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At the Feet of The Mother

Study and Sadhana


A question often stirs in my mind: Why is the Ashram atmosphere so full of mental activities? If people remain engrossed in them where will he the chance for sadhana?

There is no obligation on anyone to be engrossed in mental pursuits; sadhana must be done by one’s own choice, not by rule or compulsion.

Do you suggest that people here should have some mental development if possible? Would it really help the sadhana?

I don’t know if it helps the sadhana and I don’t quite understand what is meant by the phrase. What is a fact is that mental like physical work can be made a part of the sadhana, — not as a rival to the sadhana or as another activity with equal rights and less selfish and egoistic than seeking the Divine.

One has to do some physical work as part of the Karma Yoga, also some personal work. Where is the time then to read for one’s mental development except at the cost of the time spent in meditation?

If the power to meditate long is there, a sadhak will naturally do it and care little for reading, — unless he has reached the stage when everything is part of the Yogic consciousness because that is permanent. Sadhana is the aim of a sadhak, not mental development. But if he has spare time, those who have the mental turn will naturally spend it in reading or study of some kind.

For one who wants to practise sadhana, sadhana must come first, — reading and mental development can only be subordinate things.

I want to study as part of my sadhana, as an offering to the Mother, just as I do physical work with her Force supporting and guiding me. But I am sorry to say it is not so as yet.

Probably you are still too much identified with your mind when you study, so that you cannot stand back and watch it working or the Force working through it.

How can one build up a well-developed intellect? By studying and reading?

By training it to see, observe, understand in the right way. Reading and study are only useful to acquire information and widen one’s field of data. But that comes to nothing if one does not know how to discern and discriminate, judge, see what is within and behind things.

Is it true that a person with a well-trained intellect will not have much inertia?

A well-trained intellect and study are two different things — there are plenty of people who have read much but have not a well-trained intellect. Inertia can come to anybody, even to the most educated people.

Are the limitations and defects of my mind likely to go, at least to some extent, through reading and studying?

They may, but they are more likely to go by an increasing capacity coming from above.

I have been asking you many questions, from different angles, about study. The subject confuses me a bit. I came here very young, without enough schooling. Mental development was foreign to me.

X is about my age. He was asked to continue his studies here, while I was asked to give them up and take up physical work. Consequently his mind is more developed. He can reason much better than I. Well?

X is more reasoningly stupid, that is the only difference. Intelligence does not depend on the amount one has read, it is a quality of the mind. Study only gives it material for its work as life also does. There are people who do not know how to read and write well who are more intelligent than many highly educated people and understand life and things better. On the other hand a good intelligence can improve itself by reading because it gets more material to work on and grows by exercise and by having a wider range to move in. But book knowledge by itself is not the real thing; it has to be used as a help to the intelligence, but it is often used only as a help to a logician’s stupidity or ignorance — ignorance because knowledge of facts is a poor thing if one cannot see their true significance.

If I could study properly, I think it would be good not only for my mental development but also for my sadhana, for it would divert my consciousness from the lower or subconscient mind.


Study is of importance only if you study in the right way with the turn for knowledge and mental discipline.

What do you think would be good for me to study?

These are things that must come from yourself; imposed, they will not succeed and have no value.

Now I have finally decided to study. Arjava (Chadwick) has consented to help me. He will teach me the subject which you think would be good for the development of my mind.

I think some knowledge of science will be most useful to you — that field is quite a blank for most people here, and yet the greater part of modern thought and knowledge is largely influenced by it.

While writing essays I concentrate to bring down fine expressions, but they don’t come. Where is the defect?

It may be in an insufficient command of words in the instrument or else in an awkwardness of the transcribing mind.

When I tried to resume my French lessons, the mind proper was completely absent. The physical mind found the activity too difficult to support. Some parts of the being wanted to read stories, but I continued to study.

It is what people usually do in life — they control the physical mind and don’t allow it to do whatever it likes.

What is lacking in your French study is attention to details and entering into the spirit of the language. Grammar and syntax not [only] must be correct, but also, even if grammatically correct, English turned into French is not French. There is a turn, a way of writing that is proper to French and that has to be learned.

