Consciousness—Raison de Être

In fact, if I look at the order my yoga took…. When I was five years old (I must have begun earlier, but the memory is a bit vague and imprecise)… but from five onwards, in my consciousness (not a mental memory but—how can I put it?—it's noted, a notation in my consciousness)… well, I began with consciousness. Of course I had no idea what it was. But my first experience was of the consciousness here (gesture above the head), which I felt like a Light and a Force; and I felt it there (same gesture) at the age of five.

It was a very pleasant sensation. I would sit in a little armchair made especially for me, all alone in my room, and I …(I didn't know what it was, you see, not a thing, nothing—mentally zero) and I had a VERY PLEASANT feeling of something very strong, very luminous, and it was here (above the head). Consciousness. And I felt, "That's what I have to live, what I have to be." Not with all those words, naturally, but… (Mother makes a gesture of aspiration Upwards). Then I would pull it down, for it was… it was truly my raison d'être.

That is my first memory—at five years old. Its impact was more on the ethical side than the intellectual; and yet it took an intellectual form too, since…. You see, apparently I was a child like any other, except that I was hard to handle. Hard in the sense that I had no interest in food, no interest in ordinary games, no liking for going to my friends' houses for snacks, because eating cake wasn't the least bit interesting! And it was impossible to punish me because I really couldn't have cared less: being deprived of dessert was rather a relief for me! And then I flatly refused to learn reading; I refused to learn. And even bathing me was very hard, because I was put in the care of an English governess, and that meant cold baths—my brother took it in stride, but I just howled! Later it was found to be bad for me (the doctor said so), but that was much later. So you get the picture.

But whenever there was unpleasantness with my relatives, with playmates or friends, I would feel all the nastiness or bad will—all sorts of pretty ugly things that came (I was rather sensitive, for I instinctively nurtured an ideal of beauty and harmony, which all the circumstances of life kept denying)… so whenever I felt sad, I was most careful not to say anything to my mother or father, because my father didn't give a hoot and my mother would scold me—that was always the first thing she did. And so I would go to my room and sit down in my little armchair, and there I could concentrate and try to understand… in my own way. And I remember that after quite a few probably fruitless attempts I wound up telling myself (I always used to talk myself; I don't know why or how, but I would talk to myself just as I talked to others): "Look here, you feel sad because so-and-so said something really disgusting to you—but why does that make you cry? Why are you so sad? He's the one who was bad, so he should be crying. You didn't do anything bad to him… Did you tell him nasty things? Did you fight with her, or with him? No you didn't do anything, did you; well then, you needn't feel sad. You should only be sad if you've done something bad, but…." So that settled it: I would never cry. With just a slight inward movement, or "something" that said, "You've done no wrong," there was no sadness.

But there was another side to this "someone": it was watching me more and more, and as soon as I said one word or made one gesture too many, had one little bad thought, teased my brother or whatever, the smallest thing, it would say (Mother takes on a severe tone), "Look out, be careful!". At first I used to moan about it, but by and by it taught me: "Don't lament—put right, mend." And when things could be mended—as they almost always could—I would do so. All that on a five to seven-year-old child's scale of intelligence.

So it was consciousness.
Next came the period of learning and developing, but on an ordinary mental level—school years. Curiosity made me want to learn to read. Did I tell you how it happened? When I was around seven, just under seven, my brother, who was eighteen months older, used to bring big pictures home from school with him (you know, pictures for children with captions at the bottom; they're still used nowadays) and he gave me one of them. "What's written there?" I asked. "Read it!" he said. "Don't know how", I replied. "Then learn!" "All right", I told him, "show me the letters." He brought me an A-B-C book. I knew it within two days and on the third day I started reading. That's how I learned. "Oh-oh," they used to say, "this child is backward! Seven years old and she still can't read—disgraceful!" The whole family fretted about it. And then lo and behold, in about a week I knew what should have taken me years to learn—it made them think twice!

Then, school years. I was a very bright student, always for the same reason: I wanted to understand. I wasn't interested in learning thing by heart like the others did—I wanted to understand them. And what a memory I had, a fantastic memory for sound and images! I had only to read a poem aloud at night, and the next morning I knew it. And after I had studied or read a book and some one mentioned a passage to me, I would say, "Ah, yes—that's on page so and so." I would find the page. Nothing had faded, it was all still fresh. But this is the ordinary period of development.

Then at a very young age (about eight or ten), along with my studies I began to paint. At twelve I was already doing portraits. All aspects of art and beauty, but particularly music and painting fascinated me. I went through a very intense vital development during that period, with, just like in my early years, the presence of a kind of inner Guide; and all centred on studies: the study of sensations, observations, the study of technique, comparative studies, even a whole spectrum of observations dealing with taste, smell and hearing—a kind of classification of experiences. And this extended to all facets of life, all the experiences life can bring, all of them - miseries, joys, difficulties, sufferings everything—oh, a whole field of studies! And always this presence within, judging, deciding, classifying, organizing and systematizing everything.

Then conscious yoga made a sudden entry into the picture when I met Théon; I must have been about twenty-one. Life's orientation changed, a whole series of experiences took place, with the development of the vital giving interesting occult results.

Then, a period of intensive mental development, mental development of the most complete type: a study of all the philosophies, all the conceptual juggling, in minute detail—delving into systems, getting a grasp on them. Ten years of intensive mental studies leading me to … Sri Aurobindo.

So I had all this preparation. And I am giving you these details simply to tell you it all began with consciousness (I knew very well what consciousness was, even before I had any word or idea to explain it), consciousness and its force—its force of action, its force of execution. Next, a detailed study and thorough development of the vital. After that, mental development taken to its uppermost limit, where you can juggle with all ideas; a development stage where it's already understood that all ideas are true and that there's a synthesis to be made, and that beyond the synthesis lies something luminous and true. And behind it all, a continual consciousness. Such was my state when I came here: I'd had a world of experiences and had already attained conscious union with the Divine above and within—all of it consciously realized, carefully noted and so forth—when I came to Sri Aurobindo.

From the standpoint of shakti, this is the normal course: consciousness, vital, mental and spiritual.

25 July 1962
- The Mother

Annul thyself that only God may be.        - Sri Aurobindo