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Powers of The Mother’s Symbol



Powers of The Mother’s Symbol

Symbols carry symbolic power. Power is vital. Symbolic power is a power of the mental sentiment expressing in the vital. In Europe and the Middle East, David’s symbol is of great religious importance. Over the centuries the original Truth of symbols loses its religious flavour and reduces to popular facts. Such popular facts grow into fictitious mystery. Someone who came to Sri Aurobindo from Tinnevely said he was already doing yoga and he wanted to do Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. His yoga was centred around a Mantra. Sri Aurobindo asked him if he knew the meaning of that Mantra. He did not know it. A Mantra whose meaning is not known to the adherent cannot yield its power to his practice. Moreover it will accumulate over it ‘mystic powers of superstition’. Religions degenerate this way. Only a yogi who has real spiritual experience can restore the original power of such a symbol. When Richard came to Pondy before the First World War, David’s symbol required such a discovery. Mother sent Richard to Sri Aurobindo to decipher its spiritual significance. Later it was She who designed Sri Aurobindo’s Symbol. 

Mother’s Symbol is powerful. A newly married young timid girl was frightened of her mother-in-law. On hearing of this power, she pasted this symbol on her door. The situation entirely changed. The cruel lady never came to the house anymore. Mother herself has given us the various powers the symbol signifies. To offer a brief explanation of each of these powers is our theme here. All ceremonies are symbolic; but people, especially women who are more of the vital feel the full richness of these functions. The sound of the temple bell காண்டாமணி is the most auspicious சகுனம் for us. Its power vibrates. The academic degree has acquired such a symbolic significance all over the world. It is more than superstition. Someone suggested that Ph.D. should be the minimum qualification for the Fellowship of the Academy. Perhaps he has mistaken the Academy to be a university. Mother has named 800 flowers with their intrinsic character. It is prosperity that has gained the hearts of the devotees. Tradition is full of this knowledge, but it is not lost, though essentially forgotten. The power of these symbols is narrated in a story by the wife of Theon. The symbol was powerful enough to call the original godhead there. Once, while living in the desert, she saw some water around her on the floor. She wondered what it was. She ‘heard’ a voice saying “I have come, as you have called me.” She turned around still puzzled. On the top of a nearby hill she saw many fir trees of the Arctic. Someone had planted those trees there. It was the trees which had called their deity, the Lord of Snow. The next morning the whole hill was covered with snow. Madame Theon being an occultist could see the water from the melted ice and hear the voice of its god. Mother’s Symbol has a symbolic significance to us. It is to know that creation itself is a symbol even as ‘Savitri’ is a Symbol and DAWN.

Further, the human being is an evolutionary Symbol of existence. Existence is Being. It is the Spiritual Being that is Consciousness as well as Delight. Mother is the Shakti of Ishwari created out of Consciousness-Force. The Powers Her symbol express are the powers one meets in creation. Her own powers that Her symbol stands for are what She has decided on. Basically, in their Origin, they are the powers of the Spirit found in the unitarian consciousness of Sachchidananda. They are the objective expression of the trinity. Unity and Truth are of Sat; Knowledge and Will are of Chit. Beauty, Love and Joy are of Ananda. Silence, Peace, Eternity, Infinity are the powers of Spirit at a more fundamental status. Mother variously lists them at various places as there is no rigidity or a rigid fixity about them. So, we find Goodness always figures in some of the lists. We now have 12 of them, but we must adhere to her own list of powers. Before we take that list for any description, some fundamental aspects of these individual powers as well as their combinations are worth considering.

