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At the Feet of The Mother

The Mother’s Child Ganesh, Religion and the Integral Yoga (HH 187)

Ganesh Chaturthi, or the birth of the first among the gods Ganesh, is celebrated all over India with great pomp in the month of September. At one time, this festival was used to unite India in its war against the British. What it has presently become is rather unspeakable. Nevertheless, Ganesh is a living and conscious godhead who has a close and loving association with the Divine Mother. Today we take a look at some of the incidents in the Mother’s life connected with god Ganesh, and through these also try to go deeper into the transformation of the religious impulse within man.

Words of the Mother


This morning I asked myself the question, ‘is money truly under Nature’s control?’ I shall have to see … Because for me personally, she always gives everything in abundance.

When I was young, I was as poor as a turkey, as poor as could be! As an artist, I sometimes had to go out in society (as artists are forced to do). I had lacquered boots that were cracked … and I painted them so it wouldn’t show! This is to tell you the state I was in – poor as a turkey. So one day, in a shop window, I saw a very pretty petticoat much in fashion then, with lace, ribbons, etc. (It was the fashion in those days to have long skirts which trailed on the floor, and I didn’t have a petticoat which could go with such things – I didn’t care, it didn’t matter to me in the least, but since Nature had told me I would always have everything I needed, I wanted to make an experiment.) So I said, ‘Well, I would very much like to have a petticoat to go with those skirts.’ I got five of them! They came from every direction!

And it is always like that. I never ask for anything, but if by chance I say to myself, ‘Hmm, wouldn’t it be nice to have that,’ mountains of them pour in! So last year, I made an experiment, I told Nature, ‘Listen, my little one, you say that you will collaborate, you told me I would never lack anything. Well then, to put it on a level of feelings, it would really be fun, it would give me joy (in the style of Krishna’s joy), to have A LOT of money to do everything I feel like doing. It’s not that I want to increase things for myself, no; you give me more than I need. But to have some fun, to be able to give freely, to do things freely, to spend freely – I am asking you to give me a crore of rupees’ for my birthday!

She didn’t do a thing! Nothing, absolutely nothing: a complete refusal. Did she refuse or was she unable to? It may be that … I always saw that money was under the control of an asuric force. (I am speaking of currency, ‘cash’; I don’t want to do business. When I try to do business, it generally succeeds very well, but I don’t mean that. I am speaking of cash.) I never asked her that question.

You see, this is how it happened: there’s this Ganesh … We had a meditation (this was more than thirty years ago) in the room where ‘Prosperity’ is now distributed. There were eight or ten of us, I believe. We used to make sentences with flowers; I arranged the flowers, and each one made a sentence with the different flowers I had put there. And one day when the subject of prosperity or wealth came up, I thought (they always say that Ganesh is the god of money, of fortune, of the world’s wealth), I thought, ‘Isn’t this whole story of the god with an elephant trunk merely a lot of human imagination?’ Thereupon, we meditated. And who should I see walk in and park himself in front of me but a living being, absolutely alive and luminous, with a trunk that long … and smiling! So then, in my meditation, I said, ‘Ah! So it’s true that you exist!’ – ‘Of course I exist! And you may ask me for whatever you wish, from a monetary standpoint, of course, and I will give it to you!’

So I asked. And for about ten years, it poured in, like this (gesture of torrents). It was incredible. I would ask, and at the next Darshan, or a month or several days later, depending, there it was.

Then the war and all the difficulties came, bringing a tremendous increase of people and expenditure (the war cost a fortune – anything at all cost ten times more than before), and suddenly, finished, nothing more. Not exactly nothing, but a thin little trickle. And when I asked, it didn’t come. So one day, I put the question to Ganesh through his image (! ), I asked him, ‘What about your promise?’ – ‘I can’t do it, it’s too much for me; my means are too limited!’ – ‘Ah!’ I said to myself (laughing), ‘What bad luck!’ And I no longer counted on him.

Once someone even asked Santa Claus! A young Muslim girl who had a special liking for ‘Father Christmas’ – I don’t know why, as it was not part of her religion! Without saying a word to me, she called on Santa Claus and told him, ‘Mother doesn’t believe in you; you should give Her a gift to prove to Her that you exist. You can give it to Her for Christmas.’ And it happened! … She was quite proud.

But it only happened like that once. And as for Ganesh, that was the end of it. So then I asked Nature. It took her a long time to accept to collaborate. But as for the money, I shall have to ask her about it; because for me personally, it is still going on. I think, ‘Hmm, wouldn’t it be nice to have a wristwatch like that.’ And I get twenty of them! I say to myself, ‘Well, if I had that …’ and I get thirty of them! Things come in from every side, without my even uttering a word – I don’t even ask, they just come.

