“Prayers and Meditations of the Mother” – Nolini Kanta Gupta

(1)

 

THE Prayers and Meditations of the Mother. It is Life Divine in song, it is Life Divine set to music — made sweet and lovely, near and dear to us — a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.

To some the ideal has appeared aloof and afar, cold and forbidding. The ascent is difficult involving immense pains and tiresome efforts. It is meant for the high-souled ascetic, not for the weak earth-bound mortals. But here in the voice of the Mother we hear not the call for a hazardous climb to the bare cold wind-swept peak of the Himalayas but a warm invitation for a happy trek back to our own hearth and home. The voice of the Divine is the loving Mother’s voice.

The Prayers and Meditations of the Mother are a music, a music of the lyre — I say lyre, because there is a lyric beauty and poignancy in these utterances. And true lyricism means a direct and spontaneous outflowing of the soul’s intimate experiences.

This wonder-lyre has three strings, giving out a triple note or strain: there is a strain of philosophy, there is a strain of yoga and there is a strain of poetry. We may also call them values and say there is a philosophical, a yogic and a poetic value in these contemplations. The philosophical strain or value means that the things said are presented, explained to the intellect so that the human mind can seize them, understand them. The principles underlying the ideal, the fundamental ideas are elaborated in terms of reason and logical comprehension, although the subject-matter treated is in the last analysis beyond reason and logic. For example, here is true philosophy expressed in a philosophic manner as neatly as possible.

Of what use would be man if he was not made to throw a bridge between That which eternally is, but is not manifested, and that which is manifested; between all the transcendences, all the splendours of the divine life and all the obscure and sorrowful ignorance of the material world? Man is the intermediary between that which has to be and that which is; he is a bridge thrown over the abyss, he is the great X in the cross, the quaternary link. His true abode, the effective seat of his consciousness, should be in the intermediate world at the joining point of the four arms of the cross, where all the infinity of the Unknowable comes to take precise form for being projected into the multitudinous manifestation…[1]

Or again

How many and different are the degrees of consciousness! This word should be reserved for that which, in a being, is illumined by Thy Presence, identifies itself with Thee and participates in Thy absolute Consciousness, for that which has knowledge, which is “perfectly awakened” as says the Buddha.

Outside this state, there are infinite degrees of consciousness descending down to the complete darkness, the veritable inconscience which may be a domain not yet touched by the light of Thy divine love (but that appears improbable in physical substance), or which is by reason of some ignorance, outside our individual region of perception… [2] 

However, we note that the philosophical strain merges into the yogic, rather the yogic strain is already involved in the philosophical. Here is an obvious and clear expression of this strain:

Each day, each moment, must be an occasion for a new and completer consecration; and not one of those enthusiastic and trepidant consecrations, overactive, full of the illusion of the work, but a profound and silent consecration which need not be apparent, but which penetrates and transfigures every action. Our mind, solitary and at peace, must rest always in Thee, and from this pure summit it must have the exact perception of realities, of the sole and eternal Reality, behind unstable fugitive appearances…[3]

We are given all the disciplines necessary for the growth of the spiritual life: the processes, the procedures that have to be followed — object-Lessons are given even for the uninitiated and for the very beginner, as well as instructions for those who aim at the highest heights thus:

It is always good to look within ourselves from time to time and see that we are nothing and can do nothing, but we must then turn our look towards Thee, knowing that Thou art all and that Thou canst do all.

Thou art the life of our life and the light of our being,
Thou art the master of our destiny. [4]

Indeed philosophy and yoga go hand in hand. Yoga is applied philosophy. What is at first mentally perceived and recognised, what is accepted by the reason is made active and dynamic in life. The character embodies the abstract and general principles, the vital energy executes them, that is yoga. Philosophy brings in the light of consciousness, yoga the energy of consciousness. Here we have an expression of what may be caned “yogic philosophy”.

We must at each moment shake off the past like falling dust, so that it may not soil the virgin path which, also at each moment, opens before us…[5]

Once again we see emerging the third note, the note of poetry. In fact the Prayers and Meditations abound in the most beautiful poetry, what can be more beautiful, even more poetically beautiful than these cadences!

