My experience of Satprem
My experience of Satprem
Divakar – May, 2015
Why this text.
The following text has come to me on the occasion of the creation of this site.
With a concern for preservation, I wished to share the few letters from Satprem which I had kept for all these past years. At first I wanted to situate these letters in their context; then I realized that, even though I had had only a very limited and occasional relationship with Satprem from an external point of view, it was quite different inwardly and in terms of the Auroville experience. It then seemed to me, as I began to write, that I could attempt in this way to bear witness and perhaps to contribute to a better comprehension. For I have observed and found, in many instances, how frequent it is that, out of opportunism, or of a concern for the safeguarding of collective harmony, or of a need to establish a particular orientation, certain facts and certain data are displaced, edited, relegated or, on the contrary, emphasized and put forward, whether in the official account or in the popular historical. And just as one finds how extremely subjective is our human nature when recording the respective observations made by different witnesses of the same scene, one will also find large discrepancies in the evaluation made by persons who participated in the same events and experienced the same defining period in the history of the group. In this regard, I believe it is preferable, rather than keeping silent, to individually contribute to the effort of testimony, with as much integrity and honesty as one can muster.
Judging by outward marks and imprints of a relationship, I am certainly not qualified to testify to what and who Satprem has been this time around, nor of the action he has carried out, the role he has played or the service he has accomplished. Someone has, more than fifteen years ago already, written and published an excellent homage to Satprem, Nicole Elfi, who was near him a faithful and efficient assistant for many years (“Satprem – par un fil de lumière”, Ed. Laffont 1998). She had arrived in Auroville with the “second caravan”, right in the midst of the conflict between the Aurovilians and the Sri Aurobindo Society on the one hand and between Satprem and the Ashram authorities on the other – but those two “hands” did appear to join as one cause and most of these newcomers dived into it with no hesitation. Nicole E. was amongst those who came to serenade us in front of the Tindivanam jailhouse, songs composed for the occasion, with a sort of healthy joy and thrust towards a true liberty – which could but make one smile, the guardians included! It was also the sound of her voice, in other circumstances, which for me like a hologram conveyed her entire path: we were several of us, late afternoon, watching over the entrance to the garden of Nandanam where Sujata and Satprem had temporarily moved. Satprem’s voice reached us: “Nicole?!”… and Nicole’s immediate and vibrant response “Oui!” while she was already standing to run towards him. The sound, the quality, the thrust in this “oui” said all about her. Later I met her several times to hand over to her my letters to Satprem or to receive from her his replies; she remained always equal, whatever may have been the dominant formations at the time. She followed Satprem and Sujata with the team which would coordinate the publication of the Agenda as well as its translations.
And yet all these years of work and service seem to have met with a sudden wall. There has been separation. As for M.D and L.V, as for P.M, I am in fact quite ignorant of the actual nature of the misunderstanding or chasm or rejection – the various reports and commentaries shared by different individuals do not really manage to clear these questions. From what I was able to observe, to note, to understand and to realize so far, on this path, every relation, whichever it may be, is constituted by effects and responses and more effects and more responses – it is only the quality that changes, modifies itself, matures, cleanses… or deteriorates. The more one offers oneself to an inner transformative action, the more the cleansing and illuminating of the subconscient takes place and the unification of the different parts of the individuality is strengthened, the more one is freed from the ego mode – and the better one is in a position to grasp the objective truth of the other person or being, as well as of the relationship itself. However in the case of Satprem, the references and criteria of evaluation become obsolete – would it only be by dint of his itinerary in this life. Revolted, a rebel adoring the wild expense of the sea, passionate for what is missing and must be, he had in his very flesh, just as he was entering the adult age, the direct experience of the failure of humanity and of the horror which, lurking in human nature, can still take over this earth – when, a new member of the Resistance, he was arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp. In order then to rebuild himself and to find a meaning of existence more sovereign than this horror, he went on a quest for clues; and this flame of need ceaselessly rose, through everything, sometimes loving and sometimes destructive – never satisfied. Soon after his release from the camp and the serious illness that had ensued, it was as if the Great Hand Above had lifted him up and moved him to lay him at the feet of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother – just so he may know in his heart that They were here…!
Yet even then he revolted and left again, in search of this space of plenitude at last, without walls.
But it is in Mother that he at last found it. He returned to Her.