In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo says that Consciousness is of central importance. This rises by evolution to what is referred to in the Book as Superconscience. This is a state variously arrived at by the process of Self-absorption. In describing the process of creation, He says Maya conceptively creates. The power that acts here is Self-conception. Prakriti exercises Self-limitation in executing the conception. The infinite conception is limited by this step to the universe. Shakti combines both the powers of Maya and Prakriti. It conceives as well as executes. We see the Self becomes Purusha by being conscious of itself as one step in the evolution of Self. In its next step it becomes the divine being in the universe known as Ishwara. The immutable Self, having become the conscious-being further evolves in the universal Nature as Ishwara by Self-absorption. Mind being the origin of dualities sees this result in two opposite states of luminous Superconscience above and dark Inconscient below. In The Life Divine on page 478 Sri Aurobindo tells us of the three versions of Superconscience. One is the absorption into the Absolute being. The other is the absorption into the luminosity of the being. The third is where the force of being and force of consciousness become one to become the Supreme Ishwara. On page 494 Sri Aurobindo tells us the Supreme secret is to discover how consciousness becomes Superconscient and what are the powers and processes by which it is attained. Chapter 28, “The Divine Life” of Book II describes minutely how this power expresses through this process. It is a process by which Nature changes into Supernature. Also the distinction between the being and becoming are overcome. The evolution of the Spirit in the lower hemisphere results in the true soul, the Psychic Being. The evolution of the Psychic Being into Ishwara and the Supramental Being is the next stage. The powers we find in the Symbol of Mother are the powers that accomplish this.

The powers of Mother’s symbol are Aspiration, Receptivity, Progress, Courage, Goodness, Generosity, Equality, Peace, Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude, and Perseverance.

Aspiration: It is a call of the soul to the Spirit. Aspiration releases energy.  The energy released by aspiration is organised into individual skill, directed towards the goal as force, again at a higher level organised through structured character as power which accomplishes through the right work attitude. The Gita, in speaking of aspiration, said it can accomplish anything it believes in. Accomplishment, then, is self-accomplishment by the energy of the aspiration by the organisation of knowledge it has. A simple priest of an insignificant ஆஞ்சநேயா temple has acquired a face that fully resembled his god. Followers, by their aspiration to the ideal develop the characteristics of the handwriting of their leader. It is known that several people devoted to the same ideal have almost the same voice. A nation may be dormant, apathetic, but once its aspiration is awakened, there is no question of suppressing it. Awakening that is aspiration is accomplishment. Spirituality knows it as the flame of Agni. In human affairs it is known that love once it is awakened to aspire for its right counterpart never fails to fulfil itself. The BOON He got for the earth, He says, waits for Man to aspire in sincerity through surrender.

 Receptivity:  The Tamil word for a character in a story is பாத்திரம் a vessel, one who has fully received the inspiration of the author in his own context. Receptivity is retentiveness. To receive and retain requires a willingness and a capacity to retain. Those who do understand The Life Divine often say நிற்க மாட்டேன் என்கிறது. An apperceptive mass in the mind is needed to retain what comes in. Learners of foreign languages initially meet with this difficulty. Mother being new in all aspects is not easy to retain even when we fully receive Her grace. Her grace remains in us by the inner endorsement of our personality and nature. Nature finds it difficult to let anything new in and retain it as it comes in. 

Progress: For a certain period Mother named the newly started institutions ‘Progress”. It was a progressive period of consciousness. Progress is a growth that in the process develops a new higher form. It combines two concepts in Tamil, வளர்ச்சி, முன்னேற்றம். The world is sometimes divided into a forward looking progressive movement and a backward looking conservative organisation. Mother called a Pondicherry transport company Progress Transport. It was the first bus route to Madras from Pondicherry. A child’s growth is thus progressive. We see the urban population is said to be progressive as against the rural population that is stagnant. In the services for the individual, promotion is his life breath as it ensures his continual progress.