Thy voice is so modest, impartial, sublime in its patience and its mercy that it does not make itself heard with any authority, any potency of will; it is like a cool, soft and pure breeze; it is like a crystalline murmur that imparts a note of harmony to a discordant concert. Only for him who knows how to listen to that note, how to breathe that breeze, it contains such a treasure of beauty and such a perfume of pure serenity and noble grandeur, that all extravagant illusions vanish or are transformed into a joyful acceptance of the marvellous truth that has been glimpsed. [6]

Or more beautiful than the beautiful simplicity of these lines!

Like a flame that burns in silence, like a perfume that rises straight upward without wavering, my love goes to Thee…[7]

If one asks for a classical perfection, here is a line that is on a par with a Racinian verse —

My heart has fallen asleep, down to the very depths of my being. [8]

And here is a line flowing with all the milk and honey of the Romantic muse —

And the hours pass away like dreams unlived. [9]

which possesses furthermore the magic of an indefinable mysticism so rare in the French language. The mystic element gives a special grace and flavour, a transcendent significance serving as an enveloping aura to the whole body of these Prayers and Meditations.

One cannot, for example, but be bewitched by the mystic grandeur of this image:

O serene and immobile Consciousness, Thou watchest on the boundaries of the world like a sphinx of eternity. And yet to some Thou givest out Thy secret.[10]

In fact three notes blend together indissolubly and form what we call ‘mantra’ — even like the triple mystic syllable AUM.

Once, in connection with Shakespeare, I said that a poet’s language, which is in truth the poet himself, may be considered as consisting of unit vocables, syllables, that are as it were fundamental particles, even like the nuclear particles, each poet having his own type of particle, with its own charge and spin and vibrations. Shakespeare’s, I said, is a particle of Life-energy, a packet of living blood-vibration, pulsating as it were, with real heart-beat. Likewise in Dante one feels it to be a packet of Tapas — of ascetic energy, a bare clear concentrated flame-wave of consciousness, of thought-force. In the Prayers and Meditations the fundamental unit of expression seems to be a packet of gracious light — one seems to touch the very hem of Mahalakshmi.

The voice in the Prayers and Meditations is Krishna’s flute calling the souls imprisoned in their worldly household to come out into the wide green expanses of infinity, in the midst of the glorious herds of light, to play and enjoy in the company of the Lord of Delight.

 

(2)

 

We have spoken of the three notes or strains in the Prayers and Meditations. Apart from this triple theme which after all means mode or modulation in expression, there is a triplicity in depth. Along with the strains, there are strands. Besides the value or quality of the things, the thing itself is a composite reality containing different levels. It is not a single, unilateral, one-dimensional world, but it is multi-dimensional consisting of many worlds, one within another, all telescoped as it were, to form a single indivisible whole.

Now these prayers — who prays? And to whom? These meditations — who meditates? And who is the object of the meditation? First of all there is the apparent obvious meaning, that is on the very surface. It is the Mother’s own prayers offered to her own beloved Lord. It is her own personal aspiration, the preoccupation of the individual human being that she is. It is the secret story, the inner history of all that she desires, asks for, questions, all that she has experienced and realised and the farther more that she is to achieve, the revelations of a terrestrial creature of the particular name and form that she happens to possess. Thus for example, the very opening passage of these prayers:

Although my whole being is in theory conscrated to Thee, O Sublime Master, who art the life, the light and the love in all things, I still find it hard to carry out this consecration in detail. It has taken me several weeks to learn that the reason for this written meditation, its justification lies in the very fact of addressing it daily to Thee. In this way I shall put into material shape each day a little of the conversation I have so often with Thee; I shall make my confession to Thee as well as it may be.. [11]

But we notice immediately that these are no exclusively personal, absolutely individual assertions. While speaking of herself, spontaneously she seems to be speaking on behalf of all men. The words that she utters come as it were, from the lips of all mankind. She is the representative human being. She gives expression to all that man feels or might feel but is not able or does not know how to express and articulate. Here is how she describes her function as a representative person — so beautifully, so poignantly:

I then thought of all those who were watching over the ship to safeguard and protect our route, and in gratitude, I willed that Thy peace should be born and live in their hearts; then I thought of all those who, confident and carefree, slept the sleep of inconscience and, with solicitude for their miseries, pity for their latent suffering which would awake in them in their own waking, I willed that a little of Thy Peace might dwell in their hearts and bring to birth in them the life of the Spirit, the light which dispels ignorance. I then thought of the dwellers of this vast sea, visible and invisible, and I willed that over them might be extended Thy Peace. I thought next of those whom we had left far away and whose affection is with us, and with a great tenderness I willed for them Thy conscious and lasting Peace, the plenitude of Thy Peace proportioned to their capacity to receive it. Then I thought of all those to whom we are going, who are restless with childish preoccupations and fight for mean competitions of interest in ignorance and egoism and ardently, in a great aspiration for them I asked for the plenty light of Thy Peace. I next thought of all those whom we know, of all those whom we do not know, of all the life that is working itself out, of all that has changed its form and all that is not yet in form, and for all that, and also for all of which I cannot think, for all that is present to my memory and for all that I forget, in a great ingathering and mute adoration, I implored Thy Peace.[12]

or again:

What I willed for them, with Thy will, at the moments when I could be in a true communion with Thee, grant that they may have received it on the day when, striving to forget external contingencies, they turned towards their noblest thought, towards their best feelings.

May the supreme serenity of Thy sublime Presence awake in them.[13]

But the Mother is not merely a representative, she has become all men, the entire humanity itself. She has identified herself with each person in her being and consciousness, she is one with all, all are merged in her. Her voice utters the cry of the human collectivity. Mother’s Prayers and Meditations are the prayers and meditations of man. Thus again:

..it seemed to me that I adopted all the inhabitants of this ship, and enveloped them in an equal love, and that so in each one of them, something of Thy consciousness would awake. [14]

She has so clearly and unequivocally expressed her oneness with all men. She mentions specially the miserable, the poor and afflicted mankind:

When I was a child — about the age of thirteen and for about a year — every night as soon as I was in bed, it seemed to me that I came out of my body and rose straight up above the house, then above the town, very high. I saw myself then, clad in a magnificent golden robe, longer than myself; and as I rose, that robe lengthened, spreading in a circle around me to form, as it were, an immense roof over the town. Then I would see coming out from all sides, men, women, children, the old, the sick, the unhappy; they gathered under the outspread robe, imploring help, recounting their miseries, their sufferings, their pains. In reply, the robe, supple and living, stretched out to them individually, and as soon as they touched it, they were consoled or healed, and entered back into their body happier and stronger than they had ever been before coming out of it.[15]

But her being and consciousness are not limited to mankind alone. She has identified herself with even material objects, with all the small insignificant physical things which our earthly existence deals with. This is how she takes leave of the house where she had lived, and the things it had sheltered, on the eve of a long journey:

I thank them with gratitude for all the charm they have been able to impart from the outside to our life; I wish, if they are destined to pass for a long or a brief period into other hands than ours, that these hands may be gentle to them and may feel all the respect that is due to what Thy divine Love, O Lord, has made to emerge from the dark inconscience of chaos. (3.3.1914) [16]

It is to be noted how even a material object is taken up, purified and transformed almost into a living being by the Mother’s loving touch.

The same feeling of unity and oneness extends to the dumb plant world also. It is oneness not partial or vague but total and absolute:

 A deep concentration seized on me, and I perceived that I was identifying myself with a single cherry-blossom, then through it with all cherry-blossoms, and as I descended deeper in the consciousness, following a stream of bluish force, I became suddenly the cherry-tree itself, stretching towards the sky like so many arms its innumerable branches laden with their sacrifice of flowers. Then I heard distinctly this sentence:

“Thus hast thou made thyself one with the soul of cherry-trees and so thou canst take note that it is the Divine who makes the offering of this flower-prayer to heaven.”

When I had written it, all was effaced; but now the blood of the cherry-tree flows in my veins and with it flows an incomparable peace and force. What difference is there between the human body and the body of a tree? In truth there is none, the consciousness which animates them is identically the same. [17]

Indeed the Mother’s voice is the voice of all men, all creatures, all beings, all things. She stands for the entire earth, not only so, she is the Earth itself; the total terrestrial being is embodied in her, earth’s aspiration, and pain and yearning find utterance in her.

