Today I am going to speak to you about the Playground itself as a great phenomenon created by the Mother. You may remember, we once saw a play in our Theatre staged by our students. It was about the adventure of a few young people leaving their home and going out wandering. In the end they came to a house. One of them casually opened a side door in the building and all entered and they found themselves in a fairyland. They were surprised, astonished: they found they had left the old world and come to a new, unfamiliar, enchanting fairyland.
The same experience one has when one opens the gate of the Playground and enters it. At least we used to experience it in that way in the early days. As soon as we stepped into the Playground, a new atmosphere enveloped us, a new life full of joy, happiness, delight and freedom. When we used to put on our group uniform, we felt quite different from what we were normally. Old people with their blue shorts in our group, really old people, felt very young, youthful, and trotted about as if they had left their age behind with all their cares. And the younger people, the youngest ones, were so eager to join the group, to put on the green uniform. Many among them, after putting on their green shorts, rushed to me and said enthusiastically, “Today I have got my uniform and I will join the group” — so happy, so free, so full of delight they were.
Now a word about the organisation of the groups in the Playground. Naturally some attention had to be paid in view of the difference of age and sex and capacity; but the principle, the general principle that lay behind the organisation and on which the Mother insisted, was: no difference of age, especially no difference of sex; all human beings are fundamentally of the same nature. Particularly in the competitions of physical education that were arranged from time to time, the groups were more or less all mixed up; the green and the red and the blue and all the other colours made a blend, as it were. Nowadays it is somewhat different, but in those early days it was otherwise; capacity alone was the chief consideration for distinction and difference, and that too in a general and very superficial way. I also, an aged person (I do not say old), I ran and did exercises with young people, girls also — not for fun and as a joke but very seriously. It was to show by example that in your mind, in your consciousness there should be no feeling of difference, no sense of inferiority or superiority from the point of view of age and sex — and even capacity, to an extent.
In the very early days when we were rather few in number, somewhere about fifty, we used to address each other by our names, mere names; there was no dada or didi tagged on: Nolini, Pavitra, Sahana, Lalita, that was all, pure and simple. So when people from outside came, they found it a little queer: “They have no respect here for age, no respect for elderly people, no consideration for the women; they call each other merely by the name.” But in reality, whatever it seemed like from outside, the consciousness, the attitude behind was different, and there were some people who felt it and appreciated it. Thus when someone in the Ashram called me by my name or an elderly woman by hers, evidently the feeling behind was full of respect and consideration, even love; only the form of address was like that, bare and without qualification. Even someone from outside saw the thing and judged it correctly. He wrote an article on the Ashram and mentioned this custom: it is very strange that youngsters call old people by their mere names, but it sounds nice and appropriate when the thing comes from their lips.
These were the principles that guided the organisation of the physical education groups. There was to be, first, no difference between boys and girls; all should undergo the same exercises and the same programme. This was and is even now, I think, compulsory for the younger groups — the green group and the red and even a little beyond. But it has been often asked, “Since the bodies of boys and girls are different, especially with regard to sex, is it not natural to provide different programmes?” But in reality the bodies have become different because of the consciousness that insisted on the difference during millenniums of growth and evolution. It is only now, in this age, that things have begun to change a little. Some of you, the elderly ones, may remember how difficult it was for the Mother to make the girls put on shorts and shirts for the Playground exercises. She had to begin gently and gradually. In the beginning the girls learned to put on trousers; they used to do marching and exercises in trousers. Even today in the outside world, in many places in India especially, we see women, girls marching and doing the parade in saris. Our police women even today go on duty in saris. The tradition is very strong, and in this respect we here claim to be the pioneers of this new development in which the physical freedom of women is equal to that of men. This was the lesson taught by the Mother.
Long ago, some twenty-five years ago, a well-known leader of India, a great educationist came and saw our Playground activities and made the remark: “I have travelled all over India, visited various educational institutions, seen women doing gymnastics, but this is the first time that I see here in the Ashram girls doing vaulting and movements on the parallel bars; I have never seen it anywhere else.” Of course, it goes without saying, circus girls are different. But people used to consider vaulting as a specially masculine virtue, along with many other physical games and exercises. Today it is being gradually found that this is a superstition and the judgment is wrong: the Wimbledon women champions bear witness to this. The most important thing is that you have to change your attitude, you have to change your consciousness. Of course, there are difficulties on the way, the force of habit, the force of atavism; all that demands an extra dose of your consciousness or a new consciousness.
There is a difference in what is done here and what is done elsewhere, in respect to the freedom being given to women and to the younger generation. Mother repeated so often: the freedom, the liberty you enjoy here is extraordinary, exceptional; there is almost no limit to your freedom. Indeed, it is dangerous, because the unlimited use of freedom means also the risk of the misuse of freedom. But the Mother took the risk, for that is the only way towards a radical solution, not merely a half-way compromise. Only when you are free, when you are completely, absolutely free, and you must choose between the good and the bad, and you choose the good of your own will, then the good has a real importance for you, for your consciousness and for your development. Otherwise, when you follow the good through compulsion or through fear or through social decency or through vanity — that is to say, when in order to be good you observe certain rules and you feel you are virtuous, you are dutiful — then it is not the true way, not the true attitude and the true consciousness. The true consciousness is that you do the right thing not because it is your duty to do it, not because it is worth doing and it is expected of you to do it, but because your nature impels you towards it. The flower blooms spontaneously without any sense of duty. It possesses no sense of duty because its nature is to blossom and be beautiful.