Courage: Courage is Force impelled by truth. It acquires intensity by the innate character of its infinity. Infinite Force becomes intense courage. On the battlefield, even ordinary soldiers exhibit exemplary courage that is subtle. The Kshatriya known for his courage taking to spiritual quest explored rare heights of it. Sri Aurobindo says the great Truths of the Upanishads were won by the Kshatriya Rishis. Courage has a rare element that is possessed by குரு மருந்து, the essential ingredient of all other medicines. There is a story about தைரிய லக்ஷ்மி extolling that Aspect of it. The civilised life of the population of a country is made possible by the courageous fight of the soldiers on the border. Like all great services, it largely remains unknown. We know of Mother’s courage when a cobra greeted Her. Courage delights in danger. The greater the danger, the greater is the delight. Being left alone in Europe to face Hitler, the hero felt exhilarated. Elizabeth too speaks a little in that strain that intimidation raises her courage. One qualifies to be a Man when he has no vibration of fear.

Goodness: Truth and consciousness that is knowledge yield Goodness, a quality seen much in evidence by an act of self-giving. Visitors to the Ashram used to say how they felt the first time they entered there. It was like a தேவ லோகம்.  Mother’s Smile expresses explicitly that intense Goodness richly. It is the experience of non-devotees to feel the elevation of an inner feeling of expansiveness at the approach of a devotee. One American, expansive by nature, felt his heart would burst when Mother took his hands in Hers. Receptivity to Goodness requires some human goodness or expansiveness. Goodness is primarily of the heart. The Goodness of the Mind is a sentiment out of which great ideas and poetry issue. The goodness of the heart is usually of the psychic. We know Man responds to Money, but in higher issues it is not money that evokes the public response, but prestige. What Man would not do for Money, he will do for prestige. When a poor man earned 23,000/- , it evoked jealousy but no response of imitation. When the same Man acquired prestige, the response was total and instantaneous. This is the development lesson the village work taught me. Still there is a still higher level to which the whole nation responds. No argument can explain it or drive it home nor will any illustration serve the purpose. Milton called it the noble infirmity of great minds. The longing in Man to be known to be Good is deeper than subconscious. Rarely that vibration touches him. Often it catches his attention as the Goodness of another Man in life. Even if one pretends to be good and that vibration reaches the population, the response will be more than total and last long after his disappearance.

Generosity: Mother says to ask another to do what one cannot is mean. Generosity of emotion is a self-giving that offers to do to another what he cannot do for himself. We see physical generosity in its fullness in a mother towards her child. The unique instance in politics of the world is Gandhiji’s generosity to give away the power he created. சிபி சக்ரவர்த்தி is known for his generosity of the flesh. Freedom extended to others magnificently expresses the generosity of attitude in one. An industrialist who employed four of his college friends as the heads of four of his units saw all of them uniting to oust the owner. They are my friends, I cannot punish them’ was the attitude of the owner. It is generosity magnificently expressed. Mother’s giving the driver rent to a house which he had purchased by stealing Money in Atelier is an instance of spiritual generosity.

Equality: நிதானம் is a Tamil word of Sanskrit origin best expressing equality. From our point of view, the attitude that endlessly expresses patience is equality. A patience that increases by exercise is equality. From the Spirit’s point of view, equality is the consciousness of infinity. The wife who takes the attitude that her husband is right when he has sent someone to murder her expresses it. To her, “If that gives him joy, let me give that joy” is the right view. One may decide not to react and his Mind may accept it. But perverse men are capable of provoking him when his own Mind is silent, his body will act. Equality that goes into the body consciousness is நிதானம். Kali unfolded herself against Mother’s institution but Mother patiently persuaded Kali that She would manage Her affairs and waited till Kali withdrew. Dilip complained of the descent of Supermind in the playground. It was an occasion to exercise His faculty for humour. That was His patience. He did declare that in 1914 such a patience was not there in Him. The implication is even the Lord of nations could transform himself if he had accepted His Silence. What Silence was it? Is it the Silence beyond Silence.