You should pay more attention to correctness of grammar and phrase. Otherwise one can go on studying forever without much progress in entering into the spirit of using properly the forms of the language.

What is the need for so many here to learn French? Are you preparing them for giving lectures or opening centres in France or French-speaking countries?

Are life and mind to be governed by material utility or outward practicality? Spiritual life would then be inferior even to ordinary mental life where people learn for the sake of acquiring knowledge and culturing the mind and not only for the sake of some outward utility.

Is my French study of any help to the sadhana?

I don’t know what you mean by help. One can do sadhana without knowing French or for that matter English either. Knowing languages is part of the equipment of the mind.

One does not learn English or French as an aid to the sadhana; it is done for the development of the mind and as part of the activity given to the being. For that purpose learning French is as good as learning English and, if it is properly done, better. Nor is there any reason, if one has the capacity, to limit oneself to one language only.

Learning languages makes the mind active. Does not the Yoga mean to keep the mind quiet and turn it always to the Divine?

Do you mean to say that in order to have quietness of the mind one must do nothing? Then neither the Mother nor I nor anyone else here has a quiet mind.

Doing nothing with the mind is not quietude or silence. It is inactivity that leaves the mind thinking mechanically and discursively instead of concentrating on an object — that is all.

Keeping the mind without occupation is not the same thing as peace or silence.

Is it not a fact that most of the true Yogas demand a passivity of the mind as a first important basis? Does our Yoga differ from them in this discipline? If not, why does it allow the sadhaks to keep their minds constantly active in learning languages? Or has it created for them such a climate that they can keep their minds calm and quiet somehow, in spite of this mental activity?

One can go on without anything except a little rice daily and some water — without clothes even or a house to shelter. Is that what you call true Yoga and what should be followed in the Ashram? But then there is no need for an Ashram. A cave somewhere for each will do.

Why do you use a fountain pen? You can very well go on with an ordinary one. Why do you take these cahiers [notebooks] from the stores? Cheap papers would do. Why do you write? The mind should be passive.

If by passivity of the mind you mean laziness and inability to use it, then what Yoga makes that its basis? The mind has to be quieted and transformed, not made indolent and useless. Is there any old Yoga that makes it a rule not to allow those who practise it to study Sanskrit or philosophy? Does that prevent the Yogis from attaining mental quietude? Do you think that the Mother and myself never read anything and have to sit all day inactive in order to make our minds quiet? Are you not aware that the principle of this Yoga is to arrive at an inner silence in which all activities can take place without disturbing the inner silence?

Your objection was to learning languages and especially French as inimical to peace and silence because it meant activity. The mind, when it is not in meditation or in complete silence, is always active with something or other — with its own ideas or desires or with other people or with things or with talking etc. None of these things is any less activity than learning languages. Now you shift your ground and say it is because owing to their study they have no time for meditation that you object. That is absurd, for if people want to meditate, they will arrange their time of study for that; if they don’t want to meditate, the reason must be something else than study and if they don’t study they will simply go on thinking about “small things”. Want of time is not the cause of their non-meditation and passion for study is not the cause.

At times the mind is too passive and refuses to attend to any intellectual activity. Then how can I do my study?

If it refuses, of course you can’t — unless you allow the Force to work through you.

Do you think I should study only when I feel an inner urge for it, when my mind is disposed to study?

It need not be insisted on if it is found difficult to do it owing to the pressure.

Should I stop my lessons if my consciousness is not responding to the higher working as adequately as it does during an inactive period? Or should I put a will on my consciousness to make it capable of responding to the higher working at the same time as it carries on the mental activity?

The latter course is the best.

I have sanctioned your studying because it is good for you to study — so you can go on with it.

Making it [study] a part of your sadhana depends wholly on the spirit in which you do it.

You seem to use the word meditation for a state of higher consciousness; or do you use it for thinking about the Divine? One can have a state of Yogic consciousness behind the reading or study or one can read or study from a state of Yogic consciousness, but that is not called meditation.

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