“The Ashram: Inner and Outer” – Nolini Kanta Gupta

I will tell you a story today, but of another kind. I will tell you of a dream or a vision that I had some time ago. It was an ashram — I say an ashram but it was not quite like our ashram, although there was a great similarity between the two. In some respects it was like our ashram and in other respects somewhat unlike it. First of all, the whole ashram was in one place, a consolidated organisation, not houses here and there scattered about: there were no buildings or houses belonging to other people or other organisations; also the buildings were beautiful to look at and the general layout artistic. But all the activities we have here were there: the school was there, the playground was there, the library also, but all in an orderly arrangement. The Mother was also there; she was going from place to place, observing all and speaking to people. Among the people, curiously, some I seemed to recognise, some of those even who are here now; there were also many strangers from other countries, a good many of them. Regarding those who are here now and who I seemed to recognise there, the impression is rather vague and I cannot name them. But some of those who were here and have passed away I recognised very well; they had almost the same face and features — but in a new, fresh and younger form. They were active and handsome young men and young women.

I remember Sri Aurobindo quoting from the Rig Veda. The Vedic Rishi speaks of a happy herd of cows grazing in green fields; the Rishi adds: even those among them that were old have become young now. The cow represented for the Rishi the light, the sun’s ray, the purity of consciousness. Perhaps the image came from the actual life of the Rishi of that time: the cattle they reared, the domestic animals about them, the natural scenery around them, and all that was an important part of their ordinary daily life. A whole herd of cattle, all white, is a beautiful picture. Even so, there was something in the atmosphere of the ashram which gave it a special quality; it was clear, pure, limpid and transparent, there was a strange luminosity in it, and it was a very happy atmosphere. While you were there, you felt free and at ease and there were no petty feelings that we have here in the normal life of the world, no anger, no jealousy, no selfishness, no ugliness: there was a happy coordination of all persons and things.

My feeling is that this ashram that I saw was in fact the inner reality of our ashram here, the inner ashram which is within us all; what we see at present is the outer form, the material form, which is a good deal deformed and even falsified in many ways. Indeed, that inner ashram had an other-worldly atmosphere of its own, an atmosphere of rarefied heights. I have told you very often that those who are here are fortunate; they breathe this atmosphere and in spite of their faults and foibles, and no matter what they do, they are in contact with something of its inner beauty and fragrance. I do not know whether you have heard what Mother said more than once, that all the children here, when they live here for some time, imbibe and carry a new atmosphere. And she could recognise a person from a distance, even from a great distance, not by his face or physical features but by the atmosphere he carried, very different from the atmosphere an outsider normally carries. It is an atmosphere or aura made of happiness and purity and luminosity. All the ashram children are surrounded by it because it is the Mother’s own atmosphere.

Therefore in those days, she used to say that the children should not go out into the outside world even during their holidays, because when they go out (she said she had seen it) they lose this ashram atmosphere, and when they come back they are coated with a thick layer of the mud of the ordinary world, and it took her a lot of time and trouble to rub and scrub and clean the dross upon the body, to make it shine as before. You may remember here in this connection the Ramakrishna story about the sinners who go to the Ganges for a bath to purify themselves; they leave their sins on the shore or their sins leave them as they get into the Ganges water, but the sins wait for them there on the bank and as soon as they come out purified of their sins, the sins lying in wait jump on them again and the sinners remain always sinners. Here naturally you are not destined to remain sinners always.

However, that atmosphere, the inner atmosphere, still exists here. With the Mother’s withdrawal of the physical body, that too might have withdrawn a little perhaps, a little only, just a few inches perhaps! But it is still here, for the Mother is here as concretely as before although not as materially. As I said, there are some who have passed away from here and some new faces also that I found in this other inner ashram; they are already there wholly in that ashram. But we who are here, we lead a double life as it were: part of us is here and part is there in that other inner ashram, as though one leg were on this side and the other leg on that side of the fence. In your better moments when you feel nice and free, when you are happy, when you are noble in spirit, you come in contact with that inner ashram, you breathe that atmosphere. In dreams also, while asleep, apparently asleep, many of you must have seen the Mother, many must have had Sri Aurobindo’s darshan. That is because you came in contact with that inner atmosphere and entered into it.

Now our task is to come more and more in contact with that reality even in our waking moments, to be conscious of that which is nothing but the Mother’s Presence. Half of you, your inner life, is already there, bathing there in that luminous happy air. Only try to be conscious of that: if you are conscious of it even a little, you will feel immensely happy, feel that you are beautiful, that you are wise when you feel the touch of that inner ashram life. And instead of living entirely or mainly the outer life of the ashram as at present, you can turn this life into that inner life and gradually reshape the present life in the mould of the inner life. That is your duty, your task, particularly you who are students, boys and girls, that is your central work; study and learning and all else is secondary. What you should do and what you can do is to breathe a new air, live in a better, more beautiful way. You can have this inner life; it is already there, this inner life, without much difficulty; it is already there, a collective inner life, which is so beautiful as I say, filled with the fragrance of the Mother’s Presence. It is a collective life in which you all are not only brothers and sisters but one body and soul unified in the Mother’s loving and living substance.

That inner life you have to bring out in your body and all the external activities. It is the very nature of that inner organisation to express itself outwardly; its spontaneous drive is towards expression and embodiment; even if you do not know or perceive it, it is slowly coming forward. Only, if you are conscious, if you help, if you collaborate, you will be benefitted: you will grow in consciousness and attain a new stature; you will enjoy the supreme happiness of a miraculous achievement.

At present, as I say, there is a separation between the two ashrams, these two worlds or lives. They run parallel to each other, or oftener they are intertwined, intermixed, badly dovetailed. They must be made one single existence: the inner must take up and assimilate into itself the outer; the outer must allow itself to be cleansed and emptied of its dross and be possessed altogether by the inner. They are to form one streamlined entity: one being, one life, one body.

I said that your work is to try to be conscious and take part more and more in the inner life. Naturally you ask how to do it. Actually there is no precise process, no hard-and-fast rule for learning or acquiring it. It is not like learning a mathematical problem or even a particular exercise which you learn by habit and culture. It is nothing mechanical; it is a natural growth. It comes automatically and spontaneously, it shows itself to you and in you. You have simply to ask for it sincerely, to go on asking for it as intensely as possible, repeating like a mantra: “I want to be there, I want to be there, I want to be there.” That is quite sufficient. That will evoke in you the new light, the new impulse that will lead you on. That is the child’s call to the Mother and the Mother always responds — with her Light and Life and Love.

You have been told, and I have also often told you, that although the Mother’s physical body is not here, she has left her consciousness with us: her consciousness is still living, it is still working. She herself said, even while she was in her body, that if ever she left her body, her consciousness would be always here with us. But I will add something more here. Apart from her consciousness what she has left with us, what remains with us, is her love; her love for her children is still here undiminished as before in its fullness. I spoke of the inner ashram life; that life is built out of her love for her children, and it should be easy for you to enter and enjoy that life through your love for the Mother, your answering love for the Mother’s love for you. And through the glow of that love, you will gradually develop into what she wanted you to become.

Published April 1975

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