This sorrowful world kneels before Thee, O Lord, in mute supplication; this tortured Matter nestles at Thy feet, its last, its sole refuge; and so imploring Thee, it adores Thee, Thee whom it neither knows nor understands! Its prayer rises like the cry of one in a last agony; that which is disappearing feels confusedly the possibility of living again in Thee; the earth awaits Thy decree in a grandiose prostration.[18]

This is the second status of the Mother’s being, the first is the personal and individual, the second is this collective and universal being. But she is not merely the universe, she is the Mother of the universe. Hers is not merely earth’s prayer, but the prayer of the Mother of the earth. It is not merely the prayer of the universe but the prayer of the Universal Mother to the Supreme Lord for the deliverance of the universe, for the re-creation of the earth — Indeed, for the deliverance of herself for the re-creation of herself out of the present ignorant manifestation:

Mother, sweet Mother, who I am, Thou art at once the destroyer and the builder.

The whole universe lives in Thy breast with all its life innumerable and Thou livest in Thy immensity in the least of its atoms.

And the aspiration of Thy infinitude turns towards That which is not manifested to cry to it for a manifestation ever more complete and more perfect.[19]

Or again:

I am Thy puissant arms of mercy. I am the vast bosom of Thy limitless love. The arms have enfolded the sorrowful earth and tenderly press it to the generous heart; slowly a kiss of supreme benediction settles on this atom in conflict: the kiss of the Mother that consoles and heals.[20]

And once more:

All the earth is in our arms like a sick child who must be cured and for whom one has a special affection because of his very weakness.[21]

The triple status of the Mother, the individual, the collective and the transcendental (or, in other words, the personal, the universal and the supra-personal) has been condensed and epitomised in the magical note describing her first meeting with the Lord:

It matters not if there are hundreds of beings plunged in the densest ignorance. He whom we saw yesterday, is here on earth; His presence is enough to prove that a day shall come when darkness shall be transformed into light, when Thy reign shall be indeed established upon earth. [22]

And the reality that Their manifestation upon earth has to establish, the supreme achievement of Their terrestrial existence is chanted, as it were, in these wonderfully mystic Sibylline-lines:

Death has passed, vast and solemn, and all fell into a religious silence during its passage.

A superhuman beauty has appeared on the earth.

Something more marvellous than the most marvellous bliss has made felt the impress of its Presence.[23]

 

(3)

 

I have spoken of the triple status, the three levels of her ascending reality, these are in view of her manifestation of world-labour. There is however, yet another status beyond — beyond the beyond — It is the relation between the Supreme Lord and the Divine Mother in itself apart from their work, their purpose in manifestation, it is their own ‘Lila’ between themselves, exclusively their own. The delight of this exclusively personal play behind and beyond the creation sheds a secret aroma in and through all this existence here and it is also the source of the hidden magic that these utterances of the Prayers and Meditations contain, it is to this status surpassing all wonder that Sri Aurobindo refers so wistfully and so sweetly in those famous opening lines, in “A God’s Labour”: [24]

I have gathered my dreams in a silver air
     Between the gold and the blue
And wrapped them softly and left them there
     My jewelled dreams of you.

The delight of delights, the purest delight that exists up there in its self-sufficiency overflows, spills as it were, and a drop of that nectar of immortality is what constitutes these universes here below.

 


[1] “Prayers and Meditations” August 29, 1914

[2] “Prayers and Meditations” March 13, 1914

[3] “Prayers and Meditations” February 21, 1914

[4] “Prayers and Meditations” January 3, 1914

[5] “Prayers and Meditations” December 29, 1913

[6] “Prayers and Meditations” June 27, 1913

[7] “Prayers and Meditations” December 7, 1912

[8] “Prayers and Meditations” April 10, 1917

[9] “Prayers and Meditations” January 19, 1917

[10] “Prayers and Meditations” November 10, 1914

[11] “Prayers and Meditations” November 2, 1912

[12] “Prayers and Meditations” March 10, 1914

[13] “Prayers and Meditations” March 22, 1914

[14] “Prayers and Meditations” March 8, 1914

[15] “Prayers and Meditations” February 22, 1914

[16] “Prayers and Meditations” March 3, 1914

[17] “Prayers and Meditations” April 7, 1917

[18] “Prayers and Meditations” November 7, 1915

[19] “Prayers and Meditations” August 31, 1914

[20] “Prayers and Meditations” August 11, 1914

[21] “Prayers and Meditations” October 14, 1914

[22] “Prayers and Meditations” March 30, 1914

[23] “Prayers and Meditations” November 7, 1915

[24] Sri Aurobindo: Collected Poems and Plays

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