The first time I came here and spoke with Sri Aurobindo about what was needed for the Work, he told me (he also wrote it to me) that for the secure achievement of the Work we would need three powers: one was the power over health, the second was the power over government, and the third was the power over money.

July 6, 1958


* * *


I had X told about a rather interesting encounter of mine with Ganapati (quite a few years ago), and how he had promised to give me whatever I needed and actually gave it for quite a long time, certainly more than ten years, and generously so. Then everything changed in the Ashram. It was after the war, the children came and we spilled over; we became much more complex, much larger, and began to be in touch with foreign countries, particularly America. And I continued to be in contact with Ganapati; I can’t say I used to do a puja to him (!), but every morning I would put a flower in front of his image. Then one morning I asked him, “Why have you stopped doing what you had been doing for such a long time?” I listened, and he clearly replied, “Your need has grown too large.” I didn’t quite understand, because he has at his disposal fortunes larger than what I needed. But then, some time afterwards, I had this told to X, who answered me from the height of his “punditism,” “Let her not be concerned with the gods, I will look after that!” It was needlessly insolent. Then I turned to Ganapati and asked him, “What does all that mean?” And I clearly saw (it wasn’t he who answered, it was Sri Aurobindo), I clearly saw that Ganapati has power only over those who have faith in him, which means it’s limited to India, while I needed money from America, France, England, Africa … and that he has no power there, so he couldn’t help. It became very clear, I was at peace, I understood: “Very well, he did his best, that’s all.” And it’s true that I keep receiving from India, though not sufficiently; especially as since Independence half of India has been ruined, and all those who used to give me a lot of money no longer do, because they no longer can – it isn’t that they no longer want to, but that they no longer can.

For instance, M. was greatly interested in my story about Ganapati, and I saw that there was a connection between him and Ganapati, so I told him, “But turn to him and he will give you the right inspiration.” And since then M. has been perfect, really; all that he can do he does to the utmost of his ability. So all this is very good.

But there is a considerable difference between the real fact, that is, what this body [Mother’s body] represents, and X’s conception. He has always remained all the way down. This is what, in fact, had ruined his health for a time. And the odd thing is that every time he was ill and CONSENTED to inform me, he was instantly cured – he KNOWS this, but still his first instinct is always to turn to the gods with his ordinary puja….

He is a very good man, but very ignorant – it seems funny to say that about a pundit, a great pundit who knows Sanskrit better than the head of the Maths [monasteries] of the South, but I say that he lacks this: the opening up above. He has a connection in a straight line (gesture tapering off to a point above), and indeed it’s very high up, but it’s a pinpoint – a sharp point that gives him an experience which is his ALONE: he cannot pass it on to others. You understand, it isn’t an immensity rising upward: it’s a pinpoint.

January 4, 1964


* * *


One of the greatest comforts of religion is that you can get hold of God sometimes and give him a satisfactory beating. People mock at the folly of savages who beat their gods when their prayers are not answered; but it is the mockers who are the fools and the savages.
(Sri Aurobindo: Thoughts and Aphorisms)

Poor T.! She asked me, ‘What does it mean (laughing) to give God a “satisfactory beating”? How is this possible?…’ I still haven’t answered. And then she added another question: ‘Many people say that Sri Aurobindo’s teachings are a new religion. Would you call it a religion?…’ You understand, I began to fume!

I wrote (Mother reads her answer): ‘Those who say that are simpletons and don’t even know what they’re talking about! It is enough to read everything Sri Aurobindo has written to know that it is IMPOSSIBLE (underlined) to found a religion upon his writings, since for each problem, for each question, he presents all aspects and, while demonstrating the truth contained in each approach, he explains that to attain the Truth a synthesis must be effected, overpassing all mental notions and emerging in a transcendence beyond thought…..

‘Men are such fools’ (laughing: it doesn’t get any better!) ‘that they can change anything at all into a religion, so great is their need for a fixed framework for their narrow thought and limited action. They don’t feel secure unless they can affirm: “This is true and that is not” – but such an affirmation becomes impossible for anyone who has read and understood what Sri Aurobindo has written. Religion and yoga are not situated on the same plane of the being, and the spiritual life can exist in its purity only if it is free from all mental dogma.’

People must really be made to understand this. Yes, it is indispensable!…..

…..But this: ‘How can one give God a beating?’ (Mother laughs a lot). It’s funny, isn’t it!

But what exactly did he mean?

What did Sri Aurobindo mean? …

Religion always has a tendency to humanize, to create a God in the image of man – a magnified and glorified image, but essentially always a god with human attributes. And this (laughing) creates a sort of intimacy, a sense of kinship!

