This book is a collection of thoughts and reflections by Nolini Kanta Gupta, who was involved in India's freedom movement with Sri Aurobindo in Bengal and later became one of his earliest disciples in Pondicherry. Written or spoken during the last decade of his life, these pieces are especially concerned with the significance of the Mother's presence on earth and her departure from it; the nature and purpose of the Ashram; and the basis for the practice of the Integral Yoga as the human spirit faces the difficult challenges of today's world. Many of these talks and writings were first presented to the students in his classes and later published in The Advent or in his Collected Works.
"The time was over. Sri Aurobindo and Mother left their bodies." (The Mother Abides, p. 61)
"Mother and Sri Aurobindo offered their physical forms and presence as a ladder for them to climb—no, to be carried up. They arranged so that human beings could grow into superhuman spiritual beings, shaking off their ignorant human consciousness, as the caterpillar grows into a butterfly shaking off its cocoon—but alas, man failed. Perhaps the new destiny was too new for him, the light too dazzling for his eyes so long accustomed to darkness; perhaps there were deeper necessities of fate and secret reasons. But man failed, man refused the help and rebelled against it." (p. 61)
So, "Sri Aurobindo and Mother left their bodies; but they did not leave the earth. Their presence is still here, supporting and sustaining all of us, but supporting us so that we may still cling to Truth, may still serve the Truth." (p. 62)
"But still there is a difference." (p. 62)
"Those who aspire for something better can still cooperate with the movement, offer themselves for helping and serving the new advent. Man can still do it. For each individual man is a point of concentration of the entire earth-consciousness; if he makes a progress in his own consciousness, lifts himself a little more, grows into a higher degree of consciousness, it is a gain. But he will have to do it with much greater difficulty than before; it will need far greater Tapasya now. For as long as Mother was in her body, she made things easy for us. But it is no more so." (p. 63)
They will have "to forget all the big words—the big words like Supermind, Overmind, Higher Mind, etc. We no longer have the right to discuss them, to chat over them. They are dreams, beautiful dreams, but out of our reach. They belong to Mother and Sri Aurobindo.…It is in the Overmind they are kept; it is their work, their affair, we have nothing to do with that. Those dreams Mother has gathered in her own bosom; they will materialise in their own time according to their own rhythm."
"Yes, we need not bother about them. Better let us look at ourselves...we are at the lowest rung of the ladder of consciousness.…We have plunged straight into the bog, into the mire of crude physical existence. So we have to start the work of purification from that level, from the consciousness identified with the body; we must try to do the cleansing of the body and the vital." (p. 64)
This is Nolini-da's central advice to all those wanting to take up the yoga of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. It is very direct and powerful indeed. But that is what we need, I suppose, in the present times. He seems to shake us up from a deep vital-physical slumber and then puts us on the yamas and niyamas of the Integral Yoga.
It is because of such reminders to those who aspire to take up Sri Aurobindo's yoga that The Mother Abides – brought out to commemorate Nolini-da's 125th birth anniversary – is of immense value. These essays and talks, written or spoken after the Mother left her body, were of great significance in that decade, 1973 to 1983, because many of us, the young and old of those days, found in these words and in Nolini-da's physical presence a great solace and support in the face of the sudden vacuum created by the Mother's passing away. As the years roll by, we begin to see an even greater relevance in these articles; especially his analysis of the central truth of our Ashram gains a great importance:
The new creation is already here, forming itself; whatever is happening now in the Ashram and outside is happening so that it may come forward all the sooner. She is breaking the outer scaffolding within which the new reality has been established, or you may call it a dead shell which is being broken so that the new reality may come out. It is Mother's action with her own Self. She has taken her Chhinnamasta form. All the things she is destroying are her own selves; she is getting rid, as it were, of the old unutilisable limbs of her own body.
Perhaps the most relevant and of immediate inspiration in this book are Nolini-da's words of encouragement to the students of the Ashram. Many of the present generation of Ashram school students do not know of him and even those who have heard of him in passing have hardly read his writings. For them, this compilation of Nolini-da's words of advice could be a great guiding light and oftentimes a succour in life's travail:
The golden chain is there within your heart. Wherever you go, you drag that chain; it is a lengthening chain. However far you may go, it is an elastic chain, it goes on lengthening but never snaps. In hours of difficulty, in hours of doubt and confusion in your life, you have that within you to support you. (p. 73)
And, Nolini-da assures all the students graduating from the Higher Course of the Ashram's Centre of Education:
She is there within you, her work is not arrested. The tempo of her work is as vigorous and as living as it could be and its impact will become more and more clear and manifest.
...Love the Mother, be one with her; then you will find and be this living soul of yours. (pp. 82–3)
There are other sections too in this collection of thoughts and reminiscences by Nolini-da that are more impersonal and philosophic in nature. We have dealt till now with the quintessence of Sections 2, 3, and 4: "The Ashram", "A New Creation", and "Talks to the Students". The fifth section deals with the Integral Yoga. It is quite a mix of articles, such as "Falsehood", "Yesterday", etc., that are psychological or philosophical in nature. Take, for instance, "Yesterday", wherein Nolini-da elaborates on the theme of repentance, in much need of being practised in our daily life. Then, there are some short notes. "To Live Within" stresses the need to live in a state of constant aspiration. An eye-opener essay, "Falsehood", starts with the line: "Falsehood is the agony of the Supreme—so said the Mother." It is a powerful wake-up call to all humanity!
The first section, "Sweet Mother", is of course the "sweetest" one. In the essay, "The Mother Abides", he has described for us the essential nature of the Mother's work for earth and man. For man, the individual, "it was your soul that she salvaged out of the inconscience and established in you as a living reality"(p. 8). Secondly, she built "around this soul, this inner being, a body, a material vehicle to express it. To give a concrete divine shape to this soul-reality was her labour at this point. The soul was there, but a god has to come and inhabit it; this godhead, that is to say, a Power, a form of the Mother's own personality, has to be brought down and the soul integrated into it. Apparently the effort was left off at that point and not completed." (pp. 8–9)
Although the Mother has left her body, she abides with us. Nolini-da reminds us of this when recounting a vision he had:
The Mother says:
‘Just see. Look at me. I am here, come back in my new body—divine, transformed and glorious. And I am the same mother, still human. Do not worry. Do not be concerned about your own self, your progress and realisation, nor about others. I am here, look at me, gaze into me, enter into me wholly, merge into my being, lose yourself into my love, with your love. You will see all problems solved, everything done. Forget all else, forget the world. Remember me alone, be one with me, with my love...' (p. 31)
Yes, we hear once again the eternal promise of the Divine Incarnate, Sri Krishna:
Thou who hast come to this ephemeral and unhappy world, love me and turn to Me. (The Gita, 9: 33)
Take refuge in Me alone, I will deliver thee from all sin and evil. (The Gita, 18: 66)
— Ananda Reddy