Almost in spite of himself and his own contradictions, despite misunderstandings which were at times dramatic, of which Mother’s infinite patience alone knew the resolution, he eventually could remain at Her feet. It is within the orb of Her love, in the presence of Her living Immensity, of Her eternity incarnate, that he was able at last to give himself, learn to trust and commit to the work. And he has been a wholesome worker – “the workman” as he used to call it -, scrupulous, meticulous, persevering, stubborn if need be, dedicated, oriented and consecrated… and fierce! It is clear that, having received from Mother through the years such a treasure of conscious adventure, discovery and meaning, such prodigious promise for the future of the earth and for existence here itself, he could not accept, once She did withdraw Herself, to lay down the arms… One had to find how to continue serving Her, following Her and offering oneself to Their evolutionary work. He could but feel himself particularly responsible for this effort at continuity, for this loyalty and this commitment. It was imperative the path She and Sri Aurobindo had been able to hew and open, be trod by some of “mankind’ little ones”… It is also clear that Satprem, by virtue of the place Mother had given him and from his own exigency for fidelity and his own need to honor, down to his own body, the immense gift of Herself She had made to the labor of the Earth, could have made no other choices than those he did make, after Her passing. It is certain as well that Satprem had experienced the Ashram as an extension, an expression of Her Being and not as an institution. In this regard, as it appeared to many as if Mother, in the latter period, was gradually removing Herself from “external affairs”, Satprem had to observe that certain habits, certain ways of
doing and the use of certain expedients, had regained some vigor – and that, with those, he would not be able to share the task that had yet to be accomplished. The Mother’s action was for the whole world and not for any institution, however enlightened it may be.
However this work, Satprem would not be able to do alone. Many would be those who would join him for a period of time and extraordinarily intense would be each of their experiences.
It can cleanse, heal, it can illuminate, animate; it can also degrade and damage and ravage. In human relations, the distribution of roles is inevitable and automatic on the basis of the principle of mutual satisfaction – be it merely physical or emotional, or be it more refined, moral or even spiritual. I do believe that so long as we remain, so long as we continue to exist as per the laws of the “lower hemisphere” as Sri Aurobindo named it, so long as we are not recreated and recast, through the psychic being, by the principle of Unity - the reality of to-morrow –, none of us is yet possessed of the freedom needed in order to live and realize a true relation, creative and entire. Along the years I have often wished more proximity with Satprem; at times I even wished “to serve” and contribute physically, and it was comforting to learn one day, for instance, that a simple and generous being as “Cannelle” was then hired as gardener and handyman – we had worked on a few jobs together in France and I appreciated him as one does a rare jewel. I also believed for a while that the best solution was to establish a base of life and action for Satprem in Auroville itself. But I realized even then that this might generate a greater division in Auroville, not because of him, but because of what most around him might become, once their roles attributed.
It was better in the end to remain at a distance and to support, from the depth of one’s heart, his will to move forward and to serve on the Mother’s way, unconditionally. This is not to say that I never had reservations; in some respects I have at times felt as almost regrettable Satprem’s action in Auroville, But never, never have I doubted him. It is thus from this relative distance and with this unconditional support that I am attempting here to retrace my experience of Satprem, from the day I met him to the present day.
Since the day…
On the 2 nd of December 1969 I reached Pondicherry, alone, and the Ashram of Sri Aurobindo. There Fabienne had given me rendezvous. When she had learnt that I planned to soon return to India in a second attempt at discovering “the source of the work”, she had explained that she often went there herself, in the South, where she had family; and so, we could meet there early December. She had simply given me the address of the Ashram and, perhaps, the name of her aunt Françoise (who was later renamed Pourna Prema). It was thus to Françoise’s home that I was directed; she was then occupying the first floor of a vast mansion, very near to the central building of the Ashram and just next to a large temple dedicated to the god Ganesha: a few luminous rooms giving on to a shaded terrace, where I was invited by her man-servant to sit and wait, and allowed to smoke one of my very last Gitanes. Françoise arrived soon after and welcomed me with much elegance and class. She was one of the intermediaries with Mother, particularly for the French newcomers and, in this function, played a considerable role for a number of us; she was also quite close to Satprem. Françoise was one of Mother’s two grand-daughters: Mother’s son, André Morisset, had married Wanda and they had given birth to two girls, Janine and Françoise; Janine gave birth to Fabienne and Françoise to Kalya. But it was Françoise who inherited the Egyptian features: one had to see her walking towards Mother’s room, clad in a long white sheath, her black hair held up in a perfect high chignon, with her raised cheekbones, her green almond eyes and her proud poise, holding in front of her a tray on which were laid documents, flowers and the concentrated dishes she had herself prepared for Mother… (If I linger with this descriptive, it is because for some of us Ancient Egypt evoked a profound resonance; Satprem, whom many of us recognized as, in a way, our
representative at Her feet, would later write on this Egypt which lived on within us – even featuring Françoise there, in an antagonistic role, which she eventually would indeed play out, after Mother’s withdrawal. And this very ambivalent assignation of the roles, in a state of consciousness wherein, even so near to the Light of Unity, survive with renewed vigor the archetypes which pursued and haunted and governed us through the ages with their drama of the division and the adversity and their insatiable consumption of human energy, - this ambivalence would soon be revived and almost newly legitimized in a kind of collective tangent of which Satprem would be for several years a central figure.) Fabienne only arrived the next day or the day after and joined me in a Guest- House which had been recommended for its discretion - and its tolerance of these foreign uncouth ignorant newcomers, I suppose; I think it was called “Standard Guest-House”, a few buildings away only, down Nehru Street. Ignorant I surely was; and in particular, altogether unaware of the attention which my relationship with Fabienne would draw – she the darling youngest, observed by all. While in Paris, Fabienne used to take intensive ballet classes and here in the Ashram Françoise would give dance classes in her home in the evening; she had converted part of her sitting-room, with artful geometrical partitions in pastel colors, so she could practice. Both of them, Fabienne a girl of barely 17 and Françoise a blooming woman of 40 or so, emanated a remarkable physical grace; Fabienne’s face was more byzantine, with a smile which animated it entirely, a smile one could not forget. In the days that followed, Fabienne introduced me to various places and people. She told me about Satprem, “a sweet, little older man with a rose luminous complexion and blue eyes, very tranquil…”. And, at the close of one day, she took me to him, where he had come to sit, as he did every day at that hour, on the low wall edging the Cours Chabrol from the beach below, gazing at the expanse of the ocean before him.
