Mirra Alfassa - Meeting Sri Aurobindo

Meeting Sri Aurobindo

On 7 March 1914, Madame Alfassa and Paul embarked for India aboard the steamer Kaga Maru, reaching Pondicherry on the 29th. She later said that when she saw Sri Aurobindo for the first time, she recognised him as the person she saw in her visions of a dark Asiatic figure, whom she had earlier referred to as "Krishna". Next day she noted in her journal, “It matters not if there are hundreds of beings plunged in densest ignorance. He whom we saw yesterday is on earth; his presence is enough to prove that a day will come when darkness shall be transformed into light, when Thy reign shall be indeed established upon earth."

Years before Sri Aurobindo first met Madame Alfassa and Paul, he had given up his revolutionary activities for Indian independence from British rule, and retreated to Pondicherry (where he was safe from arrest by the British) to work on the spiritual transformation of humanity and of life on earth.

After a short period of intense sadhana, Sri Aurobindo would sometimes give evening talks. In 1913 he moved to No.41 Rue François Martin, called the Guest House, where he would receive visitors in the morning (this would have been when Madame Alfassa and Paul Richard met him), and after the group meditation (usually about 4. p.m.) he would host informal evening gatherings of his early disciples.

Madame Alfassa said that when she first met Sri Aurobindo, she found that her thoughts ceased to run, her mind became quiet, and silence began to gather momentum, until two or three days later there was only the silence and the yogic consciousness. In 1958 in the Agenda (vol I pp. 163–4) she told that the two experiences, the consciousness in the psychic depths of the being realised in 1910, and the stillness connection with the Divine above the head realised when first meeting Sri Aurobindo, have remained with her ever since.

On 29 March, Paul suggested that Sri Aurobindo publish a journal dealing with a synthesis of the latter's philosophical ideas. The journal was named Arya, and it became the vehicle for most of Sri Aurobindo's writings, which would later appear in book form (The Mother – Some dates). The first issue of the monthly journal came out on 15 August 1914, Sri Aurobindo's birthday.

Madame Alfassa and Paul stayed at Pondicherry until February 1915, but had to return to Paris because of the First World War. They spent a year in France before traveling to Japan where they stayed for four years, first in Tokyo (1916 to 1917) and then Kyoto (1917–1920). They were also accompanied by Dorothy Hodgson, an Englishwoman who had known Madame Alfassa in France (Das p. 209) and who regarded Madame Alfassa as her guru.

During her stay, Madame Alfassa adopted the Japanese way of life, mannerisms and dress, and visited many Buddhist places of pilgrimage (Das 1978 p. 173) One Japanese friend recalled much later: "She came here to learn Japanese and to be one of us. But we had so much to learn from her and her charming and unpredictable ways" (Madame Kobayashi, in Das 1978 p. 193). In 1919 she met Rabindranath Tagore, who was staying at the same hotel. A group photograph in the Rabindra Museum collection at Santiniketan includes the two. Tagore presented Madame Alfassa with the typewriter he was using at the time; she later gave it to Prithwindra Mukherjee in the mid-50s for "writing good poems"; this still remains at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (ibid p. 206). Many years later (in 1956) she also recounted meeting Tolstoy's son while in Japan.

On 24 April 1920 Madame Alfassa returned with Paul to Pondicherry from Japan, accompanied by Dorothy Hodgson. On 24 November, she moved to live near Sri Aurobindo in the Guest House at Rue François Martin. Richard did not stay long; he spent a year traveling around North India (Das 1978 p. 209; The Mother – Some dates) as a sanyasi. (Some time later he initiated divorce proceedings, having already remarried in the meantime). Dorothy Hodgson meanwhile received the name Datta ("Consecrated") and was one of the earliest western devotees, even before the Ashram was established in 1926.

In 1921, when Sri Aurobindo said that they had brought the Supermind down to the Vital Plane, Madame Alfassa appeared (according to witnesses and her own accounts) to have a body like that of an eighteen- or twenty-year-old, while Sri Aurobindo was also glowing with health. But these changes were lost when they took the Supermind down to the work of transformation in the "Subconscient".

In January 1922, Madame Alfassa, already called "The Mother" and some other disciples began regular evening talks and group meditations. In September or October of that year, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother moved to no.9 Rue de la Marine, where the same informal routine of Sri Aurobindo's evening gatherings of his early disciples (and Mother's talks and meditations) continued. As the number of disciples arriving increased, Mother organised what would later become the Ashram, more from the wish of the sadhaks than her or Sri Aurobindo's own plans.

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