Peace: When a sadhak asked for a timepiece, Sri Aurobindo wrote back to him about Timeless Peace. Peace and Silence are known to be God in themselves. Peace, calm, quiet, stillness, immobility, immutability are other versions of it. Peace ranks higher than ecstasy. Maharishi who was immobility personified was chastised by லோகமாதா for restlessness. Structures of all sorts dissolving leaves Peace, even as absence of noise creates Silence. A higher level of Silence issues when action ceases. Absence of movement is Silence. Someone came to have a darshan of Mother. He had a high accomplishment in Silence. No one was able to speak in his presence. Some could not even think. His Silence was solid. Mother said the Silence of Sri Aurobindo was soft and gave a sensation of sweetness by its touch.

Sincerity: Sincerity is so great a concept in this yoga. It is a pity we have to use உண்மை in Tamil which means truth. Truth is spiritual. Sincerity is the truth of being that evokes infallibly a sincere response from others, including animals. Even the inanimate objects are not exempt from it. Mother responded to the Sincerity of an ass as well as cobra. He rises to his own inconceivable greatness when he employs this concept to describe the surrender that can receive the benefits of the boon to earth. Man or woman’s best expression of sincerity is when he finds deep within him a love for the person who offends him. Sincerity is an emotion that resembles gratitude which thrills. The thrill of one’s sincerity unfelt by him reaches the other end of the world the person whom he needs.

Humility: One who is truly great, not feeling it personally is humble. Mother said Sri Aurobindo was the only humble person she saw. This knowledge comes to one when he does attain greatness in physical surface reality and knows that everyone and everything is equally so in its spiritual potential. அடக்கம் அமரருள் உய்க்கும் is the Kural. Great victories are not announced by the beat of drum, said Mother. The great Himalayas do not seek their greatness recognised. What an inanimate object does, if done by Man, is truly humble. Sri Aurobindo said that all great men know their greatness. Not to exercise the power or privilege one has is culture. Not to feel one’s own greatness is the culture termed as humility.

Perseverance:  Perseverance is the theme of Chapter One in The Life Divine. The perseverance of a tortoise wins over the self-confidence of a hare. To persevere, one must have the strength of greatness, deeply buried in oneself. Phileas Fogg won the wager. Apparently it was his determination, his punctuality. It is true. The capacity to persevere in his faith in punctuality vastly added to his final victory. One rule of life is, if any one skill is fully pursued, in spite of any other circumstances to the contrary, the work will be a success.

Gratitude: It is my own conviction and experience that one who is capable of gratitude to all one has received cannot have any problem in life. The fact is we are focused on the moment. Even in the moment, we are in the narrowest of circumstances. Family and society constantly and fully feed everyone with an abundance of services. It can be known if one stops and thinks. What the physical, social atmosphere does to one to live, science alone knows. The atmosphere of the Spirit that pervades us inside and outside upholds all this apart from energizing each of these powers. Man cannot know it. Thrill is the symptom of a feeling of gratitude. The very opposite is an irritation when something comes to us. That is human ‘gratitude’. Gratitude is the goddess recently born in the universe who is rarely invited to events. She is a white goddess.

Mother is a Symbol of Divine Creation. She lived amongst us as a Symbol of devotion, devotion to Sri Aurobindo. In 1956 Nehru condemned the Suez invasion, but was silent about Russia on Hungary. The world ‘gave’ him the eminence of leadership that was denied to FDR, Winston, Stalin and Mao, and his own fame was steadily rising till the Suez incident. There it stopped. After 70 years, with the hindsight, can we now know what stand he could have taken to deserve that leadership? Knowledge in the world as it obtains is not aware of it. His knowledge gives it to us. Nehru was a victim of the Non-violence that he never believed in. The legitimacy of violence to the victim is the wisdom needed. Mother practiced it with Hitler. Krishna brought that justice to life through the falsehood of ruse. That knowledge is there only in The Mother and the Master. She is the Symbol of that wisdom. To be aware of it in some fashion will permit us to draw the power of Her Symbol for our life. Symbols are symbolic. Symbolic power is greater than real power, as we see in Money which can do what property cannot do.

story | by Dr. Radut