This was my first meeting with Satprem and I do not recall the words that passed between us – they must have been benign and sparing. When a little later, with the Mother’s blessings (“I hope you will see many interesting things!”), Fabienne and I embarked on our pilgrimage to the temples of the South, we carried a copy of “The Adventure of Consciousness” which we would read together at night wherever we would sleep. I believe I saw Satprem again not long afterwards, for I do recall his asking whether I now worked “up there”, thus designating Auroville’ bare plateau of red earth about 60 meters above sea-level, just a little North of the Ashram. And his tone was that of unreserved encouragement. (I had reached a few weeks after the “first caravan”, arrived from Paris by road – almost the same itinerary I had myself travelled more than a year earlier, to end up sick and miserable in Delhi. About twenty French people, aged between 20 and 30, volunteers to join the first attempt at collective experience of Auroville, for whom Mother had had a cluster of improved thatch huts built up, at the edge of the laterite plateau overlooking the sea. And many of them also found a great support in the flame of solidarity and aspiration Satprem offered.) And when at last I understood Who Mother was and was able to choose to stay and to serve Her, I could open to the atmosphere which reigned both in Auroville and in the Ashram – in a sovereign, positive calm, an intensity of meaning and of possibility, the air itself charged with a Gaze and a Love for Whom none of our dreams was crazy, if only we would invite Truth in our hearts and our beings and everyone of our movements. In this atmosphere, at once inward and physical, there was no longer any “chance”, nor any “coincidence”, or else everything was a continual and constant coincidence within this Consciousness which worked, worked, vast and exact at once, without effort or tension yet ceaselessly – in this atmosphere, then, to pass Satprem at a street corner or near the Samadhi, gave expression to a sharing of the Way, a commonalty and a fraternity or a solidarity at the feet of the Shakti, each of us bearing one’s lot of obscurities to offer to Her transforming Action.
These instants were as if directly inscribed in a present that ever lasts, integral part of a truer Rhythm. For instance, in April 1970 Colette, my physical mother, had come to join me in the Ashram for two weeks time, so as to know a little and try to comprehend what had taken hold of me, so far from our shared history - Colette had thus the occasion to see Mother on my birthday, the day on which She gave me my name, and to receive from Her hands Her Blessings. I see again, then, as a scene engraved in diamond, this instant when Colette and I, seated in a cycle-rickshaw, suddenly saw Satprem walking towards us almost in the middle of the road, concentrated and tranquil, and his eyes lift up to ours – an instant that told the depth of these psychic bonds which gather beings together at each new stage, whatever may be the apparent circumstances and the determinisms at play. (Colette would see Satprem again, years later, at Carmen’s in Paris, for an interview which would be for her decisive.) Satprem was of average height and slight build, slim and finely boned, with a very fair skin, chestnut hair and eyes intensely luminous of a keen and deep blue, inhabited with a new inner birth – the living awareness of That which we had so missed… He was always dressed with marine blue shorts and a white short sleeved shirt and his concentration seemed constant and even. In Mother’s physical atmosphere there were thus a number of individuals whose very bodies were tangibly receptive to this new Consciousness – of which the incomparable presence expressed itself as well in the eyes of those few children who were born n Auroville in those first years. We knew nothing at the time of the Mother’s “Agenda”. We only knew that Mother had entrusted Satprem with the task of translating many of Sri Aurobindo’s texts, as well as collecting and assembling those messages and writings which would compose the quarterly Bulletin of the Ashram, in which also appeared the “Notes on the Way”, which were in fact extracts chosen by Mother Herself of the recordings made weekly by Satprem of Her experiences in the body-consciousness – those very recordings which would in their integrality later constitute the 13 volumes of the Agenda. But it was as the author of “The Adventure of Consciousness”, a work that played
and continues to play everywhere in the world a role of introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga and to the evolutionary significance of the unprecedented crisis the entire humanity finds itself thrown in, - that many of the newcomers would seek him out. He was also the author of “L’Orpailleur” and “Le Sannyasin”, two more autobiographic works which brought him intimately close to many seeking individuals. His prose had developed already a unique divining quality which could communicate a force of aspiration and of call and a movement of receptivity capable of channeling a concrete help to each (Satprem has worked at this quality, this ability to invoke and evoke, for many years and his study of Tantra under Panditji’s guidance greatly contributed). And his welcome, calm and sober, was also fraternal and generous in its support of the nascent Auroville adventure; his sympathy seemed assured towards all those rough and awkward and often uncouth characters who were nevertheless moved by a common aspiration, who were then attracted as if by a magnet to the Mother’s presence and the creation of Auroville. And each one knew to find Satprem seated on the low wall facing the ocean, late afternoons, often in the same posture of half-asana, one leg tucked in and the other folded over, at once intense and at peace, discreet, his gaze cast in the far distance – one felt there was a being who had been cleansed with the fire and the pure water of consciousness, a being gathered in the aspiration to let That embody and manifest, here itself.
