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(251) Her works of the period, many of them quiet interior studies, show excellent technique and classical balance, if little originality.
<This is a brief aesthetic opinion about a certain group of paintings. The Mother’s considerable literary, musical and artistic abilites are not treated at any length in the book, which is a biography of Sri Aurobindo.>
Mother’s spiritual capacity
(261) There is no special mention of Mirra Richard [in a certain Record entry], nor evidence in earlier Record entries that he regarded her more than a “European yogi” of unusual attainments. <The reference here is to a letter by Sri Aurobindo cited and discussed on page 258; the key passage is: “They [Paul and Mirra] were, he wrote Motilal, “rare examples of European Yogins who have not been led away by Theosophical and other aberrations.”” This quotation is followed by this sentence by Heehs: “As for Mirra, she seemed [to Sri Aurobindo] to have a capacity for spiritual surrender that rivaled that of the great Indian bhaktas or devotees.” Re Record of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo does not, in fact, discuss the Mother’s spiritual capacity anywhere in the earlier Record entries.>But it need not be assumed that he put down all he felt in his diary. Years later he explained that he was aware at once that Mirra’s aptitude for yoga was extraordinary, while Paul’s was at best mediocre.
<Dozens of positive references to “Mother’s spiritual capacity” by the author, with or without supporting citations from Sri Aurobindo, have been omitted.>
The Mother’s relation with Sri Aurobindo
(326–327) After dinner those present tended to cluster in two groups: Aurobindo and Mirra on one side, Paul and the others on another.Sometimes, when they were alone, Mirra took Aurobindo’s hand in hers. One evening, when Nolini found them thus together, Mirra quickly drew her hand away. On another occasion, Suresh entered Aurobindo’s room and found Mirra kneeling before him an attitude of surrender. Sensing the visitor, she at once stood up. There was nothing furtive about these encounters, but they did strike observers as unusual.
<Compare this to the following from Nirodbaran in Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo (1972 edition, p. 31–32): In the morning, the Mother arrived in his room with a flower, probably a red lotus, knelt before the ‘Lord’, placed the lotus on his bed and bowed down to receive his blessings, and his sweet smile. This was the second time I saw her doing pranam to him. The first time was on her birthday, 21 February . It was a revelation to me because I didn’t expect her to bow down in the Indian way. On every darshan day since then I enjoyed the sight. On other days she used to take his hand and gently kiss it.>
<paragraph on (326) continued> Neither Mirra nor Aurobindo were in the habit of expressing their emotions openly. The young men, already somewhat unhappy about the inclusion of women in their circle, and the consequent erosion their bohemian lifestyle, were somewhat nonplussed by this turn of events. Paul Richard took it more personally. At times he could be heard muttering a phrase of garbled Tamil, setth ay pochi, by which he meant “the calamity has happened.”<Footnote 49>
After a while he asked Aurobindo about the nature of relationship with Mirra. Aurobindo answered that he had accepted her as a disciple. Paul inquired as to what form the relationship would take. Aurobindo said that it would take any form that Mirra wanted. Paul persisted: “Suppose she claims the relationship of marriage?” Marriage did not enter Aurobindo’s calculations, what was important to him was Mirra’s autonomy, so he replied that if Mirra ever asked for marriage, that is what she would have.<Footnote 50>
<Note that on page 254 that Mirra explains to Paul early in their acquaintence “that the animal mode of reproduction was only a transitional one and that until new ways of creating life became biologically possible her own motherhood would have to remain spiritual.” Also that on page 319 Sri Aurobindo says that he had “put the sexual side completely aside”. There is therefore no room for someone who has actually read the book that there was any question of marriage in the conventional sense.>
Paul took the matter with his wife. According to Mirra, recalling the events forty years later, the confrontation was stormy. Aware more than ever that Mirra had made his literary and spiritual accomplishments possible, Paul demanded that she give her primary loyalty to him. Mirra simply smiled.Paul became violent, came close to strangling her, and threw the furniture out of the window. Mirra remained calm throughout, inwardly calling on the divine. For all intents and purposes this was the end of their relationship.A year later Paul confided to the novelist Romain Rolland that it had been a time of “violent crisis” in his life. He had been forced to fight “a dreadful inner battle, which threw me, alone, face to face with death… into the immense and glorious void of the Himalayan ‘Ocean’”. In his diary, Romain translated this into more mundane language: “In fact”, he wrote, “his wife…left him.”<Footnote 51>
Mirra and her friend Dorothy Hodgson continued to live at 7 rue Saint-Martin. The monsoon was heavy that year, and the roof began to leak. One day a warehouse on the rue d’Orléans collapsed in the incessant rain. Concerned that the same thing might happen at 7 rue Saint-Martin, Aurobindo suggested that the two women move into his house, and they agreed.