T. has taken it literally, but it’s true that even the Spanish, when their god doesn’t do what they want, take the statue and throw it in the river!

There are people here who do the same thing. I know some people who had a statue of Kali in their house (it was their family divinity), and all kinds of calamities befell them, so the last generation became furious and took the idol and threw it into the Ganges. They are not the only ones – there have been several cases like that. And to cap it all, one of them even asked my permission before doing it!

Creating a god in the image of man gives you the possibility of treating it as you would treat a human enemy. There could be many things to say….

But these idols aren’t merely human creations – they are self-existent, aren’t they?

Oh, I’ve had some very interesting revelations on this point, on the way people think and feel about it. I remember someone once made a little statue of Sri Aurobindo; he gave it a potbelly and … anyway, to me it was ridiculous. So I said, ‘How could you make such a thing?!’ He explained that even if it’s a caricature for the ordinary eye, since it’s an image of the one you consider God, or a god, or an Avatar, since it’s the image of the one you worship, even if only a guru, it contains the spirit and the force of his presence, and this is what you worship, even in a crude form, even if the form is a caricature to the physical eye.

Someone made a large painting of Sri Aurobindo and myself, and they brought it here to show me. I said, ‘Oh, it’s dreadful!’ It was … to the physical eye it was really dreadful. ‘It’s dreadful,’ I said, ‘we can’t keep it.’ Then immediately someone asked me for it, saying, ‘I’m going to put it up in my house and do my puja before it.’ Ah! … I couldn’t help saying, ‘But how could you put up a thing like that!’ (It wasn’t so much ugly as frightfully banal.)

‘How can you do puja before something so commonplace and empty!’ This person replied, ‘Oh, to me it’s not empty! It contains all the presence and all the force, and I shall worship it as that: the Presence and the Force.’

All this is based on the old idea that whatever the image – which we disdainfully call an ‘idol’ – whatever the external form of the deity may be, the presence of the thing represented is always there. And there is always someone – whether priest or initiate, sadhu or sannyasi – someone who has the power and (usually this is the priest’s work) who draws the Force and the Presence down into it. And it’s true, it’s quite real – the Force and the Presence are THERE; and this (not the form in wood or stone or metal) is what is worshipped: this Presence.

Europeans don’t have the inner sense at all. To them, everything is like this (gesture), a surface – not even that, a film on the surface. And they can’t feel anything behind. But it’s an absolutely real fact that the Presence is there – I guarantee it. People have given me statuettes of various gods, little things in metal, wood or ivory; and as soon as I take one in my hand, the god is there. I have a Ganesh (I have been given several) and if I take it in my hand and look at it for a moment, he’s there. I have a little one by my bedside where I work, eat, and meditate. And then there is a Narayana which comes from the Himalayas, from Badrinath. I use them both as paperweights for my handkerchiefs! (My handkerchiefs are kept on a little table next to my bed, and I keep Ganapati I and Narayana on top of them.) And no one touches them but me – I pick them up, take a fresh handkerchief, and put them back again. Once I blended some nail polish myself, and before applying it, I put some on Ganapati’s forehead and stomach and fingertips! We are on the best of terms, very friendly. So to me, you see, all this is very true.

Narayana came first. I put him there and told him to stay and be happy. A while later, I was given a very nice Ganapati; so I asked Narayana – I didn’t ask his permission, I told him, ‘Don’t be angry, you know, but I’m going to give you a companion; I like you both very much, there’s no preference; the other is much better looking, but you, you are Narayana!’ I flattered him, I told him pleasant things, and he was perfectly happy.

It has always been like that for me – always. And I have never, never had the religious sense at all – you know, what people call this kind of … what they have in religions, especially in Europe. I see only the English word for it: awe, like a kind of terror. This always made me laugh! But I have always felt what’s behind, the presences behind….

April 29, 1961


* * *


(Mother goes to sit at her table, then laughs at the extraordinary accumulation of things on it – precariously balanced packets, stocks of envelopes, paper, pens….)

Here everything is arranged: if you have the slightest unconscious gesture, it means catastrophe! There are little beings that have been assigned to keeping watch, and that’s the funniest of all: if you have an unconscious movement like that, they snatch from you the thing you are holding and send it flying far away! It has happened to me countless times. In my case, of course, I just laugh, I know what’s going on: they take the thing and poff! send it flying into the air as if you had made a violent gesture. It happens constantly. This table has been PURPOSELY arranged for that – it wasn’t me who arranged it: I was MADE to arrange it. And that’s how it is: if you make an unconscious gesture, something tumbles down – naturally! (Mother points to the piles of envelopes)…..