Shortly after my birthday in April 1970 and Colette’s return to France, I wrote to Mother expressing my need to remain and to serve Her and She replied at the bottom of the letter: “It is good. Blessings.” Bearing Her words of acceptance I then submitted my official request to stay, through Kiran at the office of the SAS, which was then the legal sponsor for Auroville – and of which Mother was the President. When about a week later I went back to Kiran in this same office, almost in front of the Ashram, I found on her face sadness and embarrassment; she said that “something” had happened which she did not know and that the permission for me to stay had been withdrawn. She could answer none of my questions and, when I addressed Françoise, I found her reticent and evasive: a complete change of attitude.
The following days were tormented.
I did not understand and the tension I experienced was searing.
One evening as I was standing near the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo midst the silent throng of the Ashramites, a young woman whom I only knew by sight came up to me, introducing herself as Paola, secretary to Nata who was also an intermediary with Mother; she explained simply that Nata and some others had observed my troubles and considered me to be sincere and offered to help; Nata proposed to serve as my messenger to Mother. It had already happened several times, during this time of rout, that I was warned – mainly by women – that “someone was playing a trick on me”, but it in no ways enlightened me…
I then met Nata, a fraternal and generous man and his companion Maggi, a harmonious woman, strong and peaceful and as if kneaded by her love for Mother. It was agreed that Maggi would ask Mother directly, on my behalf, to confirm Her decision one way or another. Maggi advised me to state that, no matter what Her answer would be I would take it as the expression of Her Grace. At that time, it was said that Mother was experiencing another, new physical ordeal and that we must all try not to add to Her burden. I therefore suggested to Maggi to tell Mother a single word in Her hand, “yes” or “no”, would suffice. And so Maggi went up to Mother’s room at the top of the main Ashram building and I awaited her return near the Samadhi. When she came back down, she pulled me into the small courtyard at the back and explained that she had passed my question to Mother: that Mother had concentrated for about twenty minutes and then had asked whether I had really said it would be a Grace whatever Her answer; Maggi confirmed it. Then Mother took a small square of white paper and wrote: “No”. I found myself a moment later sitting on the edge of the street pavement, distressed and as lost as a condemned man, shaking with silent sobs. It was there that F.G found me. He saw at once that I needed a hand and insisted we must walk down together to the promenade Chabrol where we would surely find Satprem, for it was by then almost evening. Thus I saw Satprem again, at his habitual spot, and sat near him and in a few words told him what had happened. He then said to me: “It is when everything goes wrong that the yoga is moving ahead the faster. Believe me, I know…! We shall meet again…!”
Several factors helped me to accept this necessity to leave: one, very external, was the obligation for me to register for the French Military Service as I was not a
student and could not justify a delay or postponement of duty. Another was concerned with a commitment I had made to my companions in France that I would bring back to them whatever I would have discovered “in the East”. Lastly, from a practical point of view, circumstances arranged themselves so my leaving would be as sweet as possible and I would receive expressions of solidarity that gave me courage. (I crossed the whole country at the wheel of a 2CV Citroen belonging to a French carpenter who had decided to return to Brittany and appreciated having a travelling partner).
And, before leaving Pondicherry, I received the most precious of all gifts.
A few days before the departure, Nata obtained permission for me to be alone with Mother in Her room. (He posted himself on the other side of the door to make sure no one would disturb.)
During the ensuing period of purgatory, it was often Satprem’s utterance “We shall meet again” that acted as a lifebuoy; for it was evident to me that Satprem would never have said those words had they not been founded in truth.
Nata, through his patient and loyal letters, was also a great help.
