privileged moment has passed, the psychic being sinks back into its inner somnolence and the whole outer life fades into a monotonous gray which leaves no trace. In fact, something of the same phenomenon occurs in the course of your present life: apart from those exceptional moments when you are at the summit of your mental, vital or even physical being, the rest of your existence seems to fade into an uninteresting, dull tonality, and it matters very little whether you have been at this place or some other or whether you have done this thing rather than another. If suddenly you try to look at your life in order to gather its essence – to peer twenty or thirty or forty years behind you – you will see two or three images spontaneously leap before you, and they are the true minutes of your life, but all the rest fades away. A spontaneous choice and a tremendous elimination thus take place in your consciousness. This gives you an idea of what happens in regard to past lives: a choice of a few special moments, and an immense elimination.”[1]

(Shobha Mitra, 1953:) “Mother, I feel very scared to tell you something, but I cannot help telling it to you. This has been disturbing me very much.

(Mother:) Tell me, what's happened?

Mother, I do not know if this is a dream or some subtle vision or something created entirely by my imagination! When I lived in Calcutta, these incidents would unfold before my eyes quite suddenly, from time to time, and forgetting everything I would get lost in them. This would happen while I was working or studying and these incidents had no connection at all with me. My work would be interrupted, my revisions would stop, so much would I get carried away by them. This would last for some time, and then these scenes vanished. I would get back to whatever I was doing. This hasn't stopped even after coming here.

What do you see?

Suddenly, I see before my eyes a huge palace, absolutely marvellous and exquisite! I see a very well-furnished royal court with a queen seated on an imposing throne. She is my mother. I am her daughter, the royal princess of that kingdom. I am wearing a lovely pale blue Banarasi silk sari with golden zari-work on it. I am a young princess and am conscious of my beauty. I am bedecked with jewelry. My mother, the royal queen, is also dressed in a maroon-coloured Banarasi silk sari and wears a lot of rich jewels on her. Mother, this queen is actually the mother of our Ramanathan who resides in the Ashram. She is Tamil. It is she I see as the royal queen. I used to see her also in Calcutta. Seated on her throne, she is surrounded by ministers, as she listens to her subjects who have come for an audience with her. From time to time, she turns to her ministers to speak with them about matters related to the kingdom. I am watching her from a distance, from a very large verandah that is on the first floor of this palace. Standing in the verandah, I can see a part of the palace and the royal attendants bustling about. Everything about this scene is extremely refined, the palace, the court, the Queen-Mother and I! The Queen-Mother truly looks like an Indian queen. Whenever this scene emerges before my eyes, Mother, I just forget everything! I totally lose myself in it! I become another person when I see these scenes. Not mad exactly... but I become someone else! As if I was no more in this present existence. The other day, this happened to me in the middle of my physical activities in the Sports-ground. I had to tell the captain and leave the ground and sit out for a while. The captain and some other girls began wondering what had happened to me. I could not tell them anything. What is all this, Mother? Why does such a thing happen to me?

This is a memory from your past birth. In some past life you lived in that palace, you were a royal princess.

(After saying this, the Mother looked on into my eyes with a fixed concentration. Then She put her hand on my head and closed Her eyes and meditated for quite some time, as if She were in a trance. I kept completely silent. Then, She came out of that state and returned to Her normal self. She looked at me and smiled, that enthralling smile of Hers! I was mesmerised. Needless to say, after this moment, I never saw those scenes again.)[2]

(Mother to Satprem, 1962:) What was standing there was a manifestation of one of my states of being, a part of my vital being, or rather one of my innumerable vital beings – because I have quite a few! And this one is particularly interested in things on earth.

(Satprem:) A projection of yours – an emanation?

You know, mon petit, I said one day that in the history of earth, wherever there was a possibility for the Consciousness to manifest, I was there; this is a fact. It's like the story of Savitri: always there, always there, always there, in this one, that one – at certain times there were four emanations simultaneously! At the time of the Italian and French Renaissance. And again at the time of Christ, then too.... Oh, you know, I have remembered so many, many things! It would take volumes to tell it all. And then, more often than not (not always, but more often than not), what took part in this or that life was a particular yogic formation of the vital being – in other words something immortal. And when I came this time, as soon as I took up the yoga, they came back again from all sides, they were waiting. Some were simply waiting, others were working (they led their own independent lives) and they all gathered together again. That's how I got those memories. One after the other, those vital beings came – a deluge! I had barely enough time to assimilate one, to see, situate and integrate it, and another would come. They are quite independent, of course, they do their own work, but they are very centralized all the same. And there are all kinds – all kinds, anything you can imagine! Some of them have even been in men: they are not exclusively feminine.
         At first, I used to think they were fantasies.
         Before I met Sri Aurobindo they would come and come and come to me, night after night and sometimes during the day – a mass of things! Afterwards I told Sri Aurobindo about it, and he explained to me that it was quite natural. And indeed, it is quite natural: with the present incarnation of the Mahashakti (as he described it in Savitri), whatever is more or less bound up with Her wants to take part, that's quite natural. And it's particularly true for the vital: there has always been a preoccupation with organizing, centralizing, developing and unifying the vital forces, and controlling them. So there's a considerable number of vital beings, each with its own particular ability, who have played their role in history and now return.”[3]

(Regarding the last conversation and Mother's ‘innumerable vital beings’, who reincarnated this time ‘in a deluge’:)

(Mother to Satprem, 1962:) “As a child, when I was around ten or twelve years old, I had some rather interesting experiences which I didn't understand at all. I had some history books – you know, the textbooks they give you to learn history. Well, I'd read and suddenly the book would seem to become transparent, or the printed words would become transparent, and I'd see other words or even pictures. I hadn't the faintest idea what was happening to me! And it appeared so natural to me that I thought it was the same for everybody. But my brother and I were great chums (he was only a year and a half older), so I would tell him: “They talk nonsense in history, you know – it is LIKE THIS; it isn't like that: it is LIKE THIS!” And several times the corrections I got on one person or another turned out to be quite exact and detailed. And (I see it now – I understood it later on) they were certainly memories. About some passages I would even say, “How stupid! It was never that; THIS is what was said. It never happened like that; THIS is how it happened.” And the book was simply open before me; I was just reading along like any other child and ... suddenly something would occur. It was something in me, of course, but I used to think it was in the book!”[4]

  1. Mother's Agenda 1951-1960, Undated 1957
  2. Shobha Mitra, Living in the Presence, p.61
  3. Mother's Agenda 1962, 27 June 1962
  4. Ibid., 30 June 1962

See also