Yes, but each thing has its purpose and usefulness.

I also have deities (Mother lifts three statuettes, deluged with a few others in a torrent of paper): this is a standing Ganesh; this is Garuda, Vishnu’s attendant; and this is Shiva’s bull. And here (a little farther on the table), I keep three Ganeshes: a tiny little silver Ganesh, between the legs of this deity (a modern-looking one), then another Ganesh, I don’t know what it’s made of, and finally a bronze Ganesh. And in here (Mother points to a drawer in which she keeps money), I have three other Ganeshes: a bronze one, a silver one and a gold one! It’s because he promised me that he would give me all the money I need, so this way (laughing) he can’t say I forget him (or his promise either!).

This Ganesh (on the table) was given to me by a little boy maybe two and a half years old. When that little boy was a few months old and till the age of one, whenever his mother brought him to me he would cry and scream and make scenes – the parents were in despair. Every time I would tell them, “Don’t worry, all will be well, we’ll be very good friends. Then the parents would stare at me in disbelief. Now he is two and half or three, and as soon as he is in the stairway, waiting – “Mother, Mother, Mother! …” (or “Ma,” I don’t know). But when he comes in (he is the first of the family to enter the room), he comes with a flower; and once, he gave me this Ganesh, but with such consciousness! He is wonderful. Yesterday, he was absolutely exquisite: he comes in first, so self-assured, so joyful, then gestures to me as if to say, “Everything is just fine, don’t worry!” And I speak to him – he doesn’t understand a thing of what I say, but he approves gravely. Absolutely exquisite.

There is great progress among children.

[Conversations with a disciple]

October 11, 1967


* * *


But if you take real divine beings, this is not at all something they value. They do not like to be worshipped. No, it does not give them any special pleasure at all! Don’t think they are happy, for they have no pride. It is because of pride that a man likes to be worshipped; if a man has no pride he doesn’t like to be worshipped; and if, for instance, they see a good intention or a fine feeling or a movement of unselfishness or enthusiasm, a joy, a spiritual joy, these things have for them an infinitely greater value than prayers and acts of worship and pujas…

I assure you what I am telling you is very serious: if you seat a real god in a chair and oblige him to remain there all the while you are doing puja, he may perhaps have a little fun watching you do it, but it certainly gives him no satisfaction. None at all! He does not feel either flattered or happy or glorified by your puja. You must get rid of that idea. There is an entire domain between the spiritual and the material worlds which belongs to vital beings, and it is this domain that is full of all these things, because these beings live upon that, are happy with it, and it immediately gives them importance; and the one who has the greatest number of believers, devotees and worshippers is the happiest and the most puffed up. But how can anyone imagine that the gods could value…

An act of true goodness, intelligence, unselfishness or a subtle understanding or a very sincere aspiration are for them infinitely higher than a small religious ceremony. Infinitely! There is no comparison.

Religious ceremony! For example, there are so many of these entities called Kali—who are given, besides, quite terrible appearances— so many are even placed in houses as the family goddess; they are full of a terrible vital force!

…..And to think that men worship such terrible and monstrous things; and what’s more that these poor gods are given, are paid the compliment of believing that it is…

CWM 6: 194 – 196


* * *


It seems strange that something so new, so special and I might say so unexpected should happen during a film-show (Rani Rasmani). For people who believe that some things are important and other things are not, that there are activities which are helpful to yoga and others which are not, well, this is one more opportunity to show that they are wrong…..

We were shown, comparatively clumsily, a picture of the temple on the banks of the Ganges, and the statue of Kali—for I suppose it was a photograph of that statue, I could not manage to get any precise information about it—and while I was seeing that, which was a completely superficial appearance and, as I said, rather clumsy, I saw the reality it was trying to represent, what was behind, and this put me in touch with all that world of religion and worship, of aspiration, man’s whole relationship with the gods, which was—I am already speaking in the past tense—which was the flower of the human spiritual effort towards something more divine than man, something which was the highest and almost the purest expression of his effort towards what is higher than he. And suddenly I had concretely, materially, the impression that it was another world, a world that had ceased to be real, living, an outdated world which had lost its reality, its truth, which had been transcended, surpassed by something which had taken birth and was only beginning to express itself, but whose life was so intense, so true, so sublime, that all this became false, unreal, worthless.

Then I truly understood—for I understood not with the head, the intelligence but with the body, you understand what I mean—I understood in the cells of the body—that a new world is born and is beginning to grow.

CWM 9: 147

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One question which often arises in the mind of those exposed to traditional yogic practices, is that since the first step is finding the Divine why not find Him by any means and later return to the integral yoga.