And the branch I often clung to was the reading of these “Notes on the Way” appearing in the Bulletin – which I went to consult at André’s, the Mother’s son, and Janine’s, Fabienne’s mother, in Paris. The first two years were dedicated in a way to the exhaustion of the old formations. I was exempted from Military Service on account of psychological instability (it had not been hard for me to immerse in a state of fragile imbalance). Then I also was able to reach the end of my community commitments, having realized that the first condition of the indispensable change was the establishment of a direct and central contact with the Action of the Mother’s Force – and the rest would follow. During these times of great personal tension, there were of course a few damages – for instance I broke my back. There were also some beautiful adventures – for instance the journey Krishna and I made together, in Spain first and later in East Africa. It was after this journey that, hurting even more from not being able to return home to Pondicherry as Krishna had done, I withdrew gradually from all community bonds and attempted to better concentrate.
In his letters Nata often referred to “the family” with whom I must reconcile, if I still nursed the desire to return; according to him, whenever he asked Mother about my return, the reply was always negative; but I could not understand how this family issue could have any inner importance in Mother’s attitude. There was a very painful doubt. I then wrote to Satprem of how much I was missing Mother’s physical atmosphere, how I suffered from the distance. December 1971: “Divakar. You will see Her again when you will be convinced that your own forces can do nothing and you will need Her as the one necessary thing… Satprem.” Nevertheless I felt that, from then on, I would have to find the answers “alone before the Supreme”. During the year 1972 I had finally retired in a tiny little maid’s room, a monastic cell under the eaves and giving onto the sky, and had dived into the translation of Sri Aurobindo’s “Savitri”. I had through Nata received Mother’s blessings for this work and used to send Her each type-written canto one after another. In the period 1972-73, Nata wrote contradictory letters, at times warmly encouraging me and at times warning me not to expect anything any longer. I wrote to Satprem again. But perhaps my letter betrayed some sort of ambition, for his reply seemed to me rather brutal and unfair; he enjoined me to take this activity only as a means to remain in Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s atmosphere, and not to pretend at anything else. He replied and his answer corresponded to the perception above.
April 1973. “Divakar. Mother alone can say whether you are ready to come back. Your work on ‘Savitri’ is an excellent way of remaining in the atmosphere, on the condition that you only do it for yourself, without any idea of publication or any other result than the result within. I am no “quid” and I do not entertain correspondence. But all my wishes for you to live more and more sincerely and integrally in the Truth. Satprem.” I think that I must have then tried to “clarify” my intentions and complained a little of his coldness, to which Sujata responded, in terms that seemed to overpass her given capacity, that if I had indeed found Satprem’s reply cold, I would have found Mother’s glacial… This “misunderstanding” was the occasion of my first sense of inner unease, which worked a sort of adjustment of the distance: nobody, no one in the world could speak in Her Name – She alone knew, She alone knew my heart entirely and forever. In Mother, there was no judgment: Mother saw, loved, walked forward and carried. In Her presence for the world, in Her very body, there was no longer an ounce or a trace of the ego. However, time was passing, and Mother’s work was accelerating - and the battle within Her body too. At the beginning of 1973, I felt a sort of shift of the Action, as if Mother were enjoining all of us to make the conscious progress which would enable each one to find Her directly, without intermediary. Mother had alluded to the possibility of a sort of prolonged trance as a means and a method of sheltered concentration in order to neutralize the obstacles and the oppositions. This was Mother.
And, as the year began – I was always eager for the smallest bit of news, whether through the Bulletin or from friends returning from Pondicherry -, Mother remained more and more silent and withdrawn and much of the time kept Her eyes closed. Her New Year message “Only when you become conscious of the whole world at the same time, can you become conscious of the Divine”, was at once cryptic, mysterious and terrible: terrible, because it laid down the terms of the indispensable change in such a way that no one could pretend any longer… It was no more a matter of “spiritual realization”, but of each one incarnating, and manifesting Unity. There was no doubt in any one of us: Mother would hew the path, She had remained for that very purpose after Sri Aurobindo’s departure and the entire work was taking place through Her and in Her body.
Clearly we were not up to the mark and had little understanding.
But how to serve her, how to accompany Her, how to help lightening the load instead of aggravating it as we all did…?
The opposition which had forced me to leave Pondicherry and which I had yet to elucidate, although several indications had concurred in pointing Françoise (by then renamed “Pourna Prema” by Mother – I had learnt that her first name had in fact been given to her by Mother at birth but that she had later wanted a more spiritual one, which Mother had eventually given her) as a vector or main relay… this opposition, then, was still just as active, since she had even intervened to stop me from participating further in the activities of the Auroville Association in Paris, where I had nonetheless made good friends. Nata, on his part, while he remained confident in a positive resolution, now declared himself powerless.
It was thus alone – alone before the Supreme – that I took the decision to return.
I took this decision in October 1973. I was ready to leave France when, at the last moment, Francis my father insisted that I delay my leaving by a few days so that he could present a televised interview with Jean Yves my half-brother and I on Auroville and the Ashram (Jean Yves had earlier come back from a 6 moths stay in Pondicherry where he had also been able to see Mother, albeit in different circumstances, passing before Her in a long uninterrupted line, just a second to hand his small bouquet onto Her lap…).