Human beings also should be like that, spontaneous and natural in their action and behaviour. Then when you do a great thing, you do not feel that you are doing something marvellous or that you are exercising your power. You do not do a thing because it is your duty but because it is your nature to do it; you cannot but do it. I give an example here. You are students of English and English grammar. Now tell me, what is the difference between these two statements: “I have to do the thing” and “I am to do the thing”? “I have to do the thing” means “I am obliged to, I am compelled to, I cannot do otherwise.” “I am to do it” means “It is for me to do it. I will do it; that is to say, it is my nature to do it.” Something of that kind is taught in the Gita — the ideal of kartavyam karma and niṣkāma karma or following one’s own Swadharma. Kartavya is usually translated as duty but it is not correct. Kartavya is one’s Dharma or the spontaneous expression of one’s nature — what one is to do, not what one has to do.
Mother gave this infinite freedom to her children because that was the only way of creating a new nature. She showed also the difference between the right use of freedom and the wrong use. The wrong use is often found in the movements of freedom outside in normal life, for example in the student movement or the women’s emancipation movement. Now when women are fighting for freedom for themselves, they consider themselves as women fighting for freedom against men. “We are women, you are men; you enjoy privileges and rights, we are denied them; we want them, we claim them.” In the youth movement also, the young people say: “All the powers the old people enjoy, the positions and emoluments, all that will not do; we want to share these things also along with the old.” Mother said, “No, this is not the right attitude.” You must change your position, your point of view. Going out for a quarrel, for a fight means that you consider yourselves different beings, with different powers, capacities, constitutions. First of all, you must consider yourselves, both parties, as human beings, not as two different species.
This point of view is being acknowledged to some extent nowadays, but it is not sufficient, Mother says. If you are content to be human beings, just human beings, differences will arise again and again, and not only differences but serious differences. Human nature is composed of these differences, and culture and civilisation mean nothing more than a reconciliation, a compromise among these differences. And the result has been that we have not gone very far towards a solution. A deeper truth has to be found, a higher truth and a more powerful truth. We must rise to a new state. Mother spoke always of finding the truth, the truth of your soul. In the truth of your soul you are neither man nor woman, neither young nor old — tvam kumāra uta vā kumārī, tvaṁ jīrṇa. You are all that only in appearance, for you are something more, something else.
You have to take your stand on your soul — that is the lesson that the Mother was trying to impart in the Playground education. So long as you are in the normal consciousness, embedded in your body-consciousness, and view things from there, your life will be built in the pattern created by the body-consciousness. Life in that pattern can proceed only through difference and distinction, contrast and contradiction, conflict and battle. So long as you stick to your habitual position, it will be like that. The remedy is a radical remedy: it is to reverse your position. You have to stand not on your legs but on your head; then you will find the way to march forward — not through confrontation but cooperation, not through separation but union, not through difference but identity. So long as you are mere human beings, this supreme soul-identity cannot come. You have to forget the differences. Someone asked the Mother in one of the Playground talks, “How is it possible for one to forget this fundamental difference that one is a man and another a woman?” Mother answered, “How can you say that? Look here, when I talk to Tara, do you think I am considering her as a woman and talking accordingly.” And she could have added, “And when I answer you, do you think I am speaking to a masculine person?”
I may narrate here a little incident concerning me personally. It was with regard to the question of age. When someone informed Mother that they wanted to celebrate my birthday, perhaps it was my eightieth birthday, in a magnificent manner, a gala celebration, Mother roared out, “No, no, you are spoiling my work. All the while I have been trying to make him forget his age and now you are trying to insist on it.” Age also is a thing to be forgotten. The birthday celebration is not for recording the progress in our age — how we are progressing year by year in our age, that is, how we are
getting old — no, it is for noting the progress made in the inner being and consciousness. Each birthday is meant to be a landmark of the forward march of your consciousness, not the greyness of your head. The touch of your soul will inspire you not merely to do the right inner movement, the enlightening of your consciousness, but it will inspire you to do the right physical movement, even lead you to choose the right kind of physical exercises and do them in the right manner. The lesson to learn, then, is to get back to your soul inside you; you will find there everything that is worth having: freedom, joy, harmony and even untold capacity.
People coming from outside asked very often and ask even now, “What is the Ashram doing for the country, for the world? Its work is confined to a few people only. Is it worth doing?” Mother answered simply, “I am doing something which is not done anywhere else in the world — I am awakening the soul in my children, the soul that alone can save and nothing else.” To the outsiders we say: “If you come here, come with eyes to see, eyes to look at or rather to look into the soul of the people who are here. Do not look at what they learn or what they do or what they say, but look inside them, look at what is there deep within.” Even now I say: “She is there within you, her work is not arrested. The tempo of her work is as vigorous and as living as it could be and its impact will become more and more clear and manifest.”
So I repeat, the soul is neither boy nor girl nor young nor old; it has not the characteristics of the body natural to man or rather to the animal. But this does not mean that it has no body, that it is something airy, nebulous, smoky. Not at all: the soul has a body, its own body as concrete and definite as the physical body; it even has a material body, although its matter is of a different kind. Have not the Western sages begun to speak of immaterial matter, of anti-matter? That soul-body you are carrying even now within this material body of yours. You can sense it as definite and living as the external body. The Mother is holding it in you; you come in contact with it through your contact with the Mother. Love the Mother, be one with her; then you will find and be this living soul of yours.
Published August 1978