Texts of footnotes 49–51:
49. Purani Talks manuscripts 9: 80; 5: 98. Richard, who knew virtually no Tamil, seems to have combined two phrases, seththup pochchi, which is colloquial Tamil for “he/she died,” and aypochchu, which means “it is over.”
50. Purani Talks manuscripts 5: 76. In the interest of coherent dialogue, I have expanded and slightly amended Purani’s notes regarding this incident, which read: “(One day P. R. came & asked him in what way he (A. G.) related to Mirra. He said she was his disciple. But what was her attitude towards him. He said in whatever way the disciple will aspire for me he will get me as such [possibly an allusion to Bhagavad Gita 4.11] — Suppose she claims relations of marriage. ‘Well she will have that’).” In a report of what appears to be a separate conversation between Aurobindo and Richard, Purani writes that in reply to a question from Richard about Mirra “A. G. simply said she had offered herself to him & she had been accepted. It was her lookout to do what she wanted to do.”
51. The Mother, L’agenda de Mère, vol. 2: 409; R. Rolland, Inde: Journal 1915–1943, 28.
The following passage from page 349, two pages after the above passage, was omitted in its entirety:
The consecrated union of a human male and female is seen [by Tantrics] as a reenactment of the cosmic act of creation. Some schools of tantric yoga put so much stress on this relationship that they require male practitioners to have female sexual partners. Aurobindo made it clear that this was not the case in his yoga. “How can the sexual act be made to help in spiritual life?” he asked a disciple who posed the question. It was necessary, in the work he was doing, for the masculine and feminine principles to come together, but the union had nothing to do with sex; in fact it was possible in his and Mirra’s case precisely because they had mastered the forces of desire.<footnote 59>
Text of footnote 59: A. Purani, ed., Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 339.
<Also omitted (pp. 354–55): By August 1923 there were fifteen full-time residents in the two houses. Almost half of them were Bengalis; most of the rest were from Gujarat and the Madras Presidency. Mirra and Datta were the only full-time women, though the wives of two or three of the men were also allowed to stay on the condition that they and their husbands renounced sex.>
<Also omitted (p. 359): “As for the “ugly rumours [about the ashram that had been circulated],” Sen Gupta insisted [in an article approved by Sri Aurobindo] that they were false. “An absolute mastery of the sex movements and entire abstention from the physical (animal) indulgence are the first conditions” of Sri Aurobindo’s way of yoga. Accordingly “sensual indulgence” was “absolutely forbidden” and even “such comparatively innocent habits as smoking were discountenanced.””
(381–82) Around two o’clock that morning, while crossing to the bathroom, Sri Aurobindo stumbled over the tiger skin and fell. There was a sudden flash of pain. After years of practice he had developed the ability to transform most types of discomfort into ananda or bliss, but the pain he was feeling went beyond his threshold. He tried to get up and failed, then lay back quietly.After a short while, the Mother entered. Attuned inwardly to her partner, she had felt in her sleep that something was wrong.
<Heehs had to ask around to find out what the problem was. The term “partner”, in the sense of “spiritual partner”, has been used to describe the relationship between Sri Aurobindo and the Mother by numerous authors whose attitude towards Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is, like Heehs’s, highly respectful. See for example George Feuerstein, Ph.D., The Yoga Tradition, p. 77, or else perform a simple Google search.>