And so it was only on the 11 th of November that I could embark for Delhi and Pondicherry, where I arrived in the evening of the 13 th . I laid my travel bag outside the door to Nata and Maggi’s house and directly went to the Samadhi, where the first smile I met was Fabienne’s.
I was back.
From the courtyard of the Samadhi one could hear Mother’s voice, almost a moan, refusing to ingest the food which Pranab held up to her. Later that evening, when Nata directed me to another house near the Promenade Chabrol, I found a few known people and watched as a group of volunteers prepared to leave in a bus to Auroville and join the concreting work of the tops of the four pillars and of the first circular slab of the Matrimandir. I slept on the roof terrace, guarded by a peacock.
The next day it was my turn to join at Matrimandir.
When I went back to the Ashram on the 14 th evening, Nata related to me how, for the single act of welcoming me, his lunch meals at the “Tout c’qu’il faut” canteen headed by Pourna had been cancelled…! And Maggi then said, with intensity, that she had never seen such opposition and that, if I managed to stay, she would be at my feet… meaning thus that she felt only a miracle would do… or a truly superior help, to surmount or cross the obstacle. I think that, on my side, apart from being sorry at causing so much trouble for Nata, I was no longer worried – there was rather the sense of having found my way again and to be again where I always yearned to be, in Her milieu… and come what may!
I took a room at the “International Guest-House” where I was told no one could interfere. And I in the day I went to work at Matrimandir, returning at night to sleep after a moment spent at the Samadhi under the windows of Mother’s room.
Where is Mother going?
But on November 17 th , we were nearing the end of the concreting and I stayed on, operating one of the vibrators to bring and compact the fresh concrete into the moulds of shuttering.
We finished at 7.25 pm.
The machines fell silent; in the glare of the flood-lights, all of us red-eyed and spattered with cement, our ears buzzing, but feeling as if accomplished, we checked the exact time: at 7.25 pm, on the 17 th of November the base of the sphere of Matrimandir was complete. In Matter. For the Mother’s Work. I returned late to the Guest-House, without having had the time to stop at the Samadhi.
Soon I fell asleep.
A voice called, awakening me: ‘Divakar, wake up, you must go at once to the Ashram, Mother has left Her body…!” It was Praveen’s voice; he had just heard the news: it was not yet 4 am.
This was an impossibility.
And yet it was a fact.
A few moments later I joined the line of those who were already there and we were directed to the ground-floor area where Mother used to give blessings so often in the 50s, till we reached the hall from which rose the stairs to Their apartments. On the right was Nolini’s room; on the left was a small space used for meditation, ceilinged by a sort of dome, with arches opening on two sides and clad with a layer of silvery metal sheet. There on a small narrow bed, Her back propped against pillows and Her head leaning forward and down with an expression of formidable will, tensed in a concentration almost fierce, lay… Mother? The Mother’s body…?
A cover of white synthetic fur was spread over the rest of Her silhouette.
Several fans rumbled on in the warm air and the endless line we formed contributed to increase the heat. Small plates of camphor sat on the floor in every corner and one could smell the scent of the cologne Mother used. We learned that Mother’s heart had stopped beating the evening before, at 7.25 pm. And that the “closest disciples”, along with André, had decided to first prepare Mother’s body, then to inform the Ashram inmates and bring it down to the “Meditation Hall” so everyone could be invited from 4 am onwards. Nolini had drafted a message to explain that Mother had prepared the next body in the true subtle physical plane and that Her consciousness had now left “the old body” which had completed its work and entered “the new body”. But the fact that Mother’s body was right there, exposed, with this suddenness, almost a hurry, remained incomprehensible. It corresponded to none of the markers She had placed on the Path She had trod, well and far ahead of us all. And yet, the whole atmosphere was as if seized with calm, at once imperative and devoid of all drama.
All could feel this; there was no room for drama.
We could not understand.
But we could at the least be faithful to Her smile, to Her atmosphere which was ever imbued with a live water of progress, aspiration and advance… Several times, on the 18 th and 19 th , I went back into the line – as many of us did.
It was thus, on the 18 th , towards evening, that I then proceeded, almost without thinking, towards the Promenade and entered the tennis-ground and came near
Satprem who sat there, on the low wall facing the immensity, one leg crossed over the other in his customary pose, absorbed in the intensity of a call that enlarged his eyes – the color of which that evening, I remember, was the green rather than the blue of a distant sea. And then he turned his gaze into mine for a moment; we said not a word; he raised a finger before his lips – what could have been said?
After a moment at his side, I left.
His words uttered more than three years earlier, almost on the same spot, “we shall meet again”, had thus come true. But neither he nor I, nor anyone else, could ever have imagined the circumstances in which it would be realized.
Everything went on.
We all felt that such was Her will.
And there was, in the months that followed, a kind of physical joy, as if a little of Mother’s vibrant plenitude had seeded itself in each and all of us.
