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THE MOTHER (1878–1973)

The Mother was a mystic and spiritual leader. She was born Mirra Alfassa in Paris on 21 February 1878, of a Turkish father and an Egyptian mother. She describes some of the mystical experiences she had during this early period in her book Prayer and Meditation. Mirra grew up in Paris, and joined one of the big Parisian studios to learn drawing and painting aged 16. By the time she finished her studies some of her paintings had already been exhibited. She had also developed as a gifted musician.

Although Mirra then knew little of Indian religion, she called the special being she worshipped ‘Krishna’. When Mirra was 21 she met an Indian in France who gave her a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and told her to understand ‘Krishna’ as the Divine within each one of us. In 1906 the 28-year-old Mirra formed a small group called ‘Idea’. The members met regularly and discussed spiritual and occult matters, with Mirra taking the lead. During this time Mirra met a Polish Jew and his wife. They were very advanced in occultism and lived in South Algeria. She spent two years with them and on her return from Algeria started another study group called ‘Cosmique’ in which she advocated the New Consciousness. In 1910 Mirra’s husband Paul Richard went to Pondicherry for some political work. There he met Sri Aurobindo several times; a fact he recounted to Mirra on his return to France. In 1914 Mirra and Paul reached Pondicherry. They met Sri Aurobindo the same day and Mirra saw before her the Krishna of her vision. She instantly knew her final destiny lay in India. For a brief period during World War I Mirra had to leave Pondicherry and go to Japan with her husband. In 1920 she returned, aged 42, and began the transformation that was to turn her into the Mother. On 24 November 1926, 24 disciples gathered on the verandah of Sri Aurobindo’s room to witness Sri Aurobindo’s handing over of complete spiritual and material charge of the Ashram to the Mother.

Under the Mother’s guidance the ashram grew from an unknown experiment into a great centre of yoga attracting devotees from all over the world. In 1950 Sri Aurobindo left this life, but the ashram continued to flourish. In 1952 the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education opened. Two years later Pondicherry merged politically with India. In 1964 she launched the Auroville project, the city of human unity. In 1968 the foundation stone of Auroville was laid. She died on 17 November 1973 at the age of 95.

"I belong to no nation, no civilization, no society, no race, but to the Divine. I obey no master, no rules, no law, no social convention, but the Divine.

To Him I have surrendered all, will, life and self; for Him I am ready to give all my blood, drop by drop, if such is His will, with complete joy, and nothing in his service can be sacrifice, for all is perfect delight." The Mother

Rita Dalmiya
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