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8. Mother's Life in the Ashram

 Mother says that, when Sri Aurobindo was there, he took charge of her yoga, and she looked after his needs and the Ashram management. She adds that in those thirty years she was able to manage the affairs of the Ashram without the least trouble.

 In 1920, the ‘Ashram' was a dozen disciples around Sri Aurobindo. One who was there at that time says, "The first thing Mother taught us was how to keep our books and things in a proper order. In those days we had no shelves and kept the books on the floor."  This shows the magnitude of the work she had to do, especially when she had to start with the merest physical details. It was she who did the cooking and the serving too!  Those were the days before the Ashram was officially formed, and there were only a few houses in which the disciples lived. Only in 1926 when Sri Aurobindo retired into silence did the Ashram come into official existence, and Mother took charge of the disciples' sadhana along with the material-physical management of daily affairs.

 In those days the present rule that disciples should wake up at 3 a.m. was introduced. Each had his own round of activities woven around the schedule Mother had given. Mother used to appear at the Ashram balcony at the rear of the Ashram building at 6.15 a.m. All the disciples would gather on the road to receive her blessings. She used to stand there, meditating, invoking Grace on the day's activities. She would silently give each sadhak a special help for the daily work. This came to be known as the Balcony Darshan, which she continued till 1962 when she retired into her own room where she stayed until 1973.

 Whenever work demanded, she even undertook journeys to Cuddalore and Chidambaram or places around Pondicherry itself. I remember Alampoondi Bashyam Reddiar narrating the visit of Mother to his house at Cuddalore in the 30s. He was coming to her till his old age and met her on his birthday a few days before his death. She once visited a timber shop at Cuddalore to buy rosewood and teakwood for making new furniture for Sri Aurobindo. Generally in the afternoon She undertook those visits.

 She spent the forenoon in meeting all the sadhaks once again, receiving the heads of departments to whom she allotted work, and receiving those sadhaks whose birthday fell on that day. The Ashram later developed over 50 departments of activity, but all of them grew gradually. She met each department head periodically to discuss the work. Some of them, such as the manager of the Ashram, secretary, and cashier, met Mother everyday. As the Ashram later came to own 100 buildings and to rent about 300 more, as well as owning a press, a workshop, a woodworking unit, a cement casting factory, 2,000 acres of land, several guest houses, an international school, a book shop, photo studios, sports ground, restaurants, etc., the daily load of work for Mother was considerable.

Mother considers the birthday of a sadhak as a special occasion. She says during that day and around that day his capacity to receive the Divine Blessings is greatest. Therefore, birthdays are special occasions in the Ashram. Each sadhak would meet Mother with a bouquet of flowers on his birthday. She would bless him with flowers, a birthday card on which she wrote her blessings and signature, and any special gift, such as a book that she wanted to present to him. Sadhaks cherished their birthdays and Mother's blessings to them on that day.

 In the evening Mother would go to the tennis ground to play tennis for a while. Until she was 80, she was playing tennis. After this exercise, she would go to the playground, where the sadhaks do their physical exercise. At the end of those activities, the sadhaks used to file past Mother, receiving Her blessings once again. She conducted meditations in the playground on Wednesdays and Saturdays. She started classes on yoga for children on those days. Of course, every sadhak joined the classes for children, as all are truly her children.

 On every first of the month sadhaks used to receive their personal requirements such as paper, pencils, ink, soap, toothpaste, etc. Mother distributed these items herself. Those days came to be called ‘prosperity days' in the Ashram. She would distribute clothes to the sadhaks on a Sunday preceding each of the four Darshan days. As sarees were given to the ladies and napkins to men, these came to be called ‘saree distribution' days.

The four Darshan days were February 21st, Mother's birthday; April 24th, Mother's final arrival day at Pondicherry; August 15th, Sri Aurobindo's birthday; and November 24th, Sri Aurobindo's siddhi day. During the days of Sri Aurobindo, Darshan on these days meant Darshan of both Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Outside his room where he did his yoga sadhana for 24 years, they sat together on a sofa in a small room. The queue of sadhaks and visitors filed past through his room and came for Darshan one by one. The disciples that were with Sri Aurobindo would explain who the next person approaching was-his name, age, and any special detail-before the person came in front of them. The disciples came before them and made pranams. Sri Aurobindo would put his hand on the head of the disciple and bless him. All that took one or two minutes for each person. It was a solemn occasion and a new birth for many.

Mouni Sadhu, a member of Ramanashram, once came to a Darshan. Before coming in front of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, he had to pass through Sri Aurobindo's room. On entering the room, he said, his mind went blank and silent. Even if he had wanted to talk, he said, he could not have done so.

Once an American wrote to Sri Aurobindo asking for an interview. He was asked to come on a Darshan day. On seeing the line and learning that he would have only one minute with Sri Aurobindo, he said to a nearby sadhak in a tone of disappointment, "I have come from 12,000 miles away, can I not be given some time to meet him?"  When he had his Darshan of a minute and came downstairs, the same sadhak went to him and found him filled with peace, silence and richness. The American had apparently lost his speech and was so full inside that he could barely talk. The sadhak asked him, "Was it too short?"  He replied, "The one minute was too much."  Such was the spiritual power Sri Aurobindo transmitted in a minute.

After He left his body, She alone sat on a single seat at the opposite end of the same veranda and blessed the sadhaks and disciples on the same four days. Apart from that, she gave Darshan to the sadhaks on January 6th every year. She also gave Darshan on days dedicated to Maheswari, Mahalaxmi, Mahakali, and Mahasaraswati, and on Deepavali. On December 5th, when Sri Aurobindo attained Mahasamadhi, and December 9th, when his body was laid in the Samadhi, she also gave Darshan. Christmas was another Darshan day when Mother used to sit under a big illuminated Christmas tree and distribute several presents to the children. On that day she gave cakes and gifts to the elders too.

New Year day has always been the merriest day at the Ashram. Mother herself used to distribute calendars to the sadhaks. It was the prosperity day of the year at the Ashram. Calendars always carried her picture with a special message from her chosen for the occasion. Until 1962 she carried on all these activities personally. From 1962 until 1973, she continued most of them from her room. In 1973 on November 17th she attained Mahasamadhi.

book | by Dr. Radut