But, down and deep within one’s being, there was an immense anger.
An anger which was a pain, a sorrow resonating through the ages.
All this, this “reality”, was so contrary to what ought to have incarnated.
How was it that Mother could have been treated thus, She who had given of Herself unreservedly and ceaselessly to each and to all, unwearyingly, so that the True, the Supreme, could embody upon earth…? Mother, whose very body had become the hope for the Earth, a cellular aggregate entirely offered to the true Consciousness…? How could it happen that, instead of serving Her, of accompanying Her, of keeping vigil, we had to find Her thus exposed, alone, alone…? Satprem would later write a little of what he had then experienced, beyond the formidable, incomprehensible shock – of this great tocsin which had come beating into the world… “No obstacle, nothing prevents…” (Satprem had, from the 17 th of May onwards, no longer been allowed in to see Mother…)
I remember the 20 th of November. That day, Mother’s body was placed in a casket which was laid in a compartment of the Samadhi, directly above where Sri Aurobindo’s had laid since 1950.
Satprem was one of those who carried the casket.
We were all seated on the courtyard stones – some of the Ashramites were at the windows of the upper floors and I recall seeing Pourna, sitting on a small terrace just above Nirodbaran’s room, her long hair undone, imperious… - and I was a few meters only from the Samadhi, to the West, and Maggi was right behind me and I suddenly heard her weep and a little of this anger at this instant rose up and I turned to her to signify that one must not cry, for it would mean believing in this “death” which was an impossibility, even presented this way… It would only be much later that we would better know how – with “love” perhaps, with “devotion” perhaps, but in a profound incomprehension – betrayed Mother had been, right down to the so-called medical treatment She had been forced to endure. A short while after the 20 th of November, probably at the beginning of December, I do not remember exactly, Pranab gave to the Ashram people, gathered one evening at the Playground, an account of what had occurred and of what he had observed, thought and felt during the period that had preceded Mother’s “departure”. I was among the audience that evening – every evening I used to return into town, where I had rented a room in a lodge named after “Ganesh” -, because I wanted to try and understand the viewpoint of those who had physically been in a constant relation with Mother. It is the account of a being who has been deeply disappointed in his expectations – he who had worked and disciplined himself at the service of the physical Transformation meant to occur in the Mother’s body, had then been obliged to acknowledge that it would not manifest and that Mother was going to have to give up on it, that She in fact had in a way “succumbed” to the ordinariness of things. And it thus appeared that, since he had realized this, Mother’s physical presence had become almost like a weight… His report has later been published.
He also mentioned, with unadorned pragmatism, the various measures he and Mother’s near entourage had to take and the medicines which had been prescribed for Her. Yet it was only when reading the last volumes of the Agenda several years later that we had confirmation, from Mother’s lips, of how much She knew and felt in Her very body everything that all around Her were thinking and wishing and how much these formations had tormented Her, She who had at the very same time the physical and material experience of a growing Presence here itself – and how the two “contrary” processes were at once accelerating… And by then we could also hear, on the recordings, Pranab’s barely controlled fury when Mother tried to remind him in front of Satprem of the possibility of a prolonged trance… One may wonder indefinitely and painfully – and no doubt uselessly – what could have happened if Satprem and Sujata had been part of the first circle around Mother. What is absolutely certain is that one would never have even conceived of the thought of exposing Her body to the crowd barely a few hours after Her heart had ceased to throb.
Walking on with Auroville
Soon I had to make my official request to the Auroville Committee to be granted formal permission to stay in Auroville and the necessary guarantee for my residential visa. And so I presented myself before the Committee, which was then composed of Navajata, Prem Mallik, Roger A. and, I think, Shyamsundar.
And I was refused.
I do not think I was offered any explanation, or that I even asked for one.
It was evidently the same antagonism at work.
But the choice within me was made. I knew that I would be serving the Matrimandir; I knew also that I would be living at the place named “Sincerity” by Mother, some two hundred meters away from the Matrimandir and the Banyan tree. At the time Shyamsundar was, through a sort of compromise with Navajata whose views he did not always share, responsible for the construction of the Matrimandir as administrator – Piero was responsible as engineer on site directing the work -, and he had given me a trusting and welcoming support; later he even called on André, the Mother’s son, to help formalize this support. The disagreement between Shyamsundar and Navajata was symptomatic of the crisis we would soon, all of us and from all sides, have to go through. In Mother’s physical absence, in the practical impossibility to lay before Her all the kinds of questions which were forming day by day, the distance between the varying perspectives only increased, diverging views were aggravated and positions hardened. All sorts of controversy began to covet the front of the stage.
The controversial mode
And the construction of the Matrimandir attracted its lot of conflicts.
