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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1931, April

April 7, 1931

I suppose I am silent, first, because I have no “free-will” and, secondly, because I have no Time.

Less metaphysically and more yogically, there are periods when silence becomes imperative, because to throw oneself outward delays the “work that has to be done.”

I suppose some day I will write about Free Will, but for the moment there is no effective will, free or otherwise, to do it. There is no niyoga [appointment] from “Hrishikesh”, I am afraid your uncle will have to wait till it comes.

*   *   *

April 7, 1931

… It is the old trick of despondency trying to come up again and have its spell or its gloomy innings — that is why it is trying to persuade you that truth is on its side, that you have never had the least shadow of any inner experience and especially that Yoga must be a grim affair in which there is no place for music or literature. The first thing to do is not to open the door to these old visitors.

It is better often to offer one’s work to the Divine in an atmosphere of peace and joy and gratitude, feelings which are helpful to Bhakti than to have a gloomy or struggling meditation. The first thing to get in meditation is a quiet mind and if possible a happy, at least a quiet vital. You have certainly had better things in meditation than groping or barren darkness — and there is no reason why it should not bring these better things. It is a question of getting the right poise.

*   *   *

April 11, 1931

Yes, you can send the half-dozen prayers. I shall make time to read your new old poem. I see from a glance at it that you are spreading yourself out. Remember that in lyrical poetry this is a difficult process — one is apt to beat out the gold wire too thin, to replace it where it fails by apparent gold only. Shelley, Swinburne and many others fail by diffusion, except in a very few long poems — and are at their best when they are more brief. So, if you go in for lyrical lengths, much care will be needed — the principle must be to make each verse the best.

*   *   *

April 20, 1931

I think the best thing I can write to you in the circumstances is to recommend to you Nolini’s[1] aphorism, “Depression need not be depressing; rather it should be made a jumping-board for the leap to a higher and happier poise.”

The rule in Yoga is not to let the depression depress you, to stand back from it, observe its cause and remove the cause; for the cause is always in oneself, perhaps a vital defect somewhere, a wrong movement indulged or a petty desire causing a recoil, sometimes by its satisfaction, sometimes by its disappointment. In Yoga a desire satisfied, a false movement given its head produces very often a worse recoil than disappointed desire.

What is needed for you is to live more deeply within, less in the outer vital and mental which is exposed to these touches. The inmost psychic being is not oppressed by them; it stands in its own closeness to the Divine and sees the small surface movements as surface things foreign to the true being. Your poem[2] is a very moving one, — delicate, true and beautiful in every line.

*   *   *

April 22, 1931

To live within does not mean to give up reading and writing or other external activities; I shall try to explain to you what I meant. I had in fact started to do so when you had your last fit of despondency, but stopped when you recovered, thinking it was not after all necessary and supposing besides that the essential in what I was about to write must already be known to you. Now, however, that the despondency has returned and you put the question, I will this time try to explain the whole matter.

It is evident that you still cherish some misunderstanding about peace and joy and Ananda. (Peace, by the way, is not joy — for peace can be there even when joy is quiescent.) It is not a fact that one ought not to pray or aspire for peace or spiritual joy. Peace is the very basis of all the siddhi in the Yoga, and why should not one pray or aspire for foundation in the Yoga? Spiritual joy or a deep inner happiness (not disturbed even when there come superficial storms or perturbations) is a constant concomitant of contact or union with the Divine, and why should it be forbidden to pray or aspire for contact with the Divine and the joy that attends it? As for Ananda, I have already explained that I mean by Ananda something greater than peace or joy, something that, like Truth and Light, is the very nature of the supramental Divine. It can come by frequent inrushes or descents, partially or for a time even now, but it cannot remain in the system so long as the system has not been prepared for it. Meanwhile, peace and joy can be there permanently, but the condition of this permanence is that one should have the constant contact or indwelling of the Divine, and this comes naturally not to the outer mind or vital but to the inner soul or psychic being. Therefore one who wants his Yoga to be a path of peace or joy must be prepared to dwell in his soul rather than in his outer mental and emotional nature.

I objected in a former letter not to aspiration but to a demand, to making peace, joy or Ananda a condition for following the Yoga. And it is undesirable because if you do so, then the vital, not the psychic, takes the lead. When the vital takes the lead, then unrest, despondency, unhappiness can always come, since these things are the very nature of the vital — the vital can never remain constantly in joy and peace, for it needs their opposites in order to have the sense of the drama of life. And yet when unrest and unhappiness come, the vital at once cries, “I am not given my due, what is the use of my doing this Yoga?” Or else, it makes a gospel of its unhappiness and says, as you say in your letter, that the path to fulfilment must be a tragic road through the desert. And yet it is precisely this predominance of the vital in us that makes the necessity of passing through the desert. If the psychic were always there in front, the desert would be no longer a desert and the wilderness would blossom with the rose.

A propos, if your despondency has lasted so long this time, is it not because something in the vital has been clinging to it, justifying it on one ground or another? That at least is what I have felt, every time we have tried to remove it.

*   *   *

April 26, 1931

I do not find any pity for my loneliness in Tagore’s letter,[3] only his own explanation of my secrecy and solitude.

Why should you think the Mother does not approve of expression, — provided it is the right expression of the right thing, — or suppose that silence and true expression are contradictory? The truest expression comes out of an absolute inner silence. The spiritual silence is not a mere emptiness; nor is it indispensable to abstain from all activity in order to find it.

*   *   *

April 29, 1931

Yes, your new poem is a chef-d’œuvre. It seems to me the best you have yet done — even better than some of the lyrics that came from you in your first inspiration, and yet one or two of these were in their own kind perfection itself.

*   *   *

[1] Nolini Kanto Gupta (13 January 1889 – 7 February 1984), a revolutionary. He was arrested and tried in the Alipore Bomb Case, and freed after one year. He worked with Sri Aurobindo for the magazines Dharma and Karmayogin. Six months after Sri Aurobindo’s arrival at Pondicherry, Nolini joined him. From Sri Aurobindo he learned Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, French, etc. Apart from articles in magazines, he published books in Bengali (52), English (38) and French (5). He was Sri Aurobindo’s “postman.”

[2] This poem is Tamisrāya meaning “In the darkness,” in Anāmī. [Dilip’s note.]

[3] Tagore had written, “All creators are lonely — so is Sri Aurobindo.”

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What is important is not the star but the aspiration. The star is only like an outer demonstration, nothing else.