It was on the occasion of such a conflict that I allowed myself to write to Satprem – to my sense he was one of the rare beings amongst the depositaries of the Mother’s “mission” who was accessible to us and whom we could trust, without any fear that he might have a will to exert any control. We had also learned, through Paolo, that Mother had, in January 1970, shared Her first description of the Inner Room of the Matrimandir in Satprem’s presence and that he had recorded Her words. He answered: “13.9.74. Divakar, you want to add my “influence” midst all the other competing influences? I am competing in no ego race. As long as one’s idea, or one’s supreme esthetics or one’s truth will stand against another’s, the Matrimandir will not be there. We are not building an astrologically or mathematically perfect temple, but a man in unity. This is the first Matrimandir. In the vision above, there are no centimeters: there is an internal perfection that translates itself spontaneously through certain measurements. It is this internal perfection in the builders of the Matrimandir that ought to make the external perfection of the temple. Thus it is not a matter of discussing the centimeters or the columns, but one of working for the unity of the consciousnesses. All “blurs” between Mother’s vision and the builders’ translation give the exact measure of the egoistic interference. One is not going to rectify the ego by removing a meter of concrete here or there or by adding a few columns. As far as I know, Mother has always considered Roger to be the architect and in charge of the works, It is thus through an understanding with him that it ought to be possible to rectify whatever “errors” there may be. If each of the eminent persons who look after Auroville seeks to add one’s own idea or interpretation or particular truth, we shall have a Matrimandir with bumps, even if their bumps have supposedly been inspired by Mother. What Mother said to me, I know, but I will not go out and claim “Mother said, Mother said…”, I send you back to Roger. There are no
contradictions in Mother, but many in the consciousnesses. Good sincerity to all. Satprem. PS: As for the aspiration you ask me to share, may you share mine!” Satprem’s replies were returning us to ourselves, which was certainly the wisest and rightest. They were not, however, the answers Mother would have given – in the sense that She would always respond to the kernel of truth in any person or position and thus She would have given a direction that would have been inclusive and progressive at the same time. The very fact of Mother’s absence, where immediate decisions and choices were concerned, found us generally deficient. We had neither the discernment nor the receptivity that were needed and, as if ineluctably, our collective atmosphere began to fall, or to fall back, from the condition which Mother had attempted to establish = a receptive aspiration, in each one of us, for the reality of Unity and the path of Tomorrow – and, practically, a collaboration of everyone in a sincere orientation towards a truer Future awaiting us. Tensions and resistances intensified, not only around us and around Auroville, but amongst us. On June 9 th , I wrote to Satprem and he replied on my letter itself. “ D.: 9-6-1975, Matrimandir. Satprem, in spite of the persevering effort of a few, work at Matrimandir is slowing down and down… the cement has still not arrived, which perhaps could make us leap to the other side… Satprem: you believe it is cement that will make you leap to the other side…? D.: while pulling one’s tongue at all these makers of confusion, who draw it all into their grey pockets. Matrimandir, the astrologers are saying, is wrong, we have betrayed Mother’s vision, since the 24 meters…, Udar is saying… it must be modified so as to correspond to Mother’s vision, since the door… etc. And Matrimandir itself? It is waiting! Satprem, cancelling these last words with a big red cross: Matrimandir is
TRUE. D.: It is not so that you should participate in the play of influences that I am writing to you, but to give you some news, simply, because you are here, present, - because you are concerned with our growing unity, or lack of it… And then, there are their stories of committees: there may be some good-will in it, but it rather seems, for the time being, that the demons of the past are having great fun. This is surely a battle that surpasses the individuals… Satprem: Yes. But each individual must vanquish his own part of the Falsehood. D.: … and there is a deep devotion, an enthusiastic devotion at seeing and realizing all the time that nothing, henceforth, can hide from the Truth. Satprem: Yes. And She will hammer and pound and press on till all the small egos will be flattened . D.: And for this, truly, this year is a good one. Yet at times one looses the thread a little when one sees how easy it is to forget and to cover and to reaffirm the old world over it all. This is not a letter that waits for a reply. It is no letter. You are present here… Satprem: Yes!... D.: It is only to communicate. Joel, on his part, has got jaundice, a little shaken up; he is resting in ‘Sincerity’… Satprem: Sincerity will make his jaundice go away…! Satprem.”
How to serve?
Centers of interest and “causes” to be served came into position, each having its exclusivism, while they were in fact complementary…: the construction of the Matrimandir – the “green” work – the services and the collective organization – the means of survival and the search for autonomy – the safeguarding of “Mother’s Agenda”… Satprem, depository with Sujata of hundreds of hours of tape-recordings of conversations with Mother over more than twenty years, had proposed to publish its integrality, without any omission or alteration, under the title “Agenda of the Supramental Action upon the Earth”. The Ashram authorities did not want that the whole of it be published but only those parts that according to them could be broadcast. Satprem refused to do this operation and chose to move away from the Ashram and to do the entire work of transcription and then of translation with others – among whom a number of the Auroville inhabitants. This decision triggered many anxious concerns, both in the Ashram and in the Sri Aurobindo Society, and there ensued a virulent resentment against Satprem.
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